Trying to fit in

Well Clerkenwell Design Week was a fun little outing wasn’t it! I’d done that self-indulgent but scary thing of organising a week off between finishing one job and starting a new one and luckily CDW fell inside of it. I say scary because I kind of forgot I wasn’t been paid for it so was happily spending away as usual without the usual income, oops. 

CDW is a big design exhibition and sales event spread across Clerkenwell in London (near Farringdon). It’s made up of lots of cool stands and cafes to, on the one hand, bring people in but predominantly to upsell products and services to the interior designers, architects and stylists who have tickets (tickets were free though, so I can’t have been the only scammer there). The day is broken up into talks and lectures that you pre-book so I booked two and planned to spend the majority of the day wandering around and meeting my friend for lunch laden down with design ideas and creative genius.

 

I was right in anticipating that CDW would be swarming with arty-cool types so instead of my usual black skinnies I wore satin flared polka dot trousers with a bright top to up my chances of fitting in and not looking like the interior novice/junior/toddler that I am. I started the day by being late and having to get a taxi so I didn’t have to walk into the first talk and be stared at. The first talk was good; it was a design journalist, a stylist specialising in fabric and an interior designer each talking about their projects and recommending which stalls and areas we ought to check out during the day. The second talk was more exciting as it was a famous designer being interviewed by the editor of Living Etc. magazine. Now I have to tell you about a really peculiar connection I have with this editor…

 

You see I got the app borrowmydoggy.com about 18 months ago and signed up to borrow/walk dogs around Wimbledon. Sounds strange and I’ve explained it to so many people but the idea is simple; you just borrow a dog and then give it back… for free. Well I’ve been borrowing a Jack-a-Poo called Jammy for well over a year now and get on really well with her mum/owner who I found out is also into interior design. She recently had her beautiful house featured in Living Etc. because she buys and sells houses and users her clever eye for design to make them gorgeous in the process. When I first told her we were moving house and were planning to redecorate and furnish the new flat in a Scandinavian style she recommended I read Living Etc. because she is best friends with the editor. Then when I mentioned I was going to CDW during my week off Jammy’s mum told me her editor friend would be there – curiouser and curiouser.

 

Here is the coincidence; the second talk I’d booked to attend was an interview of the famous designer, Jean-Marie Massaud, being held by nobody but my borrowed-dog’s-mum’s-best-friend! Ha!

Jammy

So overall CDW was really good fun, I learned a lot, felt a bit out of my depth, got lots of freebies and spoke to some really cool people, I will definitely be going again next year.

 

The second point I said I’d cover in this post is mood boards and ooohhh they are fun. With interior design magazines spread across my living room floor in front of me, pritt stick poised and the chilled pop hits playlist on Spotify I let loose like a fat kid in a cake shop. I tend to think for ages before I get started on things and so purposely didn’t let myself position cuttings on the paper before gluing them down ‘just in case they don’t look right’, I went ahead and glued them on down like the vigilante that I am. I did one mood board for myself, mainly variations of pink, grey and smart interiors and I did a couple for my friend, Sophie, as she is redecorating her house. I wanted to give her some ideas based on what she’d said her and her fiancé like and I wanted to add in some things they might not have considered.

 

I’m going to keep making mood boards, mainly using them to put ideas together to see what they look like. I’ve also found recently that people tend to ask me where they ought to get things from. So they’ll say they need a green armchair for about £200 but can’t find a good one. I really like this challenge because I am a keen stalker on social media and the skills from this enables me to track down pieces of furniture from the darkest corners of the internet for ideal prices so I hope I can continue to do this and help others out at the same time.

 

I’m considering doing a post about the interesting interiors of some of the cities I’ve visited recently but I need to organise my photos etc. so we’ll just have to wait and see.

