Tuesday, 24 February 2015

AEG REVIEW & SOME USEFUL' DOMESTIC' TIPS

You often hear people talk about which kitchen company to go for but you don't hear so much about the appliances that go into the kitchen. You do need to give it some thought as appliances are a very integral part of your kitchen. They are used frequently and can last many years if they are looked after correctly. One of the best places to read impartial reviews is Which? but I found that there were a lot of mixed reviews out there as well. Should you get a Beko dishwasher or is it worth splashing out on a Miele? Expensive appliances can break too so there are no guarantees. Needless to say, it's best to do as much research as possible in advance. Also, don't only focus on the functionality of the appliances but read warranty and customer service reviews as well.

I will be writing our one year Magnet kitchen review very soon but I wanted to share my recent experience with AEG separately. We got our kitchen through Magnet and ended up buying most of the appliances through them as they were willing to price match with online prices. My options were limited because I went with Magnet but we decided to go with their premium range. We felt that we had already put so much money into the kitchen it would seem a bit silly to go with the cheapest appliances they had on offer. Also, in the past we had been unlucky with washer/driers so we knew that it's worth getting the best. The only appliances that are not AEG in our kitchen are the free standing fridge (Samsung) and the wine fridge (Capel). By the way, AEG is now owned by Electrolux and I did a bit of research online before going ahead with them.






I have actually found our AEG appliances excellent. Well, mostly. We got our hob, oven, extractor hood, microwave, dishwasher and washer/drier from them and they look fantastic but are also incredibly easy to use. In fact, so easy that I didn't bother to read all the manuals (mistake number 1!). I have to say, the induction hob has really changed the way I cook. It's incredibly fast, safe and easy to to control. The prices aren't too bad these days either so it's definitely worth getting one in my opinion!

We got almost through the entire year until we realised that there was a problem with the dishwasher (FAVORIT 34030VI). The glasses were getting more cloudy after each wash. And, I'm not talking about crystal (I would never wash crystal glassware in a dishwasher) but regular glasses. It was clear that our dishwasher wasn't performing as it should and we tried everything to fix the problem. We read the manual and adjusted the settings. We tried adding more salt to the salt dispenser. I started using dishwasher cleaners every few weeks as well as rinse aid in every single wash. I even started putting the washes at 50 degrees Celsius as I wasn't sure if it was caused by heat but nothing seemed to work. Sadly, our glasses were ruined. We haven't managed to get the cloudiness out and have tried everything (vinegar, baking soda, you name it). If anyone knows a good trick feel free to share it!

After literally trying everything, I contacted AEG customer service and they sent over an engineer to have a look at our dishwasher. I was impressed that they sent someone over within 2 days! That's a pretty good turn around in my book. Luckily, we were still under 1 year warranty and didn't have to pay for the visit which was great. You need to remember to register your appliances asap so they are under warranty by the way!

The engineer arrived to have a look at the problem and he was incredibly helpful and knowledgeable. He had a look at our dishwasher and realised that our settings were on 5 which is too low for a hard water area like ours. 5 is the setting that all the dishwashers default to when they leave the manufacturer but you will need to adjust these yourself if/when required. We did try changing them but we didn't realise that the higher the setting the more salt it would use. We are currently now on 7 and it means that it blends more dishwasher salt into the wash. The cloudiness apparently has nothing to do with high temperatures but it has all to do with the lack of salt! If you are not sure how hard the water is in your area, check your water suppliers website. Most of the UK has hard water (water with a high mineral count) which is why using dishwasher salt frequently is so important. I have to refill our salt dispenser at least every 2 weeks (there is a salt indicator) which goes to show how much salt our dishwasher is using at the moment.



The engineer also raised the top tray as he said it will help the machine perform better. I asked him about using dishwasher cleaners and he told me that you really don't need them more often than every 4 months as dishwashers are self cleaning these days. A lot of people treat their dishwashers as food disposal units which of course causes other problems. The engineer even told me that it is more effective to use a separate dishwasher tablet and rinse aid rather than use all in 1 products. Of course, using separate products is cheaper too! And, apparently rinse aid is important for the heating/drying part but not for the wash itself. The engineer told me to wait two weeks to see if the glasses get cloudy again (I bought some cheap glasses to test) but I am happy to say so far we haven't had any problems but I am annoyed that I waited this long (mistake number 2!) because now my old glasses are ruined. Even though, I am pretty happy with the dishwasher in general I find it annoying that it doesn't have a short cycle. It takes too long for the wash (usually 2 hours) but I guess at least it's performing very well.

