I was super excited about our hallway when we were doing the first round of renovations to the house as I had such a clear image in my mind of what I wanted it to look like. As it turned out we didn’t have enough money finish the hallway so it was left plastered and painted but not a lot else. On the surface it looks good but actually the unfinished stairs, the old floorboards and the brilliant white walls make it a pretty miserable space.
If you are interested in the doors you can read this post about restoring 1930s doors. You can also read more about painting a uPVC front door and I have to say the painted front door has done AMAZINGLY well – not a single scratch. I still hate it but slowly, slowly!
And here is a reminder of what the hallway looked like when we first viewed the house…
So what do we need to change? I still absolutely love the Inchyra Blue woodwork, the beautiful Skinflint globe light and the stripped doors so that is all definitely staying. The biggest issue we need to deal with is the floor. The hallway is incredibly cold because of the external wall (we are semi detached). The floor makes it even colder because there is no insulation beneath the floorboards. Therefore, we are getting quotes to install underfloor heating and getting it tiled. Porcelain tiles will work well for us because Otto brings in so much dirt – I would never consider porous tiles (encaustic cement tiles, for example) as it would be a nightmare maintaining them and they would constantly look dirty. Tiles also a good way to lighten the space and throw a bit of light around as the grubby floorboards that were never oiled are so drab and just absorb all of the light. Primarily, however, the priority is to stop cold coming in through the floor and add an extra dose of heat to this space.
The stairs is a whole other issue and expense so we’re going to see how we go on that front. We had a moment of madness recently and started the paint peeling process on the stairs with Peelaway but we quickly abandoned that as it was the least fun DIY process I have ever experienced! Yes, a lot of the paint came away but our skirting paintwork took a real hit so it all looks even worse now. It’s still very much in debate as to the way forward. If we decide to spend the money and get carpet I have chosen a few options from Unnatural Flooring – it looks exactly like sisal but it is 100% manmade which means it is stain resistant, washable, bleach-able and a lot softer to the touch. It also won’t be attacked by moths (anyone else obsessed with keeping moths at bay?!). My favourite option is the New England Newport carpet (close up on the right):
The other big issue for me is how cold the brilliant white is on the walls. Using brilliant white does not make a dark space brighter and lighter; it actually makes it feel cold and dingy. Therefore, I would love to paint it Shadow White but I would have to do that myself so…
Anyhoo, the floor is the first big step and big expense and I’ll show you more about the tiles that I am thinking about soon.
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!
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!
Hello! I’ve been away from the blog for the whole of lockdown 3.0 and I’ve really missed it. I also have a whole lockdown’s worth of comments/questions to catch up on; I’m so sorry if you have left me a comment and I haven’t responded yet, I will try to catch up as quickly as possible but there are a lot so you’ll have to bear with me. Please do remember to use my search tool as lots of the questions asked are answered elsewhere on the blog i.e. paint colours. Also, pop over to my Instagram as there are lots of story highlights and info over there too.
During the lockdown I’ve had Mimi at home full time so work has taken a back seat (very, very lucky for us that I’m able to be flexible in terms of how much work I take on). During lots and lots of afternoons at home I have managed to squeeze in a fair bit of DIY and painting around the house so I have lots to share with you over the next few weeks but first and foremost as promised about six months ago I want to share our IKEA PAX wardrobe hack!
The hack took a solid three weekends, and painting took another full weekend, but we are so thrilled with the results and we have saved around £2000 doing it ourselves (we had a couple of quotes for bespoke wardrobes with internal drawers/shelves/hanging space and they were all around £3000). Would we do it again? Yes. Was it hard work? Yes. Did we learn a lot along the way that would make next time easier? For sure. In fact, one of the hardest things about the project was not really knowing what we were doing as it is pretty difficult to find instructions online so I hope this blog post helps those of you who want to take on the hack.
