Our living room

31 January 2021

Since we moved into our house in May 2019, we’ve been more or less renovating non-stop. We started with the rooms necessary to enable us to open the B&B, then we moved on to “less urgent” rooms. Our living room falls under the latter category and we started work on that in October 2020. This post chronicles the stages we went through to transform this room.

So how did the living room look before the renovations? This photo (taken from the estate agents’ brochure) shows what it looked like when we moved in (minus the TV and couch):

The first thing we did was to strip everything down to the bare walls and floorboards:

As we’ve worked our way through the house, we’ve taken the opportunity to insulate each room, so the next step was to insulate and plasterboard the walls:

We removed the fire and fire surround and, for a splash of colour, painted the defunct chimney breast red:

Then we laid the new floor. As we did with our other rooms, we used a floorboard recycling company in order to keep existing floorboards in use and avoid the chopping down of even more trees. The floorboards that we chose are made from beech and came from a sports centre in Perth. They arrived with the coloured sticky tape still intact and, if we’d had the space, we could have erected a badminton court. However, we stuck to our original plan and stripped off the top layer of each plank, then laid and varnished them. These photos show what the the floorboards looked like before and after this work:

We’d already decided we wanted to install a fuel burner* in this room for two main reasons: firstly to try to move away from the oil-fired central heating system and secondly because we love being able to watch real flames from a real fire. To our good fortune, one of our neighbours was selling a secondhand multi-fuel stove, so we bought a chimney and set about installing it.

To install the chimney, we had to drill a hole in the outside wall at a 45° angle. We measured carefully where to begin, then started drilling from the inside and finished the hole (at a much higher elevation) from the outside. Another neighbour lent us his scaffolding and helped Rudi install the chimney. These photos show the drilling from the inside and outside, plus the finished result.

We hired a professional plasterer for most of the plastering work, but for the patching up of the area around the new chimney, Helen tried her hand at it herself (and actually didn’t make too bad a job of it!):

The next photo shows what the room looks like now. Incidentally, not only are the fuel burner and floorboards secondhand, but all the furniture is too. (Our next project is to upcycle the tables and chairs in this room.)

*A note about the fuel burner
We are aware that, although we’re moving away from heating with oil, a fuel burner is not the ideal solution, since we still need fuel to burn and we’re still adding carbon and other pollutants to the atmosphere. However, we’ve made the decision not to burn coal or peat and instead to only burn wood which we’ve gathered and which can’t be used for anything else. We also burn coffee logs.

Coffee logs are manufactured out of spent coffee grounds which have been collected from coffee shops, cafes, restaurants, offices, transport hubs, universities and instant coffee factories. Each briquette contains the grounds from around 25 cups of coffee. We can get the coffee logs at our local garden centre and, by using them as fuel, we feel we’re employing a more circular approach to heating our home.

What steps can you take now?

  • If you live in the UK, check if you’re eligible for a Green Homes Grant to insulate your home or install a low carbon heating system. (If you live outside the UK, check with your relevant authorities.)
  • Think about your fuel consumption at home and what you can do to make it more environmentally-friendly.
  • Next time you wish to purchase furniture and other items for the home, think about getting them secondhand. Aim to keep existing furniture and other bulky items in use.

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