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New home: kitchen / diner / living

After 20 weeks / four and a half months of being parents, we’ve got a bedtime routine pretty much nailed (she says, terrified it could all go to pot any second now) and have started to get our evenings back somewhat. So AT LAST I can get round to sharing the biggest piece of renovation work for our house.

When we moved in, we did the best with what we had. The living spaces weren’t particularly spacious. The floor area was there, but the layout and quality of it was not great. So, as mentioned before, after a few nightmare months of liaising with a structural engineer we eventually got plans for our extension and booked in our builder for January.

Our Plan: A light and open family living area, with room to cook, eat and relax

Processed with Moldiv

The plan was to knock down the shoddy lean to which had been constructed by knocking down three of the walls of the old coal house and outside loo and joining up with where the back door had been to create an extension to the kitchen. It was a single brick construction with a glass roof meaning it was bloody cold in winter and bloody hot in summer. The kitchen was a small galley kitchen with an opening into the lean to, few cupboards and old, tatty oven and sink. The only space for the fridge was in front of one of the windows in the lean to. Meanwhile, the dining room next door was pretty dark; the original window looked out into the lean to. It certainly wasn’t geared up for the modern family we had in mind.

Once the lean to was gone, the builders would be replacing it with a slightly larger well insulated, sloping roofed, solid extension with bifold doors. The external wall between the dining area and the extension would then be removed, along with the internal wall between the dining room and kitchen. And all the floors would be leveled off. This would create a larger, open plan space which would allow for a kitchen diner with living space. Perfect for a growing family.

It was a pretty big task, but our builder promised it’d all be done in 6 weeks. Though we did think this a little optimistic and so lied a little bit about the baby’s due date to make sure it all came together with time to spare. So come the first week of January, the builder started demolishing the extension. It’s a pretty frightening thing, coming home each day at the start of your building work and seeing your lean to going from a slightly ramshackle building to a home to a pile of mud, then wall-less and roof-less, before vanishing completely. There’s no going back at that point, and whatever happens you have to keep going and have faith that all will go to plan. Otherwise, we’d less house than we started with and no back door to keep us secure. And with a baby on the way, that wasn’t ideal.

Cramped living quarters - kitchen, dining and living room 4x4m

Cramped living quarters – kitchen, dining and living room 4x4m

Things progressed with the building work, as we plodded along (me more so than the hubby) with keeping the building work on course and trying to keep warm and comfortable in less than comfortable living arrangements. Our front room was acting as a kitchen, dining and living room. The fridge in one corner, dining table in the window and microwave next to the telly. Throw in a three seater settee, coffee table and a big birthing ball and things were what some might call cosy, others cramped.

After several weeks of food parcels from the mother-in-law and ready meals, the builders were moving out. They’d done their work to the kitchen / dining / living room, and it was ready for us to take over.

In progress…

Our budget was always quite tight for the whole project. We’d managed to save up enough money to pay for the building work, but the fittings were another matter. So, in came my dad and the hubby to lay the floor and fit the kitchen.

The kitchen

We designed the kitchen as a U-shape rather than an L-shape or single wall kitchen. A few people said to us things along the lines of, “don’t you want to have the kitchen along the whole right hand wall to the back doors?”. Our answer was a resounding “no”. We wanted to make sure that the space had different zones. A defined dining area, living area and kitchen area. This was to be a multi-functional family room, and a kitchen along the whole of one side of the room wasn’t for us. And anyway, with that we wouldn’t have achieved the valuable kitchen work triangle.

We also knew that we wanted to keep the space simple and clean, but not clinical or cold. So we decided on a warm engineered oak floor and simple stone coloured shaker style kitchen with oak worktops. We decided against tiles and instead went for an oak upstand and stainless steel splash back. As the kitchen isn’t huge, we didn’t want to waste worktop space with a pointless draining board that would end up with limescale build up over the years regardless of scrubbing, so we chose a simple inset stainless steal bowl and a half and bought a removable drainer for the washing up. At least that way the washing up isn’t left out for hours on end. Under cupboard lights and a brushed copper pendant hanging low-ish over the sink added good task lighting rather than the typical spotlights or a useless pendant in the middle of the ceiling. Sadly, we didn’t have space for a double oven, but we treated ourselves to a good quality single oven and gas hob instead. And in came our washer/dryer, fridge/freezer and dishwasher that we’d bought for our first home in Highbury in 2009. They worked fine, so why shell out for new? A final plinth drawer for under the oven provided extra storage.

Dining area

By the end of the transformation our bank balance was vastly reducing, so our old on-the-small-side Habitat extending table had to suffice for the time being. But we bought a lovely new copper pendant to hang over the dining table and hung our huge maps across the wall – picking out the turquoise of the chair upholstery (the same brilliant 1960s Danish teak chairs we had in our Highbury flat) and the copper of the light. Add the must-have in every Scandinavian home – a Tripp Trapp highchair – and we’re there. A new, larger 1960s teak table will just have to wait.

