Tag Archives: home

A love letter to my new kitchen…

About four years ago (on Valentine’s Day no less) my husband and I moved into a house. It was the first property we’d owned together so all exciting and shiny and new. Ish. See, my folks had lived here before us, so whilst it isn’t my childhood home, I’d spent a lot of time here in the previous 15 years so wanted to change some things that I had never liked.

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We got over excited and didn’t take a photo before we ripped out the cupboards, but there were cupboards all along that back wall. Beige cupboards. Yummy.

One of those things was the kitchen/dining room. The people who’d owned the property previous to my parents had built an extension onto the side of the house, leading directly from the kitchen and linking it to the garden and garage. However, they hadn’t knocked the wall through, which I’d always wanted to do (they did put in a  very 1970s hatch though, because why not?) Anyway, we moved in, we got quotes done for the work, we realised we couldn’t afford it (knocking walls through is EXPENSIVE) so we have just lived with it. And it’s fine. But we both love cooking and entertaining and the dining room was not conducive to doing those things. In fact, last Christmas we had friends over who hadn’t visited the house before and one comment involved the fact that it was the biggest laundry room ever (it really was, we’d only ever use it for laundry and leave clothes piling up for weeks… possibly because we’re generally quite lazy but if you’re not really using a room, it just becomes a dumping ground). On top of that, we’ve been using the cooker my parents bought, probably a decade ago. It’s a gas oven and hob. It was shit brown. All the numbers had worn off. The ignition button didn’t work. It was a nightmare and what I haven’t yet mentioned is we have 16 coming to us for Christmas Day.

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horrible old brown cooker.

Fast forward a few months and we’re talking about what I want for my birthday. And I say to Marcel, I want to redo the dining room so it becomes a space we can actually use and I want a new cooker. Now, what I haven’t mentioned is my husband is quite the brilliant amateur at doing DIY shit. I mean, I can hammer a nail into a wall with the best of them, but he’s the kind that’ll measure, and make equations and formulas and drill and rawlplug (or wallplug? I never know) and get the right length screw and hang a painting. So we get to work ordering shit from Screwfix and a kitchen counter company and spend ALL THE TIME at B&Q and then we spend a week doing lots of stuff with rulers and saws and drills and awls. I have no idea what an awl is, apparently it’s Marcel’s favourite tool.

And as of yesterday, the space is almost done. And it’s incredible. So here are some of my favourite bits.

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ta DAAAAAAAAH

We spent a long time talking about shelving. I wanted wall to wall shelving. Now, sometimes I say things like this but kinda just mean like something that looks like wall to wall shelving, even if it is four shelves put end to end to look like one long shelf. But here’s where the wino’s brilliance comes in. He knows of a kitchen counter company that he’s used to make desks before. So he orders in kitchen counters. Lots and lots of kitchen counters. You’ll know, of course, that kitchen counters are a standard width. You didn’t? Wow, embarrassing for you (jokes, I didn’t either). That width was too wide for the shelving we wanted. So we borrowed a circular saw from the neighbour (thanks!) and sliced them lengthways down the middle. And look, wall to wall shelves (and a box to house the washing machine and tumble dryer – clever).

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You may or may not know, I have a tendency towards the dramatic. And I wanted a dramatic wall. So I got to choose the paints, all by myself. And whilst I wanted the glitter addition, I reminded myself I wasn’t 6, so just went for the solid dark, dramatic midnight blue. Yes, it looks black in some pics, but it isn’t, it’s blue. The other walls are in a very bluey light grey so doesn’t feel too much like you’re dining in a box. Also, if you’re going to paint a very dark colour, make sure you don’t decide after you’ve put the first coat on that you can’t live with some tiles you thought you could live with. It makes for a not fun second day of removing tiles and repainting the entire wall.

As I mentioned, I wanted a new cooker – so I got one for myself. A De Longhi range cooker no less. Admittedly, I’m still not used to the size of it, so I only cook on one of the rings, but I’m trying.

