Garden makeover plans

AD – This post is written in collaboration with HIPPOWASTE.

I’m very happy to say that the concrete in the garden has now gone! Hooray! It feels like a massive weight has been lifted, both figuratively and literally. If you missed my last post pop over and take a look at what our garden looked like a few weeks ago. Since then our contractor J A Whitney Building Contractors was able to organise for one of his team to tirelessly wheelbarrow all of the concrete and rubble out of the garden in just two days. Our HIPPOWASTE MEGABAGs were ready and waiting to be filled to the brim with 1.5 tonnes of concrete. HIPPOBAGs are a brilliant way to dispose of all sorts of waste and it was staggering to see a bag that arrived in a tiny package in the post being filled with such heavy rubble! It was very satisfying watching them being craned away, I can tell you. We have a side access as our house is semi-detached so we put the MEGABAGs there as they need to be no more than 4m from the street for collection purposes. However, you can put them in your front garden or drive as they only measure 180x90cm. If you have no outdoor space at the front of your property you can get a permit from your local council to have them on the street, like you would with a skip. If you have bigger sized pieces of waste there is also a HIPPOSKIP available, which is a larger bag that can fit the equivalent of a two large armchairs, two cookers, a washing machine and a tumble dryer with plenty of room to spare. Do take a look at the options here.

We had three MEGABAGs from HIPPOWASTE to dispose of the concrete that was dug up from our garden.
It was quite a mammoth job once the concrete was dug up to wheelbarrow it all out of the garden into the bags.

One of the other main benefits of the bags for us was that you have six months before the collection cut off date. Mario, who removed the concrete for us, works as part of a team on contracts during the week and came to us at the weekends so a two day job actually stretched over a couple of weeks so the flexibility of HIPPOBAGs worked really well. Being able to fill them over time is a definite plus when doing DIY as we never seem to get stuff done all in one go! I would also consider them for big clear outs for that reason (I’m thinking of our loft) as that type of project can take forever if you’re fitting it around work or whatever else.

The bags are incredibly strong and arrive in a very small flat pack package in the post.

Anyhoo, once the bags were filled a collection was arranged within a couple of days. The truck arrived and we didn’t even need to be at home as they just get craned straight on to the truck – no contact, no hassle. I would highly recommend the service!

Now that the concrete is gone we can get to work on making the garden as useable and child friendly for the summer as possible. Little did we know when we decided to start this project just how important the garden was going to be this year as we are all facing a summer in our homes so I feel incredibly grateful that we have this space and the ability to improve it. We won’t be spending a huge amount of time or resources on the planting side of things at this point as that may prove too difficult under lockdown. We will try and get a few bursts of colour planted for this summer at least but I reckon the focus on design and planting will be for next year.

In the meantime, we’re very much focused on covering where the concrete was with the best surface for us and the way we live in the house. I was very much in favour of a budget friendly option such as pea shingle as I love the way it looks but Jules was very against that idea as he doesn’t like the way it feels underfoot and he doesn’t want to step down from the house. He really wants a deck, which is a good idea as it can be raised and extend straight out of the living room and kitchen, which would effectively give us more living space as we would make it 3.6m deep. This would be a great surface for Mimi to play on and give us extra dining and living space. However, lots of you have told me that your decks have rotted or become slippery and slimey. Therefore, we have chosen smooth deck boards as its the grooves that collect water and dirt and we have a pressure washer to keep them clean. We intend to build an extension where the deck will be in the next few years so it won’t be there for years and years so we hope to avoid the issues that some of you helpfully raised. I would say this definitely isn’t the cheapest option but we’re doing it all ourselves so it’s just the materials we have to pay for and we feel like we’re going to get a return on what we spend based on the amount we’ll use it just this summer alone! It’s basically going to cost us what a budget week away would have done.

The whole back of the house opens up on to the garden so a raised deck of smooth boards running in the same directions as our floorboards should help to extend our living area and make the inside of our house feel bigger.

