Archives for the month of: May, 2013

Designing the family bathroom was very exciting: mainly because it meant I no longer had to share a loo seat with three boys (I do still have to maintain awareness among the troops of the basic rules of aiming etiquette but at least I don’t have to discover first hand whenever failure occurs). But from a more positive perspective (one I like to hold in the face of all the ballgames and cars) I could indulge a little imagination and colour creativity.

We converted it out of a tiny bedroom wallpapered in my favourite cartoon cat:

I would have killed for Garfield wallpaper when I was 13....

I would have killed for Garfield wallpaper when I was 13….

Spectacular nostalgic appeal here, but practicality, and the persuasive reasons I set out above, prevailed.

As you can probably see, the ceiling was low and papered in grotty woodchip. The doorway to the room was stunted because of the slope of the roof, so only really small or bendy people could get in without some sort of cranial accident. There were then two very steep steps down as a final balance challenge.

Our friend D who is a fantastic architect took a look at the plans and came up with a superb solution to this, whereby we stole a little bit of a bedroom to make a small lobby, and placed the doorway to the bathroom in the middle of the roof axis, so we could maximise on height. We then took the ceiling of the bathroom down and built the new ceiling into the roof space, to increase head-height in the room. A little bit of building control signing-off on the new doorway lintel, and we were set.

How to make a sensible doorway

How to make a sensible doorway

Now, I have a doctor friend who says that running Intensive Care in a hospital is easier than planning a bathroom. I’d beg to differ, but I do think there are a lot of things to consider and get your head around. Personally, I really enjoy it, and I think it’s better for everyone that I stay out of any medical procedures, so we’re both clearly in the right jobs. A bathroom design starts with identifying the items you need and recognising the immovables in your space that you need to work around. We had a cosy space with a requirement for bath, over-bath shower, loo, sink and copious storage. The boys wanted colour, and adore football. Tiles are a lot easier to clean than painted walls, but I didn’t want that generic “hotel bathroom” look of all-over neutral tiling. Neither did I want anything to look too cute, because despite the fact it’s a bathroom for kids, children do grow up and mine are already not babies any more.

I love the locker room style which has popped up in the last few years. I think it’s laid-back, and can look classy without trying hard. I was keen on this effect in the bathroom, and was searching accordingly for appropriate fittings. Then, I found the most brilliant sink, and I had the beginnings of pulling it all together.

What a magnificent goal! Orizzonte Latino Handbasin/ Meridiana Ceramiche

What a magnificent goal! Orizzonte Latino Handbasin/ Meridiana Ceramiche

The tiles are part of a set called Fusion by Topps Tiles. The boys saw them in a showroom in all their colourful randomness and wanted an exact replica. We used the white one as a wall covering around the sink and toilet areas: they’re bright and a bit textured and generally keep things looking fresh.

Fusion: Topps Tiles. Spontaneous ceramic placement

Fusion/ Topps Tiles. Spontaneous ceramic placement

Setting the tiles in a random pattern is actually harder than it might seem. I ended up colouring in a little drawing as a plan for my builder, who didn’t want the responsibility of not succumbing to the lure of a uniform pattern. Thankfully my brain is a lot less logical than his, and I managed it.

Running with the circles theme: bubble mirror

Running with the ball theme: bubble mirror

The little mirror bubbles bounce light around the room.

Storage hides behind here....

Storage hides behind here….

We built a false wall to hide the shower pipework. Behind this is an amazing set of floor-to-ceiling built-in storage shelves, where all our towels and bedding are stashed. Easy access, and hidden behind the bathroom door. On the opposite side, another tall set of shelves, for the excess bubble bath and bleach bottles (on separate shelves of course to prevent unfortunate accidents).

For the floor we decided against tiles which can be so chilly in winter (unless you have, as we do in our ensuite, a thermostatic electric underfloor heating system) and also so hard when you land on them at speed (not unheard of amongst certain members of the household). Wood, as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, is warm and looks lovely, but doesn’t wear so well in a damp environment. To fit in with my locker room scheme I wanted a sort of aluminium effect, and found with delight that you can get lots of vinyl floor options like this. We went for a super-cheap Carpetright sheet vinyl which I love, is perfect for cleaning (no grout to get mucky), and fits the look exactly.

Wash not to like? Incentives to stay clean

Wash not to like? Incentives to stay clean

Other things I’m pleased about are the wood panelled bath side my joiner made, which is so much nicer than the plastic catastrophes which normally come with a bath, while being cheaper than a bespoke bath panel. And the useful shelf above the loo which has space for toothbrushes.

