>> “What projects have you been working on recently?” asks anybody bothering to exchange pleasantries. “Errr… my house – does that count?” I’ve made no secrets or bones about being utterly consumed and distracted by Project New House. It has become the perfect vehicle for procrastination. In my head it goes something like this: “When I get a brand spanking new desk complete with colour coded stationery and desk tidies, I will be able to juggle multiple writing deadlines, make really great mood boards and possibly even start doing more clothing DIY’s” or “When I have sorted out my spice rack and decanted flour into big kilner jars, I will be able to whip up Ottolenghi-esque recipes every night and bake bread every weekend.” None of those hopefuly thoughts have transpired (YET!) Sorting out the wardrobe though was always going to be a primary priority in Project New House, not because there were any lofty aspirations attached to the task at hand but because of sheer necessity. Half my clothes were in fact already in new house before there was even a functioning toilet, just to ease the burden off the poor movers who were still incredulous as to how many laundry bags there were, heaving with clothes and shoes.
Some of you might know about my long standing love affair with Ikea’s open wardrobe Stolmen system, installed in my last flat. People ask me about dust problems with having everything open but I never really experienced that with the rails and sections that I would frequently rifle through. Admittedly the love waned a little as the years went by, only because sleeping in the same room as a gigantic open wardrobe system, with feathers and frou frou looming over you isn’t exactly conducive to *ahem* a sexy atmosphere with your partner. It was inevitable that the Stolmen system in our last flat would spill over into other areas of the room – bed and wardrobe became one indiscernible mess. The false advantage of having high ceilings at the old flat was that piles of perfectly adequate clothes were archived off onto dusty top shelves, never to be seen again until they had to be packed off to new house. Switching from a one bedroom flat to a three bedroom house, there was a bit more room to play with but only marginally so, because of the reduced ceiling height in the new house. What was important though was that my clothes would be cornered off into one singular cubby room, away from the master bedroom so that Steve wouldn’t have to brush aside huge swathes of tulle and silk to get into bed and that hopefully I’d be able to see and reach more of my clothes with the absence of the super high “archive” shelves.
The Stolmen was therefore painfully dismantled with fits of swearing and shouting by myself and Papa Lau and then transported over to new house to be reconfigured into the cubby room. This time, I didn’t work off a plan and instead just made it up as we went along, fitting the poles, rails, shelves and drawers in what was seemingly the most annoying Tetris puzzle in the world, made even more complex by the fact that the walls in our house are not completely straight. The U-shaped set-up inside the cubby room has actually yielded around 80% of what we had in Stolmen storage space in the old flat, despite the lower ceilings and deceptively smaller space. This was down to clever Papa Lau, cutting into shelves and creating a tighter set-up that didn’t waste so much space. I owe him precisely 50,000 dim sum lunches because of the trouble he went to fit the wardrobe – in one day, he went from being one of Ikea’s top advocators to effing and blinding at the mere mention of the Swedish furniture chain. To hide the cut-out shelves and rough edges, I went a bit mad with some neon gaffer tape to draw some lines just in case your eyes weren’t blinded enough by the bursts of colour emanating from the rails and shelves.
Full disclosure, not everything I own made it into the neon-lined cubby room but a slight spillover of clothes and shoes into the guest bedroom and possibly into the hallway cupboard downstairs isn’t a huge casualty. I haven’t forced Steve to go naked as his clothes Steve’s will be neatly enclosed in a separate closed wardrobe in the bedroom (the only clothing allowance in the vicinity). But the primary objective was largely achieved. The cubby room zones off my clothes into an enclosed space and I can privately be at one with all its textural madness with the skylight in the room beaming natural light down onto 1m2 of changing room space. Not quite big enough to dance manically to ABBA by myself but enough to spin around in anything full-skirted and voluminous.