Archives for the month of: March, 2014

I like a clever way with stairs. As you probably know, I decided to highlight mine with an orange line. Other staircases which made me smile were the ones with bright stripy runners, and even one with a tree. Another trick you’ve probably seen is the one where people write messages on the risers.

Mission statement/ In This House decal stickers on Etsy

Mission statement/ In This House decal stickers on Etsy

These inspirational quotes are great, and also of course can be used as wall decals too. Check out some of these for some words of wisdom:

Decal from Wulfsexpressions

Decal from Wulfsexpressions

You can get this whole wall's worth of decal from tkwraps

You can get this whole wall’s worth of decal from tkwraps

This handy reminder is part of a hotel/ apartment design experiment by company mode:line

This handy reminder is part of a hotel/ apartment design experiment by company mode:line

Though I think, if I’m honest, that these perky messages could wear a little thin after a while. A snappy phrase that seems so apt at first might eventually become trite when you’ve seen it every morning for a few months. Maybe that’s the beauty of a wall sticker: once it starts to annoy you, just rip it down.

So you need to choose carefully, and get something that you’re not going to regret. Something that you need to hear over and over. Something that can only make you stronger. And that got me thinking: how could I make it work for us?

This one appeared on a kids’ rooms blog. This is a great example of what we don’t need:

Bob Dylan's endearing poem is a stretch too far. To be honest, I probably wouldn't put this on a greetings card, let alone a wall. But maybe for a less confident child it could work?

Bob Dylan’s endearing poem is a stretch too far

I probably wouldn’t put this on a greetings card, let alone on a wall. But maybe for less confident characters there could be some value here.

I enjoy the solid practicality of this one, however:

Handy work with the mosaics. This message will stand the test of time.

Handy work with the mosaics. This message will stand the test of time

Yes, this resonates with my style of parenting.

Reading it approvingly, the answer hit me: I don’t want to get poetic, or need to remind myself or my family of what we could be. Everyone in our house has plenty of ambition and self-belief.

What I want is not to have to say the same things over and over again, many times a day, on some crazed audio loop.

I want the rules. Written down, so that I can take a break. I can just stand mutely and point to the appropriate stair or wall, instead.

RULE #1

Don’t throw balls inside. Don’t throw anything inside. Or kick or bounce anything inside. 

Let’s start with the elephant in the room. And by elephant I mean pretty much anything that can be launched in a missile-like manner. Windows, table lamps, picture frames and drinks have all been sorry casualties of the throwing/kicking/bouncing-things-inside game. The amorphous beauty of this game is that any person caught red-handed playing it can say, eyes wide in innocence, “Oh! I didn’t realise we weren’t allowed to throw elephants!” Or bounce sheep. Or kick pandas.

Evidence

Evidence

"I have no idea what you mean, I have never been used as a projectile."

“I have no idea what you mean, I have never been used as a projectile.”

"No, I just slipped on the stair. I know nothing about the wonky pictures on the wall."

“No, I just slipped on the stair. I know nothing about the wonky pictures on the wall.”

It’s not that I don’t like the boys to be active. We have a garden with an AstroTurf lawn, which is perfect for throwing and kicking. Even so, our back windows are liberally decorated with pretty ball imprints in a random pattern, a bit like year-round festive snowflakes.

The ball just wants to come inside. NEVER relax your guard.

Even the ball wants to come inside. NEVER relax your guard.

So this is my most important rule, and as such should feature on a wall, large, in Tahoma Bold. On particularly trying mornings, I am sometimes asked, “Can we roll things, then?” This makes me feel just that little bit more weary than I already was. On which note…

RULE #2

Nobody needs to wake up before seven.

This is a true word which none of my kids even remotely acknowledge. Every day, I say it. Sometimes I get out of bed and say it to the noisiest awake child actually in person. It doesn’t have to be this way. Most times I hide my head under my pillow and pretend that I wasn’t woken up before seven.

I would paint it on their ceilings, and the underside of the bunk bed, for Malachy, in special, glow-in-the-dark ink. I think if we catch them early enough, we may be able to change things. This is inextricably linked to…

RULE #3

No getting up before seven. Certainly no playing music or radios before seven. Definitely no jumping up and down or running loudly around the house before seven. You may read quietly before seven, if your eyes will simply not stay closed any more.

