Like Watching Paint Dry

The title of this post is both a description of what my week has been like, and a warning about what this post will be like. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

So, as you may have gathered from the fact that even my fashion posts have been about kitchens this week, the current house situation has pretty much taken over our lives. The good news is that the tile floor came up much easier than we expected it to… which honestly makes me want to look up that builder we had round for a quote that time – the one who told us those tiles would never, ever come up, not ever, and that we would just have to resign ourselves to living with them for the rest of our lives – and show him THIS:

kitchen renovation, stage one: removing the tile floorHa! That’ll show YOU, Mr Builder Man!

Now, I have to admit, I was feeling pretty smug about this unexpected success – in a way that now seems hilariously naive to me. Oh, sweet innocence of last Friday, when I thought the (admittedly horrific) amount of dust you can see on the kitchen cabinets was probably as bad as it was going to get, and that I had an outside chance of keeping the living room looking more-or-less like this:

living room mid kitchen-renoHonestly, this was all bad enough, as far as I was concerned. I mean, there’s kitchen stuff in the living room! And I can’t even tell you how hard it was to resist giving those cabinets a good scrub, even although I knew they’d just get covered with dust again right away, and I thought (incorrectly, as it turned out) that they’d be getting thrown out by the end of the week anyway. So, yeah, it was bad: but it wasn’t nearly as bad as what was to come. In fact, by Tuesday night, I was looking back fondly at the photos above, because by that stage, the kitchen looked like this:

OMGAnd the living room? Looked like THIS:


(Excuse the blurry photo: it was late at night, and I think my hands must have been shaking from the shock…)

And then I died. Literally. OK, not literally-literally, but I would honestly have lain down on the floor and wept… if it wasn’t for the fact that the floor looked like THIS:

HELPThat noise you can hear right now? That’s the sound of my tears, echoing down through the ages. One day, many years from now, some other family will live in this house, and sometimes they’ll pause for a second and listen to the ghostly sounds of piteous weeping coming from the living room and hall. Eventually, they’ll call in an exorcist, who’ll take a look at the place, and then say, “Wait: isn’t this the old Forever Amber house? The one with the really filthy floors that could not be cleaned, no matter how hard that poor woman tried? I think we’ve found your “ghost,” folks…”

(I actually DID try to clean this floor, even although I knew it would just get dirty again five minutes later. And it DID. And you’ll just have to trust me on this, but it looks WAY better in the photo than it did in real life. Also, while this is obviously a mid-building work photo, that’s how this floor almost always looks to me. It doesn’t look quite that bad to other people, you understand, but that’s more-or-less what I see when I look at it, which is why it’s getting replaced, ASAP…)

While Terry was systematically destroying the kitchen and living room, I painted the hall. Unfortunately for me, I always forget just how much I hate painting until approximately 2 minutes after starting painting, at which point I’m all, “This is booooorrriing! Is it time to stop yet?” Also, Terry REALLY doesn’t trust me with painting – or with anything, really – so he always tells me to just do the edges and he’ll do the rest. Which I HATE, because it makes me feel like Rachel from Friends in that scene where they’re all playing football, and everyone just keeps telling her to “go long”. With almost every activity I try to do, everyone around me will be all, “GO LONG, AMBER! GO LONG!” and I’m just like, “USE ME, people! Those walls won’t even see me coming! They’ll never know what hit them!”

Anyway, Terry was pretty adamant that I’d just mess up the walls if I tried to do the whole hall, so, just to show him, I went rogue and did the whole hall (And yeah, I kinda messed it up, if you want to know the truth). It took me approximately the rest of my life. At one point I started to suspect that it was not, in fact, a small, suburban hallway I was painting, but the Forth Rail Bridge (Which, famously, used to have to be painted constantly… much like my hallway). I’m still painting in my sleep, actually, but hey! That hall has been well and truly painted, and at least I’ll have the satisfaction of looking at it every day and noticing every tiny flaw and imperfection, because I know them all by heart now knowing that it was all my own work and I have no one to blame but myself. I’d show you a photo, but, honestly, I never want to see the damn thing ever again: that hall is dead to me now. Oh, OK, you twisted my arm:

BEFORE: Dingy magnolia paint, dirty floor.

magnolia wallsDURING: small patch of white paint (Because, OBVIOUSLY), level of mess that makes me anxious to look at it, even now.

