Five arguments we had during our house renovation

I’ve been meaning to write in more detail about the renovation process but haven’t really had the time until now. I often get messages from people who are about to start the process and they have lots of questions, as I did before we started our renovation, so I thought it would be helpful to write a series of posts dedicated to the subject.

This may not seem like the natural way to begin but I wanted to tell you about five things Jules and I really struggled to agree on during our renovation I guess because they have really stuck in my mind because of the arguments!

Replacing picture rails

Believe it or not this was our biggest point of conflict. We had to have the whole house re-plastered so the original picture rails were removed. We had accounted for replacing the skirting and architraves but forgot about budgeting for the supply and fitting of picture rail, coving in the living room and adding a dado rail in the hallway. These three things would amount to £950. Jules was adamant that this was a waste of money and that we could do it ourselves at a later date and in fact he still thinks it was a waste of money. However, it was something I felt very, very strongly about. We had lived in a new build flat for about eight years and we made a conscious decision to buy a period home and I felt it was really important to salvage or replace period features as otherwise this house could very easily have felt completely soulless and once inside you would never have known it was a period home. And yes, we probably could have done it ourselves at a later point (the materials needed are not massively expensive) BUT I knew full well that that would never, ever have happened as we don’t have the time or energy. So yes, I can see why some people would see it as a very unnecessary thing to spend that amount of money on but for me it was crucial to making this house feel the way I wanted it to. Anyhoo, cut a long story short and I won the argument and Jules still resents it!!

Replacing the picture rail adds so much character in my opinion and it such a distinctive feature of 1930s houses. I love the effect you can create by painting above and below the picture rail in different colours. As it happens we have since changed the colour of this room but you get the idea.

Radiators

When it came to our building quote the building materials and labour were fixed costs but we were responsible for choosing and purchasing top coat paint, radiators, bathroom suite, tiles and underfloor heating. Therefore, we had the ability to reduce our costs by choosing the cheapest of these items. However, I felt very strongly that it would be very wrong to choose ugly radiators just because they are cheap. I knew that all of the radiators had to be replaced and I knew that they would be positioned under the windows in most rooms in full sight and I hated the idea of saving a couple of hundreds pounds and having to stare at them for the next however many years knowing they could have been a lovely feature instead. I insisted that we got traditional column radiators and we are both very glad that that decision was made now as it does make a huge difference to way a room looks and feels. Also, we bought them in the sales so they didn’t end up being ridiculously expensive – they are these double panel colosseum column radiators (the one below was painted by our decorator).

Word of warning – do NOT let your partner make renovation decisions without discussing it with you first as otherwise they will authorise the cheapest ugliest plastic valves for your lovely new radiators!

Front door

From the moment I viewed the house I said we had to change the front door as that and the windows were the only original features that had been replaced over time. I could deal with the uPVC window frames (and there was no way we had the budget to replace them as they worked perfectly well) but the front door was ugly, blocked out a lot of light and it doesn’t feel particularly sturdy. Let’s be frank though, it was the ugly thing that bothered me most! Jules was very pragmatic about it and insisted it was just an aesthetic issue and there was no way of justifying replacing it. I soon accepted that our budget just wasn’t going to stretch to it and our builder confirmed that it would be an easy enough job to do at a later date was it doesn’t really affect anything else – it’s a nice neat job that wouldn’t require ripping up any other work we had already had done. We actually got a quote for it relatively recently but unfortunately we had to buy a new car so the money allocated for the door went on that instead. I have to say that I’m kind of glad we haven’t had it done as I now see that money spent on the garden will be far more beneficial to our quality of life. However, painting the door the uPVC has made it look so far better! I wrote a blog post about how to paint uPVC if you need more information.

I hated the uPVC door and was desperate to replace it immediately.
However, I managed to improve the way it looks by painting and now realise that money will be better spent improving our garden for now.

