Archives for category: Building Work

I thought you might like to take a little tour of an ensuite bathroom I designed recently. It was rather a pleasure, as my client wanted something with a bit of sparkle, which of course is a fun premise from which to create.

The bathroom was being newly built as part of an extension, so we had no existing plumbing layout to conform to, however there turned out to be obvious places for all the different elements in the room, once we’d allocated the shower area.

Whenever you’re thinking about a bathroom design, try and go for the largest possible shower space. It’s no fun bumping your elbows on the screen at every turn, or having to undertake extreme manoeuvres simply to apply your shampoo. The position of the doorway to this room carved out a clear area behind it for the shower to run along a side wall. After looking at a few walk-in screen options, and considering the splash potential, we decided to section off the whole thing with a flat sliding screen door.

holly ensuite shower window

Expand your showering horizons — give yourself some room

Once we had sorted out a location, we decided to line the shower area with some rather glamorous bronze-toned tiles from Walls and Floors. I don’t think this warm shade is in stock at the moment, but they’re from the Metalico range by Envy (their silver tile also looks rather glitzy, and for the dramatic, there’s a glamorous black one).

holly ensuite shower kit tiles corner

Warm tones in the walk-in shower/ Metalico Copper Tile

There is a huge range of prices for shower kits on the market. You don’t need to pay a great deal for something that looks impressive however. Keep to some simple guidelines and you can get the wow factor for less. Firstly, hidden workings can look swish, but tend to cost you more. The kits which have the workings (usually a horizontal bar) which control the thermostat on display are the most cost effective. Hidden workings need to be hidden, so often necessitate the creation of a false wall to hide them behind. And if things do go wrong further down the line, there’s a whole lot more excavation to get at them. Whereas if you need to replace your bar controls…. just swap them in for a new model. I often recommend clients to go to some of the trade-priced online stores for best deals on these. Plumbworld have often proved to offer a good selection. The one I sourced here is from Victoria Plum.

holly ensuite shower kit and tiles

Singing in the rain shower: Aria round head riser shower kit from VictoriaPlum.com

One of the best way to dress your windows in a shower or bathroom is with a wood-effect blind. The material is a composite plastic created to look like a wood slat but with none of the inevitable warping or mould growth. These dark wood effect blinds from 247 blinds are inexpensive and can be rotated shut for total privacy, turned to allow the light to filter through, or even drawn up completely.

holly ensuite shower tiles

Ecowood Sumatra blinds from 247blinds.com

It’s always nice to fit in a little storage to a bathroom if you can. The space around a sink is obviously an ideal opportunity, and there are some lovely modular units out there in pretty much any colour or shade you could imagine to fit your look. We decided to go for a dark brown wood drawer unit, which looks neat against the white ceramic, and complements the copper-themed tiles. On the wall, a mirror can serve as the door to more shelf space, and this nifty cabinet also has a socket to plug in shaving equipment or toothbrushes. The lights running down each side are LED with a warm glow. Perfect for ambient lighting on those tough early mornings….

holly ensuite basin tiles and cupboard

Odessa Wenge floor standing sink unit from Victoria Plum, and a mirrored wall cabinet with LED lighting from Illuminated Mirrors

Of course, the simplest splashback for your basin would be a couple of extras from the shower, but we wanted to liven up the look of the room, and found these delightful mosaic groups at Walls and Floors. Featuring hints of copper, greys and some jaunty patterns, these characterful tiles come as a set of 30cm-square designs which are ridiculously easy to fit. Two here span the width of the 60cm-wide basin.

holly ensuite basin shower background

Moroccan Riad mosaic tiles in Copper by Envy

With the subtle glitz from the tiles, we kept the walls white and used a light grey-brown wood effect vinyl plank for the flooring. Whilst brown is the dominant colour here, the room seems cheerful and fresh. Just a little glitter can make all the difference.

Let me know — what colour schemes would you consider for a bathroom? Do you prefer cool blues or natural tones of stone or wood? Some striking colour like green or red, or maybe a haven of grey? Do you like to add a touch of glamour in your fittings, or keep things muted?

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.]

 

A simple way to let your Victorian home shine with its original features is to sand and varnish the floorboards. We were excited to find in the course of our renovation that under the old dark carpets were boards in reasonable condition, so we got them stripped. Once finished, they were beautiful, but as the winter approached, we realised just how impractical our decision was. Upstairs is fine, as the heat from the floor below rises up and keeps things relatively cosy. But the two downstairs rooms felt exposed and draughty. Below each are two rather dank cellar rooms, and as far as we can work out, very little insulation in between. It made for a chilly experience working in the music room by day, and evenings in the sitting room were not exactly snug. We invested in a large grey rug for the latter quite early on, which certainly blocked some of the breeze, but you could still feel it swirling around the skirting boards if you were to venture away from either of the sofa islands.

