Monday, 16 December 2013

Show me the light!

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

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

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

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

Laviani Kartell Fly ceiling light. £159

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

Black cotton drum shade. Habitat. £20

Balun ceiling pendant. Sparksdirect. £130+

Slate grey shade. Habitat. £20

Carter pendant light. Habitat. 31.50

Kura white large paper drum. Habitat. £21.00




Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The walls are down!

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


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

Sunday, 8 December 2013

There once was an ugly duckling!

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

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

Thursday, 31 October 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, 1 August 2013

Another house and a plan chest coffee table.

Well, our search for a new home is certainly proving to be a learning curve if nothing else.

We were in the lucky position of having agreed a sale on our property within the first two weeks, to a lovely lady vet who is renting. Perfect. We were then gazumped on the house that we wanted to buy....but as many many people commented when it happened, as annoying as it was at the time, it was obviously just not meant to be and with time we have thought of so many reasons why in actual fact, that house would not have been right for us.

Oh hindsight........I sometimes wish you would reveal yourself prior to the decision making process!

It's a frightening thought when you sit back and consider that we make such big decisions with such considerable financial consequences when buying a house, often based on just two viewings.......or, as in our case, just one viewing!

We have found another house since gazump gate. We only viewed it once internally. We fell in love (possibly a little this decision is more of a practical one than an emotional one) with the position of the property in relation to the village it sits in. I'm not going to say too much about it as it is early days and we've not had the survey done yet!

When we started looking I wanted a bit of a project. Nothing major....but it's my thing and this new property will definitely test that! It's not a looker but it has plenty of space and bags of potential and a small face lift will make all the difference. I also wanted something different to the cottage we are leaving behind. This will be a radical departure and I can't wait to go modern! Anyway. I'll say no more on the subject until we are further down the line, but we've got everything crossed this time. These things are rarely straight forward though so let's just see.

With a move in mind, a good friend of mine got in touch with me and told me about her work's move to new, custom built premises and the fact that they were selling off all of the old furniture at the old building. What a result! It was like all our Christmases had come at once! My friend lectures in fashion/design that sort of area and shares a love of interiors and recycling interesting furniture. So, off we toddled to her old offices to be met by endless rooms of no longer needed furniture. Heaven! The fact that it all had a design based function meant that there were literally loads of bits and pieces that were worth snapping up.

My friend and I both paid quite literally a few pounds for an architects plan chest each. We both plan to use them as coffee tables and the image above is exactly the look that will be achieved. This is not my image and not my room but the chest looks exactly like the one in the picture above and the plan is to use it in the living room which will be quite modern in style. Probably minimalist, largely down to the fact that is twice the size of our current living room and therefore we will have no furniture to fill it! This is a big piece of furniture as it comes in two sections (The above is just the top section.) but will be perfect for the space.

We also both grabbed a couple of these fab stools below (£3 each!). They will come in so handy as extra seating around a table.... or as desk stools for the children....or as bedside or lamp tables we both thought!

The whole experience filled me with so many ideas...I also put my name on a desk/console table whilst I was there....that when I got home and stopped smiling at my purchases, I suggested to hubby that we hire a van and pay another visit! So, that's Saturday sorted! I'll share my finds with you once we've found somewhere to store them!
Kirstie Allsopp eat your heart out! I will furnish my next house on a shoe string! Believe me, unlike our dear Kirstie, if this move goes to plan, I will have to!

Sunday, 30 June 2013

How to choose an Estate Agent and my Alexis Carrington moment!

This weekend has been full of highs and lows.

Having agreed a sale on our house, we found a house in our preferred location a few weeks back. Not the style of house I would have chosen, but the near perfect location more than made up for the lack of character in the house. In the spirit of compromise we thought we had found 'the one'.

Our first offer was possibly a little cheeky but we had done our homework, spoken to a number of people living in the town and come to the conclusion that the asking price was optimistic to say the least.

Moving on three weeks and an offer was made by another interested party at near to the asking price. The vendors were considering it and we only found out by accident even though the estate agent had assured us that they would let us know if there was any real interest in the property to give us the opportunity to respond. They didn't!

To cut to the chase, we went back to the table and offered the full asking price having taken the decision to look at it as a long term move and therefore worth it. A good, solid family home for the next 10 to 15 years or so. We submitted the offer and explained our position. The vendor accepted our offer and we were told "all systems go". Celebration that night!

