The last post

calendarToday is the due date for the birth of our little’un. There’s absolutely no sign of her being ready for her grand appearance but it seems like a fitting day to close this blog.

So, why close? Essentially, because the house is done! Woohoo! Of course, there will always be ongoing improvements/updates but the major renovation is complete.

I never started this blog with any intention other than to share our journey. It’s taken slightly different directions at times (sometimes the writing has been cathartic) and has certainly been more successful than I would ever have expected.

When I look at the blog stats (which is rare) I’m amazed by the thousands of monthly visitors but also how and why they found the blog – it’s mostly around specific paint colours, colour schemes, Edwardian properties or practical things like varnishing a waxed table or restoring a fireplace.

So I love the fact that, in some small way, I’ve given something back to the online community having relied on it so heavily during our renovations. Too worthy? Yeah, maybe. But for this reason I’ll be leaving the site live, so people can continue to find it – but I won’t be updating.

pandaOur lives are about to change immeasurably – well, they have already been changing over the last 9months and our priorities have quickly shifted.

Despite the best support from the best husband in the world, I can’t pretend pregnancy has been easy. It’s been physically very challenging as I’ve been a bit unlucky with the hand Mother Nature dealt me but I’ve tried my best to just crack on with it and remember there’s always somebody worse off.

Emotionally however has been a different story, I’ve been dealing with things that have broken my spirit. But, that’s not for here.

The positives are that it’s refocused our thinking around what’s important. Our daughter will grow up cocooned in our love, protected from anything that may be going on around her. All our efforts will be focused here.

I therefore have no intention of becoming a mummy blogger (it’s been suggested plenty of times!). It’s by no means a criticism of those that do, I admire them greatly and will no doubt be scouring their blogs for advice, but it’s not for me.

Friends gave us this lovely print for Christmas:

family poster

Apologies for the poor quality photo – I’ve also blurred our surname – but you get the general idea.

I adore the fact that Humph has been included in our new family unit (though he’s a touch on the skinny side!) But this picture is what we will be concentrating on, and only this. There’s no place for a blog in here!

So, it’s the end of 1910housetohome. Thank you to everyone who has read, lurked, commented, provided advice, inspiration and encouragement. I hope you’ve enjoyed our journey.

Ultimately, this blog was – as the title suggests – about turning ‘just’ a house into a home. Some time in the next couple of weeks when our baby is carried across the threshold, that’s when we’ve really achieved our goal.

meThanks for reading, may the future be kind to you.

Over and out,

Jude x

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Nursery reveal

Finish LineThis is the very last room in the house to be completed – seems kind of fitting really that this is how we cross the renovation finish line.

This was destined to be our study but the little’un made her presence known just days before I was due to order paint and paper. If you’d like to see how we were going to decorate when it was destined to be a study, then – go here.

But if you’re ready to check out the nursery then, come on over to the ‘after page’.

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Bathroom reveal

We’re very lucky to have an incredible En Suite and so we rarely used the house bathroom – it was used only by guests so we generally shut the door on it and pretended it wasn’t there.

Here it is as it was when we moved in:

Tasteful

Tasteful

It’s little-use meant we didn’t prioritise it – just gave it a lick of white paint – and were going to save up and get it done next year. I was planning a luxurious ‘spa’ feel for our guests.

And then we found out we were expecting and we saw it in a very different light….and we knew we would never get round to doing it next year. But would you want to bathe your baby in here each day? The only unfinished room in the house! The wooden panels were skanky and scratched, the fixtures old and tired and the artex as depressing as all that dark wood work that had plagued the entire house.

So, we fast forwarded the plans with our little’un in mind. Maybe not the most sensible financial decision but one we felt we needed to make. Head over to the ‘after’ page to see how it turned out.

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Hallway, stairs and lobby reveal

Given we finished all this work over a year ago I thought it was probably about time to share it. Apologies it’s taken so long, it’s been a crazy year and blogging has slipped way down my list of priorities.

So, the hallway, stairs, landing and lobby. It was never going to be hard to improve on this area of the house, there was not only THAT carpet but also artex and dodgy moldings galore, alongside the icky red/brown varnish that was on every single bit of poor original wood. Have an in depth look here. But boy, we always knew the potential was vast.

Back door

P1020799

Handsome, yet rotten.

Whilst it may have been one of the easiest parts of the house to make a world of difference to, to look at, it was also one of the most labour intensive. All the wallpaper (5 layers of it) needed stripping, the mouldings removing, rewiring, plastering and then sanding. How could I forget the sanding.

Here’s a glimpse of how that went:

You get the general idea of the sheer size of the task in hand! Added to this we also had to replace the interior glass, the back door and the huge front door.

Ready to see how it turned out? Head on over to the ‘after’ page.

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Nursery choices

Well, I’m fast approaching 32 weeks preggers and am quite sure I should be just sitting around. No? Of course, I’m not – we haven’t had a day or evening off for weeks despite taking time off work! We did at least make it to a Halloween party – the glamorous witch and his pregnant cat!

As you can tell, our impending parent status isn’t making us take life any more seriously! But the very grown-up job list is gradually getting a bit smaller and we are at least finally making progress including buying and selling a car and applying for a remortgage. And we’ve just had these exciting deliveries for our baby girl:

Cool huh? The highchair – which you can use from birth – looks fab in our dining room!

So, what of the nursery then? Well, being the tease I am it’s not quite finished so I can’t yet share pics. So, instead I thought I would share some choices.

First up, as revealed in a previous post, our choice of colour is Cornforth White, a lovely soft grey which we’ve paired with white woodwork and the same carpet we have in the spare room and master bedroom; Cormar Sensations in Coral White.

After much deliberating and budget breakdowns we opted for furniture from Mamas and Papas and we’re really pleased with the build quality. It’s officially ivory but it’s not a yellowy cream but instead is a pleasant off-white:

mamas-and-papas-harbour-ivory

And also in this space we have the most wonderfully comfy nursing chair – a bargain from a Kiddicare store that was closing down. Not the most attractive piece in our house but it’s damn comfy!

nursing chair

So, they’re the basics; now onto the more fun stuff! In the early days of pregnancy we lovingly referred to our baby as Panda  – read more here – so we wanted a reminder of this. We have the most thoughtful, lovely friend who offered to make our nursery curtains as a present. She’s truly one of life’s finest – always doing stuff for others and never asking for anything in return. Thanks to her kindness we could choose our fabric and so we opted for this:

Panda Star Jumps – Zest

Fab, isn’t it? It’s a Japanese print so when you look from a distance it just looks like a pattern (for a sense of scale, the panda is only about 1.5cm) it’s only when you get up close you see it’s little pandas doing star jumps! It’s from a website called Fabric Rehab who have some amazing fabrics and – as I found out – really great customer service, I would highly recommend them. We hung the curtains last week and are soooooo pleased with them – not just for the fabric but also for the love and kindness that went into every stitch.

Up next – our other favourite thing. This incredible wall sticker from Nubie:

nubie forest wall sticker

It came in 40 odd separate pieces and took us a few hours to master on our wall but we LOVE it! It goes over the cot and really makes the room for us.

To tie in with the wall stickers, this is our cot mobile by Skip Hop:

skiphop

 

We have some teal coloured gloss floating shelves from Ikea which house a collection of soft toys – including my own “beasts” from when I was little who have lived in every house I have – yes, including all my uni digs, they never left my side.

There’s a bear (Snow White Belinda), a hedgehog (Hedge), a frog (Uncle Froggie) and a lime green snake (Hiss). Given their age, none of them will be for playing with so they’re on a high shelf just keeping an eye. My bear – BooBoo – is also watching over the cot, happily perched on top of the wardrobe. The other critters currently include a badger, a lizard and a squirrel – along with my mum’s Hedwig owl. We’re hoping a fox and a raccoon will join the crew….they’re on our Amazon wishlist just waiting for a kindly donor to buy them (we’re out of cash!).  You’ll have to wait to meet all the critters in the reveal post.

So, when you have a sort of technicolor sort of woodland theme going on – what kind of light do you need? A dandelion clock of course! I’ve seen this Ikea light in quite a few Pinterest nurseries and, thanks to our high ceiling, we totally get away with it:

Ikea maskros

It’s a whopping 80cm diameter so makes quite an impression. We have it on a dimmer and it can cast the prettiest of patterns on the wall and ceiling.

Our other artwork is quite minimal – as too much would crowd the room. We have this amazing Shakespeare quote via Etsy as well as a beautiful hand painted banner from a talented friend of mine, also via Etsy

And, alongside this, we stumbled across this fab world map – as illustrated by animals. This is going above the changing dresser and may even help with my dismal geography!

original_animal-map-of-the-world-for-children

We also have a limited edition Little Miss Trouble print (you’ll get to see this on the future reveal post too!) which was given to us several months ago by one of our nearest and dearest friends. She had read the blog and knew we were going for bright colours so bought us presents accordingly including the print from a little art gallery in London. We’re so lucky with our friends, and so thankful for them.

So, apart from various knick knacks we already had – that’s about it and we’re officially pretty much out of space for anything else! We have practical unpacking to do in there and a good tidy-up and clean and then I promise to share pics of the final result.

In the meantime, what do you think? We haven’t tried to be super stylish, we’ve stuck to things we love but we’re really pleased with how it’s all turned out. And so long as our beloved Tiny T loves it, that’s all that matters.

For now, we keep opening the door with happy goofy smiles on our faces and closing it again before Humph claims it as his own. He’s already staking a claim in other rooms…..

NaughtyHumph

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Blog hop

Do you remember chain letters? Back in the day before email when you had to keep the chain going or bad luck would find you? I hated them and always binned them and I do the same with similarly stupid emails, Facebook posts etc etc You make your own luck in life after all.

But, I got a sort of chain letter blog hop type thing a couple of weeks ago from the lovely Christine over at Little house on the corner. Christine is a great blogger, full of practical ideas, advice and incredible inspiration. Not the type to forward any old junk chain mail – nope, this is a different sort of chain where you get to maybe discover blogs you may not have found otherwise.

So, for the first time ever, I have accepted this ‘chain’ and am now expected to share some current photos of my home and then answer these 4 questions:

  1. What am I working on?
  2. How does my work differ from those in my genre?
  3. Why do I write/create what I do?
  4. How does your writing creative process work?

So, first off, here’s some photos of how it’s all looking right now – all available in more detail in the ‘After’ section if you’re that way inclined.

Farrow and Ball Downpipe and Railings

Kitchen diner

Disco loo gallery wall with Dulux Proud Peacock

Gallery wall in the Disco Loo

Edwardian Farrow and ball pigeon blue gray off white pointing

Sitting room

Farrow Ball Pigeon cast iron fireplace blue gray

Fireplace

Elephant's Breath bedroom Dimity Slipper Satin

Spare room

Farrow and Ball Hague Blue bedroom

Master bedroom

Lamp room gray Pavillion Gray and Cornforth White

Music room/study

Matthew Williamson sunbird wallpaper and Farrow and Ball Pelt

Utility room

A year or so ago I would never have though this set of pics would have been possible. But yep, that’s my home. I live here! We still find ourselves contemplating that fact when we stop to look around – we did this, it’s ours. Every single last bad bit of brushwork or wonky line – all ours.

So, onto the questions:

What am I working on?

