Revealed: The new bathroom

It’s been a couple of months since we nervously chipped the first granny tile off the bathroom wall, and – after a lot of grouting, a leaky toilet and two attempts at choosing flooring – we can now declare this new, fresh bathroom officially open. What we had was perfectly fine, but tired and old fashioned. Here’s a reminder:

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And here’s what we have now:

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Paul and his dad deserve a special mention here, for tiling, grouting and laying the floor, and generally saving us loads on the cost of professional fitters.We also got the trendy metro tiles really cheap, having seen exactly the same design for much more in shops like Topps Tiles. We haven’t had any issues with the quality and they look great.

We also removed and scrubbed the taps as they were clogged with limescale, so bath time is officially back on, and added some aqua accessories to lift the blue.

Tiles: Metro white wall tiles (16p/tile) from Stone Trader
Grout: Silver grey ready mixed grout (£7.69/1.5kg) from Topps Tiles
Vinyl flooring: Carpetright (£13.49/m2) from Carpetright
Paint: Maritime Hush by Valspar
Towels: From a selection at Home Sense
Handwash and toothbrush pots: Asda
Artificial plant: Asda
Candles: From a selection at Home Sense

We need to talk about the bathroom

Hello, and welcome to our bathroom…

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Instead of giving each other big Christmas presents this year, we agreed to put most of our budgets towards the next house project – our upstairs bathroom, which has been lying dormant with its gammy hot water tap (no lounging around in the bath for me), perfectly nice but old fashioned tiles and peeling bath panel since we moved in.

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To keep costs down – around £350 if we do the work ourselves – we’re keeping the original fixtures but replacing everything else. Here’s what’s left to do:

  • Hope that gammy tap is caused by nothing more than a dodgy washer and replace all taps with fresh chrome ones
  • Replace tiles with white brick tiles. We had LOVED crackle glaze putty coloured tiles but quickly learnt that when it comes to tiles, white is always cheaper. Putty has been earmarked for “the next house” 😉
  • Replace shimmery lino with simple rustic wood effect vinyl
  • Buy and fit replacement bath panel, which doesn’t seem to cost a great deal but who the hell knows how you fit this kind of thing?!
  • Give all fixtures a damn good scrub and polish
  • The fun bit – buy new towels, shelves, accessories and artwork. I’m painfully aware that 90% of our house is grey and that our ‘Maritime hush’ choice is not far from it, so am deliberately pushing our colour boundaries with a peacock feather theme. Think teal, blue, navy and golds…

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Lovely items from:
Zigzag bath mat, M&S; Blue candlestick holder, Maisons du Monde; Peacock print inspiration, Papier; Blue agate bookend, TK Maxx; Green glass vase, H&M; Print towels, Asda; Peacock feather artwork, art.co.uk; Vinyl flooring, Carpetright; Paint – Maritime Hush by Valspar.

Home inspiration from the Italians

We were lucky enough to spend last week in Italy, starting in Venice and then travelling into the mountains for a wedding at Chiesa del Carmine in Umbria.

It wasn’t our first visit by a long shot – we’ve had weddings there for the last three years – and each time it is just gorgeous. Despite often showing its age and needing a damn good lick of paint, it has a charm that makes me want to go back and see more. Now.

As Paul snapped away taking photos of amazing churches and cathedrals, I (as usual) took weird close-ups of slightly grotty windows, shadows and graffiti that somehow becomes more charming than it should be because you imagine some difficult-but-really-just-misunderstood Italian teenager has penned it in a moment of clarity. As beautiful and statuesque a huge old building can be, a photo doesn’t capture a place for me. I prefer to zoom in on the details – the smells, the colours, THE SNACKS. Here’s how I saw each destination – they’re all surprisingly different. Which is your favourite?

Venice

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And Umbria

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And our final night, in Bologna

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In honour of this lovely place, here are a few tips to inject traditional Italian style into your home:

  • Stick with white or cream base shades, then bring in the colour with everything else. If you’re working with the fiery red, orange and yellow palette of Bologna (above) you might not want bright orange walls but you can definitely go big on punchy accessories.
  • Imagine you’re at your long lost (and imaginary) gran’s house in Italy. If you want to go rustic, choose organic flowing patterns that feel a bit chintzy over anything blocky or geometric. Also consider using texture, rather than colour, to add the detail. For example, go for plain cream bedding that has an intricate raised pattern or lace edges.
  • Choose dark wood furniture, and buy it from antique or second hand shops. If it has little carved details or paintwork, even better. Avoid modern pieces that scream ‘I’m vintage’ but were actually made six weeks ago in Taiwan. Be authentic.
  • Build your rooms for socialising. Think late night pasta with friends and lots of drinks around a large table. That’s lots of glasses and a table that will only get better with wear and tear.
  • Think about exposing raw materials, like wooden ceiling beams or a great stone wall.
  • Choose beds, curtain rails, hooks and the likes that are made using black wrought iron.
  • Go mad with window boxes and pots, filling them with pretty red or pink flowers. Train plants to grow around windows and doors, to create the feel of an arched window or door.
  • Buy a Fiat 500 and bash it up a bit. Park it badly outside the house.

I’m matching this little product selection with my favourite house from the trip – painted a sweet pink shade that you didn’t see often, with sage green shutters:

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Lovely items from:
Floral glass, white lamp, cushion, tea pot and chair, Maisons du Monde; Soap dish, Zara Home; Artificial plant, Debenhams; Bedspread and lace edged table setting, Zara Home.

