I realise I keep banging on about it, but Husband and I recently moved into our first house. Making the jump from renting to buying has meant that we’ve become merrily free to slap paint on things, choose our own curtains, and drill as many holes in the walls as our hearts desire.
In this post I will take you through a few projects we’ve completed to turn the house into a building that feels like ours rather than a collection of rooms we’re waiting to be removed from at short notice.
Disclaimer: We are not DIY experts. We are millennials with an internet connection. Everything I describe below could be utter nonsense!
For the first couple of weeks in the house our dog, Amber, was rather fixated on the patio doors (French windows? I honestly don’t know what I call these glass and plastic rectangles with hinges. Feel free to let me know what you call them in the comments below). She seemed to think the garden was haunted and nasty creatures dwelled in the darkness on the other side of the glass during the night.
I had considered making some curtains for this room but we decided to buy some ready-made instead so we could get them in place quicker and soothe Amber’s confused little brain. We spent a lot of time in Dunelm (yes, we’re those people now) comparing shades of yellow and settled on Vermont Mustard.
I would like to be the person who gets to name colours. It seems like a fun job.
They were a bit too long so I took them up by a few inches after refreshing my memory of how to sew mitred corners. We congratulated ourselves on a colour well chosen and Amber slept a little more soundly now the monsters were hidden from view.
I did manage to make the curtains in our bedroom. The fabric came in a job lot from
Freecycle and I avoided buying curtain tape or big eyelets by making these tabs for hanging the curtains. So material wise, these curtain were free!
These are the first curtains that I have ever made from scratch. A professional curtain maker would probably be ashamed of my efforts but I’m pretty pleased with the results. The selvedge of the fabric shows a bit when you pull them closed and I hemmed them on the machine rather than doing it by hand to avoid a row of stitching across the bottom.
But they keep the light out and stop the neighbours seeing me looking bedraggled in the morning. What more do you need from curtains?
Husband gets all the credit for making this chunky pine table beautiful again.
We got it from Emmaus charity furniture shop for £70. I could have spent all day in that shop. They had a great selection of furniture, crockery, kitchen utensils, soft furnishings, and clothes. They have several locations across the country so if you’re looking for second-hand household stuff I would highly recommend them.
The table was a giant splintery hazard when it arrived at our house so Husband spent roughly four hours with the electric sander removing the varnish and smoothing out all the scuffs and scratches. This is the kind of project I really don’t have the patience for so I’m glad he took one for the team here.
Once it was smooth, smooth, smooth we (I actually helped with this bit) covered it in three coats of Danish oil to make it this lovely colour. Our tactic for the oil was for one of us to brush it on then the other person followed with a cloth and rubbed it into the wood.
A colleague of Husband has very kindly offered us their old dining chairs. Unfortunately, it’s taking a while for their new ones to arrive so we’ve yet to use our old/new table. Fingers crossed the chairs turn out to be a similar shade of wood to the table or Husband will be spending some more hours with the sander.
Painting the Stairs
With the benefit of hindsight, we should have done this after the upstairs carpets had been replaced and the furniture was in situ. You live and learn and the scuff marks on our fresh paint are a reminder of our foolishness.
We were keen to crack on with this project because the stairs were in a rough way when we moved in. Lots of wood was showing through the paint and we thought this would be a quick way to make the place look a lot nicer.
Husband once again broke out the electric sander and got to work!
Turns out it takes longer to sand and paint your stairs when you can see them from every single angle. All my previous houses have either had no stairs at all or a cupboard under the stairs so you couldn’t see the backs of them. I managed to contort myself enough to give the underside of the lower stairs a quick coat of paint but decided the payoff of giving them a second coat was not high enough for the level of discomfort required to assume the painting position!
We were also too lazy to remove the chunks of carpet so we carefully peeled the edges up and painted underneath them. We have some left over new carpet from getting the old ones replaced so eventually I will have new chunks made for the stairs. At the moment we have mismatching stairs and landing carpet which looks a little strange. But that’s a problem for future JoJo.
Climbing Shoe and Bag Storage
Aside from the JoJo shed, this is currently my favourite part of the house.
As I mentioned in a previous post about minimalism, I read Marie Kondo’s book The Magical Art of Tidying Up and immediately signed up as a fully subscribed member of her cult. I fully endorse the policy of everything having a place and that place being as practical and convenient as possible as part of your everyday routine.
We’ve had the shoe rack on the floor for about eight years. Although I made it significantly narrower for our flat in Madrid as it would have blocked half the kitchen door in its original state. I wish I could make it grow back now we have more space for it but that which has been sawed cannot be unsawed.