On the left hand side of the garden we will plant grass seed to cover where the concrete was but the whole garden will need re-turfing next year because it’s so uneven and bumpy. I want to replace all of the green along the right hand side of the fence as well as introducing lots of lovely planting. At the end of the garden Jules has grand plans for a workshop so we won’t be touching that space at all. We put up a half pergola to support the Clematis and Wisteria that belongs to our neighbour as it used to just hang down on the ground or rest on the old shed. We have strung heavy duty wire up from the pergola to the fence posts so hopefully that will be enough to train what flops over. I’m also thinking of planting my potted wisteria into the ground and training it up the pergola.

The Clematis and Wisteria as well as a fox or two had badly damaged the fences here so we have replaced those and put up a half pergola to support them this year. We hope that it will be enough to take the weight of the plants as we couldn’t afford a full pergola as they cost a fortune!
You can see here in the top right corner the new fence panels and pergola with heavy duty wire and we have begun to train the Clematis and Wisteria on to it. We won’t have quite as much of the Wisteria on our side of the fence this year as we replaced the panels with no trellis at the top so a lot of it is back on our neighbour’s side but fingers crossed it will be ok.

We’ve already repositioned the fence and put in a new gate to the side access, which makes the garden and back of the house look and feel so much bigger. You have all assured me that these BRIGHT orange dipped fence panels are going to be the same colour as the gate in no time!!

Jules dug out the old fence posts and re positioned them so the fence no longer angles into our garden but goes in a straight line down to the side access. We therefore gain some space, which is great. You can see how it used to look in the picture at the start of this post.

We can’t wait to get started on the deck now so we don’t have to clamber over rubble for much longer. Watch this space!

Katy x

What colour do I paint my internal doors?

My new work shift is 6.30-9am before I take over childcare for the day and I’m finding it very difficult to focus this morning and just not sure what to write about. For lack of inspiration I’m bringing you the second part of the blog post about what we did to our internal doors. If you missed it the first part of the blog post is here. Today I want to cover how I decided whether to paint the doors or leave them bare and how you paint doors different colours on each side.

This is what our doors looked after being returned from the door strippers.

To paint or not to paint

To make the decision you need to ask your this question:

  1. Do you love your doors? Are they a feature you want to emphasise?

NO: My advice would be to paint them the same colour as the woodwork and walls in your home. This is the best way to make them ‘disappear’. I did this in my old flat as the doors were a horrible veneered wood and it made such a difference:

I had several very large veneered wooden doors in the hallway in my old flat. it made the space feel crowded, dark and like an institutional corridor.
Five common lighting problems and how to solve them | Hallway lighting | Apartment Apothecary
By painting the doors white the space felt brighter, bigger and the accessories were able to bring a bit of character to the space rather than the doors dominating.

YES: If you do love your doors and want to make them a real feature then I would advise either leaving them bare wood or painting them a different colour to the walls. That is what we have done in our current home and it has worked so well. Originally I had planned to paint all of the doors but when they came back from being stripped (see more about the stripping process here) I was able to see the texture and the tone of the wood for the first time and I fell in love with them so I changed my mind and decided a mix of painted and bare doors would work well.

Where to go bare

I chose to leave our bathroom door bare wood because I knew the room would be very white and have a tiled floor so it would be lacking texture and warmth. A bare wooden door with this type of decor is perfect. If you have a room that needs more of a balance in terms of texture and warmth, the door is a good place to start. We also have bare doors in our hallway (on the hallway side only). The hallway is painted in a very dark colour below the dado rail and there are three doors going off a very small space that doesn’t get much light so I decided that to paint the doors as well in Inchyra Blue may have been overwhelming and made the space feel dark and closed in. So think about the colour, how much light and the number of doors in one space you have when deciding if it’s right to paint. In many cases leaving the doors bare can be a good way to break up colour or lighten a space.

