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28 Apr 2009

Josh Spear - Guru of the trend blog

It's one of those isn't day my blog may be read by as many people as RSS to Josh's....dream.....dream.....
He and his team blog on everything from sneakers to isotonic drinks, bamboo bikes to twitter magnets; very cool blog if you want to stay a step ahead. 

Tattoing Dinnerware with Ink Dish

Loving this dinnerware by, and their comment that they want to create the type of dinnerware which wouldn't appeal to your nan.
They work out of California but their dinnerware is available in the UK ( Debenhams?!), and I came across it as a friend of a friend works with them. 
They have some new designs in the pipeline at the moment, and having had a sneak preview, you'll want to lick the plate clean to get a good look.

"Blending art and tattooing in a harmonious mix, Ink Dish Design unveil their first collection of tableware, created in conjunction with leading tattoo artist Paul Timman.
Paul is one of the giants of the tattoo industry and his art adorns the bodies of such Hollywood celebrities as Drew Barrymore and Angelina Jolie. Now Ink Dish are bringing his extensive expertise, in tribal and Japanese design, to glass and porcelain.
This inaugural collection is based on the Japanese style of tattooing known as Irezumi. Vibrant dragons, colorful Koi, cherry blossoms, and waves weave together organically, blending this ancient style of tattooing into a dinnerware design.
While the design is edgy in its origin, it echoes traditional Asian china in its feel. The muted blues are delicate enough to present a very powerful image in a decor friendly way.
Ink Dish Design was born out of a gap in the market for young, urban professionals who are making steps on the property ladder and looking to invest in edgy, fashionable tableware that is priced affordably.
According to research conducted by the company, the overwhelming response from participants was that they wanted tableware to be fresh, contemporary and reflecting their tastes in fashion, music and pop culture; and not something that their parents or grandparents would suggest."

27 Apr 2009

Channel M lives to fight another day

Its tough tough tough out there, and even the 'glamorous' tv world isn't immune. Every media type person I speak to is looking for exciting innovative ideas, but they ain't getting commissioned unless they are el cheapo to make. 
I used to do a weekly show for Manchester's Channel M, getting out and about looking at new developments and schemes and interiors, but along with the drastic reduction in building and development, this has been cut back to an ad hoc, as and when needed basis. 

This email was announced today. I am sure for many staff at Urbis this is a real blow, and the end of a mini Manchester tv era.

Changes to Channel M


As you know, MEN Media is going through perhaps the most difficult period in its history as we contend with steep falls in our revenues. The recession, combined with longer-term changes in the way our customers and audiences behave, is having a serious impact on all areas of the company.


We need to reduce our costs substantially to remain viable as a business, and in March we announced a number of changes within MEN Media, including redundancies, designed to do that.


At the time we said that Channel M would be subject to a separate review, albeit one with the same objective: a sustainable future for our business. Like our newspapers, Channel M has come under severe pressure in terms of falling revenues, and it is now making unsustainable losses.


The review of Channel M is now complete, and we have today spoken to staff about a number of proposed changes at the station.


From June 2009, the schedule will be scaled back to focus on an early evening magazine show featuring news and information for Greater Manchester and on general sports programming. In addition, we are proposing a reduction in the number of people employed at the station, which is likely to result in 41 redundancies across different functions.


The company continues to believe there will be a successful future for local TV in the UK. Channel M will continue to broadcast, and we reserve the option to restore aspects of the schedule should economic circumstances improve.


We will continue to explore the potential of this progressive idea, and remain in a strong position to take advantage of such opportunities as they develop.


In the meantime, though, there is no option but to make these difficult but necessary changes to our business.



26 Apr 2009

Project Bishop - tired hallway revitalised

Developers very often don't really budget to make hallways fabulous, or have run out of money, or just run out of enthusiasm! Either that or so many of the apartments sold off plan (those days are now gone??!) that they did not need to spend extra cash on creating a gorgeous entrance as their cash was already in the bank!
Well, whatever the reason this hallway was in desperate need of some Sian tlc, and was definitely more grim than moregeous. So with some slate tiles, a bit of boxing off, a palette of stone hued paint and lots of lovely greenery, it found it transformed into a space which owners and tenants alike smile to walk through. 

