Archives for category: Bath

I would say that generally there’s a rule about bathrooms, which is that should someone move to a new home, and find within it a bathroom suite that is not white, the introductory tour to friends would go something like this:

“And here’s the bathroom! Of course, we’re going to get rid of that avocado suite as soon as possible!”

And if I was asked to advise on updating bathrooms in that situation, I’d assume that the home owner was in the right.

Urk, where do we start? Apartment Therapy readers' dilemma

Urk, where do we start? Apartment Therapy readers’ avocado-based dilemma posed in “Good Questions,” 2009

So I was initially surprised by a recent design job where my client wanted to Keep The Suite. The shade was one called Pampas, and actually, when I started to consider it, would fit in unobtrusively amongst the Farrow and Ball ‘Greens’ collection.

Well helloo. Pampas shade of bathroom is at home with a shabby chic vibe

Well helloo. Pampas shade of bathroom is at home with a shabby chic vibe

It’s pale, and reminiscent with its sage tones of a lot of the upcycled furniture that populates eBay.

This cabinet is painted in vert de terre from F&B -- one of many reconditioned items to be found for sale

This cabinet is painted in ‘vert de terre’ from F&B — one of many reconditioned items to be found for auction online

With this in mind, creating a design around the suite was actually quite satisfying. These pale greens look too stark set against a brilliant white, they fit in more snugly with cream or natural woods. Any paintwork we do will be cream, and the overall effect we’re aiming for will be restful and calm.

The floor was the first thing I felt we had to pin down, and I was looking for a light, yellow-based wood effect. We found a wonderful vinyl by Amtico called Bamboo:

Bamboo theme vinyl floor by Amtico has a retro feel to it

Bamboo theme vinyl floor by Amtico has a retro feel to it

The next challenge was the wall tiles. Lynne likes limestone with nice geological markings, so we set out to find a match for the floor and Pampas colour.

The Pampas soap dish takes an outing to Tiles UK...

The Pampas soap dish takes an outing to Tiles UK…

It was surprisingly hard to get a complementary shade: too dark and the room would have looked murky; some tile colours looked great with the Pampas but terrible with the floor; others were too busy, or too grey, or too pink. Finally we found a lovely stone effect tile called Legend Marfil which had just the right amount of detail, a pale colour and even at a good price (around £15 a square metre).

Not too busy, not too dark, not too pink, not too pale: this tile is just right/ Legend Marfil from Tiles UK

Not too busy, not too dark, not too pink, not too pale: this tile is just right/ Legend Marfil from Tiles UK

The Seventies-design taps needed updating from the ubiquitous squat and dated basics…

WARNING: WE WILL DATE YOUR BATHROOM. IMMEDIATELY.

WARNING: WE’RE CHEAP BUT WE WILL NOT IMPROVE YOUR BATHROOM

… to some classy crossheads:

Stately traditional taps strike a confident pose

Stately traditional taps strike a confident pose/ Coniston bath taps by Victoria Plumb

And at the windows a natural wood effect slatted blind will be fixed, to filter the light.

Sable Venetian Blinds in Ecowood by 247blinds

Sable Venetian Blinds in Ecowood by 247blinds

Another important issue was the bath side, which back in its heyday would have doubtless sported a creaky plastic Pampas panel. We intend to bring it gently up to date with wooden cladding instead: so much more solid.

Like this, but just the bath side - so much more solid than a bath panel

Like this, but just the bath side/ photo from bighouseholidays: The Lookout House, Thorpeness

If there is room for storage (we’re going to have to wait and see after everything has been installed), we did find a fantastic range from Victoria Plumb called “Camberley.” It has cabinets in what seems like a matching shade:

What a lot of lovely storage. Camberley Sage from Victoria Plumb

What a lot of lovely storage. Camberley Sage tall cabinet from Victoria Plumb

Whether it is or not remains to be seen. If we’re feeling lucky we’ll order one up and check. Otherwise there are handy options in other stores, such as this bamboo and chrome wall shelf…

Tesco's bamboo wall shelf

Tesco’s bamboo wall shelf

… this cool locker cabinet…

Bamboo cabinet from Argos

Bamboo cabinet from Argos

… or this ladder storage:

Floor-standing box storage also from Argos

Floor-standing box storage also from Argos

If the Camberley range works for us, we can opt for their mirror and wall cabinet:

Slim cabinet for useful bathroom storage

Slim cabinet for useful bathroom storage

Camberley mirror

Camberley mirror

Otherwise a wood-framed mirror and possibly a cream-coloured cabinet would work ok. We’re also toying with the idea of paint colour-matching the Pampas shade, buying a cheap wooden cabinet, and simply painting it.