painting the hall is my life nowAFTER: white walls, and if you’ll excuse me for a moment, I’m just going to go and clean that floor with FIRE:

white walls, messy floorThis series of photos also charts the steady deterioration of, a) my hall floor, and b) my sanity. One day I hope to sell them to an art gallery, with the title, “How I Went Mad: A Study in White Paint.” See, it turns out that white is really, really unforgiving. And that our walls were really, really badly finished by the builders who were also responsible for the thick coat of magnolia that used to cover every room in the house. So, basically every time I thought I was FINALLY done painting the hall, Terry would emerge from the kitchen, look at it, and then point out about a million bits I’d either missed, or just generally messed up. I’d then end up painting it again until late, at which point the light would be so bad I couldn’t really see what I was doing, so I’d wake up in the morning, and be like, “DAMN. Guess I’m re-painting the hall, then!” And that’s my life now, really. Hi, I’m Amber, and I paint my hall: that’s all you’ll ever really need to know about me, now.

On Wednesday, Terry sold both the old kitchen cabinets, and our old microwave, on Gumtree. This was good, in that it got all of the old kitchen stuff out of the way before the new one arrived, but it was also bad, in that this happened before the new kitchen arrived. So, at that point, the kitchen looked like THIS:

why am I posting this on the internet?(Posting this photo on the internet makes me feel oddly vulnerable, like you’re all going to judge me for both the state of my cupboards, and for their non-Pinteresty contents. I mean, I bet you all have perfectly organised cupboards, with, like, health food and stuff, and I just have everything hastily crammed into the only space available at the time, plus a giant mug bearing the legend, “I like big mugs and I cannot lie,” which I bought Terry as a joke gift. In related news, I think I’ve just worked out why I’m not popular on Instagram. BRB, just having a quick, “WHAT HAVE I DONE WITH MY LIFE?!” crisis…)

(Also, the kitchen walls are white now, too. Yeah, we’ve been busy….)

Selling stuff on Gumtree is weird. It is, though, isn’t it? Complete strangers coming traipsing into your complete shell of a house, and then JUDGING its contents, and offering you money for them IF they like them. And then, if they don’t, they’d just have to make some excuse and walk away, I guess? We’ve actually not had that happen yet, but I know that, if it was me going into someone’s house to buy something I saw on Gumtree, I’m 100% sure I’d buy it whether I liked it or not, just to make things less awkward. Also in a bid to make things less awkward, and because I have the natural-born ability to make ANY situation instantly awkward (“Want Insta-Awkwardness? Just add Amber!”), I went and hid upstairs while the people came to look at the kitchen, which meant I spent an agonising few minutes crouched at the top of the stairs listening to a disembodied female voice going, “But what IS that? Seriously, what IS it? I seen it on the listing, and I was, like, John, what IS that? What is it, John?'” Honestly, it was all I could do not to just yell down the stairs, “YEAH, WHAT IS IT, JOHN? I WANT TO KNOW TOOOOOO!”

Turns out, it was this:

It’s an extractor fan, btw. Yeah, I was disappointed, too.

(It wasn’t actually for sale, either: they’d just… never seen an extractor fan, I guess?)

Anyway, they bought the kitchen, and even took most of it away that same night, which was… pretty weird. Like, I’ve always hated that kitchen, but as soon as I saw random strangers starting to carry it out the door, I had this urge to shout, “You there! That’s my kitchen you’re making off with, you scoundrel! Unhand it this instant!” (Yes, I had the urge to do this in the manner of an 18th century gentleman. No, I don’t know why.) I also felt like… *whisper* … I maybe possibly quite liked the kitchen, just as it was leaving our house forever? Which… GOD. I think it was just because the people who came to see it, AND the people who came for the microwave, kept going, “Oh, I really like it: why are you getting rid of it?” as if we were just going to say, “You know what? You’re right! I mean, I know we’ve just totally demolished it, and spent a small fortune on a new one, but now that you’ve said that’s a massive mistake, it occurs to me that maybe it IS! Thanks, kind stranger!”

On Thursday morning, the IKEA element of the new kitchen arrived (At 7:30am, natch…), and ushered in a new era of untidiness:

flatpacked kitchen from Ikea

work in progress

(Yes, I got into one of the cabinets, just to see if I could. I mean, wouldn’t you?)

The last thing Terry said to me before we went to bed the night before was, “You know, I really hope Ikea put the screws and stuff for each cabinet inside the box, rather than just sending them all jumbled together.” Naturally, then:

Ikea kitchen fixin's


Also, it didn’t take long for him to start hating this guy:

Ikea instructions‘lil dude’s all, “What is it, John, John, what is it?”