Choosing a colour:

Once you’ve decided it’s right to paint a door you need to consider a few different things when selecting colours.

  • what is the overall palette of colours in the house? Do you want to tone in or make a bold statement?
  • how many doors are there in the room? If you have lots of doors (like in my old hallway) be very aware that painting all of them in a contrasting colour will be very ‘noisy’.
  • if you choose to paint the door different colours on each side what will the exterior colour look like when it is opened up into the room? You need to consider whether you are happy with how the ‘exterior’ colours look with the ‘interior’ room they open on to.
  • are there wardrobe/cupboard doors in the room? If you have fitted wardrobes, for example, think about whether you want to paint these the same colour as the door to help unify the room.

In my house, I chose to use Inchyra Blue, which is a very dark colour, in the hallway below the dado rail as well as on all of the doors on the landing side upstairs. I wanted the hallway to be quite dark so that opening up onto all of the bright rooms would be that bit more impactful. Therefore, I didn’t want to use Inchyra Blue on the room side of the doors as I wanted to use much lighter colours so I chose to use different colours on each side of the doors: Light Blue on the living room and kitchen doors as well as in Mimi’s room, Brilliant White in my room (due to change at some point, I think) and Shaded White in the spare room. In each room I was happy that Inchyra Blue toned in well with the ‘interior’ colours as we have our doors open a lot. By painting the doors the same colour as all of the woodwork they have become a feature and added a dose of colour in just the right amount.

I really like the way Light Blue and Inchyra Blue work together so I was very happy to combine these two colours on the different sides of the doors. Photograph by Katharine Peachey.
I really like the addition of Inchyra Blue in this room when the door is open (the interior is painted Light Blue).

How to paint the door frame if the door is different colours on each side

A question I have been asked a lot is at what point do you stop painting with one colour and start using the second colour if you choose two different colours for your door. There really is no right or wrong here but the convention is pretty tricky to explain so bear with me!

This door is painted Inchyra Blue on the landing side and Light Blue on the bedroom side. The lock edge of the door is Light Blue.
But the hinge edge of the door is Inchyra Blue.

The theory is that from the landing if the door is open you see as little of Light Blue as possible because the hinge edge is Inchyra Blue and that’s what you see when the door opens. From the bedroom side if the door is slightly open you see as much Light Blue as possible and as little Inchyra Blue as possible as the lock edge is Light Blue. Does that make any sense?? It’s such a tough thing to explain. There is a diagram in this post about How to paint a statement door that may help a bit more.

I hope some of these thoughts help if you are debating what to do with your doors. I also hope that everyone is managing to stay well.

Katy x

A garden makeover: The ‘before’ photos

I have to admit that I’m cringing a bit showing you some of these photos. We had to take the decision when working out our renovation budget what we would have to do at a later point as we definitely didn’t have enough to do everything at once. It became clear very quickly that all work on the outside of the house would have to wait. It’s very easy to buy a house and underestimate how much new fencing, gates, landscaping, exterior painting will cost. As it turns out we have to break it up into stages and prioritise. For security the first thing we agreed to do was replace the side access gate that we share with our neighbour. We then had a very serious discussion about getting the outside of the house painted next but when we really thought about it the biggest gain to us and the way we live would be to use the garden more. In order to do that the massive slab of concrete that wraps round the back of the house has to go. However, we’ve always been put off by the cost of a skip needed for that type of job as well as the labour cost as we just don’t think we’d manage it ourselves; it’s literally tonnes of concrete. Because concrete is so heavy you can’t fill a skip to the brim with it so we would probably need more than one and because it’s one of those weird jobs that sort of sits between a landscaper and a builder it’s hard to find somebody to take it on, especially because it’s not a very lucrative job and will only take two or three days. Therefore, the likelihood would be that the skip would be needed for quite some time whilst the labourer went off to other jobs etc. The longer you have a skip, the more is costs.

