Making space in the (22ft) wardrobe…

Apologies to everyone who’s been missing my updates. Life has been a little bit on the hectic side just lately. Work (as in that nasty 9-5 stuff that pays the bills) has been a bit crazy. It’s silly season in the FS industry – as organisations start to worry about what their Half Year results are going to look like to the sharks in the City. So anybody who can count past 10 without removing shoes and socks is press-ganged into service to help come up with a good explanation of why the company is so good at spending money but not so good at making it.

As a rule, I try to leave my work in the office when I leave on a Friday night, not least because I don’t have any broadband or wifi at the barn. And though it is improving slowly, even trying to make a phone call still occasionally means walking up the hill to sit on a fencepost just to get a signal. So there you have it. It’s a real shame, but I simply can’t work at weekends! Unfortunately, at certain times of the year even the ‘Sorry-would-love-to-help-but-I’m-totally-off-the-grid-in-Scotland’ excuse doesn’t work. Which is why, a couple of weekends ago, I had to drive 30 miles to a Garden Centre to find a Wi-fi signal strong enough to allow me to long on to the office server. (I can recommend a Dobbie’s bacon sarnie while trying to figure out the best way to explain a multi-million dollar IT budget. A G&T would probably have made it easier, but might be frowned upon at 9am on a Sunday morning…)

And believe me, a weekend of playing with numbers on a spreadsheet would not make for a very interesting blog. So I didn’t. Sorry!

And last weekend I was moving house. Not the barn I hasten to add – I’m not giving that up after 15 years hard graft. Nope. I’ve given up my rented flat in London and moved all my stuff up to Scotland because I’m going to work in India. (There’s a logic in there somewhere…)

So after a horribly long week at work, I joined the madness of the Bank Holiday Getaway traffic, and spent 11 hours in the car overnight – finally arriving at the barn at 3am on Saturday.

To be woken at 5.30am by the b***** dive-bombing birds and brilliant sunshine.

Hey-ho. No rest for the wicked. Conscious that I had a lot to do and not much time, I got up and unpacked the car.

It’s really quite remarkable how much stuff you can cram into the back of a hatchback….


Since the majority of this lot was clothes, I decided this might be a good time to finish off the dressing room.

Last time I wrote about the dressing room, it was the trials and tribulations of manhandling a 3m length of worktop up the stairs.

What I didn’t mention was that having coerced my Dad into putting up some battens for the last bit of worktop, I never actually got round to putting it up.

(Attention span problems again – I got bored with the routing, so I couldn’t be bothered to cut and rout the last post that I needed.) So the worktop sat there on it’s side, trying to make me feel guilty every time I entered the room. But since I hadn’t actually put any clothes in there, it was easy to avoid.

No longer. I have a whole car full of suitcases in need of a home. Time to focus the mind and get the room finished. At this point I have to say how relieved I am that Dad had already done the difficult bit. If I’d had to put the battens on the wall in my sleep-deprived state, they’d have been as straight as a politician’s expense sheet.

Fortunately I just had to cut a post to the right height and route a couple of edges.

So there you go Mum. I’ve finally built you your very own sewing table. Maybe you could make a bedspread or something……

So now it was time to unpack. And it has to be said, there is something utterly hedonistic about given a girl an empty 22ft x 14ft wardrobe….


I finally got round to unpacking some of the boxes of clothes that had been in my shipment back from India 4 years ago! (Well I might be needing those saris again…) In total 6 large black sacks of clothes and 1 sackful of shoes were carted off to the charity shop or the skip. (In girl talk that actually translates as ‘Hey look, loads of space freed up in the wardrobe – time to go shopping!!)

But eventually there was order from all the chaos, and I now have a dressing room to enjoy. (Well, when I get a sofa in there, and perhaps a wine-rack, and an internet based whirligig clothes rail that picks out my outfits for me (No I haven’t been drinking, I really have seen it, and one day – if I can ever get more than a 0.0000000002 MGB broadband – I am going to get one)).

So that was my weekend. A bit of carpentry and lots of unpacking.

And then I got back in the car and drove overnight 500 miles back down the road, arriving home at 3am. Got up at 6am because I needed to clean the flat up a bit (just in case anybody wants to view it – would have been a bit off-putting leaving it in a state of total chaos). Dropped off hire car at 8am, on to Heathrow. To get on a plane at 2pm. Landing in India at 4am. In the office by 9am. Pretty much 36 hours travelling and straight into the office. Oh the glamorous life of the business traveller…

It’s taken me this long to actually work out where I am and what time of day it is. But now I’m sitting in the hotel bar with my G&T, finally writing up my barn blog, and contemplating setting up another blog on the life of an expat in India. (Because I don’t have enough to keep me occupied…)


Shiny shoes in the wardrobe

Thanks to my architect’s brilliant concept of the ME space, I ended up with a walk-in wardrobe to die for. A whole room in fact. 22ft x 14ft of space entirely dedicated to my shoes, clothes and handbags. Every girl should have one.

