Archives for posts with tag: family life

Caspar is sad. He’s normally really happy all the time, and can find a cheerful positive slant on nearly any misfortune or drudgery. So it’s a bit of a shock when he gets sad, and also very hard to predict.

The last time he got sad (apart from when Manchester United lose against anyone) was when we had to do the inter-seasonal clothes transfer, and handed down his old winter coat to Malachy. I had pre-empted the potential emotional descent by buying Caspar a really nice, new, RED coat (team colours) which was extremely cosy.

But it wasn’t the Old Coat and Malachy was very victorious in his inheritance.

It took a lot of time and diplomacy to make it ok.

Then, the little glass bedside light in Caspar’s room got smashed. No-one quite knows how, but it left a nasty shard-like edge on display, which was just too tempting to fiddle with, and so I went on a search for a replacement — little knowing the distress that awaited.

Here is the lovely light which I got.

Lekaryd LED light in red. Part bedside light, part gaming icon

Lekaryd LED light in red. Part bedside light, part gaming icon, part small item storage

I had browsed the Ikea website with Caspar a few days before and we liked the look of this because it looks a bit like Pacman — you can open and shut its mouth by sliding the top up and down. In addition, the lower section has a little hollow which is perfect for keeping teeth in for the tooth fairy (and also toenails for the toenail fairy but that’s another story). Also, as you can see, it is RED. What’s not to like?

Well, apparently, a lot.

I had not learnt my lesson from New Coat-gate and blithely introduced New Lamp with a big ceremonial plug-in at bedtime. Caspar’s face was stony and glum. I pointed out the little tooth/toenail hollow. He turned his head away and stared soulfully at the remains of Old Lamp.

“What are you going to do with my old light, Mum?” he asked quietly.

“Oh, well, I suppose I could put the glass in the recycling if I’m careful, and the rest of it will just go in the bin.” My voice had taken on a brittle, sensible tone.

But Caspar didn’t want to say a proper “goodbye” to Old Lamp. He wanted it to rest in the cellar with all the less-loved toys and the cardboard boxes and the camping equipment. He felt that would be less final. I was concerned about that jagged edge lurking in the cellar for an unsuspecting child to discover.

So we compromised. We decided that the heart of a lamp is its bulb.

Now you can see the read me...

Now you can see the real me…

That the outer shell is simply armour, clothing which you can replace or discard.

Don't judge a lamp by its shade. Even if the shade is not fit for purpose and frankly dangerous

Don’t judge a lamp by its shade. Especially if the shade is not fit for purpose and frankly dangerous

The lamp still remains a lamp if you have the light bulb and socket.

I'm still a lamp

I’m still a lamp

And so it does remain, nestled safely in the lightbulb box down in the cellar, enjoying its retirement in peaceful darkness.

A tooth came out the other day. We celebrated by hiding it in the tooth/toenail section of the lamp, and the tooth fairy was remarkably (uncharacteristically) prompt with her visitation. Maybe a New Lamp isn’t all bad.

*With thanks to @MYSADCAT for the inspiration

We interrupt this series of tasteful flooring posts to warn readers of a potentially hostile takeover bid by a phenomenon some call The Beautiful Game.

The more perceptive amongst you will have noticed that there is a global tournament afoot, the ups and downs of which have obsessed most members of our household for a good few weeks now. Wide-eyed in admiration at the skills and bad behaviour of those taking part, our boys have bought into the atmosphere (and a substantial chunk of the Panini sticker empire) with the dedication and stat-devouring fervour you’d expect of die-hard fans. Which they are.

Oh yes, we have three of these

Yes, we have three of these

The walls are alive with the high-definition motion of little running kicking men, and the sofa spectators agape with the drama of it all. Meanwhile I have been pondering how, even before the World Cup 2014, football is pretty much wallpaper in our lives (despite the fact of course that I would never ever sanction the application of football wallpaper in our home).

I will admit I started it: I installed a football handbasin in the boys’ bathroom.

Slippery slope: I installed this basin in the boys' bathroom -- Orrizonte Latino, Meridiana Ceramiche

Dear Future Me, This is just a slippery slope…/ Orrizonte Latino, Meridiana Ceramiche

Then we decided that in the interests of garden preservation we would not bother with a classic lawn. We have a pitch. Made of plastic. You don’t have to mow it, you can’t wear it out, and, come rain or shine, your players remain clean. It is the best investment we ever made.

