Archives for posts with tag: Wood

I hope your Christmas was wonderful – and a happy new year! Before the flurry and bustle of all these celebrations I was busy setting out some helpful pointers for choosing a work surface in your kitchen. Mainly because I made up the title for this article (not in the slightest bit contrived), but also because wood, laminate and stone do seem to be some of the most popular worktop materials, I thought it would be good to focus on these three.

Wood

The warm tones of a wood worktop are beautiful in a kitchen, but it will need a bit of care and regular attention to keep its good looks.

Earn your stripes: create something beautiful, like AFOBI.com

Earn your stripes: create something beautiful, like AFOBI.com

Wood and water are not the best neighbours, and a sink area will need to be kept free of splashes and pooling, so unless you have a very rigorous and tidy approach to your washing up, it would be probably better to consider another more watertight surface for this part of the kitchen, if you can. Some wooden worktops do have ridges carved out for draining, and some seem to survive the daily onslaught, but these are the ones which are kept in a ‘dry’ state, and are oiled regularly (every six months) to maintain water resistance. In addition pans left to dry can transfer a black mark onto the wood which can be sanded out but may prove to be a hassle over the long term.

Bamboo is always a neat option/ photo from Bamboo Lamp Photo

Bamboo is always a neat option/ photo from Bamboo Lamp Photo

Reliable woods seem to be oak and iroko, and possibly walnut, and all consensus seems to be that you should invest in good quality timber, be prepared to undertake a little maintenance work now and then, and make sure your fitter comes well-recommended. You can create a beautiful wrap-around effect by installing your worktop wood up the sides of an island unit or even around a tall cabinet block.

Iroko wraparound counter top from Design Interior Solutions

Iroko wraparound counter top from Design Interior Solutions

The cheaper option?

You can buy real wood worktops in ready-cut lengths from retailers like Ikea, B&Q and Homebase, as well as in countless online stores. The prices are extremely reasonable and you can carve out all manner of interesting designs if you have the skills and invention, but bear in mind, longer-length counter tops will need to have joins, which may not look so good. I suspect the quality of the wood is not as high as a bespoke sourced and cut piece, so you may encounter more problems with swelling around sink areas and joins.

Faking it

There are some pretty impressive laminate work surfaces out there these days, so if you’re on a budget with your kitchen redesign, don’t despair about your choices. Wood or stone effect images are many and varied, and are relatively good-tempered provided they are fitted correctly.

Perhaps the most important first task is to work out your specs. Most laminates come in 4cm thick blocks, and range in length from 1.86m for the smallest Ikea offering, to 4.1m for the quality Duropal or Axiom brands. Obviously, the longer the lengths, the fewer joins you will need to incorporate. In a recent job I worked on, the Ikea kitchen we designed had some sweeps of work surface which would have looked simply scrappy if we’d used an Ikea worktop. So we had to look elsewhere. Another important consideration is the depth of your units. Often laminate surfaces are offered with a minimum depth of 60cm, but do check that this actually covers the units you’ve chosen – Ikea units need at least 63.5cm, and most companies offer a range of depths: 60cm, 67 (or thereabouts) and 90 for an island.

Once you’ve established these important elements, you can consider texture and colour. Really wanted a hunk of slate to top your cabinets? Try this for size:

It's all in the texture -Duropal does Welsh Slate

It’s all in the texture -Duropal does Welsh Slate

Loving the marble trend but can’t justify the prices?

Simple and classy - but not real - Bushboard Prima Calacatta Marble

Simple and classy – but not real – Bushboard Prima Calacatta Marble

Fancy using some coarse-grained wood as a feature but know that it won’t deal well with the kitchen environment?

Keeping it rustic with Axiom's Shadow Oak, photo from Modern Laminates

Keeping it rustic with Axiom’s Shadow Oak, photo from Modern Laminates

I’d recommend visiting a supplier to see and touch samples. You get a feeling for the texture, which might be smooth, gloss, grained, or crystal. It’s hard to tell the way a surface catches the light by comparing images on a computer screen. If you live in or near Manchester do try out Plasman, a helpful and efficient firm with a huge range in stock and competitive prices.

