Sunday, January 22, 2017

DIY Bed Curtain for Kids Sharing a Room

Our girls have shared a room for almost their whole lives.  At least since number 2 left our room!
There is a bit of a problem right now as the oldest can read, and we let her after she goes to bed.  The younger does not yet read and claims the light makes it 'too hard' to sleep.  We tried having them in separate rooms, but that hasn't worked.  There is also a sleeping mask, but doesn't quite do the trick.

My suggestion of putting up a curtain was met with a big thumbs up.  I tried to figure out some way to put up a curtain.  First, we didn't want to make too big of a commitment because who knows if a curtain will solve the current problem.  Undoubtedly, the kids will at some time pull too hard and down will come down the fabric.  So attaching it to the wall or the ceiling would not be ideal.

First, I tried to get an inexpensive canopy bed to hang the curtain.

But I ended up getting scammed on gumtree.  Lesson learned:  07519379638 is a scam number, is a scam email and Paypal account.  Also, don't pay for anything by gift on Paypal!

Already out £60, and speculative about the whole project to begin with, Niall did not want me to do anything expensive.  So I ended up taking apart the existing bed, buying some new timber, and using the timber to make poles on two ends of the bed.

There was a little luck, and John Lewis had a pair of blackout curtains, already sewn, that fit just right.  They were less than the blackout material!

I used a 22mm wooden dowel, which isn't quite strong enough to hold the weight of the material.  I'll probably end up buying a curtain rod with some finials drilled into the two posts down the line.  It looks a little homespun, but it fills a need.†

The curtain doesn't block out all the light, but reportedly it blocks out enough (from the lower placed reading lamp) to make sleep possible.

This one is happy with her new curtain, and says it can double as a performance stage.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

What We Wish We'd Done Differently

Guys, guess what?  Our extension has been done since May!  And we have loved having the extra space.  There are still a few bits and bobs around the house, but the next project is to try and pay down our mortgage.

Building Control came and gave the a-okay on the build.  (Meaning it was done to required standard.)  
There are so many things that we love about this house that has gone through multiple renovations.  It's such a great neighbourhood, a good layout for our family and for visitors.  I'm so happy we have such a comfortable roof over our head.

There are a few minor things that in hindsight I wish I would have done differently.  Not a huge change, but just in case.

1.  Euro Cylinder Locks

We didn't specify how the door locking mechanism should work for the French doors that were put in as part of the extension build, and the builders ordered key locks.  It means we always have to have a key to lock or unlock the door, and if we leave a key in the lock it can't be unlocked from outside.  I wished I would have requested a Euro Cylinder Knob lock.  (Knob on the inside, key open on the outside.)  It's not an expensive change, about £30 plus labor.  But I've tried twice to special order the replacement cylinders with no luck.

2.  Heat Detector in the Kitchen

Our smoke detector in the kitchen was too sensitive.   Make would go.  Turn on the would go. And it set all the other fire alarms (hard wired) off throughout the house.  We could not get them to turn off, even by turning off the mains power.  (The batteries!)  Then even without smoke they kept tripping during the extension build, to the point that we had to remove them all and go with battery only ones for a while.  After consulting with an electrician and a visit from the fire department, we switched to a heat detector in the kitchen.  It was about £30 to get one that would fit in with what was hard wired and now (knock on wood) the fire detectors remain silent.

3.  Plug in the kitchen

I don't really care, but Niall keeps talking about how we should have asked for a plug on this wall in the kitchen.  I think it's because we have to plug the vacuum in twice to clean the ground floor.  Oh, first world problems.

4.  Not Put Tiles in the Loft

We converted the loft according to every rule in the book.  We had the floor reinforced as required and then some.  And then we had the floor laid and put in tiles in the shower room.  (Well, a professional did it.)  But here's the thing.  That loft floor still moves a little.  And even with all that reinforcement, the tiles shift a little.   And a little often results in a big impact.  The grout has fallen through and a tile or two has become loose.

See?  Loose grout.  We can grout again, but it will be the same issue.  I am no fan of vinyl, but in this case I wish we would have gone with a more flexible solution.  Just a thought in case you're looking to convert a loft and are considering big tiles.

5.  Storm door lock

I searched high and low and ended up special ordering a lock to replace the 90 year old we removed from the storm doors when we first bought the house.  (It was rusted through and no longer functioned.)  But to lock the door, from the inside or out, you have to have a key.  A great big skeleton key that doesn't fit in a pocket so easily.  I would like the storm door locked at night for protection, but needing a key to open it in case of emergency (like a real fire, not just a smoke alarms going off because of toast) gives me the fear.

While the skeleton key looks pretty, it isn't practical.  I wish I would have gone with matching locks, just plain old Yale ones would do, for both the storm door and the front door.  Then the storm doors would lock when closed, not just when there's a skeleton key.  And the front door and storm door would have matching locks, so only one key required.

So, all in all, very minor things.  We have changed some, and will perhaps change more in the future. But all in all very grateful to have a place we call home and works for our family!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Guys, Our Garden

Once upon a time in 2013 our driveway looked like this.

Then we knocked down the garage, built an extension, and the driveway looked like this.

Yup, just a big pile of hardcore and ancient, broken concrete slabs, greeting the us every time we left the house.  For months and months.  We knew what we wanted to do, we had the budget, but it was just a matter of biding our time until we could get scheduled!

It took a lot of hard work (but not by us) and tons of material.

We had a really great landscaper (Peter Williamson) come and and now our driveway looks like this

He also built a new fence, since we knocked down the garage and the boundary wall.

