The Super Villain Lair of Preference

villain layer 1

Having established the strong possibility that I run on the villainous side of life, I started wondering if my current set-up really reflected the ‘true’ me. The first step for any self-respecting serious arch-nemesis is establishing a sufficiently intimidating hidden base.

The problem being the obvious choices are so passé and bothersome: the moon-base that no visitors can reach, the volcano where every rumble raises the question ‘is it really extinct?’, the under-the-sea-cave that springs a leak very time there is the slightest earth tremor, the dessert island where you have to supply your own booby-traps or the concrete bunker that won’t get wifi.

No, all of these lack what the new age of super-villain demands today. We need amenities. We need to be close to parks where we can walk the hounds of hell, a choice of schools for our darling spawn of evil, space where our minions can have some well-deserved R&R after a hard day trying to take over the world.

To this end, I give you the Shopping Centre.

As a member of the commercial community you can harness synergies to bring down costs while increasing productivity.

  • A prebuilt unit, constructed under consultation with top security advisers, means a rotating shift of as few as five henchmen will be required to maintain security.
  • Henchmen can be registered as private contractors rather than employees, saving on annual Christmas Party
  • Booby traps can be accounted for as capital investment in the property and therefore registered as a tax deductible at the year end
  • Minions can avail of the new Corporate Training Hub registering for such courses as
    • Villainy: The Law and You
    • Shoot-Out First Aid for Beginners
    • “You’ve Been Framed”: What Should You Do Now?

“But won’t everyone see my operation and nefarious plotting?” I hear you ask.

No, with their fully customizable store front, the public will pass unaware of the scheming within. Any hero who should pass the door will have to navigate such horrors as ‘helpful assistants’, ‘disorientating lighting’, ‘a clawing stench’, ‘customer selfie sticks’ and ‘constantly moving stock’ before they breach the first line of defense.

The future is now. The future is a destination whose catchment area reaches well beyond the Pale. The future is The Shopping Centre.

Villain Lair 2

Abandoned forest

Abandoned Forest

One of my favourite marketing images is when the beautiful girl wakes up on her bed in the middle of fairytale forest. I don’t care if you are selling fabric softener, cheap perfume or odor eaters – when this image is used I think the product is cool and I want it. Several bottles of fabric softener later I thought this might be a good theme for our bedroom.

I wanted to have that feeling when you are dosing between dreams, in the twilight of dawn or dusk, and in the half light paintings and surroundings can seem real. I wanted to add visual cues that could be seen from my pillow that would prompt my subconscious to bring me to an empty quiet forest. I wanted this room to be calm and minimalist. Back in reality, what this really meant was that I wanted trees, flying birds and great blank spaces. The colour inspiration came from a trio of paintings of a tree which I bought in Next years ago on sale, with nowhere to hang them, I bought them just because I liked them – this is the way to pick artwork for your home.

I started with the ocean of calm and painted all the walls white. Then on the only wall without a window or door I painted trees in a contrasting pallet of green, yellow and grey. I’m not a wonderful artist so I kept things simple. The trees I painted are bare and recently cut-back. Shorn and bare; minimalist and simple; no unnecessary flourishes.

Forest Trees

Then over the wardrobe in a contrasting lime green I painted a flock of geese in flight.

Flock of geese

On the door, I repeated the design of the trees and named the room.

Painted Door

To paint I obviously removed all furniture and furnishings from the room. I added back only what was necessary. No curtains, no bedside lockers, no ornamentation. This room was an experiment in minimalism. I allowed only what was needed to make it a bedroom. I put in the bed. I tacked a green valance to the underneath to hide any clutter or storage below. This valance was lime green to tie in with the colour scheme.

I tied fairy lights to the headboard to act instead of the reading lamps.

Reading Light fairy lights

I hung two antlers heads (which I got from Next, now out of stock I am afraid) either side of the headboard and hung two ‘shelves’ above them (which I got in Heatons, again now out of stock). These shelves measure 3cm x 10cm and are literally only big enough to hold glasses or a phone and a cup of tea.