Stone (marble…y)

In our first home, a small conversion flat in West London, we sourced a beautiful piece of Spanish limestone for our kitchen and it was truly stunning.

Pinkish hue of Spanish limestone - worth the investment

Pinkish hue of limestone – worth the investment

The greatest maintenance issue was ensuring stains never sat for long (red wine bottles were the worst) as the porous surface simply sucked it down deeper. The limestone cost significantly more than the kitchen units (which were after all Ikea) and the precut piece was extremely nerve-racking to deliver and install. Since the kitchen was a corner section of our all-purpose living area, we really wanted something that would look high-quality and not too kitchen-like. It worked from both sides — practical enough for our food-prep but classy enough to display.

Some of these elements may sway you to invest in a beautiful slab of stone for your own kitchen – if your work surface is visible from all areas it can end up being a wonderful statement piece. Check out the possibilities:

Cheshire Granite serves up some unique and eye-boggling patterns

Cheshire Granite serves up some unique and eye-boggling patterns

I’ve never got the knack of pastry (my mum was too good) but the cool smooth of stone is great for baking.

Who needs a bowl or a board? The Begrudging Baker rustles up a fruit tart

Who needs a bowl or a board? The Begrudging Baker rustles up a fruit tart

No need to define your edges, if you don’t want.

Edgy/ Rowat Cut Stone and Marble

Edgy/ Rowat Cut Stone and Marble

And don’t get stuck with a dull colour. Stone comes as wild as you dare:

Marble evoking shimmery fishscale  brings a distinctive sheen to this blue and white toned kitchen/ worktopfactoryy.co.uk

Marble evoking shimmery fish scale brings a distinctive sheen to this blue and white toned kitchen/ worktopfactoryy.co.uk

Which way do you lean? Let me know what’s worked for you — or even what really hasn’t!

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Zigzags and all things geometric are certainly a big influence at the moment, as you’ll have no doubt noticed from eye-crossing cushions to mind-expanding wallpaper in articles, blogs and shops. Rugs, curtains, even tiles laid in a balance-threatening skew are pretty much inevitable elements of any self-respecting modern interior.

So continuing in that direction, and if we cast our eyes downward, there is a slightly more subtle expression of chevron and pattern that has been gracing our floors for many generations. Yes, I bring you parquet, the wooden floor with a design slant.

Stockholm flat as advertised on estate agency Fantastic Frank

Stockholm flat as advertised on estate agency Fantastic Frank

If you’re lucky enough to be contemplating a new wood floor, or even any sort of flooring, then give this option some serious consideration.

Let me count the ways:

Full sweep/ Victorian home has tumbled parquet featured in House to Home

Full sweep/ Victorian home has tumbled parquet featured in House to Home

In a period home, parquet delivers continuity through different rooms, with subtle textural changes around doorways and edging. Many classic Parisian apartments feature dramatic parquet flooring, while the walls and other decor are left white in contrast.

There are plenty of wood floor craftsmen who will put together the little chunks of wood in your preferred pattern. The borders around the room can be emphasised with different coloured woods, literally drawing a line around the important features:

Classy wenge borders oak herringbone/ floor by Jordan Andrews Ltd

Classy wenge borders oak herringbone/ floor by Jordan Andrews Ltd

For a less classic look, and straying more into the Scandinavian style, the wood can be left unvarnished or very lightly so. The greyer shade makes for a calm and minimalist aesthetic, even with the pattern.

Simple herringbone featured on Las Cositas Beach & Eau blog

Simple herringbone featured on Las Cositas Beach & Eau blog

The further you go along this route, the more peaceful the room becomes. Here below the walls are also clad in a silvery shaded wood, so that every line is subtle, and light bounces off all the surfaces.

Pale and interesting/ white washed floors and walls feature on Houzz

Pale and interesting/ white washed floors and walls feature on Houzz

Alternatively, you may want to create the opposite effect, with some deep and moody darks. Imagine this scene below with a simple wood plank floor: certainly the intensity of the room would be diminished.

