+ Our Basement Renovation - Part 1

On the face of it, we moved into a flat with the bathroom of our dreams. When viewing the flat before buying, we were blown away by the giant shower enclosure,freestanding bathtub and the sheer space it was going to offer us. Our surveyor suggested we consider making the main bathroom an en-suite and adding a walk-in wardrobe between that and the master bedroom. From there, we could then transform the spare toilet/utility room into a family bathroom. After all, 3 beds 2 baths is far more appealing than a 3 bed 1 bath to any future buyers.

We kicked the process off over six months ago, popping over to Ripples Bathrooms for their free design service. For my first appointment with designer Joel, I talked through my suggestions for fixtures/fittings and tried as best as I could to answer questions like "how about a closed cup WC?" or "would you like a porter with the shower?" Based on this, Joel then spent a week or two sketching out proposed designs and pulled together a quote for bathroom fittings, as well as suggesting a reliable builder to carry out the work. The results of the designs and plans can be seen below!

From Utility Room to Family Bathroom

The current utility room is finished in two different types of tiles, with a tiny sink and the oddest assortment of boxed-in pipes. It currently fits our washing machine and laundry baskets. The goal is to turn this from a standard utility room with zero style, to a fully functioning family bathroom. The focus of the room will be gorgeous hexagonal graphic cement tiles from Terazzo Tiles.

I visited Scandic by Haymarket last June and this was where I first spotted this style of tile, used on the floor at Greta's Café! The middle picture is how we tesselate them, and the pic on the right is our sample from Terazzo Tiles I visited Scandic by Haymarket last June and this was where I first spotted this style of tile, used on the floor at Greta's Café! The middle picture is how we tesselate them, and the pic on the right is our sample from Terazzo Tiles.

To accompany the grey tiles, we're going for brushed gold fittings, a standard single-ended bath with 8-jet whirlpool system and some beautiful grey Ural Blanco tiles. The doorway to the old bathroom will be sealed off, and the washing machine moved from the main room to a new cupboard in its place.

Main Bathroom >> Master En-Suite & Walk-in Wardrobe

We're essentially converting the bathroom into new rooms - an en-suite and a walk-in wardrobe. For the main bedroom, the main changes will be new Covent Garden Oak flooring from Ecora (with underfloor heating) and the addition of a new, very handy ledge behind our Warren Evans Sunday bed.

Replacing the freestanding cast iron bathtub, too-small sink and old walk-in shower will be a Hans Grohe Raindance Air Overhead Shower and a double trough sink in the custom-made vanity unit painted in Farrow & Ball's Downpipe.

We initially wanted to tile the shower recess with special hand-painted tiles from Made a Mano in their beautiful petrolio blue, but we just couldn't justify the cost. The builders are going to plaster this area and leave it prepped for a custom-made walk-in wardrobe from Neatsmith.

It took Ned and I a few months to agree to get this all done at the same time as the en-suite - I was initially very hesitant to shell out more money given the fact that we're paying for the ENTIRE basement to be renovated. That being said, we've had to wait so long for our freeholder and his inept solicitor to approve, that I've been able to save enough. One Saturday we went to meet Valentina at Neatsmith on Finchley Road, where we spent about an hour and a half talking through our budget and exact needs. A few weeks later we then received this design:

I can't wait to share updates of each room once done! For now, you can see week one of progress in the video on Instagram.

+ 10 Ways to Make a House a Home

About a year ago Ned and I got the keys to our maisonette near Clissold Park, and since then we've pretty much poured all of our money, sweat and tears into making it our own. I captured everything I learnt during the mostly horrific process of being a first-time buyer here, but this time I wanted to share my thoughts on how to make a house a home, a far more positive topic!

Tip 1: Tear It Up

The kitchen we inherited wasn't horrendous but it quickly became obvious that it just didn't work for our needs. The oven was old, the sink was grotty, the cupboards were too shallow for our plates and there was little to no worktop space to prepare meals.

So, we decided to get the kitchen renovated with our needs in mind. You can read about the whole process here and see more before/after photos. It's obvious but it's true that once you're responsible for the entire look and feel of a room, it feels so much more like your own home.


Tip 2: It Will Be All Light on the Night

I have a thing for lighting. I have to actively stop myself from taking a quick trip to Heal's Lighting department as I invariably end up fooling myself into thinking another corner of one of our rooms needs a pick-me-up. Over the past year we've made quite a few purchases on 'investment' pieces 🙏, as you can see below:

Barbican Triple Pendant Light (Jim Lawrence)

Bella Vista Lumious Garland Lights by Seletti                  The Garden: Bella Vista Lumious Garland Lights by Seletti

Kuukuna Table lamp - 1986 Reissue - Iittala The Hallway: Kuukuna Table lamp by Littala

Tip 3: Hold a House Party

Halloween 2015 saw about 60 people turn up throughout the night, and more recently we held a big summer barbecue which went on from 2pm to 4am, with over 40 people turning up. After the Halloween party, there was fake blood all over the walls, and the floor was sopping wet with beer... That being said, it was really fun to open the doors to so many people and the see the house come to life!