Work is already in progress, it shouldn’t be long before I can show you the room in all its peaceful perfection.

In the meantime, since starting this job, I have been mulling about daring interior design – where you leap for what you love and see where that takes you – and the contrasting blandification of houses which don’t scare estate agents but equally don’t give anything away about the character of the people who live there.

The basin and bath are unashamedly green in designer Luke Mortimer's home/ house tour by Design Sponge, 2012

The basin and bath are unashamedly green in Australian designer Luke Mortimer’s home. House tour by Design Sponge, 2012

Bold coloured sinks and taps from Byggfabriken on Pinterest

Bold coloured sinks and taps from Byggfabriken on Pinterest

I know which side I lean on. How about you?

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One of the best things about swapping in vinyl for wood is that you can fool people with the texture and feel to create a floor that can be easily mistaken for the real thing. However with stone, this is not an option, because the cold hard truth about stone is that it’s cold and hard. And these are not vinyl’s selling points. The qualities you’re looking for in a stone-effect vinyl floor are therefore different, and probably most appropriate to a climate which doesn’t need cold and hard flooring.

So if you’re living in a nice warm country with too much heat, I think you’re best off keeping vinyl flooring out of your kitchen. Go for the lovely real stone! Or tiles. Revel in the cool beneath your toes. Sigh with relief as you step inside from the baking midday sun and place your simmering soles on the reassuringly refreshing slabs of chill respite.

French farmhouse gives masterclass in chic stone floors/ Elle Meyers blogspot

French farmhouse gives masterclass in chic stone floors/ Elle Meyers blogspot

Now back to Manchester. You’ll be looking for something cosy, then. But why not use those calm tones of colour and pattern in your flooring? This is where the vinyl comes in. Sleek or textured, in sheets or tiled, the floor will be reminiscent of the stone that inspired it, but with added warmth, ease of fitting and a forgivingly soft surface (yup, hold tight to your glassware, sunny weather people).

The softness of the matt finish on this Polyflor tile is really effective in this photo…

Calm greys with Polyflor's Colonia Balmoral Slate

Calm greys with Polyflor’s Colonia Balmoral Slate

While more of a sheen appears on this bathroom floor.

Karndean Opus creates a sleek bathroom floor

Karndean Opus creates a sleek effect

Not just for bathrooms or kitchens, a work space can be neatly finished with this functional flooring:

Carpetright/Tarkett offer a budget option with this sheet vinyl: Titan II Ibitha

Carpetright/Tarkett offer a budget option with this sheet vinyl: Titan II Ibitha

Sometimes it doesn’t need to look realistic — the stone features can provide a fantastic base for a pattern…

Sense of pattern: Karndean Navarra Chalk

Setting a theme: Karndean Navarra Chalk

Conversely a subtle wash of colour gives a more neutral base.

Channelling the limestone shades/ Karndean Looselay Indiana

Channelling the limestone shades/ Karndean Looselay Indiana

Amtico Riverstone Tundra

Amtico Riverstone Tundra

Amtico Jura Beige

Amtico Jura Beige

Amtico Dry Stone SIenna

Amtico Dry Stone Sienna

Don’t be restrained in the way you lay them — use a variety of small and large tiles, a strict brickwork design or maybe long planks.

Mix it up/ Karndean Hern Art Select

Mix it up/ Karndean Hern Art Select

Grid-work style/ Amtico Stria Volcanic

Grid-work style/ Amtico Stria Volcanic

Dark and brooding/ Amtico Cadence Delta

Dark and brooding/ Amtico Cadence Delta

Why not dabble with ultra-trendy concrete flooring, without the hassle of pouring and polishing?

Concrete evidence/ Harvey Maria's Ando Concrete

Concrete evidence/ Harvey Maria’s Ando Concrete

Take the opportunity to design something just that little bit different and personal! Remember, the product is just the starting point. It’s all about what you do with it.

Next time, we’re going out on a limb with photographic images and eye-boggling patterns, in the final stage of my vinyl tour.

