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.

Week 1:

This week we got the keys and straight away I started to strip the walls.   I have painted the bathroom walls a great Charcoal colour, this is the only room which was fit to leave as it is.

My fantastic mother has been toiling in the garden, and cleared a huge Phormium amongst other overgrown flora. We found this beautiful beetle as a nice diversion from the wallpaper steamer….

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So the house started like this on Monday:

And now looks like this.

 

Was a bit gutted to see the state of the upstairs floors once carpet was removed, but hey ho…

My plasterer has been skimming away, so the ceilings now have changed from this stylish artex dimpled cellulite hell…

Too smooth like silk babies…

The old sash windows were sadly beyond repair, and were more wood filler than wood.  So a decision was made to replace them all with new sash windows with new architrave internally (yet more for me to paint that I was not expecting!).  They only took a day and half to fit from start to finish.  But they are really nice, not draughty and the curtains won’t blow with the wind anymore when the windows are closed!

So this has all happened in 5 days so far.  The downer is that the walls which are now stripped of lumpy and patterned wallpapers in the reception rooms are not good enough to keep bare, so I will need to use heavy duty lining paper to rectify.  I cannot justify the expense of re-plastering the whole house as the existing plaster is sound enough in those rooms.

Week 2

I have started the painful process of lining the walls in the dining room.  The walls are so shot to pieces that I ended up buying a product I have not used before; Diall Smooth wall covering, which is way heavier than normal lining paper and covers a very uneven walls.  So far it seems ok.

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The kitchen roof was due its vellum window roof light installation today.  The fitters appeared, and in records time stripped the whole interior of the kitchen and the outer roof area where the roof lights were to be inserted.  The crew was incredibly efficient and also really tidy.  It was all going so well, but then we noticed that the original ceiling beams were made of incredibly thin wood, 2 x 3 no less, which would in no way support a new ceiling of vellum roof lights, insulation, slate roof tiles and plaster.  As they had been concealed within the rood it was a horrible surprise.

Cue an anguished moan from myself, and the decision was made to remove the whole rood and starts again from scratch.  Bang goes my anticipated Lacanche kitchen range in one fell swoop!

So fare we have one vellux in, spanking new rafters and are awaiting the electrician for the first fix next week

My boiler man Tom has also turned up this week and has ripped out all of the old radiators.  He has diverted all of the pipes so new ones can go into better positions.  I have gone for the column style ones as they look great.

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Finally, to cheer myself up as I was getting bored with stripping walls around the house,  I started painting the sitting room.  It is the darkest green imaginable called ‘The Space Beyond’ by Valspar.  Intense, but I love it and art will work well against it (plus a bling light fitting).

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It has been very hectic, and I have spent hours and hours every day working; painting, stripping, filling and so on.  My hands look hideous, but slowly it is coming along.  Next week sees first fix electrics and the roof worked on more in the kitchen.

Here is a teaser of the bedroom design, but I can’t start yet as I need the carpenter to do his stuff first:(

Tomorrow I have a nice day off meeting my carpenter to finalise all of the wardrobe built-in designs, and then am off to get my daughter her first Prom dress, all very exciting!

 

 

Fitted Cupboards & Shelves for Books

It’s been a bit quiet on the blogging front whilst I have been trying to plan how to fit the contents of a large house into a smaller one.  Books are the big issue this past couple of weeks – I have cleared the blockbuster paperback shelves and donated them to the charity shops, but still have a lot left that I re-read constantly including loads of penguin classics and art books.  Even after the purge,  I still have hundreds and really do not want to part with them  My tape measure and I are constant companions now, and I have spent days researching various options for bookcases and cupboards that I need to fit into quite wide alcoves in the dining room of our new house this summer.

They need to look something like this and fit the spaces perfectly.

Ikea hacking came to mind as a first option, with cunning combinations of shelves and mouldings – but I am not made on melamine, and even when painted it chips easily so I know it would drive me nuts spotting flaws on shelves.

I then got in several firms who build bespoke shelving units to quote.  Most were averaging £1K per unit.  Unbelievable!  For that I would get MDF, not even solid wood.

Finally I have found a firm online who can make solid wood ones to order for very reasonable prices. I supply all measurements and they make, deliver and fit.  It is millimetre perfect so is actually not scribed into the wall but removable.  I can move the shelves around to suit the book sizes, and they come primed and sprayed in any paint I want as well – all F&B colours or any RAL.  I am thinking plain white but I will paint the back beading a much darker colour to make things pop.

I am going for a combination of these library shelves below, but with doors not drawers on the lower part top hide the uglier books!  I just love the ladder – the unit will be 9ft tall so I think I can justify one!

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What do you think?  I am putting the order in this week… can’t wait!

