We are first-time renovators who finally bought a home in July 2015, after 10 years of renting terrible houses together and being desperate to have our own place to fix up as we wanted. Our home is an end of terrace Victorian house built of brick sometime between 1880 and 1890 in the pretty seaside town of Penarth, near Cardiff, Wales.
We’ve decided to call this a ‘Pay-As-You-Go’ renovation… because we used all our money (begged and borrowed!) to buy the house, so are now relying on our incomes to pay for the works. This means we have no budget for the renovations, but use what’s left over from our monthly salaries. It also means that we’re going to do as much work as possible ourselves – we won’t be getting the builders in just yet!
The name of this blog, Happy and Warm, is inspired by our long-held desire to create a space which is both cosy and promotes well-being, and very much reflects our respective careers and interests. Richard is particularly focussed on making the house ‘Warm’, and Emma on making it ‘Happy’; although we share a passion for both things. And here’s why….
Emma is currently doing a part-time PhD in environmental psychology; an often unheard of subject which looks at how people are affected by the environment around them. Her PhD is focussed on the effect of the natural environment on well-being (e.g. the positive impact of gardens, and natural elements such as water and trees), but she has a general interest in how the environment in which we live can be designed to maximise our well-being, and consequently make us happier.
Emma is also a keen gardener and three years ago, she qualified as a garden designer. She combines environmental psychology with design, teaching aspiring garden design students at KLC School of Design, Hampton Court Palace, how to design for well-being. She hopes to be able to do up the garden as well as the house, integrating the two to create a relaxing, and ultimately happy, living space.
Breaking with the usual gender roles, Emma is also the main DIYer, and loves making / destroying / trying new things in the house. She also has a geeky passion for tools, and will be doing most of the hard work over the course of the renovations – slightly complicated by her recent diagnosis of an underactive thyroid, which makes her want to fall asleep all the time! But these things happen over the course of many a renovation project, such is life!
Employed as a garden writer and photographer by various magazines, including the Garden Design Journal and Amateur Gardening magazine (see her personal website for more), she will also be photographing progress in the house and writing most of the blog entries – reviewing tools, updating on progress, letting you all know how we’ve done things in the house.
Richard has always been passionate about renewable energy and has a PhD in engineering, specialising in solar thermal systems. He is Chief Technology Officer and joint owner of Energy Transitions Ltd., an innovative start-up which is working to develop a new type of highly efficient and architecturally beautiful solar panel (specifically, a new type of Transpired Solar Collector). He has a wealth of experience in working with renewables and in the retrofit of old buildings with new technology and materials to make them more energy efficient.
So he’s going to use these skills to make our own house warm and more energy efficient. He will also be using the house to showcase (or practice installing!) his new technologies, and will write about the resulting energy performance of the house; the more technical side of things. He will also give an honest account of our experiences in installing and running the various renewable energy technologies (such as the solar panels for electricity and heating), alongside the energy-saving measures that we will be introducing (e.g. insulation, double/triple glazing, underfloor heating).
So there you have it: Emma’s Happy, Richard’s Warm! We hope you (friends, family, fellow renovators, new friends!) will enjoy reading this blog and share your thoughts and tips with us. Do get in touch too through our contact page if you’d like to!