Dark and brooding/ Antwerp apartment from Dieter Vander Velpen

Dark and brooding/ Antwerp apartment from Dieter Vander Velpen on Pinterest

The introduction of pattern on any surface does impact the rest of the room: I don’t think I’d need to add a busy wallpaper if my flooring was this nicely patterned.

Whilst the blocky designs do look very ‘crafted’ — the least natural looking of all wood floors, really — it is possible to downplay this by leaving them unfinished. Look at how this flooring is left untreated in what is obviously a rather grand house, furnished with high-quality bathroom items. Almost bare and basic, but not quite.

Scruffy stately corner features sleek basinware/ featured in Greige blog

Scruffy stately corner features sleek basinware/ featured in Greige blog

The pieces of wood are also quite large, which makes for a completely different feel from the little busy blocks which feature in the older style parquet floors.

In this bathroom, wide planks are laid in parquet style chevrons, which plays some strange tricks with perspective and scale.

A tiny bath, or large planks laid in a herringbone pattern?

A tiny bath, or large planks laid in a herringbone pattern?

Of course, there is no rule which says you need to keep to traditional wood colours or a rigid pattern. The disintegration of the classic parquet patterning looks so effective here — the red and black patches making a pixelated stain on the shop floor:

Stella McCartney in Milan, designed by Raw Edges

Stella McCartney in Milan, designed by Raw Edges

Parquet is not just for floors, either. Check out these gorgeous table tops made from reclaimed wood by an innovative furniture making collective from Italy:

Hexagon parquet table from Controprogetto

Hexagon parquet table from Controprogetto

Close up/ wooden patchwork by Controprogetto

Close up/ wooden patchwork by Controprogetto

 

Recycled chic table top by Controprogetto

Recycled chic table top by Controprogetto

Which style do you lean towards? The honeyed tones of a classic installation, or the unvarnished greys of a more modern approach? With the continued development of more realistic wood-effect vinyl and ceramic/porcelain tiles, you don’t even need to commit to the real deal. But that’s a whole new blog post….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I LOVED this bench:

Gorgeous dipped Ercol Windsor chair

Gorgeous dipped Ercol Windsor Love Seat at £720 from Nest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfect match

Perfect match

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

Rose works... if a little blowsy

Rose works… if a little blowsy

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

Lavender better

Lavender better

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

A very exciting moment occurred recently when I visited the house I’m working on at the moment. The builders had done a fantastic job of implementing my tile designs for the three bathrooms.

The top shower room is an ensuite to their guest bedroom. Set into the eaves, it doesn’t have any window and so needed to be kept fresh and light. I went for white rectified tiles around the shower cubicle: this is where the tile is cut at a right angle rather than curved at the edges. It means you can fit the tiles closer together and use less grout. The overall effect is more modern and flat.

I did want a little individuality in there though, and so decided to make a feature of the low wall which met the sloping ceiling.

Cabin cute: Grain tile in 'Driftwood' from Johnson

Cabin cute: Grain tile in ‘Driftwood’ from Johnson

I like wood-effect tiles (I think I’ve mentioned that before…) and there are loads out there in the shops to choose from at low cost. The wooden cabinet is also characterful. Still the flooring to go, but it’s looking great so far.

The master ensuite is a much taller, lighter room. I went for the Krista tile in there which I have posted about here. It encompasses the whole of the walk in shower area. The rest of the room is painted in Dulux’s White Cotton.

Mwa ha ha... master plan

Mwa ha ha… master plan

I found a nice roller blind with fabric designed by Scion which brings some bright accents to the room.

Fresh prints: Scion Berry Tree Roller from John Lewis

Fresh prints: Scion Berry Tree Roller from John Lewis

It will fix into the lower part of an arched window, I can’t wait to see that installed.

And finally, a bathroom which is fun and colourful. My clients’ son is very keen on orange (of which I wholeheartedly approve), and, having seen a great design on Houzz I came up with the idea of creating orange steps around the bath. Here’s how it’s turned out.

