New Sink Splashback Tiles from Bert and May

Four grey and white tiles

Our new tiles have arrived!  I’ve been in search of some small tiles for the sink in our utility room for ages, but strugged to find any interesting tiles that are smaller than the standard 20 x 20cm.

Luckily I came across Bert and May, a London supplier of handmade and reclaimed tiles, who have a fantastic selection of glazed tiles in 13 x 13cm size.  These are the grey and white ‘Churriana’ Tile, which also come in black, pink, blue and green.

We’ve just bought a handful to form an interesting splashback feature for our sink, but they also look stunning as a feature wall (if you have the budget!).

They’re not up yet, but we’ll keep you posted on the final result, as well as the progress on my (miniscule) kitchen tart-up.

glazed-churriana-tiles

 

 

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Homemade Weddings: A Magical, Musical Marriage…

Hello Walls: Homemade Weddings, the Bride and Groom

Mr & Mrs Parkes-Nield on their wedding day.

Back in 2012, in the middle of the Far Out Stage at Greenman Festival, South Wales, Sophie and Chris were awaiting Adam Buxton’s arrival on stage when the interval music began to play. LCD Soundsytem’s ‘Someone Great’ travelled through the speakers…and Chris chose this moment to propose to Sophie. The photo is probably a bit of a giveaway but yes, she said yes.

They’re a musical couple – Sophie, a folk fanatic and violin player, and Chris, a singer-songwriter and accomplished guitarist. They met back in 2006 when Sophie answered Chis’ ad for a violinist to join the band, Air Cav*. So of course when it came to planning for the big day, music was naturally a key component.

I’ve known Sophie for a number of years now and was privileged enough to be invited along to the wedding (I may have also been responsible for designing the wedding invitations so that probably left her with no choice but to invite me – perk of the job, I say.)

 

Homemade weddings folky invite graphic design

Homemade weddings folky invite CD case

The musical thread was established as early as the invitation, in the guise of a CD, landed on the doorstep with lyrics from folk song ‘Searching for Dams’ on the front – “We join our hands in wedding bands and married we shall be.”

The wedding took place in June 2014 at Bo Peep Farm in Banbury, Oxfordshire (they skipped 2013 due to Sophie’s irrational aversion to odd numbers). A beautiful venue, the ceremony was held onsite in Dovecote Barn – an impressive 18th Century conversion, and then the revelry continued as we moved onto a neighbouring field – 15 acres of land to do with what they wished. A marquee was erected and straw bales were scattered and similar to Kath’s wedding at York Maze, guests could camp over, saving them the expense of a hotel – this time the bride and groom joined in the camping fun too, albeit in a slightly more comfortable ‘Emperor Bell Tent’. Being a thrifty Yorkshire lass I was more than happy to pitch up  – but boy I wish I hadn’t had those last few ciders…tent plus early morning sunshine is not great for hangovers.

 

Hello Walls: Homemade Weddings Honeymoon Tent

It was an absolute blast – they’re such a great couple and I feel honoured to be able to feature their day as part of our Homemade Weddings series, sharing with you some of the personal touches that made it such a genuine and complete day.

 

Hello Walls homemade weddings. Bunting and Guitar card case

Preparations began right away in advance as Sophie started to hand sew 150 metres of bunting, a mighty task for which friends and family members were roped in to help with. Floral fabrics in blues, pinks and purple hues, the decorations were bound for the edges of the marquee where the reception was held – a simple way of creating a celebratory and welcoming feel to the space.

Sophie recalls “I really did go bunting mad. Pinking shears and thread lived permanently at the foot of my sofa as I made reams of the stuff for almost two years straight. I was pretty pleased to finally finish.”

All the effort was worth it as it’s still in use today – a length of it now draped across the fencing of the front garden of their new house together. The rest is loaned out, upon request, for various occasions including a 1st Birthday party, mine and Sophie’s 30th birthday celebrations and, most recently, for the hen party of one of her bridesmaids. It also made its way to Wales, back to the Green Man Festival and decorated our communal gazebo.

 

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Apple Crate Side Table

Say hello to the newest addition to our dining room!

In its previous life it was a pre-war apple crate, but with a bit of TLC it’s been re-purposed into a  2-4-1 piece of furniture, providing us with a new side table for our settle as well as some overflow storage for my (allegedly excessive) recipe book collection.

I picked it up on eBay for a bargainous £16.95  including UK postage.  They are sold pretty rough and ready, so they aren’t washed or sanded and they show a bit of wear and tear, but it doesn’t take much effort to get them looking pretty.

