Friday, 23 December 2011

We made it

With a final dash we have achieved a working kitchen and decorated the tree. So time to relax and enjoy the festive season. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
Some Christmas sparkle
Happy Christmas


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Kitchen part one - Barista bar

With Christmas fast approaching we've at last started to assemble the kitchen. After much planning and looking we decided on the Ikea Applad. I wanted a simple style that was pale but not high gloss. The Applad is soft white with a silky finish, easy to keep clean but adaptable in style. I was looking for Swedish simplicity but with a hint of Mediterranean warmth. Or as Andrew says Abba meets Pavarotti.
Courtesy of Ikea

Used to designing kitchens on a CAD system I did find the Ikea on-line planner a little clumsy but once we went into our nearest store found them very helpful. We ordered it back in June and it's been in the garage since the end of July.

Where do I start?
Our starting point was the short wall with the boiler. I wanted to have a separate area for making tea & coffee - my personal barista bar - and this also developed into a wine area.  When friends visit they can make drinks without needing to get near the food preparation area. In hindsight this was probably the most difficult area to start with as we had uneven walls and tall units.

Ready to start

Because I have a thing about symmetry we used an integrated fridge freezer housing to cover the boiler to match the real thing at the other end. We had to cut an end panel to make a filler between the carcass and the wall, partly to pull the cupboard out to give access to the boiler for servicing but also as the wall is very uneven and this allowed us to start with a vertical.

First carcass
Despite tales of horror we* found assembling the units quite easy, but only if you follow the instuctions very carefully. What may seem an odd thing to do will have a reason and also, as there are no written instructions, examine the drawings carefully. The only thing we did do, after the first unit went up, was to screw the legs on. These seem insubstantial but work well once the weight of the cabinet holds them in place. The difficulty is keeping them on while manouevring  the unit in place, if they are not screwed in place they fall off at the most inconvenient times.

Screwing on the legs
Joining leg
First carcass
Next was a 600mm base unit, with a gap for a wine cooler, and then the integrated fridge freezer.  The base unit has a drawer for cutlery and bottle openers and a cupboard with two pull out wire shelves. One will house all the mugs and the other tea and coffee.
The Applad kitchen comes in two heights and we chose the taller one as we have the headroom and you can never have enough storage in a kitchen. The wall unit here however is a shorter one as we are going to put a shelf underneath for some of the coffee making equipment.


All up
At last, after nearly eight months, I have a fridge :-)  Next stop an oven.

Until next time


* when I say we what I mean is I read the instructions and passed the screws while Andrew did all the difficult stuff.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Kitchen floor

We had decided on traventine tiles for the kitchen and hall, I like that they are light but warm in colour. The fact that they are a natural product gives them a great texture and adds interest to a large space without being busy.
Because they were going to extend into the hall we decided on a brick bond pattern, this visually extends the width and is more forgiving of uneven walls. It took a couple of hours for Andrew to plan - the pattern had to line up with three openings in the kitchen and the front door.

The tiles we bought were filled, honed and polished on the front but the backs are very holey.
Reverse of tile
Because of this the reverse of the tiles have to be 'buttered' before laying on the bed of adhesive. This makes sure that all the holes are filled and there will be no voids.


First tile down

Coming along

The only issue we had was the drying time of the adhesive which meant we could not walk on them for 16 hours. Andrew did well on planning exit routes for us. One day I came home to this....
Walking instructions

On day three Mortimer & myself got marooned in the office/kitchen/workshop as the hall floor was being tiled outside our door. Fortunately I had the computer, kettle, dog biscuits and two chairs to upholster so all was well.
After all the tiles had been laid and grouted we spent along time on hands and knees cleaning all the limestone dust off before applying two coats of sealer. We made  sure that it was well absorbed into the grout so that we won't have any problems with grubby tiles or grout lines.
Spreading adhesive
Finished kitchen floor
Hall to kitchen
So at last we're ready for the big kitchen fit.

Until next time.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Colour update

We met Sue & Randy when we were sailing in Grenada and have stayed in touch since then. They continued to enjoy the cruising lifestyle for a few years after us but have now joined us landlubbers and have bought a restoration project in Nova Scotia. If it looks anything like their boat 'Nancy Dawson' then the finished house will look great. If anyone is looking for a great sailboat then click on her and have a look.
Anyway their sitting room, apparently still work in progress, looks great. The floor looks warm and picks up other red elements, I particularly like all the red books on the shelves. Possibily serendipity but it still looks good. There is an ecletic range of chairs, all inviting, just ready to be snuggled into. Randy calls it 'Funky Cottage' - works for me.

