Yours is the Earth – making changes to reduce waste

Arlo is absolutely obsessed with all things relating to the natural world. He could name a dozen animals before he could recognise colours and he continually surprises us now with amazing nature facts. Just yesterday on our way to the Safari Park he told me that ants were one of the strongest animals – I had to use google to fact check and he was right. Leaf cutter ants can carry up to fifty times their own body weight and so they are indeed one of the strongest animals in the world.

It’s little surprise therefore that Arlo is showing an interest in the environment at such a young age. His nursery already covers topics such as recycling, and cutting down plastic waste to save the worlds oceans. He is very conscious about such matters and when we are out and about he often notices “trash” and tells me all about how naughty it is to see discarded coffee cups, he is very careful about using the right bins and we love that so many tourist attractions now offer recycling and waste bins to patrons. Every time he points something out like this it makes me second guess my own actions. I’m a creature of habit but making an effort to change.

I know that we can’t change all that’s wrong in the world as individuals, but with Arlo’s lead I’ve started paying attention to the little things we can do to reduce the amount of waste we generate which in turn goes to having a small impact on the environment around us. One of the first switches we made was to re-useable water bottles. We are always out and about, and switching to a water bottle which we top up from home has stopped us from buying countless drinks, it also saves us money and my top tip to parents is to freeze a half full bottle on its side overnight, top up with fresh water and you’ll have a lovely cool drink to quench your thirst.

We now have a recycling bin and a normal waste bin which are collected weekly and I like to try and challenge myself to make sure that there’s as little as possible in the household waste bin. Of course we already keep all of our cardboard and all sorts of bits and bobs to use in our craft projects, even making up toys for our parrot. I was however dismayed to notice just how much rubbish is generated from the packaging of products which we buy.

Sam loved his home made egg box foraging toy which we filled with nuts and treats for him to find.

We have made lots of changes to the way we buy food this last year, choosing loose fruit and veg which isn’t packed in plastic and also visiting a local zero waste initiative to buy dry foods such as pasta and use our own reusable containers to bring it home. It’s great to see brands committing to helping consumers by eliminating plastic waste from production and manufacturing which in turn has a greater impact on the world.

Brands such as Nereus are taking on the challenge and partnering with a fabulous organisation called Plastic Bank – a Canadian organisation who are experts in their field. They have officially prevented 1 billion bottles of ocean plastic, by concentrating on Recycling and coming up with innovative and enterprising solutions to repurpose plastic which in turn has a direct impact on the communities in which they work. Plastic Bank’s Social Plastic® ecosystems result in improved access to employment, education, services, and technology for developing communities across the globe.

Once we cut down our waste at home drastically through our food packaging, it was also apparent just how many other ways we could make changes. We have switched to using more environmentally focused brands. It’s a big part of our decision making when it comes to being consumers, our washing tablets now come as a monthly subscription in cardboard packaging and some of our cleaning products now have reusable bottles which are topped up with sachets rather than utilising the dreaded single use plastic. I find myself browsing the environmental policies of all brands I’m interested in.

I even turned our attention to our toothbrushes last year and we made a switch to bamboo brushes which eliminates needless waste as they have to be discarded every three months. These are such small changes but goodness knows how many plastic toothbrushes are in landfill right now. I’ve gone through at least a hundred in my lifetime, but we all have to start somewhere.

Next time you’re putting the bins out take a look and see if there’s anything you could change, not just for yourself but for those who will inherit the world we leave behind.

The kitchen in the house that chaos built

The kitchen has taken me a long time to get right. What I thought I wanted was in fact totally wrong for this space and the available light. Nine months after I first began testing paint samples on the wall I finally have a space I’m happy with.

