Friday, June 19

Other People's Houses with LivingEtc and AO

Last Friday I spent the day doing one of my most favourite things in the world, like ever - having a good nose around other people's houses, on the LivingEtc House Tour in Northwest London, as a guest of AO. I felt truly lucky to be asked along, together with a bunch of other super lovely bloggers, for an intense day of interiors fun.

My tour started at the third house, which was where we were meeting our lovely hosts who were travelling from Manchester that morning.

Über stylist Marianne Cotterill threw open the doors of her magnificent five-storey Victorian mansion for us, and I have to admit that I was so taken with it's beauty that I wasn't at all very focused on taking photographs. I know, I know, I'm totally sacked. Lucky for you (and me!) then, that the house has it's own site right here.

A house like this doesn't happen overnight, that's for sure. This house has clearly evolved over many years of collecting. It was full to bursting with the most amazing treasures - a master class in mixing vintage and contemporary pieces. The house itself, testament to the fact that you can leave your perfect finishes at the door - a bit of cracked plaster, or peeling wallpaper or paint only adds character and beauty. Laid-back glamour at it's absolute best. Can you tell I liked it?

So come back when you're done snooping - I'll just be sitting in the park-sized garden having an Aperol Spritz waiting for you...

Hanging seat in garden

Oh, good you're back! I'm ready for you now, with my blogger-head properly attached.

Right. Let's talk about house four, a three-storey, fully restored (and extended) Arts and Crafts home built in 1929, which was rather divisive amongst our group. Of course homes are immensely personal things, and most certainly not one size fits all. Wouldn't life be boring if that were the case? Some loved this house, others really didn't like it much at all.

I feel a bit sorry for house four actually (yes, houses have feelings too), because house three was such a hard act to follow, making this one feel more 'show' than 'home'. It had all the 'right' elements, but as the family had only been living in it for six months, it lacked the soul that comes with a home that's been lived in for many years.

It will come with time, and once the garden is finished and it matures, it will be showcased so beautifully by the stunning crittall windows and doors that run across the entire rear of the house. It will evolve and come into it's own, and I certainly wouldn't say no to living in it! It just needs a bit of time. And a bit more personal stuff. Stop me if I'm getting too technical.

Dining area with herringbone parquet and crittall windows

Living room with green deco style velvet sofas
Dining area with herringbone parquet and hanging wicker chair

Bathroom with white subway tilesSo, moving on to house five...

Debi Treloar is an interiors photographer extraordinaire, and has shot loads of interiors books including those by Selina Lake, Holly Becker and Pearl Lowe, so it's no great surprise that her home is super photogenic.

Eclectic master bedroom with layered textiles and artwork

Murano chandelier in master bedroom
Bright floral display against white backdrop in colourful eclectic home

It was such a relaxed happy atmosphere, full of lovely pops of colour (and plenty of neon to boot) largely set against a white backdrop.

I think it was the hottest day of the year so far in London that day (yes, I did use the words 'hot' and 'London' in the same sentence), and at times I honestly felt I'd been transported to Ibiza for my summer holiday a couple of months early, especially when I went to see what was at the bottom of the garden...

Garden studio with reclaimed tin tiles on bar and copper panelling

Yes, I could do with a studio / party room like this. Oh, and the crittall windows. I die...

Crittall windows looking back into house

I did a small bit of snooping on this good old web, and here's the house as photographed by Debi herself a few years back. My photos are obviously real-life snap shots, so it's always interesting to see how a house looks when it's photographed professionally too I think.

I loved the diverse styles of the homes I saw. Really, I could spend forever looking at houses as beautiful as these - I doubt I'd ever tire of it.

Thanks for having me AO!

Now please do go and visit these other blogs for some more House Tour action including some I didn't get time to see or haven't included here.

Oh yeah, and if there's any way you can possibly afford to install crittall windows, herringbone parquet and a swinging wicker chair in the garden, or living room, you absolutely should. Le sigh.


Thursday, June 11

DIY Kitchen Makeover! (or How I Took My Kitchen From Blah to Ahhhh!)

