Want It Done By Christmas?

On a recent site visit to a prospective client, who wanted a quote for their kitchen and bathroom installation, my husband who runs Random Task Plumbing asked what they were having and did they have any plans he could see. The client didn’t know what they wanted, other than for all the works to be completed by mid December, in time for Christmas. Bearing in mind that the client hadn’t yet exchanged contracts on the property and presently lived in another part of the country.

Firstly, a detailed quote is impossible to give if you only have a rough idea of what you want, or don’t know what you want at all. Also any tradesperson worth their salt, will have at least a 2 to 3 month lead time, especially leading up to Christmas. Whilst basic help and advice can be given to guide clients regarding types of showers suitable for their water systems and the feasibility  to move the loo to a different location (soil stacks are often forgotten by clients) and draw a scaled plan, most small tradespeople don’t have the time to offer a detailed design consultancy. The fixtures, fittings and finishings have to be chosen by you, the client. After all it’s your bathroom, kitchen etc. and it’s imperative that you love the finished results, it’s your home.

Bathroom Moodboard by designbykaty.com

Detailed Bathroom Moodboard by Designsbykaty.com

So before calling a tradespersons to quote, take time over your plans, keep revisiting them and show them to other people. Think about how you will use the space and how you want it to make you feel. If this is difficult for you, then an Interior Design consultancy is invaluable. For as little as £95.00 a design consultancy could save you a lot of time and possibly money too. Good interior design is about planning, not just about carefully coordinated fabric and paint swatches. This consultancy maybe all you need to set you off to implement yourself. If you require more help tailored to your specific needs, these can be accommodated too, regardless of budget. Of course everyone has budget.

First floor plans of a four bedroom house

You don’t need such detailed drawings unless major renovations are planned.

Interior Designers use local trade, craftspeople and suppliers and only recommend those whose work and people they trust. When deciding, look at reviews, ask to see previous completed work. Personality compatibility also is valuable – can you work with them?

I understand that you want everything ‘done’ and perfect for Christmas, but be realistic with your time scales. Even when you’ve decided on your plans, fixtures, fittings etc. There are supplier lead times to consider too. The last thing you want is a half-finished job over the festive season, especially if planning to have guests.

assembled cupboard carcass's

Kitchen install in progress not what you want at Christmas

After - Kitchen with island and glass partition wall and door to hall.

After – Kitchen with glass partition and door to hall

Once you have detailed plans, you can then invite local tradespeople to quote and provide approximate dates of availability. They will all be able to quote ‘from the same song sheet’, which makes price comparisons clearer. However, remember that cheaper isn’t always better, you often get what you pay for. Allow for a lead time on quotes being received too.

Tiling in progress in shower en-suite shower area

A half finished guest en-suite – not what you want when having guests

Completed Guest En- Suite

Completed Guest En- Suite

Plan the work in stages – what can be implemented and finished by your self-imposed Christmas deadline? Is this in the correct order of your work schedule? If so, fine. If not, then it’s far more beneficial to be patient and schedule the works for early in the New Year, thus eleviating the extra stress of Christmas and giving your home the consideration it deserves.

There’s  always next Christmas!


Which Decade Does Your Home Reflect?

Did you move into your present home some years ago, decorating and furnishing it up to date fixtures, fittings with enthusiasm and sat back and enjoyed since? How many years ago?

Now, sit back, look at your home objectively – is it looking ‘tired’ a little worse for wear? Does it look slightly ‘dated’? Be honest. It’s easy to settle into a comfortable living way of life. You’ve modernised, decorated and furnished it all once, why do it again? Because it ages you, puts you right into a certain decade, which decade is your home from? So unless you are deliberately trying to recreate a certain era or decade in your home, visit http://www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/  it needs changing.

Alms House Interior Geffrye Museum

Alms House Interior Geffrye Museum

Inspiration and ideas from previous decades can successfully be incorporated into present interiors and are often used as research for paint, paper and fabric design companies. Morris and Co https://www.william-morris.co.uk/shop/new-collections/

Morris and Co New Collection

Inspiration from the past. Morris and Co

In the late 70’s and early 80’s the trend was for stripped pine. Antique pieces are still acceptable, (however, the Victorians would never have had their cheap pine furniture on show, and it would have been painted or stained to look like mahogany or hidden below stairs). The more modern pine pieces – I use this term loosely, turn an orange colour over time and not only look awful but are dated. Same is to be said of heavy dark furniture popular from the Victorians to the 1940’s.