Having looked again at Nancy Dawson, seems like red's a favourite colour :-)

If you've got a great coloured room, let me know.

Until next time


Saturday, 19 November 2011

Kitchen progress

With the sitting room done, bar all the curtains and dressing, we've moved on to the kitchen. This is a major project and the first with a deadline - Christmas. Actually the weekend before as we have Andrew's brother and his wife to stay and it will be the first time they've seen the house.

I have to confess I'm getting desperate to cook properly. For me it's a way of relaxing which I can't do with just a microwave and a portable halogen oven (brilliant though that is). We can produce edible fuel but not much to dress the table and light the candles for.

While the kitchen was still intact Andrew installed new lighting and channelled out the walls for the sockets. The original lights were two striplights which, bizarrely, had been plastered up to so a lot of filling had to be done to smooth the ceiling.

Filling & lighting
More holes, more filling
Wall cupboards gone
We wanted to get the painting done before the floor went down, it just makes life easier. First we removed some of the old units, keeping the sink.  Andrew moved his desk upstairs so we could set up a kitchenette in the office.

Office kitchenette
Ceiling painted, we marked out where all the cupboards were going and set to with the paint. I wanted quite a strong colour and eventually chose Oak Fern, a Kevin McCloud colour by Fired Earth. I love these paints as they have a great texture, complex colours and change with the light.
First coat

Just the sink left

More holes, more filling

Next on the list is tiling the floor so

Until next time


Let's hear it for colour

There is a T.V. programme on Channel 4 (in the U.K) called The Renovation Game in which a team of three builders and a designer are sent to an ordinary family house. To varying degrees the house needs a bit of t.l.c and the team are given three days and £3000 to spend to increase its value by £15000. Before they start three estate agents come in to value and the same three return. If the price hasn't increased by said sum the team doesn't get paid.

It's quite an amusing programme, usually full of disasters, missed deadlines and some very dubious workmanship but it's the estate agents I'm beginning to want to slap. If I hear "I'd rather have seen a neutral decor" or "nice that they've used a neutral colour here" I will get violent.

Now I like using neutral shades & tones in designs, but the key is that they have to be designed, not a default position because an estate agent likes magnolia walls and a beige carpet. Do we all want a house like this?

Via Stagehouse
There's nothing wrong with it, just a bit safe and a bit, well bland. And certainly lacking personality. I for one want to live in a home not just a house.

Even adding a bit of colour can really lift a neutral scheme.

Via Carrie & Company

Via Butler Armsden Architects
But to me they work best when the designer has really thought about texture as here.

Via Beth Webb Interiors

Very similar shades & tones to the showhome but so much better.

If you're feeling a little bolder than add just one strong colour, this room oozes style. The rich chocolate walls make the room sing, and shows that a dark colour doesn't automatically lead to a dark room.

Via Beth Webb Interiors
But if you really want to break out, this is just a stunning combination.
Via Virginia MacDonald

Or serene.
Via Isabel Lopez Quesada

Via Maison et  Travaux

So now I've had my rant I'll go back to work. It would be great to hear what you think, just leave a comment.

Until next time


Tuesday, 8 November 2011


The sitting room is essentially finished. Walls are painted, the floor is varnished and the sofas are in. But. Big But, I've still got a lot to do to dress it and I'm being thwarted and feel a little stressy at the length of my 'to do' list. In fact I'm writing this blog at 3 a.m. just so I can tick it off aforementioned list. So the things still left  include:

Our Chilli light which should look like this
Looks like this:

Because somewhere in the workshop is a carefully wrapped package of the glass 'chillis'. Also in the workshop is a vintage ceiling light - but where? So we're left with a bare light bulb. I've finally sourced curtain poles that I like for the bay window which is great - but I've still got to make the two pairs of curtains.

Two garden chairs are sitting in front of the fire as the wing chairs I'm upholstering are far from finished.
Drinks cabinet hiding behind garden chairs
Hairy chair

The bookshelves that are to be built are way down the line as Andrew has moved on to the kitchen, which I agree is more of a priority, but it means I have things like this cowering in the corner.

The cabinet we refurbished for drinks is in the wrong place and I can't get to the oil lamps that I want to sit on it. And the longcase clock has been temporarily evicted from the kitchen into this room, taking up space reserved for a different clock.

