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Thanks for visting Simply The Nest. I'm an English girl married to an Portuguese boy, and when I'm not taking care of our two adorable daughters, I blog about our house renovation, DIY projects, delicious recipes, inspirational interiors, and family life in a Victorian Manchester nest.

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Friday
Jun202014

Master Bedroom Renovation Progress

At this stage, I should probably write a post called "how to plaster your walls" and give loads of great advice about plaster consistency, tools, helpful hints etc, but actually my best advice is to just sodding well pay someone to plaster your walls, because although Andre has done an absolutely amazing job and has basically taught himself to DIY plaster to a really professional standard, it has taken four months of pretty solid effort. And when you work out how much it would have cost versus how long it took us, it works out at around £30 a week and we probably spend more than that every week buying orange juice (we drink a weirdly massive amount of orange juice). 

Anyway, here's where we started in February.

And here's what happened next.

And here's where we are now. The giant desk has been moved against this wall while we sanded the floor on the other side of the room. Long-term it's going to move into the cellar once we've converted the utility room, but for now it's going to live here because this is where the movers left it and it's huge and there are not enough hours in the day to be moving monolithic furniture from one room to another. 

Here's a close-up of the typical plaster situation we had to deal with. The woodwork is actually in reasonable condition so, as with the other rooms we've tackled so far, we're just giving it a light sand in places to remove the worst lumpy bits and then slapping some white paint on top. I'm happy to invest time and money into renovating wooden floors and staircases because the final results are amazing, but I truly don't notice the skirting boards so for us, it's not worth the effort. 

We used to have a corner sink located hazardously close to the plug sockets.

When we started chipping away at the plaster it all crumbled off so we had to take the whole thing back to brick (in fact we had to take a decent amount of the room back to brick). This is the stage of renovation where you think sod it, let's just glue the wallpaper back on and call it a day.

No more brick!

We've also finished sanding the floor and have started work priming the windows. Again, renovating the windows is something we're going to tackle at a later stage (I can't face the heinous thought of replacing them with PVC, the cost of replacing them with wood so we need to fully repair them) so they're just getting a coat of paint for now. And then we can paint the walls and oil the floors. I reckon one more weekend and week of effort and we'll be done. 

Friday
May302014

Designing A DIY Built-In Wardrobe

A few months ago, when we were planning the floor layout for our master bedroom, we had to decide between fitting in an ensuite or a walk-in wardrobe. A trying decision, I know. Technically there was enough floor space for both, but it would have significantly reduced the size of the room, and we absolutely love how spacious it currently feels. So, we chose the ensuite option because with two girls in the house who will be clamouring for bathroom time in a few years, we're definitely going to need our own teenager-free space. And instead of a walk-in wardrobe, we're going to install our own custom built-ins.

Have searched everywhere, can't find the source. Obviously this is a walk-in but I like the simple yet glamorous look.

We had thought of installing Ikea Pax wardrobes, but they don't quite fit the space, and for the cost of Ikea laminated MDF doors and shelves we can buy actual wood from our favourite local supplier, Atlantic Timber. Also we like doing things the hard way.

Jennifer Dyer's shoe storage, photographed by Patrick Cline, featured in Lonny Mag March/April 2011

The plan is to fit the wardrobes along the wall to the right of the bay window, up to the height of the picture rail, and as far as the space where the ensuite will be installed in the right-hand corner. We're not planning on fitting the ensuite for a couple of years but want to install the wardrobes now, so to do this we'll need to take an reasonably approximate guess at how wide the ensuite will be, based on the size of the bath or shower unit we expect to use, and the width of the internal pod walls plus sound insulation.

Can't find this one either, grrr. Nice colour-co-ordinated clothing rails.

We built a mini internal wardrobe fitting for my shoes at our old house, but have never designed an entire built-in wardrobe before. I imagine the process is similar to designing a kitchen - you make a list of everything you own and need to fit into the space, and then make sure there will be a place for it. Here are some things that I know we'll need to consider:


  • Hanging space that will accommodate the length of my longest dresses.

  • Hanging space that will accommodate the length of our shirts and shirt sleeves (I seem to have some work shirts where the sleeves are longer than the actual shirt).

  • Jewellery.

  • A drawer to store the clothes we are currently wearing. I need to thank Mel from Pebbledashed Pad for this genius tip, or rather Mel's husband - because of course you need somewhere to toss the jumper you've worn for a couple of hours and isn't dirty enough to throw in the wash but you can't hang it back up in the wardrobe because you've worn it so you end up piling it on a chair (or in my case, the floor) along with a bunch of other clothes you're also in the process of wearing... or, you put it in the drawer installed specifically for that purpose. As I said, genius.

  • Boxes, baskets or drawers to store the clothing that we wear occasionally - summer holiday clothes like hats, swimming costumes and shorts would fall into this category, as would DIY clothing - garments that we need easy access to but don't want to display.

  • A way to display the shoes that we want to display (my fancy heels), and store the shoes that we don't want to display (scruffy trainers and plaster-encrusted DIY shoes).

  • Tall compartments to store boots without them toppling over and ending up in a heap at the bottom of the wardrobe.

  • Somewhere to store or display ties.

  • Somewhere to store belts.


