It was the bathroom project that would not end. In the length of time it took me to complete the work in this bathroom, away from the project I got pregnant, had a baby and returned to work. However, good work takes time, and this was the final flourish.
In case you have forgotten the regeneration of this bathroom from sticky pink to masculine grey involved Getting Started, Painting the Walls & Tiles and Adding Soft Furnishing and now in part four, I am adding back a little decoration to make this room less utilitarian.
For this project you will need
- a poster of a familiar picture,
- plastic frames (i used these from Ikea)
- rules, set square, pencil and scissors
The idea is to rearrange a familiar image, the way a Rubik-cube is rearranged in the middle of a game. People viewing the mixed-up image will unconsciously try to rearrange it to make sense in their minds. There were toys like this in the 80’s/90’s called sliders.
I sought a familiar image that would fit my grey colour scheme and urban theme and found the Banksy picture of a maid sweeping dirt on a pathway underneath a wall.
As the bathroom is a wet steamy place, the poster pieces will need to be encased in plastic, this is what the frames are for, and these are what will dictate the size the poster will be cut up into.
To decide how many frames I would need I laid them out on the wall, empty for the moment. I could of course measured the space, decided on the space between each, and calculated how many frames I needed, but this way leaves no room for mathematical errors.
The image I have works best if certain parts are whole, so for instance, I don’t want the maid’s face in two frames. To ensure this did not happen I laid out the frames on the poster and marked the layout.
Once the layout was established I measured the poster and laid out the grid using the ruler and set square. I then cut the poster into squares.
Each square was encased into a plastic frame which was then sealed with glue to help prevent the water getting in.
I then laid out the pattern of the image rearranged on the bed, to get a feel for how it would look.
I then stuck the frames to the wall. These hanging frames conveniently have a hole top and bottom so I choose to nail them to the wall, but you could use no more nails or something like that instead if you preferred.
And there you have it the final flourish in a bathroom project which is finally finished!
One of my favourite marketing images is when the beautiful girl wakes up on her bed in the middle of fairytale forest. I don’t care if you are selling fabric softener, cheap perfume or odor eaters – when this image is used I think the product is cool and I want it. Several bottles of fabric softener later I thought this might be a good theme for our bedroom.
I wanted to have that feeling when you are dosing between dreams, in the twilight of dawn or dusk, and in the half light paintings and surroundings can seem real. I wanted to add visual cues that could be seen from my pillow that would prompt my subconscious to bring me to an empty quiet forest. I wanted this room to be calm and minimalist. Back in reality, what this really meant was that I wanted trees, flying birds and great blank spaces. The colour inspiration came from a trio of paintings of a tree which I bought in Next years ago on sale, with nowhere to hang them, I bought them just because I liked them – this is the way to pick artwork for your home.
I started with the ocean of calm and painted all the walls white. Then on the only wall without a window or door I painted trees in a contrasting pallet of green, yellow and grey. I’m not a wonderful artist so I kept things simple. The trees I painted are bare and recently cut-back. Shorn and bare; minimalist and simple; no unnecessary flourishes.
Then over the wardrobe in a contrasting lime green I painted a flock of geese in flight.
On the door, I repeated the design of the trees and named the room.
To paint I obviously removed all furniture and furnishings from the room. I added back only what was necessary. No curtains, no bedside lockers, no ornamentation. This room was an experiment in minimalism. I allowed only what was needed to make it a bedroom. I put in the bed. I tacked a green valance to the underneath to hide any clutter or storage below. This valance was lime green to tie in with the colour scheme.
I tied fairy lights to the headboard to act instead of the reading lamps.
I hung two antlers heads (which I got from Next, now out of stock I am afraid) either side of the headboard and hung two ‘shelves’ above them (which I got in Heatons, again now out of stock). These shelves measure 3cm x 10cm and are literally only big enough to hold glasses or a phone and a cup of tea.
The room has a built in wardrobe, and I converted the ensuite to a walk in wardrobe last year, so there was plenty of storage for both of our things. That was it. Minimalist. No clutter.
For a while that was all that was in the room. But we hit a snag. I had nowhere to put my makeup or brushes when I was getting ready. I started throwing it on the bed, but it wasn’t ideal. I crumbled and got a writing desk to act as a makeup table (from Oxfam, repainted). I felt because everything was contained within it, it conformed to my minimalist ideals.
I also added a black leather chair (Ikea) for the clothes discarded before being re-hung or going to laundry.
That just left me with my trio of paintings of the tree. Somehow, even thought they were the inspiration, their store bought, manufactured format no longer suited the room. So I decided to cut them up and nail them over another store bought painting (Dunnes) I no longer liked, but liked the contrasting colour and movement in the Dunnes picture when compared to the Next trio.
I unpicked the canvases of the trio from their frame. The way they were designed was to have the painting be duplicated so that the sides of the canvas were not blank (this style was very popular in Homewares in 2006ish). This meant the canvases over lapped and added to the visual confusion of this image. I cut all the canvases into inch wide stripes – getting a rough edge by tearing it with a knife.
I discarded any duplicates that upset the image of the tree too much. I then nailed and pinned the torn canvases to the Dunnes picture. It gave me one painting, original and unique, but much better than I could paint myself.
