Boogie Knights Part III

 

 

I tempted fate when I crossed my fingers and hoped and prayed that the builders installing the new driveway would not break my phone cable. Well, they bloody well DID! Not entirely their fault, as it needed replacing anyway. Virgin Media then sent the wrong engineer to replace it and I was without a landline, had very little internet access and the television picture was very temperamental for ten days. Not much fun watching Eastenders like that. Mind you, EastEnders isn’t much fun is it?  It’s all fixed now and the children are back to school and college so I can carry on with my blog.

With my Brother, Michael, returning from living in Cambodia and having insisted we hold a surprise welcome home party for him in a newly-built Boogie Knights, we had a mad rush on to decorate the room. As I have said before, when talking about the bathroom, dark paint in a room with no natural light was the way to go. I chose Farrow and Ball’s  Black Blue – a sludgy, inky, velvety and very cool colour (I think so, anyway) – and it took Marcus, My Step Dad and me roughly five weeks of prepping, sanding, filling and painting using large spot lights and lamps, along with a huge helping of determination. Well worth it, though.

 

 

When using such dark hues, it’s very important to get the lighting right. Because this was to be a multi-functional room, we also had to consider all its other uses – cinema room, kids’ den, entertainment room, spare bedroom for guests. We had the builders make a box around the perimeter of the room to house the main lighting. No down lights allowed here – we were too restricted with head room. We went through every shade and wattage of lighting we could lay our hands on. Warm white, bright white, multi-coloured (an absolute no-no for me), flashing, twinkling, you name it – we tried it. We settled on something between warm and fairly bright – no idea how describe that! – and the effect is perfect. It creates really beautiful shadows on the walls and ceilings. Very atmospheric, I must say!

 

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I decided on mirror for the back of the bar behind the shelves. A few of my friends requested a mirror somewhere in the room. The sole reason was not to touch up their lipstick or to check their hair but to watch themselves singing or wearing one of my many ridiculous wigs. I kid you not! (I must admit, I thought it was a good idea!). Rather than use glass mirror, I ordered some shatterproof Perspex acrylic mirror. I had decided everything in Boogie Knights had to be made of non-breakable material where possible. If you knew how accident prone some of our friends are, you would know where I’m coming from!

 

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With this in mind, I opted for a faux snakeskin print black leather material. It was a bargain on EBay and really good quality – perfect for low maintenance. You can’t actually see the snake skin print because the room is so dark but I know it’s there and I love it. It’s looks great against the hard surface of the concrete bar top (think contrasting textures in a room) and wipes down very easily. It also helps my Ikea hack bar stools to stand out, with their brass painted legs (More on Ikea hacks and homemade stuff another time – including the leopard print chairs in the 2nd photo. These are my favourite pieces of furniture in the whole house).

The floor was very tricky and time consuming. We could have used ordinary floor paint but I was convinced it would chip or scratch under the heels of drunken guests and rowdy children. It would have to be an industrial paint finish and one that could be used on a very thin layer of screed over underfloor heating. We bought a black epoxy resin paint that is industrial strength and used for heavy traffic in warehouses and factories. It was a bugger to use, being very sticky and Marcus could just about see what he was doing and we only managed one coat just before the surprise party that weekend. At some point we are going to have to clear the room out and do the second coat but for now, it does the trick.

 

 

The carpet on the stairs is charcoal grey, keeping with the dark, moody (seedy?) look I was going for. It shows every single piece of dirt and fluff but it looks the part once it is vacuumed so who cares? It’s also anti-slip which is a good thing! Next, Marcus installed the projector and 100 inch screen. I must admit, I don’t care for gadgets and I detest large TV’s with a passion (SO ugly). However, our screen goes up behind a boxed in panel (part of the lighting boxing) when not in use and when it is, the picture is amazing. I’ll let Marcus have that good idea (wink, wink!).

