Archives for posts with tag: Home and Garden

After a shaky start, Manchester’s version of June seems to finally have attained the correct sunshine levels. We are all emerging, blinking, into the bright light and zinging colours.

Check out, for example, the view that Lotus woke up to this morning:

View from the cat's door

View from the cat’s door

What a treat! I hope she’s grateful.

And as you might remember, our utility room glazed door is visible as soon as you enter the house from the front:

View from the back door

View from the back door

Somehow with the sunshine, the colours in the garden burst out, a little like someone had got trigger happy with the brightness contrast sliders on Photoshop. (Which I haven’t, it’s simply natural).

#nofilter

#nofilter

I’m actually showing off this side of the garden because the other side, more functionally, is a football pitch. Whereas in the house we tend to merge our form and function elements so that useful items are also beautiful, the garden demonstrates a more segregated approach of ball-game-yin aside herbaceous-border-yang.

Games-side of the garden. Adjudicating their own boules game, earlier in the Springtime

Business side of the garden. Adjudicating their own boules game, earlier in the springtime

Whilst I appreciate the usefulness of the pitch, I have to say that the flower beds fill me with more of a sense of calm and well-being. This is good news, because I doubt that the flower beds feel this way. They have withstood quite a barrage of mis-directed shots to flourish so abundantly. I feel we could market these supershrubs as the true survivors of the garden world.

Only the strong survive

Only the strong survive

Wielding a broom. The red plant in the foreground has blossomed oblivious to penalty knock-backs

The red plant in the foreground – broom – has blossomed oblivious to penalty knock-backs

The swanky trellis which features in many an urban garden also serves to deflect missiles back onto the pitch, reducing our neighbours’ ball-retrieval duties by I’d guess around 80%.

Wall trellis saves many a lost football

Wall trellis saves many a lost football

If this weather continues, we’ll have to demand our table back from the little seedlings and strawberry plants currently squatting atop. Yesterday’s barbecue was fun sitting on the picnic rug but I don’t think that setting would suit a more formal occasion.

Potting shed al fresco

Potting shed al fresco

Let’s hope June continues with such a positive attitude. Things do look so much better in the sun.

Glorious sun picks out the colours

Glorious sun picks out the colours

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Today I’m bringing you a really handy guide I found on Apartment Therapy, which encapsulates the process I go through to create a kitchen from Ikea that doesn’t look like it comes from Ikea.

Ikea kitchen incognito

Ikea kitchen incognito

We have used the same technique with every kitchen we’ve had: researched different, often expensive styles from well-known designers, and then chosen Ikea cabinetry and fittings which most resemble our “dream design.” Of course you don’t need to stick with Ikea for every element of the kitchen, either: our own Corian work surface from Interstyle Worktops actually came in cheaper than an equivalent composite worktop from Ikea. But for the bare bones and cabinet structure you really can’t beat the price. Read on and get inspired by Janel Laban’s clever comparisons!

http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/which-ikea-kitchen-cabinet-doors-are-best-for-your-design-style-199512

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.

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.

I hesitate to write about an item that we managed to snaffle at a second-hand furniture store, because it makes us sound smug and you can’t go out and get the same one yourself. But the message is, I guess, that you could go and explore your own local junk shop, and gain, if not exactly this solution, then undoubtedly some other nice gratifyingly cheap piece which might enhance your home life.

http://i-cdn.apartmenttherapy.com/uimages/re-nest/thrift_store_furniture.jpg

‘This is awesome…’. Thrift Shop chic/ photo from Apartment Therapy

After a hefty renovation bill we ran out of money before we could finish furnishing our altogether larger home. Nevertheless a desire to put “everything in its place” and keep family life running smoothly meant that we just had to be a bit creative about the pieces we felt we needed.

Our hallway is spacious, and we didn’t want to clutter it up with those things which, practically, do need to be by the door. Coats and shoes and school bags all need a home, and an accessible one at that. We had ideas for coats and bags, which I’ll come to another day, but the school shoes and trainers I really wanted to keep as close as possible to the actual “going out/coming in” point for minimum dirt trail potential. So shoe store was in.