When the big flooring project was taking place last autumn I have to admit that even though I had a visualisation, I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to a finished stage and I couldn’t even bear to unbox my crockery collections and think about adding finishing touches. I’ve always loved retro chequerboard floors and so I wasn’t willing to compromise on this at all. When I found my tiles on sale for £4 a pack I bought them and all the materials turning my kitchen in to a building site for a couple of weeks

There was nothing wrong with the kitchen I had in the first place, I always think these rooms should be functional more than stylish but at the same time the kitchen is the hub of our home and especially this last year I have spent so much time at home baking to while away the hours and now I’m looking forwards to hosting friends and family with my new found culinary skills. I started off last year thinking that I wanted to have the exact same kitchen as Monica from Friends. A warm and friendly space full of all sorts of random things.

I painted the cupboards blue with a matching cream accent and I loved it over the summer – but during winter this colour just made the space feel smaller. The blue paint seemed to absorb all of the colour. You can see I already began testing out samples on the little drawers as I hadn’t made my mind up. I did however love that the sage green matched my collection of Beryl Ware. Another dream was to have a wooden worktop but as I’m on a shoe string budget I opted for DC fix before committing to such a big change and I’m so pleased with the effect of the vinyl that I am currently saving up to replace the entire kitchen and get real wood to complete the look.

I finally settled on sage green for the cupboards and then used these adhesive stickers to give my kitchen tiles a makeover. I’ve done a complete U turn from my original plan but this works in the space. The food I cook most often has inspired this more Mediterranean vibe, and all of the bits I started unpacking just seem to match – my copper saucepans which I bought from a flea market and my collection of Le Creuset I’ve been hoarding for years. It’s been a light and airy space all through winter and now that the spring sunshine has begun to stream through it is such a bright space to be in.

The final piece of furniture to complete the kitchen was found in a skip of all places. A perfectly sized drop leaf table with barley twist legs. I’ve sanded down the top leaving the exposed natural wood and painted the legs to compliment the kitchen cupboards. The opposite end of my kitchen is “my happy place” – I’ve used all the different sample pots of colours on my chairs because I couldn’t make my mind up and some how it just works.

Like most kitchens in family homes – finishing touches are fresh flowers and children’s art work. It’s not perfect but it’s my new favourite place in the house that chaos built.

How to optimise your Home Storage

More people are renting storage containers now than ever before.  There’s a problem with letting go of things or downsize in living to find something affordable that has many people aching for more room.  Instead of building a shed on your property, or looking at St. Albert real estate, here are the top ways to optimize your home storage.

Take Care of Clutter

It would help if you always took when handling clutter to go through it and see what you need to keep and get rid of.  You can do this room by room or based on what areas are the most cluttered.  Go through each item, decide if it’s something you need to use within the next year or if it’s something that means a lot to you.  If neither is true, then the next decision is to donate, sell, or throw away the items you don’t want.

Be firm with yourself, and don’t keep things on the off chance that you might use them ten years from now, or just because it was a gift from someone despite you not liking it.  Instead, be honest and think about if you’d rather have it or the lack of clutter.

Organize Room By Room

Although it may be tempting to try and shove everything you don’t need into one storage area, this is a mistake that can leave you with more things than you need.  Instead, organize room by room and keep things stored in areas where they’d be of use.

For example, if you have a ton of extra blankets, instead of shoving them into a space in your home office, use a vacuum sealer to take excess air and store them in each bedroom.

This ensures that you always know where everything is, and also that once you fill that space, you’ll know you can’t buy more for it.  You can also use this method to be able to take organizing slowly and pace it out.

Consider Vertical Storage

Your storage doesn’t have to be closeted, under beds, or in your attic: eventually, you’ll run out of space, and you’ll also lose track of where you’ve put your belongings.  Instead of losing things, organize so that you can spot something when you need them.

If you need to store things for a craft room, consider setting up a pegboard and hanging your belongings so that you can spot them as you need them.  This plan can also work in spaces like your garage!  Hanging up bicycles and tools, setting items in places where you can reach them, and planning it out can even be aesthetically pleasing.  Although it’s no high-art, you can design your storage to look like the decor.

Every home is different, and you should consider what setup is best for your living situation.  If you find that you’re entirely out of space, it might be that you’ve outgrown your current home!  It’s not cheap to buy a new house, but it’s a sign you should start saving up for one.

