Sometimes things go wrong and it’s just what you need 


The past three months have been a rollercoaster ride of very grown-up feeling stuff going wrong, getting better and repeating. We started 2017 with plans to move away to an entirely new place. We had the house, had the ideas and had it sort of mapped out. I thought it was right and that it was time and I built it up to be something it never would have been. 

Then it all went wrong, turned into a giant mess and eventually the whole thing got scrapped. 

I can’t explain how delightfully thrilled I am about that. 

It’s amazing how much you realise you didn’t want something until it’s called off and cancelled.

I know now I’m not doing it that my choice to wave goodbye to London and buy a quaint little house by a river big enough for a family I don’t yet have was because it felt like that’s what other people were doing. I felt like I should do it because it was responsible. It was sensible. It was something to grow into and decorate and change and get used to and just to learn to fit in.

When it all fell apart we took serious stock of what was happening with our lives and I realised that I just did not want it. I wanted to live near people I know. I wanted to be in London (well, the outskirts cos y’know, I’m not a billionaire) and I wanted to live somewhere I actually liked. 

All I really want right now is to able to commute quickly, feel comfortable, have space to myself and get a grip on the next big challenge – and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

I don’t know why I felt the need to press fast forward a hundred times like my life depended on it, but it did not do me any favours. 

I had this feeling that I’d be judged or deemed behind the masses or some other strange, unrealistic emotion that I can’t quite explain. I don’t even know who I felt like I had to answer to. There’s no person, no group of people, no conversation that I can blame. I think it was just the curse of seeing so much of other people’s lives online and getting blinded by it all on top of being a bit of a bully to myself. 

The whole situation worked out way better than I could ever have imagined. Something that felt like a disaster turned into a saviour. 

I’m fully excited for the rest of 2017 and what we’ve decided to do. I certainly now appreciate that spending a year working bloody hard and saving harder wasn’t done to feel unsure and anxious, it was to make life better. 

So here’s to not going through with stuff that doesn’t come from the heart and to an exciting next few months. 

9 online homeware stores that deserve a little attention 

 

I keep googling ‘homeware stores UK’ in the hope of finding some new places to shop from. I’ve found a few round-ups and lists of online homeware stores that aren’t just Ikea or John Lewis or Oliver Bonas (not that I don’t love all of those – I just want some different options) but then I get to the sites themselves and often find my status as a non-millionaire a problem.

I have a whole new home to fill very soon as I’ve managed to accumulate basically zero furniture in my 26 years (adulting like a pro) and I don’t want to buy EVERYTHING from Ikea.

I say this, I will buy many things from Ikea.

While I don’t want to overload and buy loads of stuff I don’t need, having lots of empty space to fill seems as good a reason as any to get some shopping done. After many weeks scouring the internet, Twitter, Instagram, blogs and magazines I’ve put together a list of homeware websites/shops that are affordable, sell all the things you’ll likely need to function and plenty of pretty bits for staring lovingly at too.

1) M&S

Okay, now this is probably obvious to everyone and I thought I’d get it out the way, but I honestly never really thought about M&S for homeware. I love their food and I love their clothes but that’s always been the extent of my Marks and Sparks browsing. Turns out they have a lot to offer.

What they’re good for: KITCHENWARE! The above spring coffee mug was brought home by my boyfriend the other week and they have loads of similar, lovely kitchen/cookware bits.

2) Wayfair

This is my current favourite website. They sell practically everything in the home world and they change their offerings so often you’ll never get bored of browsing.

What they’re good for: Sales – they have a new sale every couple of days on different products or themes or even by room. They do a good selection of contemporary sofas and lots of lovely light fixtures too.

3) Red Candy

The point of Red Candy is to be bright and bold and buy less beige and they can certainly help there.

What they’re good for: Clocks and photo frames are especially worth a look.

4) Lo and Behold

I found this site through just typing ‘homeware’ into the Twitter search bar, and while they don’t actually stock that much, you can find some gems. Very modern, very smart and all of the colours and patterns are understated and chic.

What they’re good for: Throws, bedding and lights.

5) The Range

I feel like maybe most people know about The Range, but late to the party as ever I only found their site a few weeks ago. Lots of furniture – big furniture, small furniture, they sell everything. It’s not all my cup of tea but there are some really nice storage pieces and coffee tables.

