Archives for posts with tag: Lighting

It’s always exciting to see a design come to life. A few weeks ago I popped round to Holly’s kitchen to see how she was getting on now everything has been built and installed. You might remember our neat little pairing of Bodbyn grey and Brokhult wood-effect which I told you about in pick and mix — now they’re nestled together and established, and it’s time to show you the results.

As you might remember, we chose grey for the doors and drawer-fronts, and end-panel pieces in faux wood. The wood brings a warmth to the mix, and stops the grey from feeling too stark.

Standing sentry

Standing sentry

A tall cabinet is a great home for those extra items you don’t always allow space for: broom, mop, even the hoover. This one fits snug between a wall buttress and a door. Cheaper than getting a carpenter to build the cupboard from scratch, and with all the useful internal fittings that come with Ikea kitchen units.

The contrast of materials is best displayed in the wall of storage we created to surround the fridge. In expensive high-end (modern rather than traditional) kitchens you often get a block of cabinets encased in a framework of eye-catching wood.

Fridge cosy

Fridge cosy

You can recreate this effect with Ikea units by using either side panels and a top cornice, or for a more chunky wraparound, re-purpose a ready-made wooden worktop. Here in Holly’s kitchen there was a limited amount of space between the doorway and the window wall, so we chose to maximise the storage options and go for the slimmer panels.

The neutral shades of the cabinetry meant that we weren’t trapped with one colour scheme for the room. Holly opted for a slate-effect worktop, black cooker hood and a gleaming black splashback.

Bold in black

Bold in black: extractor fan from Ikea, now discontinued (but black hoods in other designs are still in stock); black glass splashback from Cheadle Glass; Duropal Welsh Slate worktop from Plasman

In contrast, the blinds are a perky deckchair stripe in mustards, greys and whites.

Shades of colour

Shades of colour: Ashanti Antique roller blind from 247 Blinds

The windowsill above the sink lends a cheerful aspect onto the garden — plants thrive on both sides of the glass.

Shades of colour

Showcase your shrubs – what kitchen windowsills are there for. Tap is called ‘Palazzo’ from Mayfair.

Most of the walls are painted white, but this feature wall in a bright teal brings a colourful jauntiness to the room.

Teal wall

Teal: on the warm and cheerful end of the blues spectrum

Of all the features in this room, perhaps my favourites are these marbled lights floating above the table:

Cool grey veins

Cool grey veins: BHS Nala pendant lights, heartbreakingly no longer available in store (but you might find them on eBay if you’re lucky)

A translucent and delicate pair when turned off, and warmly glowing when on:

Illumination transformation

Illumination transformation

Light up your life

Light up your life

This kitchen has come together in a vibrant way, full of personality and warmth. I love the way the cabinet pairing works — and that Holly didn’t need to spend a fortune to do it. It’s made me wonder what other excellent combinations you could create if you think just a little outside the box. It’s certainly worth exploring beyond the suggestions presented on the pages of a catalogue or in basic showroom designs in store, and see where these ideas take you. Who knows what bespoke discoveries you might dream up!

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Would you like to see some of the sights from the Ideal Home Show Manchester? We went last month: all sorts of exhibitors congregate there, from one-product entrepreneurs with innovative new gadgets, to established retailers with glamorous room displays.

Going to design shows is great fun (not least for the generous freebies to be snaffled at the food stalls). I don’t think events like this exactly set interiors trends — furniture, colours, decor. To identify burgeoning creative ideas you really need to keep an eye online and all around you: Pinterest, Instagram and magazines; quirky blog pages and house tours. But exhibitions can show you what has passed the consumer test — a place to check out which products and designs are proven or emerging commercial successes in the interiors market.

So here are just a few of my favourite discoveries:

Lighting was still big, glitzy and sparkling.

Lighting was glitzy and sparkling. The statement pendant is certainly not going anywhere for a while.

The statement pendant is certainly not going anywhere for a while

Populate your sofa. The tidy way.

Don't have time for a pet? Got allergies? Now you can live the sofa dream with these endearing cushions. (They don't bring in unidentified small mammal body parts to your house, either).

Don’t have time for a pet? Got allergies? Now you too can live the cat lady dream with these endearing cushions. (They don’t bring in unidentified small mammal body parts to your house, either)

We loved the nautical rope lamp from Arrighi Bianchi.

