Monthly Archives: July 2013

Be silly, be honest, be kind

We’re generally not fans of pithy sayings on posters or prints.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore words and (well used) language – it enthralls and enchants me and indeed led to both mine and Oly’s profession.

However, bad, lazy, over-use of gimmicky ‘oooo, but it speaks to me’ sayings really pee me off. Seriously people, “Keep Calm and………….Market Something to Death”?

Anyway, that said, there are times when something just leaps out and fits your ethos perfectly. And one morning when idly browsing Fab.com that very thing happened.

Be silly, Be honest, Be kind

Be silly, Be honest, Be kind

Oly agreed – it couldn’t be a more perfect way to sum up our approach to life.

Honesty, kindness and silliness. Get these three elements right and everything else falls into place.

To be honest you need to be kind and vice versa. There can be no love without honesty and kindness, no respect, no trust, no friendship. You get the idea.

And silliness? Well, who doesn’t want to live a slightly brighter life by being silly? My beloved mum was an insanely intelligent, brave, articulate lady but, boy, was she silly! We had daft names for everything, silly sayings, songs and rituals.

Oly and I are just the same. In his wedding speech Oly said how it was laughter that kept us together and happy every single day and, to quote, “when we run out of things to laugh at, we laugh at each other.” Oh, so true.*

Adding colour to our (nearly finished) kitchen

Adding colour to our (nearly finished) kitchen

So, we ordered the print and it has finally found it’s rightful place on the chimney breast of our kitchen, nestled next to my (very silly) Alessi things.

This saying is most often credited to Ralph Waldo Emmerson but who knows if it really was him – and who cares?! The sentiment is perfect and a mantra we plan to uphold till they cart us away.

Bumbling in

Bumbling in

*Laughing at each other is a daily occurence, whatever the situation – including our wedding day.

I, very sadly and with huge regret, had no family at my wedding so bravely gave myself away in front of 100 of our dearest friends and  Oly’s family.

A nerve-wracking prospect for any bride, so the choice of music was pretty significant.

My dear husband-to-be suggested that, as I “bumbled in towards him” that The Automatic’s “Monster”  would be appropriate.

For those not familiar, the lyrics are: “What’s that coming over the hill, is it a monster? Is it a monster?”

Yes, I still married the witty bastard.

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Strippers

IMG_2283

We have a lot of wall. Here’s the maths:

The ceiling is generally 3m away in most rooms 

+

The total internal sq meterage of the property is 191

=

A lot of wall. Fact.

Every single one of our walls was papered. Some had lining paper too, many had several coats of paint on top of the wallpaper.

Yep, in the last couple of months we’ve done more stripping than a cheap hooker in an Amsterdam window.

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Oly’s brother lends a hand

In some rooms it came off in great long, satisfying strips – like a ready-to-pick knee scab.

The back bedroom was one of the best rooms for this and we also uncovered this curious declaration:

Wilb loves Deev

Love graffiti. Who the hell are Wilb and Deev?!

In other rooms it unveiled impressive cracks:

Bedroom crack

The bedroom crack, also the homepage header. Recognise it?

In some areas it pulled huge wads of crumbling plaster with it:

Ooops.

Ooops.

But most of  all it just stubbornly clung to the walls, impervious to steam. However, we got there in the end and learnt a few things along the way.

  • Anyone who attempts to get wallpaper off without a steamer is, quite frankly, an idiot.
  • Wallpaper is surprisingly heavy when bagged up.
  • You will need a lot of bags and a lot of trips to the tip.
  • The steam is excellent for asthma and also a great mini facial.
  • Steam burns.
  • You will be covered in what we eloquently described as Wallpaper Jizz.

We also had lots of reproduction (cheap) plaster mouldings to contend with and they’ve left a bit of a mess where they’ve been chipped off.

It took two of them to work this out

It took two of them to work this out

And so this is what we’ve been left with and have been living with for weeks.

Kind of a mess? Huh? Our plan had been to get cracking with the plastering on all the walls (and the hideous ceilings) as soon as we could however the electrics threw a major spanner in the works – no point plastering when we needed rewiring and investigation.

