Home remodel


Big gardening project finally complete!

Last week we finally completed the work on a big makeover project in our garden that we started nearly two years ago.

When we bought our house a huge swathe of the garden was taken up by a large flowerbed. There was also an overgrown Christmas tree obscuring our view and a hedge which had been consumed by brambles. Beneath it all were paving slabs, bricks and tree trunks – it was a mess! From the moment I saw it I desperately wanted to turn it back to grass to give us more useable space, but we had to wait another 5 years before we were able to move into the house ourselves and even think about tackling it.

The first job was to get the hedge out. When we started I honestly thought we’d finish the whole thing by the end of that month and rather optimistically described it on this blog as “June’s big gardening project.” Once we started it became apparent it was a massive job that was going to require a digger, a rotovator, many hours and lots of money. I started taking photos from the same spot in the garden to chart the progress and you can see not only the garden changing, but in the second set of images, you’ll see the house radically alter in the background too!


And here’s what it looks like looking back towards the house. Last year we added a first floor to our bungalow and gave it an external makeover. You can read more about that here.


Jim did all the labour himself and spent many back-breaking hours of his weekends and leave working on it. I’m very proud of him and so impressed with how it’s turned out. Of course it’s going to take a little while for the grass to settle in, but it’s made a massive difference to the appearance of the garden already AND we had some incredible news last week which really has been the icing on the cake…

Do you remember this post I wrote at the beginning of the month with the accompanying video? Well we only WON the competition and we have had an amazing time selecting our £1500 of garden furniture from Debenhams. In fact we were so giddy with excitement that we actually splashed out on turf instead of sowing grass seed just so that we can get use out of the garden a little earlier! It just goes to show as I mentioned last month, it really is worth having a go with blogging competitions, because sometimes amazing things can happen…

Joining up with Mammasaurus…

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Inside my She-Shed

Inside my She-Shed

by Clare Mansell

cabinnew4There can’t be a woman anywhere who doesn’t fancy the idea of a She-Shed. A little place to escape from the whir of the washing machine and the unrelenting calls of “Mummy!”

Well mine is finally starting to take shape! Over the last few weeks as I’ve caught up on sewing projects, I’ve also begun to sort out the cabin in the garden, transforming it from it’s first life as a sleeping space during our building works, into it’s new role as my studio.

There’s still a long way to go before it looks anything like the pictures of perfect sewing rooms that you see in magazines. (I probably need to iron all my fat quarters and stack them perfectly just to begin with) but already it’s a place I love to retreat to if I can steal a couple of hours while Theo is at nursery.

Part of its beauty is that because it’s detached from the house, none of the day to day house clutter invades my sewing space and likewise my sewing doesn’t take over the living space.

cabinnew3cabinnew2cabinnew6At the moment it is being used solely for quilting, but longterm I also want to have a photography backdrop on one wall which can be rolled up and down when needed. The cabin faces south and the light in it is lovely, even at this time of the year.

Many of the things inside are bits I had acquired over the years which have traveled through a few countries to get here, but I also bought a few bits just for this space.

The pine table my sewing machine is on came from eBay. It was very cheap because it was far too low for practical use. We raised it up by several inches to make it useable again and when I have actually got round to painting the feet, I’ll explain the whole process we did.  It was actually very easy and salvaged an otherwise lovely but unusable table.

This magnetic noticeboard came from Canada and is called an Everyday Display. It is supposed to be used for scrapbook pages (oh yes, I used to be a scrapbooker!) but has lots of photos and magnets on it at the moment.


My sister (the antiques hunter!) bought me the Dr Pepper tray last Christmas. The various quilts on the walls are either made by me or by other lovely quilters as part of swaps on Flickr. The one in the photo above was made by Liz.

This sweetheart display cabinet was given to me by the dotcomgiftshop and is brilliant for storing precious bits and pieces that Theo is not supposed to get his hands on.

Amongst the things on the shelves are a collection of champagne corks marking various significant points in our lives (from four countries) a very old toy truck marked up as British Forces Broadcasting (my former employers) the “&” sign from the table plan at our wedding (The C and J have vanished!) and a pin cushion made for me as part of a swap.

If you could have a She-Shed what would use it for? Many of these outside buildings have been turned into artist studios or libraries.One person even has an extra large one with a swimming pool in it!

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En-suite bathroom tour

En-suite bathroom tour

by Clare Mansell

A few weeks ago I gave you a tour of our main family bathroom and now it’s the turn of our en-suite

This bathroom is quite different from the other one. We spent nearly twice as much on fixtures and fittings and we opted for a simple modern look.