Home is where the heart (and office) is.

The last twelve months has been a time of upheavals for everyone.

We’ve all had time to reassess our priorities and for many of us it’s not likely that we’ll be going “back to normal” once lockdown finally ends. Working from home made me really value my living space and I decided back last spring when I realised that the lockdown wasn’t going to last just a few weeks that I was going to renovate my entire home. Hence the “house that chaos built” project commenced in to being.

Pre lockdown I didn’t spend too much time at home at all. I was out working full time Monday to Friday, driving up and down the country commuting for business meant that I wouldn’t even be at home for breakfast and to see the sun come. I would end up socialising with friends in restaurants when I had time, and then the weekends were always dedicated to having adventures with Arlo.

Suddenly I began to reassess our space and decide to make some changes. One of the first things I did was to swap all of the bedrooms around. As fun as it seemed to be able to work from my sofa, it didn’t help with productivity and I found it hard to switch off in the evenings. Then I also made sure to turn my living spaces in to relaxing environments for both myself and Arlo to enjoy.

I wanted to make sure that as I was working from home that I allocated the space accordingly and so I turned the spare bedroom in to a home office for myself. This was important, I needed to have a specific space so that work didn’t encroach on my home life. A place for the laptop to remain and a space which I could shut the door on and forget about to enjoy some down time in the evenings.

For many the lines became blurred and the work life balance was out of kilter, people balancing childcare were squeezing in emails between meals and the bedtime routine and I felt permanently attached to my tech. I found myself checking work emails in bed and flicking through sales reports instead of watching a movie. When I realised that many companies were doing away with their offices permanently I knew I was doing the right thing by allocating a home office room. If anything, I needed to have a better background for when I used zoom.

I also wanted to change my kitchen and reception rooms – reconsidering my living space entirely. I was so used to a lifestyle full of social gatherings which revolved around meeting friends for meals in restaurants that transitioning to being at home all of the time was a major change. I decided to make the most of lockdown and plunged myself in to learning new recipes and spent a lot more time in the kitchen than what I was used to, and so of course this space ended up having a makeover as a priority. I found my love for DIY during lockdown and there’s not a single space in my home which hasn’t been changed in one way or another.

I was lucky enough to have the space I needed and so I’ve been choosing new paint colours and repurposing furniture. Some friends have used the last year to make some enormous changes to their homes. Adding an extra room through a loft or garage conversion has been the approach taken for some to increase the living space. For this type of major change theres obviously huge costs involved and so it’s useful to be able to use a remortgage calculator to help look at the figures and work out affordability to make these projects spring in to life.

Now we know that working from home isn’t going to disappear I’m glad I made changes to my home, and feel lucky enough to have had a spare bedroom. My home is a place I’m happy to spend most of my time in. I’m looking forward to entertaining friends from home and of summer evenings with barbecues and watching my son play in the garden as the sun sets. In fact the joy I have experienced from renovations has inspired and motivated me to look at a career changes for myself.

For many friends the need to have separate working/living environments and a more comfortable living space has been the driving force for a decision to relocate.

For so long the decisions about home location have been based upon the commute and distance to transport links. Now that working from home is a viable solution for the majority of the working week, friends have been able to look for larger family homes – happy with being further away from the office, commuting only for a couple of days a week in exchange for an extra bedroom, a larger garden and a larger space for dining and entertaining away from the main commuter belt suburbs. Being able to work from home has provided many people the opportunity to find larger family homes outside of the often over priced popular commuter areas.

To buy or not to buy is the main question.

With so much uncertainty the property market has been interesting and making huge decisions about relocating when the job market is also unstable has been a real challenge. Renting for many seems like a simpler option with less commitment when there’s so much upheaval. There’s so many things to factor in to choosing a home.

“When the chancellor announced the changes to stamp duty thresholds it spurred many people in to making life changing decisions.

Assessing affordability is the main concern for anyone planning to relocate and it’s difficult to know where to begin when it comes to making such important decisions especially now when you have to factor in unanticipated personal circumstances, especially if you’re a first time buyer and used to paying rent.

