All the best parties end up in the kitchen

So my personal interior design challenge continues and after 11 weeks my kitchen is finished. Being such an old house a lot of decisions could only be made as went along. We didn’t know what we’d find behind the chimney breast. We didn’t know what would be under the floor that had to be dug up for the underfloor heating. We uncovered original features we didn’t know we had and we had to alter multiple units to make them fit my misshapen, wonky walls. Consequently my plan always had multiple options for certain features so not even I knew exactly what it would look like when it was finished. It’s been frustrating, filthy and sometimes freezing but it has all been worth it. I LOVE my new kitchen. It’s where I eat all my meals, it’s become my new favourite spot to work and it’s where we always end up if we have visitors. It’s like having a brand new room in the house.

The feedback I’ve had has also been very rewarding. Every single contractor that has been involved (and there has been a lot) has commented that they had been unsure about my colour choices, the size of the island and some elements of the layout but once they saw it completed they were sold. So as promised here are some photo’s.

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The kitchen is from a shaker style range called 1909, and I had it painted in Farrow & Ball Rectory Red and Ringwold Ground. The mantelpiece is oak as is the 10cm thick custom made butchers block top on the island. This butchers block is like a magnet when people come into the room, you just can’t stop yourself from running your hands over it because it’s such a piece of craftsmanship. It’s had 5 coats of Osmo oil so far and will probably need a few more yet. We finally have a dishwasher and an in cupboard bin, and I love the pull out wooden trays under the sink. For years I’ve been exasperated by having to store trays on top of cupboards or down the side of a unit. Why has it taken until now for kitchen companies to introduce these into their ranges!

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We made room for the island by digging a hole in the chimney breast to fit a 90cm wide SMEG oven. It was a tight fit and getting an extractor small enough to fit above it and remain hidden was a challenge but the builders came through for me. We even had to quickly source a steel plate one afternoon from a local scrap merchants to ensure there was enough support in it for the wall above. The space above the mantelpiece was perfect for another localised timezone clock (see my post on Murray’s man cave), some vintage ginger beer bottles a good friend of mine bought me when she came to stay, some antique pewter tankards and an hour glass I picked up in Heals years ago and love.

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The island itself houses an 18 bottle wine chiller and a 2 drawer fridge which is fantastically spacious and means you’re not always bending down to peer into the back of the fridge. On the wall behind the island next to the back door is a unit which houses a custom made wine glass rack – no more cramming wine glasses into cupboards or having to store them in the garage!

I bought two pewter finished adjustable height stools from a company called Steel Magnolias for seating, although we have brought another 4 stools in from the summer house a couple of times when we’ve had visitors so we can all sit around the island. It’s also great to finally have enough lighting. The old kitchen was so dingy and now I have multiple options. The pewter lights above the island and the sink are from Industville and are one of my favourite features. It looks so cosy when all the other lights are off.

So with the kitchen complete I am now finishing off the bedrooms and have started the plan for the upstairs bathroom. Another two months and I might actually be finished here…..

So now we have a habitable house we can have visitors again and this weekend Mr W’s entire family descended on us, so many of them that additional accommodation had to be booked in Cockermouth. They normally come in December but as the house was a bomb site we postponed until January which also meant we could celebrate Burns night together. The Trout Hotel in Cockermouth held a fantastic dinner on Friday night, with six courses, a piper and of course the traditional “address to a haggis”. The kilts were out, a few wee drams of whisky were consumed and the minibus home was very rowdy…..

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The host reciting the “address to a haggis” by the famous Robert Burns

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On Saturday night the party was back at Holly Cottage. We’d bought a Serrano ham at Christmas but had been too sick to eat it so we brought it out for the party and created our own alternative to Burns night with the “address to a ham” skilfully delivered by Chris my step-daughters boyfriend. My sister-in-law plays a mean air bagpipe….

And where did all this occur? But in the kitchen of course – where the best parties always end up and this interior designer is happiest.

 

My 2015 interior design predictions

Forgive me readers and fellow interior design enthusiasts but it has been 3 weeks since my last post. Holly Cottage was converted into a Hospice for the sick and dying just before Christmas and has only just re-opened as a residence. 3 weeks with Mr W, both sick and no visitors to mediate, you can imagine the sniping and bickering that went on. Even the chickens got more visitors than we did..

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To make matters worse we were without a phone line or wifi for most of that period as BT have decided to upgrade the cabling in our area, which does mean we will have faster broadband but in the process they damaged my existing connections. Ironically we don’t know when we lost the service as we were too sick to notice until the 29th….

