Archives for posts with tag: Bespoke

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!

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

Nothing.

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

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

Bespoke board games hideaway

Bespoke board games hideaway

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

Eaves with potential: what I had to work with

Eaves with potential: what I had to work with

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

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

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

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

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

Hanging rail wardrobe for shirts and smarts

Hanging rail wardrobe for shirts and smarts

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

Staggered bookshelves in roof space

Staggered bookshelves in roof space

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

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

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

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

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

Multi-function storage

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

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

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.

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