Archives for category: Worktops

It’s always exciting to see a design come to life. A few weeks ago I popped round to Holly’s kitchen to see how she was getting on now everything has been built and installed. You might remember our neat little pairing of Bodbyn grey and Brokhult wood-effect which I told you about in pick and mix — now they’re nestled together and established, and it’s time to show you the results.

As you might remember, we chose grey for the doors and drawer-fronts, and end-panel pieces in faux wood. The wood brings a warmth to the mix, and stops the grey from feeling too stark.

Standing sentry

Standing sentry

A tall cabinet is a great home for those extra items you don’t always allow space for: broom, mop, even the hoover. This one fits snug between a wall buttress and a door. Cheaper than getting a carpenter to build the cupboard from scratch, and with all the useful internal fittings that come with Ikea kitchen units.

The contrast of materials is best displayed in the wall of storage we created to surround the fridge. In expensive high-end (modern rather than traditional) kitchens you often get a block of cabinets encased in a framework of eye-catching wood.

Fridge cosy

Fridge cosy

You can recreate this effect with Ikea units by using either side panels and a top cornice, or for a more chunky wraparound, re-purpose a ready-made wooden worktop. Here in Holly’s kitchen there was a limited amount of space between the doorway and the window wall, so we chose to maximise the storage options and go for the slimmer panels.

The neutral shades of the cabinetry meant that we weren’t trapped with one colour scheme for the room. Holly opted for a slate-effect worktop, black cooker hood and a gleaming black splashback.

Bold in black

Bold in black: extractor fan from Ikea, now discontinued (but black hoods in other designs are still in stock); black glass splashback from Cheadle Glass; Duropal Welsh Slate worktop from Plasman

In contrast, the blinds are a perky deckchair stripe in mustards, greys and whites.

Shades of colour

Shades of colour: Ashanti Antique roller blind from 247 Blinds

The windowsill above the sink lends a cheerful aspect onto the garden — plants thrive on both sides of the glass.

Shades of colour

Showcase your shrubs – what kitchen windowsills are there for. Tap is called ‘Palazzo’ from Mayfair.

Most of the walls are painted white, but this feature wall in a bright teal brings a colourful jauntiness to the room.

Teal wall

Teal: on the warm and cheerful end of the blues spectrum

Of all the features in this room, perhaps my favourites are these marbled lights floating above the table:

Cool grey veins

Cool grey veins: BHS Nala pendant lights, heartbreakingly no longer available in store (but you might find them on eBay if you’re lucky)

A translucent and delicate pair when turned off, and warmly glowing when on:

Illumination transformation

Illumination transformation

Light up your life

Light up your life

This kitchen has come together in a vibrant way, full of personality and warmth. I love the way the cabinet pairing works — and that Holly didn’t need to spend a fortune to do it. It’s made me wonder what other excellent combinations you could create if you think just a little outside the box. It’s certainly worth exploring beyond the suggestions presented on the pages of a catalogue or in basic showroom designs in store, and see where these ideas take you. Who knows what bespoke discoveries you might dream up!

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I hope your Christmas was wonderful – and a happy new year! Before the flurry and bustle of all these celebrations I was busy setting out some helpful pointers for choosing a work surface in your kitchen. Mainly because I made up the title for this article (not in the slightest bit contrived), but also because wood, laminate and stone do seem to be some of the most popular worktop materials, I thought it would be good to focus on these three.

Wood

The warm tones of a wood worktop are beautiful in a kitchen, but it will need a bit of care and regular attention to keep its good looks.

Earn your stripes: create something beautiful, like AFOBI.com

Earn your stripes: create something beautiful, like AFOBI.com

Wood and water are not the best neighbours, and a sink area will need to be kept free of splashes and pooling, so unless you have a very rigorous and tidy approach to your washing up, it would be probably better to consider another more watertight surface for this part of the kitchen, if you can. Some wooden worktops do have ridges carved out for draining, and some seem to survive the daily onslaught, but these are the ones which are kept in a ‘dry’ state, and are oiled regularly (every six months) to maintain water resistance. In addition pans left to dry can transfer a black mark onto the wood which can be sanded out but may prove to be a hassle over the long term.

