Don’t worry this isn’t a post about the 80’s TV game show Going For Gold. And apologies if you now can’t get the irritatingly catchy theme tune out of your head. No this post is about why you seriously need to consider gold fittings in your new kitchen or bathroom Continue reading “Going For Gold in Kitchens & Bathrooms”
I’ve been spending a lot of time in the bathroom lately, and I can’t blame my old lady bladder. I’ve got four new bathrooms in progress, have just started designing another, and I’ve got four more in the pipeline. That’s a lotta loo’s. And they all have one thing in common. Size. Or should I say lack of it. Continue reading “How to design a beautiful AND functional bathroom”
I can’t decide what’s better as an interior designer being given the blank canvas of a show home or new build, or transforming something that has become tired and dated. I suppose if I enjoy them both it doesn’t really matter. Similarly, I’ve loved the freedom I’ve been given to design this latest show home, (the brief was literally here’s the budget, make it look good, quickly). But then you can’t beat the feeling you get when you show a client your designs for their home and they love them, because you’ve managed to capture everything they told you they liked, plus a bunch of things they would never have thought of but love as well. I guess I’m just saying my job rocks.
Before I became an interior designer I would dread the inevitable ‘so what do you do for a living’ question when I met new people. My actual job title made no sense to anybody outside my organisation (or most of my colleagues for that matter), and ‘work for an insurance company’ just sounds soooo dull. And if the person asking did look interested it was only because they were about to bore me senseless with the scintillating story of their last insurance claim, or ask me how they could get cheaper car insurance. Don’t care, don’t know, being my responses to both if I’d had too many sav blancs. When I became an interior designer I thought, at last a sexy job title I can be proud of! But this has now created a new problem. Being put on the spot.
Interior Designer FAQ’s
There are 2 questions I get asked all the time. The first is “What colour should I paint my living room?” (It isn’t always a living room it can be any room in the house). People ask me this question without providing any other background information, such as room size, what the light is like, what colours they prefer or what furniture they have. And they look at me expectantly like I should have the answer. I’m an interior designer not a psychic mindreading magician.
The second FAQ is “I want to do up my house how much will it cost me?” My quick answer to this has become, “How much do you want to spend?” But I thought I would share my approach to the long answer with you as it’s actually a really good question.
What’s my budget?
Most of the people I work with really have no idea how much it’s going to cost them, and it’s not just the first time buyers. I met a lovely couple last week, and one of them was a minister. They had spent most of their lives living in church houses so they had never had to replace a kitchen or bathroom or do any major renovations so had come to me for guidance. Not spiritual obviously.
Whether I am doing a single room or a whole house the first thing I do with most new customers is estimate the cost of the project so that we can agree a budget. To do this I need the answers to three questions, which also shape the overall brief:
1. What work is needed?
This isn’t just how many rooms they have, and whether it includes a kitchen or bathroom, but also the state of things like the windows and doors and the plumbing and electrics, i.e. the things that can really eat into your budget.
2. What is the desired look?
This covers both style and level of quality. Are we talking top of the range German kitchen and solid wood flooring, or secondhand furniture and ready-made curtains, or a mixture of both?
3. What are the priorities?
What do we spend money on and where do we compromise in order to keep within budget?
If we’re doing the whole house there will also be a summary that looks something like this:
The true cost of home improvements
I’ve found that when I work on whole houses we typically spend half the budget on labour, unless the customers can carry out work themselves. But I still do all of this early estimating before I bring any trades in to quote. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Firstly, I’ve been doing this long enough now to know roughly what things cost. Obviously there are things I can’t estimate, especially when you get into bespoke joinery and mysterious damp problems (for that I really need Damp Gary), but my estimates for most things are usually pretty accurate.
But more importantly I don’t like to waste peoples’ time. If we need to make compromises, and this means customers doing their own decorating, then I’d rather establish this before I bring a decorator in to price the job.
But the main reason for this early estimating is that in order to get an accurate overall cost for a room you need to have designed it. But you don’t want to design a room and go to the trouble of getting quotes from trades for a look that the customer will love but can’t afford. You need to manage your customers expectations and to do this you need to know what your budget is.
So what does it cost to do up a house?