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What I hadn’t realised is that lovely wino of mine had also bought enough kitchen counters to replace our other kitchen counters. So we pulled out some cupboards (one gigantic one that made the whole space look really dark), used some of the cupboards from the dining room to replace those, added about another foot of surface to our kitchen countertops and threw in some more shelves for shits and giggles.

And then there’s the light. Oh god, I love that light. I must have seen the light (not like that, fools) in some coffee shop somewhere and it had stuck with me, so I ordered one from eBay. And it was surprisingly inexpensive. Until you buy the Edison bulbs. Then it’s ridiculous. But so dramatic and really warms up the space.

There’s still some snagging to be done (there’s a wire that we’re not sure what to do with), we should probably replace the flooring (I’m trying to convince the wino that a concrete floor will be lovely and modern, he just says ‘COLD’ and walks off. He may be on to something), we need new window dressing (multi shades of green Venetian blinds aren’t really working for me) and I can’t work out how best to display the cook books on the top shelf. Oh, and I am soon to come into my own with a hammer and nails and pictures in frames. But frankly, given how it looked a mere month ago, I love it and I love my wino for being so bloody useful and doing it for me. I’m more than happy to pimp him out, if you need any DIY done.  He’s dead good.

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The Vintage Furniture Flea

Our house is a 1930s semi in the middle of suburbia. You may or may not have noticed me complaining about it being in the middle of suburbia on occasion and it’s really the location I find most distressing –  if you could transport this house to say zone two, I’d never complain. It’s a really good size, we have a huge living space and kitchen/diner and three good sized bedrooms. Apart from the one that looks a little like a prison cell, we should really do some decorating upstairs at some point. And I’ve told you about our garden before too.

We both have a big love of mid-century modern furniture and we brought vintage pieces into the relationship when we met and have bought some pieces together since we’ve bought the house. That’s not to say we always agree on furniture – my tendency is towards colours and fun, he prefers classic and simple. And to be honest, we both like comfort and we both worry about money, so whilst it would have been lovely to get the amazing 1920s marble dining table with silver and yellow velvet chairs we saw at the Midcentury Modern fair a few years ago, we couldn’t quite justify the price. Which I believe was somewhere in the tens of thousands. Eeek. Similarly, I’ve never craved a vintage sofa because all those I’ve sat on, which look lovely, are bloody uncomfortable. Seriously, did people in the 50s and 60s not feel pain? There’s no way I’d be able to have a Netflix indulgence weekender on one of those.

Last week, I noticed my mate Chris had posted about The Vintage Furniture Flea on Facebook and as I’ve not been furniture shopping for a while, I decided to invite myself along. And drag the husband along too, mostly to rein me in from buying plastic things.

Sadly (for me, anyway) Chris is in Milan this weekend, so Neil, Marcel & I met for a full English breakfast at the Natural Kitchen in Baker Street then pootled down to Seymour Leisure Centre in Marylebone. Disclaimer, I didn’t actually pay to get in and I got free tea and cake (thanks Donna!), but I would absolutely pay £2 (or £3 for earlybird entry) if I didn’t have the blog, it’s absolutely worth it. And quite frankly, I would probably give my kidney for one of the cakes, they were AMAZING.

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The flea takes place in a gigantic sports hall and features about 20-30 traders, all of whom sell vintage furniture, collectables, kitchenalia and electricals and so much more besides. I had my eye on one of the Retromaps before going – these are vintage schoolroom world maps, utterly gorgeous but way out of our budget for today. However, definitely something I’d save for, they’re really striking and would look amazing in our dining room.