6 instant pick-me-ups for tired rooms

If you move somewhere new or it suddenly dawns on you that your neglected spare bedroom has turned into something from Skins…

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… it can be tempting to go full on Changing Rooms.

But (sigh) we all have bills to pay and every so often it’s nice not to talk about argue over paint colours all weekend.

So, six ways to rescue the room from hell without too much money or drama:

  • Invest in plain, crisp white bedding*. I love the faintly striped versions that look like they’re from a hotel, but anything white and blocky will instantly freshen things up. Wilko has double duvet sets starting from £7.

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  • Get something – anything – alive in there. A decent sized indoor plant is about £10 from B&Q and will inject colour and life.
  • Make it smell nice! Everyone loves walking into a room that smells lovely. The most pungent fabric conditioner you can find will add a constant background scent to the room, while a plug-in or scented wax burner will give a boost whenever you need it. Air Wick plug-ins are great, but a cheap burner (ours is from Tesco) with little scented hearts looks really good, too.

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  • Unfortunately… dust, clean, vacuum. Chances are, you have that grim border of dust around the edge of your carpet, where the vacuum doesn’t reach. Get rid of this to instantly rejuvenate your room. Wipe mirrors and polish frames so they reflect every glimmer of light.
  • Show your windowsill some love. If it’s bare, invest in a couple of accessories  or if it’s covered in crap, clear it out. No-one needs to see the back of 17 photo frames, an empty coffee cup and your sixth-form year book as they walk past the window.

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  • Cushions. They’re a multi-million pound business (surely?). Two or three strategically placed on the bed/sofa will instantly make the room seem cosier and more together. Avoid complicating the existing colour scheme by sticking to colours that are already established in the room, and just match them or take them a couple of shades lighter/darker to add interest without clashing.

* if you don’t have a grubby-footed cat

Lovely windowsill items from:

Spider plant, B&Q; Hammered copper vase, George at Asda; Grey photo frame, M&S; Decorative letters, Next; Pillar candles, Tesco.

Feeling blue in the bedroom

Anyone who grew up in a house with super patterned carpets, endless wallpaper, sofas with fringing around the bottom, or all of the above may have grown up to be (understandably) a minimalist.

Once you’ve stripped rooms and rooms of thick floral wallpaper or seen the difference a one-colour carpet can make on the feel of a room, you get quite keen on beige.

But there are only so many duvet covers and rugs that can lift a neutral room scheme. Once you’vepaint done a few, they can feel pretty samey. So when it came to decorating our main bedroom, which had clearly been given some beige treatment of its own before being put up for sale, we took a brave step in a completely different direction – waterloo blue.

The colour, once on, is pretty dark, so my immediate instinct was to accessorise with crisp white bed linen and do what we are often told – to KEEP IT LIGHT.

But it’s a big room so it’s already quite light, and our white furniture is doing a great job. So the challenge – now the paint is on – is to embrace the blue and enjoy something more dark and mysterious.

Here’s the inspiration, which shows how you can make a bold colour just as bright and lovely as something neutral, and the kind of accessories which will add detail without making it a car crash of colours:

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This colour scheme (below) is probably closest to the direction we’re going in, mixing the blue with dark grey bed linen, prints, texture and the occasional hit of copper:

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And here (below) is where we are so far:

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Below is the plan when the budget allows! We are definitely lacking in the detail – a print rug, curtains and more artwork are definitely on the shopping list. I’ve also developed a bit of a thing for William Morris prints, particularly Strawberry Thief. While taking care not to go too far with it, I’d like to frame a couple of small pieces to add some interest (and make myself look cultured…)

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PS On the blue room front, people who sleep in blue bedrooms are also thought to sleep better – just one to bear in mind if you’re decorating!

Lovely items from:
Artwork, HomeSense; Mirror, Dunelm; Terranium and fake foliage, Dunelm; Jardin Botanique print, Art.co.uk; Rattan lampshade, Wayfair; Clock, Karlsson; Grey heart cushion, Dunelm; Head board, John Lewis; Slate plain dye bedding, Dunelm; Bedside table, Ikea; Duck egg cushion, Dunelm; Rattan drawer unit, The Range; Rug, Ikea.

Found: Decoporium in Wetherby, West Yorkshire

Today we stumbled across absolute heaven on a lazy morning wander – Decoporium in Wetherby, West Yorkshire.

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We had zero expectations, given that it’s a tiny little shop front in the middle of an old (slightly eerie) munitions site. Maybe some candles, jam jar glasses… but we were gobsmacked by this huge haven.

The front of the shop is slightly typical, with vases, (great) local artwork on display.. but it soon opens out into a huge space split into booths, featuring salvaged and handmade furniture, books, accessories and clothing. They currently sell work from over 70 dealers, who drop in new pieces whenever they’ve sold a few, so there’s always a chance of finding something different.

They also have a small garden area with all sorts, including some serious QUIRK such as full Benfield Ford showroom signage for around £100. There’s a fair amount of sifting to be done, but you’ll find some real treasures.


Despite wanting to hire a van and buy most of the pieces on show there and then, we left with just an old drawing of our village. The £1.50 big spenders! But there was a beautiful round navy side table that will fit perfectly with our work-in-progress blue bedroom, so we may be back soon..

Find Decoporium at Unit 9.7, Thorp Arch Retail Park, Wetherby, LS23 7FE.