Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Home improvements update!

Here is a little update on all that has been going on in our new house.

We moved in in November last year and it has been non stop since then!  We've achieved a fair amount but there is still loads to do! It is proving to be a labour of love as although the house really needed (needs) some serious tender loving care and was seriously challenged in so many ways, not least of all its kerb appeal...or lack of, we absolutely love the house and its location.

So. What have we done so far?


From the main bathroom.



An en suite with shower...... 


A downstairs loo....

 And the main work in progress.....but already looking a million times better....

The kitchen!


Dismantling.....utilising any labour we could find!

Progress to date....  


We have had many a sleepless night deliberating on floor choice for the kitchen. I have read and re read reports on all options of flooring for kitchens and have spoken to more joiners and sales people than I wish to remember and have concluded what I always conclude....that there is virtually no consensus of opinion on this subject which is really helpful!

In the end we have gone for engineered wood in a medium to lightish oak which we intend to run throughout the whole of the down floor...once we have won the lottery or sacrificed a few more holidays and meals out and lived on beans on toast for a while!

Is wood a good choice for the kitchen? Well. I've again concluded that as long as you look after it (wipe up spills etc. which I think most people would tend to do anyway?!) then it is perfectly fine in the kitchen. In the event of plumbing disasters, are they not disasters no matter what is on the floor?

We chose wood as we wanted something with a slightly softer look than tiles and also our budget would not run to under floor heating and therefore tiles would have felt a little colder under foot.

I have to confess that when the wood turned up, I had a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach...thinking that I had made the wrong choice and that the tone of the wood was not quite right. I did not fess up to my husband at this point! It is such a difficult thing to decide and is such a significant expense that getting it wrong is painful and had it been wrong, may have resulted in my disappearing under the boards!

Thankfully, now a good area has been laid, my fears have subsided and we love it. It has very few knots which was my fear with wood. We wanted it to look quite modern and clean so that was a huge sigh of relief!! We went for an oiled finish. On this, there did seem to be a consensus of opinion. Oiled wood is easier to repair than lacquered. The downside, if you choose to see it as such, is that you have to re oil the boards every 18 months to 2 years.

So we are half way there with the kitchen. The floor should be finished in the next day or so and the kitchen fitters start after Easter.

Have a great Easter!


Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Bargain buy of the week.

My bargain buy of this week has to be my 6 Eames style dining chairs, as seen below.
Now, I had some reservations about this purchase, mainly because this chair has been somewhat done to death I think. Flicking through magazines, these Eames chairs appear on every other page, just about. Mmmm. A little predictable maybe.
The cynical side of me also always wonders whether the pictured (magazine shots) chairs are, in fact, 'genuine' Eames when it states they are, retailing at around £320 or indeed, 'inspired by' copies, such as mine...a mere snip at £31.99 each on Ebay with free p&p!
Frankly, who cares? I ordered a single copy from a couple of weeks ago and then visited a retailer of the original version (£328) and quite honestly, I could hardly tell the difference. The additional 6 I ordered (different supplier) are identical and came well packaged and the next day.
Predictable they may be, but these chairs are incredibly comfortable, durable (essential with children) and as I required at least 6 for the table, cost effective. I would post a picture of the chairs around the table....but I haven't got the table yet!
They may fall to pieces. Let's see. If you are in the fortunate position of being able to afford the real mccoy, then great. They may well be a better build quality. I would hope so!
My second purchase this week, and as with the chairs, a subject on which I have blogged recently, is this pendant light shade below.
This may not have been such a bargain (Kura pendant, £50, Habitat) but it fulfils the brief perfectly.  Apologies for the poor picture. This room is mid-rescue, as you can see! The mix of laminate and deep pile brown carpet will not be staying.
I'm not a fan of central ceiling lights, but this room is quite large and the intention is to keep it minimally decorated with white walls and wood flooring, making the most of its triple aspect. As a result, I think it needed a central light, more as a statement and to help draw the room in, rather than as a functional light. This light is the extra large version and is made from toughened paper. I like the sharp, modern style and whilst I would have liked to have spent less than this, it is considerably cheaper than the £160 shade I did have my eye on. That makes it a bargain!


Wednesday, 15 January 2014

An Ideal bath that I won't be taking a sledge hammer to!

Things seem to be progressing nicely, albeit the house very much resembles a building site with every room either under construction or being used as storage for materials, tools etc.

