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

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I'm not a Facebook person, so instead here's a link to some kittens singing Beyonce in Northern accents.


I'm Loving It - Lonny Magazine

I pretty much missed out on the Domino phenomenon (I know, I know, shame on me!) but I'm loving Lonny Magazine, which for many people is filling the hole left by Domino, but for me is just a really awesome online magazine full of gorgeous quirky interiors. The release of Lonny Magazine has fuelled a whole new discussion in the blogosphere about the demise of traditional printed mags compared to the phoenix-style rise of their online sisters - for example, check out the thriving discussion on Abby Larson's new Backstage at Style Me Pretty venture.

When it comes to the whole paper versus virtual issue, I'm kind of on the fence. On the one hand, I could not begin to conceive of a house that wasn't filled with books. I grew up in a house with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in every room - that's what happens when pretty much your entire family are English teachers - my parents have thousands of books, and recently achieved a major milestone when, after a mere forty years of marriage, they have finally merged their separate book collections into one alphabetical collection - gasp! So my Mum's Virago Modern Classics are now snuggling up against my Dad's crime novels. Digression - I recently ordered a whole pile of crime novels on Amazon for Dad's birthday, and now every time I log into Amazon I am presented with a list of 'books that I may like', all of which have titles such as The Cold Grave, or Beyond The Dead Moon, or The Place of Skulls - delightfully cheerful, I must say.

Anyway, it will be no surprise to hear that I have myself accumulated hundreds of books over the years, which all live happily on our fantastic Expedit bookcase in the spare bedroom (organised in a complex and highly personal genre system - to be covered in a future post), and would never even consider exchanging any of them for a Kindle.


When it comes to magazines, however, I do still love snuggling up on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon with a pile of fashion and design magazines and dogs (we operate a strict Dogs Are Allowed Not Just On the Sofa, But Anywhere They Fancy policy here in the Nest) - and in particular I love the ritual of buying a big pile of magazines in the airport prior to a flight - but I have to say, right now I'm just finding so much more inspiration online these days - everything is more immediate, more current, more frequently updated, with infinitely more variety - and the content of the paper magazines just seems a little tired and outdated in comparison.

Penny taking full advantage of the Everything Is Allowed In The Nest policy:



So I was delighted to read about Lonny Magazine on Design Sponge Online - and having checked it out, I think it beautifully spans the gap between printed and virtual material, especially with the clever page-turning technology. In particular I was delighted to see an interior created by Rita Konig - I've been a huge fan of Rita's style since discovering her through the design columns she wrote a few years ago in the Daily Telegraph magazine on Saturdays - and I also love her home and lifestyle books, which contain words of wisdom along the lines of decanting washing powder into pretty vintage bottles, and keeping a box of violet creams in the laundry cupboard to brighten up the chores. Well, in our house Andre does all the laundry, so perhaps he wouldn't thank me for decanting the washing powder into such a non-manly receptacle, but you get the general picture.

Here are a couple of my favourite pictures from the Rita Konig-styled house in Lonny Magazine:  




Loving the contrast in the first photo between the masculine colour-scheme with the dark walls and windows, and the more feminine element added by the delicate furniture, vintage lamp, and pretty patterned blind. I'm also coveting the antique dresser in the second photo - and am planning to arrange create some similar wild-flower style arrangements in the Nest this weekend - this type of casual elegance has to be my favourite way of arranging flowers.



I'm going to finish this post with a quote from the same feature in Lonny Magazine: "Use your best things everyday, don't wait for special occasions. This is your life; enjoy your good silver, china, fancy soaps and bath oils, these things aren't for decoration, they're for using". Couldn't agree more! And with that, I'm off to break out the crystal glasses, the ice, and the cointreau - it's cocktail hour, people!




Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading! 




Kitchen Inspiration Board


Here's the inspiration board that I made to pull together the look for the new kitchen. These days I'm all about the technology, but my first boards were made retro-style, with paper, scissors and glue:

You can see a larger version of this image in the Inspiration Board photo gallery.

For years, I had been reading design magazines, ripping out the pictures I liked, and then leaving them to gather dust in a box under the bed, on account of the fact that I moved from one rented flat to another, and had to deal with a succession of landlords who had palpitations at the thought of so much as a drawing pin being stuck in the wall.

So when we finally bought our little house I couldn't wait to haul my dusty old pictures out and put them to good use. I spent hours going through that box, pulling out all the pictures I liked, dividing into piles for the kitchen, bathroom, living room, bedrooms and garden, and then dividing again into piles of pictures I really liked, kind of liked, wasn't sure if I liked, really liked but knew my husband Andre would hate, and so on.

