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Of course, once I had been replaced by a lovely sales assistant who sensed my boredom/distraction, I was free to roam the homeware department to my heart's content and I was pretty impressed with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.

Anyway.

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!


Thursday, 30 May 2013

Blind rage




As you may've seen on some of the photos I've posted on here and on my instagram (@antoniaesque), our flat has beautiful big old Victorian sash windows, some of which even have the original mottled glass. Having massive windows means that even on the rainiest, darkest days our flat has been filled with natural light, which is lovely - to a point.

With our bedroom facing east, since we moved in Mr Flatzilla and I have been woken every day without fail at 5:30am or earlier. Well, I get woken and then I wake up Mr F with my huffing, puffing and duvet throwing about. You see, the sunlight pours straight through the window and hits me square in the face, like target practice. As such, I spent last Saturday in a hideous grump after the day dawned particularly bright and sunny, turning our bed into an oven.



Now, prior to moving in, we'd assessed this problem and duly, I added 'buy blinds before moving' to my endless list of flat-related activities. Except, buying blinds for a window that is 2 metres in height and 1.3 metres wide is not an easy task. This strikes me as odd seeing as there are plenty of Victorian houses in this country, many of which I'm sure have equally large windows. Systematically, I plowed through the options - B&Q, Homebase, John Lewis, IKEA and then a few more, until each had been crossed off my list. None had ready made blinds, so we'd have to have them made to order which is no cheap or easy feat.

Looking around at all of the options (and baulking at the prices), I settled on Web-Blinds.com. Not my first choice but they fell within our budget, had a decent range of styles that could be produced in the sizes we needed and had an express option that meant the blinds would be with us on the Saturday that we moved in. So, I ordered them in, paid the extra charge for a Saturday delivery and duly scuttled over to the flat at the crack of dawn to await the delivery.

And waited. And waited. And waited a little bit more.

While the boys lugged the furniture up the stairs and the men from the National Grid traipsed in and out of our flat to deal with the building's gas leak, I stood guard by the window, keeping an eye out for the City Link van.

When it got to 11:30am and nothing had appeared, I started getting antsy. Calling the company seemed to be the best option, only to be told that thanks to a human error, our blinds were not being delivered on the day that I'd requested and paid extra for, they would in fact be with us on Monday.

At this point, full-on BLIND RAGE kicked in. No explanation, other than someone at their end had messed up. No offer of compensation and when I asked to speak to a manager, they were unavailable. Double blind rage. So, the handyman who I'd booked was paid a half day rate and packed off, told to return on Monday as the blinds were now rebooked for a Monday pre-9am delivery.

But of course, they weren't. Somewhere between the two companies, Web-Blinds.com and City Link, they'd managed to once again mess up our request. Our blinds were not booked on a pre-9am but a pre-noon. Which is great if you don't mind hanging around all day, twiddling your thumbs and waiting for a non-existent delivery. Funnily though, Mr F and I both have jobs so we couldn't sit on the sofa, drinking tea and watching Jeremy Kyle. City Link were about as helpful as a broken wrist at an arm wrestling competition - noone could get hold of the depot, or the driver or apparently their own brain for long enough to figure out where the hell our blinds actually were.

At this point, I'd had to leave the house to actually go to work, all the while alternating between airing my grievances at Simon at Web-Blinds.com (who was actually very nice and helpful in the end, offering us a part-refund for the trauma) and City Link (who were neither, nice, helpful or even remotely apologetic for their incompetence).

So, third time lucky, right? I wish. Now, the sensible thing to do (at least in my book) if there's a pre-9am delivery booked and the driver is not going to make the delivery because of traffic is for the driver to call the intended recipient. Apparently not in City Link's books. More waiting, more rage and finally, a late delivery but I couldn't face another day of dealing with incompetence so I figured being late to work would be worth the hassle saved.

Anyway, the long and short of it, the blinds did eventually arrive but our handyman was now booked up, so we have fallen on the mercy of Mr F's Dad to come and fit them. I am very excited as by the time I get home tonight, the black out blind will be up in the bedroom and I will actually be able to get more than five hours of consecutive sleep, making me a far less grumpy version of myself.




Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The never ending move


Apologies for the radio silence, blogging is somewhat difficult when you don't have an internet connection but you do have a gas leak, as we found out two days before we were due to move in. Cue panic, no hot water and lots of men in hi-vis vests digging up the pavement outside our building and feeding spray glue through the pipes in hopes that they wouldn't have to rip out our fresh walls to replace the entire building's pipes, which was a distinct and rather scary possibility.



We started moving in last Saturday and it feels like we haven't stopped since. For the initial lugging of the kitchen table, bed and the giant sofa bed (that needed to be taken apart at 11pm on a Friday night after one too many drinks and then was the biggest logistical nightmare to get up the tiny stairs of our building) we were very lucky to have Mr F's best friend Owen and brother-in-law-Rob come to help him heave the heavy stuff upstairs which was great as neither myself or Holly the sausage are much use with bulky things.




