Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Twelve Days Of Christmas

It's about this time of year that I should regaling you with tales of innovative, crafty and oh so special Christmas decorations. Sharing the delights of my home-made mince pies and the mulled wine wafting through the house as it sits at that just right temperature 24/7, I should be demonstrating how to make a Christmas presents look beautiful with nought but an old bin bag and some twigs, all whilst the snow comes gently down and Nat King Cole croons away in the background.

My Christmas countdown has included a slightly different kind of preparations. Less coverings of snow and Christmas knits, more layers of dirt and building overalls, a distinctly dull and laborious process of stripping, dipping and sanding.

Staircase progress has been made, requiring approximately 30 minutes a spindle, it is slow, laboriously painful progress, but progress none the less. Having stripped back to the wood and painted one coat on approx three quarters of the stairs it now becomes apparent that they will all need re-sanding, re-painting, and then probably doing for a third time. I'm all about reclamation and restoration but at times like these the words 'you could just buy a new one' start to become alarmingly appealing.

As any eBay regular will know a part of its charm, is the 'danger factor!', the slight element of the unknown, the risk, it could be a total bargain, it could be a heap of s**%. The, I'm bidding, Oh God I've bid, what if I win... but I don't want a pine table to seat 12 from Cornwall, Oh damn I've won it, roller-coaster of emotions that keeps us addicts coming back for more. You never know quite what you'll get, a fireplace smashed into a thousand pieces perhaps, maybe a bath that turns out to be miniature, some doors that couldn't fit in the house unless they were cut in half and although things often aren't quite perfect, you somehow find a way to make them work.

My latest purchase was no exception. I required 2 more vintage radiators for the bedroom, white would be fine, black even, or bare metal. Of course I ended up with 3 silver radiators with no feet or brackets. 2 for the bedroom, 1 for my ever expanding collection that adorns the hallway. I hate adding to the costs which somehow defeats the object of eBay but there was no choice but to send these bad boys to be dipped. They arrived back a kind of metallic, rust colour and filthy as hell. I set to with the bleach, washing them to within an inch of their lives and coating with a lacquer to prevent dirt coming off constantly.

A small amount of welding, banging, butchering floor-boards later they are in. Not to everyone's tastes I am sure but I rather like them and, they seem to work!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Colour Me Badd

This week's hot topic has been colour! I have been advising two people on the same issue, what colour to paint a naturally dark space - one a hallway/ living space in Bristol, the other a kids playroom in Lewes.

My gut response, predictably, go dark, go downpipe! (I'm not entirely obsessed, I do like some other colours - black, dark dark green, sludgy browny grey, but mostly downpipe), have included a few lovely images to try and indoctrinate you ( once again see the amazing @AbigailAhern.).
I am aware that not everyone is as in touch with their dark side as me (in equal measure paint and life!) hence my advise is thus:

Don't fight it: If the room is dark, no amount of painting it a light colour will change that fact. The brightest white will only be bright if it has sun to bounce of it.

Think Warm: If pale colours are your thing, then aim for a warm tone, whether it be grey or green or white choose a shade that has a pinkish hue in certain lights.

Don't get the blues: Blue shades or hints of blue... alert, alert, alert. We are talking cold.

Be Bold: To my mind bold is good, as much as I love dark, I also love bright white (in the right space) the only time I have been disappointed is when i have gone for the middle ground - a pale insipid grey, a white that came out cream. Whatever your direction take yourself that one step further than you might be inclined to go. Go on... dare you!

Think Accents: If you like dark (kind of, a bit, maybe..) but don't want to go the whole hog, what about a feature - paint the in-built furniture a dark gloss, the inside of the bookshelves, a chimney breast. Accessories can be key, all colours have their opposite which enhance their natural beauty for green, orange works really well, for grey, try yellow or pink. Now you might not want an orange wall, but a lamp? (in playroom case) some storage boxes, a piece of art? Possibly stating the obvious but if you prefer a neutral wall then some bold coloured accessories can work wonders to make the space alive and interesting, easily interchangeable and will not take over.

Try It: Face the fear folks, at the end of the day, it is only paint! As per previous post, most of you know what you like so, find some images, mood board it up, sample, sample, sample (make sure you try it on every wall, different lights will produce very different shades).

Take A Risk: If it all goes wrong, you paint over it, no biggie! (#blackglossgate).

Ignore All Of The Above: We all know what they say about rules. Best thing to do, just do it whatever the hell you like. Your personal taste is a natural filter, if you like it, it will work for you.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

How Will I Know?

I was out for dinner last night with my lovely friend Mylene and conversation turned, as it often does, to interiors. Now Mylene has never invited me to her house (bloody cheek) but she is one of the most stylish, creative and generally fantastic women I know (she reads this blog... she bought me dinner!), so I can only assume that her home is every bit as stylish as her appearance.

She, however, feels differently, in her own words she is 'paralysed by indecision' and just doesn't know what direction she wants to take. This is something hear ALOT, along with, "I honestly don't know what I like", "I have no clue where to start on paint colours", " I don't know if I want contemporary or traditional.... minimal or eclectic, light grey or stone...".