Selling the house, it’s all happening fast…

We have decided to move back to the big city, and although I have loved living in our little country town I am quite excited about future events.  The house sold in a week, which is always something you hope for but also a bit of a shock when it happens!

I am sharing some beautiful pictures of the house that the agents’ photographer took.  Those wide angled lenses certainly make it look lovely, and I cleaned and dusted for ages so it all looks very sparkly and unnaturally tidy.


We already have a house in the city which we are moving back to, which was rented out for ages, and it is bijou compared to this current one.  So I have to seriously get rid of a lot of stuff, pick what to take and discard brutally a lot.  We will be extending into the loft in the city house to make it sizeable enough for us for now, but with one daughter off to Uni this year and the other following in two years I don’t want to be rattling around in a big house anymore on my own, it’s easier for work, and I get some culture on my doorstep!

This is the size of the one we are off too…it has lots of lovely old Victorian fireplaces, floorboards and sash windows still in situ.  But as you can see I need to gather some more room as that box bedroom is teeny…. We will be adding a new bedroom and bathroom out of attic space, adding a downstairs loo under the stairs, and making a dressing room/study/something out of the box bedroom.  I am already dreaming about a new kitchen, how I will be decorating and the horror of shrinking my wardrobe.
Now to go and start on the clothes situation….Have a good weekend!

Sometimes, you just should say ‘no’ – The Before

Silence from me as of late, but for very valid reasons.  On top of general life, work, running a late night parental taxi service and so on, I have been preparing to sell my house (it sold in a week), and then I got myself in a total pickle with the local church.

I was chatting to a parishioner, who mentioned that they had been let down by decorators as the church was long overdue for a repaint.  He then told me the quote they had been give, which was shockingly huge.  And then, more fool me, the worlds shot out of my mouth ‘oh I can get it done for you for far less and immediately’.  As the words came out, his face lit up and I was pretty much hired on the spot.

Now this church is not small.  It has 13 meter ceilings, huge cross beams running throughout and needed to be used every weekend between painting.  It was also black with 10 years of soot from candles.  The photos below show how grimy it was.  Once upon a time this was pale pink.


Before I knew it, I had booked myself out of other work for 2 weeks, pulled in a fellow female whizz with the paintbrush, hired a cherry picker, had a moveable scaffolding erected and sorted out hardcore industrial insurance.

We attempted to wash the walls, but the soot just spread around.  So they were sealed first with a PVA bond, so that the paint would take, and then the HUGE task of painting started.


Look at the beast of a cherry picker!  Every time we needed to do a new area we had to move dust sheets, pews, sometimes the altar and so on.  Plus at weekends it had to be cleaned and shifted back into being a working church.  My muscles are aching, and I managed a spectacular topple off the cherry picker (while it was grounded) which resulted in a torn ligament in my knee and trip to the osteopath.  But as a plus I also got a huge, wide roller to speed things up, which is amazing.  I shall never moan when I have to paint a normal sized room again, or even a ceiling.

We are up to over 160 litres of paint so far.  The sacristy end of the church was so sooty that it needed 3 coats of paint to give a crisp and clean finish.  But we have done it all in 2 weeks as promised.

Here is my partner in crime Angelique on the cherry picker.  She is such a whizz that I have renamed her Davros after the Dalek leader as she shoots about on it.


So we have a day left before I can do the final reveal, just some woodwork left to finish and tweaking.  But it has been monumental, and I will now think before I speak next time.

Organizing For Your Lifestyle

ORGANIZATION

Being a pretty obsessive OCD organizer, (mainly due to a lot of ‘stuff’ in my home which if I don’t control results in chaos within hours), I can happily spend hours sorting, catagorizing and decluttering areas. I find this a really calming thing to do, whereas to others it might seem like hell.

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I always thought that this was my own personal madness, as I can get itchy when I see clutter.  But I recently read a new book by Jane Stoller called ‘Organizing Your Lifestyle’ that delves deep into the psyche behind organizing, and which explains what the benefits are as a whole to your life.  With the clutter controlled, there is more time to actually ENJOY YOUR LIFE!  I don’t usually read self-help books, but  ‘Organizing Your Lifestyle’   is a really useful hybrid as it offers both practical advice as well as explaining the psychological benefits of organization.

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Plus it is a realistic book, as I do not have the patience to look at everything I own and murmur in the latest fashion ‘But do I really love it?’  Of course I love it, I love all of it and am never, ever going to be a minimalist!  But I can be a tidy and organized maximalist, and this book has excellent tips on how to evaluate what you have and how to look after it all so you have more quality time on your hands.  It also makes you look hard at things so you can let some of them go without regret.

USEFUL ADVICE

Some of the tips are really useful, I loved the wardrobe section on how to store and look after items.  Like most ladies, I own more clothes and shoes than I realistically have cupboard space for.  There are great tips on how to look after and store things so they are not creased, crumpled and hence last longer.  If you think of the hefty financial outlay that we females spend on clothes, it makes sense to make them last.

