Archives for posts with tag: Shopping

I had a great week last week setting up a friend’s kitchen makeover. I can show you photos, we’re both really pleased with how it turned out — more on that very soon. But it almost didn’t happen at all.

As we chatted before Christmas, she admitted that she’d love a change in her kitchen, but that it would probably cost too much, she couldn’t bear the hassle and simply didn’t have time. Working full time, with a family and many other pressing commitments besides, the prospect of wading through product research, builder-selecting and overseeing a project was an incredibly unattractive one. So we talked through what she’d like, ideally, and what would induce her to go ahead. And as we discussed it, I realised that a lot of people feel the same about making changes to their homes.

I know the look I want but I don’t know how to get it

Sometimes you know exactly what you want done to your kitchen.

Plywood stars in House OM designed by Sou Fujimoto Architects, photo by Iwan Baan

Plywood stars in House OM designed by Sou Fujimoto Architects, photo by Iwan Baan

You have seen the perfect bathroom in a magazine, and you only wish you could snap your fingers and have it.

Going for gold: who said we had to stop at the taps?/ Lasa Idea Catalogue Collections 2014

Going for gold: who said we had to stop at the taps?/ Lasa Idea Catalogue Collections 2014

You might know that you like a certain style: ‘I live in a Victorian house so I would like to have classic styling in my bathrooms.’

Country house bathroom featured in Homes and Gardens

Country house bathroom featured in Homes and Gardens

Maybe it is simply that you prefer things sleek and don’t want to have all your cookware on show.

What do you mean, it'll all change when we have kids? Segmento kitchen from Poggenpohl boasts unadorned minimalism

What do you mean, it’ll all change when we have kids? Segmento kitchen from Poggenpohl boasts unadorned minimalism

It’s a big jump from these statements to finding the right products, at the best prices, to fit in your rooms. Wouldn’t it be good if there was someone who knew exactly where to look for the special deals, could discuss the pros and cons of different items, and could ensure that everything fitted together properly?

I don’t know a trustworthy tradesman

Sadly cowboy builders are not unheard of. Most people can recount horror stories of jobs left half done or how poor fitting led to leaky ceilings, wonky cabinetry or worse. But there are plenty of fantastic craftsmen out there who work hard, and create beautiful homes. A good professional recommendation is so valuable.

I don’t have the time to get quotes, let builders in, keep an eye on the work done, or ensure that everything is done properly

If you are working and/or out of the house in the daytime, a simple building job can be a huge pressure. You need the time to talk through the job and get quotes, then be ‘on site’ throughout to check on progress, and keep works on track and to schedule. Imagine if someone took all these pressures out of your hands!

I’m not the sort of person who has an interior designer

Most people think of an interior designer as someone who swans about in houses making airy decisions about fabrics, colour ways or recommending expensive luxury furniture. They seem the preserve of the rich, not those with limited budgets seeking practical solutions.

In fact, if you recognise some or all of the sentiments I’ve mentioned above, it’s almost certain that you can save your time, money and stress by employing someone to take these jobs on for you. Sourcing, tendering and project management are all areas of building work that are often bewildering and exhausting. It is not surprising that most people are nervous to undertake new projects, but if they could save on the cost of products, have peace of mind on their choice of builder, and not get embroiled in the minutiae of the job, maybe they’d feel differently.

So if you’d like to spend less, not more, you probably need to come to stowed for some skinterior design.

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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.

Nothing.

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.

It’s coming up to birthday time of year in our house. Jonas and Caspar have been hard at work writing their wish lists, and we have been noting the items with interest. Caspar’s list is minimalist, I guess he is ensuring that he’ll get his top favourites. There are five suggestions on there, one of which is a pair of signed Ronaldo football boots, apparently available for the bargain price of £309.99 from a sporting memorabilia website. It’s possible a 7-year-old will be disappointed later this month.

A steal: Cristiano Ronaldo's signed boot

A steal: Cristiano Ronaldo’s signed boot

Jonas on the other hand has scribed a short legal document with scores out of ten (tickets to a Chelsea match, 11.6/10: extreme giver satisfaction rating) stretching to 57 items. There is a pleasing variety of presents for reasonable prices, including a Lego Glow-in-the-dark Racing Car at an encouraging 8.4/10, and Some More BBQ Sauce From KFC: this not to be recommended at an all-time low score of 4/10. Specifics ensure that all expectations will be met: A Trip To Yo-Sushi at 7.45pm reaps 10/10, but please read the timings carefully for full point capture here. A donation of £100 will garner top score of 13/10. I should think so too.

Floating around the middle of the list at a respectable 7/10 was Cardboard Box To Make A House Out Of, which was so surprisingly wholesome I had to check it for small print. I did then remember that a few years ago we purchased a new washing machine, and the cardboard packaging from this provided hours of fun outside in the garden with some paints, some of which were used to decorate the box and transform it into a “house.” More pertinent for scientific study, this entry on the present wish list seems to confirm the old adage “Kids! They spend more time playing with the box it came in!” I was about to proffer my new-found evidence to some market researchers as a tip for future manufacturing trends.

However it would seem that someone has already leapt on that opportunity: you can purchase a cardboard house from eBay for your child to decorate and play in. Really! And only pay £32.99.

Through the keyhole. Who would pay for a house like this?

Through the keyhole. Who would pay for a house like this?

Almost hyperventilating at the cynicism of the toy profiteers, I ventured down to the cellar to find a couple of the large removals boxes we had managed to empty of old CDs and junk. A little soggy around the bottom (the one and only link our cellar floor may have with The Great British Bake-Off), they were nevertheless huge and housey. Which was just what we wanted. In a fit of generosity I brought them up into the kitchen before birthdays for general craft and decoration fun.