First moody board attempts – would be loads better with fabric samples but for now it’ll just be magazines & leaflet cuttings
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Learning the theory

Having gone whole-heartedly for a Scandinavian approach to decorating and furnishing the flat it became slightly easier to stop myself from over-buying at the respective Home versions of Zara, H&M and Urban Outfitters. If you’re a home furnishings fan like me and haven’t been there, GO TO H&M HOME IMMEDIATELY. The best one is on Oxford Street and they sell such beautiful stuff (online too). I found my favourite pink bed sheets in the sale there for £15! Urban Outfitters is somewhere I usually find overpriced but they put some decent home stuff in their sales every now and then so keep an eye out (I got my sad rabbit/cat mugs from there).

The reason it’s been easier to stop myself going vase/cushion/plant pot mad is because the Scandi/minimalist design is simple, pure and clean with natural light and easy space – minimalist design actually comes from Japanese traditional Zen philosophy. Therefore it bring with it the challenge of not filling the spaces with bits and bobs just because it’s a space. I frequently find myself staring at a blank wall in the lounge thinking about what could go there when in true Scandi/minimalist style, it’d look better with nothing there. This brings me to the topic of this post which is about what I’ve learned from the interesting little online course I’ve started.

Wall
Because I want to keep clutter down I just switch these pictures around a bit rather than buy new stuff

 

I recently began the online Interior Design and Home Styling course I found on Groupon (my old friend). I thought that if I’m going to do this decorating and styling properly I ought to learn the theory behind it so I can talk about it credibly. Also I like learning and making mood boards/scrap books so thought it’d involve some of that too! You get 60 days to complete the 12 modules and I should just about finish on time because I’ve taken my time with it and like to write everything down and practice sketching etc. I’ve actually enjoyed it even more than I expected; I’ve taken my laptop and notepads to the pub with the dog to do a module, I’ve set up a little office in the lounge and spent a few hours on a Saturday morning doing it and it’s just been so much fun. At the end I’ll be accredited in International Council for Online Educational Standards. I really don’t want it to end now because I can’t find another course that would be the next stage up and I don’t want to spend hundreds of pounds on it because it’s not my profession so really I’m only doing it to learn something new and because it’s fun.

The sort of things I’ve learned include some well-known design theories, for example Parisian, Classic, Shabby Chic, New York, Minimalist and Scandinavian. It taught me how best to create a balanced feature wall, how to decorate a bedroom compared to a living area and how you can live in one huge room and create zones to make it more flexible. The problem is I now want to live in an industrial ex-warehouse loft in New York with exposed pipes, grey wooden floors and black Crittall-style glazed windows. Why is nothing ever good enough?

Loft
The NYC loft I’d sell a kidney for

 

Since I started the course and bored my friends by telling them all about it a few have asked me for ideas about how to decorate their bedroom/garden/whole house – luckily I’m at that age where my friends are moving around the country and starting to buy houses etc. so everyone’s talking about palettes, gardens and ottomans. So I’m going to start making some mood boards and see what it takes to bring an idea to reality for other people, rather than just in my own head for my own flat. It was a mood board that brought my attention to feathers and how they’re creeping their way into home styling everywhere. Here’s my attempt at involving feathers in my bedroom design (note the lampshade):

Feather

I’ll share a few pictures of my mood boards when I’ve got some under my belt and will also talk next time about my visit to Clerkenwell Design Week in May which I’m really excited about 🙂

The trickery of sourcing items

Shpock was something I’d only been aware of through the catchy/annoying advert on TV. It’s a boot sale app that can be used to buy or sell stuff to people who live near you. I’d never dabbled in Ebay or anything like that before so was dubious I’d find anything decent. However I set up alerts on the app for white dining room tables and over the course of a week quite a few popped up around my area. I fell in love with one light grey table with two small stools and one long bench. I loved it but so did everyone else so a bidding war started that I decided I didn’t fancy being a part of because I soon realised it wouldn’t fit in the car anyway. So even though my love for benches instead of dining chairs had developed, in the end I wasn’t lucky enough to find a matching set for under £100 which was all I was willing to spend (having never bought a table or chairs before, I didn’t realise how expensive these things were?!). Eventually I had an alert about a large Eames style white dining table which was exactly what I was looking for originally. So after some difficult communications with the seller over the app we arranged a time for me to collect the table for £30! I couldn’t believe it. They’re about £300 online for the size it was and the seller was asking for £60 originally but they typically expect to negotiate and so we agreed on £30.

