Blood On The Walls
My fingers are raw.
I’ve been trying to remove the plaster residue left by the builders on the dining room beams. Lime plaster is, by its nature, extremely gritty. It means that if someone should happen to be scrubbing away at a beam with her wire toothbrush and her knuckles should accidentally scrape across the ceiling or one of the adjacent walls.. well, it’ll take the skin off and more. Ouch, ouch, ouch. There’s also the problem of having your neck constantly bent backwards and the aforementioned grit from the lime plaster falling straight into your eyes. When I encountered a particularly wormy bit of beam there were clouds of dust to contend with as well and on more than one occasion I was driven to wearing my respirator mask. Such things are really designed for big burly builders. Not petite young ladies. Or even petite not-so-young ladies. So it isn’t the most comfortable to wear. It’s been worth it though. The true colour of the wood is finally revealed.
It feels a very long time since Christmas and (oh so briefly) reclining comfortably in this room. Because no sooner had the fairy lights been packed away the dust sheets reappeared.
If you recall there used to be a bookcase taking up the entirety of the wall to the left of the fireplace. We’ve loved it as a feature and always intended to put it back. So much so that when the sofas were recovered, just before Christmas, we matched the fabric to the colour of the bookcase.
For almost a year now the three main sections of the bookcase have been stored in the garage. It kept them dry and out of harm’s way but restricted access to the front passenger seat of the car and, even worse, rendered it a virtual impossibility to open the rear door far enough to safely extract any cargo of plants that may have (perchance) fallen into the footwell during a horticultural excursion. But as the time drew near to reconstruct the bookcase back in the sitting room we began to have our doubts. The builders had cautioned against it. Stone and cob walls need to breathe. There is no damp proof course in a house of this age and the moisture which invariably draws up from the earth needs to evaporate freely. Fitted cupboards or pieces of heavy furniture which impede the free flow of air around the walls are likely to cause problems in the long run.
Given all the time, effort and grief that Mike had put into building the bookcase from scratch far be it from me to suggest that it didn’t go back. And yet, as it turned out, Mike had quietly been thinking the same. We’d found damp in the wall when we took the bookcase down. Since then it’s been replastered using the correct materials and as of today it’s as dry as this type of wall is probably ever going to be. Do we want to risk it getting damp again? No.
We had to find a compromise. I retreated back to the trusty CAD program and played around with some options. First I reduced the whole bookcase down to around a third of its previous height. But it looked too busy with the chairs in front of it finishing up at about the same height. So then I tried shortening the bookcase to 2/5 of its original width and just reducing the height slightly:
Better. This one almost got built. It got as far as the sides and the top being cut down and balanced in place. But for me at any rate it still didn’t work. A bookcase filling a wall reads as a wall. If you’ll excuse the pun. But now I’d created a monster of a stand alone piece of furniture which, even though it was now considerably smaller, seemed heavier, overly dominant in the low ceiling room and out of place. Especially with it being the first thing you encountered on coming in through the door. And in trying to provide the required air circulation it needed to stand slightly away from the wall, leaving an unsightly gap.
In this room, we decided, the bookcase was an all or nothing thing. And if we couldn’t have it all…
With two very heavy hearts we’ve now opted to leave out the bookcase entirely. It certainly gives a more spacious feel, if lacking some of the cosiness the room had before. I’m toying with the idea of painting this wall the same duck egg blue as the sofas, to make it more of a feature wall and perhaps bring a little more continuity. Too much blue? Should we stick with the light and airy white? Any thoughts?
Whichever way we go at least this new scheme will make the job of completing the room easier.. right?
Of course if you have a bookcase that covers a whole wall it really doesn’t matter where the plug sockets are. Even if they happen to be positioned half way up the wall. In a bare wall scenario it might perhaps be better if the sockets are located a little further down. Which means a new hole in the wall. And a longer electrical cable. And the bedroom floorboards up. Again.
As Mike hauled on the wire from above my job, described as “not arduous, but vital”, is to play out the new cable. With strict instructions that it was on no account to twist. Sounds so easy doesn’t it? And, as ever, supplementary directions hollered through the medium of a solid plaster ceiling can sometimes be misheard. Or not heard at all. Blood pressure rises on both sides. There could be more body fluid on the wall before the day is out. And this time some of it may not be mine.