Archives for the month of: October, 2013

Imagine my surprise when I received the following message from my sister Sanna:

"John Lewis copied you!"

“John Lewis copied you!”

Well I wouldn’t go so far as to say copied exactly, but this bright orange runner on white painted stairs bears a strong resemblance to my own stairway and encourages the braver John Lewis customer to splash out on colour. It’s quite heartening to see a trend catching on, when you’ve already run with it.

However cutting edge is as cutting edge does, and whilst I can predict you a fancy notion for your home, I wouldn’t come knocking for media advice. I have, in the manner of a child (or me for that matter) in a sweet shop, recently discovered Pinterest. Such Luddite behaviour is not from lack of information, because I remember Tim showing me something about Pinterest years ago. Hopelessly behind the times, I’m just getting around to it now.

Only yesterday I picked up on this little ensemble, which resonates joyfully with so many of my ideas, but yet takes them somewhere new as well:

Snaffled from Pinterest/ A Punch of Color

Snaffled from Pinterest/ orig. Apartment Therapy

The use of carpet is clearly extreme, but see how they work with the stag’s head, the stripes up the stairs? Most exciting, however, are the flowers which have somehow escaped from their carpet. I think this is so clever. I’d love to know how it’s done.

Anyway, who knows? Some time in the near future, I could start exploring this new phenomenon I’ve heard about called Instagram. It is meant to be good. But I don’t want to hurry things….

As you’ll probably have noticed from my room designs, I like a bit of colour. Whilst the walls in our house are for the most part white, it’s good to brighten things up with some bold fabric, paint, tiles or other features. However I prefer my bedroom to be a tranquil place rather than a statement (we have nothing to prove here…), with a restful simplicity.

So it was that I plumped for a white scheme for the paintwork and wardrobes, and plain sanded floorboards. I discovered some beautiful curtain fabric from Prestigious which I was very pleased with, as it is elegantly quirky, and the pale blue background is so calming.

Chinese jars on a duck-egg blue background/ Prestigious Ginger Jars Azure

Chinese jars against a duck-egg shade/ Prestigious Textiles Ginger Jars, Azure

In the early hours (I know, not my ideal wake-up time, either, but neither night shift schedules nor children are  respecters of opinion) when there is just the faintest dawn appearing outside, they almost seem to glow in the watery light.

Subtle glow

Subtle glow

The central light is one I found at Homebase, with delicate cut-outs to the shade and glass droplets suspended beneath: there were plenty in the same style to be found around Laura Ashley, Next and John Lewis as well.

Master illumination/ Homebase shade (no longer stocked online)

Master illumination/ Homebase shade (no longer stocked online)

It’s bright and glittery (useful for my apparent full-time laundry sorting role), throwing pretty reflections around the walls from the crystals dangling below.

We looked into a number of wardrobe options: there are plenty of firms out there who provide bespoke building in (hugely expensive) and high-end modular pieces (still expensive). We did drool at the beautiful Hülsta designs, wandered through the Sliderobes showroom enjoying the complimentary coffee, and pored over the Sharps website. But when it came down to it, this level of spend was just not possible on our budget. We got ideas, and then headed for Ikea and the Pax wardrobe system.

Many an article has been written about the pros and cons of Ikea kitchens, and I imagine the same points apply for their wardrobes too. You pay less, you work harder, but it is possible to create a product that has a similar feel and look to its more expensive cousins, with a lot of comparable features. We arranged for our builder to build the main structures, and attach them to the walls. Then we worked out our storage needs, and set about designing the internal sections with shelves, hanging rails and drawers from the Komplement range.

Since we have a bit of wood panelling under the window, we thought it would be most appropriate to use the white panelled wood doors.

Wood panels are a feature

Wood panels are a feature

They are not bright white, but their shade is a perfect fit with the creamy colour that all the woodwork in the house seems to have settled down into (a trait of oil-based paints, which yellow with age: I quite like it). It turns out that these doors were the cheapest, too, which was a very positive result.

Bank of simple wood doors

Bank of simple wood doors

My friend Anna sent me the little birds, which I love. They announce the domain of my wardrobe, while opposite Tim’s storage is plain and unadorned.

Felt it: little birds at home

Chirpy: little birds at home

We have a simple dark framed mirror by the shower room door…

Reflective

Reflective

…and a nice photo of some balancing stones above the bed headboard.

