Q & A

It’s been a long time in the waiting but I have finally collated all your questions and pulled together this Q & A blog post. Thank you to everyone who got involved, I really hope you find some of these answers interesting and perhaps even useful!

Did you go to University?

Yes, I went to the University of Westminster in London and studied a business degree in Fashion Merchandise Management for 4 years.

Have you always loved animals?

Animals have always been a huge part of my life. My mum loves animals so I’ve grown up with them all around me and in my home. We’ve had dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, chickens, ducks, sheep, goats and ponies! I used to compete nationally at show jumping so have always loved ponies. When Matt and I bought the land next to our house, I just knew a couple of ponies would follow!!

What is your dinner party playlist?

Now, you all know by now I like to host. Whether it be a chilled gathering, a full blown party or an evening with friends for dinner. I believe music to be such an important element to any hosting event. I have a playlist for various occasions, but here is a link to my spotify Dinner Music playlist.

What are your favourite recipes?

Difficult one, as I love so many different food recipes! Here are five of my faves…

  1. Honey soy-glazed salmon with sesame & ginger noodles & stir-fried bok choy (Lorraine Pascale)
  2. Vegan lentil shepherds pie – although I don’t make it vegan, just vegetarian. (Delish Knowledge)
  3. Luxury fish pie (James Martin)
  4. Linguine con funghi (Gousto)
  5. Goan Fish & Spinach curry with corriander rice (Gousto)
How did you meet your husband?

I met my husband Matt over 12 years ago in London whilst on a girls night out in Chinawhite (gosh, I’m so embarrassed to be admitting this!!) …and it was me that made the first move!

What does your husband do for a career?

He works in the City for a bank.

What is your owning/building journey?

Matt and I first lived together in his 2 bed flat in North London which we furnished together and after getting engaged moved to Buckinghamshire and purchased a quaint little 3 bedroom flintstone cottage. We made a few improvements to the property, namely knocking down a partition wall in the downstairs living room, laying new carpets and a slate floor, painting all rooms, installing 2 new bathrooms, refurbishing the kitchen and landscaping the garden. We lived there for roughly 3 years, got married and had James.

From the cottage, we moved into rented accommodation for 6 months whilst we looked to buy our next home (which is where we are now). James was 15 months old and I was pregnant with Riley.

We moved in the August of 2012 and Riley was born a few weeks later. After living in the ‘Just A Little Build’ household for 4 years we were very clear on what changes had to be made. We had no central heating (just night storage heaters), the house wasn’t insulated properly, it had a coal-fired Rayburn in the kitchen to heat the water, the garden was overgrown with plants, we had a conservatory which was unusable in the winter months and awful white shiny uPVC windows! Not to mention, the decor was not to our taste at all!

Do you see this house as your forever home?

No, I don’t think so. I love a project and would very much like the opportunity to do another one!

How do you keep your house so clean?!

A lot of cleaning… It’s a full-on job in itself! I find the best way to keep on top of things is to apply a “little and often” approach. Every day I wipe the kitchen floors because the dog’s coats shed so much. The best thing I have found to quickly and effectively pick up dirt and dog hairs is my microfibre mop. I use Waitrose ecological cleaner on my worktops, it’s just amazing for stains on quartz – one blast of it and a 5-minute wait later, the stain is gone!

To keep my house clean I try to keep the amount a clutter to an absolute minimum. I believe everything should have its own place and therefore do not like random ‘bits and bobs’ left lying around the house. This can drive my husband slightly mad as I end up moving his “bits” into one pile and placing it on his side of the bed to sort through!

During the winter months (or just when it’s wet outside), I have towels down on the floor in the utility room. The dogs are brought into the utility and left in there to dry off before coming in the main house.

My sliding glass windows are cleaned with warm water and fairy liquid and then squidgy’d dry. I use Waitrose ecological window cleaner and an e-cloth to give them a clear shine after.

The glass on my wood burner is cleaned with warm water and Cif – it works every time and is so much quicker to clean with than with the method we are all told to do – water and newspaper.

