Malmo & Moss is Moving House

We moved into the Malmo & Moss house on a scorching hot day in July almost exactly nine years ago. It was just me, my husband and two cats at that point. Although the cats were lucky to survive the move after they spent the entire journey around the South Circular emitting the kind of noise that I imagine would come out of Michael Gove’s mouth if he were to get his penis trapped in a lift door. Maybe they just had feline reservations about their owners moving from South to North London having only visited the area where our new house was located twice before. However, whilst they might have liked to remain #ClaphamCats we didn’t have a budget big enough to stretch to a family home in that part of the City.

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Winchmore Hill, the area of North London we alighted upon, is probably most famous for once having played host (if that is the right word) to Augustus Pinochet who was briefly exiled here in 1998. However, before you get the impression that it is some sort of haven for war criminals I should balance that fact act out by telling you that it’s other famous ex resident is Lionel Ritchie (whose crimes are mainly perm and power ballad related).

Winchmore Hill Green the pretty heart of this lesser known part of North London

Winchmore Hill Green the pretty heart of this lesser known part of North London

We moved when I was 37 weeks pregnant with our first son who arrived just two short weeks later. Whilst the move to a little known area where we had no friends just as we were about to become first time parents was definitely risky, it is a gamble that has more than paid off. Unlike Pinochet we have stuck around, seduced by lots of green open space, great schools and a street so friendly we go on holiday with our neighbours (although not John at the end of the street who I once overheard in Tesco trying to return some chicken he had purchased in 1999) .

July 2010: just two weeks after moving in we welcomed our first son

July 2010: just two weeks after moving in we welcomed our first son

Two tired first time parents and a very proud (and very young looking!) uncle in the days before the front room went over to the dark side!

Two tired first time parents and a very proud (and very young looking!) uncle in the days before the front room went over to the dark side!

The house has slowly but sure been transformed from a #SanitaryPadPurplePalace with a conservatory #StraightOuttaBrookside to a light, bright modern rustic home. We have knocked through, extended and renovated the kitchen, enlarged and overhauled the family bathroom, reconfigured the loft space and breathed fresh life into the ensuite, tiled the hallway and installed crittal style dividing doors and added hygge to the living room by going over to the dark side and installing a woodburner.

You can get a glimpse in the background of the very off message Kermit the Frog green conservatory we inherited when we moved in

You can get a glimpse in the background of the very off message Kermit the Frog green conservatory we inherited when we moved in

A couple of years (and another son later) we said goodbye to #KermitsConservatory and replaced it with a modern extension. This is it just days after it was finished

A couple of years (and another son later) we said goodbye to #KermitsConservatory and replaced it with a modern extension. This is it just days after it was finished

6 years later we still love how it has transformed the house

6 years later we still love how it has transformed the house

My favourite view looking back into the kitchen from the garden

My favourite view looking back into the kitchen from the garden

Knocking through from the kitchen to the dining room has also been a gamechanger

Knocking through from the kitchen to the dining room has also been a gamechanger

However nine years and two further sons later we are on the move once more. This time there will fortunately be no need to subject ourselves to #CatCarTorture on the South Circular as we are actually only moving five minutes up the road!

Reasons for the Move

So why are we moving? The answer can be summed up in one word really: space. Or rather a growing realisation that we could do with a bit more of it. Our existing house, unlike me, is tall but comparatively narrow. Click here to see our floorplan. We have already extended the kitchen and the loft was converted before we moved in so we have no real options left to create extra square metres we are after.

We have maximised our existing space to create a kitchen/diner

We have maximised our existing space to create a kitchen/diner

Made over and reconfigured the loft

Made over and reconfigured the loft

But alas we cannot magic up enough space for another bedroom

But alas we cannot magic up enough space for another bedroom

Our two youngest currently happily share a room but we know there will come a time when that arrangement may become less harmonious. Possibly between the ages 11-16 judging by my relationship with my own sister. Apparently having your little sister pick up the phone whenever you are on the line to your first boyfriend and sing “Let’s Talk About Sex” is not as funny as I thought it was at the time.

