Thursday

Winged Wonder.

Decorating. What a mine field that is. You spend hours, days and weeks deciding on the perfect curtains/art work/rug only to walk into someone else's house and see they have the same thing. It's crushing. Well, for people like me who think too much about their home, it's crushing. I like things in my house to reflect OH and me and our taste and not be part of the latest 'must-have' trend.

So far we've been quite lucky in that we've inherited, haggled, and created a great selection of (almost) one off things for our home. Hank - the circus light - for example. The beautiful green leather Chesterfield is another example - while it's not ours (or a one off) it is on a very generous loan from OH's parents and I've never seen one in that green or beautiful quality of leather before or since we acquired it. So we have been lucky. And I'd like it to stay that way.

When we were mapping out the new house we discovered that the front room is a nice amount larger than its equivalent in our old rental home so we've had the pleasure of working out what we can do with the extra space and OH spoke first and loudest so he won. For as long as I can remember he's wanted a wingback armchair for himself and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to bring that to life for him.

So for his birthday/Christmas I got him his chair. Or sort of...

In November I came across this absolute gem on Freegle: the website where people advertise things they no longer need for free to anyone who can come and collect them. I get several emails from the site a day and mostly they aren't that useful to me but that day I was in luck.

*Excuse the photo - it was the only one taken by the 'Freegler' and I forgot to take another before it went to be transformed.*


It was a mid-blue velour fabric which, while not ideal, worked well for the time we needed it not to be precious. When I picked it up we were still deep in renovation hell so OH was happy to be able to slob out on it in whatever state he was in at the end of a long day and not worry about making it dirty or damaging the fabric at all.

Then came the light at the end of the tunnel - we were finally able to think about bringing furniture back into the house. So I got researching and that's when I came across the lovely Heather at Eclectic Chair Upholstery. What drew me to her was her brilliant website, her location and the fact she offered to collect and then deliver the chair. When I contacted her she explained the chair would need around 5 meters of fabric to recover it so i set about finding the perfect fabric for OH.

We considered the following...








They were all fabulous but for one reason or another we ruled them out: too much pink, too light (we have a part-time dog), too feminine, too jazzy etc.

So after a short debate we plumped for:


Colourful: tick
Not too light: tick
Not too jazzy: tick

Just jazzy enough: tick
Not too girly: tick

Great Ikat print: tick

I was sold.

The only thing was it was located in Washington, U.S.A. However, as it turns out, it was actually cheaper for me to buy the amount I needed and pay shipping and import tax than it would have been to stroll into, say John Lewis, and pick a beautiful fabric from there. And the added bonus? There is a SLIM chance I will see this fabric anywhere else, and if I do there is an even slimmer chance that it's covering a winged back armchair acquired from Freegle.

So off it went for its face lift. And just over a week later we got her back. World, meet OH's new prized possession.





Of course, the problem now is that he isn't actually allowed to sit in it for fear of, heaven forbid, somehow damaging it. I'll relax soon but for the moment I'm just enjoying its crisp new look too much.

I highly recommend Heather - she's friendly, professional and competitively priced. She even mirrored the removable cushion cover top and bottom so that if anything irreversible ever happened we can just flip the cushion and start again.

Just one more thing: only clear drinks allowed in the living room now, darlings!


Hupdate: A House Update.

It's been a little while since I last posted due to various work trips, wedding prepping and the fact that we've spent every last waking second making the final push on the downstairs house renovation.

When we moved in, back in October, it was hard to imagine getting to where we even are now. After all, we ripped down plaster and walls, took floors up, lived with no kitchen, lived with no heating (the average house temperature through winter was 11 degrees...there were some less than wonderful evenings during that time), lived with no water (that was fun!) and generally took things right back to basics. Still, we pushed on; and last weekend we began to see why.

When we moved in the front room looked like this:


We'd had 8 weeks between getting the keys and getting in so we'd done a fair amount of the major demolition work in that time.

It was like moving into a dust pit.

That wrapped up thing on the right is my beloved Smeg fridge - just look at the state of her, poor thing.

