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!

 

Adding Character to Your Home

 

Inject your personality, style and soul into your home and garden, not by sourcing everything from one high street shop. Your home will end up looking like a show home, far too contrived and bland. Whether you’re preferred taste is Retro, Shabby Chic, Vintage, Industrial, contemporary or even a mixture of styles creating an eclectic, individual home. By mixing it up a bit you’re creating a home which reflects you, and enhances your home. Take time to enjoy gathering ‘loved’ items. Homes and gardens evolve over time.

Selection of elecltic Interiors for every room

Eclectic interior ideas

If you’re looking for an unusual or particular item of furniture, lighting or accessories to add personality to your home or garden, the Three Wise Monkeys a vintage and arts emporium at The Saddlery, Woodcock Hill, St Albans AL4 9HJ   https://threewisemonkeysemporium.wordpress.com/ is the place to visit. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10 am to 4 pm and Sunday 11am to 4 pm. Enjoy a morning coffee, a light lunch or afternoon tea in the newly opened vintage tea room and have a wander around two floors, packed with unusual items. Some will revoke memories of childhood ( scary, as some of us realize that we, too are vintage!), and some made by local artisans and crafts people, and a florist too, Flowers by Catherine.

 

A few pieces of furniture have been ‘upcycled’ into bespoke one-off  items, which could transform a room. Images show pieces by Carmel of Piece Unique and by me Sarah Maidment Interiors. We both take commissions  if you have your own item of furniture which you’d like customising.

 

You will also find Kelim rugs, cushions, and  stools and chairs upholstered in gorgeous Kelim rugs from Rug Addiction https://www.rugaddiction.co.uk/ . Other chairs re-upholstered, homemade cushions and artwork to grace your walls.

Kelim rugs, cushions and upholstered furniture

An array of Kelim rugs, cushions and upholstered furniture by Rug Addiction

If vintage clothing is your passion, Little Viking  https://www.littlevikingvintage.com have an array of dresses, jackets, shoes and bags for all. ‘Oh Sew Vintage’ for handmade dresses for all occasions.

 

You will also find every conceivable Doc Martin design boot you could ever wish for.

Selection of Doc Martin Boots, vintage heaters and lamp

Doc Martin boots, vintage heaters and lighting

Vintage books, comics, and  postcards can be found for collectors and unusual hand-made jewellery by local artisans.

 

Modern works of art and photography adorn the walls. This stunning picture of Nelson Mandela (below) taken by the photographer Greg Bartley would look amazing gracing the wall of a large room.

 

Limited edition framed photograph of Nelson Mandela by Greg Bartley

Visually stunning photograph of Nelson Mandela by Greg Bartley

IMG_6804Come and say ‘hello’ and meet Colin the resident ‘horse’ .

Fake horse called Colin

Colin, a reminder of the barns former life as a saddlery and stables

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House Before and After Pictures

I have now compiled ‘before and after’ pictures, with the occasional ‘during’ photo (remember it always gets worse before it gets better) which I hope you’ll enjoy and give you momentum to commence or  finish your projects.

The renovation and restoration of a 1930’s house is finished! Are you ever finished in a home? Probably not.

Front Elevation

Before – Sad and neglected                                        After – Restored and extended

Hall

Before - The original 1930s' entrance hall prior to renovations.

Before – The original front entrance hall prior to renovations.

Original 1930's entrance hall

Before – The original hall was dark and poky.

Acro props before steel beam is installed

During an internal hall wall removal.

 

After - The finished entrance hall in a 1930's house

After – The completed entrance hall

Sitting Room

Before - The sitting room with the original 1930's brick fireplace.

Before – The sitting room with the original 1930s’ brick fireplace.

After - The original 1930's brick fireplace cleaned up

After – The original 1930’s brick fireplace was retained, so too were the original Crittal French doors.

Before Original 1930's sitting room complete with Crittal French doors and brick fireplace

Before – A 1930’s sitting room with original Crittal French doors and brick fireplace.

Kitchen

Before - The original 1930's dining room

Before – The original 1930’s dining room

During - The wall dividing the kitchen and dining room has been removed.

The dividing wall between the kitchen and dining room has been removed, to be re-positioned.

After - the completed new kitchen

After – The completed kitchen

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

After – Kitchen with glass partition and door to hall. Original servants bell box is re-hung – shame no staff though!

Open plan kitchen/diner/day room with bi-fold doors onto garden.