Rocks balanced on a beach/ Adrian Gray

Rocks balanced on a beach/ Adrian Gray

On eBay I found a bargain-priced second of this pretty bedside table:

Lacquered and proud/ John Lewis Shari Cabinet

Lacquered and proud/ John Lewis Shari Cabinet

which I thought would fit in perfectly, but actually the colours are not quite right, a bit too strong for the rest of the room. The top and sides are black, and whilst I assumed that continuing the Chinese theme would work, in fact this piece of furniture is not subtle enough to fit in. So, bedside tables are a work in progress, and I’ll update you when we’ve found the solution.

Go ahead and comment, or tweet me your thoughts to @stowedtweet

Go ahead and comment, or tweet me your thoughts to @stowedtweet

What do you prefer for a bedroom — peaceful shades, cosy warm colours, or dramatic darks? I’ll look forward to hearing your ideas!

It’s coming up to birthday time of year in our house. Jonas and Caspar have been hard at work writing their wish lists, and we have been noting the items with interest. Caspar’s list is minimalist, I guess he is ensuring that he’ll get his top favourites. There are five suggestions on there, one of which is a pair of signed Ronaldo football boots, apparently available for the bargain price of £309.99 from a sporting memorabilia website. It’s possible a 7-year-old will be disappointed later this month.

A steal: Cristiano Ronaldo's signed boot

A steal: Cristiano Ronaldo’s signed boot

Jonas on the other hand has scribed a short legal document with scores out of ten (tickets to a Chelsea match, 11.6/10: extreme giver satisfaction rating) stretching to 57 items. There is a pleasing variety of presents for reasonable prices, including a Lego Glow-in-the-dark Racing Car at an encouraging 8.4/10, and Some More BBQ Sauce From KFC: this not to be recommended at an all-time low score of 4/10. Specifics ensure that all expectations will be met: A Trip To Yo-Sushi at 7.45pm reaps 10/10, but please read the timings carefully for full point capture here. A donation of £100 will garner top score of 13/10. I should think so too.

Floating around the middle of the list at a respectable 7/10 was Cardboard Box To Make A House Out Of, which was so surprisingly wholesome I had to check it for small print. I did then remember that a few years ago we purchased a new washing machine, and the cardboard packaging from this provided hours of fun outside in the garden with some paints, some of which were used to decorate the box and transform it into a “house.” More pertinent for scientific study, this entry on the present wish list seems to confirm the old adage “Kids! They spend more time playing with the box it came in!” I was about to proffer my new-found evidence to some market researchers as a tip for future manufacturing trends.

However it would seem that someone has already leapt on that opportunity: you can purchase a cardboard house from eBay for your child to decorate and play in. Really! And only pay £32.99.

Through the keyhole. Who would pay for a house like this?

Through the keyhole. Who would pay for a house like this?

Almost hyperventilating at the cynicism of the toy profiteers, I ventured down to the cellar to find a couple of the large removals boxes we had managed to empty of old CDs and junk. A little soggy around the bottom (the one and only link our cellar floor may have with The Great British Bake-Off), they were nevertheless huge and housey. Which was just what we wanted. In a fit of generosity I brought them up into the kitchen before birthdays for general craft and decoration fun.

Toy box

Toy box

A little parental involvement became necessary around the door and window cutting, thankfully intercepting Malachy’s attempts at slash and stab with a table knife before too much blood was lost.

Cowboy builders, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Cowboy builders, you ain’t seen nothing yet

Now the yellow felt pen is apparently officially ‘run out’ and actually the cat has played more inside the boxes than anyone else, but for an afternoon of creativity these worked perfectly.

Thinking of entering the Room for Color competition next year too

Thinking of entering the Room for Color competition next year too

Lotus is not sure about the standards of workmanship

Lotus is not sure about the standards of workmanship

And Jonas’s present list is now down to 56 items.

This title sounds like it should be accompanied by banjo. I admit overuse but I feel like I have got it out of my system now, so normal service will be resumed with the next post.

We had, as I mentioned in my previous post, many storage goals for the utility room. Coats, hats, scarves and countless sport-related items all need a home, and each person needs to know where they can find their own without too much rummaging and general panic. We had experimented with various boxes of items in previous homes, and I feel we may have achieved pretty much optimum access-storage at this point.

