Sunday, 18 July 2010

neighbours and rules

We began the destruction of the balcony immediately after moving in..

And then thought, after we read the blocks rules, we should let them know that we are going to make a lot of noise redoing the balcony. Better to inform them than risk making enemies of the neighbours. So we filled out a form and gave it to the office of the directors, who asked for details of everything. So we drew a little picture and told them exactly where we were going to drill holes etc. And then we waited. And waited.. for 2 weeks. Whereupon we were told that we could go ahead, as long as it wasn't going to change the appearance of the flat from the outside. Well being as we are 9 floors up there are few people who can look in the windows. Besides we aren't changing it massively. So this is what we lived with while we waited for the permission.

So best to read rules before considering any work in the building, and much as we enjoy living in a building site, sometimes its better to ask about building permissions before you take things apart... just in case.

the balcony

Is it a balcony? Is it a sun room? Is it both? I haven't quite decided as yet. But it will be something lovely, soon... We are in the middle of transforming it, as of now it is half done. We we first moved in the room had peeling wallpaper in a dark brick pattern, and two different colour carpets, a raised floor with an even higher raised step for a seating area, it has pale blue roller blinds and an exposed pipe. So this is what it looked like.

On stepping into the room, note the large step and not so nice carpeting. That step has to go, there is something extremely unnerving about standing on a balcony, 9 floors up, with most of your body above the window ledge height. Especially if you don't much like heights...

And the carpeting, well its old, its dirty, it comes complete with its very own dead fly collection. Jealous anyone? So then the floor must be leveled, maybe place some tiles down? Or wood flooring? Because it is now an internal room, I reckon it could look lovely with a nice wood floor.. And some new panel sides, because they are warped from the weather, and while we are at that we might as well box in that pipe, and cover up the brick work, and then paint the wood trims and window sills all the same colour, because several shades of wood stain doesn't quite work for me in this room..

Monday, 5 July 2010


We recently diyed a bookcase, call it a corner where we store our books. It always surprises me how many books we have, and yet ... there's always another book that we want. We both read alot. I like to look in peoples bookcases whenever I visit them, just to see what they have, if I can find anything I might want to read. And yet I am amazed by how few people have lots of books. Just 2 or 3 shelves in a bookcase, maybe. It's really sad. Since I can remember I have loved reading. I used to compete with the boys in my class at junior schools who could read the most or something similar. It so beats tv, and the internet. But increasingly, I find I switch on the computer and sit surfing the net or the tv channels rather than picking up a book. This has to change. I am going on holiday for a month in a couple of weeks and so due to where I am going, I am likely to not have access to internet or tv, so I can relax truly. I would love to take books back with me, but that said, we only have an allowance of about 20kg's and because we read so much, I can finish a book on the 11 hour flight out there, and then I would have nothing to read. So its ok, I can find books at the families homes, it means I get to try books I might otherwise not have considered.

Whats on your bookcase? We have a selection of books ranging from CS Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, through to Art Now, Post Colonial Theory (OK admitedly thats a library book, vampire yarns like The Day Watch through to Sebastian Faulks Birdsong and Olaudah Equiano's Interesting Narrative, and then there are the poetry collections. Reading opens up the world, and when you open those book covers you are immersed in an alternate reality, sometimes a fantasical one. Who wouldn't enjoy doing that?

Friday, 2 July 2010

the lounge....

Shall I show you the living room as it was as we moved in...

The view from the hallway, spot the green carpet and green wall paper (which is slowly peeling off the walls), the massive radiator under the window onto balcony, kaylite ceiling rose... Why is it everyone puts radiators under windows?? There's issues with furniture, you can't have long curtains or close curtains if you have long ones, and surely its silly having a radiator near the warmest part of the room (the window in our living room). Is this just a British thing? Until we moved to England, I didn't know what a radiator far as we knew, in winter you used blankets, lots of layers of clothing and electric heaters - dredged from the dark backs of cupboards(when you had electricity) and wood fires if you had a fireplace.

the view of the balcony door, corner shelving which is scary and even more wires and cables... theres a phone point in the kitchen, lounge, both bedrooms...and cables everywhere...

What it looked like when we moved in...

And back onto the hallway, where there is another radiator by the's location means that there is no door. The door is currently sitting in the main bedroom along with another door from somewhere, we don't know where. Theres hundreds of tiny picture hooks and little screw/nail holes in the walls... hundreds...

