Things I’m loving at the moment

Design Vintage Pale Grey Vintage Cupboard
Loaf Pudding Sofa
The White Company Beaumont Four Poster Bed
Distressed Metal Shelf Unit
Rattan Butlers Tray
Timsbury Velvet Mustard Sofa
New Trapeze Chandelier
Long Ear Hook
Easton Baskets
Chambray Towel
Stamford Single Bed
Design Vintage Pale Grey Vintage Cupboard
Loaf Pudding Sofa
The White Company Beaumont Four Poster Bed
Distressed Metal Shelf Unit
Rattan Butlers Tray
Timsbury Velvet Mustard Sofa
New Trapeze Chandelier
Long Ear Hook
Easton Baskets
Chambray Towel
Stamford Single Bed

Surviving a property renovation

I couldn’t tell you how many times I get asked ‘how on earth did you cope with two babies in a caravan whilst doing up your house?’ The honest answer. I don’t really know. But I did, and I’m still here to tell the story! 

But looking back, it was something I agreed to with complete ignorance. I think it’s fair to say it’s an understatement to call Luke a ‘handyman’, as he is much more than just ‘handy’, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my husband. He is a qualified plumber, that’s his main trade, but he specialises in property renovations. He has done quite a few for clients now, but admittedly never his own.

Our first home was a one bed coach house, which he transformed into a two bed with a garage conversion downstairs that became our kitchen/living area, but that was a well overdue project. It became a joke amongst our friends who’d ask me in front of Luke when he was going to finish the kitchen. This project took about 6 years and was only completed as we were selling. But in all fairness to Luke, he does have a full time job to do so all the ‘handy work’ he does on our home, is done in his spare time.

Spare time isn’t something you have much of when you have children. Can you see where I am going with this one.

So going back to our current home, our ‘still’ pink home, Our Pink Project, which I’ve fondly named it due to the peeling pink paint on the outside of the property. Which, we’ve had sandblasted, but Luke the perfectionist still feels the need to go over the whole property himself ready for painting. still not completed, but totally liveable. No longer are we residing in an unheated caravan with a shower that lets the rain in, a cooker that you have to stick your arm in to light with a match and a toilet that has slugs in. Yes this was our living conditions for over two years. An original promise my husband made to me was that we’d live in the caravan for ‘just a couple of months’. This, I could just about deal with, but two years?! Well that’s what happened, two years at which point we even brought our new born baby, Wilfred home too.

I distinctly recall viewing the cottage for the first time, walking around, listening to Luke talking through all of the walls he’d knock down, moving doors and adding rooms. Meanwhile I was just clocking up the pound signs and thinking about how much time it would take. But for some reason I agreed.

The decision to live on site, even though the living conditions were pretty unsavory gave me a chance to see the progress. So at times when I’d have a mini meltdown (and trust me, these were quite often), I could just look out the window and remind myself what all of this was for. I think this helped a lot. The start is probably the hardest. It’s exciting when you’ve got the keys, the property is yours and one of the first things you do is rip down that old 1970’s flowery wallpaper, some of the old brown and orange curtains and start dreaming about putting your own stamp on the place. But once that initial excitement turns to realisation that the point at which you will be choosing curtains is probably a very long way off. Reality sets in and that question that you will be asked more times than you’ll ever imagine, ‘when do you think it’ll be ready to move in?’ starts to become the norm. 

Then there’s the spreadsheet. It’ll become your right arm throughout your project, you document everything on this, listing all those little jobs and materials, the timeframe and then don’t forget to add in that ‘total cost’ column. Unfortunately I have this incurable condition which prevents me from choosing the cheapest or most reasonable item for sale. But why are the nicest things always the most expensive? This causes a lot of arguments in our household, but in most cases (agree not all), they’re usually the things that last the longest or are just better quality. Or have I just brainwashed myself having had to say this to Luke so many times when he questions me. This is a debilitating condition when renovating a property though, because any budget you may have had, you can kiss goodbye. Instead, do the essential rooms first. The bathroom, the kitchen and then the bedrooms. However we didn’t take this particular advice, and did a few things backwards, utilising the caravan kitchen for as long as possible. 

