We've moved!

Apologies for the lull between blog posts - we've been busy moving flat! And it really is as stressful as everyone says it is.

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I won't bore you with the full details, but in short our paperwork wasn't completed until late afternoon on the day we moved. Which technically means that neither the deal on the sale of our flat nor the purchase of our new flat had actually happened... or in other words, it could all still have fallen through at the last minute! Meanwhile, all our stuff was loaded into a removals van with three very (understandably) grumpy men who had to wait until we got the go ahead to pick our keys.

I won't reveal our new place quite yet (though you might have already had a sneak peek over on my Instagram). Instead, here a few final photos of our Comely Bank Street - empty. It was very sad saying goodbye, but the new chapter is too exciting to dwell on that for long. Pics soon, I promise!

5 things I've learnt about house-hunting and home buying...

Ok, so our flat move is next week. And as I type, we're surrounded by boxes, and knee-deep in bubble-wrap. I keep finding bits of packing tape stuck to my clothes.

We're in that awkward phase of packing. You know - the bit where you've packed all the obvious stuff like books and pots and pans, and have wrapped all the pictures. But you're left with piles of old paperwork and mementos from your past that you're not quite sure whether to keep or throw away. So instead of making any decisions, I've decided to write a blog post about the home-buying process. 

View from our current shared back garden. Image courtesy of Yohanna Adolfsson @ SquareFoot Media

View from our current shared back garden.
Image courtesy of Yohanna Adolfsson @ SquareFoot Media

#1 - Don't be afraid to start looking early

Not everyone will agree with this, but I have found it hugely useful to start looking before we've been actually ready to make an offer on a place. And I mean that both in terms of searching online, and doing viewings in person. Starting early will give you a feel for the market - what the prices are like, what you can get for your money, whether the type of property you like comes up a lot or very rarely. Obviously you'll have to guard yourself against falling in love with a place before you have the finances and wherewithal to move, but so long as you insulate yourself against that, you'll reap the benefits of all that extra knowledge about what the market is doing and what you like and dislike. Which brings us to...

#2 - Know your compromises

The other benefit of starting to look early is that you'll get better acquainted with your own priorities. I think this is especially useful in a couple - making sure you're both on the same page about what you're willing to compromise, and what are 'must-haves'. For us, when we first started flat hunting the first time around, my husband's initial priority was space. He wanted the biggest flat we could afford. But another key priority for both of us was location. We had already lived for two years in a part of Edinburgh that didn't have much sense of community or any amenities like shops or restaurants on our doorstep. So after visiting a few flats and weighing things up, we both ended up agreeing that we were happy to sacrifice a bit on space to be in a location that we loved. So by the time we saw our first flat, we both instantly knew it has the right combination of space and location for us.

#3 - Don't panic-buy

Now that might sound obvious - who on earth would panic-buy a home, it's not a pair of shoes we're talking about here! But what I really mean is, bide your time. When we started flat-hunting first time around the market was a bit quieter. This time was a whole different ball game. The market was soaring in Edinburgh, and things were being snapped up almost instantly. Because of that, it's easy to get swept up in estate-agent buzz and feel like you're going to miss out unless you act really quickly. And I'm far from immune to it. I look back at one of the first flats we viewed and remember thinking we could put in an offer on it. Even though, looking back, it was all wrong for us. But I was, even at that early stage, panicking about what we might be able to get. My recommendation is to try not to pay too much attention to what the market is doing, take a deep breath, and focus on what you really want from your home and the life you're going to lead in that new place. And then of course, once you've found what's genuinely the right place, you can snap into action!

