Sunday, October 31, 2010

Oak Cupboard Makeover.. before.

A while back in my post about paint.. [here]  I made reference to a little cupboard that I want to paint in the same sort of green you can see here on this wonderful Chinese cabinet.

So I thought I'd take this opportunity to show you the before pictures of the aforementioned little Oak Cupboard. Not unsurprisingly, as with many of the pieces we own it came from the Cumberland Auction House before it closed down.. :o( .
Originally it had a freestanding wall mirror with it, but that got broken and thrown out. 

It's very narrow which makes it really useful
since it can go in any number of tight spots.
Having sat at the top of the stairs for months, we moved it into what I call the 'Lilac Room' to make room for something else, and really liked it in there.
Extra storage is always useful, but the colour is all wrong, hence the paint job.

The handles are horrid [there's a close up below] and will be changed.. and there's a small piece of the bottom plinth broken.
You can't see where it's missing from, at this angle.. but the piece is sitting on top of the cupboard, next to the pile of books. I haven't decided, but I think I'll fix it and then paint it, rather than paint it and then fix it..

Since these shots were taken it's been given it a light sanding all over.
I used the top drawer to test the paint samples, and to try a couple of knob and handle options.. much simpler, in either white ceramic, or brushed nickel I think.
I know the green is a bold choice.. but it didn't cost us very much, about $70 including the mirror... and if it's a disaster I will of course re-paint it white.!!
Cute though isn't it. ?

Choosing the colour has been by far the most arduous part of the entire process..

As you can see I had to sift through a lot of samples and I'm still not sure I have the right colour.. only time will tell.
First I tried the Tropical Lime which is actually a Dulux colour, but since I had an old matchpot from home that I'd never opened I thought I'd give it a go. It was surprisingly pale though and not nearly saturated enough.
Next I was certain !! that the sample you can see in the top right hand corner at the end of the strip was perfect. I even liked the name of it.. Fresh Cut Grass... but it's way too yellow...
So in the end I went to Home Depot and had a match pot custom tinted to match a colour I found in a magazine.

I'm planning to prime this piece this week and alternate it with the painting etc in the understairs cupboard.. which is coming along well.

I'll keep you posted.

Jo xx

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Cupboard Under the Stairs... Before !!

Don't worry.. this isn't some Halloween themed post about nasties in the understairs cupboard. Although as I'm now looking at the 'before' pictures, maybe I'm not so sure about that.. ;o)
No, what it's really about is getting off my arse [the darker colder autumn days making sitting in front of the telly my favourite pastime] and doing some work on the house.

I have recently been inspired by my favourite blogger Benita Larsson to organise a space I have been just putting up with for too long...
Yes it's the 'cupboard under the stairs'.. which also houses our hot water tank, and the access hatch to our crawl space. We don't have a proper basement..  most West Coast houses don't because of the high water table, but we do have a 4 foot high space which can be used for storage. 

One thing that has already been 'done' is the doors...   I had the much hated bi-fold doors removed and  traditional fully opening ones installed. Not just here but all over the house. The joy of this is that they open 180* flat against the wall, which means that every nook and cranny of the cupboard is completely accessible. I haven't finished painting them yet. The undercoat is done but I still have to do the final coat of CC40 Cloud White.. my favourite white.. I'm a broken record.  
So this is what it looked like before I started...
What a mess..

This space is directly adjacent to the kitchen, and as a result it has to fulfill a lot of functions.
On the floor you can see the big pale blue baskets we use for recycling. In Canada it's traditional to pay a deposit on beverage containers. Then when they're empty you can return them and get the money back.
So the right hand one is for wine and beer bottles, coke cans, OJ and milk cartons, all of which fall into this catagory.
The left one is for glass, cans, and cardboard. They do kerbside collections of these everyweek on bin-man day, or you can take them to the recycling banks.

The big brown box at the back has our fake christmas tree in... but after this year I'm going to find another place for that.
The huge tube, with the flowery cover hanging from the stairs is the working end of the house's built in vacuum, which I hardly ever use, since it's so cumbersome and heavy. I'd never pay to have one installed, but it came with the house and they are popular here so it will be a selling feature when we come to move. To be fair there is a separate tube and nozzle in the garage, which plugs directly into the machine itself.. and that's hugely useful for keeping the cobwebs down. 


There's a cool bag, a broom and my curling stick hanging from a nail on the right.
And the box to the left on the recycling bins, is wrangling a load of brown paper bags and empty boxes that I use for allsorts of things, and the dustbuster of course.. which I use daily.

