Archives for the month of: July, 2013

Our cat Lotus is pretty self-assured. She has, in her short life so far, changed the feline right-of-way rules around our garden from ‘public’ to ‘keep out,’ refused to use a cat flap with the logic that humans are mainly there for door duty, and drinks from a glass not a bowl.

20130726-211328.jpg

However she does have a weak spot. Not of course that I would hold this against her….

The Hoover.

As soon as it appears from the cupboard Lotus slinks away, in reverse in dire cases, to find some excellent Ikea storage to hide in.

So far the Factum kitchen corner unit provides much sought-after stowage for the discerning cat.

20130726-212022.jpg

Then if the kitchen cupboard door is not obligingly left open, the Expedit shelf is feted for its depth and open-backedness. All of which are positives for the desperate fugitive.

20130726-212516.jpg

Of course with a tough neighbourhood reputation to uphold this chat noir demands that her bête noir is not publicised. I like to think that my ‘little and infrequent’ attitude to hoovering keeps her secret safe. Anyway, that’s my excuse.

Advertisements

The room we chose to use as our living room is dark. Outside the stately front window, four large holly trees stand sentry, dominating the front garden and blocking natural light to the front of the house. Each is in possession of a preservation order, a council-given right to remain despite lacking any redeeming features, guarding the front door with evergreen austerity like a gang of moody bouncers.

Leaf it out. Holly trees hulk in front garden

Leaf it out. Holly trees hulk in front garden

When we were thinking about wall colours and window covering we kept coming up against this, and bemoaning the lack of light. Then, in discussion with a curtain fitter one day I discovered that the room, with its wood panelling and shadowy aspect, would almost certainly have been the library, decorated in rich dark colours, and containing shelves full of carefully bound volumes. Dim light was a boon in this setting. Well this did change it for me, and we started thinking about turning the room’s challenges into an inspiration.

These guys don't mind it gloomy: In the Library by John Watkins Chapman

These guys don’t mind it gloomy: In the Library by John Watkins Chapman

Having painted the wood- and plasterwork a refreshing white, we decided to go for a densely dark grey on the fireplace wall. The remaining walls are a lighter shade on the spectrum. The contrast between walls and woodwork is dramatic.

Serene and grown up

Serene and grown up

We removed the small fireplace, which we thought may not have been the original for that space: gaps in the skirting suggested that there had once been a grander version there. We did like it, though, and had it cosmetically reconditioned (not to be used, it’s patched up mainly with plywood) and placed in Jonas’s room. We spent a good while choosing a more suitable statement fireplace for the room, along with a marble surround in place of the existing rather timid wooden construction. The significant costs of the products (fire, grate, slate, mantel, backing boards), were small beans compared to the enormous cost of installation. An open fire is a luxury: once you step along that road to renovation you are bound to be shelling out at high levels. Because of fire safety, you don’t feel as though you can argue with the professionals, after all, who would want to jeopardise their home and family with a “shoddy” job? Suffice to say, if anyone was looking for any area to retrain into, I’d suggest the fire installation trade as a dead cert from the money-spinning perspective.

Incendiary costs: a new fireplace

Incendiary costs: a new fireplace

Other rooms in our house are quite vibrant and full of light. This room has turned out to be a calm, peaceful retreat in a sometimes hectic home, and a wonderful evening hideaway. It does feel more grown-up, and, whilst the children do come in here to watch TV now and then, it’s not part of the daily circuit for them (or their cars).

I think I may be off the beaten track a little here

I think I may be off the beaten track a little here

Next time I’ll tell you about the windows — we now had two bays to dress, one large and stately, one weeny and cute — and a far deeper journey into the suffocating folds of upholstery than I ever thought I’d embark upon….

A very exciting moment occurred recently when I visited the house I’m working on at the moment. The builders had done a fantastic job of implementing my tile designs for the three bathrooms.

The top shower room is an ensuite to their guest bedroom. Set into the eaves, it doesn’t have any window and so needed to be kept fresh and light. I went for white rectified tiles around the shower cubicle: this is where the tile is cut at a right angle rather than curved at the edges. It means you can fit the tiles closer together and use less grout. The overall effect is more modern and flat.

I did want a little individuality in there though, and so decided to make a feature of the low wall which met the sloping ceiling.

Cabin cute: Grain tile in 'Driftwood' from Johnson

Cabin cute: Grain tile in ‘Driftwood’ from Johnson

I like wood-effect tiles (I think I’ve mentioned that before…) and there are loads out there in the shops to choose from at low cost. The wooden cabinet is also characterful. Still the flooring to go, but it’s looking great so far.

