Goodbye, carpet! Restoring 19th century wooden floorboards

Hi all,

Hope you’re having a nice week. I don’t know about you, but I am ready for the weekend!

When we moved into our flat, we knew we wanted to do a lot (if not all) of the repairs ourselves. First up in our DIY show and tell is the hallway transformation. This has been our biggest project so far and was a bit terrifying to start because…

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The before and after.

 

  1. We had no idea what was under the carpet. Original hardwood floors from 1890? Concrete? Botched jobs? Monsters?!
  2. We knew that once the carpet is torn up there is no going back. Our flat hallway would be a semi-construction zone for the next couple weeks!
  3. After doing some research, I realised that tracking down Victorian floorboards is easier said than done. A few were advertised on GumTree, but only a few bits here and there. Would we be able to find enough (if needed) and for how much?
  4. And by far the most nerveracking: this was the first time we’ve ever done something like this. The potential for error was definitely there.

Here’s how the whole thing played out (taking place over five weekends).

First… the moment of truth. We ripped up the carpet to find original hardwood floorboards in pretty good condition – minus a few quick fixes from way back when (seen below).

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Someone way back when opted for a quick fix instead of replacing the full plank of wood…

Overall we were relieved. There were only a few problem areas. The horizontal wooden slab and concrete filler needed to go. A few planks further down needed to be replaced.

To see what we were working with we cleaned up what we could. Pulled out approximately 300 (!!) staples that held in the carpet, as well as the borders that fasten it to the side (the thin red and tan wooden strips).

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Carpet staples. Taking way longer to pull out than I ever imagined…

Cue the repairs! We searched online for planks from around the same era and made of the same type of wood (pine). No luck. It wasn’t until we stumbled across a carpentry shop in south London that we found what we were looking for. It felt like Christmas!

Next steps:

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  1. Cut out and remove broken planks. In a few areas we had to remove part of the adjacent plank too in order to access the joist below the floor (the horizontal frame where wood is securely drilled into). You can see a bit of the joist to the left of the 1986 Tango can we found under the wood!
  2. Cut the new planks into the correct size. Use a drill to nail either end of the planks into the joist.
  3. Sand! 

In addition to our smaller manual sander, we hired a heavy duty one. I’m in no way a sanding professional (I wouldn’t know where to start with the correct, technical terms!), but we used a fine sanding setting to ensure we took off the bare minimum. We wanted a smooth surface – but whilst keeping the character and history.

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Sand, sand, sand

We used the small hand sander for the borders.

Next up – varnish. We wanted the hallway to match the wood floor in our living room – or be as close as possible. We thought we would have to use a stain. We thankfully tested one in a small corner behind a door. It was way too dark. I would strongly suggest applying a small test sample to confirm it’s the shade of your wood floor dreams.

Instead of the stain, we opted for a clear gloss. It was almost perfect. We applied two coats – each took 10 hours to dry.

Finally… five weeks later… taa daa!

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We couldn’t be happier! The wood continues to the steps in our hall. Beyond that, carpet begins (we know there’s concrete underneath so we left the carpet).

So what do we do? Fresh carpet? Or perhaps new wood that hopefully matches the original? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

The first project has been crossed off the list. So, what should be next?

McK

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A dose of Victorian home DIY in London

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Can you tell I like plants?

Wow, time really flies by when you’re having fun. I haven’t blogged since January 2018 – and a lot has happened since then.

I’ve given into the travel bug, exploring places far and wide – to Thailand, Santorini, Rome, Prague, Trier, Barcelona, Amsterdam, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Minnesota and around the UK. Attended my first Glastonbury (!!). Started a new role at work. Became a cat mom.

Last but not least… we became homeowners! Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would own a flat in London. I’ve always been one for interiors and DIY projects, but now the decor and furniture fanatic in me is jumping for joy.

We’ve moved into a 1890 ground-floor Victorian flat. With its beautiful character and history comes decades-old quirks that need some love. From restoring original floorboards, maximising storage and finding affordable antiques, there’s always a little (or big!) job to add to the list.

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Hello, home!

That’s what I want to share.

As a first-time buyer, this was my introduction into the big world of home improvement and the problem solving that goes with it. I’m not going to lie, it was a little intimidating to begin with.

My first thought was ‘oh my god, what if something goes wrong and I ruin beautiful original features that have been here for 130 years?!’. Well, there’s always that chance… but that’s where a little bit of research, advice and YouTube comes in.