Serendipitously it was at this point that HIPPOBAGs got in touch for a potential collaboration. I thought I was familiar with their service and had in my mind that it was a very large, tough bag that could be used for a house/loft clear out or that sort of thing. However, little did I know that HIPPO offer the perfect waste bags for our concrete issue. The MEGABAG can hold 1.5 tonnes of the heaviest waste like concrete, rubble, soil and it can be filled to the brim. Not only that but it is only 180x90cm so it can easily fit in a front garden so no need for an expensive license to put it on the street AND you can fill it at your own pace over six months, which makes it perfect for us as we found someone to do the job who can only work on Saturdays.

At this time it is very worth saying that the bags come in the post so no contact is needed to receive them and you don’t have to meet the driver when they collect the bags so it is a contact free process overall. If you are planning a garden project, any DIY or a clear out during the next few weeks HIPPOBAGs is a very good option to avoid leaving your home.

I will tell you more and show you more about the MEGABAGs when they arrive but for now I want to show you how our garden looked when we moved in and the state of it now. Arguably it looks worse now but we have actually done quite a lot – it’s got to look worse before it looks better, right?

This was the photo I took of the garden when I viewed the house in December. It’s about 60ft long and we back on to a park so it has the potential to be really lovely.
This was the garden in the Spring before the renovation had begun.
The brambles and bushes on this right fence were literally pulling it down.
And then it became a jungle in the summer mid-renovation.
And then when we moved in in October it looked like this.
The whole back of the house opens out onto the garden, which I love. There is a door from the dining space and the kitchen and we very quickly realised that the crumbling concrete steps and ‘patio’ was not only unpleasant to look at but it’s such a horrible surface for kids to play on and especially bad when they fall on it.
The other problem was the shed was not only crumbling but it cut the garden in two.
So we dismantled the shed last Spring.
Removing the shed was a really good move as it made the garden feel so much bigger. We tidied everything up and cut out a lot of the brambles on the right hand fence and managed to spend a lot of nice time out here last summer. Look at that Wisteria that comes over our fence from our neighbour and the Laburnum tree!
As of today, things look like this! Eeeek. It’s a real mess.
There are huge cracks in the concrete making it so un-child friendly. Let’s ignore the brown pebbledash. Painting the house white is next on the list!
You can see what a dreadful state the concrete is in from this angle.

Watch this space to track our progress. I will tell you more in my next garden blog post about what we are planning to do. I’d love to hear what you would do with this space!

Katy x

*This post was written in paid collaboration with HIPPOBAGs – I greatly appreciate the continued support of brands and I really hope this is a useful collaboration for my readers during this difficult time.

Restoring internal doors

I am fully aware that this is a very worrying time and to some talking or reading about doors will feel very trivial – I totally get that and please do switch off it you need to. I am certainly not trying to make light of the current situation but I know some people who are going to be at home for long periods may want or need some distraction or even a project to work on. Therefore, I will be carrying on with the blog as much as I can and I really hope it brings a bit of light relief or inspiration for a project or two that can be done over the coming weeks.

Jules will be working from home for the foreseeable as there are confirmed cases in his office and he actually has a week’s holiday booked as we were supposed to be going away for Easter but that’s all cancelled so we’ve decided to do a big garden project over the next six weeks. I’ll talk a lot more about it soon but just a quick mention that we ummed and ahhed about spending money on this type of thing as my income is going to be hit hard by the virus (I’ve already had two contracts with brands cancelled). However, we’ve had to cancel an Easter trip, Jules’s 40th next month and it looks very unlikely we’ll be going on a summer holiday so we have decided to go ahead on a small budget. To keep on spending money will really help tradespeople and we’ll try to get as many materials as we can from our local high street DIY shop as presumably footfall is going to drop a lot. Anyhoo, this is my rationale for how I’m proceeding from here – do let me know if there is anything I can cover over the next few weeks that will help! I really do hope everyone is ok and getting the support they need. We have started a neighbourhood leaflet drop to offer up help with grocery shopping/dog-walking/admin help for those self isolating and I hope anyone in need is able to tap in to local aid groups too.

