How a small home refresh turned into six months of destruction, plastering and redecorating 

Growing up in Scotland, my grandma liked the quote from Robert Burns that she uttered ruefully. “The best plans for mice and men agley aft.” She must have mumbled it softly as she watched me from the Great Beyond negotiating the plaster locks that drove to the floor of my living room like extremely undesirable autumn leaves last September.

The plan was simple; installing a wood burner in lockdown before a winter. How cozy hygge. A specialist came over cheerfully saying it was going to be a breeze and as a passing thought asked to go upstairs to the upstairs apartment for a look over the chimney. He returned ashen; “In 30 years I have never seen a chimney in such bad shape,” was his assessment.

The chimney had collapsed and, he told us, would require the roof to be removed in order to fix it. Needless to say, we stopped our plans for a wood burner and looked for something quick, simple, and effective that we could fix instead.

The curtains! Of course, how easy. We’d put up with a dingy old couple for years and this would be a quick fix to add a bit of pizzazz and personality to the living room, especially given that both me and my boyfriend both worked full-time in this room day in Day off. An instant elevator.

How naive we were. Last year we bought the apartment we rented for seven years while enjoying Rishi Sunak’s stamp duty vacation. It is a small but characteristic apartment on the Victorian ground floor. We were aware of his problems and looked forward to rolling up and cracking our Dries Van Noten blieson sleeves.

The pretty bay window in the living room had been a beetle bear for years. It’s gorgeous with its ornate cornice but with a rickety curtain track and drapes that would update the Turin Shroud. So we decided to splash around.

In consultation with a friend from the interior design department, we bought artistic chinoiserie material from Fabulous Fabrics, which specializes in scraps and high-quality materials from luxury brands – my other half indulges in my Diana Vreeland delusions. We hired a curtain maker, ordered a custom-made rod for our bay window, and sighed with satisfaction.

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