Here on the left hand side is my beautifully hand crafted [yes that's sarcasm] plastic bag tube.. Don't get me wrong, it's not made of plastic bags.. it's for storing them. 
You can buy them, but why bother when it's basically just a length of fabric, sewn to make a long thin tube and then hemmed top and bottom with elastic. You shove the bags in the top to store them and pull one out of the bottom when you need one. Much easier than the alternatives. I do think I'll sew a new prettier one though for the finished organised cupboard.
Under it.. yes that's just a cardboard box that's being used as a shelf, which I will re-use because it actually works brilliantly. That's my staple gun hanging on a hook... plus there's a plastic rack for storing the tools for the vacuum. That will have to go.. but I'll create a better alternative.

So there you go..that's the 'before'. Not very exciting I know.. but today I cleared it out and was amazed at how much space there actually was..
See! it's huge.  

As you can see there is an enormous amount of under utilised storage space...  I'm sure I can make much better use of.  Of course the location of the hot water tank can't be moved, but there is a pretty big space behind it that I haven't made any use of up 'til now, I'll have to see what I can do about that. The floor is awful.. the same old vinyl that used to be in the laundry & loo when we first moved in. It's really scruffy and marked, and dealing with that might be my biggest challenge, since its stapled to the floor in places. I plan to paint.. maybe even wallpaper.. the side walls. Plus I'm going to paint out the stair treads, and finish the joints between the stringer and drywall with some trim. I also have a special idea for the inside of the door.. but I'll tell you about that once it's done. 

 There are lots of nails and assorted hooks screwed into the stair treads at various points by the previous owner [I assume] that I'll pull out and re organise... We use them a lot especially for extension cables. In this photo you can also see the handy little one touch light I put up on the door frame.
Both these photos show the gap between the stringer and the drywall.. that will get finished off more neatly.
That metal loop that holds the vacuum tube will also get shifted over to a more convenient spot. So that's it.. frankly it's taken me longer to write this post than it did you empty the space and take the photos. Now I'm off to the Home Depot to see if there's any wallpaper I like enough to spend money on..
Obviously I now have to do the actual work, so the results will take a day or two to post so bear with me.
Any suggestions for colour or pattern would be gratefully recieved..

Jo xx

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Busy in the garden..

I thought I'd show you guys what I was doing yesterday, whilst at the same time marvelling at Mother Nature and her bloody minded determination to do whatever the hell she likes.

Earlier this year my hubby and I noticed that a tree had started to grow in the flower bed under our bay window.. in a place that we HADN'T planted one.
Now our house is surrounded by 80/100ft Pine and Fir trees, and pine needles and pine cones are the bane of my life... We must collect and dispose of literally thousands every year.
But of course they fall in places where we can't see them and this is what happens if you don't pull them up straight away...   They get really quite BIG...

This was the little thing in June this year
And this was yesterday

 Look how much bigger it is in relation to the solar light... it's grown a good 2 feet in 4 months.

We always planned to move it, there are several places in the back where it would be fine.. and I hate to kill living things if I can avoid it.. but we just didn't get around to it this summer.
This week though we've had a lovely run of sunny warm very un October like weather, so I decided yesterday was the day to shift the ruddy thing.
What I hadn't counted on is that our little friend wasn't alone....  see..

One in the bush
Two in the bush
Maybe I should have tried to find the bird in the hand.. since I already had the two in the bush..
These two were growing up through the 'Snowmound' which is the big shrub you can see behind the tree in photo 1.

And I then found yet another one in a different bed further down the front garden...

Yet another fellow growing from a pine cone.

I can understand how the ones in the bay window bed, might prosper.. at least they get full sun.
But this bed is under a huge apple tree, with a thick bushy undergrowth of shrubs.. how on earth did this one get enough light or water not only survive but to thrive like this !!

Anyway, I wasn't about to  tackle this one yesterday.. but we now have 5 trees to find new homes for.
Because when I started digging I found yet another small tree growing next to the very first one.

So where are they going ?.. well there's a scruffy patch of ground, to the side of the house up against the fence which we have been using as a bit of a dumping ground for dirt and debris for a while.
We have had every intention of turning it into a proper bed for some time. That side of the garden is sadly neglected, mostly because you can't see it from the house.. and because it's next to the spot by the garage door where we keep the rubbish bins.

In the background you can see two of our existing Pine trees, and if the survive at all, this is the size our transplanted specimens should grow to. There's also a rather sickly leylandii that we transplanted from another spot about 3 years ago, which only now is finally recovering from the shock.

