The Glastonbury of Blogging

It's pretty much exactly one week since I returned from a weekend in London attending The Blogcademy. That week has been a roller coaster. After the highs of the weekend Monday hit very hard, then through out the week I've experienced doubts, epiphanies, insecurities, inspiration and a few regrets.

Output from the "Still Life 101" session, which won me a prize for the best goody-bag brag!

Output from the "Still Life 101" session, which won me a prize for the best goody-bag brag!

Even now those feelings are all still pretty fresh. Fresh is a nice way to put it; raw might be more accurate.

The Blogcademy is pretty well known in particular circles of the internets. No surprise, given that its creators are three of the biggest international names in blogging: Gala Darling, Shauna Haider (aka Nubby Twiglet) and Kat Williams (the Rock and Roll Bride). I'd been following (*stalking*) them individually and collectively for a while, but nothing could have prepared me for what the experience was like off-screen.

Left to Right: Shauna, Kat, Me(!), Gala. A Little off focus (ahem, boobs) unfortunately but even so I love this shot.

Left to Right: Shauna, Kat, Me(!), Gala. A Little off focus (ahem, boobs) unfortunately but even so I love this shot.

I've been trying to think of a good way to explain what it was like, and the best analogy I can come up with is it's like going to Glastonbury. That's not a very good analogy unless you've been to Glastonbury (but if you have it's the perfect analogy).

The seats are limited, invariably completely booked out, exclusively attended by die hard fans.

Everything you experience there is great, but some of it transcends your expectations and is wonderful, moving and life changing. And it's almost impossible to explain why it was so to anybody who wasn't there.

Over the course of the weekend you find yourself in multiple in-depth, resonating conversations, with near strangers and new friends. Often involving cocktails.

Break-time at Curtain Road Studios. I love how everybody's on a coral-pink theme here, even the uplighting.

Break-time at Curtain Road Studios. I love how everybody's on a coral-pink theme here, even the uplighting.

The whole experience gives you such a high that on leaving the "real world" seems so flat. I was on a massive come-down on Monday, not dissimilar to the post-Glastonbury blues or the emotional hangover that accompanies the physical hangover of a really good night.

Granted it’s not cheap, it’s expensive enough to make people think you're a little crazy to be spending your money that way. (The Blogcademy weekend cost me around £500 with travel and food in, very comparable to what I've spent when I've been to Glastonbury). Let me tell you, it’s not for everybody, but for me it was worth every penny.

Beauty still life practice featuring bespoke bath salts from The Bathory

Beauty still life practice featuring bespoke bath salts from The Bathory

You get a kick ass goody bag for a start (literally, it’s sitting waiting for you when you arrive). You get 10 hours of in depth teaching from three of the most successful female bloggers on the planet, with plenty of opportunity for one-on-one conversations with them too. You get handed an instant network of savvy, like-minded women both on the course and in the exclusive access forum. Some of the best ideas I’ve come back with are the direct result of me tentatively pitching half thoughts to some of my fellow Blogcadettes and getting awesome feedback and input.

Artwork by "Live Scribe" artist Charlotte Thomson

Artwork by "Live Scribe" artist Charlotte Thomson

More than that though I got clarity, vision and confidence. Strategic clarity for what I need to do to take this blog forward. Professional vision for how far it could go (stratospheric FYI). And most of all personal confidence, on the life I want to live, and the terms I want to do it on. Those three things together are pretty priceless.

The woman who left home that Friday is not the woman who returned on Sunday. But I like this new girl; I think she’s going to be really fun to hang out with. Hold tight guys, this ride’s about to interesting.

WiP July 2014

At the beginning of the month I finally moved into the flat! No, it's not finished but the bathroom and bedroom are liveable and it was time. Since then Life took over (new babies, weddings, first visitors, the usual stuff!) and there has been not much blogging time. It's not helped that I still am waiting on my broadband to be connected - tomorrow! Yay! And not a moment too soon as my mobile data ran out this morning. Boo!

The fact that I just started watching Breaking Bad has nothing to do with it. Definitely not. (I've just realised I'm living in 2008: poor broadband and old TV shows!)

So this is a WiP post, but now I get to do before and after comparisons. Whoop! Here we go:

Bathroom before

Bathroom before

This also gives us a chance to review my improving photography skills. Actually, lets not, huh?

Bathroom after

Bathroom after

Bathroom before

Bathroom before

There are maybe half a dozen things that need to be done: big mirror, skirtings, towel rail, that pink needs to come off the windows too.

New Shower, and that tiling

New Shower, and that tiling

Oh, and doors. There's a general lack of doors in the flat at the moment.

New bedroom doorway, with the dogleg wall

New bedroom doorway, with the dogleg wall

Bedroom before

Bedroom before

Wardrobe doors and regular doors. All round lack of doors.

So nice to have my bed back too

So nice to have my bed back too

Bedroom before

Bedroom before

Bedroom to-do's includes skirting boards to the new wall, curtains (there's a certain romance of being woken up by the dawn, but it wore off pretty quickly!) the pink paint again. And some pictures would be nice, but that's a ways away.

Mahogany Georgian bow fronted chest

Mahogany Georgian bow fronted chest

Obligatory IKEA sheepskin

Obligatory IKEA sheepskin

All these minor jobs pale into insignificance in comparison to the living room, which is still a building site/materials store.

Living Room, still a building site

Living Room, still a building site

Apart from the part that is my "kitchen." Who am I kidding? The kitchen is part of the materials store; the "worktop" is going to be additional wall cladding in the final kitchen. It's basic, but it seems to be working and it's been fun experimenting with microwave cooking. Last week I made an amazing kedgeree (if I do say so myself), better than I've ever managed on a stove top. I'll probably do a post on that in a bit.

Kitchen: microwave, kettle, DAB, fridge. What else do you need?

Kitchen: microwave, kettle, DAB, fridge. What else do you need?

That will have to wait however. Next week I HAVE to paint the living room. No excuses. Otherwise the whole thing starts to slip and I'll still be living like this in October!

5 Ways To Limit The Environmental Impact of Your Renovation

Renovating a property produces a lot of waste and consumes a lot of resources. There is simply no way around that. Hopefully your work is replacing something that no longer works and the new home is going to last some time. This is the first major renovation the flat has seen, so once every 40 years isn't so bad. That's what I tell myself anyway.

Still, it's good to limit your consumption where you can, and I'm a great believer of tiny accumulative efforts growing to great change, so all contributions help. Here are my tips on being conscious about your resource use when it comes to DIY.