A friend who had also been through a full house renovation said, once you start seeing plastered walls, you’re nearly there. She was right, at this point it feels as if everything is coming together. But the journey to that pint felt never ending at times! When we had discovered we had a pretty bad damp problem downstairs and ended up digging a few feet out of the floor, things really looked like they would never end. This wasn’t a one off unfortunately, but I think in the grand scheme of things we were pretty lucky as nothing too serious happened. Unless you count the chimney falling down.

On move in day, we had a bathroom, we had bedrooms and a sitting room, but no kitchen. Instead, we’d do the walk from the house to the caravan for cups of tea/ cooking. It was a great way to cut down on unnecessary grazing and curb my 20 a day green tea habit, but it was pretty tough with a toddler and a baby in tow. So we made a makeshift kitchen in part of the kitchen area, this made a huge difference to our quality of living. We even bought a mini cooker which had two hobs on top, so we could still cook hot food. 

Plastic boxes became our savours. We invested in loads of them. Also those plastic storage shelves with the drawers for organising things. We used the plastic boxes and shelves to store food (clear ones, so we could see what we had), and enormous black ones for clothes, toys and shoes. We used the caravan as a bit of a storage unit to start with and then slowly moved everything into the house.

Brand new carpets were laid. Cream carpets. So with works still very much ‘still in progress’, we were keen to make sure the carpets stayed cream. Luke laid lots of clear plastic sheeting over all of the carpeted rooms, and the stairs. If we were potty training, this was the time to do it! 

We painted the entire house white, just so that it was painted and ready to move in and we could make decisions once we were in. I’m glad we did it this way. So many people say that you should try and ‘live’ in a space before you decide on how it’s going to look. For me, this couldn’t have been any truer. I think rooms are a bit like people, they’re all different and all have their own personalities. How can you know what they’re going to be like without spending some time in them (the room that is).

Moving into the cottage couldn’t have come soon enough, but works on the house still hadn’t finished at move in day, and even though Luke had tried to get a lot of the dirty and dusty jobs out of the way, there were still things that had to be completed. So this meant dust storms of varying degrees throughout the house. At one time in my life this would have sent me over the edge but everything can be cleaned (and it was!) Several times. Living in such chaos and uncertainty, which pretty much sums up a house renovation, means you have to try and avoid letting things totally out of your control bother you. And if there’s one big piece of advice I can offer you, it’s that most things during a home reno from timescales, materials, costs and trades turning up are all pretty much things completely out of your control and be prepared that these will not always be on time/ to budget or will be delayed. But what’s important is to remember, it will be done, because you’ll make sure it will. 

Having lived in the caravan we had to embrace the minimalist life. Having a toddler and baby in the caravan and all the baby paraphernalia that they come with meant Luke and I had to sacrifice a lot of our own belongings just to fit theirs in. So when we finally moved into the house, opening boxes with our belongings in was an amazing feeling but also brought about some feelings of shame. I had so much stuff. Stuff I hadn’t used or needed or even remembered I had, had in over two years (some of it longer as it had been packed up and put in storage when we sold our first house). So I can honestly say that living in the caravan and undergoing a home renovation has been truly humbling. I wrote a blog post on this too ‘My life cleanse and why I don’t need things to make me happy’. It has definitely made me appreciate what I have, what we have and how lucky we are. For so many, our living conditions in terms of space and everything else in that caravan and even our makeshift kitchen in the house, are some peoples’ way of living. They have no choice. 

