Archives for category: Traditions

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

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

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

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

Precut or bespoke

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

Duropal offers some classy options in laminates

Duropal offers some classy options in laminates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wood as icing/ stunning worktop effect featured on Dwell

Wood as icing/ stunning worktop effect featured on Dwell

lots of different types of stone, such as granite,

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

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

marble

Simply marbellous/ by Darlinghurst pty featured on Behance

Simply marbellous/ by Darlinghurst pty featured on Behance

and limestone;

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

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

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

A casual drape/ LG HiMac USA

A casual drape/ LG HiMac USA

and Staron (sometimes called ‘solid surfaces’);

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

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

stainless steel;

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

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

A shining example from Stainless Steel Direct UK

A shining example from Stainless Steel Direct UK

glass

Recycled glass worktop found on Indulgy

Recycled glass worktop found on Indulgy

Translucent. 21st Century Village Glass worktop

Translucent. 21st Century Village Glass worktop

Operate transparently/ ThinkGlass Residential project

Operate transparently/ ThinkGlass Residential project

or polished concrete.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wraparound surfaces look spectacular,

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

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

and sharp corners can be softened or rounded.

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

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

Thick or thin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colour variations

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

Eek! When blueberries attack/ from Young House Love

Eek! When blueberries attack/ from Young House Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slab happy/ worktop in TriBeCa, credit Ryan Korban

Slab happy/ worktop in TriBeCa, credit Ryan Korban

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

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

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

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

OKA evokes the 'hibernation approach' to winter

OKA evokes the ‘hibernation approach’ to winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A subtle grey stripe with a  splash of colour edging

A subtle grey stripe with a splash of colour edging

Cheerful tones to brighten the atmosphere

Cheerful tones to brighten the atmosphere

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

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

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

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Zigzags and all things geometric are certainly a big influence at the moment, as you’ll have no doubt noticed from eye-crossing cushions to mind-expanding wallpaper in articles, blogs and shops. Rugs, curtains, even tiles laid in a balance-threatening skew are pretty much inevitable elements of any self-respecting modern interior.

So continuing in that direction, and if we cast our eyes downward, there is a slightly more subtle expression of chevron and pattern that has been gracing our floors for many generations. Yes, I bring you parquet, the wooden floor with a design slant.

Stockholm flat as advertised on estate agency Fantastic Frank

Stockholm flat as advertised on estate agency Fantastic Frank

If you’re lucky enough to be contemplating a new wood floor, or even any sort of flooring, then give this option some serious consideration.

Let me count the ways:

Full sweep/ Victorian home has tumbled parquet featured in House to Home

Full sweep/ Victorian home has tumbled parquet featured in House to Home

In a period home, parquet delivers continuity through different rooms, with subtle textural changes around doorways and edging. Many classic Parisian apartments feature dramatic parquet flooring, while the walls and other decor are left white in contrast.

There are plenty of wood floor craftsmen who will put together the little chunks of wood in your preferred pattern. The borders around the room can be emphasised with different coloured woods, literally drawing a line around the important features:

Classy wenge borders oak herringbone/ floor by Jordan Andrews Ltd

Classy wenge borders oak herringbone/ floor by Jordan Andrews Ltd

For a less classic look, and straying more into the Scandinavian style, the wood can be left unvarnished or very lightly so. The greyer shade makes for a calm and minimalist aesthetic, even with the pattern.

Simple herringbone featured on Las Cositas Beach & Eau blog

Simple herringbone featured on Las Cositas Beach & Eau blog

The further you go along this route, the more peaceful the room becomes. Here below the walls are also clad in a silvery shaded wood, so that every line is subtle, and light bounces off all the surfaces.

Pale and interesting/ white washed floors and walls feature on Houzz

Pale and interesting/ white washed floors and walls feature on Houzz

Alternatively, you may want to create the opposite effect, with some deep and moody darks. Imagine this scene below with a simple wood plank floor: certainly the intensity of the room would be diminished.

Dark and brooding/ Antwerp apartment from Dieter Vander Velpen

Dark and brooding/ Antwerp apartment from Dieter Vander Velpen on Pinterest

The introduction of pattern on any surface does impact the rest of the room: I don’t think I’d need to add a busy wallpaper if my flooring was this nicely patterned.

Whilst the blocky designs do look very ‘crafted’ — the least natural looking of all wood floors, really — it is possible to downplay this by leaving them unfinished. Look at how this flooring is left untreated in what is obviously a rather grand house, furnished with high-quality bathroom items. Almost bare and basic, but not quite.

