Showing blog posts tagged with: projects

Interior design as a way of coping with cancer?

by Hilla Duka - View comments

My living room after a year of redecorating

When I was told I have cancer, I thought my life was over, then and there. I wont attempt to describe the first weeks after finding out - you either know because you've gone through it yourself, or you just can't understand, no matter what words I use to explain, and some things just hurt too much to relive, the mind instantly recoils from it.

 

One of the first things I wanted, that I could really feel I wanted, other than to just not have cancer, was to fix our home. Before the diagnosis I had just started making plans to buy a house; about twice the size of our current flat, a room of their own for each of the children, a garden where we could hang in the summer, Jonathan could grow things... All of that was lost as soon as I found out about the cancer. I had been so ready to walk out of our little flat, and now I just wanted to decorate it - weird right?

 

I think there were two reasons I took such an interest in decorating our home. Firstly, I've known Ilir for years and years, and while he has lots of great qualities, interior design and decorating aren't it. Not even a little. I guess I just thought that however our home would look when I died (I stayed in the mindset that I was going to kick it any day for a really long time), was going to be how it would always look, so I'd better make sure it looked nice, and was practical.

 

Also, because I've never had any heirlooms, or inherited furniture of my own, or really anything from my grandparents or from before them, I wanted there to be things in our house - furniture, paintings, whatnot, for my boys to inherit. Rather than mope around and feel sorry for myself that I didn't have anything from the generations before me, I wanted to do something positive with that feeling - take control and create something for my family. And I wanted our home to reflect us, not just be filled with off-the-shelf things, but things we'd made or salvaged, antiques, stuff like that. Very far from the ideals I grew up with, with my architect family, where patterns instantly equalled bad taste.

 

We'd reached the stage that it was time to through out our old sofa - while it had been heaven when Milo was a baby and I luxuriated in the deep, soft cushions, it was now too small for the five of us, plus lots of company as we always seem to have people over, and the cats had shredded it. I had my eye on these more traditional looking, English sofas - you know the ones with short roll arms, looking like you just want to cuddle up with a cup of tea? Yeah, those. Quite far from where I come from - where everything had to be modern and clean, and have straight lines and light colours.

 

Really, this whole decorating journey has been one of settling scores with my past, and accepting myself and my own preferences. We looked at pricier ones, but in the end, IKEA won out, the one called Stocksund. It had the right look and feel, and when the cats have scratched the sides, and the kids have spilled things we can't get rid off, we can simply buy a new cover. Also, it was cheap enough that buying two of them to have opposite each other wouldn't break the bank.

Part of our living room IKEA Stocksund sofa and IKEA Vittsjo hacked coffee table

And with our new sofas in place, our old coffee table didn't work. At first I searched the auction houses, but I couldn't find anything close to what I wanted - all the tables were too high or too wide, so we went back to IKEA, and bought a cheap nesting table called Vittsjo. Ilir saw the glass top and looked at me as if I had lost my mind, but I had something different in mind. 

IKEA Vittsjo coffee table hacked with old looking wooden tops

Some plain pine cut to the right sizes, then beaten with chains and screws, a funny looking drill attachment with something resembling very coarse steel wool to get rid of the softest layer of wood, and then a concoction of vinegar and steel wool that I let seep for a few days. Finally I waxed the surface with dark wax, and now we have a table that will really take anything, while it's narrow (45 - 50 cm) enough to fit well between the two sofas. And when the kids grow up they will hopefully have some fun memories of me pounding the wood with chains and concocting awful smelling brews in the kitchen to dye the wood in a natural and non-toxic way. It wont be just another IKEA table, but something kind of unique that we made.

How I made old looking wood with vinegar and steel wool

I'm really happy we put the sofas opposite each other - it suddenly becomes a room for conversation, for spending time together, rather than a place to mindlessly watch TV. I love that I got the old fashioned, comfortable sofas in the dark fabric, and the dark wood to go with it. I love my brass lamps and details (brass was banished when I grew up, the only allowed metal was polished silver), and now when I come home and fall into one of the sofas, I feel comfortable, at ease. I've broken all the unspoken rules of my past, and by doing so I let my home become what I needed it to be, rather than what someone else thinks it should be.

