Archives for posts with tag: Color

I would say that generally there’s a rule about bathrooms, which is that should someone move to a new home, and find within it a bathroom suite that is not white, the introductory tour to friends would go something like this:

“And here’s the bathroom! Of course, we’re going to get rid of that avocado suite as soon as possible!”

And if I was asked to advise on updating bathrooms in that situation, I’d assume that the home owner was in the right.

Urk, where do we start? Apartment Therapy readers' dilemma

Urk, where do we start? Apartment Therapy readers’ avocado-based dilemma posed in “Good Questions,” 2009

So I was initially surprised by a recent design job where my client wanted to Keep The Suite. The shade was one called Pampas, and actually, when I started to consider it, would fit in unobtrusively amongst the Farrow and Ball ‘Greens’ collection.

Well helloo. Pampas shade of bathroom is at home with a shabby chic vibe

Well helloo. Pampas shade of bathroom is at home with a shabby chic vibe

It’s pale, and reminiscent with its sage tones of a lot of the upcycled furniture that populates eBay.

This cabinet is painted in vert de terre from F&B -- one of many reconditioned items to be found for sale

This cabinet is painted in ‘vert de terre’ from F&B — one of many reconditioned items to be found for auction online

With this in mind, creating a design around the suite was actually quite satisfying. These pale greens look too stark set against a brilliant white, they fit in more snugly with cream or natural woods. Any paintwork we do will be cream, and the overall effect we’re aiming for will be restful and calm.

The floor was the first thing I felt we had to pin down, and I was looking for a light, yellow-based wood effect. We found a wonderful vinyl by Amtico called Bamboo:

Bamboo theme vinyl floor by Amtico has a retro feel to it

Bamboo theme vinyl floor by Amtico has a retro feel to it

The next challenge was the wall tiles. Lynne likes limestone with nice geological markings, so we set out to find a match for the floor and Pampas colour.

The Pampas soap dish takes an outing to Tiles UK...

The Pampas soap dish takes an outing to Tiles UK…

It was surprisingly hard to get a complementary shade: too dark and the room would have looked murky; some tile colours looked great with the Pampas but terrible with the floor; others were too busy, or too grey, or too pink. Finally we found a lovely stone effect tile called Legend Marfil which had just the right amount of detail, a pale colour and even at a good price (around £15 a square metre).

Not too busy, not too dark, not too pink, not too pale: this tile is just right/ Legend Marfil from Tiles UK

Not too busy, not too dark, not too pink, not too pale: this tile is just right/ Legend Marfil from Tiles UK

The Seventies-design taps needed updating from the ubiquitous squat and dated basics…

WARNING: WE WILL DATE YOUR BATHROOM. IMMEDIATELY.

WARNING: WE’RE CHEAP BUT WE WILL NOT IMPROVE YOUR BATHROOM

… to some classy crossheads:

Stately traditional taps strike a confident pose

Stately traditional taps strike a confident pose/ Coniston bath taps by Victoria Plumb

And at the windows a natural wood effect slatted blind will be fixed, to filter the light.

Sable Venetian Blinds in Ecowood by 247blinds

Sable Venetian Blinds in Ecowood by 247blinds

Another important issue was the bath side, which back in its heyday would have doubtless sported a creaky plastic Pampas panel. We intend to bring it gently up to date with wooden cladding instead: so much more solid.

Like this, but just the bath side - so much more solid than a bath panel

Like this, but just the bath side/ photo from bighouseholidays: The Lookout House, Thorpeness

If there is room for storage (we’re going to have to wait and see after everything has been installed), we did find a fantastic range from Victoria Plumb called “Camberley.” It has cabinets in what seems like a matching shade:

What a lot of lovely storage. Camberley Sage from Victoria Plumb

What a lot of lovely storage. Camberley Sage tall cabinet from Victoria Plumb

Whether it is or not remains to be seen. If we’re feeling lucky we’ll order one up and check. Otherwise there are handy options in other stores, such as this bamboo and chrome wall shelf…

