Sanding original floorboards

Soooo, one of our biggest mistakes during our renovation was deciding that one way of saving money and reducing our renovation costs was to take on the sanding of the floorboards ourselves. Big mistake. Firstly, the job itself was EXHAUSTING! And secondly, it is not a cheap DIY and because we made a hash of it we ended up spending more than if we had given our builders the job in the first place.

It must seem odd then that I’m writing a blog post about it but we learnt a lot during the process and did end up with a result we are really pleased with so I hope it will be helpful to share our experience.

When we bought the house all of the floors were covered in cheap laminate that was bubbling up here and there. On viewing the property because it was empty and very obvious that the whole place needed ripping apart we were able to take a peek under the laminate where it was coming up to see that the floorboards beneath looked pretty good. We had to cross our fingers that once all the laminate came up the boards in each room would be decent as we definitely didn’t have the budget to buy and fit new flooring throughout the house. Lucky for us the boards are good albeit a few weak points and quite large gaps between the boards downstairs. This is a big downside as there is no insulation beneath the boards and there was no cheap way of adding it because there is a 3 or 4ft chasm under the ground floor. As a result it can be very draughty downstairs so we really should have filled the gaps between the boards. To be honest, I have notions of replacing the flooring downstairs in the future if we extend so it’s never been a big priority.

Another issue that we uncovered was the fact that some of the original boards had obviously been replaced in the living room at some point. Once they were sanded the colour of the new boards was a lot lighter but lucky for us we had planned a big rug for this area so it’s not at all obvious.

Aesthetically speaking I adore original floorboards and it’s such an easy way to inject character back into a house, especially a 1930s house that doesn’t have all the period features of a Victorian home. They create a warm and lived in feel and practically speaking they can be very easy to look after as well as covering a lot of dirt and wear, which is something I always have to think about with a big dog. I would never recommend painted floorboards from that perspective as the paint chips and scratches so easily and unless that is the worn look you want it will drive you crazy and you’ll be forever re-painting.

The sanding process

Jules took a week off work with the aim of sanding the large downstairs room, hallway, upstairs landing, three bedrooms (two double and one single). He spent the first day getting together the materials he would need including driving to collect a floor sander from HSS (not our nearest branch) and sanding sheets.

Mistake number one: DO NOT HIRE THE SANDER UNTIL YOU HAVE PREPPED THE FLOOR! The hire companies charge you by the day or week so try not to have it in your possession unless you are using it. There is a lot of prep to do before you will be ready to sand such as knocking in nails with a nail punch and replacing certain boards (our builder salvaged a few lengths for us from a skip).

Mistake number two: BOOK YOUR SANDER AHEAD OF TIME. We couldn’t get a sander from our local HSS branch last minute so wasted a lot of time driving around London to locate one.

Mistake number three: BUY MORE SANDING PAPER THAN YOU NEED. HSS sell sand paper on a sale or return basis and they advise buying more than you need and we agree. We used about 15 sheets of each grit: 60 (some people suggest using 40 grit to start with but we didn’t need to as there was no paint or varnish on our boards and they were pretty smooth), 80, 120. We wasted more time buying more sand paper as we ran out. Do note, if you haven’t done enough prep with your nail punch protruding nails will rip up the sanding sheets.

Mistake number four: HIRE AN EDGING SANDER. We tried to save on the hiring cost of the sanders by using an angle grinder for the edges instead of an edging sander. This is just a horrible mistake and there’s nothing much else to say about it. The edging sander is essential to get right up to the skirting boards.

This photo was taken mid-sanding. The living area on the left had been sanded with 60 and 80 grit and still needed its final sand with 120 grit. You can see the un-sanded boards in the hallway on the right hand side.

Jules did manage to sand the whole house with 60 and 80 grit in the week he took off. He planned to go over all the rooms with 120 grit the following weekend but it all went wrong at this point…

Oiling the floor

After the first week of sanding we decided to sort out exactly what finish we were going to use in advance. When it came to deciding on a finish for the floors my main concern was using any type of finish that would make the pine boards appear too pink/red. I also didn’t want to use a varnish that would make the boards shiny or slippy. I was leaning towards a white tint to create a Scandi feel, which is why I was keen to use Osmo Oil White. Jules tested it and it seemed like a very subtle white tint. However, I would say this was our fifth mistake.

Mistake number five: TEST FINISHES ON A LARGE AREA. As you can see from the photo below Jules tested three finishes on three small sections. The issue with this is that it is very difficult to get enough of the oil on such a small section of board and you can’t get a true representation of what the finish will look like on the whole floor. It’s a bit like the mistake of just using a paint tester on a little piece of paper. We believed that the Osmo Oil White was going to look ok on our boards based on the tester but it really didn’t!