 

 

 

 

 

Ok, so it’s a bit previous to be declaring such a warmongering title, but I do believe it’s only a matter of time before people realise quite how things have changed in the vinyl flooring world.

There was a time when the very concept couldn’t be approached without a sneer, and an acknowledgement that anyone who chose this option for their floors was likely devoid of taste or creativity. But oh my friends, don’t be hasty. Take a look at this, and then think again.

First of all is the wood effect look.

All around the house, wood can be a wonderful, warm looking and feeling surface to have as your floor. We have sanded boards over two floors, and new engineered planks in the kitchen. However, I’ve admitted some of the drawbacks of these, too, where the gaps between boards let in arctic-style draughts, and even engineered boards can be temperamental when faced with dramatic changes in temperature. Damp is another huge threat to wood’s good looks.

Just.... lie.... down! Wikihow shows how it's not done.

Just…. lie…. down! Wikihow shows how it’s not done

If you scour photo galleries of beautiful bathrooms, you’re sure to see some Eastern-inspired wet rooms with spectacular examples of woods as shower trays and wet room floors. But practically in a more moisture-ridden climate, this sort of thing simply wouldn’t work. I don’t advise people to have wooden floors in their bathrooms unless they are convinced of their ability to keep damp towels hanging well away, drips to a minimum, and splashing from shower or bath constantly under control. Even in this case, you would do best to have engineered planks instead of solid wood, because the high level of humidity from showers and baths is likely to cause bowing and warping.

If you're having real wood problems I feel bad for you son.... When damp strikes

If you’re having real wood problems I feel bad for you son…. When damp strikes

Or.

You could consider vinyl.

Vinyl is not scared of water, and you can happily install it in any bathroom. The glue seals it completely and of course it doesn’t react in any way to puddles of water on its surface, because it’s impervious. There are no settling in periods, no extreme reactions, obligations to re-varnish or re-sand.

Here are some of my favourite brands:

First up is one of the most expensive, Amtico, who boast high quality and an enormous range.

Amtico's 'Quill Gesso, with natty blocked sections to create interest

Amtico’s ‘Quill Gesso, with natty blocked sections to create interest

Amtico's 'Natural Limed Wood' blocks in a parquet design. What's not to like?

‘Natural Limed Wood’ blocks in a parquet design. What’s not to like?

Amtico 'Fumed Oak' is perfect for that library look

‘Fumed Oak’ is perfect for that library look

Karndean is another well-known and long-serving brand, with some particularly realistic woods:

Karndean 'Canadian Maple' adds a clean, warm touch to a bathroom

‘Canadian Maple’ adds a clean, warm touch to a bathroom

Karndean's 'Arno Smoked Oak' on the diagonal

‘Arno Smoked Oak’ on the diagonal

Clever edging makes this Karndean 'Aran Oak' flooring look neatly finished

Clever edging makes this Karndean ‘Aran Oak’ flooring look neatly finished

One of my favourite brands for their innovative styling and realistic designs is Harvey Maria.

Gorgeous nautical vibe from Harvey Maria 'Marine'

Gorgeous nautical vibe from Harvey Maria ‘Marine’

Harvey Maria 'Aged Oak' does a good job of looking real

‘Aged Oak’ does a good job of looking real

There are plenty of other brands out there: one I haven’t used but looks attractive is Avenue Floors.

'Camargue' from Avenue Floors gives good contrast

‘Camargue’ from Avenue Floors gives good contrast

And representing the commercial ranges (but with a domestic arm too) is Polyflor.

Polyfloor mix it up with chevrons made from 'Black Elm' and 'White Oak'

Polyflor mix it up with chevrons made from ‘Black Elm’ and ‘White Oak’

Huge variety here, and choosing your ‘wood’ colour is just the beginning. As you’ve seen from Karndean’s attention to edges, and the mixing up espoused by Polyflor and Amtico, you can literally cut and paste your designs to be as individual as you dare.

You might remember I did exactly that with our guest bathroom, which uses Harvey Maria ‘Tan’ planks surrounding a jaunty blue striped ‘rug’ that sits under the bath.

Note the texture, these planks seem real

Note the texture, these planks seem so real

Glory! An inspired flooring choice

Glory! An inspired flooring choice

Up close, the change in pattern, sealed effectively

Up close, the change in pattern, sealed effectively

Am I beginning to change your mind? We’ll tackle stone effects next time. So if the ceramics are just too chilly for you, maybe there’s a cosier solution.