Firstly, let me tell you what items we bought from IKEA. For the right alcove of the bedroom we chose a 100cm width – 236cm height – 35cm depth wardrobe frame. The alcove is roughly 105cm wide but the walls aren’t straight so in some places it is 103cm and in others it is 106cm. In our bedroom the 35cm depth frame was the only option as there is relatively little space between the wardrobe and the end of the bed so the 58cm deep frame would have been far too close to the bed. We also had to make the decision to place the frame off centre in the alcove as we wanted hinged doors (not sliding doors, which is the other option) and if the frame was centred the right hand door would not have opened properly against the radiator under the window and curtain pole – consider what your doors will open out onto very carefully as they must be able to open out completely, especially if you are fitting drawers inside the cupboard.
For the left alcove, which is also roughly 105cm, we decided to extend the wardrobe around the corner and along the left hand side wall of the bedroom. With this type of configuration it is not possible with the PAX system to use a 100cm wide frame to go into the alcove, it has to be a 75cm frame as this can be connected to the corner attachment and enables a 50cm door to be fitted. The cupboards that run along the left hand side wall have to be 35cm deep to fit with this configuration and that suited us perfectly as if they had been deeper they would have eaten into the small amount of floorspace we have far too much and again opening the doors would have been a struggle. However, we were able to have a 58cm deep frame in the alcove as there is enough space on this side of the room for the doors to open without clashing with the bed.
The corner unit is configured like this – the frame on the right side is 75cm wide and 58cm deep and the one on the left is 50cm wide and 35cm deep:
The knock on effect for us of having this corner unit was that the wardrobe frame was only 75cm wide, the frame had to sit 13cm away from the left hand wall and that left a 15cm gap on the right hand side of the alcove. This was the big compromise for us and would make boxing in essential.
As you may be able to tell by now there was nothing symmetrical about the two sets of wardrobes – one was off centre, the other deeper and with a big gap – therefore boxing in would really help to make the cupboards look more cohesive.
(I will tell you more about the interior of the wardrobes and the overall cost in my next post)
Materials we bought
Timber for base
x2 sheets of 18mm MDF for boxing in
x1 sheet of 6mm MDF to customise the door fronts
Drill driver and impact driver
Remove skirting board with a multi tool and construct a base for each set of wardrobes the same depth as your wardrobe frame (so the door will overhang the base). Ensure it is level using wood offcuts to adjust the level if needs be.
2. Construct the wardrobe frames using the IKEA instructions and place them on top of the base and anchor them to the walls.
Customising door fronts
Ideally we wouldn’t have customised the door fronts but we were only able to get hold of Forsand doors, which are flat fronted and not the finish we wanted. Therefore, our only option was to customise the fronts, which added a lot of work to the process. Without messing with the doors the whole hack project would have been sooooo much simpler. We decided to add strips of MDF to create the look of panels and we got 6mm MDF strips cut to 55mm by B&Q.
3. We used masking tape to decide the width of our MDF strips to be cut by B&Q. Sorry about this photo – it was the only one I took! We ended up deciding on 55mm strips after taking into account the effect of shadows of the strips making them look slightly wider.
4. We used glue and nails to attach the vertical strips to the doors first. We cut them to length using a mitre saw and made sure any rough edges were sanded.
5. We used a laser level to place the horizontal strips and we decided on placing them one third of the way up the wardrobe.
6. We added handles but because the MDF strips added 6mm of depth to the doors the bolts for the handles were too short. Therefore, we had to counter sink them from the back of the door.
N.B. Once the strips were attached we realised that the doors that would open against the end panels and against each other needed to be chamfered otherwise they rubbed. They also needed open hinges.
Boxing in the wardrobe frames
6. Use a track saw to cut the end and bottom panels that will clad the wardrobes. Ensure they will sit flush with the doors. Remove any picture rail or coving necessary with a multi-tool and glue and screw the end panels directly onto the surface of the wardrobe. Glue and screw the bottom panels onto the base that the wardrobes sit on.
7. To cover the large gap on the right hand side of the left wardrobe we decided to use some timber that we already had. We drilled through the inside of the wardrobe to attach four wood blocks. We then drilled a length of timber into the base and through the ceiling from the loft, attaching it to the four wood blocks using glue and more screws.