Our celebrations were short lived. The following morning we took our children the 45 minute journey to show them our potential new house from the outside and then popped in to the agents to introduce ourselves. As we entered the shop and said who we were I was rather taken aback by the agent's lack of enthusiasm. She then told us basically we'd been gazumped!

Now, gazumping is perfectly legal but I personally find it morally questionable. I don't hold the agent responsible for lacking morals (on this particular part of process at least!) but I do think vendors who try to engage bidding wars as of dubious morality or just plain greedy as my husband would put it.

The agent had, frankly, been useless thus far. They had not contacted us at any point to let us know that there was another interested party even though they had assured us that they would. To rub salt in to the wound, it was midday when we went in and by amazing coincidence (?!) the agent was "just about to call us to break the bad news"! Yes. I bet she was. Well. She could now do it in person! I expect she was pleased about that! HA!

She did appear genuinely sorry but then again, how else could she react with us there sat in front of her. She tried desperately to shift the blame on to her colleague, who was conveniently on her day off! As I say, I do not hold the agent solely responsible for the situation but what followed brought out the inner Alexis in me. She brought up Rightmove (we know every property on there off by heart!) and even tried to punt properties on with  rival agents! (I can't believe this is a favoured tactic advocated by the boss of the agency!)

The straw that broke the camel's back came when she produced details of the 'perfect' property for us at nearly 100k over our already stretched budget!! At that point I'm afraid to say I lost my cool, listed their incompetencies, took a puff on my cheroot (I didn't....but I'm sure Alexis would have done so!), stood up and stormed out!

I felt so much better! I was not rude or aggressive, just to the point and constructive in my criticism (some may say 'pulling to pieces') of their approach. I loved storming out though. I wish I'd been wearing a mink (faux of course) and smoking that cheroot!

Now not all Estate Agents deserve the universal bad press that the profession commonly attracts. Believe it or not, there are good agents out there but how do you find them?

Well, here are a few useful pointers on how to choose an agent, by an agent.

1. Look in your area at board presence and see who has got the most sold signs. 'For Sale' signs aren't a good indicator since they could mean that the agent likes to overprice to gain instructions, an old ploy that actually works well, but says a lot about their integrity.

2. Check out their website. If it's well designed and intuitive then it reflects well on the ethos of the agent. Good photography and property descriptions are extremely important. Artistic licence and a bit of flowery vernacular is actually quite good as long as its not over the top.

3. Look at property portals such as Rightmove and see if the agent has plenty of premium listings and other special features. These show that the agent takes marketing seriously and is trying to differentiate from its competitors.

4. Phone your chosen agent and see how they handle general enquiries. Are they friendly, helpful and well informed ? Did they email or post details immediately....If they didn't , then beware !

5. What's their office premises like ? Are they welcoming and attractively presented. Location is not so important these days, due to the advent of the Internet, but a central location with good footfall is obviously an advantage.

6. Is it an owner run business or a corporate. In my view an owner run agency provides a better service and is more pro-active. Corporates tend to have high staff turnover and inexperienced staff. However they any have the advantage of multi office coverage.

7. Book your valuation. A good agent will ask questions about the property and may want to know your own buying situation. This means that the valuer will be well informed when they arrive and will have an insight into your move.

8. At the valuation. The agent should be able to support their valuation with evidence rather than just pick a figure out of the air. If the valuation seems high then it probably is. Honesty is very important and could save you a lot of hassle and wasted time later on. The valuer should spend about 30-40 minutes with you and clearly explain their marketing and contract.

9. Fees. Never choose an agent because they are the cheapest. Similarly the most expensive may not be the best either. Fees should be fair and reasonable, so 1.00 -1.50 % is fine.

10. Contract. The selling contract should be no longer than 12 weeks with a two week termination period. Check for hidden charges and fee liabilities in the event of termination.

The above was supplied courtesy of Jonathan Fox Estate Agents. . I would point out that this post is not sponsored by any company or individual.

Should any one have any questions or queries regarding either buying or selling their property then I would be happy to 'ask the expert' and see if we can help out in any way.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Things are hotting up!

Things are sure hotting up in the house selling department!

We put our house on the market a month or so back, fully expecting that it would take a while to sell, with the market being a little on the flat side at the moment. Amazingly, and my agent, I am sure, will not take offence to this, rather unexpectedly, we found ourselves at the 'agreed sale' stage within the first two weeks with a buyer in rented accommodation! Perfect.