However, that’s all now sorted and we can finally begin the plaster work. We have been warned about the total disruption, the mess and the dust but, to be honest, we’re not sure the house can get much worse at the moment. And besides, there’s always whisky.

Come on! Let’s get plastered!!

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When we fell in love with a map

The Future Mapping Company shop

Small but perfect shop

When we were in the very early stages of planning our dining area we knew we were going to paint it a shade of grey (in the end we opted for Farrow and Ball’s Cornforth White) and we also knew we’d need to inject a pop of colour. On a rainy day last January in East London we found the answer.

It was peeing it down  and we were at Columbia Road Flower Market – we’d made a special trip back there to replace (as far as one can) stolen wedding jewellery after we were burgled.

There’s a great vintage shop called Glitterati which is where we were heading; treading the steps my beloved mum used to when she nursed in that area back in the 1950s.

However, partly because we wanted to escape the rain and partly because Oliver is a huge map fan, we dived into a tiny little shop called the Future Mapping Company.

On the back wall of the shop – which was, incidentally, about the width of the shop – was a fabulous 2m x 1m world map in shades of green.

Future Mapping Company's world map

Future Mapping Company’s world map

After gazing at it a while we got chatting to the seller who told us how it is drawn using equal-area projection to represent countries in their correct proportional size. It’s then printed using a lithographic process, with special colours, including silver metallic for the seas. The print is finished with a sealer, to protect the inks, and a gloss UV varnish is applied to the landmasses – for contrast.

Oly was sold, he wanted it and we knew – instantly- which wall it was destined for.

To save lugging it in the rain we ordered it when we got home (free shipping!) and it then spent several glum months in a cardboard tube.

The talented Robin Taylor then did a superb job of framing it for us – not an easy job on something this size, particularly when we didn’t want glass so’s not to obscure the print perfection.

And now, finally, we have been able to hang it.

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Perfect against the Cornforth White walls, – ceiling is in Strong White and it’s All White on woodwork and cornice

Future Map

Litho print with metallics and gloss UV

Map

Looking good with DownPipe cabinets in the background

Pretty as a picture – what’s not to love about a map?

The size of our wall somewhat dwarfs the 2m x 1m map in the pictures but, in real life, it looks very impressive and achieves the shot of colour we wanted.

Oly has already been lost to the wonder of the map, idly gazing. I suspect he won’t be the last.

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Peace

A recent trip to Ikea saw us pick up this beauty:

Peace Lily

Peace Lily

It looks stunning against the Cornforth White and immediately brings a sense of calm to a corner of the room.

It has an emotional connection also as years ago I gave my mum a very small peace lily (lilies were always ‘our’ flower) and she nurtured it and looked after it until it was the same size as this one.

Two years ago when clearing her house my brother took the lily and I always wished I’d insisted that I should take it.

So now I’ve got one of my own and it can be ‘our’ flower once more; a little unexpected inner peace.

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Bye-bye hideous kitchen. Hello, ‘the something room’.

We were delighted to get home and find this sight greeting us:

Outside oven

How on earth we managed to cook Christmas dinner in this is beyond me…..

That oven had absolutely no place in a proper kitchen and deserved to be put outside, unloved and unwanted by the skip, like the bad, crappy, naughty oven it is.

The overflowing skip indicated that the old kitchen had been ripped out.

The overflowing skip indicated that the old kitchen had been ripped out.

Hooray the kitchen was gone! It was a room where you ALWAYS had to put the light on, even in the middle of a bright sunny day, just to see what you were doing.

Old Kitchen

Darker than the inside of my troubled mind…..

It has also signified the final piece in the puzzle that has been our electrics. It’s a long, boring, story involving a missing earth, a dodgy connection and multiple failed safety inspections. We have had electricians hunting for days to sort out our very weird, illogical electrics and the final problem lay in this ceiling.

It’s now all sorted but because of it the false ceiling also now needs redoing – it was a choice of cutting holes in that or the en-suite floor (being directly above). For obvious reasons, we went with the ceiling. Now the final part of the electrical work will be paying – and we are DREADING the bill. <gulp>

Rip out

The pointless hanging light contraption remained. Almost ironically.

