Photo Shoot for 25 Beautiful Homes

‘Jewel In The Crown’

This week my house featured in the December 2017 issue of 25 Beautiful Homes.  The house was dressed to the nines with Christmas cheer, and styled beautifully by Sian Williams and photographed by Brent Darby.  It’s the second time one of my houses has been featured in the magazine, so thank you 25 Beautiful Homes.

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What is always odd about shoots for magazines is that they are done so far ahead in advance.  This feature was shot months ago, and since then new bits have been added or tweaked, so the photographs always remind me how much evolves in the house.  The houses always look so large due to the lenses used, and so CLEAN too!  The latter is due to a whirlwind of cleaning in preparation, so the ‘owner’s photo’ is always a bit hideous as I look very tired!

Here are some of the proofs that were taken.  The favourites are then picked out by the editors for the final piece:

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And here is the final layout, my rather useless scanner has not shown how lovely they actually look so apologies about that…

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Anyhow, job done.  It’s time to move house again now I think so I can start all over again….

 

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Chinese Chippendale Chair Makeover

A couple of weeks ago I was up really early doing an MOT on the car, and I had to wait a while for them to do it, so I went for a walk around my town.  There is a furniture junk shop, which occasionally has some OK bits in it, and I meandered in for a nosey.  At the back of the room, on its own was a chair.  Not just any chair, but a Chinese Chippendale one.

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This is the Jonathan Adler chair currently selling at £795

For those that follow the blog, you may remember my lustings for a set of Jonathan Adler Chippendale chairs.  I managed to find a set of similar style bamboo chairs when I revamped my dining room and gave them a makeover, you can read about it here.  Whilst they are lovely, they are quite large and not totally the real thing.  The real ones are wood carved to look like bamboo with grooves and notches.

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This is my earlier bamboo chair makeover

But this morning, this was the real thing.  It is made in solid carved maple with a very girly upholstered seat, and I think it is late 20th century.  Incredibly well made and sturdy, and the shape was totally the one it should be.

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The man in the shop told me it had come from a very smart house in a very smart village nearby.  And I could have it for £15.  I kept a straight face and asked him to set it aside.  He then mentioned there had been another 5 but they had already been sold individually…. GAH!  I could have wept, but never mind I still got one at least.  I then skipped off to collect my car, and didn’t even mind that it had failed the MOT and needed new tyres.  As I waited to get the car fixed I was already scheming on what to do with my new chair when I got it home.

So here it is on its arrival home.  It is very 80’s looking in colour and fabric.  So straight away I removed the seat and stripped it back.  Underneath is another fabric nasty, but I will leave it as a base for new upholstery.

Colours for upholstery

Previously I did my dining room chair versions painted white with groovy Thibault orange, orange and green irate fabric and cut velvet cushions.  But this new chair needs to be moved around the house, where colours are darker and more traditional.  It will probably start off in the sitting room.  I am having an armchair upholstered at the moment for the same room in a large scale raised velvet damask and velvet, so I have some spare fabric available.  The colours are spiced orange and neutral taupe.  Thus it makes sense to use some of it on the chair as it will live in the same room.

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Colours for the wood

Again, I don’t want it to look like the dining room chairs, although these chairs do look great in crisp white or a zingy bright colour.  I have a few pieces of painted dark charcoal furniture which I really like so I decided to do a modern take on an ebonised Chinese chair.

And so, out comes the trusty Annie Sloan chalk paint.  I have a pot of Graphite which is like the magic porridge pot in the fairytale.. It just keeps coming and never runs out.

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A good sand was done all over first, as although chalk paint doesn’t really need it, this chair will get used a lot, so key areas that will be handled such as the armrests need to be have the paint really well attached.

A wipe down, and coat number one was put on, diluted 20% with water to get a smooth finish.

