Hallway – New Decoration Project Is Underway

So as we are now staying put in our home, I have been itching to get going on some revamping.  And I have the perfect project to get my teeth into.

Our hallway is quite large, and stretches up through 3 floors, with the staircase splitting off in two directions after the first flight of stairs.  It is not a typical narrow Victorian hallway and stairs, and there is a lot of space and ceiling a minimum of 3 meters tall on the ground and first floors.  When we first came to the house it was painted a sickly aqua green, so I redecorated it in pale taupe and white on the woodwork to neutralise it.  But it is now a long time since it was done, so I have decided to crack on and give it an overhaul.

Ground Floor

It has great original floorboards, stained glass windows either side of the original front door and original panelling on the sides of the stairs.  It’s large enough to take a huge period cabinet and a sideboard.  The stairs are original with 2 spindles per step, (takes an age to paint them though).  The stair carpet was inherited with the house, and is a very rich dark red Wilton attached with Victorian stair rods on the first flight.  Then it goes full width up through the rest of the halls and stairs above.  As anyone who knows me is aware, I have a love-hate relationship with this carpet.  It is amazing quality, and looks like new after well over 7 years, and that is since we have been here and it existed pre-us.  But I have 2 cats called George and Mildred, and EVERY hair they drop shows on it, so I have to hoover a lot.  I always wanted to replace it with sisal when it got tired, but the quotes were really high to get it laid well and with multiple angles needed, and it shows no sign of looking shabby yet so I am holding on for the moment.  It has also survived many children, teenage parties and flailing carrying of coffee and tea by the said teens.  So I’m stuck with it for now.

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Very pale taupe walls
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The red stair carpet with brass rods
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My huge old cabinet filled with ‘stuff’

First Floor

Continue reading “Hallway – New Decoration Project Is Underway”

I made a million pounds! Well nearly…

I have spent today writing a business plan for property investors, well I was forced to write one by my husband actually.  I would much rather have spend the day pottering around the house or simply lounging about eating crumpets.

Anyhow, part of the job today was to go back through the years, (it is decades actually), and tot up the profits of buying and selling houses which I have renovated in my life.  The amounts were really quite large, and I was shocked to see the results.

History

I was lucky enough to get onto the property ladder in London in the 1990’s, straight after the big crash and when property dropped to a price that I could afford.  I bought a sweet  flat in Clapham for the incredibly low price of £45K.  It was very tiny, in fact so small that if someone came into the entrance hall they trapped people in the living room as the doors were a bit too close for comfort.  Saying that, the interest rate was 16% so it was the most I have ever paid of a mortgage in my life, and for the smallest one.  Eyes water when I think what my various London properties much be worth now.  But…

Non, je ne regrette rien!

Within weeks off buying my first home I had discovered the joys of decorating and DIY.  I would rush home from work and paint, varnish, strip and build for hours, usually resulting in irate neighbours turning up and asking why I was drilling at 3am.  I became a serial mover, usually lasting in a house for just a year whilst I did a turn around and then moved on.  One friend complained whenever I moved, as I was ruining her address book with crossed out addresses by my name.

It was only having children that slowed me down, my own mother had been a serial house-mover and I hated always having to change schools and make new friends who I knew I would lose in a year or two when we moved again.  So I vowed my own children would have a more constant time at school, and only moved a very few times throughout their education, and in locations so they could stay at the same schools.

But I am rambling…

My point of this blurb is that I added up all of the profit over the years, and I should theoretically be really RICH.  Like close to a million rich.  But I am not-  on each sale the lawyers, surveyors and agents all took a chunk.  Land Registry took some too.  I would then use the remaining profit to upgrade to the next larger house and have some money left over to renovate it.  Then I would sell it straight away for an inflated sum. This all tootled along nicely until I had my first daughter.  I was all set to be a full-time working, part-time property developing, multi-tasking mother.  But I took one look at her when she was born and decided I never wanted us to be parted for more than a minute.  So I sold up, moved out of London and used some of the profit I had made to be able to buy a cheaper house, (it was a beautiful 16th Century barn conversion so I can’t complain at all!).  More importantly it also meant I could stay home for the next few years with her and then her little sister who followed, as there was enough money left over to pay the bills.

If I had stayed in London I would now be in a house worth well over another £1.5 million pounds to add to the previous figures.  In the words of Del Boy I would have been a ‘miwllionaire’.

Am I sad?