View into dining/ day room area from kitchen

Before- original 1930s' dining room

Before- the original dining room prior extension and renovation work – damp wall is now where clock is hung.

Living Room

Rear Footings 3rd feb 2015

Before – Laying the foundations

Painted Stove and Fireplace

During – Marking the wall for the multi-fuel stove

Trescotte Sitting Room Afer 073

After – The finished sitting room

Family Bathroom

Before- A tired and dated bedroom                         After – A family bathroom

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom during construction

The first fix electrics in the master bedroom

After - Large master bedroom with Heals four poster bed

After – The finished master bedroom

master bedroom with four poster bed from Heals

After – The large master bedroom complete with a four-poster bed from Heals.

The Loo

Before with original cistern          After – Re-sited and restored cistern

Guest Bedroom

Originally a landing with airing cupboard, bathroom with separate loo. Now a guest bedroom, painted in ‘Setting Plaster’ Farrow and Ball http://www.farrow-ball.com/setting%20plaster/colours/farrow-ball/fcp-product/100231

Rear Elevation

Before – An overgrown garden                           Waiting to mature!

However carefully one plans either a renovation or restoration project, it rarely comes in on budget – it’s usually over budget. This is not just because of unforeseen problems like discovering structural problems once the work has commenced, it can due to adding a few extra plug sockets here and there (it all adds up) or choosing high specification kitchen, bathrooms and fittings. Usually it’s because we’ve under estimated the basic build/renovation costs – raw materials labour plus VAT.  Comparing your projected budget spread sheet to the actual costs spreadsheet, helps analyse where you under budgeted or over spent.

Did we go over budget? Yes, we knew we’d go over budget when we decided to install the Sonas system. However, the original quote was less than the final invoice due to the time-lapse between the first fix and completion – the labour and equipment had increased in price. The quote was valid for 30 days only, lesson learned.  The building material costs were higher too, despite having a breakdown of these costs from the supplier which our budget spreadsheet was based upon. Generally, the majority of people under-estimate their expenditure.

With the uncertainty of property the market, and the impact Brexit may have, many home owners are opting to improve their current home instead of moving. Having had nearly forty years experience in renovating properties, although home values may dip from time to time, they always go up, and on the whole a good investment.

If you think I can be of benefit to you and your project, whether big or small just contact me.

Floor tiles on cloakroom floor     http://www.firedearth.com/tiles/range/patisserie/sucre-1 and entrance floor  http://www.firedearth.com/tiles/range/casino-floor/mode/grid

Artwork by Kim Major George  http://www.majorgeorge.co.uk/

 

 

How to Update a Lamp Base with Gilding

Silver gilded lamp base

Sometimes when we newly decorate a room, some of our existing furniture, furnishings and accessories we want to re-use don’t quite fit in with the new scheme and décor. Gilding is an alternative to painting or purchasing new items. It works well on mirror and picture frames, candlesticks and furniture.With larger items like furniture, work on one manageable area at a time.

Although an acceptable finish, these lamp bases did not blend in with their intended new position .

Here is a quick step by step guide should you want to give it a go yourself.

Materials

Gilding paper

Gold Size

Annie Sloan dark wax

White spirit

Tools

Small paint brush

Small firm bristled brush ( artists)

Lint free cloth

Instructions

  1. With the small paint brush, ‘paint’ the gold size over the lamp base ( if doing more than one item, do one at a time otherwise the ‘size’ will dry too much, as it acts like glue) to the areas you want gilding. The size will appear white, and when ready to use will appear clear.
Gold size brushed onto lamp base

Gold size brushed onto lamp base

  1. Taking one sheet of gilding paper at a time, silver or gold side down onto the surface and dab and brush gently onto the backing paper. The gilding will stick to the size.
Brushing gilding onto lamp base

Gently brush the gilding onto the size

  1. Gently lift the paper, and move onto the next area which needs gilding. Don’t worry if the silver or gold tears or breaks as this will give a slightly distressed and worn appearance, adding interest. Continue until all the gilding has been applied to the areas you want to gild. Leave to dry.
  1. If gilding more than one item, repeat the above process.
  2. If you want a bright shiny finish to the lamp bases, ( or item being gilded) apply clear wax to seal it.
  3. If an ‘aged’ or ‘antiqued’ finish is required mix a little Annie Sloan dark wax with a small amount of white spirit in a plastic bowl to form a soft malleable wax which can be brushed easily with a small paint brush, and apply over the lamp base.
  1. After a couple of minutes, with a small lint free cloth gently wipe off the excess wax solution. The dark wax should be in any grooves or details and a toned down silver or gold with an ‘aged’ patina on the smoother surfaces.
  1. Leave to dry and fit with shades.