Traveling away?  The book has great ways to make packing less stressful, and without the dreaded over-packing that I usually do so I end up with a massive suitcase full of clothes I don’t even wear on the trip.

The book breaks down areas of organization, so it can be something you can ease into this is a new process and makes you shake in your boots.

You can follow Jane on Twitter where she has motivational tips to keep the spirit going.

 

 

Up All Night -A Domestic Goddess’s Insomnia

This post has has absolutely nothing to do with interiors, but this is a blog so I am allowed to go ‘off piste’ sometimes.

THE PROBLEM

So…. I have insomnia most nights now, mainly due to thinking… thinking about the house, thinking about the kids/laundry/parent taxi service/exams/what is for supper tomorrow….thinking about things I have to do, what I may have to do and what I have forgotten to do….

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This is how asleep I would like to be as soon as I get into bed…

Most nights I get into bed ready for sleep and then my mind starts churning so much I can almost hear the cogs turning, it must be due to the quiet in the rest of the house at that time of night.  The next morning I am pie-eyed with exhaustion, and most of the lists and thoughts that came into my head vanish so I cannot even remember what I planned the night before.  So then I spend the day racking my brains, and getting grumpier as I become convinced dementia is setting in early.

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This is sort of how I am feeling when I still cannot get to sleep and it’s 4am….

Someone once told me to visualize an empty beach, and imagine myself looking out to sea onto an empty horizon.  It used to work, but now things interfere with the vision; paint charts appear through the sand, paperwork I need to finish floats in on the tide and then the whole beach vision is gone and the thoughts start swirling en masse.  It is like those scenes in old movies when the dates start flying off a paper calendar in the wind to signify speeding time.  I also apparently fidget, huff, turn a lot and tap my fingers on the pillow when I cannot sleep, which also drives the hubby insane.

I have tried all of the usual suggestions: hot baths before bed, warm milky drinks, caffeine bans, lavender, camomile, herbal teas, no electronic technology in the evening, valerian, magnesium, aromatherapy oils, sleep masks, open windows, and tried to drink myself silly with wine to pass out.  But alas, none seem to work and the last one is really bad with a hangover to boot the following day.

THE SOLUTION

I decided this week to try a new approach.  Armed with a notebook and a pencil, plus a nice candle on my bedside table, I got into bed and tried to fall asleep.  Thoughts and plans and to-do’s started swimming about in my mind, and instead of lying there and pretending I was asleep,  each time a thought came I wrote it down briefly by the dim but not too bright candlight.  I fell asleep pretty fast, (with the notebook ending up in the bed, and thank god I had a pencil and not a pen as my sheets would have been ruined with bizarre markings), probably because I was expecting to stay awake.  In the morning I looked at the notebook and found some quite bizarre notes, bizarre as in I have no idea how one thought led to the next.  Here they are:

  • Fix hole in wall in daughters bedroom and paint it
  • Ring godmother and arrange lunch
  • Do company accounts
  • Where are the tent pegs?
  • Are the children really happy?
  • Why can’t I just let things go to the charity shop?
  • Book vet for cats vaccine boosters
  • Do we have any baking soda left in the larder?
  • Look into ferries for summer trip
  • Must clear the borders in the garden
  • Put Point To Point date in diary and call Claire
  • Am I ringing Mum enough?
  • Actually when is our wedding anniversary?
  • Bathroom

The last one escapes me, I have no idea what it even means.  What bathroom?  Where?  Do I need to fix something in the bathroom?

But I am quite pleased with a lot of the others, as I can actually try and get on with some of them.  So far this has worked for 3 nights in a row, and my daily exhaustion and procrastination, (which I feel is an art form in its own right a lot of the time), have improved.   Time will tell if it really works, and my husband seems OK about waking up with a pencil digging into his nether regions as it sure beats me huffing, tapping, turning and keeping him awake all night.

With that all out of my system, I bid you goodnight x

 

 

 

 

MODERN BOTANICAL DIY PRINTS

EASY DIY BOTANICAL PRINTS WITH A TWIST

This is a simple way to create your own botanical prints with a contemporary twist.  This weekend I picked up two very nice simple black chunky frames on offer for 2 for £10 at Homebase, with mounts inside already cut to fit A4 prints.  I then made the prints myself at home, using downloaded botanical and paper images, normal photocopier paper and a printer.  I have seen examples like this on sale for a lot of money in smart home decor shops, galleries and on Etsy, but you can make them yourself which is far more satisfying and far cheaper.