I gave this one a light sand down  – enough to knock off the roughest edges, but not so much that it sanded away the original branding, or the rustic look and feel.  Originally I was going to wax it, and I did use a clear Briwax on the inside (worked in with some wire wool), but I switched up to a couple of coats of clear varnish on the outside to give more protection from water marks and to seal some of the remaining rough, splintery bits.

All in all it was about £20 and an hour or so’s labour to give this crate a second lease of life (and in a cider lover’s home – very fitting!)

 

p.s. if you don’t fancy the hassle of prepping them yourself, you can also pick some up here from Baileys Store where they pre-scrub them for you.

 

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Before & After: Floor To Ceiling Bookshelves

Bookshelves in home office

Once upon a time (like many little girls), I had a brief ambition to be a Disney princess.  It wasn’t the frocks or the (interchangeable) princes I was after though, it was Belle’s library.  Books as high as the eye can see, floor to ceiling windows, spiral staircases to balcony walkways, an open fireplace and period furniture.  It’s basically an interior designer’s dream, and as a book lover it caught my imagination – definitely a better romancing strategy than the usual ‘saving from an evil witch’ schtick.

Skip forward 20 years or so to buying our first house, and though our budget didn’t quite stretch to a palatial library wing, it was my ambition to have a room I could make into a small office with my very own (modest) wall of books.

Books Make a Home Book

It was one of our first home projects, and our talented carpenter friend John did the tricky bit of actually building them for us. I found inspiration in Damien Thompson’s ‘Books Make A Home‘. I sent John away with post-it notes in the pages of the book marking the style of bookshelves I liked, and John ingeniously managed to work out how to recreate them using materials within our budget.

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Newbies Guide To Prepping Your Walls For Painting: Part 2

Picture of Kath's living room with holes in wall filled

Why yes, your walls will look like they have measles after you’ve filled, sanded and given the filler a lick of paint….

In part 1 we covered the things you need to do to get you and your room ready for the prep work (which mainly involves stressing that paint/plaster dust is EVIL and you need to cover everything in sight).

So once you and your room are ready, here are the steps for getting lovely smooth walls all ready for your fresh tin of paint:

1. If you have any wall paper on the walls you’re going to need to strip it off (don’t paint over it!). Use one of these – they’re easy to use and actually quite fun once you get going.

2. Wash the walls down – if they’ve had wallpaper up, or are a bit old and dirty or have any grease / smoke stains then use sugar soap and rinse with water. If not just use water. In either case make sure you wring the sponge out well – you don’t want sopping wet walls.

3. Once dry, sand the ceiling and walls with 120 grit sandpaper. Start with the ceiling (if you’re painting it) – if you don’t fancy doing this on a ladder you can use a pole sander. Use a side to side sweeping potion using firm pressure (but not too hard – you don’t want to gauge bits). Change the paper when it starts to get clogged with dust (or if you’re using a wet & dry sponge sanding block you can rinse it off).

4. Once you’ve done an initial sand you need to wipe the walls down with a very slightly dampened cloth so you can get rid of the dust and see where you have any holes and imperfections

5. If there are any gaps where moulding meets the wall (eg between skirting boards and wall) you need to run a thin line of caulk into the crack and smooth it with a wet finger or a putty knife to leave a nice finish – this video is a good tutorial

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Newbies Guide To Prepping Your Walls For Painting Part 1

In my introduction to this series of posts about painting and decorating I made reference to the torturous process of preparing your room for painting. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s by far my least favourite DIY activity.  Unfortunately it’s also very, very necessary – otherwise you end up wasting time and expensive paint on shoddy looking walls.

Liz and I are hardly pro’s but we’ve learnt a few things along the way – some by trial and error, some by encounters with helpful DIY nerds on handyman message boards.

So here are some tips based on our experiences, that painting and decorating newbies might find useful:

skimmed walls in ultility roomLovely smooth walls in our utility room post skimming

Before you start….

Before you start out on the laborious journey of filling / sanding /smoothing / prepping your walls, take a long hard look at them and see what kind of state they’re in (especially if you’re in an old house):

1.  Are there any signs of damp? In our bedroom we noticed some dampness in the corner of the room.  This turned out to be the result of a crack in the pointing in the roof which needed to be fixed before we could start decorating.

2.  Are the walls so bashed / uneven that you’d be better just skimming them? Skimming is where a professional (don’t try this at home kids!) comes in and smooths a thin layer of plaster over your walls to form a nice even surface to paint on. We opted for this in our utility room as it would have taken us days to get the walls in a half-decent state, whereas it took our joiner John half a day to skim the whole lot (including the ceiling). Well worth the effort (though you need to factor in drying time before you start to paint – give it at least a week).

