Beasts, bedlam and Bethlehem. (How to plan to do it differently next year).

Day Twelve

There was an Animal Farm style revolt in the Price household today even before breakfast.

It was the cold water that got us in the end. The lack of lighting we could overcome (phone torch) and though the toilet doesn't flush, you can throw a bucket of bleach and hot water down it of a morning and it seems to do the trick. But we were clinging onto the trickle of a warm shower as our little bit of hope in a bleak, broken bathroom which cannot be mended or replaced until the kitchen is finished and funds replenished. And this morning that trickle ran cold. We were bereft of our most basic creature comforts and we crumbled.

We're only maybe a week away from a fully functioning kitchen. Today the missing units were fitted, the utility room kitted out and the worktops measured and ordered. But man it can't come soon enough. I feel like we are being taught a valuable lesson in appreciation, like the patron saint of utilities (possibly my Gran) is looking down on us and saying, "I hope you know what lucky beasts you actually are." We do now.

Today was also Nativity day, emotional at the best of times, but today I couldn't take it. Oh God it was good. Mary had her baby, despite being told there wasn't a bed (never mind bathroom facilities) The farm animals learned to share their humble stable peacefully and despite everyone's difficult journey, they all had a very Merry Christmas. 

And with that I think I'll hit the hay and dream about where to hang my Evermade family zoo portraits like the ones above. It's the last day of school tomorrow (gulp) and I've still got shed loads to do to get ready for Christmas. Evermade must have sensed unrest in the camp for they sent organisational back up in the form of a 2018 planner. Not only is it the prettiest colours, but it's got little foil stickers to mark on special dates and notes to self like "never EVER fit a kitchen before Christmas," and that kind of thing. Genius. Thank you Evermade, from all of the herd.

Claire xx

2018 year planner £10 by www.evermade.co.uk

2018 year planner £10 by www.evermade.co.uk

The New Year Resolution that needs to start NOW

Day Eleven

OWT.jpeg

This is a little bit sick bucket - and also the first time I've told anyone - but every year when I switch the Christmas lights on for the first time I take a moment to reflect on how lucky we are to have another year together with all of us in good health. *Look, just keep reading, there's a gift in it for you, if you get to the end*

My youngest son came close to knocking on the pearly gates when he was a baby, and obviously, it scared the bejesus out of us. I don't know why I reflect upon it more at Christmas than any other time of the year, but something about putting twinky lights and delicate glass decorations on a tree (of all things) reminds me that every day is a gift that ought to be treasured. I think that's why I'm rubbish at saving anything for best. Life is the special occasion people. Know what I'm sayin'?

Recently I was bowled over to be asked to curate a page for a beautiful interiors website called Oh What's This. Everything on this site has been handpicked to make it a special on-line marketplace of just really gorgeous homewares and accessories. It was tricky picking my top ten favourite pieces from such a vast selection, until I started to think of how I want to approach filling my brand new kitchen.

Basically, if I don't love it, it ain't going in. This is the only New Year's Resolution I'm making and I'm applying it to my entire (overcrowded) house/life. Even the pans will be bloody lovely pans... until I burn the buggers of course. If I have to take my time filling it, fine. I'd rather have four lovely mugs than 16 okay ones. I get that things need to be practical, but that needn't stop them being beautiful. Who knows, they may even get looked after better if they feel special. It shouldn't be that way, but let's face it, it just is.

So when I came to curating my shoppable page for today's re-launch of Oh What's This, I gave a lot of thought to beautiful items for the home that would make every day of using them a treat. 

See what you think to my choices by clicking this link: www.ohwatsthis.com

And as a special treat for all of us to feel mushy about, here's a 10% off discount code to help with those particularly special items over £100 from the entire Oh What's This site. Simply enter OWTCANDY at the checkout. 

I'm kicking off my New Year's resolution early by purchasing a luxury sixteen piece set of brass cutlery which I will relish putting in my brand new kitchen drawers in a week or so... and which I hope will give my folks an extra forkful of joy when they have their Christmas dinner. 

Luxury brass cutlery, £120 www.ohwhatsthis.com

Luxury brass cutlery, £120 www.ohwhatsthis.com

Sorry if that was just a little too nauseating right after you've eaten, but look, if you're anything like me you'll be feeling a bit frazzled right now. Too many mince pies already, too many pre-drinks, which inevitably leads to too many actual drinks. Not enough hours in the day and a to-do list as scary as the thinning skin around your eyes. You, my friend, need to be reminded how flaming special you are. Go on, treat yourself and your kitchen. Santa's orders.