Halloween 2015 House Party

My recipe for a good house party:

  1. Invite anyone and everyone you know
  2. Add some themed decor depending on the occasion e.g. pastel bunting in the summer or some cobwebs/plastic skeleton for Halloween
  3. Make a big punch in a large drinks dispenser. My go-to recipe is this sangria, topped up with any leftover vodka and lemonade!
  4. Remove anything valuable (heirlooms, rugs etc) from the main rooms
  5. As long as your wi-fi works without the odd hitch, Sonos really is an epic way to have the same playlist on throughout the house and in the garden!

Tip 4: Shut Yourself Away from the World

When we moved in, none of our windows came with curtains or blinds. We had to wait for bespoke window shutters to be made so we spent the first few months with a few flimsy frosted panels for privacy. Hillarys Blinds quoted us a hefty sum for bespoke Windsor shutters in pure white. Despite the cost, nothing beats closing these and putting on a movie with Ned to my left and Chickpea snoozing on my lap!

We also took a trip to Prêt à Vivre off of Upper Street to get some bright orange roman blinds in linen chintz for our spare bedroom and cottage pine wood venetian blinds for the kitchen. Again, they were pretty expensive but as our windows are such odd sizes, we wanted to make sure we had reliable professionals who would get the job done in one go.

Pret a Vivre blinds

Tip 5: Treat Your Guests Like Royalty

Guests are the best judges of whether your house is truly a home! I haven't completely nailed this yet, but here are some ideas I want to make a reality:

  • Guest Slippers: The goddess of housekeeping Martha Stewart suggests keeping a basket of slippers for your guests.
  • Spare toiletries: One day we plan to get our spare utility room made into a proper bathroom so we truly have a guest bathroom too, complete with guest toiletries to make it feel more like a home from home.
  • Frame your Wi-Fi Password: Make it easier for your guests by printing and framing the Wi-Fi password on the wall. You can find some printables over at Elegance and Enchantment too.

Tip 6: Add a Fur Baby

Not only does our cat Chickpea greet us every time we come home by brushing against our legs and miaowing, she's also helps make every room look lived in. You can find my new kitten checklist here as well if you're thinking of following suit!

Tip 7: Make It Personal

On our side table in the living room is a Cheerz box of 30+ photos from over the years, uploaded via Facebook, Instagram and Google Photos. If I find myself bored while chilling on the sofa, I can flick through the prints and take a trip down memory lane. You can also use the promo code JENFIH to get £4 off your own box of memories!
Cheerz box of photos

I also resized some photos in Photoshop (tutorial here), got them printed by Metro Prints and framed by the local company S'Graffiti:

Tip 8: Immerse Yourself in the Local Area

Feeling at home is as much about getting to grips with the local area surrounding your humble abode. You can read all about the fave places in my local area of Highbury/Finsbury Park. I also love that I'm finally on first name terms with a couple of local businesses and (when I'm not crazily busy with work trips/life admin) a weekend walk around Clissold Park to fool myself that I'm in the countryside.

Tip 9: Invest in Art

While in Lahaina, Maui, we came across this vintage poster shop and decided to bite the bullet and buy a beautiful Hawaii print by Chas Allen, identical to this one sold at Christie's. What I love most about is that it's the first thing I see when I get home, and reminds me of our amazing Maui trip:

Tip 10: Bottoms Up

No house can really be a home unless it contains a well-stocked wine fridge, drinks cabinet or a selection of copper mugs - do you really want your guests' G&Ts to go cold?!
Copper mugs

We've come a long way in a year, and I can't wait to get cracking on painting over the magnolia walls, replacing our horrid draughty doors and plastering over the endless cracks in the ceilings from our electrical work. Wish me luck as we enter a second year making our house a home :)

+ Our Kitchen Redesign: Before and After

Over nine weeks ago our builders started work on the kitchen and it's still not 100% finished, but I just have to share some photos anyway! The kitchen redesign was originally pitched to us as a two-week job, but due to various issues (inaccurate measurements, poor communication between our builder and the kitchen fitters) it's still not finished. Even so, you can see from the photos below that it's starting to look stunning. I'm really happy with the results but just wish it was complete now!

The picture below is of our kitchen before the work. the cupboards were too shallow for our plates to fit! The back wall (where the window is) was also really under-utilised.

The view from our hallway on a gorgeous sunny day, with Chickpea perching on the wooden peninsula.

I LOVE these Kartell masters stools in 'rust'. Without them I think the kitchen would be severely lacking in colour:

Chickpea on the peninsula (again). We also decided on floor-to-ceiling cupboards so that we'd have more storage and less flat surfaces gathering dust.

