Monday, 2 September 2013

New front door

Earlier this year I blogged about getting a quote from the Anglian Home door company. Long story short - it was the sort of sales technique that makes my skin crawl. The opposite of that experience was dealing with the (aptly named) Composite Door Shop. You could fill out a virtual door designer, stating all your preferences for a bespoke service, and even with the addition of a letterbox (that Anglian couldn't manage) and swapping the location of the handle around (again, Anglian weren't sure about doing this...) we got the door exactly as we wanted it, for £1,000. Our builders installed it in less than a day.

I'll update with a picture of the outside of it when I remember to take a snap (FYI It's navy blue with silver 'furniture'). Here are a couple of shots taken early evening, showing how much light comes through now. The glass is opaque enough to let the light in, but not enough to see any detail on the other side. When I have my face up to the glass I can just make out colours but no shapes.

The door itself has multi-point locking mechanism, and if looked after should last for more than 30 years.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Camp Bestival 2013

I go to a LOT of festivals. Last summer I clocked up five or six, and so far this year I've been more fussy and only made it to three (not counting the five Depeche Mode gigs I've been to around Europe). Camp Bestival is the one festival that we as a family enjoy going to - it was our third year. (Pictured above: Team Moroder).

We used to be regulars at the Big Chill but after four years of doing that with very young kids, we thought we'd try Camp Bestival, (and now unfortunately, the Big Chill is no more.) We always go with good friends and have figured out the best strategy for getting the best spot (stay at a B&B the night before in the immediate vicinity and pre-book a Festaxi - pictured at bottom - to move all your gear from car to camping spot in around 15 minutes).

Camp Bestival for us is a (long weekend) holiday with great music, good friends, reliable food and a way to stimulate the kids while doing stuff we actually enjoy.

So it's with some trepidation that I have to say we'll probably be giving Camp Bestival a miss in 2014. There were some great aspects to our trip this year - again our friends, and the primo spot we got (which was a 20 second stroll from the sauna and hot showers of the Soul Park area - and for £20 we had unlimited access all weekend), but there were two issues that were really irritating: firstly, the line-up was generally pretty dire. The DJs outshone the live acts with the exception of The Cuban Brothers. The highlight by a long shot was The Nextmen (who did two sets in quick succession, double the fun). As an aside, we were looking forward to seeing Horrible Histories (pictured above), but couldn't see a thing as so many people were standing - despite it being a play/performance rather than a band - it took 25 minutes before the TV screens politely asked people to sit down, which caused an almighty cheer from the 9,000 people who couldn't see up til that point.

I had high hopes for Grandmaster Flash but his set was no better than the sort you'd hear at a bad suburban nightclub - chorus after chorus of hits and yabbering about 'putting your hands up if you know this one!', soulless, with no depth. The 'headliners' were poor - The Levellers, Richard Hawley, Kid Creole and Nik Kershaw - these names work at Rewind, but not for Camp Bestival. And the Sunday night headliner? Labrinth. Not exactly in the same league as Primal Scream or the Happy Mondays who headlined the previous two years. I was particularly disappointed by Nik Kershaw who I first saw live as a teenager in New Zealand: in the years that have passed he hasn't developed how to do good banter with his audience. Fortunately some of those who'd pitched up to see him were fast asleep so they wouldn't have heard his witless song introductions.

Annoyingly we were actually excited about seeing Craig Charles do his Funk & Soul set as per his show on BBB's 6Music, but he was a no show. Turns out he'd tried driving across south London and couldn't get very far due to the RideLondon cycling event. Amazingly he was unaware of this despite the rest of London being up to speed, and for some reason was unable to get on a train to Wareham in time. Shows a lack of initiative really.

The second issue was the portaloos. We know loos and festivals, but this year was a new low. As early as Thursday night (ie hours after the site had opened) there were unusable toilets as they were full to the brim. There were fewer loos, and they weren't cleaned nearly enough. I'm sure it's a cost saving measure to keep things lean but I don't fancy spending £400 on tickets & £800 on food/drink/activities (not including petrol, the B&B and all the stuff we'd bought with us) to then feel constantly anxious about where to find a usable loo. Even the posh loos were out of service from Sunday afternoon.

Overall, I regret not going to Standon Calling which was on the same weekend: cracking line-up, a swimming pool (!) AND flushing loos. Unless Camp Bestival pull off an amazing lineup and make assurances about the facilities next year, I know where we'll be going.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Bedrooms are coming together

While we were at Camp Bestival (post to come on that shortly), the builders popped back for a day of final fixes. Coming home to a virtually finished house after camping for four nights was a pretty amazing feeling.

I'm so happy to have a proper bedroom instead of the cluttered mess we had before...

And a good size wardrobe - for the first time in nearly six years! Will be great to get a free weekend (When? When?!) so I can unpack the various boxes and bags of stuff into the space.

The kids room is a little lo-frills right now but will come right. This bed has a spare underneath for sleepovers, so much better than a bunk bed as once the novelty wore off, no-one wanted to sleep in it.

The kids have a huge wardrobe too but not as many clothes as us, so we're storing linen and toys in here too.

And building a bed over the stair headspace means the room feels so much bigger than before!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Mostly finished bathroom

Ten weeks into the build and the bathroom is finished (except for a little snagging). And I started a new job yesterday. My summer off went super quick.

Here's the inbuilt shelving. Would be my preference to only have Aesop products but my family would disagree.

The cabinet is massive - managed to get all first aid and skincare items in my side...

View from the bathroom looking towards the hallway (lampshade is from B&Q - amazingly). The white box on the wall controls the underfloor heating.

Wall hung toilet and a Geberit flusher, which is the same style as the ones in my new office. Odd coincidence.