Fireplaces

Jules and I were both in agreement that the two original 1930s fire surrounds needed to be removed as the tiles were chipped and they were really not our style. Jules just wanted to plasterboard over the chimney breasts but there was no way I was letting that happen for the reasons I explained above about making the house feel like a period home. Not only did I want to replace one of the fire surround downstairs but I also wanted to add fireplaces into the bedrooms as we uncovered the original hearths when we pulled up the laminate flooring and I knew that the bedrooms would look so much better with a bit of character. To appease Jules I made sure I sourced fireplaces very cheaply from eBay and I agreed we wouldn’t spend money on a wood-burning stove for the living room any time soon. Compromise, compromise! I hope you agree that the fireplaces I sourced definitely add a lot to each of these rooms…

Re-sanding the floors

There’s a very long story to the sanding of our floorboards (I’ll do a separate post about what we did as I get SO many questions about it) but to summarise Jules was so over the whole thing by the time it came to finishing them. He set off one weekend to start the oiling and sent me update pics – remember we were living at my sister’s during the renovation so I usually had to stay behind with Mimi who was at the ‘trying to kill herself’ phase so a building site was most definitely not an easy place to take her. By the next morning when the finish was dry on the first room he sent me a picture and I was horrified! It looked purple! In my mind there was no way we could keep it as it was but Jules was so worn down by that point he couldn’t even consider having to re-sand and then re-finish the floors. Deep down he knew it didn’t look right but he really didn’t have the time or energy to do it all again so we ended up handing over the job to our builders -.

This was the floor after Jules had used Osmo white oil and it was horrible! It looked purple so it had to be re-sanded and re-finished. I will write a post about the final finish we decided on soon.

I think we did relatively well only having five arguments during the renovation – haha! I hope I don’t make it sound too fraught as I’d say we had a really straightforward experience with no major stresses or strains. As I said I will follow up with some more details about the process – if there is anything in particular that you would like to know let me know via email or in the comments below.

Katy x

New Year House Resolutions

I know this is a month late but hey ho. I never make resolutions for myself but I decided to make a couple of house resolutions this year. I think both Jules and I felt frustrated by the end of last year at the extent of work we could do on our house but not having the funds to carry any of it out.

The outside of our house needs a complete overhaul.

Therefore, my first resolution is to not spend any money on home accessories this year (I have a long list of things I want, believe me!!) and instead try and save any money we can. If there are things that need to be done or bought (for example, we could do with a wardrobe for Mimi’s room) I will use eBay or Gumtree etc to source one and ensure I sell something from the house to cover the cost.

Secondly, we have resolved to clear out our loft. I have no idea whatsoever how or why it is so full considering we moved from a two bed flat – where oh where it was stored in there I will never know! Anyway, it is bursting at the seams and it is a literal and metaphorical weight on my shoulders so it needs to be sorted. Lots of it can be sold, some can be passed on to friends/family and the rest can be donated or recycled. Of course, there are a few things, like Christmas decorations, that will be stored up there but otherwise it has to go. It’s a massive job so I’ve promised to get two large things or one box down each weekend and get rid of them in a very considered way and I hope that makes it a more manageable job.

The horrors that lie above!

There are definitely quite a few things that we still want to do inside the house: the hallway floor to be tiled, the stairs to be carpeted, the fire hearths to be tiled, the spare room to be accessorised, fitted cupboards to be installed in our room and I still want to wallpaper the living room. However, Jules and I have both agreed that we are going to leave all those jobs for now and focus on the outside of the house. Firstly, the house needs to be painted, the front garden and fence needs a complete makeover and back garden needs a complete overhaul.

So there you go, I’ve written it down now so it has to happen, right? How about you? Any house resolutions of your own?

Katy x

Creating a play space and toy storage in a small home

Happy new year all! I promised at the end of last year that I would begin 2020 with a blog post about toy storage so here we go. Mimi started pre-school this month so I’m excited to get back to the blog on a more regular basis now I’ll have more time. She has just turned three so I will have her at home from lunchtime for the next eighteen months so ‘play’ has been very much at the front of my mind the last few months and trying to figure out ways I can encourage independent play so that our afternoons can be a nice mix of staying at home with her happily occupied as well as doing stuff together.

We have no playroom so I had to come up with a way of creating a play area in a small space.

I noticed a few months ago that she was struggling to play independently and not really engaging at all with the few toys we had. I was therefore struggling to get anything done as she was constantly asking me to entertain her. As an ex-teacher I know that children benefit a huge amount from independent play as it helps to develop imagination amongst many other things and I just wasn’t seeing much of this with Mimi. So I set about making changes not only to the toys we had but most importantly to the way we use our living space, which is relatively small. We definitely have no playroom and only one open plan room downstairs so I needed to find a way of not only storing Mimi’s toys there but creating a space that was hers where she could actually play.