We did a secret clear-out of some of the bath toys when we moved, partly to embrace the new house aesthetic, and partly out of a need for better bath hygiene. Anything fun and squeezy for bath play inevitably ends up breeding alien slime inside after a few months, and this leeches out into the water. Actually, to be honest it usually ends up in someone’s mouth or hair, depending on the sort of game they might be playing. Despite the grossness, our boys tend towards excess sentimentality, so the clearance operations needed to be executed with absolute stealth and under cover of the school day. I think we got away with it by employing the new-for-old trick: since we bought the Olympic Ducks, no one has thought to ask for the seaside squirters or the farmyard basketball set.

Under starter's orders

Under starter’s orders

Designing a kitchen can be challenging. Where to put the main players on your culinary stage? Having a starting point is always helpful, something that can’t be moved, that is set (in stone).

Here is what we had to work with:

This looks like a useful place to stack a dismantled kitchen....

This looks like a useful place to stack a dismantled kitchen….

Hang on a minute, what’s that lurking behind all that chipboard and rubble?

Now that's a useful space to put something

Well that’s a useful space to put something

How fantastic! A lovely feature, a brick chimney place, sporting original soot from the old fires. Now, if I could just find a suitable appliance….

I went searching, and found a gorgeous ex-display Stoves ‘Richmond’ oven at a metre wide in a local independent appliance store, aptly named Affordable and Stylish, for a satisfying discount. I also managed to find a cool chrome and glass curved extractor fan which fitted the space perfectly (although the measuring of an arch proved too complex for my mathematical skills, so we’ll definitely chalk that one up to luck rather than judgement).

The end result?

Ind-rustic-rial (?) pairing... New nestles into old very comfortably.

Ind-rustic-rial (?) pairing… New nestles into old very comfortably

I do love this. The rest of our kitchen is quite simple and minimal so this brings an earthy touch of character – rustic meets the pared down lines of modern. My electrician drilled carefully through the brickwork at unobtrusive points to feed power through to the oven and the extractor. Of course you can’t channel wires in and plaster over exposed brick, so you have to plan things a bit more strategically. One day I might get around to stripping the bricks with some industrial cleaner, and varnishing them. But for the moment the patina of the house’s history is on display and somehow it doesn’t look out of place.

Kitchen character

Kitchen character

You might notice a little teaser in this photo of some other interesting ideas I’ve had whilst designing this kitchen. I’ll be back with more on this subject very soon!

A note today about bathroom tiles. Last year, I was searching in vain for wood effect porcelain or ceramic tiles to create a Japanese look in our ensuite shower room. I’d seen a few peaceful bathroom images where wood was used to create a calm, ordered effect, but my builder warned me about using real wood in a damp climate where mould can set in so quickly. Not really the look I was going for. I had to accept that we do have slightly more rain here in Manchester than other places, and that hot, dry days are few and far between.

Japanese Bathroom Design

Well, I need a starting point for my inspiration (we don’t have views like this in Manchester)

I did get my Japanese-look shower room with a bit of ingenious tile sourcing…

Ecowood blinds, a wenge cabinet and dark wood floating shelves keep the look crisp and clean

Ecowood blinds, a wenge cabinet and dark wood floating shelves keep the look crisp and clean

 

Wood grain effect tiles in three different shades, white, beige and brown/ Pampus Tiles

Wood grain effect tiles in three different shades, white, beige and brown/ Pampus Tiles

… but I was really hankering after wood plank tiles, and there were none to be found, at least not within a tight budget.

However now the shops, online and warehouses, are full of them! I could have had a choice of smooth grained or rustic, and much more in between.

Parquet floors in your bathroom? Rovere/Walls and Floors

Parquet floors in your bathroom? Rovere/Walls and Floors

Aliso Cedro/ Ceramiks. Would I go for walls AND floors in this? I'm not sure but the plank is certainly realistic

Aliso Cedro/ Ceramiks. Would I go for walls AND floors in this? I’m not sure but the plank is certainly realistic

This year, I’m looking for real stone effect in porcelain and ceramic. I  have noticed a few in tile showrooms,

Krista/ Smoke. So lovely, like a watercolour painting. And ceramic too!

