Monthly Archives

March 2016

Kitchen, Lifestyle, Living Room, Mobility Aids, Universal Design

Built Mum a House 1 year on: 6 great things that make me go mmm!

March 28, 2016

If you’re looking for some tried and tested tips and about to embark on building your ‘forever’ home… or if you’re an empty nester renovating a house or apartment to make it future proof …or looking to build your mum a house read on…

It’s 1 year since my mum moved into her house, and looking back on the last 12 months here’s my top 6 features that she loves about it. It’s funny,  some of the things that I spent hours worrying over have worked a treat, but no-one notices them, and there are some features that have worked out to be brilliant and we keep chatting about them.

First, let me get off my chest the one thing that drives me nuts ( luckily no-one else minds about it) It’s the kitchen layout. Downstairs is open plan living and kitchen area. When the kitchen was designed I spent ages on the paper plans, in the shell of the half built house measuring up and at B&Q tweaking the layout. I tried to make sure that there was enough space for everything..until the kitchen fitter arrived. Stubborn and knowing better than me, he kept moving the 1000mm corner unit from where it was on the plan. On day 1 of the job I told him a couple of times to move it to its planned position, and again in the morning of day 2, after I had left he moved it back to where he wanted it to go. He finished the job so that the run of units projected 600mm into the living area. That’s a fair bit in a tiny house.

This was a part of the build when we were having major problems with the construction company and the build was way-over schedule. I should have stood over him ( there’s a lot of should have here ) and if I were to give anyone any advice its this: When they’re fitting in the kitchen units make sure you watch like a hawk until all the units are secured. And be bossy. No, be bloody minded to make sure you get the layout that has been designed.

The electrician was really cheesed off when he returned to do part two of the fit because the oven didn’t line up with the cabling but it was done and I had given in. grrr. Anyhow,

 let’s go to the things that we all LOVE…

1. The Stairs

I never thought I would say I would be proud of the stairs but I am!. When the house was being designed I realigned the staircase on the architect’s plan 180 degrees so that access to upstairs is from the living room and not the front door. This has proved to be more convenient when you are in the living room most of the day but more importantly I had them redrawn so that they are wider than an average staircase. A wide staircase does give a rather grand feeling of space and does make you feel less wobbly when you walk up them. But if you don’t use the  stairlift every day (which doesn’t need the extra space) there’s still loads of space on the stairs.

Staircase wide enough for good under stairs storage as well as fitted shelves.

The staircase wide enough for good under-stairs storage, as well as fitted shelves.

2. The Door Lock

I wrote a whole blog post about the from door lock, click here to read it. I stand by every word: the Banham latch and deadbolt are so easy to use and secure. Love them.


3. Cloakroom Storage

The cloakroom was another battleground during the build.

Cloakroom Storage

Cloakroom Storage

Just somehow this room had constant problems and ended up as the last room that was worked on. Finally, when the walls had been plastered and for the ‘nth’ time I had pointed out that we needed access to the cistern for maintenance; I collared a builder and he began to cut away at the plasterboard to allow a removable lid to the cistern. There are all sorts of structural things going on behind this wall and that’s how these funny shaped shelves was born…  Top tip: if you have a cavity behind a wall in a bathroom, build some shelves in there.

4. Lighting

In open plan living, establishing lighting zones really is important. For age proof living good lighting is paramount. I installed daylight bulbs in the two areas that need to be well illuminated – the kitchen and around the stairlift and switches. As a carer, my top tip here is to find long lasting bulbs, lets can last years, use a daylight temperature bulb in the kitchen area and in the living and relaxing area warmer light.

Looking back over this year we are all

The living area lights are warmer and the kitchen lights are spots that are usually used in retail lighting- they are direction spotlights and the bulbs have a very wide but bright even light

The living area lights are warmer and the kitchen lights are spots that are usually used in retail lighting- they are directional led spotlights and the bulbs give a very wide but bright even light.

delighted with the daylight bulbs because they have a second benefit: in a small house they give the feeling of brightness and do give you a feeling of cheerfulness. Supposedly, this light temperature helps with the symptoms of SAD and I think that if you are downsizing and worried about feeling gloomy this is a good trick to try. There’s a good explanation of what daylight bulbs are about and an explanation of long lasting bulb options at Lightbulbs Direct website

5.The Corner Shed and the Automatic door

Brilliant. Fits a mobility scooter, the mechanism for the sliding door, it even has enough space for a tumble dryer and garden stuff. But its a corner shed so it fits neatly in the corner of the patio garden leaving enough space for enjoying the patio.

