Making cafe curtains for a bay window

When we first moved in to our house nearly four years ago the first thing we did was put up two sheer blinds we had brought from our flat and bought two more for the big bay window in our sitting room that overlooks the street. Our road is a dead end with the entrance to a park so although there is no traffic there’s quite a lot of footfall and every other person turns to look in through the window so some privacy felt much needed. However, the blinds were always meant to be an interim measure for a few reasons: 1) I find them quite sterile and cold feeling 2) If you want privacy they have to be pulled all the way down and I dislike not being able to see any of the window or the sky 3) They are completely opaque during the day but not at night – they only offer a soft blur once the lights go on in the evenings.

I’m sure there are a lot of people in a similar boat who live on a terraced street with minimal front garden so I hope you find this post helpful as I think cafe curtains are a really great solution to the problem of wanting to allow in light whilst still having privacy. The thing I like most about cafe curtains is the fact that they are hung across the window so that I can still see sky. This makes the room feel so much more open and the quality of light when the curtains are drawn is much nicer as natural light is mixed with the diffused light that comes in through the curtains. The other big bonus is that I used curtain rings so that I can draw them completely if I want to, which I do do most days as I actually really like being able to look out especially when I’m working at the dining table during the day. I hated the dull diffused light of the sheer blinds that were almost always pulled all the way down as rolling four blinds up and down was a pain.

These were the blinds we put up as an interim measure (nearly four years ago!!). They were cold and sterile and gave total privacy during the day but none at night. These are John Lewis’s Sheer Blinds.
I much prefer being able to see the sky above the curtains and the softness the fabric adds to the window. I will hang Roman blinds at the top of the window eventually.

I chose the fabric of the curtains very carefully and it required a lot of fabric samples as I needed the curtains to allow lots of light in whilst being opaque at night. Ultimately we will have a set of Roman blinds over the cafe curtains for the evenings but I know that may take a while as they’re expensive therefore my priority was finding a fabric that would give us complete privacy in the evenings. I found a linen from Merchant and Mills that ticked all the boxes and wasn’t too pricey and although not the prettiest linen I was happy to compromise for the other important qualities. The fabric is Tumbled Linen Warm White and I bought 5 metres for my window. The sewing job is an easy one it’s just awkward as the pieces of fabric are so large so unless you have a full size sewing table it’s tricky cutting to size. But other than that it’s just a case of hemming the fabric once you have decided whether you want gathered curtains or a more simple panel. I decided to go for fitted panels as I knew I would want to draw the curtains on a daily basis so I didn’t want too much fabric gathered at the side of each window. One tip I would pass on is to wash the fabric before making the curtains as linen will shrink so your perfectly fitted panels will no longer be perfectly fitted after a wash.

I bought curtain poles from East London Cloth as they are lovely and slim and the brackets fit my square window perfectly, which is very tricky to find. I chose the least expensive brass cafe curtain pole and I’m really happy with them – do go and have a look at the site for some beautiful cafe curtain inspiration. East London Cloth also sell beautiful linen curtains or fabric by the metre if your budget is bigger than mine. I teamed the poles with some very inexpensive antique brass curtain rings so that I can draw the curtains really easily and the combo works brilliantly. I have four rings for each 50cm side panel and eight rings for each 120cm middle panel.

Our windows are uPVC and they were in the house when we bought it. They wouldn’t be my choice but they are in really good condition and work extremely well so for now I want to make the best of them. I was happy to screw the curtain poles straight into the plastic as I know this will be a very long term window treatment and I will be painting the window frames green very soon, which will make the curtains look even better. If you are interested in painting uPVC have a look at my previous blog post Painting a uPVC Front Door.

I hope this is useful – do let me know if you have any questions.

Katy x

The finished IKEA PAX hack wardrobes

As promised, here are pictures of our PAX wardrobes now they have been hacked and painted. If you missed it I shared how we hacked our PAX wardrobes last week and although it was a long process for us – mostly because we customised the door fronts – it has been so worth it.

The concern most people have when they opt for built-in wardrobes is losing a sense of space. However, I would say the opposite is actually true. When you add free standing furniture to a room, especially in a small room, it is the gaps between the furniture and the walls that they stand against that can make a room feel disjointed and cramped. For example, when we had built the wardrobes and had not started the boxing in process the room felt a lot smaller suddenly. This was because the gaps between the sides of the wardrobes and the alcove walls as well as the tops of the wardrobes and the ceiling created horrible gaps and resulting shadows that made the room suddenly feel higgledy piggledy and as I looked around the room my eye just didn’t know what to look at first as there were so many awkward shapes and lines. The moment they were boxed in the room felt calm and cohesive again.