8. We clad the frame with two MDF panels, one on the side, one on the front.
9. We used the same technique for the right hand panel on the right wardrobe. We drilled through the holes in the wardrobe to attach four wood blocks. We were then able to attach a panel to cover the gap.
10. The last panels to attach are the top panels as the measurements for these will depend on the side panels. We drilled through the inside of the top of the wardrobe to attach a block of wood onto the top of the wardrobe that runs flush with the frame. We could then drill a panel onto that to cover the gap between the top of the wardrobe and the ceiling.
11. We reattached the skirting to the bottom panel of the wardrobes to create the feeling of the wardrobes being built in to the fabric of the room. We had to cut the boards at an angle or scribe them to fit together.
12. We then filled in all holes and gaps with wood filler and sanded.
This is how they looked before being painted…
I realise that my written explanations here may be unclear to some so please do ask me questions in the comment section below and I will try and get back to you asap. Just so you know, the cupboard doors and boxing are now painted including the inside of the doors but not the interior of the cupboards (a question I have already been asked a couple of times). We did this quite some time ago now so small details have slipped my mind so please feel free to ask very specific questions.
If we were to do it again we would have waited until panelled doors were in stock as personalising the plain door fronts really was a faff and they would open more easily now if they didn’t have the MDF strips on. However, I am really, really please with how they look so I definitely don’t regret it.
I will take some photos of how the wardrobes look all painted up to show you next. Believe it or not I still haven’t sorted all of the inside for the cupboards (I blame lockdown!) so that may need to wait for a little while.
Welcome to a new project! It’s a real beauty as you can see…
This is a house very close to mine that my sister has recently bought and I am going to be helping her to decorate it. She is working with the same contractor we used J A Whitney Building Contractors who, when I first started writing this post a month ago (full time childcare is not allowing me much time at the moment!), had just started stripping out the house and they’ve been as quick and focused as ever because now a month on they’ve re-wired, re-plumbed, knocked through downstairs and in the bathroom, plastered and even had a mist coat on upstairs when I went to see at the weekend. It was such a joy working with James and his team on our house and they made the experience so smooth and stress free so I’m really pleased that my sister is able to work with them too (they already renovated a flat she sold before buying this place).
The first thing my sister asked me at the beginning of the project was what were the best things we did in our house and what were the things we got wrong or wish we had done. So I thought it would make quite an interesting blog post to document those things especially for those of you who are mid-renovation or thinking about starting one soon. It’s taken quite a while to make a list as it’s so easy to forget these things once you’re in the house. I found it especially hard because we were living with family during the renovation so Mimi slept in our room, which unfortunately led to a baby that didn’t sleep. I also couldn’t go on site much so I just wasn’t as hands on as I would have liked to have been. Anyhoo, after discussing with Jules we came up with our list that we have been able to pass on to my sister and I hope it may help some of you.
Have a look at the house first as it looked a month ago and my list is at the bottom of the post…
Things we learnt from our own renovation (in no particular order):
1. Spend as much time and attention as possible planning electrics and lighting.
I remember so clearly having to do the electrics and lighting plan because it felt like the worst chore ever. My advice is do not do it in the evening, do not do it when you’re exhausted, do not do it sitting in front of the TV, do not do it mid-heatwave with a baby that is awake all night and do not do it after a big row with your partner because you don’t want to do it – ha! Carve out a moment of time when you can be fully focused and go through it meticulously as it will have such a huge effect on the overall look and feel of your home. Lastly, do not forget a blooming plug socket in your hallway so you can’t have a lovely lamp on the hallway table (I’m still deeply regretful of that). Also, think about the type of lighting you have – I’ll have to do a separate post on this as it is a huge topic – but we knew we would have quite a few lamps so we made sure we could turn them on and off at the wall with the other lights. Little things like that make a big difference day to day.
2. Consider cost of exterior
We very much glossed over this. We knew the inside of the house was right for us and we knew that we had enough budget to get it to a certain point that we would be really happy with. However, we wrote off the outside as something that was easily fixable and could be done later on. We didn’t consider how much that was going to cost us or what the extent of the work would look like. I think this is important because you don’t want to be in a position with an unusable garden for example because you will never have the budget to get it cleared or landscaped.
