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The revamp progresses

Our winter bedroom is coming along bit by bit

New bed thumbnail

Our new winter bedroom is progressing, if not apace, then at least by degrees. 

For the past couple of weeks, most evenings, I've gone up and done an hour or two of tidying and sorting. Even unfolding and refolding my fabric stash has resulted in a massive amount of saved space and I haven't even really started with the chucking out of out-of-date or used clothing, etc - there are still many bags labelled 'to sort'. 

Our plans for the bedroom had to be revised when we got the quote for building in the wardrobes - at about 1,000 euros we just haven't got the cash, so instead we decided to hire the carpenter to close off the top floor with a glass stair panel and panelled perspex door, to stop heat from escaping onto the top storey. We will live with the motley assortment of wardrobes for now. 

I also changed my mind about the bed, deciding that the Ikea Fjell didn't provide enough storage underneath (and would look a mess anyway, since the floor slopes by 10cm and the bed will still have to be chocked at one side) and that we should revert to the idea of a standard bed with good clearance so we can stow vacuum packs under it.

New bed

Instead, I've opted for this bed from Ebay. With its low foot end (which you're looking directly across as you enter the room) and its light wrought-iron and wood design, I think it's very pretty. It needs to be visually light as the bed stands between the door and the window.

At 170 euros, including base and delivery, it is also massively cheaper than the 600 euros the Fjell would have cost. In fact, the mattress will account for most of the spend on the actual bed, as here, we are opting for the same one as we have on our other bed - a pocket-sprung, high-end model that has made a great difference to our sleep. That way, there will be no change when we switch from the 'summer setting' to the 'winter setting'. In the double size, it's about 420 euros. 

Clearing the room has also entailed getting rid of my art deco 'clockface' cocktail cabinet, at which, I admit, I shed a tear. My dad found that for me when I was about 14 and I bought it with my pocket money. My parents then immediately purloined it for their glass collection. But I have never lived anywhere that it looked any good, and it's never 'gone' in this medieval stone house, so I sold it to a 'troc' dealer, and once it had gone and I had gotten over myself, the room suddenly looked enormous.  

Recently, I visited a couple of friends whose house I seriously envy, especially their new garden-room extension. Well, we may not be able to stretch to an extension, but reclaiming over 20 square metres of bedroom certainly feels like a whole new house and is making me feel a lot more positive about winter and I hope I will dread, far less, the act of going to bed, which for the past few winters has entailed putting ON clothes rather than taking them off.

Meanwhile, despite the torrential rain and the comparatively low temperatures, we are indeed using our new 'outdoor room' very frequently, so we're well pleased with that as well.    






Fluid designs for the over-40s babe

Caroline Gallagher designs fashions that flatter a fuller figure

Caroline tunicI came across this designer lately on Ebay: Caroline Gallagher.

She has a range of tunics for sale that, although aimed principally at larger women, would also be suitable for thinner over-40s babes. They incorporate many of the features that we need in fashions but which are often so sadly lacking: a bit of stretch, matt fabric, vertical seaming, good drape, long sleeves and a long enough body. 

Caroline is an experienced designer who's worked for many high street stores and she aims to create fashions for curvy women that celebrates curves rather than looking like a tent. You can find her new website here: and her Ebay store here: carolineann661

She will make to order, changing necklines, sleeve lengths, etc, as you wish, and each design comes in a range of different sizes and colours, including black, purple, navy and grey. 


How to buy on Ebay

If you've never bought clothes on Ebay, here's a quick how-to

Brown dressAs a dedicated Ebay purchaser myself, I thought I'd provide a rough guide to how to buy clothes on Ebay.

Living in rural France, miles away from any shops or stores, Ebay is a big saviour for me. It enables me to find styles and makes that aren't available here in France, and clothing at a more reasonable price - clothing is very well made here, but also very expensive. I buy mainly from and occasionally (based in the US, though I usually buy items from Japan and China). 

There are several things you need to know when shopping on Ebay, as you can't see the garment itself. 