Tesco's bamboo wall shelf

Tesco’s bamboo wall shelf

… this cool locker cabinet…

Bamboo cabinet from Argos

Bamboo cabinet from Argos

… or this ladder storage:

Floor-standing box storage also from Argos

Floor-standing box storage also from Argos

If the Camberley range works for us, we can opt for their mirror and wall cabinet:

Slim cabinet for useful bathroom storage

Slim cabinet for useful bathroom storage

Camberley mirror

Camberley mirror

Otherwise a wood-framed mirror and possibly a cream-coloured cabinet would work ok. We’re also toying with the idea of paint colour-matching the Pampas shade, buying a cheap wooden cabinet, and simply painting it.

Work is already in progress, it shouldn’t be long before I can show you the room in all its peaceful perfection.

In the meantime, since starting this job, I have been mulling about daring interior design – where you leap for what you love and see where that takes you – and the contrasting blandification of houses which don’t scare estate agents but equally don’t give anything away about the character of the people who live there.

The basin and bath are unashamedly green in designer Luke Mortimer's home/ house tour by Design Sponge, 2012

The basin and bath are unashamedly green in Australian designer Luke Mortimer’s home. House tour by Design Sponge, 2012

Bold coloured sinks and taps from Byggfabriken on Pinterest

Bold coloured sinks and taps from Byggfabriken on Pinterest

I know which side I lean on. How about you?

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Rather a long time ago, when Tim and I renovated our first home in West London, we heard about a new little company which had a very different attitude to vinyl flooring. If anyone had mentioned the word vinyl, in fact, I think we would have run for the hills, since our experience of the material thus far had been (generally sticky) ginger-coloured false tiles in desperately cluttered and dark kitchens, or perhaps some peeling mould-ridden offering abutting the shower in student lodgings. Instead, this company, which turned out to be Harvey Maria, marketed themselves as ‘No More Boring Flooring’ (complete with url) and used new exciting techniques to print photographic images onto floor tiles.

We were rather smitten, and opted for a bold water image for our tiny bathroom:

Vintage Harvey Maria tiles - they don't make them (exactly) like that any more

Vintage Harvey Maria tiles – they don’t make them (exactly) like that any more

You can still get a version of this tile from them now, called Pacific. I think they work best when set against a bright white, with not too much else going on — remember you’re after a dreamy Maldives holiday vibe, not Brentford Leisure Pool.

Water is not the only evocative image: you can go for grass, or even some good old Brit beach pebbles:

Clench those toes: Harvey Maria 'Stones" vinyl tile

Clench those toes: Harvey Maria ‘Stones” vinyl tile

Although I have to admit the soles of my feet ache just looking at all those knobbly cobbles. I think I’d have to wear flip flops.

Since then further advances have been made in vinyl floor technology. The company Murafloor offers a bespoke photographic flooring service, not unlike the wall murals I was telling you about a few months ago. Browse their website for inspirational images, like this lunar aspect:

One small step for man... 'Full Moon' flooring from Murafloor

One small step for man… ‘Full Moon’ flooring from Murafloor

Submit your room size and shape, and they’ll create a sheet of flooring exactly to fit. If their broad range of ideas isn’t enough for you, there’s always Shutterstock for the full gamut of stock photos. Of course, this all comes at a price, and whilst it is certainly eye-catching and individual, it’s not the budget way to create a glamorous room.

And so we reach the third and final episode in my tour of vinyl flooring. Pattern. It’s not pretending to be wood or stone, and it’s as vibrant or as plain as you need. 

How about this Friesian print tile, which makes for a quirky alternative to a cowhide rug:

I herd you had a new floor... it's udderly brilliant... a mooving sight... /stowed may need to go and have a lie down after thinking up all those cow jokes

I herd you had a new floor… it’s udderly brilliant… a mooving sight… (stowed heads for a lie-down after dreaming up all those bovine gags)

To break up the pattern a little, a plain wood strip frames these cow tiles into groups of four. It contains the random splodges of black and helps to structure the floor space. 