I guess this would do.... Everett Espresso Shoe Storage Cubby Bench from Overstock £143.29

I guess this would do…. Everett Espresso Shoe Storage Cubby Bench from Overstock £143.29

On the other side of the coin was the fact that we’d carefully chosen our orange stripe and stair carpet decor to look dramatic, and wanted a smart console table to complement the area.

I LOVED this bench:

Gorgeous dipped Ercol Windsor chair

Gorgeous dipped Ercol Windsor Love Seat at £720 from Nest

But it was vetoed by Tim because the seat just invites bags, coats, football medals and water bottles to come and rest a while, rather than go home to their proper places.

This was an attractive option, but way out of our price league.

Tiger Tiger Console Table by Toby Davies from Retro To Go £1650

Tiger Tiger Console Table by Toby Davies from Retro To Go £1650

The dark wood of the banister and a framed mirror that we already owned led us to look out for dark wood furniture, and, joy of joys, one day we found a satisfying solution: console table with under-shelves.

Tidy: Console Shoe Storage from local furniture shop without any apparent name £120

Tidy: Console Shoe Storage from local furniture shop without any apparent name £120

I am not sure it was originally created to house shoes, but it can, and does.

Perfect match

Perfect match

I wanted to continue my orange theme and found a pair of quirky vases on eBay. They have challenged me more than I’d admit, though, because it’s not that easy to find a constant supply of suitably-hued flowers to keep in them (apart from the time someone gave us a bunch of orange roses and I had to take some photos in appreciation), and none of the artificial offerings have been quite right.

Rose works... if a little blowsy

Rose works… if a little blowsy

The other day though, Tim exercised a fulsome cull of the lavender in the garden ready for its winter sleep, and we popped some of that in the vases with great success.

Lavender better

Lavender better

Dusky purple fronds and a slight air-freshening effect to boot (literally).

The room we chose to use as our living room is dark. Outside the stately front window, four large holly trees stand sentry, dominating the front garden and blocking natural light to the front of the house. Each is in possession of a preservation order, a council-given right to remain despite lacking any redeeming features, guarding the front door with evergreen austerity like a gang of moody bouncers.

Leaf it out. Holly trees hulk in front garden

Leaf it out. Holly trees hulk in front garden

When we were thinking about wall colours and window covering we kept coming up against this, and bemoaning the lack of light. Then, in discussion with a curtain fitter one day I discovered that the room, with its wood panelling and shadowy aspect, would almost certainly have been the library, decorated in rich dark colours, and containing shelves full of carefully bound volumes. Dim light was a boon in this setting. Well this did change it for me, and we started thinking about turning the room’s challenges into an inspiration.

These guys don't mind it gloomy: In the Library by John Watkins Chapman

These guys don’t mind it gloomy: In the Library by John Watkins Chapman

Having painted the wood- and plasterwork a refreshing white, we decided to go for a densely dark grey on the fireplace wall. The remaining walls are a lighter shade on the spectrum. The contrast between walls and woodwork is dramatic.

Serene and grown up

Serene and grown up

We removed the small fireplace, which we thought may not have been the original for that space: gaps in the skirting suggested that there had once been a grander version there. We did like it, though, and had it cosmetically reconditioned (not to be used, it’s patched up mainly with plywood) and placed in Jonas’s room. We spent a good while choosing a more suitable statement fireplace for the room, along with a marble surround in place of the existing rather timid wooden construction. The significant costs of the products (fire, grate, slate, mantel, backing boards), were small beans compared to the enormous cost of installation. An open fire is a luxury: once you step along that road to renovation you are bound to be shelling out at high levels. Because of fire safety, you don’t feel as though you can argue with the professionals, after all, who would want to jeopardise their home and family with a “shoddy” job? Suffice to say, if anyone was looking for any area to retrain into, I’d suggest the fire installation trade as a dead cert from the money-spinning perspective.