Home is most certainly where the heart is, but it’s also where the office is and where pretty much everything else is for the foreseeable future so it’s now more than ever important to make the right choices and It’s great to have a wealth of information accessible via online resources to help make important decisions.

The house that chaos built

This blog post contains sponsored links

If you follow my social media channels you may have noticed that I have been slowly renovating the house from top to bottom. There’s something happening in every room and I constantly change my mind when it comes to colours and so there’s always something new going on. I’m going to start writing about my home because I get asked a lot of questions about the various projects going on. I try and keep my inspirations organised with a multitude of Pinterest boards so you can check that out to see how my eclectic tastes evolve.

Right now my main challenge is getting the things I imagine working in my home organised on a very tight budget. I’m a huge fan of a bargain – from charity shop purchases and Facebook market place – not to mention skip diving….. yes I have jumped in a skip to rescue things more than once – including my fireplace mirror. Not only do I feel great about the money I’m saving but the phrase “one mans trash is another mans treasure” is most certainly true. Rescuing unloved items from ending up in landfill and making them in to something beautiful is my new favourite pastime. This mirror just needed a little bit of glue to stick it back together.

This has become even more of a challenge and passion to me now that lockdown has meant that we can’t go out for “non essentials” – I’ve never spent so much time at home. At first I felt frustrated and trapped inside four walls, but making improvements not only keeps me busy but also makes the space a lot more enjoyable to inhabit, and this is so important for my mental health. I already have a few huge renovation projects in mind for the spring – as soon as the warm weather comes along I can begin to paint outdoors, and when the flowers start to bloom that’s when I get my colour inspiration. My mirror originally had a lick of bright pink paint which delighted me, and you can still see this through the gold leaf in place now which was leftover from a Christmas craft and just had to be used up.

The latest space to get my teeth in to is the front room – it’s a lovely sized room and has always been a blank space, used as a craft/play room full of primary colours but now Arlo is getting older we have outgrown some of the more garish and space stealing toys – I want to make this room a cosy little snug. This is the room I’m going to retreat to when he has his friends come and visit now he’s about to start school – I can already imagine teenage boys taking over the main lounge with smelly feet and computer games so this space is going to be my grown up room.

We have also had quite a few bigger and more projects take place recently around the house Some of the windows and doors have been replaced for practical reasons. I’d love to have had traditional sash windows just like these but we had to stay in-keeping with the style of our home. Having double glazed windows throughout is important to me, as they help keep the heat in, which first of all reduces the energy bills which is a great long term investment and in turn also reduces your carbon footprint. We’ve had them all replaced over the last few years and I’m very pleased with our current energy bills. Check out the govt advice here

In the morning the light streams through the windows in my front room and it’s a sun trap. The cats have already claimed their spots on the sofa and slowly though out the day they relocate to make sure they remain in the patches of sun. During the evening I can close the curtains and listen to the radio whilst curling up with a book in this cosy corner.

We also recently had our doors upgraded. A glass panel at the front had been damaged and required replacing, and our back door was beyond repair too. A new entrance door to your home can really transform the look of your house, the new panel of glass beside my front door brings in natural light to the hallway which is another space on my list to begin decorating…. beginning with a bright purple wall under the stairs. These doors are also durable, energy efficient and virtually maintenance free – this makes me feel safe and secure in the evenings so that I can relax in peace and come up with more project ideas.

Right now I feel as though I’m going to move the grandfather clock in to my front room and change this under the stairs space entirely. Follow my home page on Instagram to see how things evolve. As always if you have any questions please get in touch,

Lavania

My fireplace makeover with vinyl tiles

(items in this blog were provided for the purposes of review)

The main focal point of my living room has always been my fireplace. There is an old chimney breast behind it which is closed off so this is now a wooden decorative mantle with an electric fire. I’ve changed my mind about what I wanted to do in this space multiple times, as it’s so hard to make a decision when nothing in the room “matches” but I’m finally happy.