The room has a built in wardrobe, and I converted the ensuite to a walk in wardrobe last year, so there was plenty of storage for both of our things. That was it. Minimalist. No clutter.

For a while that was all that was in the room. But we hit a snag. I had nowhere to put my makeup or brushes when I was getting ready. I started throwing it on the bed, but it wasn’t ideal. I crumbled and got a writing desk to act as a makeup table (from Oxfam, repainted). I felt because everything was contained within it, it conformed to my minimalist ideals.

dresserI also added a black leather chair (Ikea) for the clothes discarded before being re-hung or going to laundry.

Ikea tirup-swivel-armchair-black

That just left me with my trio of paintings of the tree. Somehow, even thought they were the inspiration, their store bought, manufactured format no longer suited the room. So I decided to cut them up and nail them over another store bought painting (Dunnes) I no longer liked, but liked the contrasting colour and movement in the Dunnes picture when compared to the Next trio.

trio 1

I unpicked the canvases of the trio from their frame. The way they were designed was to have the painting be duplicated so that the sides of the canvas were not blank (this style was very popular in Homewares in 2006ish). This meant the canvases over lapped and added to the visual confusion of this image. I cut all the canvases into inch wide stripes – getting a rough edge by tearing it with a knife.

trio 2

I discarded any duplicates that upset the image of the tree too much. I then nailed and pinned the torn canvases to the Dunnes picture. It gave me one painting, original and unique, but much better than I could paint myself.

trio 3

Horrible Christmas

horrible christmas

I won’t force the whole office to partake in corporate frivolity just because my department is quiet and I am bored, because I know every other department is really busy coming up to the end of the year, trying to get projects finished before we break for the holidays.” said no HR person in history ever.

Now, don’t get me wrong, that last day or two before we break for Christmas holidays, I too am in the Christmas mood. I want to crank up Christmas FM and eat turkey for lunch, but not 4 weeks before the Christmas holidays. Not on December 1st. On December 1st I have work to do. I have a whole month of work to do before we break for the holidays and every day in that month is precious, because it’s usually the month we discover something was promised to be completed in this calendar year that has yet to be even started. It’s a very busy time for me and my team and I have no energy for people stealing that time, by wishing it away or planning corporate events that eat up hours with very little return.

I don’t know what it is about Christmas that brings out the worst in the HR department. For 11 months they are a functional, efficient department, but as soon as December 1st rolls around, out come the corporate bonding activates “Each department should decorate their work stations, and we will have a competition to see who wins”, the money wasting ideas “We have ordered gold chalices to give out as prizes at the Christmas Dinner for the people we think are the best employees, even though we have no idea how to judge who is the ‘best’ in this office as we really have no idea what you guys do, oh, and by the way, the Christmas Party this year is in the Taj Mahal” and the time wasting activities “We are forming a Corporate Christmas Choir to sing to the poor unfortunates in area surrounding head office {like their lives wasn’t hard enough around this time of year} and because we hear you run a church choir it is now mandatory that you are involved, to show corporate spirit.”

So this year, in an act of petty retaliation, I have created Horrible Christmas. It is the antithesis of what Christmas should be, because for me a corporation celebrating a religious, family holiday is the antithesis of what Christmas should be.

I started with the tree. Scared snowmen, gangrene toe in a Christmas sock, ginger bread men half eaten and terrified, rotten amputated fingers – these are the items which will adorn my corporate Christmas tree. The tree itself shall be two broken bald sticks tied together with string, badly, plunged into a pot of dirt.

Behind the tree shall be Santa’s tombstone, giving the date of the corporate memo as the date Santa died. And a skull just to underline that message (and because I already own a cool one).

Garlands shall adorn the walls – dancing zombies returning from the dead to delight in this mangled feast. Above those messages of ill-will to all far and near, so all those who gather to wonder at my creation shall be clear on the message. I thought “Winter is coming” might be a clear indication to the frosty reception those bringing good cheer to my department before December 23rd is likely to receive and “This is the winter of our discontent” signalling why we are doing it and when it is likely to stop.

