More Grand Designs

So yesterday I was either brave or crazy - well actually very lucky I think.

I took my 3 girls (aged 4 months, 18 months and 3) to the Excel Centre to visit Grand Designs 2012 all on my own. My friend was planning to come with me but her little boy was ill and I already had the tickets (free from the evening standard - I'm making the most of London & getting my hands on as many free tickets as possible) so I decided why not - give it a go.

I prepared a little packed lunch for us, ensured I had a panier full of nappies & babywipes and off we went on the short journey by Docklands Light Railway to the Centre.

I decided to tackle the Build section first to see if there was anything new since last year. One item that jumped out was the Ballman Security Shutter from Shuttersafe Ltd. These Plantation style lockable Metal shutters look like they are wooden until you actually touch them and they lock by key.

These louvers allow you to let light in or keep it out as well as being lockable which are interesting for our next project as I don't really want roller shutters and the design wouldn't really look right with normal wooden volet battants and I'd prefer not to have bars. I understand for insurance purposes that all accessible windows/glass doors must have shutters or bars so these look like an attractive alternative. What do you think? Has anyone come across lockable metal louver volets in france? These are designed to sit inside the window whereas the usual arrangement down our way is to have volets on the outside. Does anyone think this would be an issue? We're planning on putting passivehouse style windows and doors in as part of the renovation.

We listened for a while to architect Richard Hawkes talking about his design process for his Crossways Eco House:

After seeing all the usual faces in the name of Eco housing, windows, doors etc and being hassled to change energy supplier (a simple - sorry I live in France seemed to cut their sales pitch short) we drifted off by accident into the Interiors section - typically this section is imo full of tack and as a result absolutely heaving. I can't believe the number of people who come away with a 'wonder mop' the promise that it will clean the floor for you whilst you put your feet up & watch Jeremy Kyle (for those of you who don't watch UK TV - not that I watch this, I can assure you, but it's an awful programme which seems to have all the UK's misfits airing their grievances to some bloke called Jeremy).

Normally I would have been really fed up in this section as people's super duper new set of pans bash into my legs with oversized carrier bags but this time I had a weapon, a great big no nonsense double buggy. As people ran to clear the gangway I got the hell out of that section as fast as I could, the aromas of 'farm reared' sizzling sausages left behind.

I'm sure there was a lot more tack there than in previous years and it seems to be morphing into the Ideal Home show Mk 2.

I won't have any money for interiors anyway - will be lucky to have floors (following conversation with architect on Tuesday night who believes we need twice our budget for our renovation - gulp!)

Next I headed into Kitchens and Bathrooms for a little bit more day dreaming where money is no object and somehow I find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to allow me to install a shiny fabulous kitchen and amazing bathrooms.

My favourite item at this years show was the Gemini Quartz Silver Metallic kitchen table/worktop which just glistened beautifully - the picture doesn't show it well but it was stunning.

After sitting in one of the show's 'turfed' garden areas for our picnic lunch (which drew quite a few visitors to see my girls eating together) we had a final look around where I spotted this outdoor oakbeam table from which I just love:

it's made from six solid oak beams, each four inches in depth, with 4 by 3 inch legs, handcrafted in in the heart of the Kent countryside. Apparently it weighs almost a tonne. I'll set Darren the challenge of trying to make one...I think not! However we do have a few pine trees to take down - so it might be possible :)

So that was Grand Designs 2012 done. They're apparently looking for new do you get paid for being on it? Perhaps I should apply! Maison de vigneronne in South of France - full renovation from ancient abandoned fire damaged stone house to....superb family home. I have Grand Designs of my own after all!