All that lying in bed did give me plenty of opportunity to think about what we might see in the interior design world in 2015. To me there were three standout additions to 2014 interiors; geometric prints, copper accessories and an explosion of industrial lighting. So here are my predictions for 2015. These are probably as reliable as mystic meg on the basis that my <100 twitter following is too small to have any influence on trends, and I am still an unknown designer that has yet to formally launch her business. But humour me,

1. Geometric prints will disappear by summer. I think they are the pinstriped jeans of interior design (this will probably mean nothing if you were born after 1975). They are bold, can look great if the rest of the styling is good, but I think they will go out of fashion very quickly. If we’re lucky all we’ll be left with will be a handful of monochrome arabic motif cushions. But if the population truly embraced this trend as I suspect we may see a surge in wallpaper and bedding sales by September.

2. I predict bold geometric will be replaced by subtle colour layering. Think Jennifer Anniston heading out for coffee on Sunday with her latest beau. Dark grey jeans, a white long sleeved T, a couple of layers of jersey in different shades of grey, maybe a charcoal beanie and/or jacket. The walking equivalent of 50 shades of grey. Nobody does colour layering quite like Jen, and with the enormous array of paint colours available to us and interiors shows on TV showing us how to use colour to create visual effects I predict a greater use of shades of the same colour versus the 70% primary colour. 20% secondary colour, 10% accent colour palette that is traditionally used.

3. Copper will remain a stylish alternative to chrome and brass. I like to think of myself as an early adopter when it comes to copper. Check out below the copper tube vases I bought for a London flat in 2008, and the copper plate framed maps and copper coal bucket I have in Holly Cottage. I was delighted to see this trend in 2014. I just hope this extends to light switches, plug sockets, bathroom and kitchen fittings etc. and we start seeing them in retailers like B&Q, Wickes at affordable prices, even if they’re copper effect as opposed to actual copper.

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3. The industrial style revolution will continue. The range and diversity of products is already huge but much needed. I predict we will see more innovation and greater use in traditional settings. I myself have added industrial items to Holly Cottage (which was built in 1756), sourcing products from companies like Industville and Steel Magnolias.

So thats enough predictions as I want to show you Murray’s man cave now its finished. Murray aka Mr W still spends 4 days a week in London or overseas so we needed to downsize the place we rented together after selling our last flat to a more practical 1 bed place. I found him a place walking distance from Blackheath village and the style brief was more manly and homely. He particularly wanted to use some of the mirrors and pictures we’d had to store because our last landlord wouldn’t let us hang anything on the walls.

First the lounge; it has this cool portal into the kitchen which I knew would look fab with a large circular mirror and low circular coffee table I had in storage. Our tan couches fitted perfectly and there was a spare wall for the painting of St Pauls we bought after a drunken Christmas lunch which he loves. I then complimented this with union jack and black soft furnishings and accessories including a couple of British bulldogs. The result – a London look man pad.

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Next the bedroom; we have a suite of dark mahogany bedroom furniture and there is great shelving in the bedroom so I went for a sort of gentleman’s club/library look. I got the landlord to re-paint the walls in Dulux Shadow Chic (pale grey) and dyed our existing bedding grey, then added gold and grey accessories. TKMaxx had some beautiful dark grey glass vases and I was able to bring out some of the knick knacks from our travels. We had a grey, gold and red persian style rug which used to be in Holly Cottage which just finished it off.

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There wasn’t a lot I could do in the bathroom but he always liked a ‘keep calm’ poster we used to have in a bathroom so I took this down to London and bought teal accessories and towels to give the room some colour.

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There was also little I could do with the kitchen, but I did manage to find space for a range of aubergine accessories.

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Same situation in the hall, but there was space for some pictures we bought in Cuba a few years ago and a New York, Cockermouth, Paris time zone clock to remind him of home

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The good news is he is delighted with his new place which is a relief for me. He used to hate going back to London on Sunday night as the last place was cold and uninviting but his new place feels like a second home. So with that taken care of and Holly Cottage close to completion I can now focus on my new business. I predict a spring launch of Amelia Wilson Interiors!

 

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!