Living area 

We wanted the living area to be in-keeping with the rest of the room, so found ourselves a new mid century modern style settee to sit opposite the 1990s Danish beech units that my parents brought down for us from their home in Hull. These units were to house a selection of CDs that we couldn’t part with and a fraction of our record collection and be home to the hubby’s decks (which he is regularly using to teach Finlay to mix and scratch). Above the units, we hung several cube shelves for some of our favourite bits and pieces.

The living area opens out onto a decked patio (expertly fitted by my dad) through the oak bifold doors – a must-have in any living area in my opinion.

We’re awaiting a rug for the living area, and a built-in unit under the stairs currently hidden by a curtain next to the dining table. Then, once we’ve also changed the curtains which we put up for some quick privacy, we’re done.

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New home: Finlay’s room

I wrote most of this post in the late afternoon of Good Friday – 3rd April 2015 – and abandoned ship after I realised what I thought might be contractions definitely were contractions. 17 hours later our first child, Finlay, was born. Unfortunately, 90 minutes after birth Finlay was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) fighting a serious infection affecting his lungs and blood pressure. After 14 days in NICU and SCBU, we were able to bring Finlay home well and happy. 

This post is about the room we decorated at home to be Finlay’s first room – his ‘nest’. In reality, Finlay’s first nest was the one with all the machines and drugs keeping him alive shown in the image on the left.

You can read the poem ‘Three Nests’ that my husband wrote during Finlay’s stay in NICU, which describes the nest we made (this one), the one we mocked and the one we sat in. 

 

Between renovating the bathroom in May and relaxing over Christmas, very little happened on the home renovating front. You may remember back in June I mentioned that we had been having difficulties with a structural engineer for our plans for the downstairs. Then in November I shared the news that we were expecting an addition to the H-B household. Well, we managed to find a new structural engineer and engage the services of a builder for our major building work downstairs – more on that in a future blog post – which was due to start in January.

But before tackling the structural work downstairs, the hubby and I thought it necessary to tackle the room that was to be the baby’s room. We booked our builder to come just before New Year, and before he started downstairs, to come and help us get started.

These old Edwardian houses were designed as two-up two-downs. They were cheaper housing, likely for manual workers (indeed some of the previous owners of this house included fish sellers) and were not particularly plush, though I’m not sure these were the cheapest housing stock of the time either. They were made up of a hallway, leading to a small galley kitchen at the back, next to a dining room, with a living room at the front. The stairs run up the middle between the living and dining rooms. These stairs then went up to the first floor between a front bedroom and a back bedroom. At the top would be a door to the front room, opposite a door to the back. There would be no landing.

This is, I believe, how many of the houses down our and surrounding streets have since remained. Many have added an upstairs bathroom which doesn’t have direct access but is instead accessible via the main and second bedrooms.

Processed with MoldivHowever, our house is somewhat different. A landing has been installed between the stairs and the back, second bedroom. This leads to our bathroom and stairs going up to the loft. The previous owners had installed this landing when they had the loft converted. But they made one particularly bizarre decision – to put the door to the second bedroom in the middle of the wall to the landing, rather than at the edge. This wasted rather a lot of space in the room, leaving in effect only two usable walls. The room also had massively uneven walls, a damp patch in the ceiling where we’d had a leak in November, and a delightful 70s cork floor. And it was painted in that lovely creamy white that I think the previous owners must have got a job lot on.

Our plan: to make a dry, cosy and practical room for our new addition

I had been pulling together a Pinterest board (below) for inspiration for the baby room since we discovered we were expecting. Jeff and I decided not to find out the sex of the baby; neither of us had a real hankering to know. But what we did know was that there was no way we were planning to instill gender ideals into this baby of ours. It never occurred to us to paint the nursery either blue or pink or stock up on blue or pink clothing depending on what sex the baby is. It really perplexes and annoys me when people would say, on finding out we don’t know whether we’re having a girl or boy: “but how do you know what colour to paint the nursery?” or “how will you buy things in preparation?”. My annoyance was compounded when I received the following email from the BabyBump app we were advised to download to guide us through pregnancy (see image below).

pink or blue

Apparently,when decorating a baby room parents-to-be should:

1. Decide on a theme. Girls like fairies, ballerinas, flowers. Anything pretty and delicate. Obviously. While boys like anything masculine. Think mechanical or strong. You know, space ships, trains, dinosaurs. Obviously. (Now, if you read my Sophie Kingo is getting married blog you’ll know my thoughts on themes.)

2. Use the colour befitting of a girl or boy – i.e. pink or blue respectively.

3. Mix the theme with the gender-specific colour. So think ballerinas, bunnies and flowers in nice pink and lilac hues for girls, and spaceships, vehicles and dinosaurs on a nice boyish blue background for boys.

