House: Living room update

We’re in the middle of re-jigging our living room. Due to the unusual layout of our house we have two seating areas – this darker room at the front of the house is the cosy TV ‘pit’ and another room at the back of the house is the ‘summer’ entertaining space.

Moving our big sofa into this room gives us more space for entertaining – the catalyst for this move was my sports-mad boyfriend buying a huge new TV and we’ve already hosted a 6 nations (rugby!) night in here!

Read more…

House: Circular Shelving Unit

#firstworldproblems… In the aftermath of styling your #shelfie, your living room looks like a bomb has gone off in a card/gift shop – you are surrounded by completely random items, most of which my boyfriend would call’tat’. You have also realised that you don’t own enough ‘matching’ items, of the right size, that look good together…

I spotted this little circular shelving unit in the recently opened Tiger store in The Mall (Bristol),while on an impromptu shopping trip. I already had various circular/ hoop shelf DIY tutorials saved on Pinterest but at only £12 I could’t pass this up!

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I love items with an industrial/vintage feel and with it’s dark metal frame and slim wooden shelves it looks really striking. The design may not be perfect (the visible fixings detract from the otherwise clean aesthetic) but I love it anyway. The spaces are quite small and uneven which makes styling this a bit difficult. Any tips/ ideas out there?

I finished another set of shelves a few weeks ago and next on my to-do list is some more open shelving for the kitchen. I’m all over shelves at the moment!

H x

Leaving the City… 2 years on

We spent yesterday in Bristol, taking in the buzz of the Harbourside Festival and catching up with friends. It made me think about how things have changed for us in the time since we left our city centre flat, 2 years ago this summer.

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City   ❤

The decision to move to countryside suburbia was not an easy one. We were 25 and 27 at the time – it seemed like ‘settling down’, which I felt we were too young to be doing!

I thought I’d reflect on how we came to the decision….

THE PROS

Affordability

Turns out EVERYONE wants a quirky period terrace within walking distance of the city centre. No matter that most are poky, prone to damp, have tiny paved backyards and are squashed onto narrow streets with no parking – they are fashionable. After being outbid on several properties (at least once by cash buyers intending to renovate and sell on for even more crazy ££££), we had to admit defeat.

Out here, we can afford a proper grown-up house with a garden and a driveway. Call me old but having my own parking space (we have ONE EACH!!) is a DREAM COME TRUE. Never again will I arrive home at 10pm, spend 20 mins looking for a space, find a space, try to squeeze into it, realise it is way too small even for a KA, probably dent mine/neighbour’s car, almost cry with frustration, end up parking streets away and have to carry up a ridiculous amount of stuff up 4 flights of stairs.

Greenery

As well as having a cute little garden to call our own, we are on the edge of the Cotswolds. We can head out on our bikes and be surrounded by beautiful quiet countryside within minutes.

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Countryside   ❤

Travelling

We are now just a 25 min country road drive from work. No more selfish rush-hour drivers cutting us up on roundabouts or hours spent helplessly queuing behind a motorway pile up. Now we just get caught behind the odd tractor!

Also (and I realise I sound like an estate agent here) – we are so close to the M4/M5 that popping over to Wales for the day or zipping down to London by car has never been so easy.

THE CONS

Travelling (again!)

We’ve become more reliant on our cars. If I want to visit friends by train, I’m dependent on Boy being available to ferry me to/from the station.

If we want to go out drinking in Bristol (as we did yesterday), it’s an hour-plus bus journey. Or crash at a friend’s house and persuade them to drive us home in the morning 😎

Fewer activities (for younger people)

When we lived in the centre I used to go to various dance classes. No pole dancing on offer in suburbia – it’s line dancing or Zumba, where I’m not exactly expecting to meet potential friends at the same stage of life as me! Classes in Bath or Bristol are only a 30-40min drive, but on a week night I’m not sure I want the hassle.

Generic 90s house

After 2 years spent in a drafty, leaky (but beautiful) period flat, I should have known better – but I had my heart set on a period terrace. Victorian fireplace, lovely sash windows, lots of character… but also needing LOTS of maintenance. With our sensible heads on, we had to admit that some of the houses we loved were potential money pits.

