Archives for the month of: September, 2014

When big changes occur, it’s necessary to take stock, and sometimes make amendments which affect the running of an organisation. In politics… and in my home.

Some new lodgers came to live with us recently, and we needed to free up some room for them in the kitchen. So, I have been doing some tidying.

Those who know me well will find that a surprising comment, witness my working space:

I know what's in there and I like it like that. My side of the desk....

DON’T TOUCH THIS! I know what’s in that pile and I like it like that. My side of the desk….

Neat worker. Tim keeps it slick.

Neat worker. Tim keeps it slick.

Kitchen re-ordering, on the other hand, is quite satisfying — it’s all about recognising how the room flows and the best way to maximise the (reduced) space. We do have quite a lot of storage built into this kitchen, so the streamlining process wasn’t too much of a trial, but I remembered how important it is that everything has its place. I have even written a strapline about it (see above for details).

When I am helping clients design their kitchen, I always recommend that they do an ‘audit’ of the items they have, how accessible they would like them to be, and which ones they use the most. Although that seems rather specific, it’s actually quite a quick process, because generally they already have pots, pans and plates in some sort of storage. So, it just means going through, cupboard by cupboard, and listing the items. Then, defining problem points — ie, our pans are all stacked in a dark cupboard, and the one I want is ALWAYS at the back — and finding a solution — let’s put your pans in deep drawers instead.

Even if you are not designing a new kitchen, it’s still possible to rearrange things to work better for you. So take a look around my kitchen storage, and I’ll suggest some helpful tips as we go:

Firstly, put the things you use the most in the easiest places to get to. I find deep drawers really easy to use because you can see the entire contents at a glance, and access everything with not too much fuss.

Plate drawer. Neatly stacked and ready to go.

Plate drawer. Neatly stacked and ready to go.

I don’t bother with drawer dividers (apart from those for cutlery) or plate stackers, as they tend to use up more space and make things less flexible. You may disagree!

Bowled over. These drawers are 80cm wide.

Bowled over. These drawers are 80cm wide.

The pans are just as easy to access: you can still stack them but the option to select from above, rather than crouching and grubbing around and removing others to get to the back, is infinitely preferable.

It's a spacious argument...

It’s a spacious argument…

Luxury lodgings

Wok luxury lodgings you have…

This plan is not half-baked

This plan is not half-baked.

These items were already happily homed and worked well for me, but there was one amendment to be made. Whilst the drawers are amazing and accessible, it’s not possible to make use of all the kitchen space in this way. If you imagine any kitchen, there is a lot of potential storage space up the walls as well as that in the floor based cabinets. Any cupboard above eye-level can’t have drawers, for obvious reasons. So the shelves have to suffice. My recommendation is that you find the items you use less regularly to put in these places. Unwisely, I put all our enormous salad bowls and serving plates in one of these high cupboards when I first filled the kitchen, and have been teetering on the edge of dropping them all on my head ever since.

I decided to reposition them in a drawer for easier access.

Hefty items need to be down low.

Hefty items need to be down low

I had used one of the deep drawers for the kids’ various plastic-ware, mainly so they could get to drinking cups and plates when needed. But we don’t use these baby bowls very much any more, and so I found a new home for them — in the corner cupboard.

We really only use the cups now....

No corner too deep…

Now the boys only really need to access the cups on a daily basis, so these are still easily reached by simply opening the cupboard door. These corner cupboards go very deep, but thanks to the pull-out trays, can hold a multitude of stuff.

There’s a picnic and lunchbox theme for the lower tray:

Lunchbox surplus shelf identified.

Lunchbox surplus shelf identified

Opposite, I have a satisfyingly organised tray for tupperware (never underestimate the calm of a well-sorted tupperware collection):

Stack the lids; stack the pots.

Stack the lids; stack the pots

And below, a tray for all the baking gadgets, jugs and other techie cookware:

Ready and waiting: easy to find and use

Ready and waiting: easy to find and use

The slim top drawers I use for cutlery and tools:

Drawer dividers rule here

Drawer dividers rule here

Bigger items. Wooden one side; plastic and metal the other

Bigger items. Wooden one side; plastic and metal the other

And I also have this useful drawer for flat things:

Particularly useful for wraps, bags and foils... and chopsticks!

Particularly useful for wraps, bags and foils… and chopsticks!

Under the sink I have put useful cleaning stuff (and the food bin):

It's all out of sight. Keep your work area sleek and clear.

It’s all out of sight. Keep your work area sleek and clear

And below that the cleaning cloths and towels:

Not forgetting our fire safety....

Not forgetting our fire safety….

We prefer to keep our worktops pretty clear, but I also know that if you put appliances away in cupboards, you’ll rarely use them. So we found a compromise with this sliding cupboard to keep the microwave, toaster and food mixer in:

Now you see 'em...

