Archives for category: Storage

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?

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Parents! Don’t take this the wrong way: I’m not trying to shame you. But so many people ask me about storage when they have kids, and I think to answer this you just have to take a long look at the floor and see what’s getting between your toes. Be reassured: I have very little interest in hoovering, so feel free to take a rather blurry look at the floor. We are focussing on the toyscape, not dust bunnies or muddy footprints: the ever-encroaching army of kids’ stuff that litters any free surface of our once-calm homes.

For everyone it’s different, but I’ll bet you can name at least one plaything that you would love to put in its place, and stop spending at least a significant proportion of your day tripping over.

For us it’s cars. Races, lines, complex combinations snaking around furniture and walls, with a high-pitched Murray Walker-style commentary and glorious shrieking engines.

Looks like an opportunity to overtake....

Looks like an opportunity to overtake….

Ever since Jonas was tiny, we’ve had to respect these lines, and the story behind them: the race isn’t over until the chequered flag waves.

Two races, two commentaries, too loud

Two races, two commentaries, too loud

In times when we’ve needed the floor to be clear, they’ve taken snapshots of the race for future re-enactments. That’s how I’ve got reams of these photos, blurry and wonky, but with crucial information contained within.

The M25 is a trifle congested today

The M25 is a trifle congested today

Even a brief dabble in ‘track’ building (Brio wooden railway)

Commuter chaos: leaves and a baked bean on the line

Commuter chaos: leaves and a baked bean on the line

normally ended up serving as a backdrop to another race.

“Could it be that we’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere? Maybe it wasn’t left after the chicane…”

I thought it would be helpful to share some of the best-loved and most successful storage items  — those which have got you through those years of ‘entire house as playroom.’

Our particular floor/sanity saver — one which has served us so well — has been a set of hinged, lidded wicker baskets with a calico liner (see above photo). With the cars tucked up safely inside for the night, these boxes looked rather attractive stacked in an unused fireplace in the living room of our first home. For the 18 months we spent in a (cosy/small) rental, they took up residence under a window next to the sofa. They didn’t look like kid furniture, so once the lid was shut, they blended right in. Now they live in Malachy’s bedroom — holder of the race mantle these days — and have lost their fabric innards at some point or another.

We bought the set of three from B&Q at a satisfyingly low price, and they’ve served us so well, but B&Q don’t do them any more. All I can do is point you in the direction of some other savvy outlets who still offer something similar. Remember, the hinged lid is the important bit for stacking. You want a box big enough to hold your stash of vehicles (nothing more frustrating at tidy-up time than a lid that doesn’t quite close: tantrums are made of this) but small enough for you to lug from room to room when needed. Also, and maybe this is a boy way of thinking, but toys seem to work best stored in families — ie cars in one box, trains in another; Playmobil in a big tub… I don’t know: where do Little Ponies prefer to hang out? In any case, they and all their equipment should be stabled together.

So in a spirit of great stowed generosity, I’ve compiled for you a list of the places you can still buy hinged lidded wicker baskets – so that you too can clear the clutter. You’re welcome.

In at Number One, with good looks and a reasonable price point is the offering from Wilkos:

Willow Grey storage hamper/ £8 Wilkos size 35 x 25 x 17cm

Willow Grey storage hamper/ £8 Wilkos size 35 x 25 x 17cm

If you’re looking at a more advanced case of toy invasion, or simply don’t have the floorspace free for any more furniture, how about tucking this friendly storage monster under the bed?

Underbed Storage Willow Grey/ from Wilkos at £20, 40 x 70 x 20 cm

Underbed Storage Willow Grey/ from Wilkos at £20, 40 x 70 x 20cm

George at Asda is on the case too, with this similar-looking basket. They call it a trunk, but don’t worry, it isn’t actually that huge. The price is reasonable too.

Vintage Style Storage Trunk/George at Asda £10, 40.5 x 30.5 x 22cm (or £6 for the smaller version at 31.5 x 20.5 x 13.5cm)

Vintage Style Storage Trunk/George at Asda £10, 40.5 x 30.5 x 22cm (or £6 for the smaller version at 31.5 x 20.5 x 13.5cm)

You’d have to shell out more at Homebase, but you do get three for your investment — one largish trunk and two bijous containers (easier for little hands to transport).