Talking with some other owners of ‘well-ventilated’ homes, Tim found out about a brilliant product, called Draughtex, which he bought and installed. It comprises some slim, hollow rubber tubing which is pressed into the gaps between floorboards, then driven in with a special wheel tool, so that it is no longer visible. The rubber expands to fit the width of the gap.

Nifty insulation solution

Nifty insulation solution

This made things much better right away. But the music room was still rather bare and lacking in any form of fabric (we don’t have curtains, just plantation shutters) to soften things. Whilst I quite like the plain beauty of the wooden boards and the white walls, it did feel a little austere and blank.

We started a search for a rug, preferably a large one, to bring some colour, warmth and character to the room.

After a little look around, we decided to look for a flatweave rug, with a colourful bright design. These seemed to be pretty pricey, certainly in the larger sizes (ideally about 2m by 3m), and with a strict £200 budget it seemed that Ikea was our only option. However they seemed to offer quite a few, so we went and had a look.

For a while I felt that this rug, called Stockholm, would work the best, with its bursts of green and chunky design.

Ikea's Stockholm: blocky and green

Ikea’s Stockholm: working with a colour trend

Unfortunately though they didn’t seem to actually stock it in any of their stores, so we were nervous about ordering it online and then finding that it wasn’t anything like we’d hoped. I was aware that Tim’s not that keen on green, so it would have had to have been really impressive to persuade him. I also felt that the brash scheme, whilst currently quite trendy with its verdant blocks, could date quite quickly, and we wanted something that was slightly less of a statement piece.

I had seen some great rooms with vibrant Turkish kilims and Aztec designs on my online searches.

Flooral tributes: an apartment featured on Fantastic Frank goes to town on rugs

Flooral tributes: an apartment featured on Fantastic Frank goes to town on rugs

These looked like old friends, pieces that you could put in any room, that defied traditional colour schemes but brought warmth and energy.

So we looked again, and found this:

Ikea's Kattrup: perky reds and golds

Ikea’s Kattrup: perky reds and golds

This seemed far more suitable, so we went ahead.

And here’s the result:

Reading nook

Reading nook

Room to make music

Room to make music

Everything in its place

Everything in its place

Dark woods make it cosy

Dark woods make it cosy

Low view: cupboards and rug

Low view: cupboards and rug

Wide aspect

Wide aspect

Light streams in

Light streams in

The budget is now spent for this room, but next we’ll be searching out a lampshade, possibly looking for an elegant curving floor lamp to place behind the armchair, and taking another look at that wallpaper.

Have you had problems with old draughty rooms? Let me know if you have any helpful tips to share.

 

 

 

I know, it’s been so long since I last mentioned our poor old music room. It has been languishing in dusty chaos like the Dorian Gray of our house renovation. Way before we moved in, the inspired wall shelving (constructed from layered units from Ikea) was assembled and the plantation shutters were installed… and there we stopped. At the end of last year we hauled all the old boxes of CDs and books up from the cellar so that we “wouldn’t forget about them,” and then promptly forgot about them.

You might remember some dalliance with wallpaper which I had before Christmas. In the end (despite how much fun it was to consider all the options) we didn’t go ahead because we hadn’t really got a picture of the rest of the room yet. However somehow, in the meantime, we have, and it is all finally coming together.

A spurt of organisation this weekend has meant that I have built in some natty drawers and doors to the bottom rung of shelves. We were motivated by the news that Ikea had decided to phase out its storage system called Expedit. This cube-inspired shelving icon has had an illustrious life, as likely to be found nestled amongst the reclaimed furniture of hipster apartments and practically attired family homes: lauded for its boxy good looks and functional design. The cubby holes are the exact right shape to file away your old-school vinyl, display flowers, pack full of books or even put a colourful storage box to stow away those less sightly items.

Little boxes: homes for our stuff

Little boxes: homes for our stuff

So we heard this ‘end of line’ news with a small twinge of horror, having covered one entire wall of the music room with Expedit, in the manner of (but much cheaper to execute than) a full sweep of bespoke shelving. Despite the wonderful resource of a whole website of helpful Ikea hacks it took quite an involved session of planning to find the right combination of given units to arrange against our wall. We had meddled around with the 4×4; 5×5; 4×2; 5×1 and 2×2 configurations before plumping for four horizontal 5×1 units stacked two-high, topped with a couple of mammoth 5x5s.