Turf laws - fake grass is the best purchase ever

Turf laws: fake grass is the soundest purchase ever

Days are measured by the amount of football playing opportunities. Some interesting tweaks to the accepted rules of play sometimes make an appearance….

What happens when you mix football with breakfast time

Malachy discovers that his new cereal-inspired goalie kit has some design flaws….

So we knew what we were doing: we designed with the boys in mind. However the boys took this idea and ran with it. And that’s when the subtle nod to personality turned into an all-pervading house style.

Artwork? Sure! As long as it's red. With a football /pocket money bargain and ubiquitous team calendar in background

Artwork on my wall? Sure! As long as it’s red. With a football.

We kept the boys’ bedroom walls for the most part a fresh white, in keeping with the rest of the house. A few feature colours, like a brightly painted wall colour or striking curtains, were emphasized by the lack of pattern elsewhere.

Until blue-tack happened. And then Caspar found a ‘wonderful’ painting for £1.50 in a junk shop. And we realised that the passing of each year means the opportunity to hang a new team calendar with athletically posed gurning player photos.

Starter for ten: Which team does.... ah yes, well done

Starter for ten: Which team does…. ah yes, well done

When you’ve been successful in some area of junior level football, you get to keep a carefully moulded and easily breakable trophy to display for ever and ever in your room. Nothing must stand in its way.

Trophy fives

Trophy fives. Books take a back seat

And the clever folks in the football business know that whatever they make, we will buy. Duvets, lamps, clocks, watches, bath flannels, even Monopoly. And football cards. I can’t even begin to explain the joys of football cards and stickers.

Carpet design for the football enthusiast: cover it with as much tat as you can

Carpet design for the football enthusiast: spread your bets (that is City Monopoly for those who were wondering)

So as you prepare to bid adieu to the World Cup in Brazil — with the breathtaking, inspiring, bitey, frenetic, heartbreaking, staying-up-late, virtuoso fun of it all — remember us. Football is not going away any time soon. It’s here, and no amount of tasteful interior design influence can do anything about it.

The players fulfil stage one of their house domination campaign: Being Glued Back Onto Wobbly Platform

The players fulfil stage one of their house domination campaign: Being Glued Back Onto Wobbly Platform

I like a clever way with stairs. As you probably know, I decided to highlight mine with an orange line. Other staircases which made me smile were the ones with bright stripy runners, and even one with a tree. Another trick you’ve probably seen is the one where people write messages on the risers.

Mission statement/ In This House decal stickers on Etsy

Mission statement/ In This House decal stickers on Etsy

These inspirational quotes are great, and also of course can be used as wall decals too. Check out some of these for some words of wisdom:

Decal from Wulfsexpressions

Decal from Wulfsexpressions

You can get this whole wall's worth of decal from tkwraps

You can get this whole wall’s worth of decal from tkwraps

This handy reminder is part of a hotel/ apartment design experiment by company mode:line

This handy reminder is part of a hotel/ apartment design experiment by company mode:line

Though I think, if I’m honest, that these perky messages could wear a little thin after a while. A snappy phrase that seems so apt at first might eventually become trite when you’ve seen it every morning for a few months. Maybe that’s the beauty of a wall sticker: once it starts to annoy you, just rip it down.

So you need to choose carefully, and get something that you’re not going to regret. Something that you need to hear over and over. Something that can only make you stronger. And that got me thinking: how could I make it work for us?

This one appeared on a kids’ rooms blog. This is a great example of what we don’t need:

Bob Dylan's endearing poem is a stretch too far. To be honest, I probably wouldn't put this on a greetings card, let alone a wall. But maybe for a less confident child it could work?

Bob Dylan’s endearing poem is a stretch too far

I probably wouldn’t put this on a greetings card, let alone on a wall. But maybe for less confident characters there could be some value here.

I enjoy the solid practicality of this one, however:

Handy work with the mosaics. This message will stand the test of time.

Handy work with the mosaics. This message will stand the test of time

Yes, this resonates with my style of parenting.