Since October our living room furniture consisted of this - yes, those are garden chairs:



These pictures were taken pre-kitchen so we had a lovely kitchen/living room hybrid thing going on that, while hideous to look back on now, served us well.

Then the floors came up...



We learnt to balance pretty quickly, I can tell you. One bad foot meant a redo of some very technical work at times.

Then the new floors went down:




We used engineered oak throughout the whole downstairs because what we didn't want was radiators. So we chose underfloor heating and a wood-burner to keep us cosy. The engineered oak allows the underfloor heating system to work - solid oak won't let the warmth through.

Of course I am simplifying the steps in a major way but I would imagine to most people this is all achingly boring so I'm trying to be brief.

Once the floors went down we covered them in think lining paper (meant for prepping walls for papering.) This was an amazing tip from OH's mum. Good quality lining paper is ridiculously durable, non-porous in most cases and protects like nothing else we've used in the build. So whilst I *know* the floors look that fabulous underneath it all, we can barely see them!

So about 3 weeks ago the front room painting started in earnest.







Obviously all the pics include OH and not really me but I promise I was doing my half of the work!

After weeks of deliberating over wall colour we plumped for Farrow&Ball's Pavilion Grey.
We didn't actually - we went a trade paint place that does 'replicas' of popular colours and did it that way. I love the F&B floor paints we've used upstairs and they're really hard wearing but I'd heard from friends that the wall paints were a different ball game - chalky, constantly rubbing off against clothes and furniture and needing a fresh coat annually. I don't have time for that!

We decided to take the grey all the way up the walls but pick out the original features in white and have the ceiling white too. We hope that it gives the illusion of even higher ceilings which is part of what I love about the house - the feeling of space even though they're relatively compact rooms.

After we finished the painting we could FINALLY banish the garden chairs. While they've been marvellously loyal and useful their place is not indoors so off they went. Cue: The Chesterfield.

Our friend Mark helped us get it back in on the deal of beer and rugby if he completed the task. He didn't let us down. So up came the paper covering the floor and in came actual indoor seating. I almost cried.



Then came the windows. They were replaced just over a year before we bought the house which is brilliant but then, for some reason, the woodwork around them was stained a grim dark brown (see above.) So we set to work getting that all white and it instantly transformed the room.

OH made the genius decision of getting custom made blinds for the windows so they sit snug in the panes and look neat. And 2 nights ago, after living in a fishbowl for a week, he put them up.

And then I *did* cry.



So in 5 months we went from that to this. Next step is the dining room. Another Hupdate featuring that coming soon.



'Glow'bal Gathering: Wedding Post.

Part of what I am enjoying so much in the run up to the wedding is getting into new routines: juicing, gyming, weights, nail maintenance (yes, I need that -  having been a shellac addict for years these bad boys need some strength behind them.) But one I am enjoying a little more than the others is my new skin regime.

Don't get me wrong, I've never had *problem* skin. I've been blessed with my mother's skin and rarely have any blemishes but one thing I crave is that healthy skin glow. I know there are makeups that can mimic this - I've in fact invested in a few myself.  A couple of weeks ago my colleague's skin was looking so iridescent that I asked what her trick was. She sent me to MAC cosmetics where I purchased a new bronzer called 'Global Glow.' And it's brilliant. But it is a bronzer and didn't achieve the all over dewy look I was hoping for. It goes without saying I have now resigned myself to the fact that colleague has simply been gifted with an amazing complexion.



I'm not one for wearing a heavy face of makeup daily and in fact stopped using foundation a couple of years ago. I now use Estee Lauder's BB Cream which has a built in SPF of 30 and gives light coverage all day. It does need reapplying if I go out in the evening but it's perfect for my everyday needs. It recently ran out and I had to hot foot it to Selfridges for my next fix. Whilst there the lovely sales woman and I got chatting and I mentioned my quest for the perfect 'I woke up like this' skin. And that's when she changed my life.



