Now before you start thinking, “has he started writing blogs about 00’s American TV show now.” Don’t panic, the west wing is what we have nicknamed the mother in laws annexe. Although, saying that she does like to act like the First Lady at times!
One of the main reasons we decided to move house, was so we could have Andrew’s mother close to us. Originally we had an idea to build the annexe as a separate structure in the garden “or down the road……..just kidding.” But with the unfortunate news of her dementia diagnosis at the beginning of last year, along with other health issues we decided, the best thing would be to have her in the main house with us. We soon found a house that was big enough for all of us, plus with the bonus of a large double garage built onto the side. We planned to extend and convert this into the annexe. In no time at all I had drawn up some basic plans of how we would like it to look and sent it off to Greg our architect. A couple of weeks later we had our first official meeting with him.
Greg the architects not so basic plans.
I remember feeling really excited as Greg rolled out the drawings. So imagine our shock when we see the new plans look absolutely nothing like what we had originally asked for! Greg had taken our plans, rolled them into a ball and tossed them in the bin, but boy were we happy he did. “This is where having an architect really comes in to its own.” Instead of putting the annexe in the garage he suggested converting the living room and study into the annexe. Then turning the garage into a TV room and much needed laundry room. I wasn’t 100% on board with this arrangement at first. As one of the first things we loved about the new house was the massive floor to ceiling windows in the living room. Greg was now suggesting we take them out! After a long discussion, we came to an agreement, that the windows stay, but the end glass panel will be boxed in and the one next to it to be frosted, as these two would be in the new bathroom.
the window that had to stay !
We knew that finding a builder can take time, plus we were in a bit of a hurry to get the MIL in. So we decided we would convert the study into the bedroom ourselves and leave the living, kitchenette and bathroom to the builders. With my trusty hammer and chisel in hand, I’d knocked down the study brick chimney surround in no time. This proved to be a a lot of fun and a great stress reliever, so much so that I knocked the living room chimney surround down too, now that was fun! Although the clean up was not so fun (for my Husband).
This was the study looked like before we started work.
In no time at all the brick surround “and most of the plaster” was gone. Once the dust from the rubble had settled and the wood-chip wallpaper was off the walls. It was clear this wasn’t going to be a quick patch and paint job anymore. I called up my brother in law Mark, who like a knight in shining white van came over to give me advice on what to do next. No sooner said than done, he was knocking down parts of walls to make way for the new doors. Putting in electrics, and getting a plasterer round to skim all the walls and ceiling. Soon paint was going on the walls and we were looking at carpet samples.
A short time later we had found a builder to take on the project for us, and before you could say “Bob the Builder” there was a team of builders on site, pulling down the ceiling and ripping up floorboards. With each day more and more of the old living room disappeared. Stud walls grew out from the floor and the old living room had now become three separate rooms! We didn’t realise until this point just how big the room really was. Who knew 3 into 1 could go.
With the building works now in full swing, it was hard at times to keep up with what was going on. Luckily for us our builder Dan was in complete control through every step of the build which put us at ease, as we all know how unreliable builders can sometimes be. Soon enough the builders made way for the plumbers and electricians. As most of us know, old people like their homes warm, very warm in fact! So a separate heating system was an absolute must have. The electricians had the new wall lights up and the space no longer felt like a dark cave.
With Christmas just around the corner, all the rooms were nearing completion. In the bathroom we made the decision to put in a walk in bath as the MIL isn’t keen on showers and can no longer manage to get in or out of a standard bath. We also chose push down (non concussive) taps that turn themselves off, for the bathroom and kitchenette sinks. This was to stop taps being left on and causing any possible future floods. For the flooring in both kitchenette and bathroom we put down a nonslip vinyl, (don’t want no trips to A&E thanks!) The white bevelled metro tiles with the darker grey grout, gives both rooms a fresh contemporary feel, and they are easy to wipe clean! Now it was the turn of the decorators to start, as soon as the paint went on the walls everything suddenly came together, with a swish of a paint brush the building site was transformed into a beautiful space.
All the paint colours used were by Little Greene. In the bedroom we used Dorchester Pink-Deep, the living room is painted in Lemon Tree, and the kitchenette and bathroom were both painted in French Grey.
In just a few days the painting was completed, and the new carpet was down. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t all plain sailing, and it may have been another week and a half until the bathroom cabinet and the kitchenette tap were installed. But that didn’t matter to us. Dan the builder had assured us that the MIL would be in by Christmas, and sure enough to his word on the 23rd of December the annexe was ready to start moving furniture into. Luckily for us, this only took about an hour, “one bonus of extreme downsizing!”
The MIL finally had a space to call her own, somewhere that she could feel safe, “drinking our wine” knowing that her family were just on the other side of the door. Bringing anyone into your home with dementia is no easy task, and none of us know how long these situations will go on for. But what we do know is that what ever does come are way, we will all be facing it together.
Thanks for reading…
The First Lady herself xx