So as you can see there isn’t a simple answer. But I will go out on a limb and say that if you have a two or three bedroom house which you want to completely redecorate and furnish, with a medium sized kitchen, an average sized bathroom, and one ensuite, then the figures in my examples above are pretty realistic for midrange in terms of quality. Obviously you can always spend more or less but I wanted to leave you with something to ponder now the Christmas decorations have come down leaving your rooms looking tired and bare.
And if you think you might want my help get in touch quickly as enquiries have been rolling in since I became a local media sensation…. (a customers words not mine after seeing my features in Cumbria Life and The Whitehaven News!)
If you read my post 10 things you might not expect from an Interior Designer (and thank you if you did) you’ll appreciate just how diverse the role of the interior designer can be. And the multi-tasking doesn’t stop there. As a small business owner I’m also Head of IT, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Chief Finance Officer, Operations Manager, Receptionist and Office Cleaner, i.e. it’s just me. When I worked in London I had a team to support me, access to expert resources, and I’m embarrassed to admit it…… an assistant. I realise now that I was proper pampered. But I’m also proud of how I’ve mastered a whole bunch of new skills. Well all but one that is.
Interiors Styling & Photography
One of the most important things when you’re an interior designer is being able to show people your work. Your website is your shop front so you need lots of images, and they need to be good. This isn’t as simple as you would think and it takes time. The rooms you see in magazines have been styled within an inch of their life. The stylist will have planned in advance how tidy or casual the room should look. Every accessory will have been carefully chosen from a stash which won’t all make it into the photographs. They will have been placed and then moved 3 or 4 times before the stylist was happy with the result. Greenery is a given, but the stylist will have thought carefully about what kind. And they will have played and played and then played some more with the lighting until it was just right.
Styling is an art which is why there is a whole industry behind it. But the greater skill in my view is the photography, which is where I fall down. Hard. Lighting regularly defeats me, but it’s also knowing which angle would be best, how wide to go on the perspectives, and how soft or sharp on the close ups. I’ve got a decent camera and editing software but it’s a bit ‘all the gear and no idea’. If I had the time I’d take a course. In fact maybe that should be my New Years resolution. Lets face it ‘lose a stone’ is getting a bit like Groundhog Day.
Which is why I’m chuffed to bits to see the holiday home I finished recently on the rental market with Cumbrian Cottages,. I’d taken some pics when it was finished but when I started editing I wasn’t happy with them and knew I would have to go back. But thankfully Cumbrian Cottages have done a much better job as I’m about to show you. But first things first people, the before pics!
The Lowther Project – Before
The property is grade II* listed and was built in the 1770’s for the workers of Lowther Castle. It’s like the tardis. From the outside it looks like an end terrace, but inside there are 3 bedrooms, two bathrooms a kitchen and living room spread over 3 floors.
The owners initially said they wanted a traditional look that reflected the age of the property, but after sharing images with them via Houzz I could see that they also liked vintage and industrial elements and weren’t afraid of going dark when it came to wall colour.
To give you an idea of how long a project like this can take, the homeowners first got in touch in March and I started work 3 weeks later. We need listed building consent from the Lake District National Park planning office before any work could start. So I completed the detailed designs and submitted the application at the end of May. We got the approval at the end of July and work started early August and completed mid October.
So are you ready to see what it looks like now?
The Lowther Project – Final Reveal
When you’re working to a budget it’s important to know where to spend and where to save. Using a mixture of new and secondhand furniture is a great way to save money, and old furniture is often better quality. It also adds character and makes a place look like it was furnished over a period of time.
I’m particularly proud of what we achieved with the budget for the kitchen. The units are from Howdens and we bought all the appliances online. The granite worktops were supplied and fitted by Lakeland Granite. They had some surplus stock they wanted shot of so we got a good price.
We used black slate flooring throughout the ground floor and on the lower ground floor which has its own external door so that the property could be pet friendly.
I used track lighting for the ceiling pendant so it can be moved into the centre of the room when they extend the dining table to seat 6 – clever idea eh?
We installed a new shower room on the lower ground floor so we could take out the over bath shower and create a big family bathroom. One where you drink champagne in the bath of course….
When you’re renovating a whole house there are a lot of moving parts to manage so if you can find a contractor that is multi-skilled it can really help. Almost all the work on this project was done by Ben Butler Kitchens & Bathrooms. The staircase was probably one of the simplest jobs on his very long list but it has made such a difference to how the property looks.