Before and after painted pine funiture

Update your existing furniture with paint.Image sweetsmith.com


Before discarding the usually well made, real wood furniture for flat pack modern pieces, consider updating your existing furniture with paint – unless of course you have a budget for a better quality product. Furniture can be transformed with paint. Do check though before painting, that the item of furniture is not a valuable piece.


Kitchens are a huge investment and if yours is well planned and works well  few changes to update it maybe all that it requires.

Doors- Again these can be painted and swap the handles and knobs with new ones.

Work Tops – Replace with new to blend in with your new door fronts.

Splash Backs – Remove the tiles if they are from a decade you wish to move on from, and replace with specialist glass or a contemporary tile design.

Flooring – Perhaps lay new vinyl if the existing is worn, with an up to date design to compliment the other changes made. If floor tiles are dated, remove them and lay new. This is more expensive and more difficult if they are laid under the existing fitted cabinets. Never lay tiles over tiles, you’re asking for trouble with cracking and movement. If the tiles are acceptable, and you wish to keep them, choose cabinet and work top colours to compliment the floor. Using specialist floor paint is also an option, can work well if done properly. Hang a new blind, and add some fresh accessories and tea towels.

Walls- Unless you live in a beautiful Victorian house wall paper borders are a no, no. So are dado and picture rails stained a mahogany colour. This is another 80’s hangover.

Image example of dado rail in period home

Painted dado and picture rails in a period home Image Pinterest

Decoration – If you love your paintings, pictures and prints try re framing them. The difference in using a double mount and new frame will not only enhance the art work but also your room. Hang pictures in groups either by subject matter or in matching frames for an eye catching display. Do not hang them as in the 70’s in a triangular mode across the wall, or too high.

Flooring – No swirly carpets – sorry. People use this description when describing a house in need of an update ‘All swirly  carpets’ and people understand what the house is like, dated. Swirly carpets can also compete with the rest of the furnishings.

West Indian Front Room

Everything is competing with each other Image by Studio International.com

Have you got wood underneath  the existing carpet that is worth exposing, then lay a   large rug for warmth in colours to complement your other furnishings? If carpet is preferred a plain neutral carpet usually works best in the majority of standard size homes as it makes the rooms appear larger.

Lighting– It’s fine if you live in a period property or re- creating a particular decade style because you like it, otherwise try changing the shades and lamps to a more contemporary style. Florescent strips in the kitchen offer great light, but its unforgiving and provides little ambience. Try changing the strip to a budget friendly track system. The adjustability of the spots makes it easy to aim the light where its most needed.

Now get into a decade where you and your home belong be it traditional, classic or contemporary.

Bathrooms can be more tricky to update without major work. However, if the layout works well, update with new tiles and flooring. Ditch the carpet for a start! It’s a far better job if the old tiles are removed prior to laying new, especially when tiling down to a bath, basin and shower. However if you have a plaster board wall, this may come away with the old tiles in places, which will need to be repaired before tiling. This is not a quick update job. If storage is a problem, try replacing your pedestal basin with a vanity unit and basin, and add a mirrored cabinet above it. Hang a new blind and add new towels to compliment the room.

Now which decade does your home reflect?

Images from annesage.com, hative, HousetoHome,Geffrye Museum,Little Greene Paint






Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House (16) On The Tiles

1930's inspired bathroom from Fired Earth http://www.firedearth.com/tiles/range/cinema/suitability/wall-bathrooms/page/2/mode/grid

1930’s inspired bathroom from Fired Earth http://www.firedearth.com/tiles/range/cinema/suitability/wall-bathrooms/page/2/mode/grid

Some weeks, despite the flurry of activity progress appears to be slow. The preparation, planning and installation of the drainage system and bathrooms are all necessary, but not much visually to show for efforts made. It’s the big things which offer the impact and excitement. However, they’re all necessary in the bigger picture, and will save time in the long run.

