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01 August 2011

You're Never Alone

Some of you have very sweetly contacted me wondering why I haven't "posted" for a while. The answer is I simply have not had the time. When I am not working, ironically in the pursuit of designing gorgeous homes and other spaces for my clients, the gaps in between are filled to bursting with answering the door and then answering questions to and of the myriad tradesmen and delivery people that currently bless this house, for we are in the period known as "snagging".

Snagging can take an amazing amount of time - mostly because it is when the trades have to return to make any corrections and when trades are very busy, as they seem to be now, snagging is not top of their lists. Thankfully on this job, and as a result of the quality of Whittaker's workmanship, snagging has been minimal.

There has been some though.

After lots of shenanigans to do with utterly ineffectually testing various sealants on various bits of granite flooring I can now confirm that boiled linseed oil is, as I suspected but no one else believed me, the solution to most problems floor related.

As for electrics, the moral of the story is "avoid transformers", "don't go on holiday when expensive A/V cable is being installed, no matter how clear your instructions" and point out that all positions indicated on your electrical plan are not a guide but carefully considered decisions.

Then there have been the days and days Adrian the decorator has been here, meticulously removing all the paint spots from sanitaryware, brassware, window frames, woodwork etc. (he is still not finished by the way! Just as well he is a nice and very quiet man.) In this case I have two words. Frog Tape.

Finally the curtain track saga has, hopefully, reached a conclusion and the lesson learned here is never, ever buy a Silent Gliss track through a high street supplier because they won't have a clue what they are doing and you will end up screaming with rage, wondering how you can have been fleeced of nearly £1,500 for a stupid track and weeks of eye-bleeding frustration. Talk about "We saw you coming." 

And a top tip here, in case you didn't know. If your curtain maker doesn't ask you what kind of system you want your roman blinds on do ask them to tell you the options or you may end up with something you do not want. For example, it is quite likely you will not want white plastic pea chains with horrid white plastic guards screwed into your freshly painted walls.

All I can say is that this is another wonderful lesson I have learned on behalf of my future clients. How giving am I?

Then there are the things that are not actually snagging but are being done only now due to a) late deliveries and b) late decisions. Yes. I hold my hand up. I had ambitiously planned to design a wallpaper for our hallway. And maybe decoupage the walls to the small guest bedroom. Both of these ideas went up in smoke when I realised I barely had time to order wallpaper on line. Which I finally did and Nick the decorator installed just last week.....


....here in the hallway and below in the bedroom. 

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Must admit I love this room - there is something so comforting about a pretty floral wallpaper and carpet in a small, girl-sized bedroom.

The hallway paper is Sequoia from Kuboaa, which I have loved for years. The bedroom paper is from Harlequin - so secret garden.

One of the last remaining items is the plumbing and here again I am partly to blame for the fact that the bath - and this no ordinary bath but a beauty from William Garvey - in our "master en suite" is still not functional due to the fact that I have been using my own bathroom as a testing ground for my new collection of brassware.


The final part is due to arrive today - please GOD!!!!! - and Mike the plumber will install tomorrow, along with the final rads, rad valves, and adjust the pipework beneath the bathroom basins so it all fits neatly behind the duct wall instead of poking out from it.

We have also had some furniture delivered. 


The sofa has just returned from upholsterer Andrew Shakespeare - if anyone should be on tele it is Andrew with a brilliant Dudley accent, sense of humour and clearly a descendant of Will - and it is perfect, at least in my eyes, though husband has commented he has given up expecting furniture in our house to be comfortable. Cheeky!

The floor lamp to the side we have had for years and only recently unwrapped it from sheaths of almost impenetrable clingfilm (???) to find that our West Indian packers had taken it apart and then just thrown away the all important fixings, same as they had done with a few other things. That's the Windies for you. I tell you, it made us feel almost nostalgic. Fortunately we tracked down the man, Henry Hay, who had refurbished this vintage dentist's light in the first place, and popped up to his holiday home in Somerset one weekend for him to fix.