Toy box

Toy box

A little parental involvement became necessary around the door and window cutting, thankfully intercepting Malachy’s attempts at slash and stab with a table knife before too much blood was lost.

Cowboy builders, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Cowboy builders, you ain’t seen nothing yet

Now the yellow felt pen is apparently officially ‘run out’ and actually the cat has played more inside the boxes than anyone else, but for an afternoon of creativity these worked perfectly.

Thinking of entering the Room for Color competition next year too

Thinking of entering the Room for Color competition next year too

Lotus is not sure about the standards of workmanship

Lotus is not sure about the standards of workmanship

And Jonas’s present list is now down to 56 items.

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.

http://i-cdn.apartmenttherapy.com/uimages/re-nest/thrift_store_furniture.jpg

‘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).

We were in Paris for only two nights, and so had to squeeze in our adventures to a relatively short time. Hence on the first morning we set off to find a perfect breakfast bakery, with tables outside, and delicious creations inside. The Rue des Martyrs was freckled liberally with award-winning cake shops and bread shops, sushi bars and wine bars, delicatessens and cheese emporia, sawdust-sprinkled floors in butchers and punnets of fruit and veg spilling out of greengrocers onto trestles on the pavement.

Stocking the pavement with five-a-day supplies

Stocking the pavement with five-a-day supplies

The only seated refreshments we saw initially were the wobbly plastic chairs outside tabacs. Parisians seemed content to perch on these to enjoy their early morning espresso, but we were after the holiday dream (always a dangerous aim with children in tow), and bakeries weren’t obliging with seating as we traipsed up the hill.

Roll up, roll up! Get your posh ham here.

Roll up, roll up! Get your posh ham here

Thankfully at the top was a tiny cobbled square with trees, benches, and a few local people stretching the legs of their minuscule dogs. At the corner, some artfully arranged painted chairs and rickety tables heralded our boulangerie holy grail.

The colour shop next door. How to match your soft furnishings with your floral arrangements

The ‘colour shop’ next door. How to match your soft furnishings with your floral arrangements

Each boy chose an inordinately enormous cake for his ‘second breakfast’, whilst Tim and I enjoyed a simple croissant each with black coffee, so everyone was happy.

It's not muesli. But it is second breadfast.

It’s not muesli. But it is second breakfast

Our meander back down the hill was slightly less single-minded, and we found some dear little treasure shops nestled between the cafes.

What lovely crockery you have! Quirky little interiors shop

What lovely crockery you have! Quirky little interiors shop

I pretty much wanted everything in here.

So many nice things, so little interest from my tourist companions....

So many nice things, so little interest from my tourist companions….

And through this murky window some existentialist toys contemplated their future.

Don't jump, Claude. Playmobil figures close to the edge

Don’t jump, Claude. Playmobil figures close to the edge

Thus set up, we went on our way to the Metro, and headed to our next, even more magical destination….

The room we chose to use as our living room is dark. Outside the stately front window, four large holly trees stand sentry, dominating the front garden and blocking natural light to the front of the house. Each is in possession of a preservation order, a council-given right to remain despite lacking any redeeming features, guarding the front door with evergreen austerity like a gang of moody bouncers.

Leaf it out. Holly trees hulk in front garden

Leaf it out. Holly trees hulk in front garden

When we were thinking about wall colours and window covering we kept coming up against this, and bemoaning the lack of light. Then, in discussion with a curtain fitter one day I discovered that the room, with its wood panelling and shadowy aspect, would almost certainly have been the library, decorated in rich dark colours, and containing shelves full of carefully bound volumes. Dim light was a boon in this setting. Well this did change it for me, and we started thinking about turning the room’s challenges into an inspiration.

These guys don't mind it gloomy: In the Library by John Watkins Chapman

These guys don’t mind it gloomy: In the Library by John Watkins Chapman

Having painted the wood- and plasterwork a refreshing white, we decided to go for a densely dark grey on the fireplace wall. The remaining walls are a lighter shade on the spectrum. The contrast between walls and woodwork is dramatic.

Serene and grown up

Serene and grown up

We removed the small fireplace, which we thought may not have been the original for that space: gaps in the skirting suggested that there had once been a grander version there. We did like it, though, and had it cosmetically reconditioned (not to be used, it’s patched up mainly with plywood) and placed in Jonas’s room. We spent a good while choosing a more suitable statement fireplace for the room, along with a marble surround in place of the existing rather timid wooden construction. The significant costs of the products (fire, grate, slate, mantel, backing boards), were small beans compared to the enormous cost of installation. An open fire is a luxury: once you step along that road to renovation you are bound to be shelling out at high levels. Because of fire safety, you don’t feel as though you can argue with the professionals, after all, who would want to jeopardise their home and family with a “shoddy” job? Suffice to say, if anyone was looking for any area to retrain into, I’d suggest the fire installation trade as a dead cert from the money-spinning perspective.

Incendiary costs: a new fireplace

Incendiary costs: a new fireplace

Other rooms in our house are quite vibrant and full of light. This room has turned out to be a calm, peaceful retreat in a sometimes hectic home, and a wonderful evening hideaway. It does feel more grown-up, and, whilst the children do come in here to watch TV now and then, it’s not part of the daily circuit for them (or their cars).

I think I may be off the beaten track a little here

I think I may be off the beaten track a little here

Next time I’ll tell you about the windows — we now had two bays to dress, one large and stately, one weeny and cute — and a far deeper journey into the suffocating folds of upholstery than I ever thought I’d embark upon….

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