Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Great Outdoors, part two

I don't know if it's a good or bad thing but I am like a determined dog when I get an idea in my head. Having seen how much we managed to achieve in just one afternoon on the roof, I quickly booked some time off work to continue the project in earnest (and make the most of the good weather). Unfortunately, Mr F was unable to join me in my pursuit of blisters as he's got a new job so I was on my own with just the radio for company.

First thing was first: a trip to Homebase. As a child, I hated being dragged around various home improvement meccas but something weird happens when you get on the property ladder. Suddenly, I am perfectly content to wile away an afternoon poking around various aisles of Homebase or B&Q, examing hooks, spanners and all manner of exciting things. I mean, seriously, I think I might have a problem; I put more time into choosing our light switches than was strictly healthy.

Anyway, a half hour dawdle in the paint aisles later and I was back on the roof, armed with my tools:

I chose Weathercoat Smooth in Brilliant White, £27.99 (buy one, get one half price) as I was after a paint that would reflect the sun and really zing. Plus, it was buy one get one half price - a good thing when you're on a budget like we are. The masonry roller, paint brushes and tray were all from the Homebase Basics range, which did the trick nicely.

But before I could start painting, there was a small matter of the cracks in the wall to take of, so I'd bought some ready mixed Polyfilla. Now, the closest I'd come to filling cracks before this was tackling my crow's feet with Benefit's Porefessional so it took a little trial and error but eventually, I got there:

Although admittedly, I probably ended up with more on me than the actual wall. I left it to dry while I started at the other end of the terrace with my other tools. And so I painted. And painted. And painted some more. For six hours straight, bar one 10 minute break for a hotdog.

At this point, I learnt a very valuable lesson. Never, ever, under any circumstances paint in dungarees and a bikini top without a hell of a lot of sunblock. Not only did I have relatively bad sunburn by the end of the day but I also had the perfect outline of dungaree straps singed onto my back. Nice one.

However, we did also have a roof that looked distinctly nicer than it had a few hours before:

Here, you can see a three step comparison - even with the first thin coat it was looking much better. On the first day of painting, I made it about two thirds of the way round before collapsing, exhausted and with an empty can of paint, to nurse my sunburn, blisters and the extraordinary hand cramp from gripping rollers and brushes for six hours straight.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Flatzilla 2.0: The Great Outdoors, part one

So, it's been almost a year since I last posted on here and my, what a busy year it has been. Just as we finally settled in and got ready to host our first Christmas in our tiny flat, the freak weather hit us and while we weren't anywhere near the hideous flooding in Somerset, we did get to watch all of our beautifully freshly plastered walls destroyed through water damage.

I'm still getting over it. The less said the better. Needless to say, we learnt a lot of DIY skills very quickly in those soggy weeks.

And now, we have a new project: the roof.

So, a little background first: When we were looking for a flat, one of the biggest draws to what eventually became our home was the outdoor space. Having lived in a house with a very big garden since I was two, I was determined to have some kind of outdoor space. Our flat came with access to two very unloved communal terraces and in our lease negotiations we managed to convince the freeholders to hand over exclusive use of both under the provision that we would look after them.

We quickly transformed the small lower terrace by painting the rails, cleaning off the brick work and investing in a nice little Bistro set from good old John Lewis (You can read more about it here) but the upstairs terrace was a much bigger fish.

We were so excited to have the outdoor space that at first we simply put up with grubbiness but as soon as the sun came out this season, we began plotting what to do upstairs. There was only so long that I could look at weeds and dirty walls like this:

The long and short of it is that we need to tear up everything, put down a new framework and retile the entire thing which is not only expensive but difficult to do when every roofer within the M25 appears to be booked solid until sometime in November.

As the resident sun worshipper (see above), I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and so began my next project, Flatzilla 2.0: The Great Outdoors. The plan? To kill the weeds, blast off 15 years (possibly more) of accumulated dirt and generally make it a lovely place where we could spend our summer, rather than this:

Just like St Tropez, right?

 After swapping our giant Karcher for a more reasonably sized handheld version that we could get up the stairs, we started Flatzilla 2.0 on June 29th by blasting everything off the walls.

