Wednesday, 30 April 2014

NEW FAMILY CHALKBOARD

My new years resolution, well one of them, has been to do something about our bare walls. The walls are off white and it can look very clinical at times. I have nothing against all white rooms (coming from a Nordic country I am well used to it!) but I do agree that I need to break down all that whiteness that is taking over our house.

I have been considering a feature wall for our house but haven't been able to find a good spot for it.  I am not a fan of wall paper (especially the ones with flowers) but having a feature wall painted in one colour or in black chalkboard paint could work very well. I have seen similar ones in interior magazines and in friends' homes and they look fabulous!

The more I think of it, the more I believe having a chalkboard statement wall could really complement our house. They are contemporary looking, stylish and would fit in with our black and white theme but most importantly are a bit of fun and funky.

My main concerns for getting one are:

1) Where's the perfect spot?
2) What will be the purpose of it? (Is it just a piece of art or will I actually write things on it)
3) Will it make the room much darker? (especially if you are painting a larger area)
4) Does it really go with the decor/style of our house?

I really don't want a wall where kids can write random things (this could work in the kids room but not in the common living areas). I just want something that will be useful and look good!

After doing some serious thinking I decided I am not quite brave enough to do it yet. In stead,  I wanted to get a nice chalkboard for the house, mainly to use as a shopping list/board and to see how I like it first.

I was looking for the perfect chalkboard for quite a long time until I finally managed to find 'the one'! I found it on www.notonthehighstreet.com and this is the first time I have ever used this website (although I have been eyeing up their products for a while).

They have some unique items there. Basically, the idea of the website is to bring customers products that are not sold on high street shops and are a bit more unusual and a lot of them can be personalised which makes them great gifts. The products can be a little on the expensive side though and I have never seen anything on sale there. Then again, I think if you want something different you probably have to pay a bit more for it which is ok for me.

I had the perfect spot picked for the chalkboard in our dining room above our bins (I know that sounds a bit funny but it actually works!). I am still thinking of painting this wall in black chalkboard paint but it all depends on what we decide to do with our extension in the future and whether we decide to get rid of it.

Finding the right size chalkboard was trickier than I thought. Luckily I read the sellers reviews and a gentleman had mentioned that he managed to get a custom made size that was not offered on their website (they only had small, medium and large). I contacted the supplier, Yours by Design, to confirm if this was possible and they said they could do this at the custom size I wished (45 cm x 55 cm). Hooray! I was thrilled and positively surprised someone actually gives you good customer service these days!

Planning the text for the board was so much fun! A lady called Mia contacted me to ensure the chalkboard was proof read before they started making it. I actually changed the text 3 times before I was happy with the layout and they were very patient with me. All the communication was via email which was handy.

I was nervous what the end result would look like. I mean, I cannot really return a personalised item unless it is faulty. Luckily, I had nothing to worry about and it arrived within 2 weeks wrapped up in bubble wrap.

Here it is:





It's kind of cheesy which is why I love it! I came up with the text with my husband and it was more difficult than I would have though to agree what will go up there! You can probably tell that we are wine enthusiasts :)

I could not be more pleased with our chalkboard! It's perfect for our dining room and I already use it a lot. I can genuinely recommend using this company (Yours By Design) for anyone looking for a chalkboard. It's a shame that they don't supply chalk with it as I had to go and order some online but this is only a minor issue. It also does not come with a chalk holder which means you either fashion something yourself or just keep it in the drawer as I do.

I am still considering having a chalkboard statement wall in the house. I think I have to wait until our extension is done to be sure where the perfect spot will be. Also, I feel once our dining room area is more open-plan it will help me to envision what the room will look like with a big statement wall. Until then, I am quite happy with my new chalkboard although it has made me think I need to take more risks when it comes to decorating our house. Maybe that could be my next years new years resolution..
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Friday, 18 April 2014

Happy Easter!

For the first time ever I decided to put some Easter decorations up :)

I think this will become the norm when you have kids but it is nice to find joy in the simple things in life and I also feel Easter highlights the height of spring time.

Yellow tulips are the ultimate Easter flower for me. They seem to be in season at the moment here and very easy to find in most shops. Considering that our house is mainly black, white and grey, they bring lovely colour and freshness to the room. Making it feel very summery.




The flower vase is originally a wine bucket. I love how versatile it is!




We've hidden chocolate eggs around the house and have an Easter egg hunt (tradition here in the UK). Unfortunately, grown ups seem to have found most of the chocolate eggs although it's only Good Friday! Oh well, you are supposed to over indulge over Easter anyway ;)

At the moment most of the decorations are limited to our dining room and living room but hopefully we will collect more every year. The good thing is that they are quite high up so our toddler cannot reach them..yet!










