DIY and restoration

Top tips for surviving DIY

Kitchen closed: the frugal kitchen becomes a temporary storage unit

As regular readers will know, the husband and I have been redecorating our four-room flat. Out of necessity – no cash – we’ve done a huge amount of the work ourselves (especially the magnificent husband), which means getting home from work at eight, pulling on the work clothes, stiff with paint, and slogging away.

But by far the worst part of doing DIY in a small apartment is that there is nowhere to escape. To paint a room, you need to empty it, and that means piling everything into another room. Paint two rooms and the majority of the flat is out of commission and there’s a constant danger of being buried by your own possessions if you make a false move. If I ever needed an incentive to declutter…

Of course, during the works, our budget continues to apply, so we can’t just go out to escape the chaos. We have to live around it. So, for fellow gung-ho DIY-ers, I thought I would share my thoughts preserving both your sanity and your marriage…

1) Don’t fight fire with fire (aka take turns to be ‘the strong one’)

Neither the husband nor I are renowned for our patience. We both have quick tempers, we love a good rant and above all, we both love getting our own way. However, through trial and error and one very explosive kitchen refurbishment, we’ve learnt that if one of us is at the end of their tether, the other one has to stay calm, lend a sympathetic ear and talk them down from the ledge.

2) When the going gets tough… Beat a hasty retreat

We’re lucky enough to have a courtyard garden out back, and I have turned it into my very own DIY-denial space. Here we can sit and have a cup of tea in peace, eat at a table like civilised people and just relax without being constantly confronted by all the work that still needs to be done.

3) Don’t let it all hang out

As a general rule, squalor breeds squalor. When the whole house is a tip, suddenly, it doesn’t seem worth wiping the kitchen surfaces. Why find a bin when there’s rubbish everywhere anyway? And I might as well just leave my dirty socks balled up on the floor since the laundry basket is in another room…

Don’t let yourself be dragged be down, reader. Trust me, it’s a vicious cycle. I aim for organised chaos, that way it’s not such a gargantuan effort to restore order once the work is done.

4) But sometimes you have to let go

Admittedly I am one of life’s control freaks but I’m learning to embrace the chaos. No, you can’t access your sock drawer, just wear flip flops. Yes, someone will daub paint on the sofa or use your best towel to wipe up a leak. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that they didn’t do it on purpose. And then hide all remaining clean towels…

5) Beware of the dust

Gah, the dust! Sometimes, it seems that you just have to look at a toolbox and the whole flat is suddenly covered in a fine, yet inexplicably clingy layer of plaster dust. Close all doors on rooms where work is not taking place. Then put a ‘no entry’ sign on said door. If you can, tape it closed. If you can’t, illustrate said sign with graphic depictions of just what will happen to anyone who dares cross the threshold.

6) Keep calm and carry on

In my experience, there is a point during every DIY project when you start to wonder why you started. Those chipped seventies kitchen cupboards weren’t that bad, were they? Surely we could just put a rug over the carpet stain, plus no one ever looks at the hallway ceiling anyway, so who cares if there’s a crack stretching half way across and a gross brown water mark up there?

Reader, you did. If your resolve fails, you just can’t bear it for another second and you begin to consider cutting corners to bring the DIY hell to a premature end, then go to your special DIY denial space, close your eyes and give yourself a stern talking too. And if your partner is having a wobble, remember the first rule of DIY. Yup, it’s your turn to be the bright cheery one – whether you feel like it or not.

For when it’s all done, you will wonder around your little abode sighing with pleasure at the gleaming paint work and pristine floors. And as the smell of new paint fades, so will the memories of the few weeks you spent weeping with frustration at the dirt and mess and grit that is part and parcel of any DIY project. And at that point, you’ll probably start looking at houses on Rightmove that ‘have potential’… Good luck!

Hallway colour scheme: wallpaper

Going for gold: hallway colour scheme

Yesterday I got home to a very dusty house; the first phase of our hallway renovation has started in earnest and we now have lighting. Almost blindingly-bright lighting. It will certainly act as a catalyst for the rest of the work as we can now see the stained carpet, chipped paint and cracked ceiling (water tank leak) in all its glory.

Next step: re-plaster the ceiling, replace the skirting boards, repaint, recarpet and then the fun stuff starts….

starlight, starbright: hallway lighting

Starry, starry nights: spotlights in the hallway

I bought a roll of Harlequin’s Radiance Gold wallpaper five years ago. No real reason, I just fell in love and knew I wanted it in my life. I don’t have enough to cover a wall, and I certainly can’t afford anymore – it’s £44 a roll. Plus, if we end up moving, it would be a bit of a waste. I think I will make long tall panels to hang along one wall. Hopefully it will glitter in the light and it make me smile every time I walk past.

Roses and pansies and pinks, oh my!

Roses and pansies and pinks, oh my!

LoveRichCashPoor did some gardening at the weekend. The tomato and courgette plants are all potted up, fed and watered and we’ve tackled the out-of-control virginia creeper that is invading the garden for at least another week.

But the highlight had to be a little re-organisation of the pots dotted around the garden, many of which have been generously donated by the kind folks of Stoke Newington (well, their builders anyway, who gave LoveRichCashPoor permission to raid the many skips). Now this is the view that greets me on my return home from work. Bliss.

Chimney pot: spotted in a pile of rubble and rescued (with permission from the builders who had dumped it there).

Wicker basket: used to be a hanging basket, now a little too dilapidated to hang (gentle decay is fine with me).

Conical garden support: left by the previous owner.