Out here, we don’t have the choice. I can only dream of the period cottages or converted barns nearby. So, soulless housing estate here we are! But, #first world problems. We’re not just fortunate to have a roof over our heads – as young people in the UK, I know we’re very lucky to be able to buy our own place at all.

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Garden   ❤

It feels like we were a bit ahead of the game – more and more friends are buying houses and moving to areas which are closer to good schools than good bars! I love our house and the little town that we’ve moved into – it suits our lifestyle perfectly. I wouldn’t rule out a move back towards Bristol, but for now I’m glad we made the jump out here 🙂

H x

Bathroom Inspiration

The bathroom is the last major ‘project’ in our house. It is currently a dated peach affair, complete with an oversized shower cubicle that takes up half the room (it is HUGE. Visitors always feel the need to run into it and speculate how many others could squeeze in next to them – I’d say at least 6). After the 8 month saga that was our DIY kitchen, we’ve decided to leave the bathroom revamp to the professionals.

I love all things interiors, so I’ve been having a LOT of fun on Pinterest getting my ideas together. We’re going for a simple, white, contemporary look. I’ve chosen matt white subway tiles for the walls, but I’m tempted to jazz up the floor with Moroccan-style tiles.I’m hoping to squeeze in some natural wood shelving, seagrass baskets and some houseplants for contrast as well!

Last on my wishlist is a little wooden stool for the corner – useful for holding bits and bobs during bathtime (maybe a glass of wine and a candle for ‘me’ time!).

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We’re booked in for September (our chosen plumber is popular, hopefully for good reasons!), but I’m getting excited already 🙂 I can’t wait to share the finished look!

H x

Sunday Shelf Styling

This weekend was a pretty quiet one – managed to get a couple of items ticked off the DIY to-do list (wild, I know).

This little shelving unit is yet another steal from my parents’ garage. It’s seen a lot of different paint colours over the years – latterly, shocking pink from it’s days above my uni room desk. Not surprisingly, my taste has changed over the years! It’s a little battered and bruised but hey, that’s rustic right?! Took quite a few coats of paint to cover that pink up…

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H x

Bank Holiday DIY: Terrarium

My collection of houseplants started, as I expect most people’s do, with a humble spider plant. It survived all the way through my university years and now sits on my desk at work. Thanks to my Mum and my boyfriend’s mum, my current house is hardly short of plants – I’ve got everything from tiny succulent pots to a palm-like mini tree over a metre tall. I can’t lie and say I’m green-fingered – my boyfriend is usually the one who waters them!

Houseplants seem to be having a big moment in interiors trends. They are great for adding colour and interest to a space. Plus (here’s the scientist popping up!) some of them remove unpleasant chemicals from the air! Succulents seem to be particularly popular right now.

I’d had my eye on a terrarium for a while and a family member bought me a beautiful angular copper one for Christmas. Despite how much I love it, I’ve only just got around to filling it with plants….this was my mini bank holiday project!

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I chose three cute little succulents for my terrarium. I won’t go into detail about how I created it – there’s tons of info out there on the internet (Pinterest is a good start for tutorials :-))

I would consider buying a ‘pre-prepared’ terrarium. This one was surprisingly tricky to arrange. My hand only just fits into the top opening and it took a while to get it looking tidy – the soil and gravel are easily trapped in between the plant shoots. I’m really happy with how it looks though – for now it’s on the window sill in my closet so that I can appreciate it in the mornings when I’m getting ready.

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I have also added this Aloe plant to my collection – a plant with white spots in a white pot is a winner!

Let’s see if they survive….

H x

 

DIY Ikea Kitchen – The Finished Result!

As promised, here’s some photos of our (95%) finished IKEA kitchen.

I talked a little about the trials and tribulations of the DIY process here.

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The kitchen is almost a replica of one of the displays in IKEA Bristol at the time – off-white shaker-style doors (GRYTNAS), speckled black acrylic worktop and grey laminate flooring. We didn’t want the fuss (or expense) of tiling, so we chose these narrow edging strips to border the worktop.