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A little more about our house – when we moved in, there was this shelving unit on the wall behind the sofa. It had been filled with knick knacks by the previous owners (who are my folks). I always hated this shelving unit, it just looked cluttered and messy so we had planned to rip it out. But then in recent months, we’ve taking to carefully ‘curating’ (I’m sorry) pieces to go on to it – starting with framed prints that fit within the different sized holes and we’re starting to love it a little more so it may yet stay. Marcel has been looking for a lamp to put on the shelves so he can read books whilst I indulge in yet more Netflix, but we’ve never been able to find one that works well. I’m also a big fan of symmetry and didn’t just want one lamp, thought we should have two. We are so ridiculous, this has caused numerous rows. And I’ve wanted a vintage floor lamp for ages, ideally one of those cinema style lights, but we just don’t have the room height or the space for it.

But today, we found two beautiful lamps for £125 for the pair at the Flea. They’re quite short lamps, so perfect to have over the back of the sofa for reading, and are a lovely burnished gold colour and they’re a pair, so I get symmetry. We’re all winners. I think Marcel would have preferred them not to be gold, but hell, given that I was about to buy a plastic Toucan light, he knew it wasn’t a fight worth having. Well done Marcel.

the shelves with lamps

Close up on a lamp

We also bought a number of vintage prints – a VW campervan advert from the 1970s and a Warhol print. And I bought some beautiful chocolate moulds for a tenner. A little gutted that we currently don’t have a lot of furniture needs – there was some really nice stuff there, a little bit that had been upcycled (which I’m never sure is a good idea) but lots of tables and chairs in really good condition and relatively good value for money – Neil & Chris are in the process of buying a house so I think I filled it about 16 times over in my mind. Thankfully for them, I’m not moving in with them. I’m sure they’re devastated to hear this 🙂

Upcycling done well

We had a lovely couple of hours at the Flea – it’s not so big that you feel exhausted by the end of it, but there’s enough there that you can find a good bargain. The next Vintage Furniture Flea is on the 31st May in Brixton and then there’s one in Bethnal Green in July. All details are on the website – www.vintagefurnitureflea.com. Thanks to Donna for inviting us along and for the cake, looking forward to seeing you at the next one – we may even come all the way to Brixton for it!

Still sad I didn't buy this
Still sad I didn’t buy this

Green fingers and mountain goats

I’m not particularly outdoorsy. One of Marcel’s favourite stories about me was a time when we were in the Peaks with some friends, who took us off track (they’re climbers and do this regularly) and it had been raining and it was squelchy underfoot and after about an hour of pretending I was OK, I actually stamped my foot, started crying (a little) and stated ‘I AM NOT A MOUNTAIN GOAT’. We made our way back to the car fairly shortly after this and I’m pretty sure we’ve not been back since.

My non-outdoorsy-ness stretches into doing the gardening. I blame early life interactions with insects for making me a little jumpy when anything buzzes too near me or scuttles across the floor as though it’s coming straight for me. The wino loves doing the gardening, I’m quite happy sitting in the garden, with a glass of something chilled, close to a handful of citronella candles, and letting him get on with it. I do however, get regular urges to grow my own veg and have chickens and stuff so I figured it was about time to see if I’ve actually got any gardening ability at all. Watch out, I’ll be climbing Everest in the height of winter at this rate.

So this weekend, we decided to go on an impromptu road trip and found ourselves in the lovely little village (town?) of Moreton-in-Marsh, in the heart of the Cotswolds. And in Moreton-in-Marsh, we spent a lot of time antiquing and in this amazing little shop called Jon Fox Antiques, we found a beautiful old steel bath. We’ve been looking for one of these for some time – I’ve been wanting a herb garden in a bath tub for about 20 years. It wasn’t too ridiculously overpriced so we bought it.

I should probably explain at this point that we bought this house from my parents, who lived here for 13 years and have moved somewhere smaller and easier to manage. The garden was one of the big selling points – our previous flat was a one-bed on the first floor so the thought of having more space and a garden was very appealing. And we couldn’t afford to live where we wanted to live (bloody London) so we chose garden/space over location. Whether that was the right idea is another blog post for another time… I mean, it is a bloody lovely space.