Corner Shed / Garage

Corner Shed / Garage







6. Command Centre

This photo sums up 2 successes and one not so brilliant thing:

This is my mum’s command centre! Light switch positioned at a comfortable height and with wide rocker switches, easy to use and looking really good.

Control Centre!

Control Centre!

Central Heating thermostat: full temperature and timing control and manual with easy to use controls. Digital push button controls are the norm but if you have reduced mobility and arthritis in your hands, digital buttons and fiddly dials don’t work. I found this thermostat/timer that controls a Worcester Bosch boiler and despite the plumber’s protestations it was worth digging my heels in and getting this unit on special order. Older people need to keep warm, and they need to adjust the temperature easily.

The large device that you can see is connected to the front door bell; inside the door bell is a very small cctv camera and it’s linked to two video units, one upstairs and one downstairs. It doesn’t unlock the front door but it does allow you to talk to your visitor and tell them to wait. If you have reduced mobility or are elderly this allows you to take your time going down the stairs to answer the door If you are downstairs when someone rings the bell it allows you to check who is calling. This particular model is a bit disappointing as the quality isn’t as good as it should be – the screen on one downstairs has played up and this one has crackly audio reception, but it gives everyone tremendous peace of mind.

If you have any tried and tested tips to share, I would love to hear from you, leave your comments below.Thanks!





Bathroom, Bedroom, Downsizing, Kitchen, Lifestyle, Living Room, Universal Design

Downsizing with Style – Book Review

March 20, 2016

Bettina Deda

I first ‘met’ Bettina Deda on Twitter. We share the same life experience of downsizing. The difference is I muddled through it ‘helping’ my mum and Bettina did hers in style. In fact she is the Downsizing with Style guru.

Bettina is a super organised Australian interior designer who has recently published her book Downsize with Style, available on Amazon and iBooks.

In Downsize with Style you will find a clear road map to downsizing without losing your sanity. There are 5 great tips that will get you focussed and to stay focussed, good organisational tips…much more of what you can find on her blog. In her book, Bettina tackles the emotional part of downsizing, the fear that hits you every time you think about doing it and then the wave of sadness which hits you out of the blue, every now and again. With Bettina’s help you can start to see this stage in your life as a positive experience:

Downsizing is often associated with negative feelings and emotions. I would like to encourage you to see it differently. Live with an attitude of gratitude, gratitude for the time you spent with your family and friends in your family home. Embrace the change while downsizing and be open to opportunities that come with it. Only when you step out of your comfort zone will you experience new things.

What makes this book worth the read is that when Bettina has tackled all of those real emotional issues, she uses her love of colour, art and design to help you start understanding your own personal style …and then she sets you on the path to start a new exciting chapter of your life.

You can buy the paperback at Amazon £17.54 or download the e-book to your Kindle for £11.99

or you can download it at iBooks £14.99

Read more about Bettina’s interior designs, downsizing projects and love of colour and Australian art, visit her blog at




Bathroom, Bedroom, Caring for the Carer, DIY, Downsizing, Lifestyle, Living Room

Weekend Away: R&R and Inspiration in Lewes

March 9, 2016


the dogs starting out SMALL

A few weeks ago my husband booked an on-the-spur-of-the-moment weekend away. To make it simple, he planned a dog friendly trip that would distract, relax, provide inspiration for my blog and give us some ‘us’ time. We packed up the car and escaped London for Lewes in East Sussex.

I have found that being a carer for someone is rewarding and satisfying, it can be done out of loyalty, friendship, love or because it’s the only way. With the feeling of satisfaction and joy there are times when everything becomes stressful, tiring, frustrating and all that multi-skilling leaves your nerves jangling. I’m not special: 1 in 8 adults (around 6.5 million people) are carers, almost half of those juggle care and work.

This post is about caring for the carer, how 2 days in Lewes mooching about with my husband and two dogs changed me from from being an at-the-end-of-my-tether, stressed out wreck and got me back on track.

I’m sharing with you the visual inspiration of Lewes, my delight at new ideas and possibilities, appreciating people’s attention to small design details, people’s generosity, all these things that took me out of myself.