Reading it approvingly, the answer hit me: I don’t want to get poetic, or need to remind myself or my family of what we could be. Everyone in our house has plenty of ambition and self-belief.

What I want is not to have to say the same things over and over again, many times a day, on some crazed audio loop.

I want the rules. Written down, so that I can take a break. I can just stand mutely and point to the appropriate stair or wall, instead.


Don’t throw balls inside. Don’t throw anything inside. Or kick or bounce anything inside. 

Let’s start with the elephant in the room. And by elephant I mean pretty much anything that can be launched in a missile-like manner. Windows, table lamps, picture frames and drinks have all been sorry casualties of the throwing/kicking/bouncing-things-inside game. The amorphous beauty of this game is that any person caught red-handed playing it can say, eyes wide in innocence, “Oh! I didn’t realise we weren’t allowed to throw elephants!” Or bounce sheep. Or kick pandas.



"I have no idea what you mean, I have never been used as a projectile."

“I have no idea what you mean, I have never been used as a projectile.”

"No, I just slipped on the stair. I know nothing about the wonky pictures on the wall."

“No, I just slipped on the stair. I know nothing about the wonky pictures on the wall.”

It’s not that I don’t like the boys to be active. We have a garden with an AstroTurf lawn, which is perfect for throwing and kicking. Even so, our back windows are liberally decorated with pretty ball imprints in a random pattern, a bit like year-round festive snowflakes.

The ball just wants to come inside. NEVER relax your guard.

Even the ball wants to come inside. NEVER relax your guard.

So this is my most important rule, and as such should feature on a wall, large, in Tahoma Bold. On particularly trying mornings, I am sometimes asked, “Can we roll things, then?” This makes me feel just that little bit more weary than I already was. On which note…


Nobody needs to wake up before seven.

This is a true word which none of my kids even remotely acknowledge. Every day, I say it. Sometimes I get out of bed and say it to the noisiest awake child actually in person. It doesn’t have to be this way. Most times I hide my head under my pillow and pretend that I wasn’t woken up before seven.

I would paint it on their ceilings, and the underside of the bunk bed, for Malachy, in special, glow-in-the-dark ink. I think if we catch them early enough, we may be able to change things. This is inextricably linked to…


No getting up before seven. Certainly no playing music or radios before seven. Definitely no jumping up and down or running loudly around the house before seven. You may read quietly before seven, if your eyes will simply not stay closed any more.

Like I say, nobody needs to wake up before seven. But since that is not a concept that my boys have ever grasped, the next priority is that we should try and minimise the impact on others. The problem here is that I don’t have a catch-all phrase for the variety of different things a boy can do before seven. It’s the sheer number of loud activities that defies the inspira-litigation approach I’d like to take. I could, I suppose, go down the route of addenda, or draw up a ‘definitions’ page on the back of the bathroom door.


Walk with your whole foot!

God made your foot to work in a smooth heel-toe motion

which enables you to go quietly when necessary.

If you walk on just your heels

you might as well have been given a stump or a hoof.

Heel walking sounds like someone is trying

to pogo-stick down the stairs

or buffalo are trying to break through the ceiling of my bedroom

(regarding which I refer you to the points written

on your bedroom ceilings regarding wake up times)

This could look good on the stair risers, no?


Please sit down while you are eating. You don’t need to get up. No. Sit down. On your bottom.

I was going to add something about knives and forks being used and not nibbling your food out of both hands like a squirrel, but I did read an advice column once about table manners which said you shouldn’t try to tackle too many issues at once as it can be confusing and demoralising. Since I am already pretty demoralised about what goes on around our table, we’ll stick with the basics. I can always upgrade if we ever make it past first base.

Clearly this is a perfect tablecloth design motif, along the lines of Not on the High Street products.

With Love Tablecloth from

With Love Tablecloth from

(You heard it here first).


Time to get your shoes on. Coat on. School bag. Lunch box.

It’s fine, I recognise that we haven’t got very far since my previous post on this matter. I do still yell “shoes ohhhhn!” most mornings. But it’s the process between initial shout and exit which I’d like to refine.