Once we had the engineer over to look at the dishwasher, I thought it might be a good time to mention that our AEG washer/dryer (LAVAMAT 61470) is a little bit too loud as well, especially when it's on spin. He kindly had a look at the settings and discovered that it was not heating water. This was a whole new problem I wasn't aware of!  The machine was using ambient temperature around 10 degrees Celsius which is clearly not hot enough for your average wash. We had never noticed this as clothes were coming out clean (or, so we thought) but he explained that it was because detergents are so powerful these days. If you don't fix this issue though there will be problems in the long run as you will develop a dirt build up inside the machine (not to mention the fact that your clothes are not getting clean!) He had to replace a part in order to fix the problem and he also made sure that the floor was level underneath the washing machine and tightened few screws which seems to have reduced the loudness a bit. If you suspect that your water is not heating up just put in a wash in 60/90 degrees and see if the front door gets hot.

The engineer also gave me a few tips which should increase my washing machine's life. Every month you should run a maintenance wash which will get rid of the dirt inside it. Just run a empty cycle at 90 degrees and add salt crystals in the regular wash compartment. This will increase the life time of your machine significantly as it will help to prevent calcium build ups. Also, every time you have finished a wash it is good the leave the door open for a while so that it gets some air (something I never do). He even told me that if you have a drier make sure you use it at least once a month otherwise you can develop problems with the drying mechanism of the machine. By the way, here's an interesting article/discussion How long should your washing machine last? It's worth a read!

I have definitely learned a few valuable lessons thanks to our problem. First of all, study the manual carefully and if you are still not sure why the machine is not working properly get an engineer over. I waited way too long and we wouldn't have ruined most of our glasses if we had reported this problem earlier. I know quite a few friends who have had similar issues with cloudy glasses so it's worth making sure you are not low on salt. I am hoping that we won't have further issues anytime soon but it's good to know that in case something happens at least I can rely on AEG customer service and skilled engineers to fix the problem.

You can read my Magnet Kitchen review here!

UPDATE!

Few months after I wrote this review my glasses started getting cloudy again and I contacted AEG to see what could be causing this. Interestingly, they asked me which dishwasher detergent I was using and adviced me to switch to another brand. I had been using Finish dishwasher tablets since they were recommended in the AEG leaflet. I decided to try Fairy Platinum tablets in stead and bought some new glasses to test. Well, it has been now almost 5 months and I haven't seen any cloudy glasses. It is shocking that the Finish dishwasher tablets were part of this problem but apparently they are not ideal to use in hard water areas which I wasn't aware of.

Also, finally after 3 years we have had to get rid of our AEG washer/dryer (LAVAMAT 61470) because it was causing us so many problems (and costing money). First the dryer mechanism broke (all the clothes were coming out smelling like cigarette smoke, quite bizarre) We managed to get rid of the smell by cleaning the washing machine properly with Vinegar and Detol washing machine cleaner. However, when the spin mechanism finally broke in February 2017, we decided to get a separate washing machine and dryer (this time different brands) It has so far been the best decision we have made! My experience with integrated washing machine/dryers is so bad that I cannot recommend them for anyone.
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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

GUEST BEDROOM MAKE-OVER: CREAM & WALNUT

If you have been reading my blog, you will know by now that I am not very adventorous when it comes to colours. Downstairs is pretty much black, white and grey, and I made a decision to use softer and lighter colours upstairs. Why? Well, mainly because I feel that bedroom should be a peaceful and relaxing place where you go to unwind after a long day. It is important to keep some consistency though, as the bedroom decor and design should still echo the rest of the house. We tried to keep it modern and timeless in order to achieve this.

It's also worth having a look at my older post Master Bedroom Make-over. We had a professional painter decorator for this job but this was after we decided to try our DIY skills on one of our guest bedrooms. This room is actually not finished yet but I decided to share our story as it might help someone from making the same mistakes that we did! I actually got an email a while ago from a reader asking whether it's best to use matt or gloss paint on the walls. I will get to this very soon ;)

Here's what it looked like Before!


