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.

Dining Room Makeover – Before & After

Colour Changes & Furniture Makeover

My dining room is a multi-tasking space and so it is also a crafting room, office, homework spot and sewing space.  So it has to work hard, yet be ready to switch back to a dining room in a second.  Here it is in its current incarnation:

It has very tall ceilings, 3 meters, so the curtains on the french windows are always a challenge.  The existing ones are goblet headed and were made to measure.  The main wall colours are a pale stone colour with paler toned woodwork and wooden floorboards.  The furniture is a mixture of antique woods and painted pieces.  That huge dresser has to stay as it is the only wall clear in the house for its monumental proportions. I have already updated the fireplace with a paint effect, changing it from brown pine to make it look like slate.

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Then after a while I got bored with the fireplace wall and painted it a deep olive which I liked as my convex mirrors looked lovely against it.

Anyhow, after a couple of years I have decided that I am bored with the same room.  Who else gets that?!  As I am in the room so much, I wanted to look up and see something else.  I also could not be bothered to redecorate the whole room, mainly as there is so much furniture and stuff to get out to clear the room that it becomes a major operation.

Chairs

As mentioned in my last post, I found some chairs that I thought I could do a good makeover on, and they would replace the incredibly formal Georgian chairs that I inherited from my grandparents.  In my mind they would go from dark wood to Jonathan Adler inspired pieces:

After washing them down with sugar soap, I started to paint them by hand and used a satin finish water based wood paint instead of the usual chalk paint.  Wow, nightmare!  I would have been painting them up until Christmas as they were very fiddly and they would have needed 4-5 coats by hand.  So I then hunted around for a paint spraying company, and found a couple within 50 miles, but that then meant hiring a van to get the chairs to them and back, plus extra costs.  There had to be another way…. and then I found this beauty…

This is the most wonderful thing, a Wagner paint sprayer.  I braved it, as I have never used one before, and purchased one.

It is really simple to use, you just dilute the paint, (about 10% water to my water-based satin wood paint), pop it in the white container and off you go.  I built a very basic spray booth in the garden, (stepladders with dust sheets one them), and sprayed 6 chairs in an afternoon.  It was a sunny but very windy day, so the paint dried in an hour between coats.  The wind meant I looked like I was covered in fine snow from paint blow-back, and even the cats looked a bit whiter at the end of the day.  I also learnt not to get too close on the first coat as sometimes drips appeared and ‘less is more’. But the result was amazing:

Any drip marks were sanded out after the first coat, and then the chairs sprayed again.  Job done.  This is a great machine, and no doubt many more things will get sprayed soon, including passing cats. Continue reading

Before & After: The house renovation is complete.

Finally, it is done….

For those who have noticed a somewhat silent blog recently, I do have a very valid reason as I have been slogging away 7 days a week over the last couple of months to get this house completed.  My life has been consumed by this project, but I now it is done I think I have enjoyed it…(?!)

I have learnt many new things; how to fit door architraves and skirting, mix plaster, fix windows, mitre corners properly and much more.  I think I have used about 125 litres of white emulsion, and got a sort of snow-blindness by the end of it.  My hands are like a workman’s, and I am exhausted and have spent hours in builders yards and sourcing things online to get the best prices  But it has been worth it, and I am on budget which is a miracle…

In the middle of the job my builders’ firm went bust, which could have been a total disaster and left me up the creek without a paddle so to speak, but we managed to muddle through and finish the renovation.  My builders honoured the contract and worked extra hours unpaid to finish the job, so someone up there was watching out for me I think!  It meant a 3 week delay on the build, and that I had to learn lots of new skills pronto, but circumstances meant that I just had to forge on.

Here come the before, mid-point and after pictures…..

The facade of the house…. from grubby magnolia to zingy blue… I got over vertigo on that scaffolding after a couple of days, and it was a lovely view…

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The garden…. from rubbish dump to a much more elegant space…

The once small and festering loo… now a wall has been moved to create a spacious shower room…

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A large curved shower

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Simple clean lines

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Continue reading

House Renovation Diary Part 3

The renovation continues.  We are more than half way now, with a final push this next month to get it all done. The garden is landscaped and fenced, the kitchen is being fitted, the shower room is half in and tiled, and the bathroom awaits its turn this week.  My hands look appalling, all nails broken, with sugar soap having seeped into my gloves so they have puckered alarmingly.  I am getting through mountains of hand cream to try and repair the damage.

Main receptions and bedrooms are now mainly painted on newly plastered walls and ceilings, I am waiting to do most woodwork like skirting and architraves until the builders are out as the dust is chaotic. New doors are primed, painted and hung.  The main stairwell which winds up through the house has been lined and painted.  We only have two more walls to be plastered in a hallway and a bathroom.  The final job will be laying the flooring throughout.  It has been a 7 day a week job for me, and I am shattered, but I can see the end now.

