Archive | July, 2012

The gardens in Spain grow mainly……..anywhere you like!

31 Jul

Sincere apologies that this has been a blog-free zone for the last week or so. But I’m delighted to say this was down to the fact that the DIY Dame was hanging out in Spain.  I meant to put one of these signs on my ‘blog door’ before I left (from…………….



But I ran out of time on the day we left. Those precious hours before we drove to the airport on that cold rainy British summer’s day, disappeared in a cloud of chaotic last minute packing (clothes are fine, it’s always the sundry kids stuff – calpol, inhalers, snacks for the car, snacks for the plane, swim goggles, sick bag etc – that take most  time to pack!).

Anyway after ten days of glorious Spanish sunshine and many hours idled away reading by the pool or on the beach, IB and I now feel rested and ready for DIY action once more. In truth six months filled with the house move, renovations and juggling work/parenthood had taken their toll.  There was of course no escape from parenting in Spain (although kids on holiday are fun as opposed to kids that you’re trying to get out the door for school/make do their homework) but it was a delight to have a break from thinking about kitchen design, building plans, paint swatches, sunken baths  etc. Maybe more committed DIY/home improvement crusaders would think us lacking in commitment but hey so be it.

Of course it would be a lie to say I switched off completely from thoughts of decoration and design. I carried my camera with me whenever we went out but not just to take obligatory holiday shots. I was on a quest for inspiration for our home courtesy of the streets of Marbella and remote Spanish villages.

One of the key things that stood out for me as I clicked my way through our holiday was not what the Spanish are doing with the inside of their house but rather what’s happening on the outside. In towns big and small across Spain there is, unusually for such a green country, a lack of garden space for the individual home owner. But the Spanish are very creative in how they approach the challenge of creating gardens without having actual gardens!  This week I’ve seen balcony gardens, window gardens, foot high walls functioning as garden space and in the most creative (and colourful) case, steps converted into a front garden creating a beautiful flowering walkway for their owner! Now where did I put my spade………………..





All this from that tiny little hole bottom left!


And my personal favourite!


Is that an aerial growing out of your head or are you just pleased to see me?

15 Jul

One of the things I’ve learned over the last few months since we moved into our ‘its- got-the- potential- to–be-something -special’ house is that sometimes you have to put as much effort into what’s happening behind the scenes as you do into the ‘front of house’ stuff.  With that in mind, over the last two weekends IB and DIY Dad have been hard at work clearing a ton of moss off the roof.



Large, greeny brown tufts of moss have embedded themselves between the tiles which will cause them to lift and crack if left untreated for much longer.  The problem is though that we’ve only been able to dislodge the larger lumps of moss and there are still lots of bits left between the tiles which according to the ‘moss on the roof’ website (I kid you not!) we may need to get a professional in to dislodge it with a ‘small hard bristle brush’. Thereafter we can treat the tiles with herbicide once a year or use the much more environmentally friendly and intriguingly simple ‘copper ridge’.


According to ‘moss on the roof’ this is a ‘proven scientific solution to prevent moss recurrence’ and it really does work. It involves fitting a copper ridge or wire along the highest part of the roof. When exposed to the sun it will oxidise and small amounts of copper sulphate (a natural moss killer) will be deposited. Every time it rains this will be washed down over the tiles and voilà, no more moss!! Who knew!

Meanwhile in the boys room, it’s all about insulation, insulation, insulation. The wall under the dormer windows in their room backs on to the old roof (visible just below IB’s legs in the top picture) and it lets in a mean draught. This we discovered, is because the ‘wall’ around the windows is not brick based but rather oddly is made from MDF. DIY dad and IB spent Friday and Saturday crawling in and out of the roof space behind the ‘wall’ hammering sheets of wood onto it to make it more substantial and draught proof.  That plus the extra insulation they’ve put in there should make things a little bit cosier in the boys room come winter time!





Didn’t realise they were in there shearing sheep!

Viva La Espana!