Choosing the wrong oil

Jules started the oiling in our bedroom as he had already done the last 120 grit sand in there. I wasn’t there so didn’t see it being applied but he sent me a couple of photographs the next day once it was dry and I HATED it.

The boards looked dull and had a horrible purple tinge. I really, really did not like it in the photos and when I saw it in real life I still hated it. It had to go!

At this point Jules threw in the towel. He was exhausted after a full week of sanding, followed by a full week of work, oiling in the evening, travelling for an hour back to where we were staying and the idea still having to do the last sand throughout the house AND re-sanding a whole room sent him over the edge! Did I also mention it was the extreme heatwave of 2018? Ha! We very quickly made the decision to hand the job over our builders.

We gave up the idea of a white tint as we just didn’t have the time within the building schedule to do another round of testing. We had already tested Osmo Oil Raw and we both really liked it so we just went with that and it turned out really well. Untreated sanded pine has a light, pale character from its natural ‘raw’ appearance. Osmo Oil Raw is designed to retain this appearance. Yes, it does make the wood slightly darker but it’s very subtle, has a lovely matt effect and it makes the wood feel warm and characterful. We used one application of Osmo Oil Raw and then a top coat of Polyx-Oil Original.

This is the same room as above after being re-sanded and applying the Osmo Oil Raw. I loved it.

A regret

One of our builders re-sanded the bedroom that we didn’t like, did the final 120 grit sand throughout the house and then once we had had the house cleaned top to bottom he did the application of Osmo Oil Raw and the top coat of Polyx-Oil Original. However, it was agreed that he wold leave the hallway and kitchen not oiled so he could access the house (i.e he couldn’t oil himself in upstairs or outside, for that matter) and that we would do that bit as soon as we moved in. The plan was to do an application of oil one evening before bed so that it would have enough time to dry overnight.

Mistake number six: OIL EVERYWHERE AND DON’T SKIP THE HALLWAY AND KITCHEN. Urgh – can you guess what we did? Yes, that’s right, we didn’t get round to oiling the hallway and kitchen. Moving in was busy and stressful and there was stuff everywhere and we just never got round to it. Two years later we now can’t do it as it needs sanding again as it is so dirty.

You can see the big difference between the oiled floor on the right and the un oiled floor on the left in the photo above. Now try to imagine two year’s worth of dirt being ground in to an untreated floor. It annoys me every day and how we go about fixing it remains to be decided (I actually want underfloor heating and tiles in the hallway as it’s such a cold space). Watch this space.

Here a few pics of what the floors look like in our ‘finished’ home. I would say we have a rug in every space so at no point can you see a huge amount of the floor…

So, there you go; the story of our floors. I get messages every single week asking me how we restored them so I hope this is helpful in one way or another. Do drop me a line if you need to know anything I haven’t covered.

Katy x

Reupholstery and choosing a fabric

When my grandmother died nearly twenty years ago I was given the little chair that had always been in her guest room and that she herself had upholstered many, many years ago with Sanderson’s Chelsea fabric (she also made a matching headboard and Lloyd Loom laundry basket top). After moving around with me from home to home the upholstery on my precious chair has finally fallen apart. It is my 40th birthday next month so I thought a perfect present would be to get the chair re-upholstered to give it many more years of life.

I have found a local to me upholsterer Sharp & Simpson so Micaela and her team will do the upholstery but I have decided to source the fabric myself. Now, if we had an unlimited budget sourcing fabric would be a very lovely task BUT all of the fabrics that I like best are soooo expensive and the chair requires 3 metres of the stuff! Therefore, I thought I’d share some of the fabrics and stockists that I have been looking at as I know it is something that can prove to be a minefield. A couple of tips I will also offer are, firstly, do always, always order fabric samples. The two things that you need to be sure of and can check with samples are the texture of the fabric and scale of the print. The scale, in particular, will have a huge impact on which fabric you choose for which project. And secondly, try and find an image of the fabric on a chair, cushions or curtains to help you visualise it as a 3D object.

My grandmother’s chair that she upholstered in Sanderson’s Chelsea fabric sixty plus years ago. It used to be in our bedroom in our last flat and it was a bit tattered but still looked lovely but when we moved I put it on Mimi’s room and it got wrecked!

