Publicly Fabulous

Recycling makes me sleep better

The clouds brought the night, and the night brought a crazy wind that howled down the street, clattering and banging shutters and all else in its path. At least the night would not be too stifling after such a scorching day

I arrived in France last night and worked hard today. Baz is joining me with C and her friend next week. They’re taking the only ‘clean-ish’ room and we were expecting Baz’s sister as well, but she decided to wait until next year. I’ve only now realised the extra stress that this would have put me under – we just haven’t had the time and money to make enough progress this year (still just one unfinished bathroom, no kitchen and no guest room)

My task was to somehow locate and put together enough components of any one bed for Baz and me to sleep in and then clear enough space in a room for that bed. Sounds easy, you’d think, but I admit that at one point today I thought that failure actually WAS an option

I bought the bed with this year’s Christmas money from my mum. When the usual courier collected it he texted that it was ‘in pretty bad condition’. I have no idea what he had expected, but I was very happy when it arrived back. Sure, it had some missing and broken slats, but they’re just rough bits of wood and could be replaced. Call me superficial, but what I look for in any piece of furniture is elegance and style

It has three of its four original castors. No-one’s perfect. And, honestly, you can’t tell now it’s propped up

So I supported the headboard, the footboard and the sides on various blocks of wood and bolted them together – normally Baz would help me. I then cut and replaced the four new slats before the realisation hit me that we had no flat base for the mattress to sit on

I eyed up the plywood case which I had been beating myself up about…

You see, I found this enormous painting on Ebay last year, around the time of my birthday. I was quite sure the picture would go for a lot of money and could never be as lovely as it looked online, but I also knew that I wouldn’t rest if I didn’t at least try…

It was a Friday night. I had put in an early and best sensible bid and I tried not to think about it too much while we were at a neighbour’s house for drinks. When I saw that I had won the auction at the reserve price of 115 Baz told me to calm down. Because he also knew that I’d be disappointed when it arrived

We were both wrong: it is even lovelier than I could have hopedpheasant painting

So whereas I usually try to re-use packaging, for this we built a spanking new plywood case (it’s 1.5 metres across) to keep it safe on its journey to France. But of course once it arrived, every time I walked past the empty case I felt very wasteful

The hand saw was no-one’s first choice to do the job – and nor was I – but there were no other available pairings. It took about 20 minutes, 2 cuts and most of the plywood to make a simple two-part bed base, leaving just screws and some useful lengths of wood from the case for another projectrough luxe room

Of course, no-one will see what goes on underneath the mattress (I did a fairly good job anyway). What matters is that the bed is publicly FABULOUS

I like the rough luxe quality of this room, known by us as ‘the Big Cupboard Room’. I think this should be our regular bedroom from now on. The floor tiles are lovely and the partly-stripped wallpaper is very cool, so I’m in no great rush to change it until we’ve got a room ready for guests

(Apologies for photo quality. I didn’t pack the right chargers etc so they’re just phone pics)

 

Bitching Barstools

Quasimodo In Leather

The stools had wonderful claw-footed bases. The previous owners had bought them from a dealer years ago and suggested that they may have been in a club at some point: they’re probably right

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Oh, they have certainly seen some life. The originally seat covers were unspeakable. One of the seats had been slashed at some stage and the foam was bulging through its gaffer-taped cover, but the bases alone were worth a punt and I could always get new seat pads if necessary. At least, that’s what I thought…

…until I saw how expensive the replacement seat pads would be – way more than the bases cost me – and I decided to salvage whatever I could, even poor old ‘Quasimodo’ P1000652

When I found an enormous pale green hide at an unbeatable price, the stars were aligned, so to speakIMG_7789

I removed all the previous staples, and there were many. Admittedly, underneath the old covers there were marks and burns on the foam pads, but they were still firm. After hovering them, dampening and leaving them wrapped tightly for a few days, even the foam on the slashed stool recovered its shape sufficiently (and you’ve got to love that great big fag hole at the front edge!)IMG_7798

I made my leather stretching solution from household products, a recipe picked up on Google. I already had the rubbing alcohol, and a quick trip to Boots provided the baby shampoo, I chopped off a piece of leather, squirted it with the solution and got stuck in with the pliers and stapler

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It’s very physical work, but  I could happily do this every weekend – if it weren’t for the back strain, the wrist pain and the blisters on my hand!

