Archives for category: Furniture

Would you like to see some of the sights from the Ideal Home Show Manchester? We went last month: all sorts of exhibitors congregate there, from one-product entrepreneurs with innovative new gadgets, to established retailers with glamorous room displays.

Going to design shows is great fun (not least for the generous freebies to be snaffled at the food stalls). I don’t think events like this exactly set interiors trends — furniture, colours, decor. To identify burgeoning creative ideas you really need to keep an eye online and all around you: Pinterest, Instagram and magazines; quirky blog pages and house tours. But exhibitions can show you what has passed the consumer test — a place to check out which products and designs are proven or emerging commercial successes in the interiors market.

So here are just a few of my favourite discoveries:

Lighting was still big, glitzy and sparkling.

Lighting was glitzy and sparkling. The statement pendant is certainly not going anywhere for a while.

The statement pendant is certainly not going anywhere for a while

Populate your sofa. The tidy way.

Don't have time for a pet? Got allergies? Now you can live the sofa dream with these endearing cushions. (They don't bring in unidentified small mammal body parts to your house, either).

Don’t have time for a pet? Got allergies? Now you too can live the cat lady dream with these endearing cushions. (They don’t bring in unidentified small mammal body parts to your house, either)

We loved the nautical rope lamp from Arrighi Bianchi.

Aye-aye cap'n. We loved the nautical rope lamp from Arrighi Bianchi

Aye-aye cap’n

On which note…

I love Macclesfield furniture store Arrighi Bianchi's picture. Like a dolls' house, only real

I love Macclesfield furniture store Arrighi Bianchi’s picture. Like a dolls’ house, only real

When your furniture is multi-purpose and cute.

On the lookout for flexible extra seating/tables? Goat Hide Stool from Rockett St George would fast become one of the family

On the lookout for flexible extra seating/tables? Goat Hide Stool from Rockett St George would fast become one of the family

We just can’t stay away from wallpaper.

We just can't stay away from wallpaper. This clever stuff from 1wall.com can be applied in A4-sized sheets in whichever layout you choose. Clever

The Creative Collage range from 1wall.com comes in A4-sized sheets to be applied in whichever layout you choose. Clever

Another 1wall.com Creative Collage design: empty frames. Would you keep them empty? Pin postcards inside them? Let your kids go wild with crayons?

Another 1wall.com Creative Collage design: empty frames. Would you keep them empty? Pin postcards inside them? Let your kids go wild with crayons?

Taking the safer path to relaxation.

There's something a little endearing about these flickery fake candles. Surely a breakthrough design for so many health and safety nightmares

There’s something a little endearing about these flickery fake candles. Surely a breakthrough design for so many public event health and safety liability reports

What do you think of my little list? Anything here you’d go for?

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!

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

Mission statement/ In This House decal stickers on Etsy

Mission statement/ In This House decal stickers on Etsy

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

Decal from Wulfsexpressions

Decal from Wulfsexpressions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob Dylan’s endearing poem is a stretch too far

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

I enjoy the solid practicality of this one, however:

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

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

Yes, this resonates with my style of parenting.

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

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

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

RULE #1

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

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

Evidence

Evidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RULE #2

Nobody needs to wake up before seven.

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

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

RULE #3

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

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

RULE #4

Walk with your whole foot!

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

which enables you to go quietly when necessary.

If you walk on just your heels

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

Heel walking sounds like someone is trying

to pogo-stick down the stairs

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

(regarding which I refer you to the points written

on your bedroom ceilings regarding wake up times)

This could look good on the stair risers, no?

RULE #5

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

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

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

With Love Tablecloth from notonthehighstreet.com

With Love Tablecloth from notonthehighstreet.com

(You heard it here first).

RULE #6

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

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

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

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

RULE #7

Shut the door!

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

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

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

A motto to live by

Finally, a wise motto to live by

 

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

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

Ingenious upcycled sideboard featured on Burlap and Lace blog

Ingenious upcycled sideboard featured on Burlap and Lace blog

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

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

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

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

Barefoot on the geometric rug/ Scene from Domino Galleries

Barefoot on the geometric rug/ Scene from Domino Galleries

White features large/ Scene from Domino Galleries

White features large/ Scene from Domino Galleries

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

Urban Outfitters Pentagon Dipped Side Table

Urban Outfitters Pentagon Dipped Side Table

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

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

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

I found one of my favourite tile designs last year while researching for a client’s kitchen splashback. Being something of a simple girl myself, we have a strip of coloured glass between the upper and lower cupboards in our kitchen to protect the walls. It’s supremely easy to keep, and doesn’t have any grout to get mucky, which as you will know from my previous posts is a bit of a bugbear. However…

If you are going to go the tiling route for your kitchen, and feel like a change from the pretty but neutral metro brick, how about this?