And After!






It's amazing what a little bit of paint can do, don't you think? And, it is also a very inexpensive way of updating your decor. The bedroom was not that bad when we moved in. The cream carpet looked new and the room was big enough for a double bed and the windows allowed plenty of light into the room. I think natural light is one of the most attractive things about this house. Each room gets so much light, that not only does it keep the house warm (during the summer a bit too warm), but it also enhances the light coloured decor.

As you can see, the walls used to be blue which didn't really suit my plans. We were lucky though, as this was the only bedroom that didn't have wallpaper on the walls. In case you didn't know, wallpaper is a nightmare to remove! We just did a bit of sanding and then repainted the walls. It's especially tricky painting around window frames (in this case especially because they are wooden) and to avoid getting paint on them. We taped them and I used an old make up pencil for the smaller touch ups. We even painted inside the fitted wardrope which was not the most comfortable job but it would have looked unfinished otherwise. Oh, and painting an old radiator is not a fun job either! We had to use radiator paint for it but luckily it turned out pretty good.

We used Dulux Natural Hessian Matt Emulsion Paint for the walls just like in the other bedrooms. It's a nice warm beige colour. We chose a matt paint for the walls because in an old house like ours, the walls won't be perfectly even and glossy paint will show the imperfections even more. Also, when the light hits matt paint it looks so much nicer in my opinion than glossy paint. I like to paint the ceiling with a different colour than the walls so there is a nice contrast. I find that white paint on the ceiling really opens up the room. If you look at the pictures you will see that the walls look ok but the ceiling is a different story. My husband painted the ceiling using satin paint (which is more glossy) and that is why it looks so shiny. This was not intentional! He went to pick up the matt one from B&Q and forgot to check the full name of the paint and didn't notice until he was half way through painting. So I guess it's worth mentioning that you also need to pay attention to the products you are using to make sure they are correct. We will rectify this at some stage and we will need to sand down the surface to remove the sheen and start again with the matt paint/primer. Oh well, at least we learned a lesson. By the way, invest in the brushes! We used some B&Q own brand ones first but they weren't very good. I found Dulux Perfect Finish exceptional. They are great for smaller areas and give that professional look. They are very easy to clean as well.

We got a qualified electrician to install the spotlights. We have spotlights throughout the house which keeps it consistent and modern. We also installed dimmers. Best decision ever! It's important you leave all painting/decorating after the electrician has finished his work so that cosmetic dents can be fixed. The only thing that will need to be done afterwards is the carpet (so that it doesn't get paint on it). If you are planning to install wooden or laminate flooring then it's a whole different order as the skirting will need to come off first! We also want to fit coving to the ceiling but we will get a professional carpenter for this job because it can be very tricky around the corners.

In my opinion, it's best to keep a guest bedroom pretty neutral looking and not to go too wild. You want your guests to feel comfortable and relaxed and pick a colour scheme that suits most tastes. I tend to stick to neutral and safe colours but this suits my style very well anyway. This doesn't mean that you should forget to accessorise! There is nothing worse than having a guest room with no accessories. It's nice to have the basic things like bedside lamp, flowers (fake ones are fine), candles, some art work and if you have an iphone docking station even better.





We do use this room for storage but it is important that you have wardrope space to keep it hidden when you have visitors. I always hide the glutter so  the room is organised when your guests are staying there. It's nice to leave few empty drawers as well. I don't use room diffusers in the room because I've found that burning a (good quality) scented candle will leave a much nicer smell in the room. I use them in the bathrooms as well.

We got the bedroom furniture from Paul Simon and luckily we managed to get the same furniture for all of our bedrooms before they closed down in 2014. The bedside tables are identical to the ones in our master bedroom except different colour combination (cream rather than white). I wanted all the bedrooms upstairs to have the same furniture and I feel it keeps the decor consistent and symmetrical looking. As you can see, I am all about the symmetry! I think the cabinets look great and the walnut effect brings a bit of drama to the room. Multi coloured cabinets are very much in trend at the moment! Have a look at Heal's Nordic Wide Chest of Drawers. Askvoll range from Ikea is very similar to our bedroom furniture as well. I love the minimalistic handles which are also very practical. The cabinets are easy to keep clean and because they are glossy they bounce light off beautifully.