The table has been my favourite find because I was proud about how discounted it was but mainly because it goes so neatly in the corner of the lounge and is the exact style I was hoping to find. So I apologise and take back everything negative thing I said about Shpock – but the adverts are still annoying.

From picture-stalking and interior magazine searching I then decided I wanted different coloured matching Eames-style chairs to go with the table. And I only wanted 2 even though the table is more suited to 4 chairs. I thought the space and flow of the room was more important than completing the set so stuck with just 2 chairs and will need to buy some stools or something (or maybe a bench? :D) for when we have guests. The baby pink Eames chairs are the sweetest thing I think I’ve ever seen so I set upon finding one of them and one white or grey one. They range in price from £20 to £250 so read a few reviews and wanted to find decent quality because a few of them said the cheaper chairs wobble. It took a couple of weeks to get the right ones and I tried Shpock but couldn’t be sure of the colour because the pink one looked more like Barbie pink which would definitely not match my grey feature wall. Couple of weeks later and my lovely little pink and white chairs arrived with the help of Doddle and now look perfect in the corner of the room against the grey wall.

Box
‘The chairs are packaged in small, manageable boxes’, oh right k

 

To decorate the table I sought inspiration from Instagram, my absolute favourite, and spoke to a few interior designers on there for their opinions. I wanted mainly white with touches of pastel pink and in true Scandinavian style, potted plants and green leaves everywhere. I also saw in a magazine that Ikea do pastel coloured kitchenware which is about the most exciting thing that had happened to me all week. So, of course, I bought a set of plates and bowls in pastel pink and now endeavour to get a set of gold cutlery to go with it. I then found a beautiful Yucca plant at a market in my town centre on my way home from the dentist to live in the middle of the table as the main bit of greenery and I got my plaited-trunk tree from Ikea in a pink vase (to match the plates – sheer joy).

T&C2

Now that the majority of lounge furniture is done I’m working on smaller furnishings like pictures, tapestries, cushions and hanging fixtures. I will no doubt get bored of them in about a month so they will definitely move about as I change my mind. Also I’ve started work on the bedroom but have had a few fails so will talk about that next, as well as what I eventually decide to do with the spare room. Ideas would be hugely welcomed! I’d love to create a little desk area under the window but I’m not sure it’d get used.

Highs & lows of furniture assembly

Whilst dad was decorating the flat I used the opportunity to get a few things delivered there. We don’t have a porch so if we order something large like furniture, someone needs to be in to sign for it. My office is quite lenient with personal deliveries but I didn’t fancy dragging a Scandinavian TV stand home from work on the tube. So I ordered a few things like the nested coffee tables I found on Groupon for £50, a bed, a TV stand and a sofa. But not without high levels of drama beforehand. In our previous flat we wanted a new sofa so agreed with the landlords that if we got a new sofa they’d buy it from us when we moved out. When it came to it, they weren’t up for it and suddenly ‘paying for a second hand Ikea sofa’ was too much to ask. To say I was offended at the Ikea affront is an understatement because I love Ikea, but not only did they go against their word, it would mean we’d have to buy and build another sofa which is just not that fun even with help.

Luckily for us, a couple of days before moving the landlords’ new tenants kicked off about us taking the sofa (and the landlords replacing it with something gross) so the landlords said they’d transfer the money for the sofa immediately to avoid upsetting the new tenant. Great news! However then discovered that finding a new sofa to fit in the corner of the new flat was basically impossible. I looked for weeks, scouring websites for discount codes, asking people on Instagram where they’d recommend for a decent but inexpensive sofa and eventually found one on my old friend Groupon. It was half price at £500 which meant we only had to pay about £50 because of the money from the old sofa. I really like corner and art deco sofas but I also love evenings in and spending a lot of time on the sofa so it has to be comfy and cosy AF and I need to be able to put my feet up, read my book and reach my drink at the same time.

