Wednesday, 28 May 2014

BRINGING GLAMOUR TO THE DINNER TABLE

I wrote in February about my new Chilewich place mats (read here). This was the very first time I had discovered the American brand Chilewich and I have been so impressed with them that I also bought their Manhattan tray, and most recently, their metallic lace table runner.
Quite a few places stock Chilewich here in the UK, for example Heals, Selfridges and one of my favourite online stores called Amara. I also found out that Chilewich are opening their first ever retail store in New York in September. I can only wish they did the same in London (although my wallet would not appreciate!)

I think their products are fabulous because from a distance they can look like natural fabrics but they are in fact made of vinyl which requires very little maintenance. Curries have been easy to wipe off the next day and I have put hot ovenware directly onto the place mats as well (well, they are supposed to be heat resistant anyway). I am also happy to report that they seem to be baby proof. Our toddler has done her absolute best to destroy them in the last few months and they still look like the day I got them :).

I had a very special occasion recently I had to buy a table runner for. My previous table runner was polyester and had to be washed in 40 degrees. Of course that meant that the food stains would not come off so I decided it was time to get a table runner that would be more stain resistant.

I was looking for something quite glamorous and it had to be silver. The table runner will not be used everyday so it doesn't need to be that practical but I don't want anything that can stain. Chilewich seemed like the perfect choice and first I ordered their lattice table runner purely based on the pictures. Unfortunately when I saw it in real life it looked more beige than silver (the downside of buying online) and the colour just did not complement our black dining room table.

The metallic lace runner on the other hand looked perfect. I used www.amara.com again and I am very impressed with their customer service. If they would offer free returns, they would get 5 out of 5.

Here it is!






Large Candle Holder: Ikea
Tea light holder: Laura Ashley

And with a White Table Cloth!

I find the piece exquisite looking and it works incredibly well on its own or over a white table cloth if you are going for a more formal look. It looks particularly stunning on a black glass table and from a distance it looks as it's made of metal rather than textile. I was slightly disappointed  when I realised how delicate it is. I was considering returning it for this reason but I will only use it for special occasions so it should be ok.. Also, it could have been a few centimetres wider especially since our table is slightly oval shaped.

It's certainly not an everyday piece but I am glad we have a fancy one for special occasions. For a more durable table runner, I would consider the lattice runner as they look pretty indestructible in real life! I am planning to add a few more pieces to my collection soon  but I might wait until our next trip to the States as their products are much cheaper there.

For more information about their products, visit www.chilewich.com.
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Tuesday, 20 May 2014

LIVING IN A 1930S HOUSE: PROS & CONS

Living in an old house is not for everyone. Being the perfectionist that I am, it has taken me a while to accept that my house will never be perfect. The rooms will never be totally straight, the floor will remain uneven (sometimes even sloping) and we continuously need to keep fixing things (roof, conservatory, windows etc) but still I feel it was the best decisions we ever made.

The first day we moved into the house the light in the dining room broke. It was literally like from the 80's movie "The Money Pit" (if you haven't seen it you should!) and it was ironic but I've lost count how many things we have had to repair since we moved in.

Here are a few repairs we've had to do:

- New combi boiler
- New electrics and kitchen has been rewired
- New flooring and underlay in order to fix an uneven floor (it is still not totally even)
- Damp issues (only penetrating damp due to cracks on the window frame)
- Squeaky flooring due to old floor boards (still not fixed in every room)
- Uneven roof
- Hairline cracks on the walls

Most things have been relatively easy (although not cheap) to fix but when you buy an old house (or any house) you are committed to maintaining it. We have a list of things we are still wanting to change but considering I used to dislike old houses I am actually loving the original features and the personality of our house.

Funnily enough as our list of repairs was growing, I decided to do some research and found the most amazing book that has been very helpful called The 1930s House Manual. The book explains a bit of the history but the main focus is to go through the most common problems in houses that were built in the 1930s and how to fix them. It is a fantastic book and every 1930s house owner should have one.

So, here's my own list of pros and cons for buying a 1930s house.

Pros

- You can renovate it to your own taste
- Bigger houses (new build houses tend to be smaller)
- Houses used to be built better and will last the test of time (better craftsmanship)
- More character and history
- Usually in a better location than new builds
- Larger gardens (there used to be more land available)
- If you are good at DIY you could sell it on and make profit

Cons

- Unless you are a builder/DIY person it can cost more than buying a new build
- If there is something wrong with the foundations it will cost A LOT to fix it
- Major renovations can actually affect the house structure  if not done properly
- Older houses don't tend to be open-plan (this was not the style at the time) so you will need to either extend or knock down a wall (again cost)
- Old houses tend to be surrounded by trees which look great but it also means that they could be a threat to the foundations
- The houses were built during a time when there were less building regulations which means there have been less (if any?!) compliance checks
- The houses might not be suitable for modern living (new boiler required, rewiring the house etc) so it can cost a lot to do the upgrades
- Requires more maintenance than a new build

Here are my favourite original/old features in our house that I feel gives it character. I cannot say if everything is original 1930s. Windows at least are somewhat new but doors, locks, staircase and fireplace are all original 1930s features.

Original fireplace that has been painted white.


















Original 1930s door and door handle.


Windows are new but the style is typical of the 1930s metal framed windows.


Exposed brick wall painted white (thinking of bringing this back to its original colour..)


The original arch in the hall.


Original staircase that used to be red.




Original front door (although I am not 100% sure..)


Front door lock.



















 Original 1930s detail.



