Sunday, 30 May 2010

In My English Country Garden

Having a kitchen has, quite literally changed lives here at the squat. There is somewhere clean (ish) and comfortable (ish) to sit, diet has progressed from raw/ packet produce to actual home cooking (including last week, a home baked cake!), I have even been able to invite friends over. Clearly the main reason for this was to be furnished with compliments on my superior skills for renovating on a shoe string. Bless them, they didn't disappoint, "It's the nicest kitchen I have ever seen" was like music to my ears, yes it was a lie, we all know it was a lie - the kitchen is from Ikea! but who the hell cares - give that girl another glass of wine!
I am, as ever, shocked and dismayed at the patience and tenacity required to actually finish a room, I know I have said it before, but forget your putting up and knocking down walls, it is the finishing that requires the real skill. So this bank holiday weekend is spent, painting skirting boards and architrave, re-painting skirting boars and architrave, sanding and oiling worktops, putting up pictures ra ra ra. Man it is boring and when in doubt - move on to something else. I am fairly resigned to the fact that the house will never actually be finished!

This small spate of fine weather drew attention garden-wards. Well, when I say garden....currently the outside space is less garden more builders junk yard. By no means a massive space but enough to have a BBQ and do a spot of sun bathing, if that is, the predominant feature wasn't a large green, metal shed positioned in the one spot that gets the sun. As ever the sheer genius of the previous owners of the squat never ceases to amaze.

Garden equipment such that I own is buried lord knows where under piles and piles of junk, still who needs tools when you have determination. So I set too with my building gloves and kitchen scissors. What a wealth of treats the garden provided - broken glass - panes and pains of it, some kind of den/ human birds nest contraption made from concrete struts, old rope, glass, barbed wire and woven twigs - what better play place could a child ask for (?!). Rotten trees and such a range of weeds that Kew Gardens would be envious. A couple of hours of hard graft and 20 or so bin bags later one thing was clear... we need professional help!

So debate of the day is.... at what point do I get the garden done? Clearly when funds are very restricted one has to prioritise and when the majority of the house is barely habitable the garden is simply not a priority. But, once everything else is done, surely dragging the garden rubbish through the house will put the newly plastered/ painted walls and floors at risk?! Thoughts and opinions welcome!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Stupid Girl

Four letters. IKEA. ARGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Three evenings this week spent at Ikea . Three evenings of my life I will never get back. Still, evening three was spent at a different branch; Brent Cross. How novel. Different store, same experience. Testing is how I would describe it.

I managed to use the two free meal vouchers kindly given at our previous encounters with said brand. Meatballs and pasta. Palatable. Fish and Chips. Surprisingly tasty. The mattresses in the bed department are quite comfortable. I might move in. I might not.

So why did I spend more time at Ikea, I hear you ask. Well here's why;

1. Order put together by Edmonton's brain of Britain contained errors. Never would have guessed that might happen right? (Despite trying to reconcile at point of collection, it's an unachievable task. 98 different brown boxes all with meaningless numbers. We have 6 draw fronts all 80cm in size). We only have one drawer unit! MORON!

2. No template provided in floor to ceiling larder unit. Builders can't work out how to attach the door. Genius.

3. Wrong colour. Yes that's wrong colour base unit doors. DUH.

4. No feet for three of the 6 six cupboards. DISCO.

I could go on. But I'm boring myself.

Please don't make me go there again. Please................................................................. Oh, we have returns. Sarah. Over to you.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Coming on strong

Hey, it's me. The boy. I return to the blog to update on the work in progress; that is our new Kitchen and Dining room effort. I've been left in sole charge. Yikes. So much responsibility. I think I will have a B&O wireless entertainment system installed. A massive plasma screen. A pool table instead of a Dining table.

Much like Sarah, I escaped from the building site for a few days. Not quite as glam as NYC, but a much needed dust free break, with home comforts such as sofas, a washing machine and oven, in the heart of rural Cambridgeshire! Oh how I miss having an oven. So much so, that I cooked for the family for the entire weekend. My Lasagne went down like a Granny on roller skates. Even with the fussy eater nieces.

I was meant to have a half day holiday on Friday. This actually turned into a builders merchants trip with Mariusz, our builder, to source £300 worth of wood! (Now wood is my favourite material. The smell, the patterns and the varying effects you can achieve. But, damn it's pricey. The new kitchen worktops are testament to this. £1,500 for 5 metres. But, man, I can't stop looking at it. Touching it. Oiling it - 8 pre installation coats required). Guess what I'm doing every night this week?