 

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The final instalment was the ventilation system and air-conditioning unit which Marcus also installed. It can get really stuffy in Boogie Knights, especially when it is full of people. It can also be a bit chilly in the Winter. Also, because of a lack of windows, Building Control requested the ventilation. So much for their requests – they haven’t even been to sign off the room yet. Must get onto them about that!

Last but not least, my absolute favourite part of having a brand new room – dressing the space. I had collected posters, prints, chairs, chairs and more chairs, glasses, barware, lamps, rugs, you name it, since we moved into this house. I had various birthday presents still in wrapping and boxed up – my wonderful Boogie Knights and ‘Dancing’ signs, the disco ball, decanters, prints – and I couldn’t wait to finally unwrap them all and put them in their place.  As long as we had lived in this house, I had a clear picture in my mind of the colour and style I wanted this room to be. More importantly, I knew the room wasn’t being used to its full potential. In fact, I always felt it was a separate part of the house. Somehow, we had to blend it in with everything else and make it a multi-purpose room, not just the disco room it was to start with.

 

 

With the pictures up, furniture, lights and rugs in, we were ready for the surprise party – just in the nick of time.

A few weeks later, we had another party and the ultimate compliment was given to Marcus by two of our builder friends; they told him they had seen and built basements in their work but none compared to Boogie Knights in terms of finish and style. Marcus and I DO make a good team on the design front, even though most of the ideas were mine (wink, wink!).

 

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Boogie Knights Part II

Good morning, you nosey lot! Apologies for the sporadic blogging at the moment; Things are pretty hectic Chez Knight. As I type, there is a digger on the drive, digging up the old concrete, tarmac, sand and rubble. Our new drive should be finished in the next three or four days. Thank The Lorrrdddd! I have a million and one things on my mind (ok – slight exaggeration) from “When is the flipping skirting going to be done in the new kitchen?” to researching materials for the new house façade and many things in between.

Now, where was I last time? Boogie Knights. This blog will cover the rebuild and part three will be all about the best stuff: The design and décor. Before I cover that, this is what we had to do to get to that point:

You’ll recall in part 1 that we were left with a rather damp, decrepit room. Not a problem – we expected that to be the case. In fact, we had already decided to call a damp expert in. Try explaining over the phone that you have a basement – well, not actually a basement as such because the room isn’t underground. Actually, three of the walls are kind of underground and the back wall is made of poured concrete about a metre thick to retain the back garden. The side walls are below the pathways either side of the house but the entire floor of the room is actually at street level…. Confused? So was the Damp Man!

As it turned out, because the back and side walls are all retaining, they needed tanking. So tanking it was. It was a very straightforward but expensive process. Unfortunately, we had no choice in the matter. Like I said before, it was vital we kit this room out to a very high standard. After all, it is more or less holding up the entire house above it!

 

With tanking in, Marcus got to work on the underfloor heating which was to be laid straight on top of the floor tanking membrane. Easy peasy. He could have done it with his eyes shut.

Next up was the screed floor. Now this went a bit wrong. The ceilings in Boogie Knights are very low, particularly as we have exposed concrete support beams. Marcus is 6 feet 2″. He worked out that, as long as his head cleared the beams, then we had enough height. Because of this, the screed had to be the exact thickness Marcus had specified (also, it had to be a certain thickness for the underfloor heating to work). The stupid screed men didn’t listen to a word Marcus said and the floor was too flaming thick! Arrrrggggghhh! Not the first time things have gone wrong in this house and it certainly won’t be the last. Luckily for them, they resolved this cock-up and all was good.

