Monday, 20 June 2016

A Little Catch Up

a blog catch up with kezzabeth

Whilst the blog's been a little bit quiet lately, life has actually been really busy! The home renovations are really hectic at the moment and I'm ridiculously behind on posts! Doing pretty much all the work ourselves is really draining, we desperately want things to move faster, but of course we don't want to compromise on quality either. And quality = time.

So, to give ourselves a little break we took a two week break away and went off to Cambodia with a couple nights either side in Bangkok. It wasn't the most relaxing getaway, anyone who's been to Bangkok will know how crazy busy it is (not your peaceful getaway there!) and whilst Cambodia was a world away from Bangkok, we both ended up getting quite sick after eating/drinking something during a food-inclusive tour. I'd love to say we didn't let it get the better of us, but it was quite unpleasant and did mean a few days in the hotel and a week of being off-food which really sucked since we love Asian food. Despite this, we did have a wonderful time. We only missed out on one planned activity (grr!) but we met loads of lovely people and experienced so much more. Cambodia didn't have my heart in the same way Thailand did from our last vacation, but it is an incredible country and definitely worth seeing if you like to travel and see the world.

Real Life Cambodia

Whilst we were away, Grant and I also got engaged. It wasn't a total shock, we have been together for seven(plus!) years, lived together for six, and bought and renovated two houses together. Let's face it, after all that we always knew we would be lifelong partners ;) The idea of being married makes me very happy, but truth be told, I'm not really that keen on the whole "wedding" thing. You know, the expense, the formalities, the picture perfect decor, the dramatic dress, the day of you being the centre of attention. Actually the latter is probably the whole reason for my lack of interest. I'm a real introvert, I'm shy, I feel really awkward around too many people and I hate (with a passion!) being in the limelight in any sense. I had always said I never wanted a wedding that resembled anything of a wedding. Does that make me sound like a total grouch? I've been to some lovely weddings over the last few years, but I can't help feeling the whole thing just isn't for me. We wont be planning anything anytime soon and you don't have to worry about the blog turning into a DIY wedding zone either ;)

Whilst we were away we also celebrated our five years of homeownership! I think I may do a separate post on our five years of home owning - but five damn years, it certainly makes me feel old! It also makes me realise how much of my life I've spent renovating... Does it ever end? (Here's us a few months after buying our first home, and yep, we were still renovating back then!)

renovating a home at age 20

So that's where I've been for the last few weeks and what's been happening too. I'm back in the UK  now with my two little spaniels (who obviously totally missed me!) and I'm feeling fresh and ready to crack on with our renovations.  I have heaps to share over the coming weeks, but if you'd like to stay more up-to-date with my current renovations, be sure to follow me over on Instagram here!

My hope for the next few months is to have the kitchen finished before summer ends - might be time to wish us luck ;) ...Watch this space!

Friday, 3 June 2016

Restoring a Victorian Fireplace

DIY Victorian Fireplace Restoration

Last year I went on a search for some Victorian Fireplaces to re-instate in the two bedrooms which would have originally housed fireplaces and have sadly been taken out. I searched both Gumtree and eBay for some time and ended up finding and buying two. One was a reproduction and was clearly quite newish (a slightly regretful purchase that I think I'll re-sell!) and the other was a true Victorian beauty. It had been saved from a house by a builder in Leicester whom popped it on eBay and sold it to me. I paid just £70 for the fireplace, complete with an insert, soot hatch and grill. It's just stunning!

Fireplace Restoration Before
Victorian Fireplace in Layers of Paint
Victorian Fireplace Insert with Soot Hatch and Grill

Over the years it had been covered in various layers of paint as trends changed, just like most fireplaces. I knew I wanted to bring it back to its former glory, stripping it of all paint and polishing it up back to its original matt black appearance. This fireplace will be going in the smallest bedroom eventually, where we've already opened up the chimney which had been bricked up, which you can read about here. To strip this fireplace and bring it back to its former glory, I used a tutorial from one of my favourite blogs, Little House on the Corner. I wont be repeating the tutorial on here (so go check out their tutorial here) but I wanted to share the progress of the fireplace restoration and a few little things I did differently too.