So the sofa worked well, I chose grey because it’s my favourite neutral colour and it matches the feature wall. Then the nested tables arrived and the curves of them looked great next to the sharp edges of the sofa contributing to the symmetry of the whole lounge which is something I’d tried to aim for.

Building
Building a lamp in my pyjamas

 

Then came the TV stand which was a fun search because there are loads of Scandinavian stands online and because they’re thin and simple they’re often not that pricey. Ordered one weeks in advance but it could sadly only be delivered on a date after dad’s departure. However I wasn’t worried because I’ve built many a cupboard before with my trusty set of colourful screwdrivers and mini hammer. Turned out though that the stand was massive and heavy and came disassembled in a thousand parts. Started putting pieces together as instructed by the MAN in the pictures on the instructions (which equally bugged me and spurred me on to build it myself) and the wood split and started peeling away. Freaked out a bit but continued in the most logical way and made sure I was doing it right – which I definitely was – and almost all of the screw holes did the same thing. The parts literally didn’t fit together. I was already near melt down when I dropped a big piece of wood on my thumb and lost my shit altogether, threw the part back in the box and cried for a bit before calling the supplier and firmly requesting a refund. Funny thing was that they didn’t even argue with me so they’d most likely similar complaints before.

They organised to collect it for me which was great so I began again in my search for a TV stand and found a beautiful one from Very with adorable little drawers in the front, one of which was pastel pink, so I ordered it immediately. Tried to be clever by ordering it to be delivered at my parents’ house so dad could build it and then I’d collect it the following weekend… three days later it arrived at their house in Bristol ready-assembled – fml.

I had a bit more luck with the dining room table and chairs which I bought separately and they came together nicely in the end but it took a bit of planning and organising to get the design I wanted (Eames style) without paying hundreds. I’ll talk more about that and what I learned along the way (literally life skills) in my next post 🙂

Jam & Table
The coffee table & our little pal, Jammy, before she rolled her muddy toy all over the white rug

Dust

Hello again!

We negotiated with the landlords for them to lower the rent if we agreed to redecorate; they were apprehensive but the agent convinced them they’d be stupid not to agree to it (free redecoration for them) so they went along with it. Then we had to sign a contract saying we’d do it properly, only use neutral colours etc. (dark grey counts as neutral doesn’t it?) and send them pictures afterwards.

So as soon as the leash was off I was away spending every spare second finding everything I ever wanted in a flat through my favourite interior design instagram accounts and then set about finding cheaper versions of it all. I started with the ‘hard’ furnishings like flooring, wall colour and lighting. Laminate flooring ranges from about £4 to £25 per square metre and I’m sure more but if you want to spend that then B&Q isn’t the place for you. The laminate we went with was reduced to £5psm so flooring for the whole flat came to about £100 which is insaneballs. Dad had some white paint lying around in the garage which meant I just had to buy one can of grey paint for the feature wall in the lounge which was £18 and we were done. Then came the fiddly things like gloss for skirting boards and beading (the long wooden stuff that sits between the flooring and the skirting). I resented paying for this because it’s boring, like buying a new hoover, but these finishing touches made a big difference in the end.

We’d only viewed the flat once before buying all of this kit so I had to draw a floor plan from memory to add measurements to so I used my finely-tuned skills in The Sims to make it legible.

FloorP

I helped dad as best I could by sanding the ceiling but the dust went in my eyes and the paper ruined my nails so I left him to it and concentrated on finding furniture as cheap as possible ready for moving day. The state of the furniture in the flat was so poor we couldn’t avoid buying some new bits, purely to prevent the spread of disease (it was that bad).

Dad spent a week at the flat working on it every day and sleeping either there (once the boiler was working) or at ours. We kept him happy with regular coffees and then unlimited beer in the evenings. We had various different unpleasant trips to Ikea which is only a couple of miles away but trying to get there in a van in London, it may have been 90 miles it took so long. One day we were mid-way there and I realised I’d cleverly organised for a plumber and a delivery on that day but had completely forgotten about it so we had to turn around and speed back, Ikea aborted.