Since then, we've been lugging over box after bag after box in carloads whenever we can but it's a slow process as we're having to clear out and edit our lives. Okay, maybe not OUR lives, more MY life as it turns out that I have a never ending amount of stuff that I have accumulated over the years.

I am by my own admission a natural born hoarder and at first, the experience was painful but as I've got into it, I've found myself filling sacks for the bin and bags of clothes for the charity shop. The other day, Mr Flatzilla watched as I systematically emptied an entire massive under bed storage box into the charity shop bag after retrieving just two or three items.

This is a short post but over the next few days, I've got plenty to recount - the blinds from hell, blocking off the Pigeon hotel and a whole heap of other stories that I can tell you now that we have a temporary wifi dongle to see us through the internet drought.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Stick a fork in us



Because we are done. As of yesterday, our builders have officially moved out and we can move in. Hurrah! Tonight we'll be getting out our marigolds and giving everything a good scrub to get rid of any remaining dust and dirt and after that, the furniture descends. We're still trying to figure out the logistics of getting the sofa up the tiny staircase but where there's a will, there's a way.

I'll do a bigger post this weekend with a full-on before and after so until then you'll have to make do with our living room in all of its sunny evening glory.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Chair Safari

With the move imminent, it suddenly occurred to me that while we have a table, we have no chairs to sit on while we eat. I decided that this weekend it was time to remedy this situation and one way or another, score some chairs. I've been looking at chairs for a while now and baulking at the prices of your average wooden high street chair, I decided that for ours, we'd need to get creative if we wanted anything remotely stylish.

For a while, I was obsessed with classic bistro chairs like the one below:


However, being very much my mother's daughter, it has become clear that I have expensive tastes. The cheapest I could find these was on Made.com but at £160 a pair and in metal, they were out so I began obsessively scouring eBay but with no luck. The problem with chairs is that they're not exactly easy to post and while there are plenty lurking around, I didn't really feel that driving to Manchester or beyond was productive or economically viable.

Discussing our chair woes with my dear friend Hannah one night, she suggested that I should try the arches under Bethnal Green station in East London. They are largely filled with reclamation and house clearing businesses where chairs like the kind I was after are stacked high alongside mattresses, wardrobes and other bits of furniture. With Mr Flatzilla in Southampton for the day for work, I loaded Holly the sausage into the car and off we set to East London on our chair safari.




Only one of the businesses was open on Saturday but taking up three or four arches, there was plenty to explore down the narrow corridors with tables, stools and bed frames balanced precariously on either side of narrow corridors. Carrying Holly the sausage, I squeezed through a maze of plywood wardrobes, eyes trained skyward where all of the chairs were when suddenly amongst all of the office chairs, I spotted a pair of bentwood backs. I scurried back and grabbed one of the owners to get them down for me and £25 later, I had a pair of chairs exactly like the ones in Kent that I had obsessively stalked on eBay all of last week to no avail.


Pleased with my purchase, I drove home on a high with our new chairs in the boot and set up my workshop in my mum's living room where we're based at the moment.

In the darkness of the arches, I hadn't noticed quite how filthy they were.  So, I set to work in my mum's living room with some old crime dramas on TV to wile away the hours of scrubbing with a scourer, vinegar solution, toothbrush and toothpicks to dislodge years of grease, dust, paint and even old bacon from one of the chairs. I wish I was joking about that last part.


A few hours and a lot of elbow grease later, we have two nice chairs. We also now have a floor covered in Pledge which means that I spent the rest of the afternoon trying not to kill myself on the living room floor like a fat version of Bambi.



I'd originally planned to paint them but during the cleaning process, I found Mundus stamps on the underside and a quick google gave me a wealth of information about their history. From what I've gathered, these are pre-1914 before the company was bought out by Treton and worth quite a bit so I don't have the heart to mess with the past. Instead, I'm going to re-wax them in a dark cherrywood colour similar to what would've probably been their original colour and bring them back to their former glory.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Let there be light(ing)

I know I've said it countless times before but when we bought our flat, I thought that was the hard part. Sifting through never ending pages of properties on Rightmove and a constant supply of PDFs emailed by enthusiastic agents (who have no concept of an upper limit budget apparently) was, in retrospect, the easy part.

I don't know if I've mentioned it before but I discounted probably around 200 properties in the space of six months just through the web and eventually frustrated with staring at screens, I dragged Mr Flatzilla out and our little shoebox was the only one that we actually went to see because I just knew the second that we saw it that it was The One. Mr F took a bit more convincing and a lot of sketching but we got there in the end.