The mucky business of interior design

I’ve never been as grubby and whatever the opposite of house proud is (slovenly?) this week. The only relatively clean room in the house is my bedroom and I’m not sure it would pass the test if Aggie and Kim from “How clean is your house” turned up. It’s my own fault. I decided we would get all the mess out of the way in one swoop. So the kitchen has been ripped out and the floor dug up to accommodate a wet underfloor heating system. The plaster has been bashed (literally) off the walls in 3 rooms to replace the ineffective tanking system needed to damp proof my house. The naff pine skirting boards and window sills have been torn out in every room so they can be replaced with oak ones. The electrician has drilled channels in the stone walls all over the house so we can hide the cables the previous owners were too lazy and/or cheapskate to fit properly. Oh and I’ve been sanding the beams and lintels that we discovered when we removed the plaster. The result is a bombsite. And did I mention there is scaffolding in the back yard and debris all over the place because the elusive roofers finally turned up to re-render the leaking chimneys…….The upside is the house should be beautiful by Christmas even if I do look like a troll. Mr W found me covered from head to toe in brown dust last weekend after the first bout of sanding and promptly suggested a spa day for his birthday on 1st December. I think he’s worried that the ‘glamorous, groomed’ wife he used to have is slowly disappearing so he staged an intervention. I’m not going to argue, I’ll go anywhere clean and warm right now, especially if they serve food without the ‘ding’ of a microwave preceding it.

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Not content with all the work going on at home I’m also getting stuck into the project for the clients I met with last week. They really liked the new layout I proposed for upstairs so I spent the day at their house yesterday to meet with builders and window and door specialists to validate my plans and get estimates for the work. We also brought in Hillarys to price for plantation shutters throughout which the homeowners want. Before I left we went through the mood boards I’d prepared for each of the bedrooms and bathrooms. I was a little nervous as I knew the look she wanted and I know I can deliver it but there’s always a little doubt at the back of your mind that maybe you’ve misunderstood the brief or that you’ve been too bold or creative with something. Thankfully they loved my ideas and we just needed to make a few tweaks to some of the furniture and fittings. We’ve also agreed on the overall budget so I can now put together a plan to allocate this as soon as I get all the quotes in from the builders etc. It’s going to be a great project as it covers the whole house and the homeowners have great taste and want to do the job properly. An interior designers dream!

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Master bedroom and ensuite – New England with a touch of elegance

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Guest bedroom which will also serve as the homeowners dressing room and a place for them to sit and enjoy the view from the floor to ceiling window at the rear of their property. The idea here was to bring the outside in using a botanical theme alongside the crisp white New England look

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Glamorous second guest bedroom and the new juliette bathroom which will serve both guest bedrooms. The bathroom has a touch of Victorian styling complete with coal scuttle toilet roll caddy!

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It’s going to be manic in the run up to Christmas to complete the work on my house but I’m really looking forward to some time off with Mr W to enjoy our newly decorated home, and being an old cottage it always looks so festive when its decorated for Christmas. I’ll just need to keep the painter loaded up with caffeine as I’d like him done before the 18th so I can get the decorations up before Mr W comes home for the holidays. We had a visitor this morning that reminded me I should probably start thinking about food too. One of the local farms breeds pheasants on his land so that he can host shoots and one is hiding out in our garden. I caught him in the chicken coop this morning tucking into their feed. Maybe I should let him and fatten him up for Christmas dinner. Or maybe I should just stick to interior design, I’ve got enough on without working out how to shoot, pluck and prepare a pheasant….

Christmas dinner?
Christmas dinner?

 

 

 

Interior designer or apprentice builder?

Until Holly Cottage all the interior design projects I had done were in properties that had all the necessary infrastructure and sources of power, heating or water you could access if you wanted a new socket or a new tap or appliance. Sometimes I changed layouts and moved walls but my focus was always the design. Holly Cottage is a different kettle of fish… In the last few months I feel like I’ve been serving as an apprentice builder, electrician, plumber and joiner, and I don’t just mean making cups of tea, although I’ve made plenty of them. I literally learn something new with every job that gets done in the house. If required I can now bore you senseless about tanking systems. I am becoming an expert in selecting the right wood for a job and how to achieve the right finish. I have expanded my knowledge of technology (smart appliances, bluetooth speakers and wireless heating control anyone?) I have even taught my plumber how to fit cast iron radiators correctly (brackets end inside the radiator not exposed at the front Darren 🙂 ). But I am still getting to grips with the electrical side of things. Today my lack of knowledge was exposed and nearly cost me dearly.