The colour scheme for the kitchen came together really easily. I showed Andre a handful of very different possible kitchens to see which one he liked best. "The red one's all right", he said. All right then - a red kitchen it was. You can see this picture in the bottom right hand corner of the inspiration board.

The next step was to work out what kind of style to go for. I like a rustic vintage look, and Andre likes contemporary. OK then, we'll have contemporary (glossy red units) mixed with vintage/rustic (belfast sink and rustic-look oak flooring). What can I say, sometimes it works not to over-think these things.

Digression - we actually bought the house by following exactly the same process. We were at the very start of our house-choosing process, and I showed Andre some pictures of houses on the internet. "I like the look of that one", he said. I also liked the look of it, so we went to see it that day, put in an offer the next day, and moved in... about six months later cos it took soooooooooo long to get all those surveys undertaken, which are basically identical to the surveys that were undertaken by the people who owned the house before us, which are basically the same as the surveys that were taken by the people who owned the house before them, and so on. We now have fifty years worth of identical surveys sitting heavily in a box on the bookshelf upstairs.

Anyway, I know you are supposed to look at dozens of houses before you put your hand in your pocket and fork out more money than you will probably ever spend on anything else, EVER, unless of course you are Victoria Beckham and regularly drop the price of small houses in Harvey Nicks - but we bought the first house we saw and have never looked back.

For me, an inspiration board is just that - an inspiration for what you eventually create, rather than an example to be copied. But our kitchen pretty much turned out exactly the same as the inspiration board. Glossy red units? Check. Pale blue walls? Check. Belfast sink? Check. Rustic wood? Check. Stainless steel range cooker? Not only check, but we bought the identical model to the one on the right of the mood board.

Here's another photo of the Big Kitchen Installation in progress, with the inspiration board pinned to the wall to keep us going:

And here's a sneaky after photo:

More coming tomorrow!


The Big DIY Kitchen Renovation

Let's kick things off with a sneak peek at our DIY kitchen transformation. The whole process took two months, during which time we lived almost exclusively on shepherd's pie, because before we ripped out the hideous old cooker, I'd fortunately had the foresight to make a couple of huge shepherd's pies and freeze them, and unfortunately hadn't had the foresight to make anything else.

For those of you who are worrying about whether we came down with scurvy due to lack of vegetables, let me hasten to add that I supplemented the shepherd's pie with bags of fresh spinach from the local grocer. We also became deeply familiar with the menu of local pizza takeway (which has now sadly closed, maybe we were their only customers?) and the humble microwaved jacket potato. Delectable.

Anyway, that's enough about our eating habits (although I am thinking that How To Survive a DIY Kitchen Installation and Not Get Scurvy would be an interesting future post) - let's move onto what you've all been waiting for, the great Before and After photos!

So here's the first before photo. Not that bad, really - at least it's nice and light, despite the elderly wooden cabinets, boring white splashback tiles, and the came-with-the-house-and-hasn't-been-replaced-in-twenty-years kitchen sink:

Here's how it looks now:

Right now you're looking at this photo thinking either 'wow, red!' or 'eww, red!'. Naturally we think it's gorgeous - we love how the sleek lines of the modern cabinets and mixer tap contrast with the rustic-look wooden floors and traditional ceramic belfast sink, how the glossy red works with the pale blue walls, the black worktops, and the warm golden-brown floors - and how we've created a room that perfectly suits our quirky style, rather than trying to cater for the tastes of the people who will live in the house at some unspecified period of time in the future, particular when after the mammoth 'carrying all our furniture down three flights of stairs when we moved out of our old flat because the building didn't have an elevator' extravaganza that was our big house move, we decided we are Never Moving Again. This is it. We are Done. If ever we need more space, we'll get planning permission to put up a teepee in the back garden.

So here's the second before photo. Again, not too bad, if you like the whole 'let's place random pieces of furniture next to each other and call it a kitchen' thing:

And here's how it looks now:

Yay, more red! And a sneak peek at our beautiful range cooker. This photo was taken quite early in the day, when the light is just starting to pour into the kitchen. Truly, the best thing about DIY'ing your own kitchen installation (apart from the huge cost saving, natch) is that every time I sit on one of those kitchen bar stools with my morning espresso, looking out over the garden (which we also landscaped from scratch ourselves during one classic Manchester summer when it rained so much I thought we should probably stop building a deck and start building an ark - to be covered in a future post!), and I'm not covered in dust/paint/wearing dirty old overalls/peeling off endless layers of wallpaper/wielding a hammer - I think 'man, I really deserve this'.

Here's a few things to look out for in the photos:

  • The bottle of wine that the previous owners left for us (the before photos were literally taken the day we moved in)
  • What we did with the boiler
  • The one thing that we kept from the original kitchen.

I'll be back later with more details including the price breakdown, specific projects, and the mood board that inspired the renovation.


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