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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One year on

One year on

by Clare Mansell

March has been a bit of a topsy turvy month for us (more of that in a later post) and as a result the one year anniversary of the start of our building work slipped by without a mention, when really there should have been a little ceremonial trumpeting.


Mostly what the last 13 months have taught me is how incredibly quickly things can change. It feels like only a few weeks have passed since we were wistfully staring at architects drawings stuck to our fridge and now we are actually living in the house. Our renovation experience was an incredibly positive one, our builders were good company, the very stressful moments were few and I also have really positive memories of all three of us sleeping in the tiny little cabin in our garden (yes really!) I’m very aware that we got lucky and this is not the same story for everyone.


On Saturday we had some friends to visit, who hadn’t seen our house since before the work started and their first question was “So have you finished everything?”

We haven’t and I’m not entirely sure we ever will. The wonderful thing about finally living in a home of our own, is that it is continually evolving around us in small (but not vital) ways. Our focus over the next few months is on our garden, but inside there are small design projects to do in every room and every month we try and put aside a little money and time to do each one.

Meanwhile what of the small boy? Well he loves living here. He loves the space inside and out and he loves the community. Now the weather is warmer, he hangs out in our front garden chatting to the many dog walkers who pass by our gate with his rambling nonsensical three year-old stories. Later this month we find out if he has a place at our local primary school and we’re are also awaiting job news for Jim which will hopefully anchor him in this part of the country for another 3 years. It’s taken us 5 houses and 7 years to get here, but I think we can finally call this place home.


PS – This month our house story features in both Ideal Home Magazine and Etc Magazine (Sussex edition)


Living ArrowsCountry Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
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New chairs for the kitchen…

I’ll let you into a secret, I have a bit of a thing for chairs. I have been secretly collecting them for years. Wooden ones, plastic ones, leather ones. I’m so good at it, that I don’t think Jim has actually noticed our expanding collection.

But the thing about chairs is that they have to be practical as well as beautiful. We bought our old kitchen chairs four years ago, before we lived in this house and before parenthood. They looked great, but had a rotating base and a design which meant you could only sit on them with a cushion.

Whilst they were fine for the two of us, as Theo grew and the average age of the people we were seating got younger, we discovered children literally cannot sit still on them and the textured fabric cushions seemed to have a magnetic pull for any stray food. Grubby spinny chairs, not good.

But what to replace them with? We needed something child friendly, but modern. I’ve always been a fan of mid-century designs, particularly Eames (we already have the lounge chair) so it seemed logical to consider DSW Chairs.

DSWs have been on my wish list for a while, I even had a picture of one of the original 50s chairs on one of my boards on Pinterest (it’s funny how when you pin stuff it seems to register subliminally in the brain!) but I was worried that after buying one set of trendy but ultimately impractical chairs, the DSWs might not be right for us.

Whilst I was still dithering about how and when to replace our chairs, MDM Furniture came to our rescue offering us two chairs for review. They specialise in producing replica designer chairs, among which is the DSW.

The chairs arrived with lightning speed and were easy to assemble. After a couple of weeks in our kitchen we are converts. I’m a taken by the sexy steel and wood legs and the plastic tops have given us the kind of practical wipe-clean finish we wanted. There’s only one problem now, which is that we need four more.

So the question is, do we buy them all white, or mix the colours up a bit?

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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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A plan for our bedroom…

Last weekend we finally started the journey of transforming our bedroom from bland to errrr… boudoir?

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you may be aware that amongst the confusion and chaos of settling back into our newly extended house, our own bedroom got a little forgotten. I had very clear design ideas about some rooms in the house, but just not that room.

Then two things happened. Firstly our old Ikea Malm bed died. I bought it in Germany seven years ago and since then we calculated that it has been taken apart and put back together nine times, oh and shipped across the Atlantic twice. So it’s no wonder it fell apart.

We replaced it with a bed from Feather & Black who happen to have a huge clearance outlet just up the road (yay!) and at the same time I happened to stumble across this lovely house which has virtually the same bed, the same round window and a beautiful neutral colour scheme and a plan began to evolve.

So here’s what’s going to happen….

This week I have purchased the foam we will need for the window seat and the cushion for the round window and I have bought 12 metres of fabric from Falcon Fabrics to do the curtains and the window seat.

Inspired by this post on Love Chic Living, I think I have narrowed down the kind of rug we want for the bedroom. Something wool, neutral and geometric.

Our walk-in wardrobe needs kitting out with some proper fitted units to finally make the space tidy. (I’ve been seeking inspiration from urbanwardrobes.co.uk.)

We are going to create a wall of white picture frames between the wardrobe and the en-suite like this.

The bedroom furniture (a chest of drawers and two bedside tables) which were bought very cheaply, need replacing with something a bit more inspiring and in keep with the overall design, perhaps some sheesham furniture.

And finally we need accessories to liven up the big white space. I’m building a Pinterest board of ideas ready for my next trip to Ardingly in November.

So, now I’ve committed that to a blog post there is no escaping. I’m going to try and stop getting distracted by trying to decorate every room of the house simultaneously and focus on this one room. First task is the curtains and cushions, I’ll update you as I progress…

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