And if you don’t know the sex of your new baby? Luckily the BabyBump app gave some tips of how to handle that scenario.

Anyway, I could rant on about gender stereotyping and the limits it places on individuals and society for some time. But this is about our baby room renovation, so I’ll just leave you with a few links worth taking a look at at the end of this post (sadly I couldn’t find the articles that have stuck with me on this subject to include here today).

Back to the baby room.

Just before New Year, the builder worked his magic moving the door from the middle of the wall to the end, which gave us a lot more room and turned the room from a wide corridor to a roomwith three usable walls, replastered all walls and the ceiling to get a smooth finish and replaced the skirting boards, adding a bead to the top to tie them in with the original skirting boards in the front bedroom and living room.

Processed with MoldivIt was then onto the decorating. We chose a lovely off white/pale grey matt emulsion – Snowfall by Crown – for the walls and brilliant white for the ceiling and woodwork, a pale beige loop carpet, a white wooden venetian blind and multi-coloured spot curtains made by Mormor (my mum).

As for the furniture, there was only one piece that was new – the cot, which was a generous gift from Jeffrey’s cousin and her family. For the rest of the furniture, we spruced up an old wardrobe that was made by the previous owner’s granddad, and which the vendors left behind for us, and a book shelf and sideboard that were made by my dad for my room renovation when I was 14- years-old.

We added a few pictures to the wall that I had acquired over the years – including a print of a silk painting of Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen that I bought in about 1997, my GCSE art piece from 2000, an original little piece bought on Las Ramblas in Barcelona in 2002, and a scene from a H.C. Andersen fairytale that I bought in about 2005 – and a moon and star nightlight from Ikea (the moon was one I bought back in about 1998).

A multi-coloured homemade crochet mobile that I knocked up a few weeks ago hangs proudly over the cot and a little hook rack made by my Dad a few years ago is home to a few nice pieces of clothing we have been given from friends and family.

There are still a couple of bits we’re waiting for – including a nursing chair for the corner – but otherwise we’re done. And now that Finlay is home we can enjoy using it for nappy changes till he moves into it properly.

Pinterest moodboard

A few articles on gender stereotyping and colours:

Out of the blue and in the pink

From TV to toys: What makes girls into girls and boys into boys?

Gender Roles and Childhood Development

(I will be adding more articles as and when I come across them. And hopefully when I find the excellent few articles I have read on the matter over the past year or so.


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Rainbow baby blanket

In August this year, the hubby and I discovered we are expecting a baby due April 2015. So out came the yarn, crochet hooks, knitting needles, etc. to start making. I’ll be sharing everything I make for the baby as and when I complete them.

First up, a crocheted rainbow zigzag blanket, inspired by this crochet ripple baby blanket, made with Rico cotton dk.

blanket 1 blanket 2 blanket 3 blanket 4 blanket 6

 

 


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Knitted dress – Rowan Tammie

Back in late summer 2013 I treated myself to some Rowan Lima yarn. And it was a treat by the price it cost! I wanted to knit the Tammie “ribbed sweater” from Rowan Studio Issue 28, but knew there was no way I could knit it in the required Kid Classic as I can’t tolerate wearing lambswool or mohair – I find them far too itchy. So I chose the Lima, a soft and lightweight baby alpaca and merino wool yarn, instead. The gauge is pretty similar and I just made sure I did a gauge swatch to get the right tension.

I also knew I wanted to make some changes to the Tammie. For a start, the version on the model – being a “sweater” – was too short as a dress, even thought they styled it as one. Secondly, I didn’t like the sleeves. So I bought enough of the main colour to lengthen it by several centimetres and decided to end with the second colour as cap sleeves.

But I took too long to get the Tammie dress going, and by spring was no where near half way through the second side. So I put it away and waited for autumn to come round again. By this September I was 10 weeks pregnant and worried that I wouldn’t fit into the dress anymore, but I decided to continue to make it anyway and see how it went. It was, after all ribbed which would stretch over a growing bump. But then I picked up my crochet hook and started crocheting a baby blanket – more on that later – and the Tammie dress got sidelined again.

However, come November I was back onto the dress (which, being dark purple and a plaited yarn was quite tricky to work with on a cosy evening in Walthamstow with the nights drawing in) and finally completed it just after Christmas. Here it is. Complete with 26 week bump.

Knitted dress 2 Knitted dress

knitted dress 3


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New home: bathroom

The thing about our new house is, our love of it has never been the décor. It’s not to our taste – the hall is yellow and grey/purple, the living room a pale brown with gold aztec style border, and the dining room turquoise and green. But it feels right. Yep. We had the feeling when we looked round it. But it needs work and we have plans.