This was also the day it got to 9pm before I realised I’d forgotten to shower or put on makeup. Someone came to collect the old dishwasher, someone else came to collect the old fridge (This was all heart-wrenching for me, obviously), and my parents came to carry off a carload of rubbish to the skip. It was all a bit of a blur, to be honest, but by the end of the day, we had some shiny new cabinets:

Ikea white gloss kitchen cabinetsYay! And also, OMG, I can’t believe it’s only been a week since we started this, because it already feels like FOREVER. But still! It’ll be worth it when it’s finished! She says through gritted teeth!

(Also, just pre-empting all of the scandalised comments I know I’m about to get from white-haters: we actually had white gloss cabinets in our last house, so we know exactly what to expect from them, and no, they are not remotely difficult to keep clean – in fact, I find them considerably easier to keep clean than the dark brown ones we had previously, which highlighted every speck of dust and fingerprint. There’s still been a lot of dust flying around since we put these in, AND we’ve been opening and closing them constantly with our filthy, “my kitchen is a building site,” hands and they still look exactly the same. Yay for white cabinets!)

And that’s where we’re up to at the time of writing (Thursday night. Still haven’t had that shower…). Hopefully by the time you actually read this, we’ll have made even more progress, and the house will be starting to look a bit more habitable again: time will tell… and so will my next blog post, obviously. And, if you can’t possibly wait that long, don’t forget you can follow along in real time on Instagram Stories!

Now, where did I put the wine?

P.S. I write a weekly diary which goes out every Friday to my subscribers. Sign up below to get on the list...

books by Amber Eve
  • Allegra


    I agree white cupboards are 100 times easier to keep clean! For some reason, it is something you don´t believe until you do have them at home: in our first house, my husband and I had these old-fashioned brown ones which were a hell of a nightmare to make look remotely presentable, but then we moved, and at our new place everything is on the white & neat IKEA typical style –which I totally hated before living here, and now I can´t imagine myself giving up. I am a white cupboards convert!
    Also, I think your kitchen is already looking good with the new painting and furniture, and I bet it will be awesome once your hard work is over. Hang on, guys! So looking forward to see your future (I have no doubts) pinterestable kitchen!

    April 22, 2017
  • Myra Boyle


    This too will pass and your kitchen will be sparkling white and shiny.

    April 22, 2017
  • Hilarious post! Whenever we’re doing any decorating in a room, our other rooms also become dumping grounds and the mess stresses me out no end! Love the white glossy cabinets x


    April 22, 2017
  • Oh my gosh Amber! Hang in there – the kitchen will eventually be done!

    April 22, 2017
  • Brenda


    I honestly can’t believe how much progress you guys have made! Really! Very impressive and it will be beautiful!! The mess will be but a distant memory!!!!!

    April 22, 2017
  • White haters? Give me a vat of white paint any day, it makes a place look much lighter and bigger. And yes, it is much easier to clean as well. Gone are the days when I would paint each room a different bright colour. Although I’ve seen friends do this very well in their houses, I found coloured walls ended up making my old flat feel dark and drab after a while.

    April 22, 2017
  • Mana Smith


    I’ve currently got light brown cabinets in my house since I’m renting and can’t change them, and I had glossy cabinets in my last house (renting then too and they were apple green it was weird) and the light brown ones are speckles so they look dirty and I hate it and if they actually get dirty (being I have a 10 yr old it happens) the dirt settles into the speckles. But the glossy ones were rarely dirty and when they were it was a quick wipe with a Clorox wipe and they were all clean. No scrubbing needed. I miss those weird green cabinets.

    April 23, 2017
  • JoAnn Moran


    The paint story was deja vu. I tackle painting projects and they take FOREVER, Reminder to self – pay a professional. It’s worth it.

    April 24, 2017
  • Exciting (and a little hilarious)! It’s the home stretch now, right? Maybe? Can’t wait to see everything in the end.

    April 24, 2017
  • Annie


    This was such a funny post!! I really enjoyed it. hope to see more of the finished renovation. xx

    April 24, 2017
  • The walls in my rental flat are that same horrid Magnolia colour – we’ve just asked the Landlord if we can repaint them, and have literally everything crossed hoping they give us the go ahead.
    That aside – works looking great!

    April 25, 2017