Anyway, I'm going off on a tangent. Basically, what I'm trying to say really long-windedly is that buying a flat was comparably easy to trying to pick lighting fixtures for the hallway and our staircase. We'd agreed on spotlights throughout the flat to make it as bright as possible but I wanted something a little different for the other areas.

At first, I had my heart set on classic bistro-style globes but having searched high and low, we couldn't find anything that matched my exact vision and boy, did we try. They were either on short solid stalks or had had their bottoms amputated or simply the wrong size, which was disappointing. Eventually, I had to concede that maybe the bistro light dream was over. Annoyingly, I had once had the perfect ones hanging in my childhood bedroom but it was 15 years ago and they are no doubt long in a landfill as my mother is ruthless when it comes to throwing things out.

So, the hunt began again. We spent one Monday evening gazing skyward in IKEA's lighting department at their cheap and cheerful lighting but practicalities won when I realised that we would be forever dusting the origami style that I'd been checking out. Next, Homebase who seem to be big on chandelier styles in my local branch and then another small domestic in the aisles of B&Q after Mr Flatzilla took the piss out of me for the energies that I was applying to my quest.

Still, we were no closer. Then, out of the blue, I was flipping through lookbooks on my desk at work one day when at the bottom of the pile sat the Bhs homeware lookbook that I'd squirreled away months before when we were still in pre-exchange hell but I'd already started doodling possibilities.

Anyway, there they were. Our lights.

It was love at first sight when I saw the Reno shades and it wasn't long before I was calling round my nearest branches to track down two egg yolk yellow for the stairs and the lovely chrome for our hallway. At £35 each, they came well within the budget and now they've been hung, I just need to go and buy some light bulbs so that we can finally flip the switches.

The Reno is available in four colours, although the yellow is no longer online but you can see the rest here

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Sitting, waiting, watching


This is the annoying part. After a whirlwind of replacing the wiring, plumbing in the bathroom and watching as the kitchen went in, we are now in the achingly slow finishing stages. We are literally watching paint dry and driving around endless branches of B&Q and Homebase in search of the perfect cupboard handles. I should really be in Ikea tonight, buying wardrobe handles but I decided to bunk off, lie on the sofa in front of The Apprentice  and blog instead.

The problem with having virtually all of our storage built in is that, well, it all needed building and then what seems like endless coats of Satinwood paint.

Layer after layer after layer.

And then, after all of the building, we need to repaint the entire flat as everything, including Holly the sausage, is covered in a fine layer of dust:


Originally, we'd planned to be in for Mr Flatzilla's 30th but sadly that came and went last week. Then we hoped to move this weekend but Mr F is off to a festival and I don't think Holly the sausage will be much use dragging a sofa up the stairs.

Fingers crossed for next week.


Thursday, 25 April 2013

Prepare to be floored, part three

I know I repeatedly say this but I am always amazed when I go round to the flat in the evenings by the progress that's been made that day and to see our selections and ideas come to fruition. All of those months ago when Mr Flatzilla and I spent what seemed like weeks deciding (read: arguing) about what floors to put in finally paid off when I popped in last night to find that the boards were finally going down and soon enough the acoustic boarding that lies underneath would be hidden.

The previous owner who rented it out had put down cheap beige carpet everywhere - including the kitchen (yeah, I know) - which hid the poorly maintained floorboards and did nothing in terms of sound insulation, meaning that the people underneath could hear every word and step which is never fun.

Our deeds stipulated that we too needed to put down carpet but after speaking to the freeholders, they told us that they were happy for us to put down a laminate or wooden floor provided that we could do something to insulate the sound. Talking it through with our builders, they suggested repairing and screwing down the original floorboards which were in a dreadful state, then layering insulating foam, followed by acoustic board (which cuts 80% of noise), followed by more insulating foam and THEN our floorboards. I'm not going to lie, it was an expensive idea but one that has proven worth its weight in gold. Previously, when I'd visit the flat in the evenings I could hear everything going on in the flat below us and now, nothing. Unless, of course, the tenants have buggered off on holiday and there is no noise emitting from them. Who knows.

Anyway, most importantly, we have a floor! Well, at least in our hallway, living room and dressing room.


And yes, some of it is essentially covered with industrial cling film at the moment. Best stuff EVER if you're decorating - the communal hallways are also covered in this to protect the carpets from all of the dust, paint and miscellaneous debris that our renovation has unleashed and unlike dust sheets, it actually stays in place.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Slowly slowly...

We are coming to an end with our renovations. At last the sink and lights are in the bathroom, the loo has been plumbed in and the kitchen is finished. I am most grateful for the latter as this means no more visits to the hideousness that is IKEA's kitchen department where I have spent far too many hours of my recent life sitting atop the dishwasher display, waiting for my number to be called.