What they’re good for: Reasonable prices, good storage and lots of selection.

6) The Little House Shop

A lot of the stuff on here reminds me of H&M’s home offerings, but they do a bit more in the way of jazzy lights, bigger selection of prints on cushions and random stuff like toys.

What they’re good for: Lights, hanging mirrors, cushions and planters.

7) Cuckooland

I came for the name, stayed for the wooden storage. When I first landed on this site I wasn’t really sure it was really for me (although they the most amazing kids teepee beds that make me want to be 8 again), but they have some really nice stuff.

What they’re good for: Chests of drawers, storage units, garden stuff, kids furniture.

8) Howkapow

Expect bright, cheerful and quirky.

What they’re good for: Unusual candles, pretty mugs and cups, quirky kitchenware and fun gifts.

9) Bouf

Not the cheapest in this list, but it’s the bigger stuff you’d pay more for anyway that they win at. Lots of trendy hexagonal shaped furniture and really nice  painted wood.

What they’re good for: Bookcases and dining chairs.

Adoration for the most average weekends

img_9213

I adored the weekend just gone (please come back) yet I did absolutely nothing special during it. I didn’t go out out, I didn’t do anything to my hair or put on much make up, I didn’t celebrate anything, go shopping, drink wine or try anything new apart from putting cheesy nachos inside a fajita which was a dream come true.

Happiness at the weekend can still be dancing until 4am, trying to phone the ‘Night Tsar’ on a help phone at Bank tube station and getting in round after round of Cafe Patron. All of that is still fun, I still like doing it and I get genuinely excited about the prospect of going out somewhere which requires me to think about my choice of shoe and sharpen my eyeliner, but there’s a whole new contented feeling in town come 5pm on a Friday.

These days, weekend satisfaction and all round happy feelings include:

-Cleaning things with bleach that smell like citrus fruits and then commenting on how fresh everything is for the rest of the day.

-Homeware shopping online until I realise I don’t need any of it, saving a few links and then repeating the next day.

-Walking. Walking anywhere with water, trees, ideally swans and maybe a nice photogenic bridge.

-Not sleeping in. The me of five years ago wants to slap the me of right now hard around the face and throw a glass of water over me, but it’s true. Being dressed, functioning and coherent outside of the house by 9am makes me feel like I’m coasting through life as opposed to the desperately treading water and shaking my head feeling I have most of the time.

-Drinking enough wine to feel warm and fall asleep easily and doing it because FRIDAY, but not so much that I wake up and need to stick my head out of a window at 7am and do the ‘phone, keys, bank cards, ID’ bag check that follows a heavy evening. (I haven’t actually had to do this in so long and I sort of miss it but also NO).

-Being able to get in on a Saturday afternoon and stay in where there will be no wind, no rain, no chance of being failed by public transplant, no queues, no general public and no need to have clean hair.

I know the ‘being a granny’ in your 20s thing is hardly groundbreaking but being a bit boring and predictable has never felt better. I also think that after a long time and very up and down 12 months, I’ve finally embraced a better mindset and a rosier outlook, which makes lovely weekend all the more lovely.

8 things I want in my kitchen

kitchen

The closer I get to actually moving, the more I keep letting myself look at homeware. One of the only rooms we have stuff for is the kitchen, so it feels easy to just build on that rather than face facts that we have other entire parts of a functioning home missing. These are all the fruits of random phone shopping on the train this week, apart from the teapot, which I found in Westfields. I’d never heard of  T2 before stumbling upon it a few weeks ago but I can see myself getting VERY well acquainted. If you know of any other places that sell homeware that I can browse online during my train strike fun times, link me up.

1) Printed porcelain mug – H&M – £4.99

2)  Stripe gold rim mug – Matalan – £3.00

3)  Salter vintage scale – Dunelm – £16.99

4)  Skyscraper coasters 4 pack – H&M – £1.99

5)  Leaf salad servers – H&M –  £12.99

6)  Agate bottle opener – Anthropologie – £16.00

7)  Dazed & Dazzled teapot – T2 – £46.00 Salter vintage scale

8) Denby halo cereal bowl – Dunelm – £8.99

The Big Pink home fundraiser, checking your boobs and cake


A couple of weeks ago we had about 25 people descend on our kitchen for tea, coffee and more cake than I think I’ve ever seen in one afternoon. While I don’t see that there needs to be an excuse to drink hot drinks and eat carrot cake, this little tea session was all in favour of boobs. To be more exact- it was for Breast Cancer Care.