Thought I'd share the bathroom transformation so far. My choice here was very much based on a simple, clean, non-fussy look. I'd rather add interest with things like towels or maybe odd bits of furniture than being stuck with a patterned or coloured tile, for example. But that's just my preference.

We've opted for a plain white, fairly bog (excuse the pun) standard Ideal Standard bathroom suite, partly because of cost and partly because I wanted plain, bog standard design! Ticks in both the style and budget boxes.

In our last house, a cottage, we had a roll top bath and though it looked the part, when it came to a nice long soak with a good book and a glass of something, I realised that from a comfort point of view it just wasn't happening and spent the next few years craving a standard bath! The low point came when I was pregnant with my son, and in the early throes of labour.  A nice, warm, relaxing bath would ease the agony, I thought. Instead, had there been a sledge hammer handy, I would have taken my stress out on the roll top! The moral of this tale....if you are considering a roll top or similar style bath, make sure that you (dry!) test run one first. Climb in and have a recline. Consider the upright nature of the ends. Reclining is almost impossible. They also take for ever to fill, unless you have super powerful pressure...and by the time you have optimum volume of water, it is invariably too cold!

So, here it is so far. Half way through I guess.


Sanitary ware and shower screen from Ideal Standard. Shower - Mira. Taps - Vado. Tiles - Imola Porcelain, Creacon (approx. £22/m)
In all, so far, we have spent approximately £1,400 on kitting out the main bathroom....including lighting and chrome heated towel rail, both still to be installed. We are re-fitting an additional en suite and a downstairs cloak in this phase of works which will, in total but excluding labour costs, come in at around £3,300 for the 3 rooms.
I've also taken delivery of a towel ladder/storage unit as seen below.  Some nice, bright towels will inject some colour at some point. John Lewis 'House' Bamboo 5 tier shelving unit - £80.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Show me the light!

I like to think that my overall vision for the new pad is fairly clear in my mind. Nothing fussy. Clean lines. Modern but not too 'out there'....we have young children....'out there' just won't work. Needs to be kept too spotlessly clean!

One of the problems with this project is that the final decision making bits are coming all too thick and fast now. My fault. In my eagerness to get cracking I probably haven't left time to actually sit and plan. That's not my style though. I'm sure some trendy out there would describe my approach as 'organic'. Certainly, I prefer to make decisions about detail as I go along rather than having a plan set in concrete from day 1. My brain doesn't function that way....probably much to the irritation of our fab project manager, Phil! 

Take lighting, for example. With my general excitement about the whole task, I have to say that deciding on the lighting has given me the odd sleepless night.

At the moment we are concentrating on the kitchen dining area. It's a whole chicken and egg situation. As the ceilings are being boarded imminently, we have to decide on where we want ceiling lights. Our current dining table came with us from the cottage and in the new kitchen looks like a side table! We've had to measure out what size table we might want to fit the new space and then plan lighting above accordingly! It looked a bit like a crime scene last night, with a black marker pen outline of the table we have yet to get drawn on to the floor! I'd already decided that I was going to have pendants above the dining table hence we needed to know where the table would be....even thought we haven't got the table yet...
Then....were we having a single pendant, or two...or three...You get the picture.
Had I found the light of my dreams, these decisions may have been easier. I haven't yet found the light I want.
My poor husband. We now have lights on order left, right and centre in a bid to make a decision. For a wide selection of lighting, I have found that Habitat and an online retailer, Sparksdirect, both offer a really good selection of styles to satisfy all budgets.
Here are a selection of my favourites, from the budget-busting classic, Laviani's Kartell Fly below, availabe  in 11 shades, to the Saffron paper light at £12. I've got a thing about this saffron shade at the moment, so this paper pendant may have to feature somewhere in this house!
Budget, and the fact that most of the room will be white, will probably steer me more toward the grey or black drum shades to give a little contrast...but we will see! I've ordered a selection to help. The Kartell is on the living room floor at the moment and although it is nice, it's not right...and for £159 (times 2) it would need to be!
I'll probably make the decision 5 minutes before we sit down for Christmas dinner!