No.  The upside to losing my near million, plus the ones I never actually saw, is that I have been able to watch my children grow up PLUS work part-time only when I wanted to.  I think I have been incredibly blessed to have been able to do that.  Now that the children are starting to leave the nest, I am back into renovating houses again.  And I have to get a serious job to help pay for their next steps at University.  But those houses in London decades ago gave me a reward far greater than sitting on an over-inflated,  obscenely priced house in the capital now and having missed out on my girls growing up.

So whenever I am in London and peep into estate agents windows and see earth-shatteringly expensive houses just like the ones I used to own, I just have to remind myself of my beautiful daughters and how I have shared their lives thanks to being on that property ladder as it started growing, so…

Non, je ne regrette rien

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A Quick Kitchen Makeover on a weeny budget

This was a very old kitchen.  It is orange wood, is really tired and the expense of the recent roof-light saga has put a replacement total replacement kitchen on hold.  So I had to do something to make it less hideous for a minimal cost and which was less brutal on the eye.

 

It is amazing what a lick of paint can do to jazz up something in the meantime.  Cue two pots of very dark grey paint – one eggshell version for the cupboards, and another tough kitchen wall paint.  Add some new handles, and nearly done.  New Stainless steel wrapped shelves and hanging rails from Ikea add an industrial vibe to the wall by the sink area.  Total time 2 days, and that was because I was waiting for paint to dry mainly and trying to hand the shelves straight.

But those leaded effect glass doors had to go as they looked so dated – so I took off the doors , (that’s down to my friend Rita who told me to do it – Ta Rita!).  I then painted the interiors of the open units white as they were also lined in garish orange effect wood.  I used a trompe l’oeil metro tile wallpaper on the backs, and marble sticky-backed plastic paper to wrap the shelves.  It looks a TRILLION times better now, and I can relax.  Plus the sticky-backed plastic reminded me of Blue Peter and making things when I was small so I got a nice bit of nostalgia thrown in.

Before…

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After…

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Lamp Black eggshell by Farrow & Ball on the Cabinets

Before…

kitchen sink area wide

After…

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Asphalt by Valspar paint on the walls

Before…

kitchen top right cupboards

After…

 

Total Budget for paint, paper and shelves came in at less than £270.  The handles came from my favourite ironmongery shop Nu-Line in Notting Hill and can be re-used when I get the kitchen of my dreams one day in another house.

Ta Dah!  I am so pleased with the results.  Hope you agree….

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Renovating a House – Part 2

Long time since the last post, but I have been working so hard that I just did not have time to write anything.  My hands look like a 90 year olds – all wrinkled and chapped from grafting, but the house is moving along now.

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Since the last post lots has happened at the house.  The electricians have finished their main bulk of work.  They lifted pretty much every floor board in the house, chased cables into walls, drilled through external walls and upgraded the system.  I now have lots of down-lighters, plus where I needed them, extraction for the bathroom and so on.  A new consumer unit comes this week, to generally pump up the power in the house and make it compliant with regulations.

Following their main fix, the plasterer has been back to make good the walls and ceilings where the electricians had been hacking away.  Finally I could get on with decorating, I was hovering about waiting for them all to finish a lot and just made a lot of cups of tea.  We also had a heatwave in the middle of the work, so it got quite steamy especially when hanging off ladders using wallpaper strippers.  At one point it was 29 degrees and I was staring into a steam machine, it was like my very own mini swedish sauna.

Here is the kitchen roof before and after – from wrinkled, uninsulated dark ceiling to new insulation, plaster, roof lights, down-lighters, (oh and the hidden beams which cost a bomb!).

THE KITCHEN

I had a dream, just like Martin Luther King, but mine was more geared towards a shaker bespoke handmade kitchen with industrial leanings.  The kitchen roof saga has delayed this dream, mainly due to my very expensive new beams hidden beneath the plasterboard and the extra time and labour needed.  So the new kitchen can wait, but this was what was left and it offends my design sensibilities!

It is VERY orange.  So I got out my trusty paint pots and started to amend the offending pine with black, grey and white.  Farrow and Ball Lamp Black for the doors, new ironmongery and some industrial steel stainless shelving are creating a transformation that I can live with until we replace it totally next year.  Phew…

The walls are all dark grey, it is called ‘Grey Shingle’ by Valspar.  I removed the cheesy glass doors on two wall units and lined the back of the cupboard in trompe l’oeil wallpaper of metro tiles, then painted any orange wood bits left with white satinwood.  The shelves will be lined in trompe l’oeil marbled paper.