SFirst things first I painted the entire unit green – the shade is “wise old sage” from the Frenchic range. I had a sample pot I was originally going to use for something else but one afternoon I just decided to go for it but I felt it was just too plain. I do love this colour and so I ended up painting my kitchen cupboards – but that’s another story.

I love colour so propped up a painting behind the fire place but this didn’t really work, as we headed towards autumn the colours were too vibrant and I eventually took this down before I dressed the fireplace for Christmas. I finally replaced the electric fire in the Black Friday sales with a £50 bargain find from B&Q. It was around this time I also gilded the mirror.

So Christmas came and went, during December I just loved the way this looked – but as I took down the decorations in January I decided to re-think this space again. After our experience with the kitchen floor tiles being so chaotic and messy I thought that my dream of a tiled fireplace was out of the question but I managed to find an alternative with vinyl. Yes that’s right – my new fireplace tiles are stuck on!

I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of this idea before – I covered the kitchen work tops in vinyl and I run a small business making vinyl cut designs so it seemed like the obvious answer – I measured up the fireplace and the base board and ordered enough to cover it with a bit extra for pattern matching, cutting in and overlaps. This is important because when you’re cutting around corners you do need extra to work with. My vinyl arrived in a huge tube delivered by courier – rolled up tightly and packed to protect it – with extra tissue at each end which was a clever touch to prevent crumples.

The back of the surround was easy to plan as it’s a simple rectangle with square corners and straight edges. I unrolled the vinyl and cut it to size, surprised with the thickness and overall quality as previous brands I’ve used have been extremely thin. To prepare the surface I used an anti bac spray to clean and then thoroughly dried it – then it’s simply a case of applying the vinyl as if it’s a sticker. I used a plastic bank card to smooth it down.

The painted surface I was applying the vinyl to showed the texture of the wood grain, but this wasn’t at all visible through the vinyl because it’s thicker than most I’ve experienced before – the adhesive is strong but not impossible to manipulate, I had to adjust and reposition it a couple of times to ensure it was straight and this didn’t cause me any challenges, smoothing nicely in to place with very few air bubbles.

I used a ruler and a blade to trim the excess from the bottom (I’ve re applied these off cuts to the backing paper to save for a rainy day project). The base board required a little bit more planning because firstly I wanted to match up the pattern and secondly I had some awkward moulding to cut around. This is where it’s handy to order a little extra than you need for your project.

Cutting in can appear like a challenge at first – you can practice with paper and make a template if you aren’t sure. I stuck down the vinyl from the front of the base board exactly as I wanted it to lay and then I trimmed small sections off with vertical lines marked using a pencil and ruler and cutting in to the vinyl with my scalpel – then smoothing these in to the moulding with my plastic card and trimming the excess away neatly along the horizontal with a scalpel.

Once it was all in place I stood back to admire my handiwork – the entire process took twenty minutes and that’s with me pausing to take pictures throughout for this blog. The best thing about this vinyl is that it doesn’t damage the surface it’s applied to, so if I change my mind I can replace it – and re-use the vinyl elsewhere.

The overall finish and appearance is of high quality, there’s no pixelation or image distortion and as such it gives the appearance of ceramic tiles and this is exactly what I was looking for. I’ve got all sorts of projects in mind for the rest of my house and now I’ve got my eyes on some of the more eclectic prints from the range – Dalmatian print next I think – check out the complete Restowrap vinyl range from http://wallpapermural.com

My secret beauty corner

(Some items featured in this blog post were gifted for the purpose of review)

The beginning of a renovation project idea

This cupboard has previously been used for storage in the master bedroom, it sits above the stairs which run centrally through the house, and it’s been handy – this is the place where Christmas presents are hidden. There’s a clothes rail built in just below a shelf which had been put in by the previous tenants but to be honest I couldn’t tell you what else was here before, and Arlo’s never been interested in it.