Right now, I’m concentrating on perfectly baking my daughter…..I’ve had a bun in the oven for the past 26 weeks! Honestly, it’s been a pretty tough ride so far – I’ve had to put up with quite a few health problems but after years of longing would honestly put up with anything at all! Emotionally also, it’s been supremely difficult and I miss the love, wisdom, comfort and support of my beloved mum more than anything in the world.

Our Big News also means that, inevitably, we’re working on the nursery. It’s been painted and is awaiting carpet, then furniture and then decorative touches. I wish everything you needed for a baby wasn’t so damn expensive because it means we can’t have everything we’d like(!), but we’re certainly planning to make it special.

P1020900We also had the main family bathroom left to do and had planned to do it in the next couple of years. But now, realising we’ll be using it every day for our little’un we’re pressing ahead with that too.

I’ll share a couple of pics when it’s done but don’t have high design expectations, we’re keeping it strictly cheap and cheerful – not the grown-up, indulgent spa feel I had originally planned on. Seriously folks, we pretty much ran out of cash a while ago!

How does my work differ from those in my genre?

Ha! I don’t even deserve to be put on a par with others in the DIY/design/renovation genre!!

a) I am a RUBBISH blogger. I’m not at all regular or reliable…..I received this nomination 2 weeks ago and have only just got round to it…sorry Christine! I still have things to post about that we completed in the house over 6 months ago. Rubbish.

b) We don’t have a clue what we’re doing, it’s all entirely trial and error, we never take on any DIY above the absolute basics. I don’t know any interior design ‘rules’ and just go with my gut and what we like. I don’t even know how to make my blog look any prettier or have a better structure and, honestly, can’t be arsed!! It works doesn’t it?!

c) I’m not good at being a part of the blogging community. I’ve (virtually) met some lovely lovely people but I’m no good at growing my followerers, watching my hit counter or seeking opportunities. I suppose that brings us nicely onto the next question…

Why do I write/create what I do?

The only reason we started this blog was to keep family up to date with our home improvements and, honestly, I don’t think they even read it! We have friends dotted all over the country, and the world, too so it was also a great way to be able to share with them without totally clogging up our Facebook feeds.

And we also wanted some kind of diary of the process – something to look back on and be proud of when we see just how crazy we were but how far we’ve come.

miss worldAnd finally, this is a bit ‘Miss World’ but…I wanted to give something back. We made nearly all our decisions aided by Google, looking at other people’s pictures, ideas and – mainly – paint choices. So, it’s the one thing I try to be really good at – tagging photos – so people who are umming and ahhing over Hague Blue or Pigeon or Elephant’s Breath can easily find our images and, hopefully, help inform their opinion. I have, more recently, been accused by a dear friend of  peddling “house porn”, which amuses me greatly.

How does your writing creative process work?

If you know anything about me by now you’ll know…it doesn’t. I have no plan, no method, no structure. I just woffle a bit, whack it up and hope for the best!

I guess the one thing I have been surprised about is how much I have found myself writing about my mum and, in a strange way, it’s kept her a part of all this. Growing up, she fought so hard to keep a roof over our heads and keep us fed that such grandeur for me now would have been unimaginable. She would have thought we were crazy for taking it on but would have encouraged us every step of the way. So yeah, I suppose that, through this blog, she’s somehow managed to be a massive influence. And, man, she’d have found that funny….pushing up daisies and yet still muscling in!!

As for practicalities of writing, it’s usually when Oly is on the phone to his parents, ironing his shirts (no, I’m not THAT good a wife to do it for him), or wallowing in the bath. Whenever I can grab the time really. And there is usually this little bundle beside me:

Our beloved beast

Our beloved beast

Thanks again to Christine for the nomination for this post – if you haven’t checked out Christine and Jan’s blog before it’s certainly worth it. Their DIY projects are ambitious (seriously, knocking down walls type crazy stuff) and all shared in perfect detail. They’re also incredibly generous with sharing printables if you fancy a go at some crafty things yourself.

And in turn, I nominate Karen from Well I Guess This Is Growing Up.  Like Christine and myself she’s another Northern blogger! Karen is very honest about successes, failures, costs and quandaries as well as talking you through her thought process. She’s also what I would class as a ‘proper’ blogger – a well designed blog, regular posts, a variety of content, good pics etc. And I have a special soft spot for her…she’s about to become a mum too!!

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Utility room reveal

DroolSome time ago I published this post revealing our plans for the utility. And then it happened and Oh. My. God. It may just be the sexiest utility room you have ever clapped eyes on.

No, seriously. You’ll be drooling – get something to wipe that up before you click any links below. The Matthew Williamson wallpaper is incredible.

The sexy was added to thanks to the exceedingly kind folks at Samsung and ao.com who kindly bestowed a top-of-the-range Ecobubble washing machine and dryer upon us.

I’m honestly not just saying this but we LOVE everything about the appliances and are especially looking forward to how much use they’ll be getting when our daughter arrives in a few months. I suspect their super large capacity may come in handy…

We gladly offered our formal reviews for the machines and even more gladly welcomed Samsung and AO into our home to take pics. You can read the resulting blog piece here which also features some amazing pics of our kitchen and the cake I made for our visitors. Before we all devoured it – let it be known that I make a damn fine sponge.

So, once you’re done reading all that, head on over to my ‘after’ page and be sure to let me know what you think in the comments section!

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It’s a girl, but the nursery ain’t pink

It’s been a while since I posted – apologies, but I’m busy being preggers dont’cha know!

There’s still stuff I want to show you from our home and I promise to do it in the coming weeks – including the reveal of our amazing over-the-top utility room. But for now, how’s this for a different type of reveal. A gender reveal.

Apparently gender reveal parties are all the rage Stateside and, never one to pass by an opportunity for a party that features cake, we held our own. A small select gathering assembled to scoff the cakes – made by my own fair hand. Boy predictors took the  blue cakes and girl predictors took the pink….thankfully, we had an even split of opinion.

Baby gender cakes

We then ceremoniously bit into the cakes to reveal the  pink cream and the secret was out! It was a lot of fun and there was much squealing. Well, as much as possible with mouthfuls of cake.

baby gender reveal cupcake

We’re over the moon to be having a daughter and very shocked, given Oly’s family history is all male for several generations (and apparently its the male genes that decide). So, she’s the one who broke the mould – I suspect that may become a recurring theme in her life!

It also feels kind of fitting for me to have a daughter, linking the bond I had with my beloved mum – and, in recognition of this, her middle name will be Mary, which was my mum’s name. We do have a first name in mind but, for now, she is Tiny T (T being the first letter of our surname).

And I’m pleased(?!) to report she’s a stubborn little so-and-so. Two recent scans have both required long breaks, jumping around, cola drinking and much prodding to get the little bugger to turn around. The sonographer also got particularly excited by this shot:

nosepicker

She’s apparently picking her nose. That’s my girl!!

So, anyway, now we know the flavour of our baby it’s easier to plan other things as well as bond with her instead of referring to ‘it’.

But no, the nursery will not now be pink. Nope. No chance. We’re really not into that. Pink is a tricky colour – there’s so many lovely shades of it and yet so many awful candy, sugary, bleurrghh shades. We’ve painted it one of our favourite neutrals instead – Cornforth White – the same as our kitchen diner walls.

I’m proud to say I did much of the painting of the nursery though my back suffered a bit the next day. But as F&B paint is water based I didn’t need to worry about toxic fumes so had no excuse really! I keep telling Oly ‘I’m pregnant, not ill’. He, inevitably, uses this phrase against me!

White nursery furniture (if we can ever find any at a decent price) will look great against this shade along with bright colourful accessories so we’re very happy with it. There’s currently no curtains and a scrutty old carpet – so I’ll share pics when there’s more to see.

Of course, we’re well aware that a future decision to paint it candy pink may not be our choice….!

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Music room reveal – but first, a few details

This room has been done (like the rest of the house!) for yonks…..I’ve just not been able to keep the blog up to date!

Anyway, after our exciting baby news, this room has had a little tweaking. Originally it was just the music room/second spare room but now it also had to incorporate stuff from the study, to make room for a nursery. It’s not massively changed the room really, just needed some sorting, adding the computer etc.

Before the reveal, I wanted to explain a few things in this room.

Firstly, my prized possessions:

Show posters

When I was at uni I produced several shows and, as was tradition, at the end of the production you would be presented with a poster signed by all the cast.

IMG_4740

Lost In Music was the first show I produced/directed and I also co-wrote – in the second term of my second year. I say ‘wrote’ very loosely, it was basically a review show threaded together with a tenuous plot involving a time machine (yep, really) that meant musical characters got ‘lost’ in music. Hey, the audience LOVED it – as did I and it started my passion for putting on shows.

IMG_4743

Next came the well-known Hair – an amazing show – that I was privileged to produce in the first term of my final year. We had such an incredible array of talent at uni  – both the 70 strong cast on stage and the back stage crew and band – that this really was a very professional production and sold out every night. And, yes, the famous nude scene happened, tastefully staged with blinding back lighting to preserve dignities.

IMG_4742

Spotlight was the final show, right before my degree finals, which I once again directed and co-wrote. It was, again, a review show but this time threaded together with  stronger plot. Well, slightly stronger anyway. And thanks to a mutual friend who was my Musical Director, Oly played sax in this show though we didn’t know each other then. 9 years later the same Musical Director provided the band at our wedding.

The shows were the highlight of my time at Uni, so many amazing memories and lovely people, some of whom remain my very best friends. If I’m feeling glum or like I can’t achieve anything I will go and read a few of the comments. Instant tonic.

So, these were always destined for the music room and, in part, inspired the colour scheme of cool greys – to provide the perfect backdrop for these.

Next up in this room, the Goose Chest:

IMG_4764

Both my grandfather and great-grandfather were stockbrokers – and in their spare time took up carpentry. I’m not sure which of them made the Goose Chest but we have great affection for it. It was made to, quite literally, house the big sacks of goose feed!! It now houses Oly’s music bits and bobs:

IMG_4770

 

It’s not great quality wood but we love it’s history and shabbiness, which is why we’ve never wanted to paint it. It apparently lived near a backdoor and doubled as somewhere to sit down and put on your wellies. In our house, Humph just adores lying on it.

On the walls in this room we also have a Mayan hieroglyphic of our wedding date – we had this made at Chichen Itza:

IMG_4738

As well as this amazing Song Map which I bought as a present for Oly:

Song Map by Dorothy

This is a must-have for music fans – get your own here. Dorothy do a load of other cool stuff, so it’s worth checking out.

Anyway, wanna see how all this fits into our music room/spare room/study? Head here.

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So, erm, yeah, this is happening. Our Panda.

The last bedroom to do in the house is the smallest one, which we’d always earmarked as a study.

The original estate agents pic - when used as a boy's room

The original estate agents pic – when used as a boy’s room

We stripped off it’s ancient wallpaper and got rid of the insipid blue colour. It was plastered a few weeks ago (yes, it was another artex ceiling) and then we spent ages choosing a colour scheme. Of course, it was set to be no ordinary study as we decided on:

Seriously, come on, isn’t that wallpaper just amazing for a feature wall? White furniture and gold accessories were the order of the day. We even spray painted Oly’s sad looking wooden penguin.

Doesn’t he look more majestic now he’s gold?!

I was all ready to order our carefully chosen paint and beautiful wallpaper and we’d even bought a white desk. And then we stopped.

The room has stood empty in its bare plastered state for the past 9 weeks.

We’ve told everyone we’re just having an uncharacteristic break.

We put down the wallpaper sample and paint chart and held our breath.

