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!