I confess I didn't think it would take all that long to dig them up.. oh how wrong I was. !!
In the end I managed to dig up just three including the tiny weeny one that I only found when I started on the others.
It was incredible how long and entrenched the roots of all three were..  especially the big one in picture 1. Some of its' roots stretched 4 or 5 feet underground... took me over an hour to dig up.. But that did at least help to loosen the ground, so the second one only took about half an hour, and the little one came out in about 10 mins.
So this is what the space looks like now.. I'll plant some groundcover I think.
I know I could have just taken a sharp spade to the roots and pulled them out much quicker with brute force, but I'd really like them to survive and with the roots they stand a much better chance.

There's still another sapling tucked away in there hidden in the undergrowth.  

You can just about see one of it's lower branches hidden away here..

It will be even harder to get at because its growing through a lot of established plants.. and it's roots will be tangled up in the roots of those..
yeesh !! 

But I'll try and dig that out at the weekend.

By the time I'd finished, the light was fading, so I stuck the saplings into various sized buckets with some earth and I'll  find them a new home in the back also at the weekend..
if the weather holds that is... and then I'll keep you posted.

Hubby said we could use it as our christmas tree.. but it's too small for that.        This year that is !!!!

 Jo xx

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My First Place...

I was posting with one of my favourite bloggers Alicia.. the newly Mrs Parsons from Australia the other day and I happened to mention to her that my first flat was just a 17ft by 17ft studio room with a corner cut out for the kitchen... and it got me to thinking.
I bought it back in 1986 when I was 21, for an amount that sounds laughable now.. [20,500 pounds] and I lived there for two years...
It was TINY, but it was my first home and I LOVED it... So I thought I would tell you about it.
It's interesting from a design point of view because I wasn't sure whether my personal style had changed all that much in 20 years...  so I went and dug out some old photos... and this is what I found.

First here's a link to the outside using Google Earth.. to show you what the building looks like.
Hope it works here goes... 76 Rowlands Road ..
Ignore the 'posies' shop link on the left of the photo.. and it's not 110 either which is the designation given to it by Google Earth.. it's # 76 Rowlands Road.. the left half of the big white Edwardian semi, in the centre of the photo, and I had the flat at the rear of the first floor. That's the second floor to the North Americans reading this... since you guys call the first floor what us Brits call the ground floor. One up from the ground anyway.
It was converted into flats in 1982/3 after a fire destroyed the inside of the building..
In a curious coincidence, I was dating one of the firemen who put out that blaze. I even went down to watch for a while.. since fires that big were news in my town back in the day. Three years later I bought one of the flats.. spooky huh ?

Ok.. I'm prattling..

I've done a sketch of the layout.. and just to let you know the kitchen window and the window at the end of the bed face north.. and the ones next to the couch and in the bathroom face west, so the afternoon light was nice.

I'm no artist so I apologise for the scruffy.. but it will give you some idea of how small it was. About the same size as a brand new Vancouver condo actually ;o)

The room itself was 17ft by 17ft, with a kitchen about 6ft by 8ft carved out of one corner.
The bathroom off the hall was about the same size as the kitchen and the hall was about 3 by 5.

Here's a bit of free advice.. don't buy a converted flat anywhere other than the TOP floor... especially if the single girl living upstairs has a squeeky bedframe.. nuff said.

I'll start with the photo of the bathroom because it was the first thing you saw when you opened the front door.


YES !! the sanitary ware IS orange. It was a colour called Sun King, which apparently was very popular with blind people back then.
The wall tiling ISN'T tiling either. In the UK we call it 'tiling on a roll', and basically its just a plasticised wallpaper.. although to be fair the area round the bath where I had a shower put in did have proper tiles.
I WAS responsible for the curtain unfortunately.. which if I remember correctly was made from a tablecloth cut in half then frayed round the edges on to make it 'country', The tie backs are just satin ribbon... you have to laugh don't you... arh ! the 1980's how I miss them.
Oh and you can't see it in this pic, but there was carpet on the floor... I know how that freaks you North Americans out.. ;o)

Next we're in the main room itself.
This sofa backed onto the bathroom wall, and this must have been quite early because later I got a slip cover for it. Both came from a Habitat superstore on the Purley Way I remember, which was the first one of it's kind..  Habitat's response to the first UK IKEA opening at Wembley. 
It was a floor model so it was a bargain, and because it was dark if it was marked it didn't show. I think the slip cover, which I bought a year later, cost as much as the Sofa. Another first for Habitat.. slip covers for their couches. Wonder where they got that ikea.. I mean idea. ?
The weeping fig on the right behind the sofa is Bernard. He stayed with me until I moved to Canada in 2002, 15 years after this was taken. I mention it because when I show you the photos of the place I bought next, you will see Bernard again.