A cluster of succulents and a cactus by the sink:

Our very own (messy) larder:

The sink used to be fixed to an internal wall (so no view at all). I love that our new Blanco Tolon sink looks out into the garden and reflects back natural light. The wooden venetian blinds are from Prêt á Vivre (Upper Street, North London):

Ignore the fact that the corner of the kitchen is STILL not finished, and instead admire our Le Mans unit for pots & pans, a nifty CDA wine cooler and tambour unit to hide our toaster!

What I Learned

You can read about the design/planning process here, but I have learnt so much more since works began over two months ago:

  • Paying more doesn't always mean getting more. Even if you pay builders a handsome sum to project manage for you, it doesn't mean shit unless they've actually shown you a project tracker. Our builder promised us this (as the work was shared between them and the kitchen fitters) and we never saw it.
  • Expect to waste hours of your time chasing builders for details. If your kitchen needs just a few tweaks, don't expect your builder to rush to finish the job. We have had to incessantly chase ours to get basic work done, and initially we didn't chase certain things as we thought it was all in hand. Turns out, lots of things had been overlooked by both parties!
  • Don't pay the deposit until you're 100% satisfied with the project plans. Like I mentioned, our builder promised us the world 'I'll be your surrogate parents in this process; you'll receive a full project tracker'... his actions couldn't have been further from the truth.
  • Go through your final kitchen order with a fine-tooth comb. We had initially asked both the builder and the kitchen fitter for a 'venting out' extractor rather than a recirculating one, and they both agreed. However, 6 weeks neither party had a clue about the chimney hood! It took Ned and myself to explicitly ask multiple questions over email before they tried to resolve the issue and get something done.
  • Batch-cook home-cooked meals in advance. My god, for the first 2-3 weeks we ate more than our fair share of microwave meals and cheeky Deliveroos! Our fridge/freezer was connected to power the entire time, so in hindsight I wish I had prepped lots of nice home-cooked meals to see us through and save some money.
  • Immerse yourself in the design. If I'd known about it, I would have demanded to view the design using Virtual Reality, e.g. TruVision. It would have really helped to picture how we'd utilize the kitchen space and make changes to hard-to-reach cabinets/odd angled cabinet doors before building started!

A peek into the mess we had to endure on the road to our dream kitchen:

The Details 
Design & dry fitting by Funktional Kitchens
Plumbing, flooring, splashback, electrics and plastering by UDS Construction
Shelter Island 'harbour view' herringbone marble tiles (Fired Earth)
Shepton Flagstone Floor Tiles - Worn (Ca'Pietra) (Horncastle Tiles)
Kartell Masters Stools (Amara)
Barbican Triple Pendant Track in antique brass (Jim Lawrence)
Samsung American-Style Fridge Freezer (Curry's)
LG D1484CF TrueSteam Dishwasher  (Curry's)
30mm Thick Royal Bavarian Wild Spekva worktop (ordered by Funktional Kitchens)
Häcker Classic kitchen cabinets in magnolia (ordered by Funktional Kitchens)
Siemens iQ300 chimney hood (ordered by Funktional Kitchens)
Siemens IQ500 Extra wide gas hob with wok burner (ordered by Funktional Kitchens)
Siemens IQ700 oven (ordered by Funktional Kitchens)

Finishing Touches
Orla Kiely Tulip Double Oven glove (Amara)
Le Creuset 'volcanic' utensil jar (Le Creuset)
Garden Trading Seagrass Placemats (Amara)
Painted Amaryllis butter dish (Anthropologie)

+ A Guide to Angel: Interior Shops on Cross Street

Cross Street - Angel
I've lived around Angel on and off now for 4 years and I've never paid too much attention to what's on offer in Cross Street, although Get Stuffed, a quirky taxidermy shop at the junction to Essex Road, piqued my attention on many a bus journey!

Fast forward a few years to when I have a flat in need of a few home improvements, and I've lost count of the number of trips I've made to this little street. The main reason for my visits is Funktional Kitchens, the kitchen supplier we've decided to go with (due Feb 2016)! See below for a quick rundown of places worth a visit:

Funktional Kitchens - 42 Cross St

Before ending up here we had tried a couple of kitchen showrooms in Essex Road, but their designer Andrew was so warm and friendly and really helped us in his walkthrough of what each step in the process involves.

They predominantly offer German or Spanish kitchens, such as the Häcker range. I particularly love the wooden worktop range they supply from Spekva, which is what we plan to install in our kitchen.

The first step is sending a basic floorplan and some photos to Andy, who will then mockup his ideas for the space in a digital render. The tools they use allow him to make large changes (colour of units, chimney hood, switching out appliances) in a matter of seconds.