Of course, my IKEA days are far from over - we still need shelves for the loo, an array of spatulas and bits and bobs plus half of our living room is overrun by items that need to be returned but at least I will never have to sit and wait amongst the hob and oven displays ever again. Or at least, for a long time.

Once again, I am amazed at my builders and the speed at which they work - I popped round on Friday to ask about a cupboard being built then ventured back in the evening to discover it was fully built to my specifications. As such, we're thinking it might be worth the extra cost to get them to build all of our other storage - time is at a premium as we'd like to be in to some degree by Mr Flatzilla's 30th birthday, which is next Friday. I know its a tall order but seeing how quickly they work, there is a distinct possibility that it could happen.

I'd love to share more photos today but unfortunately, I'm having what can only be described as a technological meltdown - first, my camera packed up, swiftly followed by a few days where my iPhone decided it didn't like taking pictures. Now that it's back up and running, I've used up all of my data allowance so I can't transfer any of the photos unless I find some free wifi knocking about.

So, until later this week, I have one photo to share, that of our bathroom lights. I spent a lot of time trying to track down Hollywood makeup mirror-style lights that are bathroom safe and don't cost an arm and a leg (and maybe a kidney). The ones that I'd had my heart set on originally have almost doubled in price over the last three years (from £60 each when my mother bought them for her bathroom to £100 a piece, plus VAT) but  I must grudgingly admit that the big blue behemoth came to my rescue with these, a reasonable £42 each. I'm planning to change the lightbulbs to chrome fronted ones at a later date but for now, I'm pretty happy with how they look:


I'll do full posts on each room at a later date but here's a sneak peek of our new bijoux (read: tiny) en-suite.


Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The immortal quest for a kitchen


We almost have a kitchen. After six trips to the big blue behemoth and with one more to go, we might actually never have to trek to the dreaded kitchen department of Ikea ever again. Considering that some members of staff now recognize me in all my harassed-face glory, I think it's safe to say that Ikea and I need a break from each other.

It has been a slow process to say the least but then, I guess all of these types of things are, particularly when you are very much a kitchen designing novice as I am.

So, mid-week last week, it looked like this:


Then at the weekend, it looked like this:


The top cupboards won't actually be blue of course, that's just the protective membrane in place, keeping the white cupboards glossy and pristine until the grand unveiling.

There's still bits and pieces to do. The shelves need to go in next to the door, there's another cupboard to hang and the fridge needs to reclaim its rightful place in the lefthand corner as opposed to the living room but we are getting awfully close to having a full and proper working kitchen. Look, we even have working plug sockets now!



Now, if IKEA could just sell me the right bloody pieces instead of the wrong ones as they did on Monday (went in for white finishing plinths, came out with grey gloss skirting boards - thanks, IKEA), we'd be done. Unfortunately, we now have yet another trip to blue and yellow hell planned for tomorrow night. Rocking good times. 

Friday, 29 March 2013

White space

So, last week I waxed lyrical about what a difference taking down part of the partition wall had made to the space in our kitchen/living room at the front of the flat. When I popped in to see what progress had been made in the next 24 hours, I was pretty blown away.

Not only is the entire bathroom now virtually tiled (I won't bother you with more photos of a tiled wall until it's all done, I promise) but the kitchen/living room has come along in leaps and bounds.

Cleared of much of the random crap that cluttered it up and with the first layer of white paint going up, it looks so different. Like a proper room. I know that people often say what a difference a lick of paint will make and my most recent visit has definitely reinforced this ideal. When we bought the flat, everywhere was painted in what I can only describe as watery custard - definitely closer to yellow dessert goo than the off-white creams and magnolias that are a renter's staple. In the photo below, you can see the contrast between the original colour and the fresh paint:


Wall colours were one of the first heated discussions that Mr Flatzilla and I had many months ago. Mr F was all about an off-white whereas I wanted a pure, brilliant white. It was a never ending to and fro between us, coupled with the constant flooring discussions that ran alongside the debate. Mr F's key argument was that pure white would show up any scuffs (it didn't take long to point out that off-white would also show up scuffs) and that he didn't want to live in a white box - admittedly, I was still set on white washed floors at this point but I had to concede my flooring desires as I didn't want to spend all of my free time sweeping and mopping.



One of the great things about our flat is the huge sash windows that allow the light to flood in. Now that the partition wall is gone, the flat feels light and airy even on the darkest and gloomiest of days -  even when the walls were a mix of bare plaster and custard (above, left on a typical dull grey London day).

Unfortunately by the time I visited last night, it was already dark so I didn't get the full effect but the feeling of space in what was once a pokey flat is unbelievable and I walked around switching our new lights on and off with glee like a mad woman.