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This paint dries very fast and looks very matt and chalky.  After a couple of hours it was bone dry so I applied another coat which was not so diluted.  Once that was dry, I applied Annie Sloan clear wax all over the painted areas with a brush so I could get it into all the nooks and crannies.

Once that it done it is buffing time.  This is where you can chose how much lustre you want with the finish.  I use a simple J-Cloth and polish away.  You can almost feel the wax harden as you go.  Once polished, leave it to harden more overnight.

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Reupholstering a drop-in seat

This is where staple guns are the most amazing invention.  I simply cut a square of fabric about 3″ larger than the seat pad, and made sure the design was centred on the fabric that will become the cover.  Then you place that face down on your working surface, put the seat upside down on top and start pulling the fabric over and stapling it.  I always start on each corner first with a holding staple and work diagonally so the fabric is pulled tight.  Do the sides first and leave the folding corners until last

When you get to do the folded corners, its a bit like doing a hospital bed sheet.  My seat had a shaped corner to the front so it was a little tricky, but you can always undo the staples if you are not happy until you get the neat edge you want.  Pull it really tight as you staple.  You need to get the seat to drop back into the chair frame so it cannot be too bulky.

The finished chair

Here she is… the whole project took a weekend, and out of that only about 6 hours was working on it.  Much of the other time was waiting for the paint and wax to dry, interspersed with some Netflix box set bingeing….  I love it, and when I get bored with it , it will be really easy to repaint and re-upholster.  Long live junk shops!

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DIY Quick Fireplace Makeover

This is a really quick way to update a fireplace without having to rip out an existing one.   This fireplace surround will eventually be replaced, but until then it is a fast makeover to make it less hideous!  Some tiles and paint can transform it into a much better looking feature.  I wanted to brighten it up and use some sort of patterned rustic moroccan style tiles in the inside area of the fireplace.

HOW TO DO IT:

This is the starting point; a pine surround with bricks inside and an insert real flame gas fire.  The house is in a city with smoke control laws, so it is a practical feature and seemed silly to rip it out.

STEP BY STEP GUIDE:

Start by painting out the orange pine with a primer and then eggshell paint.  I used a water-based version by Dulux in white which dries fast and is re-coatable in 2 hours. It took 3-4 coats to get rid of the orange wood.

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Next, measure the area you want to tile.  The side areas of brick were really slim, so I needed to find tiles that were quite small as cutting up large scale patterned ones would have jarred on the eye.  I hunted high and low, but all the tiles I found were large scale patterns and I was beginning to give up when I wandered into a high street tile shop and found these 10x10cm tiles.

They come in a faded grey and green and are from a selection of about 7 patterns which mix well together. I went for these two colours mixed up.  Even better, I managed to grab the sample tiles for just 50p each instead of having to buy them in the large amount they usually are sold in for £50.  I only needed about 26 tiles, so it cost just £13.  I LOVE a bargain!

I worked out a basic pattern, and started to cement the full sized centre tiles on first with tile adhesive.  Once I needed to start cutting tiles I measured the size I would need and used a water-jet tile cutter.  You can hire these if you don’t have your own.  They are really easy to use, although quite noisy.  Luckily I could cut tiles in half and use them down the sides and across the top and they fitted perfectly.

 

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This tile cuter is easy to use and fast

Use tile spacers if working on a vertical wall.  Here are the tiles going up..

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Once the whole area is tiled, leave it overnight to set hard.  Then grout the tiles.  I used a ready-mixed grout in white, and a grout spreader to fill it into the spaces in the main area.  In tight corner areas I just pushed it into the gaps with my fingers.  To get a neat finish you can use a plastic grout finishing tool, or just your forefinger to smooth the grout so it has a fine finish.   Finally use a cloth to polish off any grout left on the tiles before it totally sets.