One day we anticipate all of the boys will want a (Scandi Forest Chic) room of their own

One day we anticipate all of the boys will want a (Scandi Forest Chic) room of their own

So when I saw a girthier house on a street we have always loved come up for sale 4 months ago with a floorplan that made heart flutter we decided to go for it.

The New House

OK brace yourself, this is the back of the new house which looks like it started a fight with pebbledash and lost. Inside it is less Scandi Rustic and more Sharps Showroom circa 1996 when fitted wardrobes were all the rage. But when I saw the floorplan I was sold. It actually currently has less space upstairs than our existing house but there is scope to add a generous loft and the downstairs space, after a reconfiguration and possible further extension, will offer us the big open plan kitchen/diner we have always wanted. And, of course, most importantly of all, I will finally be able to realise my greatest dream: a separate utility room.

My new rear end is decidedly bigger. It is the width of this house that really sold us on it

My new rear end is decidedly bigger. It is the width of this house that really sold us on it

As well as the lovely big garden complete with apple tree

As well as the lovely big garden complete with apple tree

For the boys there is a bigger garden with plenty of Wembley and Hide and Seek possibilities . Whereas the clincher for Mr Malmo was the prospect of a garage of his own. Not because he is a car nut (our family car is more likely to be quarantined by DEFRA than appear at Goodwood) but rather because he has an ever growing collection of impulse purchased power tools which will now have a home of their own. I am slightly worried I am going to come downstairs and find him jigsawing wood in his pants at 2am down there!

First on my hit list: transforming the fitted wardrobes . Decor wise everything is actually pretty neutral though and has been well cared for so it is definitely liveable if not immediately instagrammable!

First on my hit list: transforming the fitted wardrobes . Decor wise everything is actually pretty neutral though and has been well cared for so it is definitely liveable if not immediately instagrammable!

We move a week tomorrow so the next seven days are going to be spent in a haze of cardboard boxes, trips to the tip and snotty hankies as I reminisce about about all the memories we have made together in this house. We arrived as a couple and will leave as a family of five. This is the house is where our son’s first steps were taken, first words spoken and first poos on the potty (and floor) were completed. We have ticked off so many milestones, celebrating birthdays, christenings, christmases, and surviving a brush with Brian the misogynist bathroom tiler. It’s going to be emotional, not least as I have to say goodbye to my greatest ever E-Bay bargain: our £25 roll top bath.

Moving will be sweet sweet sorrow in that I will have to bid farewell to my roll top bath

Moving will be sweet sweet sorrow in that I will have to bid farewell to my roll top bath

And my copper taps

And my copper taps

So are you ready for Malmo & Moss: The Renovation Years?! My head is already spinning with ideas so over the coming weeks/months/possibly decades I am looking forward to sharing more pictures of the new place with you and my ideas for transforming it one fitted wardrobe at a time! I hope you enjoy coming along with me for the renovation ride.

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Secrets of a Successful Loft Conversion

When we first bought our house nine years ago one of the main attractions was the fact that it already had the loft converted saving us the expense and hassle of doing so. Thanks to six big VELUX windows it was flooded with light and had beautiful views out over the blossom trees on our street. However, after living in the space for a couple of years, we came to realise that whilst it was light, bright and spacious, it had about as much character as Keanu Reeves. Sorry Keanu but I have seen beige carpets with more dramatic impact that your performance in The Lake House.

The bright, bright loft conversion was one of the factors that sold our house to us

The bright, bright loft conversion was one of the factors that sold our house to us

Over the last few years we have made a series of changes to the space to de-Keanu it and it is now one of my favourite rooms in the house. So I was delighted when VELUX asked me if I would like to team up with them to share my top five tips for designing a successful and stylish loft conversion. VELUX started out by installing their first roof window in a Danish school house 75 years ago and now sell their products in over 40 countries so working with them is a Scandi dream come true for me!