We’ve done quite a bit so far – so stay tuned.

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Grab me the drill, give me the gardening gloves. Let’s turn this house into a home!

More to come.

McK

The little things that help you deal with homesickness

Adventure, exploration, travel! It sounds so glam, doesn’t it?

Moving away from home and embracing a new city is a truly wonderful thing. Meeting new people, experiencing new cultures and learning something new – it takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you grow up as a person.

But we’re all human – homesickness is real. I don’t get it often, but every now and then I think about how much I would love a cozy movie night in with my mom or to wine and dine at my favorite DC restaurants with my best friends 3,662 miles away (but who’s counting?).

But there are a few little things that help keep the pep in my step…

Snail mail 

Who doesn’t love gifts and pen pals, am I right? My mom and I send each other little care packages full of silly USA or UK-themed presents.

Photo by McKenna

Exhibit A: A USA-shaped cheese board. It’s the one thing I didn’t realize I needed until I got it. In return, I sent her a little German Christmas market souvenir and a British flag chapstick (it is cold season, after all!).

The sillier the better – it’s all about catching the other person by surprise.

Embrace your traditions 

Photo by McKenna

OK, any chance to whip up good American comfort food is fine by me.

Thanksgiving is of course one of the biggest days of the year for us Americans – it just doesn’t feel right to not embrace the holiday even if you are overseas. Don’t even get me started on Halloween!

So, make it a thing wherever you are. Invite your friends over, pop some bubbly! There’s always something to celebrate 🙂

Make your home…homey 

Photo by McKenna

Make your home away from home…yours!

Whatever your thing is…fluff on fluff, boho chic, plants and flowers – go crazy. There’s nothing better than coming home after a long, exhausting day and relaxing in your space.

Photo by McKenna

Your home away from home will eventually feel like home 😀

Your go-to treats 

Let’s be real, sometimes you crave your family’s homemade banana bread or a sandwich from your favorite cafe back at home.

Photo by McKenna

London has a few American places that I have to visit every now and then… Pinkberry, Chipotle, Dunkin Donuts (for the iced coffee!)… #basic

A little taste of home is what it is. Although it may seem small, it helps me.

Last but not least…Facetime and Skype to the rescue! 

Honestly, I don’t think I could have moved abroad if Facetime and Skype didn’t exist. It’s 100% first world problems, but catching up with friends and family – and seeing their beautiful faces – make it so much easier to live so far away.

What helps you when you’re feeling homesick? Tell me your ways!

McK xx

7 things you have to do when visiting London – 48 hour guide

I have been lucky enough to have a few of my friends come visit all the way from the USA in the past few months. Seriously, how amazing are they?!

Some of them were in London for the first time, while others know their way around town. Regardless, everyone needs to make the most of their time in this fabulous city! I want my friends to leave LOVING London… so they come back of course 😀

Whether you’re hosting or visiting for a few days, hopefully this top line list will make your London itinerary (depending on how go-with-the-flow you are) a little bit easier.

*Note: There’s WAY TOO MUCH to see in London in 48 hours, so these are just a few mandatory pitstops. I’ve lived here for three years and I still haven’t even seen a fraction of it! 

Indulge in afternoon tea 

I mean, obviously! What’s more English than afternoon tea, am I right? Whether you’re looking for a traditional setting or trendy hot spot, tea gives you a little dose of elegant English culture.

Growing up with an English father, my sisters and I never left the house without a cup of tea in the morning. While in London, I want everyone to get the experience.

For a traditional tea, I turn to The Orangery, which has an elegant and simplistic ambiance setting amid the stunning Kensington Palace Gardens. You’ll find an array of teas, scones, sandwiches and cakes. Top it off with some bubbles if you’re feeling crazy!

The Orangery | Photo by McKenna
The Orangery | Photo by McKenna

If I’m feeling more of a quirky and upbeat tea setting, I opt for Sketch – think Alice in Wonderland meets Zenon Girl of the 21st Century meets a man in a pink tux serving caviar. The man really is there in pink serving caviar though. Yes, really.

Sketch | Photo by McKenna

This tea is a bit pricier, but hey, it sure is an experience! Plus, it’s absolutely dreamy.