Topics: DIY, Bathroom
There is always one room in a second hand house which tells you the previous owners were possibly colour blind and usually it’s the bathroom. This tiny space is where people are encouraged to let their creative side free and go a little naughty with their colour choices when they really should not. People think they are selecting bold prints with contrasting colours and dynamic textures (all the guff you hear on these home make-over programmes), when in actual fact the end result resembles something from the darker parts of Trainspotting.
Our previously loved home is no different. The bathroom we inherited was decorated in ghastly pink paint work matched with snot green tiles– one word ‘horrific’. I give the previous owners the benefit of the doubt and say it is possible that the colour of the paint looked different on the sample, but there is no excusing the tiles, I can only assume they were on sale.
Aside from the décor, the room had other issues: there was no storage, the shower was one of these hoses attached to the taps that you have to run around under to get wet, there was very little light, there was a leak at the bath taps and the wind tunnel caused by the draft from the ill-fitting vent should have had a road sign to warn people not to get blown off course.
The only positive things I could say about the room was that it had good space and the white goods were a good colour: white.
When we initially moved in I thought something needs to be done with that bathroom, but daunted by the challenge, I made my way around the house decorating every other room instead of it. Finally 5 years later, it was the last room to do. I could no longer avoid it.
Having removed the Ensuite shower from our room, I decided the first thing we needed to do in the main bathroom was to install a power shower. There was no point in decorating the rest of the room if the shower fitter then needed to remove tiles or plaster board to fit the shower, so by rights it needed to be done first.
We were gifted a power shower by my very generous mother-in-law (now you know what to get the couple who have everything, it was one of the most useful gifts we ever got!) about 3 years ago, but not able to fit it myself and not really knowing how to go about getting it fitted, it sat in my attic while I procrastinated. Finally with no excuses left I began to ring around. Eventually I found a company that supplied the showers, but they only fitted them officially if the shower was bought from them, however unofficially one of their fitters was happy to do a nixer. It took him only a few hours to hook it up, and the result was a real life changer. I cannot believe I spent 5 years putting it off!
Once the shower was in place, the next thing that could require the tiles to be removed was the leak from the bath taps. In order to prevent leaks springing between the edge of the bath and the wall, the last row of tiles holds in place a small lip which curls under the bath edge. This is then sealed with putty. So if we needed to remove the bath to repair the leak, then we would need to remove the last row of tiles, in order to allow us to remove the bath. (It’s ok, I did not know any of this either, my Dad explained when I asked him to come around and look at the leak).
An investigation of the leak revealed that the leak was coming from the point where the bath and wall joined behind the taps, the putty seal had disintegrated. Now, by rights, if a professional was coming in to fix this leak, they would by default do a professional job of it; remove tiles, bath, replace tiles, refit bath, seal the whole lot up again, all while the cost kept racking up. My Dad, with many years of experience under his belt, suggested that before we* (*read he) tried all that, how about we try just putting a huge lump of putty over the problem area to see if that could plug the problem. If it didn’t work, we could just remove it and fix the problem the long way. So he put the putty in place and we waited to see if the leak disappeared. Several showers later, with no evidence of drips coming through the ceiling downstairs, we declared the short cut a success.
This left the last ‘structural’ issue: the wind tunnel. Now, to be clear I am not normally in favour of plugging vents. These are safety features required by law for a reason, and removing one is the equivalent of removing the safety switch from a lawn mower or gun. However, in our bathroom, which measures a mere 3m*4m, there are three orifices through which oxygen can enter and carbon dioxide/monoxide can leave (the vent, door and window), so I didn’t think it was a massive issue to bring that number down to two.
I decided to use expanding foam for this task because it fills the void with a nonporous substance, but it is not permanent. So should we decide to sell the house in future, or if we need to open the vent for some other reason in the future, this will be possible without much work.
I removed the front grate of the vent, gave a little clean (but being terrified of spiders not too deep of a clean) and then sprayed in the foam. The thing to be careful about when using this foam is that it will continue to expand through every open space. So, if you fill the vent entirely from front to back, the foam will go through the grill of the vent in the exterior wall, and this will look terrible from the outside. It is easy to fix, you just need to get a ladder tall enough to reach the vent and cut it off from the outside, but, most people don’t have a ladder that will safely reach this height. So the best thing to do is just be careful how you use the foam. Try to put it just to the front of the vent, and only fill about a third of the hole. You can always top up the foam when it hardens if needed.
Once you have sprayed in enough foam, to prevent it bubbling out of the vent in the interior, place a sheet of cardboard or paper over the orifice, held in place with masking-tape. Leave the foam overnight to harden. The next morning the foam had pushed the cardboard slightly away from the wall, leaving the foam layer slightly proud of the wall. To remedy this I simply cut a sliver off with a carving knife, the same way you would cut a slice from a loaf of bread. I then replaced the vent to cover up the unsightly foam.
Stage two of the project will be selecting the colours to paint the wall and tiles.
Topics: DIY, Bathroom
As discussed in Bathroom Project Part One, there is always one room in a second hand house which tells you the previous owners were possibly colour blind and usually it’s the bathroom. Our previously loved home is no different. The bathroom we inherited was decorated in ghastly pink matched with snot green – one word ‘horrific’. Aside from the décor, the room had other issues: there was no storage, the shower was one of these hoses attached to the taps that you have to run around under to get wet, there was very little light, there was a leak at the bath taps and the wind tunnel caused by the draft from the ill-fitting vent was perishing mid-winter.