Excellent example of repurposed materials; Glastonbury 2011

Excellent example of repurposed materials; Glastonbury 2011

1. Reuse

Rather than buy a new rail for my wardrobe, I choose to paint the old one black. It looks great, and the paint cost me less than a new rail would have done. The shelves in the living room that I inherited with the flat are going to be rehung in the garage to provide some storage for my tools, when they no longer get to live in the flat full time! And the bath that I had taken out I sold on eBay to someone who is going to reuse it in their renovation.

The thing I love about reusing items is that I don't throw something away and I don't need to buy something new. That makes reuse a double whammy of less waste and less stuff, and why it's number 1 on my list. Plus there's nothing so satisfying as taking something kind of gross and making it into something beautiful and useful again.


2. Repurpose

The idea of repurposing is taking something that does one job, and using it as something else. Like breeze blocks as furniture. The only example I can think of in my own flat is the light from the bathroom: a milk glass globe shade that I've saved because I believe it has the potential to be a cool flower vase once I've designed/imagined/made a base for it.


3. Reclaim

This is similar to reuse but is for materials rather than objects, so it's got that same double benefit of not adding to landfill and saving resources (and you money).

The flooring in the living room will (eventually) be parquet block, which I got through freecycle from another house renovation. I've been using a fair amount of reclaimed paint and tools from Orinoco, and I've been sending the useable materials I don't need back to them too. The felt under my bedroom carpet was a left over roll that my parents had from relaying in their house last month (that was good timing), and itself was made of recycle wool fibre.

I've also been using scrap wood that comes out of the demolitions as materials to build new parts of the project: sometimes simply as a drilling base, or for hiding pipework ("boxing out") in the cupboards, and later I'll be building a "new" linen rack for the boiler cupboard from timber reclaimed from the old airing cupboard. And any wood that doesn't make it back into the flat has been going to my parents' shed for their wood burner this winter.


4. Reduce

Simple idea, maximum impact: the less you (over) buy the less waste you're going to risk being left with at the other end. As was the case with my tiling, trying to keep the materials you do buy down to a minimum really helps reduce waste on a project. A word of warning though, this is surprisingly hard to achieve. With the tiling I ended up buying half a dozen tiles to finish the job rather than ordering a whole new box of 32, which although resource efficient was not the cheapest way to go about things.


5. Recycle

Lots of building materials can be recycled as long as they're not contaminated with other elements, so proper waste separation is really (dull but) important. Glass is a well known recyclable, but plasterboard, timber (which with my local council includes chipboard, mdf and hardboard) and even masonry rubble can be recycled if properly disposed of. Most local councils have a waste facility where each of these materials will be taken.


So there you have it. With a little organisation you can keep your waste down (and sometimes your costs too) and help keep the world beautiful while you make your little corner of it a whole lot better.

WiP May 2014

I've been so busy working on the flat that I've been very lax at documenting the progress so this Work in Progress is entirely consisting of (frankly pretty crappy) iPhone photos. My sincerest apologies. I promise to make it up to you soon. But the flat is coming on a pace. It's getting exciting!

Most of the tiling on the walls

Most of the tiling on the walls

The bathroom walls and floor are now tiled and I'm grouting this week.

White walls!

White walls!

Urgh, setbacks

Urgh, setbacks

When I applying the trim around the shelf recess I managed to chip one of the tiles. Urgh. Take off all the trim and break out the tile and replace it. At least now I know how to replace chipped tiles, that's a life skill (with limited application).

The bathroom painting is also mostly complete. Or it was until I started grouting and now it needs a load of touch-ups. Grouting is really messy. And time consuming. Or I'm just not very good at it yet. So the rest of the bathroom bits have been ordered and should be fitted in a couple of weeks time!

Bathroom floor in progress

Bathroom floor in progress

And all the tiles down. I ordered juuust enough, phew!

And all the tiles down. I ordered juuust enough, phew!

The bedroom is also painted and the electrics are in. No doors yet (anywhere, but it's only me . . . so it should be OK . . . ) it's also nearly there. Except for doors. And curtains. And removing the paint from the windows. And carpet. And skirting boards. You know the trimmings.

Fresh, soft, grey loveliness. And the first house plant

Fresh, soft, grey loveliness. And the first house plant

Doors to follows under another cover . . .

Doors to follows under another cover . . .

So to further that cause a little I went an picked out my bedroom carpet this week. It's going to be pink! I never expected to pick pink. I don't think I've picked pink since I was 6-years-old. But I love it and I'm so excited to see it fitted.

Possible fancy marble tiles for the bathroom window sill

Possible fancy marble tiles for the bathroom window sill

Pink carpet!

Pink carpet!

The big announcement: I am intending to move in at the end of the month. Once the bathroom is functional, and the bedroom has carpet, I'm going in. No curtains, no doors, no kitchen not withstanding. Crazy some think (mostly my parents and Mr. E) but I want to be in already. I keep having this thought "I want to go home" and I do go there, but I don't stay there. But soon I will, even if that means sleeping in an eye mask and only eating cold food for a month or more.

Make: Personalised Paint Swatch

As the flat progresses and I begin to think about curtains and sheets and accessories co-ordinating it all becomes increasingly precarious (by which I mean "ensure it doesn't look a complete mess of stuff") . I saw an image a while ago (probably on Pinterest although I can't now find it) of a personalised swatch of paint colours and decided to make my own.

Dipped and drying, weighted by my L-square

Dipped and drying, weighted by my L-square

Required materials:

  • Lolly sticks, as many as you have colours. I used ones from mini sized ice creams
  • Your chosen paint colours
  • Pencil
  • Drill
  • Safety googles
  • Scrap wood block
  • Sand paper
  • Key ring
Dry and ready to mark

Dry and ready to mark

Marked up

Marked up

1. Consume enough ice creams/lollies to give you the same number of sticks as you have paint colours. Ask a friend to help you if you need to! Clean the sticks and leave to dry.

Preparing to drill

Preparing to drill

Drill each hole

Drill each hole

2. Take each clean, dry stick and coat in a different paint colour. You can do this with a brush, in which case you may need a couple of coats, or just dip them into the pot and shake off the excess. Leave to dry.

If your paints are of the super matt/chalky/clay-based variety I recommend adding a layer of varnish to protect the paint finish and to stop them shedding all over your bag. Dip and dry as with the paint layer.

Go steady or you'll split the wood (like I did!)

Go steady or you'll split the wood (like I did!)

Sand back

Sand back

3. Mark a cross in the unpainted end of each stick. A cross is better than a dot, because if you have measured the correct location the middle of a cross is clear, where a dot is less precise. This a good rule for drilling holes generally, although I admit in this case I didn't measure properly, I just went by eye.

