Archives for category: Renovation

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.

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.

I’m freshly inspired to narrow down my wallpaper favourites because I’m going to get some as a present for Christmas: thanks Mum and Dad! I’ve decided to plump for the chimney breast wall in the music room first, because that room really needs some care and attention. I haven’t shown you pictures yet because, frankly, it’s a bit of a dumping ground — piles of framed pictures and photos, a languishing ex-computer and redundant Christmas decorations are getting friendly with the remnants of a huge eBay sell-off we recently undertook. And there are five huge boxes full of CDs which Tim is gradually pensioning off to retirement websites like Music Magpie. The floorboards are a lot clearer than they were a few weeks ago, but I think we’ll wait a little before the big reveal. I promise I will take before and after pictures though, so that you can see the scope of the transformation.

So, I bring you the shortlist.

One of my first loves was a cityscape.

Endless source of interest: Londinium by Graham and Brown £22/ roll

Endless source of interest: Londinium by Graham and Brown £22/ roll

I think this design sparks the imagination because you can never quite be sure what is behind all those buildings, and the busy jumble of city life is evoked so well. I’d never get bored working in front of this. But maybe I would get distracted.

Stepping up a price bracket is my favourite city view, made originally by Piero Fornasetti in the 1940s for the entrance hall in his own home in Milan.

Glorious and measured: Fornasetti's Meditteranea now supplied by Cole and Son £82/ roll

Glorious and measured: Fornasetti’s Meditteranea now supplied by Cole and Son £82/ roll

This stately roofscape features gold accents and beautiful stately ink drawings. The regular buildings and formal layout bring an entirely different sense to the wall. A visual representation of Classical music: order and form.

Since the room is a working space, we were taken by the trompe l’oeil papers featuring bookshelves: there is even a Penguin paperbacks version. But we have a wall of books already in the room, and I do think that they are striking enough, without pretending we actually have a whole new set elsewhere. I haven’t ruled out the possibility of including this sort of paper on a door somewhere: possibly the one to Caspar’s room, which we haven’t yet painted.

There are other images, though, such as faux wood, plants, trees and other matter. Here are a couple of my favourites:

Old Wood from the Ginger collection by Esta Home £195/roll

Old Wood from the Ginger collection by Esta Home £195/roll

Yes! I know! £195! Before you choke on your mince pies, I can console you with the news that in fact this is a photo mural wall covering which comes complete in a roll of four 2.79 metre drops. So the price is for the overall mural, not simply a roll of wallpaper. But still, I don’t pretend this is a cheap option.

Bamboo from the Bluff collection by Galerie £44.95/ roll

Bamboo from the Bluff collection by Galerie £44.95/ roll

A nice bold photographic representation of vertically stacked bamboo poles. I like this for its simplicity and modern Japanese feel. I’m not sure where I’d put it in our house though, unless I could find a spot in our ensuite shower room?

A little trend I have noticed of late is for displaying plates on a wall. These are often unashamedly kitsch and twee, but placed in a block or along a mantelpiece are strikingly modern. Little surprise then, to find you can skip the charity shop searches for suitably ironic plates, and simply deck the walls with illustrated platters instead.

Cargo from the Museum collection by Andrew Martin £69.90/ roll

Cargo from the Museum collection by Andrew Martin £69.90/ roll

Then, we come to the range with which I have become so smitten. Scion’s designs are vibrant and clever, their patterns are bold but not too confusing on the eye. I dearly love this for its simplicity and style:

Dragonfly in the Melinki collection by Scion £32/ roll

Dragonfly in the Melinki collection by Scion £32/ roll

These delicate insect sketches in rich indigo would make a fantastic statement on a big wall.

But Wabi Sabi is the collection which is inspiring me the most. This is their collection header illustration:

Wabi Sabi collection highlights

Wabi Sabi collection highlights

The brilliant white woodwork partners perfectly with the teal and mid-blue geometric patterns. Best of all was when I noticed that the horizontal-lined design in the centre (and right) seems reminiscent of the shadows between shutters. Apparently it’s a rectangular grid pattern created by an ancient Japanese dye-resist technique:

Shibori from the Wabi Sabi collection by Scion in sapphire blue

Shibori from the Wabi Sabi collection by Scion in sapphire blue £32/ roll

Part of the reason why I think this pattern will work so well in our music room is that we have white wooden shutters at the large window, and they are directly opposite the wall I’d like to decorate. So creating an abstract ‘reflection’ seems quirkily apt, yet in keeping with the clean lines of the rest of the room, and the expanses of white painted woodwork.

I’ll get work started in the New Year. How about you? Do you have any walls calling out for a bit of colour or character?