The sofa part of our living room - IKEA Stocksund sofas, brass lamp from House Doctor and IKEA Vittsjo hacked sofa table

Strange how the mind works - I've really only ever had nesting / decorating instincts in two kinds of situations: when I've been pregnant and when I was told I'm dying... But there's a comfort in feeling that our home fills the functions that we need from it, that it's a place I can relax. I guess it's also a way of taking back some of what the cancer took from me - I can't have my house, but I can at least make sure the home we have is as lovely as possible. I can choose to not focus on the negatives, but create positive things to be happy about.


More pics from the kids room

by Hilla Duka - View comments

bunk bed for three - how we solved having three kids in one room

Ok, complete image bonanza ahead - unless your interested in the eternal questions like How do you fit three kids into one room? you should completely ignore this. 

I get loads of really sweet feedback and questions on how we fixed the kids room so that it would sleep three kids and still have space to play, read, do homework or or just exist. Since I actually cleaned the flat AND had some sunlight, I thought I'd take a few pictures. Who knows, maybe they can inspire someone else to live a bit longer in a smaller place? 

 

closeup bunk bed for three - kids room

Milos corner, at the bottom of the bunk bed. His mattress is currently placed right on the floor, it's on our to-do list to get a proper slatted bed base for him as well. You know, we'll get to it eventually... it's a Someday-project.

The triple bunk bed is made of two IKEA Kura beds, one of which has had one half of its legs cut of, and the other half replaced with longer ones. We also added a few steps on the ladder, then painted the whole thing white. 

 

Bunk bed for three

Jonathan, on the top bed, has one long shelf, and then some extra storage on top of the shelves, which are secured against the bottom part of his bed. Jacob has a String shelf for personal storage, one filled with little boxes as he loves collecting things.

Shelf detail - london bus box

This little box I bought the first time I went to London, about twenty three years ago, and it was filled with sweets at the time. Jacob was wonderfully pleased when I gave it to him - so much so that he will now keep it just as it is, as a decoration rather than for actual storage. 

Shelf detail kids room teddy bear

Each of the boys has a teddy from Build A Bear, with my voice that tells them I love them very much (it's a bit of a cringe, but that's ok, sometimes). Though Jonathan thinks himself too old to actually have his teddy in bed, and instead keeps it on his shelf. 

reading nook in bottom part of the bunk bed

The reading nook next to Milos bed, where I will read bedtime stories and listen for the sound of them sleeping. The black wall is a piece of fabric I've stretched over the back of the two IKEA Hemnes shelves that are attached to the bed. Once or twice I've caught one of the boys curled up in the armchair with a book, so I will consider it a success. 

 

Now, if I only get around to cleaning their desk and shelves on the other side of the room, I can show some pictures of that as well. Oh well, another time.


Extra everything with icing on the top. And a cherry.

by Hilla Duka - View comments

milo portrait with too much Photoshop effects

I decided I deserved a real camera, so for the first time in my life, I invested in a proper DSLR camera. I know this is going to make me sound ancient, but I kind of didn't follow into the digital camera era - I learned how to take pictures using film and develop them in a darkroom when I was in school, and loved it soooo much, but then when everyone decided digital photography was the real deal, I just didn't join in. Until now. Welcome to your new home, Canon 700D, we're very happy to have you. Well, I am. To be honest, the others don't care so much.

 

The thing is, between getting myself a proper camera, and deciding to learn Photoshop properly, I will willingly admit I don't know where to stop. I am going all extra-everything-and-some-chips-on-the-side on my poor images. The kids will hate me for it when they grow up and see the pics with soft focus and romantic light... I will try to control myself, especially tomorrow, when we celebrate Jacob who turns eight!


How one thing leads to another

by Hilla Duka - View comments

Raspberryjam

The whole thing started with a search box. Or rather, it started with a random thought as to how one would go about building a search function, and as this site was originally intended to be the place where I try stuff out, it seemed natural to build one for what has now become my blog. I’m not a very good web developer, and not a very experienced one - I moved on to product management before I had time to become more than a junior developer, but I still think it’s really fun to build stuff.

 

Only, when the search function was ready there was no place to put it, which lead to a complete rethink of the layout. So now the blog looks completely different. I’m going to try to not mess about with styling this year, for now I think the layout is functional, and it will hopefully let me focus on content rather than css! Let me know how you like it, or if you don’t, or if you miss something!