My mum was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years ago and due to her being young (still in her early forties at the time) and incredibly fit and healthy, it was a complete shock to our systems and a terrible time. It still is a shock really, but she’s a lucky survivor and recently had her two year mammogram, which came back clear.

We’ve always been into fundraising in my household, and already did a fair bit for charity and Cancer Research before this happened, so this year we wanted to give a little something back to a breast cancer charity following my mum’s treatment, so my sister signed us up to host one of their Big Pink events. If you fancy turning your hand to some home fundraising I really recommend this. BCC sent us a pack with a few ideas and resources to use including stickers, games and money collection boxes.

We made some games, including pin the nipple on the boob obviously, and put together a raffle. We also made pick & mix, put up bunting, and bought lots of pink treats in a mad dash round the Tesco confectionary aisle- nothing too arduous, and nothing too stressful. In the end, in return for a really nice day, sugar rushes all round and many rounds of boiling the kettle, we made almost £300. Really not too shabby for a day in the kitchen, and it was FUN! There are tons of home fundraisers like this that you can sign up to, and I will 100% be up for another one. It really does feel good to do good.

And also, more importantly than anything, CHECK YOUR BOOBS. I know so many people that don’t do this, and after the past two years, I can’t see any reason not to. It takes minutes, you can do it in the shower during the time you usually stare into space or think about if you’ve already washed your hair or not. Knowing your own boobs could save your life, so start bonding with them. Tell your family to do it, tell your friends to do it, tell your colleagues and your neighbours. Here’s a handy little guide of how to effectively cop a feel.

The first time buyer journey- choosing somewhere new to live

IMG_1009

We’ve spent the last ten months pretty set on areas we want to move to. We thought we really had it all locked down, but as with every part of this process, we were wrong. We looked up the areas, tried the train journeys out, looked at schools, looked at crime rates, even sampled the local pub in one case. We looked at all the sensible things you get told to look at when choosing somewhere new to live, but it turns out there’s so much more to it. There’s so much more to everything, it seems.

I’ve also done some rambling about questions to ask when viewing houses

This area we were focusing on is now not even remotely part of our search. We have completely changed our minds and now we’ve settled on a really different place, but also it’s 100% the home we’re looking for. We don’t have the house or flat yet, but we know this is the place for us.

It’s a big choice to make. A big whopping, very adult choice, especially if you’re buying, because you have an added level of ‘you are stuck here for a while now you should have thought about this more’. It’s scary.  When we first started scoping out places to live we thought of the stuff that came to mind when you think of a Sunday- places to get breakfast, shops in walking distance, a nice park just around corner, basically just little comforts. It wasn’t until we actually started going in houses and the whole thing suddenly got real that we realised there was so much more to it.

As nice as it is to be able to stroll out of your front door and fall into a nice café where you can become a regular and have the staff know your coffee order without opening your mouth, there is a bigger picture. The hard part is making these Sunday comforts fit with that bigger picture.

In the hope of this being helpful to just one person, these are the things we realised we should have thought about earlier:

Sewage– Yes really! Look up if there is a sewage plant near and look up the wind direction. You can work out how affected you’re likely to be by smell, particularly in the summer.

How busy do the roads really get– We’ve been stuck in some truly awful traffic some weekends while house hunting, and it’s definitely worth looking into how busy roads you might live on can be- not just for noise reasons but also safety. If you can, go and look at the road in the evenings, in the week and at the weekend. Sounds like a lot of work, but it’s better to know these things.

Flooding mapsGov.uk have a system that allows you to input an address and get the flooding risk for the property. If you’re anywhere near a river this is 100% worth the five minutes it takes.

Train developments- If there’s planned work on train tracks or work on extending lines due to start up in the future, and you need the trains for work, consider how it might affect your commute.

Scope to extend and do work on a house- When you visit houses, look to see if the neighbours have dropped curbs for driveways, loft extensions or porches. If they have, there’s a pretty good chance you can do the same, as the council is unlikely to say yes to one home but not another, particularly neighbours.