The screed was dry enough to work on after about one week so it was time to get the builders in and move the door/entrance to Boogie Knights which was currently in the kitchen but soon to be the dining area. Thinking ahead to our plans for the kitchen/family room, the existing entrance would be opening up straight into the new room which would have looked silly and been impractical. Not only this, the existing steps down to BK’s were extremely steep and most probably wouldn’t pass building control regs so the staircase and entrance had to be changed.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING could have prepared me for the mess of concrete dust that moving this doorway entailed. I have dealt with building mess in my life for years now. Brick dust and rubble is one thing. Been there, done that. But concrete dust is quite another. We didn’t want all the dust to go into BK’s and settle there so we had to keep back door open in the kitchen upstairs and hope that, somehow, the dust would be sucked out of the house. Mostly, this worked. Thank God. Unfortunately, we had no doors in our hallway, into the back lounge or into the kitchen from the hall and no matter what we did, we could not stop the entire house being covered in concrete dust. Put it this way: all my coats, jackets and shoes that are behind doors in the hall cupboards, in fact every single item stored there, were covered in dust. I think I actually cried the day I discovered that!

Crying over and done with, the new entrance had to be built with surrounding steels to support the ceiling above (Good old Marcus spent days crawling through the ceiling space with his I Torch, mapping all the concrete beams in the house). Marcus had the steels made and welded them in himself. They also had to be painted in a special fire-resistant paint, according to building regs.

Once the new doorway was in, I was ever so slightly relieved to be able to shut the new door to BK’s from my kitchen and let whoever was building down there to get on with it and leave me in peace. Marcus built up the new stud walls and started work on the electrics.

Although we took out one cupboard in BK’s, there is still a brick-enclosed cupboard that is part of the house structure so couldn’t be removed. This was to become the ‘plant room’, housing the gas and electricity meters, the electricity cable and gas pipe feeds for the entire house, the underfloor heating ??????, ventilation ???? and a spare chest freezer. (I currently store my dressing up clothes and wigs in there, too. Tee hee!). Because of this, we had to consider absolutely every single change we were going to be making in future on the top two floors. Once BK’s was finished and decorated, there was no way in Hell we could go back and start drilling holes in the ceiling or adding new pipework because we’d forgotten about a radiator in the hallway. We are talking about concrete floors and many a broken drill bit to get those pipes and cables through to upstairs. I told you before -nothing is easy in this gaff!

 

So, electricity cables and pipework for upstairs in, plus for BK’s itself. Next up, it was time to get the builders back to build the new walls, emergency exit hatch out onto street level, staircase and pelmet for the lighting (concrete ceilings, remember, and little head room so lighting had be mainly on the perimeter). Whilst they were getting on with that, Marcus began building the new bar.

I spent nearly a whole year collecting images of bars. My main inspiration came from restaurants and trendy clubs. I wanted a brass bar top then a brass bar front. I decided on dull brass then antique brass. I wanted a tiled top with a mirrored front then back to brass again! I changed my mind like the flipping wind and it drove me MAD! That’s because I was missing a point. I was making a feature of the bar that I didn’t actually want to stand out. That was tricky in itself. I mean, how could I get away from the fact that there was to be a bar in the room? I was so worried about not getting the design right and it turning out tacky that I tried too hard to make it look impressive.

Marcus to the rescue! He decided upon a concrete bar top and was convinced that he could make it himself. The exposed support beams are concrete and he decided this was the perfect material to use. After a little research on YouTube and a bit of help from our builder, we had our concrete bar top and it looked bloody amazing! It pains me to say it (because I like to think that I come up with all the best design ideas!) but Marcus did a fantastic job and saved us a small fortune in the process. Concrete work surfaces are seriously expensive, you know.

Ta daaaaa!

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We decided to install a small kitchen underneath the bar top, as well as a small sink which, ten months later, is still not plumbed in! Kitchen units and work surface were delivered by Ikea and Marcus fitted it all over the course of a couple of weekends.

Five months after we first started the rip, the room was ready for decoration!

Phew! I am actually exhausted thinking about all the work that was involved in getting BK’s to this stage. Not to mention the cost. It was now time to get painting and furnishing. More of that in Part III. I am off to check on the progress outside. I can’t wait for my new drive to be laid. It’s going to make such a big difference to the front of the property. Pleeeeaaasssseeee say they won’t break my Virgin Media cable. I don’t think I could cope with actually sitting down and conversing normally with the family, without ‘researching’ on Pinterest for the evening. Naughty, I know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boogie Knights Part 1

The Big Rip

Ain’t no doubt – we are here to party. That’s my mantra, anyway!