Somehow, this moment becomes the ideal opportunity to practise the piano. Then, everyone remembers how thirsty they are. Suddenly, we need to rearrange Match Attax cards in a different order and must finish the task. But we don’t have a ‘show and tell!’

The lack of focus is the thing. I think I need some sort of funnel-effect graphic on the floor towards the door. Oh yes, and…


Shut the door!

Or maybe I just give up on this and buy a spring-loaded hinge.

When it comes down to it, I suspect that even with the best calligraphy and most careful formatting, these helpful notices will be about as effective as my spoken nags reminders. That is, a sort of decorative white noise, for immediate mental relegation below the more important things of life, such as The Grand Prix, or Winning, or Who is More Famous: Wayne Rooney or The Pope?

Anyway, I have my own special written out rule, and it’s one I have heeded obediently since we received it as a wedding gift. I think it’s stood me in good stead over the years and I haven’t felt bored by its message yet.

A motto to live by

Finally, a wise motto to live by


The Metro tile: ubiquitous wall decor for any Scandi-chic kitchen, or retro bathroom, or pretty much any other style in between. This handy little brick-shaped slip of ceramic has stacked itself neatly into thousands of well-appointed homes, and love for its understated simplicity does not seem to be abating any time soon.

A few years ago, in the first forays, you mainly saw them bravely displayed with industrial rawness, alongside austere metalworks and stark monochromes.

From Remodelista blog, industrial style bathroom

From Remodelista blog, industrial style bathroom

Since then, we have softened and warmed their settings, with woods and colours, making the most of their unobtrusive blankness to provide a backdrop to a thousand different styles. Essentially, these are neutral, easy-to-clean brick walls. Familiar pattern, simple elegance.

It is natural, then, to declare that your splashback or bathroom scheme will be ‘metro tiles,’ but this is in fact still quite a long way from a decision. Thankfully I have stepped up to this job and done the research for you, so you can read this and simply go ahead and order.

If the bevelled edges of the original Paris Metro are still your dream, then take a look at Topps Tiles Metro White at £23 a box (covers a square metre) full of 20cm by 10cm tiles.

Topps Tiles White Metro, bevelled jewels in a kitchen

Topps Tiles White Metro, bevelled jewels in a kitchen

Or instead, if you visit the branch I do, you could pop next door to Al Murad. They come in at 20cm by 10cm and will set you back only £14.99 per metre. Choose between a plain and simple matte finish or a more reflective gloss.

Matte or gloss: choices abound

Matte or gloss: choices abound

Al Murad's version is comparable but competes on price

Al Murad’s version is comparable but wins on price

Online stores also offer cheaper versions (Tile HQ are selling at a price-busting £9.22 per metre at the moment…).

You may however have a desire for a flat and minimal effect, but keeping the brick design. Fired Earth have some inspirational examples of both the bevelled and the flat in their Retro Metro range. The flat are slightly smaller at 15cm by 7.5cm: the white is called South Kensington and demanding high-end prices at (a currently reduced) £63.73 per metre. The glaze is crackled and adds to a vintage vibe, and I have no doubt these would look stunning in most settings.

Fired Earth's wall-warming selection of seasonal colours

Fired Earth’s wall-warming selection of seasonal colours

This flatter version was the style of tiles my friend Emma wanted for her kitchen. After she described it to me, I found a useful picture on the front of my trusty Living Etc magazine which confirmed the overall look.

Metro-clad kitchen graces Living Etc's front cover

Metro-clad kitchen graces Living Etc’s front cover

I went searching and came up with Walls and Floors’ White Chapel Tiles at a cool £19.75 per metre. They are gloss and flat little tiles, simple and perfect to cover any wall.

Walls and Floors' White Chapel tile

Walls and Floors’ White Chapel tile

We appointed our builder and I chose the grout. The details on a little job like retiling make a huge difference. While tiles are for the most part good tempered and wipeable, the grainy material between is quite another story. Inevitably white turns to a brownish sludge at best, at worst becomes patched with orange or green.