So from those dark days, the arguments me and Luke had over when the house would be ready, the days I was ready to throw the towel in and book into a hotel or sell up and go and buy a new build so we could move straight in and I could start choosing curtains… and now, I’m writing this and can confidently say, I’d do it again. I would. This isn’t our forever home. We never planned for it to be, although we’re not planning on moving anytime soon, but I now know I couldn’t ever buy a house and move straight in. I’d need to knock down a few walls first! I’ve actually really enjoyed reconfiguring our entire house and making it our own. Now I feel like I know what to expect though, so will that make it any easier? I don’t know whether ignorance is actually bliss. But, one thing I do know is, I’ll be making sure we buy a much newer model of caravan (with central heating and double glazing), with no slugs next time!

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My life cleanse and why I don’t need things to make me happy

My life cleanse and why I don’t need things to make me happy

This may sound ridiculous, but living in the caravan has been up there with one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Seriously. But I have also learn’t so much about myself that I don’t think I would have otherwise. It was small, oppressive, cramped, depressing, boiling hot or freezing cold, uncomfortable, stuffy and no matter how much I cleaned it, it was never to my standards! We had to be super organised, tidy and mindful of keeping anything we didn’t use or need. Otherwise it’d be in the way. But in the last 12 months or so I feel like I have had an epiphany and I feel quite liberated!

I would never in my wildest dreams (or should I say nightmares), imagine living in a caravan with our children. It’s not how I would have ever planned or pictured family life. I imagined us all sat round a big kitchen table, in a nice country kitchen surrounded by lots of nice things. Not Luke’s makeshift table (made out of up cycled scaffolding), our food stored in plastic boxes, just one plate and bowl each and several blow heaters or fans.

I remember being pregnant with Wilf and trying to explain to the midwife that we lived in a caravan and that it was only temporary. I was so worried she’d think we’d be incapable of looking after our baby properly in such a small space. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t what she thought at all, and seemed more concerned about me and my health and where my permanent residence was! I guess you could live in the most incredible house in the world but be the worst parent ever. Both my children are well loved, healthy and happy, and the caravan is nothing to do with this. That’s because of us.

If I ask Arthur now ‘did you like living in the caravan?’ his answer is yes! So for me, that says it all. We’ve had some fun times in there, including his 2nd birthday when we successfully fitted most of the family in the lounge and even Father Christmas managed to visit! Arthur’s had all he’s ever wanted and needed in there, (including lots of love), so whether we lived in a house or a caravan. It doesn’t matter. As long as your children are safe, happy and loved. That’s all that’s important.

It’s not ‘things’ that make us happy. Okay. Obvious isn’t it?! But it’s so easy to get caught up and carried away buying things we don’t need that give you that temporary high. That excitement when you press ‘add to basket’ and ‘checkout.’ Don’t get me wrong, I’m every marketers dream, I’m the first in the queue, the sucker buying something I don’t really need but must have because of the nice packaging. But you’ll soon forget that new jumper, put it to the back of the wardrobe and then buy another one. And if you’re anything like me it’ll be the same one in a slightly different colour that only you’d know is ever so slightly different because of the way the sleeve is cut or the detail on the hem!

When we packed up our old house I knew how many clothes and ‘stuff’ I had, but I didn’t really think much of it. I never once thought ‘do I really need all of these things?’ But living in the caravan I wasn’t able to have even a quarter of my possessions with me. I had to seriously downsize my wardrobe, my toiletries, handbags, scarfs… you get the gist. I was so worried how I’d cope, how could I possibly survive without all these things? But I had no choice! I guess I also had other priorities. I had to ensure Arthur had everything he needed. Space was limited, so I wanted to make sure any space we did have was for the essentials that we really couldn’t live without. Then I got pregnant and we’d need to make even more room for baby paraphernalia.