I chose to paint the wardrobes Shaded White, which is ever so slightly darker than the School House White on the walls. It allows the wardrobes to disappear into the walls but the slightly darker tone provides just enough contrast. I just LOVE how light and calm this room is now. When I come into the room it is like walking into a big dreamy cloud. The black fireplace, Inchyra Blue door (when open from the hallway) and a few dots of colour from cushions, plants and the Jitney woodwork are just enough points of contrast for all the neutral paintwork.

I chose to add the corner cupboard rather than having two alcove wardrobes as I really wanted as much storage as possible. Yes, I could have had a a chest of drawers or dressing table along that wall instead but in such a small room it would have been impossible to fill this space with anything that gives me as much storage as the PAX does.

We are so pleased with how the cupboards have turned out. Believe it or not we still haven’t fully organised the interiors so I will have to show you those at a slightly later date when they are finished (quite a lot of just stuffing things in is the current situation. But for those of you wondering, the first cupboard on the left is a shelf with a mirror that acts as a dressing table area with drawers below it for makeup and drawers for underwear. The second cupboard is forward facing hanging, the third cupboard is half shelves and half drawers and then the cupboard in the alcove, which is the deepest is all hanging with high shelves at the top. I will show all soon but it is amazing what it can fit!

I’m very pleased with how little floor space the cupboards take up as we were able to to choose 35cm depth frames for the left hand wall so when I enter the room the cupboards do not feel obstructive.

The big issue I was left with covering so much wall space with the wardrobes and not having any other furniture in the room besides bedside tables was the lighting. I had always had a lamp in the alcove, which combined with the two low hanging pendants over the bedside tables was a perfect amount of light for this small room where I never ever need overhead lights. Therefore, I had to consider wall lights on the chimney breast but this would be a big expense for the light fittings and getting them wired in. So I decided a good option would be to find a small lamp to sit on the very shallow fire surround – a pretty difficult challenge, I can tell you. I did find one from John Lewis (they no longer sell it unfortunately) that fits perfectly as it has an irregular sized shade and luckily I love it, especially the plum coloured base. It was only £55 so this was definitely the least expensive way of dealing with the issue as well as the least hassle and it emits the perfect amount of light for the room. We took a hole out of the side of the wardrobe frame and box so we could plug it in where we have an existing plug hole in the alcove (we made sure all of our plug sockets are exposed by cutting our notches in the cupboard frames).

Jules’s cupboard is on the right side of the room and fits into the alcove but is only 35cm deep as there is so little space between the cupboard and the end of the bed. Jules was concerned that having no symmetry between the two sets of cupboards would look strange but it really isn’t a problem, in my opinion because of the colours we have used. Yes, one set of cupboards is deeper than the other, neither set are central within the alcove and the left hand set has a massive 15cm gap that required boxing in but I really think the boxing in process has smoothed out all of those differences and has made it all look very cohesive.

I took these photos on a very dull day and just as I had finished the sun came out and poured into the room so i took a pic of the the window and I think this gives you a really good sense of just how small the room is.

We’re super pleased and I will follow up with more about the interiors and costs!

Katy x

DIY desk for child’s bedroom

Firstly, I want to say a big hello and I’m sorry that I’ve been away from the blog for so long. Unfortunately, the blog was hacked back in May and it took a long time to restore it (there are still a lot of images missing) and then I took the summer off whilst Mimi was on holiday before she started primary school a couple of weeks ago. I’m not quite sure how we have got to the primary school stage but there you go! Anyhoo, I hope you are all well and I look forward to updating you on what we have been up to in our house and some of the projects I have been working on for clients.

We struggled with Mimi’s room throughout the pandemic as we had planned to update it for her changing needs from toddler to child just before the first lockdown but then got stuck with everything closed etc etc so it became a real mish mash over the last eighteen months. We finally got it together to sort it out, minus the high bed she really wants but I reckon that will make a good Christmas present.

The biggest issues were needing somewhere to put all her trinkets, papers, toys as well as somewhere to sit and draw. I also didn’t want to spend very much and use leftover paint from our initial renovation three years ago. I designed a desk to wrap around the slightly awkward angled wall in her room from one £48 piece of MDF that provides storage and a very large surface for toys and an all important dedicated place to draw, colour and write, which are the things she loves to do most. Everything has been painted in Light Blue by Farrow & Ball – the walls are Estate Emulsion and the woodwork/desk are Estate Eggshell because we have loads of it and I love the colour! Please note that Light Blue is neither light nor is it particularly blue. In some lights it has quite a lot of green, at other times it is very grey or silvery and it never appears ‘light’. I would also not advise using it in a north facing room as it can appear rather drab without a decent dose of sun light.

