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My goodness, where did the beginning of this year go? I am sorry to leave you all hanging so long in 2016, but I’ve been busy with a few projects and even pursuing new challenges… more information on that to come soon, I promise!

In the meantime I thought I’d share a little article with you that has just been published on Houzz UK. You may remember me talking about them before — a super online magazine chock full of photographs by designers and home-owners from all over the world. The mind-boggling bevy of images is not just beautiful to look at, however, but also a pretty excellent way to start an interiors project. Search filters on the menu mean that you can sift out rooms of the house, style (from traditional to eclectic), size, price point and even geographical area. You can collect project inspiration in little folders called Ideabooks, and collaborate with a builder/designer/friend on them to share ideas. There are advice sections with helpful pointers from industry professionals, and discussion boards with people who may in the process of undertaking similar work to you, to share ideas and inspiration, or maybe even offer gems of advice with the benefit of hindsight before you embark.

So do give it a try. Let me know how you find your inspiration for home improvement solutions: do you buy magazines or browse on sites like Pinterest? Maybe you pick up good ideas when you’re out and about. Have you got any helpful tips to share about your design process?

And in the meantime, why not settle down to read my ode to the kitchen table. I am going to be contributing to Houzz regularly with some practical design advice — keep a look-out for me on there!

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

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

Geometric design seems fresh despite its vintage

Geometric design seems fresh despite its vintage

The gentleman's bathroom presented in the latest styles

The gentleman’s bathroom presented in the latest styles

The lady's chamber with more delicate colours

The lady’s chamber with more delicate colours

Not only pattern but texture...

Not only pattern but texture…

Touchy feely: paper with a soft side

Touchy feely: paper with a soft side

Up close and strokable

Up close and strokable

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

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

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

World map mural in words available through Wall Factor

World map mural in words available through Wall Factor

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

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

Everything in its place....

Everything in its place….

For all those readers who loved the yoo-tiddly posts of a few weeks ago, I am very pleased to present a how-to guide to making your own storage facility out of household items! It’s by one of my favourite bloggers, Clare, from Projectophile, who seems to share my love of a low budget, but combines this with some neat practical skills….

Upcycled Hat-and-Glove Storage Center.

This title sounds like it should be accompanied by banjo. I admit overuse but I feel like I have got it out of my system now, so normal service will be resumed with the next post.

We had, as I mentioned in my previous post, many storage goals for the utility room. Coats, hats, scarves and countless sport-related items all need a home, and each person needs to know where they can find their own without too much rummaging and general panic. We had experimented with various boxes of items in previous homes, and I feel we may have achieved pretty much optimum access-storage at this point.

Coats live on hooks. And we have some excellent, chunky, practical hooks in the utility room (sprouting from dark blue boards) from Ikea, which are called Bjärnum.

We mean business: utility hook for a utility room/ Bjarnum from Ikea

We mean business: utility hook for a utility room/ Bjarnum from Ikea

Having two different-length hooks is very useful. Each member of the household has a Bjärnum for all their coats and jackets, and remainder hooks host bags and other useful hangable accessories.

Will you hook at that? Coats hanging out

Will you hook at that? Coats hanging out

Honestly, however many coat hooks you have never actually seem to be enough. We do fill these completely, but look at how many there are! It’s not as if we are impulse shoppers. I think you do generally just have more stuff than you like to think, and it’s important to make space for it.

A peg or two

A peg or two

Wide view of utility featuring coats and glazed door

Wide view of utility featuring coats and glazed door

Apart from the hanging items, we did have an amount of footwear and other accessories which needed a home. The aforementioned box system is now streamlined to two boxes each for the boys (footwear in one; scarves, hats, sunglasses etc in the other) and large baskets for Tim and I. Exiting the house involves a lot of “Mum!!!! Where’s my…” which requests are referred directly to these storage boxes for a satisfyingly quick resolution. We had a strange nib of wall (structural) which created a cosy nook ideal for shelving. I used the functional but brilliant Algot system of Ikea shelves with which you simply fix two vertical struts to the wall and slot in shelving at desired levels.

Top level storage

Top level storage

Even room for the cat bed below

Even room for the cat bed below

The big tall Ikea cupboard (in the foreground of my wide shot above) is home for Hoover, broom and other items, as well as cat food supplies and the more bulky items. Annoyingly the ironing board didn’t fit in but we found a snug spot for it next to the Algot shelves instead, so all was not lost.

Lotus is now fully cat-door operational and scoots in and out of her own little passageway through the wall quite happily. Initially we had struggled to find a location for her door since our kitchen doors and utility door are all made of glass. You can install cat flaps into glass, but it involves a lot of cost and replacing the existing glazing. I didn’t really want the tacky plastic on show in the lovely back door, either, because it’s visible from elsewhere in the house.

Having tripped over the cat bowls for a few months as they lurked on the utility floor, we decided to pop them up onto the work surface, to minimise spillage.