This technique works for any busy design, so if you’re thinking of being daring with your flooring, but need to keep the craziness in check, that’s where having a vinyl floor can really help. You’re essentially achieving a mixed-materials look with just one material. This example below looks at first glance like a patch of ceramic tile surrounded by a dark wood: 

In the frame/ Harvey Maria Parquet tiles by Neisha Crosland

In the frame/ Harvey Maria Parquet tiles by Neisha Crosland

 

Once you have got to grips with the potential in this mixing and matching, a world of colour, texture and pattern is open to you. Take a look at this eye-catching suggestion from Amtico, using slashes of bright orange set against a fabric texture and a darker relief. The resulting pattern is full of energy and depth:

Cutting and sticking/ Amtico's Infinity Flare design uses strips of different floor tiles

Cutting and sticking/ Amtico’s Infinity Flare design uses strips of different floor tiles

There are of course some patterns which don’t leap out quite as dramatically. This spotty offering by Cath Kidston seems at close range to be a little eye-boggling:

Sometimes the simple ones are the best/ Harvey Maria Spot Stone

Sometimes the simple ones are the best/ Harvey Maria Spot Stone

But installed in a small space and viewed as a whole, has a pleasingly simple and regular format. 

Lesser spotted bathroom floor/ Harvey Maria Spot Stone

Lesser spotted bathroom floor/ Harvey Maria Spot Stone

Why not add some texture with this rubber flooring featuring retro spots:

Rubber-ly floor/ Harvey Maria Peppermint

Rubber-ly floor/ Harvey Maria Peppermint

It might look a little like living on Lego bricks (though obviously not as painful if you tread on it in the dark).

On the subject of textured floor you can also consider the treadplate pattern — we have a very low-budget version from Carpetright which has been incredibly good natured and hard-wearing in the boys’ bathroom:

Locker room chic/ sheet vinyl (now discontinued) from Carpetright

Locker room chic/ sheet vinyl (now discontinued) from Carpetright

You can’t buy it from there any more, but a quick internet trawl has brought up Flooring Supplies Direct who supply something similar, and the firm LSI who make a version too (the aluminium shade is called Armour).

Another texture to get the vinyl treatment recently is leather. 

Clubby class/ Harvey Maria Olive Leather

Clubby class/ Harvey Maria Olive Leather

Strong and dark furnishings show this one off the best: it wouldn’t do so well with chintz. 

Just as encaustic and highly decorated ceramic tiles are blossoming on the walls and floors of many a fashion interior, so vinyl is following. Check out this magical two-tone tile from Murafloor, which looks stunning set against a bare concrete wall:

Morocco from murafloor

Dark arts/ Morocco by Murafloor

Or this from Zazous, channelling retro charm:

I think we can hold back on the wallpaper here/ Rosemary by Zazous

I think we can hold back on the wallpaper here/ Rosemary by Zazous

Do you dare? It’s not for the faint-hearted.

Finally, for the room which just needs a splash of colour, why not put down your paint brushes, give the walls a rest, and treat your floor to a bold and bright shade instead? 

Walking on sunshine/ bright Pistachio flooring from Harvey Maria

Walking on sunshine/ bright Pistachio flooring from Harvey Maria

So many options, so much flexibility. I hope you’ve enjoyed my flooring tour, and that it’s given you some new inspiration.

Remember: vinyl is no longer the ugly sister of the flooring world — maybe now it’s her turn to go to the ball….

[As you might well know, this is a concluding statement so wildly at odds with my daily life that it is akin to speaking a foreign language. Nevertheless, sometimes only a princess metaphor will do. Just sometimes.]

 

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!

I know, it’s been so long since I last mentioned our poor old music room. It has been languishing in dusty chaos like the Dorian Gray of our house renovation. Way before we moved in, the inspired wall shelving (constructed from layered units from Ikea) was assembled and the plantation shutters were installed… and there we stopped. At the end of last year we hauled all the old boxes of CDs and books up from the cellar so that we “wouldn’t forget about them,” and then promptly forgot about them.

