WAS TAKING ON A RENOVATION PROJECT IN OUR NEW HOUSE THE RIGHT THING FOR US? #AD

I sat on the sofa last week with Jules, Mimi had just gone to bed, and I looked around the living room and out to the garden and I just said: “I love this house so much. It has made me so happy.” Just over a year after buying it, overseeing the renovation project, and doing a lot of home improvement it finally feels as though the inside of the house is very nearly done! And it’s a really good feeling. So, when I was sent The GoodHome Report, published by B&Q in partnership with the Happiness Research Institute, I completely agreed with the findings. How we feel about our homes is key to our happiness. In fact, our homes account for 15% of our total happiness, and I can well believe it! This makes them more important to our wellbeing than our income (6%), our general fitness (14%) or our job (3%).

This view out to our garden makes me so happy – I love the fact that we have been able to above to open up the whole downstairs so we can see the garden from wherever we are in the room.

When we moved in to the house, the first problem which bothered us was the fact the downstairs was three very small rooms. This wasn’t practical for us as a family, as we wanted more of an open plan area, which we could all be in and enjoy at the same time. We also felt this would be the perfect space for inviting friends and family around. Our house is also relatively small, as you can see from the photographs, which made creating a sense of space even more crucial. This is especially the case with all the kids’ paraphernalia we had, and the need for plenty of storage, and roominess to feel relaxed and comfortable.

Our house is relatively small but knocking down walls has transformed the downstairs and made it feel so much more spacious.

In order to improve our home and how we felt about it, we decided to renovate the downstairs into one space, as we knew this would work better for us. Even though it still wasn’t the biggest of areas when complete, we knew it would make a big difference to our happiness levels. As the Report found, the actual size of a home doesn’t matter, it’s the sense of space you create within it. Opening up the entire downstairs has made our home feel open, larger and it has flooded the space with light, which gives me a spring in my step every single day. Obviously knocking down walls isn’t something everyone can do but just simply re-arranging the furniture in a room can have a HUGE impact on how spacious and light a room feels. We debated for a long time as to whether taking on the renovation was the right thing for our family; often the price or lack of expertise can put people off taking on home improvement or even stop them halfway through the project. But having done so, I can say without a doubt that our home is one of my greatest sources of happiness and pride. I love coming home, I feel proud when my friends and family are here and I love more than anything watching how happy Mimi and Otto are here. Apparently inviting people in to share our homes makes them even happier places to be (except for the absolute carnage that having small children here can make!) and increases our emotional connections with where we live and I really believe this to be true. I now have a whole host of happy memories tied up with times we have spent here with loved ones: Mimi’s first Halloween party, her second birthday party, New Year’s Eve drinks, numerous lovely times with friends and their children.

Our home has become such a happy place for Mimi to grow up.

When we moved in all of the structural work, the wiring and plumbing, plastering and decorating and bathroom had been done but we left ourselves a few fairly major projects to do in order to save money, like the downstairs renovation. However, it wasn’t just these major projects, but
also smaller home improvement projects that were on my list, to make the space feel more homely and personal. We were definitely to be found down at our local B&Q most weekends when we first moved, and I’m pretty good at adding projects to the list, so weekends there happen almost as often these days too.

For example, a small change we wanted to make was introducing more greenery into our space. As well as the garden and park that we back on to, filling my home with plants, such as growing herbs on the kitchen windowsill, even though only a small change, really did make a difference
to how calm the space felt. The Report does say that having no access to green space (about 10% of people) makes people significantly less happy and I can well believe that. It suggests that taking the time to improve our homes and investing time and energy into the process is actually an investment in our happiness. I know that after every weekend of home improvement and achieving one of our goals on our to-do list it made me so, so happy. With every step, it made our house look and feel and work better for us and ultimately made life easier.

We still have LOADS of work to do outside, which is our next big project!

So in summary, the GoodHome Report recommends five things that we can all do to make our homes happier: re-arrange the space, make time to update our homes, invite people in, get green-fingered and add personality to the space. As a result of our home improvement projects we have been able to do all of these things. We are so looking forward to spending our first summer in our new home (and dare I say painting the exterior..?) This house really has made me so happy and I would probably say that it accounts for more than the 15% of my overall happiness that the GoodHome report suggests. What about you – how emotionally attached are you to your home? Could you make any of the changes I’ve discussed to make you feel happier and prouder at home? I’d love to know what you think.