Sketch | Photo by McKenna

Stroll through wonderful parks  

Fresh air, foliage, pretty blooms and sunshine (if you’re lucky!) – what more could you want?

Every park has its own vibe so check out as many as you can!

My personal favourites are Green Park, St James’s Park, Kensington Palace Gardens, Hyde Park and Primrose Hill. From Primrose, you’ll be able to see the entire London skyline…

It’s dreamy.

The view from Primrose Hill | Photo by McKenna
St James’s Park | Photo by McKenna
St James’s Park | Photo by McKenna
Kensington Palace Gardens | Photo by McKenna
Hyde Park | Photo by McKenna

Peruse the markets  

Foodies, this is for you. London’s markets are the go-to place for anything and everything delicious.

Camden Market has a special place in my heart. You’ll find amazing street food – everything from steamed buns to quesadillas to smoothies. The market is in a fab setting as well – just along the canal.

Camden Market | Photo by McKenna
Steamed buns at Camden Market | Photo by McKenna
Camden Town | Photo by McKenna

Beyond the nomz, the market has quirky clothing, collectibles and antiques. Honestly, you can find anything there! It’s a must on the to do list!

Camden Market | Photo by McKenna

Columbia Road Flower Market is also a must. Only open on Sunday mornings, the market features florists and farmers from the area to showcase their gorgeous blossoms.

Also, mix and match? Yes, please! You’ll get more bang for your buck.

Flower Power | Photo by McKenna
Columbia Road Flower Market | Photo by McKenna

Borough Market is another one of my favorites. Located near London Bridge, the food market will blow your mind.

I mean, just look at all that cheese?!

Life is gouda at Borough Market | Photo by McKenna

Portobello Road Market is great for antiques – and also looks super pretty in pastels!

Portobello Road Market | Photo by McKenna

Take in the sights + how to do it 

London’s beautiful attractions make it one of a kind.

This may seem obvious, but it’s important! Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the London Eye, Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral…they’re all gorgeous. So, here’s how to do it.

Buckingham Palace | Photo by McKenna

When I go sightseeing with my friends, I usually start at Buckingham Palace, walk through St James’s Park (where you can see the London Eye in the distance), where we then end up at Parliament Square.

Oh, hello Big Ben | Photo by McKenna

From the base of Big Ben, you can cross Westminster Bridge to go south of the river.

If you walk along the water, you’ll pass the London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tate Modern and Tower Bridge (among others). It takes about 45-60 minutes to walk from one end to the other – depending on if you’re a power walker.

St Paul’s Cathedral | Photo by McKenna

Not only will you be able to take in the sights, you’ll enjoy street performers and riverside restaurants.

Tower Bridge | Photo by McKenna

Embrace the street art 

It’s… everywhere. And fantastic. From Camden to Shoreditch, this is one way to view London’s creativity.

Shoreditch | Photo by McKenna
Camden Road | Photo by McKenna
Amy Winehouse tribute in Camden | Photo by McKenna
Kentish Town | Photo by McKenna

Also, makes for a colourful Insta (come on, you know you’re looking out for a great snapshot!)

Embark on a day trip if you can swing it 

You can get to the lovely Brighton on the coast of England in less than two hours by train – from St Pancras or Victoria stations.

It’s a completely different feel from the hustle and bustle of London – and so reachable!

Brighton Pier | Photo by McKenna

Not only do you get the beach, pier and seaside, you can weave in and out of vintage shops and delicious restaurants in the North Laine area. Honestly, it is so quaint and picturesque.

Brighton | Photo by McKenna

If you’re visiting the UK anyway, why not venture out and see what outside the capital has to offer as well.

Brighton | Photo by McKenna

Go for a wander (yes!!!)

So this is the part where I encourage you to drop the guide book for a second – and just wander!

There are hidden gems around every corner. Central London is a relatively safe place – so there’s no need to worry about running into rough areas.

I seem to find my favorite places when I don’t have a plan – here are a few of the many!

Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden | Photo by McKenna
Hampstead in North London | Photo by McKenna
Comedy at the Rose and Crown pub in Kentish Town | Photo by McKenna
Sunny skies at the market | Photo by McKenna

There really is something for everyone 🙂  And this is just the icing on the cake – there is so much more! But you might just need more than 48 hours 😀

Need more ideas? I post some on my favorite spots on Instagram

Happy travelling!

McK x

Festive sparkle in Germany: Koblenz and Hachenburg Christmas markets

Hello and Happy New Year!