Like I say, nobody needs to wake up before seven. But since that is not a concept that my boys have ever grasped, the next priority is that we should try and minimise the impact on others. The problem here is that I don’t have a catch-all phrase for the variety of different things a boy can do before seven. It’s the sheer number of loud activities that defies the inspira-litigation approach I’d like to take. I could, I suppose, go down the route of addenda, or draw up a ‘definitions’ page on the back of the bathroom door.

RULE #4

Walk with your whole foot!

God made your foot to work in a smooth heel-toe motion

which enables you to go quietly when necessary.

If you walk on just your heels

you might as well have been given a stump or a hoof.

Heel walking sounds like someone is trying

to pogo-stick down the stairs

or buffalo are trying to break through the ceiling of my bedroom

(regarding which I refer you to the points written

on your bedroom ceilings regarding wake up times)

This could look good on the stair risers, no?

RULE #5

Please sit down while you are eating. You don’t need to get up. No. Sit down. On your bottom.

I was going to add something about knives and forks being used and not nibbling your food out of both hands like a squirrel, but I did read an advice column once about table manners which said you shouldn’t try to tackle too many issues at once as it can be confusing and demoralising. Since I am already pretty demoralised about what goes on around our table, we’ll stick with the basics. I can always upgrade if we ever make it past first base.

Clearly this is a perfect tablecloth design motif, along the lines of Not on the High Street products.

With Love Tablecloth from notonthehighstreet.com

With Love Tablecloth from notonthehighstreet.com

(You heard it here first).

RULE #6

Time to get your shoes on. Coat on. School bag. Lunch box.

It’s fine, I recognise that we haven’t got very far since my previous post on this matter. I do still yell “shoes ohhhhn!” most mornings. But it’s the process between initial shout and exit which I’d like to refine.

Somehow, this moment becomes the ideal opportunity to practise the piano. Then, everyone remembers how thirsty they are. Suddenly, we need to rearrange Match Attax cards in a different order and must finish the task. But we don’t have a ‘show and tell!’

The lack of focus is the thing. I think I need some sort of funnel-effect graphic on the floor towards the door. Oh yes, and…

RULE #7

Shut the door!

Or maybe I just give up on this and buy a spring-loaded hinge.

When it comes down to it, I suspect that even with the best calligraphy and most careful formatting, these helpful notices will be about as effective as my spoken nags reminders. That is, a sort of decorative white noise, for immediate mental relegation below the more important things of life, such as The Grand Prix, or Winning, or Who is More Famous: Wayne Rooney or The Pope?

Anyway, I have my own special written out rule, and it’s one I have heeded obediently since we received it as a wedding gift. I think it’s stood me in good stead over the years and I haven’t felt bored by its message yet.

A motto to live by

Finally, a wise motto to live by

 

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Zigzags and all things geometric are certainly a big influence at the moment, as you’ll have no doubt noticed from eye-crossing cushions to mind-expanding wallpaper in articles, blogs and shops. Rugs, curtains, even tiles laid in a balance-threatening skew are pretty much inevitable elements of any self-respecting modern interior.

So continuing in that direction, and if we cast our eyes downward, there is a slightly more subtle expression of chevron and pattern that has been gracing our floors for many generations. Yes, I bring you parquet, the wooden floor with a design slant.

Stockholm flat as advertised on estate agency Fantastic Frank

Stockholm flat as advertised on estate agency Fantastic Frank

If you’re lucky enough to be contemplating a new wood floor, or even any sort of flooring, then give this option some serious consideration.

Let me count the ways:

Full sweep/ Victorian home has tumbled parquet featured in House to Home

Full sweep/ Victorian home has tumbled parquet featured in House to Home

In a period home, parquet delivers continuity through different rooms, with subtle textural changes around doorways and edging. Many classic Parisian apartments feature dramatic parquet flooring, while the walls and other decor are left white in contrast.

