Archives for posts with tag: Interior design

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!

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?

When my dad was a little boy, he lived in and around a lot of stately homes because his parents were in the staff of various country gentry. He had a view of what post-war life was like in these big houses, from the icicles formed on the inside of his enormous billiard room bedroom window, to sitting on his dad’s lap and steering the family Daimler aged just four. His mum, who we called Nanny, told us of the time that “Mr Sanderson himself” came to paint the wallpaper. A team of craftsmen arrived with their ladders and created a unique design, according to the wishes of the lady of the house. The Sanderson company still exist, of course, though I am not sure they still offer an insitu painting and gilding service for their more affluent clients.

I found some beautiful examples of Edwardian era wallpaper when we were at Lanhydrock – not hand painted, but certainly rich and luxurious — and surprisingly modern.

Geometric design seems fresh despite its vintage

Geometric design seems fresh despite its vintage

The gentleman's bathroom presented in the latest styles

The gentleman’s bathroom presented in the latest styles

The lady's chamber with more delicate colours

The lady’s chamber with more delicate colours

Not only pattern but texture...

Not only pattern but texture…

Touchy feely: paper with a soft side

Touchy feely: paper with a soft side

Up close and strokable

Up close and strokable

I remember homes when I was younger featuring that soft damask wallpaper, and although for a few years any sort of deviation from smooth and flat was desperately un-modern,  in various ways it is beginning to grow in popularity again. Words like Anaglypta, wood chip and damask still evoke plenty of bad taste memories for some, but time marches on and those sartorial nightmares fade. The future of wall coverings may well be 3D.

You can still get hand-painted wallpaper today: stunning works of art for customers with deep pockets. If that is your situation, take a look at the opulent de Gournay or Griffin and Wong for some silk based Chinoiserie. Cole and Son offer hand printed papers, where the old fashioned block printing is done painstakingly by talented craftsmen.

But should you want the personal touch without having to spend extreme amounts of money, there is another way. Printing has changed hugely in the past few decades: now the computer takes the strain of image and ink proportions and with a little technical help you can pretty much specify any pattern or picture for your space. There are plenty of companies out there who will customise your walls with a mural. I have used Wall Factor, who have a link with the huge photo library Shutterstock, so that you can pick an image, and arrange to have it printed on wallpaper at exactly the right proportions for your wall.

World map mural in words available through Wall Factor

World map mural in words available through Wall Factor

We actually used the above design in a colour version for Jonas’s room. It is such a clever image, and perfect for a child’s bedroom as it’s fun but not childish, so will grow with him. I’ll show you one day when I give you the full room tour.

Next time we’ll be making a final round-up of my favourite designs. As a teaser, I can tell you that Scion features heavily….

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

Collection Patchwork wallpaper via

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.

Imagine my surprise when I received the following message from my sister Sanna:

"John Lewis copied you!"

“John Lewis copied you!”

Well I wouldn’t go so far as to say copied exactly, but this bright orange runner on white painted stairs bears a strong resemblance to my own stairway and encourages the braver John Lewis customer to splash out on colour. It’s quite heartening to see a trend catching on, when you’ve already run with it.

However cutting edge is as cutting edge does, and whilst I can predict you a fancy notion for your home, I wouldn’t come knocking for media advice. I have, in the manner of a child (or me for that matter) in a sweet shop, recently discovered Pinterest. Such Luddite behaviour is not from lack of information, because I remember Tim showing me something about Pinterest years ago. Hopelessly behind the times, I’m just getting around to it now.

Only yesterday I picked up on this little ensemble, which resonates joyfully with so many of my ideas, but yet takes them somewhere new as well:

Snaffled from Pinterest/ A Punch of Color

Snaffled from Pinterest/ orig. Apartment Therapy

The use of carpet is clearly extreme, but see how they work with the stag’s head, the stripes up the stairs? Most exciting, however, are the flowers which have somehow escaped from their carpet. I think this is so clever. I’d love to know how it’s done.

Anyway, who knows? Some time in the near future, I could start exploring this new phenomenon I’ve heard about called Instagram. It is meant to be good. But I don’t want to hurry things….

Very excited to learn last weekend that the fab Apartment Therapy blog has featured our boys’ bathroom in their Room for Color Contest 2013! I just popped it into the competition at the last minute, so didn’t get a chance to beg you all for votes, but nevertheless it was a nice surprise to find it up there.

Bathroom exposure

Bathroom exposure

Our Elmer the elephant-inspired tiling....

Our Elmer-the-elephant-inspired tiling….

Apartment Therapy is a great interiors website from the US, highly addictive reading for those of us who are always on the lookout for new ideas, and prolific in its production of interesting posts and insights into quirky, brave and beautiful homes.

If you’re searching for ideas, go and have a look!

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.

‘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).

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