Coats live on hooks. And we have some excellent, chunky, practical hooks in the utility room (sprouting from dark blue boards) from Ikea, which are called Bjärnum.

We mean business: utility hook for a utility room/ Bjarnum from Ikea

We mean business: utility hook for a utility room/ Bjarnum from Ikea

Having two different-length hooks is very useful. Each member of the household has a Bjärnum for all their coats and jackets, and remainder hooks host bags and other useful hangable accessories.

Will you hook at that? Coats hanging out

Will you hook at that? Coats hanging out

Honestly, however many coat hooks you have never actually seem to be enough. We do fill these completely, but look at how many there are! It’s not as if we are impulse shoppers. I think you do generally just have more stuff than you like to think, and it’s important to make space for it.

A peg or two

A peg or two

Wide view of utility featuring coats and glazed door

Wide view of utility featuring coats and glazed door

Apart from the hanging items, we did have an amount of footwear and other accessories which needed a home. The aforementioned box system is now streamlined to two boxes each for the boys (footwear in one; scarves, hats, sunglasses etc in the other) and large baskets for Tim and I. Exiting the house involves a lot of “Mum!!!! Where’s my…” which requests are referred directly to these storage boxes for a satisfyingly quick resolution. We had a strange nib of wall (structural) which created a cosy nook ideal for shelving. I used the functional but brilliant Algot system of Ikea shelves with which you simply fix two vertical struts to the wall and slot in shelving at desired levels.

Top level storage

Top level storage

Even room for the cat bed below

Even room for the cat bed below

The big tall Ikea cupboard (in the foreground of my wide shot above) is home for Hoover, broom and other items, as well as cat food supplies and the more bulky items. Annoyingly the ironing board didn’t fit in but we found a snug spot for it next to the Algot shelves instead, so all was not lost.

Lotus is now fully cat-door operational and scoots in and out of her own little passageway through the wall quite happily. Initially we had struggled to find a location for her door since our kitchen doors and utility door are all made of glass. You can install cat flaps into glass, but it involves a lot of cost and replacing the existing glazing. I didn’t really want the tacky plastic on show in the lovely back door, either, because it’s visible from elsewhere in the house.

Having tripped over the cat bowls for a few months as they lurked on the utility floor, we decided to pop them up onto the work surface, to minimise spillage.

Prestige level cat dining

Prestige level cat dining

That’s when we realised that there was a handy access spot through the wall. We installed the little door into the cavity wall: Lotus now treats her passageway like a scouting post, hunched within to check that all is well before she leaps outside, fluffy tail remaining inside and sweeping sporadically over the leaves and footprints she brought in with the last visit. The little car mat we found for her seems to be a nice place to sit and eat, though she doesn’t wipe her paws on it on her way in, and invariably the sink is covered in muddy footprints.

Light at the end of the tunnel: cat access

Light at the end of the tunnel: cat access

For clothes drying I had imagined originally installing a large Kitchen Maid…

Suspend your smalls: Kitchen Maid can be a great drying solution

Suspend your smalls: Kitchen Maid can be a great drying solution

…suspended from the ceiling, but as the room came together it was increasingly obvious that this would block the light and make for a rather stooping journey from door to door. Then I found Ikea’s Grundtal drying rack, which fitted perfectly to the two facing surfaces above the sink, and can be propped up and down in a moment to provide all the hanging space we need.

Dry me out: Grundtal drying rack propped up for business

Dry me out: Grundtal open for business

Now this bijoux feline eatery is sometimes overslung with a few items of clothing drying in neat lines above, which I am sure adds a certain textile festival charm to the atmosphere.

Spot the difference: Lotus channels that holiday vibe with laundry drying above her dinner

Spot the difference: Lotus channels that holiday vibe with laundry drying above her dinner

 

One of my favourite rooms in our house is the utility room. Mainly this is because Malachy couldn’t say ‘utility’ when we first moved in, and earnestly talked about the ‘yoo-tiddly woom,’ which was just so unbearably cute that we all started doing it. At which point Malachy defiantly corrected his pronunciation and demanded that we all stop teasing. Apart from this it really is the essence of stowed, my business, with some satisfyingly effective storage solutions and quirky decorating that I wouldn’t maybe have tried in the other more traditional, social spaces in the house.

The space is limited (roughly 270cm square, with a partial dividing wall that was structural), and I had an awful lot of things that I wanted to cram in. I wrote a list.

