Tag Archives: Ikea

Upcycling: how not to do it

Of all the recent interiors trends, one in particular stands out as seeming a total wheeze: upcycling. This is where you take a knackered piece of furniture, cover it in paint/a jaunty fabric and either a) sell it on at vast profit, or b) keep it and smugly tell anyone who’ll listen how little it cost.

Naturally I thought I’d give this a go myself. So I found a bunch of old café chairs in need of TLC, bought some overpriced paint in a fashionable shade of grey and set about transforming them.

It wasn’t long before I was thinking, I could make this a business. I could get a market stall and sell pieces I’ve picked up for a song at far-flung auction houses and charity shops. I’d be giving new life to old junk. It’s sustainable, productive, creative, potentially lucrative: who could ask for more from their work?

Misha pissed on my parade by asking where exactly I was planning to store all this stuff, and pointing out that getting up at 4.30am in January to flog furniture might not be something I’m cut out for.

In any case, painting them took FUCKING AGES. I mean, like, weeks, because first you have to wait for the weather to be nice enough to leave them outside. Then there’s the whole tedious undercoat process. When finally you’ve finished one, you have to muster the enthusiasm to paint another, and another, until if you see another fucking half-painted chair you think you’ll scream with the sheer, aching repetitiveness of it all.

Problem two: they look crap. Rubbish. Like a classic botched DIY job. You need to be a more skilled painter than me to avoid drips, patchiness and just plain forgetting to do bits. Problem three: it turns out that paint is a terrible surface for dining chairs. Food is a bitch to get off them, which is a problem if you’ve a toddler, as your chairs end up with an extra coat of congealed porridge. Later it turns out that the café chairs you bought were so useless, they start falling apart. The final insult comes when the bastard paint you spent forever applying, flakes off.

Six months on, I need new dining chairs. This time I may be going to Ikea.

In this photo it looks (almost) OK. Trust me, in real life it’s much, much worse.


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View from the Broads

We’re in Norfolk – in theory cycling across the Broads, in practice going to lots of those twee little rural shopping complexes. You know, the ones with boutiques selling handmade fudge, bad jewellery and the kind of art people only ever buy on holiday.

As you can probably tell, I used to be quite snooty about these sorts of places. Then I had a kid. Oh my God, I don’t know what I was talking about. They are amazing. This one, Wroxham Barns, has a petting zoo where you can feed the animals (therefore shitting on Hackney City Farm), a funfair and a brilliant soft-play area for wee ones with a ball pit (like at Ikea!) Most of it’s free (the petting zoo’s £5.50 – six quid really, because as if you’re going to say no to the animal food), but no matter how immune you are to the charms of carved-wood barometers and pastel images of windmills, you’ll still end up spending a ton of money. I came away with armfuls of Norfolk apple juice, apple chutney, apple-and-date cake… the whole gamut of Norfolk apple-related products, in fact. Still cost less than they would’ve in Waitrose though (I think).

One toddler meeting the sheep:

And enjoying the soft-play area…

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Storage solutions for naturally disorganised people

The secret to sharing a one-bedroom flat with a man, boy and dog is storage. Not a heart-stopping revelation that, I know, but the thing about storage is that it’s a bastard to get right. Our initial solution was to call out a carpenter to fit some units, say ‘How fucking much?’ when given the quote and then go and buy a load of those souped-up shoeboxes from Ikea instead. But there comes a time when you want something more… durable. There’s also the books problem. We solved that one by fitting shelves in the beams. I know, genius, right? It’s the perfect solution, as long as you never want to retrieve them again. But I think it looks quite cosy:

I also nicked this idea from Ines de la Fressange’s book Parisian Chic. Apparently the flat she shares with her family in Paris is only 750 sq ft, which made me feel a bit better:

It’s basically lots of Muji zinc storage boxes, each labelled ‘shoe cleaning’, ‘sewing kit’, etc.

I once interviewed Romaine Lowery of the Clutter Clinic, who said that when buying storage boxes, it’s better to get lots the same, rather than collecting a load in different colours and shapes. This generally means buying them all at once, which is the off-putting part, because zinc boxes aren’t exactly a thrill-packed way to spend your wages. She also reckons that odd numbers work better than even, so displaying three or five boxes looks nicer than two or four. I think she’s right.

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