B&Q have launched the GoodHome range to help make home improvement so much more simple and accessible for everyone. It offers new products, from paint to garden fencing (we need some of that!), providing great quality at low prices, designed to suit a range of budgets. Ultimately, the range has been created to help people have a happy home that they feel good about. If you’re considering a renovation or home improvement project to make your home a happier place I would strongly recommend it! You can read more insights from the report for yourself here.

Katy x

*This post is a paid collaboration with B&Q.

How to frame your art work with eFrame

I have waited nearly eight months before hanging anything on the walls after moving in to the house. Firstly, I’ve been waiting to figure out what I want and where and secondly I’ve been saving up to buy a few new prints as I’ve never really invested in art work so I didn’t really have much to hang on the walls here (except a few pieces that I had for Mimi’s room that I had from our old flat). In fact, I’ve decided it’s something that I would really like to focus on saving for as it makes such a difference to the way a home looks and feels. Hanging the right piece in the right place can instantly make a room feel ‘finished’.

This is one of the new prints I have bought recently and framed using eFrame. I am beyond thrilled with it as I really feel that it has made this space feel complete.

Starting or adding to an art collection is a whole topic in itself but today I want to focus on framing art work as this often seems to be a massive stumbling block for a lot of us. I am very pleased to be collaborating with eFrame on this post to bring you my advice on how best to frame your wall art on a budget so that you can actually get it up on the wall rather than stashed in tubes or piled up in a corner.

I have had this portrait unframed and either propped up on a shelf or stashed inside a heavy book to keep it safe for the last few years. I am so happy to have had a bespoke frame made by eFrame to fit it perfectly so it can finally hang on the wall after all these years.

Budget for framing

First and foremost I would say that it doesn’t make sense to buy a poster/print/original art work if you don’t have the money to frame it. I think it’s really important to add the cost of the framing to the cost of the art work you are buying otherwise you run the risk of never ever getting it on the wall.

I bought this alphabet print for Mimi’s room and didn’t get a frame for it as soon as it arrived. This was a massive error as Mimi managed to get her hands on it and tear a corner and scrunch one side of it! I managed to salvage it and chose a simple 14mm black wooden frame from eFrame that will hopefully protect it from naughty fingers in the future.

There are a few different options when it comes to framing with a professional framer doing it being the most expensive option by far. If paying someone else to do it is out of your budget then eFrame is definitely your next best option. Not only do they offer custom frames (and mounts) made to your exact measurements but they offer such a wide range of frame and mount styles. Admittedly, it can be cheaper to buy mass produced frames elsewhere but choosing that option is so difficult unless your art work is of a standard size but even in that case the choice of frames is usually very limited and they always tend to be relatively bulky as they are not handmade as the ones from eFrame are.

Once you know what print you want to buy it is so easy to tap in the measurements to the eFrame site and get an accurate idea of how much a frame is going to cost for that exact piece so you can budget accordingly.

To mount or not to mount

It can be tricky to know whether or not to use a mount within a frame. Some art pieces look great with mounts and others look much better with just a frame. Generally I would say that smaller pieces look better with a mount as it makes the overall piece bigger and it draws the eye to the art work itself. Larger pieces, especially posters, don’t need a mount as they have enough impact on their own. 

You can add more drama to a piece by using a coloured mount or even a black mount but often restraint pays off as an off white mount will makes most pieces look lovely.

eFrame do standard sized framing mounts in lots of different colours as well as custom sized mounts cut to your exact specifications, which is so useful if you have an unusual sized piece. One tip I would give you is to always make your mount 0.5cm smaller than your art work so that it sits comfortably behind the mount and doesn’t fall through the aperture.

I decided to have a mount for this print that Jules bought me for Mother’s Day. I went for a textured rose pink colour to tie in the colours of the print and the colours within Mimi’s room where it hangs. I think this colour makes the art work stand out rather than detracting from it.

