Archives for category: Thrifty interiors

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

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.

I have executed a stealth interiors move.

It looks like this:

Well hi. I bet you weren't expecting me.

Well hi. I bet you weren’t expecting me.

This little chap is now resident on the light pull in our downstairs loo. He was given to me by my friend (for some reason they didn’t need it in their house, possibly because her husband is allergic to cats) and I’ve been plotting my move ever since.

This is because, whilst we haven’t talked about it, I am almost 100% sure that cute cat light pulls are not top of Tim’s design plans for our home. Sleek, modern, clean lines — yes. Cat figurines as decor — not so much.

Oh but it’s only a light pull! And in the cloakroom — that tiny room where you have full permission to exercise daring eclecticism. I snipped off the old grubby white cord and plastic cone and quickly binned them.

Rejected

Rejected

There’s no doubt the tatty plastic had to go. It feels cheap and lightweight.

Now there’s some substance at the end of the light pull, and the solid feline holds sway over the room.

The boys like him very much, and even Tim was mutedly positive.

Win win. The cat stays.

Win win. Kitsch cat stays.

So if you’re planning some stealth improvement work of your own, in the words of a certain sportswear brand, just do it. It’s unlikely anyone will have the energy or antipathy to take action against it. You never know, some may even be converted….

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marrakech Hexagons from Fired Earth

Marrakech Hexagons from Fired Earth

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

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

Walls and Floors white in gloss or matt

Walls and Floors white in gloss or matt

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

hexagon wandf honeycomb avo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Porcelenosa catalogue shot features double-hex table

Porcelenosa catalogue shot features double-hex table

It seems that copper is not immune:

Hexagon beaten champagne bucket vase Eclectic from Tom Dixon

Hexagon beaten champagne bucket vase Eclectic from Tom Dixon

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

Upcycle your wardrobe with Cole and Son's Geometric wallpaper

Upcycle your wardrobe with Cole and Son’s Geometric wallpaper

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

Count them: seven sided footstool from Missoni

Count them: seven sided footstool from Missoni

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

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

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

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

Hexagon lacquered tray from Jonathan Adler

Hexagon lacquered tray from Jonathan Adler

Because a little bit of orange does make me smile.

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

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

Ikea kitchen incognito

Ikea kitchen incognito

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

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

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