Having resolved the shower, leak and wind tunnel in Part One, the next step in, Part Two, was to change the colours. Now in Part 3, the final stage, it’s time to make this bathroom the throne room it should rightfully be.
I started with storage. As you can see in the before pictures, previously storage in this room consisted of a wire rack beneath the sink and a towel rack beside it. This always made the room look messy because everything was on show, and, unlike the perfectly manicured bathrooms in the sales catalogue, in my bathroom the bottles are not all the same size or conveniently the same colour. However, the rack sufficed when we were just two, but now that our family is getting bigger, items that belong in a bathroom that I may have previously stored elsewhere must be returned and in general we will have more things in the bathroom.
The requirements for the storage was simple – I wanted enclosed units and as many of them as I could fit, without placing them unreasonably high. I also wanted to tackle the lighting issue with these units. Having ruled out under-shelf lighting because I was nervous working with electricity in the bathroom and didn’t want to pay an electrician, I settled on everything being mirrored. This meant that at least what light did come in through the window and from the ceiling light was bounced around the room for full effectiveness.
Initially I began my search with my old favourite, the masters of the small living space, Ikea, but I found their pieces either too big or too expensive. A scan of Woodies and B&Q gave the same result, however Argos came to my rescue. I managed to get two tall boy units small enough to fit in the space between the bath-and-toilet and then the toilet-and-sink. I also purchased three hanging units to hang on the wall at the end of the bath. Although as no trip to Ikea is ever wasted, I did pick up five hanging rails for towels (four for storing clean bath and hand towels , and one for the hand towel currently in use). I also picked up a mirrored unit for over the sink.
Next thing I sourced was the shower curtain. Standard shower curtains are 200cm length, and even in Ikea, where everything is designed assuming it will be placed in a high ceilinged Swedish home, the longest was 200cm. I wanted a shower curtain that was at least 220cm length, because I wanted to hang the shower rail at ceiling height, thereby making the room appear taller ( or at least not making the ceiling appear lower because the rail was in eye line). A search of EBay found such the item, and in a very plain white. This meant that when not in use, I could tuck the shower curtain into an old elasticated bracelet and hang it from a hook stuck to the tiles, behind the tall boy. This prevents the curtain screening parts of the room, which makes the room appear smaller.
As with most bathrooms, the only soft furnishings are the towels. I was fortunate to be decorating at the time of a 70% sale in House of Frasier and made a killing on some luxury grey and white towels. These I hung in a checker-board fashion.
The last piece of decoration to be added was a Banksy poster above the toilet to add a splash of colour, which will be in Part Four.
In a house that had more bathrooms than residents (two people cannot need three toilets no matter how you do the math) and was deficient in storage space, it was decided that we could realistically do without one bathroom and could use an extra closet.
The ensuite to our bedroom was the least bathroom used and so the easiest victim. In the five years we lived in the house I think it might have been used once (because it is just too like pee’ing in your own bedroom for my liking) and yet it still had to be cleaned regularly to avoid that stale water smell that floats up from the sewers when the u-bend dries out. Not useful and causing housework – it’s days were numbered.
The brain-wave to remove it was met with some resistance amongst family and friends “You will de-value the property if you remove one bathroom.” “Oh you will never sell it without an en-suite.” As we have no intention of selling until retirement and the value of a property is irrelevant unless you are trying to sell or re-mortgage it (take that negative equity), I threw caution to the wind and proceeded with the plan to rip it out wholesale. That was until my Dad came around to help me, and suggested that I leave all the pipes in place, just seal them off, so that if at some time in the future we do want to re-instate the en-suite it is a relatively easy job. Realising he is way smarter than I am, I took caution back from the wind and went with his plan.
Difficulty of Project:
Some knowledge about plumbing would be helpful, or someone you can ask about it – YouTube is great, but when there is water bursting everywhere you going have time to trawl through search results.
Required for this project:
- A person who can do some seriously heavy lifting (Thanks Dad!)
- The ability to turn off the water while you remove en-suite furniture
- Hammer, chisel, screwdriver (toolbox in general for when something unexpected happens)
- Expanding Foam to cover in the holes where the pipes (I used http://www.polycell.ie/products/polycell_expanding_foam_polyfilla.jsp and got it from Woodies)
- Pipe seals (size this depending on the diameter of your pipes, and Woodies have a big range)
- Paint & painting tools (whatever is hanging around in your press or Woodies, the ole reliable)
- Wood for shelves (I used cheap laminated chipboard from Woodies, but you can go all out on mahogany here if you want)
- Bar for hanging clothes (again, cheap poles from Woodies)
- Bars for shoes (grundtal bars from Ikea project far enough from the wall and are reasonable at e7 a pop.)
Overall Cost of Project:
- As I had things like paint and tools already, the additional costs for this project were the wood for the shelves and the bars for hanging the clothes and shoes. This came to about e350.
Duration of project:
- About three days on and off (we did it over the space of two weeks). You need to let the foam harden overnight and separately you need to let the paint dry overnight, they are the only time delays.
- I wanted to take higher quality images for this post so used my camera. Unfortunately at a crucial part of the project my camera fell down a toilet. It is a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of DIY; had I paid a man it never would have happened. So unfortunately you will have to imagine the in-process images for this project.