Prestige level cat dining

Prestige level cat dining

That’s when we realised that there was a handy access spot through the wall. We installed the little door into the cavity wall: Lotus now treats her passageway like a scouting post, hunched within to check that all is well before she leaps outside, fluffy tail remaining inside and sweeping sporadically over the leaves and footprints she brought in with the last visit. The little car mat we found for her seems to be a nice place to sit and eat, though she doesn’t wipe her paws on it on her way in, and invariably the sink is covered in muddy footprints.

Light at the end of the tunnel: cat access

Light at the end of the tunnel: cat access

For clothes drying I had imagined originally installing a large Kitchen Maid…

Suspend your smalls: Kitchen Maid can be a great drying solution

Suspend your smalls: Kitchen Maid can be a great drying solution

…suspended from the ceiling, but as the room came together it was increasingly obvious that this would block the light and make for a rather stooping journey from door to door. Then I found Ikea’s Grundtal drying rack, which fitted perfectly to the two facing surfaces above the sink, and can be propped up and down in a moment to provide all the hanging space we need.

Dry me out: Grundtal drying rack propped up for business

Dry me out: Grundtal open for business

Now this bijoux feline eatery is sometimes overslung with a few items of clothing drying in neat lines above, which I am sure adds a certain textile festival charm to the atmosphere.

Spot the difference: Lotus channels that holiday vibe with laundry drying above her dinner

Spot the difference: Lotus channels that holiday vibe with laundry drying above her dinner

 

One of the reasons we bought our home was the potential we saw in the kitchen to extend it to a large family room, with plenty of space for cooking, eating and hanging out. It was, as we saw it, a case of adding a simple bricked box structure onto the back of the house, thereby doubling the existing kitchen size and featuring those bi-fold doors which can open up the back of your house like a giant can-opener. Our architect refined our ambitions and we pored over our resulting plans with great excitement.

We showed them to various friends and family members, and thrashed out a few of the design points. Perhaps one of the nicest and most ingenious additions came from our sister-in-law Ali, who suggested a long strip of window along the dining table side of the extension, ostensibly to break up the blankness of the new-build wall. Thank you to Ali! It is a characterful and fun element in the room, and gets so many compliments.

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

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

When I was considering it, I realised that the vista was not exactly interesting: a classic picture window normally frames a fantastic view or a feature in a garden, as you can see in this stunning example from Houzz:

I also thought about the clerestory concept, which is a window or strip of windows based high up in a room to let in light.

A view of the sky: designyourinteriors showcases the clerestory effect

A view of the sky: designyourinteriors showcases the clerestory effect

But our slimline window is not a clerestory window, because it is at eye level, and the prevailing view is of leaves on the evergreen trees outside. And that is part of the charm. The white plain walls have a rich slice of foliage daubed across them, whatever the weather or season.

Green screen: leafy aspect

Green screen: leafy aspect

A final small bonus to this clever window is that the kids’ trampoline is located on this side of the garden. Once bouncing begins, from my partial parental viewing gallery the occasional glimpse of a disembodied head reassures me that all is well.

We were in Paris for only two nights, and so had to squeeze in our adventures to a relatively short time. Hence on the first morning we set off to find a perfect breakfast bakery, with tables outside, and delicious creations inside. The Rue des Martyrs was freckled liberally with award-winning cake shops and bread shops, sushi bars and wine bars, delicatessens and cheese emporia, sawdust-sprinkled floors in butchers and punnets of fruit and veg spilling out of greengrocers onto trestles on the pavement.

Stocking the pavement with five-a-day supplies

Stocking the pavement with five-a-day supplies

The only seated refreshments we saw initially were the wobbly plastic chairs outside tabacs. Parisians seemed content to perch on these to enjoy their early morning espresso, but we were after the holiday dream (always a dangerous aim with children in tow), and bakeries weren’t obliging with seating as we traipsed up the hill.

Roll up, roll up! Get your posh ham here.

Roll up, roll up! Get your posh ham here

Thankfully at the top was a tiny cobbled square with trees, benches, and a few local people stretching the legs of their minuscule dogs. At the corner, some artfully arranged painted chairs and rickety tables heralded our boulangerie holy grail.

The colour shop next door. How to match your soft furnishings with your floral arrangements

The ‘colour shop’ next door. How to match your soft furnishings with your floral arrangements

Each boy chose an inordinately enormous cake for his ‘second breakfast’, whilst Tim and I enjoyed a simple croissant each with black coffee, so everyone was happy.

It's not muesli. But it is second breadfast.

It’s not muesli. But it is second breakfast

Our meander back down the hill was slightly less single-minded, and we found some dear little treasure shops nestled between the cafes.

What lovely crockery you have! Quirky little interiors shop

What lovely crockery you have! Quirky little interiors shop

I pretty much wanted everything in here.

So many nice things, so little interest from my tourist companions....

So many nice things, so little interest from my tourist companions….

And through this murky window some existentialist toys contemplated their future.

Don't jump, Claude. Playmobil figures close to the edge

Don’t jump, Claude. Playmobil figures close to the edge

Thus set up, we went on our way to the Metro, and headed to our next, even more magical destination….

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