Thursday, 13 June 2013

All Hail House Of Hackney!

My recent post for the lovely Hear Home Mag.


I am a relative newcomer to Hackney, East London, a diverse borough regularly surveyed with delight and despair in equal measure. My parents (of rural Yorkshire village origin) find it unfathomable that I might want to reside in such a ‘noisy, dirty, busy hovel’. Whilst friends love the never-ending variety and constant evolution of people, places, not to mention the array of beards to behold!
Cycle 10 minutes in any direction (and I mean cycle, we Hackney-ites have evolved wheels in place of legs, walking is sooooo early 2000’s) and you will encounter a middle class hub of cafĂ© culture sitting alongside derelict factories, gastro pubs complete with celebrity chef proprietors next door to gone to seed housing estates,  and markets to cater for your every whim, both genuine East End and achingly hip. It’s a veritable melting pot and we love it that way.
We speak with immense pride of our alumni and success stories (I’ve been here 3 years and I bang on about them like they’re my brothers in arms!… Marc Bolan was born in Homerton don’t you know, and guess who lived up the road… Colin Firth… Mr Bloody Darcy!). So it is with utter delight and, ever so slightly, obsessive interest (just slightly) that I have observed the success trajectory of House Of Hackney (
The brilliantly OTT and utterly original design house who launched in 2011 with a stunning range of fabrics and papers have gone on to develop a range of furniture and fashion. Different, decadent, always with a hint of the debauched, I have loved them from the moment I happened upon them and have eagerly devoured every opportunity to encounter their wares. From website to pop up shop, their own home come showroom and now their first flagship store on – not even remotely shabby anymore, actually quite posh now – Shoreditch High Street.
HOH outside
So it was with utter delight I visited the store on its inaugural day of trading (last Friday) and it really did not disappoint. The rich dark blue walls, thick velvety carpet, mirror ceiling and dark wood paneling offer the perfect backdrop to the array of products ranging from pants to poufs, cushions to camisoles.
 HOH cushionsHOH inside
It’s the kind of space that makes you want to drink dirty martini’s, smoke gauloise and speak only in a gravelly voice. Clearly, if you try most of those things they will undoubtedly chuck you out, so try to refrain. But I do encourage you to go there, soak in the ‘matchy matchy’ mecca in all its majesty and as a real treat take a little piece of it home with you.
HOH Leopard Print walls

HOH sofa

House Of Hackney was one of the very first investments I made in my own House in Hackney when I proudly used their stunning Dalston Rose to deck out my downstairs loo. That a space so small and utterly functional, so devoid of glamour could be transformed into a thing of such beauty, a literal joy to behold, is beyond unlikely, it’s utterly incongruous… utterly Hackney and definitely House Of Hackney. Here’s to their reign and to my throne!
 Downstairs loo

Read more at 

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Finishing Touch

Plans and layouts - Tick.
Plasterwork and carpentry - Tick
Paint being liberally applied - Tick

Next phase... A critical phase.... accessories.

Now let's be clear, I am not saying the other phases don't matter... of course having a kitchen that functions well is essential and choosing paints that work with the natural light available can make or break. But here is where the house goes from being 4 walls and a roof, anyone's four walls and a roof to a home.. your home.

There is no science here, homes are an evolution and should continue to evolve as you do, they are an extension of you and the very best homes (rather like dogs) should look like their owners.

Therein lay the challenges... how to make this house feel like an evolved, lived in home in a very short space of time, and although I was to do the sourcing, ensure it was a reflection of my client's life and personality and not mine.

The answer .... conversation, collaboration, very strict editing (oh and some very reliable, endlessly inspiring and generous fail-safes @caravanstyle_uk, i mean you). Whilst I was blessed with the total trust of my clients, more than ever here, we worked together. Our approach... statement investments alongside junk shop second hand finds. It's become something of a cliche, I know, but one I stand by and when you spend £10-£20 on most of your accessories, you can allow yourself to invest in the jaw-dropping bathroom floor. Mix n' Match folks mix' n Match.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

You Gotta Roll With It

And so we began to build....

What started as a kitchen and ground floor revamp, soon became the whole house - well if you're goanna do it, just get the hell on and do it I say. (I've never actually said and I don't usually sound like an old man from New York but you see what I'm getting at). 

Many important decisions to be made, much sourcing to do, many fags to be smoked (again, the builders not me). 

