BEFORE (apologies for the pics, I've taken them all on my phone):
Sooo...cast your mind back (just for one moment) to December last year. There was a distinct lack of posts here from me. One of the reasons was of course the fact that we were moving house and our broadband provider had cut us off prematurely. As you will know by now, we found our little Victorian terrace back in July and finally moved in one week before Christmas - not exactly great timing if you ask me because I'm one of those people who like things 'just so' for Christmas and deal fairly badly with chaos.
We had of course viewed the house before and I had managed to visit a couple of times before the actual moving-in day. Viewing a property that is nicely lit, has all furniture in it and accessories to make it look homely can result in something of a shock when first stepping into the same house when it's un-heated, cold, bare and empty. This was no different. Suddenly all the shabby (and definitely not chic) details seemed amplified and were really sticking out. The sage green walls - something I hadn't seen since the mid 90s! - looked sad, outdated and like they were desperately trying (and failing) to convey a sense of upmarket "poshness". The good thing? Well, the stripped, original wood floors! Maybe I'll paint them white one day, but for now I'm just happy to have them just the way they are.
If you follow me on Instagram, you will of course already know that the very first thing that went into the living room was our wood burner. I know, I love it so much, I've been going on about again and again - to the extent that it was pointed out by a friend! We were very lucky to have found a great stove fitter who could do the work on the date we required - before the furniture went in so that the dust could settle and be cleaned up without interfering with anything else. Bob (the builder, ahem, stove fitter) did a great job, on time and with a friendly and chatty manner that put me at ease in the middle of the chaos. He also helped to secure the Chesney's stove I had always wanted from Maidenhead Fireplace and Stove Centre - one I couldn't have afforded without their combined help.
Next came my shelving: I always wanted a wall full of shelving for books and all my bits and bobs and knew the back wall of the dining room was the perfect space for it. Now, I'm not bad at DIY and like to do as much as possible myself. I even thought that I could put the shelves up myself (after all, I'd done it before and it wasn't that hard) until it transpired that wrestling with 3m long wood planks, a spirit level, pencil, and brackets - all whilst standing on a ladder - was beyond my capabilities. There wasn't even a point in attempting it, I knew it was pointless and would only result in some mega frustration, or worse, accidents. So, I called in Steve to do the job knowing that I'd get some quality work along with some proper South London banter to cheer me up. It was so worth it!
So, shelving up, stove installed, now for the removal boxes. It's like one of those small puzzles where you have to move nine squares around back and forth to eventually reveal the picture - only that we had way more than nine boxes! And there was of course the small matter of painting the room before I could start to arrange everything. One rainy Sunday, paintbrush, rollers and some brilliant white emulsion, job done. Ten hours of painting walls and suddenly the whole room looked bright and light-filled - at least as light-filled as it gets on a rainy day in December in London...
I then decided to paint the window frames black for two reasons: one, we hadn't spotted during the viewing that all the frames were made from plastic rather than wood and they just looked absolutely cheap and awful, but replacing them with wooden sash windows is just not in the budget right now. Two, I've always wanted black window frames ever since I'd seen them on some fabulous period properties in Germany. All along, I had just waited to live in the right kind of house for the look which I knew would work perfectly with my furniture as well as the wood flooring and white walls.
And this is it! Drumroll please! Our living and dining room (it's all one big room) as it looks now. Bright (at least on a sunny day), light and airy whilst cosy and natural at the same time - at least that was the aim. We had a mantle made to measure to fit around the exposed brickwork surrounding the wood burner. I've put up frosted film on the bottom half of the windows to let light through whilst giving us some privacy, and bamboo blinds to contrast with the black frames. I've changed the light fittings from cheap plastic to ceramic ceiling roses with cotton-covered cables. And the macramé plant hanger I found for €5 in France last summer is finally hanging in its intended spot.
After years of thinking "once we have a house we can buy a proper sofa", I suddenly discovered that I actually liked my old daybed far too much to let it go and that it fitted perfectly into the space. So, instead of replacing it, I turned to Etsy and bought a made-to-measure and all natural (heavy, unbleached cotton on the outside, pure wool on the inside) French mattress for it. Now I can't see me ever exchanging it for a sofa.
I wanted to keep my plants close to the window where they'd receive the most light and used my collection of vintage stands/stools along with two beautiful Urbanara stools to give them some height. The lamp is deliberately left without shade as I didn't want to go down the route of matching both fittings in the dining and living area but I also wanted to view to the window to be as undisturbed as possible.
The tall, round Tamky Stool which is hand-made in Vietnam from rattan and water hyacinth is the right size for my Philodendron whilst the smaller Tamky Stool is perfect for some smaller plants and a jar full of fairy lights that I turn on in the evenings. Yes, I know Christmas is over, but I like the soft light all year round... I love how the stools work so well with the vintage ones I already had as well as with the bamboo blinds.
I painted the shelves the same as the walls: pure brilliant white. I didn't want them to make a statement, but rather to "disappear" into the background and let the items on them do the talking. My old dining table and chairs fit perfectly into the space and despite thinking that I'd quite like to change the table at some point, for now it works quite well I think. The light is, well, an Ikea hack. I had been looking for an oversized basket lampshade, but most of them came with a hefty price tag I couldn't justify. Then I found this basket for £10 and knew it would be perfect to be turned into a shade. It fits the space and "filters" the light enough to not be too glaring in the evenings.
As you can probably tell, this is not a show home or even a very show-y one. Whilst we have of course chosen certain things for very particular reasons (mainly things like the fire surround, light fittings etc.), most items have been with us for a long time and they all together reflect the kind of home we like: personal and comfortable. It's a lived in home (pretty evident by the tv in the corner) and it's ok - in fact great - that it's not absolutely perfect in the glossy magazine sense. I like things that are slightly imperfect and not too precious. I want a home where guests can feel welcomed rather than like they're intruding on a space. So far this room has achieved what I wanted it to. Now for the rest of the house...