- Removing the en-suite was the most daunting part of this project for me, although as soon as we started I realised how easy it was to tear things apart (and discovered that it’s a little therapeutic and addictive). We turned off the water, pulled up the carpet and got stuck in.
- The shower doors unscrew and come out. The base of the shower was held in by grout, so that came loose as we chiselled off the tiles. We remove the tiles in order to get access to the pipes of the shower. We cut the pipes leaving about 20cm exposed, and filled the area surrounding them with the expanding foam. The foam looks and works a little like hair-moose; you just give it a shake and fire it in. The foam fills and bubbles making what looks like a mess, but this hardens overnight and is easily smoothed out with sandpaper the next day. At the base of the shower we caped and sealed the outflow pipe.
- The base of the sink pulls away exposing the u-bend which we emptied. We cut the pipes about 60cm from the ground and sealed them with the pipe seals. Once the pipes are cut the sink and taps pull away. We then boxed the exposed pipes off.
- We emptied the water in the cistern of the toilet and pulled that away. Dad cut the pipes and sealed them off. The seat of the toilet was bolted to the floor, we removed the bolts and toilet came away very easily.
- With all the furniture removed I made the executive decision not to bother re-plaster the room because I figured
- a) it was only ever going to be a closet and
- b) most of the walls would be covered by clothes so nobody would see them.
6. I decided to paint the rough surfaces though, just to make it look more finished.
And then we had it, an empty cream room, brimming with potential. : To see what we made of it read Part Two.
Every woman has been there … you are rushing to leave the house, last thing is to throw on a quick necklace to finish the look, only to discover that the one necklace that suits this outfit has become entangled in every other decent chain you own. The only detangled choices are some plastic thing you got free with a magazine that the other necklaces don’t want to be seen dead next to, or a nineties number that really should not see the light of day again. In panic I inevitably shove the whole tangled mess into my handbag so I can pull them apart on the bus, but this leaves me with one, probably bent, chain that I want to wear and fifty extra swirling around the bottom of my bag, causing unnecessary weight and coiling like a boa constrictor around my purse and phone.
After one particularly irritating incident where the bus journey was not long enough to detangle the one chain I wanted, I swore I could come up with a better storage solution that shoving all my costume jewellery into a box under my bed. And I did. I invested in two simple jewellery holders from Pennies. They were two sided, had little pockets and could be hung up. Alas, as Roy Walker would say ‘it was a good answer.. but it’s not right’.
They were too small to fit all my jewellery in one pocket each, so I ended up putting two or three pieces in together, which inevitably tangled up together defeating the point of the change, or one big piece hid a small piece and I forgot I owned it. Also, being two-sided meant that I never looked at the pieces on the reverse side, and ending up wearing the same pieces time and time again.
So, I decided I need a customised solution… a jewellery organiser that would hang on the back of my closet door and display all my jewellery at once, without allowing it to become entangled … queue the DIY music (vaguely similar to the MacGyver theme tune played on homemade bag pipes – music that inspires you to finish whatever you are doing fast so that the horrible sound will stop).
You will need;
- Sewing Machine, thread, needles, scissors
- Cloth – light but durable. I chose cotton.
- Cloth – smaller piece to reinforce top of organiser. I chose canvas because it is strong and I had some already left over from another project, but you could chose anything that can withstand weight.
- Buttons – large for preference
- Hammer and Nails (for the strong) or Staple Gun (for the clever and lazy)
- First things first, get out the sewing machine, blow the dust off it and check it still works.
- Select a fabric. I have a box where I store random pieces of fabric that I use for this type of situation. You will need something light but durable – I choose an old sheet that I had chopped other pieces from.
- Measure the door that you are going to hang the final piece on (and, I say from experience, don’t cheat and just measure the door closest to you at the moment – not all doors were created equal). Add 5cm around the boarder to allow for hemming.
- Cut fabric to size. I doubled the measurements and folder my fabric over to make it twice as thick. This is only necessary if you have a lightweight fabric.
- Hem 2cm around edges.
- Take stronger fabric and sew it to top of organiser – this will prevent the lighter fabric from tearing under the weight of jewellery.
- Take ribbon and lay them out across organiser to choose positions. I placed my ribbon with a 1cm gap at the top and graduated this to a 3cm gap at the bottom to allow for different sized jewellery. I also took the opportunity to recycle pieces of ribbon that we used in the menus for our wedding. Waste not, want not.
- Pin ribbon in place.
- Now, starting at the top of your sheet, sew across the ribbons from top to bottom at even intervals (depending on the size of your organiser). This will give strength to the ribbon and stop it from sagging in the centre when you add the jewellery.
- Sew some buttons if you like so you can hang rather than hook some pieces.
- Measure against door to double check size still correct. Hem boarder to give finished appearance.
- Nail or staple to door, ensuring that the top and sides are very secure.
- Hang jewellery and voila, the ability to get dressed and accessorise without earning your Scouts Knots badge.
The style of my office is eclectic and offbeat. I created a bench of sorts from storage boxes and wanted some cushions for the top that suited the style of the room (funky, rocky, edgy, everything U2 are not) but didn’t break the bank (because cushions of these sort can be crazily expensive).
At the same time I was trying to de-clutter my wardrobe as we headed from summer back to winter. There were a few tee-shirts with either great images or slogans that I didn’t want to throw out, but at the same time really could not be worn anymore.