So...its big, its huge in fact.. about 4.5 x 4 metres or near enough. Considering its the second lounge we have had in the uk, the last one being just under 3mx3m. It also needs a little work to fix up and make livable. I think a bit of paint and fixer would transform it, and furniture...

to do

So the big question, what to do with these chairs??

We sourced them from freecycle and are blessed to have received them. They are very comfortable, but pink! We both hate pink, and the fabrics a bit manky and old, and does not fit with what we want or like. The springs are poking out of the base and the padding needs fixing, one of them feels more dire than the other. So because they were free, and are lovely chairs, I am planning on trying to reupholster them. Its kinda daunting. But what have I got to loose...except for fabric, a little investment and time, maybe my sanity....
I was thinking something striped or patterned, and then I came to my senses. I will go mad trying to line up stripes and prints. So something plain, airy and light. And cheap. hmm... let me think on it a while.

gorgeous living room

I was over on Design*Sponge and found this interior by Jessica Helgerson. This living room is gorgeous. I want that lamp, and the plant in the vase, and ..and..

Photography by Lincoln Barbour

I love plants inside, both in vases and in pots. I think that using an oversided branch instead of flowers is so effective. It feels zen-like to me. And those vases/bottles are so cool.
We have a 6 foot Japanese Acer that we bought for the balcony at the last place. We couldn't face loosing him so we brought him with. Now he lives in the balcony, in a yellow recycled pot and seems quite happy. His leaves have changed colour because of the shift in temperature/location etc, within a week he had gone from red leaves to green leaves. I think he might prefer to be outside in the long term but for now, he's upstairs with us.

beach houses for summer

It's summer in england. At long last! And it feels so good. The sun's up early, and the sky is so blue. Up in our flat the temperature is warm. It can be 22C down on the ground (make that 18C with the wind), and yet on the balcony it is generally 5 degrees warmer - at least! It is lovely. When the weather warms up and the sun peaks out from behind those clouds the world seems so much better, everything is do-able, and I smile alot more. After so many years in england I am still acclimatising to the weather here and so summer is a much better time of the year for me. I just wish it got a little bit warmer, and that winter didn't come round so quickly. On days like today I just want to go outside and sit in the garden, or go round to a friends and have a braai or coffee. Soon I'll be going on holiday and be able to do just that!

Till then I have some more work to do on the house...
Here's some ideas of the chilled out vibe we were thinking about emulating.
I found this at Habitually Chic and House Beautiful and it seems so perfect for a summer house. This beach house has a beautifully calm feel, I especially love the map as art. I do love bright reds and purples in decor but the whites and blue seem so appropriate for a beach house, and so much more appealing to a larger market than darker colours might be.

(photos by Don Freeman -from House Beautiful)

The simple colours are instantly calming. Those white floor boards are calm and so beachy.

Its the little things, how the stripes are not overpowering. The simple print is not too busy and repeated colours echoed in different rooms. The lack of clutter is relaxing, and couldn't you just imagine lighting some candles and snuggling into the sofa with a soft throw, a glass of wine and a good book.

Friday, 25 June 2010

The new flat

So being as how we are living on the english coastline, I was thinking of redecorating the house with a beachy/holiday feel, but not too beachy. We need a contemporary modern vibe which feels chilled out. Easier said than done! Here are some pictures of the hallway from before we moved in, the long passageway with a dark green carpet that has a nice wooden parquet floor underneath.

As you can see it feels dark, that glass brick dividing wall thing with the knick-knack display cabinet doesn't help much. Although I understand its purpose. It allows the light from a window in the kitchen into the passage/hall and so provides the passageway with its only natural light source. The light fittings feel old and dated, and I just don't like them much.

Here's a shot of the divider and the lights up close.

I was over on A Beach Cottage looking for inspiration and spotted her hallway. Its lovely, bright and white. I was thinking of bright bold colours for the flat. But as we aren't going to live here forever(and need to brighten up that hall)white might be the best option. I especially love the old bleached white wood and her diy oar for coats. Although I don't think its entirely appropriate for a ninth floor flat, maybe I could use some ideas, painting the wood white for instance.

