Archive | May, 2012

Designs, Disasters and Delusions

30 May

I’m planning a career change! To what you may ask! Well I’ve decided to become a kitchen designer. And the reason for this? Because that way, we may actually get the kitchen we want rather than the kitchen somebody else wants us to have! Remember how the first kitchen designer was hung over and give us an ABC kitchen plan with no thought and no imagination? Well Mr. Magnet hasn’t done much better. He’s given us plans for a kitchen that is the complete OPPOSITE of the one that we told him we wanted.

Our kitchen isn’t exactly a challenging space to deal with. It’s a medium sized square. At one end its got a door that leads to this………



Originally a utility room, we’re going to make it part of the kitchen space and then knock through the wall to the left of it so that you can walk straight through into the dining room.  Nothing complicated in that. The space that we gain where the utility room is, we were thinking we’d fill with an island that has built in storage and a lip so that it would double as a breakfast bar. Now we told Mr. Magnet all of this, but he obviously decided that he knew better, so here’s what he sent us –



Okay, so yes its got an island, but when you see the next pictures, you’ll see my problem!


See what he’s done? He’s put the cooker all the way down at the end where the island was meant to be! What a lovely view for people in the dinning room. Even worse, look at the all important kitchen triangle which kitchen designers are meant to put so much emphasis on, the cooker and the fridge (the grey box on the far right between the two white doors) are at OPPOSITE ends of the room!

Where is the person that designed this kitchen? I want their number and I want them round here first thing tomorrow!



from kitchen remodeling


Sex and The Closet!

27 May

So, I know I’ve been focusing a lot on storage recently, but indulge me one more time please………….I watched the movie Sex And The City again the other night (okay don’t judge me please, I’ve had a very intellectually demanding couple of weeks at work and needed some down time!), you know the one where Mr.Big buys an apartment and then proceeds to kit it out with the walk in wardrobe of Carries’s dreams?



Isn’t that just a work of e art? Although as much as I love shoes (and IB will testify to this fact), I could never justify owning enough pairs to fill all those shelves. However, there is a little corner of our spare room that I think would lend itself beautifully to becoming a walk in wardrobe/dressing room!  And for dressing room, read somewhere in the house where NO BOYS/MEN will be allowed, EVER, unless they bring gifts! It would be somewhere where I could escape to with a book and some chocolate when life in a house full of men gets too much! Ideally (but unlikely!) it will be big enough to have one of these…




I was going to mooch around the internet and look at bespoke wardrobes before I broached the idea of carving out my own little bolt hole with IB and in the process I came across an article that as someone working to a strict DIY budget, I felt I had to share. The article described how a a retired Long Island businessman hired the Sex and the City set designer Lydia Marks to build a copy of Carrie Bradshaw’s walk-in closet for his wife. Nothing too unusual in that, it might even be considered a romantic gesture by some, until you read the detail behind the tale. Lydia Marks turned a 400-square-foot guest bedroom into a walk-in closet with room for 400 pairs of shoes, for a total of…………………………… 175 THOUSAND DOLLARS!!! They could have saved a fortune if they’d shopped around on line!!!

For example Strachan do some very nice ones for a lot less…………….


And suffice to say that if this DIY Dame does get her walk-in closet, the cost of constructing it, added together with the cost of the shoes and clothes in it, will come nowhere near to the figure of $175,000!

Oh and before I sign off, let me just show you the latest addition to our bathroom. We found them in Kilkenny Design at Christmas. It’s a Dublin based emporium full of Irish handcrafted produce.  We’d been wondering where to put them. Warm, candle-lit baths here we come…………..




This DIY life…..

23 May

‘So how are things going with the house?’ It’s a question I’m asked on a regular basis and normally its one I love to answer. It somehow validates what we’re doing when friends or family show a genuine interest in or curiosity about our progress. Even more so when something about our experiences triggers them to remember and share their stories of DIY or renovation projects. Sometimes it helps to know that you’re not the only one who has struggled with misogynistic builders or an on-line radiator sales company whose definition of good customer service is to shout at you and slam down the phone because you ask why your radiators haven’t arrived!