How do you juggle your life – home life, children and animals?

This is a question I get asked a fair bit. I am constantly busy, juggling both family life and work life. I no longer work for a company which does allow me more flexibility than most, but I still struggle, like the rest of you, to find enough hours in the day to get everything done!

I am a list girl. I jot down all my “to-dos” on my phone, by priority and when they need to get done by. It usually works as a daily and weekly entry system in my Microsoft To-Do app. I find this app so useful as I can group “to-dos” by varrying list categories for example, Leat House, blog post ideas, shopping, work projects, family etc and organise them by due date.

I generally find my way of coping with all the demands of daily life, is to multi-task, multi-task, multi-task. Simple things like, if you are going upstairs to fetch something, take up the washing basket at the same time and when you come back down, bring the children’s shoes that have been left out on the landing (and also what you intended to get in the first place!).

What camera do you use to take photographs?

I have a Canon EOS 550D camera. It’s quite old now (roughly 10 years). I would love to get a new lens for it though and work more with the manual settings. Perhaps a course in this would be good for me…?! I have recently upgraded my iPhone to the iPhone 8 plus and I’ve got to say, the camera on this is pretty darn good! Portrait mode especially.

What size is your kitchen/open plan space?

I get asked this a lot! It is roughly 10m wide by 5.5m deep with an extra 1.5m of depth in the kitchen area. Floor plan below for reference.

What were the reasons behind your tile choice in your open plan space?

After much to-ing and fro-ing on whether to go with natural stone or porcelain (see my original blog post), we decided, in the end, to opt for natural stone. We simply fell in love with the beauty of its varying patterns, colour and softness underfoot. We chose honed Mazzano marble. They are gorgeous tiles but (and there is a but), they are much more work than I had ever envisaged. The tiles are very soft so can easily mark, they are also extremely sensitive. Should anything corrosive spill onto them, such as orange juice, wine, squash etc…, they will etch, resulting in a dullness to the affected area. We have had orange juice spill onto the tiles and although protected with a sealant and wiped up immediately, the area went dull. Over time though, this dullness has disappeared. You can always buff, polish and re-seal your tiles which will make them look brand new again but this is costly. If I were to do this build again, I would definitely choose a good imitation stone or go with a polish concrete floor.

How did you go about designing your kitchen?

It all started with a wish list of what I wanted. My list consisted of;

  1. An island
  2. A hot tap
  3. A pantry
  4. Quartz worktops
  5. Two ovens

From there I searched through various styles of kitchens to get an understanding of what look I liked and what would fit in my home style. Instantly, I knew that I wanted a classic, contemporary style that looked high end and good quality.

When the design stage came about it was actually fairly easy because of the shape of the room. The island was our focal point so we worked around how I would use the island and the space around it. I love to cook so it felt only right to position the hob on the island. This meant that I would be in the heart of the kitchen and able to look into the room and see everything else that was going on. When designing our kitchen we applied the concept of the “kitchen work triangle”. A concept used to determine efficient kitchen layouts. The primary tasks in a home kitchen are carried out between the cooker top, the sink and the refrigerator. These three points and the imaginary lines between them, make up what kitchen experts call the work triangle.

Do you have an oven extractor fan in your kitchen?

No, we decided against one in the end after the fan I wanted, which would sit flush to the ceiling and in between the joists, was going to set us back £3k. To apply with building regulations we simply installed a standard wall/ceiling air extractor (similar to what you would have in a bathroom).

What are the colours on your kitchen cabinets and island?

The kitchen cabinets and island are painted in Tom Howley wood paint but work off similar colour’s to the Farrow and Ball colour chart. The cabinets are painted in Tansy (Cornforth White F&B) and the kitchen island in Lithodora (Hague Blue F&B).

What speakers and sound system do you have?

We have SONOS throughout the house, with a SONOS sound bar linked to Monitor Audio ceiling speakers. In the living room we have a separate Yamaha amp connected to a 5.1 speaker system which is linked to both the SONOS and the home theatre system. Outside we have special outdoor Polk Audio planter speakers (AM3385-A Atrium Sat30).

