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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Theme for 2017 - Organise

I'm writing this post sitting in a (new to us) love seat that my husband's friend donated to us on New Year's Eve, as you do, in our newly wallpapered living room, with our Christmas tree lights twinkling away because it's not Twelfth Night yet so I'm stubbornly clinging onto it, dropping pine needles and all. I'm also slurping on a prosecco cos my husband just passed it to me; there goes my vague plan to do dry January. Oh and I have a four month old puppy on my knee, three daughters sleeping away upstairs, and the Instagram Rug of Dreams on the floor in front of me. So all is good.

Our giant tree beast plus rug on Christmas Eve.

I like to pick a theme for the coming year. Last year's theme was 'Expand'. More on that later. Andre voted for this year's theme to be 'Relaaaaax'. Sorry to manage your expectations, darling, but there isn't going to be much relaxation going on round here, at least not until we install the kitchen and I no longer have to run down to the cellar every time we need an extra prosecco glass, which happens a lot cos we drink a lot of prosecco (dry January was never realistically going to be a thing, was it).

So, this year's theme will be 'Organise'.

We've expanded the family and now need to juggle three daughters and three dogs. And after living in our house for nearly five years we've finally built our long-anticipated extension and can now put in place some permanent solutions to deal with the chaos of busy family life with two full-time working parents.

I think it's important to understand what each of us needs to feel a sense of inner peace. Apart from the obvious things, for me it's having an alphabetised spice rack (or possibly by cooking genre? Decisions, decisions), a clear dining table with no random crap littered all over it, and not having to run upstairs at the last minute to grab a cardigan/pair of socks/dog when you're trying to head out the door for the event that you're inevitably late for. I'm sure there are some people who are happy with a mountain of shoes at the front door but I am not one of those people.

So, the plan is to implement systems (betraying my day job here) that allow our family life to run smoothly with the minimum of fuss. No lost book bags, no texting the parent hosting the party that the kids are due to attend that afternoon to ask where the venue is cos we've lost the invite, no having to sacrifice my 30 minute daily exercise slot cos I haven't found the time, no piles of junk lying around cos we don't have anywhere to store that massive stash of Ikea paper napkins and tea lights.

No, in our house the teaspoons and the sugar will be stored next to the kettle and the coffee machine in the new kitchen that we'll install for the purpose. We won't run out of dog food and have to feed them pasta (apparently this is normal for Italian dogs?!) cos we will have an Amazon repeat order set up for it. We won't have to spend a romantic evening a deux wading around in the cellar baling out a foot of swamp water cos we'll have a calendar alert set up to check the drains every month. We will never again have to go upstairs to get a pair of socks for Natalia after heading out the front door to leave for school at 08:53 and realising she is barefoot because WE WILL FREAKING WELL STORE SPARE SOCKS IN THE NEW BOOT ROOM (because obviously this is some kind of revelatory solution). Note - I originally typed this as Space Socks which would be even awesome than Natalia's Paw Patrol and Spiderman numbers.  

Anyway, quick recap of Expand 2016.

From this:

To this:

Gibson Architects and Tipi Construction South Manchester - by Simply the Nest, a UK renovation blog

The house was gorgeous before but we like it even better now. it's not just the blending of modern and Victorian that we like so much, but the internal remodelling that has given us a Party House.

From two daughters to three:

From two dogs to three:

And in terms of expanding my own abilities? I can now say that I am A Runner. Coming from someone who hadn't run so much as 50m since I was forced to jog round a much-hated cross-country course at school, this feels like a huge deal for me. The first time I ran in April 2016, I managed about 1.5km before I had to stop and have a lie down. I now run 10-15k a week - a 5k during the week, and 5-10k on weekends. I'm not always very fast, but I absolutely love it, and as Andre will gladly confirm, get pretty cranky without it. Running releases endorphins and is scientifically proven to clear your head. As this article says: "it's hard to run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time".  

Oh and I also developed superhero skills. Want to see a picture of me in a Spiderman costume? Well, if you insist...

Back to organisation - first on the list is finishing the Boot Room to store all our coats, shoes, umbrellas, scooters, summer gear, wet weather gear, FREAKING SPARE PAIRS OF SOCKS and so on. Then we're tackling the big kitchen renovation. The floor tiles are being delivered in a few weeks and then we will be on it like a car bonnet. I've managed to get my New Year theme post up on the first of January for a change so we're off to a flying start.