The thing is, I’ve noticed that just lately the question ‘how’s the house going’ is not causing me to light up with excitement. I know it’s not because I’ve lost interest in what we’re doing but rather we’ve reached a point where there is simply nothing to talk about because NOTHING is moving forward! Well when I say nothing, I mean specifically the kitchen, which is meant to be our main focus just now. But the DIY gods are not smiling down on us and we’re just not making any progress. Obstacles to date have included :

  1. Our favoured builder – of the three we got quotes from – is not returning our calls. So either he took a dislike to us or he’s just so damn good (which I have to say is the most likely option given the three page email filled with free advice he sent with his quote) that he’s booked out for the rest of his working life.
  2. The building regulations people cannot decide how much money we need to pay them or even what form we should fill in – all we’re looking to do is incorporate the external utility ‘room’ into the main kitchen space. So far we’ve spoken to two different people and been given two different quotes and two different application forms to complete! Granted on a positive note, the price is going down (by nearly two hundred pounds), so IB is in favour of us ringing a third time to see if the price will drop again.
  3. In terms of the kitchen design, well the first company we approached gave us a plan for a kitchen that was totally lacking in creativity and imagination. Something to do I think with the designer being clearly hung over on the morning we went in to the showroom. The second – remember Mr. Magnet – has not even bothered to come back with a design for us, despite us calling to chase him. So now, we’ve got to start all over again…….

Anyway, you know what, this DIY Dame is not going to be beaten. We will get the kitchen renovations up and running and in the meantime there are still lots of smaller projects that we can tackle – although time is proving tricky to find just now as we’re both so busy at work, earning the money to do the renovations – you know how it is!  Still, even if our renovations have ground to a stand-still, it doesn’t stop me looking for ideas and inspiration. I’m still obsessing about how to maximise our storage options (remember the stair storage ideas?)  and have been hunting around for other clever tricks we could use. I found these ideas on the channel 4 home design site. They focus on the living room but the site is worth a visit as it features ideas for all different rooms in a  house.



I love the idea of building a window seat with storage beneath in a bay window (although we don’t have any in this house!).  A lift up lid is the least expensive option of course but putting drawers in like this looks better.

Or you could have a sofa bed which also has storage below the cushions (checkout IKEA).




Oh and then I found this, which has nothing to do with living room storage, but I love to bake and I love the idea that one day in my new kitchen, I might have space for one of these (from Infarrantly Creative):




Finally, I also found some interesting storage ideas on one website for children’s playrooms but they could just as easily be used in childrens’ bedrooms.



I love the chalkboard idea in particular, but in terms of the last picture, well there’s no way my boys would ever settle for a bedroom or playroom that was that neat and organised, but hey a Dame can dream!

Sexism, storage and stairs!

20 May

So, hot on the heels of my experience with the less than politically correct builder, Mr. Awright Darlin’, last week, I read a great article in this month’s Ideal Home magazine about the rapidly expanding population of women DIYers in the world. Apparently B&Q interviewed 2,000 women last year for their opinions on DIY (sadly I wasn’t one of them even though I have a lot to say on the subject!) and 70% said they were happy to tackle DIY jobs in the home. Of those, 75% claimed to be as good at it or better than men!



(from the National Archives and Records Administration)


Now I am not at all advocating yet another battle of the sexes, with DIY being the chosen battleground, but I think it is interesting that while many people think of DIY as a traditionally male dominated arena, the opposite might just be the reality. It seems there are a lot of us DIY Dames around. Unfortunately, I don’t have an address for Mr. Awright Darlin’, otherwise he’d be getting a copy of the Ideal Homes article pushed through his letterbox with the paragraph noting that 50% of men admit to being hopeless at DIY underlined in bright red ink. I wonder how he copes on trips to B&Q where now apparently nearly half the workforce are women and they’re not all backstage working in admin or finance. I’m actually thinking of inviting him back to tell him that we’re considering getting an all-female building company in to do the kitchen work, an option which apparently is just a click away via the Women and Trades website. Strangely, IB is very supportive of the idea! I think he might be imagining a posse of tanned, young women in hard hats, denim shorts and vest tops working on our kitchen extension. Even as I write, I’m changing my mind about the whole idea and thinking maybe we’ll get Mr. Awright Darlin’ in after all!!!!!