The sound of the Living Etc magazine hitting my door mat each month is a pleasing thud of promised inspiration: and June’s issue has surpassed my expectations. I recognised old friends in the form of furniture and designs, and found myself meandering into new territory entirely with some surprising meetings of colour and texture.

First up was the sight of these familiar rocks lurking in a grey-toned room:

Goodness knows what we'll do with them when they hatch..../ Livingstones' pebble poufs

Goodness knows what we’ll do with them when they hatch…./ Living Stones’ pebble poufs

It’s a different designer and store from the one featured in my pouf! post, and I’m pretty sure you can get cheaper versions on eBay too. It looks like the word stoneware is about to take on an alternative meaning.

Then the cobalt Shibori print from Scion caught my eye, which I’d hankered after as a wallpaper at the end of last year. The ink blotted design works so well on fabric, and this featured bedroom is wonderful:

Scion print duvet set: when it's entirely appropriate to launder your bed linen in public

Scion Shibori print duvet set: making it entirely appropriate and tasteful to launder your bed linen in public

Explorations with wire-based furniture potential continue with this eye-boggling collection by Jinil Park:

Doodle becomes real/ Wire furniture by

Doodle becomes real/ Drawings furniture by Jinil Park at Viaduct

I would love to see this in the flesh – or in the wire, or however you might want to describe it. It looks, as the name suggests, exactly like a line drawing, with the ‘scribbles’ so flat on the page. Such a clever, humorous and striking piece of design.

Focussing downward for a moment, it’s hard not to be impressed by this exceptional wooden flooring, which isn’t even the subject of this particular article:

I see your geometric parquet, and I raise you an ornate multi-wood pattern

I see your geometric parquet, and I raise you an ornate multi-wood pattern

After all that parquet obsessing a few weeks ago, I spotted it right away.

Following the reminiscing, I was struck by some new and inspiring ideas. This patio wall covering is a superb endeavour: whoever said all your best house ideas had to stay inside?

Too bright for inside/ spectacular garden tiling

Take it outside/ spectacular garden tiling

The tiles are by Neisha Crosland, called Navajo and made by De Ferranti. At £540 a square metre these are not a budget option, but surely this concept opens a gateway to a myriad outdoor possibilities.

I surprised myself with the next realisation. This is because I am not generally a ‘pink’ type of person. I don’t really do girlie shades, and shy away from the bolder statement brights as well. But as I glanced at this page, I remembered that there is a pink I do like:

Dusky. A sort of pink I like.

Dusky. A sort of pink I like.

I suppose there is a lot of brown in this pink, and the shade seems quite a natural one. It also doesn’t look like it needs to remain quite as clean, which in my house would definitely be a positive.

A grubbier shade of pink.

A grubbier shade of pink.

I’m still not saying I’d need to do a whole room this way. Just one item would be fine.

When I was planning for our wood-effect/Japanese-inspired ensuite shower room, I kept looking out for wooden duck boards to incorporate into the shower ‘exit area.’ The problem with the products I found then was that they were bulky, very solid, and threatened to have the potential to get quite warped after a few months of soggy footfall.

Teak bathmat from Waterworks, approx £153

Roll up: Teak bathmat from Waterworks, approx £153

This handsome piece is a lot more subtle and flexible: slightly steep price for a bathmat notwithstanding.

I love the following picture for the strongly veined marble, orange-toned wood, brash dark green plant and glinting copper pendants. You can’t undertake a tour of any self-respecting design magazine or blog at the moment and not see marble. It is boldly featured throughout bathrooms and kitchens, in enormous slabs and in slivers of tiny tiles.

Marbellous decor

Marbellous decor

I suppose it’s a step on from the travertine and limestone shades which have populated our homes, and particularly bathrooms, and corresponds to the colour obsession of the moment. As modern paint trends have moved away from brown and yellow undertones (beiges, creamy whites, even magnolia) to the more sultry ranges of grey, so the accompanying natural materials need to fit in with the scheme.

I have seen lots of excited response from designers to online interiors retailer Rockett St George’s products recently. I’ve always been fascinated by the tin tiles used to glamorise ceilings, and thought they’d  make a superb splashback. Here a bed headboard is putting on the glitz.

