Thursday, 25 February 2010

Big Grey Heart

Ahhh the lemon heads.

I am delighted to announce that the winner of the 'what colour shall we paint the walls comeptition' is Farrow and Ball Downpipe:
It was a close call with a couple of Fired Earth tones putting in a good solid performance (Mercury a particular favourite and even the odd Dulux in the running. But Downpipe takes it by a whisker.
I HOPE to have photos soon!

As I am here I am going to take this opoprtunity for a small rant. Now, I have lived in this country long enough not to expect too much from customer service. However my recent encounter with B&Q really does leave me aghast.

So... I need to buy spotlights for my bathroom, now this would not be my preferred choice but definitely the most practical, I want white spotlights so they blend in. An unusual request? Surely not.

So I head to the nearest B&Q and find it all a bit confusing, zone 1, zone 3, dry zone only.. wha'?
I ask for help...."oh no, I don't know anything about lighting... ask him" (Him) " well these are for dry zone, these are for zone 3" yes yes I can read that, it says that on the box, what do I need?. "Oh, I don't know". Eventually choose what I assume to be correct through own application of logic, however they only have 2 on the shelf. (Me) "Do you have any more of these in stock" (Him) " oh no, we only stock 2 or 3 in the store... What? I am sorry but who only needs 2 spotlights. We are told we will need to try another store, so we drive half an hour to the next nearest shop and this time they have 1, clearly returned in battered packaging.

So, I try and order online at, absolutely no record of said item. So I call up (assistant on phone) "erm I can't find it on the system" (me) " no, but I definitely bought it from your shop" 15 minutes of umming and ahhing later she promises to call me back. She doesn't.

Next day I call again "erm I can't find it on the system" (Me) "Yes but I bought it from your store" ...5 Min's later (Me) "Is there any way I can get it sent from a store" "Yes, you can do that, what is your postcode (I tell him) "ermm that doesn't exist, that isn't a proper post code" (Me) "I assure you that it is.. I LIVE THERE!"... " oh yes, found it now".

I call the store with the lights in stock. (Me) "I need to order an item for delivery, is that possible" (store) "Yes but you will have to come into the store to order it" (Me, Incredulous) " But surely that defeats the object of ordering for delivery?" (store) " that is how it works, you have to come in and order it then we deliver"...... Dear God, I give up, really I do.

Screwfix here we come!

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Bleach Is The Word

My lovely friend Sara and husband Neil decided that by way of house warming gift they would give me 8 hours of hard labour.... With four renovation projects between them they are way more experienced and whipped us into shape in no time.

Only 2 hours late, the eagerly awaited skip finally arrived and in a matter of minutes was full to overflow. As well as the hundreds of bags of rubble, bricks and wallpaper we were able to clear some (not all I might add) of the delights that the previous owners had left us... 2 microwaves, washing machine, children's bike and toys a plenty, reading books, MDF drawers and surely the highlight... soiled underwear! I am afraid I exaggerate not folks!

My grand plans of stripping the living room walls were quickly ignored as Sara pointed out that we needed to tackle the plague pit that is the kitchen. Oh the desire to simply rip every filth stained cupboard and drawer out of there... but no, we have to live with them, so suck it up and bleach on! I simply cannot explain the levels of filth existing in this house, pipes that we thought black and rusty turned out to be gleaming copper (once the inch thick layer of grease had been scraped and bleached away), drawers of a greyish hue were actually white once zapped with the Cilit Bang. 2 days of back breaking hand burning scrubbing and it almost resembled something I could bear (if I really must) to make a cup of tea in.

Meanwhile the legendary builders work on, bathroom very nearly ready to go in... and the next dilemma... wall colour. I am a big big fan of dark, intense greys and earthy colours which create a beautiful luxurious and cosy feel, and had fully planned to go charcoal grey in the bathroom. Yet the voices of the masses are swaying my determination... "don't go dark in the bathroom, never dark in the bathroom....". Various tones of grey, brown and mossy greens have been reviewed and right now, my friends, against all your better judgement, I think I am going to the dark side!

Friday, 19 February 2010

Dilemma of the day

As one so opinionated on other people's decorative styles, it is with some surprise that I find myself incapable of making my own (really quite minor) decoration decisions. The current issue in question - bathroom tiling.

Now, I know I want subway/metro tiles, have always loved them since first frequenting the toilets of Schiller's in NYC I know I want them floor to ceiling surrounding the shower, the question is what to do with the rest of the bathroom - floor to ceiling on 2 walls and paint only on two or half tiles half paint......

All thoughts and opinions welcome dear friends.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Cracks beginning to show.

I may have failed to mention that one aim of this renovation project is to use as many reclaimed items as possible, 3 reasons, obvious sustainability stuff, cost effectiveness and personal style - that's just how I roll!

