Home | Buying our first house

As we now are celebrating being in our home two years (where did that time go!) it got me thinking about the whole buying process. It all seemed so stressful at the time but now that I look back here is the advice I would give my younger self. 

Be prepared to sacrifice 

If you’re starting to save for your first home, like we did, I took a long hard look at my monthly income and outgoings, and this was the daunting start to our process. This allowed me to calculate my bills and my disposal income, shockingly I had more disposable income than I thought, by no means a millionaire, but multiple trips to the shops and online orders seemed to take a large proportion of my salary. That’s the first thing I cut back on, not completely but sacrifices had to be made. 

Save, save and save some more

Although I’ve just said I didn’t completely cut back I was very concise of what I bought, I became more aware of disposable fashion and make up and things had only to be bought for a purpose. There is much more than a deposit, there is solicitors fees, furniture and installation charges. It really racks up so be realistic with the money you can save keep that in mind for your mortgage payments. I went to a mortgage advisor to workout our budget and what were affordable monthly payments. One thing I will say was that with our salaries they were willing to give us more than we originally thought, we could have gone for a higher mortgage with higher monthly payments and probably a bigger house but really we wanted to make it manageable. Only do want you can afford, it’s important to be able to live and enjoy your new home. 

Compromise is key

Whether you’re buying on your own, with your partner or with a friend. Once you have an idea of budget, make a list of things that are ideal. Now go through this list and look through the things that you would compromise on. For us location, south facing garden and car parking were essential. It would have been ideal to have a semi detached, separate dining room, downstairs toilet but unfortunately this was not possible so we had to compromise and what’s important is, for us this is our first home, it’s unlikely we or you will stay there forever and the next house, once you get some time under your belt and maybe a little more saving, you will be able to incorporate these desirable into your essential list. 

Don’t let looks get the better of you

If you walked into a shop that is beautifully decorated and tidy you’re more likely to buy right…it’s the same with houses. The difference is there is only 1 house and lots of buyers. If an estate agent thinks a house has potential they will do an open day. That’s what happened with the first house we bid on. If a house is well decorated, you can see yourself living there. That’s exactly what we thought and although we set a budget there were multiple bidders and we seen ourselves go £12,000 above our budget and £16,000 over the asking price. What were we thinking, we got carried away and I just hope that the other buyers could afford. No matter what, when the furniture is removed and the rooms are bare, it looks completely different and then you will want to reprint walls and change things around. Interiors are not worth blowing your budget, you can and will make improvements as you go along. 

Try not to get emotionally invested 

My dream home is a old house which we can renovate. We viewed multiple houses and fell in love with this one which looking back now was completely impractical, particularly for our first home. We were sale agreed but knew it needed a lot of work and a couple weeks later we got a complete building survey, our dreams were shattered. The house was in such bad disrepair beyond our naive eyes. It need completely rewired, the chimney was about to fall in, repointing on the outside, wood root, a second damp course and to top it all off asbestos. Our surveyor (who was lovely) and we met him at the house while he was doing the survey gave us some pretty good advice. Without £40,000 before we moved in, it would be impossible for us to make the house liveable, all before we even lifted a paintbrush for the internal. This was a tough blow, we were devastated, because we were emotional involved in the house. We were annoyed that we paid £800 for a survey that proved this wasn’t our dream home, really we should have been happy, we identified the problem and saved ourselves a painful and stressful journey but at the time it was difficult not to think that we had wasted that money for a survey. That’s the trick the survey was vital for us to know that was not a sensible investment. 

Don’t be afraid of professional advice

We took advice from anyone who would help and not my mum or dad but professional advice. We went to a mortgage advisor, who proved to give us a better rate on our mortgage than going directly to the banks. We also took advice from our building surveyor on that and the house we eventually bought. Our solicitor who helped us along the way, I called a lot and I’m sure he screened some of our calls but he knows this process inside and out. Other than signing a few documents and giving them a read (I’m probably doing them no justice) but he gave us so much help. Your solicitor works for you and in this case represents you so use their knowledge and expertise. Remember the estate works for the seller of the property so if you have any problems, get advice and help from your solicitor, they are the best person to represent you. 

Be patient

This process takes time. Finding the right house takes time then conveyancing takes even more time. It’s so easy to say this once it’s complete but it’s so important to be patient, you can rush people along, and be sure to keep them on there toes chasing but there will be a lot of back and forth so don’t let that get you down. Once you get the keys and unlock the door of your new home for the first time that feeling is amazing and no one can take that achievement away from you then. 