Because this happened:

ClearbluePregnant

With various health complications and Mother Nature getting in the way we have spent years of watching our darling friends have beautiful babies, years of insensitive questioning and years of longing. And now, it would appear, it is finally our turn!!!

We wanted to wait until the 12 week scan before telling anyone particularly as the risk of losing our much-wanted baby was elevated. So we held our heavy, amazing secret between just the two of us. Honestly, they were the longest weeks of our lives.

I felt terribly grotty with constant nausea (particularly bad at 3am!). If I didn’t eat something at least every two hours it intensified. The smell of cooked veg (let alone the taste) – made it worse…and I’ve never been a fussy eater. I am sick to death of digestive biscuits. My existing back injury returned with a vengeance, I couldn’t sleep and was constantly exhausted. And yet, I loved every single one of these symptoms – I’d have probably put up with anything.

We longed to tell someone, anyone, but we didn’t. If we had to deal with any heartbreak it would’ve been easiest to deal with it alone. I talked to my mum every day though – pretty confident she could hear me – and finding myself missing her more than I ever thought would be possible.

panda

Hello Panda!

But then, finally, our scan date arrived and we saw our baby for the first time wriggling around and repeatedly staring at the screen.

Oly has decided we are actually having a panda as when he/she looked straight at us the dark eye sockets really did look like a panda. So that’s what he/she is currently called.

I stopped holding my breath and honestly thought my heart would burst. We practically floated out of the hospital.

We had a whirlwind week telling people our wonderful news and I was genuinely overwhelmed by the love from our friends – so many wonderful, beautiful comments about our suitability as parents. Clearly we’re not the only ones who have been waiting for this.

We haven’t even been out for a celebratory dinner yet, though we did have some friends round and champagne was popped! Note to self, insist to Husband we go out for a celebratory scoff.

Humph has been told and reassured that he will still get vast amounts of fuss and attention.

He seemed pretty content with the good news

He seemed pretty content with the good news

So, needless to say….the study will not be a study after all. I will not be getting my beloved Ocelot wallpaper, but maybe one day Panda will choose it for themselves?!! It’s certainly incredible timing – we’ve now done everything we need to in the house except the bathroom and the nursery which will get finished in the next couple of months.

Will the nursery be incredibly stylish and uber cool? Will it heck! It’s going to full of brightly coloured silliness, preferably in the form of critters. We dread drowning in a sea of baby blue, baby pink or other pastel sundae colours. Not in this house! The walls however will, of course, be Farrow and Ball.

Anyway, that’s our news. We’re simply overjoyed. And I guess it’s what really is going to make our house a home.

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Master bedroom reveal

For our master bedroom we have turned to the dark side. We dithered about it for a long time but finally bit the bullet and can’t imagine it any other way now.

Here’s how we looked before:

P1020819

Bland colours and hideous artex

And now:

Farrow and Ball Hague Blue bedroom

Dramatic boudoir loveliness!

Farrow and Ball Hague Blue bedroom with cabbage White ceiling colour

Light pours in from the massive windows

We know this won’t be to everybody’s taste but – like most things – we don’t care. We absolutely adore it and knew this room could carry it off. The colour is Farrow and Ball’s Hague Blue – in strong daylight quite a true dark blue and at night a dark dark petrol blue verging on black in dark corners.

Farrow and Ball Hague Blue bedroom

Sunburst mirror was an Ebay bargain

Woodwork is in All White for a crisp contrast – same as the cornicing and ceiling rooms.

Farrow and Ball Hague Blue

Door to ensuite

As with everywhere else in the house we wanted to maintain a focus on the original cornicing and feared we would ‘lose’ it if it was also white – so we went with Cabbage White on the ceiling. It’s enough of a contrast with the cornicing without being ‘wow, your ceiling is blue’.

Farrow and Ball Hague Blue Cabbage White ceiling

Light fitting is from Laura Ashley

We agonised over wardrobes and drawers and for a long time thought we’d go with white/ivory furniture. But we realised there would be too much of it and therefore too stark a contrast with the paint.

Barker and Stonehouse furniture

Barker and Stonehouse furniture

Dark wood  – like mahogany – wouldn’t work and we were struggling to find antiques we liked and that would, importantly, fit in the alcoves. And then we found this wonderful warm mango wood, beautifully built and a perfect fit.  (As we ended our long furniture search Oly informed the rather embarrassed saleswoman at Barker and Stonehouse that he had “stroked a lot of wood”.)

Curtains and pole are from the wonderful folks at David James Interiors in Leeds and are such amazing quality they give the room a boutique hotel feel!

Curtains open

Curtains open

Floor length curtains would have been even more dramatic but practicality won out given the positioning of the radiators, which we weren’t really up for moving!

Curtains closed

Curtains closed

And as for the headboard, what can I say? I fell in love with this fabric (Sanderson swallows) when we first started looking for curtains/blinds – albeit in a different colourway. I couldn’t find the right place for it in the house and then suddenly realised it could take a starring role as our headboard – in lime.

Sanderson swallows headboard

Sanderson swallows headboard

Oly was (gently) persuaded this may have been my best idea yet. And it meant we didn’t need to agonise over artwork choice for above the bed.  Ain’t she a stunner?

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No, I don’t iron my bedding. Don’t judge me, it’s super king – gimme a break! And, yes, we need new bedding.

We’ve tried not to clutter the room (quite a feat for me) and also tried not to over style it; it’s a practical, liveable space after all. You’ll notice the total lack of dressing on the bed…..Oly point blank refuses to have cushions/throws etc. I gave up the fight – as I was quite happy once I got my headboard!

Bedside touch lamps are from John Lewis

Bedside touch lamps are from John Lewis

Now, to some of the objects. The dressing table tray was my mum’s, she always kept her hairbrushes on it:

Mitsouko was one of mum's favourites, I'm eeking it out...

Mitsouko was one of mum’s favourites, I’m eeking it out…

And the brass candle stick holder was hers as a child, back when you actually went to bed with a candle.

I love the build up of wax from over the years

I love the build up of wax from over the years

I gave Winne the Pooh to my mum years ago, so he came back to us and went into an antique frame.

Sad, why should I be sad?

Sad, why should I be sad?

Below it the wire art is from Etsy. Since the early days of Oly and I whenever he said ‘I love you’ my retort was always ‘Forever?’. Turns out it is.

The brass knocker was….yep, you guessed it, my mum’s! Most of our interesting objects came from her! She always had this on her bedroom door and it now lives on the door to our ensuite.

Knock knock

Knock knock

It contains the Isle of Man’s motto which translates  as “whichever way you throw me, I will stand.”

Quocunque Jeceris Stabit

Quocunque Jeceris Stabit

We have absolutely no connection to the Isle of Man but mum had to learn to be incredibly resilient, so she bought this for herself and took the motto also.

Here’s some more details from around the room:

We adore this room, we love it in the day and then feel totally cocooned in it at night.

Farrow and Ball Hague Blue bedroom

The dark walls help make a large, tall room feel cosy at night

Night night

Night night

So, be honest, what do you think? Is this for you or would you hate living with the darkness?

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Back bedroom – reveal

The main guest room is the second smallest bedroom at the back of the house – peaceful and quiet. When we moved in it had been a little girl’s bedroom, hence the pink in our before photo:

P1020805

We realise how privileged we are to have a space that truly is a guest room and doesn’t need to double for anything else so we wanted to create something calming and tranquil yet fittingly elegant.  And we think we’ve pulled it off:

Elephant's Breath bedroom Dimity Slipper Satin

 

farrow and ball bedroom

Elephant's breath bedroom with dimity

There was never really much doubt what colour we were going to paint this room – we fell in love with Farrow and Ball’s Elephant’s Breath as soon as we tried the tester pot (and Oly stopped laughing at the name). Yes, it’s the colour everyone goes on about, but really – there’s a reason for that. In some lights it’s grey, in others taupe, in others a hint of mauve. A very pleasant chameleon and a perfect backdrop to the various objects in the room.

We chose to bring out the mauve undertones of Elephant’s Breath with the ready made metallic damask curtains, which are a decent weight for the price, and are from Next.

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We knew we wanted a black iron framed bed – to tie in with the fireplace – but, given this is just the spare room after all, we couldn’t justify spending a fortune on it and so we picked up a total £99 bargain from Dreams – surprisingly sturdy and well built!

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The mirror is from Achica. It sets the room off beautifully and really emphasises the height of the ceiling. It has an antique feel to it and yet manages to avoid the Shabby Shit look that we’re really not keen on.

P1040120

The little chair was my mum’s. It was always her bedroom chair – I’m not really sure where it came from originally, whether it was an heirloom or was made by grandfather for her, but I’ve always known it. We had it restored and reupholstered a couple of years ago – in a colour that perfectly compliments this room. It’s almost as if we knew!

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Furniture is actually cheap pine Argos furniture, painted up and with new knobs. And a great solution for some shoe storage (yes, there are more shoes in other rooms…)

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The fireplace was already painted and, after the mammoth effort of restoring the one in the sitting room we just decided to just repaint this one, and very smart it looks too.

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Chipping off the paint from the tiles revealed a pretty design that works well with the room – highly doubtful they’re originals but very pretty.

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And our beautiful chandelier was from Laura Ashley. The crack in the newly plastered and painted ceiling came courtesy of the loft insulation chap!

P1040150And finally, if, like me, you’re a paint geek then you’ll want to know that – alongside the Estate Emulsion Elephant’s Breath walls – woodwork is painted Dimity eggshell, ceiling is Slipper Satin and the coving and ceiling rose are All White. Furniture is painted in Off White eggshell.

Farrow and ball bedroom colour scheme

So would you be happy to stay in this room if you were our guest? We’ve certainly had no complaints thus far!

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Go slow

go-slowOk, I’ll admit it. I am a totally rubbish blogger.

My brain has been on such a major go-slow that the thought of writing anything even slightly worth reading has been unimaginable.

However, I promise to get back on it. You’ve heard that before, right?! No, really, this time I really promise. There’s still so much to show you – particularly room reveals. If I leave it much longer we’ll be decorating again.

I have a whole list of things to blog about; a list I keep looking at and promptly closing again.

However, the World Cup is coming and Oly’s brother now lives just 2 minutes down the road. Therefore, as  a Football Widow, I’m gonna have some time on my hands!

So, stick with me just a wee while longer?

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As if we were ever going to have a boring utility room…

Apologies for such a long radio silence, it’s not been a good few weeks due to never-ending lurgy and the sad loss of a good friend, so blogging has slipped down the list of priorities. But, hello – how are you doing?

I haven’t forgotten I promised more info on items in the sitting room or that I still have room reveals to do. They will come eventually, I promise.

Meanwhile we have been turning our attention – amongst other things – to what will be the utility room. It was the old kitchen:

Old Kitchen

It is now currently a dumping ground that is too disgraceful right now to share pics of. It’s a pretty good size for a utility room and, honestly, we’ve struggled a bit with ideas of what to do with it. Home gym? Bar? Games room? Sauna? But in the end, what we want and need is a utility room/storage so that’s what it shall be. It is also where The Humph will reside at night and is home to the cat tunnel.

But who said utility rooms have to be dull? Admittedly we need to keep the costs down so are turning to good old Ikea for plain white units and worktops and we’ve also selected a wood effect laminate instead of real wood floor. That’s allowed me to squeeze the budget enough to go slightly crazy with other things!

