Monthly Archives: December 2014

Insomnia and Murrays man cave

It is just after 6am and I am blogging and thinking about interior design ideas because I can’t sleep. I’ve actually been awake most of the night but finally realised that staying in bed was futile. My mind was racing, Mr W was making bodily noises that were irritating me and there’s always something to be done around here so I decided I might as well make use of my insomnia. Actually it isn’t insomnia, it’s all the caffeine in the flu medication I’ve been on for the last 5 days, which to someone who hasn’t consumed caffeine in any form for 10+ years other than by accident, is like taking cocaine. Not that I’ve ever had cocaine, but I’ve seen enough movies to know I’m probably doing a great impression right now. On reflection, probably not the best time to be blogging but in the words of Magus Magnusson “I’ve started so I’ll finish”.

FYI I cut out caffeine because I already have significantly higher energy levels than the average person, and talk at a million miles an hour so you can imagine how unbearable I must have been when I was drinking 1-2 litres of diet coke a day, plus the odd coffee….and I was getting palpitations….

So if you read my last post I’m sure you’re wondering if the kitchen was finished for Christmas. Short answer, no. I’m missing 2 cupboard doors, a wine rack, a bin, a cutlery drawer, and most importantly the 100mm thick butchers block top for my island – the focal point of my dream kitchen. So no photos just yet I’m afraid. The kitchen fitters bless them hung around as long as they could on the 23rd just in case the butchers block turned up but in the end they had to leave me with a sheet of plywood to tide me over until it escapes Christmas courier limbo (that place where nobody is reachable and even if they were they wouldn’t know where your goods were).

We weren’t destined to have the perfect Christmas day anyway. Unfinished kitchen aside, me and Mr W both have hacking coughs and flu symptoms, and 20 minutes into cooking the chicken neither of us were that hungry for the new oven packed up. Well it didn’t actually pack up but there seems to be a fault with the electrics somewhere in the kitchen which means all the sockets now go off when I turn on the main oven. Thankfully 87 year old neighbour Nora let me finish the chicken in her oven, and the hob and side oven still worked so I could manage everything else. I wouldn’t have asked her but she did have a vested interest as I had promised her ‘meals on wheels’ on boxing day and she wouldn’t be getting anything if the chicken didn’t get cooked.

So anyway back to my insomnia/caffeine high. I made good use of the last 2-3 hours designing Mr W’s new London pad (now known as Murray’s man cave) in my head. Ever since I moved to Cumbria he has been unhappy in the place we were renting in London. We sold our flat in Greenwich a year ago and had struggled to find another flat big enough to take all our stuff so we’d ended up renting a 3 bed house. The commute to the city was excellent, but as we soon found out that was all it really had going for it. It was cold, the transition from open plan living to traditional rooms didn’t work for us or our furniture, the landlord wasn’t happy about us hanging pictures, and once me and the cat were gone it couldn’t have felt less like home for him. So earlier this month I found him a new 1 bed place which is smaller but better proportioned so all our furniture fits, it’s a short walk from Blackheath village and all the sky sports and beer he could ask for mid week, and I’ve promised to turn it into a homely man pad.

I plan to restore the London look we had in our own flat in the living area (which he loved), and re-hang a beautiful painting we have of St Pauls Cathedral. The bedroom will get a boy makeover with darker soft furnishings and lots of pictures and accessories to remind him of me and Cumbria. There is room for his bike in the hallway but I’m working on some ideas for hanging it to make best use of the space, and I am on the look out for quirky cycling accessories that will make him smile. This will be my first male focused interior design work so I’m enjoying the brief – functional, homely, cool and stylish.

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These vintage Lake District railway posters make great wall art and will remind him of Cumbria. You can find them on ebay starting from £4.99. You can get posters of other areas around the UK

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We’ve been visiting Cumbria together for almost 20 years so I have lots to choose from when it comes to adding personal photos

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This hall solution is along the lines of what I’m thinking. I love this bathroom idea but I’m not sure our landlord would!

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I also like these vintage cycling posters and I know he’ll like these coasters which I could make myself

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Mr W is a walker not a rock climber and I’m not sure our landlord would appreciate me putting up wall stickers but I did think these were pretty cool

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So its pitch black outside and Mr W is still sleeping so I may as well carry on working. Perhaps I should reintroduce caffeine into my diet if it makes me this productive as an interior designer!

More is more for this interior designer

It’s been 2 weeks since my last post because quite frankly I’ve been busier than a barmaid in Soho working the New Year’s Eve shift alone. I had completely given up any form of cleaning, myself included, as the house has been so dusty thanks to the army of tradesmen stampeding through the house. I think I’ve coped with the disruption pretty well all things considered. But I did lose the plot a little about a week ago over the state of the bathrooms which resulted in this….

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I’m not complaining though, Kevin, Barry, Darren, Gary, Gary, Mike, Jim, Andrew and the many more that work for them have been absolute stars. They’ve been on and offsite to work around each other, turned up last minute when I needed them to and stayed late when I didn’t ask them to. It’s reminded me a little of my old life; a big team all pulling together, overcoming obstacles and putting in the hours to get things done. I think I would have missed that part of my life if I’d not had this house project and chosen a new career that will always involve team work.