I think it's seems I had a more girlie/frilly style when I was younger.. but you have to bear in mind that I had no money, so there are a lot of bits and pieces.
For the entire time I lived here I only have a portable B&W telly... and the TV stand was a painted cardboard box stuffed with newspaper to give it strength.

Next is a turn through 90 degrees.. so this is the west facing wall. You can just see Bernard in the corner.

Interestingly this shows a collage of art and to this day I still like art displayed this way. Back then it helped to give to weight to what was basically just a collection of clip frames with greetings cards and magazine covers in them. I still have most of these.
The curtains were M&S and a soft peach colour.. very fashionable at the time, and matched my duvet cover as I recall.
Just another view to show the wardrobe in relation to the couch.
The slip cover I bought for the couch was also peach.. with a tiny white dot detail.
The huge pine wardrobe was one of the first pieces of 'good' furniture I ever bought.. Made of old church pews, the top was hanging and the base had a huge drawer in it. Fabulous storage. Unfortunately when I moved my next flat had built in wardrobes so I had to sell it.. shame.

Opposite the wardrobe these two pieces are the only furniture I still have from those early days.
The wicker and bamboo cupboard my mum and dad bought at auction for my sister.. and I aquired it later.[ It's on the upstairs landing you can see it here. ]
The pine chest of drawers is my all time favourite purchase. It's circa 1860 and came from a rather nice antique shop in Chichester. These days its doubles as my bedside table, and if I had to pick one thing in the whole house to save from a fire.. apart from people and animals of course, this would be it.

 Just a bit further round and you can see the kitchen door.
I kept my hairdryer on the floor in front of that mirror, and that's where I used to get ready in the morning because the light in the bathroom wasn't good enough.

And yes.. I know that little print on the wall is too high. !

So here is the kitchen. 3 wall cupboards and 1 corner base unit and 1 drawer. Tiny.
The space under the sink was for a washing machine but I couldn't afford one. It's hard to tell but the flowers on the wall paper were red, which was hot in kitchens at the time.. hence all the red and white accessories. Red handled cutlery, red lid on the kettle, the bin and dish bowl, mugs, tea towels, dish drainer.. all red.

I can't understand why I never did anything about those horrid brown flat panel doors and cheap & nasty handles.. couldn't live with them now..

And finally round to the dining area.. just big enough for a cheap little pine table and folding chairs.
You can just about make it out under my gym bag and aerobics gear.. Yes I did aerobics.. everyone did in the 80's.
You can see the kitchen door on the left and the door on the right opens into a big storage cupboard.. usual home of the gym bag. 

So what has changed..?
The overwhelming and ubiquiteous peach was an 80's thing.. I liked it then, but of course I wouldn't have it now. The fussy bits and pieces, the frilly curtains and the twee lighting would no longer find a home at my house.
No more red kitchens or orange bathrooms either.. but again that was partly affordability, and partly fashion.
My taste is MUCH cleaner and more linear now, but also much richer I think.
I will concede though that I still like STUFF... and I will never be accused of being a minimalist.
One thing that hasn't changed though is that I like interiors that are warm and welcoming.. whatever the style or colour scheme. This little flat was certainly that.. and visiting bodies were regularly found strewn about the place in the mornings.. and NO not just male ones.!! ;o)

Jo xx

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pretty Pictures.. of Home.

We've had a very lucky run of the most gorgeous autumnal weather the last couple of weeks, so I thought I'd take advantage and take some pretty shots of the local scenery..

They call British Columbia 'God's Country'.. and whilst I can't promise to have captured that exactly, I think it looks especially gorgeous at this time of the year... even in my photos.

Looking down the estuary from the Comox side.. the seagulls love this sand bank when the tide's in.

View from the top of Mount Washington, our local Ski resort.. It's about 10 miles from us.
You can see the village at the base of the mountain.. and the peak of the Golden Hinde..[about 7,200ft] the highest mountain on the Island off in the distance. Last winter '09/'10 they had a snow base of about 10 metres.. that's 30ft.. !! They had to dig the chair lift out TWICE.
They close just after Easter every year for the marmot breeding season, and then re-open in June/July for the mountain biking and hiking season. This year there was still so much snow left that when they re-opened for the summer they still had 3 ski runs available. First time EVER. This photo was taken at the end of Sept.. and you can still see snow on the ground half way up the mountain.

Just around the corner from us the leaves are starting to turn..