Natural Storage Chest plus two boxes/ Homebase £45.99, chest measuring 44 x 84 x 45cm and the small baskets neat cubes of 35cm

Natural Storage Chest plus two boxes/ Homebase £45.99, chest measuring 44 x 84 x 45cm and the small baskets neat cubes of 35cm

A stately offering from Muji with taller dimensions — a steeper price point too.

Rattan Box with Lid in X-Large/ Muji £20, 36 x 26 x 32cm

Rattan Box with Lid in X-Large/ Muji £20, 36 x 26 x 32cm

Finally, a couple of giant options — less wieldy, to be sure, but sometimes those collections do get rather large. This from Wilkos is a reasonable price for the size:

Wilko Storage Trunk in White/ £35 with hefty measurements at 59 x 42 x 40cm

Wilko Storage Trunk in White/ £35 with big bones at 59 x 42 x 40cm

And at the top end of our collection, Ikea brings you this sturdy trunk for the bulkiest items (I’m thinking Scalextric for this one: nice spacious garaging here).

Byholma Chest in grey/ Ikea at £65 for the sizeable dimensions of 72 x 50 x 50 cm

Byholma Chest in grey/ Ikea at £65 for the sizeable dimensions of 72 x 50 x 50 cm

How do you contain the chaos? I’ll bring you some more ideas in future posts, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear your tidy-up time solutions!

What do you do when you’re trying to ignore an important job that needs to be done? Something like a tax return or a large project that you really should get started on?

Everyone has their displacement activities: I practise my flute diligently or cook complex and time-consuming meals. Tim tidies.

It occurred to me that in fact, one person’s important job could well be another person’s displacement activity. I hate tidying, and will find practically anything to do rather than that, but Tim is drawn to it like a magnet.

So much so, that this has happened:

When there's a job to be done... hundreds of others will be done first (Ancient Domestic Proverb)

When there’s a job to be done… hundreds of others will be done first (Ancient Domestic Proverb)

Yes. A number of the shelves have been arranged by gradated colour. We have fiction books, non-fiction books and CDs. So far.

There are downsides to living with a very tidy person, but that’s for another day. Let’s celebrate the ordered mind with this lovely creation.

And again, I believe we can put those wallpaper plans on hold.

One of the things I like the best about Ikea kitchens is the freedom to choose from all the different colours and textures to create something completely bespoke. That’s a luxury you don’t normally have at the budget-end of the interiors market.

Even if you’re limited on budget, a pick-and-mix system means that you can still show personality and creativity in your choices. There is really no excuse for putting together dull and uninspiring rooms.

What's the bigger crime, Ed? Admitting to your second kitchen, or that it looks like this?

What’s the bigger crime, Ed? Admitting to the existence of your second kitchen… or that it looks like this?

Recently, one of my clients was deciding between a Howdens Kitchen (which is sourced directly through your builder and not generally marketed or sold to the trade) and one from Ikea. We weighed up the pros and cons, but in the end the potential for choice and creative scope won through. I may write further about this decision process soon — it’s something I’ve worked through a few times with different people, with different outcomes. Anyway, we wanted something a bit individual for this kitchen design, and with a brief to create ‘something cool,’ I got going.

As you might be aware, Ikea has had a complete kitchen furniture upgrade – the trusty Faktum has been replaced by a more modern and flexible system called Metod.

Where do we start? Ikea's new Metod system is like creating a Lego model

Where do we start? Ikea’s new Metod system is like creating a Lego model

This means that the dimensions of the units now feel more boxy, the drawers are deeper, and your options for storage are more varied. You might like a sleek block of minimalist doors to hide your gadgets,

Behind closed doors: Ringhult reflect the light and hide the clutter

Behind closed doors: Ringhult doors reflect the light and hide the clutter

or to ditch the doors altogether and display all your kitchenware in neat shelves;

Horda blocks are basically cabinets without doors: stack them and fill them

Horda blocks are basically cabinets without doors: stack them and fill them

to create the ultimate country-style kitchen complete with cornicing and wooden worktops,

Classic features here show off the more traditional look

Classic features here show off the more traditional look

or to play around with different textures and pattern.

