Closet Conundrum

Seriously, the dilemmas I’ve been having about wardrobe placement have made me hate myself a little – all the clichés regarding “first world problems” and “knowing your privilege” have come to the fore in my quest for the biggest bed and wardrobe possible.

It all started because I had to tell the electrician how many sockets I wanted in each room – as you generally have a socket either side of the bed I started planning where all the furniture will go.

So to set the scene. There are two double bedrooms and a single (see floorplan) , the largest bedroom with the blocked up fireplace, will be the “master” (i.e. my room) and the other two will be spares. My aunt and uncle kindly gave me all the furniture from their London flat which they sold earlier this year. This included four single beds, which were far from cheap (e.g. over £1000 for a mattress) – I’d like to use this furniture where possible.

In the smallest bedroom will be the bed I got for £4, as a small double it fits perfectly.

In the second bedroom I will have two single beds pushed together or apart according to the needs of whoever is staying (I think with a decent joining device and a mattress topper pushed together beds are fine) – I might put a small wardrobe or chest of drawers in here as well.

In the “master” is where all the difficulties arose. I had planned to use two single beds, a chest of drawers as a dressing area in the alcove and a 2.5m wide wardrobe (I have 3m in my room at present so this would actually be a downgrade) – I was a bit concerned about whether two single beds would feel a bit cramped but I thought it’d probably be ok. The room seems big enough. Hmm, turns out this is an illusion created by never seeing it when it containing any furniture – these are the actual (rounded up) measurements.

master measurements

So when I tried to draw it out on the floor to decide where to best place the sockets I quickly realised it wasn’t going to work (I’ve also switched the way the door opens as the other way was silly).  I’m calling this Option 1.

Master Option 1

It’s partly because I didn’t realise wardrobes are as wide as they are – I used the measurements of IKEA Pax and the option with the sliding door (as this would have to be) is 66cm wide – for some reason I thought they’d be about 50cm. Obviously the gap between the wardrobe and the bed is ridiculous, the bedside table is 60cm wide which I don’t think is unreasonable – the radiator also sticks out 15cm so if the gap on the window side was any narrower you couldn’t really get past. So that pretty much ruled out the single beds.

Next I tried a regular 4ft 6in double – this is Option 2.

master 2

Still not enough room on the wardrobe side for a 60cm bedside table – the window side is still cramped. It looks ok on paper but remember I mentioned, ‘drawing’ these on the floor – I bought some masking tape and I planned to do it that way but then I rediscovered all that 80s 12in LPs – perfect for marking out furniture with imperial measurements! This is how this option looked (ignore the crosses – that was another idea) – oh and that’s a 50cm wide not 60cm bedside table:


I’m also not sure how many people have a 4ft 6in double anymore, as this room is to be the “master” I don’t really want to come up with a layout which will prevent anyone from having a larger bed in the future. So I reckon a 5ft double (king) should be the minimum, which unfortunately is also 3in longer (6.5ft).

Option number 3 – Wardrobes on either side of the bed – there is about 75cm to 80cm of space on each side (skirting board and bed frame dependant).

master 3

Lack of bedside tables will be an issue, but as I’m getting the wiring done I can get wall mounted lights. In the furniture showroom they have full over the bed built ins with narrow wardrobes and nightstand combinations but this would probably reduce the wardrobe size to 50cm each side and given that they were talking in the region of £2500 there’s not a chance I’d do that for 100cm of wardrobe – besides, I hate built in bedrooms. I considered a shelf over the bed but figured it would only be a matter of time before I had a glass of water on my head in the night. So I reckoned my best bet was 75cm Pax wardrobes from Ikea (which they don’t make doors for) and I’d make the doors so it left the bottom bit open and I’d have an “reach in” bedside cabinet. Would it be like sleeping between two fridges though? There’s got to be a better option yet.

So on to Option 4 – I decide maybe I should think outside the box a bit, here’s a bed with the headboard against the chimney breast.

master 4

The chimney breast is only wide enough for a regular 4ft 6in double so there is that disadvantage, there’s 64cm at the end of the bed which I think is ok. There is no option other than an overhead shelf (or possible a narrow shelf on the side of the chimney breast) bedside table wise and I just find it really weird in relation to the door.  I’m loving the huge wardrobe though….

Bored yet? Reliving this is boring me!

Option 5 – bed on the same wall as the door

master 5

To be honest, bed along the door wall is probably the second option which went through my head but as there isn’t really any room for a wardrobe on the side wall, I dismissed it.

Option 6 – bed on the same wall as the door – wardrobe in the alcove AND along the chimney breast

master 7

You might have been wondering why I’d not considered putting the wardrobe in the alcove, there were a couple of reasons for this 1) the alcove is only 96-98cm wide and I wanted a larger wardrobe than that, 2) the depth of the alcove is only 36cm so a wardrobe would have to come out further than the chimney breast and I thought it would look weird.