Already this room seems bigger and brighter.

Already this room seems bigger and brighter.

Anyway, we really have very little idea what to ultimately do with this space and loosely call it the ‘utility room’ as that’s the primary function it will serve. Well, actually, it’s main function is that it’s where Lord Humphrey sleeps as his cat tunnel is in there.

Oh, and its other function will be to store the spare freezer. And the new boiler. And some furniture. And paint. And all our booze (hic). So, it’s clear why this room has a bit of an identity crisis.

So, for now, we’re just going to plaster, get the damp proof course finished off and concrete over the floor. Plumb in the washing machine and tumble dryer and that’ll be about it. Well, we may put the dart board up.

This room is way down the list of priorities at the moment and not something we can justify spending cash on so it may remain unloved for a little while. Though not as unloved as the kitchen that used to be in here.

We all know this room swill become known as 'Humphrey's Room'. Why are they fighting it?

We all know this room will become known as ‘Humphrey’s Room’.  Aren’t they all?

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Floored by the choices

We’ve never bought a floor before, just carpet or a bit of lino. So getting the floor right for our kitchen diner was a little bit daunting.

Thankfully Kitchen Guy was, as ever, on hand to ply us (get it?!) with the best advice.

We always knew we wanted an engineered wood floor and Kitchen Guy recommended Tuscan Flooring as the best range – he really likes the way it goes together and the finished look. He’s had lots of happy customers with this product.

So, that helped narrow the choices. Not sure where we’d have begun otherwise – our usual internet trawl would’ve been most likely. But then we were actually floored by the choices available.

Brushed? Oiled? Lacquered? Scraped? 1 strip? 3 strip? Natural? Brushed? Elite? Sealed with the tears of a unicorn? Distressed? We certainly were.

Rather than offering a technical and sensible way to choose a floor we wanted a guide that was more like:

Prone to scratching? Moi?

  • Looks great
  • Cat friendly
  • Doesn’t scratch easily
  • Suitable for lazy people who don’t want to clean it all the time
  • Won’t need oiling or sanding every few years (or, heaven forbid, more often)
  • Doesn’t require a second mortgage

There was only one way to settle the never-ending choices in the range and that was to look at actual samples. Once we did this it became surprisingly straightforward.

We didn’t want something that was actually wood but looked like laminate due to an unnatural lacquer, we wanted to retain the warmth and character of real wood – or, what’s the point in having an engineered floor?

Importantly, we wanted something that wasn’t too perfect, something we wouldn’t be worried about marking or scratching. Something we wouldn’t be worried about any house guests scratching or marking.

Got wood?

Got wood?

We got slightly confused by the fact that a real wood floor – we were really liking the Golden Oak hand distressed and lacquered – was actually coming out cheaper per square metre than engineered.

Kitchen Guy put us straight on that one – engineered is, as the name suggests, more expensive due to having had more done to it. Solid wood wouldn’t be suitable for our room anyway because we’d need a joist down the centre of it (our floor is half concrete and very uneven/sloping in places).

So, back on to engineered wood we settled on the natural brushed and lacquered in the Elite range.  It ticked all the boxes and came with a whopping 25 year residential guarantee. Can’t say fairer than that. (The solid wood, it’s worth noting, only had a 10year guarantee).

And the result is fabulous, we love it.

Needs a good clean from all the dust but looks ace!

Needs a good clean from all the dust but looks ace!

It’s totally transformed the room and given it a real warmth that beautifully offsets the grey of the cupboards and the walls.

(Notice our newly fitted skirting.  Painted in Farrow and Ball All White estate eggshell, by our own fair hands)

Was it expensive? Yep, ‘fraid so – especially as we needed 40 square metres of the stuff. But here’s hoping the durability is as good as it says it is but we’re pretty certain it’ll look even better in years to come once it’s picked up a few more knocks and scrapes. Just like wood is intended to look.

So, our floor has, quite literally, given us the wood we’ve always wanted.