Tin-spired headboard/ Rockett St George find a new use for the classic tin ceiling tile

Tin-spired headboard/ Rockett St George suggest a new use for the classic ceiling tile, part of their new collection

And finally – what a beautiful kitchen! – of Portuguese artist Ana Vichgal. These reclaimed blue ceramic tiles are gloriously distressed, set against simple white kitchen units, delicately pale work surfaces and simple grey floor.

New lease of life: reclaimed tiles in an artist's kitchen

New lease of life: reclaimed tiles in an artist’s kitchen

Lots of food for thought with the creative ideas here. Thanks Living Etc for a great read!

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….

The Metro tile: ubiquitous wall decor for any Scandi-chic kitchen, or retro bathroom, or pretty much any other style in between. This handy little brick-shaped slip of ceramic has stacked itself neatly into thousands of well-appointed homes, and love for its understated simplicity does not seem to be abating any time soon.

A few years ago, in the first forays, you mainly saw them bravely displayed with industrial rawness, alongside austere metalworks and stark monochromes.

From Remodelista blog, industrial style bathroom

From Remodelista blog, industrial style bathroom

Since then, we have softened and warmed their settings, with woods and colours, making the most of their unobtrusive blankness to provide a backdrop to a thousand different styles. Essentially, these are neutral, easy-to-clean brick walls. Familiar pattern, simple elegance.

It is natural, then, to declare that your splashback or bathroom scheme will be ‘metro tiles,’ but this is in fact still quite a long way from a decision. Thankfully I have stepped up to this job and done the research for you, so you can read this and simply go ahead and order.

If the bevelled edges of the original Paris Metro are still your dream, then take a look at Topps Tiles Metro White at £23 a box (covers a square metre) full of 20cm by 10cm tiles.

Topps Tiles White Metro, bevelled jewels in a kitchen

Topps Tiles White Metro, bevelled jewels in a kitchen

Or instead, if you visit the branch I do, you could pop next door to Al Murad. They come in at 20cm by 10cm and will set you back only £14.99 per metre. Choose between a plain and simple matte finish or a more reflective gloss.

Matte or gloss: choices abound

Matte or gloss: choices abound

Al Murad's version is comparable but competes on price

Al Murad’s version is comparable but wins on price

Online stores also offer cheaper versions (Tile HQ are selling at a price-busting £9.22 per metre at the moment…).

You may however have a desire for a flat and minimal effect, but keeping the brick design. Fired Earth have some inspirational examples of both the bevelled and the flat in their Retro Metro range. The flat are slightly smaller at 15cm by 7.5cm: the white is called South Kensington and demanding high-end prices at (a currently reduced) £63.73 per metre. The glaze is crackled and adds to a vintage vibe, and I have no doubt these would look stunning in most settings.

Fired Earth's wall-warming selection of seasonal colours

Fired Earth’s wall-warming selection of seasonal colours

This flatter version was the style of tiles my friend Emma wanted for her kitchen. After she described it to me, I found a useful picture on the front of my trusty Living Etc magazine which confirmed the overall look.

Metro-clad kitchen graces Living Etc's front cover

Metro-clad kitchen graces Living Etc’s front cover

I went searching and came up with Walls and Floors’ White Chapel Tiles at a cool £19.75 per metre. They are gloss and flat little tiles, simple and perfect to cover any wall.

Walls and Floors' White Chapel tile

Walls and Floors’ White Chapel tile

We appointed our builder and I chose the grout. The details on a little job like retiling make a huge difference. While tiles are for the most part good tempered and wipeable, the grainy material between is quite another story. Inevitably white turns to a brownish sludge at best, at worst becomes patched with orange or green.

What lovely white grout gleams from this photoshoot/ Original Source's Metro tiles set in pristine conditions

What lovely white grout gleams from this photoshoot/ Original Source’s Metro tiles set in pristine conditions

Most tile retailers offer a massive selection of antibacterial grouts and cleaning solutions, but in fact current trends work in our favour here. Grey is, as we’ve seen, most definitely colour of the moment, and between the tiles is no exception. The shade does define the tiles more, like a subtle web of pencil outlines, but where the little accidents of life occur — the blender rebels riotously over the walls, a kids’ biscuit-icing session goes off-piste, spatters of tomato paste make their livid way inexorably onto every surface you ever had — you have a forgiving base to which you can return with a wipe of a cloth. So BAL’s Micromax Smoke it was.