Duck egg blue hexagonal tiles, now hard to get hold of but available from Overstock/ Victorian Hex Blue SomerTile

Duck egg blue hexagonal tiles, now hard to get hold of but available from Overstock/ Victorian Hex Blue SomerTile

Hexagonal mosaic tiles bring a quirky slant to a surface, and this delicate blue would be right at home with a grey themed industrial background or in a pretty cottage kitchen.

As luck (if your budget stretches, that is) would have it, Fired Earth‘s ranges of tiles have a few delectable examples in mosaic and larger form.

Geometric: hexagonal tiles create a monochrome arrow across this Fired Earth bathroom

Geometric: hexagonal mosaics create a monochrome arrow across this Fired Earth bathroom

Look at the way they have used a mid-grey grout in this design. It softens the abruptness of the black and defines the borders of the individual tiles.

Marrakech Hexagons from Fired Earth

Marrakech Hexagons from Fired Earth

This range of larger individual tiles has a more muted, natural colour range, and the edges are softer and less sharp.

At the moment the budget range offerings are expanding rapidly — Walls and Floors have some nice white or black mosaics: or chequerboard designs if you prefer.

Walls and Floors white in gloss or matt

Walls and Floors white in gloss or matt

In addition I have just spotted this gorgeous range, inspired by the colours of honey:

hexagon wandf honeycomb avo

Honeycomb by name, shape and colour/ Walls and Floors Aster and Avocado

Honeycomb by name, layout and colour/ Walls and Floors’ Avocado and Aster options

By no means budget, but nevertheless a characterful tile, is Topps Tiles‘ grey hexagonal, Mira.

Topps Mira Grey, nice for a feature, too pricey for a whole wall

Topps Mira Grey, nice for a feature, too pricey for a whole wall

The shift from four sides to more is a tiling theme I am very happy to recommend, but it doesn’t stop at tiles. Once I had developed my shape awareness, I started seeing hexagons in many settings. See the linked hexagon table in the foreground of this Porcelenosa room layout?

Porcelenosa catalogue shot features double-hex table

Porcelenosa catalogue shot features double-hex table

It seems that copper is not immune:

Hexagon beaten champagne bucket vase Eclectic from Tom Dixon

Hexagon beaten champagne bucket vase Eclectic from Tom Dixon

Or if we take a journey back into the world of wallpaper, how about this fabulous geometric design from Cole and Son:

Upcycle your wardrobe with Cole and Son's Geometric wallpaper

Upcycle your wardrobe with Cole and Son’s Geometric wallpaper

Many a pouf comes in a hexagonal shape, and fitted with a geometric fabric, we can fulfil this trend on two dimensions – or see this amazing heptagonal Missoni design take it just one side further:

Count them: seven sided footstool from Missoni

Count them: seven sided footstool from Missoni

There are lights – possibly my favourite being this simple wall lamp from Kundalini (based in Italy, but plenty of websites stock their products):

Kundalini's Hexagon wall light: try Interni.co.uk for UK purchases

Kundalini’s Hexagon wall light: try Interni.co.uk for UK purchases

Oh I really could go on and on! But I will leave you with this lovely piece by Jonathan Adler, US designer with an eye for distinctive colour and form:

Hexagon lacquered tray from Jonathan Adler

Hexagon lacquered tray from Jonathan Adler

Because a little bit of orange does make me smile.

How about you? Have you set aside the regular square for a more shapely option? I’ll keep you posted on multi-sided inspirations — let me know any which catch your eye.

A few weeks ago, I read a blog post on sfgirlbybay (written by Victoria Smith, blogger, stylist, photographer) about wire chairs.  I liked the gracefulness of their thin curved black metal skeletons, placed strategically in rooms full of wood and white: have a look at the post here.