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Skirting Board, Architrave and Paint in the Reading Room and Playroom

After months of dust and disruption, which while kept to a minimum by our lovely builders was still fairly annoying to live with on a day to day basis, it felt amazing to get some lovely clean paint on the walls.

We began with the kids' part of the house, as they currently had all their stuff in the living room, and we needed to evict them from the living room so that we could get it renovated in time for Christmas.

Here's the view of the old kitchen revealed through a new opening created from the new extension.

And a closer look at the same room - currently being used as an extension of the new playroom next door but ultimately destined to be a reading room with floor to ceiling bookshelves:

Valspar Sooty Lashes by Simply The Nest, a UK DIY and renovation blog

After being inspired by the many gorgeous dark interiors I see on Instagram under the #styleitdark tag I decided to give it a go. We painted the reading room in Sooty Lashes by Valspar, which is a really lovely deep grey that reads dark blue in our south-facing room (we have the same paint in the boot room and it looks grey, not blue). Hence why it's important to try paint in the actual room you plan to use it in! I like to paint large sheets of paper and pin them up on various walls to see how the paint looks in different lights. I love the new dark colour in our cosy reading room but having dabbled with the dark side I definitely wouldn't want to use it in a main living space. What can I say, I'm a summer girl at heart and prefer lovely light-filled spaces. Good to experiment, though, and I think my book collection will look great against the dark paint.

We painted the playroom in Liberty Blue 6 by Dulux - I'd say that Valspar have the best deep colours but Dulux still nail it with their pale blue range. I also painted two grey areas on the playroom walls (we created our own colour by mixing spare Valspar text pots together, including Bottlenose Dolphin and Urbane) that I plan to use as a gallery wall for the kids to display their masterpieces. Watch this space...

Originally this:

Then this:

And now this:

Dulux Liberty Blue 6 by Simply The Nest, a UK DIY and renovation blog

As well as painting, we installed some lovely Ogee skirting and architrave kindly provided by The Skirting Board Shop. It's amazing what a difference skirting makes to a room, instantly taking it from 'mid-renovation' to 'finished'. Or rather 'nearly finished' as we still need to nail it permanently onto the wall but haven't done so yet as we need to take care of some electrical work to add extra plugs first. Even having skirting propped against the wall looks dramatically better, though.

The Skirting Board Shop has an excellent range of styles and sizes, and I was able to find exactly the right sizes to match our existing woodwork. We didn't have original skirting in the reading room and playroom so during the build we turfed what was in there and have replaced with new that matches the original skirting elsewhere in the house.

Ogee Skirting from The Skirting Board Shop by Simply The Nest, a UK DIY and renovation blog

We chose a primed white finish, which after recently spending hours and hours and hours priming all the woodwork in the living room, I was very glad for. I was initially sent the wrong sized skirting so I asked for it to go back on the van and swapped - and we had the correct skirting re-delivered the same day without my even having to call customer services (as the driver took care of it), which is fantastic. There are lots of companies out there who make skirting products, but excellent customer service can't be beaten in my opinion, so I'm happy to recommend The Skirting Board Shop and we will be using them again when it comes to installing the kitchen.

A shot of the hallway showing the new architrave around the entrance to the new bootroom. After the partition came down:

And with the architrave (loosely) in place. We used architrave sets that came in three pre-mitred pieces, which saved us a lot of time.

Ogee architrave from The Skirting Board Shop by Simply The Nest, a UK DIY and renovation blog

Another set of before, during, and semi-afters - this time showing the knock through from the old kitchen through to the new extension from the other side.




Valspar Sooty Lashes by Simply The Nest, a UK DIY and renovation blog

We're currently spending all our time in the living room due to my last-minute decision to renovate the living room with the words "those 80s curtains are not ruining our Christmas photos for another year". So the curtains came down, the wallpaper came off, we sanded and oiled the floor, demo'd out the fireplace, and primed and painted 20 metres of skirting, 20m of picture rail, 20m of cornice, one massive six panelled bay window and a slightly smaller 14 panelled stained glass side window. Now we're wallpapering the entire room with the Hannah Nunn paper that I chose about 3 years ago, and it looks AMAZING.

Sneak peek...

Hannah Nunn Paper Meadow Teal by Simply The Nest, a UK DIY and renovation blog

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Disclosure: I received the skirting board and architrave from The Skirting Board Shop for free. All words and images my own.  


Building Work FAQ: True or False

We'd never had building work done before, being DIY champs, so we had no idea what to expect. To assist others about to embark upon the same journey, I've prepared a handy FAQ covering all the essentials of the experience.