You might remember some dalliance with wallpaper which I had before Christmas. In the end (despite how much fun it was to consider all the options) we didn’t go ahead because we hadn’t really got a picture of the rest of the room yet. However somehow, in the meantime, we have, and it is all finally coming together.

A spurt of organisation this weekend has meant that I have built in some natty drawers and doors to the bottom rung of shelves. We were motivated by the news that Ikea had decided to phase out its storage system called Expedit. This cube-inspired shelving icon has had an illustrious life, as likely to be found nestled amongst the reclaimed furniture of hipster apartments and practically attired family homes: lauded for its boxy good looks and functional design. The cubby holes are the exact right shape to file away your old-school vinyl, display flowers, pack full of books or even put a colourful storage box to stow away those less sightly items.

Little boxes: homes for our stuff

Little boxes: homes for our stuff

So we heard this ‘end of line’ news with a small twinge of horror, having covered one entire wall of the music room with Expedit, in the manner of (but much cheaper to execute than) a full sweep of bespoke shelving. Despite the wonderful resource of a whole website of helpful Ikea hacks it took quite an involved session of planning to find the right combination of given units to arrange against our wall. We had meddled around with the 4×4; 5×5; 4×2; 5×1 and 2×2 configurations before plumping for four horizontal 5×1 units stacked two-high, topped with a couple of mammoth 5x5s.

Fitting it in: Expedit layout for our wall

Fitting it in: Expedit layout for our wall

A smattering of LED lighting in odd shelves makes a nice random effect, and a few bulbs point up to the ceiling above the unit, illuminating the plaster mouldings.

Light touches: Dioder LEDs bring splashes of emphasis

Light touches: Dioder LEDs bring splashes of emphasis

For environmental reasons Ikea have decided to introduce a less chunky replacement to Expedit, called Kallax. This will apparently be slimmer around the frame (thereby using less wood) but otherwise sport the same dimensions.

Check out my broad frame

Check out my broad frame

Ikea usher in a new eco-warrior

Ikea usher in a new eco-warrior

The associated boxes, drawers and doors sold in the same range will supposedly be interchangeable with, and still fit, both Expedit and Kallax units. Be that as it may, we didn’t want to get stuck with a wall full of shelving which we couldn’t accessorise, just in case there were slight variations. I sped out to buy up the stock we needed, and came back with boxes, doors and drawers.

Bank of doors and drawers form the lower layer

Bank of doors and drawers form the lower layer

In our house, the past few months have seen a flurry of (frankly previously inconceivable) CDs sales activity, that has resulted in a very reasonable remnant of a collection. In previous properties we have had to consider the vast CD population as part of the overall design: a great swathe of custom shelving and substantial square metre-age in storage taken up with the 80s pop bands, the rave mixes and dance compilations and Best Ofs. I think we now agree that the new streamlined stock is much easier to accommodate, after the cull/massacre/clear-out since Christmas (appropriate noun to be selected depending on your point of view).

The lower echelons

The lower echelons

We were hoping to house the survivors in the drawers, and they do fit, but sadly not so that you can actually read what they are. So they get a reprieve, and their very own line on display.

Eclectic: steamboat to the fore, house music aft

Eclectic: steamboat to the fore, house music aft

Mixed neighbourhood: Delft houses abut a wall of Now albums

Mixed neighbourhood: Delft houses abut a wall of Now albums

We also executed a quality control exercise with the fiction paperbacks, donating those we weren’t too fussed about and creating a happy rainbow of favourite novels with the ones which we kept. Colour grouping is a smart way to arrange books, as long as you are not too fussy about knowing where any one individual volume might be. In this form they seem to provide just as much of a decoration in the room as if we’d gone at it with a paintbrush, only with quite considerably less effort.

