Engagement picnic…

Whilst I get on with my more…ahem, nitty gritty DIY jobs, I will distract you with pictures of my friends beautiful hand crafted Engagement picnic. Even if it hadn’t been a beautiful, sunny day the atmosphere would still have been as magical.

Yummy food, beautiful bunting and home made decorations made the day extra special and stylish.

I can’t wait for next year when the bride-to-be will turn her crafty hand to create her very own wedding day that will be personal and as special as the couple themselves.

I thought that they deserved a crafty present to celebrate their impending crafty nuptials…first the card…bunting was essential!

It’s a unique way to make a bland engagement card (and I was surprised by how bland these cards are) something a little more special.

Then, as a nod to the groom-to-be, the present…

I bought this awesome 1950’s illustrated map from frontispiece which is a great vintage maps and prints shop that sits incongruously in the mega slick shopping mall at Canary Wharf. The Groom-to-be is a map fan (a cartographile??) and a Londoner so this was the perfect present for their love nest. I was just going to frame it on white paper when The Boy pointed out that it would look great on a map (ooo, he is a secret crafting genius…he just needs to give in to it!). Passing Stanfords in town he came across a sheet of wrapping paper printed with an old Stanford’s map on it and bought it home to frame the map with. Little did he know that the map itself was originally from Stanford’s back in the day, what a perfect coincidence! So the end result was…

We loved it so much that I wanted to keep it! But we managed to pass it on from one crafty couple to another!

We have been ploughing on with the work at the house, it’s just all a bit boring. Maybe that might explain how The Boy and I have each managed to injure ourselves over the weekend, out of sheer boredom! Stay tuned for the less boring stuff, coming soon!


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Not doing DIY…

This week I have been not doing DIY…well I have, but not the glamorous, transformative and interesting DIY that I could show you pretty pictures of.

I have not been transforming my left over furniture into beautiful new pieces, I have not been re-vamping my lovely old dressing table that I bought back from my parents house and I have not been painstakingly cleaning my 2nd hand chandeliers in order to light up our lounge and hallway.


I have been laboriously applying coat after coat of satin paint around the frame of the sliding door in the lounge. This has involved getting home after work every night, applying a coat and then washing up all of the involved paraphernalia so as to begin the process again the following day. I then ripped off the masking tape to reveal that I had also ripped off large chunks of the carefully applied paint. Wielding my craft knife I deftly sliced through into the beading (seriously, it was having a tough time getting through the masking tape, except for when I slipped and it went…straight…through…the wood!). So I have backed off that for a bit.

Before: Dark surround

After: White...thrilling!

I turned my attention to caulking. It wasn’t until my father visited that we had an explanation as to why all the wood work in the lounge looked so grotty. Neither the picture rail or the skirting board had been sealed to the wall. So instead of a lovely moulding seamlessly emerging from the wall, you get what looks like a great big slab of wood slammed against a wavey wall…like so…

Before: Grotty

This is a two man job so The Boy and I set to work first all trying to neaten up around the door frame. It is actually immensely satisfying. A couple of pointers…use a wet finger, wet cloth or wet sponge to smooth down (it’s the water that makes the difference)…the less you touch it, the better is looks (applying, smooth with wet item and leave-you can always go over it again if it shrinks back, which it does sometimes).

After: Not so grotty

I have been fitting out the under stairs cupboards. We have been concentrating on these as they will provide us with the storage that we need to put stuff away so that we can get on with the decorating without ruining everything.  This one took ages and looks deeply unimpressive…(but we have a place for our dyson now)

Before: Urgh...

After: Meh...

I have been without a kitchen again as the plasterer came in to sort out the walls…

Two steps forward...one step back...

I have been spending far too long in B&Q with The Boy discussing precisely the shade of white to paint our kitchen. Why is it that the swatch in the book, the sticker on the pot and the painted swatch in the store bear no relevance to each other whatsoever? We went with Almond White (your guess is as good as mine!).

I have also been taking a moment on a Sunday, cooking my breakfast, watching my coffee pot boil (bought in Bagnone, Italy: site of Europe’s largest lottery win, FACT) to be truly thankful that I have a kitchen!! And, as painstaking and slow as these jobs are, we are getting there and we will get there!!


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Things I have learnt so far…

I have not been ‘at this’ for very long and I know that at the moment you may have seen very little DIY but believe me we are working hard just to have a place in which we can carry out DIY at the moment! And all the while I have learnt a few things that I would like to pass on and see if you agree with…

Spend money on good paint brushes, the ones from the shop where everything costs one hundred pence lose their bristles and leave a pattern of them in your paint…rubbish!