Bamboo is always a neat option/ photo from Bamboo Lamp Photo

Bamboo is always a neat option/ photo from Bamboo Lamp Photo

Reliable woods seem to be oak and iroko, and possibly walnut, and all consensus seems to be that you should invest in good quality timber, be prepared to undertake a little maintenance work now and then, and make sure your fitter comes well-recommended. You can create a beautiful wrap-around effect by installing your worktop wood up the sides of an island unit or even around a tall cabinet block.

Iroko wraparound counter top from Design Interior Solutions

Iroko wraparound counter top from Design Interior Solutions

The cheaper option?

You can buy real wood worktops in ready-cut lengths from retailers like Ikea, B&Q and Homebase, as well as in countless online stores. The prices are extremely reasonable and you can carve out all manner of interesting designs if you have the skills and invention, but bear in mind, longer-length counter tops will need to have joins, which may not look so good. I suspect the quality of the wood is not as high as a bespoke sourced and cut piece, so you may encounter more problems with swelling around sink areas and joins.

Faking it

There are some pretty impressive laminate work surfaces out there these days, so if you’re on a budget with your kitchen redesign, don’t despair about your choices. Wood or stone effect images are many and varied, and are relatively good-tempered provided they are fitted correctly.

Perhaps the most important first task is to work out your specs. Most laminates come in 4cm thick blocks, and range in length from 1.86m for the smallest Ikea offering, to 4.1m for the quality Duropal or Axiom brands. Obviously, the longer the lengths, the fewer joins you will need to incorporate. In a recent job I worked on, the Ikea kitchen we designed had some sweeps of work surface which would have looked simply scrappy if we’d used an Ikea worktop. So we had to look elsewhere. Another important consideration is the depth of your units. Often laminate surfaces are offered with a minimum depth of 60cm, but do check that this actually covers the units you’ve chosen – Ikea units need at least 63.5cm, and most companies offer a range of depths: 60cm, 67 (or thereabouts) and 90 for an island.

Once you’ve established these important elements, you can consider texture and colour. Really wanted a hunk of slate to top your cabinets? Try this for size:

It's all in the texture -Duropal does Welsh Slate

It’s all in the texture -Duropal does Welsh Slate

Loving the marble trend but can’t justify the prices?

Simple and classy - but not real - Bushboard Prima Calacatta Marble

Simple and classy – but not real – Bushboard Prima Calacatta Marble

Fancy using some coarse-grained wood as a feature but know that it won’t deal well with the kitchen environment?

Keeping it rustic with Axiom's Shadow Oak, photo from Modern Laminates

Keeping it rustic with Axiom’s Shadow Oak, photo from Modern Laminates

I’d recommend visiting a supplier to see and touch samples. You get a feeling for the texture, which might be smooth, gloss, grained, or crystal. It’s hard to tell the way a surface catches the light by comparing images on a computer screen. If you live in or near Manchester do try out Plasman, a helpful and efficient firm with a huge range in stock and competitive prices.

Stone (marble…y)

In our first home, a small conversion flat in West London, we sourced a beautiful piece of Spanish limestone for our kitchen and it was truly stunning.

Pinkish hue of Spanish limestone - worth the investment

Pinkish hue of limestone – worth the investment

The greatest maintenance issue was ensuring stains never sat for long (red wine bottles were the worst) as the porous surface simply sucked it down deeper. The limestone cost significantly more than the kitchen units (which were after all Ikea) and the precut piece was extremely nerve-racking to deliver and install. Since the kitchen was a corner section of our all-purpose living area, we really wanted something that would look high-quality and not too kitchen-like. It worked from both sides — practical enough for our food-prep but classy enough to display.