If only he could source a top to go on our Guzzini lamp which I ironically lost when I was having the thing lovingly re-chromed just before we left for Nevis. Husband says it looks fine but I know it's missing its little chapeau. Here it stands next to a love seat from Conran - another thing I have coveted for some time - and an amazing Eames-type stool from.....Marks and Sparks. The yellow patch of velvet a harbinger of a yellow velvet seat cushion. Husband insists!


Andrew Shakespeare also reupholstered this wing-backed chair that we inherited with the house and I love it. The thing I don't love is the reading light husband has insisted upon. When I challenge him on how it looks like something he's ordered out of the back of the Telegraph Saturday magazine, alongside all the ads for stairlifts, he just comes back at me with something infuriating like "why would we want something in this house that actually works after all?". Hmmm. Things can (and do by the way) work and look good too you know! In every deamhome.........


We are both loving, though, our dining chairs. I picked up 8 G-Plan chairs from ebay for £500 - not bad - and then sourced a Josef Frank fabric called "Poison" - which naturally I thought v witty for a dining room - from Sweden. It's taking a while to get used to a mix of such strong primary and secondary colours but, as a celebrated Chinese female property developer once said, the best kind of design challenges our preconceptions.


I also bought my dressing table on e bay - for about £60. I hadn't planned to have a dressing table here but it was IMPOSSIBLE to find a decent chest of drawers. All the modern ones I found were either naff or hideously expensive. And all the vintage ones would have meant too much vintage bulk next to the vintage Danish bed - so we have a vintage dressing table which I may customise - or "upcycle" as we have to say these days.

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Talking of vintage Danish I've had these beauties re-wired and they are back in action, both sets inherited with the house. The model on the right has black and white silk flex and mounted with proper brackets and on the left, bronze, mounted with a glue gun. Needs must.


I have found some good contemporary furniture and lighting though and a shining example is this slightly odd and very affordable storage unit from....Habitat. It really is so sad about the demise of this store, a pioneer of the "contemporary home" and "democratic design": Kathleen, my right hand woman, and I were reminiscing just the other day about how, when we were at school, how proud we would feel of our Habitat paper shopping bags. There was admittedly a little bit of swearing as husband and I put it together, he now officially the king of flat pack (I never thought I'd see the day but the day has indeed come). And it is marvellous and perfect for all my cook books.

Note lack of shade on the lamp though. Thinking of setting up a lampshade shop as am having to have 5 shades made as simply cannot find what I want. But then that goes for most things.

We are so far advanced we are even getting into details. I have invested in a French bread crock as my counter top compost bin (those plastic ones the council provide simply will not do)...


And as this is a chrome/stainless steel free home I have replaced all the little brushed s/s knobs around the place with these:


I also have my gravel drive - well almost. We just need 15 more tonnes of the stuff and we'll be finished. I'm told Kirsty has the very same stuff. Get me.

But in the frenzy to get the physical things complete I admit I am constantly questioning - for this is what I do in life - whether it all works, after so much labouring and agonising over the smallest details. And in this I must remind myself of the closing lines in my book. A real home accretes. Moving in after a build is not when your home is finished but when the home making begins.


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Sigh...those wallpapers are just too inspiring. Normally I can't be doing with paper. It's overwhelming - there is just too much choice for me to feel i can commit to any single paper but i instantly loved the oversized pink roses you have chosen. It seems timeless and you can't beat a good floral even in post-chintz britain.
I'm impressed by the poison fabric - it seems appropriately mid-century in feel and colour.
Am intriguied by your book storage arrangements - the study appears to have a very regimented size organisation and spine colour coding method in operation whilst the cookbook unit seems perhaps more laissez faire ...
btw i agree with you on your guzzini lamp, i too feel it works as it is - but it loses a certain something without the top that would give it a balloon type appearance - i hope you can find one to restore it
anyway great photos!

Dear Hot Paprika ;)

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and glad you like the papers, though agree with you in general terms of the baffling world of choice.

Like the way you've spotted the difference in our arrangement of books, a revelation of husband's approach versus my own!

Hope all is well with you - and that you will be enjoying some of the upcoming events of the London Design Festival.

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