Aye-aye cap'n. We loved the nautical rope lamp from Arrighi Bianchi

Aye-aye cap’n

On which note…

I love Macclesfield furniture store Arrighi Bianchi's picture. Like a dolls' house, only real

I love Macclesfield furniture store Arrighi Bianchi’s picture. Like a dolls’ house, only real

When your furniture is multi-purpose and cute.

On the lookout for flexible extra seating/tables? Goat Hide Stool from Rockett St George would fast become one of the family

On the lookout for flexible extra seating/tables? Goat Hide Stool from Rockett St George would fast become one of the family

We just can’t stay away from wallpaper.

We just can't stay away from wallpaper. This clever stuff from 1wall.com can be applied in A4-sized sheets in whichever layout you choose. Clever

The Creative Collage range from 1wall.com comes in A4-sized sheets to be applied in whichever layout you choose. Clever

Another 1wall.com Creative Collage design: empty frames. Would you keep them empty? Pin postcards inside them? Let your kids go wild with crayons?

Another 1wall.com Creative Collage design: empty frames. Would you keep them empty? Pin postcards inside them? Let your kids go wild with crayons?

Taking the safer path to relaxation.

There's something a little endearing about these flickery fake candles. Surely a breakthrough design for so many health and safety nightmares

There’s something a little endearing about these flickery fake candles. Surely a breakthrough design for so many public event health and safety liability reports

What do you think of my little list? Anything here you’d go for?

Our music room, as you may remember, was almost completely finished last year: the shelving went up, the rug went down, the boxes of CDs and books were emptied and rehoused.

Everything in its place

Everything in its place

Dark woods make it cosy

Dark woods make it cosy

There were however a couple of things which we put on hold until we could amass further inspiration/finance. One was wallpaper for the chimney breast wall, and the other was a statement pendant light.

Because Tim likes large drum-style shades, I bought him this lovely shade from Ikea:

Ikea's NYMÖ shade in wine red and copper

Ikea’s NYMÖ shade in wine red and copper

It’s large (59cm diameter) and a warming pinkish red which incidentally fits perfectly with our Kattrup rug:

Kattrup warms the boards

Kattrup warms the boards

We also invested in a longer cord to bring the pendant down a little. Lowering your lighting works really well in rooms where you would like to create a gentle atmosphere with light pools rather than a bright flood — which is, granted, functional but can be rather stark. The cord set from Ikea, Sekond, was only £4, and runs to 180cm if you need it. We set the base of our shade just a little higher than the tallest person we know, and despite our high ceilings the room feels instantly cosier when the light is on.

But perhaps the most exciting thing about this new light is this:

Pattern springs forth

Pattern springs forth

The perforated shade creates a fabulous retro pattern on all the walls — who needs wallpaper now?!

Magic lantern

Magic lantern

We have a warm glow from the central light — reflecting brightly against the copper inside — and the walls are also lit up with images.

Playing with shadows

Playing with shadows

With our shelving lighting aglow, the contrasts of light and dark are heightened.

Now our lighting is getting really interesting

Now our lighting is getting really interesting

As statement lighting goes, this really does fit the bill. We have created a touch of coppery glamour, some magic lantern inspiration, and instant cosiness at the cost of £35 for a shade.

So, are we done here? Well I still think that this room can take a standard lamp in the corner near the armchair, and possibly a simple desk lamp for focussed work. But we may park the wallpaper plans for a while.

Caspar is sad. He’s normally really happy all the time, and can find a cheerful positive slant on nearly any misfortune or drudgery. So it’s a bit of a shock when he gets sad, and also very hard to predict.

The last time he got sad (apart from when Manchester United lose against anyone) was when we had to do the inter-seasonal clothes transfer, and handed down his old winter coat to Malachy. I had pre-empted the potential emotional descent by buying Caspar a really nice, new, RED coat (team colours) which was extremely cosy.

But it wasn’t the Old Coat and Malachy was very victorious in his inheritance.

It took a lot of time and diplomacy to make it ok.

Then, the little glass bedside light in Caspar’s room got smashed. No-one quite knows how, but it left a nasty shard-like edge on display, which was just too tempting to fiddle with, and so I went on a search for a replacement — little knowing the distress that awaited.

Here is the lovely light which I got.