1. You will finally figure out the lyrics to Rianna 'Work' after hearing it a mere 1572 times a week blasting from the builder radio.

FALSE. It doesn't matter how many times I've listened to that song, all I hear is work work work work work and the rest doesn't make any sense. You will also become deeply familiar with Sia 'Cheap Thrills', Lukas Graham '7 Years' and Justin Bieber 'Sorry', which does not improve upon multiple hearings.

2. Oh no, they won't damage that part of the garden.

FALSE. The entire garden will be destroyed, front and back. When we were planning the work, Tom the builder asked if there was anything in the front garden I wanted to keep. The cherry tree, I said. It was a wedding anniversary present. Tom scratched his head and said he thought they should be able to manage that. I thought he was being sarcastic - how could the cherry tree, set well away from the main driveway and entry path, possibly get damaged? When I saw the chipboard barrier that Tom built around it, I thought it seemed overkill but I appreciated his efforts. Then the skip arrived and nearly crushed the cherry tree with one fell blow, the driveway seemingly became a second storage facility for Bentley's the building merchant, and several lorry loads of rubble were literally upended from the truck onto the driveway itself. Not in sacks - just poured onto the driveway like a river. We even had a truck take a great chunk out of the path by driving across it accidentally cos the driver didn't quite get the right angle. Basically the entire driveway becomes fair game for the builders, so don't bother doing anything to your front garden if you anticipate getting building work done at any stage in the future. 

3. Oh, they'll be able to dig around the wisteria so we should be able to keep it.

FALSE. The wisteria will fall prey to the jaws of the digger on day one. Yes, possibly they could dig around it but careful building work costs more money as it takes longer.

4. They will have lots of other jobs on at the same time and will keep disappearing for days on end.

FALSE. If you have top-notch builders like ours, they'll crack on and get the job done, including all the snagging. No random disappearances to repeatedly attend the funerals of departed relatives here, thanks very much. Top tip - start your project in January. The previous project will have been 'done in time for Christmas' and with any luck you'll get a team of well-rested builders who have finished their last project, had a nice rest over Christmas, and are raring to go. I will add at this point that when you do major building work you are effectively inviting a group of strange men to move in with you (they are inevitably men unless you hire my lovely friend Sian) so it would be wise to choose builders you like on a personal level, as well as ones you can trust not to accidentally knock your house down.

5. The dust will get everywhere.

TRUE. Yes, yes it will. The builders did a brilliant job of controlling it as best they could, building giant floor to ceiling chipboard partitions with filler round the edges across all the openings, and rushing round with a vacuum cleaner when a brick accidentally came loose and a load of dust came through, but we still found a delicate layer of dust in our wardrobes. Having said that, this could well be because there is literally no point doing any housework while you have the builders in as it would be akin to applying lipstick to a pig, so quite feasibly the dust-in-wardrobe scenario was caused by our slatternly ways rather than the building work itself.

6. If you knock through from one room to the other you need to clear both rooms.

FALSE. We knocked through to the living room and I assumed we'd need to move all the furniture out so the bricks could fly. What actually happened is the builders screwed a 2x2 wooden frame on the living room wall a couple of inches wider and taller than the size of the planned opening, and then screwed a piece of chipboard to the frame and filled around the edges. They then carefully dismantled the wall from the other side (where the main building site was).

7. You will have a hole in your house for several weeks.

TRUE. You almost certainly will. I'd fondly imagined that the entire new structure would be built and made watertight before the connecting wall was knocked through, and maybe that's how it would work for a different project, but with ours, the order went something like this: foundations, new walls, support old building, remove walls and windows from old building, *aagh huge hole in back of house*, insert steels, build new roof, install bifolds, windows and roof lantern and finally *aah nice and cosy again*.

8. You will have a stream of people turning up at your door from morning until night.

TRUE. Between contractors arriving on site, deliveries from the local builder's merchant being dumped on your driveway, scaffolders turning up at 7am ("oh sorry love, is it too early for you?") and even Amazon deliveries arriving for the builders (fair enough, I get ASOS parcels delivered to my workplace so why not) that doorbell rang constantly, much to the utter delight of our Jack Russells. Additionally, all contractors, builders and delivery people will become very accustomed to seeing you in your pyjamas.

9. You will need to hand over the keys to your house.

FALSE. This can be avoided by having a baby the day the builders arrive, therefore necessitating someone being on the premises at all times with said baby. Alternatively, just get some keys cut. You know, whatever's easier.

10. It will all be worth it in the end.

TRUE. Full stop.

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