Over the last three years we have dug hundreds of planting holes on our land. More often than not you find a stone while digging, or two stones or ten. Since we have this bountiful, beautiful, local resource we decided to incorporate it into our conservatory build. We have had our minds set on creating an indoor garden space since we first moved in and now that most of our planting is done, our extension is built and our house somewhat renovated it was time to put those plans into action.
We moved into our cottage in January 2013. Even before we bought it, we had decided that we would add a round house extension to it, with a reciprocal roof. These types of houses have been built for thousands of years, mainly in China and Japan. It is a very economical and environmentally sound way of building, and can be adapted to suit many climates and site conditions. We would like to share our experience of the build with our readers here, in case someone would like to embark on a similar project.
We have long been wishing for more storage space in our tiny kitchen. For three years it has been a struggle to fit our groceries into the limited amount of drawers and cupboards. When we moved our dinner table into our new extension, we were left with some space in the kitchen and decided to build a small island with a worktop and lots of storage. We found a base cabinet in IKEA with four pull out drawers, big enough to accommodate tins and jars.
We are very happy and proud to announce that our big mosaic floor in the extension now is finished. The actual tiling part of the job was completed a couple of months ago but we only put down a first layer of grout to bind it all together at that stage. We have been busy building, insulating and painting the different wall sections since then but this week all of that work was finished and we could move onto the final stage of the floor.
It was finally time to finish off work on our bottle wall sections this week. We have written a few posts about bottle wall construction over the last few months, and now it was time to add the finishing touches to our largest project. We found a lovely arched sash window as a second in a local joinery and decided to add a bottle wall arch to each side of it for a beautiful composition and also to add more light into our extension.
We have come to the stage of our build when it is time to connect the extension to the house. We will knock a hole in the back wall of the cottage but first we are building the walls on the little connection part. We wanted the space to be as light as possible so decided to put in another bottle wall. Two days were spent recently cleaning; fitting and taping our glass bottle and jar bricks. It takes a lot of glass bricks to build a wall so if you are planning a build like this, start collecting jars and bottles at once. Duct tape is best we find, but in a pinch brown parcel tape will do. We have been collecting a lot of decorative small glass bowls on our charity shop rambles, and they are a nice addition to the walls. To make bricks out of them we use big soft drink PET- bottles. This wall will not get a lot of direct sunlight so the bottles should be strong enough. It is only the very thick bottom part that is exposed to the elements anyway.
The key to a successful mosaic project is planning. You need to think about colour combinations, how bright you want the space to be and what tiles you have on hand. Do you wish to incorporate mirrors or pieces of broken crockery? What feelings do you want to evoke in people seeing your mosaic? In our bathroom we wanted a bright, calm and happy atmosphere so we decided to make mosaics in a neutral colour scale with mostly natural stone colours, with some mild greens, blues and turquoise incorporated. We added a lot of mirrors and sections of bottle brick walls to get as much light as possible. Even though the bathroom only has one small window, it is now the brightest room in the house.
We have had a busy first few days of May, finishing off two projects. In the bathroom we finally got to the last stage of the renovations, laying the mosaic floor. We got all the tiles for the floor free from a skip outside our local tile shop. Because the walls are light and include some subtle colour we wanted the floor to be quite dark and neutral as a contrast. For the wall mosaics we used ready-mixed tile adhesive as it is easy to use for precise applications of small tiles but for the floor we opted for a heavy duty cement based floor adhesive that we mixed up ourselves. This is more economical and we believe stronger for walking on. It is important to only mix up what you can use in about 45 minutes as it starts to set after that.
Spread it on a small area and put down your bigger pieces first and adding smaller pieces where they are needed as you go. Some tiles are thinner and need a bit of adhesive added to the back as well. Use your fingers and the palm of your hand to check that all the tiles are level and you end up with a smooth, kind to bare feet floor.
Let the adhesive set for a few hours or overnight before grouting. It is important to add the grout and keep smoothing it down, pressing it into all the gaps and crevices. When you are happy with the results let it set for a couple of hours before carefully wiping it with a damp cloth. You want to remove the excess grout but be careful enough not to rub too hard and take away too much grout from the joints. If you have never grouted anything before it might be good to start in a not so visible place of the floor to get the hang of it. Let the floor grout go off and do another wipe or two to get rid of all the excess grout. After that all you need to do is polish it with a dry cloth until it shines and admire your handiwork. We are happy to have made a beautiful strong floor that should last our lifetime, for next to no money, mostly with materials aimed for landfill.