Wearing your goggles, place each stick on your scrap wood (so you don't damage your surface) and drill through. Go slowly or you could crack your sticks (as I did).

4. Sand them back and slip them onto your key ring. Carry where ever you go to increase the likelihood of a harmonious colour scheme!

The finished swatch. Top to bottom: custom mixed yellow made from two recycled paint colours; Dulux, colour unknown (recycled paint from Orinoco); Earthborn "White"; Earthborn "Cats Cradle"

The finished swatch. Top to bottom: custom mixed yellow made from two recycled paint colours; Dulux, colour unknown (recycled paint from Orinoco); Earthborn "White"; Earthborn "Cats Cradle"

What Really Influenced My Kitchen Design

So I wrote a draft for a post on the design of my kitchen. It was "This is the shape. These are the materials . . ." and that's all true and accurate and it was dull, dull, dull.

Everybody who knows me knows I love to cook. I love to feed people, and (unusually) I love to feed myself. Even if it's just me I will still cook a meal from scratch; convenience food has never held a lot of appeal. Frequently if I’m in the kitchen I’m cooking for tonight and something for later (soup/stew/bread/jam) at the same time. Cooking is relaxing for me , so it never feels like a chore. The kitchen was always going to be an important part of my home. 

The kitchen design

The kitchen design

When I first offered on the flat my financial landscape was a lot different from what it was by the time I completed, but I was always absolutely adamant that I was going to do something about the kitchen, even on the tiniest of budgets. The old kitchen had no cooker, only two base units and two wall cupboards and barely enough work surface for a chopping board. As it was I was lucky to have more budget to play with than I first thought and so the plan got a lot more extravagant, pulling down walls and making a big open plan living space.

The choice to have a wall of full height cupboards and a long counter with no cupboards above was always an easy one. I hate wall cupboards. I'm just going to stick that right out there. It might be because I'm tall, but I always find them oppressive. And although they provide extra storage space, I think they make a space seem smaller. Plus a long counter gives plenty of space to lay out all your ingredients before you start. Not necessarily lots of little bowls; there's no need to make more washing up. Just everything to hand when you want it.

kitchen layout

It's a layout that makes a lot of sense in terms of open plan living too. The wall of cupboards looks less kitchen-y than the traditional wall and under counter units so doesn't look so out of place from the living room side; and the counter is a minimal barrier to the sitting/eating parts of the room. I can be cooking in the kitchen while having a conversation with friends who get to sit on a comfortable chair, or can pull a dining chair up to the other side of the counter.

Kitchen materials palette (clockwise from top left): black gloss granite, Earthborn "Cat's Cradle" & "White," Ecos "Plumfled," white matt laminate, laminate faced plywood.

Kitchen materials palette (clockwise from top left): black gloss granite, Earthborn "Cat's Cradle" & "White," Ecos "Plumfled," white matt laminate, laminate faced plywood.

As is the theme through the flat, the fixed parts of the design are neutral in colour. I’ve bought the carcasses from IKEA without door fronts; both the worktops and the door fronts will be made from plywood finished in a white matt laminate with the striped edge exposed.

I am going to keep the plywood on the wall surface exposed, rather than paint it. The plywood is there for structural reasons; it means you can fix to any point on the wall and it will be secure. I was originally going to plaster over the plywood, but the surface is so lovely (no knots, a really nice grain, a complementary colour for the teak furniture I own) that I think it would make a great feature. So I’m going to protect it with a matt varnish (so it’s at least cleanable) and then put a splash-back around the cooker. Possibly tiled, probably glass.

Kitchen under construction, with the plywood wall installed

Kitchen under construction, with the plywood wall installed

So the kitchen will be all white, with touches of timber. With on possible exception. In order to get the cooker to blend in, the extract fan and the surrounding narrow units (larder pull out on the bottom, cupboards on top) will have black gloss doors and the hob will be set into a black gloss countertop. Not completely sure that this is a good idea yet . . . but I’ve got a little time to decide.

Black gloss larder units, IKEA

Black gloss larder units, IKEA

White ceramic sink via Homebase

White ceramic sink via Homebase

I would like to re-use the existing sink, which is designed to be a full width of the worktop only it’s narrower than modern kitchen units, so to make up the depth, there will need to be a deep shelf that will start as the window sill and come out to meet the back of the sink. I've shown this on the 3D designs above, and I'm not completely convinced by it if I'm honest, so I'm seriously considering getting a ceramic sink instead to work in with the all white theme.

The design is pretty fixed, and the vision clear, but honestly I have a hard time getting excited about it. Work surfaces and appliances and sinks are all things a kitchen needs, but my kitchen comes to me in flashes of taste, and smell, and the joy of good company, not steel and cabinets and colour schemes. It’s my Grandmother’s rolling pin, the hand-me-down cast iron casseroles from my parents, and the 1960s china I’ve collected from charity shops, eBay and auction houses. It’s mid week scruffy suppers and dinner parties that run into the small hours. It’s house parties and long weekend brunches. And that prospect makes me very excited indeed.

You Can't Do It All

I'm grateful for the women who have come before me and fought for the choices available to me now. The vote (particularly pertinent today); the opportunity to have a career; the opportunity to not have a career. But more recently there have been a lot written (mostly but not entirely by women) about "having [to do] it all." A good opportunity to face, more #firstworldproblems, but the hard truth is you just can't do it all.

There is a concept, often applied to design projects, called the Time-Cost-Quality triangle. The premise is that to have more of one you have to sacrifice on one or both the others. Or to use the words of "Sailor Jerry" (Norman Keith Collins) "Good work ain't cheap, and cheap work ain't good!" So you can do more in the time you have, but you won't do it as well. Or you can do things well, but do less of them.

There simply aren't hours in the day. It isn't possible to be the best you can at everything available. Certainly not without become a gibbering wreck. You have to make intentional choices about what you're going to prioritise in your life, and you have to accept that that means that you're going to have to say no to some things.

Te Mata Peak, New Zealand

Te Mata Peak, New Zealand

At the moment my activities consist of the following (in no particular order): main job; freelance work; renovating the flat; writing this blog; maintaining a relationship between two cities; seeing friends socially; ceramics class and other craft projects.

I don't have children or pets. You'll note that I don't include housework or cooking or exercise on that list. Not having those things in my schedule allows me make space for the others. I have the incredible benefit of living with my parents, ostensibly while I get through the worst of the renovation (that bit where there's no kitchen or sanitation), but this is also the thing that allows me to work a full day, go do two hours DIY, and walk in the door to a home cooked meal and a pile of clean laundry. I am incredibly lucky.

