Happy 40th Little Sister!

I don’t normally make personal posts, but in celebration of my little sister’s 40th birthday today, I thought I’d make an exception for this special occasion (..and hope she doesn’t get too upset that I’ve made this post!)

Here we are back in 1979 in our matching PJ’s, on a sunny morning after eating breakfast by the looks of things.

Love you…



Winter Firewood

To accompany our new wood burner, we recently ordered some firewood. Here are a few things that I learnt recently that I can now share with you:

  1. Large logs won’t fit in every log burner! Luckily most London fire wood delivery companies cater to small London homes, with their small London fireplaces and offer logs that are cut to a certain dimension. Check your wood stove instruction manual as that should give you the recommended log size. Our Heta Inspire 40 stove has a maximum log size of 30cm… which seemed to be a fairly standard size on offer (the logs we ordered came in perfect 25cm lengths).
  2. Think about how often you will be having fires to determine how much wood you’ll need. We will be having occasional fires, and won’t be using our stove to heat our home – so the suggestion was 1/2 a pallet (or 4.5 ‘boot bags’) would suffice. We’ll let you know how we get on!
  3. You’ll be after seasoned, or kiln dried wood to ensure it is dry and burns well.
  4. Don’t forget to order kindling wood!
  5. Garden twig off cuts can serve as kindling wood, but if they have dried out for at least a year. We’ve been saving some garden offcuts in our shed, but they will need to be cut down further to size to fit in our wee stove!
  6. Think about where you want to store your fire wood ahead of time, both inside near your fire, and for the rest of the log reserve.

We got as far as using our trusty apple crates (previously used as bed side tables in the guest room, and before that as kitchen shelving in my old flat on Camberwell Grove) as log storage boxes, leaving a space between them for newspaper to be stacked up. Its a temporary solution until I get around to designing the joinery units for beside the fireplace… but I’m quite happy with how it looks for now.  The rest of the wood reserve has been fairly unceremoniously dumped into a massive pile in our kitchen until we get around to moving it into our shed. (which, as you might imagine, involves a bit of a clear out to make space first – half a pallet is quite a large volume!)

To benefit from the savings of buying in bulk and sharing delivery costs,  we joined forces with our neighbour and got a pallet delivered and split the order between us. We ordered from The London Log Company as they came recommended!  Apparently there are some companies out there who don’t properly dry their wood,  or cheat on the quantity delivered – so watch out and go with a trusted company if possible.



Kvadrat Ready Made Curtains Installed

It always amazes me how long things take to implement, and I consider myself pretty organised and motivated!

Back in July, I decided that this Kvadrat ready made curtain system would be a nice and simple solution to our slightly hard looking master bedroom windows. A set of floaty voile curtains paired with the roman blinds I had just installed would soften and complete the look.  Shortly after that in August I went through the process of measuring up how big the fabric panels needed to be here, and because I was able to get an architect’s discount, ordered some of this Air 4 fabric in white 0100 from Kvadrat.  (There are loads of other places on line where you can order net/ voile curtains from)

The fabric arrived, and although the ‘ready made system’ suggests that you can simply cut the fabric and hang it without the need for any sewing, I was concerned that the edges would fray over time in a way that I eventually would be annoyed about. So, as there were no complicated pleats, gathers, or even pockets required, I got my local dry cleaners to both cut and sew a small 1/4″ boarder around each panel (£12/ panel).

The panels were finally ready to collect this weekend, and I at last got around to hanging them. I used a piece of cardboard cut to the recommended 150mm apart spacing to make the clipping of the pegs into place easier and to ensure consistency.  The pegs have 3 little spikes (as seen in the photo) and they gripped the fabric nicely – just make sure you don’t install them in the wrong spot as they do leave a bit of a hole!   The clips were fairly stiff to snap shut (sometimes they made a satisfying ‘click’, and sometimes they didn’t, which was not satisfying at all), but once installed, they were very easy to hang.  The pegs glide really easily on the waxed string. The wooden end blocks are cleverly designed so that if there is any sag in the string, they can just be twisted to tighten it up straight.

I suppose in essence the system is basically a fancy clothes pegs on a washing line… but I still like the simplicity and lightness of how it all looks and am pleased with the overall result. (As a reminder, this is what the windows looked like without the voile curtains)




Multifuel Stoves (or wood burners)

Last January in the post-Christmas sales, after much research,  we purchased a lovely wood burning stove for our living room. It seemed slightly crazy to make a post about a fireplace in the heat of summer when we finally had it installed, but now as the nights draw in and get cooler it now seems more appropriate… so here we go…

We ended up going for a Danish made Heta Inspire 40 stove from Fireplace Products. It is certainly not the cheapest stove on the market but we figured it would sit there for our lifetime in the house, and we’d be looking at it all year round as the chimney  breast is a focal point of the room, even if the stove will only actually be used in autumn and winter.  In the end we are super pleased with both the appearance, and the quality so would highly recommend!  (Installed photos in due course!)