Tips continue under the cut…. Read More

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Newbie DIYers Guide To Types of Paint

IMG_1803

Wandering into a DIY store for the first time as a complete painting and decorating novice, the range of different types of paint was overwhelming.  And you could be forgiven, on reading the paint blurbs, for thinking that you must need about 8 different types of paint to decorate a room.

Our first efforts were part research, part experience (and one surprisingly informative call to the Farrow & Ball helpline -those guys know their stuff!).

Having painted all of 3 rooms in my life I’m by no means an expert, but between Liz and I we’ve cobbled together (in non-DIY nerd speak) the basics any newbie should know…

3 paint tins

Base Coats

Primer – this is paint that goes on another surface to make it ready for painting. It’s the same concept as face primer in make up – it creates a nice smooth base for the upper coats to go on top of. You don’t need it for walls if they’re already in good condition, but it’s especially important if you’re painting directly onto a surface like wood, MDF or metal.  If you’re painting directly onto wood make sure you use a wood primer that blocks knots (or a dab of knotting solution) or the little blighters will bleed through.  Stain block primer was also a lifesaver for us when we discovered a mysterious dark patch on our wall that seeped through the new paint above.

Undercoat – paint manufacturers always seem to recommend you purchase their undercoat, but  as far as I can tell, it’s really only needed in cases where you’re changing shade.  So if you’re going dark to light or vice versa, it helps to have a dark/light undercoat to save cash in needing several coats of your expensive top coat to get the true colour.  It’s also handy to have a layer of undercoat under a gloss top coat (see below).

Mist coat – this isn’t a type of paint you can buy, but if you’re painting onto new plaster it’s really pourous, so if you paint directly onto it it will suck in all the moisture from your paint and probably cause it to peel when it dries.  To avoid this you should do an initial ‘mist coat’ which is a watered down version of a matt emulsion paint (we used 50:50 water to paint – any colour will do).  This  helps seal the plaster so  it’s ready to paint on.  If your plaster’s a bit old and dodgy you’ll probably need some primer too.

More advice under the cut…

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Tips For Painting Novices: Choosing Paint Colours

Paint tester squares on walls

My parents always called a painter whenever a room needed a repaint (usually every 20 years or so).  They had a good excuse though; they were working parents with 4 kids. We also lived in a Victorian house with high ceilings and decorative features like ceiling roses and moulded wallpaper, which look lovely until it comes to painting them, at which point you’re wishing you just opted for a nice, magnolia Barrett home with straight geometric walls.

Our painter was a nice chap called Harry who’d known my granddad since he was a boy, and probably gave us a good family and friends’ rate.  The only drawback to this arrangement was that Harry had very particular tastes in colour.  Essentially whatever shade he had in mind, was the shade your room eventually turned out to be, no matter what colour you selected from the paint chart.  Leave him in the morning to paint your living room a nice shade of off-white, and you’ll come back in the evening to a green tinted room, as ‘the off white didn’t go as well with the ceiling shade’. A slightly Russian roulette approach to decorating, but worked out well for all concerned.

Now that I have my own house and I’m in charge of my own colour choices (after years of rented beige living) I’ve found selecting colour to be quite a daunting task.   The amount of choice is almost too overwhelming.

I’m not an interior designer or a bold and creative user of colour, but I (with some help from Liz) have amassed some practical tips which have helped me navigate through the world of choice that’s out there.

View my 12 top tips under the cut…

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Newcomers To Painting & Decorating

Kath stripping wall paper

When we moved into our first home (about 2 years ago), Ste and I were newcomers to the world of painting and decorating.  We were lucky in the fact that there was no immediate need to get a paint brush out – no flock wall paper or neon colours, but after a couple of days we were already itching to put our own mark on the place, especially having suffered 8 years of magnolia rented flat living.

Tragically, my limited exposure to DIY meant that my impressions of decorating were subliminally transmitted via rom com movie montages and Crown/Dulux ads; the happy young couple painting their first home, the woman in cute dungarees, dabbing paint playfully on each others’ noses.  ‘What larks!’  I thought, ‘this painting business is both romantic and fun!’.  The reality was somewhat different – if after several hours of filing /sanding / rollering covered in dust and dirt, Ste had daubed paint on my face I would have probably lamped him rather than interpret it as a romantic gesture.

Still, slapping paint on a wall isn’t rocket science, and you can do a very good job as an amateur, but it pays to do a bit of research, take care in deciding on paint colours and invest time on preparation of the room, otherwise your investment in expensive paint and materials can go to waste.

Over the next few weeks Liz and I are going to attempt to combine our pooled knowledge about painting, and some of the tips and useful resources we’ve found, in an attempt to help other amateurs like ourselves who might be embarking upon their own first home painting adventures.

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