On the other hand I just love the simplicity of this frame with no mount and all the focus is on the print itself.

I was considering this frame with a mount for this print as it is a mid sized print so it looks good with or without a mount. However, although I love how fresh it looks with the white mount I just think it stands out more with no mount. What do you think?

For this poster sized print a mount would have been overkill as it is so big already.

Colour and material of frame

When buying new, I am a big fan of slim wooden frames as a rule as I think they are classic and they sit against the wall well without protruding too far (which is a major reason that I hate buying frames from high street shops as they are always so bulky and deep). I also think that wooden frames are preferable to metal ones as wood is softer looking and more elegant.

The choice of colours and textures that eFrame offer is brilliant; from bright primary colours to highly decorative gold frames that would make a vintage or antique piece look amazing. To help you decide what colour to go for it depends on the colours in the art work but also the colours in the room you intend to hang it in. eFrame offer a very handy tool where you can upload an image of your art work and try out the different frames. This is very helpful and I would definitely recommend using it.

Try to pick out a colour within the room that will complement the frame and make it feel a part of the overall interior scheme of that room rather than a random add on.

I chose a beautiful 12mm natural bare wood frame for this print as I knew I wanted to hang it in the bathroom and the bare wood ties in really well with the bathroom door.

I chose exactly the same natural wood frame for this print in my hallway as it ties in with the stripped doors so well.

This print is a bit more kitschy so I chose a moulded gold frame that actually works perfectly with the feel of the piece.

Another point to add is that all these frames are offered by eFrame with Clarity+ premium synthetic glass, which is so much better than real glass in my mind as it makes each frame so much lighter and safer to hang (especially like the one above that is near Mimi’s cot.

I have my eye on a few more pieces that I will get framed and hang very soon and then next up I want to focus on getting some family photographs framed as I have absolutely none up on the walls, which feels sad. I will definitely be using eFrame for that as you can upload the photograph directly on to their site and they print it and frame it for you so it takes all the hassle out of the process – amazing!

Hope this has been helpful and I will keep you up to date with how I do with covering my walls finally!

Katy x

*This post is a paid collaboration with eFrame but all opinions are my own.

Finishing off our kitchen

We moved into our house just over six months ago now and at the time we promised ourselves that we would finish off the kitchen within that first week after doing most of it as a rushed DIY job the week before we moved in. Fast forward six months and no prizes for guessing that nothing had been ticked off the to do list including tiling the splash back, which by this point was getting more and more unpleasant as it gets splattered by food cooking on the stove, coffee from the machine, water from the sink and the chopping boards leaning against it have scuffed it badly. Therefore, when Maitland & Poate got in touch about showcasing their antique tiles sourced from Spain in our kitchen it was just the push we needed to finally finish off the job.

I found it very difficult to choose which tile to use as the family team behind Maitland & Poate source such beautiful genuine antique cement tiles and each design is so different. My first choice was actually this design but Jules vetoed me on it as he didn’t like the colours so we compromised on the Ceniza tile. We chose this tile because the colours tone so well with the Light Blue on our wood work and the Railings that we painted our kitchen cupboards.

Jules and I decided to install the tiles ourselves to save money although it is advised to get a professional to install cement tiles as they are porous and need sealing. These particular tiles are also much thicker than average glazed tiles. However, we tiled our last kitchen so we already had a tile cutter and all the tools and because these tiles have already been sealed during their lifetime they are far more forgiving than brand new cement tiles that need to be treated with far more care so that they don’t absorb moisture and stains before being fully sealed.

Maitland & Poate also sell a range of new cement tiles and I was very tempted by these pink tiles. I’ve been asked a lot about what makes cement tiles different and I would say it is the matt texture, which makes them feel and look different. The main difference with the antique cement tiles is that they aren’t in ‘perfect’ condition. They have been reclaimed so there may be chips or slight staining, which all adds to their character.

We didn’t find it much more challenging installing the antique tiles than doing new glazed ones other than it’s a little tricker laying them flat as the back of them aren’t always flat having been chipped out of their original place. We followed Maitland & Poate’s recommendation and used Ecoprotec sealant and that seems to have worked well.

