Archives for posts with tag: colour

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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What do you do when you’re trying to ignore an important job that needs to be done? Something like a tax return or a large project that you really should get started on?

Everyone has their displacement activities: I practise my flute diligently or cook complex and time-consuming meals. Tim tidies.

It occurred to me that in fact, one person’s important job could well be another person’s displacement activity. I hate tidying, and will find practically anything to do rather than that, but Tim is drawn to it like a magnet.

So much so, that this has happened:

When there's a job to be done... hundreds of others will be done first (Ancient Domestic Proverb)

When there’s a job to be done… hundreds of others will be done first (Ancient Domestic Proverb)

Yes. A number of the shelves have been arranged by gradated colour. We have fiction books, non-fiction books and CDs. So far.

There are downsides to living with a very tidy person, but that’s for another day. Let’s celebrate the ordered mind with this lovely creation.

And again, I believe we can put those wallpaper plans on hold.

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

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

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

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

OKA evokes the 'hibernation approach' to winter

OKA evokes the ‘hibernation approach’ to winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A subtle grey stripe with a  splash of colour edging

A subtle grey stripe with a splash of colour edging

Cheerful tones to brighten the atmosphere

Cheerful tones to brighten the atmosphere

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

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

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

 

 

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?

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!

A simple way to let your Victorian home shine with its original features is to sand and varnish the floorboards. We were excited to find in the course of our renovation that under the old dark carpets were boards in reasonable condition, so we got them stripped. Once finished, they were beautiful, but as the winter approached, we realised just how impractical our decision was. Upstairs is fine, as the heat from the floor below rises up and keeps things relatively cosy. But the two downstairs rooms felt exposed and draughty. Below each are two rather dank cellar rooms, and as far as we can work out, very little insulation in between. It made for a chilly experience working in the music room by day, and evenings in the sitting room were not exactly snug. We invested in a large grey rug for the latter quite early on, which certainly blocked some of the breeze, but you could still feel it swirling around the skirting boards if you were to venture away from either of the sofa islands.

Talking with some other owners of ‘well-ventilated’ homes, Tim found out about a brilliant product, called Draughtex, which he bought and installed. It comprises some slim, hollow rubber tubing which is pressed into the gaps between floorboards, then driven in with a special wheel tool, so that it is no longer visible. The rubber expands to fit the width of the gap.

Nifty insulation solution

Nifty insulation solution

This made things much better right away. But the music room was still rather bare and lacking in any form of fabric (we don’t have curtains, just plantation shutters) to soften things. Whilst I quite like the plain beauty of the wooden boards and the white walls, it did feel a little austere and blank.

We started a search for a rug, preferably a large one, to bring some colour, warmth and character to the room.

After a little look around, we decided to look for a flatweave rug, with a colourful bright design. These seemed to be pretty pricey, certainly in the larger sizes (ideally about 2m by 3m), and with a strict £200 budget it seemed that Ikea was our only option. However they seemed to offer quite a few, so we went and had a look.

For a while I felt that this rug, called Stockholm, would work the best, with its bursts of green and chunky design.

Ikea's Stockholm: blocky and green

Ikea’s Stockholm: working with a colour trend

Unfortunately though they didn’t seem to actually stock it in any of their stores, so we were nervous about ordering it online and then finding that it wasn’t anything like we’d hoped. I was aware that Tim’s not that keen on green, so it would have had to have been really impressive to persuade him. I also felt that the brash scheme, whilst currently quite trendy with its verdant blocks, could date quite quickly, and we wanted something that was slightly less of a statement piece.

I had seen some great rooms with vibrant Turkish kilims and Aztec designs on my online searches.

Flooral tributes: an apartment featured on Fantastic Frank goes to town on rugs

Flooral tributes: an apartment featured on Fantastic Frank goes to town on rugs

These looked like old friends, pieces that you could put in any room, that defied traditional colour schemes but brought warmth and energy.

So we looked again, and found this:

Ikea's Kattrup: perky reds and golds

Ikea’s Kattrup: perky reds and golds

This seemed far more suitable, so we went ahead.

And here’s the result:

Reading nook

Reading nook

Room to make music

Room to make music

Everything in its place

Everything in its place

Dark woods make it cosy

Dark woods make it cosy

Low view: cupboards and rug

Low view: cupboards and rug

Wide aspect

Wide aspect

Light streams in

Light streams in

The budget is now spent for this room, but next we’ll be searching out a lampshade, possibly looking for an elegant curving floor lamp to place behind the armchair, and taking another look at that wallpaper.

Have you had problems with old draughty rooms? Let me know if you have any helpful tips to share.

 

 

 

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.

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