Glossy red Ringhult makes a bold statement, while the geometric dimples on the Herrestad wall cabinets add to the glamour

Glossy red Ringhult makes a bold statement, while the geometric dimples on the Herrestad wall cabinets add to the glamour

First I looked at colours. My clients wanted something modern and sleek: they had been considering glossy cabinets and bright colours. However when we looked through inspiration sites like Houzz and Pinterest (really useful exercise — you can surprise yourself), we realised they actually gravitated most towards the greys and whites, with more natural tones and wood accents.

Ideal kitchen style for top budget -- a good starting point/ Roundhouse kitchen featured on Houzz

Ideal kitchen style for top budget — a good starting point/ Roundhouse kitchen featured on Houzz

Creative mix of colours, use of different materials/ Kitchen by Whitten Architects, featured on Houzz

Creative mix of colours, use of different materials/ Kitchen by Whitten Architects, featured on Houzz

So we played around with those shades, and came up with an inventive pairing from Ikea’s selection — Bodbyn Grey and Brokhult.

The Bodbyn range at Ikea comes in a few shades, one of which is a mid-grey. The doors are featured with a simple carved insert, Shaker-style. But you don’t have to recreate a farmhouse when you use it.

Stylisheve does Bodbyn grey. Pared down and modern

Stylisheve does Bodbyn grey. Pared down and modern

Chic grey Bodbyn nestles in this open plan apartment/

Chic grey Bodbyn nestles in this open plan apartment/ Pinterest page by Thomas Strubreiter https://uk.pinterest.com/thomasnordic

Ikea pairs its Bodbyn with chequerboard tiles and industrial style accessories

Ikea pairs its Bodbyn with chequerboard tiles and industrial style accessories

Get more bling with your Bodbyn: Ikea's show kitchen sparkles

Get more bling with your Bodbyn: Ikea’s show kitchen sparkles

Brokhult is a wood effect finish with distinct striped markings: a little bit retro, unapologetically faux, with grey-hued tones and smooth texture.

Brokhult features heavily in this from Kitchens by Design LA

Brokhult features smartly in this from Kitchens by Design LA

Skonahem puts Brokhult in a nautical, driftwood-type of role

Skonahem puts Brokhult in a nautical, driftwood-type of role

I felt that putting these two together would warm up the potentially stark grey with a complementary wood accent. So I plumped for Bodbyn grey doors, with surrounds and end panels in Brokhult. One section of the room needed cupboards to surround the large American-style fridge. These cabinets in turn are wrapped around by the Brokhult, creating a neat stand-alone unit. I hope to get some photos of the finished room for you very soon, so you can see how well they work together.

Back in the design stage, having established the core colours and materials, we now had to draw together worktops, lighting, extra shelving, window coverings, flooring, taps, oven and splashback. I’ll take you through these next time — some beautiful products were bought and some careful decisions were made.

Until then, what are your thoughts on Metod? Have you installed this new style Ikea kitchen in your own home? What pick-and-mix successes have you had?

When big changes occur, it’s necessary to take stock, and sometimes make amendments which affect the running of an organisation. In politics… and in my home.

Some new lodgers came to live with us recently, and we needed to free up some room for them in the kitchen. So, I have been doing some tidying.

Those who know me well will find that a surprising comment, witness my working space:

I know what's in there and I like it like that. My side of the desk....

DON’T TOUCH THIS! I know what’s in that pile and I like it like that. My side of the desk….

Neat worker. Tim keeps it slick.

Neat worker. Tim keeps it slick.

Kitchen re-ordering, on the other hand, is quite satisfying — it’s all about recognising how the room flows and the best way to maximise the (reduced) space. We do have quite a lot of storage built into this kitchen, so the streamlining process wasn’t too much of a trial, but I remembered how important it is that everything has its place. I have even written a strapline about it (see above for details).