The only thing we still need to do is the sealant between the bottom of the tiles and the worktop. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take us another six months…!

Have you ever considered antique tiles? I think these would make for an amazing statement floor. What do you think?

Thank you so much to the wonderful Maitland & Poate team for collaborating with me on this project.

Katy x

Adding storage to my bedroom with an ottoman storage bed from Button & Sprung

Moving to a three bedroom house from a two bedroom flat has definitely given us more space but there is one room in our new house that is significantly smaller than in our previous flat and that is the master bedroom. In the long term we would like to convert our loft, which would make for a lovely sized master bedroom but for now we have to make the best of a small room.

I had planned to have a relatively low bed with legs as I think that style of bed makes a small room feel as spacious as possible especially as the light can travel under the bed. However, I soon came to realise that I would end up stuffing things under the bed as there is absolutely no built in storage and I HATE having a mass of dusty things under the bed. I started looking at divan beds with drawers but I think these can get annoying especially if you overfill them or there is a rug on the floor that rucks up every time they are opened. Also, on the window side of our bed there simply isn’t enough space to pull out a drawer and on the other side I would have to move the bedside table every time I wanted to open the drawer.

The lovely team at Button & Sprung got in touch with me at this point as they wanted to collaborate to showcase one of their beds in my new bedroom. I was hesitant at first as I just couldn’t figure out what type of bed to go for. I relayed the various problems I had to the team and they suggested their ottoman storage bed. Of course! It solved all of the problems I had: it stores a massive amount, it is all fully accessible and it is no bigger than a normal sized king size bed.

I went into the Button & Sprung showroom to have a look at the king size ottoman and try it out (being a bit unsure as to how the mechanism works and whether it’s more hassle than it’s worth). The staff were so lovely and patient as they answered all my questions and even chased Mimi around so I could concentrate on the beds.

The bed has a gas-lifting top that is very easy to lift and opens to reveal a huge space for storage.

The first thing the staff pointed out was that you need a mattress that weighs at least 35kg to keep the bed shut. I had one of those so that was all good. The next thing they showed me was how to lift up the top of bed and close it again. It takes very little effort to open the bed but it definitely takes effort to close it. However, I have got used to it very quickly and open the bed twice a day every day as we keep Otto’s dog bed in there during the day as there’s not enough floor space in the room to have it out.

Once the bed is open the entire base of the bed is available for storage and you would be AMAZED at how much you can fit in. We have so little built in storage or space for cupboards in our house so this amount of space is a god send. I actually used the space as a makeshift wardrobe for the first few weeks as we had nowhere else to put clothes.

The sides of the base are all beautifully upholstered so there are no nasty sharp edges to bash shins on and the edges also don’t protrude beyond the mattress so it takes up no more space than an average king size bed. This was very important to me as I wanted the bed to take up as little space as possible.

I was totally sold on the idea of the ottoman after my showroom visit and I also left with lots of fabric samples. Whilst I was there I also had to decide on the headboard style. Aesthetically I tend to prefer beds with no headboards but on a practical level it can just be a bit gross as the wall gets all grubby and your pillows end up down the gap between the bed and wall. Therefore, I wanted the most minimal headboard available and the Burdock style is just that: no frills, just a classic shape that won’t date.

I chose the Burdock king size ottoman bed as the headboard is the perfect simple shape for a small room.

The headboard is very comfortable and in terms of comfort you would never know the bed itself is anything other than a conventional bed; the ottoman base makes absolutely no difference to how sturdy it feels. You would never in a million years know that the base is hollow and this all lies beneath…

I chose the linen fabric for the upholstery as I wanted to keep it neutral in such a small room so it didn’t feel too dominant.

My bed is upholstered in Plain Viscose Linen fabric in the ‘Linen’ colour way.

It’s a lovely soft colour that works very well with my new wall colour…

I have recently repainted my bedroom in School House White from Farrow & Ball, which works much better with the natural linen colour of the upholstered bed.

I am so pleased that Button & Sprung introduced me to this style of bed as I had never considered it before. It is working for us so well on a practical level and I really admire the design as it doesn’t feel too big or heavy in such a small room even though it gives us a massive storage space akin to a huge cupboard.

