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Dream House Renovation: The Snug

Room Makeover Master

Regular readers of this blog will know that we are gradually restoring a beautiful yet crumbling Georgian house, one room at a time as budget allows.  So far we’ve managed some grand transformations and repurposing of spaces.  This time, it was a more cosmetic makeover needed, on one of the smallest and yet most important rooms in the house; The Snug.  Here’s how it looked before;

Room Makeover before main shot

And now;

Snug in sunlight

The snug – or the ‘Cinema Room’ as it was optimistically called by the estate agents who showed us round as prospective purchasers – is sandwiched between other rooms in the middle of the house, and has little natural light.  It’s a peculiar shape and has innumerable quirks and oddities, and yet somehow, it manages to be the place that we all gravitate towards.  Our house is on a hillside, so rooms at the rear like the snug have lowish ceilings, compared to rooms like the kitchen and bedrooms/bathrooms at the front of the house which measure almost 4 metres from floor to ceiling.

We decided early on not to attempt to add ceiling lighting but instead to celebrate the cosiness of the room and rely on wall and surface lighting to create atmosphere and corners for reading.  This lamp below is actually wired through the window frame into the next room (a conservatory) to avoid cabling trailing down the wall.

Room Makeover 5

A contemporary yet organic tripod lamp creates enough light for reading at each end of the two sofas…

Room Makeover 6

Room Maekover 6

Our only real structural change was to replace the fireplace, which had housed a faulty gas fire and a very elaborate surround which had been added at some point in the last few decades, and then painted flesh pink;

Room Makeover before shot

We had the chimney converted to fit a wood burning stove, and added a simple yet substantial stone surround, which creates a focal point for the room;

Snug lieft side

Room Makeover 7

Room Makeover 8

(I should mention here that we’re not using the stove at the moment due to unseasonably mild weather, hence the decorative logs stacked up the sides – inadvisable for wood-burners in use which get hot to the touch).

You’ll see that we kept the original dado rail, but added faux panelling under it to tie the room together and add a sense of lightness; it glows when the morning light filters in through the conservatory, and acts as a good contrast to the deeper grey-green on the walls above.  And besides, the salmon pink accent colour Just. Had. To. Go.

Snug panelling

In one of the darkest corners we hung an old French window repurposed with mirror glass, which helps to bounce the weak light around and maximise it; we also house our Christmas tree in this alcove  in December, and the mirror sends the lights glittering back into the room.

Room Makeover 10

I should pause for a moment to navigate you, as you’ll see above another window set high into the wall; that looks through into the playroom (seen here au naturel, just so you know that we don’t live in this zen-like state most of the time..);

Room Makeover 4

..And you reach both rooms by heading through from the kitchen/diner, which gives a lovely open-plan feel to the ground floor and works great for parties, where everyone can cheerfully flow from one room to the next, treading breadsticks into the carpet and shrieking with delight when they discover the presence of Lego (always the non-parents; for those of us with kids the thrill is long gone).

Navigation

One of the wonderful things about the Snug is that it seemed to absorb all of the furniture we brought with us and require nothing new; the sofas were originally bought for our last house, and were just deep-treated with stain-guard when Harry arrived (it’s working so far, touch wood).  The travertine coffee and lamp tables were the sole survivors from my husband’s bachelor pad, and even this console table survived; it’s an IKEA Malm table, given a coat of olive paint to tie it in.  Under it sits a wicker chest, hiding Harry’s giant dumper truck collection and a vast collection of unsightly but much-loved stuff.

Room makeover 3

As if there weren’t enough doors already, this one (below) leads into the hall, creating confusion and mild alarm in guests as you exit through one door to fetch a drink and suddenly reappear through another, magician-like.

Room makeover 2

This one is even more fun; it simply houses cables, DVDs, routers and all other tech paraphernalia.  Helping to extricate tipsy friends who thought it was the way to the bathroom has become a regular occurence.

Hidden door

The dado is deeper along the back wall, creating a lovely shelf on which to house photos, vases, stars and family memorabilia in a constantly changing arrangement.  The radiator is cast iron by the way, as are the huge pillars in the bay; apparently they were added in the 1930s when the house was briefly used as a film studio; it’s had a very eclectic cast of owners of the centuries, and each has left a unique calling card.

Snug corner

So you can see why we love the snug, and why most of the hours from dusk till bedtime are spent curled up en famille on the sofas, or racing cars on the coffee table.  It has held 32 people, memorably, at a festive gathering when everyone cheerfully squashed up together and forgave each others elbows – but equally, it is the perfect, perfect size for 3.

