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





All aboard!

24 Jun

Well finally, DIY Dad is back in town and the DIY train is moving again!!! Although it had started to gather speed again earlier in the week before DIY Dad’s arrival, with IB’s mid-week attack on the built in wardrobes in the pink bedroom, aka our current store room for unpacked boxes and  unplaced furniture. Wardrobe doors down, we discovered lurking behind them some interesting pipework and a (non-functioning) radiator, in addition to some very strange sloping in the ceiling covered up by the dodgiest wallpaper job I’ve ever seen!




As was the case with the built-in wardrobes in our bedroom, the decor inside the units bares NO resemblance at all to whats on the walls in the rest of the room. Take note all you would be diy-ers, always paint inside your wardrobes when you redecorate or you too will be judged by future owners of your home.

Meanwhile, downstairs, the first task that DIY Dad turned his hand to on Friday morning was dislodging this ‘antique’ from its place of residence…….



No not the (stage) curtains, they’re long gone, but the ‘interesting’ cabinet in the top left of the picture which was taken down to reveal this –



…. a mass of wires that seem to have no particular function, again a reocurring theme in this house. Anyway now we have another ebay offering:

So, with this down and out of the way, we decided to up the ante and start stripping the wood chip off the walls (and ceiling) because rumour has it (and I’m trying not to get excited) that we have found a builder who is willing to start in August – watch this space!! Oh and in the absence of their friends from next door, who are away for the weekend, we have FINALLY managed to get our boys interested in DIY, although I suspect that when I was out of the room Grandad promised to take them to the sweetshop after lunch if they helped.




Son no.2 was heard to mutter as he ambled off to his bedroom – ‘mmm, that was fun but my muscles ache’…..I think he might think he’s done, but there’s still the hall, stairs and landing to go, better stock up at the sweet shop later!

Not so sweet kitchen dreams!

20 Jun

I had a dream last night that we’d got our new kitchen fitted. Well actually to say it was a dream is probably misleading, as the kitchen itself had some nightmarish qualities! All the cupboards for example looked great on the outside but when I opened them they were painted (literally you could see the streak marks) black on the inside. All the worktops were made from a sticky, gungy, green slime that stuck to my hands when I touched it and then instead of an island in the centre of the room, there was a teeny, tiny table with four little smurf size stools around it! Clearly this dream was telling me that I am more than a little stressed about getting a new kitchen and no wonder, now that I’ve read up on what’s involved and how many things we have to make decisions on. I live in fear of choosing the wrong splashback or carcasses or kickboards or oven etc, etc, etc. Forget kitchensdirect, I need we’!

I made the mistake the other night – for the purposes of research you understand – of googling ‘amazing kitchens’. On one level it only served to intensify my fear and anxiety but on another, it actually reassured me, because on there I found a number of kitchens that I would truly never refer to as ‘amazing’. While not quite as bad as the kitchen in my dream last night, they left me with a feeling that I might be able to do better! Now forgive me if you look through the following photos and you think, wow that looks amazing what’s diydame talking about? And forgive me even more if your kitchen is featured in the photo or looks just like the one in the photo. Don’t judge me for not appreciating these kitchens. Simply bear in mind that we all have different tastes, it’s what makes the world go round and it keeps kitchensdirect in business!

This is from


The next two are from

And courtesy of!:

And my particular (not-so) favourite (see


Actually I do almost quite like this one (from!

Well splash my back!

17 Jun

Did you know that on average UK households spend £6,000 on a kitchen while 16% of the population spend at least £25k? Well that’s according to Beautiful Kitchens the monthly periodical which I’ve spent all weekend studying!  I am SO determined now to get us the kitchen of our dreams (well the kitchen of our carefully budgeted dreams) that in the absence of any kitchen design expert stepping forward to do the job, I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands.  It would be nice to think that we could get the whole kitchen refitted for £6,000 but that might be something of a challenge given that there is absolutely NOTHING to work with in our current kitchen. The cupboard doors, the carcasses, the worktops, the oven, the fridge, the sink, literally EVERYTHING needs replacing.

One of the biggest design challenges we face is maximising the available space because even with the building work that we’re planning, the kitchen is never going to be that big. With that in mind we have to decide what to do with the larder? Do we keep it, give it a lick of paint and some new shelves and continue to keep it as valuable storage space. Or do we put the washing machine/tumble dryer in there and use it as a mini-utility room? We even thought about putting our fridge/freezer in there, but we’ve abandoned that idea now. Opening a door in order that you can open another (fridge) door is just too many layers for IB to cope with.  Besides, given that larders are effectively olden day fridges, it would be like putting a fridge within a fridge!

Beautiful Kitchens is very supportive of the larder concept though. In particular they note that larders are ‘highly functional and practical’ (not to be confused with ovens or fridges then!). They can be ‘left open during the day for food prep and closed at night to blend in with the rest of the furniture’! Forgive me but clearly the author of these words doesn’t live in a household full of men (well two small boys and one big one). If I left the ‘larder’ open all day we’d have no food left by the end of it.




Something else I learned while flicking through KB is that amongst all the important decisions that we have to make about worktops, cupboards, frames, flooring, ovens etc, there is also the small matter of the splashback – which as the name suggests is the protective material you put on the wall behind the ‘cooking area’ and sink.  Truly it hadn’t even registered on my kitchen planning radar. However, it seems you can’t underestimate the power of the splashback! Apparently if you go for a tiled splashback, the grout can harbour grease or bacteria. A one -piece splashback is apparently more practical and hygienic – who knew? So important is this piece of kit that BK has dedicated two pages to ‘how to choose a splashback’! And in doing my online research on splashbacks, what did I find? Why a website called splashbackdirect of course who specialise in vitreous enamel splashbacks in an array of colours. Is it the case that whatever household appliance, item, furnishing etc that you need, somebody somewhere has set up a website with ‘direct’ in the title? It even seems that so gutted was one kitchen company service at having missed out on the chance to call themselves, they decided not to be beaten and opted for How about that for creativity!!!

From Jane Raven Glass

See hidib

See Home Klondike


Or if you prefer something more traditional:

From Modern Kitchen Ideas