I'm getting pretty familiar with these builders places now. Much like Ikea, the staff are from a different breed. Nobody wants to help you and when you do ask a question, the response is well less that educated. Is this where all the stupid people from school ended up (controversial)? My particular favourite bit is when a man sporting a high vis jacket, has to check you leaving the store, despite him helping the cashier to check the number of products you have purchased, whilst scanning. Still 1 person off the unemployment database.....

So to return on Sunday afternoon, slightly scared and slightly nervous that I had left the sanctuary of Mum and Dad's, I was pleasantly surprised. Whitewashed walls. New floor boards. Spot lights installed. A hoovered house. In the words of Galliano, "I can feel it, coming on strong".

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Empire State Of Mind

I am indeed in the Concrete Jungle Where Dreams Are Made Of, and yes Jay-Z and Alicia have been on repeat in my head since the plane touched down.
I have escaped for a work trip to NYC leaving project squat in the safe hands of the boy. Despite almost missing my plane due to crises kitchen flooring meeting with builder, I am entirely confident that I will return to a fully completed kitchen, it might look totally different than I intended but hey ho!
In an amongst the work I have managed to spend a substantial amount of time indulging in my favourite New York past time, frequenting bars and restaurants. It has reminded me quite how much NYC has inspired my interior design sensibilities - the subway tile bathrooms which I first saw in Schillers about 6 years ago and totally blew me away, (, the execution of 'shabby chic' which appears soo effortless but clearly the work of master designers, best seen possibly in the faded glamour of Moto ( and of course, the lighting, New York is my lighting mecca! Every cafe, ever restaurant, even the shops have the level of dim honed to perfection. The kind of lighting that draws you in, that mixes cosy with urban and seductive with practical, the kind of lighting that makes you wish you were on a date. Who cares what the food is like, the place looks great and in this light I look ok in it!

Hosteliers of the UK I implore you, get your asses state side and see how it is done! (or just ask me and I will do it for you!).

Thankfully I have not been starved of interior design chat. Eamon and Martina (with whom I am currently residing) have jut bought an apartment in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, a lovely, leafy, neighbourhood of brownstones and parks - markedly less grunge with a slightly lower hipster count than their previous Williamsburg residence. Much time has been spent with Mart virtually discussing the relative merits of shades of grey and how best to finish a wooden floor so it is a joy to see it in person. Our places couldn't be more different but the issues remain the same - HOW can it cost that much? The current point of discussion - blinds, windows that wrap the full width of the living room they need a good solution and, it seems, good solutions do not come cheap.

We also popped to Fort Greene flea where I picked up a little birthday present to me, a battered old jug.

So I present to you, my first guest appearance on the blog, chez Eamon and Mart, their neighbourhood, and my jug!

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The boys are back in town.

What is the incessant banging in my head.... ? Ah yes, the oh so familiar sound of builders knocking my house to tiny pieces!
The builders are back in town !! So too the dust, the drilling, the hemorrhaging of money, the lovely little surprises when they discover another new problem plus the free bonus of Polish language lessons. All joking aside this new branch of builders are particularly jolly and our daily 7.30 morning meetings do add a certain joy to my day.

Progress is fairly swift, day 1 total destruction - I realised the old kitchen would be ripped out but wasn't entirely prepared to return home from a long day to find not only the units gone but also every inch of plaster - leaving us with bare walls - still I like the exposed brick look.
Day 2 - ceiling plasterboard put in place. Our old ceilings were totally uneven so the entire thing needed to be ripped down and replaced.

Day 3- boiler removed (complete with thick layer of mouse poo on the back - they had mice living in the boiler - oh, my, dear, lord!). Entire bathroom and toilet and ceiling from extension removed (yeah, please note one day some of you will dine where the toilet used to be, nice!), small issue here, all joists are rotten.... will need entirely rebuilding... oh happy day...

And finally, my friends, the moment we have all been waiting for (when I say we, I clearly mean me) I get to purchase lights!!!! Oh yes, the girl who spends days, weeks, months seeking out the cheapest alternative from EBay, dealing with horrendous customer service from Ikea, chasing up broken fireplaces... all to save every possible penny is suddenly entirely willing to literally throw money at overpriced lights... but oh I how love them, oh how they will make me happy when they fill my room with their beautiful, gentle glow.... . You will have to wait for their grand unveiling in situ, I know everyone is equally excited so I don't want to spoil the surprise.

Bank holiday fun and a birthday treat for me - skip loading again.. yeah!!!!

I think the time might be almost here for the grand unveiling in the form of a squat warming party... dust of your overalls and watch this space!