Archives for posts with tag: kitchen

My goodness, where did the beginning of this year go? I am sorry to leave you all hanging so long in 2016, but I’ve been busy with a few projects and even pursuing new challenges… more information on that to come soon, I promise!

In the meantime I thought I’d share a little article with you that has just been published on Houzz UK. You may remember me talking about them before — a super online magazine chock full of photographs by designers and home-owners from all over the world. The mind-boggling bevy of images is not just beautiful to look at, however, but also a pretty excellent way to start an interiors project. Search filters on the menu mean that you can sift out rooms of the house, style (from traditional to eclectic), size, price point and even geographical area. You can collect project inspiration in little folders called Ideabooks, and collaborate with a builder/designer/friend on them to share ideas. There are advice sections with helpful pointers from industry professionals, and discussion boards with people who may in the process of undertaking similar work to you, to share ideas and inspiration, or maybe even offer gems of advice with the benefit of hindsight before you embark.

So do give it a try. Let me know how you find your inspiration for home improvement solutions: do you buy magazines or browse on sites like Pinterest? Maybe you pick up good ideas when you’re out and about. Have you got any helpful tips to share about your design process?

And in the meantime, why not settle down to read my ode to the kitchen table. I am going to be contributing to Houzz regularly with some practical design advice — keep a look-out for me on there!

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!

One of the things I like the best about Ikea kitchens is the freedom to choose from all the different colours and textures to create something completely bespoke. That’s a luxury you don’t normally have at the budget-end of the interiors market.

Even if you’re limited on budget, a pick-and-mix system means that you can still show personality and creativity in your choices. There is really no excuse for putting together dull and uninspiring rooms.

What's the bigger crime, Ed? Admitting to your second kitchen, or that it looks like this?

What’s the bigger crime, Ed? Admitting to the existence of your second kitchen… or that it looks like this?

Recently, one of my clients was deciding between a Howdens Kitchen (which is sourced directly through your builder and not generally marketed or sold to the trade) and one from Ikea. We weighed up the pros and cons, but in the end the potential for choice and creative scope won through. I may write further about this decision process soon — it’s something I’ve worked through a few times with different people, with different outcomes. Anyway, we wanted something a bit individual for this kitchen design, and with a brief to create ‘something cool,’ I got going.

As you might be aware, Ikea has had a complete kitchen furniture upgrade – the trusty Faktum has been replaced by a more modern and flexible system called Metod.

Where do we start? Ikea's new Metod system is like creating a Lego model

Where do we start? Ikea’s new Metod system is like creating a Lego model

This means that the dimensions of the units now feel more boxy, the drawers are deeper, and your options for storage are more varied. You might like a sleek block of minimalist doors to hide your gadgets,

Behind closed doors: Ringhult reflect the light and hide the clutter

Behind closed doors: Ringhult doors reflect the light and hide the clutter

or to ditch the doors altogether and display all your kitchenware in neat shelves;

Horda blocks are basically cabinets without doors: stack them and fill them

Horda blocks are basically cabinets without doors: stack them and fill them

to create the ultimate country-style kitchen complete with cornicing and wooden worktops,

Classic features here show off the more traditional look

Classic features here show off the more traditional look

or to play around with different textures and pattern.

Glossy red Ringhult makes a bold statement, while the geometric dimples on the Herrestad wall cabinets add to the glamour

Glossy red Ringhult makes a bold statement, while the geometric dimples on the Herrestad wall cabinets add to the glamour

First I looked at colours. My clients wanted something modern and sleek: they had been considering glossy cabinets and bright colours. However when we looked through inspiration sites like Houzz and Pinterest (really useful exercise — you can surprise yourself), we realised they actually gravitated most towards the greys and whites, with more natural tones and wood accents.

Ideal kitchen style for top budget -- a good starting point/ Roundhouse kitchen featured on Houzz

Ideal kitchen style for top budget — a good starting point/ Roundhouse kitchen featured on Houzz

Creative mix of colours, use of different materials/ Kitchen by Whitten Architects, featured on Houzz

Creative mix of colours, use of different materials/ Kitchen by Whitten Architects, featured on Houzz

So we played around with those shades, and came up with an inventive pairing from Ikea’s selection — Bodbyn Grey and Brokhult.

The Bodbyn range at Ikea comes in a few shades, one of which is a mid-grey. The doors are featured with a simple carved insert, Shaker-style. But you don’t have to recreate a farmhouse when you use it.

