Thursday, 27 August 2015

A new sitting room addition...

Over the past few weeks, I've managed to pick up a couple of items of budget furniture. This chest is a new addition and is doing double duty as both tv stand, and additional storage (holding DVD's and CD's), with a basket holding my current sewing and knitting projects underneath.

I had been using this Ikea stand for the first year in the cottage, and it had also served me well for the previous 5 years in my flat. My longer term plan is to have built-in shelves and cupboards made for either side of the fireplace - however, that is likely a task for 2016-7. I came to the decision that I could probably find something that was a little more attractive to serve this purpose in the meantime.

I found this lovely small chest on eBay for £40. It fit the space perfectly, and I also liked the fact that it had slender legs, so it would not feel so visually bulky in the space. The eBay seller had already undertaken a makeover of the piece in ASCP in paris grey. I would've been very happy to keep the grey, but I am not fond of the highly distressed look. So I spent last weekend giving the piece a small revamp.

 To add a bit more interest to this room, I decided to strip the paint from the top of the chest. It received a coat of rosewood wood stain followed by several coats of Danish oil. The rest of the chest has been painted with ASCP pure (which is the whitest paint in the range - but typically does require an extra coat) - I used 3 coats for this. I also replaced the door pulls with small faceted glass knobs.

Although only a 'temporary' solution, I think it is nice to have a more unique and fitting option for this corner of the sitting room...

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Life lately...

Well, I didn't intend to neglect this blog for a month - work has been continuing on small jobs around the is just that many are still only partly complete.

I did spend a weekend in Dublin at the end of July to attend a friend's wedding. I lived in Dublin in 2002-3, and used to visit several times a year to catch up with friends. However, it has been quite a while since my last visit. The wedding was lovely (if somewhat of an endurance event!). The service started at 1pm, and I left the reception after 1am and it was still going strong! However, on Saturday morning I had a chance to walk through some of my favourite streets in Georgian Dublin and have my fill of beautiful doors, before venturing into a very sunny St Stephen's Green.

On the home front, I have recently purchased a couple of items of bargain furniture, so the last few weeks have been spent giving them each a makeover. Two are now complete and so I will show you the updates very soon, and one is almost complete.

I've also started the redecoration of the bathroom. Unlike other rooms wherever I've done all of the work in one go, I am spreading this one out a little (both from an energy/inclination and a financial perspective). I've been sharing some of these snippets on Instagram, but to date I have...

Started covering the dark blue wall paint with white primer. It has had one coat so far, but I think I will do another before the final wall colour.

This actually resulted in a bit of indecision regarding wall colour. While the walls had been dark blue, I was convinced that the wall tiles were white. It transpires that they are actually a beige colour (with a small hint of pink). So my extensive range of Little Greene colour pots came out, and I think I've decided on Wood Ash (top right swatch).

The plumber has been and replaced the modern towel warmer with a more traditional style radiator. 

And this weekend's task is to strip the paint from the cast iron fireplace. I think I will likely re-paint this, but it had so many layers of poorly applied paint, a lot of the detail was ill-defined. The test will be tomorrow when I try removing the peel-away paint stripper.

In other (negative) news I had to call out an emergency plumber this week as I arrived home on Tuesday to find that my water-tank in the loft was leaking, and dripping through to the upstairs landing. The plumber was able to come within a few hours but I have sustained some damage to the hall ceiling and the ceiling in the second bedroom. It also must have been more water than I thought as I discovered yesterday that the water had also made its way down to the bottom floor through the hall floor as I have damp stains on the dining room ceiling. So I'm giving it all a chance to fully dry out, and then some ceiling re-painting will be added to the 'to-do' list.

But in other (positive) news, the UK food network channel has started showing some HGTV programmes - you may recall I became a little addicted to HGTV when I spent a month in the US two years ago. So, I can now have a daily fix of Rehab Addict and Fixer Upper - which both certainly help to keep me focused on getting on with my own projects...