Across the spectrum: literature in colour

Across the spectrum: literature in colour

The reference titles are coralled by subject matter on the upper shelves; photo albums occupy the top flight. There is even a two-cubicle section in the gods where the LPs live. The 7″s are still lurking on the floor at the moment, awaiting their fate.

Craig, will you make the final cut?

Craig, will you make the final cut?

Only a few empty spaces remain, and we’re nearly there with the sorting, only a few homeless items still to place, and for the first time in a while we can actually see most of the floor.

A small pile of work still to do

A small pile of work still to do

I have spent the winter months huddled at my computer whilst the files and scrapbooks have slumped in cosy privilege against the radiator. Now we can reach the shutters to let the sunlight in, and the space is starting to feel bright and ordered.

Piano corner: a semblance of order

Piano corner: a semblance of order

Shutters filter in the daylight

Shutters filter in the daylight

Next on the list are lamp shade, rug and that wall covering. I’ll bring you news on that soon, once we’ve fine tuned the shelves….

In the meantime, how do you store your stuff? Do you like acres of display, or do you prefer to shut it all away? In strict order or mix and match?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know that dipping furniture is so 2012, and I am not going to patronise you with a selection of pictures, or pretend that it’s a new trend. If it happened to pass you by, you can get a very quick summary by typing ‘dipped furniture’ into Pinterest. Or even any search engine, for that matter.

However, I have always found it rather charming to see chairs nonchalantly kicking back under a table, pretending they haven’t been recently been trespassing into nearby paint pots. Or a sideboard that looks like it paddled too deep in a river of gold lacquer.

Ingenious upcycled sideboard featured on Burlap and Lace blog

Ingenious upcycled sideboard featured on Burlap and Lace blog

It’s clever because it’s funny, and because it is the opposite of reverent. I also happen to think it’s clever because I doubt I could recreate this lovely, precise technique in the manner of good DIY or Etsy practitioners. A few months ago I got a really sweet old fashioned school desk for Malachy’s room in one of our local charity shops. Part of me would love to have a go at dipping its little feet in some light blue, just to see how it turns out. But maybe I am project averse, and prefer to admire from afar….

Coral boots for this pale but pretty side table/ featured on Design Sponge

Coral boots for this pale but pretty side table/ featured on Design Sponge

Recently I think there’s more interest in reverse dipping, where the main body of the piece is painted, and just the very bottom of the legs are left bare. And this particular version of the technique looks all the world as if the chairs have decided to dress for the summer, and expose their ankles in a rather feminine capri pant effect. I love these chairs for their elegance: posing in two very different settings:

Barefoot on the geometric rug/ Scene from Domino Galleries

Barefoot on the geometric rug/ Scene from Domino Galleries

White features large/ Scene from Domino Galleries

White features large/ Scene from Domino Galleries

A couple of weeks ago, my sister sent me this cute pentagon stool, dressed for springtime. I enclose it for you as a postscript to my earlier taking sides post.

Urban Outfitters Pentagon Dipped Side Table

Urban Outfitters Pentagon Dipped Side Table

And finally, browsing on Design Milk, I was incredibly excited to see confirmation that the forthcoming AW chair fashion catalogues are already strides ahead: no furniture need go unprepared into the winter months with this:

For when it gets wintry again/ Bench with legwarmers from Side by Side, a not for profit German company

For when it gets wintry again/ Bench with legwarmers from Side by Side, a not-for-profit German company

The Metro tile: ubiquitous wall decor for any Scandi-chic kitchen, or retro bathroom, or pretty much any other style in between. This handy little brick-shaped slip of ceramic has stacked itself neatly into thousands of well-appointed homes, and love for its understated simplicity does not seem to be abating any time soon.

A few years ago, in the first forays, you mainly saw them bravely displayed with industrial rawness, alongside austere metalworks and stark monochromes.