Save yourself a job: BAL grout in Smoke

Save yourself a job: BAL grout in Smoke

Emma’s kitchen was a little dark between cupboards before — you can just about see the moss-green tiling scheme in these pictures:

Before: Emma's greenish wals....

Before: Emma’s greenish walls…

But now the perky little metro tiles have been fitted, this space is bright and fresh.

After -- a light and bright space

…and after: a light and bright space

And in the evening cosy lighting

In the evening, cosy lighting

She was so happy with it that she styled a photoshoot in it for a new favourite range of homeware. Check it out on her blog here.

Meanwhile, on a roll, I have continued to clock how these little tiles are being used in new and exciting ways. I think my favourite variation on the theme so far has to be these marble brick tiles from Original Style. Stockists are dotted around the country and you’d need to contact them for prices, but what a great combination:

Delicately veined marble brick tiles give a translucent glow to this bathroom/ Original Style

Delicately veined marble brick tiles give a translucent glow to this bathroom/ Original Style Viano White Honed Bevel Marble

I suspect that the little brick tile is only just getting started. Materials and treatments will be expanded this year, and I can’t wait to find out how.

I had a great week last week setting up a friend’s kitchen makeover. I can show you photos, we’re both really pleased with how it turned out — more on that very soon. But it almost didn’t happen at all.

As we chatted before Christmas, she admitted that she’d love a change in her kitchen, but that it would probably cost too much, she couldn’t bear the hassle and simply didn’t have time. Working full time, with a family and many other pressing commitments besides, the prospect of wading through product research, builder-selecting and overseeing a project was an incredibly unattractive one. So we talked through what she’d like, ideally, and what would induce her to go ahead. And as we discussed it, I realised that a lot of people feel the same about making changes to their homes.

I know the look I want but I don’t know how to get it

Sometimes you know exactly what you want done to your kitchen.

Plywood stars in House OM designed by Sou Fujimoto Architects, photo by Iwan Baan

Plywood stars in House OM designed by Sou Fujimoto Architects, photo by Iwan Baan

You have seen the perfect bathroom in a magazine, and you only wish you could snap your fingers and have it.

Going for gold: who said we had to stop at the taps?/ Lasa Idea Catalogue Collections 2014

Going for gold: who said we had to stop at the taps?/ Lasa Idea Catalogue Collections 2014

You might know that you like a certain style: ‘I live in a Victorian house so I would like to have classic styling in my bathrooms.’

Country house bathroom featured in Homes and Gardens

Country house bathroom featured in Homes and Gardens

Maybe it is simply that you prefer things sleek and don’t want to have all your cookware on show.

What do you mean, it'll all change when we have kids? Segmento kitchen from Poggenpohl boasts unadorned minimalism

What do you mean, it’ll all change when we have kids? Segmento kitchen from Poggenpohl boasts unadorned minimalism

It’s a big jump from these statements to finding the right products, at the best prices, to fit in your rooms. Wouldn’t it be good if there was someone who knew exactly where to look for the special deals, could discuss the pros and cons of different items, and could ensure that everything fitted together properly?

I don’t know a trustworthy tradesman

Sadly cowboy builders are not unheard of. Most people can recount horror stories of jobs left half done or how poor fitting led to leaky ceilings, wonky cabinetry or worse. But there are plenty of fantastic craftsmen out there who work hard, and create beautiful homes. A good professional recommendation is so valuable.

I don’t have the time to get quotes, let builders in, keep an eye on the work done, or ensure that everything is done properly

If you are working and/or out of the house in the daytime, a simple building job can be a huge pressure. You need the time to talk through the job and get quotes, then be ‘on site’ throughout to check on progress, and keep works on track and to schedule. Imagine if someone took all these pressures out of your hands!

I’m not the sort of person who has an interior designer

Most people think of an interior designer as someone who swans about in houses making airy decisions about fabrics, colour ways or recommending expensive luxury furniture. They seem the preserve of the rich, not those with limited budgets seeking practical solutions.

In fact, if you recognise some or all of the sentiments I’ve mentioned above, it’s almost certain that you can save your time, money and stress by employing someone to take these jobs on for you. Sourcing, tendering and project management are all areas of building work that are often bewildering and exhausting. It is not surprising that most people are nervous to undertake new projects, but if they could save on the cost of products, have peace of mind on their choice of builder, and not get embroiled in the minutiae of the job, maybe they’d feel differently.