When I am helping clients design their kitchen, I always recommend that they do an ‘audit’ of the items they have, how accessible they would like them to be, and which ones they use the most. Although that seems rather specific, it’s actually quite a quick process, because generally they already have pots, pans and plates in some sort of storage. So, it just means going through, cupboard by cupboard, and listing the items. Then, defining problem points — ie, our pans are all stacked in a dark cupboard, and the one I want is ALWAYS at the back — and finding a solution — let’s put your pans in deep drawers instead.

Even if you are not designing a new kitchen, it’s still possible to rearrange things to work better for you. So take a look around my kitchen storage, and I’ll suggest some helpful tips as we go:

Firstly, put the things you use the most in the easiest places to get to. I find deep drawers really easy to use because you can see the entire contents at a glance, and access everything with not too much fuss.

Plate drawer. Neatly stacked and ready to go.

Plate drawer. Neatly stacked and ready to go.

I don’t bother with drawer dividers (apart from those for cutlery) or plate stackers, as they tend to use up more space and make things less flexible. You may disagree!

Bowled over. These drawers are 80cm wide.

Bowled over. These drawers are 80cm wide.

The pans are just as easy to access: you can still stack them but the option to select from above, rather than crouching and grubbing around and removing others to get to the back, is infinitely preferable.

It's a spacious argument...

It’s a spacious argument…

Luxury lodgings

Wok luxury lodgings you have…

This plan is not half-baked

This plan is not half-baked.

These items were already happily homed and worked well for me, but there was one amendment to be made. Whilst the drawers are amazing and accessible, it’s not possible to make use of all the kitchen space in this way. If you imagine any kitchen, there is a lot of potential storage space up the walls as well as that in the floor based cabinets. Any cupboard above eye-level can’t have drawers, for obvious reasons. So the shelves have to suffice. My recommendation is that you find the items you use less regularly to put in these places. Unwisely, I put all our enormous salad bowls and serving plates in one of these high cupboards when I first filled the kitchen, and have been teetering on the edge of dropping them all on my head ever since.

I decided to reposition them in a drawer for easier access.

Hefty items need to be down low.

Hefty items need to be down low

I had used one of the deep drawers for the kids’ various plastic-ware, mainly so they could get to drinking cups and plates when needed. But we don’t use these baby bowls very much any more, and so I found a new home for them — in the corner cupboard.

We really only use the cups now....

No corner too deep…

Now the boys only really need to access the cups on a daily basis, so these are still easily reached by simply opening the cupboard door. These corner cupboards go very deep, but thanks to the pull-out trays, can hold a multitude of stuff.

There’s a picnic and lunchbox theme for the lower tray:

Lunchbox surplus shelf identified.

Lunchbox surplus shelf identified

Opposite, I have a satisfyingly organised tray for tupperware (never underestimate the calm of a well-sorted tupperware collection):

Stack the lids; stack the pots.

Stack the lids; stack the pots

And below, a tray for all the baking gadgets, jugs and other techie cookware:

Ready and waiting: easy to find and use

Ready and waiting: easy to find and use

The slim top drawers I use for cutlery and tools:

Drawer dividers rule here

Drawer dividers rule here

Bigger items. Wooden one side; plastic and metal the other

Bigger items. Wooden one side; plastic and metal the other

And I also have this useful drawer for flat things:

Particularly useful for wraps, bags and foils... and chopsticks!

Particularly useful for wraps, bags and foils… and chopsticks!

Under the sink I have put useful cleaning stuff (and the food bin):

It's all out of sight. Keep your work area sleek and clear.

It’s all out of sight. Keep your work area sleek and clear

And below that the cleaning cloths and towels:

Not forgetting our fire safety....

Not forgetting our fire safety….

We prefer to keep our worktops pretty clear, but I also know that if you put appliances away in cupboards, you’ll rarely use them. So we found a compromise with this sliding cupboard to keep the microwave, toaster and food mixer in:

Now you see 'em...

Now you see ’em…

...now you don't.

…now you don’t.

The coffee machine gets to stay out. Priorities….

The high cupboards are great for smaller items or kits that only come out now and then.