Shade from IKEA  http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/search/?k=OLLSTA%20shade%20grey

If you intend to use an IKEA lampshade, and a non IKEA lamp base, ensure that the lampshde comes with a metal adaptor ring. The ring sits on top of the lamp base with the shade on top, and prevents the shade being wobbly.

Gilded detail to draw edges

Gilding on draw edges to add interest. Www.sminteriors.co.uk

Bespoke vintage gilded furniture from Piece Unique http://pieceunique.co.uk/PUGallery.asp

Sideboard completely gilded

A gilded sideboard by Piece Unique

https://www.anniesloan.com/annie-sloan-products/annie-sloan-waxes-and-finishes/metal-leaf-booklets-transfer.html

Gilding papers by Annie Sloan

Gilding papers by Annie Sloan

Old House, New Home. What’s Your Next Move?

Renovation, restoring, extending, decorating of tired old houses is a passion for some, a nightmare for others. It’s not for the faint-hearted, and am I’m currently enjoying Old House New Home on Chanel 4 http://www.channel4.com/programmes/george-clarkes-old-house-new-home. The joy and sense of achievement after all your hard work ( and cash) when it’s finished for you to enjoy and live your life is a celebration indeed.  For some it’s a way onto the property ladder or an upgrade to a larger home, hoping for a cheaper purchase price, which will increase in value when completed – hopefully worth more than they’ve spent, and to live and enjoy their old house, new home. Some lenders will require the house to be habitable though, insisting on there being a bathroom and kitchen.

Of course there is always competition, winning these properties from other like minded people or property developers and builders. The latter looking for pure profit of course, and may renovate as quickly and cheaply as possible for a quick return. If the plot is large enough a developer is likely to demolish the existing house and build a larger one, two or possibly more (subject to planning consents).The latter option is not so easy for non builders or developers due to mortgage restrictions although there are some specialist companies who offer this type of lending, and information can be found on  http://www.buildstore.co.uk/   I personally dislike the waste of demolishing a structurally sound house, requiring work, but see the attraction on saving 20% on the VAT bill. It’s also not very green or ‘eco’, unless replacing with an ‘eco’ ‘passive’ house.

Extending our existing homes if possible has become more popular due to the high cost of moving – stamp duty, legal and agents fees, plus the extra on the purchase price for that extra bedroom, living space or bathroom.

Whichever way you decide to move, renovation project or extending, the ordinary home owner has a distinct disadvantage  – VAT. 20% is a high proportion of the budget.(Barn conversions and some renovation projects and building your own home are zero rated).  VAT is on fixtures, fittings and labour charges. If a dwelling has been empty for longer than two years or more you may be illegible for a reduced rate of 5%. For details go to https://www.homebuilding.co.uk/ To encourage and help ordinary folk, the Government should lower the VAT threshold on renovation projects. It’s greener too. Years ago, grants were available to help fund bathroom installations (if there wasn’t an inside bathroom), damp and woodworm treatments. Alas this help has long gone. Wouldn’t it be helpful to bring funding back for essentials, subject to certain criteria – income and length of residency, perhaps to assist those on lower incomes make a home of their own?

With the housing crisis, and lack of affordable homes especially in certain areas, a lot of young people with the dream of owning their own home is just that, a dream, despite working hard. There are Government schemes – Help to Buy ISA where the Government will top up your savings by 23% (up to £3000.00). The drawback being that the house you buy must have a purchase price of up to £250,00 .(up to £450,000 in London). Mmn. Try finding a house in the home counties for that price. The Help to Buy Mortgage Guarantee is a better deal, it lets you buy a home with a 5% deposit. The guarantee is to the mortgage provider, not you as a buyer. The purchase price is up to £600,00, which is more realistic in the high priced London area. However, you still have to prove you can afford to make the repayments of course, and with the average living salary, its still a tough call.