Well my simple response to that is yes you do and no-one does. Contrary to what Mylene and others believe, when I started project squat I didn't just KNOW. Yes I had some ideas, nuggets of styles or items I wanted to include, a tile here, a paint colour there (after 5 years of painstakingly post-it noting Elle Decoration it would be tragic if I didn't). But I had no idea how it might all fit together. Until, that is, I embarked on a mood board.

See photo of my very first mood board -for the kitchen. A load of haphazardly cobbled together photos from mags, no consideration paid to how I laid them out, no more discrimination applied other than the natural filter that I liked them. A small amount of editing later and there it was a very clear theme and style which bares striking resemblance to my real life kitchen.

As I learn more about design I realise that the same process applies, albeit in a slightly more structured way.. we start with a concept (see concept for a friend's house in Lewes). Nothing here is to be taken literally but it inspires colours, textures, a mood and from there the rest flows.

So for anyone paralysed with fear, hear this. I hazard a guess that not even the most creative designer in the world 'Just knows' (well maybe Lee Broom does?!), put down that fear, pick up those magazines and get ripping.

Or employ me and I'll do it for you?

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Praise You

Slightly veering away from the normal theme of my own renovation project I can't help but comment on this beauty! I have wandered past this house many times (in a slighty more selubrious part of the hood)and gazed longingly at its majesty from the outside. Now I get to see inside I am even more awe-struck, possibly the mother of all renovations! See the rest here

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Painter Man, Painter Man

OK, so here it is, please appreciate how difficult it is for me to say this, I can't even believe it myself, I mean this never happens to me, never, NEVER, I'm still a little bit in shock. Here goes, gulp .....I ... Made... A.... Mistake!

Wow, there it is. It's out there. Not just any mistake either, a mistake with colour, paint colour and paint colour is my thing! But I am a strong woman and I feel it only fair to share the error of my ways so that others may avoid the terrible situation I faced when after a weekend of relentless, tiring painting, I stood back and felt with such overwhelming certainty that I exclaimed out loud "I HATE it!".

I think the first error was abandonning grey, I know where I am with grey, we trust each other, we work well together. My foray into green (all be it grey green) was a risky strategy and I knew it. But after a number of weeks and trialling many many samples, I was sure I had found the perfect shade, a calming, olivey, muted hue that would surely induce the perfect nights sleep (we were painting the bedroom). As we started painting it felt good, not great, but good, so I thought best to perservere.

I had decided in advance that the chimney breast would be a different colour, to add depth, interest and a point of focus. This, my friends, is where it all started to crumble. I have recently become a fan of gloss paints, a wonderful light reflective, interesting, contemporary alternative to matt. I have seen many fine examples and it worked brilliantly in the downstairs loo. I love black, off-black even more and have often considered a room painted entirely in black, which I think is stunning. Similarly I've seen it work brilliantly on chimney breasts, mostly when paired with white.

Put two and two together and before you know it I have a black gloss chimney breast. Don't get me wrong, in theory I LOVE this. Moody, textured, reflective a statement of an accent. In practise, all wrong, wrong, wrong. The green looked yellow, the furniture (such as it is) went from grey to blue, Victorian somehow became 80's bachelor pad. The horror!

Clearly something had to be done and fast. There was only one thing that could save us now. After barely giving it enough time to dry out came the Downpipe (there is always a handy supply in stock). Sure enough the first coat brought an audible sigh of relief, the greens became more grey than yellow and the furniture its rightful shade, the room seemed to work harmoniously rather than having some kind of internal conflict. Once again praise be to Downpipe, the king of paint shades!

My pride won't let me post photos of 'black-gate' in full, but a few before and afters.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A Hard Days Night

Ouch! That would be paint in my eye then. I have decided it can wait no longer, I am attacking the staircase - with gusto.

So hideous is this job that my builder refused to do it, for any amount of money. This leaves no choice, I must man up, don my favourite building outfit and get the hell on with it.

I have been advised that what is required is sanding, lots and lots of sanding, by hand (to get into all the intricate shapes of the spindles). However approximately 5 minutes in, it is apparent that if I follow this advise, I will still be here, 30 years on, sanding away, with little but callouses to show for it. Clearly this is a stair case which has not been stripped back, ever.. there is layer upon layer of paint. It's like when you are too lazy to remove your nail varnish so you just paint over the top (when I say you, I mean you, clearly I would never do that) like that but times a million!

Sanding, frankly my dear Mariusz oh wise builder, is not going to do it!

What I need here is a state of the art paint removing implement, the Viacal of paint stripping. A blunt kitchen knife and some bleach?

Hazardous paint chips are flying everywhere, there is dust in my hair and bleach down my arms. It sure as hell is glamorous work.

I would love to show you smug little photos of my progress, but frankly after 3 hours of graft there is little to notice. So instead, I will show you photos of stair cases I admire... so the question is grey or white? To carpet or not to carpet....?

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Lazy Days

I was warned about the dreaded renovation epidemic that hinders many an otherwise successful project, it's commonly know as loosing momentum. 6 months in, 8 months, a year even I was totally immune, impervious to it's powers. A year and a half, it's a whole different story, I realised recently that I haven't really done anything to the house since.. well.... February?