Wine glasses, smart tea set and trays at the top (the trays are high but easy to reach because they're not sitting underneath other things)

Wine glasses, smart tea set and trays at the top (the trays are high but easy to reach because they’re not sitting underneath other things)

Mugs, jugs and tea....

Mugs, jugs and tea….

Glasses and drinks awaiting a fridge space (and a first aid box at the very top)

Glasses and drinks awaiting a fridge space (and a first aid box at the very top)

The cupboard clearance meant that I had to redistribute food into different locations – I opted for the lower shelves in the tall cupboards, because they’re pretty much eye level:

Non-fridge veg, nuts and dried fruit; bakeware; and vases at the top

Non-fridge veg, nuts and dried fruit; bakeware; and vases at the top

You’ll see I’ve used little baskets in here. I find that if you have small items strewn over a shelf it’s very difficult to locate them. However it is very easy to lift down a box and rummage through that. I did the same with the crisp packets in the cupboard next door:

Crisps coralled in big box. Cans occupy the shelf below.

Crisps coralled in big box. Cans occupy the shelf below

I simply can't do another thing. I'll just lie here and help by sitting right in the middle of the kitchen as you move things around.

I simply can’t do another thing. I’ll just lie here and help by sitting right in the middle of the kitchen as you move things around.

In the interests of keeping everything behind closed doors, we customised our wine rack to fit inside a cupboard:

Wine not? Modified wine rack

Wine not? Modified wine rack

The lower parts of the tall cabinets are larders. I have sectioned food groups in the following way:

Top shelf Nespresso capsules, bottom shelf pasta, grains, and an enormous sack of rice.

Top (slim) shelf Nespresso capsules, bottom shelf pasta, grains, and an enormous sack of rice

Baking supplies.

Baking supplies

Soooo many spices. I group them in sections -- whole spices, ground and herbs.

Soooo many spices. I group them in sections — whole spices, ground and herbs

Some people like to have a wall-hung spice rack for all the little jars, but I normally have quite a few outsize or quirky-shaped containers with interesting mixes. So a drawer like this seems to be the best option. To improve it further, I’m thinking of getting a battery operated cupboard light to stick onto the base of the drawer above. The only issue with these big pull-out cupboards is that they’re not very well lit.

Cereal haven below, then jars, teas and coffees, and finally, crucially, treats.

Cereal haven below, then jars, teas and coffees, and at the top, crucially, treats

Never underestimate the uncouth bulkiness of your cereal packets – they are tall and ripped and always dribble grains. In our house, we get through cereal like locusts, and a quantity such as you see displayed above can be decimated in the space of a week.

There are no rules to planning out your kitchen storage, but as you can see, it is possible to get things neatly stowed in places that work well for you. My recent shift around has caused a few wrong turns (in fact, I omitted to tell the smallest two members of the family, who purportedly went ‘without a drink’ for two days before being redirected to the plastic cups’ new home (don’t worry, they didn’t really, they’re just exaggerating)) but overall increased efficiency in our home environment.

It honestly didn’t take me very long, either, maybe an hour? So why not give it a try? And if you’re planning a new kitchen, definitely draw up that list. You’ll be grateful you did.

That was most exhausting. And I don't know where the Cat Treats are any more.

That was most exhausting. And I don’t know where the Cat Treats are any more.

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Nothing.

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

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

Bespoke board games hideaway

Bespoke board games hideaway

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

Eaves with potential: what I had to work with

Eaves with potential: what I had to work with

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

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

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

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

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

Hanging rail wardrobe for shirts and smarts

Hanging rail wardrobe for shirts and smarts

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

Staggered bookshelves in roof space

Staggered bookshelves in roof space

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

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

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

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

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

Multi-function storage

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

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

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

Viewing platform: Lotus undertakes distance survey of sandwich shop visitors

Viewing platform: Lotus undertakes distance survey of sandwich shop visitors

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

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

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Lofty ideas: how the top room started out

Lofty ambitions: how the top room started out

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

Cosy bed space. White Malm single bed from Ikea

Curtain fabric from Fancy Moon

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

London Blue, Echino Nico, Etsuko Furuya, Kokka Fabric

London Blue, Echino Nico, Etsuko Furuya, Kokka Fabric

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zoned out: partition wall provides different spaces with different functions

Zoned out: partition wall provides different spaces with different functions

Homework station: a place to study

Homework station: a niche to study

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

Doorway to adventure in a purple patch

Doorway to adventure in a purple patch

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

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

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

As you’ll probably have noticed from my room designs, I like a bit of colour. Whilst the walls in our house are for the most part white, it’s good to brighten things up with some bold fabric, paint, tiles or other features. However I prefer my bedroom to be a tranquil place rather than a statement (we have nothing to prove here…), with a restful simplicity.