Incendiary costs: a new fireplace

Incendiary costs: a new fireplace

Other rooms in our house are quite vibrant and full of light. This room has turned out to be a calm, peaceful retreat in a sometimes hectic home, and a wonderful evening hideaway. It does feel more grown-up, and, whilst the children do come in here to watch TV now and then, it’s not part of the daily circuit for them (or their cars).

I think I may be off the beaten track a little here

I think I may be off the beaten track a little here

Next time I’ll tell you about the windows — we now had two bays to dress, one large and stately, one weeny and cute — and a far deeper journey into the suffocating folds of upholstery than I ever thought I’d embark upon….

I’m very fond of the trend for trophy heads on the wall, modern style. I’ve seen a few on my web travels.

Image

Small game/ spotted on The Socialite Family blog

And here….

Natural habitat/ A lovely eclectic mix of items

Natural habitat/ A lovely eclectic mix of items

We found one too which we liked, a satisfying structure of laser cut bare plywood which came flat packed and ready for intricate assembly. The hunter-gatherer challenge for modern man. I’m pleased to say Tim achieved it effortlessly.

Well, hello deer. Deer Trophy from urbancuckoo.co.uk

Well, hello deer. Deer Trophy from urbancuckoo.co.uk

Here he now presides in our living room, at home among the 2D artwork on the rest of the walls:

Antlers away. Statement piece for the living room entrance

Antlers away. Statement piece for the living room entrance

Of course, there’s no reason why you should limit your animal pieces to a spot on the wall. For many years we’ve owned Cow. He has varied roles: occasional seat; racing vehicle; child impaler; guardian of the living room and most crucially, making sure we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

I like the way you moove. Large cowhide seat on castors from Harrods (2001)

I like the way you moove. Large cowhide seat on castors from Harrods (2001)

A note today about bathroom tiles. Last year, I was searching in vain for wood effect porcelain or ceramic tiles to create a Japanese look in our ensuite shower room. I’d seen a few peaceful bathroom images where wood was used to create a calm, ordered effect, but my builder warned me about using real wood in a damp climate where mould can set in so quickly. Not really the look I was going for. I had to accept that we do have slightly more rain here in Manchester than other places, and that hot, dry days are few and far between.

Japanese Bathroom Design

Well, I need a starting point for my inspiration (we don’t have views like this in Manchester)

I did get my Japanese-look shower room with a bit of ingenious tile sourcing…

Ecowood blinds, a wenge cabinet and dark wood floating shelves keep the look crisp and clean

Ecowood blinds, a wenge cabinet and dark wood floating shelves keep the look crisp and clean

 

Wood grain effect tiles in three different shades, white, beige and brown/ Pampus Tiles

Wood grain effect tiles in three different shades, white, beige and brown/ Pampus Tiles

… but I was really hankering after wood plank tiles, and there were none to be found, at least not within a tight budget.

However now the shops, online and warehouses, are full of them! I could have had a choice of smooth grained or rustic, and much more in between.

Parquet floors in your bathroom? Rovere/Walls and Floors

Parquet floors in your bathroom? Rovere/Walls and Floors

Aliso Cedro/ Ceramiks. Would I go for walls AND floors in this? I'm not sure but the plank is certainly realistic

Aliso Cedro/ Ceramiks. Would I go for walls AND floors in this? I’m not sure but the plank is certainly realistic

This year, I’m looking for real stone effect in porcelain and ceramic. I  have noticed a few in tile showrooms,

Krista/ Smoke. So lovely, like a watercolour painting. And ceramic too!

Krista/ Smoke. So lovely, like a watercolour painting. And ceramic too!

and some absolutely beautiful examples in this season’s new catalogues:

Alabastri di Rex/ Bamboo porcelain tile. Dramatic. And as it’s not real stone, practical too, though I just couldn’t put those two words in the same sentence.

Alabastri di Rex/ Bamboo porcelain tile. Dramatic. And as it’s not real stone, practical too, though I just couldn’t put those two words in the same sentence.

Hurry up, the UK market, and buy some in!

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