Archives for the month of: September, 2015

Parents! Don’t take this the wrong way: I’m not trying to shame you. But so many people ask me about storage when they have kids, and I think to answer this you just have to take a long look at the floor and see what’s getting between your toes. Be reassured: I have very little interest in hoovering, so feel free to take a rather blurry look at the floor. We are focussing on the toyscape, not dust bunnies or muddy footprints: the ever-encroaching army of kids’ stuff that litters any free surface of our once-calm homes.

For everyone it’s different, but I’ll bet you can name at least one plaything that you would love to put in its place, and stop spending at least a significant proportion of your day tripping over.

For us it’s cars. Races, lines, complex combinations snaking around furniture and walls, with a high-pitched Murray Walker-style commentary and glorious shrieking engines.

Looks like an opportunity to overtake....

Looks like an opportunity to overtake….

Ever since Jonas was tiny, we’ve had to respect these lines, and the story behind them: the race isn’t over until the chequered flag waves.

Two races, two commentaries, too loud

Two races, two commentaries, too loud

In times when we’ve needed the floor to be clear, they’ve taken snapshots of the race for future re-enactments. That’s how I’ve got reams of these photos, blurry and wonky, but with crucial information contained within.

The M25 is a trifle congested today

The M25 is a trifle congested today

Even a brief dabble in ‘track’ building (Brio wooden railway)

Commuter chaos: leaves and a baked bean on the line

Commuter chaos: leaves and a baked bean on the line

normally ended up serving as a backdrop to another race.

“Could it be that we’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere? Maybe it wasn’t left after the chicane…”

I thought it would be helpful to share some of the best-loved and most successful storage items  — those which have got you through those years of ‘entire house as playroom.’

Our particular floor/sanity saver — one which has served us so well — has been a set of hinged, lidded wicker baskets with a calico liner (see above photo). With the cars tucked up safely inside for the night, these boxes looked rather attractive stacked in an unused fireplace in the living room of our first home. For the 18 months we spent in a (cosy/small) rental, they took up residence under a window next to the sofa. They didn’t look like kid furniture, so once the lid was shut, they blended right in. Now they live in Malachy’s bedroom — holder of the race mantle these days — and have lost their fabric innards at some point or another.

We bought the set of three from B&Q at a satisfyingly low price, and they’ve served us so well, but B&Q don’t do them any more. All I can do is point you in the direction of some other savvy outlets who still offer something similar. Remember, the hinged lid is the important bit for stacking. You want a box big enough to hold your stash of vehicles (nothing more frustrating at tidy-up time than a lid that doesn’t quite close: tantrums are made of this) but small enough for you to lug from room to room when needed. Also, and maybe this is a boy way of thinking, but toys seem to work best stored in families — ie cars in one box, trains in another; Playmobil in a big tub… I don’t know: where do Little Ponies prefer to hang out? In any case, they and all their equipment should be stabled together.

So in a spirit of great stowed generosity, I’ve compiled for you a list of the places you can still buy hinged lidded wicker baskets – so that you too can clear the clutter. You’re welcome.

In at Number One, with good looks and a reasonable price point is the offering from Wilkos:

Willow Grey storage hamper/ £8 Wilkos size 35 x 25 x 17cm

Willow Grey storage hamper/ £8 Wilkos size 35 x 25 x 17cm

If you’re looking at a more advanced case of toy invasion, or simply don’t have the floorspace free for any more furniture, how about tucking this friendly storage monster under the bed?

Underbed Storage Willow Grey/ from Wilkos at £20, 40 x 70 x 20 cm

Underbed Storage Willow Grey/ from Wilkos at £20, 40 x 70 x 20cm

George at Asda is on the case too, with this similar-looking basket. They call it a trunk, but don’t worry, it isn’t actually that huge. The price is reasonable too.

Vintage Style Storage Trunk/George at Asda £10, 40.5 x 30.5 x 22cm (or £6 for the smaller version at 31.5 x 20.5 x 13.5cm)

Vintage Style Storage Trunk/George at Asda £10, 40.5 x 30.5 x 22cm (or £6 for the smaller version at 31.5 x 20.5 x 13.5cm)

You’d have to shell out more at Homebase, but you do get three for your investment — one largish trunk and two bijous containers (easier for little hands to transport).