Lekaryd LED light in red. Part bedside light, part gaming icon

Lekaryd LED light in red. Part bedside light, part gaming icon, part small item storage

I had browsed the Ikea website with Caspar a few days before and we liked the look of this because it looks a bit like Pacman — you can open and shut its mouth by sliding the top up and down. In addition, the lower section has a little hollow which is perfect for keeping teeth in for the tooth fairy (and also toenails for the toenail fairy but that’s another story). Also, as you can see, it is RED. What’s not to like?

Well, apparently, a lot.

I had not learnt my lesson from New Coat-gate and blithely introduced New Lamp with a big ceremonial plug-in at bedtime. Caspar’s face was stony and glum. I pointed out the little tooth/toenail hollow. He turned his head away and stared soulfully at the remains of Old Lamp.

“What are you going to do with my old light, Mum?” he asked quietly.

“Oh, well, I suppose I could put the glass in the recycling if I’m careful, and the rest of it will just go in the bin.” My voice had taken on a brittle, sensible tone.

But Caspar didn’t want to say a proper “goodbye” to Old Lamp. He wanted it to rest in the cellar with all the less-loved toys and the cardboard boxes and the camping equipment. He felt that would be less final. I was concerned about that jagged edge lurking in the cellar for an unsuspecting child to discover.

So we compromised. We decided that the heart of a lamp is its bulb.

Now you can see the read me...

Now you can see the real me…

That the outer shell is simply armour, clothing which you can replace or discard.

Don't judge a lamp by its shade. Even if the shade is not fit for purpose and frankly dangerous

Don’t judge a lamp by its shade. Especially if the shade is not fit for purpose and frankly dangerous

The lamp still remains a lamp if you have the light bulb and socket.

I'm still a lamp

I’m still a lamp

And so it does remain, nestled safely in the lightbulb box down in the cellar, enjoying its retirement in peaceful darkness.

A tooth came out the other day. We celebrated by hiding it in the tooth/toenail section of the lamp, and the tooth fairy was remarkably (uncharacteristically) prompt with her visitation. Maybe a New Lamp isn’t all bad.

*With thanks to @MYSADCAT for the inspiration

One of the very fun-looking presents the boys have received in recent months was an origami kit, making cute animals out of nothing but small squares of paper (and, it turns out, deep reserves of patience). It sat in our craft pile for a while before Malachy found it one rainy afternoon and wanted to make his paper zoo.

It all seemed so easy.... / Wild and Wonderful Origami

It all seemed so easy…. / Wild and Wonderful Origami

It is possible that well-drilled craft-making children and their Pinterest-successful mothers can tackle these complex challenges with their eyes shut. After all, with paper that small, how hard can it be? Well, I can now tell you that it is in fact pretty hard, and requires a substantial amount of concentration and rule following, neither of which is particularly celebrated in our family, apart from on the football pitch, of course. The boys have all ‘had a go’ and then handed me the rather limp and wrinkly paper to ‘finish off.’ So we do have a slack-limbed sea otter and a wonky snake lurking in the green drawer of the sideboard (where craft goes to retire before being pensioned off, quietly and under cover of darkness, to the recycling bin) and the remaining kit is still full of potential design victories (ever optimistic) for next time there is a rainy afternoon.

No amount of Photoshop can hide the fact that this baby has never achieved the upright pose/Sea Otter: 'Easy'

No amount of Photoshop can hide the fact that this baby has never achieved the upright pose/Sea Otter: ‘Easy’

Which sorry background goes some way to explaining the admiration I have for this new Danish designer, and his amazing creations. Morten Droob has invented an origami lampshade called Dressed Up.

Shades of the dark arts/ Dressed Up origami lampshades from Droobski

Shades of the dark arts/ Dressed Up origami lampshades from Droobski

Folded paper lanterns and shades have long been popular, and at the moment you can see a lot of plain white wire-framed designs in the shops. Ikea alone have five:

Papery orbs from Ikea

Papery orbs and UFOs from Ikea

Additionally, the skirt-inspired shade is starting to make waves in some retail lines:

Neat little A-line from BHS, Ivory Pleated Bow; Lyrik from Ikea has petticoat charm; sweet little Etsy shop gem TutusafaribyApril; grass skirt from lights_linen on eBay

Neat little A-line from BHS, Ivory Pleated Bow; Lyrik from Ikea has petticoat charm; sweet little Etsy shop gem TutusafaribyApril; grass skirt from lights_linen on eBay

I love that Droobski manages to merge the two in this clever feat of paper engineering – there are no wire frames, simply origami wizardry. With their fulsome flamenco skirts and crisp pleats, Dressed Up shades come in a rainbow of colour options, all individually hand-folded at the artist’s work bench.

If you are looking for an inspiring piece of statement design for your room, this is such a perky and unique purchase. Check out the little vimeo clip on the Droobski website, on just how easy it is to attach and pop open your chosen shade.

As for me, I fold. In the manner of a poker game. And leave the proper folding to the experts.

I found one of my favourite tile designs last year while researching for a client’s kitchen splashback. Being something of a simple girl myself, we have a strip of coloured glass between the upper and lower cupboards in our kitchen to protect the walls. It’s supremely easy to keep, and doesn’t have any grout to get mucky, which as you will know from my previous posts is a bit of a bugbear. However…

If you are going to go the tiling route for your kitchen, and feel like a change from the pretty but neutral metro brick, how about this?

Duck egg blue hexagonal tiles, now hard to get hold of but available from Overstock/ Victorian Hex Blue SomerTile

Duck egg blue hexagonal tiles, now hard to get hold of but available from Overstock/ Victorian Hex Blue SomerTile

Hexagonal mosaic tiles bring a quirky slant to a surface, and this delicate blue would be right at home with a grey themed industrial background or in a pretty cottage kitchen.

As luck (if your budget stretches, that is) would have it, Fired Earth‘s ranges of tiles have a few delectable examples in mosaic and larger form.

Geometric: hexagonal tiles create a monochrome arrow across this Fired Earth bathroom

Geometric: hexagonal mosaics create a monochrome arrow across this Fired Earth bathroom

Look at the way they have used a mid-grey grout in this design. It softens the abruptness of the black and defines the borders of the individual tiles.

Marrakech Hexagons from Fired Earth

Marrakech Hexagons from Fired Earth

This range of larger individual tiles has a more muted, natural colour range, and the edges are softer and less sharp.

At the moment the budget range offerings are expanding rapidly — Walls and Floors have some nice white or black mosaics: or chequerboard designs if you prefer.

Walls and Floors white in gloss or matt

Walls and Floors white in gloss or matt

In addition I have just spotted this gorgeous range, inspired by the colours of honey:

hexagon wandf honeycomb avo

Honeycomb by name, shape and colour/ Walls and Floors Aster and Avocado

Honeycomb by name, layout and colour/ Walls and Floors’ Avocado and Aster options

By no means budget, but nevertheless a characterful tile, is Topps Tiles‘ grey hexagonal, Mira.

Topps Mira Grey, nice for a feature, too pricey for a whole wall

Topps Mira Grey, nice for a feature, too pricey for a whole wall

The shift from four sides to more is a tiling theme I am very happy to recommend, but it doesn’t stop at tiles. Once I had developed my shape awareness, I started seeing hexagons in many settings. See the linked hexagon table in the foreground of this Porcelenosa room layout?

Porcelenosa catalogue shot features double-hex table

Porcelenosa catalogue shot features double-hex table

It seems that copper is not immune:

Hexagon beaten champagne bucket vase Eclectic from Tom Dixon

Hexagon beaten champagne bucket vase Eclectic from Tom Dixon

Or if we take a journey back into the world of wallpaper, how about this fabulous geometric design from Cole and Son:

Upcycle your wardrobe with Cole and Son's Geometric wallpaper

Upcycle your wardrobe with Cole and Son’s Geometric wallpaper

Many a pouf comes in a hexagonal shape, and fitted with a geometric fabric, we can fulfil this trend on two dimensions – or see this amazing heptagonal Missoni design take it just one side further:

Count them: seven sided footstool from Missoni

Count them: seven sided footstool from Missoni

There are lights – possibly my favourite being this simple wall lamp from Kundalini (based in Italy, but plenty of websites stock their products):

Kundalini's Hexagon wall light: try Interni.co.uk for UK purchases

Kundalini’s Hexagon wall light: try Interni.co.uk for UK purchases

Oh I really could go on and on! But I will leave you with this lovely piece by Jonathan Adler, US designer with an eye for distinctive colour and form:

Hexagon lacquered tray from Jonathan Adler

Hexagon lacquered tray from Jonathan Adler

Because a little bit of orange does make me smile.