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A 32 hour lesson

We both work in corporate communications. A large part of our day is spent clarifying messages, aiding understanding and making sure everyone knows the score. Clearly, we can’t be arsed to do that outside of work or the disaster that was last weekend would never have occurred.

A major misunderstanding with Kitchen Guy went something like:

“Just checking, you are doing all the painting in the kitchen diner, right?”
“Erm, no.”
“But we thought that was what we’d agreed – you do everything, we don’t need to touch any of it.”
“Except the decorating. I don’t do painting.”
“But you did the painting on the job you did for our friends, you did everything for them whilst they were on holiday.”
“No, they paid for a decorator to do the painting, I just organised it.”
“Ah. So, can we add it on to the job now?”
“No chance. That’s 2 weeks of a professional decorator’s time.”
“Ah.”

Head in Hands

Dawning realisation

So, it kind of explained our bemusement at the order of work thus far. We did wonder why they put spotlights into the ceiling before painting them and radiators onto bare plastered walls etc. Just kept putting it down to “Ooooo, I guess that’s how professionals do it. Isn’t it fascinating?”

We also wondered why Kitchen Guy gave an ‘am I meant to care?’ look when we told him the paint had been delivered and was stacked in the hallway.

As we marvelled at our incredible stupidity our choices loomed sharply into focus.

1) Pay for a pro when the job is complete. (Meaning the kitchen diner wouldn’t be finished for another few weeks and it would cost a fair whack, which we don’t really have left for this room.)

2) Do the painting ourselves when the kitchen was installed – being incredibly careful not to get paint on our new cupboards, floor, appliances, granite etc etc (Note: We are not incredibly careful people and masking up a job of that size would take FOREVER.)

3) Stop whining, refuse to believe it’s 2 weeks work for a professional decorator and that it’s totally beyond a pair of amateurs and get the f***on with it. It’s only painting after all.

Yes, dear readers, we went for option 3. Because we are stupid and stubborn.

So, in one weekend we:

      • Mist coated 2 ceilings (watered down emulsion to seal the bare plaster)
      • Mist coated all the walls
      • Sanded, undercoated and two 2 coats on the coving
      • Slapped 2 coats on the walls


At this point it seems only fair to remind you that the space we are working in is pretty big and the ceiling is about 3 metres from the ground. And, we had no light as the electrics aren’t yet wired up. Impressed yet? You bloody should be.

All in, this took us 32 hours. Each.

So, 64 hours – yep, Kitchen Guy was right: 2 weeks work for a pro.

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Cornforth White, All White and Great White

Did we do a great job? Well, to be honest, it wasn’t bad considering. We didn’t sand down nicks on the walls in between coats, we didn’t have time but, all in, we were pretty proud – especially when, this week, we were complimented on our finish by a very experienced tradesman. We still have woodwork to finish off but that’ll be much easier to tackle, even with everything installed.

Farrow and Ball greys

There was a lot of surface to cover

What we learnt:

      • Clarify exactly what is included when you hire any tradesman (yeah, yeah, basic principle, we know, we shouldn’t have had to learn this the hard way, blah blah blah)
      • 32 hours is a serious amount of hours to put into one weekend and it is not recommended, however keen you think you are. 
      • Painting on that level can make you hurt in places you had no idea could hurt that doesn’t subside for days and inexplicable bruising will appear
      • When rollering, small specks of paint make you look like you have the pox and will alarm the local shop keeper when popping out for a pint of milk
      • Painting high ceilings is undoubtedly the most evil job ever (especially when you’re only 5’3’’)
      • Farrow and Ball paint is worth every last goddamn penny as it goes on like a dream and the finish is amazing – we ain’t never looking back
      • A sense of humour, and a little whisky, can get you through just about anything
Downpipe cabinet

We’re really pleased with the colours

There’s also a slight satisfaction that whilst Kitchen Guy is doing an amazing job and we were quite happy to hand the whole lot over (and indeed thought we had) there’s something quite satisfying about knowing our own blood, sweat and tears are in that room now.

Above all, our 32 hour lesson has taught us that, if we put our mind to it, we can do it. So the rest of the house feels a tiny bit less daunting now.

Bring it on.

His n hers

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