So, here are some things I have learnt over the past couple of weeks:

  • Plaster can take a long time to dry when you want it to.
  • Plasterers are the MESSIEST people, although the walls and ceilings they work on are smooth perfection, the rest of the room, (especially the floors), look like a plaster bomb has gone off.  I have spent many hours scraping dried hunks off floorboards, windows, skirting and doors.  After some chatting up, I persuaded the plasterers to clean up as they went, but only after we were 6 rooms into the project…
  • When re-plastering walls, you might as well replace all skirting and architrave as the plasterers are also vandals who yank the existing ones off, cracking them in the process.  I have extra hours to do now repairing the damage.
  • New plaster also drinks paint, even with mist coats.  My initial estimate of 30 litres for the whole building is now at 90.  Luckily I have discovered Leyland’s acrylic based emulsion which is a one coat wonder, or I could be into the hundreds in terms of litres.
  • Always make friends with the Builders Yard staff.  I have managed to snitch a couple of free deliveries already, and they are experts at getting me in more paint from the manufacturers pronto when I clear their stock!
  • Chose water based satinwood for spindles and architraves, and oil based satinwood for doors and skirting.  The latter take the hardest knocks so need the 16 hour dry time, whilst the former can take the 4 hour version and get re-coated faster.
  • Builders thrive on a lot of tea, Krispy Creme Donuts and praise.  Apart from one errant Electrician who has vanished on a stag week to Bulgaria, mine are all pretty much present and correct.  We did have a few days to wait on wet plaster, but otherwise they have been pretty good so far.  The electrician returns this week, hopefully not with shaking hands from too much partying as he finishes the 2nd fix.
  • Always make sure you lock your ladders, I have had a couple of spectacular tumbles so far.  The worst day however was when my mum appeared to help paint and slid to the floor as the steps buckled under her.  The guilt was unbelievable, but she was OK if not a bit shaken.
  • Following on from that, invest in a small platform.  Much more comfy than balancing on a step ladder.
  • Invest in a strong metal extending pole for rollers.  Some of the ceilings in this house are 12 foot and the stairwells up to 20 feet, and the pole makes painting a breeze.

Here are some more in progress pictures, remember the crappy garden full of brambles, mattresses and rubbish?

Before:

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And now:

 

We found a patio area and an old lined formal pond under the mess, as well as a lot of bicycle parts!  So we re-used the pond as a formal bed planted with box which will grow into a cute hedge with a Bay tree in the middle, and relaid new stones in the patio area surrounded with Cotswold chippings.  New lawn and a variety of ornamental grasses in the rear beds finished it off.  The garden was also fenced for privacy.  I will add lots of pots of flowering plants when the house is marketed, plus more seating in the front patio area.

Continue reading

House Renovation Diary Part 2

For the last few weeks I have not had a minute spare to post anything, and have been trying to juggle the renovation, still do another existing part-time job, carry out my school Governor role, look after my kids and still run the family home.  I kid you not, this is multi-tasking to another level.  Luckily, we women have brains that can compartmentalize and manage these feats, otherwise I should be a gibbering wreck being carted off to an institution for intense therapy!

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My view for the next few weeks

PROGRESS

So, since the last post the house renovations has been cracking onwards.  All of the walls have been stripped bare, discovering along the way that the original builders glued woodchip wallpaper straight onto bare plasterboard in some areas, which is impossible to remove without damage. At least 3 walls had this finish so we had to budget for more extensive works to them to get them sorted out.  Who invented that paper and why?

I had to source a building team pretty quickly, and was amazed at some of the outrageous quotes that came in from various trades.  Differences for wiring quotes, as an example, were from £2,800 to £10,000 for the house.  The phrase ‘are you having a laugh?’ came to mind (and more explicit ones that I will not share)..  However, perseverance and a lot of cash deals sorted out a great team.  I then contracted the builders to come in and do the following lengthy list:

Plasterboard where necessary all ceilings and aforementioned walls, re-plaster all rooms  in the house, re-wire and chase in all new electrics, re-plumb, move two walls, install new central heating and radiators, hang & fit all new doors,fit two bathrooms and one kitchen… the list goes on and on.  I also have a gardener stripping out the hideous junkyard that was the garden, with new lawn, planting and fencing coming next week.  My main job is decorating both internally and externally, chosing the kitchen, bathrooms and flooring.  I have been sourcing new joinery and hardware for all the doors in the house, and am become a wizard with my tape measure and minute measurements!  I am also on first name terms now with trade suppliers at the Builders yards in the city.

I asked my building team to start from the top down so I can at least prep the new plaster with mist coats whilst the messy work is being done.  We are at the stage of first fix electrics being finished, and 50% of the house is plastered.  Most floorboards are up and the debris is incredible.  It’s a dust bomb basically, it even gets in my teabags somehow.

Stripping a room, can someone explain the painting method on the door to me please?

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So here are some photos of the works so far.  A small loo has the wall smashed down in preparation for extending it into a shower room.

Continue reading

Master Bedroom gets a makeover

Farrow and Ball paint and things lurking under the stairs.

This week I was browsing a paint department, and happened upon a discounted 5L tin of Farrow & Ball’s ‘Brinjal’ matt emulsion.  This leaves me with 2 thoughts:

a) I need to get out more and stop loitering in paint departments when I have free time.

b) Loitering in paint departments can be seen as serendipity when bargains are to be had.