Then, I happened to pop into the spare bedroom a few times over the Christmas break (we were hotel-busy!), and noticed that our term-time lodger Rose had bought a cool black wire waste paper basket. It suits the spare room very well, bringing a touch of definition to the neutrals that we have in there already. If you need a reminder of the colours, pop over here for a moment: what do you think? I am now on the lookout for a few more black accents. Even more excitingly, she bought the bin from our old friend Mega Pound, so it looks like I won’t even need to save up.

Anyway, in the meantime, what should appear in the pages of Living Etc, but more subtly framed items in wire. They are not bold, they don’t stand out, but they do add an outline to a pale space, a bit like a sketch that has not yet been coloured in.

Another bin. Fits beautifully in the office space.

Another bin. Fits beautifully in the office space

Bin... or is it a laundry basket? Now there is an idea.

Bin… or is it a laundry basket? Now there is another idea

People are using the structures for coffee tables too:

Mesh Locker side table in copper -- this comes with a glass top should you not want to leave your wine glass balancing to chance/ Bowles and Bowles

Mesh Locker side table in copper — this comes with a glass top should you prefer not to balance your wine precariously all evening/ Bowles and Bowles

These mirrors have a vintage charm:

Sun's rays radiate from your reflection....

Sun’s rays radiate from your reflection….

I have to admit this next example didn’t work for us: our wire fruit bowl left ridges in the apples. It is pretty though. Maybe you could keep something un-bruisable in it.

Latticed fruit bowl

Latticed bowl with imaginary fruit

And finally, the chairs.

The classic Harry Bertoia chair.

The classic Harry Bertoia chair

It’s a lovely design, but you’d want to be wearing long trousers for any lengthy seating experience. I fear I could be more pro-wire-chair in the winter months, unless it’s possible to develop a simultaneous fashion for the imprinted leg pattern look. Or maybe the summer brings an opportunity to invest in soft cushions:

Cloud-topped wire chair.... a softer way to ride this trend

Cloud-topped wire chair…. a softer way to ride this trend

Wholesome green padding on the Fifty chair from Dogg and Arnved at Ligne et Rosset

Wholesome green padding on the Fifty chair from Dogg and Arnved at Ligne et Rosset

Tricia Guild has had hers painted green:

Like a delicate plant, lime-coloured wire chair amongst the flowers

Like a delicate plant, lime-coloured wire chair amongst the flowers

Let me know if you’ve considered any of these options: could you live with wire chairs? Or are they purely a triumph of form over function?

A flash, a cloud of smoke, and the villain/fairy disappears/reappears. Pouf! In honour of the last gasps of the panto season, I bring you a piece of furniture which has crept back into our living rooms over the past few years, since being banished as grubby and tasteless in its earlier, mock-leather-bound, carpet-slipper-bearing, lumpish incarnation.

The pouf now comes resplendent in textiles and textures as varied as we dare to use, and stands bold in minimalist and eclectically-furnished rooms alike as a showcase of colour or pattern.

I was given a magazine subscription for Living Etc for Christmas, which I’m so excited about. We used to subscribe until about June last year, then it lapsed, and I’ve missed following all the innovations and inspirations. Opening up the December issue I clocked lots of little trends and ideas, which I’ll point out to you in the next few weeks, but none as pervasive as the number of perky poufs to be found in the house tours.

Chevron pouf in orange from anitascasa on etsy

Chevron pouf in orange from anitascasa on etsy

Tori Murphy's Elca and Broadway poufs

Tori Murphy’s Elca and Broadway poufs

The striking geometric fabrics are fun and lively: no faded or jaded offerings here.

Zig Zig pouf cover from Rosenhof Art Factory

Zig Zig pouf cover from Rosenhof Art Factory

Missoni pouf from Target

Missoni pouf from Target

But other fabrics are about too – the wholesome knit is always popular:

Take a leaf from Next's book and call your pouf a pod

Take a leaf from Next’s book and call your pouf a pod

The supremely comfortable furniture store Loaf initiated a huge spin-off market for crocheted and knitted poufs, with their Bug range:

Suitable for feet, bums or as a launch pad: Loaf's bug pouf

Suitable for feet, bums… or as a launch pad: the self-advertised properties of Loaf’s Bug

I’ve been on the watch for something footstool-like for our own living room, and was dabbling with a ‘Morroccan ottoman’ search tag on eBay for a while last year.