Presents were next, to hang under the tree. These will be the only gifts exchanged by my department in the Korporate Kris Kindle. Gifts shall include a battery with the message ‘toy not included’, crocheted shorts, coal, tic-tacs relabled ‘snowman poo’, headless elves.

Food is next – biscuits depicting the inevitable slow painful death of all snowmen.

And the piece de resistance, a sign for the only corporate choir I will be partaking in, Foul Ole Ron’s Christmas Carollers and the Methadone Waiting List Band who at 8pm will be ‘playing the spoons to your favourite tunes’.

If all that doesn’t get us black listed from enforced corporate cheer I don’t know what will, now can we all just get back to work, there is still a month to go?!

Bathroom Project Part Three: Soft Furnishings, Storage and Final Touches

Topics: DIY, Bathroom

 bathroom project


As discussed in Bathroom Project Part One, there is always one room in a second hand house which tells you the previous owners were possibly colour blind and usually it’s the bathroom. Our previously loved home is no different. The bathroom we inherited was decorated in ghastly pink matched with snot green – one word ‘horrific’. Aside from the décor, the room had other issues: there was no storage, the shower was one of these hoses attached to the taps that you have to run around under to get wet, there was very little light, there was a leak at the bath taps and the wind tunnel caused by the draft from the ill-fitting vent was perishing mid-winter.

Having resolved the shower, leak and wind tunnel in Part One, the next step in, Part Two, was to change the colours. Now in Part 3, the final stage, it’s time to make this bathroom the throne room it should rightfully be.

Bathroom Grey


I started with storage. As you can see in the before pictures, previously storage in this room consisted of a wire rack beneath the sink and a towel rack beside it. This always made the room look messy because everything was on show, and, unlike the perfectly manicured bathrooms in the sales catalogue, in my bathroom the bottles are not all the same size or conveniently the same colour. However, the rack sufficed when we were just two, but now that our family is getting bigger, items that belong in a bathroom that I may have previously stored elsewhere must be returned and in general we will have more things in the bathroom.

The requirements for the storage was simple – I wanted enclosed units and as many of them as I could fit, without placing them unreasonably high. I also wanted to tackle the lighting issue with these units. Having ruled out under-shelf lighting because I was nervous working with electricity in the bathroom and didn’t want to pay an electrician, I settled on everything being mirrored. This meant that at least what light did come in through the window and from the ceiling light was bounced around the room for full effectiveness.

Initially I began my search with my old favourite, the masters of the small living space, Ikea, but I found their pieces either too big or too expensive. A scan of Woodies and B&Q gave the same result, however Argos came to my rescue. I managed to get two tall boy units small enough to fit in the space between the bath-and-toilet and then the toilet-and-sink. I also purchased three hanging units to hang on the wall at the end of the bath. Although as no trip to Ikea is ever wasted, I did pick up five hanging rails for towels (four for storing clean bath and hand towels , and one for the hand towel currently in use).  I also picked up a mirrored unit for over the sink.

Bathroom storage

Next thing I sourced was the shower curtain. Standard shower curtains are 200cm length, and even in Ikea, where everything is designed assuming it will be placed in a high ceilinged Swedish home, the longest was 200cm. I wanted a shower curtain that was at least 220cm length, because I wanted to hang the shower rail at ceiling height, thereby making the room appear taller ( or at least not making the ceiling appear lower because the rail was in eye line). A search of EBay found such the item, and in a very plain white. This meant that when not in use, I could tuck the shower curtain into an old elasticated bracelet and hang it from a hook stuck to the tiles, behind the tall boy. This prevents the curtain screening parts of the room, which makes the room appear smaller.

Bathroom Curtain and Towels

As with most bathrooms, the only soft furnishings are the towels. I was fortunate to be decorating at the time of a 70% sale in House of Frasier and made a killing on some luxury grey and white towels. These I hung in a checker-board fashion.


The last piece of decoration to be added was a Banksy poster above the toilet to add a splash of colour, which will be in Part Four.