The master ensuite is a much taller, lighter room. I went for the Krista tile in there which I have posted about here. It encompasses the whole of the walk in shower area. The rest of the room is painted in Dulux’s White Cotton.

Mwa ha ha... master plan

Mwa ha ha… master plan

I found a nice roller blind with fabric designed by Scion which brings some bright accents to the room.

Fresh prints: Scion Berry Tree Roller from John Lewis

Fresh prints: Scion Berry Tree Roller from John Lewis

It will fix into the lower part of an arched window, I can’t wait to see that installed.

And finally, a bathroom which is fun and colourful. My clients’ son is very keen on orange (of which I wholeheartedly approve), and, having seen a great design on Houzz I came up with the idea of creating orange steps around the bath. Here’s how it’s turned out.

Step this way: Orange Linear Tiles by BCT in the Brighton Pavilion Range

Step this way: Orange Linear Tiles by BCT in the Brighton Pavilion Range

The window will have grey Ecowood slatted blinds (a wood/plastic composite which means they won’t warp in the spray from the shower), and the rest of the room will be white. We will put mirrors with different coloured frames at varying heights around the other walls to give the children their own reflective perspective.

I do love it when a plan comes together. What do you think? Which do you like best? I am happiest with the cheerful orange, but then I am biased….

 

A few months ago my lovely friends Phill and Lindsey asked me to help them come up with some good ideas for a shower room in the eaves of their gorgeous South Manchester home. They explained that it was currently a junk room but had originally been a bathroom, so all the services were ready and waiting. Brilliant. I got going on some ideas and we chatted through likes and dislikes. After checking out the room, which had become an easy place to “store” things in the journey to their final resting place in the loft, we decided on a layout, and started selecting the right elements for the room. Lindsey liked an uncluttered spa-like look, and so we went for a simple wall-hung sink with the pipework displayed.

Baring all: Riva 80 basin from Victoria Plumb

Baring all: Riva 80 basin from Victoria Plumb

Slate-effect tiles would provide an elegant flooring, and the walls would be painted white. I felt that it would be good to have some wood as a relief from the black and white cool, so we agreed that the windows would have some wooden slatted blinds, and a similarly coloured wooden storage unit could complete the room. The door to the room is stripped pine, and so we used that as a match point for the other woods. I just want to take you back now, to way back in the room’s past, and when Lindsey and Phill first bought the house. Yes, there was a bathroom in there, but my goodness, I could see why they wanted to rip it out. The following pictures are best viewed with slanty head and frowny eyes….

So many alarming features

So many alarming features

No words needed

No words needed

I did warn you. They created a sweet nursery instead, which served them well.

Sighs of relief all round

Sighs of relief all round

But now their boys are all huge, and showers are a much needed resource for the hectic mornings. The black and white (with a little wood) theme was all very well, but we did feel that it was lacking some character. Lindsey said how she’d love to have some mosaics, somewhere, and started researching designs. We thought the shower tray could be a good place as it’s not a huge surface area, and would work well with the small tiles. You need to have a slope built in to your shower tray, to allow the water to flow towards the drain. If you use smaller tiles, you can arrange this sloping more effectively and smoothly. The one drawback to designing a mosaic was the cost. If you buy individual stone tiles, you will pay huge amounts both for the product and for the specialist to fit them. Lindsey had found her Roman design – a maze.

Roman maze: there must be a way

Roman maze: there must be a way

We had a plan

We had a plan

I realised that the cheaper way to buy mosaics is on a webbed grid, which you can then attach directly to a surface and grout. But there is no reason why they need to stay on the grid. We checked with the bathroom installer and he was happy to provide a mat to attach the design to. The product we used was the Mazurka range at http://www.mosaictileshop.co.uk – the black Onyx sheet at under £12 per sheet and the white Mastic at just under £10. We spent a confused morning counting exact numbers of black and white on the above plan, then working out how many sheets of mosaics were needed to fill the shower floor space. But we got there, and the order was made. And one morning, I received this exciting email:

"It was a late night but we did it!"

“It was a late night but we did it!”

And in it went! A bespoke, clever, stylish piece of design which didn’t cost the earth and is exactly what they wanted. Here it is adorning the floor of their shower.

Your starter for ten. Make your way to the drain before the water does.