How about you? Have you set aside the regular square for a more shapely option? I’ll keep you posted on multi-sided inspirations — let me know any which catch your eye.

Caspar loves his room at the top of our house. It has a view of Beetham Tower (tallest building in Manchester where the Hilton Hotel is based) and also our local Subway (as in the sandwich shop). Two things very close to a 7-year-old’s heart. When we first bought the house, it wasn’t really a room, more of a loft space with dodgy dusty floorboards, moulding sagging walls and head-crunching beams. Not having quite grasped the concept of house renovation, Caspar seemed a little dubious about the deal he’d been handed, since his brothers clearly had more room-like allocations with mod cons like carpets and ceilings. Still, as he mournfully confided in me one day, the view was good.

Viewing platform: Lotus undertakes distance survey of sandwich shop visitors

Viewing platform: Lotus undertakes distance survey of sandwich shop visitors

To his great surprise, we did in fact insulate, carpet and generally comply with building regulations so that by the time we moved in, he had managed to bag himself possibly the best room in the house. Tucked out of the way, with huge cupboards, interesting corners and the sweetest arched window, it is a place to hide, dream, play and potter. Perfect Caspar territory.

The footprint of the room is L-shaped, if you follow the line of ceiling which accommodates head height. Then on most sides the walls slope down, making potentially awkward eaves sections. Added to this the structural beams jut out at odd angles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lofty ideas: how the top room started out

Lofty ambitions: how the top room started out

My first challenge was finding a place for the bed. Because of the funny arrangement of beams and ceiling slopes, I needed it to be tucked away and out of the main optimum head-height walkway area. Despite the fact it looks so small, the window wall is in fact perfectly wide enough for any single bed, with room to spare.

Cosy bed space. White Malm single bed from Ikea

Curtain fabric from Fancy Moon

While we’re here, I’ll just draw to your attention the curtain fabric, which ended up informing the paint choices. Caspar saw this one as I was trawling through websites for inspiration.

London Blue, Echino Nico, Etsuko Furuya, Kokka Fabric

London Blue, Echino Nico, Etsuko Furuya, Kokka Fabric

Fancy Moon has some spectacular fabrics from Japanese and American designers which I was particularly fond of, for their quirkiness and their cheerful innocence. I think so many of them are perfect for a child’s bedroom. Why not take a look at their website and see what you think?

In previous houses the kids had all shared one room, piled into bunks, so we did need to actually buy a bed for Caspar’s new-found free space. I wanted to ensure that it didn’t stand too high, as the window frame is quite low to the ground and it would have been sad to obscure the arch too much, especially since this is the only source of natural light into the room. After some extensive size searches on all the affordable options, I found, satisfyingly, that good old Ikea came in the lowest with its Malm series. Low bed, low price.

Yes, this bed is low. Ikea Malm fits the bill

Yes, this bed is low. Ikea Malm fits the bill

Having taken care of the sleep space, I assessed the rest of the nooks and crannies for their storage and access potential. The huge under-eaves space along from the entrance to the room seemed to be ideal for storage, and the fireplace wall looked good to put a desk for a study area. The beams on that wall were annoying me though: I was aware of the potential trip and bump hazards they presented, and yet we didn’t want to simply strip them out… just in case they were holding up some element of roof.

Then we came up with the idea of filling it in, and creating an actual partition. It’s only made of timber, but neatly sections off the two areas. We even added in a peep-hole (arched like the window) to add interest.

Caspar's reading spot: space to chill out and relax

Caspar’s reading spot: space to chill out and relax

Zoned out: partition wall provides different spaces with different functions

Zoned out: partition wall provides different spaces with different functions

Homework station: a place to study

Homework station: a niche to study

Owing to the aforementioned small window, the corridor section is gloomy even on a summer day. But we have put in LED spots to the ceiling, so that once the lights are on, it’s all bright. We chose a light-coloured carpet for the floor to reflect any rays, and I wanted to keep most of the walls white for the same reason. However to add some interest, I chose some chunks of wall and ceiling to paint bold colours. Using the curtains as a guide, we identified the RAL (colour code chart) numbers of a striking scarlet and a deep violet. Above the desk and reading areas is the slash of red ceiling, and then, a few metres facing, by the door, is a bold wall of purple.