Natural Storage Chest plus two boxes/ Homebase £45.99, chest measuring 44 x 84 x 45cm and the small baskets neat cubes of 35cm

Natural Storage Chest plus two boxes/ Homebase £45.99, chest measuring 44 x 84 x 45cm and the small baskets neat cubes of 35cm

A stately offering from Muji with taller dimensions — a steeper price point too.

Rattan Box with Lid in X-Large/ Muji £20, 36 x 26 x 32cm

Rattan Box with Lid in X-Large/ Muji £20, 36 x 26 x 32cm

Finally, a couple of giant options — less wieldy, to be sure, but sometimes those collections do get rather large. This from Wilkos is a reasonable price for the size:

Wilko Storage Trunk in White/ £35 with hefty measurements at 59 x 42 x 40cm

Wilko Storage Trunk in White/ £35 with big bones at 59 x 42 x 40cm

And at the top end of our collection, Ikea brings you this sturdy trunk for the bulkiest items (I’m thinking Scalextric for this one: nice spacious garaging here).

Byholma Chest in grey/ Ikea at £65 for the sizeable dimensions of 72 x 50 x 50 cm

Byholma Chest in grey/ Ikea at £65 for the sizeable dimensions of 72 x 50 x 50 cm

How do you contain the chaos? I’ll bring you some more ideas in future posts, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear your tidy-up time solutions!

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It’s always exciting to see a design come to life. A few weeks ago I popped round to Holly’s kitchen to see how she was getting on now everything has been built and installed. You might remember our neat little pairing of Bodbyn grey and Brokhult wood-effect which I told you about in pick and mix — now they’re nestled together and established, and it’s time to show you the results.

As you might remember, we chose grey for the doors and drawer-fronts, and end-panel pieces in faux wood. The wood brings a warmth to the mix, and stops the grey from feeling too stark.

Standing sentry

Standing sentry

A tall cabinet is a great home for those extra items you don’t always allow space for: broom, mop, even the hoover. This one fits snug between a wall buttress and a door. Cheaper than getting a carpenter to build the cupboard from scratch, and with all the useful internal fittings that come with Ikea kitchen units.

The contrast of materials is best displayed in the wall of storage we created to surround the fridge. In expensive high-end (modern rather than traditional) kitchens you often get a block of cabinets encased in a framework of eye-catching wood.

Fridge cosy

Fridge cosy

You can recreate this effect with Ikea units by using either side panels and a top cornice, or for a more chunky wraparound, re-purpose a ready-made wooden worktop. Here in Holly’s kitchen there was a limited amount of space between the doorway and the window wall, so we chose to maximise the storage options and go for the slimmer panels.

The neutral shades of the cabinetry meant that we weren’t trapped with one colour scheme for the room. Holly opted for a slate-effect worktop, black cooker hood and a gleaming black splashback.

Bold in black

Bold in black: extractor fan from Ikea, now discontinued (but black hoods in other designs are still in stock); black glass splashback from Cheadle Glass; Duropal Welsh Slate worktop from Plasman

In contrast, the blinds are a perky deckchair stripe in mustards, greys and whites.

Shades of colour

Shades of colour: Ashanti Antique roller blind from 247 Blinds

The windowsill above the sink lends a cheerful aspect onto the garden — plants thrive on both sides of the glass.

Shades of colour

Showcase your shrubs – what kitchen windowsills are there for. Tap is called ‘Palazzo’ from Mayfair.

Most of the walls are painted white, but this feature wall in a bright teal brings a colourful jauntiness to the room.

Teal wall

Teal: on the warm and cheerful end of the blues spectrum

Of all the features in this room, perhaps my favourites are these marbled lights floating above the table:

Cool grey veins

Cool grey veins: BHS Nala pendant lights, heartbreakingly no longer available in store (but you might find them on eBay if you’re lucky)

A translucent and delicate pair when turned off, and warmly glowing when on:

Illumination transformation

Illumination transformation

Light up your life

Light up your life

This kitchen has come together in a vibrant way, full of personality and warmth. I love the way the cabinet pairing works — and that Holly didn’t need to spend a fortune to do it. It’s made me wonder what other excellent combinations you could create if you think just a little outside the box. It’s certainly worth exploring beyond the suggestions presented on the pages of a catalogue or in basic showroom designs in store, and see where these ideas take you. Who knows what bespoke discoveries you might dream up!

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