21st August 2015
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, am I building a house or a cathedral? The Orchard is not a particularly big building – 100 square metres and only two and a bit floors. But those two and a bit floors are all part of a single continuous vertical space which means that we have some rather high and inaccessible surfaces to plaster and paint. I seem to spend most of the time at the moment clambering up and down ladders and a scaffold tower.
After a false start a couple of months ago, I’ve been doing some serious plastering this week. I think I’ve got the measure of it now: I know how much plaster I can slap on in one go and still have time to finish it properly before it goes off. The trick is to get it on the wall as fast as possible, in a reasonable state, leaving enough time to go over it all again, creating a smooth finish with a wet brush and trowel. This is straightforward if you are plastering a bedroom wall. But if you are plastering a continuous wall that starts on the ground floor, wraps up the staircase window, extends across the first floor and reaches up to the gallery at the top of the house, well, then you have a problem. So I’ve had to plaster in two stages, joining up the dried out work of the first day with the wet work of the next. Not ideal but it will be fine with a bit of sanding.
As for the high ceiling that shelters all these spaces: forget it. There’s no way I’m going to even attempt to plaster it. Instead, I’ve been tidying up with filler and painting it directly using lime paint, a simple natural product which is basically just crushed marble (limestone) suspended in water. You roll it on, wait for it to dry and your walls are covered in a thin film of bright white stone. It takes three coats but it’s lovely to work with and the slightly rough finish is tactile and robust. It barely smells (faintly of cream), it’s German and we get it from Mike Wye in Devon.
I’ve also plastered the reveals of our tall staircase window, which faces east but enjoys a brief but gorgeous moment when the southern light bounces in off the greenhouse windows. This window will eventually be finished with our stained glass panels (still a work in progress) which will no doubt add to the divine ambience. The Orchard may be just a modest house, but there are moments when I feel a fleeting sympathy with Don Justo, the crazed cathedral-building monk of Madrid. Keep it up mate!