22 Apr 2009

Mortgages and scary standard variables

Well,  we are all waiting for the budget with (bated) breath, how much is it going to cost us on personal level and all that. My mortgage on house is luckily on a tracker, but only til Autumn, and I checked the paperwork this morning - it said their standard variable is 7.85%. I nearly fell over. At the moment it's .34% over base. An almost unreal difference in monthly payments which massively affect any household yet are entirely out of our control, and it increasingly seems, are entirely friggin random.
Panic over as I just spoke to THE BEST mortgage advisor in the world, well, in Manchester anyway at Kay Consulting. The current SVR at my mortgage co is 4.85% which is quite competitive, and it's possible to negotiate a loyalty deal nearer the time. Still a hellava lot more than .34% though (slit wrists time but enjoy it whilst it lasts!).
Mark is so competent, capable, and is still in business, unlike many mortgage advisors I have come across over the years. And it's because he knows all his clients. Every one. And goes to see them on every deal / change / problem. He's done my sister's and friends' mortgages, and he;'s such a nosey parker, wanting to know all about you. And THAT is why he's the best. 
We talked about a few of the Buy to let lenders and I asked his opinion on what was likely to happen. He sees some of them coming back to the market later this year, especially in the multiple occupancy sector (houses split into flats) which is my bag. So when my deal comes to end with the now in administration Icelandic bank (still can't quite get my head round that), should be ok to refinance by next spring.  Here's hoping........

Headboard ideas

Fantastic post for headboard ideas, all inexpensive, recycling, and innovative can be seen at the post link below. Not so sure about the pictures unless they were firmly screwed to the wall, but all better than buying an expensive shop sourced one!!

This is just one of them, see post for more.

21 Apr 2009

Vance Millers Maple Kitchen up in flames!

I reckon firefighters (with my other half amongst them) may well have given up trying to put out the mother of all fires - the (in)famous Vance Millers Maple kitchen empire in Oldham is, well, as you can see, probably not going to be trading tomorrow. 

I once bought a kitchen from there, barking mad, all of them, offices full of kids smoking, on mobiles, surrounded by cash, selling kitchens. 
Bonkers bloke, by all accounts, but totally switched on and very good at what he did, which was banging out cheap kitchens. But not for a while, judging by the size of those flames.

It started in a generator apparently. Although what do you reckon to the real cause being the sub-prime mortgage industry....

The houses next to the building are steaming now too, christ the heat must be amazing. 

He'll be blaming MFI next...

Lovin my Claire Norcross garden lights

Got these last year in the habitat sale and summer had already gone..... SO great to get them out this early in the year for bbq's already, result!
I'm finding myself a bit of a CN fan. I still mourn for the cable tie light which I stupidly left at Tenby, just put some of her bathroom lights up at Cathedral, and now these. It's official. I am Claire Norcross's stalker.

The NatWest come up 'trumps'?

Finally the re-finance has come through, what was once so easy eh?!
I wonder how long it's going to be like this and how many people will continue to get the hell out of the property game as it becomes harder and harder to make a living?
Hands and knees time today, cleaning up the hallways of one of the blocks after the building work to Projects Lennon and Cathedral. 3 new lots of girls in, to add to the three lots of girls already in, a totally female block which is a first. And all scrubbed up and clean now. 
Have finally got the appointment through for NMcr, specialists, one week early 1 May. Who knows what they will find! Some weird and wonderfully unusual ailment no doubt, which I've never heard of.
And now busy paying the bills which have been accruing. I HATE not paying bills on time. I know that it's an art form for some people, but it's something I loathe, makes me lose sleep. If companies and people paid their bills on time and without quibble, the world would be a better place. Sainsbury's don't let you take your groceries away and then pay in a month, two months, three months, why should anyone else??
All made much brighter by this glorious weather, long may it last!

20 Apr 2009

Photo shoot for the Didsbury Magazine - Living room

Photo shoot for the Didsbury Magazine - Kitchen and Bathroom

Ikea white kitchen, black drawers (glass ones now discontinued but do a black gloss front), and walnut top.
Maurice Lay / Caple splashback 900 wide
Velux 1130 window
Black porcelain 600x600 B&Q floor tiles, used for upstand also
B&Q suite with P shaped Zone shower
Coach House Venetian glass mirror
B&Q black leaf tile from designer range

Photo shoot for the Didsbury Magazine - Bedroom

The very amenable and lovely new tenant at Pjt.Cathedral said yes to a photo shoot for the Didsbury Magazine( ) for the June edition I think.