Claire x  

The devils and the details of the painting process

Day 10

It may be only a powder coating of snow, but it is enough to get the 9YO's football tournament in Newcastle cancelled, which means lucky Des the Decorator has got me thrusting paint samples in his face all day instead.

He knows his stuff, our Des. The best in the business according to House Candy Andy and so far I'm inclined to agree.

Our current thinking (if I'm letting the decorator have a say in the paint choice, he must be good) is to go with the same colour of the kitchen units for the panelling and soon-to-be-made MDF shelves. The rest of the room will be a more subtle, pale grey shade. 

Paneling in Farrow and Ball Railings

Paneling in Farrow and Ball Railings

The kitchen extension is a huge, south facing room with lots of light so it can take a deep colour. The guy at Magnet told me that the Newbury Midnight shade is colour matched to Farrow and Ball's Railings, which I used to have on my chimney breast in the kitchen. I've tested his theory and it's bang on. Railings is a rich black/blue and pretty much goes with anything. It's made me love my kitchen just a little bit more.

For the rest of the walls, I'm thinking classic Elephant's Breath, but for today it's still all go with the white undercoat on House Candy Andy's extra deep coving, handmade architraves and the skirtings, which today he added extra depth to, without even asking. (He's like that, you'll get used to him). 

I'm quickly learning what HCA, Decorator Des and my Great Auntie Valda (who has been politely "sticking her oar in," as she calls it) already know about period properties. "The devil is in the detail, dear", she says. And if the right paint combination can turn a bare plastered shell into something like the image below in time for Christmas, I'll feel like a very lucky devil indeed. 

Railings woodwork with Elephant's Breath walls.

Railings woodwork with Elephant's Breath walls.

Please let me know what you think to my current colour choices. Any more suggestions very welcome, please drop me a line in the comments section if you have any ideas!

Claire x

The tree that nearly killed Christmas

Day Nine

This year, for the first year in a few, we were all together for the special tradition that is The Family Christmas Tree Choosing.

And Oh. My. God.

The magical family tree buying experience. NOT ours.

The magical family tree buying experience. NOT ours.

I will have to keep this post brief as a 9ft Spruce is about to be dropped off and I need to get it in position before the boys come back from football and reject it for being less than perfect.

They are looking for that ultimate cone shape you see; the one off of Christmas movies. They want it scraping the ceiling and fat enough to fill the whole bay window. They want deep green, not blue-green, they want a thick covering of branches so that minimal trunk is visible and they want a good 10-inch pointy top.

I am not kidding you, more than 40 trees were rejected before we were able to agree on a keeper. Our favourite supplier seems to have bred mutants this year. They had two points FFS. Is that to spare us the pain of arguing who gets to put on the star?

Anyway, we finally struck lucky at our third Christmas tree selling establishment only moments before my husband's hangover got the better of him and he suggested an alternative place to SHOVE THE F***ING TREE.

Here it comes now, just in time for a Saturday night family decorating session. What joy awaits. Now feels like an excellent time to break open the rhubarb gin.

My favourite Christmas tree of the day on board a mini vintage beetle. ALL of the heart eyes.

My favourite Christmas tree of the day on board a mini vintage beetle. ALL of the heart eyes.

Claire x

 

 

Outdoor lights to love all year. Honest.

Day Eight

I'm a bit twitchy TBH. Usually by this point in December. I've got our outside Christmas fairy lights strung daintily around the house making everything look pretty. I'm craving that warm, glowy feeling you get when you pull into your drive and your home is all illuminated.

In recent years I've bought the clever connectable ones and have gradually added on more sets so that this year, IF I WAS ALLOWED, I could weave a tasteful twinkly trail right around the front of the new extension. Sadly a particularly Grinch-like House Candy Andy is dragging his feet. 

"The only outside lights you need to think about are these," Says HCA, pointing to some very un-twinkly, un-magical exterior wall lights in a brochure.

Exterior wall lights aren't very exciting, are they? I didn't appreciate quite how un-sexy they were until I was sent to buy some. Here's one instance where my reclamation fella couldn't save me either. I need six matching ones, ready to install and as energy efficient as they come. 

After many a dull hour spent trawling on-line stores I settled on these from B&Q and they're going up tomorrow.

