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!


Larders and Pantries

Walk in pantry with shelves and storage jars

A walk in pantry

Do you member a walk in cupboard in the corner of a kitchen with shelves for foods stuffs – the larder? Perhaps jars of conserves, a basket with fresh vegetables, meats and dairy produce and perhaps cakes too? In larger family homes there were large walk in pantries with stone or concrete counter tops, with shelves above. In some cases a sink too. These would be positioned adjacent to the main kitchen of course, for easy access in the usually north facing (coldest) aspect of the house. These were the mainstay of homes prior to refrigerators and freezers where fresh produce was kept to keep cool and lengthen their shelf life.

In an Edwardian house, I once lived in, we had a cellar, complete with a built-in ‘food safe’ which had a sliding door with fly mesh. This was so useful, especially at Christmas to store the turkey and ham. It was also a great place in which to hide ( outside of Christmas) which my children did when playing hide and seek. Except that it was too good – their friends gave up looking!

Above are images of a Georgian pantry meat or food safe and housekeepers pantry at Number 1 Royal Crescent Bath.  http://no1royalcrescent.org.uk/

As sleek and modern kitchens were introduced, along with more affordable refrigeration and later the freezer, the larder in the corner of the kitchen became obsolete and was knocked out to make way for the state of the art kitchen.

There is however, a return to the larder and pantry idea, and being re-introduced in many new kitchen designs, due to popular demand. These range from large ‘larder cupboards’ either integrated or free-standing with bespoke shelves and drawers to enable easy access to foodstuffs all in one place, hidden behind bi-fold, fold away doors or a sliding tamber, instead of dotted around the kitchen in various cupboards. Breakfast or drinks ‘stations’ too have risen in popularity, whose designs are similar to that of a larder cupboard. A friend of mine had a tea and coffee larder cupboard installed on her landing, so guests could help themselves to an early morning cuppa and chat, freeing up her kitchen so she could prepare the breakfast.

If you’re lucky enough to have the space, walk in pantries with bespoke fittings are popular too. These pantries can also include a sink and dishwasher to keep the kitchen clear whilst entertaining. Some pantries include wine chiller cabinets and fridges too. Although ‘white goods’ appliances generate heat, in which case it would be wise to install an air conditioning unit.

Remember you don’t want to have to walk the equivalent of 2 miles when preparing a meal, so think carefully how and what you cook and the frequency you need certain items to hand on a daily basis. This focus’ the design on the interior of the pantry to your requirements. If you don’t have an adjacent room to the kitchen suitable, but your kitchen is large, you could partition and area specifically for a walk in. Or build a wall of cupboards with everything hidden behind doors when not in use.

A kitchen plan including walk in pantry design

A kitchen plan which includes a walk in pantry design

Consider your lighting and sockets positions if you want to keep your coffee machine and toaster in the cupboard, a breakfast station if you like. Narrow shelves for herbs and spices – easily retrievable whilst in the midst of cooking. If possible, a cold stone, or concrete counter top which is cold and easily cleaned. Do you want shelves for storage jars, and preserves, perhaps drawers for fresh produce or items not used very often including crockery and large platters? Tailor the design to suit your kitchen working and lifestyle.

Bespoke larder and pantry designs available from Plain English, DeVol, Neptune, Martin Moore to name but a few who have now introduced these designs.



Preparing Your Home For Selling

For Sale/Sold Sign by Zazzle

How long will it take to sell your home?

Spring is a popular time to market and hopefully sell properties, and once that decision has been made, you contact your local agent for a valuation. Agents valuations are based on similar properties to yours currently sold or for sale in the area.

Now, if you’ve lived in your home for many years maybe it  has become a little ‘tired’ or dated’, but would rather sell ‘as is’. Possibly at a lower selling price and taking longer to sell, rather than face doing any work, spending money, in the hope that a DIY enthusiast will see the potential and relish the challenge, some do, many people don’t see the potential or want to undertake the work.