Slate non-slip flooring is from Topps Tiles.

Heated towel rail was from JT Spas - who delivered quickly and had excellent customer service (before and after).

Massive cabinet and lights were from Ikea... was the double wall hung sink unit.

These photos were taken early evening - the light during the day is intense! Really happy with how it turned out. Kind of like a retro Case Study house.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Bathroom is almost finished

This is the view from the hallway looking into the bathroom. The sliding door is necessary in the space or it would be wacking into the double sink.

We ordered a shower door from a retailer on eBay but it took 5 weeks to get the bathroom ready to install it. When the builders opened the package they found that the shower door was smashed as were the brackets. The retailer wouldn't refund or replace as 30 days had passed since we ordered it. We found a better shower door subsequently and combined they were both cheaper than one from a reputable retailer so all's well that ends well.

The gunmetal grey tiles look on the brown side in these photos.

The giant wall panel to flush the loo allows access to the hidden cistern. I never knew that's what they were for!

The enormous towel rail accommodates all our towels and will keep the room toasty in winter - well, that and the underfloor heating (thank you Breaking Bad...)

The mirror is actually a huge cabinet which is sunk flush into the wall. The best bit is that the inside of the doors are mirrored so you can see the side of your head when it's open.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

On the home straight

My builders are amazing: one stayed behind to sort stuff out and other drove all the way to Ikea and handed over an extensive four page shopping list. All our wardrobes and internal gubbins, kids mattresses and some bathroom lighting came to £1,551. The builder loaded up his van and drove back to us, and as he lit his cigarette he remembered he'd left various items on a trolley somewhere. He put out the cigarette and drove back - at least a 90 minute round trip - and thankfully the trolley was where he'd left it.

The wardrobes began to take shape and as the frames were nearing completion, the builder realised that the doors were missing. As well as some of the internal racks that were on the shopping list. It turns out a third of the pile of flatpack boxes had been left behind at Ikea...

So for the 3rd time in 24 hours, he went back to Ikea and again, thankfully the items were still there. (NB we are missing one shelf and 6-8 of the little things that hold the shelves in place but in the scheme of things this is both expected, and accepted).

So - 8 weeks after starting we finally got to sleep in our bed for the first time. The bedroom has no blinds or lighting, and we've swapped places so that Rob can be nearest the window. Despite this, after two months of sleeping on a sofa (with occasional respite by being away), I slept like a baby on our extremely comfortable bed.

The kids are sleeping in a double bed in our spare room, so they're not being too hard done by. This is their bedroom, which is full of parts for their wardrobe...

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Carpet is in!

I've just enjoyed a week in Croatia with some lovely friends and it felt delightful sleeping on a proper (single) bed, after many weeks of kipping on the sofa. I got back to find the bathroom was 75% finished, the walls painted in eye-hurtingly bright white and the skirting board had been mostly laid. Today the carpet got installed in around two hours.

It's the same carpet we have on the stairs - New Zealand wool with a rib, and cost an eye watering £2K including underlay. The skirting board is a rebellion against the generic white standard issue most houses sport. Ours is made from layers of ply and can be stained any colour.

The photo above is looking where the wardrobe will go, and shows the loft access ladder slightly ajar, which probably means the spring is not strong enough to hold it shut.

This is the view from the master bedroom showing the sliding door in place, and the nasty faux Victorian era banister boxed in (yippee!).

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

50 shades of grey

I've been adding photos of dark tiles to my Pinterest board for months. Incredibly, Rob and I looked at the same photo and I said 'Those tiles are dark grey, possibly black' and he insisted they were light grey. In the end, I managed to source gunmetal grey tiles in high gloss which were the same shape. Rob wasn't keen, insisting on even smaller tiles, in light grey, with a matt finish. His fictional tiles don't seem to exist so with the plastering all done, my choice won out.

The colour looks like a browny/grey but with the light pouring in a dark colour works fine - and now we're going to argue over dark vs light grey grout...

Looking straight up at the Velux you can see that the builders have used jaunty angles to vault the ceiling. It gives the room an architectural feel. The finish on the plastering and paintwork looks like it was done by professionals which makes all the difference. If I'd had to paint this myself it would look pretty dire...

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Time and money

Five and a half weeks into the top floor renovation and things I have learned:
  • The build always takes much longer than whatever you've estimated
  • The build ALWAYS costs way more than you've budgeted
  • My sofa is quite comfortable
  • I'm so happy we put a second shower downstairs last year, or we'd have spent (so far) over £5k on renting nearby
  • I should have taken out my summer holiday essentials before packing everything away to save having to buy replacement aqua socks, beachwear, playsuits etc

I'm off for a week in the sun with some friends on Wednesday - Rob's holding the fort with the kids (yay!). When I get back we should be on the home straight - the bathroom should be finished and the carpet will have been laid... It will all be worth it (I have to keep telling myself that).

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Bedside reading lamp

Bedside lighting: pretty boring topic. Unless, like me, you have mismatching bedside lamps due to various previous accidents involving clumsy cleaners. Also there's something irritating about the snakes of cables getting caught up around the bed.

So when the above lamps popped up as a featured design buy on I sent the link to Rob and suggested they might be great for our refurbished bedroom. He agreed but we didn't buy them immediately. They sold out and the Spanish manufacturer Dalainor didn't return my emails. I trawled t'internet looking for something similar, to no avail. Yesterday, I decided to phone the manufacturer and was delighted to find they cost €40 each, plus €40 for delivery to the UK: this is £104 all up - which is about £40 cheaper than we'd have got them from - result!


They arrived yesterday - 3 working days after I did the bank transfer! Thank you Dalainor!