Well, we have completed the conversion of three of the bedrooms in the Bungalow Cottage to ensuites on time! There’s never an easy way, but we had to do it and the last couple of months have involved countless hours from several people, both paid and voluntary. Special mention must go especially to (Mrs Principal) Carmel who has given up weeks of her life for for us and voluntarily decorated the bulk of the rooms and new ensuites, with Monty lending moral support by being so well-behaved and cutting down on his walks for a few weeks whilst mummy continued with her work. The end in sight, trustee Heather also lent a hand in the final week and between them, they got, not just the bedrooms and ensuites, but the lobby painted.
Some distinct features, showing we have put some thought into this, include the fact we have continued out carpentry in oak to add a sense of quality. Simon our carpenter has come up with the goods in the form of headboards, console tables, desk/shelving units and hanging rails to adorn each room. Similar to Rooms 4 & 5 in the main house, we have taken the inspiration from Premier Lodge-type things and gone for practical and minimal. This helps the clean look, but also helps for room cleaning and for people not leaving things in drawers etc.
The simple routed groove to decorate the edge of the headboard is elegant and, also, a nod to the neo-gothic heritage of the main hall. You may also notice that, on two of the bedrooms, the headboard wall is a feature ocre colour. We found it complimented the curtains, shades and cushions well and brightened up the rooms. The room we now call Binsey (the former lounger) has colours to match the donated John Lewis curtains, and with its two windows, has a light, airey feel. The room we used to call Binsey, which was the smallest bedroom previously, has been split into two to provide an ensuite to the new Binsey and Skiddaw respectively.
Simon’s carpentry has been done to appear seemless and to be long lasting. With just enough room for nightime essentials, guests can stay organised and have things to hand. One integrated element of the oak finish is the fact that we have been able to make use of the light oak tall back chairs that we already had in the hall. These were originally made for the Dining Room but proved to be a little too heavy for that use. Far better that they serve individually as a place to put cases, clothes over the back or just to sit there, perhaps with a cushion. Naturally, they also serve as seats, but this time to allow people to sit at the desk/ dressing table comfortably in front of a good-sized mirror for either hair-doing or just admiring oneself!
Along the way, plumbing and electrics have been upgraded, and even one of the original walls has been restored to augment the layout of the rooms. Lawrence has managed to make the new layout without destroying existing walls.Volunteer Dave sorted out a bit of woodwork for us as well. When the kitchen is finally converted, it will provide a single accessible ensuite bedroom that will be able to be linked with any other the other three rooms, should a carer need to come as well, whilst at the same time, representing a regular room style usable by anybody.
Those people who remember the previous incarnation of the Bungalow will nod when we point out that this work was sorely needed. The three rooms now ready will add to the capacity of ensuites available to students to come to Higham. We now have 20 ensuites, with at least one more to come, once we get the old kitchen sorted in this Bungalow.
As with other recent redecoration, we have used colours that enable the partially-sighted to distinguish door frames, whilst giving a nod to design principles. The ensuites are mostly white, with white plastic-lined walls for cleanliness and a bright feeling. The showers are low-level for easier access and there are even double loo roll holders to hopefully save running out! Every bedroom has places to lie, sit, write, preen and make a cuppa! We will never have TVs in bedrooms, by the way, as we are a college where exciting things go on outside the bedroom!
When we had the entire sewerage replaced and upgraded, we got the patio sorted as well. This is now both functional and pleasant in that it has drainage should the road flood down into it, but also improves what is now the main entrance of the Bungalow Cottage.
We hope these improvements will make a positive difference to Higham. They symbolise the fact that, as a charity, we take out responsibility seriously and, when possible, we are investing back into Higham for the future , and, as you can see from this and recent posts, we are passionate about what we are doing. We are not just giving lip-service to improvements, but we are steadily improving things for everybody. WiFi will soon be present in the Bungalow Cottage, the phone is installed in the lobby and the heating boiler was replaced not too long ago (golly, I had a good rant about all that, at a time when funds were even tighter, we had to take a plunge and sort out some quite expensive things. I now feel we have banished memories of the older dark days of outdated and unloved accommodation, and now have a real asset to help Higham’s future. Oh, and we have managed it without borrowing any further money, instead, working to a budget and doing things in stages over a long period of time – these improvements started over three years ago, if we count) the heating. Whilst we have not held back on nice things to help people feel good, we have not wasted money and have re-used skirting, doors etc. where possible.
One confession – I did not read properly a proof of a £15 wooden sign I had ordered, and ended up with one that says “Longside, Shiddaw, Binsey” (it should be Skiddaw). Correct sign re-ordered, we will keep the old one (maybe one of our woodwork carvers can doctor the “h” into a “k” as a reminder of man’s follies.
Oh, for the time being, we are continuing to discount rooms for students in both the Cottage and the Gatehouse by £5 a night – simply to provide a little reward for those people happy to toddle the short distance from the main hall to these buildings. Seriously, though, this is appreciated by many people who like to keep costs down. But now, the Bungalow Cottage rooms are now some of the best Higham has!