Wednesday 25 November 2020

Window Seats II

Thanks to friend of Balintore, Violet, for making a couple of fitted cushions for the trapezoidal window seats in two of the entrance tower bedrooms. There is a previous blog entry on these window seats, sans soft furnishings, here. The cushions certainly transform the spaces for the better.

In the yellow room a damask curtain, bought at auction, was recycled into the covering. The warm tones in the fabric, pick up the red of the carpet and the yellow of the walls.

new window seat cushion in yellow room

For the blue room cushion, Violet donated a light blue velvet, and a dark blue velvet to cover the buttons. Violet overrode the material I had brought along as a bad colour choice, and I could only but agree but this was all I had. We rummaged around in Violet's bag of materials for about half-an-hour, considering carefully the different colour-ways. We even toyed with a number of blue-ish hued tartans. :-) I always thought I was very sensitive to colour, but Violet's artistic eye took things to a whole new level, and the final colour choice was just perfect. It turned out that the light blue material was resistant to being sewn by machine, and Violet had to hand sew the whole thing. I couldn't be more grateful for her endeavours beyond the call.

new window seat cushion in blue room

Gregor came to me a few days ago to ask if I wanted more windows seats in 3 new rooms we are fixing up. To be honest I had not really though about it, and initially said "no", because the rooms are large enough for chairs and I thought it would just be extra work.

I had obtained some pitch-pine tongue and groove lining from Lochee Parish Church in Dundee recently as it is being remodelled. I asked Gregor if he could recycle this for lining the windows. Unfortunately, it was just too short to reach from the bottom of the window to the floor. "Hang on a moment, " I said, "if we put in a window seat we can use the shorter lengths of lining above and below the seat level.". Suddenly, window seats became very attractive - it's an extra seat or surface if you ever need it.  Even then, they didn't quite reach the floor, but a bit of skirting board hides the gap:

new window seat with recycled framing timbers

Sadly, the supply of pitch-pine lining ran out far too soon, and we only managed to cover the seat back of the second window seat. For the bottom section we used bespoke modern lining copied from the Balintore original. The Lochee lining has an identical design, although it is a little narrower, but hopefully most people will simply not notice.

new window seat with 50% recycled framing timber

Gregor and I are living with the wonderful rich colour of the reclaimed pitch pine for now, but to suit the rest of the woodwork, we will probably have to paint it the same white which is a shame. One of the rooms has other dark wood detailing, so we may may be able to leave the pitch pine au naturel in this location.

What I love about the restoration of Balintore is paradoxically that there are so many constraints. It is a listed building so I am dedicated to putting back what was there before. However, we have to work with the reality of what has survived and what has disappeared, and the fact you cannot buy reclaimed materials to order, so how are we going to get everything to work together? The mix of solving practical problems and trying to achieve good-looking solutions is always a joy. 

To donate to the Balintore restoration project click here.

Friday 20 November 2020

70's Sci-Fi Heating Controller

The heating system being developed at the castle was, until a few days ago, controlled by a small off-the-shelf heating controller. This had small fiddly controls; required multiple presses of buttons to switch between incomprehensible modes; and generally confused operators, including myself, to the point of mis-operation.

I used to fantasise to my friend Andrew about big knobs with decisive clicks, large multi-coloured lights to indicate status, and Internet control so the heating system could be operated off-site.

It was obvious with such a large building that we would eventually have to move to a zoned-heating system i.e. it would be insane to try to heat the whole building at any one time even if we had a boiler that was capable of it. A few manual pipe valves were installed to bring different areas online/offline, but it was clear this was just a short term solution and that ultimately fool-proof electronic control was required.

In short, the existing controller was no longer adequate, and a bespoke upgrade was required. I asked my friend Andrew to get on the case. My only specification, aside from function, was that the new unit should look like a prop from a low budget 1970's Sci-Fi film. A brief that Andrew was delighted, and just a little too keen :-), to comply with. 

The marvellous result, shown below, was installed last Wednesday. All 4 switches (3 heating zones and hot water) are under Internet control. There are not quite 3 zones as yet but the controller is ready and waiting! Andrew and I looked into the Internet controllers out there. I would have expected units with 32 switches, but the typical numbers of switches were 1, 2 and 4, so we went for a unit with 4.

Working in IT, I am aware that systems must still work when there is total IT failure, and Andrew is very thorough by nature. There is full manual override, and full mechanical timers - in addition to the software timers available in the App

At some stage, the castle may need more boilers and more controllers, but the current system is now balanced, easy to control, and running 3 zones would take the boiler to roughly maximum capacity in any case.

70's Sci-Fi Heating Controller

To donate to the Balintore restoration project click here.

Monday 9 November 2020

Temperature Inversion Wonders II

The anomalous temperature inversion weather has been lingering now in the area for 3 days. The result is that waves of mist are rolling around creating amazing landscapes. These are especially magical when the light of the sun filters through.

This evening, just as it was about to get dark, the mist rolled bigtime into Glen Quharity. This is very rare, and only occurs every few years. At one stage the mist was threating to come up to the very edge of the castle itself, and when this happens the castle looks to be floating mysteriously on a sea of white. However, by the time I found my camera, the mists had disappointingly retreated somewhat. Anyhow, here are the photos I did manage to take.

looking across Glen Quharity: mist lying in bands

Glen Quharity encroached upon by mist

To donate to the Balintore restoration project click here.

Saturday 7 November 2020

Vale of Strathmore in Cloud

I have just returned to the castle after a few weeks away in the depth of Englandshire. The weather,  at the point one comes back after a period of absence, does rather dictate one's mood.  Wintry weather makes one question the wisdom of being in Scotland. However, at the moment the sky is clear and there is bright sunshine, doing a formidable impression of a summer's day even on the 7th of November. I am so pleased to be back. :-)

The presence of the sun is not universal. This photo, taken a few minutes ago, shows the wonderful atmospheric effect of cloud lying in the Valley of Strathmore. What a double whammy: good weather and the resulting smugness from others that are less fortunate.

view from castle: cloud lying in the Valley of Strathmore

To donate to the Balintore restoration project click here.