So as not to feature my ugly mug (again) Salim wanted to run the feature from the point of view of the tenant, an interesting angle. There is so much rental property available at the moment, you have to make yours stand out, and a stickered wall is certainly one way :-) 
Zoe agreed, and off we went on Saturday afternoon. M just rolled his eyes as it meant he would be roped into do all the heavy stuff, be bossed about and generally not be at the gym / pub / anywhere else. The velvet chesterfield isn't here yet from CoachHouse, so we had to work round it as I had to Photoshop out the bare light bulb in the bedroom where the chandelier will be in about 3 weeks! 
Luckily Zoe has impeccable taste (think Laura Mercier, pink tulips and a Sex and The City shoe cupboard to die for) so I didn't really have to do any major dressing. We did discuss how she had not previously had a landlord rummaging through her toiletries however.....
I was still lusting after the wallpaper

17 Apr 2009

In is the new out? According to B&Q

How come I can't find anyone in B&Q who knows what the bloody hell they are talking about, (apart from Kerrie on bathrooms at Stockport) - yet their new advert says that they have ex builders, landscape gardeners and specialists everywhere. It's getting like bleedin Ikea in there, no staff to be seen!!!
I feel a bit bad saying this, as had a v successful trip to Ikea today, largely due to the green thai chicken lunch there for £3.35 (with a family card haha). Sorted Josh's ( ) temporary flat, took 3 hrs longer than should have done. Why have tenants not yet discovered Jif / Cif. I am going to gift them each a bottle when they give notice, along with a list of what was cleaned when they moved in, like SKIRTINGS! PICTURE RAIL! UNDER BEDS! SHOWER TRAYS! HOOVERING DRAWERS! GETTING THE YELLOW OFF TILE GROUT!! etc etc etc :-)

16 Apr 2009

A life in property = glamorous!!??

Buried under a mountain of paperwork, drowning in invoices. Arghhhhhhhhhh.
I though a life in property was supposed to be glamorous. Oh, yes. The credit crunch, I forgot.
I am still waiting for a re-finance package to go through, which has taken weeks and bloody weeks. But I am in a better position than some, many, so that is the light at the end of the tunnel. 
Even the developers I speak to who considered themselves immune, the golden boys until such a short time ago, are finding themselves stuffed and tied up like my roasted duck by the banks who were taking them on jollies to the races until very recently.
All the flats are full now bar one, phewf. It's been manic, but utterly imperative to get them filled. No rents equals no money equals no mortgage paid equals deep do-do.
Oh the joy of tenancy protected deposits and all the paperwork new tenancies create. Utilities, love em. Transferring electricity bills, I live for tasks such as this. So meaningful and rewarding. God, it's half nine, I have to go eat.

Nigel Slater - The King of Comfort Food

Roast duck with Marsala soaked roast potatoes, godammit he's good.
As it was such a gorgeous day I did the whole boiling water on the duck thing twice then popped her over the fire-pit /bbq outside to colour off the skin and lose some of the fat. 
Stuffed with crushed potatoes, rest of potatoes round the duck, roasted for 45mins at 200C, basted, large glass of Marsala poured in and over, roasted for a further hr.
Altered his recipe slightly. Made gravy from the duck giblets beforehand, removed duck and roasties, made gravy with pan juices and giblet gravy then poured into separate pan. Emptied crushed potatoes from duck cavity and added some single cream seasoning as they were a bit dry, kept separate. Popped duck and roasties back in for ten mins then serve with crushed pots, gravy and a sharp green salad.
Eat al fresco to feel decadent and slightly French :-)

Cavalli's Starburst bag

Imagine this gorgeous new Roberto Cavalli bag turned into interior decor - Summer Starburst fantastic!

The grot shot and the hot shot

Magazines and journalists are increasingly looking for the before and during shots of interior design projects. It's all very well looking at lovely, gorgeous afters, but it's far more fun to see the initial grot shot too, so you can really get a feel for the transformation which has taken place, when the hot shot is taken.
  • Use a decent camera, and get some high resolution, high pixel shots in case local press can't send a photographer out.
  • Remember to get the same angle of the room before, during and after, so test shots can be sent to magazines easily on email
  • Get shots of the property before you start ripping it out, to get that lived in look.
  • Visualise where you are planning to really make a statement - it's no good getting a before shot of the original kitchen if the new one is going in a totally different corner of the room and you didn't get a shot of the latter corner!
  • Take portrait and landscape shots of each angle.
  • If you can invest in a fisheye lens they do make rooms look bigger but go easy, as they can distort the room if overdone, and it looks like you are cheating (or were once an estate agent :-)
  • You don't really need to pay someone to take fab pics, your own will do as the test shots to send off initially (and you can then take some lovely pics when the magazine dresses and lights your place on the day of the shoot!)
  • Be extra nice to the photographer and he/she may let you have some of the images taken as long as you don't re-use them for print elsewhere (very bad manners and you could get sued!)