We have made a series of changes to add character, warmth and texture to it

We have made a series of changes to add character, warmth and texture to it

My favourite of which has to be the addition of a scaffold plank wall

My favourite of which has to be the addition of a scaffold plank wall

I hope my tips will help anyone planning a loft conversion or struggling to inject some character into their existing space to #BeLessKeanu. I have included in my tips advice shared with me by my Instagram followers who have some pretty stunning loft conversions of their own and have some cautionary tales of misplaced internal walls, incorrectly spaced skylights and awful attics!

Tip One: Perfect Your Floorplan

There are essentially three main types of loft conversion: a simple VELUX loft conversion where the roof slope is not altered; a dormer loft conversion which allows for vertical windows and doors; or a mansard loft conversion which is less boxy in appearance than a dormer (although there are multiple possible variations on each design and VELUX windows can easily be combined with mansard and dormer style conversions as well).

Our conversion is a dormer which is a popular choice as it is often the design which best maximises available space and does not, typically, need planning permission. Although click here for more detailed Government Guidance about when planning permission might be required (my inner lawyer is still strong!). If I was to tackle another renovation and convert a loft from scratch I would be tempted to go for a Mansard conversion (budget allowing) as they are less boxy in appearance than a dormer.

Seen here from the outside our loft extension is a dormer conversion

Seen here from the outside our loft extension is a dormer conversion

Once you have decided on the best option for your space start work early on your floor plan and how you will actually use the space. Loft conversions are often full of awkward spaces and getting the most out of them often relies upon embracing and finding clever uses for them. Think, in particular, about how you will use any space under the eaves. Ours was predominantly dedicated to storage but there was a large space tucked around a corner that was left empty in which I originally had my dressing table .

Once I realised that post children I had about as much chance of sitting on Brad Pitt’s lap as I did sitting at a dressing table we converted that corner into a walk in wardrobe which has made much better use of the space. It also allowed us to get rid of a large bulky wardrobe that sat in front of one of the windows blocking the view through to the outside.

Don’t be afraid to change your mind as you go along either. @Sodia _ Haddassi _ Amma shared with me that she would regularly go up and check on her loft as it was being built even if it meant balancing on scaffold boards and as she saw how the space actually looked made several decisions to change internal walls that infuriated her builders at the time but left her much happier with the end result!

Loft conversion with reclaimed scaffold plank wall

Tip Two: Let the Light In

Did you know that according to the World Health Organisation we spend a whopping 70% of our lives indoors? When you have small children and 70% of that 70% is also spent in the company of Mr Tumble that can feel like a long long time! Sunlight is actually a natural anti-depressant so in the absence of it (and in the near constant company of Mr Tumble) it is easy to become glum! It turns out that people need daylight to help control the most basic metabolic processes, just as they need food and water. So getting the design of your loft right in terms of the number, size and position of windows can actually improve your mood, reduce your risk of obesity (although not if you , like me, keep an emergency packet of wotsits by the bed) help you get more restful sleep and boost your immunity to diseases and infections! 

Our bed is position underneath our Velux windows to take advantage of the natural daylight and fresh air

Our bed is position underneath our Velux windows to take advantage of the natural daylight and fresh air

We have six large VELUX roof windows in the front sloping side of our loft and as a general rule you should aim for glazing to take up to 15-20% of your room’s floorspace to maximise the amount of natural light. We have top-hung VELUX roof windows because they open at the bottom making them a within arms reach and gives us a great view out of the windows to the blossom trees beyond.

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@KBro1979 asked what VELUX options are available if your windows are out of reach? Because of your roof height rather than you being the size of a Borrower. Fear not the answer does not involve a trapeze. VELUX has an INTEGRA® range of electric and solar powered windows that open remotely with the touch of a button. They have blinds that can be controlled this way too!