Krista/ Smoke. So lovely, like a watercolour painting. And ceramic too!

and some absolutely beautiful examples in this season’s new catalogues:

Alabastri di Rex/ Bamboo porcelain tile. Dramatic. And as it’s not real stone, practical too, though I just couldn’t put those two words in the same sentence.

Alabastri di Rex/ Bamboo porcelain tile. Dramatic. And as it’s not real stone, practical too, though I just couldn’t put those two words in the same sentence.

Hurry up, the UK market, and buy some in!

Beautiful orange squares by Caroline Clark, inspired the theme of our hallway

Beautiful orange squares by Caroline Clark, inspired the theme of our hallway

This painting has lived in the hallways of three very different houses now, but in this our most recent, I think we’ve been able to give it the most appropriate setting.

When we moved to this house, the hallway was green and gloomy.

A peaceful but tired and dark house

A peaceful but tired and dark house

It was so refreshing to get the white paint out and let the light in. The carpet was ripped up, the floors stripped and varnished. We considered a bold striped runner up the stairs, having ogled some striking carpets at Roger Oates http:/www.rogeroates.com/products/runners/ and some fun patterns on rugs from a little Swedish firm I know called Pappelina http://www.lottafromstockholm.co.uk/pappelina-rugs.html. But then — A GREAT FIND! –  on Pinterest and pasted liberally throughout the design blog world:

Design_sponge_rect540

Credit: Dan Duchars/ London

I was inspired! And so the search began for a bright orange carpet… surprisingly hard to source. I thought at first that I might find a magical bargain at “end-of-line” warehouses or even something online. But I was nervous about the quality of the internet offerings, and ends-of-line are usually to be found in the theme of beige: the closest I could get to orange was a drab rust.

Thanks to a local family-run firm with a proper selection of good quality brands, I finally found our runner, and now our hallway is welcoming and cheerful.

A go-faster stripe up the stairs, because everyone likes to race, especially in our house

A go-faster stripe up the stairs, because everyone likes to race, especially in our house

You can probably spy the painting now settled in its new surroundings. We liked the orange line so much that we added one above the dado rail as well.

At home in a bespoke space

At home in a bespoke space

The painting fits right in, and I’m always on the lookout for a few gold accents or chirpy orange pieces. Soon I’ll tell you about our console table and the cute orange vases I found….

Beginning a thing is always awkward: a polite introduction, laying your cards on the table. I’ve decided the best approach is to launch straight in, and we can get to know one another as time goes on. So here goes….

The Abbeywood Cabinet by Leonhard Pfeifer: a happy piece of storage perfection

The Abbeywood Cabinet by Leonhard Pfeifer: a happy piece of storage perfection

This lovely cabinet is by the designer Leonhard Pfeifer, and is called Abbeywood. When we had finished renovating our sleek and colourful kitchen (you’ll get to spy on all of the many decisions and finds we made on this blog later), we realised we needed some sort of dresser or sideboard to house all the tablecloth and napkin paraphernalia as well as a stowing place for all the boys’ ongoing and complex craft projects which claim table space.

The price – you can buy these at John Lewis or sometimes as “returns” bargains on eBay – was higher than we had budgeted, and for a while I moped around second hand furniture and antiques markets hoping to find something I could customise with some painted doors. In the end a trusted eBay furniture dealer got one in stock, and Tim and I agreed to call the piece a “gift purchase’ (Happy Christmas, us!). I’m so glad. It fits beautifully with our other furniture, and there’s plenty of space inside for all the jiffy bags, paper, table linen and board games.

Another piece of useful kit inside: Muji's clear plastic boxes keep all our pens and pencils tidy

Another piece of useful kit inside: Muji’s clear plastic boxes keep all our pens and pencils tidy

Other colourful cabinets which caught my eye were….

Photo of

The Herbert wood chest from Oliver Bonas. A more substantial-looking piece with a darker wood grain and funky handles;

Upcycled Sideboard

Upcycled Sideboard by I Love Retro at Not On The High Street.com, with its jaunty drawers and hardware; and…

nextmulti

…an oh-so-similar contribution from Next, called Multi Cabinet.

Now when we need to clear the table for a meal, or just want to fight back against a takeover bid from one of those endless monopoly games, we scoop it all up and deposit it in the cupboard.

The holy grail of forbidden cat toys: the craft box

The holy grail of forbidden cat toys: the craft box

Having the mess tucked away behind those colourful doors is great, and until the cat develops opposable thumbs I think we’ll be able to contain it all nicely.

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