The problem with creating space when there's no space to create space

We're in a peculiar situation with our house renovation in that, although we have several spaces we would like - and are intending - to re-do, we are struggling to get them started due to lack of space to work in.

Here, let me explain.

We live in a 1925 brick house which, at the moment, has 3 bedrooms but the layout has slightly changed over the years, so it's not the original floorplan.

(Please note: it's an approximation and IT IS NOT TO SCALE! so I've, literally, just sketched it within two minutes just now.)

The main entrance is through the large hall in front of the house, between bedrooms 2 and 3; and the back door goes out the laundry room hallway in the back of the house.

A few photos to give you an idea of where things are: bed 1 is where me and The Man sleep.

Bed 2 is what kids share.

Bed 3 is our storage room...

...because the garage is in such a poor state that it, really, is not suitable for storing (expensive) tools in. (We do keep timber and a wheelbarrow and garden tools and such in the garage, but... it's more of a large shed at this stage, rather than a garage.)

And herein lies the problem.

Whilst we do have several (large) projects in mind to bring the house to comfortable, much-loved standard, at the moment we are struggling to get started due to a lack of space to work in, because we can't decide what we're gonna do first.

For example: the deck.

We want to add a deck in the back of the house to create an outdoor area we can use without having to don gumboots and jackets - a place where, when the sun is out, it's nice to just step out and have a cup of tea, or play puzzles. Part of it would be covered with clear plastic sheets on the roof and down the side because it would give me a place to hang up washing when it rains, and get it mostly dry before I bring it back in again - and besides, it's nice to have a place to sit outside even when it rains.

Oh, and I should probably explain what these hand-drawn sketches are: when The Kid attends conductive education classes in the afternoons and I watch the boys have fun...

... I often sit down with a sketchbook and work on things. Mostly I sketch visuals of our house, because it's fun, but sometimes I sketch things just to advance my skills - it'll help me with schoolwork next year.

And so all these hand-drawn sketches I've scanned directly from that sketchbook.

Seeing it laid out on paper like that makes it easier to think about things, and discuss with The Man.

But back to the deck:

Although building a deck is a mostly outdoor project and a certain amount of rain/wind is part of the getting the job done, it really helps to have at least some of the work done undercover, if for nothing else then at least for storing the tools and cutting timber.

Because here, let me remind you:

The deck will go in the upper (inside) corner between living room and kitchen. But as it stands, there isn't a good place for working on it. Bedroom 3, our de facto storage room, is not practical because 1) it can't be used in the evening when the kids are in bed due to noise, 2) the garage can only be used if we take all the tools there when we start, and then bring everything back in when we finish, and 3) laundry hallway isn't big enough.

So it would really help to, first, build a toolshed in the yard (probably very similar to this) so that timber can be stored there, and some tools, and create a working space, but then the same problem: where to work on building a toolshed - a covered deck would be a good place, but we haven't got a deck ;)

(And before anyone asks: no, we do not want to spend money on buying a new garage.)

In the end, I think we are simply going to wait 2-3 months until days get longer again, and then we can hunt down a good patch of sunny weather and get the deck up within 3-4 evenings. Maybe ask if any of The Man's workmates will help us for a bit of extra cash.

And then once the deck is up, we can build a toolshed. And once the toolshed is up... OMG, the possibilities then!

Or here's another example: indoors, we are struggling to create storage space. There are several good places for building storage solutions, but all of them involve major demolition work - which cannot be done until bedroom 3, storage room, is empty.

Bedroom 1, our main bedroom has this beautiful large wall where we could make a row of built-in shelves, wardrobes, storage cupboards and drawers - designed precisely for what we want to store in them, and how we like storing them. (Imagine the place I could have for all our hiking gear!)

At the moment we have simply hung a metal rod for hanging clothes, and some timber slats above for shelving.

And yes, it's a real estate sign that's been covering the open fireplace for years now. Don't even ask...

But to do that, we would first have to take down the chimney stack: the house currently has 3 brick chimney stacks - one in each bedroom - which are all an earthquake hazard and need to come down to at least ceiling height. But if we take them down to ceiling height... why not take them down all the way? They're useless. We will never use them for anything, and they take up space.