Now on to a lighter, non-gender related topic – under stair storage! What do you think of when someone says ‘under-stair storage’ to you? Maybe this:


Or this?



Me too! Until earlier this week, when I discovered that understair storage can mean this……………….




Or this……………




Fab aren’t they? My favourite is the first one, stairs quite literally as storage! Genius! Now building us some under stair storage………….  surely that’s a job that’s got my female DIY name written all over it!!!

Bolshie Builders and other tales!

16 May

‘Awright darlin’, the man of the house around? I’ve come to give him a quote for a new bathroom.’ Seriously now, this is how builder number three – we’re doing it by the book and getting our three quotes for the ensuite refurb – responded to my friendly ‘hello there’ when I opened the front door this evening.

I truly didn’t think builders/men still spoke like this but hey what do I know! Much as I was tempted to close the door in this man’s face and prevent him crossing our threshold, ‘darlin’ decided to be polite and with a tight smile and a glint of disdain in my eye (IB is always quick to point out to me that as much as I might think I’m hiding my true feelings, my face always gives it away!) I let him in. Often when we have builders in to give us a quote for a job, I only tag along the first time – just to be sure that IB and I are definitely in agreement about what needs to be done and also because a good builder always gives you little tips or nuggets of information as you talk him through a job. Usually I will let IB take the lead for the second and third quote especially if I’m busy with the boys or have a work deadline.

Anyway this evening, I decided to tag along on the journey round our ensuite, just to see how Mr. Awright-Darlin’ would cope with my presence. And you know what? Despite IB’s best efforts to include me in any of the detailed discussions about for example the type of shower system we want, or our concerns around the tiling (there’s a whole debate raging about the benefits of small over big floor and wall tiles), Mr. Awright Darlin’ pretty  much ignored me!

Oh there was at one stage a nod in my direction and a comment along the lines of ‘bet she’s got her colour schemes all sorted, women just love all that matching tiles and towels stuff don’t they’. I’m sure he only just stopped himself from saying ‘now why don’t you just run along and leave us boys to it’.  IB could see that I was not happy but that didn’t stop him trying to wind me when Mr. Awright Darlin’ gone.  As he closed the front door, IB looked at me with a straight face and said ‘well you know I really liked him, he seems like a decent bloke. I think he’d do a really good job’ and for about 10 seconds I believed him, that was until the biggest grin appeared on his face.

So the only way to relax after that little encounter was to go on-line and mooch round for more inspiring pictures of beautifully decorated rooms. I used to trawl through fashion websites, but now I’m finding a whole new outlet for my voyeuristic tendencies. Following my discovery last week of photographs of imaginatively designed bedrooms, tonight I went seeking out websites focusing on beautifully designed living rooms. Although I didn’t get very much further than the Roche-Bobois website. Roche-Bobois as the name suggests is a French company with an international reputation for contemporary design. Their website doesn’t just feature pictures of their  elegant and luxurious products, rather their website is adorned with stylish well-shot photographs of them ‘on location’ i.e. in the living rooms of houses that are themselves a work of design mastery. See for youself either on the Roche-Bobis website or on the Home Design site where I sourced these photos ………………………….







Sweet ‘bedroom’ dreams!

13 May

So the lovely thing about writing a blog is finding out that people you’ve never met before like what you’ve written, sometimes even enough to start following you.  It also feels like a massive complement when I find out that that someone is themselves writing a well-established, creative, engaging  blog. Even better is when I go mooching around their blog and find something exciting about home décor or renovation that gives me inspiration. That’s what happened yesterday when I looked at a detailed house and found the most recent posting was all about bedrooms. 