Exercise has been (consciously) ditched because it cuts into DIY time, and frankly carrying materials up and down the three flights of stairs see me alright at the moment.

Not the stairs to my flat (unfortunately) but the stairs in our French holiday rental last year.

Not the stairs to my flat (unfortunately) but the stairs in our French holiday rental last year.

This week I got the offer to go to Amsterdam for four days as a promotional trip. It was organised by a flooring company and we would be seeing their production process and also having plenty of free time to see Amsterdam too. A great opportunity, but I would have needed two days holiday from work, at a time that would have taken me away from a project at an important stage. And those two days holiday would mean I'd have less time to spend with my friend in the run up to her wedding, where I'm bridesmaid. And I would loose hours of DIY time. And right now all of those things are more important to me than a free trip to Amsterdam, however fun it might be.

And much as I love my lifestyle, and as much as I genuinely enjoy the DIY, I am sooo looking forward to being able to cook, and do yoga, even clean (yeah, that'll wear off pretty quickly I'm sure) in my own place. To, as I refer to it, "be a grown up again." These choices serve me now, but soon they won't and they will change. I will have changed, so they will change.

I may get the chance to do the Amsterdam trip next year. Or next year I may have a dog and so my priorities will be different again. Or I'll have stopped freelance work to put more time into my main job. Or there'll be some completely different set of priorities that will be shaping my time.

Why am I telling you this? Because I've been trying to find time to blog properly all week, and failing to get enough quality content together to be worth posting. And then I realised that the best post I could do was on why it's OK not to do it all, or at least not all at once. We need to allow ourselves the opportunity to not do everything. To quote Anne Lamott "'No' is a complete sentence."

WiP April 2014

I've been experimenting with how to photograph the relatively small spaces in the flat for these update posts (and just generally). So today's post is brought to you with a heavy nod to David Hockney's composite photographic works.

Living Room

Living Room

The last month has seen the up swing in the progress of the flat. Walls and ceilings have been plastered, tiling has been started, so you can start to see what it will be like and it feels as though I'm finally getting somewhere.

Hall, through the new Living Room door

Hall, through the new Living Room door

New Bedroom wall

New Bedroom wall

On the other hand the "facilities" leave something to be desired: the toilet has to be flushed with a bucket, and the kitchen sink is no longer connected to the mains drainage and so draining into another bucket. It kind of makes sense though; as one friend pointed out, I have a greywater system! 

Bedroom: wardrobe/material's store ( with paint samples; it's going to be painted the dark grey on the left), the new doorway will on the right

Bedroom: wardrobe/material's store ( with paint samples; it's going to be painted the dark grey on the left), the new doorway will on the right

Bathroom, with the cistern-less WC

Bathroom, with the cistern-less WC

Bathroom, shower with tiling in progress

Bathroom, shower with tiling in progress

I really enjoyed making these images. I've done versions of these through out school and university, and so it feels like a natural step to use it here too. I think it could be developed to show the rooms as you experience them as much as how you see them; the adjacencies that you experience being in a space that can't be represented in a flat image. The pieces make a greater whole.

And the flip-side is that when you look at a whole in pieces you sometimes come across an abstract painting, a collaborative work in pink and grey by multiple occupants.

5 Tips for Surviving IKEA

I realise that this would have been more useful to publish before the bank holiday weekend, because that's such a popular time to descend on the big blue and yellow boxes across the country, but I've spent the long weekend sanding, and filling, and painting, and tiling, and frankly by the evenings I've been so tired I was useless for anything. Last week though, I needed to rent a van to collect a sofa I won on eBay from North London, but since I didn’t need to arrive at Finsbury Park until 5pm, I thought I would combine it with a trip to IKEA.

hjalmaren towel rail

hjalmaren towel rail

Varmluft lampshade

Varmluft lampshade

I've planned the kitchen layout based on IKEAs cabinets, because they’re good quality for the price and they have such a wide selection of sizes. So the plan was to finalise the kitchen, buy the units, and pick up a few smaller items (laundry baskets, fabric, small kitchen and cleaning items etc.) that IKEA excels at.

While I was there I saw a couple with their little boy; the little boy was sat in the trolley seat, and wailed his way all the way through the Showroom (the bit with the mocked up rooms). He calmed down as they came out the end, but then they turning into the Market Hall, and he started off again as if to say “What fresh Hell is this?! I thought it was over!” That little boy embodied how a lot of people feel about IKEA, and it can be kind of overwhelming, but there are a few ways you can make it as painless as possible.

Ludde sheepskin

Ludde sheepskin

Aglot storage bag on castors

Aglot storage bag on castors

1. Know What You Don’t Need

The easiest way to avoid overwhelm is to know what you don’t even need to look at. I knew that I didn’t need anything from the living room, dining room or home office areas in the Showroom. Similarly in the Market Hall I knew there was nothing I needed from the kitchen equipment or garden areas (I have plenty of the former, and none of the latter). Just acknowledging that meant that I’d cut out half the shop before I’d stepped in the door. 

Note here the word is “need.” No doubt you can probably find plenty things in IKEA you might want, but then you’ll be there for hours and spend hundreds.

Bekvan step stool

Bekvan step stool

Frack mirror

Frack mirror

2. Plan Ahead

IKEA has a facility on their website which allows you to save any of their products to a shopping list. I’ve been keeping lists by room name, and whenever I saw an item I liked I’d add it to the list.

So far, so normal. The clever bit is that you can select a list and your preferred store and the website will not only tell you availability, and where to find it in the self service warehouse. Then you can print it out to take with you.

I also used their kitchen planner plugin. I found it quite frustrating to use; the unit blocks didn’t always go where I wanted them, and I understand it works better on Windows than iOS. But it did give me a little head start when I sat down with the in-store Kitchen Experts.

Aglot mesh basket

Aglot mesh basket

Krakris duvet set

Krakris duvet set

3. Go Alone

The IKEA principal is go with your family and spend the whole day there. Personally I think it’s a whole lot less stressful if you fly solo. 1) because it means you’re not held up by other peoples aims for the trip (which will multiple the time spent in store) and 2) to ensure you don’t feel bad taking your time making decisions. Failing to recognise that is a recipe for a blazing row over a colander. IKEA hasn’t got the reputation as the place relationships go to die for nothing.

Lisel fabric - these crabs are huge! And so awesome!

Lisel fabric - these crabs are huge! And so awesome!