 

And speaking of how one thing leads to another, remember how I got really excited about healthy eating, and making things from scratch? Well, it turns out my kids were not as excited, especially about having to give up stuff they loved, like basically anything sweet. Those kids are addicted to sugar I tell you. Anyway, that made me look into if there was any way of making the things they liked, only healthier, with less sugar. Turns out you can make jam. And it’s super easy. So now I buy frozen berries, and sugar with pectin in it, and the jam is only like 10% sugar as opposed to any store bought jam which has around 50% sugar in it, and no extra additives. It only takes about fifteen minutes, and the kids seem to really like it. Win - win.


The kids room part two

by Hilla Duka - View comments

Fullview

So I promised I would show the kids room once everything was ready, and I'm finally making good on my promise. As I started discussing in this post, for various reasons we'll continue to live in my small two bedroom flat in the nice area well suited for kids, rather than move to something bigger and further away, or get the house I was envisioning before I fell ill.

 

And in deciding to  stay, we needed to improve the room the boys share. They don't really mind sharing room, and I think in many ways it's good for them, but each needs his own space too, for his own things, his private hideaway. That's why we  planned and planned and came up with a new way of making the most of their room. The three story bunkbed of my dreams didn't pan out as the ceiling height is a mere 2,4 metres, but I came up with this alternative, which also provides a reading nook for when we put them to bed, or for when they want somewhere cosy to sit and read during the day. I say read, but they mainly use it for playing on their iphones.

cozy reading space

One of the walls in the reading nook consists of the back of two bookshelves, to make it prettier I’ve covered it with a fabric. The chair comes from Åhlens and the little table, that doubles as Milo’s storage space, comes from Kartell. Originally it functioned as my bedside table, but this way it fills a better function.

bunkbed for three with string shelf

All the boys have some sort of personal storage by their bed - Jacob got one of my old String shelves, and Jonathan got a shelf the length of his bed, though quite narrow so that he doesn’t bang his head on it at night. For now, the Kartell table will be Milos storage.

bunkbed for three with bookshelf

On the back of the reading nook are two IKEA shelves, soon to be brim full of kids books and toys they still want to play with. Mainly, they no longer play with toys, they play on the Xbox or the computer or the iphones/ ipads when they’re allowed, and then they read or they draw or paint. So much so, this christmas they got a crafts hamper (seen below their portraits above), filled with different material for their creative geniuses. They loved it, and I loved that I got to make good use of the hamper originally filled with goodness and sent by my lovely colleagues at the London office. Now it's filled with goodies once more, though this time not edible at all...

backpack storage

We really did end up using absolutely every bit of space in the room - behind the door the kids have hangers for their backpacks. They just about fit in the small space between the wall and the door. That's also the only place I would allow them to put this hiddeous Star Wars poster - this way, the only was it's seen is when they close the door. 

table and storage in kids room

On the other side of the room is two metres of shelf storage and a table for their computer and space to do homework. I honestly still cannot understand how we managed to fit all these functions in one 12mroom.

For this renovation, we really tried hard to be environmentally friendly and use what we had, buying only a minimum amount of new things, and then not buying plastic or easily breakable things. The only new things we got was Jonathans lamp, one of the bookshelf (we had one before), the armchair for reading, some supplies, wood and and the gray paint on the wall. It ended up costing us very little, apart from the time and effort it took to make, and the end result is such a drastic improvement on what they had before, I can’t help but be well pleased.


Building spaces

by Hilla Duka - View comments

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I’ve lived in this flat for longer than I’ve ever before lived in one house. In some ways I love it to bits, and in some ways… not so much. It’s a two bedroom flat, mainly planned for a couple with an extra room for guests or a small baby. As in one. One small baby. Definitely not three little tykes.

 

I switched rooms with the kids years ago, to give them the big bedroom, but thanks to a very bad layout of the room, even though it’s a decent size room, it’s been impossible to plan it for three kids. Or maybe it’s just that it’s really, really hard to fit three kids into one room. Still, I don’t buy into that whole idea that all kids must have their own room. I think everyone needs to have a space that is their own, but I remember how I loved to share rooms with my brother and was really upset when I had to move into a room of my own. And as adults we fall in love and move in and no one questions the idea that we should share bedrooms.