Laviani Kartell Fly ceiling light. £159

Saffron paper pendant. Habitat. £12
Black/copper shade. Habitat. £44

Black cotton drum shade. Habitat. £20

Balun ceiling pendant. Sparksdirect. £130+

Slate grey shade. Habitat. £20

Carter pendant light. Habitat. 31.50

Kura white large paper drum. Habitat. £21.00




Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The walls are down!

Our builders attacked the adjoining wall yesterday and this is the result! This and a traffic jam of waggons, skip lorries and cars up our drive which is shared between 3 properties! I think I may have to sweeten our new neighbours with gifts on a regular basis! Mind you, I think any irritation caused by the disruption is so far overshadowed by their thoughts that we are crazy people starting all of this 2 weeks before Christmas!
So far, so good though. The result is better than expected. A lovely, light space.


I've now got to finalise lighting which is, in my opinion, the tricky bit in the decision making process. When thinking about lighting, it's generally best to consider task lighting and work from there. Think of the different zones in the room and whether you want /need to light each zone individually. This will obviously depend on the size and shape of the room. In our kitchen we have 3 zones....the appliance end of the kitchen, the dining area in the middle and the seating area which benefits from more natural light. The plan is to have spots in the appliance end (bright lighting), warm, white pendant light/lights in the dining area and spot/spots in the seating area. Wherever possible, also factor in the ability to control each zone independently. There's no point in creating soft, ambient dining light if the lights from the preparation end of the kitchen kill the effect. Having dimmable lighting also allows you to alter the mood in a room. We're not going for any fancy gadgetry or super hi-tech lighting as the budget won't permit. I'm quite glad about that! Simple and straightforward is far more my cup of tea. Too many choices send my head into a spin!
For more guidance on  planning kitchen lighting go to

Sunday, 8 December 2013

There once was an ugly duckling!

We are finally settled into our new home! Phew. Sighs of relief all round.

The whole move day was quite comical...though I probably didn't find it so at the time! We were packed up, house cleaned and ready to vacate by 12pm.....generally with most people, the unwritten, unspoken rule when moving house. Our 3 vans (where does all that extra stuff come from?) set off as I deposited the children on grandparents and made my way over to the new house. We had a little time as the solicitors were on lunch. As a profession, and having worked for a local firm, I was aware that no solicitor will forego his or her lunch in order to make a quick 'completion' phone call. Lunch is 1pm until 2pm and nothing or no one will change that!
What we weren't expecting was that our sellers would not actually start the process of moving out until they had received the call from the solicitor to say that the transaction was complete. Thus, we arrived, and our vendor was happily (actually...she looked anything but happy when she saw our convoy pull up the drive!) pottering around popping things into boxes. They had one small van, helper, son (who I'm sure had just crawled out of bed) and dad who avoided us for most of the time they were there!
Now my husband is generally a polite and very patient man but even he was slightly annoyed when, at 4pm, we were still passing the vendors in the hall clearing their stuff! By this stage, I had stormed the local newsagent, bought a paper and a packet of bourbons and locked myself in my car in a huff!
I think they finally vacated at 5pm, evidently having not factored in any time to have a quick whizz around with a duster, j-cloth or, dare I say it, hoover. 2 weeks on and I have finally rid the house of unwanted toe nails! "Eeeeeuuuuchhh" I hear you cry! Well, cry I nearly did!
2 weeks on and we love our new house. It needs a lot of love and attention. The front door handle came off in my hand as we entered and of the 4 toilets in the house (excessive, to say the least!) not one works properly. The kitchen cupboards are hazardous and there is plenty of odd wiring around the place!  It needed a damn good clean too...but the space has great potential, the village is lovely and the children appear to have lived here for years already, being on first name terms with the barmaid in the local!
Our builders start tomorrow, with the task of helping us to turn this seemingly previously unloved house into a great family home. The list of jobs is long and with a limited budget we are prioritising kitchen, bathrooms x 2 and living room plus some additional general work as a start. The rest will have to wait.
Our current kitchen is dated and needs a complete overhaul. It is a good space. I've added a picture below...complete with a charred lasagne on the hob! I was so busy stripping walls and singing along to '80's classics that I totally forgot dinner. There is a family room and dining room adjacent to the kitchen...also both decent sizes. The plan is to knock the wall behind the dresser into the next door dining room, moving an internal dining room wall back, creating a large kitchen/dining/family room opening out on to the garden with a small playroom come tv room off the back.
Ideally we would have liked to have opened up the kitchen right back from the kitchen door however, this room has been extended and has a large steel across (visible next to the fridge on there picture below and the cost of re-configuring all of the supports and taking out chimney breasts etc. etc. made it just out of the question. The result of working to a fairly tight budget is that we have looked at the space and decided what we need and what we can do given what we have to spend. There's always a compromise and ours is the support beam and pillar that have to remain and we can't afford to knock through all the way which unfortunately means that the kitchen will be L shaped. On the plus side, it is already a large room and retaining a small playroom/dumping ground perhaps suits us as a family better than one football pitch sized kitchen! We're also keeping the utility room pictured at the end of the kitchen. Again. I'd rather retain a utility even if it means the space we create isn't perfectly square.
The point is, the structural work we are starting with is going to cost us a couple of thousand rather than double that, if not more, to start tampering with already supported load bearing walls, supporting chimney stacks and adding more steels. We'll also be keeping costs down by keeping the functioning part of the kitchen where it all new sinks, ovens etc. will go where the existing ones are, there or thereabouts. What we will end up with is the 'mechanics' part of the kitchen at the far end, a large dining area in the middle and a seating area with doors (existing...not swanky....but perfectly ok for now...) on to the garden. The dining/seating area will also benefit from having wrap around views of the garden.
When we have the space we are working with, the kitchen maker/fitter is visiting to talk kitchen design! Can't wait for that. Keep tuning in for progress!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