Bathroom Project Part Two: Painting Walls & Tiles

Topics: DIY, Bathroom

bathroom project
The dreaded ‘before’ pic


As discussed in Bathroom Project Part One, there is always one room in a second hand house which tells you the previous owners were possibly colour blind and usually it’s the bathroom. Our previously loved home is no different. The bathroom we inherited was decorated in ghastly pink paint work matched with snot green tiles – one word ‘horrific’. Aside from the décor, the room had other issues: there was no storage, the shower was one of these hoses attached to the taps that you have to run around under to get wet, there was very little light, there was a leak at the bath taps and the wind tunnel caused by the draft from the ill-fitting vent was perishing mid-winter.

Having resolved the shower, leak and wind tunnel in Part One, the next step was to change the colours.

The colour choices of the previous owners, pink and green, while fine in theory, in reality were a daily assault on the senses. The tones selected did not work together, and both colours clashed with the grey floor tiles. Having successfully avoided the need to replace the wall tiles in Part One, I decided I would paint the existing ones rather than replacing them. I also decided that replacing the floor tiles was an unnecessary expense, and decided to use these as the base of my design.

The floor tiles were a slate grey colour, which made me decide that I would like the bathroom to have a masculine, utilitarian feel to it. As the bathroom is small I wanted to give the impression that the wall opposite the door appeared to be further away than it was. In order to do this I needed to choose a dark colour close to the door, which in theory in your mind’s eye pulls these walls closer to you as you walk in the door and a pale colour for the far wall, as pale colours give the impression of perceptual space, and thus the wall appears (again in theory) to be further away from you.

Bathroom Paint test

For the dark hues I choose to test a teal colour I had recently fallen in love with and a daring dark grey. As I do for wall colour choices, I purchased a tested and painted a big blob on a space on the wall at eye level that I frequently walk by or see, and left it for a week, to make sure I was not going to change my mind after painting the whole wall. As the family got used to the colour choices and they were debated over dinner, I cracked on with painting the tiles.


Bathroom Paint Tiles v2

I decided to keep the tiles simple, and chose to do them in white; partially because white is my favourite colour, partially because I think it lends itself to the masculine, utilitarian feel I was aiming for and partially because I already owned white tile paint from painting the kitchen tiles downstairs.

I started by removing all the hooks, shower heads, cabinets, whatever was attached to the tiles that could be removed – going around things carefully is so much more work that simply removing and replacing afterwards.

Next I cleaned the tiles thoroughly, and I mean thoroughly. I washed them with jif and dried, then bleached them with an old toothbrush and then cleaned them with sugar soap. There can be no residue of any sort on these tiles when you start painting, if there is, it will show in relief in the paint and cause chipping of the paint further down the line. Time invested in this deep clean will be returned tenfold in the quality of the end result.

Next I painted the tiles with a white primer, carefully avoiding both dribbles (by not overloading the brush) and cohesion patches (by making sure the tiles had no residue). Make sure you work the primer into the grout and every corner.

Before leaving the primer to dry give it a look over to ensure there are no imperfections and no dribbles. These are quick to fix while the primer is wet, but if you miss some and the primer is dry, just sand them down with fine sand paper and touch up as appropriate.

Although most primers only require one coat I did a second because I was covering dark tiles and I wanted a very crisp look.

Once the primer is dry add a layer of tile paint. Tile paint is an oil based paint like gloss paint and behaves the same way, so paint one side from the top to the bottom before moving on, because the paint will get tacky as it starts to dry.

Again I did a second layer of tile paint to ensure there were no shadows creeping through from the dark tiles underneath. Also because I went from left to right with the first layer, I went from right to left with the second. This means that the last place you did with the previous layer when you were tired, is now the first place you do refreshed and refocused for the next layer.

Once dry replace fittings.


The family decided that the grey actually worked the best, so while I had the paint brushes out, I painted all the walls grey.