Hard earned cash pays their rent, living expenses and student loans, with little left to save for their deposit. House sharing in your twenties is not the same when in your thirties, especially if you want a family. This is now a major decision factor too, maybe putting your life ‘on hold’. You can’t make the home your own either, due to tenancy agreement restrictions.  Are we regressing to earlier decades, when complete families lived in a few rooms in a house shared with others? In 1918 the majority of households in England and Wales were rented, with just 1% socially, rising to 31% in 1981. Today the highest percentage of renters is in London, along with the highest property prices.

The newly built starter homes on big estates are, in some cases, poorly designed and cheaply built, with little more than a ‘postage stamp’ for a rear garden. There are great architects who could design  well planned homes, which could adapt to the changing needs of the occupants over the years  to extend if need be, i.e. the option for a loft conversion. The ‘Lifetime Homes’ concept was developed in the early 1990s’ by a group of experts including Habinteg Housing Association and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to design homes to support the changing needs of the individuals and families at different stages of their lives. From raising children, coping with illness or reduced mobility.    http://www.lifetimehomes.org.uk/pages/revised-design-criteria.html

Shelter are currently running a campaign to celebrate 50 years, called ‘What does home mean to you? https://england.shelter.org.uk/ to raise funds and awareness of the housing crisis. So what does home mean to you?

House plan found on Google search, unfortunately without reference to the designer, for accreditation.

 

 

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House – As the Dust Settles

As extensions begin to settle, and fresh plaster dries out, cracks annoyingly appear in your newly painted rooms and skirting boards will move slightly. One of the most time consuming things on a major renovation project is the snagging. How often have you gone round the house with a bowl of mixed filler, filling in accidental knocks (leave settlement cracks alone for at least six months – they will return or get bigger) odd scratches and holes, to find you’ve mixed up far too much filler. You dispose of the excess filler, only to discover more holes! These of course have to be sanded smooth and touched in with a little matching paint. We have an assortment of paint pots, brushes, filler and sandpaper stacked in one room specifically for this purpose. I will be very glad when these can be stored on shelves in the garage. It’s a good idea to keep the paint used in case of small minor repairs required at a later date.

Snagging goes hand in hand with what I term as ‘The Builders’ Clean’. This is a mega clean. Paint splashes on windows, doors and frames need to be removed with either a small amount of solvent (if UVPC frames) and scraped gently off glass with a razor blade to avoid scratching the glass. This is prior to actually cleaning the windows. The dust will continue to settle and reappear despite your best efforts for some time. However, it’s surprising what a huge improvement these small repairs and cleaning make to the finished house – it actually looks finished.

It wasn't as bad as Miss Havisham's house in Great Expectations

Too be honest, it wasn’t as bad a this!

Finally, we were ready to lay the carpets to the first floor bedrooms, landing and stairs. I chose a plain grey carpet for all these spaces, creating a cohesive look. Grey is a wonderful neutral colour which can be teamed successfully with many other colours, which enables individual character and style for each room. Once the carpets go down, you really feel that the house is almost finished. I was also very pleased to see the back of the dusty floorboards (despite the repeated vacuuming) and noisy stairs. The carpet came from a nationwide carpet shop, who use subcontract fitters. Although we had quite a large area requiring new gripper, underlay and carpet fitting, the rooms were void of furniture, so it made the job a lot easier and quicker. However, I was disappointed to discover that the fitters don’t dispose of the waste and cut offs. They simply bag it up for the customer to dispose of. I have a skip, but what about everyone else? Another trip to the tidy tip? It would be even worse if you had old carpets to remove prior to fitting the new.

The rooms looked much better having carpet, and would have looked amazing if the fitters had bothered to vacuum the carpets before rushing off. There was fluff everywhere, which was also floating around as ‘tumble weed’ downstairs. What happened to pride in your job, leaving looking as best you can? As I was vacuuming the carpet, I noticed in several places that the paint on the skirting board had been damaged by the carpet fitter’s tools. More snagging!

The Sonos System has been connected to the speakers – we have music! Needless to say that my husband and son have enjoyed ‘playing’ with the radio and music selections in different rooms. We have had to have boosters fitted in a few rooms though, due to the poor broad band service speeds available. BT are currently advertising fibre optic service on the television. Why are they advertising a service which is unavailable to so many people?

I have recently received a letter from the local council notifying me that I’m now liable for the Empty Home Council Tax Premium. The council explained that it is one of their priorities to increase the amount of available and affordable housing in the borough. Councillors have introduced this council tax premium for properties which have been unoccupied and unfurnished for two years or more to encourage empty homes back into use. They didn’t specify exactly how much more I had to pay, only that the increased charge would be 150% of full council tax for the property.