While working on the bathroom we also made good use of the few sunny spells to put down paving stones on our outdoor area in front of the house. When we moved in we planted a beautiful old hawthorn tree, which we rescued from behind our shed, in the middle of our front yard. It is an ancient custom in Sweden to plant a tree for prosperity and luck in front of your house and since half of us originate from Sweden we wanted to honour this tradition. Around the tree we wanted a circle of paving stones and we were lucky to get some cheap from a neighbour who had them left over from a project. We started off with a small recycled mosaic circle set in cement and grouted with hypertufa.
After that we dug down to slightly deeper than the paving stones height and added some sand for a smooth bed.
The paving stones went on and were tapped down with a sledgehammer but we were not too bothered to get them all even as it adds character when they are slightly uneven. We added a dry hypertufa mix of one part cement, one part compost and half a part of sand to all the cracks. It is good to tap the stones slightly so the mixtures settle in and more can be added. We then watered all of it with a fine spray to wet the mixture and wash it away from the surface of the paving stones. Later we will add a little more hypertufa mix as it has sunk down from being watered and add a mix of yoghurt, moss and sugar to get the moss growing rapidly in between all the paving stones for a natural look. The total cost for this project was about €25.
We have been hard at work for over a month and finally we are starting to see the results of our efforts. One of the main reasons for our bathroom renovation was to raise the ceiling. It was so low that an adult was unable to stand up in the bath to take a shower. It always had a slightly claustrophobic feel to it. So the old leaking, low roof had to go.
Along with a raised ceiling we wanted more light and our choice fell on a wall made out of old wine bottles and jars. Recycled glass is an environmentally friendly, free, beautiful resource. It is easy to come by and easy to use. What is not to like about it. We drank the odd bottle of wine, collected bottles from friends and ate a lot of pasta sauce and mayonnaise for a while. The walls in our bathroom are very thick so we only needed to pop a jar on top of each bottle and tape to secure. It is good to have a similar height to your glass bottle bricks as it makes the building a lot easier. You will need to play around with the different bottles and jars to get them to an equal height. Make sure all bottles are clean and dry before taping them together.
After removing all the layers of the old ceiling and roof, we built up next to the window and on each corner with cement blocks that could easily take the weight of the new roof and filled in the sections in between with our made up bottle- bricks.
To save on cement we put insulation on the middle of the block in the same way we did on our bottle wall in our extension. You can read about all our construction techniques in the building category. The bottle bricks acts as double glazing in themselves so makes for a very well insulated wall.
We filled in between the bottles with cement and smoothed it out on the inside and out. After that all that we needed to do was put on a 50/50 mix of PVA and emulsion for two layers followed by two layers of emulsion. We went for white and added some sand to the paint in the ceiling to get a similar look to the bottle sections and the ceiling. We added mosaics to the pillars and are very happy with the results. The result is a bright, personal and very cheap bathroom. About 80% of our tiles came from a skip so the main cost for our walls was for the few concrete blocks, cement, the tile adhesive and grout. But the best feeling comes from knowing we have impacted as little as possible on the environment by using mainly bottles and other recycled materials. It takes more time than tiling and building in a conventional way, but if you decide to do something similar, we think you will be very happy with the results. Please post pictures in the comments if you make something inspired by this post. We would love to see it.
We have been hard at work for the last two days, tiling another wall in the bathroom. We had a lot of small mosaic tiles, about half of them found in a tile shop skip, and we wanted to incorporate some of them into the design on this wall. We also had some hexagon mirrors bought at IKEA and a round mirror with a shell mosaic around the edge. We played around with these components until we decided on a shooting star design.
The trail of the star was perfect for adding the small tiles to in curved lines, alternating colours and structures. We added a sections of mixed light coloured tiles each side, as a contrast to the busier colours and tomorrow we will do a slightly darker area of tiles all around the star. We are hoping this will make the star stand out in a pretty way. The entire wall will be grouted in a medium grey grout and it should bring all the areas together and create a beautiful whole. If you wish to see more of our mosaics just go to the mosaic category on the right hand side.
A shooting star is very practical to have around as every time life gets a bit difficult or sad you can make a wish.