3. Knock through
Obviously this will be different for everybody but for us it has been the best decision as I don’t think we would have enjoyed living here if we had left the downstairs as three very small rooms. My sister’s new house is the same layout and even though the rooms are bigger I have still advised her to knock through as it will suit her so much better with a baby to be able to see her at all times and it makes entertaining so much easier too.
4. When you knock down walls properly consider the space that will be created
It is quite easy to fall into the trap of not considering the new wall space that is created once old walls are knocked down. Think about how those new walls will be used, plan electric sockets and radiators to go on them.
5. Add enough radiators and sockets
Too many sockets is never enough sockets! Get USB ones too.
6. Budget for built in storage
I wish we had done this. I hated having nowhere to put anything when we first moved in and I still have nowhere to put my clothes.
7. Have washing machine upstairs
This has worked out really well for us. All laundry stays upstairs (except in summer when it is hung on the line) and all linens can be stored above the washing machine in purpose built cupboard. Most importantly it freed up space in our teeny tiny kitchen space.
8. Don’t take on DIY jobs unless you are sure you can achieve them
It is very tempting to look at a builder’s quote and try to take on jobs yourself to cut costs. Be very, very careful about it. Most likely you will end up with a badly executed job and will have spent as much more more than it would have cost your builder to have done it. We made this mistake with sanding the floors in our house – BIG MISTAKE!
9. Don’t fill your loft with crap!
10. Don’t put spotlights everywhere
A big waste of money for us was installing spotlights in the hallway, on the landing and in the dining room – we never, ever use them.
11. Think about your hallway as an extra room
When planning electrics and radiators and lighting don’t forget to give the hallway as much thought as the rest of the house.
12. Reclaim fireplaces
I’m so happy we did this and added fireplaces in the bedrooms and reclaimed one for the living room. yes we would have had more wall space without them but the house would have lacked so much character.
13. Reclaim and rehang doors
Sadly in my sister’s house none of the original doors remain so I have advised her to reclaim some because they make such a difference to the overall feel of the house. Also, make sure to rehang your doors so that they open onto the wall of each room rather than opening into the room.
14. Electrics and lighting outside
Get an electric point and wiring for outside lights even if you don’t have the budget for the lighting itself yet.
15. Try to plan furniture
So difficult but as much as possible try to plan where your furniture will go in each room as this will dictate changes that will need to be made. For example, I advised my sister to get the door in her living room moved as it was exactly where she would naturally place a sofa.
16. Invest in nice radiators
It makes such a difference.
17. Underfloor heating
The best thing ever if you can do it.
18. Use a dark colour below dado rail in hallway – it will save you a life of scuffed white walls.
A small thing but it really does make a difference especially living with a muddy dog who likes a good shake in the hallway.
19. Plan, plan, plan.
It’s very easy to be caught out and to have to suddenly make important decisions on the spot for tiles or flooring or skirting board profiles or wall colours. Try as much as possible to have it all planned and ordered and decided so that you don’t have to rush decisions or make the wrong decisions because you don’t have time to research properly.
20. Budget to get the place cleaned before you move in.
If you can get the place professionally cleaned because it will make a massive difference. Moving is so full on and there is no spare time to do anything so even if you tell yourselves you’ll do it you probably won’t and you’ll be wading through building dust forever.
21. Be flexible.
It’s fine to have a design in mind for your home or the decor but when it becomes clear that it’s not going to work, it’s not the best option or it’s going to be too expensive be willing to change your mind. Don’t dig your heels in just because you had your heart set on something.
I’m sure there are loads of other things that I can add to the list as they come to me. As I said a while ago I want to share more about the ins and outs of working with a contractor and I’ve already started that post and I will definitely follow up with more about planning lighting as it is a minefield!
I hope this is useful and I will be sure you keep you up to date with how the team get along and some of the finished rooms soon! If you have done a renovation and want to add to my list leave a comment below.