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After trimming, I finished the underneath using some unloved place mats we hastily ran up out of scrap vinyl before Christmas. Don’t worry, the star is not a design statement, it’s covered by the metal bases

clawfoot stools

And there they are. I only took a hasty pic because I’m tempted to sell them, but I don’t want to. Better to get them packed up and out of sight before I change my mind

Now I just need another project to use up all that green leather

 

Blooming Lovely

This is another little heater I picked up

The auction was timed to close at 2am on a Monday morning, so I set an alarm on my phone before bed on Sunday night and was up five minutes before the end. The seller later apologised when he realised what he’d inadvertently done and the effort I’d gone to

I didn’t really mind: it meant that I was the only bidder

IMG_7174I showed this prize to my friend and tame sparky, Ray, who scratched his head and asked what I was going to do with it

‘I’ll make it into a light, of course’

He looked at me dubiously, not for the first time over the years. ‘I don’t know where you find all these things‘ he said, implying that what he really meant was ‘why’ rather than ‘where’

But I was weak at the knees when I saw this and I could see how simple a project it would beIMG_7179

I showed him the original damaged fittings, the same size and ‘pitch’ (apparently) as a shaver socket, but much longer. He said they’d need to be cut and filed down to make them safe but I thought this sounded like hard work and – just perhaps – not very safe at all. Instead, I stuck them into a bag for safekeeping and bought a new black batten bulb holder to attach to the central fitting. It didn’t fit, but I worked at it with various pliers until eventually it stopped resisting and accepted my persuasion. I was fairly stoked, I can tell you, when it finally sat in place

Black fabric flex completes the look, and I got Ray to add the plug and check it over, as I am no electrician and I remain nervous about mixing electricity and metalIMG_7186

The light was too intense from a bare bulb so I chose a small copper-coated golfball bulb for a more subtle effect, and then reinstated the pretty little grill with its Universal logoIMG_7200 There is a neat handle at the back and the light can be tipped to any angle, even directly upwards as an uplighterIMG_7212

It’s made entirely of copper and has perfect patina, so just a firm wipe with WD40 removed the dust from the decorative base

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Even Ray likes this one

Safe Keeping for Secrets

When is housework a good thing?

The house now has heating, so I’ve stuffed random packing materials into every possible cranny to stop the heat going into the roof-space and out of the windows. There are a lot of crannies, but there’s a heap of bubble wrap

I close doors to keep the heat in wherever possible. It feels good – mainly

Note to self: don’t close that bloody kitchen door again (there’s a very good reason why I’d never seen that door closed before and it took me over an hour to break in on Sunday morning)

I sit alone, having my coffee, lunch and evening meal at the recently unpacked and rather grand dining table in the grand – slightly derelict – courtyard. What else could I possibly need?

Well, wifi, as it happens

Because being able to access a neighbour’s wifi from the bedroom has allowed me to spend an evening researching the family of leather merchants who owned this house a hundred years ago

The father, Emile, was the mayor of the town when the first electricity turbine was installed in 1890. It would have been a very exciting era, and it makes perfect sense that he and/or his wife would have remodelled the house around that time

I found out that one of his sons helped found the town’s first ever rugby team. I’ve even seen a picture of him, cross-legged in front of his team mates

Sadly, I learned that this son died aged twenty eight in the war in 1914, and so did his older brother in 1918. Emile’s third son – another talented rugby player – was apparently also injured in the war and died prematurely. According to a local gentleman’s memoirs it was his widow who remained living here, and the ‘beautiful’ house was virtually abandoned after her death

We look through the panes of glass they looked out of, the shutters and doors have survived, the staircase and the tiled floors that they trod all remain