The fabric for the sofa cushions is at the Post Office waiting to be collected. It's a gorgeous silk from here. But once I collect it then they will have to be made. Maybe I'll just leave it there for a while.
And the wall behind the sofa is a huge blank space waiting to look more like this

From Nesting Place

But it's so nice to have comfortable sofas, a log fire and my beautiful coffee table to rest a glass of wine on in the evenings, instead of spending down time on office chairs in the study. Progress. I feel much better now so I'm going back to bed. Goodnight.

Until next time


Sunday, 30 October 2011

Under pressure

Now this title was meant for the post I was going to write about my sister in law who has asked for some help with her bedroom redecoration. However Aimee has awarded me a Versatile Blogger Award.

Now first thing is I'm embarrased as her blog, and the blogs she follows, are far more sophisticated than mine, with witty repartee and gorgeous photography. The second thing is that I'm about to be outed as a blog stalker - the people who write the blogs I follow may not know that I stalk them and am intimate with the details of their lives.
Now this wouldn't matter if the list didn't mean that I've awarded them a Versatile Blogger Award, and they have to provide their list and blogs they follow. So I'm tentatively hiding behind a wall waving at them in a sheepish fashion :-) Hello web-friends.

So here's my list:
  1.  I live by lists, it's the only way I can motivate my way through daily tasks and love the feeling when everything's been ticked off.
  2. I'm useless at remembering faces & names but I could tell you what you wore when I did meet you. Even from way back.
  3. My husband & I spent three years living on a boat in the US & the Caribbean. We still can't work out why we came back.
  4. In my youth I danced ballroom & Latin American competitively. And yes I sewed an awful lot of sequins.
  5. As a complete & utter Francophile I will, one day, own a house in France.
  6. If I want to de-stress I cook. And eat. And eat a bit more.
  7. I was convinced that I was a cat person through & through until this. 
Now to all those blogs that I follow regularly - they're an ecletic mix but I hope that you'll pop in & say hello.

Sara in Le Petit Village
Conjugating Irregular Verbs
OK this is a corporate blog but I love the photography & recipes
If only I could quilt like Kirsty
So wish my husband liked white
Loft & Cottage
This is my dream

OK. Enough. I can't do this anymore, I feel like a stalker and have go and have a lie down.

Normal service will return next time :-)


Sunday, 23 October 2011

Sitting room floor

The last major project before we moved into the sitting room was the floor. I had always planned a wooden floor, preferably oak, but this was proving expensive. So we looked at carpets but I just couldn't do it. We've a large dog, a wood burner and I don't like housework very much.

After trooping round some local suppliers we found some really good quality t & g pine floorboards at a reasonable price. Getting them in the house proved quite farcical -particularly as we ended up doing it twice. The only way in was through the window. Now as the boards were 5.7 metres long and bound together we both went outside and lifted them onto the window frame, Andrew rushed back inside and take one end and I gently fed them through until the last few inches balanced on the frame. Then I dashed inside and we stacked them on the floor. Here they sat acclimatising until Andrew was ready to lay them. He then realised that they were the wrong way round - something to do with the t & g - and there was no way to swing them around inside. So the whole 'get them into the house procedure' was reversed. Once outside I had to perform a natty pirouette manouevre to turn them and then back in they went. My right shoulder has still not recovered.

First down were the battens which had to be screwed into the concrete floor and form a level platform. By the end Andrew's right shoulder matched mine.
The floorboards themselves didn't put up too much of a fight (particularly for me as I wasn't involved:)) but they did take a lot of planning to avoid small slivers in obvious places. And we got through 5 kilos of brads.
New floor
Once down each brad had to be slightly recessed to allow us to sand the floor. Next on the list was staining. Now we're not big fans of ready mixed wood stains as they tend to be very unnatural colours - either too orange or too yellow. On previous floors we'd succesfully used Van Dyke crystals. These are completely natural as they are made from ground walnut husks. You soak some overnight in equal quantities of water and then they are ready to use. The lighter the colour, the more water you add. We wanted a rich walnut colour so diluted our mix with 50% water.
Next was one coat of varnish, then a gentle de-nib followed by another two coats. And voila - a new floor.
Dog proof floor
Lastly we put the new skirting boards in and a final coat of gloss paint and at last the furniture can go in.

Until next time


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Lost in translation

Sometimes I think that Google Translate has a lot to answer for.  A property from Py Immobilier was sent through to me yesterday,I prefer to have the description in French but sometimes it appear in English..........

Until next time


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Retro - a step too far?

One day I will have a house in France......until then I trawl the French estate agents websites, dreaming. Being on a low budget many of the properties are designer nightmares but this one.....
Maybe I just don't have that vision.
If you want to see more

Until next time