Fitting it in: Expedit layout for our wall

Fitting it in: Expedit layout for our wall

A smattering of LED lighting in odd shelves makes a nice random effect, and a few bulbs point up to the ceiling above the unit, illuminating the plaster mouldings.

Light touches: Dioder LEDs bring splashes of emphasis

Light touches: Dioder LEDs bring splashes of emphasis

For environmental reasons Ikea have decided to introduce a less chunky replacement to Expedit, called Kallax. This will apparently be slimmer around the frame (thereby using less wood) but otherwise sport the same dimensions.

Check out my broad frame

Check out my broad frame

Ikea usher in a new eco-warrior

Ikea usher in a new eco-warrior

The associated boxes, drawers and doors sold in the same range will supposedly be interchangeable with, and still fit, both Expedit and Kallax units. Be that as it may, we didn’t want to get stuck with a wall full of shelving which we couldn’t accessorise, just in case there were slight variations. I sped out to buy up the stock we needed, and came back with boxes, doors and drawers.

Bank of doors and drawers form the lower layer

Bank of doors and drawers form the lower layer

In our house, the past few months have seen a flurry of (frankly previously inconceivable) CDs sales activity, that has resulted in a very reasonable remnant of a collection. In previous properties we have had to consider the vast CD population as part of the overall design: a great swathe of custom shelving and substantial square metre-age in storage taken up with the 80s pop bands, the rave mixes and dance compilations and Best Ofs. I think we now agree that the new streamlined stock is much easier to accommodate, after the cull/massacre/clear-out since Christmas (appropriate noun to be selected depending on your point of view).

The lower echelons

The lower echelons

We were hoping to house the survivors in the drawers, and they do fit, but sadly not so that you can actually read what they are. So they get a reprieve, and their very own line on display.

Eclectic: steamboat to the fore, house music aft

Eclectic: steamboat to the fore, house music aft

Mixed neighbourhood: Delft houses abut a wall of Now albums

Mixed neighbourhood: Delft houses abut a wall of Now albums

We also executed a quality control exercise with the fiction paperbacks, donating those we weren’t too fussed about and creating a happy rainbow of favourite novels with the ones which we kept. Colour grouping is a smart way to arrange books, as long as you are not too fussy about knowing where any one individual volume might be. In this form they seem to provide just as much of a decoration in the room as if we’d gone at it with a paintbrush, only with quite considerably less effort.

Across the spectrum: literature in colour

Across the spectrum: literature in colour

The reference titles are coralled by subject matter on the upper shelves; photo albums occupy the top flight. There is even a two-cubicle section in the gods where the LPs live. The 7″s are still lurking on the floor at the moment, awaiting their fate.

Craig, will you make the final cut?

Craig, will you make the final cut?

Only a few empty spaces remain, and we’re nearly there with the sorting, only a few homeless items still to place, and for the first time in a while we can actually see most of the floor.

A small pile of work still to do

A small pile of work still to do

I have spent the winter months huddled at my computer whilst the files and scrapbooks have slumped in cosy privilege against the radiator. Now we can reach the shutters to let the sunlight in, and the space is starting to feel bright and ordered.

Piano corner: a semblance of order

Piano corner: a semblance of order

Shutters filter in the daylight

Shutters filter in the daylight

Next on the list are lamp shade, rug and that wall covering. I’ll bring you news on that soon, once we’ve fine tuned the shelves….

In the meantime, how do you store your stuff? Do you like acres of display, or do you prefer to shut it all away? In strict order or mix and match?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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….

Today I’m bringing you a really handy guide I found on Apartment Therapy, which encapsulates the process I go through to create a kitchen from Ikea that doesn’t look like it comes from Ikea.

Ikea kitchen incognito

Ikea kitchen incognito

We have used the same technique with every kitchen we’ve had: researched different, often expensive styles from well-known designers, and then chosen Ikea cabinetry and fittings which most resemble our “dream design.” Of course you don’t need to stick with Ikea for every element of the kitchen, either: our own Corian work surface from Interstyle Worktops actually came in cheaper than an equivalent composite worktop from Ikea. But for the bare bones and cabinet structure you really can’t beat the price. Read on and get inspired by Janel Laban’s clever comparisons!

http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/which-ikea-kitchen-cabinet-doors-are-best-for-your-design-style-199512

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.

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