I knew appliances used different amounts of electricity, and I was aware that using adapters to run multiple appliances from a single socket could overload the socket, but I had no idea how much power individual appliances actually use. I’ve been kitchen-less since November 6th so have a makeshift kitchen in my utility room. I have the microwave, toaster and kettle plugged into a 4 way bar adapter that plugs into a 2 way adapter in the wall that my washer/dryer also plugs into. Barry the electrician wandered into the utility room when I was making him (another) cuppa and immediately gave me a lesson in electrical safety. I now know that the maximum load for a plug socket is 3000 watts (13 Amps). You would think that the biggest appliance would use the most power, but apparently not. A washing machine uses 2250 watts (10 Amps), but a kettle uses 3000 watts (13 Amps). So after my lesson I now know that I can only use one appliance at a time in my makeshift kitchen or I may need a new house if this one burns to the ground.

But this was two weeks ago. Until today I had assumed that all appliances could just run from any socket. Turns out not. I learnt today that some appliances need more than 3000 watts. My new SMEG cooker for example…..and when this is the case you often need a dedicated circuit, which is a feed directly from the mains. I only found this out because Barry happened to ask me  (over a cuppa) if I was getting a new cooker. The good news is that we can install a new dedicated circuit. The bad news is that we need to run a cable about 25 metres across the house, cut through the new ceiling boards we installed last month and drill through 2 stone walls each roughly 50cm thick. So thats Barry’s job for Friday. I think he’s bringing 2 of his lads. I might need to go and buy more mugs as there’s only 4 in my makeshift kitchen and the plasterers are also here on Friday…..

If you’re concerned about overloading your sockets at home there is a handy calculator on the website below. You don’t need to know how much power each of your appliance uses you just select the type of appliances you have plugged in and it works it out for you.

http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/guides-and-advice/electrical-items/overloading-sockets/

If I’d known I wanted to be an interior designer when I grew up I might have done some basic training in electrics and plumbing first…..

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What do you want to be when you grow up?

Today I am on a high which I desperately needed after the last 10 days. Scratchy (the cat) was diagnosed as having kidney disease when I got back from Kenya and it broke my heart watching him deteriorate. He was eating almost nothing and getting weaker and weaker. He perked up for a few hours when Mr W came home last Thursday and spent the evening purring on his lap, but it was short-lived, and on Saturday we had to take him to the vet for the final time. We buried him in his favourite spot in the garden, under a tree where he used to watch the birds and reminisce about a time when he could chase and catch them. He was the friendliest cat in the world and my buddy for almost 17 years. I miss him terribly.

So I needed today. It started this morning with a trip to my step-daughters to drop off some of the new furniture etc for her conservatory which I have redesigned and am decorating as a Christmas present. The coffee shop theme has really come together with a dark wood floor and matching furniture, and soft furnishings made from recycled coffee sacks. As a surprise I designed some ‘selfie’ coasters using photos I downloaded from her Facebook page, with matching placemats showing photos of her and her boyfriend. I used Snapfish to create them, and in black and white they look very cool. If the boyfriend doesn’t last at least she can still use the coasters! I would have liked to wait until I had everything so I could install it all and dress the room but car space wouldn’t allow it. The high came when she sent me a text when she got home from work saying how much she loves everything and can’t wait to see it finished.

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Some of the ‘selfies’

The second high came this afternoon when I met with a new client to discuss re-decorating her whole house. She has just returned to the UK with her husband after a 4 year stint in Australia on business. The house had needed updating before they left but as they didn’t know if they would return there was little point. The house has been occupied while they were away but poorly maintained so they are both desperate to gut it and give it a facelift. As I walked through the house with her discussing what she didn’t like (everything) and the additions she would like (lots) I realised this is my calling. I know that with the right builder I can improve the layout and give her a lot more storage space – what every girl wants right? I also know just the look she wants and how to create it without clearing out her bank account. The project management will be key though. With so much to do we have to prioritise, not just for implementation but also for budget purposes. They need to replace most if not all of the windows so I’ve suggested we price this first, to figure out how much of their budget will be left to replace the kitchen and bathrooms and redecorate. I’ve also agreed to draw up plans for a new layout upstairs, and for the installation of a downstairs loo and utility room at the end of the kitchen so that we can validate these plans with a local builder and price these changes. Starting with upstairs means she can get her clothes out of storage, and if we’re going to have builders traipsing in and out its better to do this before we redecorate downstairs. Once the upstairs is done they’ll have somewhere clean to retreat to when the work starts downstairs. Planning and budgeting were a daily part of my old life so all of this is right up my street. There are also plenty of opportunities to be creative. I am so excited.