From Remodelista blog, industrial style bathroom

From Remodelista blog, industrial style bathroom

Since then, we have softened and warmed their settings, with woods and colours, making the most of their unobtrusive blankness to provide a backdrop to a thousand different styles. Essentially, these are neutral, easy-to-clean brick walls. Familiar pattern, simple elegance.

It is natural, then, to declare that your splashback or bathroom scheme will be ‘metro tiles,’ but this is in fact still quite a long way from a decision. Thankfully I have stepped up to this job and done the research for you, so you can read this and simply go ahead and order.

If the bevelled edges of the original Paris Metro are still your dream, then take a look at Topps Tiles Metro White at £23 a box (covers a square metre) full of 20cm by 10cm tiles.

Topps Tiles White Metro, bevelled jewels in a kitchen

Topps Tiles White Metro, bevelled jewels in a kitchen

Or instead, if you visit the branch I do, you could pop next door to Al Murad. They come in at 20cm by 10cm and will set you back only £14.99 per metre. Choose between a plain and simple matte finish or a more reflective gloss.

Matte or gloss: choices abound

Matte or gloss: choices abound

Al Murad's version is comparable but competes on price

Al Murad’s version is comparable but wins on price

Online stores also offer cheaper versions (Tile HQ are selling at a price-busting £9.22 per metre at the moment…).

You may however have a desire for a flat and minimal effect, but keeping the brick design. Fired Earth have some inspirational examples of both the bevelled and the flat in their Retro Metro range. The flat are slightly smaller at 15cm by 7.5cm: the white is called South Kensington and demanding high-end prices at (a currently reduced) £63.73 per metre. The glaze is crackled and adds to a vintage vibe, and I have no doubt these would look stunning in most settings.

Fired Earth's wall-warming selection of seasonal colours

Fired Earth’s wall-warming selection of seasonal colours

This flatter version was the style of tiles my friend Emma wanted for her kitchen. After she described it to me, I found a useful picture on the front of my trusty Living Etc magazine which confirmed the overall look.

Metro-clad kitchen graces Living Etc's front cover

Metro-clad kitchen graces Living Etc’s front cover

I went searching and came up with Walls and Floors’ White Chapel Tiles at a cool £19.75 per metre. They are gloss and flat little tiles, simple and perfect to cover any wall.

Walls and Floors' White Chapel tile

Walls and Floors’ White Chapel tile

We appointed our builder and I chose the grout. The details on a little job like retiling make a huge difference. While tiles are for the most part good tempered and wipeable, the grainy material between is quite another story. Inevitably white turns to a brownish sludge at best, at worst becomes patched with orange or green.

What lovely white grout gleams from this photoshoot/ Original Source's Metro tiles set in pristine conditions

What lovely white grout gleams from this photoshoot/ Original Source’s Metro tiles set in pristine conditions

Most tile retailers offer a massive selection of antibacterial grouts and cleaning solutions, but in fact current trends work in our favour here. Grey is, as we’ve seen, most definitely colour of the moment, and between the tiles is no exception. The shade does define the tiles more, like a subtle web of pencil outlines, but where the little accidents of life occur — the blender rebels riotously over the walls, a kids’ biscuit-icing session goes off-piste, spatters of tomato paste make their livid way inexorably onto every surface you ever had — you have a forgiving base to which you can return with a wipe of a cloth. So BAL’s Micromax Smoke it was.

Save yourself a job: BAL grout in Smoke

Save yourself a job: BAL grout in Smoke

Emma’s kitchen was a little dark between cupboards before — you can just about see the moss-green tiling scheme in these pictures:

Before: Emma's greenish wals....

Before: Emma’s greenish walls…

But now the perky little metro tiles have been fitted, this space is bright and fresh.

After -- a light and bright space

…and after: a light and bright space

And in the evening cosy lighting

In the evening, cosy lighting

She was so happy with it that she styled a photoshoot in it for a new favourite range of homeware. Check it out on her blog here.