Now don’t get me wrong, we are NOWHERE near being able to start on any of our bedrooms – although if I was less busy at work just now, I don’t think I’d be able to resist cracking out the steamer and starting work on our bedroom walls, especially now we not only have a mishmash of two different colours of wallpaper (when we ripped out the built-in wardrobes shortly after moving in, we discovered no one had ever painted inside them, giving an interesting two-tone effect)……………………




……………… but we also have a sheet of plasterboard where the door to the en-suite bathroom used to be! Which by the way is the last thing I see every night before I turn out the lights. Maybe I need to pin a Ryan Gosling poster on there …………..




But anyway, the point is, a detailed house gave me hope that one day our bedroom might be a beautifully decorated sanctuary to escape to at night. In fact, I might just start keeping my laptop by the bed so that when I’m struggling to go to sleep at night because of the distraction of the walls and the bright red carpet, I can log on and lose myself in pictures like this (my favourite of them all)…………….





And this…………………………..



Do go and look at the rest of the photos, especially if you’re thinking of doing up your bedroom and are looking for ideas.


Meanwhile back in the real world, when I’m not dreaming of the perfect bedroom, I’m steaming wallpaper – and not just any wallpaper, it’s woodchip – off the bathroom CEILING! Yes, that’s right, there is woodchip wallpaper on the ceiling of the en-suite which has to come off before the new shower etc can go in. We’ve almost stripped the room bare now, so this is the last thing to do before the new bathroom gets underway.  And while I work away upstairs, IB is busy downstairs, blocking up the serving hatch – which this domestic goddess is happy to live without – in the kitchen.



Woodchip wallpaper and a serving hatch………………..told you this place was a shrine to the 1970’s! I almost feel like we should be doing our respective DIY jobs in platform heels and flared jeans!



Lights, living rooms and cookers!

10 May

So, all bets on the table – will our kitchen get renovated before I manage to burn it down? And no it won’t be a deliberate act of arson……….. in spite of intense provocation. There’s the daily frustration at having burnt another dinner on my 1970’s ‘vintage cooker’ which totally has a mind of it’s own, not to mention the challenge of having to cope with only minimal worktop space in which to prepare a meal from scratch/bake.  Then there’s the storage issues…..  I have actual bruises on my forehead from where various items have fallen on my head when I’ve opened the cupboard doors………… Anyway I digress, our kitchen is a fire hazard because the front right ring on the cooker hob refuses to turn off (unless the cooker is switched off at the wall) and I keep forgetting!  So far, I’ve burned my favourite cream woollen scarf, scorched two wooden chopping boards and melted no end of plastic packaging.  So the quicker we find our builders, and get the building regulations sorted out, the better! I’m sorely tempted to start ripping up the carpet in the kitchen (well I say carpet, they’re actually carpet tiles, even worse!), scrape off the wallpaper and chip off the plastic tiles from the ceiling, but if I do that and the builders can’t start for six months, then IB will have to make sure he keeps the matches out of my way!!

Maybe I should write into one of the décor magazines and ask a diy agony aunt for advice/help. Seriously, the parallels between the fashion magazine world and the décor/diy magazine world just get stronger and stronger.  Instead of solving your beauty dilemmas, these magazines aim to sort out your diy and decorating dilemmas. In one magazine you can contact the ‘House Clinic’, and get all sorts of questions answered like what wall colour will work with a certain tile, where to go to buy animal print velvet and where to source wallpaper that resembles laid brick!! Mind you I’m not sure I know why anyone would want such a thing, but there you go! Anyway, no doubt by the end of a year or two of working on this house, I’ll be bombarding them with questions.

One nice thing I’ve done this week is to start looking at lighting options for the living room. We still have a bare light bulb in there and it’s starting to annoy both of us.  I found a wonderful website called where there’s lots of great inspiration! They feature options for all rooms in the house, not just the living rooom.





And if I can’t find anything there, I might be able to do a course and make my own lampshades courtesy of  an online directory of courses from interior design to cookery to scuba diving. Actually, forget making lampshades, maybe I should do a cookery course, that way we’d get a decent meal once a week!