NHS - Its not what you know.....

It's all a bit iffy isn't it, when you can pull favours or call a friend and get an appointment with a specialist sooner than you really technically should be able to. I'm not complaining ( if it actually happens that is ) as I am now officially bored of this might-be-lyme-might-be-somethin-else-weird medical mystery. My urgent appointment is still weeks away, but a friend knows someone etc etc and I may now be able to get a cancellation earlier, so, it's not what you know, but who you know, the age old adage.
Of course I am going to take advantage of it, given the opportunity, but it isn't right, is it?
But, I is desperado. Sick of looking like Michael Jackson in one glove, or on a bad day, two. Please let this be the medical person who actually knows what is wrong!

15 Apr 2009

Energy Assessor Expo - bit of a surprise

Well, this has come out of the blue. Courtesy of a recommendation by Martin, a friend who has carried out EPC (energy performance certificates) for me at rental flats, I've had a call from a company who is organising an expo for the energy assessment industry in June. They are holding The Great Debate - - and have asked me to be the chair / host type person. 

I have to take questions from the audience and direct them to the panel experts and it's all being filmed by the beeb for BBC Parliament. Cool! One of the panel experts is the Shadow Environment Minister, apparently.
I can feel a bit of homework coming on......

Four Men and United, oh joy

It's been such a peaceful few hours.... getting on with some paperwork in this horror of an office full of problems and bills and piles of post!! However, this is about to change, as four hungry males are about to descend on me to have a sleepover and watch United. Charlie's team have just stuffed their opposition 5 nil, and he's bringing a friend back, plus dangerous dave and M.
At least its less scary than last night's wildlife party.... - the inspirational Claire

I joined this web-site a few months ago, unsure how it would pan out, and have been bowled over by the enthusiasm of Claire Richmond who dreamt up this idea and runs the site. 
Basically, if you are an expert in your field, you register, pay a fee and your details are listed for the tv and media industry who use the site to check out. I've been quoted in the Daily Telegraph linked to an article about tv property experts, and sent a showreel off to BBC Birmingham. All good stuff and her monthly updates and emails are infectiously enthusiastic at a time when so many people are down in the dumps.
There are dog whisperers, chefs, love doctors and forensic scientists, what are you expert at??!

The tenant mountain

Two more lots of, er no make that four more lots of tenants in by lunchtime today. I have hit the wall of knackeredness today, it's official. I think every single hand joint is now inflamed and angry with me for trying to carry on regardless! The urgent infected diseases department appointment is now through with the NHS.....for May 8th. Pitiful.
The lovely Salim from the Didsbury Magazine has a friend who is a consultant there, but he is off skiing at the moment so hopefully that'll be a goer when he gets back. Not what you know but who, eh, not good is it.
I am still getting over holding a python, a scorpion and a tarantula yesterday at a kid's party, whatever happened to just getting a clown?? Great idea though Charlie was not over enamoured with most of the animals and kept a safe distance until I wrapped a snake round his neck. That's the evil step-mum in me. 

Edible monochrome magic!

Amazing cake, posted by Frankham on Monochrome magic in edible form, wonderful!

12 Apr 2009

Project Cathedral completes

I remember my first rented flat, pine furniture, brown carpet, wood chip wallpaper. Maybe this is why I have resolved not to create these type of hideous rentals, and this is definitely why I try really hard to create spectacular interiors on a budget, helped by all the amazing finds on the high street, and on line.

This bedroom in Pjt Cathedral has wonderful high ceilings as it's up in the roof space, hence the purlin which was stripped, sanded and oiled. I ummed and ahhed over wallpaper and finally plumped for this one. Not cheap, but so much was saved elsewhere, simple white paint, pine painted flooring, that I justified it (to myself!). The Brain Yates Paraiso range.

Harry, working out butterfly levels and cursing me for not buying simple paper....

Left over paper being put to good use in the Morebo glass doors of the Ikea Billy bookcase, specially requested by the tenant for all her shoes! These doors are great for customising and making your own style.