Originally I was very keen on wooden worktops with the white cabinets. After a little research I realised that they needed regular maintenance and have to be treated very carefully to avoid burn/scuff marks. I thought this could drive my boyfriend (who is very tidy and clean, bordering on obsessive!) mad with worry. Wooden worktops just aren’t practical for us now, but I wouldn’t rule them out for a future kitchen….

The kitchen is relatively small, narrow and dark at the farthest end, so I  wanted a simple, relatively clean design and colour palette. White walls open up and freshen the space and complete the calm and bright atmosphere that we wanted from a kitchen. To stop it feeling too ‘cold’ I’ve added small pops of colour from kitchen accessories and artwork.

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I love fun touches like my Edward Monkton Tea/Coffee/Sugar jars (I love Edward Monkton – I have quite a few mugs with other designs on too!). The Fixie Bike Pizza Cutter was one of my cycle-mad boyfriend’s birthday presents from his family this year.

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The ‘Kitchen’ Print was from the lovely Etsy shop Ivory Mint Cards. The moment I saw it I knew it was the perfect wry reminder of the design process – particularly Ikea’s cock-up with the sink measurements! I chose it in orange to pick up the colour of my casserole dish which I sometimes have out on display.

I found this ‘Caffeine Tea’ card in the gift shop of Bristol’s Arnolifini gallery last weekend (from the For Science range) I think it’s a nice nod to our scientific background – it will probably go up next to the ‘Kitchen’ print.

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In addition to the bright accents, my reclaimed wood chalkboard adds a bit of warmth to the space and breaks up the white and grey.

Minimalist purists will notice that, unfortunately, there are a number of different chrome finishes – we went with brushed chrome for the handles, tap and plug sockets, but they don’t match the shiny kettle and toaster that we already owned!

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I kept the wall above the sink free from cabinets to keep the space open. In hindsight I think it would have been ideal to put all the wall cabinets on that side of the kitchen (with the hob) and have the sink on the other side with clear walls to make the most of the light from the window. However we wanted to keep close to the original layout to avoid the cost and complexity of moving services around.

We’ve crammed in as much storage as possible at the far end of the kitchen with a tall cabinet next to the built-in fridge/freezer. IKEA didn’t have the model we wanted so gave us an upgraded one for the same price (bargain!) – unfortunately the design change meant that the false front at the top of the fridge door wouldn’t open against the slanted ceiling. We got around this by using two drawer fronts instead. Not quite as good aesthetically but at least we can access our food!

The future:

  • I’m going to add some slim white shelves next to the boiler to balance out the cupboard on the other side of the sink. We are also going to build in a small wine rack in a gap under the window.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little insight into how we completed the project – we are really pleased with the result!

H x

The Saga of our IKEA DIY Kitchen

Our house needed a lot of aesthetic work when we bought it in 2014. The kitchen was a BIG project – original 20 year old cabinets and poor use of space. Outdated design aside, the entire kitchen was filthy dirty with years of chip fat grease lingering in every crevice. I couldn’t wait to rip it out!

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First things first – removing an old extractor unit with 20 years’ worth of grease!

As this is our first house and we might not be here in 5 years, we wanted to keep the cost down. We were also restricted by  the room layout and the type of house, keeping future potential buyers in mind. It is a galley kitchen and we kept the oven and sink in the same place to save moving the services. We considered keeping the relatively new cooker and under counter fridge that had been left behind. We eventually decided that in-built appliances would not only help the re-sale value, but be a better use of space.

We didn’t go all out on a ‘dream’ kitchen for the reasons I’ve already mentioned.  It’s not the most radical design ever – the worktop, cupboards and laminate floor are all identical to one of the display rooms in the Bristol store! I’d read a lot on blogs about customising with more unique hardware from other stores, but in the end I was so keen to get a new kitchen that we decided to go all-in at IKEA.

I am terrible for diving head-first into projects whenever I have a spare minute. After just a few months I enthusiastically started ripping tiles off the wall. While we were prepared for the hard work of a complete DIY re-fit, I don’t think we were prepared for the amount of time it would take (7 months) or the stress of unforseen setbacks.