Step this way: Orange Linear Tiles by BCT in the Brighton Pavilion Range

Step this way: Orange Linear Tiles by BCT in the Brighton Pavilion Range

The window will have grey Ecowood slatted blinds (a wood/plastic composite which means they won’t warp in the spray from the shower), and the rest of the room will be white. We will put mirrors with different coloured frames at varying heights around the other walls to give the children their own reflective perspective.

I do love it when a plan comes together. What do you think? Which do you like best? I am happiest with the cheerful orange, but then I am biased….

 

We love having guests to stay. The spare room is tucked away from the rest of our bedrooms so that any inhabitants can remain distant from the early morning car races, stair jumping record-breaking attempts and other such normal boy activities.

It does feel like a haven. The stripped wood floors are a nice feature, and the bay window is very characterful (rebuilt out of the rotted wood walk-in bay which hovered precariously over the kitchen roof before).

Peaceful perch: our new bay with seat

Peaceful perch: our new bay with seat

At the moment I’ve kept it very simple in there with a few of our furniture pieces and plain white walls. We’ll get around to putting pictures up at some point, but the monastic white walls and rustic-looking flooring seem to work well together, so I won’t make many more changes.

Retreat chic: simple guest bedroom

Retreat chic: simple guest bedroom

The bird and branch curtains are made from one of my favourite fabrics from Prestigious, feathered in a purple hue which I matched to a similarly coloured lamp shade for the overhead light.

Avian fabric: Berkeley Square (Damson) by Prestigious

Avian fabric: Berkeley Square (Damson) by Prestigious

The guest bathroom design started with a free-standing bath, and the fact that I wanted to use some vinyl flooring which I’d seen a while ago and think is fantastic. Harvey Maria is the name of the company, and they supply a mixture of tiles and planks. There are photographic images of water, pebbles and grass, as well as some geometric patterned designs. The wood effect planks are realistic, down to the grain, and of course a no-brainer for a bathroom where you want the wood look without the warp.

Inspiration: Harvey Maria's Azure tile with a wood effect

Inspiration: Harvey Maria’s Azure tile with a wood effect

Now our little bathroom wasn’t anything like this size, but I liked the concept of the bathmat. After perusing their wood effect tiles I plumped for one which looked a bit more “driftwood”-like, and was called Tan.

Overhead light here reddens the wood/ Harvey Maria Tan and Azure

Overhead light here reddens the wood/ Harvey Maria Tan and Azure

Light off. Wistful cat is not a permanent fixture

Light off. Wistful cat is not a permanent fixture

The resulting flooring is striking, colourful, and gave a starting point for the rest of the room’s features.

I wanted to have some glittery blue mosaics in the shower. In fact, I wanted them throughout the entire shower cubicle so that it felt like you were having a shower amongst a lot of tropical fish. But when we worked out the cost of that, we thought that a statement square would do just as well. The star shower head keeps the look light, and the white tiles surrounding are actually threaded through with a line of glitter, too.

Shimmering shower

Shimmering shower

With a room full of blue and white sparkles, the dark wood basin cabinet was a good grounding point, found as an ex-display Roca model in a local showroom.

Bathe in peace

Bathe in peace

I just needed a final point to finish it off. I looked at dark wood shelves, but what I was really looking for was some sort of slatted framework on the walls, almost as decoration. The builders were dubious when I tried to explain and I couldn’t even seem to find photos when I did a near exhaustive web search. Then, miraculously, I found it – in the Outdoors section at Ikea – the Äpplarö frame and shelves which are meant to be part of a garden storage system.

Spa complete: slatted shelving

Spa complete: slatted shelving

The material for the blinds has colours from the Azure flooring (in a rather satisfying way). The material is from Scion, Flight from the Melinki range, and made into blinds by my skilled and amazing sister. The glamorous glass-beaded light is from Argos, a proper bargain at under £30. Who’d have thought it?

I am glad we’ve got such a soothing space for guests, but when they’re not around we do get to enjoy the spot too. We don’t have a bath in our ensuite, so every now and then, when I feel like getting away from it all, I can grab the bubble bath and a good book, and bathe.

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