Most of the action this week occurred behind the scenes. Lots of planning and sorting and choosing more than cutting, sticking and building. We’ve chosen a fireplace, paid bills, decided on tiles, placed thermostats, chased electrics, considered ironmongery and built-in furniture, and we started thinking about wardrobe build-ups, kitchen pendants, sofas and curtains. I thought we were doing well with box-ticking until Tim asked for confirmation of colour choice for the paintwork. I think I need a lie-down….
Spencer is pretty much done with the roof, and now he and Jackson are on to the more decorative bits. One of these is the scalloped lead-work around the windows. There are 16 downstairs and 10 upstairs runs of this lead, all of varying length. There is nothing at all normal or even and symmetrical about this house. The lead was installed when the oak subframes were put in. It serves a very useful function in keeping the brickwork section underneath waterproof, but it’s an artisanal job to make it look pretty.
It starts with a scored out scallop.
Then the scallops are cut with actual scissors to make the shapes.
Each cut-out is rolled up and hammered into place.
The guys wear gloves because of the chemicals in the lead. Working with this stuff all day is toxic–lead poisoning is a real thing, and the preservatives on the surface are well-yucky.
We’ve opted to keep a layer of PVC on the course between the plinth and the vertical brickwork to protect the plinth from stuff dropping on it from above. All it takes is a stanley knife to remove it later on.
Plastering is the name of the game in other areas of the house. And in the few rooms where they are not working, Terry and Josh can get on with the window boards. Must say, they look lovely next to the subframes. They’re both treated with this Osmo oil which will bed in and soften in colour over time. We’re putting the stuff everywhere on all the oak except the huge structural pieces–architrave, door linings, the lot. We’ll even slap it on the oak underside of the first floor overhang outside. James hates it only slightly less than the black stain on the soffit boards.
Another interesting piece is the brick inlay panels. They’re not herringbone, but everyone calls them The Herringbone Panels–even us. Actually, with my Pedant Hat on, they’re Askew. But this is alright with me! (Sorry). Clive painstakingly sliced each brick to a skinny sort of depth, and we’ve bought this fancy adhesive for them to stick them on. Like the oak cladding last week, this is not quite functional, well, not at all, but it looks awesome. They’re doing a brilliant job setting, pinning, gluing, and mortaring them into place.
There are fifteen panels to make: 5 across each apex front and back, 5 across each paired square below them, and 5 below the windows in the hallway. That’s a lot of work, and I feel somewhat guilty just writing this in all the time they’re spending making the panels, but they are taking enormous pride in how it’s turning out. They took a day off the scaffolding when storm Doris blew through, the front and some of the back are mostly done.
I don’t usually go on about it, but I take great pride in looking at other houses with this similar non-herringbone brickwork, whose designers have decided to use a different brick from the rest of the house because it can be bought in, and thinking that our guys have simply taken the time and made the effort to do a brilliant job. Anyone with eyes can see that it’s a total pain to have spent days and days cutting these really thin slices to carefully stick on the boards, which is what James and the guys have done. But the finished effect will be seamless with the brickwork in the rest of the house because it’s exactly the same brick. It’s a bespoke house that everyone onsite is on board with to make it as good as it possible can be. And THAT is the bit that’s amazing.