Tag Archives: apartment

Allen keys and rubbish

I spent last week in Rotterdam, mainly working on getting the flat fit to live in. The great news is that there is now a floor fitted throughout the bedrooms and the living room. I have also papered the big wall in the main bedroom and either side of the chimney breast in the living room. The fitted wardrobe and the door in the spare room is painted. Curtain rails have been put up in both bedrooms, new plug sockets fitted in the spare room and….

I was busy. The floor is the biggest thing and it’s great to have that down. I’m glad that I arranged for it to be fitted too. The guys had the right tools and knew what they were doing. It looks great. The wallpapering covers the giant yin yang on the bedroom wall. It is still there above the bed but hidden for someone else to find in years to come. The flat now feels more like a home than an half done project. There is still a lot to do but nothing urgent apart from building the Ikea wardrobes.

Propped up in the bedroom are currently about twenty cardboard boxes full of chipboard, allen keys, those little round twiddly things and a whole lot of screws. I actually really enjoy assembling these things. It’s a bit like building a giant jigsaw puzzle. They’re enormous so it will take two of us to lift and manhandle them. Before I left last week I got some practice in building the spare bed.

Allen keysIt got me thinking about the process of designing how Ikea products a) look and b) can be constructed, at home using a, presumably, fixed number of dry fixings. No glue but a whole lot of allen keys. Their instructions are also really well put together using no language, just illustrations. Making the bed was really straight forward if a bit long winded. If only their website was as easy to navigate.

Half the fun will be getting rid of all the cardboard once we’ve unpacked it all. There are a number of cardboard skips behind the shops at the back but I’m not sure these are free for all.  They’re usually rather full and it could be that the shops are paying to have them there. The last thing they’ll need is a fly-tipping Ikea junkie stealing their space. Perhaps I should adopt the Colditz method. Cut them up and dispose of them a few square centimetres at a time over a course of several months.

I’ve already been doing this with the old laminate floor. The flat doesn’t have its own bins. Around and about there are depositories in the street that accept rubbish, glass, plastic and paper. On Mariniersweg there are some large ones. I’ve had a large pile of old laminate planks on the kitchen balcony. I’ve taken eight at a time and broken them in half before carrying them round to the ‘restafval’ box round the corner. They are like large metal boxes submerged in the ground with upstanding post boxes on the surface. A lorry periodically comes and lifts the whole thing to empty it. I’m slowly getting through the pile of planks – the end is in sight.



Turning trials into triumphs

I got back to Blighty on Friday having managed to sort out some of the trials so I thought I’d better report on progress.

The flooring is on its way to being sorted. Hans from Joop came round to measure up and we’ve managed to  recycle some of the previous underlay which I’m told is top quality. I will need to go back in a couple of weeks but I’m confident that It will be fine. It seems that there is little point in trying to get my deposit back from the first place but  one has to be philosophical about these things.

20150703_140653On Wednesday the Indesit engineer came round to look at the fridge.  As I suspected he said that it was Kaput and that I needed to go back to the shop and demand a new one. He gave me a report and I duly cycled over in the mid day sun. I wanted to go as at this point I wanted to choose a different model. I no longer trust this batch of Indesit models. A new Whirlpool model came on Thursday morning. It’s a very clever model that actually makes things cold when you want it to.

Originally I had it all planned that the flooring would be fitted last Wednesday with Ikea delivering a load of heavy boxes on the Thursday. As I said before Ikea had cancelled. I had already rearranged for the Ikea delivery to be put off ’till August. This gave me chance to carry on painting. Thursday came, I was filling holes, sanding skirting boards, rubbing down door frames and splashing around the emulsion. The bell rang – Ikea delivery – two men with a truck, a washing machine and a load of heavy boxes. 20150701_103413What to do – accept it or send them away.  My reasoning was that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.  “i need to take payment”, the man said.. “But I’ve already paid”. He went to call the office while I found the payment on line. It took a bit of working out but it appears that the order had been duplicated in the Ikea system. The one I’d paid for was the one that had been delayed. The one they’d brought was the duplicate with no payment. After much confusion I agreed to pay on my card and then arrange to cancel the first order and claim a refund. A classic case of a computer system that said no.

Heavy Ikea boxes

Heavy Ikea boxes

One problem is that there are now a load of boxes that will need to be moved around once the new flooring arrives. I still think that the bird is better in the hand. We’ll cope.

The walls are all painted in the spaces that are having a new floor. Skirting boards and most of the door frames are also done. Friday morning I finished a second coat on the living room ceiling and went round to pay a deposit on the floor. I also asked Hans to get me through the Dutch Ikea phone system “Voor keukens op 1. Voor waxinelichtjes druk op 2…”

Another hot day and I rewarded myself with a latte and a piece of cake before heading off to the airport. 20150703_123630_001

Planning ahead

This blog is called Life on Pancake Street – I feel like a bit of a fraud as I’m not currently experiencing Life on Pancake Street. I’m still in the UK working on a busy Summer for Culturapedia. This week we’ve got a troupe of New Zealand Dancers performing on a moving double decker bus across six Pennine Lancashire Towns.