Now you see ’em…

...now you don't.

…now you don’t.

The coffee machine gets to stay out. Priorities….

The high cupboards are great for smaller items or kits that only come out now and then.

Wine glasses, smart tea set and trays at the top (the trays are high but easy to reach because they're not sitting underneath other things)

Wine glasses, smart tea set and trays at the top (the trays are high but easy to reach because they’re not sitting underneath other things)

Mugs, jugs and tea....

Mugs, jugs and tea….

Glasses and drinks awaiting a fridge space (and a first aid box at the very top)

Glasses and drinks awaiting a fridge space (and a first aid box at the very top)

The cupboard clearance meant that I had to redistribute food into different locations – I opted for the lower shelves in the tall cupboards, because they’re pretty much eye level:

Non-fridge veg, nuts and dried fruit; bakeware; and vases at the top

Non-fridge veg, nuts and dried fruit; bakeware; and vases at the top

You’ll see I’ve used little baskets in here. I find that if you have small items strewn over a shelf it’s very difficult to locate them. However it is very easy to lift down a box and rummage through that. I did the same with the crisp packets in the cupboard next door:

Crisps coralled in big box. Cans occupy the shelf below.

Crisps coralled in big box. Cans occupy the shelf below

I simply can't do another thing. I'll just lie here and help by sitting right in the middle of the kitchen as you move things around.

I simply can’t do another thing. I’ll just lie here and help by sitting right in the middle of the kitchen as you move things around.

In the interests of keeping everything behind closed doors, we customised our wine rack to fit inside a cupboard:

Wine not? Modified wine rack

Wine not? Modified wine rack

The lower parts of the tall cabinets are larders. I have sectioned food groups in the following way:

Top shelf Nespresso capsules, bottom shelf pasta, grains, and an enormous sack of rice.

Top (slim) shelf Nespresso capsules, bottom shelf pasta, grains, and an enormous sack of rice

Baking supplies.

Baking supplies

Soooo many spices. I group them in sections -- whole spices, ground and herbs.

Soooo many spices. I group them in sections — whole spices, ground and herbs

Some people like to have a wall-hung spice rack for all the little jars, but I normally have quite a few outsize or quirky-shaped containers with interesting mixes. So a drawer like this seems to be the best option. To improve it further, I’m thinking of getting a battery operated cupboard light to stick onto the base of the drawer above. The only issue with these big pull-out cupboards is that they’re not very well lit.

Cereal haven below, then jars, teas and coffees, and finally, crucially, treats.

Cereal haven below, then jars, teas and coffees, and at the top, crucially, treats

Never underestimate the uncouth bulkiness of your cereal packets – they are tall and ripped and always dribble grains. In our house, we get through cereal like locusts, and a quantity such as you see displayed above can be decimated in the space of a week.

There are no rules to planning out your kitchen storage, but as you can see, it is possible to get things neatly stowed in places that work well for you. My recent shift around has caused a few wrong turns (in fact, I omitted to tell the smallest two members of the family, who purportedly went ‘without a drink’ for two days before being redirected to the plastic cups’ new home (don’t worry, they didn’t really, they’re just exaggerating)) but overall increased efficiency in our home environment.

It honestly didn’t take me very long, either, maybe an hour? So why not give it a try? And if you’re planning a new kitchen, definitely draw up that list. You’ll be grateful you did.

That was most exhausting. And I don't know where the Cat Treats are any more.

That was most exhausting. And I don’t know where the Cat Treats are any more.

Rather a long time ago, when Tim and I renovated our first home in West London, we heard about a new little company which had a very different attitude to vinyl flooring. If anyone had mentioned the word vinyl, in fact, I think we would have run for the hills, since our experience of the material thus far had been (generally sticky) ginger-coloured false tiles in desperately cluttered and dark kitchens, or perhaps some peeling mould-ridden offering abutting the shower in student lodgings. Instead, this company, which turned out to be Harvey Maria, marketed themselves as ‘No More Boring Flooring’ (complete with url) and used new exciting techniques to print photographic images onto floor tiles.

We were rather smitten, and opted for a bold water image for our tiny bathroom:

Vintage Harvey Maria tiles - they don't make them (exactly) like that any more

Vintage Harvey Maria tiles – they don’t make them (exactly) like that any more

You can still get a version of this tile from them now, called Pacific. I think they work best when set against a bright white, with not too much else going on — remember you’re after a dreamy Maldives holiday vibe, not Brentford Leisure Pool.

Water is not the only evocative image: you can go for grass, or even some good old Brit beach pebbles:

Clench those toes: Harvey Maria 'Stones" vinyl tile

Clench those toes: Harvey Maria ‘Stones” vinyl tile

Although I have to admit the soles of my feet ache just looking at all those knobbly cobbles. I think I’d have to wear flip flops.