So what about all the clothes and ‘stuff’ that’s been stored away? Well it’s just been sat there, unused, and the majority of it I’ve completely forgotten about and I haven’t missed it at all. Moving into the house I’ve now started to unpack a lot of these boxes and realised I just don’t need it. I can’t possibly wear all the clothes I have. So I have packed up all of the unwanted, duplicates (sometimes quadruples) and taken them to a local shop, Exchange and Smart, that sells your clothes on your behalf. They get 50% from the sale which I thought was quite a lot, but it takes out the hassle doing it yourself. It also prevents me from changing my mind about things! I’m terrible for making excuses to keep things and holding onto things because of an emotional attachment like the top I wore on my first date with Luke (15 years ago) or a jumper my mum gave me (that never fit) but it reminds me of that day she gave it to me. Neither of which I will probably ever wear, but just keep, because. If I take it somewhere, its not so easy to take it back! I did start to photograph a lot myself and sell it, but I just haven’t got the time, and there’s so much! Anything the shop doesn’t want I’m going to take to a car boot next spring alongside all the other things I’ve cleared out that we don’t need or use. Then this can go towards something we do need.

At the moment we’ve got two temporary enormous freestanding rails. My clothes still over spill both these rails. So I set myself a challenge that I could only have one rail for all my clothes. I still have a lot to get rid of, but I’m pretty proud of myself so far. I’m trying to completely change my mindset. If I buy something new, something existing has to go.

I have so much storage, baskets and nice boxes which I’ve bought over time (to store all the things I don’t need). Ridiculous isn’t it?!

Whilst we’ve been living in the house and using the caravan to cook and eat we’ve left a lot of toys in there so that Arthur and Wilf can play whilst we cook. So, packing up the caravan to completely move out this week (ready for it to go once and for all). I’ve also realised how many toys we have. And I didn’t think we had that much as we’ve not had the room… I limited the toys to two large storage bags and a large storage chest. But over time the toys just kept creeping their way in. Arthur plays with the same toys over and over, and gets bored very quickly. He forgets what he has unless I pull it out and put it in front of him, so I am going to start periodically rotating his toys, making sure he plays with everything he’s got.

According to the British Toy and Hobby Association and NPD Group, the average UK child aged nine or under received £350 worth of toys last year (2016). And major toy buying doesn’t just happen at Christmas apparently. The UK trend of year-round toy buying is said to be ‘relatively unique’ in comparison to the continent. I feel a bit embarrassed about this. Why are we buying our children so many toys for no real reason? Is it necessary? Arthur is perfectly happy with a cardboard box, and Wilf loves hair bobbles and coat hangers!

One thing that is really important to me, that I feel my parents instilled into me and my sisters, was to ensure we understood the value of money and we weren’t spoilt. We had a comfortable childhood, nice holidays and never really wanted for much. Something I feel very fortunate for. But, we certainly weren’t spoilt and never had pocket money. We had to go out and earn our own money if we wanted things and I had a Saturday job by the age of 12. I want to pass this approach and mindset on to my children. And one thing I’ve decided I’m going to do is ensure my children don’t just get toys or treats whenever they want. Arthur has already started to say ‘I want that mummy’ when he sees something on the television. He’s only 3! So, from now on, anymore toys he has he’s got to choose a toy he already has to replace it with, and we will give the old one to a charity for children less fortunate than him. I want him to understand he is fortunate, but there are others that aren’t.

This epiphany has got me thinking, and reading! I came across this article about Minimalist Living, which is all about living with less. The benefits of minimalist living includes less financial burdens, such as debt and unnecessary expenses, and most importantly happiness. I really like this approach. I feel like we’ve all started to lose our way with buying unnecessary things and cluttering up our homes, cupboards or sheds, and we’re passing this way of living – frivolous spending and ‘treating’ our children to the new ‘in’ toy to the next generation. This over consumption is contributing to damaging our planet too. I think it’s also costing us our happiness. We put so much pressure on ourselves to have the next big thing, often the ‘thing’ we can’t afford, don’t need or even have anywhere to put it.

I am not ashamed to say that I have got myself into unnecessary debt when I was younger (and had little or no responsibilities), to buy clothes, shoes and handbags and other things, that I didn’t really need. And looking back I feel really stupid. ‘That dress’ I had to have, well I probably wore it once for a few hours, it’s been put in a dust bag and never seen the light of day again. How awful is that?! Then I struggle to part with it because it’s so expensive and I might need it again one day.