When it came to the bathroom the landlords stipulated, to my disgust, that they wanted lino instead of laminate and my only experience of laminate was student accommodation when it was sticky and stained. But, gladly, how wrong was I! I found some light grey laminate at B&Q for uber cheap and worked out with dad (he’d never laid it before) that the best thing to do was to draw the floor plan of the bathroom on it and then Stanley-knife it out. It worked well and whilst we couldn’t change the blue tiles in the bathroom, it matches really well. Another sneaky trick that woke the old and tired bathroom up was by painting the side of the bath white, it was a kind of cream, dirty wood before so the white had made it look 10 years younger. The same worked with all the radiators; I would definitely recommend doing it if you want to freshen up a room and even if it’s rented, either ask the lettings agents or just do it; they’ll never notice.

Alongside the ‘hard’ furnishings I started finding furniture online. Now apparently hard furnishings count as furniture as well because it performs a ‘human function’ but then I’d argue that a blanket does too? Anyway, with my ever-deepening desire for all things Scandinavian I started my search for nested coffee tables. The majority of what I found was upwards of £250 and knowing I would almost definitely get carried away with furniture I was sensible enough to curb my spending and continue the search for a cheaper version. This is when I found Groupon was the best friend I never knew I had.

I’ll tell you in my next post about how I found cheaper versions of posh stuff, attempted to build furniture, had an almighty strop over a TV stand and failed in fixing the lampshade of my dreams to the light fixture.

Day 1

Oh hello! Welcome to my blog and thanks for visiting 🙂

I’m going to keep my posts relatively short because I get bored reading long ones and think short and sweet posts are more fun.

For context, I’ve started this blog because I’ve recently decorated and furnished my new (rented) flat and learned a lot so thought it’d be nice to share about it because I couldn’t find any blogs online that weren’t MAKE IT YOURSELF WITH DYE AND NAILS or SPEND £900 ON A COFFEE TABLE so this blog is going to be how I kept all my activities and purchases somewhere in the middle of that. Also I rent my flat and found that the majority of decorating/furnishing blogs and pages I found were based on owning your own place and being able to hammer stuff all over the walls and have bright pink paint, which is of course not really doable if you want your deposit back at the end.

The story behind how my little interior design project came into fruition is a long and painful one, so I’ll break it down.

How we got the flat:

Me and my girlfriend previously lived in a beautiful, newly refurbished flat in the eaves of a big old Victorian house. It was one bed, one bath and a lounge/kitchen combined. The landlord was very particular about how they were decorated, which was good for us because she gave us a hand carved wooden Ralph Lauren bed with a bedhead from heaven. It was so grand and big which is great but for the size of the room, it just became the culprit for hundreds of stubbed toes and knees over the course of our 15 months there.

So all seemed well and we loved it despite the space issues. However there were problems that gradually got worse over our tenancy and eventually made us move out. The water pressure was poor and we often had no hot water or no water at all. So we started looking for other flats. This of course was not made easy by the large lettings agent in London that most London-dwellers will have heard of and most likely hate; they’re as expensive as they are unpopular. We ended up paying our way out of our contract, negotiating every day for weeks and desperately trying to avoid paying rent on two flats at the same time. It was a rubbish time and the stress drove my anxiety and IBS wild.

Our new flat was a bit of a fluke because the pictures of it were awful and I only booked the viewing out of desperation and trying to fit as many viewings in as quickly as possible. We viewed it on a dark winter’s evening which made everything look worse and it was really not a very pretty sight; the carpets were wavy, lifted and stained and the bedroom smelt like bin. But I am a big believer in the ability to make things nice with little effort and lots of love and I really liked how many windows it had, the location of it and how much cheaper it was than our current flat. So I started to imagine how we could make it nice and who we could ask to help.

I would have been happy to scrub, cillit bang, scrub some more and bleach the flat to make it nice but alas the other half was not so bought into that. So I spoke to my loyal old dad and he said he thinks we could redecorate the whole place for really quite cheap. So that’s what we did (and I’m talking CHEAP). In keeping with my promise of keeping posts short I’m going to stop here and will explain in my next post what we did first.