#4 - View strategically

When we first viewed the flat we're about to move into, it was one of those dream Edinburgh evenings - endless blue skies and bright, startling sunlight. When we walked into the flat, I was totally captivated by the light. I remember standing in the living room bay window, basking in the sunlight and gazing wistfully at the view. Everything had a magical sheen to it. Which is all well and good, but this is a LOT of money you're going to spend on a home. You can't afford to have rose-tinted glasses about what you're buying. So for our next viewing, I made sure to pick a day when the weather was due to be overcast, and viewed it at a different time of day. Would the flat still be as impressive? Would the noise from the road bother us more? Were we really prepared to live on the third floor (again!)? And it was time to ask all those tricky questions like "what's the state of the boiler - and the roof?" No matter how in love with the property you are, be hard headed for the second viewing. Ask the questions you might not quite want to know the answers to. Then at least you're going into it with your eyes open.

#5 - Get the right people on your side

And finally, get a team you can trust. I know it works differently in England, but in Scotland you can only put in an offer through your solicitor. So get one you trust and like, as they will do a lot of the running on your behalf, and if they're good at their job - and willing to patiently answer all the million questions you're likely to have - they will take a lot of the stress out of proceedings. Also, this time around we got a mortgage broker. To be honest, we had been advised to use one first time around but I just wasn't sure what they did, and it seemed like an expense we didn't need. But it's been a godsend. The mortgage broker will find the best deal on the market for you, meaning less work for you - and getting the best deal has the potential save you a huge amount over the course of your mortgage. Ask your solicitor if they can recommend someone. Ours actually didn't charge us anything, as we were referred by our solicitor. I can't guarantee you will be as lucky, but I'm glad we asked!

Hope this is helpful, and let me know if you're house-hunting at the moment. What tips do you have?

Books recommendations - the print and pattern reading list

When it comes to designing, I'd be lost without my pattern source books. I so often turn to them for inspiration - for colours, shapes or repeat motif ideas.  So I thought I'd give you a sneak peek inside my 'design library' - a very fancy way of saying the one shelf in my IKEA bookcase not taken up with books belonging to my English teacher husband!!

First up, one to my absolute favourites: Textiles of the Islamic World by John Gillow. It's not only beautifully written and researched, but there are generous full page spreads aplenty of gorgeous textiles stretching from the Ottoman world through to Arabia and Persia, and from Central Asia extending as far as Sub-Saharan Africa. From ceremonial clothing to utilitarian cloth, there's a full range of different varieties of textiles. I also love that Gillow himself travelled through some of these regions as a schoolboy and later in life as a textile dealer - he knows how to get under the skin of each region.

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Another - more recently acquired - find is Textile Designs: 200 Years of Patterns for Printed Fabrics by Susan Meller. I actually came across this book relatively recently, in my local secondhand Shelter bookshop.  It sang to me from the window! The book is arranged by motif, colour, period and design, and is absolutely jam-packed full of inspiration. It's got everything from chintz to cats, and indigos to ikats. I love just leafing through it and letting my eye wander. I always see something new. Great if you're in a style rut and need to shake things up.

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Next up, an old-school classic and possibly the most well-thumbed book in my bookcase, ever. My mum bought me the Essential William Morris, by Iain Zaczek back when I was doing my GCSE's - i.e. a very long time ago! I was into organic shapes and Islamic art, so obviously discovering William Morris blew my mind. Not only is this book packed full of Morris' famous wallpapers, tiles and tapestries, but you also get a sense of how his Firm operated - which is fascinating and inspiring stuff for anyone starting a creative business. It's also amazing to realise that alongaide his creative endeavours he also wrote novels and was a political activist - he had the original multi-hyphen career!  I should also say, this book is going for a song on Amazon - under £3 including postage if you buy it secondhand. Snap it up, you won't regret it.

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And last but not least, Alastair Morton and the Edinburgh Weavers, but Lesley Jackson. I actually came across this book soon after I moved to Edinburgh - I believe at the Dovecot Studios shop (both the shop and the Studios are absolutely fantastic by the way - do visit if you're in Edinburgh). The Edinburgh Weavers were such an important part of the Scottish - and British - textiles scene that I couldn't not include this! They commissioned patterns for textiles from some of the biggest name 20th century artists and designers - everyone from Barbara Hepworth to Lucienne Day. The colour palettes are muted yet sumptuous. Highly recommended.