If you’ve seen anything you like or are curious about, here’s a rough crib-sheet of the colours and pieces we used;

Snug mood board

  1. Farrow and Ball paint in White Tie (woodwork)
  2. ..and Manor House Grey Estate Emulsion (walls above dado)
  3. EASIPanel self-adhesive faux MDF panelling, available from DIY stores
  4. Our wooden tripod lamp came from M&S and is no longer available, but BHS in the UK has a similar one, as does John Lewis
  5. The Malm console table from IKEA comes in red and white; we gave ours a facelift with regular emulsion paint
  6. Coffee table in travertine stone – try eBay for companies selling these
  7. Portland chesterfield sofa from M&S
  8. Alhambra fire surround from Chesneys, who also supplied the wood-burning stove.

room makeover 1

Have a great week, whatever you’re up to – and make the most the lingering few hours of the weekend (we’ll be curled up with the Sunday papers in the snug..!)

handbag logo

Home for the Holidays

With just six Big Sleeps ’til Christmas, anticipation is running high in our household. We flung open our doors last Sunday to family and friends, and this for us marked the start of the festivities (and compelled us to complete the holiday decor!).  We have a couple more days of work to get through, but the house at least is ready and adorned; today let me give you a quick tour in lieu of being able to actually invite you over for a glass of mulled wine…

Holiday house Christmas bike

Remember this delivery bike from Easter?  I’ve decked it out for Christmas, using an old fruit crate which I sprayed black, tucking in a faux Christmas tree draped in inexpensive, hardy baubles.  A simple wreath is tied to the basket frame, and I used one of these paper placemats mounted on card stock to make the welcoming holiday sign.  I wired a stock of old red lightbulbs (a car-boot sale find) and draped them over the frame, before clipping on an IKEA lantern at the back.  I bought of stash of these and have used them liberally throughout the house this year, following the Anthropologie adage that anything used in excess can look quite cool…  The bike sits outside in the lane when we’re expecting guests; rain permitting, of course.

In the hallway, an old sledge carries enticing looking parcels, which are actually old cardboard boxes wrapped in wall-lining paper and tied with ribbon.  I’ve borrowed the reindeer skin from our bathroom to add more Nordic style.  The sledge is lit by a paper tree, which I’ve hung with parcels of magic reindeer food (last year’s recipe is here), and which are given to small visitors when they leave.

Holiday House Entryway

Holiday House Reindeer Food

The Fir lady from last week is now complete and has taken up residence in a quiet corner of the kitchen, where she is shown to best advantage and unlikely to get underfoot;

Fir Lady

More parcels and lanterns add to the festive effect…

Fir Lady for Christmas

The biggest Christmas display is in our long and open hallway which runs the length of the house; I wanted something that would catch your eye as you walk in, but also look interesting as you come down the stairs, or glimpse it through the kitchen doorway.  It’s on the main thoroughfare to the bathroom, so tends to stop people in their tracks as they pause to examine the various bits and pieces….

Holiday house Christmas hallway

Let’s start at the bottom; I placed a large trunk on top of our hall table, then filled a picnic hamper with straw and tucked in two festive geese, which in previous years have been left to totter along landings at Christmas, or have perched on shelves.  They look slightly curious or alarmed, as if they know they are heading for the oven; but it also has the effect of looking a little like a hot air balloon basket, which may give them cause for hope of escape..

Christmas Geese in a Basket

On top of the case is an old wooden ladder which is usually covered in paint and dust, but for now is hung with more interesting accents and decorations.  Tucked underneath is an old typewriter, with a couple of robins perched atop it, pecking at the keys;

Festive hallway display

And a carol is typed out, for those who peer closely enough…

Christmas typewriter

Arranged on the ladder are various natural decorations like twig balls and giant seed pods, into which I’ve placed baubles as if they’ve just burst open to reveal them;

Festive montage

…and remember the book folding post?  I’ve used a couple of the books I made to add another dimension to the display;

folded decorations I

folded decorations II

More garden bits and pieces are arranged on top of a zinc pedestal which normally lives on the patio, including a driftwood wreath and wooden stars;

Garden decorations for Christmas

And further down the table, an old vegetable crate is turned on its side on a stool to create a winter forest scene, using animals from Harry’s Ark and tiny bristle trees.

Crate nativity

A wicker basket is perched atop the ladder with a small tree trimmed with battery LED lights (we click it on in the evenings), and this is the view as you head down the stairs;

Holiday scene from the stairs

 

It’s a constantly evolving display as items are borrowed and replaced, or others are added; but it’s quirky and makes me smile.  In other rooms we have the Christmas tree as usual, and other, more traditional decor; this is just a taste of something a little different, to ring in the changes. I hope you enjoyed it too!

I’ll be back a couple more times before Christmas with last-minute cookie gifts, printable Santa telegrams and some wrapping ideas.  It’s ho ho ho all the way now I’m afraid; there’s no place for the Grinch here…

Kate x

Festive delivery bike

Homemade Pinecone Firelighters

DIY Pinecone firelights

Log fires, blankets, mugs of hot chocolate, toasty warm socks… there’s something magical about this time of year. It’s been a misty, cold day here and we’re planning to light the first fire of the season tonight to celebrate the start of  the weekend and our hibernation from the winter weather.  In preparation I’ve made these pinecone firelighters, lightly scented with cinnamon and guaranteed to set the kindling alight with a pop and a crackle.