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HOW TO MAKE THEM:

Start off by finding large sized botanical prints on-line.  There are lots of places to find them for free:  The Graphics Fairy and Botanicus are great paces to browse, especially the latter for thousands of botanical themes.  Download the picture you want to use, in Botanicus it comes as a large pdf of a botanical collection of the book’s plates, whereas at The Graphics Fairy is it just one image as a pdf or jpeg.  You do not need to print them out, but the below are examples of ones to look for, they need strong colours and lines to show up in the finished piece.

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Enclosed here is a ready to print dictionary piece of paper, (but you could use old sheet music cut to A4 size, or other old text paper you may have available).  Print this out in colour onto a piece of A4 paper, and make it fit the whole page as much as possible on your printer by using the ‘scale to fit’ option..

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When it is dry, reload this printed paper into the printer, and then print out the botanical flower of your choice straight onto it.  You may need 2-3 runs to get your grade right for your own tastes, (and not to do it upside down which I am guilty of a lot!). You can tweak your grade in your photo browser directly if it is a jpeg, or if it is a pdf you will need to convert it to a large sized jpeg first.

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Then frame up your print, and hey presto… done in a jiffy….

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Have a go, it is really not that hard to do and the possibilities are endless for printing images.  Just make sure they are dense in colour and line.  You can even do a 3rd print run with text on to personalise it for someone.

Winter Warmer – Cardamom Coffee Recipe

During this past chilly week I have discovered a lovely way to make coffee, and it makes me feel like I am sitting in an exotic bedouin tent as opposed to being freezing in a drafty old house mid-winter.  Being a coffee fanatic, I drink coffee according to mood.  Latte usually in the day as a norm.   But I also love those little strong numbers, from gritty thick Turkish coffee served in weeny cups to brutally strong espresso which could put hairs on your chest.

I was at a meeting last week and was served coffee in this way, and it is LOVELY.  It smells and tastes heavenly, a bit spiced and moorish.  You can have it black or white, and serve it as a strong small coffee or as a base for latte’s and cappucino’s.

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The magic ingredient is cardamom.

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An aromatic spice indigenous to south India and Sri Lanka, cardamom seeds come from a plant belonging to the ginger family. They are contained in small pods about the size of a cranberry. Cardamom has a wonderful aroma and an enticing warm, spicy-sweet flavour.

To Make:

  • You can use either a stove-top coffee maker or a cafetiere.
  • Use one seed per cup.  Using the back of spoon, crush it so it splits.
  • Add to your normal ground coffee and brew.
  • Leave to stand for 5 minutes and the flavour and scent is released into the coffee.
  • Add milk and sugar if desired.

I already have used dried cinnamon in coffee at Christmas before, but this cardamom version scales way higher on the yummy scale.  The next trial will be star anise….

Wardrobe Crisis… and Storage Solution

Fact:  I have too many clothes.  These are dotted all over the house as storage is tricky for the amount I have.

Fact:  I have too many shoes.  I could well give Imelda Marcos a run for her money.

Fact:  It felt so crowded in the bedroom with clothes, shoes etc that it was a pain to keep it organised.

Fact: A lot of my clothes are quite old, but very well made so I am loathe to chuck them as they do come in useful randomly from time to time.  Need a fab fitted Armani suit for a meeting; got one.  Feeling like chanelling Chanel at the races in a pink tweed suit; done.  Wedding on the horizon;  Dozens of outfits to chose from….  Dinner dance; loads to choose from.  But these were stored all over the place so I had to hunt for them.

Fact: I otherwise wear pretty much the same uniform of clothes most days.  I have trusty Uniglo trousers in one cut (but with lots of pairs in black or grey), a lot of Cos black dresses and huge swaddling roll-necked jumpers.  Add my Converse hi-tops or biker boots, and I am ready to go.

Fiction:  I really need all of these clothes.

So this week I decided to finally gather all items together from all over the house to see how much I actually could lose/keep/use more.  Pretty much most rooms had a cupboard or two groaning with clothes/shoes/out of season stored items.  When all together, and reader I am a bit ashamed when I admit this, they filled a whole room.  30 years worth of clothes and shoes stared back at me. Continue reading

Dream Living Room Plans

I have been looking at a fabulous website called Arhaus who are based in the USA, and am seriously wishing they would open a shop in the UK, (hint, hint….).  Their collections are really beautiful, very classic, and I would snap up a lot of their items, especially the furniture, in a flash to use in interiors.

I have based the room around artwork by Fin DAC, who produces huge scale street mural artwork around the globe.  I love this image, and used it as the inspiration for the room.  It would look amazing as a huge piece on one wall, and he sells via online galleries so I am after one now… although I may have to save up a bit….

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Having recently completed a grey, black and orange dining room, I am still slightly obsessed with these colours and was immediately drawn to the sofa and daybed in the Clancy range, they are both traditional with the buttoning but have lovely sleek modern lines as well.  Plus, (and this is key for me), I really hate plumping up base cushions of sofas, so this is a dream design for me!

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Continue reading