There are plenty of wood floor craftsmen who will put together the little chunks of wood in your preferred pattern. The borders around the room can be emphasised with different coloured woods, literally drawing a line around the important features:

Classy wenge borders oak herringbone/ floor by Jordan Andrews Ltd

Classy wenge borders oak herringbone/ floor by Jordan Andrews Ltd

For a less classic look, and straying more into the Scandinavian style, the wood can be left unvarnished or very lightly so. The greyer shade makes for a calm and minimalist aesthetic, even with the pattern.

Simple herringbone featured on Las Cositas Beach & Eau blog

Simple herringbone featured on Las Cositas Beach & Eau blog

The further you go along this route, the more peaceful the room becomes. Here below the walls are also clad in a silvery shaded wood, so that every line is subtle, and light bounces off all the surfaces.

Pale and interesting/ white washed floors and walls feature on Houzz

Pale and interesting/ white washed floors and walls feature on Houzz

Alternatively, you may want to create the opposite effect, with some deep and moody darks. Imagine this scene below with a simple wood plank floor: certainly the intensity of the room would be diminished.

Dark and brooding/ Antwerp apartment from Dieter Vander Velpen

Dark and brooding/ Antwerp apartment from Dieter Vander Velpen on Pinterest

The introduction of pattern on any surface does impact the rest of the room: I don’t think I’d need to add a busy wallpaper if my flooring was this nicely patterned.

Whilst the blocky designs do look very ‘crafted’ — the least natural looking of all wood floors, really — it is possible to downplay this by leaving them unfinished. Look at how this flooring is left untreated in what is obviously a rather grand house, furnished with high-quality bathroom items. Almost bare and basic, but not quite.

Scruffy stately corner features sleek basinware/ featured in Greige blog

Scruffy stately corner features sleek basinware/ featured in Greige blog

The pieces of wood are also quite large, which makes for a completely different feel from the little busy blocks which feature in the older style parquet floors.

In this bathroom, wide planks are laid in parquet style chevrons, which plays some strange tricks with perspective and scale.

A tiny bath, or large planks laid in a herringbone pattern?

A tiny bath, or large planks laid in a herringbone pattern?

Of course, there is no rule which says you need to keep to traditional wood colours or a rigid pattern. The disintegration of the classic parquet patterning looks so effective here — the red and black patches making a pixelated stain on the shop floor:

Stella McCartney in Milan, designed by Raw Edges

Stella McCartney in Milan, designed by Raw Edges

Parquet is not just for floors, either. Check out these gorgeous table tops made from reclaimed wood by an innovative furniture making collective from Italy:

Hexagon parquet table from Controprogetto

Hexagon parquet table from Controprogetto

Close up/ wooden patchwork by Controprogetto

Close up/ wooden patchwork by Controprogetto

 

Recycled chic table top by Controprogetto

Recycled chic table top by Controprogetto

Which style do you lean towards? The honeyed tones of a classic installation, or the unvarnished greys of a more modern approach? With the continued development of more realistic wood-effect vinyl and ceramic/porcelain tiles, you don’t even need to commit to the real deal. But that’s a whole new blog post….

I know that dipping furniture is so 2012, and I am not going to patronise you with a selection of pictures, or pretend that it’s a new trend. If it happened to pass you by, you can get a very quick summary by typing ‘dipped furniture’ into Pinterest. Or even any search engine, for that matter.

However, I have always found it rather charming to see chairs nonchalantly kicking back under a table, pretending they haven’t been recently been trespassing into nearby paint pots. Or a sideboard that looks like it paddled too deep in a river of gold lacquer.

Ingenious upcycled sideboard featured on Burlap and Lace blog

Ingenious upcycled sideboard featured on Burlap and Lace blog

It’s clever because it’s funny, and because it is the opposite of reverent. I also happen to think it’s clever because I doubt I could recreate this lovely, precise technique in the manner of good DIY or Etsy practitioners. A few months ago I got a really sweet old fashioned school desk for Malachy’s room in one of our local charity shops. Part of me would love to have a go at dipping its little feet in some light blue, just to see how it turns out. But maybe I am project averse, and prefer to admire from afar….