Doorway to adventure in a purple patch

Doorway to adventure in a purple patch

The tiny door in the wall is not as exciting as it seems: simply an access point to another roof space, currently undeveloped. But the white woodwork strikes a great contrast and makes the room feel full of secret exploration potential.

I am going to save my bespoke storage system until next time, so that we can really focus on the detail.

Until then, what do you think of Caspar’s room? Would you tend to rip out unusual elements in your house, or make a feature of them?

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. 

 

As you’ll probably have noticed from my room designs, I like a bit of colour. Whilst the walls in our house are for the most part white, it’s good to brighten things up with some bold fabric, paint, tiles or other features. However I prefer my bedroom to be a tranquil place rather than a statement (we have nothing to prove here…), with a restful simplicity.

So it was that I plumped for a white scheme for the paintwork and wardrobes, and plain sanded floorboards. I discovered some beautiful curtain fabric from Prestigious which I was very pleased with, as it is elegantly quirky, and the pale blue background is so calming.

Chinese jars on a duck-egg blue background/ Prestigious Ginger Jars Azure

Chinese jars against a duck-egg shade/ Prestigious Textiles Ginger Jars, Azure

In the early hours (I know, not my ideal wake-up time, either, but neither night shift schedules nor children are  respecters of opinion) when there is just the faintest dawn appearing outside, they almost seem to glow in the watery light.

Subtle glow

Subtle glow

The central light is one I found at Homebase, with delicate cut-outs to the shade and glass droplets suspended beneath: there were plenty in the same style to be found around Laura Ashley, Next and John Lewis as well.

Master illumination/ Homebase shade (no longer stocked online)

Master illumination/ Homebase shade (no longer stocked online)

It’s bright and glittery (useful for my apparent full-time laundry sorting role), throwing pretty reflections around the walls from the crystals dangling below.

We looked into a number of wardrobe options: there are plenty of firms out there who provide bespoke building in (hugely expensive) and high-end modular pieces (still expensive). We did drool at the beautiful Hülsta designs, wandered through the Sliderobes showroom enjoying the complimentary coffee, and pored over the Sharps website. But when it came down to it, this level of spend was just not possible on our budget. We got ideas, and then headed for Ikea and the Pax wardrobe system.

Many an article has been written about the pros and cons of Ikea kitchens, and I imagine the same points apply for their wardrobes too. You pay less, you work harder, but it is possible to create a product that has a similar feel and look to its more expensive cousins, with a lot of comparable features. We arranged for our builder to build the main structures, and attach them to the walls. Then we worked out our storage needs, and set about designing the internal sections with shelves, hanging rails and drawers from the Komplement range.

Since we have a bit of wood panelling under the window, we thought it would be most appropriate to use the white panelled wood doors.

Wood panels are a feature

Wood panels are a feature

They are not bright white, but their shade is a perfect fit with the creamy colour that all the woodwork in the house seems to have settled down into (a trait of oil-based paints, which yellow with age: I quite like it). It turns out that these doors were the cheapest, too, which was a very positive result.

Bank of simple wood doors

Bank of simple wood doors

My friend Anna sent me the little birds, which I love. They announce the domain of my wardrobe, while opposite Tim’s storage is plain and unadorned.

Felt it: little birds at home

Chirpy: little birds at home

We have a simple dark framed mirror by the shower room door…

Reflective

Reflective

…and a nice photo of some balancing stones above the bed headboard.

Rocks balanced on a beach/ Adrian Gray

Rocks balanced on a beach/ Adrian Gray

On eBay I found a bargain-priced second of this pretty bedside table:

Lacquered and proud/ John Lewis Shari Cabinet

Lacquered and proud/ John Lewis Shari Cabinet

which I thought would fit in perfectly, but actually the colours are not quite right, a bit too strong for the rest of the room. The top and sides are black, and whilst I assumed that continuing the Chinese theme would work, in fact this piece of furniture is not subtle enough to fit in. So, bedside tables are a work in progress, and I’ll update you when we’ve found the solution.

Go ahead and comment, or tweet me your thoughts to @stowedtweet

Go ahead and comment, or tweet me your thoughts to @stowedtweet

What do you prefer for a bedroom — peaceful shades, cosy warm colours, or dramatic darks? I’ll look forward to hearing your ideas!