Right, back to this blog post. I asked a few weeks back what readers would like to know more about based on our renovation experience and the number one request I got back was wanting to know details about our internal doors. I have had queries about the stripping process, the painting and handles so I’ll try to cover most of that here and do a separate post on painting the doors.

I just love how much of a feature the doors have become in our house.

1930s doors

Firstly, a quick note that all of our internal doors are original to the house that was built in 1929. Some were boarded over when we moved in but our builders were able to remove the boards easily and the doors were left in tact. If you need some you can buy new 1930’s style doors – try Direct Doors – or you can buy original ones from eBay quite easily. I remember I got asked whether we had hung our doors upside down by mistake because the door handles are so high but I promise you that that is the style; 1930s doors have short top panels and long bottom panels, whereas Victorian doors have the opposite.

The doors are all original to the house and either looked like this or…
…they had been boarded up like this one.

Stripping doors

All of our doors were covered in many, many layers of flaking yellowing gloss paint so our contractor J A Whitney Building Contractors advised that we get them stripped as painting on top of that type of surface does not produce a good finish. They were collected by London Door Stripping who charge £20 a door as well as a £25 collection and delivery charge. You can read how doors are stripped (some people use the term ‘dipped’ but it means the same thing) if you are interested. Our decorator then removed any residue paint, filled in gaps and sanded them down for us so we didn’t have to pay the extra for the stripping company to do that. I decided to leave some doors bare and for others to be painted and I’m really delighted with what a feature they have become in the house.

Our doors came up so well after being stripped and I’m really pleased we left some bare.
The bare wood gives much needed texture and warmth to our mostly white bathroom.

Re-hanging doors

Our contractor recommended that we have all the doors re-hung to open on to the left hand wall rather than opening out into the room, which is how doors have always historically been hung. The reason doors were hung that way was to try to keep heat in a room, when central heating didn’t exist. I have also been told that it was done this way for modesty’s sake as a couple would have a few extra seconds to separate if someone came into the room! Anyway, for us it made much more sense to have doors that open on to the wall as it makes the rooms feel much more spacious and helps with furniture placement too.

When we viewed the house the door looked and was hung this way, opening in to the room.
The door now opens onto the wall so it doesn’t block off part of this room.

Architraves

We had to have all of the original architraves – the frame around the door – removed during the renovation as the whole house was taken back to brick. However, we made sure to replace them with something similar so that it all still felt true to the period of the house.

The original architraves on the two separate doors leading to the bathroom and separate loo.
We had the two rooms knocked into one, which left us with just one door. I hope you agree that the new architrave looks as though it has always been there.

Handles

I spent a long time looking at different handle options and thinking about not only what would look right, what would be easy to use and what wouldn’t cost us an absolute fortune. I was pretty certain I wanted black as I like the contrast with the wood and paint colours and it feels quite 1930’s to me and I’m a fan of round door handles as unless you have lots to spend other styles can look a bit too modern for my taste. I fell in love with these blackened bronze door knobs but we couldn’t justify the cost by that stage of the renovation so I tried to find something similar in shape but made of wood. I eventually decided on ebony wooden door knobs but again we couldn’t afford these so I found a cheaper version that are less than half the price BUT they really are not as good quality even though they look just as good and two of the six that we bought don’t work very well. This is where we bought them but I wouldn’t recommend them even though I’m actually really happy with ours (the bathroom door handle doesn’t click shut but it doesn’t matter as it has a lock anyway and the living room door handle doesn’t close but that actually suits us as Otto can push it open with his nose).

The little dots of black give great contrast to the lighter spaces in the house.
The black also helps to tie together other elements within a space like picture frames, mirrors or fireplaces.