Luckily, most of the paint was so old and chipped that some vigorous pressure washing blasted it straight off. And onto us. Mr F's legs took the brunt of it:

After one afternoon, we were free of around 90% of the old paint and once the sun dried off the wet walls, the difference was already staggering:

Stage one: completed. Now, we just had to let the walls dry before the REAL fun could begin.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Living room new things

This weekend, I ventured to House of Fraser with my mum as she was in need of some new sheets to fit her new giant mattress in her new house and being a dutiful daughter, I was roped in to standing in the bedding section, debating the perfect shade of white for aforementioned new sheets.

Of course, once I had been replaced by a lovely sales assistant who sensed my boredom/distraction, I was free to roam the homeware department to my heart's content and I was pretty impressed with what I saw. I ended up walking out with a couple of pieces for the flat, two of which I wanted to share with you. 

The first is this off-white snake print leather magazine holder from HOF's Casa Couture range. When my mother spotted me wandering around with it slung over my arm, she immediately demanded that I go and pick one up for her too which, if you know my mother and her impeccable taste, is the ultimate stamp of approval.

My second item is a candle. Now, don't laugh. As most women attest, you reach a certain age and suddenly find yourself lusting over overpriced smelly candles. Its an inexplicable condition. My particular weaknesses are Jo Malone's Pomegranate Noir (of course) and Diptyque Figuier. Unfortunately, spending £40+ on something that you burn is not really an option on my budget (friends please note: these are excellent gifts, should you wish to buy me one) so I'm always scouring for cool candles. Waiting to pay for the magazine holder, I cast my eyes around and they landed on this Linea vanilla and fig candle, or more specifically its silver topper - very Jo Malone and the scent is divine. Coupled with the fact that they're reduced from £15 to £7.50, I wish I'd bought more. 

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Into the sun, part two

Oops. Not being very efficient at this whole blogging thing, am I? It's been almost an entire month since my last post. Sorry, day job got a little crazy.


As I mentioned in my last post, when it came to our outdoor space, despite our monumental weekend of potting, painting and scrubbing, we still had much to do on our smaller terrace, the main thing being getting rid of the old rusty fireplace, unused shower panel and all manner of detritus that was cluttering up the space.

Once again, we fell on the mercy of our lovely friend Owen and his giant tank of a people carrier so that we could finally get rid of all of the things that needed to go. A quick google and we found out that there's a Reuse & Recycle centre less than two miles from us, so rather than everything going to landfill and us feeling guilty, it could all be, um, reused and recycled. The shower panel itself weighed in the region of 30kg so I got out of the way, stood on the stairs and snapped photos of the removal process:

In the process of getting rid of everything, we made the discovery that our resident pigeons, angry at the fact that we've closed off their Pigeon Hotel roost, had taken to laying eggs wherever they could - under the tarp that covered the bikes and shower panel, on top of a left over bit of turf and so on. I mean, seriously, worst nest ever?:

Anyway, with pigeon eggs and shower panels vacated, a quick scrub of the tiles and some rearranging meant we were good to go for a day of lounging on the terrace.

We had loungers from our old house which was handy as the second the sun comes out, everything sells out in Homebase. I picked up the outdoor rug the weekend before when I'd popped into a random TK Maxx while I was running errands in Greenford and spotted it in the clearance section for a bargainous £7. I'd been looking for a nice one for a while and it seems that the idea hasn't really taken off in the UK as such.

My obsession with outdoor rugs led to endless googling that always clicked through to American sites or the big blue behemoth, whose contribution to the outdoor rug market was frankly not that exciting. You might be wondering why on earth I wanted an outdoor rug in the first place. Simply, the tiles heat up massively so walking barefoot isn't all that pleasant and secondly, well, they just look nice. Plus, this one is reversible so depending on my mood, it can either be more pink or yellow.

On my TK Maxx adventures I also picked up some awesome plastic plates, perfect for outdoor dining without the worry of stuff breaking. I paid £2.99 for this pink version and £3.99 for a larger light green one.

Now, fingers crossed for another sunny weekend!

Friday, 5 July 2013

Into the sun

At last, London had a weekend of sun and now, if reports are to be believed, a heat wave is coming.  Mr Flatzilla and I decided to celebrate the burgeoning sun by spending two days outside, working on our terraces. Up until now, all we’d done was painted one set of railings thanks to bad weather and empty bank accounts but pay day rolled round last Friday along with a bit of sunshine so we got going.

