Sunday, 19 September 2010

Paint the blues away

After visiting Paris and touring northern Scotland with friends for a few days, we had just a few precious days at home, so I thought I would get a little bit active on some projects that have been in the wings for a while: (1) paint the rocking chair that my good friend R made for me for my 30th birthday, (2) paint the fugly 1980's varnished coffee table that acts as our bedside table, and (3) grow a herb garden on the window sil.

First up, the rocking chair. It was made from jigsaw cut particle board, which is quite fitting, because it is assembled jigsaw-style:
I love this chair even though it's not something I would have typically chosen myself, but I love the frivolity of all those cutouts and its come-hither curves.  But to avoid going completely shabby chic, the colour choice was critical, so I thought I would use it as a tester for the colour that we may one day paint the cast iron girder holding up the ceiling in the living room.  

I love all kinds of green, but don't think this will work too well on the girder.  I am thinking maybe glossy black (um, not suitable for the chair really). I hate all shades of blue in general but love it when they turn an industrial grey. Anyway, it all came down to an impulse purchase based on the availability of the small tester pots in Homebase, so we ended up with something in the middle of green and blue... a bluey teal I guess... Here is the work in progress; it was somewhat of an intellectual challenge getting all these pieces to fit within the bounds of a folded double bed sheet.  Sorry for the messy background.
And the final product.  I ended up sanding back and doing another coat on the most visible surfaces.  Mental note to paint the edges first next time, before the flat surfaces - it was impossible to keep even the teensy brush under control, and off the good sides while applying enough paint - those edges were thirsty little devils. 


Anyway, now that she's all painted and pretty, its time to pull her apart and store her for a rainy day (or a day when we have a few extra visitors), because with the new kids in town there isn't as much space abounding.

Project number 2 was the hand-me-down coffee table which serves as my bedside table, undergoing a transformation from wobbly-legged, polystained ugliness to matt black gorgeousness (still wobbly-legged unfortunately).

And at this point you say, what's the difference again? And I say, you're right. Those photos look identical (apart from the fact that I added a Franz Marc print and a small ceramic pot I bought in Scotland). But in person there is a visually perceptible and tactile difference. Trust me.

Project 3 - indoor gardening.  These pots looked cute on purchase, but GG has had to make them usable by drilling holes in the bottom of them:

I'm still reeling from the fact that I bought a boxed set of pots WITH drip tray, and the pots don't have any drainage holes in them.  Admittedly they cost £3.99 a set, but what were they thinking!? I'm no fan of form without function.

Look at that windowsil. Yuk. Must paint this place one day.  After the bathroom extension. And the kitchen remodel. 

And here they are, at the ready for my culinary whim to take hold. Yeah right.

So now we have coriander, sage, parsley, red chilli and onion grass (I think).  No basil or oregano unfortunately. We were once again at the mercy of availability in the Homebase garden department. Still one last pot to fill - but I'm reluctant to go back for more until we've kept these alive for at least a month... little Coriander is already in ICU.  Will keep you posted on her progress.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Pods, pods, pods

Ah, I can't sleep because I'm thinking about pods.  My latest idea in the renovation sweepstakes is to knock down every wall in the flat (none of which are load bearing since its inside an old warehouse) and create a bedroom/bathroom/kitchen pod. A room-within-a-room.  

Like this, designed by Jade Jagger for the renovation of 16W 19th st in NYC (but without the chav shiny outer skin):
Photo courtesy of
Now, before we go too far, this idea is as unachievable as it is awesome.  Contrary to what I first thought, there are no off the shelf pods on the market; it would need to be designed from scratch, and then built by more reliable tradesmen than I'm willing to bet we can afford. 
I know I haven't shared with you our actual renovation plans yet, and there is a good chance you'll now be disappointed when you see them, but there will hopefully still be some interesting design features in there, and in all likelihood it will hold more appeal for the infinitely conservative London buyer and/or buy-to-let market when we go to sell... And so as long as we make our money on this place, one day I'll have a pod. Just maybe not here.

For instance, this little puppy cost 200,000 Euro, and was designed by Graft (check out their website, it is uber-cool):
Photos courtesy of
I love the wood panelling and the futuristic shapes.  

Here is another I found yesterday, although its a bit smaller and includes bathroom and storage only:
Photos courtesy of

I then discovered a company called Atelier that makes outdoor rooms that you can put in your backyard. I contacted them to see if they would be interested in designing a similar room for indoor but alas they appear to have crossed over from innovation to commercialism, such that their 'bespoke' service only involves putting together the same components in different combinations.  They look pretty cool though, and if one day I have a backyard and am in need of extra space, these are the guys I'll call.

I think I'd like to design it myself anyway.  Well frankly I've already designed it in my head, but the tools are the main problem - I need a better free 3D design programme - any recommendations? I've been using SweetHome3D which is super easy to use, but has 3 major drawbacks: (1) in 2D it shows a picture of the furniture within the outline, not the outline of the furniture item itself which looks incomprehensibly stupid, (2) the range of decorating options is so severely limited that even when I create the perfect layout the resulting 3D vision is... mediocre, and (3) its a stupid name and I just don't think I can be taken seriously using it.  But I'm just too cheap to buy good 3D software with an appropriately polished brand and logo, and I'm not talented enough to use Google Sketchup, although I feel comforted that there is significant time and effort involved in creating a good sketchup after reading Morgan's post about it on The Brick House.  And eventually I'd like to be able to draw something half as good as this

In my dreams I can open up both sides of my bedroom with these great big beautiful barn doors and have a studio for day, and a cosy-walled-up-sound-proofed-sleep-haven/theatre room by night.  Ah sound proofing. So we don't have to listen to the 20yo raver upstairs having parties that start at 11pm, finish at 2am and start again at 6am.  Or clomping around on her wooden floors in her stiletto heels all day. Back and forth. Back and forth.  