One of my favourite rooms in our house is the utility room. Mainly this is because Malachy couldn’t say ‘utility’ when we first moved in, and earnestly talked about the ‘yoo-tiddly woom,’ which was just so unbearably cute that we all started doing it. At which point Malachy defiantly corrected his pronunciation and demanded that we all stop teasing. Apart from this it really is the essence of stowed, my business, with some satisfyingly effective storage solutions and quirky decorating that I wouldn’t maybe have tried in the other more traditional, social spaces in the house.

The space is limited (roughly 270cm square, with a partial dividing wall that was structural), and I had an awful lot of things that I wanted to cram in. I wrote a list.

1. Downstairs loo

2, Washing machine and tumble drier

3. Utility sink

4, Drying rack

5. Coat hooks

6. Storage of football boots, sunglasses, hats, scarves, gloves, umbrellas, shin pads, roller boots, footballs…. I really could go on and on, but basically the easy-access essential kit of any small boy on his way outside

7. Cleaning supplies

8. Hoover

9. Ironing board and iron

10. Mop, dustpan and brush, broom, hey, even a feather duster!

11. Cat bed

12. Cat food and water bowls

13. Cat food supplies

In fact, pre-move, conversations between Tim and I about where things would be situated in the new home usually went something like this: “Where are we going to put the &%*”%&*?” “Oh, in the utility room….” “Not in the cellar?” “No-one will be bothered to go down there.” “OK.” In addition, as I mentioned in an earlier post, we didn’t want to fill up the hallway with too much clutter.

So we had high expectations and a little room to stash them all in.

First I had to house the immovables: the loo had its own space, with a door, and I’d already decided to pop the tumble drier on top of the washing machine, as it’s so space-efficient. I did look into some official stacking kit for them, but I still haven’t got around to it yet, and have to admit that at the moment they seem perfectly stable and unlikely to fall suddenly and dramatically on passers by. That said, please don’t you be irresponsible like this. You should definitely only stack washing machines with the proper attachments and not have them lurching over you after an energetic spin cycle.

Finally, a sink and as many storage units as I could cram in would fill the rest of the space.

We used the same sort of Ikea units as in the kitchen, Faktum units with the gloss white doors called Abstrakt. I also went for an incorporated stainless steel sink and drainage top which doubles as a work surface: superbly practical and Ikea-level cheap too.

Pile 'em high: squeezing in cupboards and machines along one wall

Pile ’em high: squeezing in cupboards and machines along one wall

Because it’s a small room and there’s not much by way of free wall space, I decided on a functional-feeling dark blue, grey and white scheme, and found these lovely tiles from Topps:

Patterned: Henley/Topps Tiles

Patterned: Henley/Topps Tiles

They provide a jaunty splashback for the sink area.

The flooring needed to be cheap and hardwearing too: buoyed up by the success of the metal-look flooring in our boys’ bathroom, I found another Carpetright vinyl sheet design which looks a bit like industrial mesh.

Metallic mesh: Carpetright vinyl flooring

Metallic mesh: vinyl flooring

I like metal-look patterns on vinyl flooring: it’s realistic and the repeating pattern suits the material. For the price of a vinyl sheet, pretty much the cheapest flooring solution you can get, there are some really interesting, stand-out designs to choose from.

For some emphasis, I had all the trim woodwork painted dark blue. It gives a nice framework to the little room, and seems neat and practical.

Navy frames

Navy frames

In the downstairs loo I found some dark blue and glittery tiles to complement the scheme.

Little loo space

Little loo space

I knew my lighting needed to be pretty strong as there were no windows in the room. I am not normally a fan of endless ceiling downlights, which I think can sometimes make a room soullessly bright and harsh, but in here we did need some illumination, so we have ceiling spots. But the single most successful light source has proven to be the door, where in a revelatory moment I realised that I had found a chance to have a window after all, and went for a fully glazed option. It’s incredibly bright in the room, and actually streams light right through to the hallway, so that you get a glimpse of the garden as soon as you come in the front door.

Keeping it bright: a glazed back door brings sunshine into the house

Keeping it bright: a glazed back door brings sunshine into the house

Having all doors glazed at the back of the house presented some new challenges with regard to cat access, but I’ll come to that next time, along with some of the storage and drying solutions that help the room live up to its name.

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