I would say that I have always found fabrics and textiles a stumbling block for me price wise especially when hand printed and made on small print runs. It is very hard to replicate beautiful textiles on the cheap, which is what I try to do with a lot of other aspects of an interior. So what I advise is to use nice plain fabrics (generally much, much cheaper) for large pieces such as sofas and curtains and maybe save up to buy one metre of an amazing print to make a couple of cushions, a lampshade, adding an edge or hem to a pair of curtains, a footstool or tablecloth.

I feel very lucky to be able to get my chair done and it is currently in our living room but I am prone to moving furniture around often and it is a perfectly sized bedroom chair so I want to choose a fabric that will work in any room. That being said I do want to choose a pattern for the chair as we have lots of plain fabrics in our house and I want to slowly build up more prints.

The chair now sits where this cane rocker was (I had to return the rocker as it broke shortly after buying it) so it sits on quite a busy rug but otherwise the only colours it needs to work with are Light Blue (on the woodwork) and Railings (in the kitchen).

The two prints that I am drawn to most are William Morris & Co’s Willow Boughs and Guy Goodfellow’s Olive Sacking in Rosewood. I think both would work really well in the room and the other colours/patterns and they are also very classic so the chair could move around rooms pretty easily.

Guy Goodfellow’s Olive Sacking

The Olive Sacking stripe is too expensive at £80 per metre so I found a cheaper alternative from The Cloth Shop, which is an Oxford Stripe, and it is double width so would cost about £50 for three metres. I ordered a sample and it is really lovely quality but I don’t love it as the fabric doesn’t have much texture and I think I’ll be disappointed with the final result. Therefore, I feel more inclined to go with the Willow Boughs as I have loved that print forever and I know I will never bore of it.

Some of the other traditional fabrics I considered are relatively traditional as it is a very old chair.

And then the way out of price range more modern block prints from Virginia White, Molly Mahon, Penny Morrison, Mimi Pickard and Rapture and Wright.

Virginia White – Three Lines
Virginia White’s Three Lines as seen in Laura Jackson’s home featured on The Modern House. Love, love, love these chairs. I really like the idea of salvaging an old sofa or chair and getting them covered in something gorgeous and classic like this.
Rapture and Wright – Cloud Garden
Molly Mahon – Bindi Pink. This chair looks so sweet but I definitely want something bolder in my living room as it’s an open plan room and I reckon this light print would get lost.

The fabric libraries can be so overwhelming with thousands and thousands of fabrics to choose from so do check out Pattern Spy for more inspiration and introductions to designers. If you know of any fabrics that you think would work on my chair do drop me a line too!

Katy x

Wall art for a child’s bedroom

Since making changes to Mimi’s bedroom I have been thinking about re-jigging the wall art in there and adding a couple of bits. I still remember what was on the walls in my childhood bedroom and children spend so much time looking at and absorbing their surroundings so wall art is very important. There are a few artists and makers that we have bought from before or known about for a long time but I would also like to tell you about a couple of artists that I have found more recently as I personally try to support more black-owned businesses and reflect their work here on the blog.

This is the main piece that we have in Mimi’s room that will be staying. It is by Christian Jackson and is now available from Wayfair (I had to get my copy from the US as I bought it so long ago).

I’m going to buy Mimi a ballet themed print by EmmaMakeStudio as I know she will adore it as she has really latched on to ballet and loved her lessons before lockdown started. I also love Emma’s Alphabet series, particularly the Lobster.

I have found the work of Christa David on Instagram recently and I love her collage prints. I think this would be a wonderful piece for a child’s room.

‘I will not give up’ by Christa David

I just love these very sweet prints with lots of details for children to study.

Two very local and lovely artists that I know and I’m sure you will have seen them here before are Max Made Me Do It and Lisa Stickley, both of whom do wonderful children’s prints.

And here are a few other really lovely bold prints to brighten a child’s bedroom…

If you want a larger range of prints to choose from check out King and McGaw (the Molly Brett prints kill me with their sweetness!) as well as the V&A’s children’s prints. And for something a little different have a look at the Fine Little Day selection of children’s prints.

Katy x

Budget friendly ways to make changes and add value to your home post-lockdown

AD – This post is a paid collaboration with Trussle

I think you probably know this by now but I spend the majority of my time thinking up ways of making homes look and feel as good as possible on a budget; you could say I am a little obsessed. At home instead of watching the TV, I’m actually staring at the alcoves thinking about budget-friendly storage, instead of chatting at the dinner table I am most probably staring out into the garden thinking of DIY projects to do next year. During lockdown the ideas have been racing around my mind at record pace; the list of projects to update my home is very, very long but the budget is very, very small! It is far too easy to get used to things looking and working a certain way in our homes but with just a few tweaks we can make a dramatic difference.