Road closures in the area- Look up how many times roads have been closed off in the past two years in the local area. By doing this we found a town we had been pinning hopes on had a continuous problem with water pipes bursting, causing flooding, road chaos and issues with water supply to some properties.

What’s on the local high street?- This is a pretty good indication at how far you’ll need to travel to get to the shops you want. If you want to have coffee shops and cafes nearby, but there’s none on your local high street, look at how far you’ll have to go. Will you need to drive just to buy bread and milk? Will you be able to get whatever seasonal coffee Starbucks are serving up without paying to park? This might seem like it’s unimportant, until the day comes when all you want is some convenience but there is none.

Would you want to walk from the station at night?- There’s a lot to be said about looking at places at night as well as the day. If you’re going to be walking around in the dark in the winter after work, how comfortable would you feel?

Noise complaints- Vendors have to legally tell you if they have lodged a complaint against the neighbours, so ask!

The first time buyer journey- viewing houses: questions, estate agents and staying calm

IMG_0357
Just FYI, I’m putting photos of houses I would love to own but never will in these posts, because we have to dream don’t we? 

So- viewing houses. It struck me really quickly how little we knew about property, house buying and estate agents the moment we walked into the first flat we viewed. We’ve been to about eight now and dealt with 20 or so estate agents, and my confidence and knowledge feels like it’s grown tenfold because it’s had to.

I’m starting to feel more like my inner Kirsty and Phil is blossoming  more and more every day. That being said though, take in as much help as you possibly can and research EVERYTHING. 

You can also read my ramblings on lifestyle changes that helped while saving a deposit and about the general experience of deciding to buy.

We researched and wrote down loads of questions to ask the estate agents and owners and of course spoke to friends and family, but I feel like I could have used a quick masterclass to tell me what to expect from estate agents, how to maximise time and what to do under pressure. So this is essentially my attempt at making a masterclass in a blog post in the hope it’ll be helpful to other first time buyers with viewings. Buckle up, this is quite a long one.

Booking viewings and open houses

I thought getting booked in would be the easy bit, but we’ve come across all sorts of issues that have meant we haven’t made it to places we like the look of, or there’s been a catch that you don’t expect. We realised early on we needed to be on the property search websites every single day, as early as possible- like 7am early. We’re in the south so the market is very fast and full on. 

It’s also worth looking on the actual estate agents website as well as the big sites like Right Move. Also like their Facebook pages. Sometimes they leave a property up on Facebook for a few hours before it gets a listing on a property site.

When you see something you like, don’t dally. Make the call and ask if they can do a time convenient for you- you may as well ask. If they can’t, just ask for the first possible slot and take it, especially if you’re really keen. We lost out on somewhere I was so excited to see because we booked a viewing a week away, and someone else got in, made an offer and got accepted. Things are fast and competitive- more so than I ever imagined.

We’ve also learnt that if you’re making a day of it, it is worth filling any gaps with any other stuff in the area that you wouldn’t normally consider seeing. I did this on Saturday and out of the whole day, the only place I’m following up on was one we booked to kill some time.

Also, keep a diary- things get hectic. Not all agents will send you any kind of confirmation, so you need to keep track of your bookings. Agents will also offer to book you in to other properties that fit your bill, and if they don’t, ask them to. They might have something else they can show you on the same day and save you some time.

When it comes to an open house, be prepared to see loads of people crammed in. Listen to their questions, watch what they’re doing- you might gain some extra knowledge. 

What do you need to ask estate agents when you’re in the property?

We used the Home Owners Alliance website to get together a list of general questions. Most are fairly obvious and include the condition of the boiler, roof, windows, age of the house, structural issues etc. 

We’re lucky that we have a property contractor in the family who pointed out things we would never imagine asking or even consider. A few extra questions worth adding:

  • Can you see a guarantee for the boiler and all the certificates that come with it?
  • Is there a loft/basement? Is the loft boarded and can you look in it?
  • How recently has the house been painted? (Why so recent if not just to spruce it up?)
  • Do night buses/train lines run near the house and how loud are they if so?
  • Is there a sewage plant near? What direction does the wind carry the smell?
  • How old is the guttering?
  • What’s the drainage like in the surrounding area? 
  • Have neighbours had extensions? (Scopes out if you likely to get permission to build on)
  • Is there a specific month the sellers are aiming to move?