So, this is where we were at with the room by the end of the third lockdown…

There wasn’t enough space for anything, stuff was always on the floor and she had outgrown constant dressing up so this side of the room just looked a mess and she just stopped using it altogether. No surface was big enough for her to spread herself out and everything was a jumble. I started by painting the whole room, including above the picture rail, Light Blue to make the space feel bigger.

You can kind of see in the images above how taking the colour above the picture rail stretches the walls upwards and makes the room look and feel bigger. The door and woodwork was already Light Blue and I chose to keep it that colour mainly because I really, really didn’t want to re-paint all the woodwork (!) and also because the colour block effect does make a small room feel less disjointed.

We then used one sheet of MDF to create two lengths that join in the middle where the room angles outwards. It would have been sooooo much easier had the wall angled inwards but we needed to create a support for the two lengths, which we did with some of the MDF. We also decided to integrate the exisitng IKEA Trofast unit into the desk for more storage.

The left hand MDF surface is supported by the Trofast unit and then on the right hand side we put MDF batons on the wall at the back and on the right hand wall. We also cut a notch out of the back of the right hand length to reach the plug hole.

We really went to town sanding the edges and corner of the MDF, which makes all the difference. We used woodfiller to fill the gap where the two lengths of MDF meet. I then painted the lot, including the Trofast unit in Ronseal All Purpose primer and then Light Blue Estate Eggshell (I would have used Modern Eggshell but I was trying to use up old paint and the Estate Eggshell has actually worked really well).

We also took down the shelves that were on the wall and used the rest of the MDF sheet to make one long shelf that runs above the desk. Mimi calls this her ‘special shelf’ and puts all of her little trinkets on it (I have to admit I moved a lot of them to take photos!!).

I didn’t originally like the support we made for the centre of the desk where the wall angles outwards but I realised we could use the nook it created for all of the oversized books that Mimi has, which is perfect! I bought a new chair for the desk as her old IKEA one that we got from a neighbour was too small and she was complaining of a sore neck.

I also bought a new duvet cover and poster to add a bit of contrast and to ground all of the blue. On the most part though we have kept things from her original nursery including the quilt, pillows, cushions, toys.

We haven’t done much on this side of the room as this is where we plan to put the high bed – for now Mimi has the old single divan that used to be in what is now our home office.

The great thing about the new desk set up is that the floor is no longer absolutely covered in stuff and it will definitely grow with her even if we have to raise it slightly. And for now it’s just right for our big school kid!

Katy x

Source list:

Walls – Light Blue Farrow and Ball Estate Emulsion

Woodwork, desk and shelf – Light Blue Estate Eggshell

Trofast drawer unit – IKEA

MDF sheet – A standard sheet 2440mm x 1220mm but it needs to be 25mm thick. We got it from a local wood merchant delivered.

Shelf brackets

Desk chair – Sebra

Cane mirror – Kidly

Fine Little Day Jaxx poster – Tea and Kate (I used an old IKEA black metal 50x70cm frame)

Monochrome spot duvet cover – H&M

Bookshelf – Tidy Books

Rejuvenating my bedroom for Spring with The Fine Bedding Company

*This is a paid collaboration with The Fine Bedding Company

Happy New Year everyone! Having spent the last week holed up in my bedroom in isolation (desperately trying to ensure Mimi didn’t get Covid right in time for the start of term!) I have never been more motivated to give this room a deep clean and freshen everything ready for the new year (I’m skipping right over winter and going straight to spring if that’s ok with you). Serendipitously I had agreed a collaboration with The Fine Bedding Company in December and they sent me a coverless duvet to try out, which is a new-to-me product. I immediately got it on the bed when I knew I was going to be isolating and it honestly made the time so much more pleasant!

So let me start by explaining what a coverless duvet is, as I have to admit I found it difficult to get my head around at first. Basically it is a duvet that is washable so no cover is needed. Instead of changing bedlinen each week the whole duvet goes straight into the washing machine and you can then fling it over the line, or the banisters in my case, and it dries in a couple of hours (I’ve tried it and this really works!). Therefore, there are many advantages to this type of bedding as it means less effort in terms of changing bedlinen, less storage needed as multiple sets of bedlinen aren’t required and the duvet can be kept a lot fresher compared to a feather filled duvet that can’t be laundered at home.