11 Apr 2009

Public Sector renters

Had a new tenant move into Project Cathedral today ready for Easter, one of the many in and outs over the next few weeks. It has been quite noticeably bonkers this last few weeks, so many people giving notice - splitting up, going travelling, losing jobs, changing jobs, moving in with family to save cash - lots of different reasons but all life changing ones. Maybe it's the credit crunch, it's weird, all these big decisions being made.
And what has been even more surprising and noticeably different are the new tenants moving in. Almost without exception, they are public sector workers: nurses, teachers, social workers, council employees. As opposed to the private sector tenants we used to get, people in sales or banking or pr or property. It seems to be a real sign of the times, that the only tenants comfortable enough to sign up new tenancies and take on the responsibility of their own apartment, work in the public sector. They feel a security in their jobs which private sector workers just do not have at the moment.
Not that I mind in the slightest, as all of the new tenants, so far, are just lovely!

And Charlie's Easter pudding for tonight! dum ti dum dum

YQ NorthWest feature

Thanks to Ro Barratt, journalist extraordinaire for a lovely article in this month YQ magazine. Someone did ask me how much I'd paid her for it, as it was quite flattering, I must organise chocolates.....!
Bbq time at ours, the sun is shining, the boys are playing footie in the garden, it's warm, on Easter Weekend??!! I must be dreaming.
Attempting Nigel Slaters Marsala Duck tmw, must go prick my duck, as it were.

10 Apr 2009

Have gotten a bit over excited with the Ikea stickers. I found this table in a sale, it was plain white and a bit bashed but it's looking better now!

Project Cathedral - living room

Living room before, during and after

After removing the ceiling, the space up to the roof was enormous! All the spaces between the ceiling joists had to be kingspan-ed for insulation and double boarded. The chimney breast bricks were uneven, jutting out towards the top, so this was designed around and the upper part timber framed out to create a space for artwork and downlights to light the feature wall. There was no reason to change the door to the balcony, so this was cleaned up and kept. The purlins weren't in good condition, so I had the builders box over them with enough space left for star lights (check out a later post for this great lighting)

I love it when tenants get giddy

Its been a tough few weeks, but Project Cathedral is very nearly complete, and I feel like a proud parent. The mahogany fireplace has gone, as has the woodchip paper, the emerald green carpet and the unacceptably low ceilings! Opening up the ceilings to reveal the A frame of the roof has transformed the place, it seems huge compared to the flat that it once was. The tenant came over today and was giddy with excitement, saying it was glamorous and gorgeous and how she couldn't just have a house warming, but had to have cocktails as the apartment deserved no less - lovely. In the depressing world of the landlord, thats the best feeling, that someone can't wait to move into the home you have created. It isn't all about money, no matter what the "buy-to-let" haters think.
I haven't had time to take all the photos, the shower is yet to be sealed and little bits to be finished but its almost done. Good Friday, a 7pm finish (positively early) and a Gurkha Grill - luxury.

9 Apr 2009

Ultra glam sparkly mirror - recycled!

Money is VERY tight at the moment, so it's back to basics, recycling and re-using. It's what i used to do, but when life is hectic and momey isn't hard to come by (ie cheap credit!), it's easier and lazier to go and buy new.
I needed a mirror for Project Cathedral, something to do justice to the super glam girliness of the apartment, and the budget for mirrors was blown on the Venetians for the bedroom and bathroom. So after a dig around in the cellar, I unearthed an old, gold mirrror from one of the refurbished flats. Couple of coats of shiny Hammerite black metallic gloss found in the same cellar, and some super-glue and crystals later - one transformed mirror.

Pjt Cathedral - varnished 9" white floorboards

The floorboards are varnished now, and you can see from earlier pics the difference a decent varnish gives. It is well worth paying for a good varnish, and is false economy not to. I've used Diamond Flooring varnish by Ronseal, and when you've spent time painting floor white, the last thing you want is it to be unprotected by a cheap lacquer.
A 5l tin (£60) has done two coats in both bedroom and living room (34m approx) using a small roller, and there is still almost half a tin left. So yes, I bought too much :-)

4 Apr 2009


Toasted belgian waffle, drizzle of chocolate sauce (milk chocolate, golden syrup and single cream), thick slice of chocolate log, vanilla ice cream, marshmallows, more chocolate sauce, sweeties. Health in a bowl.