Detail shot of peonies and brass lobster on salome marble table

It's finally time to show you my kitchen makeover! Hooray! This has been one slooooooooow makeover. Lots of things contributed to this dragging out for nearly a year, mostly life in general, coupled with a severe lack of time and sometimes a severe lack of energy, which I'm sure most of you can relate to!

With a ten year old girl, and a rowdy three year old boy who requires a fair bit of attention as kids do, it's almost impossible for both my husband and I to get stuck into a DIY project together. It's a constant juggling act, with so much stopping and starting. Nearly all the work was done by just one of us on weekends and evenings when the kids were in bed, or my husband would take the kids out on the weekend so that I could crack on with it. Divide and conquer.

I know the before wasn't completely awful, (especially in photographs!), but it was uninspired, felt dull and not very 'us' at all. We weren't using the space well, there were so many things that bothered me. I can't find an image of the overflowing ikea Expedit unit next to the fridge which was just became a junk and dust attractor, but it was kind of the straw that broke the camels back. One day I decided it just had to go, and then everything started to snowball. In a good way!

We inherited this kitchen we we bought the house about eight years ago, and the cabinets were an awful shade of darkest oppressive green (and I love green, but this was such a miserable shade!), and there were no splash-backs at all - nope not even behind the sink or hob. I slapped a few coats of white paint on the cupboards the day after we moved in, and stuck up the cheapest mosaic tiles I could find, thinking this would be a very temporary fix. Well of course, seven years later, the tiles were still there, I'd painted the cupboards grey, but the rest of the room remained pretty much unchanged. Except the floor. Oh the floor. I was given some vinyl flooring when a friend used the house as a location for a shoot, and for some inexplicable reason, I chose a shade of pink that I really dislike, thinking very very wrongly, that it would work in this room. To make matters worse, when we finally laid it, thinking it would at least be better than what we already had, we did a terrible job and it looked utterly dreadful. We all make mistakes, but in this instance I honestly don't know what I was thinking.

Anyway, moving on...

We had always intended to do our kitchen extension before we did any other major work on the house, to make the most of the redundant 'side return' space at the side of the kitchen, which in our case is an 8.5 square metre section of the garden that is never used. If added on to the kitchen we'd have a pretty big space to play with. But when I fell pregnant with Baxter, we soon realised that doing the loft conversion would by far be the more sensible option, giving us an additional two bedrooms and a second bathroom. So that's what we did, and the kitchen sadly stayed the same.

However, we still intend to do the extension one day, so I had to consider that with every pound spent in this makeover. Well, almost every pound - I needed to have a bit of fun too! This is not our 'forever' kitchen, so I couldn't justify spending as if it were - much as I might have liked to. The aim was to make it more liveable and a lot more loveable in the meantime, but working with what we already had - without replacing anything major like the units or worktops, and without moving radiators or plumbing etc.

So here are a few before shots, some prettier than others, but you can get an idea of how it has looked over the last seven years.

Before shot of kitchen with white cupboards and laminate floor
Not long after we moved in with white units and laminate floor

Magazine images of old kitchen before makeover
The kitchen in Home magazine back in 2011
Bench Seat being built from kitchen cabinets and MDF
A rare shot of the dreaded pink floor and the bench unit nearly finished before I decided to move it!
Messy kitchen before makeover
Okay, so the image above shows the kitchen at it's absolute worst! We'd taken the big Expedit unit out, and the contents of it and loads of DIY supplies just ended up being plonked here for weeks! This picture makes me feel very anxious. Urgh! And look how badly the walls needed painting. Don't fret, the Eternity neon has since been relocated to the living room.

I posted my moodboard back in June last year, and I think I've stayed pretty true to it which is kind of surprising considering how prone I am to changing my mind, though there has been the odd change and addition - the flooring being one of them.

We did things a bit backwards with this makeover because when we started all the work, we hadn't intended to change the floor again, even thought I'd obviously wanted to. However, in the end it seemed a shame to do all that work and not replace it with an affordable compromise, and I knew it would dramatically change the room for the better. So no, we didn't go for the poured resin or herringbone parquet of my dreams. The compromise was not even tiles, as we decided they'd be too cold and we didn't want to install underfloor heating. The compromise was actually a concrete look laminate. WHAT??!! Yes, there is a time and a place for cheap flooring despite what some people will tell you, and this was one of them.