Once you're happy with this free consultation, you put down a deposit of £500 and that's when he comes to your flat to take accurate measurements of the space. You can find out more in my blog post here.

Tribe Rugs - 52 Cross St

Tribe Rugs - Cross Street, Islington, London
Ned and I had promised each other we'd hold off on too many home accessories until after the kitchen's done. But, after leaving Funktional, we took a detour to Tribe London. They source rugs from as far afield as Turkey, Iran and Nepal, and our eyes wandered to a multi-coloured Afghan rug.

After seeing us ooh and aah over it, the friendly owner said 'you can take it home and try it for free if you like?' No deposit needed - he trusted us with our name, address and phone number!

Needless to say his approach works, as days later to transferred the cost of the rug. He then popped over to our flat to supply the complimentary non-slip mat for underneath the rug.

Fired Earth - 34 Cross St

Obviously these guys are the créme de la créme of tiles, although customer service is rather lacklustre. Anyway, I'm particularly in love with their Shelter Island range and we plan to have these Harbour View herringbone marble tiles as our splashback in our new kitchen.

Tiles Etc - 4 Shillingford Street

OK, so technically it's just off of Cross Street, but it counts! Tiles Etc have stiff competition from the established and well-known Fired Earth, but their range of tiles is second to none. The range that particular caught our eye is the Italian Ca'Pietra and we've now settled on their slate Shepton flagstones.

Tiles etc. and the nearby Farrow & Ball shop (image courtesy of Google Maps)
Tiles etc. and the nearby Farrow & Ball shop (image courtesy of Google Maps)

Farrow & Ball - 38 Cross Street

Wow this place is heaving at weekends! So far we've purchased some beautiful sample colours for our living, including the exotic wildcard Brinjal and the soothing Stiffkey Blue. Staff here are super friendly, with one member of staff sharing with us a great tip of painting a large sample piece of wallpaper to trial colour. This is better than just lobbing different colour swatches on the same wall as it ensures you're not tricked by contrasts between the swatches themselves.

LivingSpace - 36 Cross Street

So our budget doesn't quite stretch to getting our house improved via these guys, but regardless we had a look around their showroom. LivingSpace UK not only supplies designer furniture (mostly from Italy) but they also manage small to full-scale interior design projects. They are my dream designers for whenever Ned and I get round to doing our bathroom!

Living Space UK - Bathroom Design featuring the Lago transparent Depth Basin
Living Space UK - Bathroom Design featuring the Lago transparent depth basin

Pret a Vivre - 69 Cross Street

This elegant showroom hosts only the very best fabrics (exclusive to them), offering custom-made blinds as well as installation for a fee. We've recently ordered some beautiful mango roman blinds for our spare bedroom as well as some wooden venetian blinds in time for our new kitchen, I cannot wait to see how they turn out!

Wooden venetian blinds from Pret a Vivre

And if that's not enough, Cross Street's neighbours Upper Street and Essex Road have SO much to offer. Except more in a future blog post!

+ All I Want Is... A Copper Kitchen Rail

Copper kitchen rail inspiration
From top-left: Ballingslovs Bistro | Wildlandia |Elizabeth Kane Bottom two: My Haus | Copper & Solder

This week we paid 35% deposit for our new kitchen appliances and units, so all that's left is to start fantasising about the finishing touches! We've also just placed an order for Jim Lawrence's Barbican Triple Pendant in brass above the kitchen island/peninsula, so I'm desperate to add a few more accents in bronze or copper. I can just picture my future kitchen with a gorgeous copper kitchen rail, hopefully accessorized with some new pots, pans and utensils!

  • You can make your own like Elizabeth Kane (bottom image in the collage above). She picked up copper tubing and flanges at Home Depot and made them into a pot rail, adding S-hooks from IKEA, as revealed in here.
  • Nicole from Wildlandia also headed to her closest hardware store cut down a piece of piping to make sure the rail fitted her kitchen wall.
  • Made in Staffordshire by founder Katie, the Copper and Solder shop on Folksy creates beautiful made-to-order rails. I've just placed an order, saving 20% with discount code 'iwantcopper'.
  • Not a fan of DIY? The copper rail with grid from My Haus comes in a standard size, but you can extend the trend to your worktops with their beautiful copper fruit basket.

More Copper Inspiration

Copper Sink: WOW.. Olif's Alveus Monarch Line 20 Copper inset sink is divine. I am considering calling up my kitchen designer and starting it all from scratch!

'Apple Cider' Kitchenaid: This is more of a work of art than a mere appliance. Get yours at John Lewis for just shy of £400!

Dualit Kettle & Toaster Range: The study, well-known Stainless steel appliances are complimented with sprayed copper panels.

Copper Worktops: Lovely Imperfection has a mesmerising post on her cousin's copper worktops - lots of shiny pictures to swoon over!