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Main Bedroom - adding some finishing touches...

Over the past few months I have been adding some finishing touches to the main bedroom. This post and this post describe the initial transformation from pink 'delight' to tranquil grey and adding some much-needed storage.

The most needed element to be added was curtains. Last month I finally found time to make full-length white linen curtains. I was delighted to finally pull down the curtains from my old flat which had been a temporary solution that had lasted for far too long.

As much as I love the serenity of the grey and white scheme, I wanted to add a few touches of warmth. The pink/gold accents came about after discovering the three Australian wildflower prints on Etsy. I initially found the print of the flowering gum - which I loved, as there is a beautiful flowering gum at my mother's home in Sydney which is always in bloom when I am visiting in January. I then decided to include the waratah and grevillia prints. The prints form a lovely reminder of my childhood.

Fortuitously, the crewelwork piece I embroidered at the RSN last summer had the same hints of colour. I used the same pink in the prints to make a cushion cover to tie the two elements together.

I will likely add a few more layers and personal touches into the room as time passes, but for now I can call this room complete!

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Braving the lean-to....

When I moved into my home last year I opened this little door, and very quickly closed it again. Finally, a year later, I have braved the mess that lays beyond this old door with its peeling paint.

This brick-built lean to is at the back of my home - it is part wc and part a small pantry that can be accessed from the kitchen. In the long term I hope to knock down the lean-to and extend the kitchen out into the garden. So, I've no plans to 'renovate' this space...but I decided that I at least needed to clear it out and ensure that it is maintained in a reasonable condition (in order to protect the integrity of my home).

So, this was the sight that greeted me when I opened the door:
This is what was left in the space by the previous owners. Pieces of broken up old furniture, an old radiator, and the remains of their wood pile. It was also housing copious amounts of spider's web and the spiders themselves.

I pulled everything out so that I could sweep out all of the dirt and mess. This is the pile that subsequently made a trip to my local council recyling centre.
Hideous, I know...

But, whilst this space is never going to win any decor awards, it is at least reasonably clean, and can function as a wood store until I am ready to plan a future extension.

It was a satisfying, if somewhat unedifying job - so I'm pleased I finally completed it.

And to ensure that this post contains some slightly more attractive images, here are my hydrangeas coming into bloom in the garden.

I had long planned a garden with white hydrangeas, so I'm delighted that it has come to fruition.

And in other, completely unrelated news, I spent last Saturday morning baking. I've made friands several times before usually using a citrus and poppy seed recipe. This time I tried a new Mary Berry recipe, which resulted in these delicious raspberry and almond friands...fortunately, I took them with me when I visited a friend that afternoon, otherwise more than would have been advisable would have been consumed!

Friday, 5 June 2015

House year on

This weekend marks the first anniversary since I moved into my 1901 semi-detached cottage in Kent. I thought it would be interesting to look back over the first year and projects completed to see the changes...and set some priorities for the next 12 months.

I've tried to do some side-by-side comparisons - the left-hand photos are from just after I moved into the cottage, and the right-hand photos are the most recent photos I have of each space.

Front entrance
Complete! One of the most recent projects I've completed. Over the 12 months, I've repainted the masonry and front door, painted the picket fence, had a landscape gardener remove the pebbles and lay turf and planted two new garden beds.


Partly complete: I did an awful lot of work in the garden during last summer. I'm pleased with the basic evergreen structure that is in place, but I now plan to add some more planting in the two side borders to ensure more consistent interest throughout all seasons.


Complete! This is one of the first projects I tackled late last summer. All of the kitchen cupboards were painted, walls were painted and the glass mosaic tiles were replaced with white subway tiles. In December, the builder completed the last item which was to replace the sink and tap. In time, I plan to knock through the back wall to extend the kitchen and have french doors leading directly out to the garden...but this space is so much nicer to live with in the meantime.