I’ve also felt quite rushed by agents who aren’t keen to spend more than seven or eight minutes (literally, that fast) in a house, but just stand your ground. If you might be handing over tens of thousands in a deposit for a place, you want to know as much about it as possible. If an agent can’t answer your questions, say you want to speak to the owner, or give them a list of stuff to find out. We had a really helpful agent recently who went away and got answers to a whole load of questions we put to her within two hours. 

Also, be brave and just outright ask if there have been offers. I felt too intimidated by the whole thing to do that at first, but if it’s not sealed bids, you can ask and you should get an answer. Also ask how many other people have viewed and if there are other viewings booked and also if you can arrange a second viewing.

Questions you can expect from estate agents

I spent so long fretting over what I should ask agents and owners that it never much occurred to me that they would ask us for stuff too. I’ve found during my extensive questioning of colleagues and family members that these vary hugely. Some agents will ask, some won’t- but we didn’t expect some of the questions we’ve had, which caused unneccsary stress and aggressive emailing.

  • Some agents will ask for your final offer and highest price by a set time. No negotiating, no extra 24 hours to deliberate- if the interest is high so are the stakes.
  • You might be asked to send estate agents your mortgage in principle, your bank statements to prove you have a deposit, and a bank statement with a signature of anyone who’s giving you money towards the sale- I was taken back by this, but when I spoke to a broker I was assured it’s normal and we should expect agents to ask. I’ve been told this more a London thing.
  • When do you want to move by? You might just feel like this is obivous- as soon as possible, duh. BUT- it can apparently be helpful to name a month and find out if the seller can work with you to achieve it. If you got with what they need they’ll be keen to seal the deal, so we’ve been told.
  • You can also expect follow-up calls, Sundays included, to ask if you want to bid on Monday, how much you were thinking and if you want to remain on the ‘interest list.’

Stuff to remember among the madness

I keep reminding myself that this is not anyone else’s money or home, it’s going to be mine and Dan’s, so we need to choose wisely. Pressure might be put on you from all angles- the seller pressures the agent, the agent pressures you, other buyers are chomping at the bit and will outbid you- just keep cool.

I’ve also been told by about a hundred people who I’ve pestered into giving me insight and tips that when you find the home for you, you’ll just know. It sounds cliched but I think it’s right. I’ve been to places these past few weeks which have felt okay, I could probably live in them, I could probably make it a home, but if you aren’t in a giant rush, it’s worth waiting right? Patience is your best friend in the process I think, so I hope I have lots of it to get me through. I’m expecting things to take a long time, so anything that feels quick will be a pleasant surprise.

Oh and don’t forget to enjoy it. Easy for me to say a few weeks in (you can probs tune in for some crying and stress meltdowns before Christmas) but it is exciting. It’s also so far quite exhausting, it takes over, there’s so much to learn and so much to consider, but you’re choosing your first home, so y’know- YAY. WELL DONE YOU.

If this interests you- come back for me banging on about area scouting, bidding and poker faces. 

Interior style crush 2- wooden furniture

It’s probably okay to call this research at this point. My latest Pinterest (the website I never thought I’d understand or use but am now addicted to, obviously) obsession- wooden furniture. Wooden furniture of any kind. I would be quite happy if I found a house on Right Move which just happened to have loads of this stuff in, left behind. Since this is immensely unlikely and will never happen, it’ll have to exist in a pin reality for now.

Above are all from Swoon Editions 

Above are from KezSmith1976, Holly McGlynn, Fateme Haghighi, Sarah and Bendrix

Above are all from Sarah and Brendrix

Interior style crush 1- everything grey

I’ve never been much of a Pinterest person I have to admit. That’s always mostly been down to not really getting how it works or ever having anything big to plan. I’ve watched friends get completely swallowed by it while planning weddings or holidays or decorating, and now I’m edging closer to moving, I’ve finally fallen under the Pinterest spell.