So it was that I plumped for a white scheme for the paintwork and wardrobes, and plain sanded floorboards. I discovered some beautiful curtain fabric from Prestigious which I was very pleased with, as it is elegantly quirky, and the pale blue background is so calming.

Chinese jars on a duck-egg blue background/ Prestigious Ginger Jars Azure

Chinese jars against a duck-egg shade/ Prestigious Textiles Ginger Jars, Azure

In the early hours (I know, not my ideal wake-up time, either, but neither night shift schedules nor children are  respecters of opinion) when there is just the faintest dawn appearing outside, they almost seem to glow in the watery light.

Subtle glow

Subtle glow

The central light is one I found at Homebase, with delicate cut-outs to the shade and glass droplets suspended beneath: there were plenty in the same style to be found around Laura Ashley, Next and John Lewis as well.

Master illumination/ Homebase shade (no longer stocked online)

Master illumination/ Homebase shade (no longer stocked online)

It’s bright and glittery (useful for my apparent full-time laundry sorting role), throwing pretty reflections around the walls from the crystals dangling below.

We looked into a number of wardrobe options: there are plenty of firms out there who provide bespoke building in (hugely expensive) and high-end modular pieces (still expensive). We did drool at the beautiful Hülsta designs, wandered through the Sliderobes showroom enjoying the complimentary coffee, and pored over the Sharps website. But when it came down to it, this level of spend was just not possible on our budget. We got ideas, and then headed for Ikea and the Pax wardrobe system.

Many an article has been written about the pros and cons of Ikea kitchens, and I imagine the same points apply for their wardrobes too. You pay less, you work harder, but it is possible to create a product that has a similar feel and look to its more expensive cousins, with a lot of comparable features. We arranged for our builder to build the main structures, and attach them to the walls. Then we worked out our storage needs, and set about designing the internal sections with shelves, hanging rails and drawers from the Komplement range.

Since we have a bit of wood panelling under the window, we thought it would be most appropriate to use the white panelled wood doors.

Wood panels are a feature

Wood panels are a feature

They are not bright white, but their shade is a perfect fit with the creamy colour that all the woodwork in the house seems to have settled down into (a trait of oil-based paints, which yellow with age: I quite like it). It turns out that these doors were the cheapest, too, which was a very positive result.

Bank of simple wood doors

Bank of simple wood doors

My friend Anna sent me the little birds, which I love. They announce the domain of my wardrobe, while opposite Tim’s storage is plain and unadorned.

Felt it: little birds at home

Chirpy: little birds at home

We have a simple dark framed mirror by the shower room door…

Reflective

Reflective

…and a nice photo of some balancing stones above the bed headboard.

Rocks balanced on a beach/ Adrian Gray

Rocks balanced on a beach/ Adrian Gray

On eBay I found a bargain-priced second of this pretty bedside table:

Lacquered and proud/ John Lewis Shari Cabinet

Lacquered and proud/ John Lewis Shari Cabinet

which I thought would fit in perfectly, but actually the colours are not quite right, a bit too strong for the rest of the room. The top and sides are black, and whilst I assumed that continuing the Chinese theme would work, in fact this piece of furniture is not subtle enough to fit in. So, bedside tables are a work in progress, and I’ll update you when we’ve found the solution.

Go ahead and comment, or tweet me your thoughts to @stowedtweet

Go ahead and comment, or tweet me your thoughts to @stowedtweet

What do you prefer for a bedroom — peaceful shades, cosy warm colours, or dramatic darks? I’ll look forward to hearing your ideas!

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