I don't expect oohs and aaaahs from you, don't worry. But, I thought I'd show you them anyway, given that after all my research I found that actually, good old B&Q has all the modern designs at by far the best prices.

I was looking for black metal ones to match the new windows. These VIncent lantern lights were £42 (with 10% off on OAP Wednesday if your best pensioner pal comes with you).

Seriously, can this post get any more unsexy? Am I really writing about an exterior wall light named Vincent on a Friday night? Is this my life now?

What's worse is that the other progress I have to tell you about is pointing, paving and plastering. I'm nodding off even typing it. How about I just sign off with the promise of something sexy for the weekend? I know what you're after you filthy animals. You want a kitchen install update don't you? Check out Instagram stories for a cheeky peek.

Happy Friday all,

Claire x

 

Open minds and open shelves in the new kitchen

Day Seven

I've made an eleventh-hour amendment to the kitchen design. 

It's okay. House Candy Andy has got his head around it. He blames himself actually, for it was his incessant praise for the joiner who was fitting the Magnet kitchen today and the boasting of the handmade dresser he'd done for a previous client that gave me the idea. 

The wall units were bugging me you see. As much as I'd tried to embrace this fully fitted kitchen concept, I could never quite get my head around a built-in microwave. And yet, I felt if I ditched the microwave, one day... one particularly cold, time poor day... I'd regret it. So I had a brainwave. Why not put the wall units, and in-built microwave in the utility?! Genius right? It will only be used for the odd bowl of porridge and for those lukewarm cups of tea that I never get round to drinking. I'm sure I can manage the few extra steps to the utility on these occasions. And in place of the wall units, I can get THESE babies made to measure.

Beautiful made to measure alcoves by DeVol

Beautiful made to measure alcoves by DeVol

It's the slice of handmade kitchen I'd been pining for. Two slices actually. One each side of the chimney breast. I delivered the news (and revised school girl sketch) with an extra large cup of tea and a baker's best mince pie to House Candy Andy for elevenses.

"I've wired it up for a microwave", protested HCA, vigorously massaging his brow.

"Perfect spot for my Roberts radio?" I offered.

"Shelves are dust gatherers", insisted HCA.

"I LOVE dusting", I lied.

"It will look like a painted kitchen," he sighed, knowing that was another battle lost.

I nodded and promptly buggered off to the sample paint pot isle at B&Q. 

It's been a tits up kind of day all in all. The Magnet delivery was missing a few key items which meant the very busy joiner couldn't finish the job. The awol units should be here tomorrow, but the joiner is fully booked until Christmas week.

I also had to scale the bannister rail last night in an attempt to recover my purse that had dropped off the sideboard and become imprisoned by 2 boxes of fridge freezers. In doing so, my phone fell out of my pocket onto the Victorian tiles and now the camera won't work :(

It could have been worse, I could have got stuck down there, between the sideboard and the fridge freezers and without a phone, were it not for my childlike ability to climb a bannister rail. In fact, my disappointment was completely overshadowed by 40+ pride. Still, I paid for it today when I could have brought you the most entertaining Instagram stories EVER and instead the best I could do was caption some vintage swan vases. 

Apologies people, you deserve better. I'm at Apple first thing in the morning because the coming weekend without my camera does not bear thinking about. It's going to be like a Carry On film we've got so much to do.

What do you think to my open shelves idea tho? Worth the upset right? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section. 

More alcove envy, by DeVOl

More alcove envy, by DeVOl

It's Friyay tomorrow, enjoy!

Claire x

Introducing The Inbetweeners kitchen

Day 6

Deep down I'm a pleaser. I may give off an air of I'll-do-what-I-want-thank-you-very-much, but actually, I'm happiest when we're all happy. In interior design terms this means occasionally (VERY occasionally) I have to take one for the team.

The Newbury midnight kitchen by Magnet 

The Newbury midnight kitchen by Magnet 

Our kitchen got delivered today and whilst I am really, really, really, really happy with it, I'd like to put on record that this is a team kitchen. If I had my way, it would have been handmade to my exact school girl sketches. It would be part fitted kitchen, part freestanding vintage units. There would open shelving, a lot of glass and a lot of brass. 

Thing is, ALL my boys pleaded for modern. Having never paid an ounce of interest in our interior choices, they suddenly developed very clear-cut ideas of what their dream kitchen looked like ...  and it was nothing like mine. As well as the boys, there was also the small matter of the purse strings and the builder's timescales to please. To cut a long story short, I was frogmarched to Magnet and told to leave my sketchbook behind.