So, how about Farrow and Ball’s Pelt for a wall paint colour – a deliciously dark purple which will look great contrasted with the white units, no?

Farrow and Ball Pelt

Farrow and Ball Pelt

And the feature wall (yes, that’s right, our utility room will have a feature wall, obviously) will be this stunning beauty which is SunBird by Matthew Williamson. We only need a couple of rolls, so totally justifiable, right?

Matthew Williamson Sunbird wallpaper

Matthew Williamson Sunbird wallpaper – stunning copper background

Whilst I’ve reluctantly accepted we will just have plain white Ikea units (and Oly even won the common sense/financial argument against high gloss) we did want something a little more ‘us’ than an Ikea handle so I finally found these bad boys:

Chinese style handles

Chinese style handles

And all that coppery brassy goodness is just crying out for light fittings that I’ve been eyeing up for a long time and am delighted to finally find a home for. Hello Plumen gorgeousness!

Plumen Drop Cap in Copper

Plumen Drop Cap in Copper

And to top off all this excitement, we’re getting a new stunning top-of-the range washing machine and dryer from my new and totally bestest friends at Samsung. Who knew a washing machine could be sexy? But yeah, I know, isn’t it? And it has it’s own app. Yep.

Samsung ecobubble washing machine

Samsung ecobubble washing machine

So, we’re off to Ikea tomorrow to order the units and our favourite tradesman is due to start in a couple of weeks. We have until then to sort all the crap, decant and paint the walls.

Do you like our choices? Too crazy for a utility room – or would you expect nothing less?!

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Sitting room reveal

There were times when we couldn’t see beyond all that needed doing in this room – the old dining room – to turn it into a lovely living space. To be honest, sometimes it was overwhelming to complete novices like us. But here’s the treatment this room got:

  • Full damp proof course
  • Rewiring
  • Replastering
  • New skirting (the old stuff was rotten and full of weevils)
  • New picture rail
  • New carpet and underlay (it now feels like you’re walking on clouds despite the concrete floor)
  • Fireplace renovation
  • New central heating and piping
  • Paint job
  • New blinds and soft furnishings
  • New furniture  (and a few fairly old bits too)
  • A whole lotta love

But it’s been worth it.

Here’s the obligatory before and after:

Before

Before

Edwardian Farrow and ball pigeon blue gray off white pointing

After

A bit different, eh?! Of all the rooms in the house this one probably has the most objects that have stories. So I’ll tell these stories in future posts.

But for now, go on, take a closer look at the room itself. Push the door……..

Farrow and Ball Slipper Satin woodwork

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How to restore a cast iron fireplace – part 3, the reveal!

Stubborn AND scary

Stubborn AND scary

Parts 1 and 2 of this tale may have had you crying – why didn’t you just get it blasted?

Well, we did consider it. But actually, the metal isn’t in the best of shapes in places – My Love has dimples – so, blasting it ran the risk of these worsening. There was also the cost to consider.

There’s also the fact that I am exceedingly stubborn. If I start something, I finish it.

And finish it I did. The (perfect) timing of finishing getting all the paint off meant we could get a fire installed before the plasterer turned up.

Choosing an actual fire was a pretty dull process which I won’t bore you with. But after many hours of research and show-room wanderings we went with a Gazco and a vented flue (cheaper and more effective than sorting the chimney out. And, no, we didn’t consider a wood burner, we’re way too lazy……)

So, when the gas man turned up with his pneumatic drill, here’s the moment the bricks came tumbling out:

IMG_2761

There was a lot of dust…..

We later returned from work to find the fire in place. Hurrah!

With the fire installed the plastering could start. The filthy dirty messy plasterer. Now, he was actually (shock horror!) pretty good at covering the fireplace as we nagged him constantly. But we then neglected to put the dehumidifier in that room whilst the plaster dried. So days later when we took off the covers:

Rust on a cast iron period fireplace

Rust central

Yep, that baby can RUST. Unprotected, it can rust up in just a couple of days like a good’un. I won’t lie, this reduced me to tears. Actual real big ploppy tears.

But I pulled myself together and began mournfully scrubbing My Love with my wire brush and wire wool. Scrubbing and scrubbing and scrubbing. To little avail:

Rust on a cast iron period fireplace

Oh! My Love!

(True facts:

  • Constant rust dust in the air tastes just like blood.
  • Your bogeys will go an interesting maroon colour.)

And then one day on a chance visit to Screw Fix my glorious hubbie came home with these:

wire brush drill bits

This is quite possibly the best thing he has EVER bought me (and he’s bought me Tiffanys diamonds…..)

You pop one of these little darlings on a drill and away you go! You gotta be careful not to overdo it or press too hard so’s not to damage the metal but gradually you can not only get rid of the rust and any pesky paint chips but also bring up a beautiful sheen to the metal.

It still took HOURS, so don’t be fooled, but it was exceedingly satisfying.

And then finally, we were ready for the last stage. And, strangely, the quickest.

All you do is smear on grate polish (which costs just a couple of quid) and then buff it off:

cast iron fireplace black grate polish

Dot it on….

Period cast iron fireplace black grate polish

Rub it in….

Period cast iron fireplace black grate polish

Repeat!

At the bottom of the fireplace I hadn’t bothered to remove all the rust, knowing this would be covered up by the carpet. But I thought I’d give the grate polish a go and see how it fared. Result: pretty good!

Period cast iron fireplace black grate polish

Hiding the rust

Period cast iron fireplace black grate polish

The end.

And, that was it. Done. My long-running affair finally over.

Thanks for sticking with these blog posts but I hope they’ve been interesting and – importantly – may one day be of use to someone else.

Oh, you want to see the finished thing in all its glory? I thought you’d never ask! Go on then, take a peek!

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How to restore a cast iron fireplace – part 2

So, we left off with the beginning of elbow grease on the central part of the fireplace. This got me to this stage:

cast iron paint chips

So nearly there

Do you see the tiny chips of paint? To the right of the pic and in amongst the detail? These were the bane of my life! From a distance it was looking great but get up close to My Love and these remained, needing careful chipping off bit by bit. I knew if I didn’t do it meticulously then at the final stage the grate polish wouldn’t cover them.

So, slowly, I continued. I was determined to get the middle bit perfect, to spur me on as I faced the rest of the challenge. And finally after copious buffing, I got this:

cast iron fireplace detail

What a beauty!

Now, if that wouldn’t spur me on, nothing would!!

After all this detailing I thought I’d treat myself to a nice flat surface and thus turned attention to the top of the mantle.

On went the gunk:

Paint stripping on cast iron with peelaway

Smoothing on the PeelAway with the spatuala

It was covered with the special paper, air bubbles ironed out and then left for 48hours. Here it is being peeled away:

Peelaway on cast iron fireplace

In action!

D’ya see all the liquid? That’s what made this such a messy job. I have no idea how someone would manage if the rest of the room didn’t need renovating cos me and my trusty scrubbing brush got it EVERYWHERE.

You see, by the time you get the gunk off you then need to get rid of the liquid and, supposedly, neutralise it – though I never did as I figured I has yet more buffing to do which would get rid of any residue.

It turned out that the paint came off the top super easy:

Just one application!

Just one application!

I realised there were only a couple of layers of paint here (no gharish mutli-colours) and that’s why the PeelAway was so incredibly effective here.

I think someone had in the past decided to strip the paint – hence the thin layers. There’s also (sad) evidence of some rough chiseling on the edge of the mantelpiece. I guess they realised what a mammoth job it was and couldn’t face all the detailing so they just repainted the top and then another couple of coats on the rest of it to make my RSI so much worse….

I carried on down the fireplace and realised that the longer you left the gunk on for, the better the results. So, I tackled a new bit of detailing and left it for 72hours:

You can really see how it worked on the paint layers and, whilst a lot of mess remained, it was worth leaving it on for the extra time. Patience is a virtue and all that.

You can also see the eventual mess it was leaving behind:

residue

It was clear there was going to be a mega wire scrubbing job ahead and little point doing it as I went along so I concentrated on getting all the paint off first.

There was something strangely compelling about watching the changes over the 72hours of leaving the gunk on:

Peelaway stripper cast iron period fireplace paint

Peelaway stripper cast iron period fireplace paint

Peelaway stripper cast iron period fireplace paint

Peelaway stripper cast iron period fireplace paint

Now, there is something worth mentioning. PeelAway is pretty friendly stuff. It doesn’t actually have a smell at all and seems fairly innocuous. But then remember what it is capable of. If I got a bit on my skin then within 15 minutes I’d soon begin to feel the prickly burn – but a quick wash off and it was fine.

So, be warned!

You do not want to be this

You do not want people making assumptions

And, do not, whatever you do, decide to wear vinyl gloves when your index fingernail could do with trimming. Because said nail will split the glove, but you’re too busy scrubbing away for an hour before you even notice.

And it’s that smell you’ll notice first. You know, the wretched smell of burning hair? Or burning nail as it turns out. So, you curiously scrape your nail and layers come off like butter, until you panic and plunge it into icey water to stop the burning process. And then you have a repellent yellow nail for WEEKS that you cannot paint over with nail varnish for fear of making the whole thing fall off. So instead your skanky nail suggests you smoke 40+ woodbines a day. Yeah, that. Don’t do that people.

Still, inch by inch I was making my way across the fire place. Across My Love.

Cast iron period fireplace get paint off

Inch by

Cast iron period fireplace get paint off

Inch by inch

Cast iron period fireplace get paint off

Inch by inch by inch

Will we make it? Will we get to the end, buff it up, install a working fire, smear it in grate polish and happily rejoice? There’s only one way to find out……tune in next time for the final installment!

(You’re on the edge of your seat. Go on, admit it.)

Read on to part 3

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How to restore a cast iron fireplace – part 1

It’s probably about time I blogged about our fireplace. There’s a fair bit to say before the reveal, so I’ll split this into parts.

When we bought this house we had no idea we had a stunning original period feature just waiting to be restored.

Original estate agent picture

Original estate agent picture

In fact, it was several months in that we finally clocked that the fireplace that we thought was wooden was cold to the touch, and therefore metal.

Dumb, huh? But seriously – would you have expected that this was an original Edwardian cast iron beauty?

fireplacebefore

Mmmmmmm, sexy.

Ok, ok, you’d have realised sooner, smartypants. In our defence, when we first moved in we spent very little time in this room (the old dining room destined to be our sitting room). And besides, we were totally distracted by the ugly old fire and green tile hearth – circa 1980 public toilets.

However, within 5 minutes of clocking it was indeed metal we excitedly found the Nitromors and several coats, an hour and a room full of toxic stink we managed this:

Cast iron fireplace nitromors

What the Nitromors revealed

Cast iron, with beautiful detailing lost under layers of paint. And there began my absolute obsession with restoring this poor darling to its original splendour. And boy, was that some challenge.

It was clear that Nitromors wasn’t going to cut it – not when you look at the size of the fireplace (it’s 1.5m wide by x 1.2m high if you’re wondering) and not when we considered the vast amount of detail on My Love.

Yes, I am calling it My Love, for it was. For 4 months a day would not pass without me spending quality time with My Love. Even when – ironically – we had no heating in the depths of winter, I wrapped up in scarf and hat and My Love got attention. We spent hours and hours together, quietly and methodically strengthening our bond. He gave me a terrible repetitive sprain injury (insert your own mucky undertones here) that sent me to my workplace physio. And yet I continued, hour upon hour on my knees in front of him (yep, go on again). Anyway……

peelaway1Google is a wonderful thing and after much research it seemed that the wonder product I needed was: PeelAway1. (I have since discovered this wonderful post on the process which I so wish I had seen before I had started on ours!) PeelAway is used by the National Trust, so if it’s good enough for them…..