We chose a modern free standing bath and an opening (as opposed to sliding or bi-fold) glass shower door with a dual head system giving he option of rainfall or (for non hair washing days!) a regular shower head.

One of the biggest decisions was about tiling the shower. We originally planned to use glass tiles (which are uber expensive) but found these ceramic ones in a similar shade at Topps Tiles for a fraction of the price. The rest of the bathroom then fitted around the teal and white colour scheme

One of our indulgences was to have a heated LED shaving mirror which turns on and off by passing your hand underneath it. We also have underfloor heating (tested, but yet to be used) which amazingly we won in a facebook competition!

The bathroom still isn’t really finished. We need a blind for the window and a few extra bits to make it a little more interesting. Although I intended it to be more of a grown ups bathroom, it’s rather put in the shade by it’s brighter cousin across the landing.


Tiles –  Topps Tiles
Underfloor heating – Fit My Wood Floor
Mosaic frame – moo.com
Bin – BHS
Basin mixer tap – similar available from clickbasin.co.uk
Bath mat – John Lewis
Mirror – illuminatedmirrors.co.uk

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5 remodel overspends that paid off…

Last week I was interviewed by a journalist for an article that Self Build & Design magazine are going to be running on our house remodel. We had originally said no to the feature, because unless you have a business you want to promote there is no real benefit to the homeowner. However after a little negotiation, they agreed to pay a fee for using some of my photos and so we decided to go ahead.

One of the questions they asked me was about the areas where we’d splurged a bit and although we did very little splurging as such, we definitely overspent in certain areas of the budget and didn’t regret it. There are so many decisions to make on a project like this that I think it’s useful just to note down our successful overspends for the benefit of others who may be doing similar builds.

Wooden Floor

Our wooden floors could easily have been a disaster. We bought our first wooden floor from a large national store. It was under budget so we thought we were being clever, but as soon as we got it home I realised we’d made a big mistake. We returned it and then spent a bit more to get what we really wanted. Some corners aren’t worth cutting, particularly if you have to look at them every day and wish you’d just spent the extra £200.


Our Velux windows turned out to be one of our best purchases. I originally priced up a cheaper alternative window, but after a lot of debate we decided to pay the extra for a known brand, largely because you can retro-fit electric blinds to them. It paid off almost immediately as we made as we had to change the size of one of the windows we’d ordered and Velux collected the old one and dispatched the new at no additional cost and with very little hassle.


There was nothing at all in our original budget to replace the rundown garden building we had. We considered hiring a caravan, but access problems ruled that out. In the end buying the cabin not only enabled us to live on site (and escape to a dry, warm, dust free space) but also gave me a brilliant sewing room at the end.


Our original spec for our juliet balcony was for simple galvanised steel, but we upgraded to glass to give a simpler more modern look. It was more than double our original balcony budget, but it looks great and it doesn’t obstruct the view.

Slate roof

It seems incredible now, but because we original costed everything at the minimum spend to make the project achievable, our initial plan was to reuse our old concrete roof tiles from the bungalow. Early in the build we decided to ditch this idea and cut back in other areas to spend more money on the roof. The extra cost was 1% of the entire bill, well worth the money I think, especially as we have a lot of roof!

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Our nautical bathroom tour…

After a week of hard work another room in the house is almost complete and I’m really thrilled with how it has turned out. This is the main bathroom upstairs, but in reality as we have an en suite too, this means it is currently mostly used by a three year-old.

I had two broad design ideas for this bathroom, we wanted tongue and groove boarding rather than tiles and secondly we wanted it to be fun. A lot of inspiration came from my bathroom board on Pinterest, but the main colour choice of red was almost entirely down to Theo. He loves the colour and as we thought it wasn’t a bad idea, we decided to go with it.

The fabulous beach hut wallpaper came from Graham & Brown who offered it to us months ago and have been incredibly patient waiting for it to finally appear on the blog. I honestly had no idea how long it would take for us to actually finish things. The wallpaper has a vinyl finish which means it is particularly suited to bathrooms and kitchens.

You may notice that the bathroom window isn’t obscured. Personally I’m not a fan of frosted glass unless it is necessary. It cuts down the light significantly and fortunately for us we look out on to woodland so being overlooked isn’t a concern. We will be adding a blind at some point in the future though just to give us the option to shut out the outside world.

As far as dressing for this room, we picked up a few other bits for this room in Ikea, Homebase and Sainsburys, but the bathroom was done on a strict budget and cost less than half the price of our en suite. The builders had a hard time getting their head round the logic of that, but as I said at the start.. it is going to be used mostly by a toddler!

PS – This bathroom featured in the August 2015 issue of Ideal Home Magazine

Other blog posts about our house that you may enjoy…


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