Here is a quick mock up on SweetHome. The kitchen moves out of the main living area down the side to become a galley kitchen. That green thing is a bed.

I've not figured out a way to deal with the fact that the kitchen is too long for this wall, or exactly where I would build in the wardrobes yet, but this is the basic concept. Key criteria: can walk around all sides, has big sliding doors, doesn't make the main room feel too small, and is do-able for the same price as a normal reno. Hah.

Anyway, back to reality. I think it will be standard bathroom and kitchen remodel here at ec1v.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Kai Kristiansen chairs

As promised, the new kids have arrived. GG had promised a pair of armchairs in the style of Grete Jalke's lovely design from 1950's for my birthday (the finch print was a lovely surprise on the day since these didn't arrive in time).  Similar styles were also on the radar by Finn Juhl, Ole Wanscher and Hans Wegner.

We've been hunting since about May, but finding a reasonably priced pair within our limited budget has proved difficult. We could only find either really great single chairs, or cheaper looking English versions which normally have exposed screws rather than proper wood joins, and generally look a bit clunky. However they are also usually priced a lot lower, and its been tempting as the weeks go by to cop out and get a pair - luckily we were outbid a few weeks ago on such a set, as holding out has proved more than worthwhile... 

Just before heading to Paris we bid for and won 2 armchairs designed by Kai Kristiansen for Magnus Olesen, model #121 from about 1955.  Kai was born in 1929, thereby making him 4 years younger than me when he designed them.  He is probably more famous for these dining chairs, which out of interest the Japanese seem to love, as a large number of sites that turn up Kai's furniture for sale are in Japan.
They arrived yesterday morning, rather annoyingly packed in pieces of broken up polystyrene packing material, sending small white bubbles all over the room which took forever to sweep up, and will likely take thousands of years to degrade in landfill. Yippee.  But the chairs were well within budget and even better than described, although that wouldn't be hard since they came from the German eBay site and the whole description was in German.

Hmmm, looks like its time to get a real planter pot for the tree we inherited from the prior rental tennants.  I could do with an extra saucepan.

GG's not sure about their location just yet - he prefers the space to be completely open, without defining 'living room' from 'dining room' etc.  I like the definition. In fact I'm going to define it further with a rug and coffee table. You'll know when you're in my living room then, GG.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Blog friends

At least, that's what if feels like when you've been reading the same blogs for a while!  So today, I'm going to start putting together a list of favourite reads so you can enjoy them too...

...Including that of my lovely friend Louise, whom I met at university oh, about 10 years ago. Yikes.  Louise is now living in Montreal, and even though we don't see each other that often these days, its surprising how quickly you can reconnect over a shared love of food and other life essentials!  Her blog two years in Quebec talks of all things Quebecois, Australian and the meeting of the two. 

Also on my blogroll you'll find the usual iconic suspects representing the design and style community - the ladies at Remodelista, Anna at Door Sixteen, Morgan at The Brick House etc; these are my regular reads, but I'll add others over the next few weeks.


The Fleas

We recently spent a couple of days in Paris, and I had been very much looking forward to searching out a few bargains at the markets in Porte de Clignancourt.  Officially called Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, but more commonly referred to as Les Puces, or 'the fleas'. 

It was our first stop (after dropping bags off).  We traipsed through the Parisian ghetto in the pelting rain, got ripped on a street side umbrella purchase (15euro, which we then accidentally left in a cafe a couple of days later) to reach the market, then squelched through endless alleys of  imitation american clothes to get to the antiques section... Unfortunately August is the time when many Parisiens go on holidays (probably to escape the tourists), and so this is what we found:
Oh how my heart broke.  Only about 10% of the stalls were open, and they were mostly full of baroque style antiques. I had half expected it, but it was still a major downer. I had dreamed of buying 2 or maybe 3 lamp shades for above our dining table, since everything in London is a complete and utter rip off.  Case in point:
This guy is retailing for £235 here.  I'm still kicking myself for not buying a few of the ones I saw for about 40euro in  a Berlin flea market.  And then selling them on ebay over here.  I could have bought so many beautiful things with my squillions of profit.  Next trip will definitely be to Berlin to go thrifting, that place is a goldmine.

In the end I came home with just these, dated 1905.  Unfortunately they all seemed to be from the same collection, somewhere near Chambon-sur-Lac, so no early images of Paris, but I love the handwriting.  These days I can pretty much only type.  Not sure how I'm going to frame them yet.

The next day, while GG lay at home in bed one day with Paris-belly, I went for a shopping trip, stopping for lunch at the legendary Les Deux Magots, home of the existentialists - its a shame GG wasn't there to soak up the atmosphere of his predecessors.  

Next stop was Le Bon Marche.  Oh the homewares. The homewares!  I managed to restrain myself (mainly due to transportation issues), and came home with just this one small but perfectly formed tea cup to add to my collection:
I'm sure most French people would argue that this cup was intended for coffee, but let me tell you, tea never tasted so good.