You can ask your agent (if your home is tired or dated) for two valuations – ‘as is’ and ‘tidied up’. Depending on the individual agent, they may advise that it’s not worth spending any money or the effort, as the return will not out weigh the costs involved. Or they may be happy to advise on both scenarios. If the agent offers both marketing prices, you can work out your parameters of what you would be prepared or need to spend for the ‘added value’ and make an informed decision on whether you should implement the improvements or not.

Kitchens and bathrooms are two of the biggest influences on a sale. The view often being, don’t change it, as whoever moves in will rip it out and put in new. Possibly, either straight away, in time, or just don’t want the expense and hassle. Again, compare the ‘added’ value’ and costs, this will help you make your decision. Think about your target market: who is likely to want to buy your home? What will they be looking for?

Front path and door of Victorian house

Ensure the front of your home looks promising.

Whether or not you intend to carry out any updating, your home should still be prepared and ready to market for great photographs for the internet, brochures and actual viewings. Cleaning, especially bathrooms and kitchens, de clutter, windows should sparkle. De-personalise by packing away personal items (well you’re moving aren’t you?) so prospective purchasers can see how their belongings will fit in or not. Don’t be precious, be objective and try to see the house as a commodity rather than your home. If you find this difficult, ask friends ( however they may not be totally honest with you) Estate Agent or Home Staging Professional for their view and recommendations. Refresh garden containers with seasonal plants to brighten up dull corners of your outside space.

Case Study – Before and After of a ground floor flat which I completed last year for marketing and selling. The flat had become outdated and ‘tired’. This was the hardest job I think I’ve ever carried out, the flat had belonged to my dear mother.

The target market was an older individual or couple, perhaps downsizing or retiring, who would probably want to move straight in and not have any or very much to do.

Living Room

Working with a neutral palette to create a cohesive look in a small flat, all the rooms, including the paint work was painted the same colour. A new cream carpet was laid throughout. In the living room the 1960’s fire-place and surround was replaced with a smaller contemporary model. Although excess furniture and personal effects have been removed, we re-used some of the existing furniture and rearranged its layout.


Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the ‘before’, of the kitchen, but the units were dark brown wood, beige work top and beige speckled tiles with an occasional fruit or vegetable tile – a 1980’s throwback. The units were in good condition and the design layout worked ergonomically, it was just that it looked dated.  Painting the cabinets an off white, replacing the work top and changing the tiled splash back to white metro in brick style made the kitchen much brighter, more contemporary and up to date.

Guest Bedroom

The guest bedroom was originally very cramped and cluttered. By removing the shelves, wash basin and tiled splash back and a single bed more space was created. Freshly decorated walls and cupboards which were fitted with new knobs, and a new fitted carpet laid. Again,  some of the original furniture and accessories were re used during the bedroom re-design.

Main Bedroom

Main Bedroom. The textured wall paper was removed, and the walls and woodwork were repaired and freshly painted in the same colour as the rest of the flat. The curtains and track were removed, leaving just the blind. The  furniture layout was rearranged, excess furniture was removed, and some items from other rooms were introduced. A new carpet was laid.

Shower Room

Small shower room

Shower Room

Although this work was done prior to the staging of the flat, it would have been necessary to include refurbishing the bathroom. The original pink bathroom suite was replaced with a large 1200 mm walk in shower, with room for a stool if required. The walls were tiled to full height on all walls. A vanity basin provides storage.  Extra storage ( not seen) was provided by a tall cabinet. The adjacent toilet has the same wall tiles and an extra high toilet was installed.

By investing time and money the property increased in marketing value by £35,000 and sold very quickly. But do your own sums, it’s all in the numbers!

Images by Sarah Maidment Interiors, Sign by Zazzle, Front door by rhsblog.co.uk Pots by www.etthem.se

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


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.


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/



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






The Trouble With Paint……

The trouble with paint is that it doesn’t always do what it says on the tin!