When you’re a child adults always ask you what you want to be when you grow up. I find myself doing this with my friends children. When I was a child I could never answer this question, as I just didn’t know. Now I can, I guess this means I need to grow up….  🙂

In memory of Scratchy, Feb 1998 – Nov 2014. RIP

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A Saturday night out with a difference

I had another reminder tonight of how different my life now is. Normally on Saturday night I’m draining a bottle of NZSB, tonight I was draining my stream. The stream runs down the front garden and into a pipe under the road. I installed it 3 years ago to divert the water from the fields behind which had been turning the front garden into a swamp. Everything usually works but autumn leaves had blocked the pipe and the heavy rain tonight had turned the lane into a lake. So I had no choice but to get a torch and a spade, stick my wellies on and get out there to clear it. It might sound like a nightmare but I actually like dealing with this kind of stuff, it’s very grounding.

Before the flood alert I was doing a little recycling with some coffee sacks I bought online from a small chain of coffee shops in Lancashire. There are plenty of companies now selling these sacks online but I like to support small local businesses when I can. I’m working on project to redecorate a conservatory in the style of a coffee shop. I’ve bought the coffee sacks to upholster the bench seat I’m having made but using them for light shades will bring the room together. Needcraft is an online store which sells these really simple lampshade making kits at a very reasonable price. They’re so cheap and easy to use its a no-brainier really if you want to cover your own shades. I’m pretty pleased with the way they look, and can’t wait to see them in the finished room

Barrel shade
Barrel shade
Wall light shade
Wall light shade

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So jobs done, time now for a little indulgence. No Mr W so X Factor, curry out of the freezer and a little NZSB, we’ll it is Saturday night……

Bossiness aka Project Management, a skill worth paying for

In my old life at 5pm on a Friday you would usually find me in a city wine bar with a nice glass of NZSB (New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc) blowing off steam with Mr W and/or work colleagues. This Friday night I was cleaning  chicken poop off the floor of the chicken coop. A task made harder by the fact the ladies wanted to go to bed as it was getting dark so lots of clucking and chickens underfoot. Oh how my life has changed….I still say for the better though. A few days before we were due to fly back from Kenya I realised that I was looking forward to getting home. In my old life I can’t remember feeling anything other than dread as the end of a holiday drew near. I used to spend my holidays ignoring the blackberry and forcibly blocking out any thoughts of work until I was physically home, otherwise I just couldn’t relax. It just reinforced my view that I made the right decision leaving work and moving to Cumbria. I’ve never been happier.

Since I moved here Mr W has started to imagine himself as a country gent, with a small holding and a few more animals. To try and make this a reality I approached the owner of the empty field opposite my house with an offer to buy it, and I can safely say that won’t be happening any time soon. I think I’ve found the man the words cantankerous, obnoxious and rude were invented for. Old me would have shared this thought with him. New me just left with a smile and “you know where I am if you change your mind!” Ah well, less poop to clean and it will save having to find someone to donkey/pig/sheep/goat sit next time I need a city fix.

So it’s full steam ahead with the house renovation/redecoration again. If you’re ever starting an interior design project and can’t decide whether or not to pay for project management my advice would be unless you’re unemployed get a project manager. Contractors are notorious for taking on too many projects and juggling to try and keep everyone happy. If you’re not constantly checking in nothing gets done, or worse they make ‘executive decisions’ in your absence which you either have to live with or pay to fix.  I take two weeks off and the roofers didn’t turn up to re-render the leaking chimneys, the landscaper didn’t come and level the ground for the new shed and the electrician didn’t fit the meter box. I get back make a few calls and they’re on site, except for the roofers. You can actually google ‘the top 5 most elusive mammals on the planet’, roofers should be on this list between badgers and ocelots. What amuses me is that in my old life I was surrounded by men and paid to boss them about. These days I’m still surrounded by men, and still bossing them about, only difference is now I’m paying them to let me.

So there’s still a steady stream of re-wiring, plastering and joinery work going on in most rooms but we’ve now started the big job – the kitchen. The old kitchen was ok, but now I have the space and the cash I want my dream kitchen, starting with underfloor heating which is why I’m currently living with a makeshift kitchen in my utility room and no heating and hot water. I’ve told Mr W to stay in London for 2 weeks – no need for us both to be cold and grubby.

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Before: the old kitchen

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Current state of affairs…..

Despite comments in earlier posts about my dislike of roughing it I’ll manage. I have wood burning stoves, thick duvets and I can shower at the leisure centre. I am a bit worried about Scratchy the cat though. He stopped eating while I was away and the vet has confirmed it’s his kidneys. We’re just trying to figure out whether it’s a treatable infection or permanent damage. I’m a little distraught as he’s almost 18 and my companion. The house will be very empty without him if this is the end of the road.

Scratchy
Scratchy