We had to change the few toys that we did have to incorporate more open ended toys and loose parts, which encourage far more engaged play compared to a toy with one specific function.
I bought two Kallax shelves from IKEA (at the time there were none available on gumtree or eBay but well worth checking as they are such a popular IKEA items). I chose one long shelf (this one) and one small one (this one) and lay them both on their sides.

I have to say first and foremost that the way the play area looked was definitely not at the front of my mind; my only priorities were to make it a practical space that would encourage play as well as not spending much money – aesthetics just didn’t come into it (if you did want nicer looking shelves have a look at these but they are so much more expensive than the IKEA ones). I decided to use the space between our living room and dining space, where the wall between these rooms would have been originally.

I decided to use this space for Mimi’s play area as this is right in the middle of the living space, which would make it far more likely that she would use it as she’s near me in whatever part of the living space I am in here – I’ve found that if you stick kids in a corner out of the way they just won’t stay there!

The two Billy bookcase cupboards that I have here were cleared out and I allocated both to toy storage and craft stuff. I then added two Kallax shelves from IKEA that were intended to store toys to make them easily accessible and to create a surface on which to play and where toys could be left out without them being spread all over the floor.

Kallax shelves laid on their sides with a mat make a cosy little space that Mimi loves. The mat I bought has been discontinued but H&M now do this jute rug instead, which is very similar (it has a latex back so it doesn’t move around, which is perfect). Or there is this one from Ferm Living, which is on sale.

The Kallax shelves are very inexpensive and are the perfect height for Mimi to play on the surface whilst standing or kneeling and then I added a mat from H&M where she can play whilst sitting. The key to encouraging independent play was to store the toys we had differently as well as adding to our toy collection very carefully.

The Schleich animals that I have been slowly collecting for Mimi since I was pregnant are her absolute favourite toy and she incorporates them in every play scene she creates.

Firstly, the toys need to be easily accessible and easy to see. I found what Mimi couldn’t see she didn’t use and if toys were stacked or on shelves she would rely on me to get them for her. Therefore, the compartments in the Kallax shelves, which can be accessed from both sides, are perfect as the toys are right at hand and all stored in small baskets (most of which I got very cheaply from Wilkonson’s but I don’t think they sell them anymore, I’m afraid). Mimi can then choose which toys she plays with on top of the Kallax shelves or on the mat. The selection of toys has to be relatively small otherwise it’s overwhelming so these are the only toys she has to play with at any one time (just to note in her bedroom she has a doll’s house, a play kitchen and most of her books).

Secondly, I have made a big effort to create toy collection that is made mostly of open ended toys that promote creativity and imagination: wooden people figures, building blocks, animals figures, wooden road pieces, and a large collection of ‘loose parts’ – stones, shells, acorns, feathers, wood chips, leaves, wooden rings, pine cones, cotton reels, buttons etc. It has amazed me what Mimi has been able to create from these open ended toys and loose parts. They capture her imagination and encourage far longer periods of play than ‘closed’ toys that have a set purpose with lights and noises. I very, very rarely buy toys brand new. I have got some great bargains from Facebook marketplace, gumtree and eBay and we use our local toy library.

We have a barn, a garage and a dolls house, which make good focal points for small world play.
This Grimm’s house was a lovely present from friends at Christmas.

I use the Billy bookcase cupboard as storage for toys I ‘rotate’. This helps to keep the toys feeling fresh and I can rotate the toys on the Kallax shelves on a regular basis, for example, I’ll swap the animals for sea animals, or the castle building blocks for duplo, or the click clack race track for the doorbell house, or the road track for a train set. Having a storage cupboard also means that there are never too many toys out at any one time, which can be overwhelming for children. I also rotate ‘loose parts’ that I put out for her every few days. I keep them all in jars in the craft cupboard on the left hand side.

The cupboard is full of toys that I rotate out on to the Kallax shelves on a regular basis to keep the toys feeling fresh.

It’s been a few months since we set up this play area and we were able to choose Christmas and birthday presents very carefully so we have some great additions to the toy collection that I will link below. There has been a huge difference in Mimi’s willingness and ability to play independently, which has been a complete revelation to me too as I can now make more of my time. I am so pleased we have given up the space for it as the sacrifice is really paying off for all of us.