I’m currently working on a kitchen makeover project. My client’s kitchen is basically sound, a good layout for working in, with plenty of storage, which my client uses to full capacity!  The kitchen was originally installed about twenty years ago and consisted of solid oak fronted cupboards and drawer fronts (now fairly dis-coloured), beige/cream wall tiles punctuated randomly with with tiles with pictures on them of onions and saucepans and the like. The worktop was a marbled effect Formica, which had seen much service. The walls were covered with a thick heavy duty anaglypta paper. The flooring is newly laid vinyl in a beige cream tiled pattern. Once the floor had been laid, my client had decided that the rest of the kitchen needed doing.

My brief was to update the kitchen on a very tight budget, with minimum disruption.

The most cost effective and least disruptive solution agreed upon was to paint all the cupboard door and drawers  with an off white specialist cupboard paint, strip the walls of anaglypta paper and painted Farrow and Ball ‘Archive’  to avoid the kitchen looking too cold (the room faces North) and clinical. The tiled splash backs to be replaced with an off white brick style tile and replace the worktop.

The men arrived on site and work commenced. The oak cupboard doors, plinths, kick-boards and shelves were washed down with sugar soap to remove any grease and oil, sanded down thoroughly and the dust removed. The first coat of the specialist ‘one coat cupboard paint’ was applied to the front of one door as a tester. One could clearly see that one coat would certainly not be enough to achieve the desired finish, and a second coat would be required. As this first coat of paint dried, it began to ripple, resembling a distressed paint effect; great if this is what you wanted, but not in this case.

Two solutions were discussed to rectify the problem. Firstly as the cupboards are solid oak they could be given a ‘limed oak’ paint finish using an eggshell paint. This is achieved by painting the surface and then whilst the paint is still wet, wiping off the excess paint with a cloth, whist leaving some of the paint in the wood grain.

The second solution was to apply an oil based undercoat to all the cupboards and then paint a top coat using the ‘one coat’ paint. The undercoat acting as a seal to prevent further chemical reactions and ‘interesting paint effects’.

The latter solution was agreed upon by the client and the crinkled paint scrapped and sanded flat before re-applying the paint. This solution has worked.

TIP: It is probably a good idea to paint the inside of a cupboard door or in a discreet area first rather than somewhere more visible, just in case the paint doesn’t do what it says on the tin!

Unintentional 'Paint Effect'.

Unintentional ‘Paint Effect’.

Work Tops

I nearly lost it big time time recently, when being helped in the kitchen to chop apples. Vast amounts of apples needed to be chopped because I was making chutney. Not that I wasn’t grateful for their help you understand, but my assistant had started to chop the apples directly on the top of my work top, no chopping board! This is a cardinal sin in my book, as not only will the knife ruin the work top surface, it also blunts the edge of the knife.

My assistant argued that as the surface was stone, surely it couldn’t hurt. Stone  work top surfaces, whether granite or natural stone or a composite are brilliant, hard working heat resistant and fairly easy to keep clean, but  will scratch and at worse chip if abused. Like anything it has to be looked after, they are not indestructible.

Formica work tops are good too, hard wearing, easy to keep clean, but not resistant to heat as stone tops, but chop anything directly on the top and you will get knife cuts in the surface which ruin the surface and will harbour germs.

Solid wood work tops are widely used too, and yes I know they are wooden the same as chopping boards, but have you seen the surface of a well used chopping board? Your work top will look the same, and far more expensive to replace than a chopping board. Regularly oil the top of your wooden work tops to maintain them. Wood is not as heat resistant as stone surfaces and require more maintenance than both stone and formica work tops, but have a lovely look and feel to them, and are worth the effort.

Why not have different work top surfaces around different areas of  your kitchen. Perhaps stone around the sink and ‘wet areas’ and cooking area near to your cooker and hob. You could also have a wooden work top on an island or breakfast bar. If your’e really into cooking you could also have a slab of marble inset somewhere for rolling for pastry and of course a built in chopping board specifically for chopping!