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Tiles before they are grouted

THE END RESULT…

 

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Dressing for Success

Styling accessories in your home is something which creates mood, can turn a bland spot into a point of interest and enhance your decor.  If you know this site, you know that ‘things’ abound in my own house and I am forever arranging vignettes and little corners. People spend hours looking at them when they visit, and say they could never arrange things and create the same effect.  But that is where they are wrong, it can be easily done…

Here are some basic simple principles to styling your home effectively:

LAYER FABRICS

If you have a sofa or armchair, add cushions and a throw or two.  Chose contrasting and complimentary fabrics, and different textures also work really well.  You can change the cushions easily for seasonal changes; think chunky cable knit for winter and silks for summer.  Never place cushions on their points in serried ranks, it makes it look as if you can’t sit on the sofa for fear of upsetting it.  You want people to feel welcome to sit down and relax.

 

The same principe applies to windows.  You can ring the seasons changing by using thicker curtains in the winter, and switching to lighter ones in the summer.  Luxe looks can also be created by layering blinds, pelmets and curtains.

SYMMETRY OR NON-SYMMETRY?

SYMMETRY

If you are going for a formal look and like order and calm, symmetry works really well.  A chimney breast wall for example will usually have the fireplace centralised, and alcoves ether side.  Work in two’s from the centre point of the wall outwards as you place items.  Anouska Hempel is the master of this approach in a very formal, rich-toned style:

 

But the same approach by Kelly Hoppen has a lighter touch and is more contemporary, while still sticking to the same principles:

 

Work in even numbers for placing everything, centralise them, and you can’t really go wrong.

 

NON-SYMMETRY

This asymmetrical approach creates a much more modern and relaxed look.  This time stick to odd numbers for items that you are placing.  Work from left to right, or vice versa.  This looks really good on areas such as shelves and mantlepieces.

 

 

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You can also apply this principle to a gallery wall.

 

WHAT TO USE?

Anything and everything that you have to hand can be used to style a home.  You can make interesting visual displays of anything from mis-matching mugs to coats & wellies.  Books look great colour-coded, or go neutral as the person below has done by turning them back to front, although it might take you ages to find the actual book you are looking for!

 

 

Also, a great tip is to keep your eyes peeled for bargains whenever you are out and about.  Some of my best styling items have been picked up in sales, charity shops and high street pound shops.  Sometimes you can find great items at knockdown prices that can be used to style your home and have a high end look.  These baskets were picked up for  just £1 each in a sale, and can be used all over the home in styling with an industrial look; in a kitchen as below, in a bathroom for toiletries and towels, as pot plant holders and so on.  They look great as a group.

 

Some high street retailers such as H&M, Zara Home and Primark also have seasonal collections of very well priced and designed accessories.

WHAT NOT TO DRESS A HOUSE WITH!

There are some items which should always be hidden away as they are hard to use as display items when dressing and styling a house.  I have yet to find a way to make hairdryers and straightening tongs look beautiful… The same applies to dirty laundry,  cleaning products and mainstream packaged foods unless they are from a smart deli and have amazing packaging.

Also, unless you own immaculate shoes as in the picture below, always store shoes and trainers away.

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I made a million pounds! Well nearly…

I have spent today writing a business plan for property investors, well I was forced to write one by my husband actually.  I would much rather have spend the day pottering around the house or simply lounging about eating crumpets.

Anyhow, part of the job today was to go back through the years, (it is decades actually), and tot up the profits of buying and selling houses which I have renovated in my life.  The amounts were really quite large, and I was shocked to see the results.

History

I was lucky enough to get onto the property ladder in London in the 1990’s, straight after the big crash and when property dropped to a price that I could afford.  I bought a sweet  flat in Clapham for the incredibly low price of £45K.  It was very tiny, in fact so small that if someone came into the entrance hall they trapped people in the living room as the doors were a bit too close for comfort.  Saying that, the interest rate was 16% so it was the most I have ever paid of a mortgage in my life, and for the smallest one.  Eyes water when I think what my various London properties much be worth now.  But…

Non, je ne regrette rien!