Scruffy stately corner features sleek basinware/ featured in Greige blog

Scruffy stately corner features sleek basinware/ featured in Greige blog

The pieces of wood are also quite large, which makes for a completely different feel from the little busy blocks which feature in the older style parquet floors.

In this bathroom, wide planks are laid in parquet style chevrons, which plays some strange tricks with perspective and scale.

A tiny bath, or large planks laid in a herringbone pattern?

A tiny bath, or large planks laid in a herringbone pattern?

Of course, there is no rule which says you need to keep to traditional wood colours or a rigid pattern. The disintegration of the classic parquet patterning looks so effective here — the red and black patches making a pixelated stain on the shop floor:

Stella McCartney in Milan, designed by Raw Edges

Stella McCartney in Milan, designed by Raw Edges

Parquet is not just for floors, either. Check out these gorgeous table tops made from reclaimed wood by an innovative furniture making collective from Italy:

Hexagon parquet table from Controprogetto

Hexagon parquet table from Controprogetto

Close up/ wooden patchwork by Controprogetto

Close up/ wooden patchwork by Controprogetto

 

Recycled chic table top by Controprogetto

Recycled chic table top by Controprogetto

Which style do you lean towards? The honeyed tones of a classic installation, or the unvarnished greys of a more modern approach? With the continued development of more realistic wood-effect vinyl and ceramic/porcelain tiles, you don’t even need to commit to the real deal. But that’s a whole new blog post….

I had a great week last week setting up a friend’s kitchen makeover. I can show you photos, we’re both really pleased with how it turned out — more on that very soon. But it almost didn’t happen at all.

As we chatted before Christmas, she admitted that she’d love a change in her kitchen, but that it would probably cost too much, she couldn’t bear the hassle and simply didn’t have time. Working full time, with a family and many other pressing commitments besides, the prospect of wading through product research, builder-selecting and overseeing a project was an incredibly unattractive one. So we talked through what she’d like, ideally, and what would induce her to go ahead. And as we discussed it, I realised that a lot of people feel the same about making changes to their homes.

I know the look I want but I don’t know how to get it

Sometimes you know exactly what you want done to your kitchen.

Plywood stars in House OM designed by Sou Fujimoto Architects, photo by Iwan Baan

Plywood stars in House OM designed by Sou Fujimoto Architects, photo by Iwan Baan

You have seen the perfect bathroom in a magazine, and you only wish you could snap your fingers and have it.

Going for gold: who said we had to stop at the taps?/ Lasa Idea Catalogue Collections 2014

Going for gold: who said we had to stop at the taps?/ Lasa Idea Catalogue Collections 2014

You might know that you like a certain style: ‘I live in a Victorian house so I would like to have classic styling in my bathrooms.’

Country house bathroom featured in Homes and Gardens

Country house bathroom featured in Homes and Gardens

Maybe it is simply that you prefer things sleek and don’t want to have all your cookware on show.

What do you mean, it'll all change when we have kids? Segmento kitchen from Poggenpohl boasts unadorned minimalism

What do you mean, it’ll all change when we have kids? Segmento kitchen from Poggenpohl boasts unadorned minimalism

It’s a big jump from these statements to finding the right products, at the best prices, to fit in your rooms. Wouldn’t it be good if there was someone who knew exactly where to look for the special deals, could discuss the pros and cons of different items, and could ensure that everything fitted together properly?

I don’t know a trustworthy tradesman

Sadly cowboy builders are not unheard of. Most people can recount horror stories of jobs left half done or how poor fitting led to leaky ceilings, wonky cabinetry or worse. But there are plenty of fantastic craftsmen out there who work hard, and create beautiful homes. A good professional recommendation is so valuable.

I don’t have the time to get quotes, let builders in, keep an eye on the work done, or ensure that everything is done properly

If you are working and/or out of the house in the daytime, a simple building job can be a huge pressure. You need the time to talk through the job and get quotes, then be ‘on site’ throughout to check on progress, and keep works on track and to schedule. Imagine if someone took all these pressures out of your hands!

I’m not the sort of person who has an interior designer

Most people think of an interior designer as someone who swans about in houses making airy decisions about fabrics, colour ways or recommending expensive luxury furniture. They seem the preserve of the rich, not those with limited budgets seeking practical solutions.