The best things in life are free: sunshine and soul on the balcony

The best things in life are free: sunshine and soul on the balcony

In celebration of the long-awaited arrival of summer (at last), we have invested our remaining cache of John Lewis vouchers in some outdoor furniture. It’s been six long years, but the husband and I will finally be able to soak up the last drops of sunshine on our very own balcony this evening.

And that has given me the opportunity to dive into my wedding chest to retrieve one of our most cherished gifts—a beautiful lantern from my sister and brother-in-law. I’ve been waiting to get this out all year so you can imagine my excitement as I lit the candle.

Unfortunately I have now discovered that it is actually possible to run out of tealights. Who knew?

Still—here is the most beautiful lantern in the world, lighting up our lives with its heartfelt message. It makes me so happy that I want to sing it from the rooftops.  Although LoveRichCashPoor is not famed for its voice, so I’ll leave that part to Etta James….

At last

My love has come along;

My lonely days are over;

And life is like a song.

Oh yeah yeah, at last;

The skies above are blue;

My heart was wrapped up in clover;

The night I looked at you.

And I found a dream that I could speak to;

A dream that I can call my own;

I found a thrill to press my cheek to;

A thrill that I have never known.

Oh yeah yeah and you smile, you smile;

Oh, and then the spell was cast;

And here we are in Heaven;

For you are mine at last.

The best things in life are free: sunshine and soul on the balcony

May love light up your lives

May love light up your life on this sunny day. X

LoveRichCashPoor in Amsterdam hallway lighting

Vintage vibes at De Weldaad Noordemarkt, Amsterdam

So the husband and I have been deliberating over what to do with our hallway. We live on the first floor of a two-up-two-down Victorian terrace and our hallway and stairwell gets no natural light. In the first set of renovations, the hallway was the last of our priorities—we painted, we added storage, we hung a couple of mirrors et voilà.

Now however, thanks to a leaking water tank, the ceiling has to be replaced. Great. It’s possibly one of the least exciting jobs ever… that is, if we just replace the ceiling. Yep, I wanna pimp up that hallway baby. My reasoning: in an apartment of four rooms, the hallway has to be more than a thoroughfare. It needs to wow.

For a long time, we’ve been considering a way to get some natural light flooding into the space—I’ve been hankering after a sun tunnel light tube (a miraculous refractive tube that beams light from the roof into a room) for a while and since we’re pulling down the ceiling anyway… Unfortunately, I was not prepared for an estimate to the tune of £500 + VAT + installation. Ouch. Plan B it is.

Plan B was originally to install spots throughout the corridor, but since our little mini-break, we’ve realised that is way too mundane.

Yes, the new Plan B—Plan C, if you will—is to buy a stunning, centrepiece light fitting. And the best part is, we can take it with us when we move. All we have to do now is choose one.

In Amsterdam, we were bowled over by the abundance of incredible, eye-catching light fittings. It seemed that everywhere we went there was another impressive chandelier. Paris Schmaris—when it comes to the ‘city of light’ title, Amsterdam could take you any day.

There was industrial chic at 360volt, expertly modelled in the Bloemenmarkt (flower market)

LoveRichCashPoor in Amsterdam hallway lighting

Industrial chic in the Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam

Vintage gems and glass galore at De Weldaad—my new all-time favourite shop in the world.

LoveRichCashPoor in Amsterdam hallway lighting De Weldad

Gorgeous glass at De Weldaad, Noordemarkt Amsterdam

And some incredible Turkish lanterns on Huidenstraat.

LoveRichCashPoor in Amsterdam hallway lighting

Luscious lanterns on Huidenstraat, 9 Straatjes, Amsterdam

It’s going to be tough to choose. Right now, our hallway is monochrome—white walls, black and gold mirrors and a huge copy of Leon Spilliaert’s Vertigo taking up the majority of one wall.

I’d like to embrace the gloom with a sexy, moody colour scheme. I’m thinking glamorous and atmospheric. The same black, white and gold, but super-charged.

I’d also like a gallery of photos, some coathooks, a place to put post and keys and a panel of beautiful wallpaper. We don’t have much space to work with—but I’m game for a challenge. Watch this space.

While our forever home continues to elude us, there’s nothing to stop us making the most of what we do have. We’ve already changed this flat beyond recognition (see below), but after years of wear and tear (cough, and a few parties, cough), it’s due a repaint and re-carpet. And that was before the water tank leaked through the ceiling, the shower exploded and we decided to turn the study into a second bedroom.

Yes, we’re no stranger to the renovation game, ever since we picked up the keys one dark and chilly December evening five and a half years ago (almost to the day, it was December 15th), we have lavished care and attention (but not very much money) on our lovely Stoke Newington pad…

The sitting room before – vinyl wallpaper, six (yes, six!) layers of woodchip wallpaper on the ceiling and tinted mirrored wardrobes…

Stoke Newington before

Sitting room before

And after…

The kitchen before… (we got a little carried away with the demolition before we remembered to take the photo)

and after…

the bedroom before…

and after…

the garden before (well, work had already begun. Impatient us?)…

Garden before

and after…

A gratuitous picture of the kitten that has visited us regularly ever since he was big enough to climb through the window. I call him Stripes. Here he’s on the chaise longue that you can see in the sitting room before it got recovered with delectable Ian Mankin fabric (the husband was disappointed, he liked the pink velvet. He is going to kill me if he ever sees this!).

And I couldn’t resist a shot of my bespoke bathroom cabinet. I don’t have a before shot, but I did do the tiling all by myself on those alcoves (yes, that is why it’s a bit wonky).

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