Katy x

Our favourite toys:

Schleich animals – expensive so I have been gifting three of these to Mimi at every birthday, xmas, easter etc since before she was born to build up a collection. I am so glad I made the investment as she absolutely loves them and she incorporates them into every play scene she creates.

Magnetic tiles – these are my favourite (!) You can make so many amazing structures with these and they’re much cheaper than the bigger brand Magformers.

Wooden figures (we painted ours with basic water colours)

Rainbow squares – these can be stacked, made into a tower, used as enclosures for animals, the list is endless.

Doorbell house – great for fine motor skills and you can hide fun things behind each door.

Here is a collection of random pics from my camera roll showing Mimi playing and the different ways we have set up the play area:

Being energy efficient this Christmas

*This post is written in paid collaboration with E.ON

We caved early this year and got our tree at the end of the first week of December (I’ve got all my fingers crossed that it is going to make it until the big day!). This is the first Christmas that Mimi is really excited about and she was beyond hyped to decorate a tree so we got a big one and she loved every second of filling it with our random mix of baubles that we have collected over the years – definitely no snazzy curated theme for our tree! We have some special additions to the bauble collection this year as I’ve joined energy supplier, E.ON‘s campaign to raise awareness about energy efficiency over the festive period.

They have made some very cool ‘smart baubles’ that are heat responsive. As we spend more time at home at this time of year, the temptation is to crank up the heating to make our homes cosy and festive-feeling meaning we are at risk of wasting precious energy (on average bills are about £50 more than normal in December to prove the point).

Our tree filled with an eclectic mix of baubles collected over the years with the notable exception of the Smart baubles that are shining green – can you see them? They have been created by E.ON to help raise awareness of the issue of energy waste at this time of year. If the baubles shine green then our home is in the most energy efficient temperature range of 18-21 degrees.

So, let me tell you a little more about these smart baubles and what we can all be doing to make this month more sustainable. It is the first Christmas that we’ll be spending at home, just the three of us. We’ll go to family for lunch and have family to us for Boxing Day but I’m very excited about Christmas Eve and morning just us three. There’s always that temptation to overheat the house to make it feel homely and cosy. However, the optimum temperature for a home is 18-21 degrees and the clever E.ON smart baubles shine green when my home is in that good range. However, if I have the heating on too high the baubles change to red, too low and they change to blue. It’s a great visual reminder to make sure that we don’t waste heating and if I feel cold whilst the baubles are green all I have to do is pop on an extra layer. It’s too easy to turn a blind eye to the negative choices we make when it comes to our climate so a daily reminder is nothing but a good thing in my book.

When the E.ON Smart baubles turn red that means our heating is too high, which is a brilliant visual reminder to turn it down to prevent waste.

There are lots of ways that E.ON are helping their customers to be as energy efficient as possible. Firstly, they now provide 100% renewable electricity to all of their customers’ homes at no extra cost. They also now offer smart thermostats and smart meters, both of which give the customer far more control over their use of energy and far more awareness of what is being used – until relatively recently the first we knew of how much energy we were using was at the end of the month with the arrival of the bill. But now being able to see exactly what temperature your home is and how much energy has been used will enable customers to change their behaviour to prevent waste.

E.ON also make energy efficient boilers meaning less gas is used and heating bills should be less too. You can read more about the different things that can be done at home to save energy here.

And finally, if the baubles turn blue this means that our home is too cold. Clever, right?

I hope you all have a really wonderful Christmas and I can’t wait to be back here a lot more in the new year as Mimi is starting pre-school so I’m going to have lots more time to dedicate to the blog (and I promise to layer up whilst working from home rather than cranking up the heat!).

Katy x

Why I want curtains in every room in my house

*This post has been written in paid collaboration with Couture Living

As you know I have been working on transforming our box room of doom to make it into a multi-functional work/guest/storage room. I’ve switched the furniture round and sold the daybed, installed some storage cupboards and changed the colour of the woodwork (I still need to do a fair bit like painting the walls – I think I’m going to use Slipper Satin). However, none of these changes made a massive difference to the feel of the room until… I hung new curtains! To say that they have transformed the look and feel of the room is a massive understatement. I’m collaborating with Couture Living, who offer an online made to measure curtain service, to explain why I am a total curtain convert and why I want them in every room in my house.