Yikes! We have not found anywhere to go yet! Rightmove has, as you can imagine, become my new bff!

We've decided upon a location but have yet to find the 'home'! Blimey, it's hard. I've watched many hours of Kirstie and Phil over the years. Boy, do I need Phil right now. I'm afraid I can do without Kirstie and her Paddington Bear coats with over sized buttons and her equally annoying, somewhat patronising in my view, comments at times! Sorry Kirstie. And your 'home-made' is just not made for me!

We've covered the miles, driving and walking around the town and pin pointing the locations  where we would love to be, those we would consider and those areas we would not be prepared to live and we have so far, come up with a grand total of two properties that tick enough of our boxes not to be a compromise too far. Both are over our budget and therefore we've had offers rejected on both! In my humble view, they are both over priced.

I'm trying to remain cool, calm and collected. We will not pay over the odds for a property no matter how tempting. This is my mantra and I must stick to it! I may need some encouraging words should anyone have any!

No pics today. I will keep anyone who is interested posted on progress and my next post is going to feature a 'guest' segment from a local Estate Agent who is going to offer some insight into the buying/selling game.

Should any of you have any questions you want to ask about buying or selling your property then please do get in touch and we shall endeavour to answer your queries.

In the meantime, our search continues. Wish us luck!

Saturday, 11 May 2013

To move or not to move? That is the question!

I have been a little distracted of late. Some while back I had a burning desire to sell up and move house. In fact, I am pretty sure our families are probably fed up by now about hearing of our plans to move and where we would like to move to. I think so far this has included the north, south, east and west of the UK!

The decision to move is not an easy one. If it is thrust upon you, perhaps because of a job relocation or something like that, then the decision is out of your hands to a degree. Our situation is slightly less clear cut. Work plays a big part but on top of that we have to juggle schooling for two young children, for both now and for a couple of years on when one moves up to senior school. There is family to consider. There are friends to consider. There is budget to consider. All of a sudden a house move becomes akin to spinning several plates in the air at the same time!

Oh! the sleepless nights! Do we or don't we?

Well. The house is on the market so hopefully we are a step closer to a decision. As yet, we are undecided on where we will go...still working on balancing all the above factors!

Having made the decision to sell we set about getting the house ready. Below is a checklist of things to consider when getting your home ready to market.

1. Disassociate yourself with your home.

Tell yourself that your house is a product that you want to sell.
Don't look back, try to look forward and remind yourself on a regular basis the reasons you want to move. Whilst it's good to show a buyer how much you have loved living in your house, avoid convincing them not to buy!

2. De-personalise.

Pack up those personal photographs and family heirlooms. It's fine to have one or two photographs around but keep it to a minimum. Buyers find it hard to see past personal artifacts if the house is overloaded with them.

3. De-clutter.

Pack away knickknacks and generally store away 'stuff' that may have collected over time. Buyers need to be able to see the space your house has and this is almost impossible for most if the house is full of belongings on display.
If you are a collector, this is the time to put your collectibles into storage boxes. Again, it is fine to display the odd item....after all...a buyer might be equally put off by a house that doesn't look lived in....but if you are an avid collector of elephants or cats or porcelain dolls then I'm afraid you will need to put your own emotions aside and remove them from display!
The key to making your house attractive to someone else is to make the space as clear as possible so that the buyer is able to picture themselves and their own possessions in the house.

If, like us, you have children, try to tidy (them!) away any toys, books, games etc as much as possible. It's easier for people to imagine putting their children's toys in a room rather than trying to imagine it the other way round, if that makes sense. We have a room which the children play in and there is no mistaking that it is a 'family room' but I have tried to minimise the amount of stuff that we have in there for now. It was originally a dining room so I want to show that it still could be. On the other hand, I haven't got rid of all evidence that the children exist! It is a family home (or it could be) after all.

4. Tidy/re-arrange cupboards.

Buyers love to have a little snoop and therefore it is important that they don't open a cupboard door to check out storage potential only for a pile of clothes (or shoes in my case!) to fall on them! Cupboards crammed full of stuff also gives the impression that you are short on space.