Our windows are within easy reach but it is possible to automated opening systems if yours are a little further up

Our windows are within easy reach but it is possible to automated opening systems if yours are a little further up

The position of your roof windows will likely be dictated by the shape of the roof; for example, a long, shallow room will benefit from windows spaced evenly along its length, whereas a narrow, deeper room might benefit better from fewer larger windows.  However in terms of reaping those sleep enhancing benefits consider positioning your bed close to your windows to soak up as much daylight as possible and speed up your metabolism when you have raided that emergency packet of Wotsits.

Tip Three: Create Character

Some of the loft conversions I love most on Instagram are actually the VELUX rooflight type where the shape of the roof has not been altered and cosy spaces have been created with original features such as exposed brick walls left in place.

The challenge with our dormer was that it felt very much like a new build in the worse sense of those two words. It was spacious and bright but had no distinguishing features and it often felt like we were echoing around in it. I had a couple of attempts at injecting a bit character in using “feature wallpaper” both in the dressing table nook and then also behind our bed to break up the space and create some drama. Whilst Lawrence Lwellyn Bowen may have been proud of my paste and paper efforts it wasn’t until we added the scaffold plank wall behind our bed that the space really started to come together for me. The rough sawn wood creates warmth, texture and character and I would really recommend thinking about how you can bring rougher less “perfect” finishes into your loft conversion. It might be be asking your builder to leave a wall unplastered, or by using brick slips to create the same effect or using lime wash or concrete effect paint but try and get some texture in if you can.

It cost about £250 in materials and labour but the reclaimed scaffold plank is worth every penny

It cost about £250 in materials and labour but the reclaimed scaffold plank is worth every penny

I love how cosy it makes the loft space feel at night

I love how cosy it makes the loft space feel at night

Tip Four: Glaze to Amaze

When our dormer loft conversion was carried out over 10-15 years ago white uPVC doors in dormers were as ubiquitous as Noel Edmonds. Their popularity has since gone the same way as Noel’s TV career and thankfully a host of much more visually pleasing glazing options are now emerging. When we were renovating our loft ensuite we had a little bit of budget left over a decided to say sionara to our uPVC doors, the chunky frames of which obscured our view to the garden beyond. If money had been no object I would have loved to go with either crittall style doors like those in the loft of @FallowGrey or for a sleek sliding door system like in this conversion by Mulroy Architects. 

Replacing the white UpVC doors with a picture window has transformed our loft space

Replacing the white UpVC doors with a picture window has transformed our loft space

I love sitting in this corner looking out over the garden

I love sitting in this corner looking out over the garden

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However we came up with a compromise that overall I am pretty pleased with which was to replace the doors with one large fixed picture window.  The frame is still uPVC but because it is dark grey instead of white it is not as noticeable and to be honest the difference in price didn’t justify going for aluminium on basis probably only I would notice the thinner frames. We retained the smaller opening window to the left hand side so that we still had ventilation and through draft.  The cost of doing this was approximately £1000 including labour which I consider to have been money well spent.

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Yes we did run out of floor paint ……

Yes we did run out of floor paint ……

So when you are planning your loft conversion think really carefully about your glazing options and don’t just go with what builders and loft conversion companies fit as standard.  There lots of still cost effective options out there which offer much better wow factor.

VELUX, for example, have a really cool pop out balcony window product called CABRIO ® which I discovered through this collaboration that I would love to incorporate into any future renovation I take on! When shut it sits flush to the roof like a normal window and when open it pops out to create a mini balcony , have a watch of this little video to see what I mean, is so clever!

A window that can become a balcony!

A window that can become a balcony!