Imagine having a nightclub in your basement. Well, I say basement but it’s not technically a basement. Imagine viewing a property and the last room you are shown, the big surprise, piece de resistance, the jewel in the crown is underneath the main house and has been converted  into a party room, complete with games machines, a full-size pool table and a built in bar. A bar? I honestly thought I’d died and gone to Heaven, until that is, I looked a lot closer…

The first alarm bells started to ring when we looked around the room and realised there was no fire escape. The stairs into the room from the main house were dangerously steep, the games machines appeared to be built into the floor and ceiling (actually, they were)and the floorboards seemed to undulate. There was a distinct aroma of eau de damp in the air and it was evident this room had been converted from a garage with no permission from the Council and no building regulations. We knew this would have to be rectified but who cared? Not me! I was about to have my very own nightclub. Being the Disco Diva that I am, we couldn’t have bought a better property. I was beyond excited and immediate set out to name the club. I asked for suggestions on Facebook and the winning entry was BOOGIE KNIGHTS. Perfect!

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I had my eye on a couple of gold sofa beds, which I promptly ordered to be delivered just after our moving in date. Gold sofas? Yes, really. So me and not at all tacky – I promise! Ha! (We are currently down to one after a particularly rowdy night which involved my teenage daughter’s friends and a certain, over-grown kid bouncing on the flipping sofa and snapping it!)

We lived with the existing conversion for the first two and a half years. The only thing we changed were the light bulbs which Marcus kindly changed to multi-coloured, flashing ones for me. Not really much of a disco without disco lights, right? During that time, the damp problem became progressively worse, as did the smell. This in no way stopped us having parties. We even held my Sister’s wedding reception down there, complete with hired bar-staff, as well as my Mum’s 60th birthday party! We do love a party and what better place to hold one than in the comfort of your own home?

We had a mish-mash of furniture – mainly armchairs and standard lamps – and a whole box of weird and wonderful wigs and dressing up clothes. All pretty normal, don’t you think? And don’t forget the whisks – aka microphones –  for singing into. What? You don’t have all that stuff in your house?

In November 2014, we finally took the plunge and Marcus began the rip-out to see what we were dealing with underneath.

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We have light!

(I am just going to take this opportunity to explain about my Husband, Marcus (aka Malcolm). I am very lucky in that there is nothing Marcus cannot fix, build, design, engineer, the list goes on. We call him Macho Man (well I do when he is fixing something) and if he’s lucky, I’ll even play a few songs whilst he is hard at work – The Village People, Macho Man, Sinitta, So Macho or my favourite – Oliver NJ’s Let’s Get Physical. Poor, poor Marcus. He takes so much flack from me but I really do appreciate him. Honestly. He works extremely hard, does a better job and knows more than any surveyor, builder or architect and saves us an awful lot of money because of this. So thank you, Darling, if you are reading this!)

As it turns out, the boxing machine (seen on top of the pile in the above photo) was, indeed, built into the floor and ceiling. The previous owners thought it best to build the ceiling and flooring around the damn thing. Do not ask me how they managed to it into the room in the first place! Marcus had to cut it in half with metal cutters which was not at all easy. Shame it had to be broken – NOT. I hated it.

It took Marcus and I (and a little help from youngest child, Fin, who LOVES to get stuck in) many weekends to get this room back to it’s original glory as a garage and workshop. Glory being my sarcastic side coming out. This is what we ended up with:

Damp, damp and more damp! You can see from the photos how wet the concrete floor was underneath. This must have been seeping through the ground for at least five years – slowly but surely. No real surprises there to be honest. There were broken water pipes running all over the floor and every time it rained, we were left with puddles. On the positive side, now the room was back to its bones and because we had taken out the large corner cupboard which was next to the bar, the room was huge – 50m2 to be precise. I couldn’t wait to start the rebuild.

