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

Top 10 bedside tables

I have been meaning to do this round up for ages ever since I asked on Instagram whether anyone could recommend a bedside table that was ideally made of wood and had a drawer/shelf. I was deluged by messages from people who were looking for the same thing and were desperate for recommendations themselves. I had a stool next to my bedside and Jules had a printer next to his (don’t ask!) for months and I had spent a long time looking but nothing seemed to suit other than some very expensive finds that were way out of my budget. I wanted two matching tables as our bedroom is very small so symmetry helps to make it look and feel bigger and therefore some lovely vintage finds weren’t an option.

These are the tables I found on my hunt so for those of you who are still looking I hope this helps. If you are not keen on these particular tables do use the links to go through to the shops and have a browse as sometimes it can be difficult just figuring out where to look.

  1. Solid oak vintage bedside table 2. Bedside wall shelves 3. Marble top bedside table 4. Oak and cane bedside table 5. Ercol bedside table

6. Oak and rattan table 7. Marble top table 8. Jalousie door bedside table 9. Birch and leather handle bedside table 10. Floating bedside drawer

In the end I chose these oak and cane tables from La Reroute and waited until they were 30% off so I managed not to spend too much and I really like them. It’s also the first time I’ve had a drawer in my bedside table and it’s a bit of a game changer.

Oak and cane bedside table

If you are interested in a vintage option I would definitely have chosen a Victorian pot cupboard (use that search term in eBay etc). My ideal bedside table would have been something like this…

Image via Avenue Lifestyle

Just remember to think about the height of the table you choose, especially if it’s not being sold as a bedside table or if you have a particularly low/high bed. For example, I liked this table but luckily realised it would be too low for my bed.

Hope this is helpful as a starting point – do let me know if you have found anything really nice out there that I can share!

Katy x

Paint colours and finishes

I asked in my last post and over on Instagram what would be useful to know more about when it comes to renovating a house. Thank you so much to those of you who got in touch – I’ve got a good list of topics to cover. I’m going to start with something that I get so many questions about so hopefully this will serve as a good reference point that I can direct people to when they have questions about the paint colours and finishes that I have used in our house.

First off I just want to explain the finishes that I chose for the paint throughout the house. Our contractor organised the decoration throughout the house so I selected Farrow & Ball for the woodwork because I love the colours but for the two rooms I have since re-painted (as I changed my mind about colours) I selected Farrow & Ball because I find the paints so, so easy to use. I love that they are water based, so no nasty smells and chemicals, and I find it so easy to apply – you will never find me using an oil-based gloss paint because of the drips, the clean up process and the drying time. I selected the Estate Eggshell finish for the woodwork in each room as it is a lovely semi-matt finish, whilst still feeling silky and easy to wipe clean. I selected the Modern Eggshell, which has a higher sheen than the estate eggshell, for the hallway woodwork as I knew it would see more traffic and suffer more scuffing and knocks. The higher sheen makes it even easier to wipe clean and it feels nicer under hand on the banisters. I feel like it repels dirt more than the estate eggshell. Throughout the house the walls are painted in matt emulsion (mostly brilliant white as that’s all we could afford) as I’m not a fan of using any type of sheen on walls.

Here is a list of the colours and the paint finishes that I have used and you can read more about why I chose the colours we used here:

Living room

Wood work (skirting, architraves, doors, fire surround, window sills) – Light Blue, Farrow & Ball Estate Eggshell

Walls – Brilliant white, Johnstone’s trade paint Matt Emulsion

Fire surround and skirting in Light Blue – Walls in Brilliant White
Door, architrave and skirting in Light Blue – Walls in Brilliant White

Kitchen

Kitchen units – Railings, Farrow & Ball Modern Eggshell

Door – Light Blue, Farrow & Ball Estate Eggshell

Walls – Brilliant white, Johnstone’s trade paint Matt Emulsion

Kitchen units in Railings (photograph by Katharine Peachey)
Kitchen door in Light Blue – Walls Brilliant White

Hallway

Wood work (skirting, dado rail, architraves, doors, banisters, under stairs cupboard) – Inchyra Blue, Farrow & Ball Modern Eggshell (this particular paint was gifted to us by Farrow & Ball)

Walls (below dado rail) – Inchyra Blue, Farrow & Ball Modern Eggshell

Walls (above dado rail) – Brilliant white, Johnstone’s trade paint Matt Emulsion

Door, architrave, banisters Inchyra Blue – Walls Brilliant White

Radiator bottom coat – Grey Metal primer

Radiator top coat – Inchyra Blue, Farrow & Ball Modern Eggshell

Walls, wood work and radiator Inchyra Blue – Walls Brilliant White

Front door bottom coat – All purpose Primer, Ronseal

Front door top coat – Railings, Farrow & Ball Modern Eggshell

Front door Railings

Bathroom

Wood work (tongue and groove, skirting, architraves) – Ammonite, Farrow & Ball Modern Eggshell

Walls – Brilliant white, Johnstone’s trade paint Matt Emulsion

Wood work Ammonite – Walls Brilliant White

Mimi’s room

Wood work (skirting, architraves, doors, window sills) – Light Blue, Farrow & Ball Estate Eggshell

Walls – Brilliant white, Johnstone’s trade paint Matt Emulsion

Wood work Light Blue – Walls Brilliant White

Master bedroom

Wood work (skirting, architraves, door, window sill) – Brilliant white, Johnstone’s trade paint eggshell

Walls – School House White, Farrow & Ball Estate Emulsion

Above picture rail – Brilliant white, Johnstone’s trade paint Matt Emulsion

Walls School House White – Above picture rail and woodwork Brilliant White
Walls School House White – Above picture rail and woodwork Brilliant White

Spare room

Wood work (skirting, architraves, door, window sill) – Shaded White, Farrow & Ball Estate Eggshell

IKEA IVAR cabinets – Shaded White, Farrow & Ball Estate Eggshell

Walls – Brilliant white, Johnstone’s trade paint Matt Emulsion

Cabinets Shaded White – Walls Brilliant White
Wood work Shaded White

I hope that is helpful – do drop me a line if you have any other paint questions for me.

Katy x