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House swaps, fingerprints and playhouse makeovers

Posted by Dawn Isaac on 02 Aug 2010 at 09:59 AM


This may be the perfect time to start my life of crime. It's not that I have a sudden taste for cat burglary, it's just I think I've lost all trace of fingerprints in a potent mixture of household cleaning products.

Yes, last week, I polished, scrubbed, scoured and dusted pretty much non-stop in preparation for a house swap holiday. I didn't actually think the place was that bad, but when my mother offered to take the children while I got the house ready she did, rather pointedly, say, "I'd better have them for four nights. you'll need the time..."

"Yeah right!", I thought, but as I imagined I'd be getting a little child-free 'me-time' with just Radio 4 for company, I wasn't going to argue.

It was after spending five and a half hours - just on the playroom - that I realised my confidence was ill-founded.

Yes, it's a sobering thing when you view your home through another's eyes.  It's not just that you see dirt and mess where before you only pictured 'lived-in normality' but you also start realising how many jobs you never finished.  So, after three years, our airing cupboard door now actually shuts, pictures which have been propped up in corners are hanging on walls and our bedroom is finally decorated.

This 'finishing frenzy' also extended into the garden.

I have had a problem with the playhouse for five long years. When I originally bought it, I spent an obscene amount of time indulging my ideas of how the perfect playhouse should look - right down to its fitted carpet, brick porch floor and handmade curtains. But the roof remained its visual downfall.

I've considered a few options for hiding the felt - wooden shingles, tiles, sedum matting - but they were all pricey or hard work or both. But in my pre-house swap whirlwind I came up with a new option - brushwood screening.

This is relatively cheap - you can get it from Wilkinsons for as little as £4.97 for a 3m x 1m roll (you'll need about 3) and incredibly easy to fit. I tried to attach it to the edges with fencing staples, but I actually found it better to tack it down with a staple gun.  I added a section each side and then a third bent over the top to give a tiered look that, in my vivid imagination, is reminiscent of thatching.

I also attached small sections to the underside of the porch section to hide the ply-board.

The brushwood is held together by thin wire so you will need a wire cutter to separate off the sections and then you have to twist the wire to secure the ends.  Also, the wire is quite easy to spot when it first goes on, but it wil soon rust making it blend into the colour of the roof.

Best of all, this took me 15 minutes - which is about half the amount of time I spent picking 'Guess Who' game cards out of the side of the sofa...


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