Anyhow, onto the paint… This is the most intense dark aubergine with red rather than blue tones, and I have always dreamt of doing a room in it.  Like an Olympian athlete I launched myself toward the paint pot it at high speed, and clutching my bargain I sped home.  I also managed to secure some bargains on some anthracite emulsion paint on sale, which have been stashed until I decide what to use them for, no doubt they will appear soon in a post….  (and if you don’t want to read through the procrastination and details, scroll down to the bottom of the post for the before and after photos.)

This is what the colour look likes… wow, it’s dark…

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Photo: Brinjal by F&B photo from Farrow and Ball Decorating with Colour by Ros Byam Shaw

The Existing Room

The Master bedroom is already shades of Khaki, (this paint is called Drab), with aubergine accents, but it has been like that for quite a while, so I thought I would use the paint to overhaul the room.  The ceilings are really tall, and the expanse of white from the picture rail upwards to the ceiling sort of annoys me, as the rest of the colours get lost in the room as the eye automatically goes up to the brightness and it is so WHITE.  I love aubergine, so decided to paint out the khaki walls with the new paint, but to leave the wardrobes as they are.  So I am sort of reversing the colour scheme.  I am happy with where the furniture is and accessories, so it is just a case of the walls and woodwork being changed. Continue reading

Amara – The LuxPad

Lucy over at LuxPad has compiled some rather beautiful wreath ideas for this Christmas from super stylish interiors bloggers, (including one of my paper wreaths so thank you Lucy!), have a look at the ideas here:

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Wreath by Suzanne Stanley @ http://www.create-enjoy.com/

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Great idea from Amy Watkins @ http://www.cozyreverie.com/

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How stunning is this one from Sian Astley at http://moregeous.com/

 

 

Christmas Trees Vintage Paper Tutorial

how to make sweet christmas table top decorations

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Yes, I know…. we have not even hit Halloween yet, but I am starting to make Christmas Decorations early.  These trees can be made SO EASILY!  They can use any type of paper, although I think vintage music scores or old books look best as they have a great sepia tone.  All you need is paper, card, glue and scissors.  I think they look great in groups as well.

instructions
  • Cardstock
  • Sellotape
  • Old Vintage paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Small star (optional)

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Take some card and twist it into a cone shape.  Tape up the sides and trim it so it sits flat when upright.  If the top has a small gap, take a bit of old paper and glue it over the top so there is no visible hole.

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Cut the vintage paper into strips about 2″ wide lengthways.  Then cut up into them 1/2 way so they have a layer of ‘smaller cut strips.  I have fantastic shredding scissors that do this job, but normal scissors will work (but will take more time).  I do them in bundles of 5 strips at a time to speed things up.

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Once these are done, take a piece and bend up the cut pieces so they look like frills:

IMG_1364Now take the cone, and starting from the bottom, glue the paper around the cone.  With each subsequent layer cover the top part of the below strip:

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Keep on going!  When you get to the top reverse another small bit of paper so the strips stick upwards.  Then tease and tweak all the cut pieces upwards so it looks almost fluffy.

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You can add a star if you want, I happened to have some little wooden ones around so I added them on with a hot glue gun, but you don’t need these.  Here are the cones without stars:

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And then with the stars added:

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They look lovely and you can alter the scale.  The ones I made were in a set of 3 with varying heights, and one had much older paper with a darker sepia colour.  This is the size in terms of scale that I made in the below photograph, but you can make them any size and from any paper that you want.  They would look lovely in zingy tones of tissue paper in the summer for example….

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TV Cupboard makeover

After the recent sideboard makeover, I thought it would be a while before I did another one, but then I was sitting watching TV and realised that this corner of the sitting room is really a mess.  In our old house I had a lovely huge Chinese cupboard that hid the telly, but we could not bring it with us as the dimensions were just too big, so I sold it on to the house buyers.  In this house, I usually hide the TV when it is not on by dragging an armchair in front of it.  The TV sits on an old painted trolley, and it is too big for it, and the machines/wires look plain horrid.  In fact TV’s are really ugly to the point that in both the magazine shoots of my houses, the photographers either asked them to be hidden or removed – so it is not just me that thinks it!

This messy corner irked me so much that it totally ruined my TV viewing, so I started to scour eBay for a quick solution.

I found this little beauty for a bargain £9.99 on ebay, and it was very local so cost nothing for delivery.  It is really well made, but quite old fashioned, and the mahogany was very scratched on the top.  However it does have pretty brass handles.

As I loved the effect of Graphite Annie Sloan chalk paint that I used on the recent sideboard, I whacked on a coat to the TV unit, and then clear wax to finish and seal it.  They look like mummy and baby now…

I then hid all of the wires and TV boxes inside and placed it in the sitting room corner instead of the messy trolley that had been there before…

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Phew, I can now relax and watch the TV rather than staring at the wires and mess around it……. such is the life of a slightly OCD decorating person…

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