The bathroom and en- suites have been plumbed in dry. This means without being connected to the water supply. Although the boiler/ plant room is now under construction we still only have the outside mains to work from. So we all have to continue to use the hired portaloo and get water from various hosepipes being used around the site. It can be time consuming trying to fill the kettle! These rooms have been tiled and all fitted with sanitary ware. I had wanted to have metro or subway tiles to full height in the family bathroom, with a black mosaic border. However, the time to plan, cut and lay these tiles brick style is considerably longer than other tiles, thus adding to the cost. (Laying porcelain tiles is more expensive than ceramic due to the extra time required for cutting and drilling). I achieved a similar look for less cost by buying larger rectangular tiles to be laid brick style. I used white grout, but grey would also work well.

Choosing tiles can be difficult with the vast choice available. Try and have an idea of the sort of colour and design you prefer, and of course budget, prior to visiting tile showrooms. Look for ideas in magazines, and think about how you would like the tiles laid, portrait, landscape or herringbone.  Porcelain  tiles are stronger, take longer to lay and are more expensive to buy, but better quality.  Ceramic tiles tend to be cheaper, and are easier to cut and lay. Marble and natural stone is a classic and popular choice, but expensive and can require sealing after laying. Large tile warehouses offering  discounts may not be offering the best deals, or value for money, so shop around. Specialist tile companies may offer better deals, discontinued or end of lines in sales, but do ensure you buy sufficient for your needs by adding 10% extra for cutting and possible wastage. There’s nothing worse than running out before finishing the job and having to hunt to find more tiles. Also ensure that the tiles are the same size and depth. Crazy as this sounds tiles are not always uniform, which can cause difficulty in laying. Choose a grout to enhance the tiles. There are many grout colours available, and having a colour other than white in a shower may save time in cleaning the pink discolouration which occurs from shampoo and body wash. If you have a stud wall, you maybe able to build in a recess to house toiletries, thus avoiding chrome storage, which are susceptible to rusting.

The flooring can be anything so long as it’s waterproof. Tiles are durable, but choose a non slip surface. Under floor heating laid prior to the tiles, either piped ( only in new laid screed floors) or an electric matting system, gives warmth. Electric matting is independently switched to provide heat even without the central heating on. You have to register your system with the manufacture after installation.

Vinyl is easy to lay and warm underfoot, without the need for extra heating. Amtico  http://www.amtico.com/ or Karndean   http://www.karndean.com/en-gb/floors are more expensive but equally durable. Waterproof laminates are another option, they are also available is a wide range of designs and colours.I opted for a good quality vinyl, which I ordered a few weeks before needing it. The plan being it would arrive when the bathroom installations were finished. I went to collect my order, but discovered the shop had only ordered one and not three. I had to reorder the other two again. The shop, although apologetic couldn’t explain what had happened. The flooring had been on sale when I originally ordered, but was no longer on sale. The shop were going to charge me full price, until I pointed out how unfair this would be. However, they refused to waiver the extra charge for my express delivery! I will go elsewhere for my carpets I think.

The side plant room went up very quickly, once the foundation depths had been agreed. The plans stated a depth of  2.8 meters, but we couldn’t get a digger in the space to dig out the required depth. It would take a long time to manually dig a trench this deep. The engineer had stated these depths due to next doors fir tree. After emails, calculations and liaising with Building Control it was agreed to lay a concrete slab and then beam and block the floor. The  roof was felt and battened to make water tight, and the new back door installed. Our roofer then went on holiday, so we were unable to finish the roof at this point. This did not hinder progress though, we could now install the mega flow and boiler and connect to the heating and domestic plumbing. Now having plumbed in dry, it’s very stressful when the water is connected, as a leak could occur anywhere in the house. A lot of people were running all over the house looking for potential problems. There was one small leak, which was rectified quickly. We now have working inside taps and flushing toilets – luxury.

The roof on the garage has been built and the porch erected, both being felt and battened in readiness for the roofers return. This means, in theory that all the rooves can be completed in a few days.