Armed with the instructions on my reassuringly large tub of PeelAway, some rubber gloves and a massive amount of enthusiasm – in I went, concentrating on the central bit of the fire surround.

I assumed that the more of this stuff I used, the better – right? So I happily squidged on huge amounts, smoothed it with the supplied spatula, put the paper on top (endearingly, the manufacturers call this a “blanket”) and waited. No toxic stink whatsoever – a good start.

I waited 24hours, and tugged at the paper expecting it all to come away in one go. To, erm, “peel away” in fact.

Nope, there was a lot of gungy mess and unexpected liquid. So after cleaning, scraping and moaning I had this:

Peel Away 1 on cast iron

Not quite peeled away

Peelaway1 first use on period cast iron fireplace

Let’s take a closer look

What this had revealed was just how many layers of paint there were to get through and – oh! – check out those colours! There was a particularly striking blue, a green and a burgundy. Apparently, the fashion for painting your fireplace in hideous colours was particularly prevalent in the 1960s, so we were looking at at least 50 odd years of paint.

And what paint it was – God only knows what they put in paint back then (oh yeah, lead) – but it was strong stuff made to last. Oh My Love, what had they done to you?

So, next time I used a little less of the PeelAway gunk, tucked in My Love with a new blanket and, this time, waited 48hours. A little improvement, but not much – though all the green paint had gone. (I neglected to take a photo at this stage – sorry) So I went ahead, more gunk, more tucking in and another 48hours.

After more messy cleaning, I got this:

Cast iron fire detail painted

Oh, hello there fine detail!

I tried Nitromors again on these stubborn bits, but nope, it wasn’t shifting it and was instead just doing terrible things to my asthma.

So there was just one thing for it: wire wool, wire brushes, tiny chisels, elbow grease and stubborn perseverance. And you wonder why I got an RSI.

To be continued….

Read on to part 2

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Mexico, househunting and a little shower….

Yes, I know, I promised that when we got back I’d be sharing actual pictures of the house and what we’ve achieved. What can I say, I’m a terrible tease!! But, honestly, since we landed a couple of weeks ago we’ve been really busy and also slightly distracted by house-buying; more on that later.

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Tulum

Mexico,thanks for asking, was absolutely everything we needed it to be. Whilst the poor UK was drowning (literally, in horrendous flooding) we were luxuriating in the glorious Riviera Maya.

Here’s the highlights:

Critter spotting – our resort was set in an ‘eco jungle’ so was alive with critters which we absolutely loved. Every day there was something new to spot or say “hello” to (or “goodnight” as it happened…..every evening on the walk back to our room I insisted on roll calling all the critters we’d seen that day and saying “night” to them. I’d blame the cocktails but the truth is, I’d have done it sober too.)

Not a single mosquito bite – yep, that’s definitely a highlight. I am normally absolutely bitten to shreds despite the strongest tropical repellent. Not this time! Thanks, we think, to the eco balance of the resort and the aforementioned abundance of critters (iguanas and spiders galore) who were no doubt guzzling up the evil mozzies.

Snorkelling with turtles – next to our resort was a small fishing village called Akumal, meaning ‘place of the turtle’ in Mayan because they feed on the sea grass here. We just hired (mandatory) life vests and waded into the water from the beach; within minutes we saw a huge turtle. In just an hour in the water we were joined by 5 turtles and a couple of absolutely huge stingrays. Loved it. Oly did not love the resulting sunburn as much…but guess who advised him to wear a tshirt under his life jacket? This is what happens when I’m not listened to.

Ouch!

Ouch!

Not getting stung by a lionfish – there was great snorkelling right off our resort beach too. One day we spent ages getting incredibly close to a ‘really pretty fish’. I loved watching it, spent ages right by it, getting closer and closer until Oly got bored. We google imaged it later to find out it’s kind of venemous and you shouldn’t really hang around  with it. Ooops.

See how pretty he is? An easy mistake, no?!

See how pretty he is? An easy mistake, no?!

Coba – we’ve done Chichen Itza before and so this time went to the Mayan city of Coba, which was incredible. In a couple of weeks you’ll be no longer able to climb the ruins of the grand pyramid so we’re lucky we made it in time. I say lucky….to be honest, I can see why they’re closing it, it’s pretty unsafe now. I hadn’t realised how absolutely incredibly petrified I am of falling until I had to get back down (my fear stems back to a nasty fall down a fire escape as a 5year old). So, yes, I was the ladylike tourist who bumped my way back down to safety on my ass……

Tulum – not far at all from our resort so we just hopped on a bus and enjoyed the incredible views. Seriously, postcard perfection. And back at the resort in time for lunch and a siesta in the sun, what’s not to like?!

Tulum ruins

Tulum ruins

CocoBongo – that’s a nightclub/show type thing. Check it out. I have never ever seen anything quite so amazing or crazy and we absolutely loved every minute of it. We considered going back a few nights later it was that good. Darling Husband losing our room key at 5am didn’t even dampen it – nor did the stonking hangovers.

Hiring a jeep in Cozumel – a quick ferry ride and we had a day with our own (knackered!) jeep exploring the island. We beat all the cruise tour parties and just did our own thing. There was an embarrassing incident outside Starbucks (yes, we feel the shame, but I so wanted a frappuccino) when Oly couldn’t get the handbrake off. But a friendly local soon came to our rescue.

Oly loved the jeep

Poser

Doing nothing – damn, that was good. We did get out and about quite a bit but the rest of the time we just mooched, ate, lay in the sun, drank, played in the waves, listened to audio books (best thing when sun bathing!) and generally relaxed. We even squeezed in a trip to the spa and sat in the jacuzzi watching the sun go down discussing the year that was and how much we’d achieved.

And.....relax......

And…..relax……

Lizards – a little known fact is that I have a total fascination for lizards (much to Oly’s mum’s disgust – she’s not so keen!). Mexico is a total haven for iguanas and geckos and our resort in particular had tons of them – still very wild so not keen to get too close to humans. I tried, believe me. So, meeting this fella in Cozumel made me especially happy.

We mirrored expressions

We mirrored expressions

So, pretty much – that was Mexico.

We came home to very exciting house buying news. No, we’re not selling ours before you all start putting offers in; not sure we’ll ever sell this house now.

The exciting news was about Oly’s brother who has recently been trying to buy  his first house where he currently lives in Birmingham. His job is now changing which means he is going to be covering the North of the UK now, so he took the only sensible decision – to move to Leeds. Yay!!

Almost as soon as he told us we were on Right Move checking out what he could get. We were privileged that he wanted us to help him with the hunt and we’ve really enjoyed it. A couple of weeks and a  few viewings later (such fun!!) and he’s had an offer accepted on an amazing terrace about 2 minutes walk  from us!

Oly is absolutely over the moon at the thought of it and I’m pretty damn chuffed too; he’s such a lovely guy we’re looking forward to seeing much more of him. But it does help explain my lack of  recent blog progress.

Once again, I promise to get taking photos and showing you what we’ve actually done with the rest of the house. So, stay tuned. Yeah, yeah, I know – you’ve heard that before……….

Ahem!

Ahem!

Oh, I almost forgot about Him. He had a lovely holiday in a luxury cattery whilst we were away, you’d think he would’ve been grateful……….

Oly went to pick him up and on the drive home (about 20mins) suspected he may have had a little accident in the car (Humph, not Ol).

On putting his cage down in the hallway and lifting off the lid Oly said, “I think he may have weed himself”, just as Humph dramatically leapt from his cage and little poos went flying about 10 feet all over our lovely new 100% wool carpet. Quite literally a shit shower. Or a dirty protest.

Thankfully we own a carpet cleaner but it wasn’t quite what I wanted to be doing after a night flight. So he is currently referred to as The Little Shitbag who is capable of concealing a dozen poos in his little fluffy trousers until it is time to unleash them. He’s still damn cute though.

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Adiós amigos!

Well, we’re escaping this miserable weather and are off to sunny Mexico for a couple of weeks. Woohoo!!

Humph really helped with my packing

Humph really helped with my packing

We’ve felt a bit guilty about this holiday – on and off. Should we have not saved our annual leave and worked less like dogs and missed out on less things last year? Should we really be spending our money on a holiday when we have a boiler and central heating debt to clear and rooms still to renovate? Hell yes, we should! Life is too short for not spending quality time with the one you love. Especially in all-inclusive loveliness.

And, above all, we’ve earned this!! We literally didn’t stop for months; by Christmas we were gibbering wrecks.

When I fished out our mini folder that we always use for travel documents I discovered that even that had plaster skank on it!

Nothing escaped the plasterer.

Nothing escaped the plasterer.

It reminded me just how far we’ve come. How much filth we had lived through and how right we were to have saved up for a holiday. The thought of it kept us sane!

So, I shall have a Mojito for all of you and really do promise to share pics of the rest of our house when we return. Adios amigos!

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Bedroom colour schemes

We have four bedrooms and – for now – we’re ignoring the smallest one that is a bit of a dumping ground/study. So there’s three that have had the full makeover.

I realised we hadn’t yet shared our chosen paint colours, so thought I’d do that now as I still haven’t taken photos of the finished rooms. (Sorry! I keep meaning to but need to get some shots in daylight but as we’re at work throughout the week and busy at weekends I never seem to get round to it.)

So, for now, you’ll just have to make do with the colours.

Back bedroom

I really didn’t want to love Elephants Breath – it seems to be the shade that everyone associates with Farrow&Ball – but, oh, one little tester pot and I was hooked. It’s such a lovely soft neutral with surprising hints of purple. Calming, elegant and serene. It had to happen.  Our chosen woodwork colour, Dimity, doesn’t seem to be chosen often for woodwork but it’s a lovely pairing due to it’s very slightest hint of pink – in some lights. Oly is smug because he picked this one out.

farrow and ball elephant's breath

Elephant’s Breath on the walls

farrow and ball dimity

Dimity on woodwork

Farrow and Ball Slipper Satin

Slipper Satin on the ceiling

Farrow and Ball All White

All White for the cornicing and ceiling rose

Music room

We knew we had a few bright accents for this room so wanted to keep it a fairly neutral backdrop. Plus, as Oly has insisted on calling it HIS room we wanted to keep it a little masculine.  So, we turned to the delicious grey palette.

farrow and ball Lamp Room Gray

Lamp Room Gray below the picture rail

farrow and ball Pavillion Gray

Pavilion Gray above the rail

cornforth white

Cornforth White on the ceiling

Farrow and Ball All White

All White for the woodwork, picture rail and cornicing

Master bedroom

This one was the most contentious and Oly needed a fair bit of persuading – what would I do without Pinterest? But, in the end, we opted for full-on drama with the utterly fabulous Hague Blue. Perfect white woodwork was the obvious choice but – as with the rest of the house – we didn’t want to use white on the ceiling (and lose the focus on the cornicing) so we went for the softest of blues in Cabbage White.

farrow and ball Hague Blue

Hague Blue on the walls. Yes, that’s right on the walls!

farrow and ball Cabbage White

Cabbage White on the ceiling

Farrow and Ball All White

All White for the woodwork, cornicing and ceiling rose

So, there you go, that’s our bedroom paint colours. Each room is deliberately quite different, but they don’t fight with each other as you cross into them.