We decorated the loft first as it was a relatively straight forward transformation – a few licks of paint, a new carpet and a load of furniture, with a bit of style thrown in. We were then hoping to start work on the downstairs and our extension plans for a nice open plan kitchen/dining/living area, but have been held up by a not-so-reliable structural engineer. So instead we turned our attentions to the bathroom.

When we looked round our new house, the bathroom certainly didn’t blow us away. But it didn’t send us running for the hills either; it was livable. At our old flat in Highbury the bathroom was a simple (pretty large, actually) cube with nice clean white suite, towel rail, large mirror and large well-laid tiles. Our new bathroom was quite a contrast – black mock flock wallpaper, a black rubbery radiator, tiles on top of tiles, black painted hearth under the toilet, two layers of cork tiles under mock tile lino and a filthy toilet.

bathroom before 1bathroom before 2We were the first people to live in our Highbury flat, so the bathroom
was always clean and well maintained. But when we moved into our new house we realised how grubby the bathroom was. No amount of scrubbing, bleach and toilet cleaner was going to leave it fresh and sparkling. Everything had to go.

Our plan: to create a simple, modern and light bathroom. 

I had been curating a Pinterest board of inspiration (see below) for some months and we had lots of ideas of what we wanted. But there was a long list of stuff to do to get to that. We had to have:

  • the ceiling brought down and a new one put up
  • two layers of tiles removed
  • three layers of flooring removed
  • the door removed
  • the bath, sink and toilet removed
  • the tiled concrete hearth under toilet removed
  • all plaster board replaced and walls and ceiling skimmed
  • pipes moved
  • a new boiler installed
  • a new electrics board put in
  • new lights and fan installed
  • new shower, toilet, sink and heated towel rail installed
  • new tiling done
  • a boiler housing and cupboard made
  • new flooring laid
  • new door hung
  • new accessories

Although we did have to endure several days of no ceiling (and thus regular showers of dust and dirt falling on us), a night without any hot water, several days with a toilet that could only be flushed with a bucket of water and a few days of no shower, luckily Jeffrey and I were in Cannes for our friends’ wonderful Anglo-French wedding for much of the messy work.

It has been quite a slow process getting it all done. The finished product? Well, see for yourself.

We decided against getting a bath – shock horror – and plumped for a nice large walk-in shower with drench and movable shower heads, large off-set rectangular white gloss tiles, a wonderful grey rubber floor, a simple white suite and a homemade (by me) roman blind.  We also bought a new Victorian style door to replace the 1960s monstrosity that was there before (sadly we couldn’t find an original reclaimed door at the salvage yard) and got the new boiler boxed in with storage by a carpenter. You can see a full list of items, at the end of this post.

There are a few elements still to be finished – a picture above the toilet and a small bit of boxing in of toilet pipes, for example – but we’re pretty much there. And we’re very happy with it.

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New clothes for me

The last time I blogged about anything I made for myself, was way back in April 2013 when I shared this new dress.

Since then I have done a few bits of sewing – mostly girls’ dresses, tote bags, infinity scarves and zip pouches (which, consequently I haven’t shared on here – d’oh). But this year I found a renewed desire to get making for myself.

So here are three things I’ve made for myself:

A little African print jacket

I love this fabric, so decided to make a simple little item using just three sections and some navy cotton facing. I rustled this up in under 2 hours.

photo (31)

 

 

 

 

 

Another shift dress

Perhaps no surprises here. Yes, it’s another shift dress.

image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A maxi

What’s that? Another purple and turquoise dress? Who’d have thought it?

This time it’s a maxi which I made specifically for two occasions: 1) the April Mouse-X premier which the hubby and I helped crowdfund, and 2) my lovely friend Emma’s wedding to Stephane in Grasse on the Côte d’Azur in May. I made this using my wonderful 30th birthday present from my husband – a Supafit dress form (best dress making accessory ever!)

maxi

image (1)

 

 


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New home: a few photos

Knitting and sewing has taken a bit of a back seat of late as we think about (and start work on) our new home. But the creativity has just been redirected.

Back in February I shared pictures of our sewing/spare room that we decorated almost as soon as we moved in. It’s proving delightful – cosy and practical – with lovely peaceful views of East London flight paths and sunsets that the hubby and I find ourselves frequently admiring.

Things have slowed quite somewhat after the loft decorating. We have plans to knock out a few walls and do a new extension for a kitchen/living space, but a dodgy structural engineer put a few hurdles in the way (subsequently, we can tell you who to use and who to avoid if you’re looking for London Structural Engineer recommendations!). But it hasn’t completely halted and we have made some progress (more on the in a future post).

But first, I thought I would share some images of our new home – a 1902 early Edwardian terrace in Walthamstow, East London – from when we moved in back in December.

Bear in mind, this is how we’ve set things up to make it as homely as possible until we tackle the decor, which isn’t at all what we would go for. But these things take time.

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