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Tip Five: Zone it Like Beckham

Sadly I do not have any pictures for this section of David Beckham reclining in my loft.  The tip I want to pass on here is about how to break up your loft space into mini sections.  Our loft has a fairly large footprint overall at 21sqm but because we are semi detached it is a long but relatively narrow space at 7m by 3m. The challenge is, therefore, how to stop it feeling like a big spacious corridor. We have always had our bed positioned underneath the Velux windows because I love going to bed able to see the stars, lying back listening to the rain falling on them in colder months (and the Summer months based on this June) and opening them up for a breeze on stuffier nights. However the second section of the room originally didn’t really work for us at all. We had a massive double wardrobe on one side and then a double set of chest of drawers on the other side both of which blocked the view out of the back windows and made it feel a bit being inside a storage locker at BIg Yellow Storage.

I added a monochrome gallery wall and armchair to this corner to create a separate sitting area within the room

I added a monochrome gallery wall and armchair to this corner to create a separate sitting area within the room

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Hopefully this picture gives you a feel for how the space fits together

Hopefully this picture gives you a feel for how the space fits together

I am one picture short of a full gallery wall!

I am one picture short of a full gallery wall!

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Ideas for loft conversion velux windows

Making the alcove into a walk in wardrobe meant we were able to get rid of the bulky wardrobe, move the radiator that had been under the window to that wall instead and then put the chest of drawers where the radiator had been (still with me?!) On the side of the room where the chest of drawers used to be I have now created a seating area with a vintage armchair and side table and made this area distinct from the sleeping area by painting it a different colour and adding a gallery wall. It makes it feel as if there are two rooms within a room so if you have a large loft space or large and awkward footprint think about the different ways in which you can use the space and how you can decorate to subtly create different zones.

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So there you have it my five top tips for creating a truly instagrammable loft conversion in collaboration with VELUX as part of my paid partnership with them. Thanks to everyone who shared their loft conversion stories and questions with me to help me write this post.

Creating the Perfect Floorplan for Family Living

We bought our current house nine years ago. We came to view it when I had just found out I was pregnant with our eldest son and we were living in a one bedroom flat at the time. Having put the (trouser) horse before the house cart there was a certain degree of urgency to our search. We had seen a number of other properties and all were either out of our budget or in budget but with rooms that only a hamster would describe as spacious. After 5 minutes looking around we decided to put an offer in because, to quote Clint Eastwood in ‘Bridges Over Madison County’ ', this kind of certainty comes but once in a lifetime. Or put another way, within 5 minutes of a viewing when you encounter a house that has four genuinely double bedrooms.

One of the four double bedrooms (by human not hamster standards)

One of the four double bedrooms (by human not hamster standards)

The previous owners did have a penchant for painting rooms sanitary pad purple but shades of Always Ultra aside it was in the kind of condition where you could move straight in. The loft had already been converted so we had all the bedroom space we needed. The two most obvious “big jobs” that needed doing were an update of the bathrooms and a reconfiguration of the downstairs space to create a more open plan kitchen diner.

One of the selling points of the house was the fact that the loft had already been converted saving us a big job

One of the selling points of the house was the fact that the loft had already been converted saving us a big job

The Victorians may have given us the railways and the Royal Albert Hall but they did not bestow generously sized kitchens upon us. When we moved in we had the fairly classic Victorian lay out of a long narrow kitchen which some dude in the 1980s had then latched a conservatory on the back of. Getting out into the garden was like a challenge on the Cystal Maze involving having to shoulder barge a cheap UPVC door that often swelled shut. With son number 2 on the way we drew up plans to get rid of the conservatory and replace it with a proper extension. In an ideal world we would have liked to extend the kitchen to the side but Enfield council have an enormously annoying policy that prevents this unless your neighbours are doing it at the same time. GIven we had trouble persuading our then neighbours not to call each other mother f’ckers within earshot of our kids it was safe to say they weren’t the kind of people who would obligingly whack up an extension to their kitchen for us.