For some time, one of the simple terracotta tiles upstairs has interested me. It was so obviously different but I couldn’t move it and was afraid to damage it. Yesterday I tried again to lift it and this time the tile came away easily when I caught the corner just right, dislodging the loose dust that acts as grout and revealing that it was neatly wrapped in newspaperP1010055

Underneath it I found a small but perfect underfloor safe. All it held was a few scraps of newspaper, but I felt a real rush, because this had remained untouched for a very long time. The dirt and the newspaper had ensured that the tile sat soundly and was not easily found, perfect for hiding valuables. Only someone scrubbing this floor would have noticed itP1010057

P1010058So maybe housework isn’t all bad!

I have replaced the tile, leaving the newspaper undisturbed for now. I will try to date it later, but one of the items I noticed in the paper looks interesting …

I wonder what other secrets remain in this house

Am I Being Curated?

I’ll find a home for anything Art Deco

Baz has often said that he doesn’t want me to turn our home into a shrine to the 1930s. Obviously, my love of art deco could easily have transformed our modest 1930s UK bungalow into a beautiful museum (when we came here the only remaining 1930s feature was the fireplace), but I have curbed some of these tendencies out of respect for him

This hasn’t completely prevented me from de-blanding our house by installing reclaimed 1930s panelled doors throughout, a Lloyd Loom bed and Chinese black lacquered bedroom units. Or, for that matter, from adding the sunburst drinks cabinet and a 30s church pew

He knows that if he takes his eye off me I will sneak more in

But I admit that the green uranium ceiling and wall lights were a step too far. I was constantly terrified that someone would damage them (low ceiling, freakishly tall visitors, etc) so my tame sparky Ray, who absolutely hated them, took them down again after a few weeks, so that I could relax

I’ve been picking up bits and pieces of Art Deco since I was little. It was and remains my biggest style influence. I get a thrill when we drive past an original deco front door and sidelights in situ and I still covet my mum’s ex-neighbour’s sunburst gate!

I suppose the truth is that Baz curates me. He tries to remind me that I cannot give a place to everything. At least, not in this house

There remain some beautiful unspoilt examples of thirties houses. The one I knew best was Jack’s House. My grandparents bought their brand new house in Edgware in the thirties and our Uncle Jack lived in the same house until his death about ten years ago. I lived there with him for about a year in the late eighties and it was his house I went home to during that massive hurricane, after working the nightshift. Nothing had been changed in all the years. Nothing at all. And I loved it. When finally sold, the buyers planned to strip it, including the completely original and unfashionably tiny kitchen with its black and white tiles and purpose-built larder

This summer, friends invited us to their unspoilt 1930s house in Bounds Green. Weirdly I became anxious as we approached my old area of London and I nearly passed out. It was worth the trip. They had kept everything including the little kitchen, so it was almost exactly a mirror-image of Jack’s old house, and a flood of memories engulfed me as we sat in the front room eating cake (Jack rarely used his front room, but we would sit and have coffee and cake together on Friday mornings in the back room overlooking the garden, with his enormous speakers blaring out classical music)

Jack was a one-off. One day I’ll try to finish the post about him that I started writing two years ago!

If, like me, you are consumed by a lifelong love of art deco, perhaps – like me – you lie awake at nights worrying about what has been chucked into a skip that day

Thankfully, fellow blogger Art Deco Magpie dedicates his time to the essential business of documenting and photographing some wonderful deco buildings, providing an honest report of them, raising awareness and ensuring that they are immortalised in case of the unthinkable

His blog is full of streamline passion and is well worth a visit. I loved his post about the Piccadilly Line, featuring the fabulous stations I knew as a child growing up in Southgate

And when Baz captured this image on Saturday evening I knew I could find it a home

 

 

