Our House: The Living Room…

I  spent yesterday ‘upgrading’ our living room curtains, a job I’ve been putting off for months.  M has never really liked curtains, we have roman blinds in the rest of the house but I persuaded him, some years ago, into allowing flat sheets ‘pegged’ onto a thin wire line (courtesy of Ikea) in the bay window as blinds would have cut out too much light.  He’s grown used to these enough for me to now properly line them, add some buckram and generally upgrade them to proper curtains.  I hate sewing curtains.  Still it’s done now and it helps keep the cold out (and our bills down), but it reminded me of a post I started a couple of years ago and never published.  To add some context to below, we have now completed all the building work in our house, although there is still a fair amount of decorating to do.

Written June 2010

I have been making an attempt to clear through my iphotos as it’s all getting a bit out of control and with the final stages of our house build nearly there I find myself viewing our lovely home through all its stages.  I am amazed how far we have come and actually quite proud of what I am prepared to put up with, without too much moaning, and thought it might be nice to do a photo round-up, perhaps even to dispel any ideas that we live in a pristine home.  As the title suggests, I’m starting with the living room.

Spring 2006.  This is our first house viewing.  I appreciate I look miserable in the middle photo, but we were in fact super happy having realised, whilst sitting outside waiting for the estate agent to arrive, that we knew we were going to live here.  We felt the same way about our last home, even before going inside, it was right.

The house was even more filthy than it looks, empty for months, with rotten windows, no heating and full of insects, both dead and alive; but with the potential for an extension on the side, and into the attic plus it being a non listed building (our last home was Grade II), it was perfect.

August 2006 after we had moved in.  I say ‘we’ but M was conveniently away with work for 2 weeks so I moved us, skipped the carpets and scrubbed the house on my tod with F still only crawling…it was pretty yucky.  As you can see, I washed everything down (woodwork and walls) and laid a temporary lino that we knew we’d have to live with for some time, as it turned out, some years.

Early 2007, removing the wall between the two downstairs rooms.  The back room was very small and had little natural light, the front room had the lovely (sadly rotten!) wide bay window and would eventually have an opening leading into the kitchen on the left.  By now, I am pregnant and we are staying with my sister, having moved to hers for only 6 weeks in the Autumn of 2006 (we had planned to be back home in time for Christmas 2006!), however we stayed for 6 months.  We are still talking.

Spring 2007.  As you can see I am now hugely pregnant (and for some reason wearing shades of khaki – I think I’d given up on my appearance by this point).  We have just moved back in, the walls are still wet from recently being plastered, the front window is boarded up as it had to be re-built with new steel above it and a new window put it and Mr C is soon to make an appearance…what fun!  You may also notice the lino being re-laid thanks to the idiot builders cutting the other ‘temporary’ floor up, despite my telling them repeatedly it was to stay.

When I first came home with Mr C, we had only been back home a few weeks and there was still no glass in the bay window.  Above, the boards finally came down, giving us a glimpse of sun, a truly glorious moment.  As you can see it’s still total mayhem but at least we are back in our own home (C is hanging out in his car seat on the table – where did the time go!!).

The large black plastic area is covering a hole in the wall created to make an entrance to the new extension/kitchen, which at this point is being built, whilst we make do with a narrow temporary kitchen in the back ‘hallway’.  The original staircase, with its dog-leg turn still lands in the back of the room, stopping us from taking any large pieces of furniture upstairs, so our living space is still very crowded.

June 2010 with the new oak floor laid and drying (over a fabulous underfloor heating electric system called Ecofilm, which I highly recommend), finally loosing that cheap plastic ‘lino’.  This was a huge leap in the building work for us.  Although, at this point we had been living in a largely finished home for some time, with most of the upper floors plus new kitchen completed (apart from decorating, which is ever ongoing), we had to wait until the back hallway was re-built, complete with new stairs and the old stairs removed from the living room before we could lay flooring and heating.  We’d made do for some years with an open fire and plug-in heaters.

October 2012.  And this is today.  Actually this is yesterday, today I have a sick child laying on the sofa, or at least the half he hasn’t vomited on…again!