The neighbours opposite have no doubt gone from thinking I am a torch-wielding burglar to a lunatic with a love of light switches.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

24 hours later

Last night entailed yet another epic struggle around IKEA to buy counter tops, plinths and cabinet handles - this time minus Holly the sausage, who decided to vent her fury at us by pooing all over the doormat for our return. Thanks Holly.

However, my mood was decidedly buoyed by the fact that when I popped round to the flat last night, I was greeted by this lovely sight.



Okay, maybe not so lovely yet but its definite progress. My builders are like lightning. Then this morning I get a call from the head builder asking precisely which shade of grout I would like. Considering I hadn't even decided what pants I would be wearing yet it was a bit of a panic stations moment for everyone involved but hopefully we've made the right decision.

Next challenge is a mirror and lighting. And door handles. I never knew so many options existed. I've narrowed it down to five variations of the same style. Mr Flatzilla may kill me.

Oh what a fun weekend we have planned.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

28 days later

So, it's been exactly four weeks since our builders started work and slowly but surely, it's all coming together. The kitchen (well, most of it) is being delivered today although we have another trip to the blue and yellow behemoth planned for this evening - minus the sausage this time - to pick up the last few panels and hopefully a kitchen counter. God knows how we'll get it home but where there's a will, there's a way. I figure if I can get a double bed home in my Beetle, there must be a way to slide a counter in. Admittedly, I will probably be hanging out of the boot clinging on for dear life all the way back from Wembley but certain sacrifices (such as health and safety) must be made when occasion requires it.

Anyway, exciting things are afoot in our bathroom. Our tiles arrived at lunchtime today and the builders set straight to work - by the time I popped in after work, the first rows had gone up in the shower. Look!


Big fat yeay, right there. I never thought tiles would excite me so much but they really do. They excited me even more when I managed to get them for considerably less than I'd estimated. We'd originally planned to put our Tesco clubcard points towards vouchers for Topps Tiles (£1 of Tesco points equals £3 at TT, true fact) but being the slackers that we are, we missed their exchange programme. We couldn't exactly wait until the next one sometime in the summer so I hopped on google to search out other options and came across tradepricetiles.co.uk. I actually ended up finding a nicer shade of grey for our kitchen splash back than those stocked by Topps Tiles and the real kicker was that they were also considerably cheaper. While TT charges £22.50 per square metre for white Metro bevelled tiles (20cm x 10cm) , the same tiles were only £15.50 per square metre at TPT and when you're ordering 9 metres, you get a considerable saving - ours was over £60.

For the kitchen, Topps didn't actually do a grey shade as such, more a smoky blue which we weren't really going for but TPT do a lovely soft grey, just what I was looking for and for almost half of the price at £18 per square metre, compared with Topps at £34.50. Again, big savings when you're on a budget.

Basically, I can't recommend TradePriceTiles enough. Their standard delivery took only 2 days to reach us and we could deduct the cost of the sample tiles that we'd previously bought from our order. Two bevelled thumbs up!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Small spaces, part two


So, as I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, our flat is quite small. With 48m² for the two of us, plus Holly the sausage (she’s okay, she’s only 9 inches tall), we have to make the space work hard to our advantage.

Certain space saving devices such as pocket doors and built-in storage are a must if we’re to have any chance of not tripping over/killing each other but some furniture you just can’t build in or compromise on such as sofas, tables and chairs.

We’ve been very lucky on the furniture front so far – my mother has donated the very comfortable sofa bed for our living room and Nick, a photographer who I work with regularly has very kindly given us an Ikea PS unit I’d pinned onto the flatzilla board when he had one going spare so we will actually have some freestanding bits and pieces.

However, one piece that troubled us was a dining table. We have very little space to put one in (it will sit between the windows in the front room) so we needed a solution that was adaptable. Scouring the internet high and low for bargains, I finally came across the Fenton table at Debenhams.

Normally, it is 75cm x 80cm but the top folds out to become double the size, going from a two/four person to space for up to six in the blink of an eye and the swing of a hinge.




And the best bit? It’s currently in the sale, down from £400 to £160 for the two toned version that we bought. I plan to paint the oak part a light grey to match the rest of our colour scheme. It’s also available in oak veneer.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Bathing beauties

One of the greatest challenges that Mr Flatzilla and I came up against in our flat was the bathroom. Long and narrow, verging on corridor proportions and with a rotting window at the end, it didn't meet our criteria (proper shower, separate loo) in any way, shape or form. In fact, I don't think it would've met anyone's criteria, unless they loved 1970s red and cream floral tiles and a loo with a barcode still stuck to it. Classy.



However, I was so in love with what is now our flat that I spent days staring at the plans, determined not to be outdone by a gross bathroom before a Eureka moment struck. Of course, you're probably wondering why we wouldn't just put a shower in the bath and leave the layout more or less as is. My problem lies in a dodgy knee and a tendency to fall over, so a shower in the bathroom would've certainly ended in a trip to A&E or at least an ambulance within the first six months. Plus, neither myself nor Mr F are that into baths and we really, really wanted a separate loo for practical reasons.

Anyway, back to the Eureka moment. The simple solution was to split the bathroom off into two separate rooms - a WC from the hallway and then a shower and basin en-suite. Seeing as its just us two and a sausage dog in a one bedroom flat, we're not expecting a lot of guests in need of a shower so this seems like the best solution and use of space.

Of course, it was never as simple as just putting in a partition wall. In moving the loo, we had to lower the waste pipe exit so that it would drain properly but one of the biggest challenges was the number of doors. Our bedroom is a decent size but by converting our bathroom into an en suite, we needed to add an extra door and risked losing space to the area needed for a door to open and close properly. We'd already decided to convert the door to our bedroom into a pocket door (or sliding door to you and me) to allow enough space for our bed where we wanted it, so it seemed to be the natural solution to put in a pocket door for the bathroom.

Thankfully, the partition wall between the bedroom and the bathroom had actually been modernised sometime in the last 50 years (unlike everything else in the flat), so the process wasn't too time consuming. The builders stripped off the outer plasterboard and rejigged the innards to create 'pockets' for the doors to slide into.

So, below you'll be able to see the changes we've made to the layout. On the left is the original corridor-like set up and on the right, the new version. We've put a large shower in that runs the width of the bathroom (a grand total of 120cm, I told you it was corridor-like!), plus a large sink, new window and a heated towel rail underneath.



I say we've put in but in reality, its all being plumbed in this week so hopefully by Easter we will have a fully functional bathroom and loo. Very exciting. In the meantime, here's a little peek at the bathroom pocket door - I took this photo a few days ago and the walls have been plastered since but you know, I don't want to give everything away yet.


Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Breaking down the walls

So, I thought I would share a little sneaky progress report with you all. Despite the hiccup the other day, the builders are saints in dusty clothing and have been working at breakneck speed (or so it seems) and in the space of three weeks have done the following:

- Rewired the entire flat, including moving and installing a new fuse box.

- Replaced all of the radiators and dodgy verging-on-the-condemned boiler.

- Taken down, re-boarded and plastered the kitchen/living room wall.

- Ripped out the bathroom, put in a new partition wall between what will now be a separate en suite and loo off the hallway.

- Replastered virtually everything.

- Repaired the floorboards, laid acoustic boards to block out enough noise to allow us to have laminate flooring.

- Repaired three original sash windows and the sills underneath them plus replaced two rotten windows.

Admittedly, the entire place still looks like a building site but it's all slowly starting to come together which is very, very exciting.

The thing that I am perhaps most excited about is the wall, or lack thereof. When we first went to see the flat many, many months ago there was a lot of debate about whether or not we could remove the wall between what was currently being used as a second bedroom (but had been the kitchen) and the living room (where the kitchen had been moved to). The estate agent reassured us time and again that it was just a partition wall, as did our builder when we went to investigate further. However, our freeholder was concerned that it wasn't and might be load bearing. Cue finding a structural engineer who could come out and tell us yay or nay. Thank god for the lovely Alan, who came out on the same day that I called him in a blind panic and the next day, we had a letter stating that it was fine to rip it out.

So rip it out we did.

L to R: Day 1: wall in tact, Day 5: taking down the plasterboard to reveal the 120 year old partition, Day 12: removed and replastered



















Unfortunately, we couldn't take out the wall right up the ceiling as they're uneven - it would've involved ripping out and replacing the entire ceiling plus I think a bit of wonkiness adds to the charm - three years of living in Brighton gave me a taste for crooked walls, floors and ceilings.

Now, you're probably still looking at the photos of the kitchen and wondering what the hell we've actually done - you can really see the difference when you see it from the living room:

Top: the cramped kitchen/living room before works started. Bottom L to R: Minus a kitchen, then minus a wall.
I am still amazed at how removing 150cm of wall has changed the dynamic and the light in this room. We'll be moving the kitchen back to its original place (where the big grey board is currently resting) so that we can reclaim the living room for a sole purpose.

Not laughing like drains



It had to happen. Things had been going too smoothly for my liking. I was waiting for the moment something would go tits up with baited breath.

Disaster struck on Sunday at 7pm as I lay, hungover, on the sofa contemplating what to have for dinner and watching Man Vs Food.

Up until that time, I had rather enjoyed an enforced no-flat-talk weekend as I'd been at a friend's hen in deepest Gloucestershire, tucked away from phone signal and the outside world. I think that Mr Flatzilla was equally delighted as for once we weren't spending all of our free time discussing the floor and what taps to buy for the bathroom.

Anyway, on with the story. If our builders had really thought things through, they probably wouldn't have removed the down pipe that drains our roof terrace before a weekend of torrential rain. But of course, being builders, they did.

Cue a not-too-pleased call from our freeholder informing us that water is gushing down the outer wall of our building then telling us that the pipe leading down from our lower terrace was blocked, leading to more water flying everywhere and that we were very possibly about to flood his basement flat via the lower drains. Good times.

Of course, appetites went flying out the window and colour drained from our faces at the prospect of damp, damaged walls and all manner of costs involved in repairs  plus angry people.

We arrived on Monday morning to find a soaked external wall, a blocked drain and a blocked pipe leading from our lower terrace. The builders flew into action, hopping garden walls to get to the basement flat's drains (thank god no one called the police) and armed with 20 metres of rods, managed to get everything pushed through. After a bit of a bollocking from both myself and Mr F, the down pipe was replaced, although in the end it turned out to be a saving grace that it wasn't plumbed in as the cascading water would've apparently been 10 times worse had the water from the roof terrace been attempting to drain down too.

The knackered guttering where pigeons enjoy pooing has for now been shored up and should hopefully withstand the rest of the freakishly wet weather for a while until the freeholders replace everything in the summer. Considering the guttering has been held together with bulldog clips for some time (I shit you not, dear reader), this cannot come a moment too soon.

We also discovered in this horrible, horrible process that we have a pigeon hotel located under the lower terrace. We had wondered for some time quite why pigeons were so enamored with our lower terrace and now we know why - they have built a roost underneath the flooring and it appears to be busier than the Heathrow Marriott. Not looking forward to a visit from pest control.

God, I miss blogging about shoes sometimes.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Off-Topic: DOG IN A BAG


This is Holly the sausage. You might've noticed her little face in a previous post. Mr Flatzilla and I are waaaay off having kids so Holly the sausage is our furry substitute. Generally, we take her everywhere with us as she is very old and since losing her lifelong sausage companion three years ago, she has become increasingly distressed whenever we leave her alone, so we try to do so only when absolutely necessary.

As you can see, Holly likes riding around in the trolleys of various DIY Meccas. In the last two weeks, we've taken her to B&Q three times, Homebase, Wickes and Screw Fix. At none of the above have we had any issues, seeing as Holly stays in her snuggly carrier bag, doesn't bark, wee or poo (sometimes she lets off the odd fart but still, she's 14!) and generally the staff are most welcoming to her little ginger face.

Anyway, up until this point we had an unbroken record in welcomeness until we visited the blue and yellow behemoth that is IKEA the other night on a mission to sort out our new kitchen. Now, I checked the website, I checked the door. Nowhere on either of these is there a 'no dogs' sticker. Of course, you're probably not meant to take dogs to places like IKEA but seeing as small children are allowed to run willy nilly through the aisles and smash up displays, we figured a small dog in a bag probably wouldn't raise any more eyebrows than usual.

And in fact, she didn't. We made it all the way round the entire store, making notes, testing extractor fans and comparing work surfaces without so much as a moment's notice paid to the ginge. Until we got through the barriers and I went off to buy some herring and a bottle of water from the food shop while Mr Flatzilla waited 10 feet from the exit.

It was of course at this point that a jobsworth IKEA employee, no doubt counting the minutes until they could clock off, spotted her as Mr Flatzilla chatted to another customer who was enquiring about her rather swish Harris Tweed carrier bag (it's from lovemydog.co.uk for those who are interested). Now, there is a certain irony in the fact that Mr F was standing no more than 10 feet away from the exit at this point. Mr F pointed out that we were leaving as soon as I'd got my Swedish biscuit fix and asked if the dog had bothered any customers. No, came the answer. Okay then. BUT SHE MIGHT. Right.

At this point Mr F flippantly enquired if he could make a complaint about the angry Haribo-filled five year old who had repeatedly charged through the kitchen section, ramming into anything they could (including me) with a trolley. Apparently not, this behaviour is totally acceptable.

So, small destructive child? Good. Small sausage dog in a bag? BAD. GET OUT.

Needless to say, I will be buying our kitchen online instead.

For those curious about our kitchen, below is a little moodboard to whet your appetites. Click to expand.



Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Week one - gutted

It has only been one week since our builders moved in but it seems that things are moving along at quite the pace. So far, the builders have gutted the entire flat, re-wired everything (including the fuse box of doom) and taken down a significant chunk of the interior wall.

What was formerly our lower terrace has become a temporary dumping ground for everything that was once inside the flat, including the bath which is currently balanced fairly precariously on a pile of other rubbish. Apologies to the former resident pigeons.


The last week has also seen a rapid change to my sleeping habits and my relationship with Mr Flatzilla. Whereas once I slept until 8am, I am now forcing myself out of bed an hour earlier virtually every day to trek round to the flat and discuss all of the ridiculous things that one doesn't really think of when it comes to buying a flat. For example, where you would like all of your plug points.Who knew you could argue so much about just how many plug points you want in the living room?

Luckily for both of us, Mr Flatzilla and I had plenty of time before we completed for endless discussions about most of the big things (wall colours, kitchen type, floors etc) but I'm not sure we were fully prepared for the details that need discussion. A lot of discussion. We spent an hour one night last week trekking around in B&Q's bathroom department trying to pick a toilet. Much to Mr Flatzilla's consternation, I insisted on sitting on virtually each one to establish which ones were higher. Noone wants their knees round their ears while they're having a wee, do they?

Mr Flatzilla didn't want a square loo whereas I'd been somewhat swayed from my online trawls. Also, I did not know that it is virtually impossible to buy a loo with a handle flush these days unless you're going for a Victoriana vibe in your bathroom which we are most definitely not so we are now the proud-ish owners of a button flush loo in a compromised style somewhere between normal and square.

Having also purchased the rest of our bathroom from B&Q, we came home and I pulled up Victoria Plum for a quick surf, only to promptly buy another entire bathroom (minus the loo) online an hour later in their really rather good sale. You may think me mad (noone needs four sinks) but the problem with B&Q was that as lovely as the pieces we'd ordered were, they were all special order with the average delivery time of 10 days and our builders have itchy fingers whereas Victoria Plumb delivered on two working days later.

So, itchy fingers crossed, our bathroom may actually start being plumbed in very, very soon. One room, sorted. Except for taps, a towel rail and other fittings. Still, it's progress.

Next up, it's time for some Ikea kitchen fun. If anyone out there would like to give me a lesson in how to use their rage-inducing online kitchen planner without punching my laptop, I would be most grateful.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

PAY DAY

Hurrah! It's the end of the month! PAY DAY! Oh, but wait. This payday is a stark reminder of how quickly my life has changed. I have gone from disposable income that I could fritter away on handbags and shoes to having a mortgage, walls that are apparently made of lollipop sticks (read: falling down) and a slightly manic twitch in my left eye.

So, here, broken down for your amusement is a simplified version of what has happened for a formerly frivolous fashion girl:



 


For anyone who is more interested in handbags than toilets and other bathroom fittings, may I suggest a visit over to The Outnet, where there's currently up to 65% off McQ by Alexander McQueen. This particular handbag can be found here. SOB.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The fun starts here


At 8am this morning I left our current residence and trekked over to the new flat to meet the builders and let them get started on what is essentially gutting our new place. Tools in hand, they marched up the stairs and by the time I left 40 minutes later half the kitchen had been dismantled and was strewn across the floor. Good times.

I thank my lucky stars every day that team Flatzilla don't have to live in a building site and that we are safely tucked up around the corner until the renovations are complete in a few weeks time (hopefully).

Of course, this is only the beginning - equally terrifying and exciting and I know that in a few weeks time I will be shaking my fist at the sky over something or other but until then, let's start as we mean to go on - next stop Ikea-hell to pick a new kitchen.

Like I said, the fun starts here.

Monday, 25 February 2013

THERE IS A GOD

Apologies for the radio silence these last few weeks, I started to get superstitious about the whole process after we had a very hairy few weeks where we were worried we would lose the flat after the vendor decided to put it back on the market but I am now very pleased to tell you that we completed on Friday!

Of course, things never run smoothly and we spent the first hour alternating between trying to break into our flat when it emerged that the front door lock was mounted poorly and drinking prosecco on the (very dirty) stairs outside our front door. Eventually our poor, long-suffering estate agent Billy had to come round and essentially force the door open for us. Thanks Billy, we owe you a drink.



So, here we are (a slightly disheveled) Mr Flatzilla and I in our new home. And of course, our mini hairy Flatzilla, Holly the sausage who has been going nuts running around the flat but is best pleased when lying on my coat in the hallway.

It'll be a while before we're actually properly in, as we discovered when we went back round on Saturday with our builder - we need new electrics, a boiler, really the list is endless. Work starts on Wednesday but Mr Flatzilla has already had great fun ripping down rotting trellises and all manner of crap on the lower terrace.

It is still slightly surreal to know that it is ours and ours alone. Of course, I'm sure we'll get a nice big dose of reality when all of the bills start rolling in. Good times.


Monday, 28 January 2013

Old adages...

...rarely prove to be true. Take 'no news is good news' - it's a bunch of balls, isn't it?  While I sit on my ass and wait for progress of any kind and a new month of magazines to drop, I've been pinning away over on the Flatzilla Board. Some recent additions include this awesome set of stairs, since stairs are my topic de jour and this painted on tasseled runner way easier to clean than an actual carpet one any day. 





Anyway, fingers crossed for some progress this week. OH PLEASE DEAR GOD, LET THERE BE SOME PROGRESS.