I'm finding it hard to remember what work was done in what order but I'll do my best. Without doubt Joe would know exactly what was done when and in great detail but unfortunately I have only my own memories to go by.
First clearing out
One of the things that sticks out in my mind first is the floors.
This may sound a strange place to start but bear with me!
When we first found the cottage the floors were simply mud, flattened down after years of use but what made them unusual was the levels.
When you stood at the gable end of the bedroom the whole underneath sloped quite dramatically downwards and though it was quirky and wonderful it wasn't the ideal scenario to live with.
I know in most cases a digger would have been brought in to pull away the unlevel parts or concrete used to lift the lower areas but that would have been impossible without causing damage and also taking away from what was there for so many years.
Joe being Joe always seemed to know what was best for the building and so he decided instead of fighting against what was already there he would work around it. He built gradual steps after each doorway to soften the steepness and embraced the natural slope.
It makes for a wonderful sight the corridor from the top bedroom to the living room but there is a reason I have 'mind your head' signs over each door.. There's many a crown been toppled by those doorways over the years especially after a few drinks!
Underfloor heating, liscannor floor in top room
We talked long and hard over floor surface and heating and we decided on Liscannor stone and underfloor heating.
The reasons for both were quite simple really. Liscannor is native Irish, retains heat well and each slab is a piece of art in itself, totally individual made by mother nature. The underfloor heating was a way of saving space in a small building when radiators especially old ones would have taken up so much room we could ill afford. Then, as always there was the asthethics and I know Joe wanted the cottage to look as authentic as possible within the confines of modern living.
I remember laying the floors like it was yesterday, the reason I remember so well is it was just the two of us and we mixed the cement and layed every slab ourselves.
We had no running water so I would fill buckets from the trough up the field and drag them back while Joe mixed.
Kevin putting in electrics along the sloping corridor
Anyone who knows Liscannor knows the weight of the slabs and so to minimise the carrying we lifted them through the window closest to the room we were doing. It was seriously hard graft but we were young, broke and full of energy so we did anything we could ourselves.
Our big enamel bath is one of the guests favourite things about the cottage as even the tallest man can have a decent soak but it is a bit of a mystery as to how something so large and heavy got into a small little cottage bathroom.
So I'm finally going to reveal the answer.. Joe built the bathroom around the bath!!
We first got the bath in by rolling it on logs (no joke!) then when in place Joe build stone all around it encasing it in as if it was always there. I like to think of it as a smaller version of the pyramids 😉
The bath mystery revealed! Joe building the wall between the old bedroom and new bathroom
Joe being a stonemason knew how to use lime and thankfully he used it to re-point the whole building taking away the old plaster and replacing it. A painstaking task but very necessary.
People ask me quite a bit about Lime /limewash/lime putty and I've tried to learn more about it in the last few years.
It's really not as complicated as people think. Lime is porous and makes the perfect recipe for breathability ie. It allows moisture in and most importantly allows it back out again.
When you use lime to paint external walls it stops moisture getting trapped in the walls which subsequently stops damp and the typical musty smell that comes with it.
There is a reason guests say they are surprised the cottage smells so fresh for such an old building, as nothing is trapped in the walls to cause dampness, it fills up in winter and releases in summer.
The bathroom ready for the bath
The bathroom today
You can avail of many different types of lime paints/washes etc. I use a lime paint for inside to minimise splashes but externally I use a lime putty from 'The traditional lime company' 1-3 (1 scoop of lime putty to 3 water) if starting fresh then 2-2 thereafter for extra coats.
I used to be very spartan making sure I didn't use too much and that it wouldn't flake off when dry, but more recently I've realised I can use a creamier mix (like ice-cream consistency) and once it's not on a bare wall it sinks in beautifully and saves me doing 3 coats in summer. I can often get away with one.
I am one of those strange people that loves painting (just as well eh!) My favourite is whitewashing. On a sunny day its pure therapy and gives me such a sense of satisfaction. No paint on earth compares to the brilliant reflective light that whitewash brings.
My whitewashing kit
I'm not going to go into too much detail on the thatching as that is another blog for another day, but obviously it was and still is one of the most important parts of Trohanny cottage.
When we first found the cottage it was covered in corrugated iron sheets as was the norm for a lot of old buildings at the time but the original thatch and scraw were underneath so we always felt if we were to restore this building properly it deserved its thatched roof back. Although having a thatched roof in Ireland is nothing short of impossible at times, I would never contemplate taking it off.
There were obviously some things even Joe couldn't do himself.
His brother Kevin did an amazing job with the electrics and other jobs but we did have help with plumbing and getting the windows & front door made.
I have been asked about where we got the half door made and I cannot for the life of me remember, but it and the wooden sash windows were so beautifully crafted and stand the test of time 20 years on.
I do recall very well where the kitchen was made, but I won't mention a name for reasons explained below..
First off Joe had made a 'stone kitchen' this is no word of a lie, it was the closest thing to living with the Flintstones!!
It was really beautiful but impractical in some ways and Joe made the decision to get some cabinets made instead.
It was the first time he'd asked someone to do a job instead of trying it himself and it pained him to give away some of the little money we had.
Oh i can't begin to tell you how gutted he was at the result, he didn't sleep at all the night after it was delivered.
There was nothing wrong with it per-say, but it was very shiny and sharp edged and just not in keeping with the look that we were trying to achieve.
We decided we would have to try and do something with it ourselves and so we set about with sandpaper and tools to soften the edges (what nowadays people called the 'distressed look'!) so the kitchen you see today is the result of that story and still makes me laugh when I think of how it came to be.
How we lived!
Washing my hair in the bath & an electric heater for warmth ..for someone who claims to detest pink this is a shockingly embarrassing photo 😂
There are so many more stories and so much more detail I could go into but it would take a book or three!
Needless to say Trohanny Cottage today is an accumulation of many years of history, hard work, creativity, love, grief, change and re-birth and it continues to transform but hopefully always keeping it's authenticity.
As it's custodian I feel very proud and get such joy in sharing its special history and beautiful energy with others.
For anyone contemplating restoring an old building my advice is do your research, get the information before you start. Be realistic with costs as it always costs more than expected. Expect to work hard, possibly the hardest physical work you'll ever do but know this, it's worth ever bit of blood, sweat and tears and ultimately, like Joe you could have a building that lives on even after you are gone knowing you saved a piece of history that would have been lost forever.
Himself in the midst of it all- 2001
Fully thatched 2003
Trohanny Cottage as it is today- summer 2021