We replaced the previously unsightly 1980s conservatory with a contemporary extension at the back of the house

We replaced the previously unsightly 1980s conservatory with a contemporary extension at the back of the house

The extended kitchen diner

The extended kitchen diner

That meant we had to extend outwards at the back rather than to the side. We replaced the conservatory with a proper extension so that this space became part of the house instead of a room that you only went in during the summer if you were trying to recuperate from hyperthermia and therefore needed to sit somewhere the same temperature as Mars. We also knocked the wall down between the kitchen and the “dining room” to get more light into the kitchen and create more of an open plan layout. Those changes brought us to our current floor plan which is below.

The current floor plan of our house. It is what I think estate agents would describe as deceptively spacious

The current floor plan of our house. It is what I think estate agents would describe as deceptively spacious

As you can see we have a separate front room and then one big L shaped open plan room which is used as kitchen diner and second, less formal familiy living space. This is where the kids watch TV, cover every surface in butter or banana and have their toys. Whilst the changes we have made (including adding a downstairs loo under the stairs) have radically improved how this house works for us as a family, there is one missing room which I can’t stop hankering for: a utility.

The utility room of my dreams in the home of @thislittlehouse

The utility room of my dreams in the home of @thislittlehouse

That’s right, my greatest desire these days is not to lick Nutella off Brad Pitt but to possess a room in which to process my laundry and store the hoover. Although obviously the dream would be to lick Nutella off Brad in said utility room and be able to pop his Hazelnut covered smalls straight in the washer dryer afterwards. I want to reclaim the spare room from the drying rack which is almost permanently erected in it trying to keep pace with the volumes of pants, school shirts and football kits that having three sons generates.

@hornsby_style is another one of my #UtilityIdols

@hornsby_style is another one of my #UtilityIdols

Mr Malmo is unsurprisingly not as obsessed with creating a #placetoputapulley but luckily I know an interior designer with an architecture background or two (ok just one but a really bad ass one) who was willing to play around with some floorplans for me to work out how we might be able to squeeze one in. The interior deisgner in question is the wonderful Rebecca Wakefield of Studio Fortnum who has built up an instagram following of over 20,000 people who love her signature stylish, calm and unpretentious interiors as much as I do. She came up with four layouts for me which explore different potential locations for a utility.

One of  Rebecca’s  interior design projects

One of Rebecca’s interior design projects

Now I want this sitting room as well as a utility room

Now I want this sitting room as well as a utility room

As a person who struggles to visualize anything unless it is right in front of me, having floorplans to look at was an amazing way to get to grips with the changes we would need to make to fit a utility in and the impact it would have on how we currently use the space. It rapidly became apparent (looking at Option 3 for example) that if we squeezed one in without also extending the kitchen space to the side, we would be left with a significantly reduced second living space. However whilst we now have neighbours who are much less likely to call each other MoFos and are also open to a mutual side return situation, it would still be a fairly major investment to gain the utility of my dreams.

The four floorplans the amazing  Rebecca Wakefield  drew up for me

The four floorplans the amazing Rebecca Wakefield drew up for me

Of the three remaining options (all of which assume a side extension) I think my favourite is Option 4 as it gives the biggest /best layout of utility. But I do worry that we would still be sacrificing quite a bit of the space where the sofa currently sits in the living room and that it might potentially make that room feel cramped. A completely different plan which would preserve all of our current living space and potentially work out cheaper than adding a side return, would be to build a garden room at the end of the garden and relocate the washer dryer out there. But perhaps that is a discussion for a different blog

In the proposed layouts, the utility would be to the right of the partition doors so we would lose some of the space where the sofa sits.

In the proposed layouts, the utility would be to the right of the partition doors so we would lose some of the space where the sofa sits.

The view from the kitchen would be rather different

The view from the kitchen would be rather different

Whilst we continue to mull it over I would love to know what you guys think? Do you have a utility room, do you understand my laundry room lust? If it were your house which one of the options would you go for? Or do you think pursuinh my utility dreams would compromise the space we have? Would love to know your thoughts! In the meantime thank you so much to the layout legend that is Rebecca Wakefield . If you have your own interior dilemma or project I cannot recommend Studio Fortnum enough.