My natural inclination to mix reclaimed with new, junkyard bargains with statement investment pieces was a shared vision with my lovely clients. So I set too... trawling the internet, junk shops, the streets (the actual streets) by way of artisan makers and the odd concept design store (a refreshing treat) to bring the house back together piece by piece. 

Whilst I stand by this technique whole-heartedly, for both aesthetic and ethical reasons, do not be fooled into thinking it's an easy option. It isn't.. it is long, arduous and painstakingly laborious, but, but my friends well worth the effort. Apart from anything else, I'm Northern and we Northerners love a bargain and a spot of make do and mend!

Make no mistake, it's getting harder, we're all at it and prices have rocketed, but with enough digging it's still possible to snap up a gem. Cut to a weekend in March, dilapidated village hall in the rough side of Burnley (that's the North), a literal blizzard is raging outside but what they lack in heating they make up in fabric. Rolls and rolls of the stuff piled from floor to ceiling, all abandoned off-cuts from high-end producers, now packed in tighter than proverbial sardines in a can. It's nigh on impossible to actually see the stuff without brute like strength to free a roll from its squished up neighbours. But with patience, sweat inducing effort and a spot of sweet talking the perma-tanned shop assistant, Karl, it is a veritable treasure trove of quality fabric at bargain prices ranging from 50p - £5 a meter for the very top end stuff! Now, that, folks, is how I roll.

So it was.... piece by cast-off piece, a home began to emerge from the rubble. 

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Appetite For Destruction

And so we began...

The keys were barely in my hand before the kitchen was whipped out, followed by the bathroom, next came the floor and in the mere wink of an eye most of the walls and ceilings were gone. A veritable festival of destruction was accompanied by the usual diet of nescafe, sugar and dust all set to our favourite soundtrack of Polish radio.

Excepting the odd near death experience due to low flying plank accessorised with rusty nails being hurled from the bedroom above to the kitchen below, by way of none existing ceiling/ floor , narrowly missing head of unsuspecting surveyor below ("erm HELLO, I'm down here!" ....'Oh... Sorry Sara..." ???!!!) all went rather smoothly. Within mere days we were left with a shell of a building, a shell of a building and not a clue what to do with it...

JOKES, joke jokes, obviously! Of course we had a plan, we had many, many plans, more plans than we could  shake a stick at. The challenge was determining which plan to go with, but, after much deliberation, consultation and ALOT of coffee, fags and Polish love songs (the builders, not me) we got there.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Once Upon A Time

Where to begin….? The beginning seems like naught but a hazy dust filled memory. The end? Well we’re not quite there yet…

My prolonged absence has not been due to lack of subject matter, indeed, I have been overwhelmed with the stuff,  it has been the lack of time that has prevented me putting finger to keyboard. Needless to say I have been a busy little bee, working on two renovation beauties simultaneously.

Thus far we’ve avoided blood (it ain’t over yet..) but there’s been plenty of sweat (pity the poor souls who had to lift 13 cast iron radiators into and out of various houses and vans whilst I looked on, quietly muttering… “are you ok?”,  “Can I help?”. “You aren’t actually having a heart attack are you?’ whilst taking reportage style photos of their physical pain), and tears (mine, obviously, all mine, on more occasions and for more reasons than I can begin to convey, but not least joy and relief when it all came together).

Many hilarious anecdotes have unfurled along with a veritable anthropological study in the habits of the lesser spotted English versus Eastern European builder. For now though folks, I will tell this story in the most succinct way I can, through the medium of pictures ( clearly I would prefer dance but I don’t know how to do that on a blog!). 

And so the story begins. 
Once upon a time, there was a house... a nice house that just needed a bit of love

To Be Continued...

Monday, 21 January 2013

The Stalker Song (Never Lettin' Go)

Just call me Nell (Mangel), I am a nosey neighbour. Fact! Now, let's  be clear, I'm not your average curtain twitching, "did you see who she was galavanting about with last week" type. No, my snooping, is of an altogether different nature. I am a renovation stalker. When, I am not knee deep in my personal share plaster dust, I am nose to window salivating over other peoples.

One of the joys of living in an 'up and coming' area (aka. a dump with a couple of organic cafes and Breton top clad beardy's), is that there is an endless supply of renovations to behold. Sometimes though, it can be tricky to get a good look, lord knows I try. So, imagine, my utter delight when the mother of all renovations commenced right over my garden fence. I kid you not, I have a clear line of vision from my back bedroom into their kitchen.. ohh happy day!