I’ve swapped the furniture around in here so that the desk is now next to the window. The woodwork is painted in Shaded White and I still need to paint the walls (Slipper Satin, I think). However, it’s the addition of these beautiful linen curtains from Couture Living that have made all the difference.

The first thing I want to say is that I am absolutely delighted with the curtains that I received from Couture Living and can’t recommend their service highly enough. The curtains were very easy to order, they are exquisitely well made and the fabric is beautiful. I chose to have my curtains interlined so that they are gorgeously thick and luxurious feeling. The curtains have three layers: the linen fabric on the front – I chose the Halki Linen, a blackout lining on the back and another layer of fabric in the middle. This not only makes them feel wonderful and drape beautifully but the thickness keeps heat in and cold out. It’s quite amazing the difference a quality pair of curtains can make to the warmth of a room and as we only have a small radiator in our box room these curtains really help to keep it lovely and cosy. I’m now thinking about this pink velvet fabric for a hallway curtain – what do you think?

The curtains are interlined so they are gloriously thick.
I chose Halki Linen, which is a beautiful dark linen colour that complements the Shaded White woodwork really well.

The thing that always shocks me about hanging curtains compared to minimal blinds is how much bigger they can make a room feel, which is another reason to have them everywhere. It seems strange, I know, that by adding metres of fabric to a room it can appear bigger but it’s true. As long as you hang the curtains high enough and long enough (must be touching the floor in my book) they will give the optical illusion of grand high ceilings, even in a small box room like mine. I am gobsmacked at how much bigger the room now feels compared to the barely visible roller blind we had up in here temporarily.

The full length curtains (they should always touch the floor in my opinion) have made this box room feel so much bigger!
Beautiful new plant pots from The Future Kept finish off this window perfectly.

As I said, the addition of these curtains has totally made this room look and feel ‘finished’. Curtains have the ability of pulling a colour scheme together and unifying a room. They have made my unfinished room feel so warm and inviting in a way that no other piece of furniture or decor could do. If you are struggling with a room not feeling complete think about what you have on your windows as it may be the key piece of the room that’s missing. The other important part of having beautiful, beautiful curtains in a room like this, that has previously been a dumping ground and somewhere that I close the door and ignore most of the time, is that I suddenly have a new found desire to spend time in here. I really think it will help motivate me to use the room properly and it will finally shake its room of shame label!

It feels so nice to sit at this desk now.

Choosing, measuring, fitting and hanging curtains can be off putting to some as it can be quite an involved process. However, after using the Couture Living site I can honestly say that it really doesn’t need to scare anyone. The biggest quandary will always be what fabric to choose and after that all the hard work is done for you with this very useful curtain and blind measuring guide and my top tip is this very inexpensive curtain rod that makes hanging curtains so easy.

I bought a £7 curtain rod from IKEA to hang the curtains and for a small window like this that is perfectly fine.
I was very close to choosing a patterned fabric but I’m so glad I went with a plain linen as I can introduce colour and pattern with a rug and textiles on the bed.

I’ll be honest and say that I agonised over the the fabric choice and I was very close to choosing this William Morris fabric but actually I am so thrilled with my final choice of Halki Linen so these are my tips for choosing the right fabric for your room:

1. Order samples… always!

2. Pick a colour from your room’s colour scheme either from the walls, carpet, lampshade or art work. Choose a neutral – I was very close to choosing this gorgeous parchment linen, which is slightly lighter in colour than the Halki Linen – if you want the curtains to blend with the rest of the room or an accent colour if you want the curtains to make a statement or even establish the colour scheme for a room.

3. If you choose a pattern think about how they will look closed as well as open.

4. Select the type of fabric very carefully as this will have a big bearing on how your curtains drape and the feel they will give to the room. Cotton and linen will hang well whilst velvet will give a much more opulent feel.

5. If you want to block out light you will need black out lining and if drafts are a concern choose inter lining (so there are three layers of fabric) which gives the curtain a wonderful heaviness and luxurious feel.

I love my new work spot and I no longer even notice the ugly uPVC window now!

So, I’m left wanting curtains in every room and I would absolutely love them in our sitting room bay window but I fear the cost of a curved curtain rod and the fact that there isn’t much space to draw the curtains back onto is an issue. Anyone else successfully hung curtains in a bay in a small room? I’d love to see pics if you have any.

Katy x