In fact, if you recognise some or all of the sentiments I’ve mentioned above, it’s almost certain that you can save your time, money and stress by employing someone to take these jobs on for you. Sourcing, tendering and project management are all areas of building work that are often bewildering and exhausting. It is not surprising that most people are nervous to undertake new projects, but if they could save on the cost of products, have peace of mind on their choice of builder, and not get embroiled in the minutiae of the job, maybe they’d feel differently.

So if you’d like to spend less, not more, you probably need to come to stowed for some skinterior design.

There comes a time, and I’m not sure exactly at which point it is, when the suggestion of taking A Nice Walk or making a visit to a historical site becomes a really good idea, rather than a really annoying imposition on your play life. Possibly it’s when you are the suggester rather than the suggestee of the activity, and you are settling comfortably into at least your fourth decade.

I remember going to National Trust properties when I was little. I remember the untrodden lawns, the beautifully manicured gardens, and the grey-haired and sensibly-shod visitors wandering in them, the lavender-infused shop selling mainly fudge, the dangled possibility of an ice cream at the end, and most certainly a picnic with Bovril sandwiches. There were also woody wild areas to explore and the familiar unusual plants to rediscover just around the corner… maybe even a ‘climbing tree’.

Memories! We went here/ Watersmeet river gorge from the National Trust

Memories! We went here/ Watersmeet river gorge from the National Trust

Often we eschewed the house visit for fear of potential toddler malfunction, or, when we were older, in deference to the encroaching teenage boredom threshold. Most of the dingy exhibits were sequestered out of reach behind a rope barrier (and how tempting that rope was for us younger visitors, for swinging on or deftly looping around a sibling’s neck) and presided over by a stately and disapproving figure in the corner, who seemed to have a lot in common with Sam the Eagle from the Muppets.

The culture police have changed at the National Trust over the years/Sam the Eagle generally disapproves

The NT culture police have mellowed over the years/Sam the Eagle generally disapproves

In many ways, the National Trust has changed, and all to the good. Children are made so welcome now in the houses, and interaction with the objects in them is now actively encouraged. Where items need to be preserved, explanatory notes are placed next to them, showing the reasons for the Do Not Touch notice. The once frosty security guards have been replaced by a cosy army of grandparents, eager to chat and inspire.

So as parents, we didn’t baulk at the concept of taking our kids and another family into Lanhydrock House in Cornwall one rainy half term day. The children had a fantastic time looking for Halloween pumpkins but also following an easy-to-read guide as we toured the rooms, answering quizzes and imagining themselves as little lords and ladies from a bygone age.

But I didn’t bring you here only to muse upon middle-class family pursuits. I mentioned in my previous post that I found some treasure here. As our party swarmed ahead, I lingered in the kitchen, captivated by their collection of ‘Victorian mod cons’ and stylish work spaces. But mostly because these guys clearly had a big copper trend going on then too.

Trays to turreens: it's all made of copper

Trays to turreens: it’s all made of copper

copper kitchen lanhydrock

I could work with this. An inspiring kitchen

How many fry-ups? Pans hang on the wall.

How many fry-ups? Pans hang on the wall.

The willow pattern crockery is the height of Chinoiserie chic

The willow pattern crockery is the height of Chinese-style chic

Statement piece/ jelly mould

Statement piece: grand mould

Mrs Beeton recommends a jelly. Copper moulds for all kinds of fine foods

Mrs Beeton recommends a jelly. Copper moulds for all kinds of fine foods

Solution to easy-clean kitchenware: have staff

Solution to easy-clean kitchenware: have staff

Shining examples/ serve it all up with dainty blue Royal Doulton and beaten copper.

Serve it up with dainty blue Royal Doulton and beaten copper

This kitchen, set out ready for action, made me realise how similar our aesthetic tastes are currently with those of the big houses a century ago. The copper, the chinoiserie, even the light pink shade on the walls as a pastel backdrop, are all elements we might include in our modern interiors.

I can’t pretend that all our boys leap up in eager anticipation every time we say we’re heading for a National Trust property. Sometimes it’s hard to tear themselves away from that six-hour game of Chelsea Monopoly, or the re-enactment of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. But by the time we’re there, and the valuable badge prizes are up for grabs, everyone is immersed, loving the challenge, learning without realising it, and continuing in the great family tradition. A copper-bottomed option for a good day out.

Inherent quality and beauty in interior design will always resurface, sometimes with new approaches and settings. The way we choose to spend and direct our time with family now draws on memories of that which was valuable in our own childhoods. What goes around comes around.

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