I’ve been putting off publishing this post for so long because I keep forgetting to take photos of the living room when it’s tidy.  I realised that’s never going to happen, and it would feel a bit of a lie anyway, so here is it in its raw state.  As you can see we have one too many sofas, due to getting a new one last winter (from sofa.com) but not actually getting rid of the old leather one.  It serves wonderfully as a place to dump huge piles of ‘stuff’ 😉  We don’t really use the back area of the room, it originally had a large table there for dining, but as we have a smaller table in the kitchen we use daily and I nicked the lovely trestle one for my work desk it has become a space the boys play in.

We had shelving built-in on either side of the fireplace, earlier this year to house some of our large book collection and on the other side, the TV.  The room is painted in my favourite colour, Farrow & Ball ‘Slipper Satin’.

Yet more books under the window.  Oh my Beth, what wonderful curtains….are they lined and everything 😉

As you can see, lurking behind my beloved egg chair (bought as an eternity present) we still have some skirting to put on.

This is my favourite piece of furniture, it was made by my Gran’s family and has followed me around my homes for years.  M used to hate it, he doesn’t like being ‘tied’ to things, especially large furniture style things, where as I am hoarder and love objects of any kind that I can make a connection with.

Apart from some of the boys school projects lurking in the corner, you may notice a huge basket of Brio, this is normally laid out over the floor as the world’s largest train track, complete with lego embellishments (streetlights, houses, bridges, you name it).  In this sense the above photos are a lie, I did take them on a day just after I’d hoovered, hence the tidy floor.  This is very much a family home and C loves to build and we often have drawings, train sets etc cluttering up our floors that have to be stepped over.  I am quite relaxed in that sense, possibly a bit too much so, hence my regular comments re our messy home.

There are lots of ‘in progress’ bits, such as this pouffe, made by my Gran which is waiting to be covered and most of the room already needs re-painting.

We have recently bought quite a bit of furniture from made.com, including this coffee table (the rug is from John Lewis).  I had hoped to show you quite a few details of the room, such as my favourite prints and cushions but I fear this is already a very long post.  I’m not sure how interesting it is to look at someone else’s house, at least not in this detail, but I hope it hasn’t been completely boring.  I just think it gives context to me and my family life.  I love our home, but we went through a lot to create it, nearly 4 years of builders on and off in all, and there’s still plenty to do.  We’re nearly there though so I hope to show you a bit more in time, maybe in shorter posts!!

Feeling hot, hot, hot…!

Along with everywhere else we appear to be in the middle of a heatwave and I will happily admit I am finding it difficult.  Don’t get me wrong, I do love a bit of sunshine but I love it more when I’m on holiday in other words when I haven’t got the kids to entertain, the house to clean and a serious backlog of painting and decorating to do.  I know I’m moaning but I have never hidden the fact I am really an Autumn/Winter person, still I intend the make the most and we have been spending a lot of time in the garden and the result is not a lot of work is getting done.

Charlie has Christened the new floor already (thanks for that Mr C!) and we are slowly getting the skirting on which I am painting as we go.  We decided that nothing is going back into the room that shouldn’t be there and I refuse to put big furniture pieces in until the area behind has been re-painted and the skirting is on.  I have waited 4 years, a few more weeks wont hurt and I want one room in the house totally ‘done’.

I have cleaned everything, even my Jan Constantine cushion has been washed and here is an old pine box I’ve owned for years, it was badly stained a horrid colour, I have stripped it back, given it a coating of oil and wax and painted the inside with some Farrow & Ball ‘Elephant’s Breath’ eggshell left over from the inside of our kitchen cupboards (I have a slight love of the odd sounding F & B colours, I’m desperate to use ‘Mouse’s Back’ and ‘Dead Salmon’ at some point).

I did managed a little sewing yesterday.  I’d grown to hate the existing blind at the back of our room, I’m not sure why, it had a few mistakes and I think I just feel the need for fresh things to make the room complete so I bought some expensive but lovely St Judes fabric, ‘Kensel Rising’ in pale green bought from Tinsmiths.

It has made a beautiful blind and fits perfectly.  This back corner is now complete, we still have to put pictures up so the walls are a little bare but I love it all the same.  I should mention our whole house is painted in F & B ‘All White’ with the exception of the living room which is in our old favourite ‘Slipper Satin’, it has a slight grey/green quality to it, for some reason it makes me think of snow, a specific kind not white out Arctic, more a snowy woodland landscape, we used it a lot in the last house.