Since then further advances have been made in vinyl floor technology. The company Murafloor offers a bespoke photographic flooring service, not unlike the wall murals I was telling you about a few months ago. Browse their website for inspirational images, like this lunar aspect:

One small step for man... 'Full Moon' flooring from Murafloor

One small step for man… ‘Full Moon’ flooring from Murafloor

Submit your room size and shape, and they’ll create a sheet of flooring exactly to fit. If their broad range of ideas isn’t enough for you, there’s always Shutterstock for the full gamut of stock photos. Of course, this all comes at a price, and whilst it is certainly eye-catching and individual, it’s not the budget way to create a glamorous room.

And so we reach the third and final episode in my tour of vinyl flooring. Pattern. It’s not pretending to be wood or stone, and it’s as vibrant or as plain as you need. 

How about this Friesian print tile, which makes for a quirky alternative to a cowhide rug:

I herd you had a new floor... it's udderly brilliant... a mooving sight... /stowed may need to go and have a lie down after thinking up all those cow jokes

I herd you had a new floor… it’s udderly brilliant… a mooving sight… (stowed heads for a lie-down after dreaming up all those bovine gags)

To break up the pattern a little, a plain wood strip frames these cow tiles into groups of four. It contains the random splodges of black and helps to structure the floor space. 

This technique works for any busy design, so if you’re thinking of being daring with your flooring, but need to keep the craziness in check, that’s where having a vinyl floor can really help. You’re essentially achieving a mixed-materials look with just one material. This example below looks at first glance like a patch of ceramic tile surrounded by a dark wood: 

In the frame/ Harvey Maria Parquet tiles by Neisha Crosland

In the frame/ Harvey Maria Parquet tiles by Neisha Crosland

 

Once you have got to grips with the potential in this mixing and matching, a world of colour, texture and pattern is open to you. Take a look at this eye-catching suggestion from Amtico, using slashes of bright orange set against a fabric texture and a darker relief. The resulting pattern is full of energy and depth:

Cutting and sticking/ Amtico's Infinity Flare design uses strips of different floor tiles

Cutting and sticking/ Amtico’s Infinity Flare design uses strips of different floor tiles

There are of course some patterns which don’t leap out quite as dramatically. This spotty offering by Cath Kidston seems at close range to be a little eye-boggling:

Sometimes the simple ones are the best/ Harvey Maria Spot Stone

Sometimes the simple ones are the best/ Harvey Maria Spot Stone

But installed in a small space and viewed as a whole, has a pleasingly simple and regular format. 

Lesser spotted bathroom floor/ Harvey Maria Spot Stone

Lesser spotted bathroom floor/ Harvey Maria Spot Stone

Why not add some texture with this rubber flooring featuring retro spots:

Rubber-ly floor/ Harvey Maria Peppermint

Rubber-ly floor/ Harvey Maria Peppermint

It might look a little like living on Lego bricks (though obviously not as painful if you tread on it in the dark).

On the subject of textured floor you can also consider the treadplate pattern — we have a very low-budget version from Carpetright which has been incredibly good natured and hard-wearing in the boys’ bathroom:

Locker room chic/ sheet vinyl (now discontinued) from Carpetright

Locker room chic/ sheet vinyl (now discontinued) from Carpetright

You can’t buy it from there any more, but a quick internet trawl has brought up Flooring Supplies Direct who supply something similar, and the firm LSI who make a version too (the aluminium shade is called Armour).

Another texture to get the vinyl treatment recently is leather. 

Clubby class/ Harvey Maria Olive Leather

Clubby class/ Harvey Maria Olive Leather

Strong and dark furnishings show this one off the best: it wouldn’t do so well with chintz. 

Just as encaustic and highly decorated ceramic tiles are blossoming on the walls and floors of many a fashion interior, so vinyl is following. Check out this magical two-tone tile from Murafloor, which looks stunning set against a bare concrete wall:

Morocco from murafloor

Dark arts/ Morocco by Murafloor

Or this from Zazous, channelling retro charm:

I think we can hold back on the wallpaper here/ Rosemary by Zazous

I think we can hold back on the wallpaper here/ Rosemary by Zazous

Do you dare? It’s not for the faint-hearted.

Finally, for the room which just needs a splash of colour, why not put down your paint brushes, give the walls a rest, and treat your floor to a bold and bright shade instead? 

Walking on sunshine/ bright Pistachio flooring from Harvey Maria

Walking on sunshine/ bright Pistachio flooring from Harvey Maria

So many options, so much flexibility. I hope you’ve enjoyed my flooring tour, and that it’s given you some new inspiration.

Remember: vinyl is no longer the ugly sister of the flooring world — maybe now it’s her turn to go to the ball….

[As you might well know, this is a concluding statement so wildly at odds with my daily life that it is akin to speaking a foreign language. Nevertheless, sometimes only a princess metaphor will do. Just sometimes.]

 

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