They have just launched a new product, to sit along side the BB cream I already use, which is to be used to make sure it is completely and utterly removed. After a small demonstration I was sold.
Perfectly Clean not only has a place in my makeup kit, it now has a place in my heart. I've always thought I'd been quite good at the whole 'cleanse, tone, moisturise' thing but this has blown all that out of the water.



Also during our chat the very lovely woman at the Estee Lauder counter asked me about my nighttime moisturising regime. I am extremely proud to say I always, always, remove all make up and apply eye and face cream every evening but what she showed me next has revolutionised a routine I didn't think needed 'upping.' Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum. Because I am not a millionaire I was unable to buy everything she was showing me at once but she was extremely kind and gave me over a weeks worth of sample sachets of it. Well, it's been a week and I am converted. Come payday she'll be seeing me again. Finally my skin has that glow I've been craving and it was all down to some tweaks. I feel confident I will have the radiance in my face that I want on my wedding day and will be getting a bottle of the serum next week. You just wash your face as normal, cover your face in a light layer of the serum then moisturise on top of that as normal.

I apologise in advance for the following closer than close pictures but they are both with my normal makeup on, and free of filters. One was taken at Christmas, the other last week. I had to take a picture last week as I startled myself at the change these two new products have made.






I am definitely sold. Roll on payday so I can get that serum, and roll on Wedding Day so I can show off this glow!

Monday

Shoe Even Knows? : Wedding Post

I am the first to admit that I am OTT when it comes to my shoes. I like to keep them pristine; I don't see the point in spending money on something and then systematically trashing it. Just this morning I had Cif and a light scouring sponge on the white rubber soles of my leopard skater pumps before work! (Tip: Cif will re-whiten soles of trainers, skater shoes etc. like nothing else - it's magic.)

So it'll come as no great surprise to anyone that I am on the hunt for The Shoes for my wedding day. 

The issue, however, is that I don't like wedding shoes.

I know - not a very 'bridey' thing to say. But I don't. Sue me.

I am going on my first dedicated shoe shop tomorrow with my mum and my sister (maid of honour) but I decided to do a bit of online research to see what the offerings out there are. I knew immediately that a brand orientated only towards bridal offerings wouldn't be for me so I haven't even looked on that sort of site. Instead I have been browsing the virtual aisles of Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, L.K. Bennet, Net-a-Porter and the like.

But I have found myself in a conundrum. I won't be the first to have discovered this, nor will I be the last. Classic vs. Cool.

When I think of my wedding shoes I've never really imagined I'll be the bride wearing something with a sensible heel in white satin. In fact, my dream shoes have always been these incredible creations from Gucci.

Too bad they sold out in 2013...





But as a result of today's search I'm feeling just ever so slightly concerned. Because it would appear that the bridal-esque (and I use that term loosely) spectrum of shoes is quite severe. To my eye there appear to be two main camps - classic or cool. 

So far the more classic options have left me cold. There are some amazing Loubitons, Marc Jacobs' and Alaias but so far they've not been shoes I'll want to put on again. And I need that in a shoe. If I am going to commit a chunk of my bank account to a pair of shoes they need to work on a number of levels. The pair I am hunting for now need to be wedding-day-shoes, meal-out-with-OH-shoes, meeting-friends-for-a-drink-in-cool-jeans-and-a-nice-top-shoes-and-everything-in-between-shoes. Not just wedding-shoes.

On the other hand the less classic camp has left me nervous. Do I take the plunge and opt for a pair I adore that may leave others cold? Or do I play it safe and go for a pair that, in years to come, I'll not even notice on wedding photos but they'll be just fine for under The Dress. I think the fact I used the phrase, "just fine," in that last sentence speaks volumes.

While I can appreciate that more classic pairs suit some brides and are perfect for their day I'm just not sure they're for me.

Classic contenders are along the lines of the following...





Cool contenders are...