So, I used Peel Away 1 for this (as recommended in the tutorial), which is a chemical paint stripper with blankets that sit over the top and literally 'peel away' the layers of paint, as the name suggests.

Using Peel Away on a Victorian Fireplace
Peel Away Chemical Paint Remover Working
Removing Paint from a Victorian Fireplace

After being left for a night, the layers peeled right off, revealing a level of detail on the fireplace that I hadn't seen before - I'm completely in love with it! After neutralising the fireplace, I found the residue had really clogged up in all the little details and it was proving a nightmare to remove. I posted my a picture on Instagram (you can follow me here if you're wondering) and the lovely couple from A Foot on the Ladder advised me to use this little nifty tool...

Wire Brush Drill Bit

A wire brush drill bit - Something I didn't even know existed! And oh boy I am glad to have discovered it! It worked amazingly, buffed up the fireplace to a shine and literally took away the need for hours of scrubbing. It really got into every little nook and this tool brought out all the intricate little details.  

How to Buff a Cast Iron Fireplace
Cleaning Intricate Detail on a Victorian Fireplace

The level of detail is absolutely stunning and you really couldn't appreciate any of it under the layers of paint it was initially hidden within! I can't be more thrilled with how this restoration turned out, it was surprisingly easy to do (Peel Away is amazing!) and restoring this fireplace was definitely worth it. I apologise for the picture spam - but c'mon, just look at it!

Victorian Fireplace Detail
Intricate Detail on Fireplace
Cast Iron Fireplace with Detail
Restoring a Victorian Fireplace

To finish up, I added a little bit of black grate polish to protect the fireplace and also add a bit of a matt finish to it as well. I also used it on the inset and grill to match. I think the inset could have done with a bit of paint removing as well to be honest as there seems to be a tiny bit of black paint around the top, but it's definitely not very noticeable.

Grate Polish on Victorian Fireplace Insert
Victorian Soot Hatch
Victorian Fireplace Fully Restored
DIY Fireplace Restoration

I still have the shelf to restore and heath to tile before we can properly fit this to the wall, but I'm ridiculously pleased with how well this has turned out and it's definitely going add some lovely period charm to this room!

Have you ever restored an old fireplace?


(rounded to the nearest pound)

New Tools Purchased:
Wire Drill Bits £4

Materials Used:
Peel Away 1 £35
Grate Polish £5

Total: £44

Monday, 30 May 2016

DIY Rustic Wooden Tray

DIY Rustic Wooden Tray

With the kitchen looking a little kitchen-less, we've been forced to eat microwave meals for the last couple of months on account of not having an oven or anywhere to wash pots. It's been a little awkward to say the very least and I realised one thing we really needed to make our lives a little easier, was a tray to eat from.

We've never actually owned a dining table in our five years of home ownership (shock horror!) so this has been a long time project that I've been meaning to get around to and needed that final little push to actually get it done! The tray will be great for morning breakfasts in bed as well as pigging out in front of the TV and even summer alfresco dining.

You Will Need:

  • Scrap Wood
  • Saw
  • Wood Glue
  • Nails
  • Hammer
  • Paint (I've used this one)
  • Paint Brush
  • Rope
  • Drill & Drill Bit
How to build a wooden tray

Step 1 - Cut Wood to Size

The wood I'm using is a single scrap length of wood that we found in the attic when we first moved in. I absolutely love aged rustic wood and thought this would be perfect for this DIY. I cut it into three lengths to make the base and then cut the same measurements again, but this time cutting the wood down the middle to make the frame a little shorter in height. You can use any wood for this project and although newer wood wont be rustic in appearance, you can always age it yourself for a similar look.