11 Jul

I promised a little while ago that every now and then I would look to the international interior design stage for inspiration. On my last trip to Dublin, a nosey around some Irish design shops and websites showed me how much I was missing only focusing on UK sites/shops for inspiration. With a trip to Spain not too far away (oh yes the Dame is going to Spain!) and the promise of some sunshine (diy tools crossed!) I thought it might be timely to have a look and see what sort of design statements our Spanish cousins are making these days.

 Source – batamhousing

Source – interiorarcade

Source – coolhomedesign

Source – interiordesignityourself

Source – omahkunet

Source – houseinteriordesign


The upshot of all of this is that I think I might move to Spain. Seriously I LOVE that the Spanish seem to be all about autumn colours (maybe an antidote to their climate?!) and natural wood and textures. Although I’m not sure where I stand on the whole open landing/balcony above the living room idea. I don’t think I’d trust my boys not to hide out up there and lob things down on me while I sit relaxing in the living room. Also, surely privacy is an issue?! On the plus side though, I bet having an open landing gives a feeling of space and creates connection between the upstairs and downstairs of a house, which I know in this country people tend to think of as very separate areas with very distinctive functions.  Anyway before I loose myself in fantasies of ripping out half our upstairs walls and replacing them with wrought iron balustrades (an idea I am 100% sure IB would not support!), I’m off to find my passport and lock away the carbs as I’m not quite feeling ‘bikini ready’ as they say!

Size DOES matter!

8 Jul

You know how sometimes the same thing keeps happening to you over and over to the point where you either have to accept your fate or get really angry about it? It’s like your kids always throwing a tantrum when you go to one particular friend’s house to visit, or it always raining when you wear your favourite cream skirt (so that you get a lovely puddle splash effect up the back of it  just when you’re on your way to an important meeting) or  kitchen designers always completely misunderstanding you and sending you silly designs for your kitchen accompanied by an equally silly quote!

Seriously now, this is the THIRD time this has happened to me. I shared Mr. Magnet’s designs a couple of weeks ago which were totally impractical and before Christmas we had Mr. Wickes whose designs lacked any sort of creativity or imagination (yes like Goldilocks, I am hard to please, or maybe I’m looking for designs that are just right – depending on your point of view!).

Anyway this time I thought I’d try a local bespoke kitchen service. They sell all manner of interesting kitchens, including Schmidt kitchens who do some really nice oak units cut on the grain giving a very natural and contemporary feel.  Now alarm bells should have gone off when Mr. Bespoke Service stood in the kitchen looking out through the back door into the utility room (which you may remember we are planning to integrate into the kitchen space) and announced (while nodding sagely) that when the building work was all done we would have a ‘huge kitchen, yes really huge’. Then he stood in the middle of the room for some minutes stroking his chin and mumbling ‘what are we going to do with this huge kitchen?’ Now I’m sure Victoria Beckham has a huge kitchen, but we definitely don’t and won’t even after the building work is finished. If we wanted a ‘huge’ kitchen we would have to extend out by about ten foot into the back garden!  After Mr. BS (!) had gone, I decided the whole ‘huge kitchen’ malarchy was some misguided sales technique to try and justify inflating his quote, you know make the customer think they have a big kitchen and then they’ll expect you to give them a big quote. Sure enough, when the quote popped into my inbox on Friday evening it was for £22,000! And when you look at the pictures below and see how many units that actually buys us, well need I say more about my ‘huge’ kitchen!!!



Watch out for the free floating microwave!

Just one problem, I told him this is where we’re putting our fridge! But what would I know, I’m not a kitchen design expert!

So that bit on the end is I’m guessing, the island that I told him I wanted!

To IKEA and back…………

4 Jul

Well in a Thelma and Louise moment yesterday (minus the convertible and head scarves, oh and the dramatic ending), I took a road trip with a girl friend of mine to …..……………….Wembley, well IKEA’s Wembley store to be more specific. Now I’ve never really been an IKEA fan. I shopped there only once before (the Bristol branch, circa 2000) and I remember at the time not really getting what all the fuss was about. For me it was like shopping in a giant cold, sterile warehouse. I was totally overwhelmed by the amount of choice and even more so by the fact that I needed a compass and route map to find my way around.