The back garden is looking a lot better as well.  Maybe last summer or so it looked like this.

Then we had the mad digger come in and take out all the crazy self-planting sycamore trees.

No, seriously, things had to get really messy before they could get better.

We had the professionals put in a level pad for a shed (to replace the demolished garage) and a trampoline.

And then I got busy building vegetable boxes, reseeding (and reseeding and reseeding) the grass.

As of this morning, this is where we are.   Look how the grass is growing!  It needs to be cut...again!

Peter put in some posts and pavers for a bin store, 

and Niall built it.

We painted it green.


The back of the house is still a work in progress.  But we've improved things!  In 2013 it looked like this.

And then it looked like this.  

We managed to squeeze in a table and chairs.

And then turned it into a building site.

And now we're here.

Maybe someday we'll paint it.  Or get it re-roughcaste.  But not right now.

There's a nice walkway (big enough to wheel the garbage bins) along the side of our house.  And notice all the pebbles?  That was something our architect specified to help with drainage.

Here's the paving on the side of the house going toward the street.

And here's how the walkway looks going back to the garden.  I built the gate out of left over wood from the timber cladding on the extension!

When we first bought the house, the back of the house was completely overgrown.

We had the vegetation cut back, clean-up the pavers, and were left with this.

Then we painted the fence and the coal shed door.

We dug out the massive tree trunk

And were left with a patio area crying out for some attention.

Peter came and did his magic

And the patio are is wider, smoother and ready for us to enjoy!

And the table.

There are still a few things that need to be done (like making the bomb shelter into a play fort and tarting up the front garden and retaining wall.)  But man we're close!

And, just because I had no idea how much work this garden update would be, or how much money it would end up costing, here's the run down:

Total are paved:  111 square meters
Approximate cost:  £7000 total, £62 per square meter
Cost of supplies:  £3,150
Spoil removal:  £600
32 man days, 256 hours

As a note, I completely underestimated how much time and effort would go into this project, but specifically just how hard it would be to plan and execute the calculation of slope and run and the design of pavers.  And I didn't do any of it!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Furnishing on a Budget

Yes.  So we spent a whole bunch of money getting a new room.  We set aside what I thought was a very generous amount for furnishing and landscaping.  But it turns out the landscaping is going to take the entire amount, and then some, so we are left with hardly anything to furnish the room.
There were a few things that I really wanted for the room:

1.  Corner (L shaped) sofa, long enough for two people to lay
2.  Wall mounted TV (size not very important, we are pretty pathetic when it comes to nice TV's)
3.  Storage for toys
4.  Extra seating
5.  Table(s)
6.  Rugs for two 'zones' for the sofa/TV area and one for the toy storage and extra seats

1.  The biggest factor, I felt, was the sofa.  For six weeks, Niall and I scoured the local haunts (mostly gumtree) for something that would work but wouldn't break the bank.  We set a budget of £200, which was too low, but what we felt we could afford.  I spent time at Ikea, looking at all the sofas, figuring out which could be switched, covers that could be used, etc.

Finally, when we were in Amsterdam, a sofa appeared.  I texted at the airport and picked it up that afternoon, not long after we got home.  It was over budget, but I haggled and we got it for just slightly over budget.  I had to move around some pieces and unpick and resew the cover, but we got a Karlstad sofa.  It's now discontinued in the UK, but it is in very good condition.

Total cost:  £223.50

2.  The TV we got by bartering.  We traded a pull-out sofa bed (that we're going to replace with a two seater Chesterfield in the front room.)  It was a pain drilling the holes for the wall mounted plate (plasterboard, battens, old exterior wall=150mm holes) but we got it mounted!  (Thanks, Niall)

Total cost:  Free!

3.  Storage for toys was provided thanks to Ikea.  We actually bought something new.  Not second hand, not bargain corner.  Kallax was £75 plus the boxes, so it fit the budget.

Total cost:  £100

4.  Extra Seating:  We pulled in the rocking chair, which had been up in the office, downstairs.  Originally, we got a Parker Knowles chair from a neighbor's skip (dumpster.)  I stripped it, recovered it, we got a carpenter to make the rockers, and ta da!  We also put the 'throne' in here.

Total cost:  Free!

5.  Shelf/Thin Console Table

The extension is long but narrow.  (Just under 3 meters/ about 9 1/2 feet)  There isn't a room for a coffee table to the side of one part of the sofa.  But I know my husband and his love of tea.  And tea cups were sure to be perched on the sofa ledge, left on the floor, or put on the window sill.  So we needed something.

The builders left behind some wood, which I cut to size, sanded and oiled (boiled linseed.)  Then we bought some cheap table legs from Ikea.

And Niall has a place for his tea cups.

Total cost:  £15

6.  Rugs

I see so many rugs that I love.  But they're all in the US.  After serious (weeks long) internet and in store snooping, I've basically decided there aren't patterned rugs that both Niall and I like that are also in the UK (and don't cost four figures.)  The next idea was plain rugs.  I pulled down an Ikea rug we have from upstairs, but Niall gave it a pass.  

So I went to a local carpet store and they had a very nice piece of carpet that was an offcut and worked perfectly.  I cut one piece for the couch area and another for the chairs and boom.  We've used carpet offcuts before, and if there's problems with fraying then a bit of glue along the edges does the trick.

Total cost:  £50  

The landscaping should start sometime next month.  And we'll work on getting some more things on the walls and window coverings!