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When kitchens go bad

I love this card by Modern Toss. My good friend Holly got it for me while I was having my new kitchen put in. She felt my pain.

In short, acquisition and fitting of kitchen, aka, Groundhog Day, involved:
  • eight visits to Ikea, Croydon in a two-month period (more than enough to provoke paranoid psychosis, as well as manic depression)
  • one blazing row with good friend, in Croydon
  • one penalty notice for stopping on a red route (to have a blazing row)
  • four tortuous, Pinteresque phonecalls to Ikea's "customer service" department (and I use the term loosely)
  • one belated discovery that I'd bought the wrong (and non-returnable) type of oven from Ebay
  • not enough units/too many units/complete alienation from the kitchen plan
  • one 58cm mystery gap that sneaked in when no one was looking
  • one faulty tap which wobbled and made the water taste like nicotine
  • green-mindedly trying to sell the old kitchen on Ebay with both success and disaster in quick succession
  • one formica-phobic builder
  • two key pieces of wiring, missing (only to be found in... yes... Ikea, Croydon)
  • one £80 carousel that couldn't be used - or returned... yada yada yada. As the card says...

A woman's touch: the joy of old photos

The idea of moving from a flat to a house for some reason got me fantasising that I'd be living a new life in the style of a 1950s housewife (all about the baking, perma-glamour and vintage kitchen, btw, nothing about the domestic subjugation). God knows where it came from - Mad Men was then but a twinkle in my TV set and interiors scrapbook.

I had, however, been listening to a LOT of Doris Day (and perhaps childhood memories of watching the cabin makeover scene in Calamity Jane - minus the lesbian undertones - had made its mark, see below). I, too, dreamed of breezily doing the housework while wearing a floral day dress (also below). Anyway - when I spotted this cheap print of Doris with Cary Grant on a stall in Greenwich Market for about £2, it made the perfect house-warming present for myself.

After something similar? Try typing "vintage photographs" plus the name of your favourite old movie star on ebay. Here are the search results for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers... Let me know what you bought.

Betty Draper's kitchen

If the early sixties style in Mad Men does it for you - Retrorenovation, which I just stumbled across, might be a little too exciting. 

The How To Recreate Betty Draper's Kitchen feature, particularly so...

The site spans the 1940s to the 1970s, spotlighting authentic interiors style. The gallery is mind-bogglingly

brilliant he tips are exhaustive and the forum full of equally obsessed retro nuts. If only the shopping pages weren't all American...

I'll do what I can to post up a healthy selection of UK-friendly resources - for starters, check out Formica Limited's reproduction line, where they manufacture vintage formica designs and sell them by the roll.

I bought some Yellow Grafix (left) and had my kitchen worktops covered in it.

Reasons to love the recession no #1

Loving this. Billed, albeit opportunistically, as a bit of 'vintage' London Underground signage, this enamel No Smoking sign is nevertheless a piece of London's history.

It's available from After Noah for just £4.95 (I know), who explain that they just bought a job lot of every single 'No Smoking' sign from all of London's stations. The reason LU got rid of them is because apparently they weren't worded correctly to fit with the new smoking regulations that came into force in July 2007. Ah well, their loss - our gain.

I think one would look rather nice in that spot in the garden where you escape for a crafty fag. Nothing like feeling naughty in your own home.

Reasons to love the recession no #2

If, like me, you love Terence Conran's classic design ethos - and hanker after the iconic pieces he designed for Habitat in the 1960s... but never stray beyond the gift section in the Conran Shop on account of the whopping great price tags - then rejoice. For there is now the equivalent of a diffusion line in store - meaning that this gorgeous applique Basmah cushion cover (including the cushion) is just £19.95. There are lots of other affordable goodies too - brightly coloured French bistro bowls (£9.95 for four), delicious black lacquered bamboo bathroom bits (from £9.95) and a strangely beautiful orange lamp shaped like a cheese grater, for just £29.

My top online interiors and DIY resources

I'll update this regularly and begin to organise it into sections as it grows, so you can be bursting at the seams with every resource you and your home could ever need... Not cheap. But quite lovely antique French/French-inspired furniture and salvaged gems. They re-upholster and offer other sprucing services depending on what you're after. If you can't afford them, the shop is still great for inspiration. Check out their 1920s-1950s bevelled mirrors. I found one just like it in my local Cancer Research shop for £15. An eclectic selection of reclaimed furniture and architectural salvage, featuring everything from entire kitchens to vases. Perfect if you want a one-off but don’t have time to trawl flea markets or the patience for ebay bidding. While feature lamps are more of a design choice, plain wall or kitchen lighting that isn’t vile is hard to find. This place has some tat – but browse well and its vast selection will provide those essentials. Not clever enough to paint your own children’s walls with something fun and fabulous? This wallpaper place – which also offers a bespoke design service – is the answer. 50s and 60s design is having quite a moment right now. This site collects the best bits and provides links to relevant retailers. Boring but essential if you’re DIY-ing. This trade-price site sells (obviously) screws, but also Leyland paint, tools, radiators and halogen spots. Why are doorbells frequently so naff? Where on earth could you replace that tacky plastic thing with, say, a state of the art Jacob Jensen digital dream of a doorbell? Here. A house-full of new contemporary artwork to match your home’s new look isn’t something you might have budgeted for. This service provides interest-free loans so you can afford to do it. The best selection of reasonably priced garden or driveway gravel on the internet, selling and delivering nationwide everything from plum slate to recycled rubber chippings. The place to go if you can’t afford an architect to run a whole project, but could do with some affordable expert advice, inspiration and to-scale sketches. Stylish bathrooms on a budget – and spectacular customer service. For £200 they’ll give you a HIPs-ready report, rate your home’s energy efficiency and be on call for a year to organize and source relevant workmen and products. Worth it if you’re ripping out and starting from scratch.
More to come...

Plant with pride

This is so bad it's good. I'm looking for something quirky and old to plant my herbs in for the kitchen windowsill. If only this little fella had a friend, and a yellow trough planter between them, instead of a one pot wonder - I'd have snapped them up. He's just £18 from my new favourite affordable online shop, Home Sweet Homestyle.