The two problems led to a beautiful solution: upcycling the tee-shirts to make customised cushions.
Note: I was also updating my husband’s wardrobe who still doesn’t see the problem with wearing tee-shirts with holes in them. I don’t know why men’s tee-shirts are generally cooler than women’s but they just are. I spotted a few in his pile that he could live without and would make awesome cushions – finders, keepers (or more accurately: finders, cut-up-until-no-longer-wearable-as-tee-shirts, keepers)
For this project you will need
- Sewing machine, thread, needles, scissors etc
- Backing cloth – I upcycled an old sheet and used this
- Old Tee-shirts
- Cushion stuffing. I actually recycled a flat pillow I was going to throw out, but you can buy this in Hickeys or the like very cheaply.
- Decide the size of cushion you would like. This will be dictated by the size of the tee-shirt you have; bigger the tee-shirt the bigger the cushion – that is why men’s tee-shirts are so useful. The measurements below are for a finished cushion about 45cm*40cm. I was going for an unfinished look, the beauty of which is that the is that the measurements do not have to be too exact here.
- Cut out 3 squares about 45cm*40cm from you backing cloth. I had a piece of cloth that was 137cm*77cm, so I just cut this into six equal parts – waste not, want not. They ended up 47cm*40cm.
- Cut out design from tee-shirt. This can be any size so long as it is less than about 40cm*35cm. This will leave enough room for the boarders.
- Place the tee-shirt section between two backing sections. Pin in place
- Sew around the boarder of the piece of the tee-shirt you want to be seen.
- Cut out front facing backing cloth to reveal pattern (love this reveal moment!).
- Take third backing square and sew a 1cm double hem around the edge. Don’t worry too much about being perfect – it is meant to look rough. Remember to leave a gap in the bottom corner to add stuffing.
- Add stuffing. Sew gap closed
- Voila – customised cute cushion
Sales season has started, and, if like me your household budget dictates that you must wait for the Sales to update things like bed linen, then this is a time of rapidly fluctuating emotions.
The excitement of the potential finds as you make your way to the department store nice and early. You have probably being doing recon missions over the previous few weeks, so you know what they had in stock and what might potentially be in the Sale.
The moment of ecstasy when you find the bed sheet that you are looking for in the correct size and colour marked down to €5.
The moment of horror when you realise at there are no pillow cases to match.
You frantically search again, scanning all piles, looking under and behind stands where experienced savvy customers may have hidden gems until they get a chance to come in and purchase them. Hawk-eyed you look at what the other customers have in their hands in case one is holding the elusive treasure unbeknownst to themselves, and might choose to put it down at any stage, giving you a chance to swoop in. In vain you might even try and ask the staff, who look at you like this is your first tour of duty and say ‘everything we have is out’.
What do you do? It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, a crossroads in your story:
- Do you leave the bargain sheets behind, because really they are useless without matching pillow cases?
- Do you buy the sheets and then search every other branch of the shop for the coveted cases, which takes HOURS and you may not even find them?
- Or do you simply buy an extra sheet and make your own pillow cases at some point?
If you chose door number three then here are some helpful instructions:
You will need:
- Sewing machine, thread, needles, scissors etc
- Sheet from which pillow cases will be made.
In terms of bang-for-your-buck the Single Flat Sheet is the best choice of sheet, because it is usually the cheapest of the set and at 260cm*180cm if will give you 5 pillowcases. The Double and King Flat Sheet will only give 6 pillowcases, there is more waste material and they are usually more expensive than the Single.
- Cut a rectangle 170cm*50cm
- Hem the short sides top and bottom 0.5cm
- On the right side of the fabric fold the top down 20cm and fold the bottom up 75cm. Pin in place. This is the shape of your pillowcase. Now turn inside out to begin sewing.
- Hem 1cm down the length on either side. Double hem to add strength.
- Voila, one matching pillowcase.
- Repeat for the number of pillow cases you need.
Let me stress that I am not a bully. I have never intentionally harassed or bullied anyone in my life. On top of that I have received my fair share of hassle for defending someone else by standing up to their bullies. However, I must be truthful and say from the start, that this is an article about a plan that was conceived and executed with the sole purpose of mocking something else; something that has never offended or hurt me in any way, but only because I saw a weakness and pounced. I’m not proud of the initial intention, but there we have it.
The victim was Hotpress Magazine. An innocent publication, of some standing nationally, which covers diverse and interesting topics in the genres of music and politics, and does so in a professional and comprehensive manner. So far so good. What could my problem possibly be?
It’s the name. The name is terrible. Now I know where they were going with it: Hotpress – hot of the press, new and cutting edge, dynamic. And I know how hard it is to come up with a good name for your work (see title of blog). But at the end of the day, it’s an Irish magazine for Irish people, and there is only one thing that Irish people associate with the word hotpress and it is not a Music and Politics Publication, it is the big boiler in your house that heats your water and warms your clothes. Nothing could be less rock’n’roll than a bloody big boiler. I’m sorry but that’s the harsh truth.
So in order to mock this in my own little way, I brought the two of them together- what if my hotpress (the boiler)released a self-titled publication for other hotpresses? What would the headlines be? What would be their specific area of interest? What would be breaking news or cutting edge?
The result: a hotpress door with aspirations of journalism.