Your starter for ten. Make your way to the drain before the water

And the rest of the room looks equally sophisticated, unfussy and calm.

Super storage: John Lewis cabinet completes the look

Super storage: John Lewis cabinet completes the look

Stylish shower room

Stylish shower room

I wouldn’t have ever thought of using mosaic tiles in this creative way, but now I would happily encourage clients to go for it. Sheet mosaics are comparatively inexpensive, and provide plenty of opportunities to go bespoke. Inspired? Let me know if you decide to do this too.

Well, it turns out there are many, many other beasties out there to display on our walls. My friend Angela sent me this friendly trio, snapped in a shop in Twickenham.

Image

New generation trophies

I had seen some knitted versions out there too:

Image

Cable-clad elegance: knitted deer for your wall

Which got me thinking… it would be good to catalogue them, a sort of disembodied zoo. If you see one, let me know!

We love having guests to stay. The spare room is tucked away from the rest of our bedrooms so that any inhabitants can remain distant from the early morning car races, stair jumping record-breaking attempts and other such normal boy activities.

It does feel like a haven. The stripped wood floors are a nice feature, and the bay window is very characterful (rebuilt out of the rotted wood walk-in bay which hovered precariously over the kitchen roof before).

Peaceful perch: our new bay with seat

Peaceful perch: our new bay with seat

At the moment I’ve kept it very simple in there with a few of our furniture pieces and plain white walls. We’ll get around to putting pictures up at some point, but the monastic white walls and rustic-looking flooring seem to work well together, so I won’t make many more changes.

Retreat chic: simple guest bedroom

Retreat chic: simple guest bedroom

The bird and branch curtains are made from one of my favourite fabrics from Prestigious, feathered in a purple hue which I matched to a similarly coloured lamp shade for the overhead light.

Avian fabric: Berkeley Square (Damson) by Prestigious

Avian fabric: Berkeley Square (Damson) by Prestigious

The guest bathroom design started with a free-standing bath, and the fact that I wanted to use some vinyl flooring which I’d seen a while ago and think is fantastic. Harvey Maria is the name of the company, and they supply a mixture of tiles and planks. There are photographic images of water, pebbles and grass, as well as some geometric patterned designs. The wood effect planks are realistic, down to the grain, and of course a no-brainer for a bathroom where you want the wood look without the warp.

Inspiration: Harvey Maria's Azure tile with a wood effect

Inspiration: Harvey Maria’s Azure tile with a wood effect

Now our little bathroom wasn’t anything like this size, but I liked the concept of the bathmat. After perusing their wood effect tiles I plumped for one which looked a bit more “driftwood”-like, and was called Tan.

Overhead light here reddens the wood/ Harvey Maria Tan and Azure

Overhead light here reddens the wood/ Harvey Maria Tan and Azure

Light off. Wistful cat is not a permanent fixture

Light off. Wistful cat is not a permanent fixture

The resulting flooring is striking, colourful, and gave a starting point for the rest of the room’s features.

I wanted to have some glittery blue mosaics in the shower. In fact, I wanted them throughout the entire shower cubicle so that it felt like you were having a shower amongst a lot of tropical fish. But when we worked out the cost of that, we thought that a statement square would do just as well. The star shower head keeps the look light, and the white tiles surrounding are actually threaded through with a line of glitter, too.

Shimmering shower

Shimmering shower

With a room full of blue and white sparkles, the dark wood basin cabinet was a good grounding point, found as an ex-display Roca model in a local showroom.

Bathe in peace

Bathe in peace

I just needed a final point to finish it off. I looked at dark wood shelves, but what I was really looking for was some sort of slatted framework on the walls, almost as decoration. The builders were dubious when I tried to explain and I couldn’t even seem to find photos when I did a near exhaustive web search. Then, miraculously, I found it – in the Outdoors section at Ikea – the Äpplarö frame and shelves which are meant to be part of a garden storage system.

Spa complete: slatted shelving

Spa complete: slatted shelving

The material for the blinds has colours from the Azure flooring (in a rather satisfying way). The material is from Scion, Flight from the Melinki range, and made into blinds by my skilled and amazing sister. The glamorous glass-beaded light is from Argos, a proper bargain at under £30. Who’d have thought it?

I am glad we’ve got such a soothing space for guests, but when they’re not around we do get to enjoy the spot too. We don’t have a bath in our ensuite, so every now and then, when I feel like getting away from it all, I can grab the bubble bath and a good book, and bathe.

%d bloggers like this: