Archives for posts with tag: renovation

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.

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.


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?

It was the end of October, and an icy wind was sauntering brazenly through the 5cm gaps around the door and window frames. A thick layer of dust and small stones covered the rough-finished concrete floor and a cheap stainless steel sink hunkered in a rickety plywood worktop. We’d just moved into our dream home and I was preparing party food for Caspar and 20 of his friends surrounded by breeze-blocked walls and removals boxes. This was not exactly how I’d planned it.

Keep Calm and Find the Chopping Board

Keep Calm and Find the Chopping Board

There were positives: our shiny new stove and extractor fan were settled regally in the chimney space, we had a fridge which produced ice cubes from a dispenser (no, the irony is not lost on me) and a boiling water tap arched with surreal modernism from the jagged surface of the island unit. All our pans, plates and glassware were stowed safely in my carefully imagined Ikea units. I was operational. Just not smug.

Spool forward to Christmas Day and we were cosily, brightly splinter- and dust-free, with smooth edges and warm floors. Insulation, plaster, paint, corian, walnut, glass and chrome had all happened, and our kitchen was the welcoming hub of the home. I still wasn’t smug; just relieved and rather drained.

So what did we do? We doubled the size of the kitchen to incorporate a space for eating and hanging out, by building a one-storey extension out into the garden. It was the one bit of proper, serious structural work in our renovation project. This left the original kitchen space free to fill with useful cupboards and drawers, a wealth of storage. And the eating and sitting area overlooks the garden through glazed bi-fold doors.

Now, I love the price and practicality of an Ikea kitchen. We have long espoused the use of wide, easy-to-peruse drawers, which trump the dingy cupboard arrangement in any contest. Even our corner cupboards have the nifty wire pull-out shelves which house all the lumpy bake-, tupper- and picnic-ware. ‘Ware’ cupboards, as it were. We decided on a black-brown wood finish for the drawers and under-worktop cupboards, then a gloss white for the bank of larder doors and for the wall cabinets.

A glimpse of the capacious dark wood drawers

A glimpse of the capacious dark wood drawers

Predictably, our gleaming larders also have drawers in, a mixture of wire trays and solid-bottomed. I have sectioned and categorised my ingredients with obsessive verve, gleefully stocking up on, respectively, interesting jars, spices, tins, nuts and seeds/dried fruits, cereals, pastas and grains….

You see the light streaming in at the corner of the picture? This is an incredibly cute mini-bay window with a generously deep sill which I use to house various flora and (fake) fauna.

Still healthy-ish - my doomed houseplant collection

Still healthy-ish – my doomed houseplant collection

It’s not the camera exposure, those leaves are a little yellow. Nurturing plant life is rather low on my list of priorities, so only the brave tend to survive.

It’s getting late. I’ll be back soon, though, with Part Two. Next time I’ll tell you about the worktop and my splash(back) of colour, and give you the lowdown on just how finicky a newly laid wood floor can be.

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