Within weeks off buying my first home I had discovered the joys of decorating and DIY.  I would rush home from work and paint, varnish, strip and build for hours, usually resulting in irate neighbours turning up and asking why I was drilling at 3am.  I became a serial mover, usually lasting in a house for just a year whilst I did a turn around and then moved on.  One friend complained whenever I moved, as I was ruining her address book with crossed out addresses by my name.

It was only having children that slowed me down, my own mother had been a serial house-mover and I hated always having to change schools and make new friends who I knew I would lose in a year or two when we moved again.  So I vowed my own children would have a more constant time at school, and only moved a very few times throughout their education, and in locations so they could stay at the same schools.

But I am rambling…

My point of this blurb is that I added up all of the profit over the years, and I should theoretically be really RICH.  Like close to a million rich.  But I am not-  on each sale the lawyers, surveyors and agents all took a chunk.  Land Registry took some too.  I would then use the remaining profit to upgrade to the next larger house and have some money left over to renovate it.  Then I would sell it straight away for an inflated sum. This all tootled along nicely until I had my first daughter.  I was all set to be a full-time working, part-time property developing, multi-tasking mother.  But I took one look at her when she was born and decided I never wanted us to be parted for more than a minute.  So I sold up, moved out of London and used some of the profit I had made to be able to buy a cheaper house, (it was a beautiful 16th Century barn conversion so I can’t complain at all!).  More importantly it also meant I could stay home for the next few years with her and then her little sister who followed, as there was enough money left over to pay the bills.

If I had stayed in London I would now be in a house worth well over another £1.5 million pounds to add to the previous figures.  In the words of Del Boy I would have been a ‘miwllionaire’.

Am I sad?

No.  The upside to losing my near million, plus the ones I never actually saw, is that I have been able to watch my children grow up PLUS work part-time only when I wanted to.  I think I have been incredibly blessed to have been able to do that.  Now that the children are starting to leave the nest, I am back into renovating houses again.  And I have to get a serious job to help pay for their next steps at University.  But those houses in London decades ago gave me a reward far greater than sitting on an over-inflated,  obscenely priced house in the capital now and having missed out on my girls growing up.

So whenever I am in London and peep into estate agents windows and see earth-shatteringly expensive houses just like the ones I used to own, I just have to remind myself of my beautiful daughters and how I have shared their lives thanks to being on that property ladder as it started growing, so…

Non, je ne regrette rien

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A Quick Kitchen Makeover on a weeny budget

This was a very old kitchen.  It is orange wood, is really tired and the expense of the recent roof-light saga has put a replacement total replacement kitchen on hold.  So I had to do something to make it less hideous for a minimal cost and which was less brutal on the eye.

 

It is amazing what a lick of paint can do to jazz up something in the meantime.  Cue two pots of very dark grey paint – one eggshell version for the cupboards, and another tough kitchen wall paint.  Add some new handles, and nearly done.  New Stainless steel wrapped shelves and hanging rails from Ikea add an industrial vibe to the wall by the sink area.  Total time 2 days, and that was because I was waiting for paint to dry mainly and trying to hand the shelves straight.

But those leaded effect glass doors had to go as they looked so dated – so I took off the doors , (that’s down to my friend Rita who told me to do it – Ta Rita!).  I then painted the interiors of the open units white as they were also lined in garish orange effect wood.  I used a trompe l’oeil metro tile wallpaper on the backs, and marble sticky-backed plastic paper to wrap the shelves.  It looks a TRILLION times better now, and I can relax.  Plus the sticky-backed plastic reminded me of Blue Peter and making things when I was small so I got a nice bit of nostalgia thrown in.

Before…

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After…

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Lamp Black eggshell by Farrow & Ball on the Cabinets

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After…

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Asphalt by Valspar paint on the walls

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After…

 

Total Budget for paint, paper and shelves came in at less than £270.  The handles came from my favourite ironmongery shop Nu-Line in Notting Hill and can be re-used when I get the kitchen of my dreams one day in another house.

