Archives for category: Sourcing

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?

Finding a suitable work surface for your kitchen can be an incredibly confusing task, with many pros and cons — including style-versus-practicality factors — to consider.

You're so vein. Marble features large in this kitchen, but there's still space for a slab of wood. Australian Interior Design Awards

You’re so vein. Marble features large in this kitchen, but there’s still space for a slab of wood. Australian Interior Design Awards

If you’re planning on getting a new kitchen, here’s an introduction with some of the facts you will need to know.

Precut or bespoke

You can buy either solid wood or laminate worktops ‘off-the-shelf’ from DIY stores and online.

Duropal offers some classy options in laminates

Duropal offers some classy options in laminates

The dimensions differ slightly, so you just need to check your measurements, make sure you’re equipped to fit it (or have commissioned someone who can), and buy. There will probably be a degree of cutting and joining to be done, so plan your layout before you shop. In addition, check that the width of the worktop will cover your kitchen units – some only come in 60cm widths which don’t stretch to a wider cabinet carcass (such as the Metod-frame kitchens from Ikea).

Buy it, cut it, install it. B&Q offer an easy solution with their pre-cut worktops

Buy it, cut it, install it. B&Q offer an easy solution with their pre-cut worktops

The great advantages to using a precut work surface are firstly the cost, and secondly that you don’t have to wait to have them measured, made and installed.

Solid hunk of wood for minimal cost. Ikea's Karlby

Solid hunk of wood for minimal cost. Ikea’s Karlby

Bespoke worktops come in pretty much any material you can imagine: wood of course;

Wood as icing/ stunning worktop effect featured on Dwell

Wood as icing/ stunning worktop effect featured on Dwell

lots of different types of stone, such as granite,

What's black and white and well-bred all over? This kitchen from County Stone Granite

What’s black and white and well-bred all over? This kitchen from County Stone Granite

marble

Simply marbellous/ by Darlinghurst pty featured on Behance

Simply marbellous/ by Darlinghurst pty featured on Behance

and limestone;

Tones of stone/ photo credited to Daniella Witte's blog

Tones of stone/ photo credited to Daniella Witte’s blog

man-made plastic and stone composites such as Corian, Hi Mac

A casual drape/ LG HiMac USA

A casual drape/ LG HiMac USA

and Staron (sometimes called ‘solid surfaces’);

The answer is staron you in the face.../ Puzzle Table by composite manufacturer Staron

The answer is staron you in the face…/ Puzzle Table by composite manufacturer Staron

stainless steel;

The photographer forgot that he'd left his coffee mug in the shot/ Stainless steel worktop in Annaleenas Hem (blog)

The photographer forgot that he’d left his coffee mug in the shot/ Stainless steel worktop in Annaleenas Hem (blog)

A shining example from Stainless Steel Direct UK

A shining example from Stainless Steel Direct UK

glass

Recycled glass worktop found on Indulgy

Recycled glass worktop found on Indulgy

Translucent. 21st Century Village Glass worktop

Translucent. 21st Century Village Glass worktop

Operate transparently/ ThinkGlass Residential project

Operate transparently/ ThinkGlass Residential project

or polished concrete.

The builders were in such a hurry after pouring the concrete they left their bucket behind/ image from vtwonen, credit Jitske Hagens, Cleo Scheulderman

The builders were in such a hurry after pouring the concrete they left their bucket behind/ image from vtwonen, credit Jitske Hagens, Cleo Scheulderman

Concrete example of decor in greyscale/ Jane Cameron Architects on Desire to Inspire

Concrete example of decor in greyscale/ Jane Cameron Architects on Desire to Inspire

You are likely to have to pay considerably more than you would for the precut offerings, but of course you can design them to a precise specification and fit them exactly (and seamlessly) to your kitchen. Fitting a bespoke worktop normally entails waiting until the kitchen cabinets and appliances are built and in position, after which you get an on-site measure, and then up to a six-week wait for the product to be cut, finished and delivered. You can have sinks set into the counter,

hiding the sink below makes for a sleeker finish/ image by www.marble-city.co.uk

Stashing the sink below makes for a sleeker finish/ image by http://www.marble-city.co.uk

or even moulded out of the same material if you’re going for a plastic-based composite.

Since the military plants had arrived, washing up liquid had taken to spending most of his day hiding in the sink/ moulded sinks in Corian from Jones Britain

Since the military plants had arrived, washing up liquid had taken to spending most of his day hiding in the sink/ Moulded sinks in Corian from Jones Britain

Wraparound surfaces look spectacular,

Curves? No problem. Slo Gen desk made of Hi-Macs from Archiproducts

Curves? No problem. Slo Gen desk made of Hi-Macs from Archiproducts

and sharp corners can be softened or rounded.

Bar levitates in Hi-Macs design shocker. Afflante Evolution by Sebastian Barlica

Bar levitates in Hi-Macs design shocker. Afflante Evolution by Sebastian Barlica

Thick or thin

You can get a really chunky piece of wood or stone as your worktop, or maybe a slimline streak of glass or steel.