5. Make minor repairs.
Have a look around and fix any little jobs that may need
completing. Tidy up paintwork, patch any holes, replace any worn seals around baths, showers etc. Ideally walls should be painted neutral colours. Again, this goes back to reminding yourself that your house it a product that you want to sell. Look from the buyer point of view rather from your own. You may love bright orange walls, but you can't assume that everyone who views will. Most people will want to make changes when they move into a new home but if they feel that they would need to make immediate changes and many of them, it may put them off. Neutral walls can easily be lived with whilst a buyer considers what jobs are priority. Neutral colours also show off the size and potential of rooms far better.

6. Make the house sparkle.

Wash windows, clean out cobwebs, wash floors, wipe door handles. All fairly obvious jobs really. Can be a bit of a thankless task when you have small children!!
Put fresh towels out in bathrooms, make sure your beds are all perfectly made. I'm always slightly surprised when I see pictures on the internet of houses for sale and the beds look like they haven't been made! Invest in a bottle of room scent. Have a quick spray (Crabtree and Evelyn Nantucket Briar is my fave.) around (on soft furnishings, bedding etc) before viewings. On that note, avoid cooking anything spicy the night before a viewing, or even avoid completely whilst trying to sell. No one wants to be knocked out with curry fumes as they walk through the front door!

7. Check curb appeal

Step outside and take a good look at your house and imagine that you are a viewer pulling up for the first time.
Mow lawned areas. Tidy up the garden. Make sure window frames front door are tidy. Paint if necessary. Plant some tubs to go by the door or along the drive. Apparently yellow evokes a buying emotion so go for yellow!

8. Think of questions a buyer may ask prior to viewings.

Have as much information to hand as possible. Think about local schooling if your viewers have a family. Work out your answer to why you are moving. Obviously avoid giving reasons such as needing more space or garden not big enough! Don't alert your viewer to any negatives! If there are any obvious negative factors, try and think of solutions to offer if you are put on the spot....had we been staying we would have.....
If you have had alterations or work done on your house, make sure that you have any relevant paperwork and mention it if alterations are asked about.

If you can do all of these things...none of which require a huge amount of expense, then you will go a long way to giving your house its best chance of selling...obviously providing the price is right!

Anyway. Better go and hoover, dust, flush, tidy, store and spray as we have another viewing in less than an hour!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

I do like a nice front door!

This weekend has been all about tidying jobs both in the house and outside.

One job that has been staring me in the face every day for the past few months has been our front door. Now, I like a nice front door! I have yet to scrub my step....but I would imagine that during that era when it seemed the done thing to be on your hands and knees proudly scrubbing your front step, I would have been right in there! I become very agitated when there are leaves etc on the step. Sad, I know...but I can't take it back now. I tend to think that a tidy front door/step probably reflects what's going on behind the front door.....or possibly more the fact that an untidy frontage reflects what is going on behind the front door...

With a possible move in the pipeline we are starting to tick off those jobs that need re-visiting on a regular basis. I considered a complete change of colour for the front door, but on reflection (and on closer inspection) decided that this would involve completely stripping the door back and starting again. Alternatively I ( soldier ant husband!) could sand the areas that had cracked, fill and re-paint in the existing colour. (I did the painting!)

If we decide we are not going to move, I will most probably opt for an alternative colour and be forced to strip, if you know what I mean! For those of you with even a remote interest, the current colour is Farrow and Ball's Lichen No.19.(as seen below on my door.) It is slightly stronger in the flesh than shown below and does go well with the black framework and the white render. Perhaps next time I might be a tad braver though.

My friend, Beth, a fashion stylist, has a vibrant pinky front door. (pictured below). Whilst it wouldn't work on my house it is perfect for hers and definitely reflects both her personality and the feel of the house on the inside. I've also shown another of my fashionista friends, Dawn's front door.  Again, a very smart, stylish first impression and absolutely a taster of what you find behind the door. Heck. I sound like the door-reading equivalent of a tea-leaf reader now!

Anyway. I've added some of my favourite door images, including my neighbour's pretty chocolate box thatched cottage and, of course, probably the most famous door of all, to we Brits at least!

My door

Beth's snazzy door

Dawn's chic door

Maria's quintessentially English front door!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

My new cleaner and an organised shoe cupboard.

I'm not normally one for posting pictures of my children on my blog but this made me smile so I have gone against my principals on this one occasion!