Some of these elements may sway you to invest in a beautiful slab of stone for your own kitchen – if your work surface is visible from all areas it can end up being a wonderful statement piece. Check out the possibilities:

Cheshire Granite serves up some unique and eye-boggling patterns

Cheshire Granite serves up some unique and eye-boggling patterns

I’ve never got the knack of pastry (my mum was too good) but the cool smooth of stone is great for baking.

Who needs a bowl or a board? The Begrudging Baker rustles up a fruit tart

Who needs a bowl or a board? The Begrudging Baker rustles up a fruit tart

No need to define your edges, if you don’t want.

Edgy/ Rowat Cut Stone and Marble

Edgy/ Rowat Cut Stone and Marble

And don’t get stuck with a dull colour. Stone comes as wild as you dare:

Marble evoking shimmery fishscale  brings a distinctive sheen to this blue and white toned kitchen/ worktopfactoryy.co.uk

Marble evoking shimmery fish scale brings a distinctive sheen to this blue and white toned kitchen/ worktopfactoryy.co.uk

Which way do you lean? Let me know what’s worked for you — or even what really hasn’t!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doodle becomes real/ Wire furniture by

Doodle becomes real/ Drawings furniture by Jinil Park at Viaduct

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too bright for inside/ spectacular garden tiling

Take it outside/ spectacular garden tiling

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

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

Dusky. A sort of pink I like.

Dusky. A sort of pink I like.

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

A grubbier shade of pink.

A grubbier shade of pink.

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

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

Teak bathmat from Waterworks, approx £153

Roll up: Teak bathmat from Waterworks, approx £153

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

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

Marbellous decor

Marbellous decor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the loveliest interiors looks around at the moment incorporates copper in both minimalist and high-luxury settings.

Bathe in decadence/ copper bath from The Water Monopoly

Bathe in decadence/ copper bath from The Water Monopoly

Where shiny chrome and silver-shaded metallics have ruled the roost for so long, now copper is enjoying a feature role in design.

Polished copper lights stand out against a white background/ http://www.gnr8.biz/europe/product_info.php?products_id=1269

Polished copper lights stand out against a white background/ image found at lighting sales at gnr8.biz

Or dark and moody where the rich brown melds with the shadows..../uncredited (let me know if you have the source!)

Dark and moody: the rich brown melds with the shadows….

For a while we have seen designers showcasing the material in all its glamour in very modern and creative settings: splashbacks…

Copper diamonds: what's not to like?/ www.formtrends.com

Copper load of this: tiles featured at http://www.formtrends.com

Reflective splashback/ www.emmapeascod.com

Reflective and characterful/ http://www.emmapeascod.com

…whole kitchens…

Burnished beauty: complete copper cuisine covering

Burnished beauty: complete copper cuisine covering

…or even as a striking wall covering.

Copper clad and cosy/ pinterest lh3.ggpht.com

Copper clad and cosy/ pinterest lh3.ggpht.com

Though we see this warm-hued metal brazen in statement pieces currently, there is a likelihood that it will become an option for the mainstream in the future. I expect we’ll see more copper in high street retail lighting departments over the next few seasons: maybe even tiling trims and door handles. Where is the rule that says your bathroom hardware has to be restricted to stainless steel?

Tapping into a trend/ Copper tap

Tapping into a trend

Modern though these ideas are, it’s not the first time we fell in love with copper’s russet charms, and it’s possible to see it still preserved resplendent from a previous heyday. Next time I’ll show you some examples of this metal’s past glories, when we took a trip to Cornwall and found some treasure. 

 

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

 

A few months ago my lovely friends Phill and Lindsey asked me to help them come up with some good ideas for a shower room in the eaves of their gorgeous South Manchester home. They explained that it was currently a junk room but had originally been a bathroom, so all the services were ready and waiting. Brilliant. I got going on some ideas and we chatted through likes and dislikes. After checking out the room, which had become an easy place to “store” things in the journey to their final resting place in the loft, we decided on a layout, and started selecting the right elements for the room. Lindsey liked an uncluttered spa-like look, and so we went for a simple wall-hung sink with the pipework displayed.