Getting technical/ Granite Care Ltd develop an 80mm deep quartz

Getting technical/ Granite Care Ltd develop an 80mm deep quartz

Slimline covering/ Ivory stone quartz from www.worktops.uk.com

Svelte covering/ Ivory stone quartz from http://www.worktops.uk.com

The precut worktops in laminate or wood are usually sold in thicknesses of around 4cm, although a few are made slimmer at 3cm. There are also differences to consider in your worktop edges: an abrupt square or rounded bevels.

Choices, choices.... exetermarble.co.uk sets out your options

Choices, choices…. exetermarble.co.uk sets out your options

Colour variations

It should go without saying that lighter colours are more likely to show stains. A lot of stone counters are porous and a stain will eventually sink down if you leave it too long.

Eek! When blueberries attack/ from Young House Love

Eek! When blueberries attack/ from Young House Love

If your kitchen is busy and you can’t guarantee every spill will be noticed or wiped up immediately, it’s worth considering a darker shade.

Can you show it a knife? Can you show it a pan? Can you show it a drop of water?

A joiner once asked me these questions after musing on the gleaming Corian work surface which had just been installed in our kitchen. I had to answer ‘No,’ ‘No,’ and ‘Yes.’

No work surface is perfect. I don’t think any worktop manufacturer would recommend chopping directly onto the surface: you should always use a board to cut and prepare food. Likewise, some surfaces are more hardy than others when it comes to direct heat – granite is obviously a bit tougher to damage than a sleek plastic or natural wood – but most suppliers would suggest using a trivet or board for your hob-fresh pans, rather than searing a charred circle into your countertop. Some materials are completely impervious to water; others swell or blacken if you don’t mop up puddles.

Don't fear your water and hot pan marks, Capital Polishers Ltd probably do have the answer....

Don’t fear your water and hot pan marks, Capital Polishers Ltd probably do have the answer….

Maybe you already have a clear idea of the look you want for your kitchen, but if not, it’s worth asking yourself some of the questions covered above to find out what you’d value in a worktop, and what you’d consider to be just too much hassle.

Next time I’ll explore some of the different materials you can use — and give you some clever cheap alternatives too.

Slab happy/ worktop in TriBeCa, credit Ryan Korban

Slab happy/ worktop in TriBeCa, credit Ryan Korban

The nights are drawing in. As we bid a fond and final goodbye to the summer sun, and the mists descend (or the winds, or the rain), we tend to settle in and appreciate the cosiness of our homes.

No, not the new season slippers: hibernating hedgehogs tucked up for the season

No, not the new season slippers: hibernating hedgehogs tucked up for the season

We can snuggle into our sofas and fire up the radiators. Draw the curtains, ignore the pelting rain at the windows. Hibernate in dark colours and cosy lamp glows.

OKA evokes the 'hibernation approach' to winter

OKA evokes the ‘hibernation approach’ to winter

Interestingly, though, the European countries with the least light and the most hostile conditions in winter seem to have developed a contrary attitude with their decor. Think of a Scandi interior and you envisage all whites, pale natural wood shades, and the odd jaunty splash of colour. Which if you think about it, is a strangely defiant response to a lot of dark skies and grey.

Scandinavian style - we keep it bright. Flat advertised on Fantastic Frank Stockholm

Scandinavian style – we keep it bright. Flat advertised on Fantastic Frank Stockholm

It makes a lot of sense really, because despite our natural tendencies to hunker down, we do have to carry on. It is not possible for most of us to shut the door come November and curl up in bed. Life goes on. And so much the better to do it by making the most of the pale sunlight and occasional clear blue days.

Take a look at these fresh inspiring throws from Mikalas House — an internet store bringing us beautiful things from Mikala’s homeland, Denmark.

Happy-to-wake-up-to bed linen - whatever happens on the other side of the window

Happy-to-wake-up-to bed linen – whatever is happening on the other side of the window

For someone with an orange line running alongside their staircase, this particular product has a happy familiarity about it.

A subtle grey stripe with a  splash of colour edging

A subtle grey stripe with a splash of colour edging

Cheerful tones to brighten the atmosphere

Cheerful tones to brighten the atmosphere

Defies SAD tendencies - sunshine yellow throw from Kira-cph at Mikalas House

Defies SAD tendencies – sunshine yellow throw from Kira-cph at Mikalas House

Don’t take my word for it: go to Mikalas House (or like them on Facebook) and check these lovely items out for yourself!

 

 

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.]

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calm greys with Polyflor's Colonia Balmoral Slate

Calm greys with Polyflor’s Colonia Balmoral Slate

While more of a sheen appears on this bathroom floor.