Meet my new cleaner! Aged 3 1/2. Nothing like a bit of hoovering in your socks and pants! As a reward for his help with the housework I said he could choose a dinner of his choice. I know to many this may not sound like much of a reward for a small child. Chocolate? Chips? Sausages? Oh no. He asked for "smoked salmon and scrambled egg on a lightly toasted bagel"!!

He has acquired a taste for smoked salmon and duck and orange pate of late! I think he will need to hoover more often if he thinks that will be a regular thing!

I finally finished the shoe cupboard I'd posted about. The result, as you can see from before and after, is an altogether more organised affair even though I slightly underestimated how many pairs of shoes and boots I have actually amassed over the years! I may need to extend the shelving upwards! I had intended to undergo a shoe cull when putting the shoes from boxes into new storage...but I only managed to part with one pair! I even convinced myself that my beautiful Dune wedding shoes could easily be professionally dyed and worn! Back in they went. Hopeless!

The Ikea shoe storage boxes are brilliant, for anyone who may want decent shoe storage. They are rigid enough to be stackable and at £9 for 4 boxes, pretty good value.

My next project was going to be ditching curtains for Roman blinds in living rooms and bedrooms, however, rather frustratingly, but unsurprising given our house is so old, no ready made blinds on the market are the right size for our frames and I'm not sure I want to stretch to made to measure! I may have to dust down the sewing machine.......

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

More wallpaper.....Laura Ashley this time.

Blimey, it's cold! Just when I think it is slightly spring-like and time to bring out a few springy clothes, the snow makes a re-appearance!

I quite like snow...but preferably on a mountain top where I can don skis and show off my complete lack of technical know how. Speed...yes. Daring...yes. Finesse, no! (I'm a pro when it comes to après-ski though.)

That's my kind of snow. Not this wispy, namby pamby stuff that just makes us all cold and miserable.

I had just put away my winter boots and unearthed some more spring-like footwear when back it came!

On the subject of footwear, I set about (with the help of my little wallpapering elf-husband..), sorting out my shoe cupboard. It was in a right old state. Cold, damp and dusty. Hubby fixed up the walls with a little filler and lined the finished walls with an insulating layer of polystyrene veneer paper (one wall is an exterior wall) before papering the walls with the decorative paper below. 

Though it is not finished, I thought I would post a picture of the beginnings of the transformation because I took a little browse around Laura Ashley, who seem to constantly have sales on, and found some pretty wallpaper to line the inside of the cupboard. (As you will be aware...this is my current obsession!) Much of the stock in LA is up to 50% off at the moment. All the wallpapers and decorating stock is 50% off so I paid £18 for a roll of this Summer Palace paper and half price for a tin of egg shell duck egg paint. The intention is to finish this cupboard with shelves and decent shoe storage. At the moment I have to fight my way through loads of boxes in order to find what I want. I spotted these shoe storage boxes (see below) in Ikea which should solve the problem of my early mornings spent rifling!

Worth popping along to Laura Ashley at the moment if you are wanting anything new or any relatively inexpensive paper to play with. Paper of this style would work equally well in a modern or traditional setting and comes in other colours. This particular one is duck egg. I know Laura Ashley is not to everyone's taste....but it is possible to find designs that are quite modern and during their sales it's good for a bargain.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Style from Sainsbury's!

I don't know about anyone else, but in my own home I tend to have various jobs on the go at once. Each one will get finished but it may take a little more time. I have bursts of enthusiasm and unfortunately my favourite tasks are the ones where I can see immediate or quick results!

My daughter's bedroom is a case in point. I blogged a while back about her transition from pink to blue. I still haven't completely nailed this job. For her birthday (9) we treated her to some Cath Kidston bedding, as pictured. It's duck egg, which wasn't the original plan as it is quite a tricky colour to match, but she loves it and I got it in the sale so double bonus! It is 'grown up' whilst still 'girly pretty' and it goes perfectly with her One Direction poster! (her words, not mine...though I can see what she means.)

The pink curtains in the background will go eventually. We then decided that as she reads a lot and, in theory, will be doing increasing amounts of homework (!!) that she needed some task lighting.

We established that she quite liked the whole anglepoise concept (slightly cajoled by myself!). I like the mix of a little bit of a modern edge against the pretty, country style. We very quickly established that, no, she could not have the original Anglepoise!  Design classics, yes....but way off budget! There was a white John Lewis version but it was quite small and a bit 'wimpy' looking! I also liked an in between version in chrome, but it was quite large and at £60, though not horrendously expensive, it was too expensive for our requirments.