I will be back on Pancake Street on Sunday night, (28 June). I will be busy. On Monday I need to cycle over to my estate agents in Kralingen and pick up keys to the post box and the bike store. In the afternoon I have 50+ square meters of laminate flooring being delivered. It has to sit in the apartment for two days to acclimatise before it can be fitted.

20150530_132624We sorted this out last time we were there from a showroom just round the corner on Mariniersweg. I got a bargain. It was reduced and I’ve saved €5.00 per square meter. Rotterdam is a city that people live in. They live, en masse, right in the centre. They don’t have cars so the market comes to them. Also on Mariniersweg there is a Praxis, part of a DIY chain where we bought paint.

I will need to get busy with a paint brush. It makes sense to get as much paint on the walls as I can before the lovely new floor is down. I also need to lift up the floor that is still down in the living room and the main bedroom.

On Monday they will also transfer over the gas and electricity. I won’t need to do much there other than take meter readings.

On Tuesday I will still be painting and pulling up floors. Ziggo will be coming to fit a digibox and internet. I will be connected to the world. If they come before 2pm I will be able to join in the Culturapedia team meeting via Google Hangouts – live from the new Rotterdam office.

Wednesday, the floor fitter is coming. I will be no doubt moving things out of their way, making coffee etc. I’ve successfully fitted plenty of floors myself in the past including the rather nice bamboo one that we have here in the Culturapedia office. For speed and efficiency I decided to let a professional do this one. I won’t have all the tools and there’s plenty of other things I can do to make the place home.

On Thursday, at some point, A truck will be arriving from IKEA.nl. Last week I braved a Friday evening in IKEA in Warrington. The great thing about it being an international company is that they sell the same products everywhere and they always have the same silly names. I needed to sort out the big things that I won’t be able to carry myself or get up two flights of stairs.

Armed with phone photos and notes I got back home and set about filling a Winkelwagen, (shopping cart) on the IKEA.nl website. Their Dutch website can be as difficult to navigate as their UK one -especially when it comes to finding individual components for their PAX wardrobe systems. I got there in the end.

If all goes to plan the truck will contain: a spare bed, mattress, wardrobes in multiple bits, a washing machine, curtain rails and curtains. Luckily IKEA.nl are happy to deliver to apartments. (It is islands that they don’t like). I had to tell them what floor I was on.  This question was reassuring as the nightmare would be them turning up and dumping it all in the lobby downstairs.

There will still be things I need like some light fittings etc but these are things I can pick up in the city centre easily and none of them are urgent.  It makes sense to collect things once I am actually living in the place.

On Friday afternoon I will be flying back home having spent the morning with an IKEA allen key and finishing off bits of painting.

That will be my itinerary, Let’s hope it all goes to plan.

The writing on the wall of my new apartment

I think that it’s time to write something about my new apartment.

I have bought a two bedroomed apartment on Pannekoekstraat, (Pancake Street)  The Luftwaffe did a lot of damage to Rotterdam in 1940. The centre of the old city was more or less flattened in a 50 minute bombing raid. The city was largely rebuilt in the 1950s. Rotterdam is not a city of quaint bridges, windmills and fancy dutch gable fronted houses. It is a post war city of concrete and brick from the fifties and sixties and glass and steel ever since.

Don’t for one minute think that this does not have its charm. Rotterdam has a fantastic architectural aesthetic and there is plenty of water, as you’d expect in a Dutch city. The fifties retro look is very fashionable and the eighties brought some quirky cube apartments and a giant pencil shaped block. In the noughties everything was high, glass and steel with cantilevered top floors and last year brought the stunning, gigantic new Market Hall.

The new Market Hall is a stones throw from my 1953 apartment in Pannekoekstraat which is on the second floor with its own bike store in the basement. There is a lot to like about the area and the flat. The place has a really nice atmosphere. We’ve slept there a couple of nights and it is quiet and calm. It has fantastic light with enormous south facing windows along the entire frontage. There are two balconies, one from the main bedroom at the front and the other from the kitchen at the back. The kitchen is a separate room but has a large opening into the living room allowing light to pass right through the building.

Floor plan

Floor plan

Back in the 1980s, my parents had a business selling and installing central heating, kitchens and bathrooms. There was a showroom in Prestatyn and they worked across North Wales. They sold kitchens from three companies, one of which was a Dutch company called Bruynzeel. They weren’t very common in the UK. It gave me a warm sense of nostalgia when I opened a drawer and realised one in the apartment is a Bruynzeel one. It’s like new but it was installed in 2002. They’re really good quality – not flat pack. I remembered them being delivered to the company workshop in Prestatyn on big Dutch lorries.

My new kitchen has everything you’d need – cooker, hob, extractor, sink.. there’s room for a washing machine and dishwasher too.

The writing on the wall

The writing on the wall

The flat was last lived in by the daughter of the man we bought it off and came with a number of very personal features. One wall in the living room  was home to a long and passionate statement by Harvey Milk, written in Black marker. Another wall was painted matt black. Fine for her but not my thing. When we went over on our roadtrip we bought some one coat white paint. The marker pen took four coats to cover.