Wooden tray plan

Step 2 - Paint

I really wanted to add a splash of colour without losing that rustic feel, so I decided to paint the frame of the tray, but keep the base exposed wood. I gave the wood a bit of a sand first where it was a little rough, but I wanted to keep most of the lines and imperfections so it didn't look out of place against the rustic base. The paint I'm using is Everlong Chalk Paint in 'Cricket Pitch' from Eliza Rose. It's not quite like other chalk paints as you don't need a finishing wax over the top - it actually has its own in-built wax that activates when you buff the paint with a cloth or sponge. You can either leave the paint chalky or buff it for a more satin finish - you basically get two paints in one tub! Ingenious!

everlong chalk paint
cricket pitch everlong paint

Step 3 - Glue the Wood Together

To give the base some added stability, I've used some gorilla glue between each side of wood and then clamped the three pieces together whilst drying. This stuff is super heavy duty and really strong! Once it's dried, it's really hard to break apart and it dries clear so wont be seen either. My camera died here, so apologies for the not so great photo of this stage!

Step 4 - Attach the Frame

To attach the frame/edges of the tray, I've just used some nails to attach it to the base. The nails can be painted over later and you'll never know they're there. I used quite a few nails as obviously you want the whole thing to be as sturdy as possible! It was a little fiddly keeping the whole thing stable and together whilst hammering, so if you don't have a clamp at hand it might be worth getting a helping hand for this part.

how to create a rustic tray

Step 5 - Add Handles

I'm using some thick rope for handles as it's super cheap and goes with the whole rustic look I'm aiming to achieve. We drilled some holes before feeding the rope through and tying a knot on the inside. If you're wondering how secure the whole thing now is, well secure enough to hold the weight of a small spaniel that's for sure ;)

DIY rustic tray
Spaniel on Tray

Step 6 - Finishing Touches

Finally, I painted over the nails to make them disappear and then buffed the paint to add a more satin finish. I also added some wax to the base to bring out those grains in the wood. If you plan on placing unwrapped exposed food onto the tray, ideally you want to use a food-safe wax or oil. John Lewis used to do a brilliant butchers block wax but sadly I think it's been dis-continued! I recommend using something suitable for wooden kitchen worktops if you're unsure.

Wax on Rustic Wood

Lastly, all that's left to do - is put it to use! I'm pretty chuffed with how it all turned out, the green colour and dark wood work really well together and the handles add an extra little natural touch. I love how the wood feels with all its grains and lines from being cut on a band saw once upon a time. It looks old yet new and I think this little tray will get heaps of use!

Rope handles on rustic tray
DIY rustic tray with green edges
rope handles on wood tray
How to make a rustic wooden tray
tray made from scrap wood
interior style: rustic tray for morning breakfasts
DIY rustic wooden tray

What do you think? Is a Rustic Tray your cup of tea?

*Huge thank you to Eliza Rose for kindly providing the paint for this little DIY. All words, opinions and reviews are my own :)

Friday, 27 May 2016

Keeping Your Home Secure Whilst You're Away

how to keep your home secure

By the time you will be reading this, I shall be travelling overseas and seeing the Cambodian sights. It's a trip we've been planning for a long time - I absolutely adore Asia and can't wait to experience another beautiful country over that side of the world. But leaving our home and all our worldly possessions for a long period of time can be quite daunting. We've been very fortunate that (touch wood!) we've never experienced a burglary, but that definitely doesn't make us any less worried about the security of our home. After all, it's taken years to build up our home, both in renovating it and just in the things we own.

Here's a few things we do to keep our home secure whilst we're away, as well as some ideas we'd also like to incorporate in the future too!

1. Tell Your Neighbours

Asking your neighbours to keep an eye on the house is the best way to ensure no suspicious activity goes un-noticed. It can be all too easy for neighbours to turn a blind eye to weird goings-on, thinking perhaps someone dodgy lurking around the house is just someone you know. You could also ask your neighbour to put the bins out on bin-day to make it seem like someone is home and ask them if they mind keeping the lawn cut during summer too. One thing we realised after our trip to Thailand last year was that a sudden overgrown lawn was a really obvious clue that nobody was home.

overgrown grass during vacation

2. Upgrade Locks

Certain locks on doors are not very good at all, namely older wooden doors with standard locks. Add additional locks for extra security on older wooden doors, or if you have the space, you could even add a secondary door, (as we have) which will be sure to come at an unpleasant surprise to any intruder. Multi-locking mechanisms are the most secure types of locks, usually found on uPVC doors - so it may be worth looking into having a whole new door altogether. It's not the cheapest option, but it will be the most secure. We've recently had a new french door fitted to add some security to the back of our home, you can see the new door and read about its installation here.

keeping your home secure whilst you're away

3. Add Security Lights

Supposedly, one of the biggest things to deter burglars is security lights. No one wants to be lit up like a Christmas tree during their break-in hour, so making sure you have sensor-operating security light is a great way to deter burgulars from entering your premises. We have a high-quality solar security light (this one) in the back garden (review coming soon) which should help with this one. It's solar powered, so no need to worry about power cuts, but it even works during winter too!