How and where do you store all the messy Sky boxes, wires etc?

We re-wired our whole house so had the ability to start from scratch and design the exact set up we required. Our home integration system includes broadband, CCTV, WIFI, and home networking (TV and SONOS) is located in our loft with all cabling embedded within the walls of the house. As a result, we were able to drop Sky (and the cost that comes with it!) and now utilise smart apps – although Matt still gets his Sky Sports through NOW TV…! This means that there is no cabling or technical equipment on show.

How would you describe your home style?
I would say my style is contemporary classic but with a hint of the urban industrial.
What’s your favourite room?
My favourite room has to be the one that we spend 90% of our waking time – the open plan kitchen/dining/living room. It is light, spacious and everyone enjoys being in it. When I come down in the mornings and the sunlight is beaming in through the glass doors, it never fails to inspire me for day ahead…! Moreover, I can cook, the boys can eat around the table, Scarlett can play on the floor with her toys and Matt can watch the rugby – it really is a multi-functional space!
What’s your biggest interior mistake?
Rather than a “mistake” but more of a “regret” is not opting for the polished concrete flooring in the open plan space, downstairs toilet and utility room. Matt and I both really wanted this from the start of our build project but were convinced against it by other people. I think the lesson here is that I should have followed my heart, and gone with it.
What tiles do you have in your bathrooms?

We have large marble wall tiles in our ensuite called Statuario Girgio Lucido 59 x 118 cm and grey concete effect floor tiles called Interno 9 Silver Lap Rett 60 x 120cm.

In the family bathroom we have the same floor tiles but Shine Niquel 33.3 x 59.2cm tiles by Porcelanosa on the walls.

Our downstairs toilet/cloakroom has been painted in Farrow and Ball’s Hague Blue and tiled with white Wave Blanco 25 x 50cm wall tiles.

Where did my inspiration come from for my build?

I have always had an interest in homes and interiors and wherever I go, I am always taking inspiration from the places I visit. I am also an avid Pinterest user – I love the variation that this site gives you through scrolling through, and clicking through related images. I would say, a lot of my inspiration came through this very site. Seeing others’ homes, lifestyles and design ideas, helped me to develop our home concept. I also love build programmes such as Grand Designs and Building the Dream, these have, over the years, given me so much inspiration.

I hope this post has been enlightening?! Do let me know what you think!

Thanks for reading,

SJ x

29 Comments

  1. Cath
    April 12, 2018 / 9:42 pm

    Great post, enjoyed the quick read. Lovely home and lovely family x

    • justalittlebuild
      Author
      April 12, 2018 / 11:16 pm

      Thank you!

  2. Fiona Napthine
    April 12, 2018 / 9:58 pm

    Lovely read. I have quartz worktops too and find they stain at times. I live in Ireland so we don’t have Waitrose here. Is there any other cleaner you would recommend? Thanks, Fiona

    • justalittlebuild
      Author
      April 12, 2018 / 10:05 pm

      I haven’t needed to try anything else but I’ve just seen someone has commented on my Instagram post and recommended bar keepers friend (the liquid stain remover)

      • Fiona Napthine
        April 14, 2018 / 12:04 am

        Thanks. Will see if I can find that! Love all your blog posts.

        • Fiona Smith
          June 13, 2018 / 5:19 pm

          I agree with the Bar Keepers Friend but find the powder format is more effective, you just mix with a little water on the stain. I’ve been surprised at how much the white quartz does stain with tea and the juice from peppers. It’s certainly not as stain proof as I expected!

  3. Yvette Pearce
    April 12, 2018 / 10:01 pm

    Thank you so much,really enjoyed reading your post! Please keep doing what your doing! Xx

    • justalittlebuild
      Author
      April 12, 2018 / 10:05 pm

      Thank you!