I think I *know* what I'm going to do. I think I need to stay true to my shoe beliefs and make sure that on one of the biggest days of my life I actually look like 'me' - if that makes sense? I know some girls like the idea of being transformed into a shinier more 'princessy' version of themselves for their wedding but I don't want that, I don't think. Don't get me wrong, I want to look like the photoshopped version of me, but I don't want unrecognisable hair and makeup and to be an idea of a bride rather than the reality of the bride I will be. OH knows what he proposed to - he doesn't expect anything other than *me* to be present on our wedding day.

So off I go in search of the perfect shoes.  Wish me luck - have you got any tips for me?

Tuesday

The Man Cave Has Landed.

It was really only a matter of time. I knew he would eventually do it. I can't say it thrills me but at least he's keeping it hidden from me, for the most part, so I will have to simply keep calm and carry on.

The Man Cave has commenced.

When we first bought our house it had been declared, within minutes, that the third, tiny bedroom would become my walk-in-wardrobe/dressing room. The master bedroom in our rental was larger than its equivalent in our new house so we knew we'd have to get creative when working out where to keep our clothes, shoes, accessories etc. So I (very generously) offered to evacuate our bedroom of my things and rehome them in what is now the dressing room. I know - practically saintly of me.

When OH began talking about building a shed in the back garden I felt relief. Finally he would have somewhere to house his millions of tools, the cement mixer (yes, we have one of those), our bikes and all the other things I do not want to look at on a daily basis. There are a mound of bricks ready and waiting in the garden but I have recently been told this project can't begin until spring has sprung, "It's simply too cold and wet." Hmf. A few more weeks of looking at his drill bits it is.

But last weekend I came into the front room to find him sawing up large boards of MDF.
"What are those for," I asked.
"The utility room," he answered.

Excellent!

When we first began remodelling the downstairs of our house we had initially intended to keep the utility at the far end of the kitchen but when one of our lovely neighbours popped his head in and heard our plan he pointed out the amount of light we'd lose. I am a natural light lover so this was not music to my ears. Immediately I began to panic. The whole point of the utility area was so we could shut away the noisy machines and bits-and-bobs as our entire downstairs area is now open plan so everything needs to flow and, most importantly, not cause a racket.

"However," he pointed out, "there's a great space you're not even considering and it's a life saver." Then he pointed to the area under our stairs. It took a bit of imagining but with a new plywood wall up and plastered we are in business. I now have a utility room that will be closed off and it's using a space that would have been more or less useless otherwise. Win-win.
Or so I thought.
 
                
 
This is the current view - of course it needs painting and a door on it but this is the wall under the stairs so we're now playing with the idea of a 'feature' wallpaper. I loathe that word but unfortunatley I can't think of an alternative.
 
You can see The Wall from the living room area too so we're thinking about a possible William Morris print or something else classic with a contemporary twist. We shall see...
 
I am also intending to sort out the inside of the cupboard/utility area. Maybe a nice bright paint and some hooks for hanging coats on. I love the idea of being of of 'those' tidy utlity room people but I am not sure I will be. Thank goodness for doors!
 
Some lovely inspo images I've been happily perusing are below. Ah, I do love house porn.
 
       bathroom storage ideas pinterest | By Shannon Rook
 
 
          imgur: the simple image sharer
 
I *will* acheive this one day. Creating organised spaces is what I love to do and I can't wait to be able to get my hands on this new space in our home.

                

This is the view from the hallway at the moment (the kitchen is just further along.) As you can see the washing machine is already in there along with the microwave (I prefer clear kitchen surfaces) and some handy shelves above that for, in my mind's eye, laundry baskets, household knick-knacks and the like.

However, after an alarmingly short amount of time I popped my head in to be confronted by this sight...

                    

He's gone and done it. I could cry. My dream 'organisation zone' has been hijacked with tools and man-junk. I am not a happy bunny.
 
Stay tuned for the fight back.


Monday

Hank Meets World.

I've heard people remark in the past that they are wearing 'two hats' or have 'two heads' when they have a lot on their plates and have to try and keep some perspective. I've never really understood that. Until now.