What lovely white grout gleams from this photoshoot/ Original Source's Metro tiles set in pristine conditions

What lovely white grout gleams from this photoshoot/ Original Source’s Metro tiles set in pristine conditions

Most tile retailers offer a massive selection of antibacterial grouts and cleaning solutions, but in fact current trends work in our favour here. Grey is, as we’ve seen, most definitely colour of the moment, and between the tiles is no exception. The shade does define the tiles more, like a subtle web of pencil outlines, but where the little accidents of life occur — the blender rebels riotously over the walls, a kids’ biscuit-icing session goes off-piste, spatters of tomato paste make their livid way inexorably onto every surface you ever had — you have a forgiving base to which you can return with a wipe of a cloth. So BAL’s Micromax Smoke it was.

Save yourself a job: BAL grout in Smoke

Save yourself a job: BAL grout in Smoke

Emma’s kitchen was a little dark between cupboards before — you can just about see the moss-green tiling scheme in these pictures:

Before: Emma's greenish wals....

Before: Emma’s greenish walls…

But now the perky little metro tiles have been fitted, this space is bright and fresh.

After -- a light and bright space

…and after: a light and bright space

And in the evening cosy lighting

In the evening, cosy lighting

She was so happy with it that she styled a photoshoot in it for a new favourite range of homeware. Check it out on her blog here.

Meanwhile, on a roll, I have continued to clock how these little tiles are being used in new and exciting ways. I think my favourite variation on the theme so far has to be these marble brick tiles from Original Style. Stockists are dotted around the country and you’d need to contact them for prices, but what a great combination:

Delicately veined marble brick tiles give a translucent glow to this bathroom/ Original Style

Delicately veined marble brick tiles give a translucent glow to this bathroom/ Original Style Viano White Honed Bevel Marble

I suspect that the little brick tile is only just getting started. Materials and treatments will be expanded this year, and I can’t wait to find out how.

A few weeks ago, I read a blog post on sfgirlbybay (written by Victoria Smith, blogger, stylist, photographer) about wire chairs.  I liked the gracefulness of their thin curved black metal skeletons, placed strategically in rooms full of wood and white: have a look at the post here.

Then, I happened to pop into the spare bedroom a few times over the Christmas break (we were hotel-busy!), and noticed that our term-time lodger Rose had bought a cool black wire waste paper basket. It suits the spare room very well, bringing a touch of definition to the neutrals that we have in there already. If you need a reminder of the colours, pop over here for a moment: what do you think? I am now on the lookout for a few more black accents. Even more excitingly, she bought the bin from our old friend Mega Pound, so it looks like I won’t even need to save up.

Anyway, in the meantime, what should appear in the pages of Living Etc, but more subtly framed items in wire. They are not bold, they don’t stand out, but they do add an outline to a pale space, a bit like a sketch that has not yet been coloured in.

Another bin. Fits beautifully in the office space.

Another bin. Fits beautifully in the office space

Bin... or is it a laundry basket? Now there is an idea.

Bin… or is it a laundry basket? Now there is another idea

People are using the structures for coffee tables too:

Mesh Locker side table in copper -- this comes with a glass top should you not want to leave your wine glass balancing to chance/ Bowles and Bowles

Mesh Locker side table in copper — this comes with a glass top should you prefer not to balance your wine precariously all evening/ Bowles and Bowles

These mirrors have a vintage charm:

Sun's rays radiate from your reflection....

Sun’s rays radiate from your reflection….

I have to admit this next example didn’t work for us: our wire fruit bowl left ridges in the apples. It is pretty though. Maybe you could keep something un-bruisable in it.

Latticed fruit bowl

Latticed bowl with imaginary fruit

And finally, the chairs.

The classic Harry Bertoia chair.

The classic Harry Bertoia chair

It’s a lovely design, but you’d want to be wearing long trousers for any lengthy seating experience. I fear I could be more pro-wire-chair in the winter months, unless it’s possible to develop a simultaneous fashion for the imprinted leg pattern look. Or maybe the summer brings an opportunity to invest in soft cushions:

Cloud-topped wire chair.... a softer way to ride this trend

Cloud-topped wire chair…. a softer way to ride this trend

Wholesome green padding on the Fifty chair from Dogg and Arnved at Ligne et Rosset

Wholesome green padding on the Fifty chair from Dogg and Arnved at Ligne et Rosset

Tricia Guild has had hers painted green:

Like a delicate plant, lime-coloured wire chair amongst the flowers

Like a delicate plant, lime-coloured wire chair amongst the flowers

Let me know if you’ve considered any of these options: could you live with wire chairs? Or are they purely a triumph of form over function?