So, it is that, I have spent the last few months monitoring their progress (daily, sometimes hourly, ok occasionally I don't get much else done.. just, you know, sometimes). The house in questions started life as something of a wreck- ahhh such fond memories- and has through a long, arduous slog begun to take shape as something of a beauty.

Step one: All rotten PVC windows replaced with wooden sash's.

Step two: Said windows painted a colour that, one could only assume is... wait for it..... you guessed it... downpipe. TICK. (Never mind new restaurant openings, the real sign of  neighbourhood gentrification is a healthy layer of downpipe)

Step three: Large hole knocked into back wall for insertion of bi-folding doors, this bit seemed to take a long time and me and my own builder were dumbfounded as to what they could be doing.

Step four: Bi-folding doors proceed to be painted ....downpipe. Whoop! By now, I'm thinking i like these people, we should certainly be making acquaintance.

Step five: New kitchen installed, cleverly planned use to maximise small space and incorporate table adjacent to bi-folds. They are stylish, they get design.. oh yes, we are going to get on so well.

Step six: Well, despite use of binoculars,  it's all a bit of a blur and I can't actually see what is going on in the rest of the house, but by this point I am convinced I like it.

Step seven: Kitchen, complete, socialising commences, small, candle-lit dinner parties progress into full on parties. It MIGHT have been cordial to invite the oh so supportive neighbours, hmmm? I mean, I thought we had something special going on here?

Step eight: Just when I think the work is complete, all my wishes are answered and they start work on the loft conversion. I don't even need to strain my neck to get a clear few of this beauty.

Now, let's not get carried away, my new 'friends' are not without fault. Having painted all the windows delightfully moody downpipe, they proceed to commit an almost unfathomable error and leave the ledges white... This upsets me to the point that a (real) friend suggests I paint a grey line on all of my windows at the same levels so I need never assault my eyes with the offending articles again.
Similarly the dormer windows, installed in the last week, appear to be, it pains me to say it, turn away now if you are squeamish ..... white PVC... I know, I know... I can only hope I am short-sighted and await the outcome with bated breath.

It's taken hours of thought, consideration and effort to get to the point 'we' are at but, of course, we all agree its been worth it. These are my kind of people (window ledge excepted). I literally can't wait until we are perusing our interiors mags whilst sharing a pot of tea.... any day now, I tell you, any day. Oh, and when me and my fence buddies are very good friends,  we'll just keep this early stage of the relationship between ourselves, if that's ok with you.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Metal Mickey

It's been a while....  you could reasonable assume thatt I am stuck in some kind of parallel renovation world where you never see the light of day... only dust.. endless dust.

I'm not, I am simply tardy with my posting! Project Loft Space is well and truly finished, much to the satisfaction of all and it has worked our rather well.

As I believe I have mentioned, simplicity was key here, the space is a beaut in its own right. Double height ceiling, open plan an abundance of natural light. In this country with our dank Northern light it is tricky to do white well but here the light bounces off the walls and emphasises the magnitude of space.

The floor, was, initially a bit of a conundrum. A wood laminate (of sorts), a pale orange shade (of sorts), it wasn't ideal and because there was so much of it the impact was immense. We toyed with various solutions - rubber flooring, new wood, natural wood, tiles even at one point (not a personal favourite). But with budget in mind we opted for painting... a risky choice with such a thin wood, not designed for sanding. Still we like to live life on the edge and by 'ec it worked a treat. The paint of choice, a commercial grade floor paint was comparable to laying a sheet of rubber, so thick and durable. It really looks fantastic and creates a brilliant canvass for the rest of the space.

Once again though it is the smaller details that really make the difference to my eyes. In this case the radiators, it took some persuasion convincing our client that this not insubstantial investment would be worth it. But their natural gun metal patina they stand out  an jewel in this urban crown. A thing of beauty to behold. The client, on the other hand, was in most raptures about his new commercial kitchen tap.

As a man who works in commercial kitchens, it was all about the stainless steel, ALL about stainless steel, if we had let him apply it to the walls to live in a stainless steel box he would. But evidence, once again, that when re-inventing an interior, it really is important to be true to the building you are in. In a city centre loft space like this, stainless steel works a treat.

The photos here unfortunately do it no justice but it is amazing what a difference a spot of painting, some wall construction a new kitchen and alot of steel can do to a place.