What do you think of our choices?

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You’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties….

We knew our kitchen diner would be the perfect party space. We knew.

Last weekend our theory was proved correct as we held an absolutely awesome party! It was exactly a year on from our Mexican housewarming party and a chance to show our lovely guests what we had achieved in a year.

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Oly a year ago, standing where our kitchen island now is

This year, we hosted a black-tie cocktail party, fitting for our new elegant surroundings. There were house tours and then overly-strong cocktail mixing (thanks to a friend mistaking the double measure for the single!). There was super-competitive beer pong followed by a bit of a disco. We fell into bed at 6am.

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Due to a high prevalence of lurgy and prior engagements we had less people than we had originally anticipated but the 25 people or so who did make it were absolutely swallowed up in our wonderful kitchen diner. We probably could have had that number again with no problems. Well, our neighbours may not have agreed.

Anyway, here’s just a brief snapshot:

Just this brief glimpse hopefully shows what a great time we had and how happy we were to be able to host.

It also made us reflect how lucky we are to have lovely people nearby to invite into our home – people who know how to live life to the full, how to have a laugh and – importantly – how to just accept each other for exactly as we are.

Our friends from earlier parts of our lives – growing up and uni – are incredibly dear to us but live in other parts of the country; though we frequently long to be closer.

Over the years since uni we made some close local friends but – on the whole – we found ourselves with more friends miles away than those close by.

Me and my lovely Emma

Me and my lovely Emma

That was until a couple of years ago when we went to Corfu for the wedding of an exceedingly lovely Lovely; I was her first boss and she’s now a very successful journalist.

Anyway, in Corfu we met her childhood friends (who I had already heard so much about I felt as if I knew them) and instantly fell in love with them and they, happily, with us. We’re now privileged and thankful to call them our own friends and adore spending time with them.

So, at the start of 2014 we’ve found we have lots to be thankful for. And, obviously, we’re already planning our next party.

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Love is stronger than death

In my last post I showed you our gallery wall, but there was one wall I hadn’t shown you. This one:

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This is on the opposite side of the disco loo and has just three frames, which kind of didn’t go with the rest. All of them are on the sentimental side. Indulge me…….

The first is a card I gave mum for Mothers’ Day in 2009. I found it in her bedside drawer when I had the hideous task of cleaning out the house after she had finally given up the fight against her poor broken body. It was a card in which I had written about how we were both coming to terms with the fact she wouldn’t be with me on my wedding day. I described how, in her absence, I was going to walk myself down the aisle, knowing she was with me every single step. I described how no-one else could take her place.

A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no-one else can take

The second card – that I found in her desk drawer – was one Oly and I spotted in a bookshop in the Lower East Side, NYC, 2010. Whilst we were away she got pneumonia. The card just jumped out at me as what I wanted to know that she knew. She effectively kicked me out when I was 19 – I had delayed going to uni for  a year and then got an unconditional offer for Leeds. She told me if I didn’t go and live my own life then she would kick me out anyway, she would be ok and so would I. So, the hardest thing I have ever done – or will ever do – was to leave my caring role behind and go and find me. No matter what I was doing or where I was, I don’t think I stopped worrying since 1996.

You are in my mind, inbetween red lights and meetings, inbetween sips of coffee, inbetween ringing phones

The final card was the last birthday card she gave me. If you hadn’t yet worked it out – keep up! – I bloody adored my mum; she was incredible. She had the most amazing tenacity, abundant kindness, ridiculous sense of humour and greatest resilience for the constant shit life had thrown at her. She adored Oly – loved him like a son – and he loved her back. She valiantly fought illness for 26 years and we were as close as a mother and daughter could ever be.

This is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart, I carry your heart, I carry it in my heart

When Oly and I were framing these cards we discussed whether they made us sad and we both agreed it was the total opposite.

They remind us of the importance of love and the strength of words, they make us smile.

Mum is buried in a peaceful memorial woodland and, under her growing oak tree is a stone that includes the words: “Dearly loved, and confident that love is stronger than death.”

And, ok, ok, you’re wondering if this indulgent sentimentality really has a place in our disco loo. It has. She’d have died laughing.

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Gallery wall

(Apologies for the terrible photo quality in this post, this is what happens when you take pictures through glass!)

Just when we thought we couldn’t love our Disco Loo more than we already do we’ve gone and added a wall full of happiness.

Disco loo gallery wall with Dulux Proud Peacock

Gallery wall (background colour is Dulux Proud Peacock)

We’ve long had this plan for the main wall in the downstairs loo but have been kind of busy doing the bigger, more important, things in the house – like actually getting it habitable in time for Christmas.

So, as soon as we had the chance we were wading through old cards and photos and trekking off to Ikea for frames. Good old Ikea, what would we do without the humble Ribba frame? Affordable, simple design which – en masse – looks pretty good.

What did we decide to include on the wall? Well, first we went through photos and pulled out ones that make us smile – either for a memory or – more often – for the sheer stupidity. There are photos of my best mate and her gorgeous family, a pair of tiny sandy feet belong to our ‘charge’ (we’re his legal guardians) and there are some that maybe need a little more explanation, for example:

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We helped a friend who was compiling a recipe book by testing out recipes and taking pics. Someone decided to sneak into shot – it’s always made us laugh.

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We got married at Hazlewood and our surname is Tipper. You can imagine the hilarity – in fact, this image was our ‘thank you’ cards. It’s now a family favourite.

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Oly and his bro at our wedding playing ‘horse lips’. Never tried it? Blow a raspberry and take a pic…..

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See? Horse Lips is always fun!

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A few years ago I found this photo at my mum’s. My darling, skint, ill, only just about getting by mum. Turned out she had saved up and bought a water pump for a village in India. She just kind of didn’t tell anyone. Sums her up perfectly.

After we’d decided on photos we looked back at a stash of cards; many of which Oly and I originally gave to my mum over the years. She kept nearly everything we gave her so, when clearing out her house, I came across them stashed in books and drawers. They still make us smile and we like the fact they have kind of gone full circle.

And then there’s this:

Far Side cartoon

Far Side cartoon

This was from a Far Side wall calendar from, probably, about 25years ago. It was cut out and put in a clipframe and hung in my mum’s loo  – Oly has always loved it and the sheer inanity of putting cartoons in unexpected places. So, now it is hung in our unexpected place!

Also, in need of a little explanation is the needlepoint hunting picture.

We couldn’t find a place for this in the main house and – honestly – we’re not too keen on the subject matter yet can appreciate the craftmanship. However, it was given to my grandfather by his mother (made by her) so we wanted it to have a place somewhere. Is it wrong to hang a family heirloom in the loo?!

So, forgive my dodgy photography skills and take a look at what else is included:

To figure out the gallery wall layout we measured the wall space and mapped it out on the floor with tinsel (errrrr, obviously, doesn’t everyone?).   We then created an arrangement we were happy with (with Humph’s help, of course) and took a photo to work to.

We then just transferred the whole lot onto the wall – which took HOURS!! We started with each corner, then along the line until we had the outline, before filling in the middle. We weren’t patient or anal enough to measure and calculate distances between frames, so it definitely has a homespun feel to it and is all the better for it. Well, that’s our excuse and we’re sticking to it.

It’s almost impossible to get a good shot of the full wall, given the tiny room and space to manoeuvre, but here’s my best shot(s) at it.

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So now this creation makes us smile and hopefully it will amuse our guests too – it’s very “us”.

The Disco Loo is now complete. Well, until I manage to convince Oly that we really do need that revolving glitter ball from Ikea.

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Happy new year!

Hope everyone had wonderful festive seasons and you’re full of hope and inspiration for a new year? This quote – by the unmistakable Tennyson – perfectly summed up the usual New Year expectations for me:

“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering ‘it will be happier’.”

So, for us, 2013 left with a whimper and 2014 entered the same –  thanks to dreaded lurgy that induced chronic asthma and even an (almost unheard of) day off work. Meh. Still, it has at least made us slow down and consider the year ahead – in house terms anyway.

As you know from our last hurried pre-Xmas post we completed what we set out to do in 2013; get all the main ‘lived in’ areas of the house sorted by Christmas. I’ll look forward to catching you up with how it all looks over the next few months, with full room reveals I promise! The reaction from friends who visited over Christmas kind of affirmed how well we’ve done!

So, what lies ahead for the house in 2014? Well, honestly, we’ve run out of money and have a big old credit card (don’t worry, 0%) to pay off but – once that’s behind us – these are the bigger things still left to do:

  1. The study. It’s the 4th bedroom, but we’ll use it as a study plus maybe a bit of an over-spill dressing area.
  2. The utility room. What was the old kitchen and currently just a dumping ground.
  3. The house bathroom. Whilst it’s had a decent lick of paint and is certainly very useable we do plan to start again.
  4. The back garden. We have a patio/paving solution to find plus some general maintenance.
  5. The steps/driveway. Again, nothing that can’t wait and – I suspect – once we find out the costs, something that will end up waiting a good few years!!

Of course, there’s lots of little things and ongoing maintenance too but they’re the big ones. Will they happen in 2014? Some will, some won’t. We certainly won’t be having such a crazy year!

So, upcoming blog posts will mostly be showing things you haven’t yet seen (because I was so rubbish at staying on top of it all) plus other random ramblings. I’m not quite sure what direction this blog may end up taking – but hey, let’s just see. I ain’t gonna plan for anything, or plan against it.

In the meantime, I have had comments that there haven’t been enough Humph pictures. Sorry, here you go:

sunlightHumph

He isn’t actually that happy about the nasty, dirty, old carpet. It’s the sun he likes. His taste is far superior, honest.

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Looks like we made it!

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Over a month ago I promised I would blog the following week. Yeah, about that…… I’ve even had complaints from friends!

But then a very wise blogger commented on one of my recent posts with:

The house will be yours forever – and there’s no hurry to chase forever. xx

Very true, and since then I kind of calmed down on the perfection and certainly stopped feeling guilty for not having updated this site (Oly says my Catholic upbringing means I always default to guilt.)

However, if you’re still interested, I promise to update and fill your screens with pics in 2014.

Today I’ve been cooking and preparing since 7am for the arrival of the outlaws and am just squeezing in this post before their arrival.

So there’s just time to say: WE ONLY BLOODY DID IT! We said 1 year ago that we’d be ready for Christmas 2013 and, well, we are.

And, dear reader, it’s looking pretty fabulous.

We’re exhilarated, exhausted and a tiny bit emotional. I wanted to know my mum would have been proud and – as I hit the worst time of year for missing her like hell – I know she would be.

I’ll leave you with a set of the most hurried festive pics ever – I envy other blogs with their beautifully styled photography – however, it gives the general idea.

May God bless us, every one.

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89 days later

pausebuttonWe realised last night that we haven’t had a day off since August 18th (on which we drove back from a weekend with the inlaws in Shropshire). That’s 89 days ago.

That was the last day when we weren’t either at work (as in, our day jobs) or working on the house or – most often – both.

We ain’t looking for sympathy; no-one put a gun to our heads and made us work so hard. And we know we’re lucky to be in such an incredible house.

My mum would have called us ‘daft apeths’ – one of her favourite phrases. And really, we are. However, this weekend we shall press pause, take a break and hopefully reflect on what we’ve achieved so far.

Oly’s mum and dad (*waves* if they’re reading) are coming up for a couple of nights. Unfortunately, we can’t quite yet accept overnight guests so they’re in a hotel.