So, it was with tremendous excitement/fear that I awaited the arrival of my bathroom suite, bought on EBay for a bargain price of £275. Because its previous owner was up North I had to hire a van and employ the kind kind help of my sister and brother in law who transported it to the big schmoke!

Oh and what a beauteous delight of Victorian splendour it is, Sanitan sink, high flush toilet and roll top bath (one small issue there, I failed to notice the small print, the bath is smaller than usual 1500mm - knees up to chin whilst bathing, an interesting approach.... hmmm details, details). All we need now is a bathroom to house said sanitary delights.

Sure enough Miro and his team (the lovely builders) have been doing a cracking job, we now have the structure of the bathroom and 3rd bedroom. Miro advised plaster boarding all rooms due to the generally hideous quality of the plaster - one touch of a scraper and half the wall comes crumbling down. The plaster board solution will give better finish and hide the inevitable cracks which will reappear in such an old house.

Brother in law, aka qualified electrician (handy I know!) set too on the electrics which, he identified to all our surprise, are in OK condition. Less positive is the recent identification of a large crack which looks suspiciously like subsidence. My preferable fingers in the ears response is not an option with thorough builder in residence, we have yet to identify the cause or remedy of said crack and am trying not to panic until the structural engineer and surveyor have been round.. watch this (alarming) space.

So, for want of anything very practical to do I set too on purchasing tiles, spotlights for the bathroom and for some unknown reason, stripping the bannister.... dear lord what a job! Obviously ignored all warnings of poisonous lead paints and now have a remarkably sore nose from inhaling lethal dust and fumes. As the boy commenced stripping the doors and revealed layer upon layer of green, brown and pink pain, it released a very odd odour, quite literally the smell of farmyards. Still a welcome change from the rotten fish, not sure which I prefer fish or farm.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010


Things at the squat (as it is now lovingly known), are moving on with quite impressive speed. I can't entirely take credit for the developments, having busted a gut for the first couple of days, I escaped for a long weekend in Bath with my girlfriends (as any lady should do after 1 full day of manual labour!)

In my absence the boy and his lovely friend Si worked like real men, stripping layer upon layer of wood chip (so old it was practically tattooed to the walls), removing the endless ceiling tiles and actually knocking down an entire wall with a real life sledge hammer. All their childhood fantasies come true. Obviously I returned to point out all the bits they had missed!

So we are now left with a shell of a space in what was bedroom 3 and 4. Damp course downstairs completed, builders now chosen and poised to start the bathroom. First job - pipe work - digging down to the waste pipe and connecting to the hot and cold supply, moving the doorway upstairs and creating a corridor and the bathroom walls..... surely it's time to get the Elle Deco's out.. isn't it?

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


Day 2 brought the realisation that the moving wasn't actually the hard bit....oh no, that will be the next few years, many, many years.

The first job was obvious, remove the extractor hood aka metal object smothered in layers of grease that could be smelt from 20 paces!

The first major work is the damp course, throughout the whole bottom floor. I had been warned of the dust and grime, but watching the drills ripping away the existing plaster and paper was, in fact, a blessed relief.

Meanwhile, we set too on the main bedroom, brand new steamer in hand we ripped through the multiple layers of wood chip. It did bring with them rather alot of 'blown' plaster and not a small amount of my own skin.... but my friends, it felt like progress. The house is beginning to smell less of fish and more of dust, this can only be a good thing!

And We're Off!

And now, the end is near...It was with a heavy heart that the time came to move out of our lovely Islington flat, and with even heavier arms when we started the 4 tuck loads of removals. How how how can that much stuff have been kept in one small flat?!

That moment of opening the door for the first time in the new house was a strange mix of anticipation, fear and well mainly fear! I knew it needed some work, knew it's odour not the most fragrant, knew that polystyrene tiles throughout are not my ceiling du choix and yet, and yet... I really was not full prepared.

I am fully aware that one cannot rent forever, that I am moving into an up and coming area, that I finally get to employ my love of interior design, that it makes financial sense, that one day it will be lovely and one day I will look back and laugh... so why do I feel like crying?!

Monday, 1 February 2010


Today I bought a house. This is my first house and the first time I have ever spent over £200 on a single item (previous being an overpriced frock from Whistles!). The house is something of a wreck, not an unlivable re-build from scratch wreck, more of a knock a few walls down, fix the roof, sort the damp, build a bathrooms upstairs, decorate from top to bottom, sterilise to within an inch of its life kind of wreck.

I have no experience of house buying/ building very very little money with which to do it. So it will boil down to hard hard work, steely determination and 3 years back copies of Elle Decoration (already post-it noted) to help me on my way.

Here I will track my progress, the ups and downs, damp and delights, sweat and inevitable tears (hopefully no blood). So my friends, the removal van is here and here we commence, one heavy box at a time. Wish me luck!