Tag Archives: DIY

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 yourstylefix.com)…………….



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!


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 shabbyblogs.com.





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!

Light my fire!

13 Jun

On the recent albeit rare, warm days that we’ve had since summer ‘officially’ started, I’ve learned a little bit more about the idiosyncratic tendencies of our house and garden. Of course this is our first summer here but we’ve lived in the house for six months now, so I thought we knew most things about it already. But that is so not the case.  Recent discoveries, in no particular order:

  1. No matter how hot it gets outside, the rooms downstairs will ALWAYS feel like the (non-existent) air conditioning is set too high (so that’s why if you peak through the living room window on a hot day you’ll see me in a vest top and fleece).
  2. The boys bedroom is the coldest room in the house in winter and the warmest in summer.
  3. The living room is incredibly attractive to ants (be warned small creatures of the earth, I WILL track your home down and block access!)
  4. The trees and shrubs in the front and back garden, with the help of just a little bit of sun and an awful lot of rain can take on forest type dimensions (hence finding a tree surgeon is the next thing on my todo list).

Anyway, it’s all good thankfully. Unlike my friend who found that the summer heat filled her new house with a strange odour that no amount of open windows or air freshener would expunge. It turned out to be a dead rat under her living room floorboards!

Meanwhile, back in the world of diy and home décor, I haven’t been twiddling my thumbs since I got back from Dublin, although I have been more about the research than action, given my current work commitments are quite high. IB and I have decided that over the summer we should replace the fire in the living room, which is a very old-fashioned (circa 1970 unsurprisingly) plastic coal effect electric number.


We can’t make up our mind whether to go for a gas stove or a proper log burning one. With gas stoves, apparently they have ‘realistic flame patterns and excellent efficiency’ (according to the Windsor Fireplaces website). They come in lots of different sizes – far more than I ever realised existed – and some makes even come with a remote controls not to mention ‘large viewing areas’ terminology I wouldn’t normally associate with gas stoves!!!

We do however have a preference for a wood burner particularly given Mr. Tree Surgeon is likely to provide us with enough wood to last a couple of winters, courtesy of the 20foot tall fir trees at the bottom of the back garden. Although at first we didn’t think it would be possible to go for the wood burning option because we haven’t got a chimney but apparently that’s no longer an obstacle as they can be installed with a balanced flue ‘vent’ to an outside wall.

In terms of our options, these are some of the ones I’ve found:




A little too modern for our tastes!

Much better! From woodburning-stoves

So maybe next winter our living room will be just a little bit cosier like these ones featured on housetohome:

Oh these four walls………..

10 Jun

You know that feeling that you get when you return home after a holiday? It’s a mix of sadness that your holiday is over tinged with a little bit of joy at being back in your own house, with your own space and your own things. I have a ritual when I arrive home after a holiday. Before I can even contemplate unpacking, I have to do a tour of all the rooms in the house, checking as I go, on how much chaos we left behind on the day we went to the airport. Then room by room, I tidy and clean. Even if we arrive home at mid-night, I always end up at the very least cleaning bathrooms and wiping down kitchen surfaces. I guess it’s my way of reclaiming my territory. If I were a dog, maybe I’d go round sniffing everything and then peeing on it!

Anyway my point is, that this time round, as I was undertaking my cleaning duties (and yes I know IB was here all week, and yes he did tidy up before we arrived home, but what can I say, except something sexist – sorry boys – which is his male outlook on cleaning prohibits him from doing as thorough a job as I would ), it occurred to me, that this house finally feels like my home! The day we moved in, I cleaned and scrubbed it, to vanquish the presence of the previous owners, but this time, I was cleaning it to reassert and reaffirm our ownership. I wouldn’t mention it except for the fact this is a really big deal for me.  During the last two years we spent in our old house, we no longer liked it. There wasn’t enough space, the garden was too small, the road outside was too busy…… the list of faults we found with it was endless.  The house was nothing more than a possession that we were trying to sell. So hurrah for having a home again!