But for that we need to empty the storage room so we have somewhere to move into whilst the demolition work is in progress.

Same with the kids' bedroom, bedroom 2: if we're going to do it, we need to move them out of there, and have somewhere to move them into.

Another thing with the kids' bedroom - and also the storage room, bedroom 3 - is that the wall covering is the original scrim. It's a fire hazard, and we're lucky enough that our insurance company was even willing to cover us, because that's the only reason we were even able to buy the house. (Most insurance companies won't cover scrim, and therefore houses with scrim walls don't sell to people who need a mortgage for them - they go to "cash buyers" who have money at the ready for them.)

When we start renovating, we need to strip the walls entirely, re-gib them and whilst we're at it, it makes sense lower the ceilings from their current 3.1 metre height (yay for 1920's buildings, huh!) to a more manageable 2.4 metres, or even 2.2 if we decide to really go for European standard thermal savings.

Because at the moment we are heating these massive spaces up under the ceiling that no human ever spends time in, unless they're 3 metres tall.

But for that, we need the storage room sorted first, so we can move kids somewhere during demolition and renovation.


And if I'm doing this beast of a house-renovation post anyway, how about I just go nuts and write more, huh?



At the moment it's, let's put it this way... un-impressive.

Behind it are a small hallway, a large laundry (with the original concrete sink!) and the toilet.

The original kitchen wall has been moved 1 metre towards the laundry to create space for fridge and storage shelves (which are so unfortunately placed I've already got one concussion from them due to top shelves overhanging the bottom ones)...

... and at the top of our to-do list is to get a functional cold water tap (notice that we still haven't got cold water there, and only have one hot water tap? It's because the house hasn't got a single water valve - apart from turning off the entire house on the street and then draining the hot water cylinder to even get access to repairing taps) and a range hood and new electrical wiring.

But the problem with those is, we kind of... don't want to spend money and time putting up a range hood and new wiring in places where they are at the moment, because the way they are at the moment, they're not practical. The whole kitchen needs to be moved in order to not have doors opening into it and taking out people standing in front of the sink washing dishes, and being able to cut something on the chopping board whilst someone else is stirring porridge on the stovetop...

Which brings me to this:

On the left is the current layout - on the right, what we've discussed with The Man.

New Zealand building code requires that between toilet and kitchen there are at least 2 doors, so just taking out the wall in the kitchen is not a legally practical solution - it would open a toilet directly into the kitchen, which is not good.

And that's why we've started discussing what we want to do with the kitchen down the line, because then we can see if we can maybe update the electrical wires in the current kitchen in a way that would make them practical for when we renovate it down the line.

Left: a couple of kitchen layouts I've 'played' with. (Bottom one is better.) Right: a couple of laundry room layouts I've 'played' with. (The bottom right is the best.)

Which would mean that the total floor plan would turn into something like this:

It's not an ideal solution. Far from it - there are no, what I think, 'ideal' solutions as such, in old houses.

But! It looks doable, and workable, and something we can do bit-by-bit, as time and finances allow, and what makes sense to us in a way that we use this house.

And although this house is far from something that would end up on Pinterest - I'm hoping it never will, to be honest - the bottom line is, we feel lucky and grateful and relieved to call it our home.

Rough-looking, it is nevertheless a much-cherished part of a family who are hard-working and handy, and although we know that buying a couple of cans of light-coloured paint and painting the walls would make the rooms instantly brighter and more likable, we don't want to deal with superficial questions of paint until we've tackled the underlying structural issues behind the walls.

One day the rooms will be lighter, and more beautiful, and more practical.

But for the moment, it'll do.

...though I'm still looking forward to getting something started, so we can then get other things started! :)

PS. Jesus, I've just spent two hours writing a blog post.

I think I'm nuts.


  1. Need ehitus-ja remonditööde planeerimise ja tegemise postitused on mu lemmikpostitused :) Tööd on muidugi palju, jagub aastateks, aga nii põnev on jälgida, kus ja mis. Ja ma kadestan südamest inimesi, kes suudavad niimoodi joonistada (ma ei oska isegi öökappi viisakalt visandada, sellistest detailjoonistest rääkimata).