Evo SMD security light


Adding CCTV to your home is becoming increasingly popular and it's pretty obvious why! It's a really obvious deterrent, as no burglar wants their image captured and shared throughout police stations in the country! But should anything ever happen to your home, you have the evidence to help convict a criminal and stop this kind of crime happening again. CCTV cameras like these smart IP cameras from Umix have a static IP which comes with a hosted package to store footage and data via the cloud. This also means you can view, access and control the camera and its data anywhere in the world, it will always be connected and nothing will get lost. It'll even alert you via phone during detected activity and you can be sure your data is safe and secure, all managed for you. There are different sized cameras and packages, dependant on usage but we'd opt for something like this camera for personal usage. For the more tech savvy, you can of course, buy the camera without hosting and manage everything yourself too.

5. Store Garden Items Indoors

Burglaries don't just happen inside the home - outdoor burglaries happen to! Make sure you store any expensive garden furniture and bikes indoors or in a locked shed whilst away. Some home insurances wont cover objects in the garden, so it's definitely not worth the risk leaving outdoors if you know you're not covered. It's also really important to make sure you don't leave any ladders outdoors either which could help assist any burgular in their objectives. 

small yard with gravel

6. Use Timers

Timers are quite an old-fashioned method of keeping your home secure, but they're a really cheap way to simulate the appearance of someone being home. In the past, timers would only come on at the same time every day and over time anyone watching your house would easily cotton on - but nowadays timers are vastly improved! Many have different settings for every day of the week, (like this one) so you'll be sure to confuse anyone who might be keeping an eye on the house. They can be used on almost any electronic, from lights the TV!

7. Fit a Burgular Alarm

New technology burglar alarms aren't all about sending off sirens when activity is detected indoors, nowadays they're much smarter and can send you instant notifications right to your phone, giving you the option to quickly call a neighbour to check in and you can even de-activate the alarm away from home. This kind of system would work really well paired together with CCTV. It allows you to maintain some control over your house whilst being miles away. And of course gives you that peace of mind too. Yale have a whole variety of different alarm sets, some even incorporate a smoke detector too!

Do you have any extra tips for keeping your home secure whilst you're away?

*Collaborative Post

Monday, 23 May 2016

French Door Installation with Homebase & Evander

Homebase Window and Doors Review

After nine weeks of waiting, the day finally arrived for the new French doors to be installed! You can read in my last post about the different options we looked at, why we're not doing this job ourselves and why we decided to go with Homebase here.

In short, we picked Homebase Window and Doors as they were the cheapest, however there weren't any online reviews regarding their service or quality on windows and doors, and it was all a bit of a gamble in truth. After having placed the order we learnt Homebase sub-contract a company called Evander for the job and the windows and doors they offer aren't actually made by Homebase as such. We kind of wished we had known this before, just so we could have done a bit more research on the whole thing. As a quick reminder, here's how the old window looked before with the poorly-fitted frosted window..