Now, as I mentioned in my last blog, IB was really busy moving various DIY projects forward in my absence. Including putting up the curtains in the spare room which I bought just before I left for Dublin (ssshhh, don’t tell my friend H., she still thinks I’m going to make them all under her tutelage and I really should, but I’m struggling to find the time and therefore the motivatioin).


So, just that light fitting to take care of now………………..


Oh and in terms of the dining room/my office, now that IB has stripped the walls, the view is even more hideous than I thought it would be:




Just look at that crack, isn’t it a beauty? We’re not going to be able to fix that one with Polyfill! Given how much time I spend working in here, I’m thinking I need to print off some photos of my dream dining room and pin them up on the walls, just to help my sanity for the next few months while we’re ‘in transition’ as IB calls it!

When in Rome……

6 Jun

Well, we’re still in Dublin and IB’s still working away at home. Apparently we no longer have woodchip on the walls and ceiling of the dining room which is progress indeed. It means when we eventually find a builder and get our kitchen/diner project underway, that’s one less thing we will have to do before they start. Sadly it means my ‘office’ space (i.e. the dining room table) is not going to be too easy on the eye for the next couple of weeks/months!

Anyway, only 24 hours left of my DIY free existence. I have definitely overdone it this week a bit on Butlers cappuccino’s and glasses of Rose wine (not before 6, I hasten to add), so come Friday morning it’s definitely back to DIY reality and maybe a bit of a detox!


It struck me this week as I flicked through the Irish Independent that I’m very UK- centric in terms of the websites I look at for inspiration and ideas for our house. So from time to time, I think I’m going to go ‘international’ with this blog – just in time for the European Championships and the Olympics – and look at what’s going on around the world in design and DIY, starting with Ireland of course!

from House and Home

from Gallagher Architects

from Irish Plans

A Polish-Irish House from Style Room

Oh and given that one day we will be back living on Irish shores, perhaps when we’re finished with our (current) house, we could take on this………….

from DHL Architects

 Or this……………

 from Nneue

Okay well a dame can dream can’t she –  again!!!!!

DIY the Dublin way!

3 Jun

So what happens when a DIY Dame jumps on a plane back to her home town leaving DIY IB in charge? Well lots actually. So far this bank holiday weekend he’s done the following:

–          Put up the guest bedroom curtains (and I hear they look fab!)

–          Resprayed the radiator in the same room

–          Made two trips to the tip (about 75 more and the floor of the garage will finally be visible!)

–          Steamed the remaining woodchip wallpaper off the ceiling (spot the misnomer!?)

–          Fitted a light in our windowless larder (not just put the bulb in but did the necessary rewiring and fitted the light switch)

–          Put up the new light fitting in the living room which we bought last weekend

–          Started the necessary preparations for insulating the eaves under the double dormer windows

So all in all, IB has proved himself to be a very good DIY egg! The lighting looks great in the living room:


It’s not quite the chandelier that I’d dreamed off, although at £2k a pop that was never really going to happen. Mind you technically IB didn’t actually say we couldn’t buy it, he just pointed out that the ceiling in the living room was too low for a chandelier and that people would just end up crashing into it!  I did point out that at 5 foot 2, that was never going to be a problem for me!!!


 (From Kilkenny design).

I do feel slightly guilty leaving IB behind to hold the DIY fort, particularly as I spent most of today meeting friends and hanging out here:

Until we’d had enough of coffee and decided something stronger was called for! In my defence though, I did spend some of the morning browsing in Kilkenny Design, looking  at celtic inspired paintings, pottery and lighting. I was very tempted to buy some more candle holders, however I think it might be a challenge to get these bad boys back on the plane!



I’ve also been looking at furniture made by designers from Irish hardwoods and fallen a little bit in love with this (although I can’t make up my mind whether its because of the room – look at that wooden floor and those windows – or the table and chairs!).