So if you’d like to spend less, not more, you probably need to come to stowed for some skinterior design.

One of the loveliest interiors looks around at the moment incorporates copper in both minimalist and high-luxury settings.

Bathe in decadence/ copper bath from The Water Monopoly

Bathe in decadence/ copper bath from The Water Monopoly

Where shiny chrome and silver-shaded metallics have ruled the roost for so long, now copper is enjoying a feature role in design.

Polished copper lights stand out against a white background/ http://www.gnr8.biz/europe/product_info.php?products_id=1269

Polished copper lights stand out against a white background/ image found at lighting sales at gnr8.biz

Or dark and moody where the rich brown melds with the shadows..../uncredited (let me know if you have the source!)

Dark and moody: the rich brown melds with the shadows….

For a while we have seen designers showcasing the material in all its glamour in very modern and creative settings: splashbacks…

Copper diamonds: what's not to like?/ www.formtrends.com

Copper load of this: tiles featured at http://www.formtrends.com

Reflective splashback/ www.emmapeascod.com

Reflective and characterful/ http://www.emmapeascod.com

…whole kitchens…

Burnished beauty: complete copper cuisine covering

Burnished beauty: complete copper cuisine covering

…or even as a striking wall covering.

Copper clad and cosy/ pinterest lh3.ggpht.com

Copper clad and cosy/ pinterest lh3.ggpht.com

Though we see this warm-hued metal brazen in statement pieces currently, there is a likelihood that it will become an option for the mainstream in the future. I expect we’ll see more copper in high street retail lighting departments over the next few seasons: maybe even tiling trims and door handles. Where is the rule that says your bathroom hardware has to be restricted to stainless steel?

Tapping into a trend/ Copper tap

Tapping into a trend

Modern though these ideas are, it’s not the first time we fell in love with copper’s russet charms, and it’s possible to see it still preserved resplendent from a previous heyday. Next time I’ll show you some examples of this metal’s past glories, when we took a trip to Cornwall and found some treasure. 

 

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!

Well, we’ve been en vacances! It was lots of fun: a few days’ city break in Paris, a luxury week in a manoir near Bordeaux, and a stay in a mobile home on a campsite near Rochefort.

I loved the understated glamour of our converted manor house, which was typical structurally of the region’s low, cool, rambling old buildings. The owners had made clever work of their renovation, retaining the character of the place with original beams, walls and flooring, and adding elegant furniture pieces and fittings which were not ostentatious.

Check it out; sartorially speaking, it's ok to leave your footwear lying around if it looks this cute

Check it out; sartorially speaking, it’s ok to leave your footwear lying around if it looks this cute

The stair carpet was in a jazzy check, which looked smart and classy against the rough stone walls.

Another thoughtful juxtaposition of old and new was the way that the doorways and windows were framed. Rather than plaster smooth right up to the edges, the large stone blocks surrounding the windows and doors were often left exposed. The kitchen featured an even more inventive form of this, with the regular tiling being cut at the same angle and curve as the plaster.

Curvy: plaster and tiling take part in synchronised wave

Curvy: plaster and tiling take part in synchronised wave

Nifty, huh?

I wasn’t very excited by the tiling in any of the bathrooms, which all featured bleurghhh shades of murky green or rust, but I did love this feature:

Framed: maybe you could hang a shower curtain from it?

Framed: maybe you could hang a shower curtain from it?

I don’t even know what it’s there for, but it does add to the quirkiness and detract from the ceramic faux pas.

Stone walls make an appearance again

Stone walls make an appearance again

Finally, some additions to our selection of Things to Put on Your Walls, French holiday home style.

Farming yoke hovers above Toulouse-Lautrec pieces

Farming yoke hovers above Toulouse-Lautrec pieces

Yes, there is a little line of keys, just right to adorn a bare beam.

And a bemused Bordeaux fermier is wondering just where he put all his spare clefs....

And a bemused Bordeaux fermier is wondering just where he put all his spare clefs….

I know I promised to tell the tale of my living room curtains, but I do also have the most amazing Paris shop for you to discover as well. So we’ll see where we end up… à bientôt.

 

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