We ripped out that pink vinyl (I WAS SO HAPPY!!) and the god awful laminate we'd covered up with it, and installed the concrete laminate and I love it. Because of the lines, it actually makes the room feel much wider, and despite it being grey, the room now feels brighter too. That pink was wrong on so many levels, but I didn't realise how much darker it had made the room.

Old kitchen floor being ripped up before DIY makover
The floor being ripped out! Hooray!
New Kitchen Floor Indus Concrete Laminate
The new 'Indus Concrete' laminate
We've done a LOT in this room to make it a nicer place to be in, and I've achieved more than expected - I'm so pleased with the finished result. It's cosy, comfortable and totally multi-functional. With two seating areas it feels like a living, dining and kitchen all in one, which is great if someone is watching television in the living room and I feel like listening to music and reading (a magazine of course - you didn't actually think I had time to read BOOKS did you?!). I often don't go into the living room in the evenings at all now. Result!

Wide Shot of kitchen with concrete laminate floor and palm bench seat

The pictures really speak for themselves - it's quite a dramatic change, but here's a list of what we did. My very patient husband did loads - especially taking over a few of the big jobs like the tiling and flooring. I hope you're comfy, because this is a long list...

• Removed the old mosaic tile splash backs.

• Tiled an entire left hand wall incorporating the splashback, and the splashback opposite, in matt black hexagon tiles. An absolute bastard of a job, but the results were absolutely worth it.
Boy helping with the porcelain hex tiles
Baxter 'helping' me by adding as many spacers as possible!
Hex tiled wall before grout
Finally making progress, but this was the easy bit! Before grout obvs!
• Painted the lower cabinets and kick-boards in Farrow and Balls Hague Blue (aka my new favourite colour). I'd previoulsy painted them in Little Greenes Lamp Black, but I changed my mind and wanted a bit more colour. Yes, I know.

• Painted the upper cabinets in Little Greenes Urbane Grey. A really pretty, soft true grey.

• Replaced the cupboard and drawer knobs with stepped brass numbers. A total game changer. Not the satin brass ones from Schoolhouse Electric in the US that I really wanted to use, but I eventually tracked down some polished brass ones in the UK that look fabulous. I wrote a post about them here.

• Replaced the old health and safety nightmare of an extractor fan (can you say MANKY?!), with a cheap Ikea one, really just for the light and so as not to leave an odd gap - I'm not convinced it actually does much!

• Ripped up the old pink vinyl flooring, and the original hideous 'wood' laminate underneath. You might think from some of the before photos that the original floor looked okay, but trust me here - it was VILE.

• Installed concrete look laminate. Not a particularly easy DIY I must say, and at one point I thought we were going to have to call in help, but we persevered and did it ourselves. We did a great job in the end, and now I've finished all the edges properly it really looks fab.

• Installed under cupboard lighting.

• Converted the old country style in built plate rack into and open shelf. I love the way this easy DIY has really updated the feel of the kitchen, and given me a pretty little open shelf. I love the look of open kitchen shelving, but I'm just not organised and tidy enough to have it. So it's nice to have just the one shelf for bowls and pretty ceramics without putting all the not so pretty and certainly not so tidy stuff on display.

I added a bronze tinted mirror as a splash-back here to add a little glam. I love bronzed mirror, it's like you've dimmed the lights on normal mirror, so it's not so in your face obvious, but still does a good job of throwing light around. It has a seventies feel about it and it's definitely glam and a bit sexy. When we did our loft we were going to do a whole wall in tinted mirror, but then ran out of funds (Boo!) and Baxter was almost due, so it went by the wayside, but I'd still love to do a whole wall one day. More on this and other ways to add a bit of glam without breaking the bank soon.

Kitchen sink area with reclaimed tap and open shelf converted from plate rack
Reclaimed sink and tap and the open shelf that used to be a plate rack, with bronzed mirror splash back
• Sold the oval table and replaced it with a small rectangular walnut veneer table. I've changed the placement of the new table a few times, can't work out what works better.

• Bought in a metal bench from the garden for one side of the table and popped a sheepskin on it - perfect for the small people who get a bit wriggly and fally-offy at the dinner table!