Main Bedroom

Almost complete: The other major project that took up my time last year was redecorating the main bedroom. The dark pink paint was banished, plantation shutters were installed, and the builder added some much needed storage with built-in wardrobes. I also tried to add a little bit of character back to the cottage by reinstating the fireplace. I'm in the process of completing a few finishing touches to this room - curtains and artwork are currently being added.

Sitting/Dining Room

Still much to do: I've yet to really make an impact in this space. I did re-paint the walls late last year and the dark olive green has been replaced with grey...however, I've decided that it is a shade too dark and plan to repaint. I've also finished reupholstering new dining chairs. Still to do is to make a new slip cover for the sofa, and make a roman blind for the dining room window. Art work needs to be hung and I'm considering a rug for under the dining table. In the longer term the carpet will be replaced with floor boards, and built-in cupboards will be installed on either side of the chimney breast in the sitting room.

Projects for the coming year

1. Repair garage and replace roof - My little garage needs some work asap - some cracks in the brick work are widening, and the wooden window and side door desperately need replacing. The roof is old corrugated asbestos sheeting which also needs to replaced. Nothing pretty about any of this work, but this is the next renovating savings target.

2. Finish the redecoration of the spare bedroom - as you can see below work has started on this bedroom. I spent the Easter weekend stripping wallpaper and repainting. However, the room is still full of boxes that I am in the midst of culling before I can put the finishing touches on this room.

3. The bathroom - I think I must have become immune to this dark blue paint as I can't believe that I have lived with it for a year! But, it will definitely be changing this year.

Most of the work is cosmetic - I've already had plantation shutters installed at the window. Still to complete:
  • Paint walls
  • Replace bath panel
  • Replace radiator
  • Replace ceiling light and install wall sconces
  • Replace mirror
  • Refinish fireplace
I will need to book visits by the electrician and plumber to fix the lighting and radiator, but the rest will be up to me. I want to at least have the radiator replaced before it becomes time to turn the heating back on in the autumn.

4. The hallway - like the blue bathroom, I have been closing my eyes to the colour of the walls and carpet. The walls will be painted, carpet taken up and stairs refinished, and the banister on the upstairs landing will be stripped and refinished.

So, a busy 12 months...and an equally busy year to come...

Friday, 29 May 2015

Sissinghurst Castle Garden...

The last weekend in May was a bank holiday in the UK and I finally took the opportunity to visit Sissinghurst Castle Garden. Sissinghurst is a National Trust garden, and despite moving to Kent a year ago, this was my first visit - shameful really, as it is only 30 minutes away.

The weather has been a bit changeable, but Monday dawned with sunshine and blue skies, so off to Sissinghurst I went...

In the middle of the beautiful Kent countryside, Sissinghurst is famous for being the home of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson. The couple moved to the estate in the 1930's and set about creating the wonderful garden rooms that you can visit today.

Sissinghurst actually dates from the Saxon period where it started life as a pig farm before being developed into a moated manor house. Throughout the intervening centuries the estate went through a number of iterations, including a renaissance rebuild in the 16th century, and period as a prison camp in the 18th century.

The Oast House - a common sight in this part of Kent

The property was bought in 1932 by Vita Sackville-West (poet/writer) and her husband Arthur Nicolson (diplomat/author). Harold undertook the architectural planing for the series of garden rooms that you can explore today, while the planting schemes were designed by Vita. Most famous for the 'white garden', each room is beautiful, ranging from restful blues and purples to one filled with fiery oranges, reds and yellows.

Vita's designs are still the inspiration behind many garden designers of today - I spoke with one staff member at the site who also said that the white garden is under redevelopment at the moment to bring it back to the planting scheme initially designed by Vita.

While the peonies and many of the roses were only still in bud (I think another visit in a month or two is in order), the gardens were a riot of colours...and the smell was divine.

And there was beauty wherever you looked...

Given my plans to add planting to my own garden for year-round interest, I hope to re-visit Sissinghurst each season for inspiration...