We made the wall mounted climbing shoe racks (and a matching coat rack) a few years ago out of some planks from a pallet I found in a skip. The bags are hung on hooks screwed into Rawl plugs and the big Perspex box came from the land of stationery and storage hopes and dreams, Staples. I hope to one day stumble across a second-hand pirate chest or something a little more rustic and a little less plastic to replace the box. All in good time, all in good time.
It’s the little things that often spark the most joy and I sparkle like a dinky firework every time I use this little arrangement. The vast improvement in my mood now all this stuff has a home on the wall rather than being dumped in a heap on the floor is both pleasing and slightly worrying. I’m not sure it’s appropriate to be this excited about storage solutions.
Bedroom Door Latch
On our first night in the house, we discovered that the latch to our bedroom door didn’t shut properly and Amber could quite easily headbutt her way in and climb onto our very expensive mattress as we slept. Upon quick inspection we realised that the metal plate on the right hand-side of the picture below was missing, which is why it wasn’t closing securely.
A couple of weekends ago, I went to an Open University tutorial day and Husband declared he was going to fix the door. While eating my lunch between talks I checked my phone I found several messages from Husband explaining the problem required a more complicated solution than he’d anticipated and he’d broken out the chisels.
I wasn’t witness to the whole saga but he ended up having to remove the handle, replace the core of the mechanism (which is why the handle and the core don't match), reposition the handle to accommodate the new core, attach the metal plate he’d originally planned to replace and chisel the hole into a slightly new shape.
What we thought would be a fifteen or so minute job eventually took roughly three hours of Husband’s time and he nearly trapped himself in the bedroom in the process. I, on the other hand, had a lovely time learning about psychological research methods and dodged a DIY bullet in the process.
Another lesson learned. Sand more now, paint less later.
There are still too many mirrors on these doors for my liking but there were even more when we first moved in. We decided to tone down the onslaught of mirrors by removing the long wiggly ones in the middle, which I found a grateful home for on Freecycle, and painting over the grey wiggly lines.
To continue a theme, Husband got the sander out and set to work removing grey paint. Sadly his patience was running a little short that day compared to the day he sanded the dining table. He didn’t bother to fully remove the grey paint and left the rest of the work of hiding it up to the white paint we planned to use to cover it up.
This did not save time in the long run.
Another half an hour with the sander would have saved us many hours of painting. I lost count of how many coats we applied to the doors. In the right (or wrong!) light you can still just about see where the grey paint was/is but we both decided it was good enough and we’d had enough of painting.
The doors are a little rickety and replacing them is on our long-term to do list but this slightly smaller hall of mirrors will do for now.
Fat Ball Holder
Husband likes birds and I like making jokes about fat balls so we screwed a bird feeder to the fence.
Reading Nook Shelves
This corner of the living room has become our designated reading nook. The armchair and sofabed came from the British Red Cross furniture shop and cost £200. I bought the throw on eBay for about £10. Although it definitely didn’t look as luminous in the photo! And we got the lamp for free from Freecycle.
The process of acquiring the lamp definitely made us look like two incompetent lamp thieves. The person who listed it on Freecycle left it in their driveway for us to collect and keep the exchange Covid safe. We pulled up to the house in the dark, strolled up the driveway, picked up the lamp without talking to anyone at the property, shoved it in our car, and drove off with Husband shouting “run, run” after he hit and mounted the opposite curb and spotted a woman walking by and watching us. He’d clearly be a terrible getaway driver for any serious robbery.
To complete the cozy reading nook, we plan to put three shelves above the armchair for a few books, frequently used notebooks and diaries, and some ornaments. I’ve never put up a shelf in my life but how hard could it be?
We refer to three different bits of our house as some kind of shed.
The JoJo shed.
The little shed.
And the shed.
The JoJo shed is now complete but we would like to address the situation with the remaining two more traditionally shed-like sheds. Especially the one we refer to as the shed.
We don’t really have use for the little shed and the shed. We may get rid of the little shed depending on the state of whatever it’s sitting on. What we do with the shed known as the shed will depend on how long we end up staying in this house and how much money we’re willing to spend on it.
We could just tidy it up a bit or we could go the whole hog and redo the space more thoroughly. That’s a decision for future us to deal with. Winter doesn’t feel like the time for shed-based tomfoolery.
I hope you enjoyed our attempts at DIY. Hopefully I’ll have a few more projects to fill you in on once it gets a little warmer and Husband decides it’s time to tackle the garden. In the meantime, remember to sand thoroughly, plan your storage systems carefully, and not to hit the curb when driving away from the scene of any lamp-based crimes you commit.