So how do I make best use of it all? Because yes, it’s a lovely big space, but unfortunately, when it comes to putting in the furniture, it’s a bit of an awkward shape. Right under the eaves, the ceiling slopes down on either side so much that the walls on either side of the room are less than a metre high. Which doesn’t allow for a huge amount of full-length hanging space.

I played around with a few ideas, drawing up a few different layouts for where I could place the furniture, but hadn’t really come up with a plan when I went to the Grand Designs Live show.

As I’ve blogged before, at the show I was largely ignored by anybody on the ‘serious’ building side of the show, because clearly girls don’t know anything about renewable energy or bricks. But it was a very different matter on the other side of the show; I was besieged by people wanting to sell me interiors stuff.

One particularly persistent representative from one of those bespoke bedroom furniture companies managed to trap me in the crowd.

“Are you looking for some new bedroom furniture?”

“Well yes, I am actually, but I don’t think you can help. I need a design for a whole room, not just a run of wardrobes along one wall and a few drawers to the side. My space is a lot larger than that so I want something more creative.”

“That’s exactly why you need our help. We can design very creative bedrooms for every kind of space.”

She got my ‘sceptical’ look.

“And if you book an appointment now, we guarantee an extra-special show price. 70% off!!”

She got my extra-special ‘sceptical’ look – the one I reserve for people I believe are talking complete and utter B***S***

I mean, l I love a bargain as much as anyone, but I’ve discovered before that those ‘exclusive’ show prices aren’t so exclusive after all – you’ll find the same ‘discount’ on the company’s website. And these bedroom furniture companies are particularly bad – because nowhere, on any brochure or website, will they show you the pre-sale, undiscounted price. How do you know whether you’ve really got 70% off if they never give you an original price to compare to??

I’m firmly convinced that their discounts are based solely on how much they think they can screw out of the prospective client.

Still, at the time I didn’t really have any alternative bright ideas on how to turn the space into my very own walk-in wardrobe. So having a designer come up and have a bash at producing something creative couldn’t do any harm. And you never know – if I liked the design and the price really was as spectacular as promised, then maybe this would be one job that I just handed over to the ‘professionals’.

An appointment was duly made for the regional designer to visit me on site. (He was based in the North of England – apparently Scotland doesn’t order enough bespoke bedrooms to warrant their own regional designer!)

On the appointed day, he turned up – in his smart suit, shiny shoes and even shinier BMW convertible. And minced his way reluctantly across my ‘building-site-excuse-for-a-garden’.

It was the couple of cigars sticking out of the breast pocket of his blazer that really finished the image. I could just imagine him at the end of the visit, lighting up his victory cigar as he drove off with the roof down, smug in the thought of yet another sucker who fell for the sales pitch.

First impression didn’t improve much once he got inside and launched into his sales spiel. “I know you were referred through the GD Live show, and I’m sure they promised you a show discount. Well just ignore everything they said because I will be able to give you a much better offer.”

“Really. Well they offered a 70% discount. So what are you offering?”

“Oh, we don’t need to talk numbers now. Trust me. I’m a salesman.”

“Yeah, well I’m a beancounter so I am going to talk numbers. They said 70% off, you’re telling me you’ll better that. So you’ve got to be offering at least 71% off – or am I missing something. Your margins must be phenomenal if you can still make any kind of profit on that.”

But it was like trying to reason with the BT voice automated response system – very frustrating and entirely pointless. So I gave up, took him to the dressing room and then left him to get on with his drawing.

After an hour or so sitting at my dining room table, Mr Shiny Shoes declared he had finished and triumphantly showed me his design. Entirely as predicted, and demonstrating about as much imagination as a piece of mouldy cheese, it was full height cupboards along the back and a row of drawers along one wall. Right. Great. What do I do with the 18m² of floor space you completely failed to make use of?

Then he told me how much it would cost.

“Er, haven’t you forgotten to add the discount into that?”

“No. Trust me this is a bargain offer. You wont get such a bespoke, unique, creative, high quality design for this price anywhere else. And this is the best price I can give you. I’m not going to be phoning you in a few days with a better price. I don’t like playing that kind of game with people.”

Yeah, well. You’re kitting out my dressing room, not the bedrooms of Buckingham Palace. So thanks very much; I’ll be in touch. Not.

No wonder he’s driving around in a BMW convertible.

And surprise surprise, after a few days of my wall of silence, the inevitable phone call came. “I don’t normally do this, but this is such a unique project, I’ve managed to persuade Head Office to let me give you an extra discount……”

That’ll be another DIY job still on the list then….