We’d known from the start exactly what we wanted to do with this room. I had the design very clear in my mind and Marcus was allowed to deal with all the technical malarkey. Poor Marcus. I usually go ahead and do things to the house with even asking him. Good job he trusts my taste and judgement. (Good job for him!) This room was quite complicated though and had to be designed and finished to a very high spec otherwise, we would be wasting an awful lot of time and money, not to mention the opportunity to have something so unique and special in our house.

The builders were booked in and we were ready for the rebuild. I was ridiculously excited and Marcus was freaking out about the cost of it all. More on that next time in Boogie Knights Part II. Until then, I shall be filling, sanding and painting the home office area we have just had built in the new kitchen/dining room. Thought I’d seen the back of dirt and mess for the time being but needs must and all that and there is certainly no rest for the wicked!

In the Jungle

‘A garden is a delight to the eye and a solace for the soul’ or so said Saadi.

I couldn’t agree more, being the passionate gardener that I am. Unfortunately, a delight to the eye was not what we inherited but rather a garden covered in dog poo and littered with rubbish!

We moved in at the end of April, so the garden was rather tatty, given that it had just been through a very cold winter and, to be honest, I don’t think the previous owners had time for gardening. It did have good bones, though, and an 80ft willow tree to boot. The style of the garden was very traditional with lots of mature, evergreen shrubs. They would have to go. I don’t do traditional.

From as far back as I can remember, I’ve had a thing about palm trees and the exotic (best said without the ‘t’, in the style of Waynetta Slob). Not sure whether this came from the t-shirts I was sent as a child by my Grandmother in New Zealand – presents from far-flung, unknown places such as Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu – or the lairy, Hawaiian shirt I begged my Mum to buy me from a jeans shop on Seven Sisters Road c. 1980. Either way, palm trees were bound to feature in my adult life somehow. I travelled to some beautiful, lush places in my 20’s then moved to Auckland where I was surrounded by palm trees and other exotic plants. When we moved back to England, I was determined to recreate a lush, tropical-looking garden in an English climate.

This was the garden we inherited:

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First Impressions

 

 

My previous garden was also based on hardy tropical gardening. I had both the cheek and the foresight to dig up my most treasured plants and pot them up for my new garden before we moved house. Don’t worry – I left enough plants behind for the new owners. No way was I going to leave the most expensive specimens for them to kill off, after eight years of nurturing from me! These plants were to go in the new beds I had planned in my design and replace some of the shrubs I was getting rid of.

Over the last three years we have:

  • Taken down two sheds and replaced with one large shed
  • Taken out shrubs and trees and replaced with palms, bamboos and the like
  • Taken down walls
  • Filled in two fishponds
  • Added or extended numerous garden beds
  • Dug out an entire, broken, glass greenhouse, childrens’ toys, a baby’s pram, carrier bags, huge plastic plant pots, weird ornaments and five truck loads of buried concrete slab from under and around the old green shed (shown above and below). Now that was a mission!

And much, much more that I won’t bore you with.

A big improvement, don’t you think?

And more recently:

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I have been very busy, but then again, as I’ve said, gardening is a HUGE passion of mine. I spend on average 2-3 hours a day gardening from March to October. I don’t care if my house is a mess, the kids have no clean shirts for school, the food cupboards are empty or the cat needs feeding. As long as my garden looks good, that can all wait. And I’ll tell you why: Apart from the obvious benefits of gardening such as exercise, clearing my head, escaping the madness that having three children and a Husband can sometimes bring, I see the garden as an extension of my house; another room to be treated the same as every other.

Now, I do understand that most people have extremely busy lives working much or most of the week, kids to cart about here, there and everywhere and all sorts of other commitments. I also hear on a regular basis “I don’t have green fingers” or “I simply don’t have the time or the funds to invest in my garden”. Personally, I would rather go without clothes and instead buy that coveted banana plant I have been after but that’s my obsession for you!