Stylisheve does Bodbyn grey. Pared down and modern

Stylisheve does Bodbyn grey. Pared down and modern

Chic grey Bodbyn nestles in this open plan apartment/

Chic grey Bodbyn nestles in this open plan apartment/ Pinterest page by Thomas Strubreiter https://uk.pinterest.com/thomasnordic

Ikea pairs its Bodbyn with chequerboard tiles and industrial style accessories

Ikea pairs its Bodbyn with chequerboard tiles and industrial style accessories

Get more bling with your Bodbyn: Ikea's show kitchen sparkles

Get more bling with your Bodbyn: Ikea’s show kitchen sparkles

Brokhult is a wood effect finish with distinct striped markings: a little bit retro, unapologetically faux, with grey-hued tones and smooth texture.

Brokhult features heavily in this from Kitchens by Design LA

Brokhult features smartly in this from Kitchens by Design LA

Skonahem puts Brokhult in a nautical, driftwood-type of role

Skonahem puts Brokhult in a nautical, driftwood-type of role

I felt that putting these two together would warm up the potentially stark grey with a complementary wood accent. So I plumped for Bodbyn grey doors, with surrounds and end panels in Brokhult. One section of the room needed cupboards to surround the large American-style fridge. These cabinets in turn are wrapped around by the Brokhult, creating a neat stand-alone unit. I hope to get some photos of the finished room for you very soon, so you can see how well they work together.

Back in the design stage, having established the core colours and materials, we now had to draw together worktops, lighting, extra shelving, window coverings, flooring, taps, oven and splashback. I’ll take you through these next time — some beautiful products were bought and some careful decisions were made.

Until then, what are your thoughts on Metod? Have you installed this new style Ikea kitchen in your own home? What pick-and-mix successes have you had?

When big changes occur, it’s necessary to take stock, and sometimes make amendments which affect the running of an organisation. In politics… and in my home.

Some new lodgers came to live with us recently, and we needed to free up some room for them in the kitchen. So, I have been doing some tidying.

Those who know me well will find that a surprising comment, witness my working space:

I know what's in there and I like it like that. My side of the desk....

DON’T TOUCH THIS! I know what’s in that pile and I like it like that. My side of the desk….

Neat worker. Tim keeps it slick.

Neat worker. Tim keeps it slick.

Kitchen re-ordering, on the other hand, is quite satisfying — it’s all about recognising how the room flows and the best way to maximise the (reduced) space. We do have quite a lot of storage built into this kitchen, so the streamlining process wasn’t too much of a trial, but I remembered how important it is that everything has its place. I have even written a strapline about it (see above for details).

When I am helping clients design their kitchen, I always recommend that they do an ‘audit’ of the items they have, how accessible they would like them to be, and which ones they use the most. Although that seems rather specific, it’s actually quite a quick process, because generally they already have pots, pans and plates in some sort of storage. So, it just means going through, cupboard by cupboard, and listing the items. Then, defining problem points — ie, our pans are all stacked in a dark cupboard, and the one I want is ALWAYS at the back — and finding a solution — let’s put your pans in deep drawers instead.

Even if you are not designing a new kitchen, it’s still possible to rearrange things to work better for you. So take a look around my kitchen storage, and I’ll suggest some helpful tips as we go:

Firstly, put the things you use the most in the easiest places to get to. I find deep drawers really easy to use because you can see the entire contents at a glance, and access everything with not too much fuss.

Plate drawer. Neatly stacked and ready to go.

Plate drawer. Neatly stacked and ready to go.

I don’t bother with drawer dividers (apart from those for cutlery) or plate stackers, as they tend to use up more space and make things less flexible. You may disagree!

Bowled over. These drawers are 80cm wide.

Bowled over. These drawers are 80cm wide.

The pans are just as easy to access: you can still stack them but the option to select from above, rather than crouching and grubbing around and removing others to get to the back, is infinitely preferable.

It's a spacious argument...

It’s a spacious argument…

Luxury lodgings

Wok luxury lodgings you have…

This plan is not half-baked

This plan is not half-baked.

These items were already happily homed and worked well for me, but there was one amendment to be made. Whilst the drawers are amazing and accessible, it’s not possible to make use of all the kitchen space in this way. If you imagine any kitchen, there is a lot of potential storage space up the walls as well as that in the floor based cabinets. Any cupboard above eye-level can’t have drawers, for obvious reasons. So the shelves have to suffice. My recommendation is that you find the items you use less regularly to put in these places. Unwisely, I put all our enormous salad bowls and serving plates in one of these high cupboards when I first filled the kitchen, and have been teetering on the edge of dropping them all on my head ever since.