I cannot wait to do our own decorations once our daughter is a bit older. There are so many 'make your own' kits here in the shops to choose from and it's fun and makes you feel creative. I bought plenty of yellow shredded tissue to fill our pots and cups as well as some Easter crackers (another English tradition).

This is what I made this Morning and it made me feel like a big kid again :)



I do miss some Finnish traditions though, such as 'rairuoho' which I believe in English is rye grass. In Finland everyone grows their own well before Easter and then puts little decorations in there. I haven't  found rye grass in the UK although if you go to the Easter fair in the Finnish Church in Rotherhithe they should sell it (maybe some garden shops do too).

I also love the tradition of boiling and colouring eggs (real eggs!) which I remember doing at my grandparents house when I was little. I also miss the Finnish Fazer Mignon chocolate eggs which are the best chocolate eggs without a doubt! Ok, we do have some nice Swiss ones here too my favourite one being the Lindth Gold Bunny (See picture below)




I forgot the most important ingredient of Easter; pussy willow! They are a big part of tradition in Finland too and I will have to get some tomorrow. They are so pretty with flowers or just on their own, I think they are available in the UK all year round which is great news.

In the years to come I am hoping to combine both Finnish and English Easter traditions together and make it bigger every year. It's definitely a fun time for both kids and adults but most importantly it means quality time with the family. Now, counting the days for the summer...

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Wednesday, 9 April 2014

MAKE-OVER: KITCHEN

It has been 2 months and now I can finally say our kitchen remodel is finished! Well, kind of. We are still waiting for the 'hidden' drawers from Magnet and for them to replace the scratched extractor hood but at least the kitchen looks how it should now. For more information on the remodel, click onto my previous posts "Kitchen Remodel - Part 2" and "Kitchen Remodel - Part 1"

This was, without the doubt, the most stressful, time consuming, blood pressure raising project we have done in this house but it was definitely worth it!

Here are the before and after pictures!



















Coolest feature ever! Filtered water on tap by Brita.

Putting the sink grooves on the right gave me much more preparation space on the left.


AEG Induction hob.

Built-in microwave and oven.
As you can see it looks quite different to the old kitchen. There were times, I was thinking we will never get there and issues that made me doubt the end result but luckily it looks just like I wanted, if not better! We didn't make any compromises but got everything we initially wanted. Stylish extractor hood, wine fridge, quartz worktops, AEG appliances etc.

All the preparation work the builders did made a massive difference to the room. The finish is perfect and they straightened the room and raised the window sill. One thing I would do differently if I would have known and had the chance... I would get one person to do the whole job from start to finish. We didn't have this opportunity as our contractors were not available for all the jobs but we would have saved our selves from a lot of heartache if this would have been possible. Oh well.. Next time!

And the fridge fits! Phew! :D

          
My favourite feature in our kitchen is the new quartz window sill. Would you believe I almost got it in mdf which is not even wood! I think it is the focal point of the room and even though the room is not big, we get so much sun light through the window it's amazing. Having a south east facing garden obviously helps too.

There were some hiccups along the way and this experience has definitely taught me one thing. Nothing is perfect. I had this idea in my head of a perfect kitchen and went through crazy emotions when I realised it's not possible. My kitchen is not perfect, although it may look that way, and it certainly won't stay that way thanks to our toddler but guess what that's ok! I love the way it looks and it is a dream to cook in thanks to new appliances.

The new kitchen certainly brings an element of glamour and sparkle to our house. In a tasteful way I hope ;) I was very nervous about the sparkly worktops, as in some stores they looked very bling and over the top. However, the main reason I went for the sparkly one is that the mirror flecks in the quartz reflect the light around the room, making it appear even bigger. Also, matt finish would show every finger print so that is not for me. Luckily, the worktop has just the right amount of sparkle for my liking. Sometimes it looks black, grey or even slightly purple when the Morning sunshine hits it. I love it! I think it looks particularly good because we have quite large windows in the kitchen. I would not probably pick a similar style worktop for a room without windows or with a large island. I think it could be too much but this is just right.

Here's a few night time shots that showcase the under cabinet lighting.

The lights at the bottom are LED tape lights.


The worktop is manufactured by Magnet but is very similar to Stellar Night by Silestone.
Most importantly, the kitchen is in harmony with all the other rooms downstairs which means there is consistency throughout. I feel that it represents me and our family. I love that we picked each tap, hob, worktop and colour together with my husband. I feel I made the right decision by creating a kitchen that works with the space we had. You see it's not always about creating your dream kitchen but more about how can I improve this kitchen and show it's full potential in the best possible way. For me it ticks every box. Time will tell how high maintenance it is but I can already say the worktop is easy to clean (no streaks) and doesn't show dust. Either way, I quite like maintaining it. At least for now..


SOMETHING TO BEAR IN MIND..