Meanwhile, on a roll, I have continued to clock how these little tiles are being used in new and exciting ways. I think my favourite variation on the theme so far has to be these marble brick tiles from Original Style. Stockists are dotted around the country and you’d need to contact them for prices, but what a great combination:

Delicately veined marble brick tiles give a translucent glow to this bathroom/ Original Style

Delicately veined marble brick tiles give a translucent glow to this bathroom/ Original Style Viano White Honed Bevel Marble

I suspect that the little brick tile is only just getting started. Materials and treatments will be expanded this year, and I can’t wait to find out how.

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.

A few weeks ago, I read a blog post on sfgirlbybay (written by Victoria Smith, blogger, stylist, photographer) about wire chairs.  I liked the gracefulness of their thin curved black metal skeletons, placed strategically in rooms full of wood and white: have a look at the post here.

Then, I happened to pop into the spare bedroom a few times over the Christmas break (we were hotel-busy!), and noticed that our term-time lodger Rose had bought a cool black wire waste paper basket. It suits the spare room very well, bringing a touch of definition to the neutrals that we have in there already. If you need a reminder of the colours, pop over here for a moment: what do you think? I am now on the lookout for a few more black accents. Even more excitingly, she bought the bin from our old friend Mega Pound, so it looks like I won’t even need to save up.

Anyway, in the meantime, what should appear in the pages of Living Etc, but more subtly framed items in wire. They are not bold, they don’t stand out, but they do add an outline to a pale space, a bit like a sketch that has not yet been coloured in.

Another bin. Fits beautifully in the office space.

Another bin. Fits beautifully in the office space

Bin... or is it a laundry basket? Now there is an idea.

Bin… or is it a laundry basket? Now there is another idea

People are using the structures for coffee tables too:

Mesh Locker side table in copper -- this comes with a glass top should you not want to leave your wine glass balancing to chance/ Bowles and Bowles

Mesh Locker side table in copper — this comes with a glass top should you prefer not to balance your wine precariously all evening/ Bowles and Bowles

These mirrors have a vintage charm:

Sun's rays radiate from your reflection....

Sun’s rays radiate from your reflection….

I have to admit this next example didn’t work for us: our wire fruit bowl left ridges in the apples. It is pretty though. Maybe you could keep something un-bruisable in it.

Latticed fruit bowl

Latticed bowl with imaginary fruit

And finally, the chairs.

The classic Harry Bertoia chair.

The classic Harry Bertoia chair

It’s a lovely design, but you’d want to be wearing long trousers for any lengthy seating experience. I fear I could be more pro-wire-chair in the winter months, unless it’s possible to develop a simultaneous fashion for the imprinted leg pattern look. Or maybe the summer brings an opportunity to invest in soft cushions:

Cloud-topped wire chair.... a softer way to ride this trend

Cloud-topped wire chair…. a softer way to ride this trend

Wholesome green padding on the Fifty chair from Dogg and Arnved at Ligne et Rosset

Wholesome green padding on the Fifty chair from Dogg and Arnved at Ligne et Rosset

Tricia Guild has had hers painted green:

Like a delicate plant, lime-coloured wire chair amongst the flowers

Like a delicate plant, lime-coloured wire chair amongst the flowers

Let me know if you’ve considered any of these options: could you live with wire chairs? Or are they purely a triumph of form over function?

A flash, a cloud of smoke, and the villain/fairy disappears/reappears. Pouf! In honour of the last gasps of the panto season, I bring you a piece of furniture which has crept back into our living rooms over the past few years, since being banished as grubby and tasteless in its earlier, mock-leather-bound, carpet-slipper-bearing, lumpish incarnation.

The pouf now comes resplendent in textiles and textures as varied as we dare to use, and stands bold in minimalist and eclectically-furnished rooms alike as a showcase of colour or pattern.

I was given a magazine subscription for Living Etc for Christmas, which I’m so excited about. We used to subscribe until about June last year, then it lapsed, and I’ve missed following all the innovations and inspirations. Opening up the December issue I clocked lots of little trends and ideas, which I’ll point out to you in the next few weeks, but none as pervasive as the number of perky poufs to be found in the house tours.