I decided to reposition them in a drawer for easier access.

Hefty items need to be down low.

Hefty items need to be down low

I had used one of the deep drawers for the kids’ various plastic-ware, mainly so they could get to drinking cups and plates when needed. But we don’t use these baby bowls very much any more, and so I found a new home for them — in the corner cupboard.

We really only use the cups now....

No corner too deep…

Now the boys only really need to access the cups on a daily basis, so these are still easily reached by simply opening the cupboard door. These corner cupboards go very deep, but thanks to the pull-out trays, can hold a multitude of stuff.

There’s a picnic and lunchbox theme for the lower tray:

Lunchbox surplus shelf identified.

Lunchbox surplus shelf identified

Opposite, I have a satisfyingly organised tray for tupperware (never underestimate the calm of a well-sorted tupperware collection):

Stack the lids; stack the pots.

Stack the lids; stack the pots

And below, a tray for all the baking gadgets, jugs and other techie cookware:

Ready and waiting: easy to find and use

Ready and waiting: easy to find and use

The slim top drawers I use for cutlery and tools:

Drawer dividers rule here

Drawer dividers rule here

Bigger items. Wooden one side; plastic and metal the other

Bigger items. Wooden one side; plastic and metal the other

And I also have this useful drawer for flat things:

Particularly useful for wraps, bags and foils... and chopsticks!

Particularly useful for wraps, bags and foils… and chopsticks!

Under the sink I have put useful cleaning stuff (and the food bin):

It's all out of sight. Keep your work area sleek and clear.

It’s all out of sight. Keep your work area sleek and clear

And below that the cleaning cloths and towels:

Not forgetting our fire safety....

Not forgetting our fire safety….

We prefer to keep our worktops pretty clear, but I also know that if you put appliances away in cupboards, you’ll rarely use them. So we found a compromise with this sliding cupboard to keep the microwave, toaster and food mixer in:

Now you see 'em...

Now you see ’em…

...now you don't.

…now you don’t.

The coffee machine gets to stay out. Priorities….

The high cupboards are great for smaller items or kits that only come out now and then.

Wine glasses, smart tea set and trays at the top (the trays are high but easy to reach because they're not sitting underneath other things)

Wine glasses, smart tea set and trays at the top (the trays are high but easy to reach because they’re not sitting underneath other things)

Mugs, jugs and tea....

Mugs, jugs and tea….

Glasses and drinks awaiting a fridge space (and a first aid box at the very top)

Glasses and drinks awaiting a fridge space (and a first aid box at the very top)

The cupboard clearance meant that I had to redistribute food into different locations – I opted for the lower shelves in the tall cupboards, because they’re pretty much eye level:

Non-fridge veg, nuts and dried fruit; bakeware; and vases at the top

Non-fridge veg, nuts and dried fruit; bakeware; and vases at the top

You’ll see I’ve used little baskets in here. I find that if you have small items strewn over a shelf it’s very difficult to locate them. However it is very easy to lift down a box and rummage through that. I did the same with the crisp packets in the cupboard next door:

Crisps coralled in big box. Cans occupy the shelf below.

Crisps coralled in big box. Cans occupy the shelf below

I simply can't do another thing. I'll just lie here and help by sitting right in the middle of the kitchen as you move things around.

I simply can’t do another thing. I’ll just lie here and help by sitting right in the middle of the kitchen as you move things around.

In the interests of keeping everything behind closed doors, we customised our wine rack to fit inside a cupboard:

Wine not? Modified wine rack

Wine not? Modified wine rack

The lower parts of the tall cabinets are larders. I have sectioned food groups in the following way:

Top shelf Nespresso capsules, bottom shelf pasta, grains, and an enormous sack of rice.

Top (slim) shelf Nespresso capsules, bottom shelf pasta, grains, and an enormous sack of rice

Baking supplies.

Baking supplies

Soooo many spices. I group them in sections -- whole spices, ground and herbs.

Soooo many spices. I group them in sections — whole spices, ground and herbs

Some people like to have a wall-hung spice rack for all the little jars, but I normally have quite a few outsize or quirky-shaped containers with interesting mixes. So a drawer like this seems to be the best option. To improve it further, I’m thinking of getting a battery operated cupboard light to stick onto the base of the drawer above. The only issue with these big pull-out cupboards is that they’re not very well lit.

Cereal haven below, then jars, teas and coffees, and finally, crucially, treats.