On the move. On the move. We're on our way again!

It's been ages! I know. I'm afraid I'm a blogger who only blogs when I have something to blog about and that is not necessarily on a daily, or necessarily weekly or monthly basis.

The last time I blogged we were in the throes of the house sale. To give a quick update, we agreed sale and purchase, 'disagreed' slightly with agents (not ours I hasten to add), haggled with purchasers and vendors alike, 'disagreed' with agents a little more, chased solicitors, did the job for solicitors, narrowly avoided disappointment on a couple of occasions and finally dragged the whole thing kicking and screaming through to exchange of contracts a week ago! Phew.

I think I have managed to keep my cool throughout the whole process so far...give or take the odd moment. I'm getting better at that in my old (ish) age I think. I have to credit to a large extent a friend for that, who, on a more serious note, is courageously standing up to a serious illness at the moment whilst raising 4 young children and supporting a fabulous husband with a demanding job. Her continued strength and positivity in the face of a horrible illness reminds me of how trivial and unnecessary our moans and groans can be at times. A house move is nothing in the grand scheme of things.

So now we begin the big pack up of the contents of our cottage. We are moving to a '50's detached house, so rather a large departure from what we have become used to. It's an exciting prospect for me though as it is certainly a project! What attracted us, apart from the area, was the plot and the potential that the house offers.....spacious accommodation, albeit
rooms that need a degree of re configuring, knocking around and changing to suit the needs of our young family. What also excites and challenges us is that we have to do this on a relatively small budget (actually...there's no 'relatively' about's small!) as we spent most of our savings on the purchase.

To a large extent our current house was an easy one to re vamp. It's a traditional cottage in a central village location and although I guess I could have gone ultra modern it somehow didn't feel right to do that.

Not being a fan of '50's d├ęcor, I'm not so sure with our new house. My initial reaction was modern all the way.....high gloss kitchen, minimalist, wood floors throughout, clutter free. I spend a large part of my spare time engrossed in interiors magazines and love the look and idea of ultra modern kitchens....but then pondered in reality whether it would actually suit our lifestyle and my rather fickle nature when it comes to interior design. I get bored quite easily and worry that such a radical look may be inflexible. I then saw a fab kitchen in one of the magazines (part of the room is pictured on the front cover below...) that was a classic handcrafted solid wood painted kitchen but given a modern twist, incorporating modern appliances, white work surfaces etc. That may be the route for me. I like the idea of mixing classic with very modern and my children are itching for a blackboard wall! As long as they hoover up the chalk dust on a regular basis!

All these decisions we face again! Appliance choices, flooring choices. Gas hob? induction? I love this part and this is where my husband comes into his own! He is the master of research and finding the best deals on appliances and who recommends what and why! Thank god! I tend to look at the superficial, 'does it look right' bit and he solves the nitty gritty technical bit! 
My intention is to chart the ups and downs of progress in my blog and share choices and how we are doing relative to budget etc. along the way.