Don’t get me wrong, getting rid of stuff isn’t easy. That’s probably why I have so much stuff! But the caravan has really helped me as I’ve had no other choice than to try and live with minimal items. Without really trying too hard, I’ve had to change my mindset. Having lived in the caravan now I know I can live without these unnecessary things, and forget about it if it’s not important. It’s almost been forced on me with no choice, but it’s made me so grateful of what I do have and appreciate things more. I don’t think you can possibly enjoy something if you have lots of it.

I still haven’t got the answer to how many pairs of jeans, bras or fluffy jumpers I need, but I do know there are only 7 days in a week, so unless I wear 20 pairs of knickers and 32 bras all at once… then when will I wear them all?

There are professionals who can do the leg work and deciding for you, one of those is actually a friend of mine, Rachel, aka the Declutter Darling, who specialises in decluttering your life! She’s got some impressive A list clients who she’s helped organise and declutter homes for. She is also a strong advocate for the Marie Kondo way, a Japanese art of decluttering. This will honestly revolutionise the way you tidy!

Advice from the Minamilist article is ‘look at a possession. Pick something. Anything. Have you used that item in the last 90 days? If you haven’t, will you use it in the next 90? If not, then it’s okay to let go.’

I know I’m not saying anything radical here, but I can honestly say that since shifting my way of thinking. Making myself get rid of stuff I don’t need or use has almost lifted a weight off my shoulders. I feel like it’s also cleared not just my bedroom drawers, but almost my mind. It’s quite liberating. It also makes your house a lot easier to keep clean and tidy!

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Designing the nursery

Designing the nursery

When we bought the cottage it was a two bed house. The upstairs layout was bizarre, so we had a complete re-jig. What is now Arthur’s bedroom was originally bigger, but we decided to split it and make an office. This would create the third bedroom, but we always planned to extend to make a further, much bigger fourth bedroom (if) our family grew. Little did we know at that point, that our family was going to grow a bit quicker than we thought, with our wonderful Wilfred.

So the office has become a nursery. It’s more than big enough for a single bed, but I do wish it was a bit bigger. So it was a bit of a challenge to design Wilfs nursery ensuring it looks good, it’s functional and it can grow with him too. One thing I have spared is the wardrobe. I may well regret this, but, I didn’t want the room to feel too crammed.

Furniture wise, the nursery is pretty minimal with a cot, a changing table, chest of drawers and some wall shelves. I think cots can take up a lot of the space, and we are using Arthurs old cot (which does have a large under drawer storage), but I have seen some very cool oval shaped cots which look great and I think would give a feeling of more space, but for now, Arthur’s old cot works. We haven’t moved in yet, so I expect the room will also evolve and I’ll add to it when we’re living in it. Clever storage will be key, and I’m going to look out for some baskets to store things like his dribble bibs. I seem to have a serious collection of dribble bibs for Wilf! In fact, I’m quite obsessed with them!

I wanted Wilfs nursery to be pretty neutral with just a splash of colour. Mamas and Papas do colour really well, they have a few different ranges that you can mix and match, and that’s exactly what I did, as it gives you a bit of flexibility to add in your own personality. Their colours are bright, but subtle.

This changing mat is a great way to add a splash of colour and I really like mustard yellow, which works well with white, cream and grey. They don’t sell this mat anymore, but its available on Amazon. 

The felt horse door stop is Fiona Walker from Homesense. I had to try and get a horse in somewhere, plus I love a door stop.

This Mamas and Papas Pom Pom Garland is a really clever way to add some personality and fun to the nursery. I wasn’t sure where to hang it though, and might try hanging it up on the wall at the top end of the cot, but it brightens up the cot weaved over the side.