The main stages of the project:

  • Remove all tiles
  • Remove all cabinets
  • Move sockets and re-plumb sink to accommodate movements to washing machine and addition of dishwasher
  • Wire in underfloor electric heating
  • Plastering (An unexpected delay. The tiles had been stuck directly to the plasterboard (d’oh) and after they had been removed the wall surface was a complete mess)
  • Decorate
  • Assemble new cabinets and fit
  • Install worktop
  • Finishing details (e.g. splashbacks, light fittings)
  • Lay underfloor heating and laminate floor.
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    Taking over the house with cabinet assembly

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    Father to Son plumbing lessons…

Given this was spread out over such a long period of time, it was incredibly inefficient. We still needed to cook, so things were moved in and out. But the biggest and entirely unexpected delay was with the worktop.

We chose a pre-cut Acrylic worktop. As the name suggests, the dimensions are taken and the worktop is cut to size, including the holes for the hob and sink, in Germany. This means a 6 week lead time. It was a crucial stage of the project and was already holding up the installation of half the kitchen.

Unfortunately for us, when the sink section of the worktop arrived the hole had been cut in the wrong place. The kitchen designers responsible for interpreting our measurements had made an error. (They also use a ridiculous system which is very open to interpretation, but that’s another story). It wasn’t our fault so the bill was on IKEA – lucky for us, as the worktop wasn’t cheap – a third of the cost of the entire kitchen!

It’s a well-known fact that IKEA customer service is terrible and it took over a week to painstakingly explain to them what they had got wrong. The replacement took another 6 weeks to arrive. We had removed the sink on the day of the original worktop arriving, so were without water in the kitchen for the entire time. It was incredibly frustrating!

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Spot the mistake with the sink cut-out….

Once that drama was over, we were able to get on installing the sink (YAY) and actually finish the rest of the kitchen.

Last thing was the floor. Originally it was tiles laid directly onto concrete and was freezing cold in winter. We removed the radiator to give us space to fit cupboards right up to the wall and plumped for electric underfloor heating, laid on a thick wodge of insulation. The kitchen is so narrow that the area of the mat is only 2m2 – it wasn’t too expensive and we’re hoping that running costs won’t be too high at the low levels we’ll be using.

We have now had our lovely new kitchen for nearly a year and we still love it.  For months I just reveled in the joy of having a working sink! I wanted to try to capture a few memories of the project so that we don’t forget how difficult it was at times. We had an electrician and plasterer in but the rest was LOTS of hard work by the two of us and my boyfriend’s dad.

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Half a new kitchen!

I’ll throw in some more pictures and decorating detail in my next post. If you’re struggling with kitchen re-fit at the moment, keep at it – you’ll get there!

H x

Light and Bright Makeover for Living/Dining Space

A couple more photos of our dining/day living area, now that it’s completely decorated and ‘livable’! Like the rest of the rooms in our house, it’s an odd shape – therefore I’ve tried to use our existing furniture to create zones.

First up, the dining area:

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We’ve got the Expedit Ikea unit on loan from my boyfriend’s brother and his fiancee while they wait to move into their new house. Everyone knows what amazing storage these units are so I don’t need to extoll its virtues, but it was a lifesaver while we were going through the kitchen re-fit! I can see why they are so popular..

I would love to dip dye or paint/distress the table and chairs but have do far been forbidden to do so by my mother – they’ve been passed down through her side of the family.

The other side of the room is the ‘day’ living area – it’s a beautiful warm area on a sunny day like today.

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(unfortunately my camera isn’t doing the light justice!)

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With the french doors open it feels like a garden room, so I stuck to neutral and natural colours. It’s my favourite weekend reading spot!

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This is my attempt at a rustic Ikea Raast hack – I simply stained the wood and swapped in some bronze-effect handles.

Unfortunately all the windows and doors that fill this room with light during the summer months make it a bit chilly in the winter – so I’ve got to make the most of it while I can!

H x