We got the smart touch bedside lamps from Homebase and they look great but are incredibly fragile! I think we have broken 3 or 4 so far (we have them in every bedroom). We had a great idea though and got the 3 year replacement care for them which has turned out cheaper than having to pay for a new lamp!

The windows are a different story. They will need replacing soon. They are not double glazed and are getting very old. Double glazing keeps your home warmer and quieter as well as reducing your energy bills. I want to pick white framed Upvc windows which will go better with our modern look. It was also difficult to find curtains to fit the windows due to the odd shape but in the end we got them from ebay and they do the job perfectly.

So, was it worth doing the work ourselves? Absolutely. We learned a lot. If you live in a new build consider yourself lucky because the walls are new and even which makes the paint job much more pleasant. In an old house like ours, you will not see perfectly even walls, unless they have been replastered. Little imperfections don't bother me that much. I always try to find clever ways of hiding them anyway. If you do want to plaster the walls, get a professional and don't get the cheapest guy to do it! It's a real skill and if it's done wrong you can end up paying a lot more in the long run.

If you need any DIY advice, My Builder have a great advice centre where you can submit questions to tradesmen directly. How successful your DIY job will be depends a lot on your skills, commitment and the preparation work you have done in advance. Don't underestimate how long the the job will take and most importantly don't cut corners because that will definitely come back to haunt you one day.

Good luck with DIY projects and if you have any questions I'd be happy to answer them!


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Tuesday, 10 February 2015

HEAL'S MODERN CRAFT MARKET LAUNCH PARTY '15

I am a big fan of contemporary furniture store Heal's. They always deliver quality and innovative designs and in February they are showcasing the work of the best contemporary craft makers in the UK for the second year running. The market is a great opportunity to discover some unique pieces as well as to get to know some up and coming designers. The market will be running from the 2nd until the 15th of February in Heal's Tottenham Court Road store.

I was excited when I got my invitation to Heal's Modern Craft Market Launch Party as I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to find some unusual items for our house. This was my first year participating in the event and I was hoping to discover some new designers as well. In the last year, I have managed to find some amazing pieces for our house from second hand shops. I am especially looking for items that are not mass produced but they still need to be designed to perfection.

So, I headed to Heal's store last Thursday for the Launch Party with my SLR camera and I even got my husband to tag along with me. It was quite an experience! I've photographed few items that stood out for me. What I love about all of these, is the attention to detail and the quality of the materials used. It was particularly nice talking to the designers and finding out what inspired them to create these pieces in the first place. I think it's wonderful that Heal's are collaborating with young talented artists and designers and showcasing their work on a such a large scale. In fact, Heal's are launching an open call for emerging designers at the moment and you can apply here. It really is a great opportunity and the final winning designs will be selected and put into production and the designers will receive a royalty for the items sold!

Carafe & Stopper by Tortie Hoare.

Hayley Gammon glass designs.

Handbags by textile Designer Teresa Georgallis.

Ceramics by Jo Davies.

Stacking Candles by Katharina Eisenkoeck.


Crystal etching by Dartington Crystal.
There were refreshments, live music and plenty of demonstrations on the ground floor and it was exciting to see artisans at work. The place was really buzzing and all the designers were chatting to their customers. Heal's Modern Craft Market is running until the end of this week so you still have a chance to go and discover some unique pieces. There really is a big selection of items to choose from. You can find classic items as well as some that are dedicated to raw finishes. Heal's also have workshops running this week and even though most of them are fully booked, there are still few that have some availability. Have a look at Love Token Making with Rosemary Rose which is ideal for Valentine's Day!

I also spotted these Ambrose chairs on the ground floor as I was about to leave... They are beautiful! So sleek and stylish. I would team them up with the fluffy sheep skin throw to make sure they are comfortable to sit on. I would love them in our new extension but unfortunately my husband was not as keen on them... I will need to do some serious convincing before our extension goes up!!


I feel very inspired after the launch party and I have gotten so many ideas for my own home that I cannot wait to actually start making them a reality. Also, the event definitely made me more excited about crafting and DIY which is something that I want to take up this year. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to do any of the workshops this time but Heal's are running them throughout the year so it's worth checking their events page frequently in case something exciting pops up.

For more information visit Heal's Official Website.

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