Decoupage (and not décolletage which is a very different thing – still fun, but in a different way) is the act of gluing little bits of paper to objects with a glue that turns transparent when dry. I thought this would be an excellent way of making a door which looked a little like a pop magazine cover (and a little like a threatening ransom note – just so Hotpress Magazine know where they stand).
- Old Magazines
- Paint & paintbrush for background colour
- Decoupage glue
- Varnish to finish
- Space to lay a door down on the ground, and be able to leave it there for a few days
If you have to buy the magazines this could get very expensive – I had my friends and family collect them for a few months and very quickly I had more than enough.
The decoupage glue is really expensive – I used decopatch that cost me e7 for 70g (a tiny pot) but in saying that, I did the whole door for about half a pot, so the stuff really spreads.
It was the cost of the decopatch varnish that pushed me back to B&Q for ordinary varnish. I double checked on the back of the door that clear varnish meant clear – sometimes it can have a slightly yellow hue.
HOURS. Hours and hours and hours; the cutting of the letters, sticking them all on first with blue-tack and then with the glue – hours. I did not do this project start to finish in one sitting as you will read – most of it was done in spurts in front of the telly over a few months.
- I started by taking down the door, being careful with hinges and screws as I would need these to put the door back up later.
- I drew a rough outline of what I wanted to have on the door – this let me know what letters I would need from the magazines. Mimicking Hotpress Magazine radio ads I decided upon:
“2013 Edition of Hotpress Magazine Issue 505
Readers Inane Views on Life, Drugs, Sex, Church, Law, Society, Welfare & Cutlery”
- From Lovely Lacies to Skid Row: Underpants a gritty reality
- Construction Underwear: How to build up your portfolio
- Arranged at Birth: Twin Sets on Predeterminism, Partners and Parents
- Custodians of the Fun Bags: Bras tell an uplifting tale of life up top
- Disappeared Partners: Socks tell a harrowing tale of separation, abandonment and loss
- Life in the Barracks: Toilet paper on waiting for deployment to live combat
- High Impact: the rise and fall of cheap suspenders
- Power behind the throne: Hot Water Tank tells of life in the system
- Cleaning up their act: Towelling in today’s political theatre
- Airing their laundry in a half-way house: hoodies try to change perceptions
- Fresh Starts & Scraping the Slate Clean: Hot pants dish the dirt on festival season
I also needed a political message. The hotpress with its principle role in laundry and household chores is a female dominated space. Despite this being an era where gender roles are often mingled and, as blur would say, boys can be girls and girls can be boys, 80% of household chores are still carried out by women. What could best represent my discomfort and yet resigned acceptance of this fact? A modern version of a Sheela-Na-Gig, that’s what.
Sheela-Na-Gigs are found in Ireland in prominent positions on Medieval Churches and Castles. In a society which is often assumed (perhaps incorrectly) to have been male dominated, these crude carvings of women exposing their vulva remind us that real power is often wielded invisibly. Society is made up of two halves, there have always been two genders, and while outward appearances can suggest the dominance of one, what goes on behind closed doors (or in this case behind 3ft thick stone walls) can reveal a very different reality.
So to represent this I chose a collection of women who in their own way represent this idea of unexpected power.
- Jackie Onassis – often assumed to be the weak-willed wife of a cheating president, however this woman continues to have an influence on the decorum of women in the media today
- Alien Queen – self-explanatory, while representing the outside influences of powerful women on Irish society
- Super Woman – again, in a time when women were told to ‘shut-up and sit down’ this crime busting female was out there doing the business (albeit in scantly underwear)
- Queen Elizabeth – despite her role as a mere figure head, she has resounding influence in the society which support her
- Sluts – like it or not, these manipulative be-atches can wield incredible power in certain communities
- Maggie T – like her or hate her, she was the first and so far only female Prime Minster. You have to respect that.
- Kate Middleton – again often seen as the quiet, dutiful wife, but while she hold the baby, she holds the King. I think there is more than meets the eye here.
- Mummified Cleopatra – again, a power house in her day, whose legend is still with us
- Once I realised how big a space a door really is in decoupage terms, I decided to paint it a background colour to fill in some space and to allow the decoupage really stand out. I choose a new-fangled paint I found on one of my many trips around B&Q that was silver and was meant to look like it was hammered when dry – very rock and roll I thought. Unfortunately it just dries silver. Yes if you look really, really hard you can see the hammered impression, but not if you just walk by the door. But still I liked the silver colour so it stayed.
- I started cutting out letters and pictures from the magazines
- I stuck them all in place using blue tack, so I could get an impression of how everything looked before committing to it with glue
- Put back up the door to live with the draft version for a few days to make sure I liked it.
- Days went by, and then weeks. We had a good few visitors over to the house and all commented that while it looked great (what else were they going to say with me standing right there) they found it hard to read. I took the feedback on board and had a little think. I realised that it would be easier to read if there was a break between the different headlines.
- I started to move the letters down to give the headlines the break.
- Once finished I lived with this for a few days, which again turned into months, then I decided that it was time to tackle the glue.While the vast majority of images and letters were from glossy magazines, some of them were from newspapers and some were laser-ink printed – I was not entirely sure if these would run when I applied the glue …. Only one way to find out.. They were fine (breath sigh of relief).