  4. Amy Tonkinson
    April 12, 2018 / 10:29 pm

    I have really enjoyed reading this. You have an absolutely stunning home ❤️

    • justalittlebuild
      Author
      April 12, 2018 / 10:35 pm

      Ah, so glad! 😊

  5. Hannah
    April 12, 2018 / 10:34 pm

    Great post! I love it when my fav bloggers do Q&A 🙂

    • justalittlebuild
      Author
      April 12, 2018 / 10:36 pm

      😃

  6. Nihaad
    April 12, 2018 / 10:52 pm

    Thank you, awesome post. I have really enjoyed this Q&A. You have such a beautiful home and family!

    • justalittlebuild
      Author
      April 12, 2018 / 11:03 pm

      Thank you so much!

  7. Shelley
    April 12, 2018 / 11:22 pm

    I really enjoyed your Q&A . You have a gorgeous house and family 😊

  8. Natasha morgan
    April 13, 2018 / 12:09 am

    Fab q&a, I’ve been following you for a while now, love your posts! They’ve given me lots of inspiration! Just about to start (next week) our own project, the first one we’ve done. Demolition, raising a roof pitch, extension, double height conversion of a garage and re modernising the whole house! Excited and scared all rolled into one!! Eeek xx

  9. Sinead Baker
    April 13, 2018 / 12:09 am

    Great read! – Love seeing your beautiful home and family on Instagram x

  10. Dionne
    April 13, 2018 / 8:13 am

    This was a great read thanks for putting it together! Question about your extractor fan in your kitchen, where is it located in proximity to the induction hob on the island? It doesn’t seem to be above it by looking at your pictures. I’m planning our new kitchen extension and I hate the idea of one hanging from the ceiling above my island.

  11. Abbie Birks
    April 13, 2018 / 8:52 am

    Great post, you have a lovely home and family, very inspirational x

  12. Jen
    April 13, 2018 / 9:53 am

    Great timing for us. We are mid build and our kitchen/ open plan space has very similar dimensions. I am certain I don’t want a cooker hood and wanted a way around that (will go for wall one as you say) and will take the tips for the quartz worktops!!

  13. VMC
    April 13, 2018 / 1:52 pm

    Love your blog, you have such a beautiful home. You would love a programme we have here in Ireland called Room to Improve – it’s only RTE1 if you can access it on TV or player, would recommend xx

  14. Lucilla
    April 13, 2018 / 7:51 pm

    Fab post, loved the q&a’s. Please please can we have a kitchen tour, like where is your bin 😆?

  15. Nicole
    April 14, 2018 / 7:39 am

    Thanks SJ- great blog post. So helpful, as usual. You mentioned that you only use smart apps for the tv – no sky or Virgin media etc I presume one is Netflix but any others you would recommend? Thanks. X

  16. Anneka
    April 14, 2018 / 11:39 am

    Fab post love this as we are just mid way though a self build ourselves and currently planning the kitchen and bathrooms. We are going with quartz work tops as well which Waitrose ecological cleaner do you use for them?
    My mind is boggled at the moment 6 hours straight in bathroom showroom planning this week was a new level of intense all in one go!

    Thank you

  17. Leah
    April 23, 2018 / 9:43 pm

    Only just got round to reading this! A great read and so useful for someone who’s now going through a self build and at the point of thinking about kitchen positioning and wiring etc. Given me lots of things to double check on and make sure I’m not missing anything that might come back as ugly boxing in later 🙂

  18. Mary
    July 8, 2018 / 3:26 am

    Hi SJ, would love to know where you got your patio table and chairs from? Thanks!

    • justalittlebuild
      Author
      July 8, 2018 / 10:18 am

      I actually got them second hand via Facebook!

  19. Amanda Chesney
    September 19, 2018 / 1:48 pm

    Hi – Would love to know where your tripod floor lamp is from? Thanks!

  20. Paul McCann
    September 24, 2018 / 1:22 pm

    Hi SJ, have you ever tried newspaper and vinegar dabbed in a little bit of ash to clean the burner glass!!

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