Thank you to Button & Sprung for partnering with me on this post. I would definitely recommend you investigate an ottoman storage bed if you too are struggling with space/storage or if you just can’t help but shove endless stuff under your bed!

Katy x

*This post was written in collaboration with Button & Sprung.

Painting my uPVC front door

Happy new year everyone! I hope you all had a good break. I don’t know about anyone else but my fave part about the holidays is the time between Christmas and New Year as I get a chance to do DIY and organise stuff I’ve been ignoring the rest of the year. We took this opportunity to figure out a solution to a problem that’s been bugging me since we moved into the house which is our horrid UPVC front door. The door does not match the period style of our hallway so one day I would really love to change it back to an original 30s wooden front door. In the meantime, however, I have been desperate to find a way to improve the way it looks from the inside without spending much (absolutely no point in doing anything to the outside yet as that would be the very definition of polishing a turd! The brown pebble dash frontage and rotting fence have to be sorted first before anyone can even think about the front door). The door is a very cheap one with unpleasant mouldings and no glazing so it’s a big solid lump of white plastic and the sheen of uPVC is perhaps the thing I like least about it. We have uPVC back doors and windows throughout the house, which don’t bother me at all (in fact, I’ve grown to be very grateful for them as they are so effective) but the front door is such a large lump of the stuff that I just can’t bear it anymore. I just don’t want those faux period mouldings in my life!

We talked about paneling over the door and other impractical solutions like that and the only sensible thing we could come up with was to paint over the door in a very dark colour that would make the mouldings disappear and remove the sheen of the uPVC. But you can’t paint over this type of surface…right? Wrong! We’ve done it. It’s a triumph and I could not be happier with the results. Ronseal had asked me to choose a product for a DIY project I was doing at home so I chose their One Coat All Surface Primer and Undercoat with the intention of transforming the inside of our front door and beginning the process of making our hallway feel and look better. It worked so well and we went over it with a very dark blue satin paint left over from our kitchen cabinets so we’ve made a big difference with very little cost.

Ronseal uPVC primer on front door

Let me chat you through how we did it and what it used to look like…

You can see more of what the hallway looks like in this post and whilst I am very happy with the paint colour, the introduction of a dado rail as well as dipping the original internal doors the front door just stood out like a sore thumb. Almost as bad as the uPVC was the gold plastic letterbox 😉 There was no point painting over the white plastic in any colour other than a very dark one – as the dark colour is what would help make the mouldings far less obvious – and I thought choosing the wall colour would be a bit overwhelming so I went with the same paint as we choose on our kitchen cabinets (you can see details of my kitchen here). However, a primer suitable for uPVC was essential to make sure the paint adhered to the shiny surface of the plastic.

Ronseal all surface primer

We prepped the door with Ronseal’s One Coat All Surface Primer and Undercoat after a light sand and clean. The primer was very easy to apply and it did only need one coat.

We also decided to prime and paint the gold plastic letterbox and we may replace the handle for a dark one too but we didn’t think it was worth painting it because of the wear it gets.

This is what the door looked like before we went to bed that night and we waited until the morning to do the second coat.

After the second coat the door looked like this and the shine of the satin paint could be seen making the door look more like a painted wooden one rather than a plastic one. We did end up with lots of brush strokes in the paint so it definitely wouldn’t be classed as a professional paint job but I really don’t mind as it makes it look and feel a bit less pristine, which is part of what makes it stick out like a sore thumb when contrasted with the old floorboards.

And here is the finished door…

As you can see, the mouldings are far less obvious in the dark colour and I think the colour works well with the period feel of the dado rail and wall colour. Being able to paint over the letterbox has also made a big difference, in my opinion.

I am delighted with the results and the texture of a painted door rather than a plastic door is such an improvement! I’m amazed how easily we were able to paint over the uPVC and it’s just the temporary fix I was looking for before we can afford to fit an original 30s door. I’ve now got my eye on a lovely big round mirror to go on the left hand wall and a ceramic wall light to soften the light in here as the spotlights are hellish. After that we need some prints and storage furniture but all in good time.

What do you think? Be honest!

Katy x

*This post was written as part of a paid collaboration with Ronseal.