During the summer months the late setting sun illuminates our guest room in such a beautiful manner I felt compelled to make a piece that capitalised on its beauty. The interplay between light, shadow and darkness at that time of the dwindling day is so relaxing and therapeutic. To create this interplay I knew I wanted pieces that would protrude from the wall, which would cast shadows back onto the wall.
I decide to take inspiration from the method used to display historical tapestries. Often pieces that survive are pinned in such an arrangement so to leave space for the parts that are missing. Sometimes the arrangement of these surviving pieces can actually be more interesting than the original piece.
|Difficulty of Project:||Easy|
|Overall Cost of Project:||Minimal as this project mainly uses things that you have around the house|
|Duration of Project:||10+ hours (although I did it in short bursts)|
|Required for Project:||Stencil (you can make this yourself or for a short-cut, I like the ones on Etsy or Ebay, although your local DIY store probably has a selection as well),
Paint (I used old metal paint I had, but so long as it hardens when dry any paint will do and depending on the size of the stencil a small pot will do),
Canvas (or some stiff material),
Dressmakers pins (and hammer)
- To start lay your material out on a flat surface and your stencil on top. Stick stencil to material with masking tape so it does not move.
- Paint stencil to material. Remove Stencil. Allow paint to dry (I always leave things overnight, but follow the paint guidelines.)
- Cut out stencil of the material. Look at the scraps as you do, keep any interesting shaped pieces.
- Now we get to the interesting bit; putting it on the wall. You can if you like draw the stencil onto the wall to use as a guide, and then remove the pencil lines afterwards (or keep them depending on how it looks), but this sounded like way too much hard work for my liking, so I decided to wing it. I laid out all my pieces on the floor and made a pattern with them. I then pinned this pattern to the wall.
- To pin the pieces, first put the dressmakers pin through the piece, or many pins depending on the size of the piece and how ridged you want the end result to look. I wanted a slightly aged organic look (and I’m a bit lazy) so I used as few pins as possible. Then insert the pin into the wall. If I am honest I used a hammer to gently knock them in because those tiny pins were killing my thumb and a thimble was useless. The hammer sped up the job dramatically, just be careful to only hammer the pin in tiny bit – the aim is to have the piece of material stand proud of the wall. Repeat until all your pieces are on the wall.
- Now lie back on the other side of the room and watch the setting sun illuminate your work.
I had a problem; I wanted to paint the downstairs hall a bright yellow, but I did not want to continue this the whole way up the stairs. I wanted downstairs to be one colour, the upstairs another, but the two areas are joined by one wall beside the stairs, which is visible from both areas. I needed a breaking point somewhere along that wall. I could of course have just drawn a line, or faded the two paints together, but that’s not how I roll. No, instead I stirred up a rebellious outburst from our elfin population.
Our elfin population and the background leading to the incident
We first noticed the appearance of the elves after one particularly hard night on the town. We stumbled downstairs the next morning to discover that they had helpful cleaned the dishes and put out the bins; chores my husband swore blind he would complete and which I made a really big deal about not doing on pain of death (because fair is fair and everyone has to pull their weight). Just as I was thanking him for keeping his promise and getting the work done (watching his poor alcohol-addled mind try to work through what was going on) he confessed he had not done them (showing massive person growth), but also pointed out that as I was still alive, and there were only the two of us, they must have been done by magic: and thus the elves had arrived. A magically race of people who live for nothing only to ensure we in 36 live a happy chore-free life (which now as I describe them sound remarkably similar to Dobbin the House Elf in Harry Potter).
Initially my husband welcomed the elves; they did household chores while he slept, they went out on a Saturday and did the Big Shop while he killed things on PlayStation, they cleaned out his wardrobe, replacing worn-out clothes with nice new things he quite liked really. A sweet set-up. *
*(Not to be too Marple or Sherlock about it but if it is not clear to you that it was I who was doing these jobs while my husband lazed about then I suggest you start checking for fairy doors and magical tunnels because you too apparently feel you have the touch of Claus about you and could already have an infestation of once-helper-now-rapidly-discontented elves.)
Then one day the domestic bliss turned ugly (a day right around when I discovered my wall break problem). My husband got out of bed, stumbled downstairs and was greeted by a heinous act of rebellion. Some of the elves had enough of their life of servitude – this generation’s rebels – and a life that was good enough for their parents was no longer good enough for them. They wanted to express their rage at being bent into submission by the system (at this point it was possible I had consumed too many lemsip/uni-flu cocktails and may have been trippin’). They embraced the practices of their brothers in the north and painted their own political mural, glorifying the great lord of elfin belief, who promises that what goes around will come around: The Karma Chameleon.
Although horrified by the new political unrest this represented my husband was somewhat mollified when he noticed that some of the more civic, responsible, upstanding members of the elfin community were already trying to paper it over (my wall break!).
Now, while I obviously cannot imagine why or how they would do this, or what possible imbalance they could be acting out against, in a crime-watch inspired re-enactment, I have speculated how one with very little artistic talent might go about this.
1. First things first – get inspired. It is much easier to draw something if it is physically before you, than from memory.
2. Get some tools: pencil, ruler and rubber. Do not be fooled by the erasing power of paint. It might magically cover up that horrible shade of dark avocado on your walls and replace it with a tranquil ivory, but it will not cover over pencil, marker or pen. Don’t know why, but it’s true. No matter how many layers you apply. So invest in a good rubber and some Jif (it’s only Cif to those born after 1995).