But we have vowed to do no work on the house despite the fact only half our furniture is built, we desperately need to go to (the dreaded) Ikea and B&Q, we have painting to do (still!), a much needed tip run, unpacking, repacking, selling, picture hanging, drilling, curtain fixing, stair waxing and so on…….. But no, we shall not. We shall entertain our guests and start it all again next week.

Now, there may be the small matter of an immense amount of cleaning required before allowing guests – let alone family – into the house. That’s Friday night rock n roll for you and it’s all that stands in the way of us and the pause button.

And next week, I promise to blog – at least once. With news that isn’t just about how tired we are. I may even show you some pics……

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Zombie decorators

So, we’ve kept up with our crazy schedule and this, my friends, is what months of hard slog does to you. You turn into zombie decorators!

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Actually, we had a Halloween party invite – terrible timing really given everything we had to do but it was a dear friend’s party that we wouldn’t have missed for the world. However, we had no time to sort costumes so we simply donned our decorating togs (already covered in paint) and added some fake blood. Simple!

A touch of liquid latex and tissue paper to create some pretty funky burns and we were good to go.

Had a great night and were sorry to leave early but we had a massive list the next day to get through.

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Sunday’s to-do list

And get through it we did. 24hours work over one weekend and we were ready for carpets!!

That’s where it gets very disappointing.

We were due to have the sitting room, 3 bedrooms, hallways, stairs and landing all done in a day. However, it turns out that some of our carpet is still being manufactured – because it’s 5m width – but the shop just didn’t bother to let us know on Friday when they had found out. Shocking lack of customer service and meant we practically killed ourselves getting ready for it at the weekend for no reason.  We could have stayed at the party!!

So, we have just the 2 spare bedrooms and a bit of the stairs done. We’ve had to postpone furniture deliveries and move furniture back in that we’d shipped out.

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This never fails to make us laugh….

Because we tore up the laminate in the sitting room we now have a bare concrete floor. Oh, and we freecyled our old sofa so now have nothing to sit on!

Yesterday we were absolutely fuming; today we’ve calmed down a little bit and just accepted it for what it is. It’s taken the shine off our carpet excitement though and totally messed with our schedule but hey, there we go, all resolvable just not ideal.

Isn’t it horrible being at the mercy of other people?  I guess that’s the joys of renovating.

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Hello. We’re idiots!

“The ultimate inspiration is the deadline”

Our day jobs both involve loads of deadlines – it’s got to go to print by X, the CEO wants it by X, the media need it before X. You get the general idea.

So, it’s fair to say a deadline doesn’t really phase us. So why then are our self-imposed house deadlines such a killer? For once, we actually have some control over our deadlines but have continued to make them virtually impossible.

Answer? We’re idiots basically. Total raving, exhausted idiots.

Idiots who think it’s ok to dress as fairytale creatures.

We’re currently fighting to get all our walls painted before the 18th. It was originally the 5th but we realised we had no chance of making it so moved it back. This deadline is the day our heating engineer returns to refit all the radiators and flush and balance the system  – now we are finally rid of all the microbore piping.

So, on the 18th Oct we will have central heating. Woohoo! But it means we’ve decided all the painting had to be done, on the walls at least. Hence the deadline. Makes sense, no?

We’ve also finally got a carpet fit date of the 4th November – so that means we want absolutely all the painting done; every last bit of wood, coving and ceiling rose. We ain’t spending THAT much on carpet to get paint on it – and trust me, I would get paint on it. Oh, and the floors need levelling/mending before the carpeting. There’s another bastard deadline.

Curtain and blind hardware can’t be fitted until the walls are painted; curtains themselves not fitted until the carpets are down (need to get the perfect hang length apparently).

And of course we can’t get furniture delivered until we have carpet and we’re really tired of having no bedroom furniture (“Oly, where are my socks being kept?” “In a bag in the bath, next to the holdall with my pants in it.”) So, yep, we’ve gone and created another deadline.

And all this has been leading towards the biggest deadline that’s been crashing towards us since we started our renovations a few months ago – “WE’LL BE DONE BY CHRISTMAS”.

I repeat: idiots.

Idiots who take it back to the 80s.

We have no spare annual leave so are out to work for 10-12 hours, coming home and picking up our brushes every night as well as putting in 12 hour days on a weekend. We’re on our knees…..quite literally much of the time.

Are we regretting our madness? Nope. Wouldn’t we like to take our time? Nope.

We want our lives back, we want a house we can really live in. I want to know my mum would have been proud. We want to host a family Christmas. We want our friends to come and visit. I want a goddamn manicure.

It does explain why our blog posts have been lacking  – and, oh, I have so much to catch you up on and show you – but needs must, sorry. (I’m only writing this now because we’re waiting for a takeaway….)

So, deadlines? Bring ’em on, because nothing ever feels quite as good as when you smash them.

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Hallway, stairs, landing and lobby paint colour scheme

Would you like to see another colour scheme? Sure you do!

When we tried to work out this area one thing was very clear – we had a lot of wall and a lot of wood.  We also realised we’re so blessed with such great space that we didn’t need to comply with the usual requirement to make a hallway feel larger by keeping the colours light.  With this freedom, we were surprised at how quickly we settled on paint colours.

Ready? here goes:

Farrow and Ball French Gray

French Gray on the main body of the walls

Farrow and Ball Old White

Old White on the walls below the dado and the inner door from the lobby and screen

Farrow and Ball Slipper Satin

Slipper Satin for achitraves, doors, dado, ceilings and the picture rail in the lobby

We’re also going to use Slipper Satin on the stairs – on the large original side panels as well as on the spindles and sofits. The newel posts and banisters will be stained (mahogany) and either varnished or waxed.

Farrow and Ball All White

All White for the cornicing and ceiling roses

Farrow and Ball Mouse's Back

Mouse’s Back (such a great name!) for the body of the walls in the Lobby

Farrow and Ball Brinjal

Brinjal in full gloss for the back of the front door.

And that’s it! We were advised to choose colours that make us happy. Oly loved Brinjal when I first started waving F&B colour charts at him so we’re glad to have found it a home.  We’ve got all the paint and now, as with the rest of the place, just need to get it on the walls!

We’re really happy with these colours and hope they will transform the house and its entrance way back to a  more elegant past, without making it feel too dated.

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Lots of grain, lots of pain

We’ve not really been blogging much recently. Sorry, have you missed us?!

“What’s been stopping you entertaining us with your witty musings” I hear you cry. In a word, dear reader? SANDING.

The sanding box of doom. The sight of it makes my heart sink.

The sanding box of doom. Just the sight of it makes my heart sink.

Now, I am the Queen of Underestimating at the best of times but this time, woah, holy moly, that’s some serious work. Every single bit of wood in this house (except the ‘we’ll do it next year’ study and bathroom) has been lovingly rubbed, smoothing the way for a more elegant future.

I don’t think we realised just how much wood there was in this house or how fiddly sanding it all would be.

Original architraving and skirting is certainly stunning but the nooks and crannies hide varnished crimes that stubbornly refuse to be shifted.

We also never realised just how evil the sticky reddy brown varnish would be to get off. We were originally quite joyful at the lack of gloss in this house and yet half way through would have given anything for some simple gloss to go at!

We’ve spent weeks covered in icky red dust. Weeks covered in a film of skank. Weeks wheezing and puffing our way through misty clouds that gets EVERYWHERE! And don’t even get me started on the state of our poor hands.

Of course, we had an added problem – our plasterer. I’m not sure its possible to have found a tradesman who was messier or more inconsiderate. There were dribbles and lumps of plaster everywhere – we would frequently disappear behind clouds of plaster dust only to emerge angry and swearing.

He had also managed to get PVA all over the woodwork, and that stuff clogs up a sander faster than drunk chavs in Maccie Ds on a Friday night.

So, the plasterer has become He Who Must Not Be Named because of the extra mess and time he has cost us. Throughout our sanding ordeal Oly has very nearly needed anger management because of Him.

And yet, triumphantly we have now finished the sanding. Woohoo!! It honestly feels like a bit of a turning point.

Clearly sanding isn’t all we’ve been up to but it has totally dominated – we reckon we’ve done about 60 hours each.

We’ve actually just had a week of leave and are now absolutely exhausted, not having stopped work till about 10pm each night. We’ve really just returned to work for a break (Oly even started a new job today!)

There are however more exciting things we can blog about and will do soon. For now, we’re just giddy to see the back of the sanding.

So the next time you have a friend or family member embarking on any type of renovation, don’t offer to give them a hand with the painting, do some emulsioning for them or even suggest a paint party* – just help them out with a bit of sanding, they’ll love you forever.

purvs corner Haworth*We did consider telling our friends we’d get the pizza and beers in if they’d come to our Rub-Down Party.

Decided against it in the end, sounded a touch pervy.

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Which way do you hang Lotus wallpaper? A Facebook debate

We decided to upload a couple of pics of our lovely new kitchen diner to Farrow and Ball’s fabulous inspiration site.

I find it so useful looking at other people’s projects – whether my taste or not – and particularly like to see how paint colours turn out in different areas;  incredibly helpful for choosing. So we thought we’d do our bit by sharing our pics, we’re gracious like that.

F&B accepted the pictures onto their site last week, all was good.  Then I was a bit surprised to browse Facebook yesterday and see a pic of my own kitchen staring back at me in the news feed!

Facebook

It was shared by Farrow and Ball with the message “What do you think of this kitchen recently uploaded to our Inspiration site? Anything you’d change or perfect as it is?”

Now, there was a fair bit of love for the piccie (over 400 likes to date and 40+ shares) however there was also much hatred. And you know what? It didn’t bother us at all; it was just amusing how unnecessarily vicious strangers feel they have the right to be.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I dare say we wouldn’t like a lot of their homes so we don’t particularly care if they don’t like ours.

However, the comments that were actually annoying were the ones about the fact we had hung the wallpaper upside down. Facebook’s arm-chair interior designers chose to call us ‘idiots’, ‘knobs’ and ‘cocks’ because of it.  (But we’ve probably been called worse over more important things than wallpaper……)

Lotus BP 2061Lotus BP 2061Anyway, the lovely Lotus paper can be hung either way, it’s a matter of preference.

We spent a long time deciding and discussing the merits of both ways :

“It looks like cupped hands”, “It’s a smile”, “It’s a frown”, “I can see a beard now”, “That’s a weird jellyfish”, “Do you just see lady bits?” and so on.

But we chose the way we wanted it, up it went and we bloody adore it. We know it’s not to everyone’s taste and, honestly, we couldn’t give a monkeys.

However, I was very pleased that F&B graced their comment thread with the following:

“We love how passionate everyone is about this! As with anything aesthetic, subjectivity is the watch-word of the day – everyone’s opinion counts here and we welcome both positive comments and constructive criticism… We also thank the owner of this home for adding their photos to our inspiration site to help inspire others.

With regard to the direction of the Lotus pattern, this can be hung either way depending on personal preference. This is a common quandary and we have previously created a board on Pinterest to show how Lotus looks hung both ways. Included in this board is a picture of the original inspiration behind our Lotus pattern, taken from 19 century French archives: http://pinterest.com/farrowball/lotus-wallpaper-hung-both-ways/

Original Lotus paper inspiration

And here is that lovely original inspiration for the Lotus pattern from 19th century French archives  –  adapted and simplified to become the Farrow & Ball Lotus design.