The house, when purchased was uninhabitable, and we received six months levy on council tax charges. During this time we had plans drawn up and submitted to the local council for planning permission (permission took twelve weeks) then we had to submit drawings to building control, which took another month, all before we could actually commence work, which took another six months before being habitable – just, (although not finished). Since the initial six month levy period, we have been paying the full council tax charges, despite being unable to move into the house, not until my present house has sold. I can understand and appreciate the councils intentions of encouraging occupancy of empty homes due to the housing shortage, but not all circumstances are the same. The extra council tax was certainly not in our budget or even contingency. Allow for it in your project!

image

Useful category for filing purposes

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House – The Great Interior Design Challenges

Buffering Symbol

Buffering – When will it end?

The image above via Google search is not of my new induction hob, but the infuriating buffering symbol we’re all familiar with.

The Open Reach engineer arrived on a re-scheduled appointment and connected the land line and internet connection. I explained my dilemma of broadband speed availability to service my requirements. He carried out a speed test for me – 1.70Mb. (However this was near the server, and my house has a lot of steel in it which does not help either). He explained that our connection came from the exchange which was 3500 metres away from my house. This connection has no fibre optic. There is a junction box cabinet 2000 metres from my home which does have fibre optic, which ideally I should be connected to. Unfortunately B.T. have not put in enough lines in to the junction cabinet to service everyone, and until they do we have to settle for poor service. So whichever service provider you choose, the internet speed will not be any faster.  Gigaclear an internet provider was awarded a £10m contract last year. This is the first time a company other than BT has been awarded funds from the “superfast extension programme”, which is cash from central and local government, overseen by the government’s Broadband Delivery UK. It’s time for  BT not to have the monopoly.  The village isn’t particularly rural either, and know that some towns have the same problem. It’s not just for entertainment value either, many people are working from home and a good service is a necessity. Interestingly, on Right Move http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale.html or Zoopla   http://www.zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/  the internet speed availability is stated on the listed properties and I have heard of cases whereby potential buyers were put off a property purely by the broad band speed, as this is a necessity to them. However, the company Right Move and Zoopla use for their broadband speed information is not always correct, so do your own research, and don’t be put off by a properties speed as listed on these sites.

I’m all for up-cycling, re-cycling and re-purposing furniture and objects where possible, and enjoyed watching   The Great Interior Design Challenge    http://www.sophieanddaniel.com/          http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04nj4d5/episodes/guide    re-purpose items given as part of the challenge to incorporate in their rooms. I was given a collection of odd items of furniture from a friend’s garage – a wooden bed head, metal bed parts and a small table. I discussed various options with my carpenter Tom, and to ensure that I wasn’t dismantling furniture of any value to incorporate into the boot room – shelf, boot storage and coat hangers and hooks.

image

Bed head, and tables prior to re-purposing

A bracket for the shelf was made from the metal bed frame, a carved detailed piece of wood was used for the hooks to hang from. The table top and bed head have been re -designed for boot and shoe storage.

I bought a dressing table from my friend too, who was slowly clearing out her old family home. A mahogany veneer with a swivel mirror, glass top, original Bakelite knobs and carved detailing. There was a little damage in places caused by years of use. This type of furniture is currently out of vogue and therefore no one wants them. I needed a dressing table for the master bedroom, so painted the dressing table (including drawer interiors) with Annie Sloan ‘Paris Grey’ Chalk Paint.       http://www.anniesloan.com/annie-sloan-products/paints/chalk-paint.html   To enhance the carved detailing I applied a coat of dark wax diluted with a little white spirit, wiping away the excess. This also gave the dressing table the appearance of ‘antiqued’ or ‘aged’. The Bakelite knobs were put back on, and I now have a bespoke item of furniture. So glad this didn’t end up in landfill!

We found rolls of fabric in a cupboard, one of which was still wrapped the original paper, complete with sales label. Un- rolled, the fabric by Sanderson, who are celebrating 150 years this year.     https://www.sanderson-uk.com/shop/fabric/?act=ssocomplete    is still as good as new.  We still have the whole nine yards! The design is very 60’s/70’s and can’t presently find anywhere to reuse it. I’m open to offers!

 

We also discovered about two yards of 1970’s cotton dress fabric – cushion covers perhaps?