Don’t spend a lot of money on buckets, cleaning equipment and sponges. If your house is truly a 2ndhandhouse then you will ruin every single piece of DIY/ cleaning equipment within the first month of hard graft. Save your pennies for that Cath Kidston dust pan and brush set for next year when all you’ll need to sweep up are the odd crumbs from one of your numerous and famous dinner soirees that you hold at your beautiful new abode.

Save all your tubs from the margarine, tomatoes and meat to be washed out. Used to stand empty paint brushes in, store old nails that you don’t want to throw away just in case and keeping all your screwdrivers together,  you can never have enough of these!

Do spend money on white paint, buying the cheaper stuff is a false economy as you’ll have to do more coats which, while probably costing you the same in the long run, will eat into your time and put a strain on your back, neck, arms, social life.

Things take longer than you imagine they will. Always. Without question.

Make sure that you have EVERYTHING that you need for the job you are about to start before you start. Just because it’s upsetting to start a job and then have to run to the nearest DIY shop before you can finish!

Prioritise your money. There is so much to do in 2ndhandhouse that whenever I go to the DIY store I find myself buying all sorts of bits and pieces that, if I really think about it, I won’t get round to using for months. It’s a waste of the money that I could be using for the project that I am on now.

Get to know some local tradesmen. There are things that you will not know how to do, no matter how much you Google them. Tradesmen are knowledgeable, experienced and often are really creative. They tend to have great ideas for room lay outs and materials that you never thought about using. Local tradesmen that you find through friends are also a lot better than finding random people on the internet who will often be working under a brand name, charging you extra for that brand and fancy website. Local tradesmen, recommended by friends, are also great because their work is often showcased in your friends homes.

Remember that you can take stuff back. If you bought the wrong type of glue for the job, the tool you bought doesn’t actually do what you thought it did or the fitting you bought is the wrong size for it’s intended setting then, take it back. Buying and renovating a house is expensive enough without having excess materials that you aren’t going to use lying around. As long as they fulfil the requirements for return then go for gold! The place that we bought our tiles from operate a policy where you have to buy a pack of a certain size (in our case it was 30) but you can bring back the rest for a refund. In our case we only used just under half so we can get a refund on the other half. Obviously, you can’t take a half used pot of paint back ( you wouldn’t take a half-eaten chocolate bar back to the supermarket would you?) but if you are clever and don’t damage the packaging a rash purchase can be reversed. This doesn’t of course, mean that you don’t have to go back to the DIY store, which you do if you want the refund and this may add to the feeling that it has become your second home!

There’s probably many, many more. So let me know yours! What gems of knowledge can you impart to me? Is there anything you gree with/ don’t agree with? Like to share any funny stories of how you found them out? Let me know!

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My Design Inspiration…

When I am looking for ideas for around the house, when I am bored at work (shhh…) and when I am procrastinating at home these are the sites I turn to for relief, distraction and inspiration…

Dream Book Design

This blog immediately got my attention with the post entitled: Turning Old Junk to Beauty. I love a bit of junk!

Melissa Young via Dream Book Design

Dream Book Design is written by the sweetest girl, “your new blog friend Adrianne” about her and her husband’s extremely adept and frequent forays into DIY. Actually I think that they may have some sort of DIY addiction! The writing, the design ideas and the funny dog pictures sold it to me a while ago now, it is such an earnest and satisfying blog to read, check it out!

Design Sponge

This is the Grande Dame of design blogs for me.

Studio EMP Photography via Design Sponge

It is a veritable gold mine of information with sections such DIY (containing projects that, yes you really can do yourself), Entertaining (with heaps of recipes for food and drink as well as design theme ideas for your party) and then there’s the Biz Ladies who advise on everything from Finding your niche and Starting a business to Understanding CSS and Web Design.  But my favourite, FAVOURITE part of the blog has to be the Before and After pics.

Design Sponge

Design Sponge

This regular feature shows projects from the large like this Trolley Depot Renovation to the not so large (but possibly more achievable) like this Sideboard Re-Do;

Design Sponge

Design Sponge

And all of this with NONE of the nay-saying Kevin McCloud.  Where are all the Brit sites featuring this amount of inspiration, this amount of encouragement and more importantly, this design edge? The only place we can find UK based home interiors advice is in one of the many home magazines that I know my girlfriends are too embarrassed to buy! (I know this because after excitedly showing one of my girlfriends my AMERICAN copy of Martha Stewart’s Living Magazine she said, “These are the kind of magazines that I really want to buy but I get too embarrassed and end up buying Vogue instead.”) It’s not cool to walk up to the counter with magazines that make you look like you are hell bent on becoming a stay-at-home mother, in the country-side, with a Labrador and jam making equipment ( I’m a member of the jam-making WI and I care little about looking cool but I know that other people do, other people that own homes).  So, come on British Magazine industry, make some design/DIY magazines for us home owners who are old enough to own a fireplace but not necessary the pipe and slippers to go with them as well! What are your favourite design sites? Who do you look to for inspiration?