Is it because it's all finished? - No way, do I not have time? - On the contrary, do I just not care anymore? How very dare you! It boils down to the simple fact that I lost momentum. Plus nothing is quite as urgent, yes the bedroom needs decorating, the back-door varnishing, numerous handles need fixing and no the stairs don't have carpet but, well that's all very easy to live with ignore.

So in an attempt to regain momentum and get through these final tasks I have turned to my friend and motivator - EBay! I had, briefly forgotten it's addictive powers, but I'm back in the game and I fear somewhat overly click happy with my bidnapper friend behind me. In the last 2 weeks I have become the proud owner of:

3 new (old) skanky looking radiators - I only actually need two and already have one to sell, I also didn't realise they would need sand-blasting and testing.
A moderately ugly metal storage chest - it's way to big for the required location and function
1 pair of .... wait for it....this is a good one....... anglepoise lamps... for the bedroom. Ooo now there's a buy, well yes, except I failed to notice that these lamps were for renovation/ parts and will therefore no doubt need thousands spending on them, or in fact will never work at all.
1 bedroom fireplace - so far this one actually seems to be pretty perfect, the right size and everything.

Of course none of these items are in place, they are mostly littering the back half of the living room where I imagine they will stay for some time. Not the fireplace though, that is actually in the bedroom - in position, sort of, well it's leaning against the wall where it will eventually live (is that not how they work?).

I am hoping that by writing about my new found laziness it might actually spur me into action.

One thing that has been achieved (Not by me of course) is a mini blog to advertise the house for Olympic Rental, please please pass it on to friends, relatives from abroad/ pop it on work intranets etc and let's see if someone else can bask in the glory of the squat whilst we escape the Olympic madness:

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Bed

There was only one thing on our minds last week, Design week daring!

The great and the good of the design world displaying/ flogging their wares to what they hoped were international buyers for huge design emporiums. At every stall they looked up hopefully, then it came, the dreaded question “What do you do? Architect, designer, buyer?”, Me: “Erm.... student”, the disappointment/ disdain was palpable and I quickly shuffled onto the next person, reeling in how my one time position of (Semi, not really, but kind of) buying clout in one industry, has descended to this in another. Still, what do they know? In 2 years time I could literally be the hottest property out there and you know what, I will remember who was nice to me and who wasn’t... oh yes I will.

There were obvious favourites for me. The Tramshed on Rivington Street, with it’s De La Espada collection of designer-led brands, resulted in actual drooling and, for just a few moments consideration that somehow, it would feasible to buy the Studioilse ( king-size bed with it’s beautiful brass feet. (entirely feasible if I sell my house and don’t eat for 2 years).

Decorex, on the other hand, appeared to have stepped straight out of Homes and Gardens, all very lovely...lovely fabric, lovely people, lovely, lovely, but nothing to really challenge or excite.

Back in the real world my design skills are being put to good use as I have been enlisted to help with the semi-transformation of a family home in Lewes (pictures above). The house is a beaut in its own right, all wooden floors, bright white hallways with an abundance of space. But having not been decorated in a few (read 20ish) years it needs some love. (the downstairs loo has pretty much come back on trend with its garish 60’s influence). Nothing structural required, it’s all about accentuating the existing features and disguising the anomalies, all, of course, for nil pence. Ahhh if there’s one thing we love... it’s a challenge....

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Dream A Little Dream

Sincere apologies for the delay in posting, I appreciate that you may be verging on dispair by now.

Fear not, my time has not been wasted.... no no I have in fact been, pursuing/ living the dream.
I am sure it hasn't escaped your notice that I have a slight interest (freakish obsession) with interiors and renovation. I love it all, I love building supply shops (except B&Q), I love managing builders (except nasty Bulgarian ones who suffer from halitosis), I love sourcing radiators, lights, paints...., I love watching it all come together as though there was a plan there in the first place (which in the main there wasn't) I LOVE IT.

So, rather than continuing cutting out images willy nilly and frittering valuable hours designing the perfect kitchen for the house I don't own in my head, I have decided to take a more constructive route and have now started an interior design course. A 2 year, part time, full on, course that (if I pass) will award me a diploma, which I think basically qualifies me to design my dream kitchen for the house I don't own in my head.

So far, so good. Great people, learning how to draw lines (harder than it sounds) and angles and attempting to sketch (it's clear I am not naturally gifted at all elements). My first client will be Ziggy Stardust, it's fictional client you understand. Scary, exciting times.

I have also been en vacances, en France. As many of you know, my long standing pipe dream is to renovate and own a property abroad, to spend a year living in the culture, getting to know the language and the people and building a beautiful home. I speak a smattering of French (Tricolore 2 eat your heart our), it's close, bloody beautiful and they have amazing wine, so this seems like as good a place as any (Portugal and Italy also close contenders).

Step 1 - visit the country. A blissful, relaxing week later with amazing weather, an abundance of cheese and rose and staying in the most stunning house I have possibly ever seen, I am afraid the dream grows ever stronger. Somehow, some day, it will happen. IT WILL HAPPEN!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011