Lashings of Love, 

K xo

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Home | Burn baby burn

From my last post on our wooden floor which we finished back in August, the wood burner seems to be a long way coming. Just picking a stove can be difficult, waiting for it to arrive and then a fitter it’s a well thought through process. It all started last year when there was smoke coming back down from our chimney into our living room, I came back from the gym one night and it was so bad that Chris has all the doors and windows open, it was extremely dangerous. We had chimney sweeps out to clean the chimney and check there was nothing up there so I thought a wood burner was a great solution. Truth be told, this was how I sold it to Chris. After months of reading Country Living, I knew I wanted a wood burner from day one. Our fireplace was deceiving, like many of the fittings in this house, but this is the blog post for that rant. The fireplace was actually a heavy duty plastic, not stone like it would initially have you believe. This made it extremely difficult to clean, the black soot stuck to it, some would say it made it look worn, me, dirty. I cleaned as hard as I could but it just never looked clean. I knew there was so work to be done before we could install it.

Once the wooden floor was done, I went to the Stove Yard, outside Belfast, it came highly recommended from my Auntie who got her stove there a few years back. Thankfully they are open on a Saturday until 12.30pm so we called in on a Saturday morning. They are experts in the burner industry, we wanted a multi-fuel stove as we burn a lot of coal not just wood, without even seeing our room they were able to give us an idea of the size of burner we needed, 5Kw, which is the heat the burner will produce. This is more than enough for our small room, we didn’t even know the energy level of our fire at that time. They arranged for an installer to come out to do a home check to see that we were suitable and give us a price. The fitter called out a few days later, we had no idea of the extensive work that was required. The chimney had to change from 8″ to 6″ and they fitted a lining to that to reduce the width, we also needed a carbon monoxide detector, even though we already had one but it had to be in the room, building regulation changes and not to mention the stove itself. The best part of getting one fitter was that they do everything and I mean everything. Getting this done was going to a two day job, remove the old fireplace, dig out the hole for the new stove, plaster and fitting. We booked it, 6 weeks was all we would have to wait. Now lets talk cost, the cost of the stove was around £550, we didn’t go for a brand name, although a Charnwood would have been right up my street, the one we choose had a good warranty and there was good feedback on it. We would have looked more into the differences in the branded stoves but we don’t intend to stay in this house forever so we wanted something that was aesthetically pleasing but didn’t break the bank. The cost of the remainder of the parts and the labour was £1200 so a total of £1750, of course you can spend more if you want a more expensive stove but for our purpose this was fine.


Six weeks rolled around pretty quickly and we began clearing out the furniture in our living room, apart from the sofas, we just threw some plastic lining over them. I couldn’t wait to come home and see the progress after the first day. I was so pleased to see the old fireplace gone and the hole was prepared for the stove, the stone was laid, it looked good. However there was dust everywhere. It was difficult to understand how every inch of our house had dust in it, I suppose there were parts of our wall coming out so I shouldn’t complain. I couldn’t wait for it to be finished. The day day we came home and it was all done, we were both delighted. The fireplace looked bulky and now the wood burner looked much nicer, it made the area look bigger. Now to start with the clean up. We spent that evening cleaning the floors and hoovering (I’ve never emptied the hoover more in my life). We had to wait a week until we could get it painted so for one week we continued on with minimal furniture in our living room and our spare bedroom completely packed with whatever wasn’t in the hall and living room.



The painter arrived on the Wednesday and we picked our paint that weekend. Because our floor is such a dark wood, we wanted to keep the walls really light so we went for Farrow & Ball Strong White, this did become slight confusing for our painter who has strong white for the walls, white wood paint for the skirting board and white emulsion for our ceiling, there really was a lot of white paint. The colour was It’s the first time we have got a painter and I would highly recommend it, no mess, no fuss, just remove everything and that night we came home and it was all done. Our painter did bring 3 others with him so no wonder it was done so quickly. We began to move the furniture back and then we went to Donegal, living room still not finished, oh well, the fresh air of Donegal will help me forget about the work from home. As we put the furniture back in, we measured up the living room and made the decision on the sofas, that weekend was the last of the Laura Ashley sale so thankfully they are coming on the 8th December, but we’ll take them earlier if you need us too Laura Ashley.

With a long weekend on the cards, the last thing we needed to do for now was to get a mantle piece. As always, I made Chris put his DIY hat on. I had an idea for the mantle and we bought two shelves and we placed the second shelf below so it looked more than just a shelf.