Oh, well, now, will you look a that?! It’s the same way up as our wallpaper.

IN YOUR FACE FACEBOOK CRITICS!!!!!

Sorry, couldn’t help cheering. I guess that’s why we’re knobs/cocks/idiots. But we knew that already.

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Sitting room paint colour scheme

We’ve finished plastering. Woohoo!! Just now need to patch up the gaps and clean up the mess. Then it’s onto sanding, mist coating and finally  – be still my beating heart – painting!

In the meantime,  I thought it was perhaps time to share another colour scheme, this time for our sitting room.*

Farrow and Ball Pigeon

Pigeon for the main body of the walls

The computer screen doesn’t massively differentiate the next colour from Pigeon, but it really is different (lighter) in real life!

Farrow and Ball Blue Gray

Blue Gray for the frieze (above the picture rail)

Farrow and Ball Off White

Off White for ceiling, skirting, window woodwork, architrave, doors and picture rail

Farrow and Ball Pointing

Pointing for the cornice and ceiling rose

The idea is to create a cosy, calming, neutral backdrop, though not too neutral. We have some lovely bits to go in this room including a family heirloom – a painted corner cabinet from 1710 – as well as framed ivory fan set against fuschia felt. And, of course, we have a wonderful original cast iron fireplace – a post about that little beauty will follow soon.

We need to crack on with painting as soon as poss so we can get the radiators back on before we start to need them. Then it’s just carpets, curtains, furniture etc and we MIGHT stand a chance of being done by Christmas. That’s the plan anyway.

Oly has been known to become one with floor...

Oly has been known to become one with floor…

* I refuse to call what will be our new beautiful room a lounge.

In the little flat I grew up in my mum always used the term ‘sitting room’ – and I find it much more elegant and fitting for our darling house.

There will be no lounging on settees in this room, there will be sitting on sofas.

And, ok, after a few drinkies there may possibly be the occasional touch of sprawling on floors……

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Kitchen diner – the big reveal

We’ve been terrible teases and not posted full shots of our lovely new kitchen diner. We may now have over-compensated by posting absolutely loads of pictures!

Anyway, head on over to this page to see the lot. And please do leave us your comments on that page – would be great to hear what you think!

Before you go, here’s the obligatory before and after shots.

Now go and view the rest of the pics!

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Scandinavian kitchen soul

Edwardian shooting party

My great grandfather is head of the far end of table, this was taken in 1907.

The family name of my grandfather, Schweder, loosely translates as Swedish, in German.

(Here’s a lovely link I found about my great-grandfather  and the “Smelly Nuisance Case” at Courtlands – which was the childhood home of my grandfather, but that’s another story……)

Anyway, the reason for mentioning the Scandinavian connection is that our kitchen diner is now home to a few mid century bits and bobs that echo this ancestry.

Despite the Swedish genealogy it was Norway that stole my grandfather’s heart on several visits – and so it was that my mum had a few Norwegian items that have now passed into our possession.

Nowegian ceramic plaque back

The back of one of the ceramic plaques

They are objects I have grown up with so they feel very familiar and immediately make a new space feel like home for me. They include:

Glass tankards – I never knew these to get used, instead they lived in a Welsh Dresser my grandfather made. I saw them whenever I went to get out the banana split dishes (which were used a lot!). As a child I never appreciated the design, I am making up for it now.

A handpainted Figgjo Saga jug –  it lived on mum’s bookshelves, so now it lives on ours.

Norwegian ceramic plaques – there were some more that I grew up with but my brother had these as we decided to split the collection since he also knew them so well. The plaque of the cook that always hung in our kitchen was a present to mum from her father – he said it always reminded him of her.  I’m afraid I fought my brother quite fiercely for this one, since I was the household cook from the age of 10!!

Cathrineholm pans – I cannot describe how many times these have been used. Growing up they were a firm focus of the kitchen as my mum taught me to cook – “just bung it in the Norwegian casserole”. The Christmas pudd was always flamed in one, the gammon always simmered in the same. It was only recently I spotted one on Etsy and learnt its name and the fact they’re collectable! You can tell from the pics they have had good use and will for many more years to come.  (FYI – Cathrineholm isn’t a  person;  it’s the name of a factory outside Halden, Norway. )

I love these pieces; cherish them alongside my sparkly new stuff. They have the history of my grandfather bringing them back from Norway and then my mum loving and using them.

I love the link to my Scandinavian ancestry (as if the pasty skin wasn’t enough to remind me daily) and it’s all these things that give them soul.

Kitchen island pendant lightI freely admit to a ridiculous, almost over-bearing at times, sentimental attachment to objects and love to find tenuous links.

It’s no wonder then that the lights that hang over our kitchen island are from Sweden. I knew they were right when I spotted them but the thought of a little link to my Scandinavian past, quite literally, hanging around, clinched the deal.

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How to varnish a table that was waxed

This isn’t the most exciting post, however, it may be helpful for anyone else deciding on a varnish. Besides, it’s a break from posts that contain the cat.

We made a bit of an error in judgement with our new dining table. We had it made – in solid oak – by the joiners who made our kitchen cabinets – the legs are painted in Farrow&Ball Railings to match the island colour, the top is wood.

(It’s an amazing table by the way, much better than what we may have afforded in a store and we were able to provide our required measurements. Anyway, I digress……)

A varnished oak table with Farrow and Ball Railings on legs

We wanted to retain the character of the wood and yet also not have to worry about scratches etc. So we were advised to go for a wax finish, which we did but very quickly realised this was a bit of a mistake!

The wax was marking with any wet ring stains from cups and glasses and, more importantly, coming off if you put your elbows on the table for too long. Now, whilst it could have been a great way to ensure proper table manners, it wouldn’t have really been a practical way to live.

So, after much um-ing and ah-ing and internet research we decided to scrap the wax and go with a varnish (laquer) instead. We had only applied one coat of liquid wax with a couple of good buffings so didn’t think this was beyond our skills to get it off and go again.

Maybe worth reminding you at this point – we’re not particularly practical and we’ve certainly never varnished anything before (unless a manicure counts?) so we were a little bit daunted and worried about ruining our new table. But after some great advice from the incredibly helpful  Wood Finishes Direct we were armed with all we needed and it actually turned out to be a dead easy job.

We stripped all traces of the wax from the table using white spirit and scotch pads (so much less messy and effective than steel wool we were advised by our friendly website and how right they were!).

Then we sanded it really well. We wetted the wood with water (once more great advice from our web friends) to check we had an even colour and no wax remained. We didn’t have an even colour, so we scrubbed those bits again with white spirit and repeated the wetting with water. An even colour was achieved – we were good to go.

We had opted not to use a wood stain as we were happy with what the wood looked like wet – an indication of what it would look like with the varnish applied.

We applied the varnish with some incredibly nifty foam brushes that made it a doddle and avoided brush marks. A quick denib between each coat with some sandpaper and, 3 coats later, we were done!

We used Manns Extra Tough Clear Varnish and it was every bit as good as the reviews said. Went on like a dream, no smell, dries quickly and was a lovely matt finish with just the slightest sheen.

A wooden table varnished with clear laquer

The result is a table we’re very happy with and has, so far, proven to have been a wise decision. We’re hosting a birthday dinner next week for a friend, so that will no doubt test it further.

Norwegian Forrest Cat on bed

Ooops, he sneaks into a post once more. Oh, come on – is this not cute?!!

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Yet another cat bed

Oly had a plan for the window in our dining room. The cat has tweaked those ideas.

Lord Humphrey

Lord Humphrey

Ol is a huge music fan and has a small collection of much-loved vinyl. He’s always wanted somewhere to sit and listen to said vinyl so we decided this window presented the perfect opportunity.

(I think he has dreams of the good little wifey in a pinny baking bread on a Sunday morning whilst he sips coffee and Ella croons another crackly jazz classic. But that will never be, I don’t own a pinny.)

Whilst on the lookout for stylish chairs Oly announced he also needed a foot stool – the Sunday morning fantasy apparently came complete with somewhere to put his feet.

So that’s how my cursor came to rest on the ‘chaises’ category on my new favourite website – made.com

To be honest, I’d been looking for an excuse to buy one since I fell in love with the beautiful curves of the Halston Panama. (They also do this in an amazing hot pink but Oly’s fantasies rarely involve pink furniture. At least, I think they don’t……)

Before we talked ourselves out of it, this was ordered but it’s only recently it went to its rightful place. And since then, it’s been a firm favourite with a certain someone:

From the rare occasions we’ve been able to sit on it we can confirm it’s super comfy and beautifully finished. We wanted to add a splash of colour so opted for a lovely cushion from David James Interiors – made from Sanderson’s Bellflower fabric, a bargain for £12.50.

I’d hoped the cushion might have put the cat off. But no, stubborn little sod.

Chaise longue and Sanderson cushion

Something new to cover with fur

We do have some friends who really don’t like cats (the fact that they’re our friends trouble us slightly). To them,  allowing the cat to steal the chaise will be sheer lunacy. But seriously, could you resist this face?

But I've been so tolerant of the mess, I only want a little sit down

For those who really don’t care about the cat (weirdos) and are purely here for the paint – the wall is Farrow&Ball’s Cornforth White and the woodwork All White.

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Filth

Getting tired of looking at this

We don’t seem to have much luck with plasterers. The first one we tried to contract broke his leg just after leaving our house.

The second kept cancelling and eventually we had to sack him off.

The third got started around 10 days ago. When we say ‘got started’ that’s probably being generous. It’s taken him days to really get started. He’ll turn up, do a bit and then either have to go and tax his car, get fitted for a suit for his brother’s wedding, smoke a fag or or run some other mysterious errand.

We’ve discovered several key facts about our plasterer since he’s been (occasionally) in our house:

  • He works at a slow pace. Treacle would give him a run for his money
  • He’s a bit stupid (sorry, but it’s true) so needs to be told the same thing on several occasions
  • His bucket has a leak in it and it will flood into your new kitchen diner from above, through the light fitting (no lasting harm done thankfully)
  • He can eat his own body weight in biscuits
  • And above all? He’s really really really messy.

Admittedly, we always knew the plastering stage would be a touch messy given the state of the walls and the artex ceilings but  he gets it EVERYWHERE.

We won't be having overnight guests any time soon

We won’t be having overnight guests any time soon

We now feel like we’re living in a bit of a building site and, I’m ashamed to say, we’re not even attempting to clean it up each day. I’m too ashamed to even share the photographic evidence. We are living like pigs, surrounded by plaster filth and detritus.

That damn carpet is holding up better than we are

That damn carpet is holding up better than we are

So, all in, we are finding our patience is exceedingly stretched and we’re not really getting anywhere fast. Still, he’s an honest lad, desperate to do a good job. We had been hopeful it would all be completed within the 3 week timescale he originally gave us but that is looking more and more unlikely – particularly as he ended up in A&E last week with chest pains……turns out he’s torn a muscle in his chest, right by his heart. How? Stretching to do our ceilings. Ooops. So, now there’ll be a few days off whilst he recovers from that.

Will we ever get rid of the artex that plagues us?! Even the cat is getting stroppy.

Meanwhile, we are limping towards the finish line with our kitchen diner. All will be revealed soon – promise! – but it’s looking, quite frankly,  incredible and is the one thing maintaining our sanity. Just.

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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.

IMG_2288

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.

IMG_2689

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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Kitchen diner cabinets added

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Cabinets are in place!