This Mamas and Papas coverlet also matched the garland, and it’s now in the sale! It’s really good quality, and has a plain grey underside. This will last Wilf for years, Arthur my eldest loves to snuggle on the sofa and loves his blankets. I didn’t ever think boys would be like this, and I hope it’s not just an age thing and he stay like this, snuggling his mummy on the sofa till he’s at least 18!

I also put it with this Cam Cam grey wave playmat, which can be a blanket or play mat. Cam Cam is a scandi brand and I absolutely love their stuff. The quality is amazing, and well worth spending a little bit extra.

I adore all of these cushions, but my favourite is Mr Lama!

Cushions are a great way to add a bit of personality and brighten up, what could be otherwise a pretty stark, plain and boring cot. Wilf certainly had lots of fun trying to eat them all!

I am a complete sucker for cuddly toys, so Wilfs room inevitably will have lots of cuddly toys, so I wanted to be able to put them up somewhere to enjoy. In particular Sebastian the Lamb from Cuddle and Kind. They sell unique cute hand knitted dolls, and each doll that’s sold feeds 10 children. So on that basis I might have to buy the entire collection!

These Mamas and Papas mobile birds are a bit nostalgic for me. My parents have some hanging birds similar to these (but probably antiques now) as I remember them when I was a child, and their still hanging up in their kitchen. I saw these and had to have them. Because everything has just been decorated Luke wasn’t keen about hanging things from the ceiling or walls, so for now they are going to live here on the door, but to be honest I think they look quite at home here.

The animal heads add a bit of fun to the nursery, and to be honest I was pleased to put something up on the walls. Every room in the house is painted white at the moment t and although it looks really clean, it can feel a bit bland, and for me these are a great way to brighten up the room. The Fox is from Mamas and Papas and the rabbit is from ReRoom. Lewis, the hare is a lot larger and I think it’s Wilfs favourite as every time he looks at it he has a fit of giggles. Its pretty realistic and even the ears bend (they have wire inside them) so you can change the rabbits expressions with the ears up or down.

This rabbit head is part of a Hedgehugs Nursery with woodland themed furniture and accessories that ReRoom provide as a complete room. Alternatively you can pick and choose from their complete collection. Their concept is really clever, and if designing a nursery fills you with dread, they can do it all for you. They kindly gifted this rabbit head, which I thought would go really well with what I had planned for Wilfs room, and the fox (even though it’s smaller) still goes. So it shows you don’t always have to opt for the matchy, matchy sets.

These shelves are from the Great Little Trading Company. They come in two different widths, and I chose the narrow ones for Wilfs room, but I also bought them for Arthur’s room. Not only do they look good, they’ll be useful, not just for books but for cuddly toys too. I’m really keen for both boys to read lots of books, so having somewhere to showcase their books is really important to me. I plan to rotate their books, and keep refreshing the shelves too. I would also like to add a little chair or a bean bag cushion in this corner for Wilf for when he’s a bit older and can sit and enjoy looking through his books or somewhere for mummy and daddy to sit and read to him. Arthur’s always been a real bookworm, so I’m hoping Wilf will be the same.

The grey knitted lampshade is from Mamas and Papas, and is a great neutral colour that will go with anything.

This origami play mat from Mamas and Papas, (now sold out), is great and I love the colours, it stores really easily as it folds up quite small. It also has a cushion on one side so he can lie on it or use it for tummy time. It works well with this Mamas and Papas wooden play arch, the hanging toys are velcro so can easily be removed and you can add other toys too. Its taller than most wooden arches I’ve seen before, so I think it’ll last Wilf quite a while, it also looks good! Which helps! I do prefer wooden toys over plastic, but I know they don’t always stay looking as good for that long, from little teethers, and just getting bashed about.

Wilf loves this little chime toy – fawn from Mamas and Papas and it has an actual removable fur gilet! How adorable!

SHOP THIS ROOM:

*This post is a collaboration with Mamas and Papas and Reroom and all items listed have been gifted, but chosen by me.

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