My garden is forever evolving. I started my latest (and hopefully last for a while) project  back in November. It is on hold until beginning of March and I can’t wait to show you the transformation (fingers crossed) once it’s all done.

I really hope I haven’t bored you all to tears, banging on about my beloved garden. This blog is as much about recording all our work on this house so far as it is about keeping you all entertained and learning how to blog. I’ll touch on the garden more when the weather warms up and might even convince some of you to do some gardening!

Until then, here’s a sneak peak at the view from inside our new kitchen/dining room (photo taken in November 2015):

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Right. Go and get your wellies on and sort your gardens out!

 

 

Planning Ahead

I don’t know about you but I feel a huge clean up/clear out coming on. It must be the time of year – finding paper hats from Christmas crackers, peanuts behind the sofa I am STILL eating the Boxing Day cheese! So today, I plan to tackle the garden before the ‘big freeze’ (or so they say) arrives tonight. I will get out there whilst it is relatively mild, brush the snow from the plants and I’ll tackle indoors tomorrow.

Anyway, back to the subject of all change. The thing with this house , what with it being built of concrete, is we have to think way ahead with every change we make. It’s not a simple case of taking a wall down here and floorboards up there. For the first year of living here, Fin (youngest of three) slept on a single bed in our bedroom by the front door whilst Francesca (eldest) and Max (middle) had their bedrooms upstairs. As well as the two bedrooms upstairs, we had ‘The Disco Bathroom’ (we also had  ‘The Rock Star Bathroom’ – more on that another time). Disco Bathroom consisted of a disco shower – a fabulous capsule of flashing disco lights, shower telephone, stereo, mirrored panels inside and a foot-massager. Do you get the picture? I both loved it and hated it at the same time. I loved it when a good disco song came on the radio and I sang into a hairbrush whilst checking out my dance moves in the mirror panels. I have no shame. I hated it for the cracked floor tiles that had never been grouted, the lack of a radiator and the nasty 80’s style décor.

Now, bearing in mind we had another bathroom downstairs, Max had the master bedroom and Fin was sharing with us, we decided to turn the disco bathroom into a temporary bedroom for Fin and we swapped bedrooms with Max – relegating him to our old bedroom by the front door.

Max’s new bedroom was still large so six months later, whilst considering the fact that we were going to lose Rock Star Bathroom eventually, we called in the builders to build a brand new bathroom. This was done by taking just 1.6m from Max’s bedroom. Knowing that this new bathroom would eventually be the downstairs loo but that it would at some  point be the only bathroom in the house for a while, we installed a large shower, as well as a toilet and sink. Problem was, putting a bathroom in a part of the house that was positioned  far from the other bathrooms (hence the plumbing and drainage)and considering the solid concrete floors, it was never going to be easy.

We got around this by changing the large storage cupboard next door – a cupboard that was so grim and dated that it reminded me of an office stockroom from the 80’s – into a utility room that would eventually serve the new kitchen. This new kitchen would in turn have new drainage installed.  In the meantime, Marcus installed a macerator – problem solved (until, that is, Francesca decided to place her make-up wipes down the toilet)!

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The bathroom has no window in it. There is a covenant on the house from 1960 that forbids any windows on the left flank. I’m sure the neighbour would not have minded us installing a small, high-up window but I’d rather not go there until we really need a window on that flank one day – most probably when we built our en-suite upstairs. Do you know what? Having a dark bathroom has been great because I got to paint the whole room out in a very dark paint. No point in trying to make the room appear lighter with no natural light whatsoever. That would be like flogging a dead horse, so to speak. So, dark paint it was; ceilings and all! This was my first foray into ‘The Dark Side’ a la Abigail Ahern.