There are lots of things to take into account when choosing a stove, but the reasons we opted for this particular one included:

  • First and foremost, as we are in London, the stove needed to be DEFRA approved (DEFRA approved stoves are cleared to burn specified fuels in smoke control areas, that are usually disallowed, such as wood).
  • We wanted a good efficient stove with adequate heat output to heat the room. As our chimney niche is quite small this limited the size of the fire, and so this is why this was important for us. (This stove is 80% efficient, with 6 KW of heat output, which is suitable for our roughly 3.5 m x 7m x 2.7m high room)
  • There were only a limited number of stoves that were narrow and shallow enough to fit properly as we didn’t want it projecting into the room too much (there are guidelines about how far away the sides of the stove can be from the chimney sides, even if they are non-combustible, so check this with the specific stove you are going for as it can vary).
  • We wanted a stove with a large window proportionally so we could see the flames
  • And last but certainly not least, we wanted one that was simple and cleaned lined without lots of fussy  brass or steel details.

You should check the regulations where you are before installing a wood burner stove, but a few more things that we had to take account of were:

  • You need to get your chimney swept prior to installation – save the receipt for your home insurance purposes!
  • In the UK, the building regulations have recently changed such that even if your brick chimney is clear and sound, you still need to have it lined. Apparently this helps with air flow anyway, but unfortunately adds a chunk to the cost. Blue Mantle Fireplaces lined our flue and undertook the installation and did a great job.
  • Depending on the installer and how your roof and chimney are configured, they may require the installation of a scaffold for Health & Safety reasons. (We were lucky and didn’t need it, but this can also add to the cost.)
  • You may need an air vent in the room if your output is high enough (for our stove we didn’t require additional ventilation)
  • The hearth will need to be of non-combustible material
  • DON’T FORGET YOUR SMOKE & CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTOR!  We recently installed another wired in Nest combined CO and smoke detector to the room when we had the master bedroom electrics re-wired as the living room was directly below so it was easy to do at this time.

Lots of further helpful regulations and guidelines can be found here.






Building Tour – Carlos Scarpa’s Castlevecchio

As part of my Monday travel photo series, I thought I’d include a few building tours. So for this week’s Monday diversion from my small scale refurbishments, here are some photos of Carlos Scarpa’s renovation to Castlevecchio in Verona.

His principle of contrasting new interventions with existing old walls was revolutionary at the time, and is what many contemporary architects working with historic buildings still use today (this one included!).  I love how his modern geometric insertions pass lightly over the existing building fabric without interruption and how every detail has been carefully designed and considered.


Sanded, Lye treated, and oiled Victorian Floorboards

As a slight change from my usual Monday destination photos (namely because I haven’t sorted any more of them out yet…), here is a snap shot of our beautifully sanded, lyed and oiled floors!

We need to undertake the first soap coat ourselves to increase the whiteness intensity a bit. So,  to that end, we have just ordered a litre of this Woca Natural Soap as recommended by the guy who did the job.  The soap does of course clean the floors too – it isn’t just for whitening (they offer a transparent version too if you don’t want the subtle whitening effect). Apparently over time the soap also slowly builds up an additional protective layer on the floors.

We have been told the soap is very easy to apply with a standard rope mop, and we should apply it roughly once a season depending on how white we want the floors (the whiteness slowly builds up over time).   We’ll see how that goes!

We also need to touch up the paintwork on the skirting as the sanding and lying of the floors damaged them a little bit. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to moving our furniture back in and re-instating some order to our house.




Bedroom Rug Sizes

Now that our floor sanding and finishing is underway, it is time for me to get back into the world of soft furnishings (where I am still slightly out of my depth!) and sort out the rug situation for our master bedroom.

I’ve been reading a bit about sizing, and found this article from Apartment Therapy helpful. In addition to giving some guidance on bedroom rugs, (it also offers suggestions for living rooms and dining areas – just FYI!).

In terms of the bedroom rug options suggested in the article, the economical option would be to get two bedside rugs on either side of the bed as shown in the image on the bottom left of the bobble rug from Loaf. This would have the added advantage of leaving most of our lovely new floors visible.

(Minimum rug size required for a UK King sized bed of 150cm W x 200cm L with this option  is 90cm wide x 150cm long to leave space for bedside tables to sit off the rug – ie. 3’x5′)

The more luxurious, perhaps less ‘bitty’ version would be to get a rug which extends enough on either side of the bed for us to step onto when getting out of bed, but which is also wide enough to extend past the end of our bed and our lovely new end of bed bench/drawer unit like the top left image from Molly’s beautiful blog Almost Makes Perfect., or the image in the middle from this article about how to style the end of your bed from Elle Decor. With this second option, although it appears to make the room seem largest, it conversely seems a shame to pay for a rug (and rugs are expensive!) which is mostly hidden beneath the bed!

(Minimum rug size required for a UK King sized bed with this option – 300cm long x 360cm wide – ie. 9’x12′ )

Another alternative option is a rug which just sits at the end of the bed as shown on the left in the beautiful bedroom shown in Sarah’s blog Stories. Maybe stepping onto a wood floor in winter isn’t so bad… especially if there is a nice pair of slippers immediately to hand!

(Minimum rug size required for a UK King sized bed with this option – Roughly 180cm long x 240 cm wide, depending on how much you want on the side of and under the bed, the two images show two different configurations  – ie. 6’x8′ which would be more like the red Persian carpet image)