We worked very hard to create this kitchen for just over £1000. There are so many ways to make your home feel better without spending a huge amount of money.

In my work as an interior designer, I am constantly handing out little interior design tricks here, bits of advice there, as well as putting them into practice in my own home. That is why I am very excited to be pulling all of my tips to update and renovate on a budget into one piece for fee-free online mortgage broker, Trussle. Now more than ever after months of lockdown, we want to make changes after spending so much time at home. You can read my 9 Ways to Update your Home Interiors on a Budget now.

However, it is an uncertain time – with 1.8 million homeowners on a mortgage holiday and the end of the furlough scheme approaching – so many of us are looking to cut down on our outgoings where we can. Since the lockdown began, Trussle has seen a huge leap in enquiries for remortgages, with Trussle’s customers saving an average of £344 a month by remortgaging to a more suitable deal.

If you’re a homeowner wanting to make some improvements to your home but need to make some savings, why not see if you can remortgage to a better deal and cut down on your monthly outgoings? Trussle’s new remortgage calculator for homeowners shows you how much you could save and it compares the latest deals on the market every day,  alerting you if it’s time to switch your mortgage to a more suitable deal.

Some quick and easy updates will help add storage and personality to your home like these cabinets I hacked by adding cane panels.

And what if you want to sell? There have been reports of a rise in property searches since the end of the property market freeze and with the stamp duty holiday announcement. With this in mind, homeowners need to make changes to add as much value as possible to their property, ensuring it looks great whilst spending as little as possible on renovations.

A really effective way to dramatically transform a room is to change the colour of the woodwork whilst leaving the walls neutral.

This is where I come in. I have shared lots of ideas for updating our homes post-lockdown to make them feel more spacious and more organised, as well as things we can do to make our homes feel more like us and less generic. I’ve also been looking at ways to fit in a home office whether that’s in a bedroom or living room. And for anyone who needs to do some budget friendly DIY to add value in order to sell, I have lots of advice on the best ways to do that, from quick and easy kitchen updates to bigger DIY projects that will make a dramatic impact when it comes to putting your house on the market. You can read my guide here.

As for me, I plan to carry on with our renovation inside after our huge lockdown effort in the garden. First up is a quick update in the living room by painting inexpensive laminate cupboards, next comes sanding the hallway floor and maybe the stairs (I’ve been dreading that job!) and then I will be moving on to some DIY wardrobes for the bedroom.

One of my first post-lockdown DIY projects will be to sand and paint our stairs – I’ve been dreading this job!

I hope my guide to budget friendly ways to improve your home will be useful for you whether you are planning changes to make your home work better for you or whether you want to sell. There are also lots of ideas that can be used if you don’t own a home and rent so please do take a look.

Katy x

Wallpaper – love it or hate it?

Where do you stand on wallpaper? I feel like it’s something people either love or hate. I absolutely love it and have been longing since we moved here to wallpaper all of downstairs, the hallway above the dado rail as well as the spare room. However, wallpapering is not something I would feel confident about doing myself – I’m quite a slap dash DIYer and I don’t think that would work well with expensive wallpaper. It costs a lot and it can’t be changed anywhere near as easily as paint can be. I am 100% sure that I want a beautiful bay leaf design paper from Sandberg for our living room. I ordered samples last year and I still love it and have even started making decor decisions in my living room based on the idea that I will one day have it!

Karolina Green

The Karolina paper is similar to the William Morris paper Willow Boughs that I have always loved and Brigette Romanek’s bathroom is up there as my favourite ever with this gorgeous wallpaper:

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I stopped in to my sister’s new house that is being renovated this week (see the post I wrote with the before photos and floor plan here) and she has chosen some very bold wallpapers. I particularly love these Ottoline wallpaper designs; the black and white paper is in my sister’s bedroom and the colourful pattern is in my niece’s bedroom. I can’t wait to see these rooms finished.

Elsewhere in the house a soft chalky pink with a good dose of brown has been used downstairs and that also runs upstairs into the bathroom, which creates a lovely warm ambience.

The other place my sister has chosen wallpaper is above the dado rail in the hallway, which is something I have always wanted to do in my own home. I love the idea of something dramatic to go with the Inchyra Blue on the woodwork (you can see some very early pictures of our hallway in this post, which was shortly after we moved in so it looks a bit different now). I recently discovered Mitchell Black designs and I think his Orange Grove wallpaper would be amazing in our hallway. I’ve also lusted after this print for ages:


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Anyway, just some random wallpaper rambling for you this week until the day comes when I can actually get it up on the walls!

Katy x