I unwrapped my new Sarah Carr Robot Cushion, I bought it as a treat whilst waiting for the flooring to go down and now it’s in place I couldn’t be happier.

I have even put out my beloved Alvar Aalto vase which my Sister bought as a house warming present, she knew I’d earmarked it but would never buy it for myself, a very generous gift.

Well, there is still plenty to do, the kitchen is stockpiled with all our other books and furniture but I am more than halfway through now and it is already so worth it, our main living space is totally different, clean, warm and welcoming and I love it.  Sorry this post is a little disjointed but I am feeling a little all over the place and huge apologies to my total lack of leaving comments on all the blogs I read, time is just disappearing at the moment but I think I am not the only one finding this!

Passing the time…

I not only survived F’s B-Day party but we had great fun, I eagerly did my ‘time’ on the giant drop slide by getting up there straight away and was swiftly followed by many of the other parents, we were the only party booked in so pretty much had the place to ourselves meaning everyone could relax, it was great to see the parents taking their turn to hurl themselves off.

We also have flooring – hurrah! I will save the photos for a post of their own as it’s still a bit crazy here, the floor is currently ‘buckled’ into place whilst the glue dries and then we can move the furniture back in over the weekend.  I can’t say it wasn’t stressful, the laying of the underlay and electric heating film wasn’t entirely simple due to someone not having ordered enough of many things (he knows who he is!) prompting frantic searches of supplies in Kent but it’s done now, and all is well.

As I was holed up in the studio, I tried to make it as pleasant as possible adding a little posy of sweet peas from the garden.  They smell lovely and have been put in a new glass bought as a pair from a good vintage the Etsy shop owned by Amanda Sainsbury (who you may know for her fine knits).  I love it so, it’s beautifully tactile, I am using the second glass as my special-new-favourtie water drinking glass.

The business card on the board is from a recent purchase of mirrors from Hidden Eloise. As always they were perfect and delivered in the most amazing packaging, I gave the other mirror (sorry, not photographed) as a Birthday present to one of F’s friends along with a Postcarten, they went down very well.

I spent some time reading, I have recently bought quite a few Japanese pattern books from M is for make which I plan to put to use this summer and I really enjoyed reading the second issue of the Green Bean zine by Katie Green (available here), it’s the issue that contains an illustration of one of my tweed bunny purses amongst other of Katie’s ‘Favourite Handmade Things’, which made me smile amongst the dusty madness of house renovations.

As I was sitting at my desk I also did a spot of sewing.  I recently came across a bunch of mini goose feather cushions I bought when pregnant to use for sleep propping (blimey, that seems an age ago now) so I used a remnant of Orla Kiely fabric bought on ebay to make a quick cover.  The back is in brown linen and I added some pipping and a zip I had in stock.

I’m really pleased as I need lower back support when sitting at my desk so this is perfect, the rest of this fabric is waiting to be turned into cushions for the living room, perhaps a job for this afternoon?

OK, time to get going, the weather is lovely today so after a couple of indulgent Ben 10 TV days I want to get Mr C out into the garden and there is plenty to be done in the veg patch 🙂

Lovely Linen and Large Holes…

The last week has been a bit hard work, the builders ‘knocked through’ on Tuesday and I wasn’t quite ready, we had talked about this being on the cards for Wednesday so nothing had been packed up, I had to do as hasty grab through the studio to collect work and then prepare for living on just the kitchen/living room for a few days.  To give you some idea of the hole they created here it is

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this photo is taken whilst crouching down in our old extension (minus the flat roof it did have which made it look like a public toilet block from the 70’s), the 9ft high hole is direct into our open plan living space/kitchen and hallway upstairs so it’s been 2 floors of dust to hoover and mop, hoover and mop again, oh and again – you get the picture?  We had 2 nights of slightly spooky tarpaulin only covering the opening which rather freaked the kids out and I has to sit in the hallway waiting for them to go to sleep but as you can see, it has been boarded over and yesterday I got my house back, for a while anyhow.  What a happy bunny I am.

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Despite it’s restrictions, being stuck in the kitchen has meant I managed to get a bit of work done.  I started a search for new linen a while back and have found a great medium weight oatmeal linen at one of my favourite online stores Ada and Ina Linen Fabrics, which is good as I made some bad choices recently and now have about 8 meters of unsuitable linen, it will get used eventually but I am cross at myself for buying badly.  The new oatmeal colour works really well for the cats/bunnies as it’s paleness sets of the bright fabrics I like to use for the dresses.