There's few things that might be helpful for anyone planning a kitchen remodel and if I had known these before I might have made different decisions..(or not!)

ANGLED EXTRACTOR HOODS
There is no denying that they look stylish but they do require a bit of maintenance. Our AEG extractor hood is  very powerful and the touch screen is easy to use. When cooking (especially boiling water) though, the hood gets all steamed up and wet and you will need to wipe this down after every time you cook. I'm not sure if it's because it's stainless steel but it could be because of the angle. I don't mind doing this as at least I know it will always be clean but I can imagine this being a negative point for some.

By the way, our builders gave me a good tip for cleaning stainless steel as all the other cleaners seem to leave it streaky. Baby oil! Afterwards you wipe it with a micro fibre cloth and your done! Best news ever!

INDUCTION HOBS
I am definitely an induction hob convert and it has totally changed the way I cook. It's much faster, you are less likely to burn food and most importantly it's safe as kids cannot just switch it on without the pans. I had to buy new induction pans which was good news for me as my old ones were looking pretty grim. The only negative aspect is that induction hobs are made of glass and yes they will scratch if you are not careful. To me though, the fact they are so easy to clean (versus old gas ones) overcomes this 'fault'.

QUARTZ
I have been so excited about our new worktops. It might come as a surprise to some that even though quartz is very strong they do not recommend you putting direct heat on it. This is slightly annoying as I have always put my ovenware directly onto laminate or granite and I have never had a problem. If something happens though, your warranty will be void. After talking to the stone specialist, they said it most likely won't break (especially if you don't put heat where the seams are) but the shiny parts (mirror flecks) can start to look a bit dull with time. We'll see.. I will probably 'baby' it for a while but I don't know how long I can maintain (remember) it. I think the cost of the quartz will probably help me to remember!

FLOORING
We had our Quickstep laminate installed after the cabinets were put in but this was not all straightforward. Most flooring guys would prefer to put in the floor first and then the cabinets, as it is easier for them, but there is a very good reason why you should not do this! If there is a leak (and yes this happens a lot!) in order to stop the water coming in and investigate the cause, they would need to first remove your kitchen in order to get to the floor boards. When only part of the floor sits at the bottom of the cabinet, it is very easy to just remove these and lift the floor. We had a friend who had not taken this into account and it ended up being a very costly mistake!

We used the same person who did our floors downstairs 2 years ago (Barry from O'Brien Flooring) to put in the laminate flooring in the kitchen. Sadly, I don't think I would use him again. He is a lovely guy but his knowledge is very limited to floors only and he cut the bottom of the cabinets incorrectly causing all sorts of problems. He also damaged the cabinets as he was using a hand saw to cut them. He told me this might happen but after talking to some industry professionals he should have been using a laser to cut the cabinets to avoid an uneven finish. Disappointing really but it's done and the damage is not too visible so I can live with it. These things happen and I've certainly learned a lot from other people's mistakes (as well as my own) which will be helpful in our next project.

WHITE GLOSS CABINETS
Just like any cabinets these can chip but when this happens on a white gloss surface it will be more visible! The person who installed our floors managed to cause a few small dents that were visible although not too obvious. I was so annoyed first! Thankfully I got the best tip ever which I will be using in the future no doubt! Tipex! It really works! It's so uber white that it matches our cabinets and is great for quick fixes although I wouldn't use it on a large area. Hopefully I won't need to do too many touch ups in the future...

STAINLESS STEEL
Yes it very trendy at the moment but it does have it's downsides too. It stains if you leave tea bags on the sink but it also scratches quite easily. Once it has stained it is challenging to get rid of the stain without scratching it but I have found a great way to do this (and no, the stainless steel cleaners are no good). Use the soap from Brillo pad (don't use the pad itself it will scratch it!) just wet the pad and squeeze the soap from it and scrub with a normal cloth. Works like a charm!

SO, WHAT'S NEXT?

Our next exciting project is going to make a massive difference to how our  kitchen will look. It will no longer be hidden behind a door as we are going to rebuild our conservatory as an extension to the house and open up the kitchen. We are going to remove the door between the dining room and the conservatory and knock down part of the existing wall connecting to the kitchen in order to open it up.

Initially, we were planning to build the extension this year but I wasn't able to find suitable builders for the job. Also, in the end we agreed that we need an architect to do drawings and to oversee the whole project, and we still need to find the right company to do that. Hopefully, we will make some progress next year but I am not in a hurry. It's more important to take your time and find the right people to do the job right in the first place.

I also feel I need to take a little break from house renovations at the moment. Doing the kitchen remodel was very stressful but now I just want to enjoy it for a while and have fun accessorising the room.

Now it's time to celebrate! :)



PS. You can read my detailed review on Magnet Kitchens here!
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