Ta Dah!  I am so pleased with the results.  Hope you agree….

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Wallpapering Wardrobes

It’s raining, in August as usual, and I am sitting looking through a window at a waterlogged garden.  So I have a quick moment of calm to post about the cupboards that I mentioned recently were being built.  They were fitted in a day, have a load of space inside and then it was my turn to get going on them.

GUEST BEDROOM

Here they are going into the alcoves, this is in the room that has one built in wardrobe:

The room also had a horrible and ugly boiler cupboard, and my carpenters very kindly made me a new door and frame for free, (probably as it was so offensive in the room compared to the new one above!).

Once they were in they just needed a lick of paint.  They are going to be very simple and white so I had a plan undercoat applied in the workshop.  I will post more pictures once I have finished them.

MAIN BEDROOM

The main bedroom was due two wardrobes, one in each alcove.  We went right up to the ceiling to maximise space and brought the cornice around the front of the doors. I had already asked for a specific configuration of shelves and rails in advance.

As you my have gathered, I LIKE DARK WALLS!  This room was painted in the inkiest dark blue called ‘Hague Blue’ by Little Greene – it changes from inky blue to almost black depending on the time of day.  I have left the ceiling, cornice and skirting white along with the window woodwork.  The flooring is very pale too, so light can bounce around as I didn’t want it like a dark tomb.  The cupboards were also going to get a coat of Hague Blue, so the undercoat was in a dark grey to help speed things up.

The woodwork paint was the same colour in their new range of dead matt eggshell which is water-based, and which is supposed to have a very low 10% sheen.  It is also supposed to be very workable.  However, to be honest I was not that impressed with it.  I used brushes for detail mouldings and  foam roller for the flat surfaces and it dried really patchy, even after 3 coats.  Next time I am sticking to normal eggshell.

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See the streaky finish in the panel area?

However, my master plan meant that the finish on the flat panels did not really matter.  I have been waiting forever to use some House of Hackney wallpaper, and planned to set it into the panels of the wardrobes.  I had even asked the carpenters to make them exactly the same width of the wallpaper so there was no wastage, how sad am I?!

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Cleaning Up After Renovations

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Too much mess after renovation? Easy six tricks to clean

House renovation is always a good thing. After everything is done you can’t wait to enjoy the new look of your home. However, the builders dust is something a lot of people struggle with for at least a few weeks after the remodeling of their homes. If you want to take the matter in your own hands, you might want to follow these six easy tricks to clean after a renovation.  These pointers came from Zowie at Charlton Cleaners, and actually will make life much easier, especially washing walls down which people forget to do and then they paint straight onto dirt which can mix into the paint (oops, guilty…)

Cover or Move Away Items

This step is very important to make the cleaning much easier and faster. Before the renovation itself move away as many furniture and items as you can. If there are things you cannot move, cover them well. Putting plastic covers on the floor can also help to decrease the levels of dust spreading around your home.

Clean the Walls First

The first thing you should clean are the walls, this way all the dirt and dust will fall on the floor and you can take care of it later. Starting from the ceiling and walls is the most logical and easy way to make the cleaning as fast as possible. To get rid of the dust on the walls you can use a clean cloth, dampened with water and wipe them carefully with it. If your walls are freshly painted you need to be very careful with this step.

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Renovating a House – Part 2

Long time since the last post, but I have been working so hard that I just did not have time to write anything.  My hands look like a 90 year olds – all wrinkled and chapped from grafting, but the house is moving along now.

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Since the last post lots has happened at the house.  The electricians have finished their main bulk of work.  They lifted pretty much every floor board in the house, chased cables into walls, drilled through external walls and upgraded the system.  I now have lots of down-lighters, plus where I needed them, extraction for the bathroom and so on.  A new consumer unit comes this week, to generally pump up the power in the house and make it compliant with regulations.