I wanted this bathroom to be dark, glam, different and maybe a little bit ‘rock star’. Ha! I have gone from one rock star bathroom to another! Thing is, in my mind anyway, there is a difference between ‘rock star’ and ‘wannabe rock star’. This bathroom had to be the real thing or at least be a bit edgy, without being tacky, of course. With this in mind, I chose dark grey, glossy porcelain tiles for inside the shower, hoping they would blend into the wall and ceiling, which they did. All other surfaces were painted out in Abigail Ahern’s Rivington Blue paint. I would describe this colour as a very dark teal/petrol/peacock blue. It’s deep in pigmentation, inky and as matt as matt can be. It’s beautiful!

To contrast with the dark walls and ceilings, I went with metallic copper vinyl floor tiles from the Urban Collection at Harvey Maria. The perfect contrast with the chalky, matt wall paint, I think. The splash back tiles are the Lipari Mosaic Shimmer tiles from Wallsandfloors.co.uk. I can never resist a bit of bling but it only works in small doses. Shame. Thinking about layering and materials, I was hell bent on finding the perfect mirror – one I could easily do my hair and make up in, was large enough and did a good job of reflecting light into the room. After much online searching, I discovered the All Saints Mirror in crystal by Kartell on Amara.com. One of my all time favourite design companies and most visited online store. The mirror is one of my favourite items in the house so far, although it’s an absolute bugger to keep clean but SO worth it.

Last, and by no means least, the small details. I am a firm believer in having the unexpected in all rooms in the house. Why shouldn’t we have artwork in the bathroom? Colourful textiles or photos on the wall? If I had my way, there would be a beautiful lamp in this room, a huge plant and a sheepskin rug on the floor. All are very impractical with a family of five but when I have my own bathroom – why not? I think if there is any room in the house you can be a little bit wacky in, it’s the little loo or the bathroom. Nothing wacky in my bathroom but just a few little bits to add interest:

 

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From left to right:

Jo Luping ceramic  New Zealand native flower tiles.

Sex Pistols print bought at Camden Lock (that reminds me – I must find my sticky stuff remover and remove the Sellotape marks on this frame!)

I LOVE this print, strategically placed for males and made by the lovely Jo Caulfield.

 

My artwork might not be to your taste but the point with your homes is that they should be a reflection of you. Have a think about adding something unusual to your bathroom. It’s not like it can’t be undone. Go on! I dare you to be brave! (Just one word of advice – maybe don’t vagazzle your toilet flush button with pink rhinestones as the previous owners of this house did in Rock Star Bathroom! Eeuurrrgggghhhh!)

Right, that’s me done as far as blogging goes. I’m off outside to wrap my bananas.

That is not a euphemism x

 

 

 

 

 

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There Once was an Ugly Duckling

 

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In the Beginning – April 2012

 

Well, I say once…here you have a 55 year old ugly duckling! I can honestly say, this has to be one of the ugliest houses I have ever seen. Ugly but full of character. It’s certainly not the average-looking English house but that’s what attracted us to it in the first place. My other half (Marcus but sometimes referred to as Malcolm) is from New Zealand and together we lived there for five years. Houses similar to this are very common so we were familiar with this style of property.The house also sits on just under 1/4 acre section and is detached from neighbours on both sides by a good distance. With lots of parties and entertaining in mind, it was the perfect find.

I would say most English people would run a mile from a property like this. Not just because it is so out of the ordinary but because most see property in need of renovation as a colossal task. Not us; we saw a unique house that presented a fantastic opportunity for remodelling, extending and bringing into the correct decade (century, even!), whilst increasing the value at the same time. In other words, we saw the massive potential.

Now, one thing I have to point out is that this house was built using poured concrete – yes, concrete. It’s built like the proverbial brick s**t house! We are lucky enough to have a neighbour who was born in the property next door, whose parents sold part of their land in 1960 to a builder. Actually, he was a concrete engineer. According to the original house plans (which I have) the property was architecturally-designed, very tasteful and seriously flash for it’s time (really!). The concrete man was working on tower blocks in London and applied the same building practices to this house at weekends. Hence, the poured concrete and house built like a commercial property.