We cut out grooves to make it more interesting and then painted it white. It was done, now just for Chris to put it up. I went up to do one eyelash appointment and to my surprise when I came down Chris has finished it by himself, I couldn’t wait to get it decorated.

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Now it’s all done, we are just waiting on our sofas and we also need a new dining table and I’ve promised Chris that is all we are doing to the living room. The next stop is the stairs, which we need painted and then the carpet put down, I’ll maybe wait a few weeks before I mention that. Time to get our current sofas cleaned and sold to make way for what’s new. As I am finishing writing this, I’m currently drying my hair in front of the wood burner on the first night that I have really seen what granny would call as the turn in the evenings (that’s darker evenings) and its bless being nice and warm, in my PJ’s by the stove, my new favourite thing.

Lashings of Love,

K xo

Home | New kitchen 

For the last 8 months we have been planning a new kitchen and honestly for my friends and family it has been relief as it has taken a huge focus on our life for the last number of months and now it’s complete. YAY! I’m so delighted, we had our ups and downs with this development and for new home owners this had probably been the most difficult job we have taken on so far. 2 months ago if you asked if I would do it again I would have said no, now I would happily do it all over again now that it’s finished and of course now  I know what I know.

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Before

Firstly I’ll take you back to show you what our old kitchen was like when we first moved it. I called it 50 shades of green. It’s ironic that this year Pantone said greenery was their colour of the year, I couldn’t agree less. After living with our previous kitchen the colour green has absolutely no appeal to me whatsoever. The green kitchen cabinet was a different green from the tiles and they were a different green on the walls, it really frustrated me.

I decided that we needed to change it but we would have to save, other rooms got the priority and we began researching how we would go about getting a new kitchen and thankfully I had friends and family who were able to advise the person to do it and all it entailed.

It all started by reading a few country living magazines and pinning like crazy. I had the luxury of seeing my aunts and friends kitchens so I had a good idea of exactly what I wanted.

Not only was the aesthetics of the kitchen important but it also had to be practical. Despite the fact I rarely, and I mean rarely, cook we had to take into account that it had to be a better solution to what we had. Initially we had an L shaped kitchen but we needed to use the space we had better and also more storage, would be ideal. We designed a U shaped kitchen for more countertop space and more cupboard storage. One of my biggest pet peeves with the old kitchen was that there was so much sitting around on the work surface so it always looked messy, extra storage would definitely help with that. Plus the colour, oh the colour, was my greatest hatred. Changing your kitchen on a budget, sounds easy right, not so much, I think this has taught us both so much.

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With completely changing our kitchen shape that involve a lot more preparation before the cabinets could even start to be made. We had to lift the whole floor, change our radiator and more some electrical sockets and add in the function for the lighting as well as remove all the tiles and completely plaster all the walls. We had a electrical but our regular plumber was off working in England so we needed to find a new one…here begins the problems.

Lesson 1
You will be let down a lot!  

Getting a plumber seems like such a simple task but trust me it wasn’t. We asked countless plumbers to come to our house and very few actually showed and when they did we had one guy who was so inexperienced we couldn’t have hired him another who couldn’t do the job for a long time and another who was so expensive we thought he was trying to price us out and chance his arm. Quotes in, now lets get the job done…not so much, we were told on so many different occasions that they would be there some not showing up at all and others messaging to say they  had to complete another job. When I spoke with one of my lovely clients whose family owns a construction business she gave me this advice, make it worth their while. These construction companies are the bread and butter for the contractors we relied so heavily on so we would always be the second preference. Perseverance is key in this game.

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Lesson 2
Your timeline is not realistic.

With let downs and changes along the way it can be an ongoing battle for quiet a while. Be patient. We thought this would be complete within 4 months but in reality it took twice that time, maybe more. Really sometimes I just wanted to give up, I’m very impatient, firstly I wanted it done before we celebrated our first year in the house (November) then I wanted it done before Christmas then I gave up setting a date for it. We had arranged and rearranged work men to come and complete jobs before a final measure of the cabinets could be done.

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You can change your mind, it isn’t too late. 