1. Downstairs loo

2, Washing machine and tumble drier

3. Utility sink

4, Drying rack

5. Coat hooks

6. Storage of football boots, sunglasses, hats, scarves, gloves, umbrellas, shin pads, roller boots, footballs…. I really could go on and on, but basically the easy-access essential kit of any small boy on his way outside

7. Cleaning supplies

8. Hoover

9. Ironing board and iron

10. Mop, dustpan and brush, broom, hey, even a feather duster!

11. Cat bed

12. Cat food and water bowls

13. Cat food supplies

In fact, pre-move, conversations between Tim and I about where things would be situated in the new home usually went something like this: “Where are we going to put the &%*”%&*?” “Oh, in the utility room….” “Not in the cellar?” “No-one will be bothered to go down there.” “OK.” In addition, as I mentioned in an earlier post, we didn’t want to fill up the hallway with too much clutter.

So we had high expectations and a little room to stash them all in.

First I had to house the immovables: the loo had its own space, with a door, and I’d already decided to pop the tumble drier on top of the washing machine, as it’s so space-efficient. I did look into some official stacking kit for them, but I still haven’t got around to it yet, and have to admit that at the moment they seem perfectly stable and unlikely to fall suddenly and dramatically on passers by. That said, please don’t you be irresponsible like this. You should definitely only stack washing machines with the proper attachments and not have them lurching over you after an energetic spin cycle.

Finally, a sink and as many storage units as I could cram in would fill the rest of the space.

We used the same sort of Ikea units as in the kitchen, Faktum units with the gloss white doors called Abstrakt. I also went for an incorporated stainless steel sink and drainage top which doubles as a work surface: superbly practical and Ikea-level cheap too.

Pile 'em high: squeezing in cupboards and machines along one wall

Pile ’em high: squeezing in cupboards and machines along one wall

Because it’s a small room and there’s not much by way of free wall space, I decided on a functional-feeling dark blue, grey and white scheme, and found these lovely tiles from Topps:

Patterned: Henley/Topps Tiles

Patterned: Henley/Topps Tiles

They provide a jaunty splashback for the sink area.

The flooring needed to be cheap and hardwearing too: buoyed up by the success of the metal-look flooring in our boys’ bathroom, I found another Carpetright vinyl sheet design which looks a bit like industrial mesh.

Metallic mesh: Carpetright vinyl flooring

Metallic mesh: vinyl flooring

I like metal-look patterns on vinyl flooring: it’s realistic and the repeating pattern suits the material. For the price of a vinyl sheet, pretty much the cheapest flooring solution you can get, there are some really interesting, stand-out designs to choose from.

For some emphasis, I had all the trim woodwork painted dark blue. It gives a nice framework to the little room, and seems neat and practical.

Navy frames

Navy frames

In the downstairs loo I found some dark blue and glittery tiles to complement the scheme.

Little loo space

Little loo space

I knew my lighting needed to be pretty strong as there were no windows in the room. I am not normally a fan of endless ceiling downlights, which I think can sometimes make a room soullessly bright and harsh, but in here we did need some illumination, so we have ceiling spots. But the single most successful light source has proven to be the door, where in a revelatory moment I realised that I had found a chance to have a window after all, and went for a fully glazed option. It’s incredibly bright in the room, and actually streams light right through to the hallway, so that you get a glimpse of the garden as soon as you come in the front door.

Keeping it bright: a glazed back door brings sunshine into the house

Keeping it bright: a glazed back door brings sunshine into the house

Having all doors glazed at the back of the house presented some new challenges with regard to cat access, but I’ll come to that next time, along with some of the storage and drying solutions that help the room live up to its name.

Very excited to learn last weekend that the fab Apartment Therapy blog has featured our boys’ bathroom in their Room for Color Contest 2013! I just popped it into the competition at the last minute, so didn’t get a chance to beg you all for votes, but nevertheless it was a nice surprise to find it up there.

Bathroom exposure

Bathroom exposure

Our Elmer the elephant-inspired tiling....

Our Elmer-the-elephant-inspired tiling….

Apartment Therapy is a great interiors website from the US, highly addictive reading for those of us who are always on the lookout for new ideas, and prolific in its production of interesting posts and insights into quirky, brave and beautiful homes.

If you’re searching for ideas, go and have a look!

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