The first thing I noticed about the Night Owl coverless duvet was the fact that it feels so cosy. I’m one of those people who actually really enjoys snuggling into the duvet when the cover has been taken off to be washed before a new one goes on. There is something so nice about being in direct contact with the duvet rather than the cover. There is none of that really annoying excess duvet cover as the duvet itself bunches up – why am I always the one left covered in just sheet?! It is also super light and a few quick shakes is all it takes to make the bed in the morning; no re-jigging to get the duvet straight inside its cover.

I chose the plain white seersucker coverless duvet from the Night Owl range as I really like the freshness of white bedlinen. It arrived in a drawstring bag and it made me realise how easily stored it is, which also makes it absolutely ideal if you have regular guests to stay. No hassle of sorting and changing bedlinen or never having quite enough for guests. It would be so easy when the guests leave to just pop the duvet in the washing machine, super quick to dry and ready for the next guests.

There are a couple of other coverless duvets from the Night Owl range that appeal to me including the Outdoor Duvet, which would be PERFECT for camping trips as I so miss a cosy blanket when we camp. Normal blankets or duvets get damp due to the condensation but the outdoor duvet would be a revelation! The other design that I would have snapped up a couple of years ago when we were potty training Mimi is the Junior Duvet as there were far too many occasions that I had to wash duvet covers and pray that feather duvets were kept dry.

I also have the breathable pillows from The Fine Bedding Company and I have to say that in combination with the coverless duvet I really have been the perfect temperature whilst in bed. I am normally far too hot and end up pushing the duvet off but that has not been the case with these pillows and duvet.

I don’t think there will be much staying in bed all day for the foreseeable (I can’t believe I am actually saying this but I really hope there isn’t!) but it felt so nice yesterday to pop everything in the wash and a couple of hours later it was all ready to go back on the bed, clean and fresh and ready for a new year.

Katy x

1930s hallway

(AD – this blog post contains PR products*)

Our hallway was never finished after our initial renovation three years ago as we ran out of funds. It’s been a case of waiting patiently not only to make the space look nicer but to add the much, much needed underfloor heating as our hallway is FREEZING due to draughty floorboards and the external wall on to our side access. We can now finally warmly (literally!) welcome people into our home and coming home ourselves to a warm space is a game changer. Let me chat you through what changes we have made.

Victorian black and white quarry tiles | Walls and Floors* (PR product)

Flooring

First and foremost on the priority list was to install underfloor heating. This meant we would have to cover up the original boards, which was just something I had to accept as I would have loved to keep the boards and have a lovely kilim rug BUT practically speaking this was just not an option. Underfloor heating and tiles were the answer to make the hallway significantly warmer and easily cleanable (having Otto in mind, as ever). I’m very happy with our tile choice – Black and White Victorian Quarry tiles from Walls and Floors* (PR product). Considering thirties properties were not traditionally tiled I didn’t want to choose anything too intricate or Victorian and I really didn’t want anything too contemporary as it’s just not my thing. I feel the black and white quarry tiles are classic and importantly they certainly won’t date. They will also enable me to change the decor in the future (I envisage a plaster coloured hallway in a few years!). They are so easy to clean and the black grout means they won’t end up looking mucky like some encaustic tiles and lighter grout can do. Importantly for me, the Victorian White Quarry Tile is not brilliant white but rather an off white that almost directly matches the Shaded White paint on the walls. This makes a huge difference as the white tiles don’t feel as stark as bright white ones can so I’m very pleased about that. The other bonus of these tiles is that they stretch out the space and make it feel so much bigger as well as reflecting the light so it really has a different feel to the old wood that absorbed all the light. They’re perfect.

Our tiler was very impressed with the quality of the tiles and how easily they cut , which makes the fact that they were the least expensive tiles that I sampled even better! Our tiler did a brilliant job as I asked for the tiles to be laid in a diamond formation as I think that makes them look more traditional but it makes laying them much more difficult. I chose to buy a small border tile to go around the perimeter of the space to add a traditional touch but border tiles are very expensive so even though I wanted a thicker border comprised of two or three tiles there was no way we could afford that. The border tiles I bought were black individual rectangle tiles 150x25mm and they are exactly the same texture and colour as the black square tiles we have used in the main area. The black Mapai grout is brilliant as our walls aren’t straight and there were quite a few kinks to work around so where there were gaps the black grout fills in so well.

We did discuss with our builder the option of removing all the skirting (that we had put on new three years ago) and removing all the original boards but in the end we opted to keep the boards and use a more expensive UFH system called Schluter. This did mean that we have ended up with less skirting as the level of the floor is higher but it really isn’t noticeable. It also meant far less labour for the builder so the whole job ended up being £1700.

Three weeks in and the combo of UFH and tiles is dreamy. I still can’t quite believe I’m able to walk around in socks in comfort and Mimi lies on the floor every morning whilst I faff around trying to get us both out of the door. Otto is also a massive fan and has been really enjoying his new napping spot. We’re all very, very pleased!

Storage and seating

The next big change I wanted to make was to remove the ‘temporary’ console storage table I bought secondhand three years ago for £15. It always looked so untidy as the storage was open and we always ended up going into the sitting room to change our shoes as there was no where to sit. Therefore, I was very sure that I wanted a storage seat and I did have a good look at antique options, specifically Hungarian settles, but generally they are either too big or too small for our space. They also have very high arms, which can make a space feel more cramped, and often the storage seat isn’t fully acessible. I did find one but the seller let me down so I was thrilled to come across this Elkstone Oak Monks Bench from The Cotswold Company* (PR product). Not only is it the perfect length but it has no arms, which makes it feel far less imposing and we can perch on the end if necessary. Also, the entire seat lifts up so there is SO MUCH storage as well as a soft closing function. We can now store woollens, bike helmets, excess shoes, shopping totes and all those other bits and bobs that are unsightly but need a home in a hallway. We are going to try and find some dividers to make the storage more organised. We can just tuck every day shoes under the bottom of the bench too as it stands on legs. It’s completely ideal.

Hallway storage bench | The Cotswold Company* (PR product)

The Cotswold Company have a huge amount of hallway furniture and accessories and I have to say it was up there with one of the best furniture orders/deliveries I have experienced. Not only was the bench ‘in stock’ so no huge lead times but it arrived about two days after the order was placed and the delivery company was brilliant; great communication, changed the allocated day for me with no issues and they were super careful when they made the actual delivery. The packaging was great and there wasn’t a single quality issue, which if you order furniture regularly you’ll know is extremely rare. Anyhoo, having a seat in the hallway makes everyday life much easier and we’ve found when guests come they are much more likely to leave coats and bags on there rather than bringing them into the sitting room, which is something that drives me a bit mad (just me?!).

The other storage we added was a little street find shelf that we had mounted as a shelf below a mirror but I realised that if we turned it upside down we could add some hooks and use it as a peg rail and the shelf above is very handy for glasses etc.

Wall colour

The woodwork has stayed exactly the same and was painted Inchyra Blue three years ago. I still really love it. However, one big budget saver we made was agreeing to have all walls in the house painted brilliant white. I knew I would change them slowly as we got to know the house and I’ve actually really enjoyed the process of taking my time. I painted the walls myself before the tiles were laid and chose Shaded White to complement the Inchyra Blue (both Farrow & Ball)and bare wood of the doors. It brings so much more warmth to the space. I haven’t painted the ceiling yet (the brilliant white really sticks out like a sore thumb to me) but maybe after Christmas! I decided to paint up to the cornice as that makes the ceiling feel higher and as it’s not a nice cornice it doesn’t emphasise it more than needs be.

Lighting

A huge priority for me was to improve the lighting in the hallway during this process. I’ve been desperate for wall lights to add some really warm light so I asked the builder to add a plug socket behind the bench which cost £100. I didn’t want to pay more to have the lights chased in and a socket gives flexibility if we ever shift things around or want a floor lamp, for example. I found relatively inexpensive wall lights on sale although I share the link with the warning that they come with plastic cabling (that I’ve removed in order to change it), bright white lampshades and euro plug adapters (so I will have to add UK plugs when I re-wire them). However, even with new lampshades, new cable and plugs they have still worked out about half the price of what I would have paid for an equivalent wall light. I bought new lampshades from the very talented Munro & Kerr that work so well in combination with the tiles and colours as well as adding some lovely texture and I ordered some linen coloured fabric cable that was delivered today so I will add that to the lights later. I am thrilled with the warm cosy light – thrilled!

Beautiful handmade raffia lampshades | Munro & Kerr

Accessories

The huge 80cm round mirror above the bench is perfect and bounces much needed light around. A plant up on the shelf makes more difference than you could ever imagine and I would really like to find a lovely piece of art to go where the portrait currently is next to the front door but all in good time.

Still to do

You may have noticed that the stairs are still in their raw state but we don’t quite have the strength to deal with those and I know I want to install Unnatural Flooring manmade sisal when we can afford it so there’s not much motivation to go to all the effort to paint them. We shall see. The front door is still very much on the list of something to change but in the mean time I plan to re-paint it a lighter colour as it feels very dark with the new tiles.

But other than that it really does feel like a finished space now, which is amazing after three years of it feeling like the remnants of the renovation building site. If you have any specific questions about the tiles or anything else do let me know and I hope you like the changes!

Katy x