Lifestyle & interior design Agony Aunt Aneliese answers your questions this November

November is the month to get organised before the stressful – I mean ‘festive’ season starts. This month’s questions focus on planning ahead and getting the home in tip top shape before it becomes a seasonal hotel, filled to the brim with close friends and distant relatives alike.

PG14 aneliese MP-P-1209-Dean-1-24

This is the first of many monthly columns for London Mums Magazine and I enjoyed writing it and passing on my years’ worth of expertise immensely. Please don’t hesitate to send any questions about home improvements, decorating, space-saving techniques or maintaining a sense of style in the face of kids (it is possible!) my way. I look forward to meeting more of you fabulous London mums soon.

Q: Can you suggest the best place to go with little ones to find reasonable priced materials and craft accessories, we’re thinking for a change and due to budget this year it would be a good idea to make all the Xmas decorations ourselves – Deborah from Putney

A: Deborah, I like your style! Not only is making your own Christmas decorations a great way to save some precious pennies just in time for the festive season, it’s also a lot of fun and you’ll end up with some meaningful decorations that you can take a trip down memory lane with every year.

Over the years I’ve managed to source some great little arts & crafts stores for both my personal and professional projects – here are some of my favourite budget haunts:

  • – For my haberdashery supplies I usually go to either Ultimate Craft in Stoke Newington, which has bucket loads of character, the Handweavers Studio & Gallery in North London, which is a bit hush hush, or MacCulloch and Wallis off Oxford Street, which has everything you’ll ever need and then some
  • – For fabric I generally head to any of the cheap but satisfying fabric stores on Goldhawk Road in Shepherd’s Bush like Classic Textiles, A-One Fabrics or A to Z Fabrics
  • – Fabricland is a great online resource for whatever you can’t find anywhere else.
  • – Penny Fielding in Walthamstow Village is a gifts and interiors emporium that I sometimes head to when I need a dose of arts & crafts design inspiration! Every so often they host a craft fair which is an absolute must for any self-respecting arts & crafts-er!

Goldhawk Road fabric shopping

Goldhawk Road fabric shopping – a must if you have the time for a rummage!

Q: I’ve got 2 teenage kids who are both giving me a lot of grief when it comes to keeping their rooms tidy. The in-laws are coming down to stay with us over Christmas and I’m worried they’ll have heart attacks if they get a glimpse of their rooms. I’m thinking about taking a trip to Asda and buying some big red, blue and white bags to hide all their junk away while they’re here. Do you have any better or more attractive ideas? Please help! – Anna from Putney

A: I have 3 of them so I feel your pain all too well.

The thing with kids is that they’re trainable. Hiding all of their junk away might seem like a good fix for now, but what about when the in-laws come to visit at Easter time? You’re just going to have to make another trip to Asda to buy more bags because the previous ones are collecting dust in your loft, still full of your teenagers’ impossible-to-part-with rubbish.

If you teach your kids how to organise their rooms, you’ll only have to venture out to Asda when you’re in the mood for competitively priced groceries. The key to doing this is to sneak as many clever storage solutions into their rooms as possible so that it’s as easy for them to assign something to a drawer/box as it is for them to condemn it to the floor. If the space you have to work with is small, pay special attention to the nooks and crannies, for example the eaves space in a loft (the space where the roof slopes down to the floor). ‘Redundant’ space like this is perfect for custom-built cabinets, cupboards and drawers because they don’t take up any of the room’s usable floor space.

Extra storage idea of under the eaves in a loft conversion

Custom-built cabinets for under the eaves storage

One of my favourite solutions is to fit a few big, clear boxes on runners under desks, beds or in the eaves space. These are great for people who are on a tight budget (who isn’t at this time of year?), and you can fit them yourself. They also look a lot neater than those red, white and blue bags!

Q: I’d like some advice on starting building works to complete by Christmas, a friend of mine said it should be possible to start a side return and loft extension. How and what do I need to do to get this finished in time as the extra space really would be useful for family and friends abroad who’d like to stay? – Friedericke from Twickenham

A: Although I’m sure your friend has great intentions, unfortunately he/she has given you incorrect information. Do have drawings and planning permission? If you don’t, the best advice I can offer is to get a chartered architect over for an initial consultation (you should be able to find a reputable company through the RIBA website) as soon as possible so you can get the ball rolling.  They can then get existing and proposed drawings ready for planning, which itself can take up to 8 weeks, but it means that you’ll be ready to go in time for the New Year.

If planning permission has been granted you would still need time to have your structural drawings produced and for work to commence on site, and keep in mind that a project of this nature could take anywhere between 8 weeks and 3 months, depending on your specifications!

During winter, extra precautions need to be put in place to ensure that projects stay on time and on budget, so this is something that you also might have to factor into your equations. For example, many projects undertaken at this time of year need to use a tin-hat. I understand that the architectural process can be daunting so please let me know if you’d like me to pass your details on to a chartered architect I work with who will be able to assist you further – you can contact me here.

A tin-hat used for winter building works

Tin-hat also known as a aluminium roof  can be used when building in bad weather

London Mums, please note I will be with some of my Landmark Lofts’ colleagues at this year’s London Mums Christmas Party on the 22nd November between 5-7pm at Eddie Catz, Putney. If you have any further questions pop in and say hello, I look forward to having a knees up with you 😉

Until next time,




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