Most recently I’ve found the US online shop VivaTerra which has sourced these environmentally-influenced creations:

Felt soft: poufs posing as rocks from VivaTerra

Felt soft: poufs posing as rocks from VivaTerra

And this pebbly perch:

Essence of beach in a seat, only softer/ VivaTerra's Soft Stone Pouf

Essence of beach in a seat/ VivaTerra’s Soft Stone Pouf

The grey colour schemes of the VivaTerra pieces, bringing an incongruous ‘outside-inside’ humour to a room, really appeal to me. I think they’d fit beautifully in our living room both in both shade and character.

How about you? Do you have a pouf-sized absence in your home? Which style works for you?

Hi there, stowed followers: guest blogger Lotus here today with some feline wisdom on surviving the guest season.

We have had many visitors to stay over the past few unsettling weeks; a tree was brought in from the outside; there were ribbons, roast meats (none for me, I discovered) and more wrapping paper than even I could possibly shred.

I have endured the attention and unprovoked cuddles with admirable fortitude, but one of the greatest challenges I faced was the mindless occupation of all my favourite nap spots. Kitchen sofa: taken. Kitchen armchair: taken. Living room sofas: taken. Even the small spinning desk chair with a comfy seat: taken. I have had to rely on my wits and my ingenuity, and can now give you a handy list of alternative rest spots for the displaced cat.

Number One: the kitchen stools. Close enough to the sink to observe all manner of interesting things going on, and yet innocently far enough away from the worktop not to invoke the wrath of the water spray.

I can't believe I haven't discovered this one before, it suits me so well

I can’t believe I haven’t discovered this one before, it suits me so well

The proud statement position: my pedestal

The proud statement position: my pedestal

A disapproving frown may free up some sofa space, if you have discerning humans. I don't

A disapproving frown may free up some sofa space, if you have discerning humans. I don’t

Number Two: the bin. I know, it’s a precarious, sloping position to maintain for long, but what it lacks in comfort it more than makes up for in pathos.

A subtle reference to what you feel you have been reduced to. Sadly subtlety rarely works on humans

A subtle reference to what you feel you have been reduced to. Sadly subtlety rarely works on humans

A soulful pose could go some way to expressing your annoyance

A soulful pose could go some way to expressing your annoyance

Failing that, a hard probing stare to induce guilt

Failing that, a hard probing stare to induce guilt

I call this one "La Miserable"

I call this one “La Miserable”

Number Three: the garden fence. For when there are more small children than is fair or advisable.

Sitting on the fence is apparently a human position of indecision. Find an appropriately spiky and uncomfortable fence and you may portray an attitude of resolve and stoicism

Sitting on the fence is apparently a human position of indecision. Find an appropriately spiky and uncomfortable fence and you may instead portray an attitude of resolve and stoicism

Number Four: a soft toy ‘bed.’ Looks so perfect, but not without its pitfalls.

Beware the frivolity of the season. When you do finally secure a comfortable space....

Beware the frivolity of the season. When you do finally secure a comfortable space….

....you can be sure that someone will tuck a soft toy under your paw and label you "cute"

….you can be sure that someone will tuck a soft toy under your paw and label you “cute”

Do not despair. You can take it out on the soft toy later

Do not despair. You can take it out on the soft toy later

Thanks for having me on the blog, stowed! I’d love to come back some time to impart more helpful advice to your readers.

It’s 8.45 on a school day morning. I turn the corner out of the kitchen wielding lunch boxes, clump up the three stairs into the hallway and holler the “Shoes ohnnnnnnn!!!” command up the stairs.

Nothing.

Three more steps up the main staircase (the smart orange line one). “SHOES TIME! It’s time to put on your shoes!” The cat rounds the corner from the kitchen and meows helpfully in response. She reaches the front door and starts sharpening her claws on the mat. There is no other sound.

I sprint up the first flight of stairs. Silence. Up another. Jonas’s room: empty. If I listen very hard I can just hear discussions, but muffled. More flights of stairs, check an empty Malachy’s room, and I am finally at the top. It is most definitely time to get shoes on by now. But no-one is in Caspar’s room, and the voices are still muted. This is when I open the cupboard doors….

Bespoke board games hideaway

Bespoke board games hideaway

Despite the fact that I put an awful lot of thought into Caspar’s cupboard, I had no idea it would prove quite so popular. For this is in fact a small boy equivalent of a clandestine poker den, minus the whisky and high stakes, although come to think of it, Monopoly is normally the game of choice. Like the world at the back of the wardrobe, Caspar’s cupboard takes you out of the general run of things. You can’t hear the “Shoes on!” shout, the lighting is dim, the shelves around you are full of enticing toys and Lego.

Eaves with potential: what I had to work with

Eaves with potential: what I had to work with

As I mentioned last time, I had harboured plans to make use of the eaves spaces for storage in the attic bedroom. I had heard friends tell of amazing designs by loft conversion firms and well-known wardrobe makers. I started by chatting with a carpenter I knew about commissioning something that incorporated all the storage needs for the room into that one area. I listed the elements I wanted in there: drawers or shelves for clothes, hanging space, book shelves, significant amounts of toy storage. I also wanted to use as much of the area as possible, despite the fact that the back wall followed the line of the sloping roof, and there were structural beams straddling the front that shouldn’t be removed. However reading up about costs for these sorts of designs, and then getting the jaw-dropping bespoke quote, I realised very quickly that this work commanded a luxury budget that certainly wouldn’t fit in with our modest plans.   So I decided to design it myself, using as basic methods as I could, and see what was possible. The joiner on our team of builders was Si, who just promised me, “You design it, I’ll build it.” Bearing in mind his time was my money, I went back to my wish list and tried to pare it all back to its simplest form.

For clothes storage I really wanted a chest of drawers, but drawers are, as you can imagine, a complex and time-consuming thing to make from scratch. I realised that it would be perfectly possible to insert an existing chest of drawers into a space and build around them. Finding them was my first task: made so much easier by the Ikea website, which lists the dimensions of all its furniture. From the comfort of my desk, I found the largest chest of drawers to fit the space between beams on the left (also Malm, satisfyingly, so matching the bed). This then left another strut to fit around, which I felt could delineate the hanging wardrobe space. Then, the remaining, largest gap could be for the toy storage cupboard.

Malm drawers, wardrobe door, toy cupboard. Partitioning out the storage

Malm drawers, wardrobe door, toy cupboard. Partitioning out the storage

The cupboard doors were going to be fitted with handles for opening, but then we noticed that the Malm chest of drawers had a sloping diagonal finger grip at the top instead. We designed the doors in the same way, and it keeps the storage wall flush and neat.

Hanging rail wardrobe for shirts and smarts

Hanging rail wardrobe for shirts and smarts

Since the space went back so far into the eaves, I also made use of the area behind the chest of drawers to made a bookcase accessed from next to the bed. I modelled the design on some shelves we already had: with varying depths and heights for each shelf. They look very sweet, nestled into the wall, and fit all the different sized books that a child tends to have, as well.

Staggered bookshelves in roof space

Staggered bookshelves in roof space

The toy storage cupboard takes up most of the rest of the depth of the eaves. I think I ended up sectioning off about 80 sq cm of floor space right around the back, which couldn’t realistically be accessed from any point. But the rest of it is completely functional.

For the shelving inside the toy cupboard, I measured various storage boxes which we keep our toys in, as well as running a quick survey of the dimensions of Ikea’s line of containers. There seemed to be a general link at around 30 cm: some were this length, others longer but still at a 30 cm depth. So I decided 35 cm would be a useful depth for the shelves.

Simple but thought-out shelves will be long-term useful

Simple but thought-out shelves will be long-term useful

Then I checked on the heights of various boxes, and designed the height of the shelves accordingly. It was a bit painstaking, but worth it, as the shelves are now perfectly set up for pretty much anything we want to put on them. We use them for chunky items of clothing, as well. Of course, as Caspar grows older, there will doubtless be many changes of use. But I think the design can take it. I asked for the corners all to be rounded, so that crawling into the cupboard wouldn’t cause unnecessary injury. It’s all made of painted MDF, a far cry from the tulip wood and walnut we could have commissioned, but actually affordable, and fit for purpose, even smart in its own way.

Multi-function storage

Multi-function storage (and it won’t have your eye out)

We fixed in a wardrobe lighting set, so that you can see what you’re doing. It clearly provides exactly the right ambience for a few undercover games meetings. Sadly these are sometimes interrupted by a Real World representative on a raiding party (shouting “Shoes on!”), but the school day is not that long, and normal service can be resumed by 4 pm. In any case, as everyone knows, a game of Monopoly was never finished in a day.