Ikea do “slimline” Pax wardrobes – they are only 38cm deep – I’d not considered them for any of the other options (like Option 2) because the clothes have to hang face on and I imagine it would be a bit of a pain to get to stuff at the back.  In this plan I’m intending to use two shallow wardrobes and put one in front of the existing alcove with no back on it – so I do get some side hanging space.  In the wardrobe in front of the chimney it would just be the shallow hanging but as you can hang side by side there is 76cm of hanging compared to 100cm in a full depth pax.  So overall I’ll have more hanging space than in Option 3.

I know I could still have the bed along the side wall with this option and there would be more circulation space but it make the positioning of a dressing table difficult and there is something about the bed facing the window which I like.

There are a few disadvantages with this option:

  1. Only IKEA does the shallow wardrobes and they don’t deliver to the Isle of Man, I can’t go fetch them myself as they won’t fit in my car.  There are companies which do collections so that looks like it will be my only option.
  2. I really want the tall ones to make all the available use of the space and so the difference in depth is not noticeable, but as the ceilings are 243cm high and the tall wardrobes are 236cm there isn’t enough space to build them on the floor and then stand them up, so they’ll have to be constructed upright, which doesn’t sound easy.
  3. The ceiling also slopes down on the window wall, it starts sloping about 20cm away from the wall and comes down about 20cm – so if I get the full height wardrobes they will need hacking.
  4. The back panel of the wardrobe keeps it square but I’m not planning on having a back panel in the alcove – so there will need to be some sort of hack there too.
  5. IKEA wardrobes are notorious for being ridiculously heavy, so even if I get them delivered getting them upstairs could be fun.

So that’s where I got to – the electrician is starting on the 11th August – so I definitely can’t change my mind after that!

Patricia the Stripper

Erm, that’s a Chris de Burgh song in case you’re wondering.

So when I got the house it was all magnolia – which isn’t a bad thing, while it was obviously a doer upper it didn’t look completely tragic.  The problem was the magnolia was painted over wallpaper and none of it was flat wallpaper, it was all either woodchip or anaglypta and as textured wallpaper is usually used to ‘paper over the cracks’, I thought it best to get it all off and find out ‘what lies beneath’.

Since I got the keys it’s been a relentless fight against wallpaper, the war may not yet be won but I think I’ve victories in all the major battles.  This how the course of the action panned out:

Saturday: get the keys bought a wallpaper steamer and a stripper.
Sunday: stripped bedroom number two.  Three walls of anaglypta wallpaper and one of anaglypta wallpaper and plaster.  It seems like the wallpaper steamer sometimes causes the plaster to ‘blow out’ and then it falls off.
Friday: Ellie, Paul and I stripped the master bedroom (anaglypta again) – bits of plaster come off but nothing major.  My suspicions about the wallpaper steamer get stronger.
Saturday: Paul and I strip the smallest bedroom (more anaglypta) – in a few more small areas bits of plaster come off.  The plaster on each of the walls in this rooms seems to be different and that makes a difference to how easily it comes off.  We make a start on the upstairs hall and the stairwell.  The top layer is woodchip but in some places it’s over several other layers of wallpaper, the bottom layer seems to be lining paper which was painted over with gloss, truly adhering it to the plaster – it’s a nightmare, you need to to apply excessive force and just keep chipping at it as it comes away millimetre by millimetre.
Sunday: Paul and I continue on the stairwell.  The two of us work for around 7 hours straight and we get most of it removed.  There is much phaffing to get the best configuration of the ladder in a confined space as well.
Wednesday: Because I’ve bought a sideboard and it’s getting delivered the following day, I decide to start stripping the living room at 7pm at night.  Three walls are anaglypta, so they take about an hour and a half and I spend the next three hours trying to strip just the chimney breast of woodchip, on top of several layers of paper.  Including this rather charming floral number

Floral Wallpaper

Friday: I continue at the bottom of the stairwell and the downstairs hall.  It’s more woodchip over more of that floral paper.  There are wires everywhere in the hall (electric and telephone) and they appear to have been both wallpapered and painted over – not good.   The paint on the ceiling also starts coming off with the paper and seems to be very loose (I’m worried there was a leak from the bathroom above).  As it flakes off it keeps getting in my eyes.  Some of the paint has also chipped off the woodwork and it appears to be a mid-brown colour, could be nice…  Anyway, I just remove the wallpaper as best as I can and call it a night.
Saturday: I go get some dusk masks and some safety goggles.  Then temptation gets too much and I go out and buy a heat gun (I spent an hour looking for Dad’s then gave up).  I start with the banister / stair frame in the hall, it doesn’t go at all well, I end up hacking at it so much that I think it will need to be planed back down and I’m still left with green paint scum on the surface.  The paint on the skirting board on the other hand just melts away – I make my way up a few of the stairs (peeling back carpet as I go) until the wires get too annoying.  So then I tried a door frame, same, the paint just melts away. I do half a door frame and then start on the picture rail in the living room, it isn’t quite so easy and I end up charring some of the wood – I don’t have a very good shave hook either.  By now the house is quite foggy and I’ve suddenly remembered that the paint probably contains lead, so I decide to call it a day.
Sunday: I decide to stick to safer tasks and avoid the heat gun until I’ve got a better idea of what I’m doing.  As the paint on the ceiling has half come off I decide I’d better get rid of the rest – easier said than done.  It takes me a good few hours (and a load of elbow grease) to get most of the rest of it off.  Then I spent several more hours removing the remaining bits of glossed lining paper and flakes of woodchip from the downstairs hall, stairwell and upstairs hall.  I’ve been picking up the wallpaper as I’ve been going along (two stuffed wheelie bins plus a few sacks which went straight to the tip) but I’ve not been too precious about it, however with the possibility of lead dust I decide to go around on my hands and knees and pick of all the larger remaining pieces and then give it a good hoover.  Well the hoover is about as much use as a chocolate teapot – I give up, go home and order a shopvac, a proper respirator and a sander.
Tuesday: Wake up to discover I can’t lift my right arm past my shoulder. The wallpaper fights back…