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This along with a couple of cats/bunnies in the old linen has allowed me to use some of the new dresses recently made

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I didn’t list the dress fabrics last time so from the top we have:

  • Alexander Henry – Apples and Pears, Brown – The Eternal Maker
  • Kokka – Little Red Riding Hood in blue – Fabric Rehab
  • Kokka – Russian Dolls Pink – I am guessing FR again.
  • Michael Miller (Patty Young) – Andalucia 60’s Sunflower, Pink – Fabric Rehab
  • Kokka – Scandi Dala Horse, Green – Fabric Rehab

If I had to pick a favourite I would say I am rather in love with the Alexander Henry, Apples and Pears, I have only ever seen the brown at The Eternal Maker and that was by accident where it was the very reasonable price of £10/meter (so many fabrics now are over £10) it certainly suits the time of year.  Can’t help but notice that Kokka features a lot in my list, I may have to buy the Dala Horse fabric in red the flower basket part of this print is fabulous, I liked the Little Red Riding Hood so much I also bought it in orange and pink.  It makes me feel better that they are Japanese and so cheaper here than the US, which can’t be said for most of the other fabrics!

Changing rooms…

As part of getting into the right frame of mind for the builders I have been looking back at old photos of our past houses and thought I would share some with you.

When in my mid 20’s, I inherited enough money to buy my first flat.  I was a cash-in-hand waitress, I didn’t think I would be stepping on the property ladder for years but I am glad I had the sense to put it into property.  I bought a very run down maisonette in London, Oval.  I had little spare cash so I did everything myself, something I am very proud of, including the tiling, the plumbing and fitting a wooden floor.  It was a learning curve but with a background as a Theatre Designer and a bunch of skills learnt from helping my Mum decorate I knew I would be OK.  Here are a few pictures:

The old kitchen, sink side.

The old kitchen, sink side.

Mess and me...this is over 10yrs ago, I don't look like that now!

Mess and me...this is over 10yrs ago, I don't look like that now!

My, that tiling is good!

My, that tiling is good! the units are Habitat Olivia free standing, we still have the table as out kitchen table in the current house.

Let me stress this next photo is after I met M and he moved into my flat.

Mid decoration - Oh dear!

Mid decoration - Oh dear!

Ta da!  Now that's a transformation...where did all the stuff go?

Ta da! Now that's a transformation...where did all the stuff go? (into a unit at Big Yellow that's where)

After I met M and we were engaged we moved out of London to a village in Kent where we bought our first house together, a lovely cottage with a small but perfect walled garden.  We employed a builder here and had the kitchen made, although I still did all the painting and M stripped the boards throughout the house.

The day we viewed the house - old kitchen.

The day we viewed the house - old kitchen.

New kitchen

New kitchen

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Like most couples, M and I don’t have entirely the same taste.  He hates that I have a lot of possessions and that a lot of the furniture is mine, especially the things that I have inherited from my family that I prize but that he sees as a burden.  Over the years things have balanced out a bit, the above is a metal 1950’s filing cabinet that we bought together and is now one of our prized pieces and we have found a balance that suits us both.

The final photo is very typical of my taste.  I like a very eclectic mix, this is the spare bedroom of our old house that was being used as F’s first room:

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The pine chest of draws is mine from when I was 15 and decided I wanted to strip the 80’s primary colours from my bedroom and go all Victorian.  Luckily my Mother let me go for it and bought me some old pine furniture.  I used my first waitress wages, at 15yrs, to buy an antique iron bedstead to complete the look which I still have, stored at present in our shed.  The chair is an original Arne Jacobsen Egg chair that M bought me as a maternity present.  The blind is the first Roman blind I made, and is done in Classic Uniko fabric from Marimekko.  The clown was my grans, the bird mobile came from Holz toys, the lampshade is by Le Kint (you can get fantastic similar ones from Ikea at the fraction of the price) and finally the hand knitted jumper and jacket, just visible are by Small Acorn, who I am dying to put on my ‘lovely gifts’ link but they seem to still be ‘taking a break’.

I hope I haven’t bored you but I am aware I don’t post many photos of our house, partly because a lot of it is boxed and the rest is covered in kids toys!