I hope some of that information is helpful. I will follow up later this week with the second part to the post about painting the doors different colours on each side.

Katy x

What to do with our bare stairs

Our stairs are still languishing in their bare, rough, paint and plaster splattered state nearly eighteen months after moving in. Ideally I would carpet them in sisal or jute as I love the look and the colour and texture of natural carpets disguise the muck brought in by a big dog much better than a wool carpet. However, realistically, we do not have the budget for that – sisal and jute carpets are particularly expensive as the fitting costs are higher than other carpets as they have to be glued – and the only wool carpets I would consider (I always, always have to think of the dirty paws!) may be a bit too dark for the space considering the dark walls, front door and the fact the hallway doesn’t get a great deal of light. Therefore, I’ve been thinking about a more affordable solution using paint and I wanted to share some inspiration here as I often get asked about what we will do with the stairs so it seems a lot of people are in the same boat.

Carpet options

Choosing carpet and the way it is fitted is a bit of a minefield AND can cost thousands – literally! To give you a rough outline you can either have a runner and paint either side of it or you can carpet stringer to stringer, which basically means you carpet the entire stair covering all of the risers and treads. I prefer the way a runner looks, especially as you can choose to have the edges – the whipping – sewn in any colour you like. It looks very smart and you can use the colour you paint the rest of the risers and treads to contrast or tone in with the carpet; the options are endless really. However, you need to think about the disadvantages including the fact that the stairs will need to be painted, dirt and dust collects on the hard part of the stairs not carpeted and for us it may not work with a dog as he tends to walk up the side of the stairs so we would have to make sure the paint was very hard wearing.

I love how this stair runner looks, especially the contrasting tape. The stairs are painted in Inchyra Blue, the same as our hallway, so it’s a useful reference for me. I worry about having such a dark carpet not least because of the white dog hair in our house. Totally swooning over that floor too – that’s my ideal floor covering for our hallway. One day! Image via The Vawdrey House
This would work well for us as it’s very hard wearing and disguises dirt well however, it is very expensive to fit so not an option for us right now. Jute stair runner from Alternative Flooring naturals collection
My second choice would be this Striped stair runner as stripes hides dirt well but I’m still nervous about how well it would hold up to cleaning and big paws. Image via the gorgeous Come Down to the Woods.
This is a very inexpensive carpet that could be option for us budget wise. Striped carpet from Carpet Right Image via The Idle Hands (such an amazing Instagram account!)
Alex’s hallway is so beautiful and her blog post about choosing and fitting this gorgeous Wool stair runner with striped tape border is a very useful reference point. Image via The Frugality, whose interior style I love!

DIY paint options

For now, I think we’re looking at a DIY paint option as I’ve promised not to spend any money on the interior of our house this year as we want to do as much as we can afford to do on the outside of the house this year. Jules feels depressed approaching the house every day as it really is in a bad state so I’m willing to make the compromise. We would need to sand the stairs (urgh!) and I have Railings, Inchyra Blue and Light Blue paint that we could use but I think it would have to be on the risers only as otherwise it really will feel too dark. I also worry the paint will get wrecked in time.

We could do this with either Railings, Inchyra Blue or Light Blue but i do worry we won’t ever get a good finish on the treads of the stairs as they are in such a bad state and seem quite oily from previous paint jobs. Painted stair risers – Jérémie Blancféné
I love this so much. Such a clever use of contrasting colours. Painted pink stair runner Image via Making It Lovely
Painted stairs – Image via Home World Design
I do really like the look of Bare wooden stairs but the issue is we have too much wood in our hallway what with the floor and doors. it looks great here with a white backdrop. Smita Patel’s home photographed by Penny Wincer

Here is how our stairs currently look to give you an idea:

You can see how much work needs to be done to the stairs.
This was taken just after we moved in.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has a carpet or paint job that has withstood a lot of dirt and dogs particularly!

Katy x