I’m back! Thank you all for your lovely messages on my last post and wishing you all – well, dare I say it – A Happy New Year? Let’s hope at least that if last year we fell headlong down a hole into what seemed at times like a bottomless pit, perhaps we start today at the bottom of the hill but we can see the top and the road up is marked with vaccination dates and windows and doors beginning to open and leading back to our normal lives although I appreciate with most of us in Tier 4 it’s not feeling quite like that yet.
I am starting this first post of the new year to tell you about my new book: Mad About The House Planner, your home your story. I wrote it during the first lockdown and it feels like the perfect end to the Mad About The House series. And also who doesn’t like starting the year with a fresh notebook. If the first (pink) was about finding your style and working out everything room by room, the second (green) was interior design 101 – answering all those questions you might subsequently have had, this is your book. The one where you get to make all the notes, plan out the stages and keep a record of everything planned, used and done en route to making your home tell your story.
It’s part planner, part journal and part little black book. I don’t know about you but whenever I move house, whether it was between rentals or for bigger projects, it always involves a lot of lists. So you start those in one notebook, and then you need to make a plan which involves different paper (maybe graph) or you make a phone note of a telephone number or email. And before you know where you are you have a messy notebook with paper spilling out and you’ve lost the bit you really need and can’t remember what it was you have forgotten. Or perhaps you have forgotten what it was you needed to remember.
This book is the answer to all that.
But have you also been to people’s houses where they show you a photo album of everything they did to the house? All the befores and afters? We have instagram for that now, but if you ask them to tell you the name of a paint colour or where a particular door handle came from they can’t remember?
This book will help with that.
At the same time as wanting to create a place to keep all your renovation diaries together, I realised that no such book existed. We have baby books and wedding books and even cleaning journals but there wasn’t a single book that was both beautiful and useful (to coin a phrase) where you could make useful notes but also plan and record everything.
So I wrote it.
And it’s beautiful enough to be a housewarming present with its gold foil page edges and two (TWO) marker ribbons (and trust me that’s a big deal in publishing!). It’s in black and white (well dark brown) because it’s about your home and your story so it’s for you to colour in, or at least add your own swatches of colour where you wish.
But more than that it contains checklists for each room. There is graph paper so you can plan your own rooms and work out if you have enough space for the island, the coffee table, the modular sofa. And yes there are tips on measurements and thoroughfares. There are lined pages for you to make notes and space for you to write down your budget plans (and what actually gets spent) the paint you used and whether you liked it and, crucially, what were the others you tested which didn’t work (and why) because that always gets forgotten but can be useful later. There are pages for telephone numbers and addresses of tradesmen.
Each chapter starts with some general advice on the room and then moves into the six questions you must answer before you begin. Some of you will be familiar with these from the last book: Who, what, when, where why and how. This time there is space to write down your answers.
Who is using this room? Be honest. As I said before, the requirements of a sitting room for a couple with kids is very different from those of a couple of down-sizers. A bathroom for a childfree couple can be very different from that of one that must cater to morning rush hour for parents and school children.
And the who will lead you to the what. Playing or chatting, showering or bathing, cooking or eating? If your kitchen is a party place and you hate cooking then you don’t have to plan (or budget) for top level equipment.
When will they be doing it answers questions of decor and lighting. A sitting rom that exists mainly for cocktails and films can be dark and moody but if it must be a playroom or office during daylight hours you probably need to keep it light and airy.
Where is not just which room but where will you shop? High Street or High End? Local and artisan or fast and factory? Which takes you to the How are you going to pay for it and questions of budget. And lastly (although perhaps it should be firstly) why are you doing it? Because working out what is wrong with a room is an important step towards knowing what to do to make it right.
But the notes don’t stop there. I have also come up with a decorator’s version of Kiss Marry Kill in form of Love Lust Loathe. Here you must make a note of the things you love about the room or your new home. The way the light hits the floor at 3pm on a winter’s afternoon so you can make a note to put a chair there and not build a cupboard. The things you aspire to for this space whether it’s saving for a great chair to put there or an expensive wallpaper that will be just right for that space. And finally the bits you want to get rid of and replace.
It’s good to have a record of all this because it does get forgotten and also it allows you to look back on what you learned over the process. How your initial thoughts changed and evolved along the way. And this is why it’s more than just a planner. It’s a diary too.
And I hope very much that you will find it both beautiful and useful. It’s out on 4 March and you can pre-order here (Amazon but it helps with promotion and best seller lists) and here at Bookshop, which, supports independent bookstores, which is truly vital when so many of our shops are closed.