Bathroom Grey
Nearly dry grey walls



Next stage is to get the furnishings and final touches – See this in Part Three



Guest Blog: Tim from Modernize with Ways to Maximize Space in a Small Home

 Image Credit:

Image Credit:

Topics: Interiors, DIY, Storage, Small Space


Today we are very fortunate to have Tim Smith with us from Modernize, a company dedicated to helping you make your dream home a reality, to give us some hints, tips and tricks on making the most of limited space. Take it away Tim….



Ways to Maximize Space in a Small Home


While the size of the family home has grown over the past few decades, those who live in apartments, older homes, or are downsizing, need to make the most of their space. Aside from modern freestanding homes, many other situations will encourage economy and space management to get the most from your resources. Read on for a few practical ideas to get you started on your quest to maximize your space.



Your Furniture is Not a Family Member

Many of the modern pieces of furniture are designed with those larger spaces we talked about above in mind. Great overstuffed couches, chairs that take up the same area as your breakfast table and offer less seating, bits of relatively useless furniture that just ends up wasting space. Chuck it. If you’re downsizing, unless you have a genuine attachment to a specific piece, get rid of it. Furnish your new space with furniture that fits. Older pieces you can find at antique markets usually will fare better in a reduced format than the all-new-and-improved combo deals large furniture stores have on offer.



Climbing the Walls

While you won’t want to clutter up the walls too much in a smaller space, they can be useful for mounting more than artwork. By finding the studs (a matter of moments with a stud finder) you can anchor hanging mantels or proper hanging bookshelves to the wall to hold more weight. Use the space above and behind the couch for a bookshelf or for holding essential objects to your leisure time like remotes, video games and movies.


This logic can also work for kitchen areas and home offices. Wall-mounted bookcases, shelving and even light organizational materials can help maximize your functional, usable space. And since flat screen televisions have become increasingly available, their price has come down. This not only allows you to mount your set on the wall, it will also eliminate any actual need for an “entertainment center.” This is often one of the big space-eaters in the modern home.


Think Up, Not Out

If you have a limited space, furniture and appliances with small footprints are going to be your favorites. Stand lamps are excellent for areas where side tables may not fit but you still want light. Likewise, in your closet, if you have a vast collection of shoes with which you don’t want to part, consider organizers that mount to the interior of the door or the back wall of the closet. Also, make sure you stay on top of your wardrobe — don’t keep clothing you never wear. Donate or sell it. You’re not using it, so why is it using space you need? As well, shelving that has a tall, narrow profile or is designed to stand in corners (one of the most overlooked spaces in a room) can come in handy in both your living and sleeping spaces. As well, it can help you maintain a tidy office area if you work at home.


Clean Drawers

A last note: make use of drawer organizers. Know what’s in your drawers and maximize their use. The same can be said of cabinets. If you have overly deep built-ins, consider a dry-erase list mounted on the inside of each door, so you know what you have.
There are a number of awesome ways you can maximize your use of a small space. While the ideas put forward above are just the tip of the iceberg, you’re definitely encouraged to get out there are see all the great concepts being developed to help homeowners make better use of less.


Tim Smith writes for Modernize, a company dedicated to helping you make your dream home a reality.


Bathroom Project Part One: Getting Started

bathroom project

Topics: DIY, Bathroom


There is always one room in a second hand house which tells you the previous owners were possibly colour blind and usually it’s the bathroom. This tiny space is where people are encouraged to let their creative side free and go a little naughty with their colour choices when they really should not. People think they are selecting bold prints with contrasting colours and dynamic textures (all the guff you hear on these home make-over programmes), when in actual fact the end result resembles something from the darker parts of Trainspotting.



Our previously loved home is no different. The bathroom we inherited was decorated in ghastly pink paint work matched with snot green tiles– one word ‘horrific’. I give the previous owners the benefit of the doubt and say it is possible that the colour of the paint looked different on the sample, but there is no excusing the tiles, I can only assume they were on sale.

Aside from the décor, the room had other issues: there was no storage, the shower was one of these hoses attached to the taps that you have to run around under to get wet, there was very little light, there was a leak at the bath taps and the wind tunnel caused by the draft from the ill-fitting vent should have had a road sign to warn people not to get blown off course.