So one night last summer after Arlo used my favourite “ruby woo” lipstick to make himself a Bowie – esque streak on his face and had destroyed an eye shadow palette. I decided to stash all my make up in the cupboard up on the shelf and he soon forgot about it all, and I decided then that I could use this secret hiding place to my advantage.

The before picture

I have all sorts of pintrest boards – some of which are pure fantasy, I had a scroll through and figured that this was my one chance to paint something bright pink…. I was going to attack the living room with the colour I chose for this space and had the sample pot of paint ready to go and so I got up out of bed in the middle of the night, emptied the cupboard and attacked the back wall with vigour. The colour is called posh purple and it’s from the Valspar range at B&Q and I had used it previously to upcycle a mirror frame.

Feature wallpaper

I immediately loved how the pink was such a surprise when you opened the door, and I kept moving around my bedroom and looking at it from different angles. From here the idea evolved and I thought I had better plan it properly. I knew the exact kind of style I was going for and found a wallpaper pattern to match from World of Wallpaper – I wanted something with a strong pattern which included pink and the birds caught my eye as I was scrolling through the website. I’d never hung wallpaper before but that wasn’t going to stop me. I managed to get this done in an afternoon when Arlo was at nursery.

I had pulled out the high shelf and touched up the edges with a contrasting shade – Steel Teal from the Frenchic Alfresco range – I’ve done my radiator cover and bedside tables in this shade of blue so there are some elements of the main bedrooms interior design incorporated.

At this point in I hadn’t thought at all about a use for this space other than to look nice when I opened the door but then I found a beautiful piece of furniture on Facebook market place. I regularly scroll through looking for bargains I can paint and upcycle – but this piece was perfect just the way it is and so this is not another project.

Vintage furniture finds

It’s a vintage bureau / desk with a lockable lid and two drawers – inside the drop leaf lid there are lots of little drawers and a leather desk surface – this was just what I needed – the dark wood needed no upcycling and the measurements were spot on, as if this piece was made to fit the space – but before I could settle this in to the space I used an off cut of carpet from Arlos new bedroom, which was a close enough match to cover the floor (I might come back to this area with some funky vinyl at some stage).

So then once I stashed all of my make up away and locked the bureau it was just a case of adding some finishing touches. It’s a dark cupboard which is going to be shut most of the time but every time I open the door I want to feel happy and greeted by the explosion of colour. I got a fake plant from Ikea, and some little remote controlled spotlights in home bargains before I began rummaging around my storage boxes to set up my earring display. I had a little ring dish custom made by Little Betty Designs to match the wallpaper and a velour cushion in just the right shade of pink was purchased from Aldi’s middle aisle world of wonders.

Adding finishing touches

The whole time I was decorating I used a wooden chair as a step ladder of sorts – this itself is another Facebook find and an up cycling project waiting to happen and so it just wouldn’t do, the one thing I’ve been struggling to find is the right chair for this space. I needed something which would “match” – which is a challenge when it’s such a clashing style.

Lakeland Furniture was the answer to all my problems. I finally found the vanity chair of my dreams on their website – this green velvet chair has the stitched design on the back of the seat which gives the luxurious effect I’d been searching for. It’s reminiscent of a chesterfield sofa and corresponds well with the style and colour of the bureau. The colour also compliments the wallpaper and so it was an extremely lucky find.

The best thing about the selection of chairs in offer is the variety of different leg styles and colours you can choose to go with the seat. I opted for a gold metal finish in the elegant design which gives the chair that modern touch which suits my style. The green just seems to pop.

There we have it, all of my make up and jewellery now has its own little dedicated space, safe from little hands. If I need to add a little bolt to the door at a later stage that’s an easy enough job – I’ve found that instead of wearing the same earrings every day I have been enjoying browsing my collection and picking out a new set. I’ve also been putting in the effort with make up, from lockdown part two I’ve been challenging myself to play with new colours and looks.

There’s still a lot of DIY going on around the house but with the non-essential shops being closed I’ve been unable to finish anything, but now I am feeling inspired to make a start on those dining chairs. I’ll be setting up a dedicated space on my blog for all of my DIY projects shortly.