Continue reading “Renovating a House – Part 2”

Fitted Cupboards & Shelves for Books

It’s been a bit quiet on the blogging front whilst I have been trying to plan how to fit the contents of a large house into a smaller one.  Books are the big issue this past couple of weeks – I have cleared the blockbuster paperback shelves and donated them to the charity shops, but still have a lot left that I re-read constantly including loads of penguin classics and art books.  Even after the purge,  I still have hundreds and really do not want to part with them  My tape measure and I are constant companions now, and I have spent days researching various options for bookcases and cupboards that I need to fit into quite wide alcoves in the dining room of our new house this summer.

They need to look something like this and fit the spaces perfectly.

Ikea hacking came to mind as a first option, with cunning combinations of shelves and mouldings – but I am not made on melamine, and even when painted it chips easily so I know it would drive me nuts spotting flaws on shelves.

I then got in several firms who build bespoke shelving units to quote.  Most were averaging £1K per unit.  Unbelievable!  For that I would get MDF, not even solid wood.

Finally I have found a firm online who can make solid wood ones to order for very reasonable prices. I supply all measurements and they make, deliver and fit.  It is millimetre perfect so is actually not scribed into the wall but removable.  I can move the shelves around to suit the book sizes, and they come primed and sprayed in any paint I want as well – all F&B colours or any RAL.  I am thinking plain white but I will paint the back beading a much darker colour to make things pop.

I am going for a combination of these library shelves below, but with doors not drawers on the lower part top hide the uglier books!  I just love the ladder – the unit will be 9ft tall so I think I can justify one!

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What do you think?  I am putting the order in this week… can’t wait!

Before & After: The house renovation is complete.

Finally, it is done….

For those who have noticed a somewhat silent blog recently, I do have a very valid reason as I have been slogging away 7 days a week over the last couple of months to get this house completed.  My life has been consumed by this project, but I now it is done I think I have enjoyed it…(?!)

I have learnt many new things; how to fit door architraves and skirting, mix plaster, fix windows, mitre corners properly and much more.  I think I have used about 125 litres of white emulsion, and got a sort of snow-blindness by the end of it.  My hands are like a workman’s, and I am exhausted and have spent hours in builders yards and sourcing things online to get the best prices  But it has been worth it, and I am on budget which is a miracle…

In the middle of the job my builders’ firm went bust, which could have been a total disaster and left me up the creek without a paddle so to speak, but we managed to muddle through and finish the renovation.  My builders honoured the contract and worked extra hours unpaid to finish the job, so someone up there was watching out for me I think!  It meant a 3 week delay on the build, and that I had to learn lots of new skills pronto, but circumstances meant that I just had to forge on.

Here come the before, mid-point and after pictures…..

The facade of the house…. from grubby magnolia to zingy blue… I got over vertigo on that scaffolding after a couple of days, and it was a lovely view…

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The garden…. from rubbish dump to a much more elegant space…

The once small and festering loo… now a wall has been moved to create a spacious shower room…

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A large curved shower
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Simple clean lines

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Continue reading “Before & After: The house renovation is complete.”

Thinking of moving…?

As the property market gets ridiculously overpriced here in the UK at the moment, I have been thinking about staying put and extending instead of moving on to the next doer-upper.  It got me thinking about when I have moved in the past, so here are some top tips for when you are thinking of moving home.  I have learnt a few lessons from being a serial house-hopper personally, and am sure there are yet more to come before I finally find the ‘forever house’:

1) Look for a south-facing or east/west facing property

peonies in a blue jar

Estate agents love to sell south-facing properties because of their sunny, warm and light credentials. For many home buyers, the very thought of north-facing means a gloomy and chilly property that’s uninviting. While a south-facing home tops the most wanted list, it’s important to think about what your ideal home looks like. A glass extension built on the back of a southern home could actually be a waste of time, unless you fancy sitting in a sauna. An east/west property could be more of a draw if you’re looking for a bit of sun in front bedrooms early in the morning yet want it to switch to the back when it sets late afternoon.

Make sure to ask the current homeowner where you can expect to find the sun and at what time before you settle on a new home – even if you’re viewing the property in the winter. You might not mind straight away but you will once the summer temperatures kick in! Don’t get too caught up with the sun either – light is equally, if not more important.  My current house loses the sun on the terrace by 3pm, so evening BBQ’s involve either wearing coats or running down to the far end of the garden to catch some rays…

Continue reading “Thinking of moving…?”