A Plank of Wood and a Glass of Wine

In some places this project would be considered therapy

I’m not really the mental psycho bitch that I am often portrayed as. For example, this weekend Baz came to France with me and helped me put skirting board around our tiny multi-angled bathroom, working around the cast iron bath, sink and loo already in situ. Despite these frustrating obstacles we worked well together, didn’t break anything and didn’t lose our cool in the afternoon heat. By the time we were cleaned up (Baz loved his first ever experiences of cast iron bathing luxury this weekend) and taking aperos we remained very relaxed and still on speaking terms

Always a good start to an evening

Through necessity, the bath is installed in a fairly small space and there is nowhere to put toiletries (the name ‘roll top bath’ sort of gives it away really)

A shelf on the wall next to the bath would look cramped, but my memory strayed back to childhood: we had a hideous broken plastic bath rack across the bath, as I remember

There are some vintage 1920s metal bath racks for sale as well as a few modern ones, but I felt that a metal rack could look very fussy in the small space. In fact, the designers of some of the modern ones have totally lost the plot, adding ugly random sticky-out bits to hold wine glasses, books, tea lights, as well as the necessary shampoos etc

Baz had some interesting ideas for add-ons but I cannot share these here

They’re a bit niche

I went into a very expensive bathroom showroom and said ‘I don’t suppose you get many people asking for bath racks, do you?’
It seems that my instinct was correct. He only had one silly rack which cost more than our entire bathroom

So I consulted my erudite friend, M. Google, who introduced me to the simple wooden racks – rather like chopping boards – that can be bought for not very much, according to M. le Goo

I decided that I would make my own, using a piece of old wood found in the house itself. I had visions of using a patinated oak floorboard, of course

There are none going begging, as far as I can see 🙂

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Before and after some graft

But last night after the plumbers had left I found this unpromising shelf, recently ripped from a (probably late 1800s) walk-in bedroom cupboard to make space for a water heater. I removed a few hooks and nails from the underside, cut a piece off and then scrubbed it with steel wool and white spirit. As you can see, the wood came up nicely and I even left the original uneven unsawn edge. I added toilet seat dampers to protect the bath enamel and to hold the shelf in place, then treated it with an oil-based waterproof finish. Simplicity itself

I could have added a wineglass holder, but no-one tells this psycho bitch where to put her wine glass I don’t think I need one

It could almost double up as a cheese board!

If IKEA had made it, it would be called ‘BJÖRD’ or ‘BÊAM’

But they didn’t make it, did they?

Because it belongs to this house, a token minimalist item. And it cost nothing

The bath will be an even greater pleasure this evening, I am sure, now that I can enjoy a glass of red wine and listen to a bit of Lana Del Ray…

Marriage and Serial Monogamy

‘We’re always away when he gets married’

Baz left for his annual golf trip yesterday. We shared a cab to Slough Station, and along the way we reflected on, among other things, marriage

‘We’re always away when he gets married’ I said. A good friend has married several times, but he has very high expectations of a partner. We have failed so far to attend his weddings. ‘Don’t worry’ said Baz ‘There’s always the next one’

We are lucky to have just enjoyed our 19th wedding anniversary. C unashamedly used her cousin’s ID card at Waitrose to pick up a celebratory bottle of Cremant de Limoux(!), and Baz and I had a gorgeous meal in The Fox and Hounds at Bishopsgate. Our first ever meal there together was a Sunday lunchtime, we hadn’t booked and the restaurant was so full that we had to sit at an outside table. I was chilly in my halter-neck, and the owner at the time – a lovely man with a terrible wig – immediately whipped off his enormous cardigan and draped it over my shoulders

That was 22 years ago and we’d been together just a few days. Back then, we were love’s young dream. I remember the day so clearly

While Baz is gone, there’s plenty of stuff to do in the garden, and things to fiddle with in the shed and the garage, though robin chicks are chirping in the old wardrobe in the garage, so paint stripping has to stop. Work on the aluminium flying saucers will have to wait until the nest is empty

The first of the shades (above right) is ready and Baz asked if I will be taking it with me to France. He thinks that I should tilt it at a jaunty angle and tell Ryanair that it’s a hat