Baring all: Riva 80 basin from Victoria Plumb

Baring all: Riva 80 basin from Victoria Plumb

Slate-effect tiles would provide an elegant flooring, and the walls would be painted white. I felt that it would be good to have some wood as a relief from the black and white cool, so we agreed that the windows would have some wooden slatted blinds, and a similarly coloured wooden storage unit could complete the room. The door to the room is stripped pine, and so we used that as a match point for the other woods. I just want to take you back now, to way back in the room’s past, and when Lindsey and Phill first bought the house. Yes, there was a bathroom in there, but my goodness, I could see why they wanted to rip it out. The following pictures are best viewed with slanty head and frowny eyes….

So many alarming features

So many alarming features

No words needed

No words needed

I did warn you. They created a sweet nursery instead, which served them well.

Sighs of relief all round

Sighs of relief all round

But now their boys are all huge, and showers are a much needed resource for the hectic mornings. The black and white (with a little wood) theme was all very well, but we did feel that it was lacking some character. Lindsey said how she’d love to have some mosaics, somewhere, and started researching designs. We thought the shower tray could be a good place as it’s not a huge surface area, and would work well with the small tiles. You need to have a slope built in to your shower tray, to allow the water to flow towards the drain. If you use smaller tiles, you can arrange this sloping more effectively and smoothly. The one drawback to designing a mosaic was the cost. If you buy individual stone tiles, you will pay huge amounts both for the product and for the specialist to fit them. Lindsey had found her Roman design – a maze.

Roman maze: there must be a way

Roman maze: there must be a way

We had a plan

We had a plan

I realised that the cheaper way to buy mosaics is on a webbed grid, which you can then attach directly to a surface and grout. But there is no reason why they need to stay on the grid. We checked with the bathroom installer and he was happy to provide a mat to attach the design to. The product we used was the Mazurka range at http://www.mosaictileshop.co.uk – the black Onyx sheet at under £12 per sheet and the white Mastic at just under £10. We spent a confused morning counting exact numbers of black and white on the above plan, then working out how many sheets of mosaics were needed to fill the shower floor space. But we got there, and the order was made. And one morning, I received this exciting email:

"It was a late night but we did it!"

“It was a late night but we did it!”

And in it went! A bespoke, clever, stylish piece of design which didn’t cost the earth and is exactly what they wanted. Here it is adorning the floor of their shower.

Your starter for ten. Make your way to the drain before the water does.

Your starter for ten. Make your way to the drain before the water

And the rest of the room looks equally sophisticated, unfussy and calm.

Super storage: John Lewis cabinet completes the look

Super storage: John Lewis cabinet completes the look

Stylish shower room

Stylish shower room

I wouldn’t have ever thought of using mosaic tiles in this creative way, but now I would happily encourage clients to go for it. Sheet mosaics are comparatively inexpensive, and provide plenty of opportunities to go bespoke. Inspired? Let me know if you decide to do this too.

I’m a fan of the curvy, sleek potential of Corian or any of the other plastic composites. We used it on both our working surfaces, and created some ‘legs’ to wrap around the peninsula units. The installers moulded half of the structure in their workshop, then grafted in the other vertical piece on site. A pretty hefty and substantial delivery, I think they were grateful for the wide-spaced doors but less impressed with the quagmire and lack of steps up to the kitchen… sorry guys.

One giant leap for access...

One giant leap for access…

We went for stainless steel underslung sinks rather than the Corian mouldings, because I wasn’t sure whether my boiling water tap would warp the material in time. Probably it would have been fine, but I didn’t want to risk it. Anyway, since we went for a creamy white colour there was a lot of potential for stains and discolouring, as well as the fact that the metal gives a bit more when you drop things on it, so I am less likely to break things in clumsy moments.

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