Brick fence.









































































  • Things to look out for

- Visible cracks outside the house and does the house look straight (determining whether there has been movement and whether this is historical or current)
- Trees nearby
- How old the heating, wiring and plumbing are
- If the house has been previously extended and all the necessary documentation
- Cracks inside the house
- Damp (visible or funny smell)

If you truly want to buy an older property I would personally go for it if it's what you have your heart set on. The only thing that would put me off is if the house has been underpinned (meaning it was structurally unstable and the foundations were structurally strengthened due to this). An underpinned house can be totally safe to buy but I personally wouldn't want to take the risk and also getting insurance for the house would be a nightmare.

I realised that I have more cons than pros.. I guess that means in my head I know that getting a stress free new build would be an easier option but I have learnt to appreciate the history and personality of an older house which is why at the moment I could not imagine living anywhere else. Our house is like a baby that we look after (ok well almost a 100 year old baby) and I am excited to see how we can improve her and make her last for many more years to come. Will I ever live in a new build? Maybe. But I think, although I cannot see it now, I will miss the squeaky floors and the little slope in the dining room. After all, they are part of the history of this house and a reminder of everything it has been through.

PS. If anyone has further pros and cons that I forgot to mention, feel free to add them as comments :)
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Friday, 16 May 2014

MAKE-OVER: MASTER BEDROOM

So, where do I begin? This bedroom was in bits when we moved in but it was good size so we could see past this and knew it had potential. The room is by no means finished. I actually like living in a house before doing any major changes to it; it is nice to take your time so you won't regret decisions afterwards. There are still quite a few items we need to get for this room but we are getting there.

My husband had great intentions to paint the room himself but after removing wall paper, skimming the walls and repainting them for the other 3 bedrooms (which took him months) he said it's not worth the hassle and I agreed. There was so much work to be done that it was best to get professional painter/decorator to do the job.

Here's the before picture.


First of all we had to remove the old built-in wardrobe that was actually making the room feel busy and we couldn't even fit our king size bed in there. Once the wardrobe was gone we discovered 3 layers of wall paper that had to be removed. Luckily we had a great painter/decorator to do the job for us that we had used before. Apparently the walls did not require replastering but he had to skim and repaint them as well as use some supportive tape underneath the hairline cracks on the ceiling (which are common in an old house like this).

Here are the after pictures.




Finally we have a room in our house that it not black and white! I actually made a conscious decision to make upstairs more neutral/beige where as downstairs is pretty much black and white. I feel it keeps things consistent and also in my opinion warmer colours are more suitable and relaxing in a bedroom. There is still a lot of whiteness but the walls were painted using Dulux Natural Hessian which is a natural beige colour. I love how it works with the white ceiling and the white wooden door and the window sill. In fact, we have used this same colour in every bedroom upstairs and I couldn't be happier with it.


In addition to the paint job, we replaced the old carpet with a fluffy beige one, spotlights were installed and all the old plug sockets were replaced with chrome ones. The floors were uneven so they had to replace part of the wood flooring. The floor is still not perfect but it is much better and does not squeak anymore when you walk on it (it used to drive me nuts and we still have this issue in the other bedrooms) but using a good quality underlay has made a big difference too.

As you can see there are no paintings on the walls yet. I am having a real trouble deciding whether to get few big oil paintings or install wall shelving. The problem is that I have hardly any shelving in the room but then again do you really need any in the bedroom?! Also, if I choose to put up a painting I would ideally want one large one over the bed but finding the right size and style has proven to be more difficult than I thought. I also considered getting a large wall sticker but I don't think it will look quite as good. So many decisions to make!!

The dressing table is something I've always wanted to have!


The bay window allows a lot of natural light to flow into the room and I love it. However, it has been a bit of a nightmare trying to find suitable curtains to fit. Ideally, I would have preferred blinds but I don't really have that option unless we remove the rail so we opted for beige pencil pleat curtains in stead. These are our temporary ones until I decide which ones I really like. I would have much more preferred eyelet curtain style but because we have a bay window it wasn't possible. I am considering getting beige suede curtains or beige blinds but haven't quite made up my mind yet.


I got the over the door hook hanger from www.secretsales.com a while ago and I have to say it is brilliant and looks the part. The only negative is that if there is nothing hanging on it can be noisy when you open the door but I didn't want to damage the door which makes it a great alternative.

Original 1930s door handle
It's funny how my taste has changed in the last few years. I disliked the door handles when we moved into the house. They are the original 1930s door handles (as are the doors) but I found them really old fashioned. After a few years I have actually learned to love them! They add character to an otherwise modern house and actually can look quite contemporary with our black and white colour scheme. I am not crazy about the doors though. I like the style of them but because they are real wood and quite soft, they show small dents very easily and paintings them over and over again has left them looking a bit rough. Then again, some would argue that it adds character and makes them unique which is probably true.

We bought all the bedroom furniture from a local furniture store called Paul Simon. The cabinets are part of their Kensington range and come with several different colour combinations. We felt the stark white compliments the walnut effect and makes it more dramatic looking whilst still looking refreshing and simple. The cabinets are sturdy and have plenty of room in them. I bought some Ikea drawer organisers to fit inside them which have been very handy.

Tea light holders: Iittala
Glass display box: Iittala Vitriini



This empty space would be perfect for a chair??

Coving dilemma.
We still have one major dilemma; the coving (see above). The coving does not go all around the room which is a shame. Our painter said he didn't know how to do it as the ceiling is curved. If/when we want to get this fixed, we need a carpenter to do the job properly. The coving would need to be moulded but I am not sure if I will like how the end result will look like hence I am having difficulty deciding what to do. If only I could go and snoop around neighbours houses to see what they've done... ;)

We still need more furniture for this room (a chair at least and perhaps some shelving) but  most importantly I need to find some paintings for our bedroom. It might also be a nice idea to have some family pictures on the walls. Perhaps a photo collage would work well on one wall. Annoyingly, I have gotten so used to the empty walls that I don't seem to be in a hurry to do anything about them..


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