Luckily, Magnet's newest kitchen technology direct from their expert German boffins has been applied to a traditional kitchen concept. The Newbury is a soft-closing, internally lit, slab, in-frame door. It's neither super modern or wholesomely traditional - more of an inbetweener if you like. It's a crowd pleaser of a kitchen, just like me ;)

Newbury-Midnight_Cam01_Final.jpg

The Newbury kitchen comes in grey, white and most recently midnight (ours). I allowed the boys their modern bendy tap (no boiler tap mind) and I got my Carerra marble-esque white grained granite. 

Installation day is tomorrow when House Candy Andy has persuaded a very busy joiner to "Stay until it's finished." He drives a hard bargain does HCA, whereas clearly, I'm quite the pushover??

So Whadyathink? I am absolutely loving this regular dialogue we've struck up and your genuine concern for our family Christmas. It's OK people, I will get them a tree this weekend, I promise. I may even give them a branch to decorate since I'm feeling so accommodating.

Hope to see you tomorrow for installation day.

Claire x

My Dirty Half Dozen - Will saloon style wall lights scrub up for the job?

Day 5

I'm bloody freezing. There's no heating or hot water as the screed has been laid above the underfloor heating and we can't turn the heating back on until it's all dried out. Today it feels like there's a mountain to climb before Christmas. In fact, it feels like I'm poised at the foot of Everest, and I forgot my coat.

ANYHOOOO... The best way to avoid panic is to do something positive to progress the situation and today's task is to sort the lighting out.

I need 6 indoor and 6 outdoor wall lights and the expense has way exceeded what I'd put in the budget. Okay okay, so what I did put in the budget I spent on a designer frock to wear on Christmas Day, thanks for reminding me, but GOD I don't regret it. (See day 3 for deets on the dress, it's lush.)

It's little surprise however that House Candy Andy is getting twitchy and since the electrician is coming to put actual real life lights up on Saturday, I see his point. 

Lighting is a BIG deal  - in fact, I'd go as far as to say it will make the new build extension come to life and I don't like rushing it. I love the effect wall lighting has on dictating the mood in a room which is why I went a bit crazy and designed 6 into the one open space. In a dream world, I would have liked to pick and mix from some of my favourite designs found at Graham and Green, Cox and Cox, Habitat and Rockett St George.  I'm still keen on landing a couple of show stopper feature lights in the New Year sales so watch this space. But meanwhile, I've done what I do best to get me out of a sticky financial situation. I got thrifty.

I've sourced half a dozen reclaimed brass lights and etched glass shades from my local reclamation yard. What do you think? 

brass lights.JPG

It's maybe more of a saloon style than I was originally going for, but I'm hopeful that at least vintage lighting will balance out the newness of the kitchen that is coming tomorrow. It isn't the handmade bespoke number I dreamed about and I am concerned it lacks a little bit in character, so I need to add some personality elsewhere.

I managed to get all six of these brass wall lights and shades for £100, which was about the cost of one of the shop bought lights that I'd shortlisted online. 

They go up on Saturday when the kitchen units should also be in situ, so we'll get a better idea of whether Wild West saloon-style works in West Yorkshire. In the meantime, it's a night in with a tin of Brasso for me. I'm even doing the whole vinegar and water thing to get the shades sparkling. It's not just an old wives tale is it?

Please let me know what you think to my bargain lights in the comments section. (Just bear in mind that the cold is making me hyper-sensitive to criticism though, won't you?)

Claire x

 

Feeling supersonic about our Soundtouch 30 speaker system

Day 4 

Today is the first day of the kitchen extension project my husband has actually enjoyed. He got to pick his music system.

Bose Soundtouch 30 multiroom speaker

Bose Soundtouch 30 multiroom speaker

Last night we had a date night at the Liam Gallagher gig in Leeds and I think a bit of the rock n roll star has rubbed off on him. There was definite swagger in his bow-legged step as he strolled into the Bose store, (Mecca to my music loving husband) hands behind his back in a Stone Island jacket, bless him.  

A very helpful expert on the subject of multi-room speaker systems (and fellow Oasis fan) guided us in the direction of the Soundtouch 30 multiroom, erm, thingy.