We stayed at the Blue Door Barns ‘where rustic meets rustic chic’. I would add, where chic meets warmth, thoughtful details, clever design and a fantastic breakfast . We stayed in the Sailors’ House a tiny gem of a barn that never felt small. The walls, and ceiling were painted in shades of soft, soothing grey. The tall ceiling gave a sense of space. The floorboards and details were shades of gentle blue and aqua. And everywhere details that were novel and delightful. Inside our barn we were in a very special world.

The bathroom was full of clever space saving ideas: a sliding bathroom door and the bathroom sink unit, a room that felt comforting and inviting, exotic oriental patterns on the floor tiles and the black slate tiles in the shower were exactly what Marianne Shillingford had talked about in my previous blog post.

In the dark, our heart beat slows and we begin to properly melt into a pre-sleep state. Small dark spaces in our homes become sanctuaries in which we can truly unwind.  Something it’s worth sacrificing a bit of light for – especially if you have a full on stressful life.


The Sailors’ House, Blue Door Barns

Lewes is in East Sussex, apparently it has more beautiful, independent shops than anywhere else, it has a castle, lots of dog friendly cafes and pubs, a steep high street and wiggly side streets dropping away to the river.  It has its own brewery, Harvey’s, a lovely pint (apparently) and a beer called The Kiss.. after all this town was the home of Rodin’s Kiss sculpture . The town is made up of some very, very old houses and buildings, some build in flint, some timber framed and some painted sugar almond colours. This seems to be a town that is comfortable and enjoys its history and arts, there are loads of artists, craft shops, print shops, antique shops, music shops, book shops and interiors and every style of homeware… everywhere.


My first stop was at Baltica at the top of the High Street. This shop is full of the most amazing range of Boleslawiec Polish pottery.  This is spongeware with the most vibrant blue and fun decorations, they are easy to mix and match across the patterns because the colour is so consistent and what makes them practically bomb proof is that they are made to go in the dishwasher, oven, microwave, aga and even the freezer. Easy life. We had two shopping trips to Baltica, we bought cornflower rice bowls and star covered spoons for presents. This shop was our first experience of Lewes friendliness, we chatted with Will Rogers who owns and runs the shop, he tells a good story and knows so much about the Boleslawiec potteries. A must.

boleslawiec shop

Some of my favourite designs of Boleslawiec, in the Baltica shop, Lewes High Street


Everything in Freight HHG  is beautiful, everything is beautifully made and most of it made in the UK. I love the black, copper, linen textiles and warm wood. The design of their products as well as the styling of the shop is inspirational, their branding continues to their packaging, their labelling is handritten- check out their website.

freight shop

FREIGHT shop Lewes High Street


On Saturday morning as we headed out for a day of beach walking and then shopping, Bryony from Blue Door Barns gave us some biscuits that she had baked that morning. Packed in a heart shaped tupperware with a stripy paper napkin this summed up the Lewes Vintage Style. Thoughtful, generous, honest and fun. I love the Lewes Vintage Style, you can shop it in the Lewes High Street: there’s  Tom Paine printing press, a working metal press producing cards and prints. A tourist information centre with local crafts in the window. Wickle, the tiniest ‘mini department store‘ a relaxed, welcoming, dog friendly homeware shop with beautiful cards, children’s toys and clothes, a cafe, restaurant.

And Closet & Botts with its bicycle, pots, baskets and bunches of flowers and lavender parked up right outside. There is something for anyone in here: printed ephemera, glassware, clothes, characterful books. Its a magpie’s nest of vintage treasures, old and new.


vintage shops


There are so many antique shops, antique book shops and flea markets in Lewes that you can rummage in, we looked at the arcades and shops in Cliffe High Street and in the High Street as it was easy with the dogs. The Famous Lewes Flea Market in Market Street is in a converted Methodist Chapel. There is even an Auction House in town. Just look at some of these pictures and see for yourself!

antique shops Lewes


Lewes is surrounded by the South Downs but it was the nearby beaches that we headed for on Saturday and then Sunday morning. This is the most wonderfully calming landscape. Wrapped up warm, the sea wind blowing out the cobwebs, dogs scampering across the pebbles, beach huts, cups of tea and coffee. This is the colour palette that underpins so much of the Lewes style and that’s what makes it calming and soothing.

beach colours

I returned to London, my head buzzing with new ideas, refreshed and optimistic.

If you are a carer there are a couple of good websites with a lot of supportive information such as Carers UK

or Age UK

You can see more pictures and get inspiration from my trip to Lewes on Pinterest Build Mumahouse or go to my Instagram Buildmumahouse.