Unable to make a decision we decided to search on and think about it for a while.

I popped into Sainsbury's today to buy some beetroot (I can't live without beetroot!) and stumbled upon this little beauty in the home section just as I was leaving with a basket full of stuff I didn't go in for! It is exactly what we were looking for. The right size....not too large but not skimpy looking. It cost £26 which compared very favourably to others I had considered. The wimpy version in JL was £25 and this one is much much nicer.

This purchase softened the blow of not being able to get my hands on a black faux fur gilet from Primark that I saw a stylist friend wearing! When it comes to clothing I always seem to get there too late! Completely sold out!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The finished article and the next project.

Finally finished the wardrobe. It's always the little faffy jobs at the end that take the time! We (the Royal 'we') lost the screws for the door hinges and so I had to raid the toolbox for some alternatives. 'We' sellotaped them together and put them somewhere safe! It's our age, you know. Happens all the time. Not one screw matches but the doors feel fairly secure! Don't think anyone will notice. I suspect they are hidden somewhere as my son is going through that phase of hiding keys....wardrobe door keys....screws....

Next on my list of jobs is the shameful excuse for a shoe cupboard below. This is going to get a complete re-vamp. Not hard to see why! I've made a start by removing some of the boxes. They actually all fell on me when I opened the door to take this photo along with a section of the back wall!

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Can I make a silk purse out of a sow's ear?

There are one or two (actually, many more!) little jobs that I've been wanting to tackle for ages. More pressing jobs have meant me putting them to one side. This weekend, fate was on my side!

Wardrobe space has become a bit of an issue in our house. I have to confess this is largely down to the fact that having recently taken up a part time job I have had to go out and buy a whole new work wardrobe having been a stay at home Mum with a very flexible work life for quite a while. I dumped most of my working wardrobe a few years back, only keeping the odd bit to drag out when needed. More regular work has meant more clothes. (Yay!) Oh. My husband, who happens to be reading over my shoulder, insists that I should also mention the "unnecessary" (his opinion...certainly not mine!) amount of shoes and boots spilling out of one of the cupboards! 

I set about looking online for a wardrobe which would have to go in one of the children's rooms. No room in ours. Blimey. Aren't wardrobes expensive? I checked out all the usuals...Ikea, Marks, BHS, JL, LA etc. etc. None of them had what I wanted really. Not for what I wanted to spend, at least. I confess I haven't got a clue when it comes to Ebay so that was not an option. Step forward my brother and sister in law.

As you know, they are moving house in the next couple of weeks and had in their current house, a wardrobe made by my Granddad in the 30's. Not what one would describe as a 'looker' but I can see the potential (the wardrobe, not my Granddad. I'm sure he was terribly handsome!), especially as it was free! On the positives, it is made of solid oak and rather more sturdy than the flimsy efforts I had been looking at. It also fits perfectly into the space.

On taking delivery of the wardrobe (pictured below in its raw state.) my husband got all excited and enthused about its firewood. How opportune, that with that cold snap out of the way and the promise of milder weather on the horizon, that we should start thinking about re-stocking the wood pile!!! 

Oh no no no.  It is so easy to transform an uninspiring piece of furniture into something more pleasing to the eye with little effort or expense. My husband is not convinced. He questioned why I would put time and effort into papering inside something? It was pointless responding, but I said it anyway... because I know it has been done and when I open the wardrobe I get a glimpse, if only a tiny one, of some pretty paper. Fell on deaf ears. This then reminded me of a quote by the designer potter Jonathan Adler in an article last week, when he said when it comes to decorating, 'the wife is always right, unless the husband is gay'!

Inspired by pictures of wardrobes with papered interiors I have set about transforming this ugly duckling into a beautiful swan! I will post the finished article in the next day or so before more wallpaper shopping for my shoe cupboard!

I spent £22 on a roll of John Lewis wallpaper ('Cowslip') and have made a start on papering the inside of the wardrobe. Over the next few days I'm going to give it a lick of white eggshell on the outside and paper the inside of the doors, change the door handles and 'hey presto!' New wardrobe. See below, my start and some lovely images of papered wardrobes to inspire you. You could also paper in a recess or alcove...or a study/work area to differentiate between the rest of the room.

Cowslip paper £22 John Lewis