I downloaded the app after deleting it ages ago in a ‘phone storage full’ emergency while I was on holiday and had sunset photos to busy myself with taking. I’ve never had to do any proper decorating but as the time to be a fully-fledged adult approaches, I find myself thinking about paint more and more. Thinking about paint makes me feel like I don’t really  recognise myself, but it’s also really exciting.

I remember my parents redecorating our bedrooms when I was in my teens and picking an explosion of colours and various, really bright photos frames, lamps, rugs and fairy lights from Ikea. Now though, instead of ALL the colours, I’m suddenly really into grey. REALLY, REALLY into. It’s unfortunate that my boyfriend thinks grey is ‘cold and unwelcoming’ because it means I’ll have to decorate the whole house in it while he’s out one day.

These are my biggest forms of grey inspiration that Pinterest has served up so far, and some of my favourite home boards, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Above are all from Barker and Store House- New Nautical board

Above are all from Red Online boards

Above are all from Interior Decorating board by Lawrence

Got any favourite interior pinners? You can find me pinning all of the grey and all of the world map murals here: pinterest.com/laurenrellis010/ 

Saying yes to moving on

  
I haven’t had many chances to sit down and write anything proper on here for ages. I’ve been fully caught up in work and general life and mince pies. Most of what I do manage to post is half written on my phone or rushed at the end of the work day if I can bring myself to engage my brain at 5:30pm on a totally different subject- which doesn’t happen often. I actually got an email from someone checking I was okay as I hadn’t been blogging much and I melted inside a bit because people are inherently good (despite what the news might lead us to believe lately).

I’ve also been really busy packing and unpacking my belongings and making bad commuting decisions and generally mourning the sun. Sunset before 3pm is BLEAK and I am not okay with it. I moved house recently, and when I say moved, I mean I left my flat of almost three years with nowhere new lined up and am now (equipped with my boyfriend and a lot of stuff in loft storage) staying with my parents until we work our lives out.

Leaving that flat was hard. It was so hard. We’ve been comfortable there for so long and it was the perfect mix of functioning adult and young vodka drinking revellers, neatly nestled in bustling zone 2. It took a lot of building up to. A lot of googling options. A lot of refusing to actually pack a box and mostly just denial that it was time to move on.

Moving on is hard. If time would just stop for a while so we can all deal with our lives and just not worry about getting older that would be grand. But it’s not going to happen. Moving on is a natural part of life and it has to be done, even when it feels like the total worst thing at the time. I’m confident there’s great value in tapping into future you and giving yourself a lecture, and when I say lecture, I mean just shouting ‘IT’S TIME YOU FOOL.’

Life in the Fulham flat with two of our friends and two other housemates (it was a bloody enormous flat FYI with Victorian fire places and everything) was ideal for a long time. We did all the normal things like going to work everyday, we got promotions, new jobs, we travelled, we cooked from scratch, threw NYE parties, we cleaned bathrooms and gathered on Sunday mornings to drink coffee. What we also did was balance all that out by occasionally dancing on the kitchen table, getting far too drunk on wine, owning a strobe light, arriving home mob-handed at 7am after an all-nighter with bags of McDonalds and being neighbourhood nuisances. We did enough of both to make life just how we wanted it, but all the while we got three years older and moved into our mid-twenties. Inevitable, but scary.

Now I’m not saying in any way, shape, or form that mid-twenties is the time to settle down and forget drinking gin cocktails until 2am in bars you can’t afford to be in, because I intend on continuing this. I have no idea when is the right time to do anything. Literally clueless. If you do know or have some sort of magic book with all the answers then do let me know. I used to try and have a master plan for everything but honestly, there’s just no point. Life just has a way of working out, and even if you don’t like it at the time, things change and get better eventually.

That’s why the whole accepting it’s time to move on is important. It’s fine to drag things out a while but in the end, you have to do yourself a favour. I felt like I was letting go of everything fun and free and waving bye to the lovely little town that had become my home and comfort, but actually, two weeks on, and I just feel normal again and ready to do whatever comes next. Us humans adapt remarkably well, so we should fear moving on less and just say yes.

So now comes the home hunting and the driving round new places and the ‘shall we take our savings and move to Thailand though because isn’t it nice in Thailand?’ part. 

For now I’m sitting in the warm living room at home surrounded by Christmas lights with this view and I’m very okay about that: