Wednesday, 28 April 2010


Now, I don't want to turn this blog into one long rant, particularly not one long rant about kitchens. But my recent experience at Ikea leaves me with no option, I simply must share the comedy of errors that could only be described as shambolic! .

So,having decided that Ikea was the simplest, cheapest and, well cheapest option we embarked on the kitchen purchasing mission. We were well prepared (THIS TIME), having already lost many hours of our lives to the big blue monstrosity (hours we will NEVER get back) perusing, measuring, opening and closing cupboards, debating the merits of shiny modern versus traditional, watching incredulously as whole families argued their way around the store and treated themselves to a hot dog meal at the end. So we were optimistic about how long it would take, the boy thought one hour (delusional) I thought 2 max.

At 6.45pm having had one last look at the kitchen of choice we set too finalising our plan (be aware that this had already been gone through by 2 of Ikea's "Ask me for advice about fitting your kitchen" T-shirt wearers). And yet, still we had end panels of a different model and draw fronts an entirely different colour. Not to worry, stay calm.

One small question "how do we get a door only, without the frame". Oh, my, dear, lord, was that a mistake. To say our helper was not the sharpest tool in the box really doesn't do it justice. "No, we don't need a fridge, no definitely not a washing machine, no, no not an integrated dishwasher.." Sweet as he was I knew very quickly that this man was only set to hinder, not help. 20 minutes later we managed to loose him, onto the next grunting assistant, he knew the answer but crikey did he begrudge sharing it!

1 hour gone and we are ready to buy.... we asked misery boy to help us but, no, please no, he refers us back to the original simpleton. This could only mean 1 thing... a slow, painful, agonizing process as he re-loaded 1 by 1 every item we needed into his system. By the time we had circled the store and gathered every accessory needed he was just about finishing. Time to check it through... and then... after going through, line, by line, he lost the order.. it all disappeared. By now the boy was ready to explode and took refuge in 'Office storage', I decided the only method that would work a calm, patient approach and my finest sympathetic voice. I went through item by painstaking item (I am now fluent in Ikea), correcting every one of his many mistakes. 2 hours gone.

Time to pay.... Fantastically Ikea are giving a gift voucher with every purchase over £1000. Genius... or not. They don't actually know how to process said voucher in kitchens. Simpleton seeks help from his manager... clueless. He calls downstairs, we wait, and wait and wait. We process once.. nope, wrong... try again, still no. In the end angry lady from downstairs storms upstairs to sort it out. 3 hours gone. (Please note I am still being patient). Even dumb and dumber are beginning to realise that this is somewhat unacceptable and so give us vouchers for a free meal. The boy is genuinely excited about free meat balls. "thanks, is the restaurant still open". "No, it closed at 9" "Oh, so I can't use the vouchers then". "No".
3 hours gone.

It is now so late we receive an escort back of house to the tills to pay. In order to arrange delivery, we have to wait for the items to be picked and then queue at the delivery centre. Comedy genius at picking informs me it will be at least half an hour. He gives me a coffee voucher for my trouble. "Oh thanks, can I use this down here?" "no, it's for the restaurant" "But the restaurant closed at 9", "yup" "So I can't use it then?" "No".
Half an hour later, items are picked, time to be checked. Picker informs me he can't check, manager has to. Manager walks past..."Mike can you check these for this customer?", "No, I have finished, I aren't doing any more" walks off. "Mike, you have to", "No I don't". And so it was I found myself on the floor of Ikea at 10.30pm going through each item, 1 by 1, checking each code against my order (There were approx 60 items). The only saving grace, the lovely picker man who went way beyond the call of duty to show us his method and help us with the checking. Finally at 11pm, job done. We celebrate, with an Ikea hotdog. Happy day!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Another Brick In The Wall

There has been one clear theme for this week - Destruction!
It started badly. I have been eagerly awaiting the delivery my new fireplace, one of my many EBay purchases which was to be the finishing touch to the bedroom. I had arranged that the seller would organise the postage and so it arrived, delivered courtesy of UPS, or should I say destroyed by UPS. Quite how they managed to smash a cast iron fireplace into so many little pieces I have no idea, but sure enough, the fireplace is fit for nothing but perhaps an expensive door stop. UPS will feel my wrath, make no mistake! 
The next layer of destruction was entirely more intentional - stage one of operation kitchen. Knocking down 3 walls, one that separates the kitchen and 'living space' and two that form the downstairs bathroom and toilet, the aim being to create one big, airy kitchen/ dining space.
I was rather excited about getting hold of a sledge hammer and relieving the frustrations that are the result of a week back in the world of work. However it seems that a hangover, relentless hammering and low flying bricks are possibly not the ideal combination. Not only did I lack the brute strength required to effectively destroy a thick solid brick wall, I also found it somewhat nerve wracking. A plethora of hazards - brick in the eye, hammer on the hand, large piece of wall on head, or the entire ceiling falling in. Yes three builders assured us that these are not supporting walls but how could they be sure. 3 hours of hard labour and almost broken backs from carrying out the hundreds of bags of rubble, wall number 1 was down. Immediately you can see how the new kitchen will work, the light and fairly vast space is really quite exciting. 
Typical isn't it that the only elements of the house that seem well put together are the bits we need to take apart. So it seemed when we had to remove the bathroom tiles, tile by painstaking tile. Once again I am amazed by the zoo like qualities of this house, entire eco-systems of mold and insects, silver fish (I have been told) are the species that chose to take residence in this particular dank, dark area. I am equally endlessly amazed that people lived in these conditions and so relieved to be knocking the living **** out of it! 
And so, operation kitchen us underway. Next stage buying the units, planning the flooring and, my absolute favorite part, choosing the lighting. As I have long been preaching, it's all about good lighting!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

There's A Rat In My Kitchen

It's official kitchen shopping is without doubt my most hated part of home improvement (so far).

1. It's complicated - you need plans and an ability to comprehend very exact dimensions (I do not have said ability!)
2. Too much choice - high line base units/ drawer line base units, larder units/ wall units... pull out systems or large pan drawers... i don't know, I do not know, somebody please just tell me.
3. All kitchen selling emporiums are hideous. Located in miserable retail parks in parts of town that really should not burst my London bubble. Full of arguing couples and screaming children, everyone walking around in a state of confusion whilst being confronted by entirely unhelpful and usually slightly stupid assistants. Don't even bother fobbing us off with your man who makes animals out of balloons, we know we are in retail hell!
4. They all claim to offer free design services, this is a lie. They are too busy to come to your home, you need to make an appointment 3 weeks in advance for help in store and the computer based systems clearly require and architecture qualification to be understood.
5. All the kitchens are horrid, cheap, tacky looking, pieces of plastic that simple cannot warrant however many thousands they demand.

Kitchen not progressing so well!

On a slightly brighter note, we have now taken possession of the freestanding sink unit mentioned in previous post. It is a delight, well worth the 6 hour road trip in the hired van. Particularly as we managed to combine a trip to lovely Dom and Andy's country cottage for an impromptu brunch. 

Now why can't everything be that simple? 

So despite warnings from very knowledgeable architects and other friends i am still wanting the eBay, used kitchen, it is far and away the nicest option and would not involve any more trips to hell by way of Enfield. Please can I get it, PLEASE can i? 

Sunday, 4 April 2010


I am on my holidays.. How can you afford such luxury I hear you ask. Well my lovely friends Fiona and James have departed the big schmoke for the Easter break and kindly lent us their lovely, clean, decorated, flat complete with working oven and EVERYTHING! So here I am in oh so exotic Finsbury Park, I am, as I write, sitting at their lovely kitchen table, glass of wine by my side, relishing in the joy of being clean.

So the eBay obsession has become a little bit out of hand! In the last few weeks I have bought the following:

Fireplace - a small one to fit the space in the bedroom, I am considering stripping it, or just leaving it white and slightly distressed - thoughts welcome.

Freestanding Sink Unit - as you may have gathered by now my style is quite.. hotch- potch. As such the plan is to have part fitted units - a long run down one side and part free-standing on the other side with lots of shelving. The first element of which is this free-standing Belfast sink unit. At £150 this is something of a bargain, yes it requires some tlc, but loving care costs nothing folks (except patience and tenacity, on which I must admit I am running slightly low).

French doors - (as mentioned in previous post).

Entire kitchen - Not bought yet but a very serious contender. Now, I realise that a used kitchen is some people's idea of hell, but I actively enjoy the lived in look of age and I simply cannot bare waste. If I can buy a really quality used item for the price of some brand new cheaper model, I just don't mind the odd mark . That said, I realise it does need to fit right and so I have spent the afternoon with some graph paper and cut out shapes the size of the the various units. (good advice Sara). We also drove across London to visit said kitchen in situ.. and (as Louis Walsh would say) I like it! Not sure how it would feel leaving its beautiful home in Twickenham to the squat in Homerton!

3 highlights of this week:
1. My first freecycle success - a double mattress. Always a risk but I like living on the edge and, you know what, it's perfect. Still in its original packaging. Just need a bed to accompany it now.

2. A design consultation with Abigail Ahern -, I have long been an admirer of this lady's impeccable style and, if I am honest, I kind of want to be her! So before the restraining order sets in I utilised her new free style consultation service and had 1 whole hour of her expertise devoted to my kitchen planning. Mood board in hand I talked through my ideas and discussed the dilemmas and relative merits of above kitchen. Outcomes included the desire for screed flooring with under floor heating and lovely pendant lights from Caravan

3. Visit from architect friend, he needed some help planning his wedding, I need a kitchen planning. So we traded my events expertise for his hugely superior architecture expertise and he is in the process of whipping up some drawings. MASSIVELY grateful! Just having him in the house proved how helpful it would be to have actual experts helping me, if only I could afford them.

But, I can't, and so folks we muddle on....