Our first task was to make Holly the sausage somewhere to call her own. Up until now, we’ve either had to carry her down to the street or sluice the terrace every time she did her business so Sausage Park was born. I’ve been watching various youtube videos about things called Porch Potties but the idea of shelling out vast sums of money for what was essentially a pimped up plastic box seemed nonsensical.

We already had the perfect box – an old Dilling under bed storage box from Ikea that we’d lugged over and two 25kg bags of soil so we hopped in the car to B&Q to buy a roll of turf.

The first step was to drill a load of drainage holes to stop the grass from becoming waterlogged, then we started filling with the bags of top soil. Originally, I’d planned to fill it to the top but as Mr F pointed out, this would've meant using almost 4 bags of top soil and meaning that the Sausage Park would weigh in at a staggering 100kg, or close enough making it virtually immobile. Plus, with only two bags worth, the soil came to a level that meant the turf fitted the box's width perfectly. 

And so, Sausage Park was born and Holly immediately hopped in and christened it, success!

On to the rest of the work and new purchases.Mr F grabbed sanding things, paint brushes and rail paint and got to work while I went on a flower binge in Homebase. Never did I think that I would be the type to spend my weekend wandering around garden centres and comparing different types of lavender but apparently something funny happens when you have outdoor space to call your own. £60 lighter, I'd acquired two types of lavender, a chilli plant, two veggie planters and an assortment of flowers. The lavender plants were both for inside and outside as we get an influx of flies at certain times of the day and after a quick google I discovered that they hate lavender and even though I'm not a fan myself, I dislike flies even more.

As money is tight (although not when it comes to plants, it seems), I've been scouring every website going to find a nice bistro set for the smaller terrace. We currently have a massive six person table sitting in storage, awaiting a time when we can figure out how to drag it up onto the roof but we needed something mini for the odd drink or meal outside. I became obsessed with the Soho set from John Lewis in yellow but when the red set suddenly went into the clearance sale, down from £69 to £48, I figured it would be a better choice as it wouldn't reflect the light nearly as much - there is no greater middle class problem than a bistro table that reflects too much sun as you drink your tea on a sunny Sunday morning.

So after potting, painting and unpacking, we finally have a little place to call our own sun trap (our bikes and remaining shower door that needs to go to the dump are cropped out of what you see here - that's THIS weekend).

Friday, 28 June 2013

Little Kingdoms

As I mentioned in my previous post, since we finally moved into our little flat, Mr Flatzilla and I really haven’t had an opportunity to actually spend much time in our new home.

The reason being that my mum sold our family home of 27 years. As such, we have spent the last five weeks in a constant state of packing, cleaning and more packing. The house that I was fortunate enough to grow up in was beautiful – golden Canadian maple floors, Art Deco as far as the eye can see and a large garden that my friends and I could roam in, later swapping games of tag for lounging, grilling meat on the barbeque and drinking wine in the sun.

It truly was the most beautiful house, so when my mum sat me down and told me she was selling up, I went through several different emotions. At first, I was dubious – over the last decade, my mum has told me she’s selling the house approximately every 18 months or so, so perhaps I didn’t take it as seriously as I would’ve otherwise but this time, it was for real.

After realizing that this was in fact happening, I journeyed through what I can only describe as a spectrum of emotions. It’s funny, I’ve tried to type the next few paragraphs about how I really feel several times since but when it comes to putting it into actual words, it is a very different matter. I sit at my keyboard and I start to feel my eyes sting for a number of reasons or I get a little lump in my throat – sadness, a little guilt, relief but in the end, happiness at what this move as meant for all of us. It’s a long story and not one that perhaps I am really quite ready to share but I will tell you this:

In the final week, watching as paintings came down, furniture was wrapped in bubble wrap and all of the little touches that made it our home disappeared, it became a house once more. Still, a beautiful house but no longer the little kingdom that it once was.

So, goodbye Perryn Road. I will miss you. Yes, I do still have the occasional little pang but I’m sure your new family will love you just as much as we did and make you beautiful in a new way.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Oops / Hurrah

Oops, almost a month since my last post. Since we moved into the flat, we haven't had much time to ourselves as my mother was also moving, nor have we had the internet bar a really poor wifi dongle, so to everyone who's been in touch via email and twitter, Mr Flatzilla and I are very much not dead.

To our continuing joy, we are now move-free (bar the bags I have cunningly hidden behind the sofa) and once again back online, expect a lot of new posts over the coming weeks and thank you for your patience!