During the day I am a fashion sales account manager. In the evenings I am a house renovator and in between that I'm a wedding planner. To say this is a little overwhelming is an understatement. But so far I'm managing to keep my head. Ask me again in 5 months when I have a hallway to paint, a wedding in 4 weeks and 2 collection deadlines looming. You may not get the same even-headed response.

As a result of this my diary is a precise animal. I know my movements more than 4 weeks ahead, I can tell you the dates of the next 12 Saturdays off the top of my head and I stick to my plans. If only to keep some sanity.

Last weekend was a good example of 'The Heads' at work. On Friday I had some major meetings in the London office so had to focus entirely on them. Once they were wrapped up I hopped on a train back to Manchester upon which I looked at marquees for 2 hours on my iPad (I know, crazy and exciting times *ahem*), then on Saturday morning we had to get up at the crack of dawn and get over to where we're getting married (about an hour from us) to meet the vicar who will be officiating, then to meet one of my bridesmaids for a dress fitting, then back home to a dinner party. But not straight back home. Oh no - of course there was a renovation associated pitstop at a B&Q megastore sort of on our route home.

So within the space of 36 hours I'd been 'work-Sarah', 'wedding-Sarah' and 'what-the-heck-are-you-doing-that's-an-awful-lampshade-Sarah'. These things combined do not make an easy Dry January. If B&Q sold gin I'd have been off the wagon!

But what had started as a foot-dragging (yes, like a moody toddler) trip for me soon became quite exciting. You see, our local B&Q is a small store - good for paints, plugs, power sockets and the like. But this was a 'megastore' and I think I could have actually set up home there.

So off we set careering about the aisles with our trolley and laughing that'd we'd become 'that couple' Oh dear.

I don't know what's happened to B&Q but they have really upped their game.
Look what we came away with...




These have REALLY pleased me. We are so far over-budget on the renovation that the budget is now a tiny dot on the horizon. As a result this means some of the details have had to take a hit for now. I have been pining for Tom Dixon shades since I can remember (by the way, am I the only one who gets annoyed when a designer they have loved for ages suddenly seems to be everywhere?! Hmf.) but they are almost £100 a pop and when you need three this isn't really ideal. But B&Q have definitely not disappointed; at £29 each these were a no-brainer. We'll be changing the cord, length and rose at some point very soon but we were both too excited to get them up asap.

Then there's this beauty...


Our house was built in 1907 and while the majority of the original features remain downstairs some of the more beautiful ones, like ceiling roses, have long since been torn out. Well I am here to put them back in. And with the help of my now firm favourite B&Q I can do this for such a reasonable amount. I think this was around £35 and I know it will look amazing with the lighting I am planning for it. Ooo I can hardly wait!


Definitely the most 'boring' of the lot (but still thrilling to me) was this new mat for the front door. It ticks all the boxes, great design, strong colours and actually cleans shoes. Marvelous all round.

Now...the next one we did NOT buy in B&Q. We acquired him some years ago and he is probably one of my most prized possessions. For a while he was re-located to a bar in Farringdon but I was heartbroken when he went and OH spent weeks negotiating his safe return to surprise me. Last week I came downstairs to find him hanging in his new home. Ladies and gentlemen - meet Hank.



He lives in the back fireplace space where we keep the wood for the wood-burner. He (literally and figuratively) lights up my life. When I found out OH had squirreled him back up North for me I almost cried. His lights are a little tricksy and are special order from a company in America who still make these lights for circuses. No biggy. I have 100 on order! Now, I know his name shouldn't really be Hank. I know he is in fact a she - she is Laika. The first dog ever to enter space. But she died up there and that is just too sad for me to think about every day so she is now a he and Hank it is.

So we're getting there - the fact I am begining to start to nudge in the direction of actually dressing the house is very exciting but we still have a long way to go. Namely burning lead paint off original mouldings verrrry carefully ready for some fresh new shades. This is back-breaking stuff and takes hours upon hours. But when it is done I know it will all be worth it and I'll be so pleased I took the time to do it. More updates in the very near future. OH also built a man-cave this weekend...