 

We’ve been looking at bigger flats and considered moving, but in order to stay in the same area, we would have to pay so much more money, it’s ridiculous. Basically we’d add one half income in living expenses, just to get one extra room, never mind two, and with me being ill and plans for the future being uncertain to say the least, it was just off the table. So, back to the drawing table it was. I knew there had to be some way to make it work, to give each child a space of their own, and still have some floor area left, and a place for them to do homework and draw and stuff. There just had to be some way to make it work.

I pride myself on being quite imaginative (amongst other things. I’m extremely good at priding myself in general), and able to think up clever solutions. Show time. Time to put my money where my mouth is. So I thought long and hard, and finally came up with this idea, which is basically like a bunk bed for three, but in two different directions. And then somehow (either I should have gone for a career in sales or he must really love me) I convinced Ilir to build it. I felt pathetically old fashioned gender wise here, but since I these days I’m ridiculously weak, it really did feel safer to let him handle the building bit.

 

 

The plan was almost too simple - take two of IKEA’s most popular tiny bunk beds, and then put one on top of the other. Basically, sawing a bit here and changing a bit there for a longer one - or so I thought. It took an entire day, and then some. But the end result is great. We still have some work planned for next weekend (I’m lying, we have enough on our my todo list to keep us occupied until the end of next year - by which point I will have a whole new todo list) - painting the whole thing (and the walls) and finding a small arm chair for the cozy corner and generally making a hell of a lot of hygge in there, but at least now I can see where it’s going, which feels great. A few steps closer to the goal - making sure that all the kids have their own space, whilst not breaking our bank account or moving to a cheaper neighbourhood.

bunk bed for three kids room ikea hacks
 
As you can see, still a long way to go before it's interior-decorating-magazine ready, but you get the general idea. One, two, three kids sleeping on top of each other. Floor space. There's a desk and stuff too, on the other side of the room. Very organised. I'll show it to you when it's all painted!
 
 

Quite forgotten

by Hilla Duka - View comments

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Among my doodlings that I was planning to show you was this little guy. Don't know why I forgot to post him. I kind of got a Sinatra vibe from him, so I tried changing the background to look sort of like the cover to New York, New York, but that just looked bad, and the litlle guy sort of disappeared, so I just stuck with this one. 

In a few days I'm packing up for a short trip to Germany, to visit our office there and host one of our Dev Corner's, this time for German rails developers, and of course hoping to find some great ones looking for new employment. While there the dev team will be taking their lab days (you get two a month as a developer - unfortunately, as Product Owner you get none) so I will try to get some time to speak to the German sales reps and marketing people. 

I'm a bit stressed out at the moment, my first larger project is coming close to release, and I feel like I'm dropping the balls left, right and center. It's just so much to do, so many things, people to take in consideration... It's so much fun, but also really stressful... I'm looking forward to being able to sleep like a normal person again once we release!

Even if there hasn't been a lot of activity here in terms of writing or posting pictures, I've been very active "behind the scenes" of the blog. I finally decided I had enough of Twitter Bootstrap, and thought I'd try to replace it with Foundation from Zurb, just to see how that would go. It actually went better than fine - with a minimum of effort I got much the same result as before, and many things that I had done the CSS by hand for, like the social icons at the bottom of the page, I found that I could just chuck out my CSS and replace it with a few new class names instead. Likewise the navbar on top I could ignore my old CSS for and instead just alter a couple of the variables included in Foundation. I especially like how Foundation includes responsiveness in every class name, and then how you can alter the layout for responsiveness by adding more classes to the HTML. In the end, my CSS file was shortened by 2/3, and I took the oportunity to rewrite it in a proper SCSS way. (Yes, before I had basically just chucked everything in there with no real sense of order. Sort of like you do with a rarely used closet. I'll admit it.)

Also, while I was at it, I changed the layout a bit. I thought it seemed more intuitive to have the blog start page as the start page of the site - it's where the content is. The about me page doesn't seem that important, and if for some reason someone finds the blog without knowing me, it's available in the navbar. I like it for now, and it was fun to get rid of Twitter Bootstrap and try something new!