How to search

There are hundreds of thousands of similar items on sale on Ebay, so it pays to perfect your searching technique, otherwise you'll be swamped. So first of all, decide precisely what you're going to look for - a sweater, a cardigan, jeans, etc. If you have a favourite make or makes, add those names too, and add your size and any descriptions you're keen on, such as 'bootcut', 'flared', 'blue' etc (though bear in mind that many people don't list by colour because the colour is visible in the photograph). 

If you want new clothing, search for NWT (new with tags) or NWOT (new without tags) on, or BNWT (brand new with tags) or BNWOT (brand new without tags) on 

So, if you're looking for, say, new bootcut Next jeans size 14, your search engine should say something like "BNWT Next jeans 14 bootcut". Hit 'send' and up will come a list of items, with pictures.

Down the left-hand side of the page, you'll now see a category listing - vintage, women's clothing, children's clothing etc.  This helps you to refine your search further, so click - for instance - on 'women's clothing',  or 'vintage' (now includes anything from the 1980s). This will reduce the number of items.

You can choose to have the items listed by 'time ending soonest', price, or other criteria - this is on the right-hand side of the page and enables you to sort the wheat from the chaff. There's no sense, for instance, in browing through items that you can't afford, or you've seen before, if you're a frequent visitor.

How to evaluate a garment

Boden dressProfessional vendors and power sellers generally provide more photos and better descriptions, so you can take more of a risk with an unknown brand. With a private vendor, it's safer to stick to well-known brands. Most private vendors hang their clothes up or lay them out on the bed and snap a low-res image that doesn't give you much of a clue at all. This is why it pays to know your brands, so that you know you're happy with the quality. I buy a lot of Boden, for instance, because it's a make I'm familiar with and I trust. Quite often, you can log onto the manufacturer's website and see a better picture. The brown dress at right is the exact same style as the brown dress at top left, for instance - who would guess?

Be wary - obviously - of anyone who describes their garments as 'stunning', 'fabulous' or suchlike hyperbole.

Photographs often don't show the colour very well and browns and purples are particularly poor - I once received a bright purple kimono when I was expecting a blue one, and the most recent item I bought is a far deeper, richer brown than the pinky-brown shown in the photo. If you're uncertain, ask the vendor.  

In general, it's better to order one size up unless you're absolutely sure of the sizing and brand. Clothing can always be taken in, but it's a bear to let out. 

Picking the right vendor

Always choose a vendor with good feedback - preferably above 95 per cent - and click on the button and take a look at the feedback comments. After that, it's really down to trust. You can 'try out' an unknown vendor by sending a query email about the item - if you get a friendly, courteous reply, it's usually a good sign.


Check the shipping price carefully (some vendors rack up the shipping and handling), and make sure the vendor can accept payment by the means you want to use. The easiest way to pay is generally to set up a Paypal account, which is separate from, but linked to, Ebay - instructions are on the website. 

If you're in the UK and searching on Ebay US, check that the vendor actually ships abroad - many don't, since 9/11, because the regulations have become so onerous.  In my case, living in continental Europe, I often encounter UK vendors who don't ship to France, but I can always provide a UK address so it's not usually a problem.


Once you're found an item and are ready to bid, bidding is talked through very clearly by Ebay - you get plenty of warnings about not pressing the button until you're certain. Decide on the amount you're willing to pay and bid that amount straight away - it doesn't mean you will actually pay that amount. Bids go up in increments, so if no-one bids against you, you may pay far less. But whatever you do, don't sit there watching an item, bidding higher and higher. For peace of mind, I tend to place my bids via snipe at, which places my bid automatically five seconds from close of play - I then go away and forget about it. 


When you win an item, always pay as soon as you can - this will ensure that you get good feedback. I have been buying on Ebay for six years and have 100 per cent feedback and my prompt payments are mentioned very often by vendors.  I use only Paypal, so I'm covered, both by Paypal and by Visa. Never pay a vendor 'under the table' as it were - you will have no comeback and you will have only yourself to blame if something goes wrong.

Leaving feedback

Once you've received your goods, you should leave feedback for your vendor. But if you are unhappy with your item, give the vendor a chance to correct the problem before leaving negative feedback. My experiences have mostly been positive on Ebay, and in over 300 transactions I have only left negative feedback once.






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