3. Get sketching. When you are finished sketching, rub out the marks you don’t want.
4. Colour it in. I used some permanent markers that I got in Tescos on the cheap.
5. And voila; a mural to remind the establishment that the labour force are not to be taken for granted.
While trawling through the internet one bored afternoon, I stumbled across one of the most remarkable paintings I have ever seen. It was a beautiful red and orange creation depicting the setting sun behind a lone boat coming through fog. It had a mystical quality. I am not sure if it was a famous piece, or an outstanding piece from a living artist, but when I checked the price, a cool 5k, I decided the closest I would ever come to this picture was a screensaver. So I saved a screenprint of the enlarged picture to my laptop (giving it its own made-up name) imported it to Photoshop and cleaned it up a bit and set it as my screensaver. (I later learned that this is actually copyright fraud and amounts to theft, but these were much more innocent times.)
A few years later, when it came to decorating the kitchen, I announced to my husband that rather than buying a picture for the wall (knowing that the one I wanted had probably increased in price with inflation), I was going to paint it. He (knowing my artistic skills were limited at best) decided to give in without a fight, probably figuring we could paint over it in a week’s time if it was truly crap.
Owning no paint or paintbrushes of the artistic kind, I bought a few 20c children’s paint brushes in Tesco’s during our weekly shop and decided to use the end of the testers we had bought while trying to select which colour blue to paint the kitchen.
I sketched the rough outline of the keel of a boat and painted it dark blue. Then I opened all the testers and one after the other did ‘swishes’ along the underside to represent the sea. Then I retrieved some white paint we had and used it and some of the lighter colours to do the waterfall. As I got towards the end, my husband stood at the other end of the room to get some perspective, saying more white on the top, more navy on the bottom, until we got to a place we both thought it looked good.
I stepped back, kind of proud of what I had done, closed all the paint pots and said – we will live with it for a week.
It’s now been on our wall for 4 years, and to be honest, I think it’s one of the best things I have ever painted, especially as I feel it was something that we did together, and it didn’t cost +5k.
|Difficulty of Project:||Easy|
|Overall Cost of Project:||Few 20c brushes (e1)|
|Paint pots we had hanging around|
|Required for this project:||Paint|
|Duration of project:||Few hours spread over a weekend|
I come from a practical family, all of whom have had practical skills. My granddad was a mechanic, although with a help from a few books from the local library, he turned his hand to almost all the trades at one point or another. With the help of a few labourers (and my dad) he built his own summer home (impressive), and extended it many times (even more impressive). My grandmother was a dressmaker, but again, with a little acquired knowledge could make anything you could ever imagine from fabric.
In the following generation, my mother can do things with wool that would make sheep happy to be shorn, to call it knitting undersells the creativity involved. My dad is great around the house (and although cooking is where he excels), painting, decorating, fixing and repairing are all well within his range of skills. Bar advanced plumbing and electrics there is really nothing he cannot turn his hand to.
And then we come to my generation. And well, we are, well, a bit rubbish to be honest. I can’t really cook and my husband is not that handy. If this were the 1950s we would be held up as the cautionary tale. Perhaps we were pampered as children, perhaps it’s from years of renting and calling the landlord when something goes wrong, perhaps the education system is to blame (that’s always a reliable fall back). Whatever is to blame, we are honestly just not that good around the house.
However when we bought our first home, we soon learned the value in becoming more practical, mainly because we were broke.
When we first bought our home, I had grand ideas about doing it up, from the basement (which I was going to build) to the attic (which I was going to convert) there would be a homogenous yet diverse, eclectic yet homely design, filled with bespoke designs and one-off pieces.
Then I broke the washing machine.
I washed a dry-clean only blanket in a 60’ wash which caused it to unfelt and basically melt into clumps of red thread, which blocked everything – the pump, the drum, the drain, everything. I rang the repair guy who wanted a nights drinking money to come look at the thing, and that was before he repaired it, and he only lived 10 doors away. I rang others who wanted more.
I rang my Dad who said he would come over and look at it the next weekend (by which time we were wearing a clothes which hadn’t been seen outside since the 90s). Painstakingly Dad showed me how to unplug the machine (I didn’t even know it had a plug), remove the back and began to pull clumps of red thread from everywhere. We drained it, and washed it out best we could, put it all back together, plugged it in, let it run through a cycle, unplugged it, cleaned it out and repeated the process until there were no more clumps of red, or even stray red threads.
Then Dad sat down at the table with his calculator.
“Call out fee is e50. Trades-men conservatively get about e15 per hour, and we had been at it for about 10 hours, give or take breaks, that’s e150 +e50 giving us a grand total of e200.”
I was momentarily horrified. There was no way my Dad was sitting there, knowing how broke we were, asking me for e200.
“Now” he said “You should take that theoretical e200 that you have “earned” by doing this work, and learning how to do it yourself in the future, and put it towards something for yourselves. Be it a night in the cinema, a takeaway when you really should cook, or a few pints in the local.”
And there you have it – the reason you should DIY instead of PAM , where you can – aside from being too broke to pay someone else, it gives you another way to “earn” money for more enjoyable pursuits.
And to be honest, once we got the knack of it, we became more confident and slowly but surely this generation is learning some practical skills that hopefully we will pass on to the next lot.