Following their main fix, the plasterer has been back to make good the walls and ceilings where the electricians had been hacking away.  Finally I could get on with decorating, I was hovering about waiting for them all to finish a lot and just made a lot of cups of tea.  We also had a heatwave in the middle of the work, so it got quite steamy especially when hanging off ladders using wallpaper strippers.  At one point it was 29 degrees and I was staring into a steam machine, it was like my very own mini swedish sauna.

Here is the kitchen roof before and after – from wrinkled, uninsulated dark ceiling to new insulation, plaster, roof lights, down-lighters, (oh and the hidden beams which cost a bomb!).

THE KITCHEN

I had a dream, just like Martin Luther King, but mine was more geared towards a shaker bespoke handmade kitchen with industrial leanings.  The kitchen roof saga has delayed this dream, mainly due to my very expensive new beams hidden beneath the plasterboard and the extra time and labour needed.  So the new kitchen can wait, but this was what was left and it offends my design sensibilities!

It is VERY orange.  So I got out my trusty paint pots and started to amend the offending pine with black, grey and white.  Farrow and Ball Lamp Black for the doors, new ironmongery and some industrial steel stainless shelving are creating a transformation that I can live with until we replace it totally next year.  Phew…

The walls are all dark grey, it is called ‘Grey Shingle’ by Valspar.  I removed the cheesy glass doors on two wall units and lined the back of the cupboard in trompe l’oeil wallpaper of metro tiles, then painted any orange wood bits left with white satinwood.  The shelves will be lined in trompe l’oeil marbled paper.

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Been a bit busy… renovating a new house Part 1

So it seems forever since I last posted.  In fact it is 2 months, which seems shocking….  However, I have had good reason and am in the middle of doing up a new house, working as usual, decluttering, downsizing, my daughters are both in the middle of exams so need chivvying… and generally life is hectic!

The current house we live in was photographed for a magazine coming out towards Christmas, and it is only as I was having to check copy etc that I realised how behind I have become with blogging.  So I am now going to concentrate and lead you through the (stressful) world of renovating a house while living a good hour away and with all of the above going on at the same time.

I finally got the house I am renovating vacated by the tenants (who were model renters by the way and if they are reading this, thank you to them!).   So it is only this week that I could charge in with various helpers and trades and start the work.  I have a 6-8 week window, and this is the current list that needs doing in that time.  It might not seem long, but believe me organising the trades to sit seamlessly and in the right order is not always a smooth task…

  • Replace all Windows with new sash ones
  • Move all radiators and replace with nicer ones in better places
  • Run new cabling, replace the electrical consumer unit and install downlighters and extra plugs in several rooms
  • Strip off hideous lumpy embossed wallpapers
  • Strip off badly applied lining paper
  • Strip off the nightmare that is the dreaded wood chip, and is probably holding up 100 year old plasterwork that will blow the minute I remove it and mean that I probably have to re-plaster acres of walls.
  • Remove garden facing and replace.
  • Remove decrepit shed and replace with a new, dry, insulated one.
  • Clear garden.
  • Remove kitchen roof interior entirely, and replace with a new one with 2 roof lights to bring much needed light into the room.  Include new insulation and plaster.
  • Strip and plaster skim ceilings which have revolting swirly artex patterns
  • Redecorate entirely
  • Stain wooden floors, new carpets to bedroom, and new bathroom floor.

This list was planned to the last detail so that as floorboards went up, each trade could do their bit.  But things always go a bit pear-shaped, and an electrician blew me out at the last minute.  I had planned to get all of that work done when the floorboards were up for the radiator man’s work, killing two birds with one stone.  I even had an excel spreadsheet ready.  But that has all gone to pot a bit now…

Even sadder of me, I made up templates of all my furniture in newspaper, correct to the last millimetre!  This meant I could play with where things would/could fit.  This actually has been really useful, although I got strange looks from the family as I made up the templates. Continue reading