It’s 8.45 on a school day morning. I turn the corner out of the kitchen wielding lunch boxes, clump up the three stairs into the hallway and holler the “Shoes ohnnnnnnn!!!” command up the stairs.


Three more steps up the main staircase (the smart orange line one). “SHOES TIME! It’s time to put on your shoes!” The cat rounds the corner from the kitchen and meows helpfully in response. She reaches the front door and starts sharpening her claws on the mat. There is no other sound.

I sprint up the first flight of stairs. Silence. Up another. Jonas’s room: empty. If I listen very hard I can just hear discussions, but muffled. More flights of stairs, check an empty Malachy’s room, and I am finally at the top. It is most definitely time to get shoes on by now. But no-one is in Caspar’s room, and the voices are still muted. This is when I open the cupboard doors….

Bespoke board games hideaway

Bespoke board games hideaway

Despite the fact that I put an awful lot of thought into Caspar’s cupboard, I had no idea it would prove quite so popular. For this is in fact a small boy equivalent of a clandestine poker den, minus the whisky and high stakes, although come to think of it, Monopoly is normally the game of choice. Like the world at the back of the wardrobe, Caspar’s cupboard takes you out of the general run of things. You can’t hear the “Shoes on!” shout, the lighting is dim, the shelves around you are full of enticing toys and Lego.

Eaves with potential: what I had to work with

Eaves with potential: what I had to work with

As I mentioned last time, I had harboured plans to make use of the eaves spaces for storage in the attic bedroom. I had heard friends tell of amazing designs by loft conversion firms and well-known wardrobe makers. I started by chatting with a carpenter I knew about commissioning something that incorporated all the storage needs for the room into that one area. I listed the elements I wanted in there: drawers or shelves for clothes, hanging space, book shelves, significant amounts of toy storage. I also wanted to use as much of the area as possible, despite the fact that the back wall followed the line of the sloping roof, and there were structural beams straddling the front that shouldn’t be removed. However reading up about costs for these sorts of designs, and then getting the jaw-dropping bespoke quote, I realised very quickly that this work commanded a luxury budget that certainly wouldn’t fit in with our modest plans.   So I decided to design it myself, using as basic methods as I could, and see what was possible. The joiner on our team of builders was Si, who just promised me, “You design it, I’ll build it.” Bearing in mind his time was my money, I went back to my wish list and tried to pare it all back to its simplest form.

For clothes storage I really wanted a chest of drawers, but drawers are, as you can imagine, a complex and time-consuming thing to make from scratch. I realised that it would be perfectly possible to insert an existing chest of drawers into a space and build around them. Finding them was my first task: made so much easier by the Ikea website, which lists the dimensions of all its furniture. From the comfort of my desk, I found the largest chest of drawers to fit the space between beams on the left (also Malm, satisfyingly, so matching the bed). This then left another strut to fit around, which I felt could delineate the hanging wardrobe space. Then, the remaining, largest gap could be for the toy storage cupboard.

Malm drawers, wardrobe door, toy cupboard. Partitioning out the storage

Malm drawers, wardrobe door, toy cupboard. Partitioning out the storage

The cupboard doors were going to be fitted with handles for opening, but then we noticed that the Malm chest of drawers had a sloping diagonal finger grip at the top instead. We designed the doors in the same way, and it keeps the storage wall flush and neat.

Hanging rail wardrobe for shirts and smarts

Hanging rail wardrobe for shirts and smarts

Since the space went back so far into the eaves, I also made use of the area behind the chest of drawers to made a bookcase accessed from next to the bed. I modelled the design on some shelves we already had: with varying depths and heights for each shelf. They look very sweet, nestled into the wall, and fit all the different sized books that a child tends to have, as well.

Staggered bookshelves in roof space

Staggered bookshelves in roof space

The toy storage cupboard takes up most of the rest of the depth of the eaves. I think I ended up sectioning off about 80 sq cm of floor space right around the back, which couldn’t realistically be accessed from any point. But the rest of it is completely functional.