Now that the craziness of the festive season has come to a halt, it’s time to gush about how magical my second German Christmas market experience was. We went to Koblenz and a little town called Hachenburg – both very special in their own way.

I mean, look at those sparkly fairy lights – what a Christmas dream!

I know the festivities are over, but it’s never too early to plan trips for 2018 (I’m sure many of you have ‘travel more’ as a New Year’s resolution – I know I do!).

Koblenz | Photo by McKenna

We spent a day in Koblenz, a city along the Rhine River in central Germany, where we perused upwards of ten little Christmas markets scattered throughout the town.

From glitter and gold to pine needles and red hues, each little market had its own unique decor and cheery vibe. Oh, and complete with WAY TOO MUCH FOOD. I think I could live off bratwurst and gluhwein all day, every day.

What better way to celebrate the holidays?!

Koblenz | Photo by McKenna
Koblenz | Photo by McKenna

We also visited markets in Hachenburg, a much smaller town situated about a 40-minute drive outside Koblenz.

Although it wasn’t of the same scale of Koblenz, it did not disappoint. For one, just look at that architecture! There was one main market in the centre of town surrounded by historic buildings decked out in lights and decorated trees.

Here’s a look at the small town Christmas vibe with a big, big celebration!

Hachenburg | Photo by McKenna
Hachenburg | Photo by McKenna
Food vibes in Hachenburg | Photo by McKenna
Koblenz | Photo by McKenna

I know it’s 11 months away, but be sure to add Koblenz and Hachenburg to your Christmas wish list in 2018.

Where is your favourite Christmas market?

McK xx

Fall foliage at its finest – across the Atlantic

One thing I desperately miss about living in the northeast of the states is the gradual change of seasons – and specifically, three solid months of vibrant fall foliage.

I mean, how gorgeous is this?!

Washington, DC…you’re a beauty.

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But, I have to admit, the last few weeks in the UK have been equally as stunning. From Kensington Palace Gardens to the quiet countryside of Norfolk,  autumn is on point.

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It is the most wonderful time of year after all 🍂🌿🍁

What do you think is the best thing about autumn? Pumpkins?! Crisp weather? Knit sweaters? All of the above?

McK

Welcome to the bachelorette party! Hen do ideas you need in your life

What’s better… Christmas season or wedding season?!

As we all know from Wedding Crashers, it’s clearly WEDDING SEASON!

I am a bridesmaid for my sister-from-another-mister Penny in just a few short weeks! The bride tribe and I had so much fun organising her hen do (or bachelorette party as us Americans say) – and thought I would pass on some ideas for your future festivities!

I was in charge of decorations because (1) I’m obsessed with glitter and confetti (2) Pinterest is my Bible and (3) I love a good crafty project!

Photo by McKenna

Amazon, Ebay and Paperchase were my go-to places for operation Pen’s Hen! You can find great decorations at inexpensive prices. I first picked out a colour scheme (white, pastel pink and mint) and went from there!

Paper pom poms, balloons, a ‘bride-to-be’ banner and confetti were at the top of my list – they would look perfect in the Oxfordshire cottage we rented for the bride-to be!

Photo by McKenna
Photo by McKenna

Although there are a few items you need to buy, there’s also so much you can do with objects you already have! I took a few of my picture frames and inserted printed personalised messages into each one including ‘Welcome to Pen’s Hen Party!’ and ‘Sip sip hooray!’ – ideal for a drinks table 🙂

Photo by McKenna

Photos are also a nice way to personalise the space – plus, a great way to reminisce and meet the rest of the bride’s friends!

Photo by McKenna

Since many of the girls were traveling from far and wide – some from outside of the country – I thought hen do ‘survival kits’ would be a nice little touch. Inside were the essentials to get any girl through a weekend away including:

  • A mini bottle of booze
  • Water
  • Mini body lotion
  • Chapstick
  • Tissues
  • Chocolate
  • Photo props (funny glasses, moustaches, lips, etc) – perfect for selfies!
  • Mints

Plus, they looked super cute!

 

Hen do survival kits | Photo by McKenna

Other necessities on the list: a tiara and veil for our beautiful bride! We also dressed her up in a ‘joke’ wedding dress for the evening. She was definitely surprised!

What decorations have been a hit at your parties/hen dos? Happy hen do!

McK x