Raskog trolley

Raskog trolley

 4. Don’t Shop Hungry

You don’t have to eat in their restaurant (although I did enjoy my poached salmon and vegetables with hollandaise) but you should definitely plan to eat before you start. Have a snack or two in your bag, and bottle of water too. You’re going to be on your feet and making choices for a few hours, and you can’t do either without some fuel. Trying this hungry or dehydrated is only going to make it harder. 

5. Have a Plan for Where Everything is Going to Go

If you’re buying a lot of stuff (like a kitchen for example!) think where you’re going to put it when you get home. I say this from hard experience; I didn’t plan this and now my very patient parents’ sitting room is filled with flatpack.

But having said all this I would add a bonus tip:

6. Do You Even Need To Go In the First Place?!!

IKEA do home delivery, you know, if you’re buying a lot of furniture my best recommendation is don’t leave the sofa and pay them to bring it to your door!

Always Stop

I drove from Oxford to Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago, to participate in the wedding of two very dear friends if mine. I was a bridesmaid and also the florist so my beat up mx-5 was full of eucalyptus cuttings, cut glass containers and craft supplies.

Kielder Forest Park

Kielder Forest Park

I did the first section (Oxford to York) after work on a Tuesday. I was staying with friends there and didn't want to arrive too late, so it was head down and minimal stops en route.

Kielder Forest Park

Kielder Forest Park

The next day though was far more relaxed. I was in the car by 9.30am, having got up to have breakfast with my hosts before they had to go to work. I elected to take the east coast route from York, Up the A1 and peeling off through Northumberland after Newcastle.

Kielder Forest Park

Kielder Forest Park

It would have been a spectacular drive, if it hadn't been so misty. As I drove through the Northumbria National Park, I went up into the clouds and back down again.

The only sun of the day, Scotland-England Border

The only sun of the day, Scotland-England Border

I stopped frequently: a turn off at Kielder Forest Park for a conversation with my plasterer; just past the border, when the sun finally broke through; at Jedburgh for a late lunch (carrot and parsnip soup (excellent) and a cheese and tomato toastie) and found one of those wonderful antique shops that have an amazing array of treasures and pleasingly low prices. I had to talk myself down from buying the boar's head (no way it would fit in the car).

Jedburgh Abbey

Jedburgh Abbey

Jedburgh Abbey

Jedburgh Abbey

Grove Antiques Scotland

Grove Antiques Scotland

Grove Antiques Scotland

Grove Antiques Scotland

Grove Antiques Scotland

Grove Antiques Scotland

When I was recounting the story to a colleague this week I said I hadn't stopped at The Angel of the North, even though I'd never seen it up close, because it was so misty you could barely see the head. I noted that actually I regretted that; it would have be deserted and atmospheric.

"Always stop," he said "if there's the choice, always stop."

Palette: Bathroom

The bathroom is going to be mostly white: white sanitary ware (the 1970s can keep their “period” coloured bathroom suites, I'll keep my Avocado on toast thank you very much), white gloss units under the counter, white tiles around the shower.

Clockwise from top left: 300x100mm white gloss tile; Pg 91, Elle Decoration, April 2014; VitrA Tap; Solus Gown floor tile sample; 200x200mm white gloss tile.

Clockwise from top left: 300x100mm white gloss tile; Pg 91, Elle Decoration, April 2014; VitrA Tap; Solus Gown floor tile sample; 200x200mm white gloss tile.

To avoid the risk of it being cold or dull, I’m thinking of painting the clear wall like this geometric pattern from last month's Elle Decoration. Wallpaper would also be good, but irritatingly the wall is slightly too long to be able to get away with one roll, at which point it starts getting far too expensive to justify. 

The tiles are going to be small format and a variety of sizes, laid in a stack bond and with pale to mid-grey grouting. All the better for hiding dirt my dear; not that I'm particularly slovenly (well …) but in a hard water area one needs all the help one can get. 

If you’re on a limited budget it’s always worth spending the money where you handle it daily: bathroom and kitchen taps; door handles; floor finishes if possible. This is the main reason I spent as much on this tap 

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as I did on the basin/countertop (although the latter was in the sale)

The floor is going to be dark grey. I want to spend a bit more on the floor here than the rest of the flat, not least because there is only three square meters of it so I can afford to and being a room where I'll mostly be barefoot I'll get to appreciate it. I would love to have natural slate floor, but I’m not able to afford Welsh, which means I’d be looking at (ethically/sustainably questionable) Chinese of Brazilian sources. Thus I'm going for an Italian ceramic instead, in a 300x600mm size, as it works really well for the shape of the floor I have got. 

I'm starting the tiling tomorrow, so hopefully it won't be long till the whole thing comes together.

WiP March 2014

I have walls again! My carpenter has been in and built the new partition between and the bedroom, and the wall to the back of the kitchen peninsula. It's been really fun to see the space come together, and understand what the living room is going to be like. 

At the moment the living room is just a dumping ground for materials, supplies, and old fittings. The bathroom has also been ripped out and the old bath is sat in the middle of the floor. I'm selling it on eBay if anybody wants to take it off my hands.

View from the living room towards the front door

View from the living room towards the front door

Standing in the bedroom looking towards the living room door

Standing in the bedroom looking towards the living room door

This hole is waiting for the fitting of the pocket door, and then the bedroom door frame can be built too.

The old bathroom has gone, and the new one is on it's way. The whole boxing around the window has gone, which puts about a foot or more useable space back into the room. The shower tray is fitted, and the old toilet has been temporarily installed so that there's still full facilities (such as they are) while I get on with the tiling

Inspiration Is Everywhere

The only social media platform I could have been described as an "early adopter" of is Pinterest. It's basically how my brain works: I can remember what a thing looks like, I can describe it to you in detail, but that doesn't mean I can tell you what it's called or where I saw it. Pinterest allows me to save the image and later be able to find the thing. 

Obviously I have (many) boards of ideas for the flat. Originally this was my inspiration for the tiling in the bathroom. The tiles are simple and cheap (150x150mm glazed tiles start at £5 a square meter), but the layout and grout colour makes for a stylish finish.

Then I saw a blog post by 70percentpure set in London's branch of ACE Hotel and I loved the effect, but two types of tiles will be more expensive and I had made my plan. The plan is good, I thought. Stick to the plan.

Image by Stephanie Duval, 70percentpure

Image by Stephanie Duval, 70percentpure

Then last week I went to Orinoco at the Bullingdon Community Centre in Oxford. 

Some years ago Oxford County Council stopped taking half used cans of paint at the dump. For good reason; keeping chemical stuffed paint our of the ground so it doesn't leech into the water supply is a sound idea. But then the residents of Oxfordshire had nowhere to dispose of their unwanted paint. 