Some light fittings need atention

Some light fittings need attention

The retro shower room

The retro shower room

On the whole it’s in reasonable nick – paint and wallpaper will spruce it up nicely. There is an old and faded laminate floor, with some gaps, in the main bedroom and living room. It has already been taken up in the second bedroom. I’ve arranged for a new floor to be fitted throughout next time I go. I’ve fitted flooring successfully myself in the past but this time I’ve decided to pay someone else to do it. I won’t have the time or the tools to hand. It has to be delivered 48 hours before being fitted to acclimatise – this will give me time to paint more of walls.

The toilet and shower room will, ultimately need some attention. They function and are clean but are dated and tatty. The tiles are almost vintage and the sink in the shower room is almost as big as a bath. This will need to be a job for after I’ve moved in properly. They are, as I say, serviceable.

There is plenty of storage, in addition to the store in the basement there are large built in cupboards in the second bedroom and another next to the bathroom. The main bedroom, has plenty of room for three meters worth of Ikea wardrobes – more than enough for just my clothes. These will need to be ordered after the floor is fitted.

I’ve not yet seen the bike store. The previous occupant still had to clear it out. My estate agent has the keys. I go back on June 28 ready for a few days of painting and sorting things out. It’s is going to be a great place to live.


A scratch guide to buying an apartment in Rotterdam

Once I’d decided to go and be a student in Rotterdam for two years I needed to decide where I was going to live. I’m far too old to live in student halls and don’t want to be stuck on campus. Another option was renting. My student sharing days are way behind me. No self respecting young student would want to share with an old git like me. I’m not sure that anyone other than Sue would be prepared to share with me long term any more. Renting is also an expensive business.

For various reasons I am in the lucky position to be able to buy somewhere. I’m going to be there for a while and the UK pound is currently strong.  It seems the right thing to do. I’ll have somewhere of my own and room for ‘short term’ visitors.

It’s quite an adventure buying somewhere in another country. We’ve almost completed the purchase so here is my guide to buying a home in The Netherlands.

So far, on the whole, it has been a really enjoyable process. There is an organisation of Dutch estate agents called NVM who have a website called Funda. It’s a bit like Rightmove in the UK.

In the Netherlands estate agents do a lot more that their British counterparts. It is a profession with professional qualifications and they undertake a lot of what a UK buyer would engage a solicitor for. The other big difference is that both buyer and seller engage an agent. I’ve come to realise that this is a brilliant idea and invaluable for someone looking to buy in another country and a different language. As a buyer you have someone who represents your interests, offers advice and accompanies you on viewings, looking dispassionately at what will be one of your biggest ever purchases. Kirsty and Phil are clearly on to something.

Unfortunately Kirsty and Phil weren’t an option. It was a challenge was appointing someone to act on my behalf. Sue and I decided to go over to Rotterdam to explore over Easter. I contacted a number of agents, randomly, to see if we could get an appointment to go and see them. Only one replied, a company called Lauwaars in Kralingen, between the University and the City. Ernst has been fantastic – clearly the man we needed.

Ernst sat us down with a Dutch coffee and explained the process. He gave us a map and sent us off on a couple of bikes to explore the city. He told us where to look and where to avoid. Astride a couple of ancient, rusting, wobbly bikes that we’d borrowed from our AirBnB host, we set off. It goes without saying that cycling in a Dutch city is easy and by far the best way to get around.

Worn out map of Rotterdam

Our trusty map, now held together with half a roll of sellotape.

Exploring with purpose is a great introduction to a city. Apartments that we’d loved on Funda were clearly not right when we cycled past. It allowed us to look at the whole picture. Lovely apartments in nice areas but just too far out. Great streets and nice buildings but just a bit too quiet. After much peddling we identified about six apartments in two distinct areas. One was a street called Waterloostraat in Kralingen, close to the university, a very nice and reasonable quiet area. The other was around Pannakoekstraat in the heart of the city centre.

I went back for 48 hours a fortnight later to tour these apartments with Ernst. We always met the selling agents but not the owners. It’s difficult to take these things in but Ernst support and advice made it easy. The following day we went back to take a second look at two.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise, given the title of this blog, that I chose to put an offer in on an apartment on Pannekoekstraat, pending a survey. The rules are much stricter in the Netherlands. There is no chance of the buyer or seller changing the price at the last minute or selling to someone else who offers more. Once an offer is accepted, it is confirmed. Clearly if the survey had come back saying that it was falling down or full of Asbestos then I may have had a get out. The only surprise was that the tap in the kitchen is leaking.

I have now received and signed a contract. The biggest challenge has been transferring money. I’ve used an amazing service called TransferWise which is considerably cheaper than using a High Street bank. The only hiccup was getting The Halifax to let me spend my own money.  We will then all visit a Notary on 29th May when the apartment will be mine.

In future blogs I’ll be able to tell you more about Pannekoekstraat and the flat.