When we first began all the final decisions hadn’t been made but we did had a good idea of exactly what we were going for. I had a style in mind so we had to make all the major decisions but there were details I was not sure of. Maybe because our final design wasn’t drawn on  piece of paper, there were no auto cad drawings and colour schemes, everything was kept in a folder, clippings, quotes and design ideas, nothing formal. We didn’t decide on the final colours, door design and the tiles until about 2 weeks before. Picking the colour for the kitchen was one which I thought about a lot and the Farrow & Ball How to Decorate book became my bible. I remember the days of just picked a colour I liked but this book explains exactly what colours suit which light and gives groups of colours that work together. In the end we choose to paint out bottom cabinets purbeck stone, top cabinets are wevet and the walls are painted blackened, all of which are easy neutrals. We had wooden boards painted and checked the colours at different times of the day to see how the light in the kitchen affected them. With a north face kitchen we needed a light kitchen as the sunlight doesn’t come streaming directly through the windows at any part of the day. This of course paired with a light grey marble worktop make it light and bright no matter what time of the day it is thus making it appear bigger that what it actually is.

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You will spend more than you originally budgeted. 

It didn’t take long for us to do the sums and soon realised exactly what we wanted would be way more than what we had budgeted for. We were sourcing everything ourselves rather than one contractor who does everything so its easy to get carried away. We added more cabinets, made them ceiling height and changed from a wooden worktop to a granite one, definitely an increase in budget. At the start we thought we would just make the kitchen look better, it’s not our forever home so really we didn’t need an expensive kitchen. The difficulty with this ethos is that once you go in to look the most expensive thing always looks the best. Chris got used to my eye wondering to the most expensive thing without even knowing it, he seems to think I have some sort of gift (I’m pretty sure he doesn’t think it’s a gift but that’s what I like to call it!). Some things we did have to compromise on. Our washing machine and dishwasher are not integrated because we would have had to buy a small version for it to be integrated in and they were much more expensive that what we originally paid for our new dishwasher and washing machine. Really we couldn’t justify spending the same amount of money again although when we spoke to our kitchen maker he said it was something we could do later if we wanted so maybe we will get that done.

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Lesson 5
Let the dust settle.

It takes time but after each task let the dust settle and see what’s next. If your organising yourself its so important to keep in contact with everyone to let them know your timelines, we didn’t do this very well and I think that is why it took so much longer. Our kitchen maker came to our house to give us an idea of what we could do with the space, once we had a better idea we had some work to do. Firstly we had to get an electrician to move a light switch and out heating switch to make way for the new radiator. Then a plumber to get a new vertical radiator and move the heating pipes then of course another visit to actually fit the radiator. Then the electrician had to come back and wire the lights for under the cabinet cupboards. Then all of the disgusting green tiles had to be removed then we needed a plasterer to plaster the entire walls. Chris painted the entire kitchen and then we were ready for install. Getting the kitchen installed seemed like the end but it wasn’t, we could just see the light at the end of the tunnel. It then took a few days for the granite to arrive (once the kitchen is fitted they then take final measurements for install) and the electrician fitted the under cabinet lights and plumber had to return to fit tapes and plumb the sink…thankfully this all happened in the same week so our house was a complete mess. Dad then came a few days later and laid the floor. In all honesty we won’t keep this floor as now it is laid it is one of the most difficult floors to keep clean, not just because of our four legged friend but in general, one rainy day (and we have lots of these in NI!) and the floor is a mess. We are in talks (with each other of course) about getting a new floor in our living room and hallway so we may just change the kitchen floor when we do that. Even with it finished there are still things that need to be done, we need to change the microwave to a much smaller one that can fit behind the cupboard door which we had to remove to get the old microwave in. Its a work in progress and even when it’s ‘done’, its not really done!

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It will all be worth it in the end (this is the only thing that will get you through)!

 

 

The result, a kitchen not only that is aesthetically pleasing but also one I actually want to send time in. I’ve now found myself watching Mary Berry and writing down the recipe and planning it for dinner or dessert. I really have found a space which I enjoy spending time in. I even enjoy doing the dishes in out Belfast sink and I never thought I would say that, although I’m sure that novelty will wear off. Although this isn’t our forever home (we will still be here in a few years time) I think its a neutral kitchen which anyone can move into and enjoy. With real wood we have the ability to change the colour as we like, although the mention of this may send Chris over the edge if I suggest another project for him to complete. We have much more space now as well as much more light in our kitchen which makes it look it look so much bigger than what it was before. We built cupboards up to the ceiling and this has really increased the amount of space we have, although it most certainly isn’t for those everyday essentials, I can barely reach. More space has lead to a less clutter worktop which was exactly what I wanted, I’m absolutely delighted with it.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALashings of Love,

K xo