When my dad was a little boy, he lived in and around a lot of stately homes because his parents were in the staff of various country gentry. He had a view of what post-war life was like in these big houses, from the icicles formed on the inside of his enormous billiard room bedroom window, to sitting on his dad’s lap and steering the family Daimler aged just four. His mum, who we called Nanny, told us of the time that “Mr Sanderson himself” came to paint the wallpaper. A team of craftsmen arrived with their ladders and created a unique design, according to the wishes of the lady of the house. The Sanderson company still exist, of course, though I am not sure they still offer an insitu painting and gilding service for their more affluent clients.

I found some beautiful examples of Edwardian era wallpaper when we were at Lanhydrock – not hand painted, but certainly rich and luxurious — and surprisingly modern.

Geometric design seems fresh despite its vintage

Geometric design seems fresh despite its vintage

The gentleman's bathroom presented in the latest styles

The gentleman’s bathroom presented in the latest styles

The lady's chamber with more delicate colours

The lady’s chamber with more delicate colours

Not only pattern but texture...

Not only pattern but texture…

Touchy feely: paper with a soft side

Touchy feely: paper with a soft side

Up close and strokable

Up close and strokable

I remember homes when I was younger featuring that soft damask wallpaper, and although for a few years any sort of deviation from smooth and flat was desperately un-modern,  in various ways it is beginning to grow in popularity again. Words like Anaglypta, wood chip and damask still evoke plenty of bad taste memories for some, but time marches on and those sartorial nightmares fade. The future of wall coverings may well be 3D.

You can still get hand-painted wallpaper today: stunning works of art for customers with deep pockets. If that is your situation, take a look at the opulent de Gournay or Griffin and Wong for some silk based Chinoiserie. Cole and Son offer hand printed papers, where the old fashioned block printing is done painstakingly by talented craftsmen.

But should you want the personal touch without having to spend extreme amounts of money, there is another way. Printing has changed hugely in the past few decades: now the computer takes the strain of image and ink proportions and with a little technical help you can pretty much specify any pattern or picture for your space. There are plenty of companies out there who will customise your walls with a mural. I have used Wall Factor, who have a link with the huge photo library Shutterstock, so that you can pick an image, and arrange to have it printed on wallpaper at exactly the right proportions for your wall.

World map mural in words available through Wall Factor

World map mural in words available through Wall Factor

We actually used the above design in a colour version for Jonas’s room. It is such a clever image, and perfect for a child’s bedroom as it’s fun but not childish, so will grow with him. I’ll show you one day when I give you the full room tour.

Next time we’ll be making a final round-up of my favourite designs. As a teaser, I can tell you that Scion features heavily….

Ever since we went to the Parisian taxidermists Deyrolle in the summer I have been thinking about wallpaper. In fact, once I started looking, I found I had collected a huge sprawling mass of inspiration. So I have decided to start a little series for you, to keep all my musings bite-size and digestible.

Our house feels light and bright, with white walls and splashes of colour. We have tended to treat the occasional wall like an enormous piece of artwork, and have painted in blocks. Or we’ve used furnishings including curtains as our main colour statement sections. But so far we haven’t done much with paper. I have two spots in mind, in our kitchen under the picture window, and in the music room (which I don’t think I’ve introduced to you yet), on the wall behind the desk.

Deyrolle, I noticed, have designed some truly amazing papier peint, with bugs, beasts and birds aplenty. They sell through another French company called neoDKo which you can access here. My favourite is this crazy essence-of-anatomy-textbook pasted in glorious abandon on a wall.

Collection Patchwork wallpaper via NeoDKo.com

Collection Patchwork wallpaper via neoDKo.com

The extreme minimalism of that interior pictured above provides a clear stage for the drama of all the movement on the walls. Which led me to thinking that the context for using this sort of design is very important: in a busy room you need either order (pattern) or calm (in colours) for your decor. If you were to try and add this wallpaper to an already cluttered space, you would likely just create more confusion, and lose some of the attraction of the ‘patchwork’ in the process. I think for the room where we store files and books, study, practise and play, our walls need to be inspirational, yes, but not distracting. However I could see this design working beautifully behind the dining bench, under the window, in the room where we have an expanse of plain wall and only a few simple pieces of furniture.

Pillar box window in a blank wall: not designed for tall cats

White wall. Prime for development

I would probably fix a line of white wooden trim below the window to act as a frame, and then paper below to the skirting. Another advantage of a wild and busy design here is that the odd splash of soy sauce or ketchup probably wouldn’t stand out. Don’t look too carefully at this picture: despite the serenity of the scene there are definitely the ghosts of little chocolate hands scrubbed out.

So the Deyrolle is definitely a contender for this space. But there are others….

Next time I am going to tell you about wallpapering in the old way: tune in for some tales of stately opulence, and the clever designs which remain modern after half a century.

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