That's it - for this round-up at least! There's plenty more where this came from - next time I'll focus on interiors books.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear what your favourite books are when it comes to print and pattern. Where do you turn to for inspiration?

 

Living room tour

Our living room plays lots of roles. It's where we relax at the end of a very long day - curl up with a book, binge on Netflix, cosy up in front of the fire. So before we move to our new place, I just wanted to give you a quick peek around our current living room.

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As you can tell from the photos - I'm definitely a maximalist! No white walls and uncluttered spaces here, sorry! For me, more is more. More books, more colours, more textures.

Most of the furniture was mixed and matched from flea markets and family. We found our green leather Chesterfield sofa on Gumtree; my (Persian!) dad bought me our Persian carpet; and the amazing mirror above our fireplace was found at a car boot sale.  Throws and blankets were picked up on our travels.

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I suspect in our next home I will try to edit and tone down the clash of patterns and textures a tiny bit more - but no promises!

How I did up my kitchen - the easy way!

Kitchen make-overs are daunting, I know. But they don't need to be complicated or expensive.

When we first moved in, the kitchen was my least favourite room in the flat. And no wonder... Because although it was a great size, with space for a proper dining table, and lots of light, it was also - well, just a bit ugly.

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The pine cupboards weren't just any old pine - they were eye-wateringly bright. They also clashed with the paler pine of the counter-tops. And paired with terracotta floor tiles, it was a bit of an orange-overload.

But the thing is, having replaced the bathroom as a priority (could NOT live with a pink bathroom suite), we didn't have enough budget to also tackle the kitchen. So I cheated.

Instead of replacing the cupboards, I decided to paint them. Now, I'd read a lot online about painting kitchen cupboards before I embarked on it, and the main thing I took away was that this was not going to be quick. And that was totally true.

In all, it took about three weeks - working on them in the evenings after work, and on the weekends. But although it wasn't exactly speedy, it was pretty easy - and the results speak for themselves!

Image courtesy of Yohanna Adolfsson @ SquareFoot Media

Image courtesy of Yohanna Adolfsson @ SquareFoot Media

I might do a step-by-step guide on how to paint kitchen cupboards another time, but for now I'll just cover the basics.

I gave all the cupboards a good clean to begin with, and then a light sanding with medium sandpaper. Then another clean to get rid of the sandpaper residue.

Then the fun bit - choosing the paint. We decided to go for Farrow & Ball. Not only because they have a shop just down the road in Stockbridge, but also because I figured I would need to do a fair few coats, and that paying a bit extra for a good quality paint would make the job that bit easier.

And I have to say, the paint was great. It went on easily, the finish is smooth (no ugly brushstrokes showing through!), and the cupboards wipe-down beautifully when they need a clean.

In terms of finishes and colours, we started off with a base layer of the Interior Wood Primer and Undercoat in 'mid-tones'. And the top coat is Estate Eggshell in French Grey.  It took three coats of this to get full coverage.

I was initially worried that the colour might be a little dull, but I love the way it turned out. It's definitely more of a green than a grey, and far from being dull or dark, it's a beautiful neutral, that changes with the light.

Image courtesy of Yohanna Adolfsson at SquareFoot Media

Image courtesy of Yohanna Adolfsson at SquareFoot Media

And with the cupboards painted, somehow the countertop and the terracotta tiles - with the help of a flea market rug - don't look so offensive any more!

We've gone from rarely hanging out in the kitchen, to it being the real hub of our home. We love having people over for dinner, and they can happily hang out with a drink while I'm cooking, or in the evenings I can be working on the laptop at the kitchen table while Harry makes the tea. Perfect.

Image courtesy of Yohanna Adolfsson at SquareFoot Media

Image courtesy of Yohanna Adolfsson at SquareFoot Media