Turning a Window into a Door
Old Window Turned into French Door

Things I loved about Homebase Windows and Doors was that their quotes are truly no-pressure and not sales-heavy at all. The surveyor turned up, gave us all the information there was to know in paper form without the heavy 20-minute long sales pitch and just left us to make up our own minds in time. We never received a follow-up call (despite how polite these are, I still hate them!) and we weren't pestered by never-ending phone calls like certain other companies. The negatives however was that placing an order was less fuss-free than it needed to be. You have to call into a store to make an actual order, but on arrival we learnt that there were very few staff members who could put through this order. We came back another day only to find the person who could put the order through had never done it before so we had to leave him with our details hoping he could put it through the next day after speaking with another member. We ended up returning to the store three times, the third time to then rectify an error he had then made on the order whilst we weren't there. The error on the order then cost me my nectar points which quickly vanished from my account (I know this shouldn't be a big deal - but c'mon 1000 nectar points!) as he had forgot to re-add the card whilst cancelling and re-making the order. I did try to speak with customer services afterwards twice, but they were less than helpful and pretty much shrugged me off both times, telling me to take it up with Nectar. (Which made no sense as it was their mistake, not Nectar!) So I admitted defeat at my lost nectar points, which yes - I was a little gutted about. In fact, the whole thing left me feeling very unconfident about what I had just bought and I did have some initial buyers regret.

With the order booked, we'll fast forward nine weeks to the day of installation. Since we were turning a window into a door, the installation took place over two parts throughout the day. Firstly, we had builders arrive early in the morning (again, sub-contracted, but paid for as part of the whole order) to knock out the brickwork below the existing window and also to install a lintel above the existing window. They were a lovely pair of guys actually and did a really great job. The cut was really smoothly done and the lintel had been installed seamlessly too. I really hadn't appreciated just how messy this job was going to be and as a result some of our outdoor items got a little bit layered in wet brick dust - I probably should have moved those, oops! (notice the very confused dogs!)

Cutting out brickwork below a window
new opening for french door below window
cutting out brickwork
wet brick dust

After having knocked through the brickwork, the builders left and the window fitters arrived. I didn't really speak much with the fitters, they liaised with the builders initially and then they were very much straight onto the job. Having read lots of reviews from other window and door companies, I expected the job to be over in barely an hour in some kind of speed-fit. (Many reviews for other companies said they had as many as NINE windows fitted in just one day!) But I was really very relieved to see that they were taking their time on the job and they certainly didn't seem rushed in any way. I definitely felt like they were taking the time and care to get the job done to a high standard and it certainly looked amazing when they were done! The door we chose was the 'timeless' version (ideal for period properties) which has an extra little beading on the frame and I absolutely love it!

Homebase and Evander French Doors
Chrome handles on french doors

We did have a little issue after installation a few days in, with the doors 'swelling' in the heat and not closing properly. Evander arrived the very next day to fix the problem and the frame just needed a few extra screws to push it up in the middle to accommodate the heat swelling. Heat swelling by the way, is perfectly normal but of course the door should be fitted to accommodate this and shouldn't cause you any problems with opening and closing. It was a quick 10-minute fix and we've had absolutely no problems since! When both doors are open, I love how it creates a kind of picture-window into the garden.

Picture Window in French Doors
Homebase French Door Installation

The total cost for the door, installation and building work was a touch over £1350 which we took out through a Homebase finance plan (another reason we picked Homebase!). It's definitely not a small figure and it's probably the most we've ever spent on one thing in the house, but it was definitely worth it and of course, the finance plan means it's not such a huge figure to shell out all at once. Having someone come and do the job themselves was ridiculously relaxing. Usually we'd be stressing out, clock-watching, manically trying to work faster to get the job done before sunset and then not finishing the job on time and worrying about security issues throughout the night. Having paid a company to do this for us, was so unbelievably stress-free. It was beautifully fitted, with no dodgy cuts, imperfections or otherwise make-shift solutions that a DIY door might cause. And of course, as it was made to measure, it fits snug as a bug and we can rest assured it's a properly secured door with all those guarantee extras. We still have the walls left to remove, but I can already see the impact this new french door will have on the new to-be room.

Installing French Doors
French Doors by Homebase

Visually, it's much better and has a much greater impact that I had imagined. It looks so new and white - it really puts to shame our otherwise yellowing uPVC windows! I love the chrome handles and I love how its really updated the exterior at the back of the house too. It's looks really high quality and modern and I'm thrilled to bits with it. We've already had the doors open fully during some beautiful spring weather recently and just having a view in this room is amazing!

What do you think to the new doors? Have you ever had french doors installed?

Total Cost:

Installation & Materials: £1350