That’s all very well and good if we were ever to have an earthquake in London or there is a zombie apocalypse any time soon. We’d be safe from all that in this fortress. However, when it comes to doing any work at all, let me tell you, it’s not easy.

Anyway, back to the front of house:

When we moved in, the first thing I did was to spend ten weeks removing ivy from the front garden and façade of the house. No mean feat, I can tell you. Next on the list was to remove the entire front garden, steps, pathways and walls. Much to my astonishment, it took five loads of an 18 tonne truck to remove all materials. Three things were saved- the large cabbage tree by the foot of the steps and the top-quality, super-stylish fake grass that covered the entire raised garden, mingled with metres and metres of rampant ivy that had pierced through the lining. Fake grass? I kid you not. Last but not least, a strange, stone head that I call The One-Toothed Wanderer, saved from the front wall before demolition and now residing in my garden.

Next up, the new retaining wall  and walled garden beds were built, rendered and painted. The plants and trees were chosen (much needed to soften the expanse of tarmac on the drive) and planted, as well as some beautiful grasses kindly donated to us by our friend and very talented gardener, Janet Hague.  All this took approximately 9 months in total. Nothing gets done quickly with this property.We now have a driveway that fits 4/5 cars on and a much improved front of house, although, as you can see – there if still a long way to go. The new drive, steps, balcony and house façade are all on the list of jobs for 2016 and I’ll be filling you in nearer the time.

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Let’s talk about the chimney stack. I absolutely DETEST it with a passion! If you have a close look, you’ll see urns, bottles, weird gargoyle-like faces and the best bit – the ledge you see was designed to hold ferns and plants like the flipping Hanging Gardens of Babylon! I refuse to take part in that nonsense. Perhaps with it being 1960, the architect was partaking in psychedelic substances? According to my research (I found very little, actually), this design was very avant-garde in 1960. Avant-garde? More like off his guard or even better, off his trolley!

Opinions are divided on the chimney; some love the wackiness of it and others agree it has to go – somehow. I can live with the balcony (although it will be modernised) but not the ten foot monstrosity reaching for the sky! This year, we will be deciding how to best cover up and reduce it, if possible. More on that when we have made our decision.

So, that pretty much sums up the front of our house so far. Big changes are on the way. The sooner, the better as far as I am concerned!

Until next time.

Better late than never!

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Firstly, a very warm welcome to my blog. No doubt you are one of the friends or family members I have begged, bribed, blackmailed or beaten (or all four, probably) to follow and support my new venture.

I say better late than never because I have been plucking up the courage for the whole of 2015 to start blogging about my biggest passion (next to drinking Gin) which is interiors; a passion that goes way back to when I was a child in the 70’s, drooling over the furniture in Habitat and Heal’s on Tottenham Court Road. Weird, I know!

It all started with a primary school project entitled ‘London Street Furniture’. That’s where my love of fabulous, quirky and practical design was born.

Following that, and without trying to brag, I am sure I had the best pencil case and stationery in secondary school – all bought from Paperchase on Tottenham Court Road – the third of my three favourite shops I loved to visit on a Saturday morning. I had metallic biros, glitter pencils, turquoise ink for my rhinestone fountain pens, fragrant rubbers – you name it! Now, this is where my love of tack and bling was born.

Trying to tie all these styles together in what is a HUGE renovation of a very problematic house can sometimes be a real challenge. Nevertheless, it’s a challenge that I LOVE and one I have decided to start blogging about.

And the title of my blog – Fur coat and no knickers? Ha! Ha! That was the name given to my house by a good friend who, having been shown around by me almost four years ago, declared it to be “All fur coat and no knickers”. It summed up (to a tee) the previous owner’s style, taste and failed attempts at modernising the property. I laughed and laughed and vowed that I would do my very best (time and money permitting) to make this house stylish, unique and comfortable with a little bit of bling thrown in. Just a tiny bit.

More about the ‘Ugliest House in Town’ next time. It’s Gin time! x