For the shelving inside the toy cupboard, I measured various storage boxes which we keep our toys in, as well as running a quick survey of the dimensions of Ikea’s line of containers. There seemed to be a general link at around 30 cm: some were this length, others longer but still at a 30 cm depth. So I decided 35 cm would be a useful depth for the shelves.

Simple but thought-out shelves will be long-term useful

Simple but thought-out shelves will be long-term useful

Then I checked on the heights of various boxes, and designed the height of the shelves accordingly. It was a bit painstaking, but worth it, as the shelves are now perfectly set up for pretty much anything we want to put on them. We use them for chunky items of clothing, as well. Of course, as Caspar grows older, there will doubtless be many changes of use. But I think the design can take it. I asked for the corners all to be rounded, so that crawling into the cupboard wouldn’t cause unnecessary injury. It’s all made of painted MDF, a far cry from the tulip wood and walnut we could have commissioned, but actually affordable, and fit for purpose, even smart in its own way.

Multi-function storage

Multi-function storage (and it won’t have your eye out)

We fixed in a wardrobe lighting set, so that you can see what you’re doing. It clearly provides exactly the right ambience for a few undercover games meetings. Sadly these are sometimes interrupted by a Real World representative on a raiding party (shouting “Shoes on!”), but the school day is not that long, and normal service can be resumed by 4 pm. In any case, as everyone knows, a game of Monopoly was never finished in a day.

This title sounds like it should be accompanied by banjo. I admit overuse but I feel like I have got it out of my system now, so normal service will be resumed with the next post.

We had, as I mentioned in my previous post, many storage goals for the utility room. Coats, hats, scarves and countless sport-related items all need a home, and each person needs to know where they can find their own without too much rummaging and general panic. We had experimented with various boxes of items in previous homes, and I feel we may have achieved pretty much optimum access-storage at this point.

Coats live on hooks. And we have some excellent, chunky, practical hooks in the utility room (sprouting from dark blue boards) from Ikea, which are called Bjärnum.

We mean business: utility hook for a utility room/ Bjarnum from Ikea

We mean business: utility hook for a utility room/ Bjarnum from Ikea

Having two different-length hooks is very useful. Each member of the household has a Bjärnum for all their coats and jackets, and remainder hooks host bags and other useful hangable accessories.

Will you hook at that? Coats hanging out

Will you hook at that? Coats hanging out

Honestly, however many coat hooks you have never actually seem to be enough. We do fill these completely, but look at how many there are! It’s not as if we are impulse shoppers. I think you do generally just have more stuff than you like to think, and it’s important to make space for it.

A peg or two

A peg or two

Wide view of utility featuring coats and glazed door

Wide view of utility featuring coats and glazed door

Apart from the hanging items, we did have an amount of footwear and other accessories which needed a home. The aforementioned box system is now streamlined to two boxes each for the boys (footwear in one; scarves, hats, sunglasses etc in the other) and large baskets for Tim and I. Exiting the house involves a lot of “Mum!!!! Where’s my…” which requests are referred directly to these storage boxes for a satisfyingly quick resolution. We had a strange nib of wall (structural) which created a cosy nook ideal for shelving. I used the functional but brilliant Algot system of Ikea shelves with which you simply fix two vertical struts to the wall and slot in shelving at desired levels.

Top level storage

Top level storage

Even room for the cat bed below

Even room for the cat bed below

The big tall Ikea cupboard (in the foreground of my wide shot above) is home for Hoover, broom and other items, as well as cat food supplies and the more bulky items. Annoyingly the ironing board didn’t fit in but we found a snug spot for it next to the Algot shelves instead, so all was not lost.

Lotus is now fully cat-door operational and scoots in and out of her own little passageway through the wall quite happily. Initially we had struggled to find a location for her door since our kitchen doors and utility door are all made of glass. You can install cat flaps into glass, but it involves a lot of cost and replacing the existing glazing. I didn’t really want the tacky plastic on show in the lovely back door, either, because it’s visible from elsewhere in the house.

Having tripped over the cat bowls for a few months as they lurked on the utility floor, we decided to pop them up onto the work surface, to minimise spillage.