So that’s the saga to date – there were times when I wondered if it might be quicker to wait for woodchip to come back into fashion.  On the whole, all evidence indicates that the walls were fine when the wallpaper went up, they must have just liked it.  How easy it’s going to be to get them back into a state where they can be painted though…

Whose keys are these keys?

Those keys are mine 🙂

Given that the Isle of Man is a place where keys, if used, are often merely a formality – actually getting all the keys to my new house was bit of a saga.

The Front Door Key

The vendor lives across (i.e. in the UK) and the advocates had some difficulty in getting in contact with him, so he didn’t post the signed contract until the day before we were due to complete – which meant that I agreed (should the signed contract not arrive) to do something called “cash for keys” which I was assured wasn’t as dodgy as “cash for questions”, because in fact I got the keys and they didn’t get the cash (it stayed in the advocate’s account until the contract arrived).

The vendor had a friend here who acted for him when there were tenants in the property, this friend (Mr B) is the one who advertised and showed me around the house – Mr B was away for several weeks in the Middle East but his wife was here and could supply the key when required.  So my advocate (Stacey) got the key and went to check it was indeed the correct key, the day before completion, only to discover that it didn’t fit the lock at all.

On the day of completion, the contract did arrive after all but we didn’t have the correct key – so then I had to agree to exchange without the keys with the understanding that it would be collected the following day from Mrs B (who now said she had found the correct key). The following day (which also happened to be my birthday) Stacey picked me up and we went off to get the key from Mrs B who told us that she was sure that this key was the correct key but that there were two keys and she could only find one.  Things didn’t look promising as the new key and the old key were identical but off we went to give it a go.

As were walking down the garden path Stacey hands me the key, I reach the front door, push down the handle, walk in and put the key in the lock in the inner door, unlock it and walk in! Stacey follows me chuckling – unaware that there were two doors, she’d been foiled by an already unlocked lock 🙂  Dad always calls that “the one that got Houdini”.

The electricity meter key

Trying to read the electricity meter started with me stating “That number looks like a pound sign”, followed by “Why does it say – insert key here?”.  The meter was a ‘pay as you go’ key one and as there is a £20 deposit taken for the key, it had not been left behind by the tenants.  Fortunately the MEA were really good and despite it being a Saturday had a guy out in 45mins to reset the meter and give me a new key.

The keys for the windows

The keys for the French window and back door were in the house but there were no keys to be found for any of the windows – the previous owner’s tenants must have lost them.  A couple of days after I got the house I went to the locksmiths on Windsor Road and they gave me a bunch of keys to try.  It’s rather heartwarming that a locksmith, whose livelihood is based on paranoia and distrust, just hands me a set of keys without requiring a deposit or even ID!  Sadly, none of the locksmith’s keys would fit, most were far too big. Also, as I went round all the windows I realised that the keys must have been missing for quite a while as the kitchen and bathroom handles had had their locks drilled out and the one in the 2nd bedroom (which was also locked) was a completely different handle.

Odd Window Handle

So I decided it was probably simpler (and possibly even cheaper) to replace all the handles. I took one off and measured it and ordered 7 new handles on eBay for a grand total of £18.30. Mr B came round the following weekend to try his window keys and managed to unlock the locked handle for me so I can unscrew it.

What should have been a simple job, which I planned to do in half an hour one night on the way to the pub, had me spitting fire after 1.5 hours and only three handles later. Everything that I didn’t imagine going wrong did go wrong; screw covers that wouldn’t come off, new screws with uneven threads (that one was especially frustrating as it was the first handle and I thought I must have measured wrongly), damaged screw heads!  Ugh – so I went to the pub.  Next evening – it was like I’d dreamt it.  So we went from:

Original window handle

To this:

New window handle

Much better!  And they all came with new keys so I now have keys for everything…. oh except the actual front door (the one which Stacey couldn’t unlock) but that’s not important (or at least the insurance company haven’t made me state that it’s lockable!).