The garden The house from the end of the garden Some of the overgrown borders

But the garden – Mum had a gardener who came round a couple of times a month to manage the place and when they were here, it was lovely if a little old person-y (wavy floral beds, rose bushes, clematis, you know the drill). And a gigantic lawn. Marcel wanted to garden, so we cancelled the gardener, and then with life being a little insane, it all got a bit overgrown very quickly. And then it becomes a huge chore. And no one wants to undertake huge chores. So all in all, it’s been a bit of a nightmare.

On Monday, we (and half of the rest of the UK) popped to B&Q bright and early and bought compost, herb seedlings and a few other gardening bits. I left Marcel to tackle the ankle height lawn (we haven’t mowed since probably last September, we are very lazy) and to weed the beds (because that’s where bugs lie) and I set about creating a herb and vegetable pot garden on the hugely ugly crazy paving patio.

IMAG1776 IMAG1773 All potted up

So, anyway, the purpose of this post is that I’ve decided to man the fuck up and tackle the garden (with Marcel obvs, I’m highly unlikely to venture into creating compost like my darling husband). It’s likely to be a slow process – to be honest, I almost quit on Monday, about 25 minutes in to trimming the clematis, when I saw a type of spider I’ve never seen before and it scared the bejesus out of me so this may not be a long-term manning the fuck up. But right now, we’ve tidied up a small bit of the border, we’ve got beetroot, rocket, kale and a lot of herbs growing and you never know, if it all works, this may be a new thing for me. I have basically retired.

Knowing me, I’ll get overexcited and post photos of sprouting seeds on Instagram, so if you really care, feel free to pop over there and check it out! Otherwise, watch out, I may become a gardening bore (provided the insects don’t prove too much).

Any gardening tips for insectphobic novices? Would love advice!

Rainbow shelves

Two months ago, we bought a house. We owned property before, but going from a small one bed flat to a 3-bed house has left us both feeling spectacularly like we’re playing at being grown ups (I don’t think I’ve had to go upstairs to go to bed since I last lived with my folks 12 years ago. It’s very strange, but kinda fun).

The house we’ve bought actually used to be my parents place. They’ve downsized and we’ve upscaled. All in all, it’s been a very topsy turvy house purchase with a world of emotions attached. Thankfully it wasn’t my childhood home so I’m not attached to the green carpets in the lounge or the four different coloured and patterned carpets upstairs (honestly, what is wrong with old people?!) so now we’re in, we’re working hard at changing the bits that need changing and working out how we can afford to do the more extravagant building work (like a brand new kitchen….)

Our weekends are taken up with painting walls, weeding the garden, browsing furniture blogs and websites and visiting antique markets to drool over lovely mid-century furniture we can’t really afford.

One of the things we hated about our old flat was the lack of space to display books and memories. I’m a prolific reader and had hundreds of books (and I’m sure I’ll write a post on my love of my Kindle soon), the husband also likes to read but a bit more slowly than me) and came to our relationship with many books that he’d inherited from family and friends over the years. So we knew we wanted to have a space to display our books and intersperse them with knick knacks and thingiemejigs that we’ve collected on our travels. My lovely friend Kate, who has an awesome interiors blog that showcases her fabulous home, has a bookshelf in her home where she’d colour matched the spines of her literature to form a literary rainbow so in the spirit of interior theivery, I stole her idea.

Using Ikea’s Billy bookshelves as a basis (you cannot go wrong with an Ikea basic!), we built five bookshelves and attached them to the wall in what is now referred to as the library (because we’re fancy). And then the fun started….

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Or at least the organising did. I love to organise everything from making sure that the glasses match when I load the dishwasher to lining up shoes in order of heel height so having a wall of empty bookshelves appealed to the obsessive compulsive in me. And as you’ll see from the below (and my cover image), the result is a slightly dishevelled but rainbow matched shelving unit. I even went so far as to match vases and ornaments and pebbles and pennies to the different coloured sections (this was the point when the husband went upstairs to put his head in his hands and sigh!) It’s not perfect but it’s very much us and it’s probably the only bit of our new home that feels like it’s imbued with our spirit (so far! We’re working on the rest of it).

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