    1. Kusjuures, ma õppisin joonestama keskkoolis. Meil oli kord nädalas joonEstamise tund - me olime reaalkallaku klass - ja nüüd tagantjärele on mul sigahea meel, et meil see oli, sest need põhialused on minuarust kõik sealt keskkoolist alles jäänud nüüd...

  2. Mina ka naudin neid 'kodupostitusi'! Olles ise uue kodu otsingul....

    Minu jaoks on küsimus see köögi taga olev WC. Kui praktiline see seal üldse on? Magamistubadest kaugel, külaline peaks läbima mitu ruumi (pesuruumi korras hoidmise asemel on ajaga paremat ka teha), lapsed õuest tulles peaks ikka kummikud jalast võtma ja pikalt orienteeruma.... Vaatan seda maja plaani ja head lahendust ei ole. Mängin mõttega jätta sinna, kus on, kuid teha ka õuest uks. On naljakas, kuid samas olete palju õues ja praktiline lahendus. Teine mõte oleks liigutada pesuruumi ja WC asukohad/pooled ja ikkagi välisuks ka. Saaks mudased lapsed-koerad sealtkaudu sisse lükata. Külalised läbiks küll ikka ka pesuruumi.

    Rebane (see koertega...)

    1. Tualeti teise kohta liigutamine tähendab uue kanalisatsioonitoru sissepanemist ja see on... jah, suur töö :). Aga hetkel me mõtleme hoopis, et paneks välisukse kööki, kraanikausi ja pliidi vahele, nii et ta jääks sisuliselt samasse kohta, kus praegu uks on. Ja köögipind oleks siis kaks I-kujulist pinda, mitte aga üks L-kujuline.

  3. Ühinen eelnevatega, et need renoveerimis- ja ehituspostitused on kõige ägedamad. Samas mul on küsimus, et kas lapsed endale eraldi tubasid ei saagi? Praegu väiksed ja vahet pole, aga kui suuremaks kasvavad?
    p.s. Kas wc-d, kuidagi sinna vannitoa kõrvale ei anna paigutada, natuke elutoas ruumi lõigates? Lihtsalt plaani vaadates tekkis selline mõte.

    1. Kui garaaz oleks korras ja hea olnud, siis oleks lapsed eraldi toad saanud - aga kuna meil ei olnud head kohta, kuhu "muid" asju panna, siis me pidime ühe toa nö hoiupaigaks tegema ja lapsed ühte tuppa panema. Ja nüüd kus nad ühes toas on, tegelt täitsa okei on. Mis tähendab seda, et me plaanime lapsed ühte tuppa jättagi ja teha praegune hoiupaik nö külalistoaks, et kui meil külalisi käib, siis saab nad sinna magama panna. Aga see tähendab küll, et me vahetame magamistoad lastega ära tulevikus, nii et lapsed saavad suure magamistoa endale (praegune Bed 1, ehket minu ja abikaasa magamistuba) ja meie kolime väiksemasse magamistuppa, Bed 2.

      Tualeti liigutamine vannitoa juurde ei tundu hea mõte kahel põhjusel: 1) elutoa ja vannitoa vaheline sein on koht, kus on veekatel ja ahi. Neid ei taha liigutada :), 2) ja üldse kanalisatsiooni liigutamine on suur tükk tööd, nii et lihtsam tundub ta sinna jätta, kus ta praegu on, ja leida hea lahendus seda asukohta arvesse võttes.

    2. Ja unustasin lisada: kui lapsed suuremaks kasvavad, siis võib-olla VÄGA tulevikus me ehitame väikese stuudio tüüpi lisamaja tagaõue, praeguse garaazi asemele (võib-olla garaazi vastu?) ja teeme selle külalistetoaks, ja siis lapsed saavad endale eraldi toad. Aga järgmised 5-6 aastat ma arvan, et ei peaks probleemi olema, kui nad tuba jagavad, eriti veel juhul, kui me liigutame nad kokku suurde magamistuppa, praegune Bed 1.

    3. Aitäh põhjaliku vastuse eest ja edukat lahenduste otsimist!