(I was about to tag the last statement #firstworldproblems, and that is completely true, and actually exactly the crux that I will get to. Bear with me here.) 

So Orinoco was founded as a paint exchange. They receive partially used cans of paint, and anybody can come an help themselves for free! Or a suggested donation of 75p a litre. 75p a litre! And you're using a resource that would otherwise go to waste, and therefore reducing the resource and energy that would otherwise go into creating more paint. 

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Orinoco has expanded to encompass any DIY leftovers. It's like a scrap yard for small stuff to make things with. I'm kind of a little bit in heaven here! 

And they have tiles. Of all sorts of shapes and sizes, usually small amounts. And it made me see a way that the ACE Hotel bathroom was accessible for me. Even better, it's a lower impact way of achieving a stylish finish than my original plan. But putting together tiles from several different ranges is always fiddly, and will affect the ability to get a good finish. Did I want to get myself involved in that? 

And the thing that swung it for me? A report on the missing Malaysian Airways plane. No seriously, I'm not trying to be in any way flippant about this. 

They report was saying how it's very difficult to find the debris of the aircraft because the sea is so full of other kinds of rubbish and it all collects together with the currents. That rubbish comes from things that fall overboard from container ships bringing us our lovely consumer goods; or it's falling into the sea from the land because we produce so much rubbish we can't keep it in one place. They're looking for the airplane in a rubbish dump. 

That is the first world problem. We (the First World) are creating that problem. And maybe it's dumb to think that reusing a few tiles will help, but I think that the thing we fail to appreciate is the cumulative impact that tiny changes will have, if we all make them, and if we all make them daily. And so I'm starting with two boxes of discarded tiles.

Palette: Living Room

In keeping with the theme of thinking of next week and three month's time at the same time, this is the selection of materials I’m working with for the living room.

From top, anticlockwise: Black granite (freecycle); paint samples from left, Ecos "Plumpfled" Ecos "Brilliant White" Earthborn "Cat's Cradle"; Bute Ramshead fabric; Bute Kilamory fabric (discontinued); matt white laminate; gloss white laminate faced plywood

From top, anticlockwise: Black granite (freecycle); paint samples from left, Ecos "Plumpfled" Ecos "Brilliant White" Earthborn "Cat's Cradle"; Bute Ramshead fabric; Bute Kilamory fabric (discontinued); matt white laminate; gloss white laminate faced plywood

The base colours are simple and neutral. Pale grey walls, white ceilings and (probably) paintwork. The kitchen will be white, although still debating between matt and gloss finishes, laminate faced ply with an exposed edge on the worktops. Maybe some black granite around the cooker, or a dark porcelain tile floor.

Then the colour elements centre around a couple of key pieces: my lime green egg chair (sadly in storage, but the fabric sample above is the same fabric from Bute) and a lino print by the artist Ian Phillips.

Ramsey Sound, Ian Phillips

Ramsey Sound, Ian Phillips

I bought this some years ago on a trip to Pembrokeshire, on a Arts Council of Wales loan. I love the picture for the style of the image (it make me think of Twentieth century graffiti and traditional Japanese woodblock at the same time), and because of the view is from one of my favourite parts of the world, but also the combination of colours is so soothing for me. It’s come to be a shorthand for the colour scheme that I want to use in the living room; the lime green egg chair, teak side tables, grey walls and turquoise pendant that I already own all match colours in this print.

I have plenty of furniture, but the one thing I don’t have is a sofa. I want to buy a mid-20th Century sofa and reupholster it in the Bute Ramshead. I’m stalking eBay for the right bargain, but there’s no rush.

Design Brain: Bathroom

So one of the first things I did in the flat was have my plumber rip out the cold water feeder tank and the old fashioned copper tank and replace it with a unvented immersion heater. Improving the efficiency of energy consuming appliances is a obvious move, and I choose the unvented boiler for the double benefit of providing hot water at mains pressure, and freeing up space in the airing cupboard so that the washing machine can be moved out of the kitchen.

It also had a disadvantage that once the system was re-pressurised the 40-year-old pipes that had never experience water at mains pressure complained. One of the pipes sprung a leak then and there, which my plumber duly fixed, with the ominous warning that the rest could go in the near future. 

Now I hadn’t intended to do the bathroom at this stage at all, but I didn’t fancy playing Chicken with the pipework when I have three neighbours below me. Plumbing work is expensive, but more expensive when you have to fix a ceiling downstairs too.

So the bathroom got bumped up the programme. Starting didn't depend on anything else being done first, not least because there weren't any walls to rip out, so I could just ask my plumber to get on with it! There were a couple of weeks where I was figuring out the finer points of the design, finding fittings and choosing finishes (not completed that last one actually) and then last week the plumbers got to work.

Out came the existing suite, the floor and the pipework

Out of the Bathroom . . .

Out of the Bathroom . . .

. . . and into the Living Room

. . . and into the Living Room

Then they started building up again. So that by the end of the week there was a new floor, new supply and waste pipework, and the shower tray was installed.

The final bathroom will look something like this with a large shower and then a WC and basin under the window.

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The basin is cast as a solid piece with the worktop that runs over the cupboards and WC. I want the shower screen to be as lightweight as possible. The pipework for the shower and washing machine waste pipes means that there’s a boxing behind the long side of the shower. In the middle we’re going to put a recessed shelf (or two) to the shower enclosure for shampoo bottles and shower bits. Once past the shower the boxing will stop and return to the wall, where I’m going to put a heated towel rail and a large mirror over the top.

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Before any of that can happen though we need to get the tiles on the wall; I’ve chosen to do the tiling myself (my idea of a good time!) so I have to do some work before the rest of the bathroom can be fitted. Which is my weekend sorted.

15 Shades of Grey

OK, so it's more like 10 shades at most, but then it wouldn't read as a good pun. Always bow to the power of a good pun.

The eagle eyed among you might have noticed in the last post that a few of the walls we pulled down had paint samples on them. But I did (just) remember to photograph them (badly) before they came down. 

It might not make a lot of sense to some to have picked a paint before the new walls have gone up, and I can understand that. The light will change for a start. But the circular nature of my thoughts mean that I'm thinking about shape of the new walls, and kitchen cabinets, and paint colours, and upholstery fabrics, all at once. It's necessary to have a (half formed) idea of where you going well you're getting there or else you'll get lost along the way (ah, like so much in life). Now is as good a time to test paint colours as any other.

Well when I say "colours" I mean grey! A lot of the things I own are colourful so I decided early on that the base colours and materials would be very neutral. Grey is the wall colour of choice.