So it’s the 20th of December and with the exception of the kitchen, everything I wanted to get done by Christmas has been done. The house is clean (and you don’t know how good that feels), and the decorations are up. Steve is back on Monday 22nd to finish tiling the kitchen, Andrew and Craig are back on Tuesday 23rd to install the kitchen island complete with fridge and wine cooler. Barry is coming that afternoon to fit the electrics on the island and install the pendant lights above. This leaves me Tuesday eve to clean up so that I can finally buy a fridge full of food on Christmas Eve so that we can eat a traditional Christmas dinner on Christmas day. Talk about cutting it fine………But the results are stunning, even if I do say so myself. The kitchen is looking spectacular. Photos to follow next week when it’s finished….

In the meantime I have a few words to say on the subject of Christmas decorations. As you would expect of an interior designer I like great decorations. Depending on where I have been living I’ve explored different styles; modern, traditional, monochrome, colourful etc. but on no occasion have I gone minimalistic. In my view when it comes to Christmas less is not more. More is more. Tasteful yes, but plentiful with a capital P. I wouldn’t do it myself, mainly because I can’t be bothered, but I absolutely love those people who go to town on the exterior of their home. When I lived in Yorkshire we had a neighbour that did this and it cheered me up every single time I pulled into our cul de sac and saw their illuminations. I am testing the water this year though. We have a single glowing reindeer in the garden, and tomorrow I will be adding twinkly lights to the front door and Cluckingham Palace…..next year Holly Cottage may draw crowds if this years pilot goes well…..

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Inside I have gone a little mad but  I haven’t yet bought pictures or accessories for much of the house so thought I may as we’ll dress it up a little. Now, I suspect this is where I differ from many interior designers as I don’t believe you need to spend a lot to make your house look good at Christmas. Wilkinsons and T K Maxx are actually my go to places when it comes to decorations. Wilkos have a great selection of the basics, plus a few quirky extras like this years stags head tree ornaments. They also sell packs of cones, cinnamon sticks and berries that you can add to garlands, trees and wreaths. T K Maxx are best for unusual items, this year being great for recycled wood decorations. I also bought bags of cones, dried oranges and orange slices from Amazon for next to nothing. Maybe I’m disillusioned and my house looks like a train wreck. Maybe I should be a little more Martha Stewart but I know I’ve got a good eye and I think I’ve got it right. Take a look at my pics and make up your own mind whether I deserve to call myself an interior designer or not!

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I’m an Interior Designer – don’t get me out of here!

Yesterday I completed my first project in my official capacity as an interior designer, and it felt really good. I’ve been styling and decorating my own homes for more than 20 years but this is the first time I’ve delivered a look in someone else’s home and the satisfaction far outweighed anything I felt after delivering projects in my former life. I think one of the reasons is that in the insurance industry you rarely deliver anything tangible, the closest I ever got was an app or marketing materials. To see your completed product and the smile on the customers face is amazing.

The customer (my step-daughter Kim) has a two bedroom house in Leeds, with a good size living room and kitchen but no dining room, just a breakfast bar in the kitchen. So the brief was to create a dining space in the practically unused conservatory. The room is only 2.4m x 2.6m and has doors from the kitchen and into the garden, so to coin a phrase that was vastly overused in the recent series of The Great Interior Design Challenge (which I loved BTW), spatial planning was key.

I’d given her 3 options in terms of a look and she went for my favourite, the relaxed coffee shop style. With this as the theme her conservatory now includes an L shaped bench seat to maximise space, with a table, 2 dining chairs and a carver so that she can comfortably seat 6, with room for more for the pizza parties she likes to hold since she installed her pizza oven in the garden.

When a room is half empty and rarely used it becomes a bit of a dumping ground for things that don’t have a place elsewhere. So I included storage in the bench seat (which my neighbour Harold made) to remove all the clutter, and a wine rack which holds glasses and bottles which frees up space in the kitchen.

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Lighting was also poor, with just two small wall lights high up on the back wall. So we added a floor lamp and two of these cool clip on LED lights from IKEA which have flexible stems so you can reposition the lights at any time.

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The key element of the coffee shop theme was the use of recycled coffee sacks to upholster the bench seat. Now, I can sew a little but when it comes to deep seat pads I need a little assistance unless you are prepared to compromise on quality….Luckily I know a very talented seamstress call Dianne Roffey who runs Di’s Soft Furnishings in Keswick. Talent aside I feel a bond to Di as she also escaped the rat race some years ago to move to Cumbria with her husband so they could be near to the fells which they love to climb. Di did an amazing job with the coffee sacks I bought from a company in Lancashire which runs a small chain of coffee shops. I then matched the rest of the soft furnishings to the orange and green print on many of the sacks, and used some of the spare sacks to cover a foot stool and the shade for the floor lamp, and make a rug for under the wine rack.

To keep with the coffee theme I picked up various canisters and teacups in T K Maxx and IKEA to use as candle holders (she loves candlelight). But my favourite accessory was probably the ‘selfie’ coasters I’ve shown in a previous post.

I replaced the flooring with engineered wood floor in a dark walnut colour and stained the bench seat and the table and chairs I got from IKEA to match it. The blinds are still to be installed (Hillarys if you pick this up please please install before Chistmas 🙂 ) and are a deep charcoal grey. This might sound like a lot of dark colour but remember the conservatory has a white frame, deep white window sills and lots of light so it looks anything but dingy.

I am delighted with the final result. It is practical, cosy but not cluttered, warm and inviting and a little edgy, just like Kim!

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Now onto my next project. I am officially an Interior Designer – how exciting!