So the question is.. what to do with our entrance hall? I think, remove the wallpaper, paint it a lighter colour and although I love dark wood generally, paint the divider white and get rid of that cabinet - I don't see the point of it. Change those light fittings and maybe have a couple of bright paintings or even some prints framed nicely along the wall? But that's not the first task... that is reserved for the balcony.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

On moving

Moving is never as easy as you think it will be. The transition of houses, the actual physicality involved... and for some reason you always have more stuff than you thought you had. Many people de-clutter when moving home, we didn't. Although we have more stuff than we want, there is not much we can get rid of. In fact, each time we have moved the past few years we have found ourselves having to get more stuff for the next place. When we first came over we had 20 kg's worth of suitcases each, mostly clothing a couple of cameras and small things that we thought we needed. Then we found we needed sheets and towels and countless other little things that really we hadn't thought about. Living in a houseshare meant that we didn't need to purchase furniture or stoves, or cultery. But over the last 3 years we have been gathering little things, like the set of glasses and wine glasses because the house didn't have any or enough. And then last September we moved into a one-bedroom flat and found we needed plates and bowls and a kettle! So we went shopping for more stuff. But luckily again, the flat was partly furnished so we didn't need to buy a couch or bed. We made do with the lumpy old sofa. And then we moved again...

This time however, we didn't have any boxes, and although we asked around and looked on freecycle we couldn't get any. I did not see the point of buying boxes. So we moved with bags and the few suitcases that we had. It was not fun. It was the first time I hadn't had enough boxes in a move, and I think that the first rule of moving should be - use boxes! I have used wooden boxes, cardboard boxes and even - a couple of times in Zimbabwe, wooden coffins. I think my parents still have them sitting full of books and stuff in the garage. It did freak out the men who had to carry them though. Anyhow, moving with tesco bags is something I never want to do again. We were lucky enough have the whole month to move our stuff in, and it took that long. Because we moved in a little blue corsa. A couple of trips every couple of days meant it took a lot of trips. Luckily we were only moving about 10km or so. Moving in a small car is possible, especially if you don't have lots of big bulky/heavy things. And we have done so before. We also didn't have much money to pay for a removals company, so we did it our way. And half-way through moving, the car broke down - twice! We were collecting a box from a relative and a sound started rattling, badly. Our corsa was not happy. So we went home and called a mechanic, who ordered a new piece for it. While he was doing that we decided to get him to give it a service at the same time. And the next weekend - when we were moving again, something else broke. We talked nicely to the car, crossed our fingers and kept moving. By now our moving deadline was too close for us to allow the car to get fixed. We moved the last of our things, parked our car and called the mechanic. Turns out it wasn't a serious problem, and it was fixed in under half an hour. And I am so glad its over! We managed to fit everything we owned into the spare bedroom, so that the day we moved over we only had stuff piled in one room and so we can decide where we are putting things as and when we get to it. At least its out of the way while we redecorate the rest of the flat. Now its just a matter of getting into that room to find stuff when we need it!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010


This is my first blog, and my first blog post. I have been reading several blogs for sometime now and although I rather value my privacy, I think it might be interesting to share some of my/our discoveries about my first ever decorating project.

We both come from Zimbabwe, the most beautiful country in the world. I have been in England for just over 6 years, while my partner joined me just over 5 years ago. Together we have lived in several properties, approximately 6 in England. It's kinda hard to keep track, this is house number 26 or 27 for me to live in (although 2 of those are a hotel and guesthouse which were my families homes for several months) - and I'm not 26 yet. Suffice to say I have moved ALOT. And although I used to think I enjoyed the whole 'moving thing', I have come to realise that I don't. I would like nothing more than to find and know that I have somewhere to live forever. But that said, this home is temporary although we are redecorating it.

To begin with, this is the largest place that we have lived in - in england that is (not Zimbabwe). It is has 2 bedrooms, a large kitchen, very green bathroom, lounge and balcony/sunroom, and is a whole 61 square metres, not including the hall and bathroom. It feels massive compared to the last one-bedroom flat which was all of 29square metres, including bathroom and hall, and although it had a lovely huge balcony it was a little cramped. Prior to that we lived in house shares with some rather 'interesting' people. So having 'a space of our own' is so important to us, and so nice at last!

I know that there are several decor blogs out there, but there seems to be a shortage of ones based in England, with people who have no money, no furnishings and yet still desire a 'home', even temporarily. So hopefully this blog will help reassure people that they are not alone out there, and maybe - just maybe, we will be able to make this new house home for a while.