Living Room Top, left to right: Earthborn "Inglenook"; Earthborn "Cat's Cradle"; Ecos "Plumpfled"; Ecos "Pure White" Bottom, left to right: Earthborn "Nellie"; Earthborn "Tuffet"; Earthborn "Tom's Bakery"; Ecos "Flume"

Living Room

Top, left to right: Earthborn "Inglenook"; Earthborn "Cat's Cradle"; Ecos "Plumpfled"; Ecos "Pure White"

Bottom, left to right: Earthborn "Nellie"; Earthborn "Tuffet"; Earthborn "Tom's Bakery"; Ecos "Flume"

I'd decide early on to use "organic" paints. Or "natural" or whatever other term seems to fit. Basically, not paint that is stuffed full of chemicals. Both because I don't really enjoy that raw throat you get from paint fumes, and because it's better to have fewer chemicals in the world in general. All the paints that have been used here are either by Earthborn or Ecos. Neither are exceptionally expensive; more than the famous doggie one, but less than the fashionable heritage one.

Bedroom Top, left to right: Earthborn "Inglenook"; Earthborn "Cat's Cradle"; Ecos "Plumpfled" Bottom, left to right: Earthborn "Nellie"; Earthborn "Tuffet"; Earthborn "Tom's Bakery"

Bedroom

Top, left to right: Earthborn "Inglenook"; Earthborn "Cat's Cradle"; Ecos "Plumpfled"

Bottom, left to right: Earthborn "Nellie"; Earthborn "Tuffet"; Earthborn "Tom's Bakery"

Hall Top, left to right: Ecos "Moonstone"; Ecos "Moonlight"; Ecos "Eiderdown" Bottom, left to right: Ecos "Flume"; Earthborn "Tom's Bakery"; Earthborn "Cat's Cradle"

Hall

Top, left to right: Ecos "Moonstone"; Ecos "Moonlight"; Ecos "Eiderdown"

Bottom, left to right: Ecos "Flume"; Earthborn "Tom's Bakery"; Earthborn "Cat's Cradle"

Grey is such a mutable colour. It changes in the light. There are blue-greys, green-greys and brown-greys. Here's Earthborn's "Cat's Cradle" in the living room, bedroom and hall.

Living Room, Earthborn "Cat's Cradle"

Living Room, Earthborn "Cat's Cradle"

Bedroom, Earthborn "Cat's Cradle"

Bedroom, Earthborn "Cat's Cradle"

Hall, Earthborn "Cat's Cradle"

Hall, Earthborn "Cat's Cradle"

Then this is Earthborn "Flume" in living room and hall

Living Room, Earthborn "Flume"

Living Room, Earthborn "Flume"

Hall, Earthborn "Flume"

Hall, Earthborn "Flume"

And this is Earthborn "Tom's Bakery" in living room, bedroom and hall.

Living Room, Earthborn "Tom's Bakery"

Living Room, Earthborn "Tom's Bakery"

Bedroom, Earthborn "Tom's Bakery"

Bedroom, Earthborn "Tom's Bakery"

Hall, Earthborn "Tom's Bakery"

Hall, Earthborn "Tom's Bakery"

Part of me wants to paint the whole flat in one colour, and enjoy the way it changes from room to room. Part of me wants to paint different rooms in different colours so that it looks the all same; a secret in plain sight. Some time yet to make that decision.

WiP February 2014: Demolition Derby

So this is going to be a bit of a monster post, but it's mostly pictures and it's worth it!

So this WiP covers most of January and February, so I'm going to lead you in gently. This was the bedroom the last time I showed it to you (left), but shortly after Mum and I started stripped off the wallpaper.

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There was some collateral damage, but nothing that can't be fixed.

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While Mum and I were stripping the bedroom, Dad tackled the floors in the bathroom and hall

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Then over the next few weeks, either solo after work, or on weekends roping in willing (or not so willing but at least pliable) helpers, we cleared the wall paper in the living room and hall, ripped up the bedroom carpets and the tiles off of the bathroom walls.

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But that was just a warm up. Two weekends ago Susie and Caroline drove down from Edinburgh for a demolition party. First switching off all the electricity (don't want to mess with that stuff) we started small, stripping off the skirtings and door frames.

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And then the first panel of wall came out, with some hefty encouragement with a lump hammer. The walls are made of the panels of compressed straw, faced in paper and then a skim (thin 2-3mm thick) coat of plaster. It's not something any of us had seen before. The density means it has a lot of sound proofing, but there isn't much substance, which means fixing things to it isn't particularly easy or solid. Thus why so much is coming out . . .

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Once we got the first little panel out, we found out the panels are screwed to the joists in the loft. After some head scratching, we concluded the best way was to go into the loft and unscrew the panels from the top. A call to my neighbour (also called) Susie, and a full height ladder was obtained.

At this point two more friends, Chuck, Andy and Marsco (the labrador) arrived with Pizza from Il Principe for lunch. Perfect timing!

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Andy didn't think much of our plan to unscrew the panels from the top. He saw a shortcut.

1 . . .

1 . . .

2 . . .

2 . . .

3!

3!

There are (well were!) the same layouts for the one-, two- and three-bed for the whole development and it seems the panels are modular, designed for each repeated layout. There are channels embedded in them to carry the electrical wiring, which must have been installed in the manufacturing process. So, we soon realised that we had to unscrew the sockets and then pull the wiring out. So a little electrical work was involved too, and all the loose wires were coiled and taped up near the ceiling out the way. Again, I can't stress enough, make sure the electricity is switched off at the mains before doing any electrical work.

Tidying up the electrics

Tidying up the electrics

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The straw panel walls

The straw panel walls

The walls were coming down a lot easier now the first one was out so Chuck and I thought we'd have a go. We weren't very effective though; Andy had to show us how it was done properly.

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Leaving the hard work to the professionals I decided it was time for a round of waters; no tea with the electricity off.

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Bish, bosh, bash.

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And Tah Dah! 

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It was quite overwhelming, seeing all the walls gone. It was all part of my plan, but seeing it happen is a different thing all together. I certainly didn't expect us to achieve this much in a single day. It couldn't have been done without the help I was given.

In fact I want to take this chance to say thank you to everyone who has helped this project along so far. Susie M-L and Caroline, for driving the length of the country, staying up till 2am talking kitchen layouts and finishes and then demolishing all day. Photo credits also have to go to Caroline, without whom there would be no photographs to show here at all!

Chuck and Andy (and Marsco) for arriving with lunch, and then getting stuck right in with us. Even missing the rugby for it.