Chevron pouf in orange from anitascasa on etsy

Chevron pouf in orange from anitascasa on etsy

Tori Murphy's Elca and Broadway poufs

Tori Murphy’s Elca and Broadway poufs

The striking geometric fabrics are fun and lively: no faded or jaded offerings here.

Zig Zig pouf cover from Rosenhof Art Factory

Zig Zig pouf cover from Rosenhof Art Factory

Missoni pouf from Target

Missoni pouf from Target

But other fabrics are about too – the wholesome knit is always popular:

Take a leaf from Next's book and call your pouf a pod

Take a leaf from Next’s book and call your pouf a pod

The supremely comfortable furniture store Loaf initiated a huge spin-off market for crocheted and knitted poufs, with their Bug range:

Suitable for feet, bums or as a launch pad: Loaf's bug pouf

Suitable for feet, bums… or as a launch pad: the self-advertised properties of Loaf’s Bug

I’ve been on the watch for something footstool-like for our own living room, and was dabbling with a ‘Morroccan ottoman’ search tag on eBay for a while last year.

Most recently I’ve found the US online shop VivaTerra which has sourced these environmentally-influenced creations:

Felt soft: poufs posing as rocks from VivaTerra

Felt soft: poufs posing as rocks from VivaTerra

And this pebbly perch:

Essence of beach in a seat, only softer/ VivaTerra's Soft Stone Pouf

Essence of beach in a seat/ VivaTerra’s Soft Stone Pouf

The grey colour schemes of the VivaTerra pieces, bringing an incongruous ‘outside-inside’ humour to a room, really appeal to me. I think they’d fit beautifully in our living room both in both shade and character.

How about you? Do you have a pouf-sized absence in your home? Which style works for you?

Ever since we went to the Parisian taxidermists Deyrolle in the summer I have been thinking about wallpaper. In fact, once I started looking, I found I had collected a huge sprawling mass of inspiration. So I have decided to start a little series for you, to keep all my musings bite-size and digestible.

Our house feels light and bright, with white walls and splashes of colour. We have tended to treat the occasional wall like an enormous piece of artwork, and have painted in blocks. Or we’ve used furnishings including curtains as our main colour statement sections. But so far we haven’t done much with paper. I have two spots in mind, in our kitchen under the picture window, and in the music room (which I don’t think I’ve introduced to you yet), on the wall behind the desk.

Deyrolle, I noticed, have designed some truly amazing papier peint, with bugs, beasts and birds aplenty. They sell through another French company called neoDKo which you can access here. My favourite is this crazy essence-of-anatomy-textbook pasted in glorious abandon on a wall.

Collection Patchwork wallpaper via NeoDKo.com

Collection Patchwork wallpaper via neoDKo.com

The extreme minimalism of that interior pictured above provides a clear stage for the drama of all the movement on the walls. Which led me to thinking that the context for using this sort of design is very important: in a busy room you need either order (pattern) or calm (in colours) for your decor. If you were to try and add this wallpaper to an already cluttered space, you would likely just create more confusion, and lose some of the attraction of the ‘patchwork’ in the process. I think for the room where we store files and books, study, practise and play, our walls need to be inspirational, yes, but not distracting. However I could see this design working beautifully behind the dining bench, under the window, in the room where we have an expanse of plain wall and only a few simple pieces of furniture.

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

White wall. Prime for development

I would probably fix a line of white wooden trim below the window to act as a frame, and then paper below to the skirting. Another advantage of a wild and busy design here is that the odd splash of soy sauce or ketchup probably wouldn’t stand out. Don’t look too carefully at this picture: despite the serenity of the scene there are definitely the ghosts of little chocolate hands scrubbed out.

So the Deyrolle is definitely a contender for this space. But there are others….

Next time I am going to tell you about wallpapering in the old way: tune in for some tales of stately opulence, and the clever designs which remain modern after half a century.

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