Now, I'm a vinyl kinda girl, whereas Richard likes to pump music out to the point where it hurts your ear drums. Music follows him around everywhere via his phone and his new baby, Apple Music. It does drive me a little insane, however it also has its advantages, like when it's turned up so loud he can't hear me dragging an old vintage dresser in through the back door.

Turns out it's not all about me, this kitchen extension project and I have had to allocate some decision making over how the budget is spent to Richard. He and the builder had already ganged up on me about the virtues of surround sound so I was bracing myself for some ugly, speaker in the ceiling situation. 

Lucky for me, we were advised that the Soundtouch 30 speaker offered the very best sound quality available and an ear-splitting demonstration of Liam Gallagher's Wall of Glass had Richard handing over his Visa with a smile on his face and me reaching for the Alka Seltzer

So that's another tick in the box, another Christmas present sorted and another sizeable dent in the bank balance. Don't worry, I have questioned the necessity of an expensive music system at this point in the budget depletion, but it was pointed out that once we finally have a kitchen again, we won't be eating out for a VERY long time, so we're going to need music. And anyway, what good is a party kitchen without a DJ? 

As You Were. CP x

Warm feet and hot dresses

My House Candy Advent

Day 3

Behind the door today, my hard grafting builder and plumber are busy installing the underfloor heating system on a Sunday. Now if you like that kind of thing you'll want to know that it's powered by hot water, not electricity. That there's 700m of piping going in and that it's a Nu-Heat system, which House Candy Andy has famously pledged "can't go wrong". There are some basic deets on my Instagram stories but, y'know. It's plumbing. I'd struggle to make it sound fun.

In other news, my new Pearl Lowe Christmas dress has arrived and suddenly, I feel the need for mistletoe. 

The Betty dress by Pearl Lowe

The Betty dress by Pearl Lowe

I've been massively influenced by Pearl Lowe's vintage cool in my home over the years. I adore her amazing use of pattern and texture, her effortlessly layered look that is nonchalantly luxurious. Lace, silks and velvets all feature in her home, adding a soft, feminine edge that feels like a feast for the senses, but never screams for attention. 

When I was searching for inspiration for my dream kitchen at the start of this extension project, I came across this stunner by DeVol that summed up the vibe I wanted for my own home, perfectly.

My Dream Frome Kitchen by DeVol

My Dream Frome Kitchen by DeVol

Further research revealed it was, of course, designed by Pearl Lowe for her and husband Danny Goffey's dreamy country home. 

Whilst I couldn't have the handmade kitchen (sigh) I have figured out a really easy way to bring a vintage rock and roll vibe to my home in time for Christmas...

I'll wear it. 

Pearl recently launched her capsule Christmas collection of vintage-inspired dresses and I instantly fell in love.

Right now I could get really freakin' stressy about Christmas. We have nowhere to cook. There are rooms that would by now be tastefully decorated that are piled high with boxes and furniture. We appear to be bleeding money and we all look a bit vitamin deficient after too many takeaways.

I would have happily cancelled Christmas this year and then I saw Pearl's party dresses and remembered what it feels like to be a kid.  

Christmas isn't about envy-inducing decorations or perfect instagrammable trees, I'm sure you already know that, but it's taken me a while.

Christmas is about pulling on your best party frock and having a big old family gathering. It's about kisses under the mistletoe and board games on the floor. 

If the house is still a tip come December 25th, so be it. I'm still dressing up for it.

I struggled to choose just one 'perfect Christmas frock" from Pearl's collection because they are all beauties. The black ones are obviously more wearable all year round but I've got black dresses haven't I? This time I wanted a dress that I could only get away with at Christmas.  And what I really loved about the Betty dress, in unashamedly fancy red velvet, is that just like Pearl's interior style, it's SO pretty that it's almost best to leave everything else un-done.

This morning's try on sesh of Betty by Pearl Lowe. (I could happily wear nothing else until Christmas!)

This morning's try on sesh of Betty by Pearl Lowe. (I could happily wear nothing else until Christmas!)

There are four beautiful dresses in the Pearl Lowe Christmas range. All available online at www.pearllowe.co.uk

If I could have one of each, I probably would.

Back to the build and yes, the underfloor heating is happening, which I've been persuaded into having due to the size of the new kitchen/dining area and my reluctance to give up wall space for radiators. Apparently, the dog will thank me for it, as will barefoot revellers in this new family party kitchen we're creating. Perfect for board games on the floor then? I best stock up on Quality Street.

Claire x