Susie G for the loan of many tools, ladders, local knowledge and contacts. 

My parents for help, physical, financial and emotional. 

Eoin, who has stripped walls and cornicing despite the fact that his enthusiasm for DIY is mostly due to the fact that it makes me happy than any interest of his own. 

And of course all of you who have stopped by to read this and sent me encouraging messages. It really means a lot knowing that while I'm throwing this stuff out into the ether of the internet, somebody is out there catching it.

Design Brain: Options

So the thing about design is that there's always another way to do things. The (almost) infinite possibilities when faced with a blank sheet of paper. Thankfully, for one's sanity, there are always influences that define whether an idea, a design, is a good solution or not. Too expensive, too complicated, too fussy, wrong style, wrong lifestyle type; all sorts of ways a design could be inappropriate for a particular application (but right for another).

A colleague said to me before Christmas "When you're advising a client it's easy to be definitive about the best option; when it's you own project you can never decide." And he was right. Here are the three leading options I've been considering for the new layout of the flat, but there were two or three sub-options for each of these, and four completely different options that didn't get this far! Aren't you glad I'm not showing you everything?!

Translation, from top left anticlockwise: Bigger cupboard/entrance, is it worth messing this area around?; Bath can't go here because toilet must stay in same position; Fridge here makes slick wall of cabinets; Where does cooker extract vent to?

There were some easy choices for me: a better, bigger kitchen; making the most of the floor area by making an open plan living space; minimising the hall so as not to waste space on circulation; maximising the storage. The big moves are usually obvious; if they're not, they're usually the wrong moves.

The next level of detail is a lot harder. The relative merits of a bath or a shower, or where the cooker goes. This seemingly small changes can make a massive difference to how the flat will work and feel to live in. In a small area the difference between 10 or 20cm this way or that has a much bigger impact than it would in a larger space.

Translation, from left anticlockwise: shower vs. bath?; too wide too dominant; narrow units would make regular width counter tops above; less keen on the wall units over counter; bi-slide door would be bespoke at this size; keeping this wall less electrical work

Some of these are decided by the existing layout; the best place to put an extract fan for the cooker places it on the bedroom wall so it can vent to the existing air bricks on the front of the building. Some are decided by personal preference; I don't like wall cupboards over a worktop, it feels oppressive to me, so I want to have a wall of tall units, and a large open counter area. 

Agonising over the tiniest details can get ridiculous. Ultimately it's about feel, what my gut is telling me. The three options here would all be fine. They all have their benefits, and disadvantages, but the layout I'm taking forward is this last one.

Translation, from top left anticlockwise: shower vs. bath?; low wall?; Shelves with mirror over above here; vent out through existing air bricks; keep drainage in place; lower level free air above to feel spacious; Tall units with opening for cooker.

The kitchen will have a wall of units, with the cooker set into it; fridge and freezer under the counter opposite; and the sink stays under the window. Which makes pleasingly balanced work triangle From the living room most of the appliances will be hidden, so it doesn't look too much like a kitchen, unless you're standing in it. Renewing the hot water tank will free up space in the airing cupboard, and allow the washing machine to be moved out of the kitchen. Then the kitchen walkway can be slimmed down, and so take up less of the living room but still have the space to incorporate a dishwasher. I'm stealing a little space from the hall and installing a pocket door that will disappear into the bedroom wall. 

And what does this all point to? The walls around the kitchen and between the kitchen and the bedroom need to go. Bring on the Demolition Derby!

Make: Tablet Pocket

Lots of exciting developments in the flat over the past week, but my ability to process images and write content lags behind. Oh the tyranny of the editing calendar! Well that might be a bit of a grand term for the list at the back of my notebook, but I have a narrative to lead you along and so we will all have to wait a little.

In the meantime I thought I'd share a quick make I did a couple of weeks ago.

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This is a felt pocket I made for my tablet. Not a case, but something to stop it from getting scratched in my bag. It's really simple, and could easily be made by hand. With a sewing machine it took about an hour, including cutting out.

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So you'll need some felt. I've found the easiest, and often the cheapest, way to get some good thick felt is to make you own. And it's so easy. You need some virgin wool fabric (and by virgin I mean untreated, no machine washable stuff) either woven fabric bought by the meter (which is what I used here) or just a wooly jumper (scour the charity shops for these).

So take your woolies and put them in the washing machine on a 90º wash with some laundry detergent. The thing that everybody tells you not to do with wool, because it turns it to felt. Not what you want for your favorite cashmere jumper but exactly what we're aiming for here. The combination of heat, the motion of the machine and soap causes the wool fibres to swell and mesh together making the felt. It's better if you have more than one piece of fabric because they rub against each other and that helps the felting process, but a large jumper on it's own would probably be fine. If you're worried there isn't enough fabric, a tennis ball in an old sock (so you don't get yellow patches on your felt) will add to the abrasion factor and improve the knit on your felt.

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If you've used a jumper cut off the arms and cut off the seams so you have nice flat pieces to work with. Fold your piece of felt in half so you have a double thickness and place your tablet on top, leaving a 1cm gap to the edge for the seam.

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Cut the piece for the pocket, again leaving 1cm on the other side for the other seam.

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Then just sew up the two long edges, leaving the top open. No need to hem the top edge, the felt won't fray. Mine is a little longer than the tablet so I can fold over the top edge, and I added a wide elastic strap to keep it together. 

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The strap is a length of 2.5cm wide elastic, the twice the height of the tablet plus an extra 4cm. Overlap the two edges to make a loop, with a overlap of 2cm. Stitch the two ends to each other, and then sew to the middle of one face of the pocket. 

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And you're done! Really simple and quick. 

Design Brain

This image is a distilled version of my thoughts on the flat over the past couple of months. A little bit like looking at the inside of my brain. Well the design part of of my brain anyway; not the part that's thinking about cheesecake, or dining, or nonsense.

Translation, from top left anticlockwise: heater to be replaced; new hot water tank => space for washing machine below?!; Lowest priority just tiles and paint for now; would love to turn the bath but can't move the WC because of cast iron drainage :( ; Wardrobe needs doors! And fittings inside otherwise the bedroom is just paint and floor coverings; Open plan living . . . a kitchen with a sofa OR a living room with a kitchen in . . . How do you "hide" a kitchen in plain sight?; Make open plan and "steal" some space from the hall; Kitchen!! Too small, not enough cupboards; Door here would be good, but not like this Pocket door?

Plus, in new wizzy blog feature of the week, if you click on the image it will get bigger. And if you hover it will give you a translation of my scribbles. Oooooh!