• Installed a shelf above the fridge for vase and platter storage. And added brass butchers hooks to hang utensils below.

• Repainted the ceiling in brilliant white and the walls in Little Greenes Rubine Ashes (a paler and slightly warmer grey than the upper cabinet colour). Not sure about my colour choice here. I feel like it could take a bit more colour like Hay from Farrow and Ball, but we'll see if I can actually be bothered to do that! I'm so over painting at the moment, but already have a huge 'to be painted' list!

• Repainted all the woodwork in Wimborne White by Farrow and Ball. It always refreshes a space so much when you give the woodwork a fresh coat.

• Relocated the large Expedit ikea cabinet to my studio where it's much more useful - now holding stock and materials rather than junk!

• Installed a wall light next to the bench seat. I already had a spare one from Ikea, so I have compromised on the beautiful brass sconce I'd like to have put in, but you know, you can't have everything.

• Built a bench seat out of Ikea kitchen cabinets and MDF. This is perhaps my favourite thing about the entire makeover. It makes it infinitely more sociable and comfortable and with all that added storage. I'll do a separate post about this soon.

I then changed the floor plan and moved the bench seat to the opposite wall, but it didn't fill the whole wall, there was a 35cm gap which looked bad, so we added a little box to the end of it which acts as an end table and bookshelf. I just picked up a piece of 'extreme marble' for the top and I love it!

• Made a cover for the bench seat. Somebody give me a medal!! I started off all 'you want HOW much to make a box cover for a piece of foam??!!', to 'I'll pay you double!! HELP!!!', but of course once I had started it was too late. It took me probably 20 hours, never having made anything of the sort before, but I'm pretty proud. Next time I'll get someone else to do it as mine isn't perfect and if you're going to invest in beautiful fabric, you want a professional job. I do adore that fabric.

• Changed the sink and tap. We finally put in the discarded Franke sink complete with tap, that I'd grabbed from outside a neighbours house probably two years ago. Can you believe that? What a score. This was the only thing we called in help for, as the sink was not an ideal fit and required a fair bit of jiggery-pokery by our plumber friend. It only just fitted. Phew! No money changed hands here - my husband traded skillz for denim. Yeah I know.

• Put a new washer kit on the what turned out to be a leaky tap! Meaning the new sink and tap cost £4!

• I found a gorgeous vintage aztec style rug on ebay for £24.00 which is perfect in here. It warms things up a bit and keeps it feeling relaxed.

• Sanded and oiled the worktops.

Kitchen bench seat with matt black hex tiled wall and plants

PHEW! Is that enough??!! Well, it will do for now, but in a perfect world I'd still....

• Change the worktops

• Replace the oven and hob with an all in one cooker that doesn't require the awful and very odd bit of raised worktop as demonstrated currently. I mean, really?! This is up there with some of the stranger things the previous owner of our house did. But until we do the 'forever' kitchen or it dies (she says hopefully), this will sadly stay as is.

• Replace the fridge. I don't do red, but we have a red fridge because my husband bought it just before we met, and it's still hanging in there 14 years later. Dammit. It's also not a family friendly fridge as it doesn't have a separate freezer, just a silly ice-box style internal one. I'm planning on buying a friends big American style fridge when they start their major kitchen renovation - that can't happen soon enough.

• Figure out a way to fit in a dishwasher and dryer. Yes we currently live in the dark ages with no dishwasher, and a clothes dryer that's located down some death-trap rickety stairs in the cellar. Not ideal, but I can't see how we can fit them in without sacrificing major cupboard space or spending a fortune putting plumbing it in on the other side/end of the room, relocating the radiator etc. I'm so used to it that it's not a deal-breaker right now, and I'd rather spend money on pretty things.

Other than putting up some hanging plants and perhaps boxing in the boiler, it's pretty much done in here. I might paint the black cupboard doors on the bench seat Hague Blue to match the rest of the lower units, but as I've said, I'm a bit painted out at the moment.

Oh, and there's one more thing I'm planning on doing in here to add a bit more glam. But you'll have to wait for that post. The devil's in the detail!

Kitchen Before and After French For Pineapple Blog

So, there you have it. My nearly year long kitchen makeover. I'd love to know what you think!
© Bianca Hall. All rights reserved.