Prestige level cat dining

Prestige level cat dining

That’s when we realised that there was a handy access spot through the wall. We installed the little door into the cavity wall: Lotus now treats her passageway like a scouting post, hunched within to check that all is well before she leaps outside, fluffy tail remaining inside and sweeping sporadically over the leaves and footprints she brought in with the last visit. The little car mat we found for her seems to be a nice place to sit and eat, though she doesn’t wipe her paws on it on her way in, and invariably the sink is covered in muddy footprints.

Light at the end of the tunnel: cat access

Light at the end of the tunnel: cat access

For clothes drying I had imagined originally installing a large Kitchen Maid…

Suspend your smalls: Kitchen Maid can be a great drying solution

Suspend your smalls: Kitchen Maid can be a great drying solution

…suspended from the ceiling, but as the room came together it was increasingly obvious that this would block the light and make for a rather stooping journey from door to door. Then I found Ikea’s Grundtal drying rack, which fitted perfectly to the two facing surfaces above the sink, and can be propped up and down in a moment to provide all the hanging space we need.

Dry me out: Grundtal drying rack propped up for business

Dry me out: Grundtal open for business

Now this bijoux feline eatery is sometimes overslung with a few items of clothing drying in neat lines above, which I am sure adds a certain textile festival charm to the atmosphere.

Spot the difference: Lotus channels that holiday vibe with laundry drying above her dinner

Spot the difference: Lotus channels that holiday vibe with laundry drying above her dinner


I hesitate to write about an item that we managed to snaffle at a second-hand furniture store, because it makes us sound smug and you can’t go out and get the same one yourself. But the message is, I guess, that you could go and explore your own local junk shop, and gain, if not exactly this solution, then undoubtedly some other nice gratifyingly cheap piece which might enhance your home life.

‘This is awesome…’. Thrift Shop chic/ photo from Apartment Therapy

After a hefty renovation bill we ran out of money before we could finish furnishing our altogether larger home. Nevertheless a desire to put “everything in its place” and keep family life running smoothly meant that we just had to be a bit creative about the pieces we felt we needed.

Our hallway is spacious, and we didn’t want to clutter it up with those things which, practically, do need to be by the door. Coats and shoes and school bags all need a home, and an accessible one at that. We had ideas for coats and bags, which I’ll come to another day, but the school shoes and trainers I really wanted to keep as close as possible to the actual “going out/coming in” point for minimum dirt trail potential. So shoe store was in.

I guess this would do.... Everett Espresso Shoe Storage Cubby Bench from Overstock £143.29

I guess this would do…. Everett Espresso Shoe Storage Cubby Bench from Overstock £143.29

On the other side of the coin was the fact that we’d carefully chosen our orange stripe and stair carpet decor to look dramatic, and wanted a smart console table to complement the area.

I LOVED this bench:

Gorgeous dipped Ercol Windsor chair

Gorgeous dipped Ercol Windsor Love Seat at £720 from Nest

But it was vetoed by Tim because the seat just invites bags, coats, football medals and water bottles to come and rest a while, rather than go home to their proper places.

This was an attractive option, but way out of our price league.

Tiger Tiger Console Table by Toby Davies from Retro To Go £1650

Tiger Tiger Console Table by Toby Davies from Retro To Go £1650

The dark wood of the banister and a framed mirror that we already owned led us to look out for dark wood furniture, and, joy of joys, one day we found a satisfying solution: console table with under-shelves.

Tidy: Console Shoe Storage from local furniture shop without any apparent name £120

Tidy: Console Shoe Storage from local furniture shop without any apparent name £120

I am not sure it was originally created to house shoes, but it can, and does.

Perfect match

Perfect match

I wanted to continue my orange theme and found a pair of quirky vases on eBay. They have challenged me more than I’d admit, though, because it’s not that easy to find a constant supply of suitably-hued flowers to keep in them (apart from the time someone gave us a bunch of orange roses and I had to take some photos in appreciation), and none of the artificial offerings have been quite right.

Rose works... if a little blowsy

Rose works… if a little blowsy

The other day though, Tim exercised a fulsome cull of the lavender in the garden ready for its winter sleep, and we popped some of that in the vases with great success.

Lavender better

Lavender better

Dusky purple fronds and a slight air-freshening effect to boot (literally).

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