Caspar loves his room at the top of our house. It has a view of Beetham Tower (tallest building in Manchester where the Hilton Hotel is based) and also our local Subway (as in the sandwich shop). Two things very close to a 7-year-old’s heart. When we first bought the house, it wasn’t really a room, more of a loft space with dodgy dusty floorboards, moulding sagging walls and head-crunching beams. Not having quite grasped the concept of house renovation, Caspar seemed a little dubious about the deal he’d been handed, since his brothers clearly had more room-like allocations with mod cons like carpets and ceilings. Still, as he mournfully confided in me one day, the view was good.

Viewing platform: Lotus undertakes distance survey of sandwich shop visitors

Viewing platform: Lotus undertakes distance survey of sandwich shop visitors

To his great surprise, we did in fact insulate, carpet and generally comply with building regulations so that by the time we moved in, he had managed to bag himself possibly the best room in the house. Tucked out of the way, with huge cupboards, interesting corners and the sweetest arched window, it is a place to hide, dream, play and potter. Perfect Caspar territory.

The footprint of the room is L-shaped, if you follow the line of ceiling which accommodates head height. Then on most sides the walls slope down, making potentially awkward eaves sections. Added to this the structural beams jut out at odd angles.

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Lofty ideas: how the top room started out

Lofty ambitions: how the top room started out

My first challenge was finding a place for the bed. Because of the funny arrangement of beams and ceiling slopes, I needed it to be tucked away and out of the main optimum head-height walkway area. Despite the fact it looks so small, the window wall is in fact perfectly wide enough for any single bed, with room to spare.

Cosy bed space. White Malm single bed from Ikea

Curtain fabric from Fancy Moon

While we’re here, I’ll just draw to your attention the curtain fabric, which ended up informing the paint choices. Caspar saw this one as I was trawling through websites for inspiration.

London Blue, Echino Nico, Etsuko Furuya, Kokka Fabric

London Blue, Echino Nico, Etsuko Furuya, Kokka Fabric

Fancy Moon has some spectacular fabrics from Japanese and American designers which I was particularly fond of, for their quirkiness and their cheerful innocence. I think so many of them are perfect for a child’s bedroom. Why not take a look at their website and see what you think?

In previous houses the kids had all shared one room, piled into bunks, so we did need to actually buy a bed for Caspar’s new-found free space. I wanted to ensure that it didn’t stand too high, as the window frame is quite low to the ground and it would have been sad to obscure the arch too much, especially since this is the only source of natural light into the room. After some extensive size searches on all the affordable options, I found, satisfyingly, that good old Ikea came in the lowest with its Malm series. Low bed, low price.

Yes, this bed is low. Ikea Malm fits the bill

Yes, this bed is low. Ikea Malm fits the bill

Having taken care of the sleep space, I assessed the rest of the nooks and crannies for their storage and access potential. The huge under-eaves space along from the entrance to the room seemed to be ideal for storage, and the fireplace wall looked good to put a desk for a study area. The beams on that wall were annoying me though: I was aware of the potential trip and bump hazards they presented, and yet we didn’t want to simply strip them out… just in case they were holding up some element of roof.

Then we came up with the idea of filling it in, and creating an actual partition. It’s only made of timber, but neatly sections off the two areas. We even added in a peep-hole (arched like the window) to add interest.

Caspar's reading spot: space to chill out and relax

Caspar’s reading spot: space to chill out and relax

Zoned out: partition wall provides different spaces with different functions

Zoned out: partition wall provides different spaces with different functions

Homework station: a place to study

Homework station: a niche to study

Owing to the aforementioned small window, the corridor section is gloomy even on a summer day. But we have put in LED spots to the ceiling, so that once the lights are on, it’s all bright. We chose a light-coloured carpet for the floor to reflect any rays, and I wanted to keep most of the walls white for the same reason. However to add some interest, I chose some chunks of wall and ceiling to paint bold colours. Using the curtains as a guide, we identified the RAL (colour code chart) numbers of a striking scarlet and a deep violet. Above the desk and reading areas is the slash of red ceiling, and then, a few metres facing, by the door, is a bold wall of purple.

Doorway to adventure in a purple patch

Doorway to adventure in a purple patch

The tiny door in the wall is not as exciting as it seems: simply an access point to another roof space, currently undeveloped. But the white woodwork strikes a great contrast and makes the room feel full of secret exploration potential.

I am going to save my bespoke storage system until next time, so that we can really focus on the detail.

Until then, what do you think of Caspar’s room? Would you tend to rip out unusual elements in your house, or make a feature of them?

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