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Kitchen Teaser…

So very nearly there…

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Lounge Ideas

I wanted to do you a kitchen teaser post today but since my folks left I have been rushing around cleaning, tidying and unpacking things into my new, lovely kitchen! Can’t wait to show you what we’ve got so far…but…not…quite…yet!

Finally we have cleared our lounge of food, microwaves and woks so I can begin thinking about what to do with it. When we moved in it looked like this:













The picture rail and skirting board were a nasty reddish brown shade and there were (yep, you guessed it) black bin bags of smelly rubbish! Once we had removed the rubbish, we repainted the picture rail and skirting white (I sanded it down first using a black and decker Mouse I’ll tell you about that another time but it’s AWESOME!!).

So now it looks something like this:

Not a lot different right? We still want it kept white and the wooden floor will be beautiful, it just needs a sand and a polish. I would like it to have a South African-ish theme in a nod to The Boy’s heritage. I have been finding some inspiration from websites such as Miss Moss and Elle Decoration but my favourite ideas have come from the US of A so far…

Martha Stewart The Craft Department

I love this idea, it’s framed bandannas. A little 90’s I know but I Love the colours.  I want to create some kind of art that reflects our cultural heritage either separately or combined. You should check out Martha Stewart Living magazine too, it’s packed with great ideas.

I am also loving the Ralph Lauren California Romantic collection:

I know it’s a little rugged and ‘out doorsy’ for a city house but both The Boy and I grew up in semi-countryside. I would like to keep this in mind whilst we are trapped in this busy city for now. I particularly like mixture of textures you can see with the rough carpet, plant life and animal skin chair.

Speaking of animal skin chair…


I.go.blog via Dream Book Design ( I couldn't find the original source for this sorry)

This image is practically our lounge, but with a neater planter and a beautiful chaise sofa. We definitely want to keep the white but add pops of interesting colours and African prints.

Decor8 Blog

This image is perfect, the fresh colours against the white look homely and yet modern. I am on the hunt for some seriously bright graphic African prints for this room.  Let me know what you think and if you have any tips on where to get the fabrics from, I’d love to hear your ideas!

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The Big Three-Oh!

The Boy and I spent the weekend celebrating my big sister’s 30th in the countryside. It was wonderful when we eventually got there at 1am (a long drive accentuated by missing our turning off the M25!!). We had a garden party in the garden that my father had spent the winter toiling over and the weather gave us a gem of an afternoon to enjoy it in!

My sister found a design she liked in a book and my father proceeded to create it for her. It looked stunning, unfortunately my camera was jealous and didn’t capture it’s full beauty. (Ed. Note: There is a photo to follow, I’m just waiting for Big Sister to email me a good one!)


Gorgeous Garden!

We laid on a huge spread, I provided some salads…

But it was Mum who, as usual, impressed with her excellent baking skills as she recreated mini version of the Italian wedding cake (it was not so small but smaller than the huge one we had in Italy!)

After we had stuffed ourselves silly and sung Karaoke on the X-box at the top of our lungs (you have to, that’s how you get the points!) we warmed ourselves up around the fire pit

It was a magical evening, we had so much fun! I want to show you my crafty idea for giving my sister her present too. She wanted to buy herself a Pandora ring so we were all giving her money. I had seen some ideas from America where you could make a note into a box to put the money in to gift it but that’s in America where you get a one dollar note and somehow I didn’t think it would look as good with a fiver! So I came up with a message in a bottle idea

I wrapped the money up with a little poem I had written and tied it with string. I then placed it in a old glass juice bottle (from a Firefly) with some sand. I thought it was a cute idea, what do you say? It looks pretty so, if you were so inclined, you could keep it as a nautical keepsake but, it was so thrifty that, if nautical’s not your thing, then you could toss it in the recycling, no problems!

Anyway, things are pretty hectic here at the moment as we bought my Dad back down with to fit the kitchen!! It is very exciting ! I can’t wait to be able to show it to you sometime soon…

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