The only positive things I could say about the room was that it had good space and the white goods were a good colour: white.

When we initially moved in I thought something needs to be done with that bathroom, but daunted by the challenge, I made my way around the house decorating every other room instead of it. Finally 5 years later, it was the last room to do. I could no longer avoid it.

Having removed the Ensuite shower from our room, I decided the first thing we needed to do in the main bathroom was to install a power shower. There was no point in decorating the rest of the room if the shower fitter then needed to remove tiles or plaster board to fit the shower, so by rights it needed to be done first.

Bathroom Before Shower

We were gifted a power shower by my very generous mother-in-law (now you know what to get the couple who have everything, it was one of the most useful gifts we ever got!) about 3 years ago, but not able to fit it myself and not really knowing how to go about getting it fitted, it sat in my attic while I procrastinated. Finally with no excuses left I began to ring around. Eventually I found a company that supplied the showers, but they only fitted them officially if the shower was bought from them, however unofficially one of their fitters was happy to do a nixer. It took him only a few hours to hook it up, and the result was a real life changer. I cannot believe I spent 5 years putting it off!

Once the shower was in place, the next thing that could require the tiles to be removed was the leak from the bath taps. In order to prevent leaks springing between the edge of the bath and the wall, the last row of tiles holds in place a small lip which curls under the bath edge. This is then sealed with putty. So if we needed to remove the bath to repair the leak, then we would need to remove the last row of tiles, in order to allow us to remove the bath. (It’s ok, I did not know any of this either, my Dad explained when I asked him to come around and look at the leak).

An investigation of the leak revealed that the leak was coming from the point where the bath and wall joined behind the taps, the putty seal had disintegrated. Now, by rights, if a professional was coming in to fix this leak, they would by default do a professional job of it; remove tiles, bath, replace tiles, refit bath, seal the whole lot up again, all while the cost kept racking up. My Dad, with many years of experience under his belt, suggested that before we* (*read he) tried all that, how about we try just putting a huge lump of putty over the problem area to see if that could plug the problem. If it didn’t work, we could just remove it and fix the problem the long way. So he put the putty in place and we waited to see if the leak disappeared. Several showers later, with no evidence of drips coming through the ceiling downstairs, we declared the short cut a success.


Bathroom Vent

This left the last ‘structural’ issue: the wind tunnel. Now, to be clear I am not normally in favour of plugging vents. These are safety features required by law for a reason, and removing one is the equivalent of removing the safety switch from a lawn mower or gun. However, in our bathroom, which measures a mere 3m*4m, there are three orifices through which oxygen can enter and carbon dioxide/monoxide can leave (the vent, door and window), so I didn’t think it was a massive issue to bring that number down to two.

I decided to use expanding foam for this task because it fills the void with a nonporous substance, but it is not permanent. So should we decide to sell the house in future, or if we need to open the vent for some other reason in the future, this will be possible without much work.

I removed the front grate of the vent, gave a little clean (but being terrified of spiders not too deep of a clean) and then sprayed in the foam. The thing to be careful about when using this foam is that it will continue to expand through every open space. So, if you fill the vent entirely from front to back, the foam will go through the grill of the vent in the exterior wall, and this will look terrible from the outside. It is easy to fix, you just need to get a ladder tall enough to reach the vent and cut it off from the outside, but, most people don’t have a ladder that will safely reach this height. So the best thing to do is just be careful how you use the foam. Try to put it just to the front of the vent, and only fill about a third of the hole. You can always top up the foam when it hardens if needed.

Once you have sprayed in enough foam, to prevent it bubbling out of the vent in the interior, place a sheet of cardboard or paper over the orifice, held in place with masking-tape. Leave the foam overnight to harden. The next morning the foam had pushed the cardboard slightly away from the wall, leaving the foam layer slightly proud of the wall. To remedy this I simply cut a sliver off with a carving knife, the same way you would cut a slice from a loaf of bread. I then replaced the vent to cover up the unsightly foam.


Stage two of the project will be selecting the colours to paint the wall and tiles.