Karndean Opus creates a sleek bathroom floor

Karndean Opus creates a sleek effect

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

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

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

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

Sense of pattern: Karndean Navarra Chalk

Setting a theme: Karndean Navarra Chalk

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

Channelling the limestone shades/ Karndean Looselay Indiana

Channelling the limestone shades/ Karndean Looselay Indiana

Amtico Riverstone Tundra

Amtico Riverstone Tundra

Amtico Jura Beige

Amtico Jura Beige

Amtico Dry Stone SIenna

Amtico Dry Stone Sienna

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

Mix it up/ Karndean Hern Art Select

Mix it up/ Karndean Hern Art Select

Grid-work style/ Amtico Stria Volcanic

Grid-work style/ Amtico Stria Volcanic

Dark and brooding/ Amtico Cadence Delta

Dark and brooding/ Amtico Cadence Delta

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

Concrete evidence/ Harvey Maria's Ando Concrete

Concrete evidence/ Harvey Maria’s Ando Concrete

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

First of all is the wood effect look.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or.

You could consider vinyl.

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

Here are some of my favourite brands:

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

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

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

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

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

Amtico 'Fumed Oak' is perfect for that library look

‘Fumed Oak’ is perfect for that library look

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

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

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

Karndean's 'Arno Smoked Oak' on the diagonal

‘Arno Smoked Oak’ on the diagonal

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

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

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

Gorgeous nautical vibe from Harvey Maria 'Marine'

Gorgeous nautical vibe from Harvey Maria ‘Marine’

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

‘Aged Oak’ does a good job of looking real

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

'Camargue' from Avenue Floors gives good contrast

‘Camargue’ from Avenue Floors gives good contrast

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

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

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

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

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

Note the texture, these planks seem real

Note the texture, these planks seem so real

Glory! An inspired flooring choice

Glory! An inspired flooring choice

Up close, the change in pattern, sealed effectively

Up close, the change in pattern, sealed effectively

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doodle becomes real/ Wire furniture by

Doodle becomes real/ Drawings furniture by Jinil Park at Viaduct

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too bright for inside/ spectacular garden tiling

Take it outside/ spectacular garden tiling

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

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

Dusky. A sort of pink I like.

Dusky. A sort of pink I like.

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

A grubbier shade of pink.

A grubbier shade of pink.

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

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

Teak bathmat from Waterworks, approx £153

Roll up: Teak bathmat from Waterworks, approx £153

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

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

Marbellous decor

Marbellous decor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the very fun-looking presents the boys have received in recent months was an origami kit, making cute animals out of nothing but small squares of paper (and, it turns out, deep reserves of patience). It sat in our craft pile for a while before Malachy found it one rainy afternoon and wanted to make his paper zoo.

It all seemed so easy.... / Wild and Wonderful Origami

It all seemed so easy…. / Wild and Wonderful Origami

It is possible that well-drilled craft-making children and their Pinterest-successful mothers can tackle these complex challenges with their eyes shut. After all, with paper that small, how hard can it be? Well, I can now tell you that it is in fact pretty hard, and requires a substantial amount of concentration and rule following, neither of which is particularly celebrated in our family, apart from on the football pitch, of course. The boys have all ‘had a go’ and then handed me the rather limp and wrinkly paper to ‘finish off.’ So we do have a slack-limbed sea otter and a wonky snake lurking in the green drawer of the sideboard (where craft goes to retire before being pensioned off, quietly and under cover of darkness, to the recycling bin) and the remaining kit is still full of potential design victories (ever optimistic) for next time there is a rainy afternoon.

No amount of Photoshop can hide the fact that this baby has never achieved the upright pose/Sea Otter: 'Easy'

No amount of Photoshop can hide the fact that this baby has never achieved the upright pose/Sea Otter: ‘Easy’

Which sorry background goes some way to explaining the admiration I have for this new Danish designer, and his amazing creations. Morten Droob has invented an origami lampshade called Dressed Up.

Shades of the dark arts/ Dressed Up origami lampshades from Droobski

Shades of the dark arts/ Dressed Up origami lampshades from Droobski

Folded paper lanterns and shades have long been popular, and at the moment you can see a lot of plain white wire-framed designs in the shops. Ikea alone have five:

Papery orbs from Ikea

Papery orbs and UFOs from Ikea

Additionally, the skirt-inspired shade is starting to make waves in some retail lines:

Neat little A-line from BHS, Ivory Pleated Bow; Lyrik from Ikea has petticoat charm; sweet little Etsy shop gem TutusafaribyApril; grass skirt from lights_linen on eBay

Neat little A-line from BHS, Ivory Pleated Bow; Lyrik from Ikea has petticoat charm; sweet little Etsy shop gem TutusafaribyApril; grass skirt from lights_linen on eBay

I love that Droobski manages to merge the two in this clever feat of paper engineering – there are no wire frames, simply origami wizardry. With their fulsome flamenco skirts and crisp pleats, Dressed Up shades come in a rainbow of colour options, all individually hand-folded at the artist’s work bench.

If you are looking for an inspiring piece of statement design for your room, this is such a perky and unique purchase. Check out the little vimeo clip on the Droobski website, on just how easy it is to attach and pop open your chosen shade.

As for me, I fold. In the manner of a poker game. And leave the proper folding to the experts.

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.

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