I’d seen similar firelighters in the ever-divine Cox and Cox catalogue, but they’re not cheap and we have fires every night, so I decided to have a go at making my own, using research, trial and error to work out a way of creating them simply at home.  My research uncovered scarily complicated instructions involving double-boilers, safety goggles, wick-trimming and dipping and general scientific sorcery… so I applied some lateral thinking and came up with a much simpler approach.  It’s very safe and quick, though perhaps the only downside of this is that you’re unlikely to need to attract your local Firemen for manly assistance.

You’ll need:

  • A pocketful of pine cones
  • Pack of tea-lights or small candles; I used IKEA’s gorgeous white Fenomen ones.
  • Cupcake cases, slightly larger than your pine cones
  • Optional candle scent; cinnamon, pine, cranberry and sandalwood are all divine.

Firstly, gather all your pine cones.  Size doesn’t matter here, but give them a quick brush to remove dust and bits of forest-floor debris.  Pinecones which are tightly closed will open once exposed to the warm, so you may want to store them inside for a week before using.

When you’re ready to ‘cook’, line a cupcake tin with cases and place one of your tea lights or candles into each.  Make sure you remove the little metal cases if using tea lights, and tweak the wicks so that they are standing upright and proud of the wax; it’s much easier than fishing for them later.  Place in a moderate oven and keep checking until the wax melts and resembles water.  At this point you can add a drop of candle scent to each, or simply leave plain.

Once the wax has melted, move the wicks gently to one side of the case, using tweezers (or with your best pointy fingers; remember that some people claim to quite enjoy being covered in hot wax…hmmm).  This will ensure that the wicks don’t get lost underneath the cones.

Then simply place a pinecone into each case; the wax will rise around it and hold it firmly in place as it sets.

When the wax has cooled and set, lift the cases out of the pans and peel away the cupcake case, revealing your firelighters in all of their glory…

These also look very pretty when left in their cases; I’ll be tying a bundle of these (below) up in cellophane bags or small burlap sacks to take as gifts for those we visit during the festive season (though I’ll probably check that they have an open fireplace first…).

 

And now the light is fading, the kettle is on, and we’re almost all home; have a wonderful weekend whatever you’re doing!

*Update*; a few people have asked via email or comments how these work; to use these firelighters, simply place them at the base of your fire and arrange kindling over the top before lighting the wick; the wax ensures that the pinecone will catch light and burn for long enough to ignite the kindling and create a real blaze; at that point you can add bigger logs and settle back for an evening watching the flames.  Here’s how ours turned out this evening;

 

Self-Assembly with Harry the Friendly Pirate

It’s been a chaotic week here chez nous, with builders in residence, my husband travelling, and flat-pack-tastic furniture from IKEA covering every surface awaiting my amateur attempts at self-assembly.  Harry has been angelic throughout, only occasionally becoming stuck in near-dry cement, chewing on innapropriate pieces of hardware (‘these nails taste spicy Mummy’), or dragging still-warm power tools into his den.  As a reward for his forbearance, I decided to use all the leftover cardboard packaging to make a pirate ship.  It’s been a darn sight easier than assembling a LeftvigKlemtangerArkleHeinig filing cabinet, that’s for sure….


I used a square cardboard box as the base, then stapled long pieces of cardboard either side to form a boat-shape.  I covered these in leftover wood-effect wallpaper for a nautical touch, though paint would do just as well.  The sails are made from sheets of standard A3 paper, printed with a skull and crossbones, then lashed to bamboo poles with an old washing line, before being tucked into a silver-sprayed cardboard tube.  I punched holes in the paper first and reinforced them with eyelets.

I threaded spare curtain rings on string through the cardboard to simulate life-rings (not very pirate-esque, but let’s call it artistic license…)

Harry’s telescope is 3 empty toilet rolls, wrapped in black paper and edged with glued-on ribbon.  I tucked them one inside the other and used a glue gun to secure them.  Apparently you can use it either way around to spot ships and bounty…

I made the treasure map by printing out the text on a sheet of paper, scribbling on a rough ‘map’, then daubing with used teabags.  Here comes the exciting bit; stand far away from smoke detectors (outside, preferably), and singe the edges, blowing out quickly each time.

The ‘anchor’ is the doorstop from my office, threaded through with a length of chain we rescued from a neighbour’s skip.  It threatens Harry with juvenile hernia every time he gamely attempts to toss it overboard; I may replace it with a cardboard model before social services arrive.

Even pirates need to eat once in a while, so I constructed this fishing line from a slotted wooden spoon, ribbon and fish shapes cut from coloured card stock.  I used buttons for the eyes and reinforced the holes with eyelets, in the hope that these wee fishes manage more than a single outing from ocean to boat.

And so, as the sun sets we will sail off in our cardboard ship to seek our fortune on the ocean wave, and turn a blind eye to the 648 pieces of pre-drilled swedish hardwood which are scattered throughout the house.  Let’s hope we spot my husband and his screwdriver on the horizon sometime soon…