There are a lot of conifers here  
obviously.. it's Pine and Fir central.
But what deciduous trees we do have, turn the
most gorgeous colours.


There are vibrant hits of colour all over the estate where we live at the moment They don't last long but while there here it's magical.

More lovely colour.
This was a pure fluke.. I just happened to be out in the garden.. just look at this sky.. gorgeous.

And finally this last one was taken out at Comox Lake..
Talk about 'Seasons of Mists and mellow fruitfulness'..    
And NO.. it wasn't taken in black & white
 Jo xx

Thursday, October 14, 2010

For Halley's Mommy.. another of my favourite places.

I just had a very nice comment from a lady called Halley's Mommey about the green Chinese cabinet that I showed you here .
So I thought I'd tell you a bit more about where it came from.

It comes from a Market called Goat's on the Roof in a tiny place called Coombs just north of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island..
It's an amazing venue that started as a fruit stall on the side of the road in the '70's but which over the years has grown into a huge business selling everything from: 

specialist hard to find imported foodstuffs.. 


to Chinese antiques, and all points in between.

They have quite simply the most fantastic deli and fresh bakery/patisserie section you have ever seen.. selling smoked salmon, artisan cheeses, 30 different types of freshly made bread, great pies and cakes.. and a dessert called a 'Bee Sting' which is like a fat round chocolate eclaire but with honey flavoured fondant icing and caramel cream inside.
Seriously... my husband would drive the 50 mins to get there from our house JUST for one of those.

There's a whole building dedicated to fresh Island produced fruit and Veg.

A fabulous Garden centre which has plants, pots, fencing and furniture that's quite different from the normal same old, same old that you see everywhere.
We bought a great bluey/green glazed ball for the garden this summer, which they had in all sorts of different sizes and colours.

There's a surf/skate shop with equipment and clothing, a gift shop with hundreds of inexpensive ideas for presents, a dedicated ice cream parlour with about 50 different flavours, a clothing boutique... and next year they'll be launching an Italian restaurant with a huge terrace at the back that looks down into the ravine where the goats hang out in the winter.

On top of all this.. in the area surrounding GOTR other businesses have sprung up to take advantage of the HUGE numbers of customers who flock to the area daily. There are probably 50 or 60 other businesses there now.
There is Fresh fudge making, art galleries, book shops, antique shops, clothing stores, eateries, gift shops... even this summer we noticed.. Helicopter rides !!
There was NOTHING here before. Coombs isn't a town with a high street and shops, this was just the road from Nanaimo north with a petrol station and a post office/general store, and since they built the main Island Highway it's now a road to nowhere.

So if any of you ever holiday on Vancouver Island it is well worth a visit.. and just to let you know all the photos above are courtesy of their website.
OK... so to get back to the specific piece of Chinese furniture in question..
Here it is again..

I photographed it last year KNOWING that I loved it and would want it at some point.. but unfortunately when we went home and measured the space for it, it was just a bit too big.
It was the colour I really fell for and I'm not usually a lover of green, but this was just too gorgeous.
We've been back several times and considered different pieces for different spaces, just to try and buy something.. ANYTHING, that colour...

I have a spot on my landing, that I thought might accomodate something.
For for ages was home to the little cabinet that I now plan to paint the same green as 'lovely Chinese cabinet'.
But I had to put that into the mauve bedroom because we recently we've had some 'built ins' installed in our Living Room and I had to find a new home for THIS.
I did say Nikki found her way into lots of my photos.
It's an antique wicker and bamboo cupboard that I 'borrowed' from my sister many many years ago.. but shussh ! I'm sure she won't remember.
So the soon to be painted cupboard got moved into the mauve bedroom and I'm now rather liking THIS piece here and THAT piece there.. so still no place for a Chinese cabinet. :o( .

Then a couple of months ago when hubby and I were having a day out at Coombs we saw this little fellow.

It's smaller than the original piece but that was a good thing because we had this tricky spot in the Dining Room that was causing us trouble.
I know it's not the original much loved green, but it's also a gorgeous saturated colour, and I have just chosen the paint for the Dining Room and its a very pale grey/blue from Benjamin Moore called Harbour Haze... so this is perfect.

It works because its only 11 inches deep but still provides just a touch of extra storage, without encroaching onto the dining space. [The piece I had here before was too deep and made it awkward for the person sitting in the closest chair to sit down.]

Once the new green cupboard and the dining room are painted I'll show you the results.. but in the meantime maybe Halley's Mommy will be able to find something like it near to where she lives.
I hope so. :o)
Jo xx