Cereal haven below, then jars, teas and coffees, and at the top, crucially, treats

Never underestimate the uncouth bulkiness of your cereal packets – they are tall and ripped and always dribble grains. In our house, we get through cereal like locusts, and a quantity such as you see displayed above can be decimated in the space of a week.

There are no rules to planning out your kitchen storage, but as you can see, it is possible to get things neatly stowed in places that work well for you. My recent shift around has caused a few wrong turns (in fact, I omitted to tell the smallest two members of the family, who purportedly went ‘without a drink’ for two days before being redirected to the plastic cups’ new home (don’t worry, they didn’t really, they’re just exaggerating)) but overall increased efficiency in our home environment.

It honestly didn’t take me very long, either, maybe an hour? So why not give it a try? And if you’re planning a new kitchen, definitely draw up that list. You’ll be grateful you did.

That was most exhausting. And I don't know where the Cat Treats are any more.

That was most exhausting. And I don’t know where the Cat Treats are any more.

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.]

 

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.

One of the loveliest interiors looks around at the moment incorporates copper in both minimalist and high-luxury settings.

Bathe in decadence/ copper bath from The Water Monopoly

Bathe in decadence/ copper bath from The Water Monopoly

Where shiny chrome and silver-shaded metallics have ruled the roost for so long, now copper is enjoying a feature role in design.

Polished copper lights stand out against a white background/ http://www.gnr8.biz/europe/product_info.php?products_id=1269

Polished copper lights stand out against a white background/ image found at lighting sales at gnr8.biz

Or dark and moody where the rich brown melds with the shadows..../uncredited (let me know if you have the source!)

Dark and moody: the rich brown melds with the shadows….

For a while we have seen designers showcasing the material in all its glamour in very modern and creative settings: splashbacks…

Copper diamonds: what's not to like?/ www.formtrends.com

Copper load of this: tiles featured at http://www.formtrends.com

Reflective splashback/ www.emmapeascod.com

Reflective and characterful/ http://www.emmapeascod.com

…whole kitchens…

Burnished beauty: complete copper cuisine covering

Burnished beauty: complete copper cuisine covering

…or even as a striking wall covering.

Copper clad and cosy/ pinterest lh3.ggpht.com

Copper clad and cosy/ pinterest lh3.ggpht.com

Though we see this warm-hued metal brazen in statement pieces currently, there is a likelihood that it will become an option for the mainstream in the future. I expect we’ll see more copper in high street retail lighting departments over the next few seasons: maybe even tiling trims and door handles. Where is the rule that says your bathroom hardware has to be restricted to stainless steel?

Tapping into a trend/ Copper tap

Tapping into a trend

Modern though these ideas are, it’s not the first time we fell in love with copper’s russet charms, and it’s possible to see it still preserved resplendent from a previous heyday. Next time I’ll show you some examples of this metal’s past glories, when we took a trip to Cornwall and found some treasure. 

 

Designing a kitchen can be challenging. Where to put the main players on your culinary stage? Having a starting point is always helpful, something that can’t be moved, that is set (in stone).

Here is what we had to work with:

This looks like a useful place to stack a dismantled kitchen....

This looks like a useful place to stack a dismantled kitchen….

Hang on a minute, what’s that lurking behind all that chipboard and rubble?

Now that's a useful space to put something

Well that’s a useful space to put something

How fantastic! A lovely feature, a brick chimney place, sporting original soot from the old fires. Now, if I could just find a suitable appliance….

I went searching, and found a gorgeous ex-display Stoves ‘Richmond’ oven at a metre wide in a local independent appliance store, aptly named Affordable and Stylish, for a satisfying discount. I also managed to find a cool chrome and glass curved extractor fan which fitted the space perfectly (although the measuring of an arch proved too complex for my mathematical skills, so we’ll definitely chalk that one up to luck rather than judgement).

The end result?

Ind-rustic-rial (?) pairing... New nestles into old very comfortably.

Ind-rustic-rial (?) pairing… New nestles into old very comfortably

I do love this. The rest of our kitchen is quite simple and minimal so this brings an earthy touch of character – rustic meets the pared down lines of modern. My electrician drilled carefully through the brickwork at unobtrusive points to feed power through to the oven and the extractor. Of course you can’t channel wires in and plaster over exposed brick, so you have to plan things a bit more strategically. One day I might get around to stripping the bricks with some industrial cleaner, and varnishing them. But for the moment the patina of the house’s history is on display and somehow it doesn’t look out of place.

Kitchen character

Kitchen character

You might notice a little teaser in this photo of some other interesting ideas I’ve had whilst designing this kitchen. I’ll be back with more on this subject very soon!

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