There's a newly built room waiting for me back in England that isn't quite finished but now has honeycomb blinds that lock down, a floor, modular sofa, and dining table. And a huge TV mounted on the wall - a bit of an eyesore but I'm not going to pretend I don't watch TV! It's a great space of mostly windows, a raised glass ceiling, and there's even some garden to spare after a fairly substantial extension of the house off the kitchen. It was a scramble to get it painted and the flooring installed before heading back to Canada for the summer; I think I narrowly avoided an aneuryism.
As for the paint, I wanted a clean, pale grey - to me that means a cool undertone that is as neutral as possible - that delivers depth and works in every kind of natural and artificial light. I didn't want 'colour' per se, opting for light and airy but didn't want to go with white which seems to be the default colour for so many orangeries and conservatories. Luckily I found my shade, but I got a surprise when painting. (It was a DIY job because a decorator would have had to have been booked about six months prior and the extension wasn't even conceived of then. I don't recommend it. Painting an entire room, especially one with so many windows and boxed electrics, is hard. I didn't need my lower back anyway.)
Back to the surprise. It became apparent once the primer was on and the first coat of that lovely grey was being applied, that the plasterer did a terrible job. Shameless, actually. I could live with a few imperfections but we're talking floor to ceiling moon craters. I guess I just hadn't looked closely at it, taking in the entire room and not scrutinising the walls. The construction is very sound - I watched it being built and it was pretty cool to see how it's done - but all it takes is one sloppy guy to ruin it all. (And I made him so much coffee! The cheek!) Luckily that part is fixable, though extremely frustrating to have to do so after the (very expensive) paint is on. (I'm downplaying this part a bit, the truth is I freaked.)
In contrast, the floor was a success story. Thank goodness. As you know from previous posts, I laboured over what type and style of flooring to go with, and at the time underfloor heating was to be installed first. It turns out that UFH can be a lot harder to source than you'd think (actually I hadn't a clue what's involved with that), especially on a time crunch, and after two false leads it was just easier to find another heating solution. (And save a ton of money in the process.) I chose laminate flooring in a 'white' wood grain from Homebase to keep with the light and airy feel, and was able to find a very good installer at the last minute - how rare is that?
First, I went to the store to see the flooring I picked out online to be sure I liked it and also to compare it to others. It remained my number one choice and I bought a sample to take home. It looks funny, but I put it under the legs of our dining table hoping to get a sense of how it would work. Hey, you have to try!
(Little Coco thinks this room is hers.) The table is my first Magis piece, and the chair was just a spare I put there for some reason. I still haven't decided on the chairs but they definitely won't have metal legs. I also tried my Eames DRW with dark maple legs which adds a bit of warmth to what is going to be a cool, minimalist room, so I might buy three more of them to liven things up a bit.
As the flooring was being installed I was hopeful, but nervous. I liked the floor, but would it work with the room? Would it feel right? Would I want to live with it for years? I told the installer it looked good so far and he began to tell me about a recent customer, then said, 'Maybe I shouldn't tell you.' I told him to go on. He continued, telling me she chose a similar looking floor and was also redoing her entire downstairs, and when it was done she said, "I hate it. It's a lovely floor and you did a good job, but I hate it." I groaned good naturedly but was secretly imploding at the thought of feeling that way with even this one room, never mind the kitchen and hallway as was the plan. But when it was finished I was really happy with it. It delivered the look and feel I wanted, complementing the walls and the platinum shade of the blinds. Hopefully the disappointed woman felt differently after a few days; I think changing a large space so drastically can be very disconcerting and a strong emotional reaction is normal; we're profoundly connected to our homes and I think we don't realise how much a change can throw us off until we're faced with it.
I'll be coming back with a 'reveal' post after I return to England. It will take a little while to complete the room but you'll be able to see how it all works together with the modular sofa.
In the meantime, benefit from my rookie mistakes and avoid them when building and finishing a room in your home:
- Check that the concrete foundation has set evenly. Walk on it. Look for slopes. If it doesn't feel consistent throughout the room request it be fixed. A floor consists of very thin underlay and the flooring itself is generally not especially thick so it will not compensate for obvious imbalances in the foundation. Your installer can't do anything about it so take care of it before the floor goes down, or be prepared to live with it.
- Inspect the surface of the walls when the plasterer tells you he's finished. This will be the last thing that's done. Depending on the light, some flaws are discernable to the eye, while others only to the touch, so run your hand over the surfaces. I can attest to the fact that priming and painting does not smooth out even the slightest of imperfections; in fact it seems to amplify them. This room has spotlights in the boxing which essentially showcases every flaw that falls below them!
- Are the edges of the boxing sharp and even? Sometimes where two sections of boxing meets there's an overlap. I'm not clear on how easy or not this is to fix once it's done, and it's not really obvious unless you're looking for it. But if you're a perfectionist it will probably bother you after the fact so keep an eye out before painting.
- Check that any crown moulding is secure and doesn't show any cracks.
- If you're looking to wall mount a TV, have about three metres of HDMI cable ready BEFORE the drywall goes up. This way your cables are hidden. (Luckily this wasn't a mistake and may seem like a no-brainer, but easily forgotten amongst the chaos.)
Be firm about anything you want fixed; there's no reason things shouldn't be perfect!