From having looked at lots of fitted wardrobes on Pinterest (ah, God bless Pinterest and everyone who pins without the slightest thought to crediting the original image owner), I think the key to getting it right is not going mad and having millions of different hanging spaces and drawers and boxes and baskets and more hanging spaces and shelves and more hanging spaces - it makes the whole thing look choppy, jumbled and aesthetically displeasing (to my eye, anyway). I think the trick is to keep it simple and have larger blocks of one type of storage - for example, you open one set of double doors and find all hanging space, and open another and find all drawer space. Symmetry across the entire wardrobe is pleasing as well.

Nate Berkus's Manhattan duplex, photographed by Pieter Estersohn, via Architectural Digest

I've also been thinking how the whole thing could look in general. I'm inspired by the photo below, which I saw in a magazine years ago, to install carved and white-painted Indian screens as wardrobe doors. I shared this plan with one of my friends, who asked where on earth I would get my hands on something like that... pretty easily, as it turns out - they appear to be freely available on eBay and even Amazon.

25 Beautiful Homes

Obviously the interior will either be wallpapered or handpainted with a suitable pattern, and the wooden compartments will either be painted white to match the doors, or oiled to match the wooden floors. Probably white, given the inspiration pictures I've included in this post. We're planning to buy the drawers and sliders from Ikea for convenience, but fit our own wooden drawer fronts (we've tried making drawers before and it wasn't particularly successful). We're also going to purchase Hafele wardrobe fittings - pullout storage rails, wardrobe rails and tie storage.

Have you ever designed your own fitted wardrobe? Do you have any advice?

Sunday
May112014

Lighting Options For The Master Bedroom

Bring on the master bedroom decoration! The walls are plastered, the woodwork has been repaired, we've carefully dissolved 130 years of lead paint off one of the sash windows so we can actually open it for the first time since we moved in (ah, the shocking novelty of fresh air!), and we're about to get rid of the burgundy carpet once and for all and start sanding the floors. I've got fifteen samples of white paint at the ready, and a raft of curtain fabric samples including an absolutely stunning £320-a-metre embroidered linen that I ordered purely out of curiosity to see what £320-a-metre fabric could possibly look like (answer: as stunning as it would be stunningly impractical).

We also get to pick furniture! We already have a gorgeous reclaimed wooden bed, and some very nice mirrored bedside cabinets, but pretty much everything else needs purchasing. Among other things, I'm contemplating a white Barcelona sofa, a Moroccan wedding blanket, a huge antique mirror and a wow-factor ceiling pendant light fixture.

First on the research list - the pendant.

The ceilings are high (nearly twelve foot) and the room's about 6x6m so there's a big space to fill. And much as I love to DIY and upcycle, I think it's also important to buy furniture and accessories as well, partly to support talented craftspeople, and partly because otherwise houses can look a bit Pinterest-tastic, if you know what I mean. I'm looking for something organic - either in material or shape, and ideally handmade.

Here's the moodboard I created for the room a while back.

Full image source list here

Here are some of the options I'm considering for the light fixture.

From left to right, and top to bottom: Chandelier from Christopher Wray, White turquoise chandelier by Marjorie Skouras, Foscarini Caboche, Banana fibre light from Pinch Design, Egyptian pendant from Lombok, Butterfly pendant by Tom Raffield, Hawaiian Tropic Leaves by Alexander and Pearl, Crystal orb pendant by John Lewis, Vita Eos feather pendant

Here's a closer look at the banana fibre pendant:

And the classic arctic pear chandelier by Ochre:

Photograph by Ditte Isager

The banana fibre pendant is just extraordinary (it was a recommendation by the very talented Sian Astley) but I'd have to wait for a 50% off sale before it became vaguely affordable. I like the Foscarini Caboche, even after spotting it in Gloria and Jay's house on Modern Family, and the John Lewis option is almost prettier, but I really fancy something made by an independent artist. We like everything in the house to have a story behind it; some history about where it came from and how we acquired it - the carved wooden mirror that we bought from a florist in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in Provence and drove it 1000 miles home; our wedding china; the huge abstract canvases painted by my artist Grandpa - and "we bought this from John Lewis" doesn't quite cut it...

I adore the white turquoise chandelier but it's made from actual gemstones and I can't even begin to imagine the price so I think that would have to be a DIY job (I've got a turquoise one in mind for the landing outside our bedroom). Ditto the Ochre 'Arctic Pear' chandelier - it's basically perfect but the cost runs into the thousands.

I saw the feather orb in real life at the Manchester Independent Interiors Show and it's amazing, but we're planning an all-white, cream and ivory room so it might not stand out sufficiently. I love the antique chandelier but it feels like too much of a predictable choice... I also love the Tom Raffield butterfly pendant - I think it would look amazing in the hallway - but I think it would be a really great option in here as well, although perhaps a touch too modern? Ditto the tropic leaves light - it's gorgeous and unusual but might look better in a more contemporary space. Yes, yes, I'm fussy.

And the Egyptian pendant? I think this is my favourite. The pendants are hand-hammered from silver-plated brass and then drilled full of tiny holes that throw beautiful patterns around the room. We honeymooned in Marrakech and this style of lighting really reminds me of the decor there. The one shown above is from Lombok but I bet I could source one directly if I put my mind to it - or buy from independent Le Souk (see image below).

Which one would you choose?