Regular readers will know we live in a vast and rambling house that is quietly falling apart but has the beautiful bones of a society grand dame.  Restoring it is a life’s work, and even after nearly ten years here there are nooks and crannies we’ve barely explored.  One of these was the dark, musty cellar….

The cellar is a small room under the house, accessed either from outside by a twisting brick staircase, or from inside the house via a death-defying vertical steel ladder.  When we moved in we opened the door to the cellar and almost stepped straight down the void into the room below…

For the first two years we lived here it remained empty save for a substantial shelf of home-brewed alcohol left behind by the previous owners.  One night we awoke to a serious of loud explosions as the drink fermented to such a fever pitch that the corks of the bottles were blown off, one by one.  The following winter the cellar flooded and became home to a colony of baby snakes who would whip through the ankle-deep water with alarming speed.

It merely confirmed our view that the cellar was a treacherous place to be left for another day.

Over the years the cellar steadily filled up with random garden objects, discarded toddler toys and games, punctured inflatable pool equipment and offcuts of wood and building supplies.  Whenever we searched in vain for a piece of seasonal furniture or tin of paint we would eventually turn to each other and say in hollow unison; ‘it must be in the cellar’.  My husband would visibly blanch at this, knowing it would fall to him to navigate the spider webs, throat-tightening dust and clutter and the ever-present threat of a stray cork-bullet still awaiting discharge from the lingering home-brew. All of this in pitch-black darkness. alleviated only by the dim beam of an iPhone torch.

Last month I decided it was time we reclaimed the cellar for good.  I dreamed of a ‘messy crafting’ space where I could work with clay, wood, resin and all the things that cause chaos indoors.  Somewhere I could spend evenings with a mug of tea, apron and radio just experimenting and learning new skills.

So, we cleared out all the contents, ripped out the partition wall and rotting shelving and were left with a surprisingly large, square space.  Along the length of the far wall runs a substantial iron brace on brick pillar, previously hidden by the old, warped shelves;

I decided to keep the beautiful rusted metal brace and fitted an Ikea wooden worktop along it, cutting a second one in two to make shelves (just like here in the laundry!).  I found industrial-style metal shelf supports from Homebase which mirror the extensive boiler-room piping on the opposite wall, and tapped shaker wooden pegs into the overhead beam for extra storage.

Logs for our woodburning stove and open fires are stacked neatly underneath and exude a lovely scent in the air.

And MDF letters found inexpensively online are propped against the worktop, just in case I forget where I am 🙂

I’m on the hunt for a second-hand potters’ wheel, trawling eBay each night, and with clay in mind wanted to add a sink unit to the cellar studio.  I found an old Belfast sink on eBay for just £40 a few miles away, and cleaned it up and mounted it on an Ikea butchers’ block.  The backdrop to mount the taps is a sheet of plywood set with a handful of leftover tiles we found when clearing out the cellar.  The board is an old floorboard from the house; cut and sanded to size like the one we made for the family bathroom.  I loved recycling and reusing materials that were intrinsic to the original house.

The shelves are filled with pots, tools, half-finished projects and books for inspiration,  Also, with poor Headless Dorothy who has featured so often on these pages over the years but took a fatal tumble last month, rendering her forever mentally unstable and now resting in peace on the shelf.

Other, smaller changes make the cellar a comfy yet unfussy space to work in; we removed the radiator that was hung oddly halfway up the wall and fitted a new version to pump out heat at ground-level.  We swept two centuries of dust out from the coal-hole and added a shelf just wide enough to take a mug of tea and a portable radio..

An old high stool has been sanded and re-oiled and is now the perfect height for working at the bench;

And so the space is now transformed; ready for major crafting projects and for the installation of a potters’ wheel as soon as I can source one.

Just one final touch, which always now makes me smile…

Have a great weekend when it comes, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing!