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 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, 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 (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 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.