Now clearly either things have changed at IKEA since then (although I do think that were it not for my friend’s intimate knowledge of the layout of the Wembley branch, I might still be there now), or I was having an off day back in Bristol in 2000 for yesterday I became a total IKEA convert. For FOUR  hours (we did stop for lunch and then again for coffee and cake, IB scoffed at my ability to source cake even in a furniture shop) we wandered round and this time instead of feeling frustrated and overwhelmed, I felt nothing but excitement as I ticked off one item after another that had been on my home furnishings shopping list for months.

The boys are now more or less sorted for storage. I bought them a set of these each………………………


They’ve spent a happy hour this evening loading all their bits and pieces into the drawers. I also bought a couple of these for lego and the like, although my younger son clearly misunderstood me when I said they were for storing his toys ……………………..



Although I am thinking of posting this picture on the IKEA hackers website, because I’m sure curling yourself up in an IKEA storage basket is a form of IKEA hackery! And for those who haven’t heard of IKEA hacking it’s got nothing to do with computers and everything to do with breaking ‘into the IKEA code of furniture assembly’ and repurposing it. On the website you are warned ‘some furniture may be destroyed in the process and you may, please be cautioned, compromise the structural integrity of the furniture and its safety standards, so hacking does have its risk’. I have a sneaking suspicion my son has done all of these things with his boy in a basket routine! In the meantime here are some other examples from the IKEA hackers website……….



Carrie Bradshaw eat your heart out…….. this walk in shoe closet is made from bookshelves and a belt rack! And below, one of my favourites, IKEA Expedit furniture has been turned into a very luxurious hamster cage……………


Wet rooms and water tanks!

1 Jul

Apparently you should never start a presentation with an apology, it gets the audience off on the wrong foot, changes their perception of you (not for the better). I hope the same is not true for blogs because today I’m going to start with an apology for not posting since last Sunday!  It’s all down to the fact that I’ve just had the busiest week ever and I’m afraid it wasn’t doing DIY! In truth, I was busy with my day job which included a 5am start on Wednesday, (which incidentally took two days to recover from),  I had to finish a short story for a writing competition, spend two hours with another middle age, highly verbal kitchen designer and attend a school sports day! So there you have it, an apology and an explanation!

Meanwhile things on the house have been progressing steadily thanks to IB and DIY dad. This week the new blinds went up in the bathroom, which means that once the new door goes on, that is one room COMPLETELY done. Having said that, the new door won’t go on until the building work in the kitchen is done, as otherwise I’ll be cleaning dust out of the grooves for years to come.

We also put up a new blind in the hallway by the front door. This means that when I do my middle of the night run to the kitchen for water, medicine for the boys or toast and jam (for me not the boys, I had the alcohol induced munchies!), I no longer have to worry that would be burglars are hiding in the trees in the front garden tracking my movement through the house.

The other big thing that happened this week was that hunky plumber man came back (remember him? Six foot four of brooding hulk) to replace our very old, very small (50litre – tiny for a house this size apparently) circular water tank (terrible for joining water pipes IB informed me, the joins usually cause stress to the tank, which eventually crack, leading to a large waterfall pouring out your ceiling, a sight we had to witness twice!). We now have a solid 75litre, coffin shaped water tank! Hurrah! Although I hate spending money on stuff like this, because you can’t actually SEE any visible improvement to the house…………………

Anyway, while he was here, hunky plumber man gave us quote for doing the plumbing work to turn the ensuite bathroom into a wet room. It’s been stripped of wallpaper, carpets and tiles over the last few weeks and now it’s ready for its revamp. I’ve been getting quite excited looking at pictures of wetrooms this week, particularly those featured recently in my very good Croatian friend’s blog Coffee and Lola. The pictures come from