Coral boots for this pale but pretty side table/ featured on Design Sponge

Coral boots for this pale but pretty side table/ featured on Design Sponge

Recently I think there’s more interest in reverse dipping, where the main body of the piece is painted, and just the very bottom of the legs are left bare. And this particular version of the technique looks all the world as if the chairs have decided to dress for the summer, and expose their ankles in a rather feminine capri pant effect. I love these chairs for their elegance: posing in two very different settings:

Barefoot on the geometric rug/ Scene from Domino Galleries

Barefoot on the geometric rug/ Scene from Domino Galleries

White features large/ Scene from Domino Galleries

White features large/ Scene from Domino Galleries

A couple of weeks ago, my sister sent me this cute pentagon stool, dressed for springtime. I enclose it for you as a postscript to my earlier taking sides post.

Urban Outfitters Pentagon Dipped Side Table

Urban Outfitters Pentagon Dipped Side Table

And finally, browsing on Design Milk, I was incredibly excited to see confirmation that the forthcoming AW chair fashion catalogues are already strides ahead: no furniture need go unprepared into the winter months with this:

For when it gets wintry again/ Bench with legwarmers from Side by Side, a not for profit German company

For when it gets wintry again/ Bench with legwarmers from Side by Side, a not-for-profit German company

One of the very fun-looking presents the boys have received in recent months was an origami kit, making cute animals out of nothing but small squares of paper (and, it turns out, deep reserves of patience). It sat in our craft pile for a while before Malachy found it one rainy afternoon and wanted to make his paper zoo.

It all seemed so easy.... / Wild and Wonderful Origami

It all seemed so easy…. / Wild and Wonderful Origami

It is possible that well-drilled craft-making children and their Pinterest-successful mothers can tackle these complex challenges with their eyes shut. After all, with paper that small, how hard can it be? Well, I can now tell you that it is in fact pretty hard, and requires a substantial amount of concentration and rule following, neither of which is particularly celebrated in our family, apart from on the football pitch, of course. The boys have all ‘had a go’ and then handed me the rather limp and wrinkly paper to ‘finish off.’ So we do have a slack-limbed sea otter and a wonky snake lurking in the green drawer of the sideboard (where craft goes to retire before being pensioned off, quietly and under cover of darkness, to the recycling bin) and the remaining kit is still full of potential design victories (ever optimistic) for next time there is a rainy afternoon.

No amount of Photoshop can hide the fact that this baby has never achieved the upright pose/Sea Otter: 'Easy'

No amount of Photoshop can hide the fact that this baby has never achieved the upright pose/Sea Otter: ‘Easy’

Which sorry background goes some way to explaining the admiration I have for this new Danish designer, and his amazing creations. Morten Droob has invented an origami lampshade called Dressed Up.

Shades of the dark arts/ Dressed Up origami lampshades from Droobski

Shades of the dark arts/ Dressed Up origami lampshades from Droobski

Folded paper lanterns and shades have long been popular, and at the moment you can see a lot of plain white wire-framed designs in the shops. Ikea alone have five:

Papery orbs from Ikea

Papery orbs and UFOs from Ikea

Additionally, the skirt-inspired shade is starting to make waves in some retail lines:

Neat little A-line from BHS, Ivory Pleated Bow; Lyrik from Ikea has petticoat charm; sweet little Etsy shop gem TutusafaribyApril; grass skirt from lights_linen on eBay

Neat little A-line from BHS, Ivory Pleated Bow; Lyrik from Ikea has petticoat charm; sweet little Etsy shop gem TutusafaribyApril; grass skirt from lights_linen on eBay

I love that Droobski manages to merge the two in this clever feat of paper engineering – there are no wire frames, simply origami wizardry. With their fulsome flamenco skirts and crisp pleats, Dressed Up shades come in a rainbow of colour options, all individually hand-folded at the artist’s work bench.

If you are looking for an inspiring piece of statement design for your room, this is such a perky and unique purchase. Check out the little vimeo clip on the Droobski website, on just how easy it is to attach and pop open your chosen shade.

As for me, I fold. In the manner of a poker game. And leave the proper folding to the experts.

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