The dark blue wall in the master bedroom is Farrow & Ball Stiffkey Blue which I liked so much I recently painted my own bedroom the same colour. It goes beautifully with the antique pine and the burnt orange.
The twin bedroom is very compact. There isn’t enough ceiling height for bunk beds but we were able to get in two small singles with just enough space to walk between them.
Remember the store room with the old kitchen cupboards? Well look at it now. Just shows what you can do with a space with some careful planning.
The hexagon wall and floor tiles are from Topps Tiles and made me very unpopular with Ben. “I’ve done the best I can” was his parting shot that day. But I think they look pretty good.
The third bedroom on the lower ground floor also looks fabulous but you’ll just have to take my word for it. The lighting in there is really poor and it seems the professional photographer struggled with it too, so I don’t feel quite so inadequate. But I will take some more pics when I go back and show you just how fab it looks.
Yes cheese. I won’t lie, when I saw this pic on the Cumbrian Cottages site I did think how nice it would be to curl up in front of that log burner with a glass of red and some stinky cheese. But if I put this pic on my website you’d think I was bonkers.
So if you’re looking for an uber cosy holiday home to rent in the Lake District head over to the Cumbrian Cottages website and get it booked. There’s a good pub close by and it’s walking distance from Lowther Castle where they hold Kendal Calling every year, just think no campsite toilets…..
Over the last few years Mr W has stopped raising concerns or objections over my decorating plans he just goes with the flow. It’s not that I didn’t get my way before, we wouldn’t be living in Holly Cottage if that was the case, or have a red kitchen, or exposed stone walls in the bathroom. In fact our house would look very different if I wasn’t so
bossy persuasive. But now I don’t even have to argue with him, he just lets me get on with it. He tells me that I’ve proven I know what I’m doing and he now trusts my decisions. I think I’ve just worn him down. Either way – yay for me.
The Bedroom Makeover
Living with an interior designer is like a version of that Fat Boy Slim tune – Eat, Sleep, Paint, Repeat. And I’m not even going to bother defending myself. It is both a perk and a curse when it’s your job to seek out and create beautiful interiors. The latest room in my house to get a makeover is our bedroom, and if you follow my social media feeds you might remember the wallpapers I was considering, this one being top of my list.
In the end I decided I didn’t want to break up the room with one papered wall and wanted to keep it all one colour. And with my new found decorating freedom I wanted to go darker. A lot lot darker.
Dark interiors are a bit like marmite, you either love them or hate them, but even those who love them aren’t always brave enough to take the plunge at home.
Usually they’re concerned because there isn’t enough natural light in the room, or they think the room is too small to carry a dark tone. But if you have a small dark room, painting it white is probably going to make it look very stark, whereas going dark will make it cosy and a whole lot more interesting.
I’m a fan of dark interiors but unfortunately Mr W is not, and it’s the one battle I’ve never been able to win. Until now of course…..
The Bedroom Makeover – Phase I
So back to the bedroom. Before I show you in it all its lovely inky glory you have to see what it looked like before. And I’m going to take you way way back to the day I first viewed the house. I have to apologise for the very poor quality pics but this was 2010 when all I had was a blackberry, and if you see the pics you’ll understand why Mr W didn’t even want to buy the house.
FYI the homeowners didn’t have any small children…
The Bedroom Makeover – Phase II
So when I first decorated I was living in an uber modern flat in London. I was a bit giddy about owning an old house in the country and got carried away with the country slash vintage vibe.
Our entire flat in London was floor to ceiling white so the darkest I could get Mr W to agree to was a light mushroom, and that took some convincing…..
Now I liked it, but I felt we could do better.
The Bedroom Makeover – Final Reveal
When you’re taking a non-believer over to the dark side its all about breaking them in gently. So when I first mentioned navy blue to Mr W I told him we’d just paint one wall. This one.
And he loved it. Thank god. As I’d already bought the paint for the rest of the room.
The pics aren’t great as this is a dark room, but that was my rational for going dark. Its a bedroom, it’s usually dark outside when I’m in there, and you want it to be cosy.
All the furniture is the same, we just changed the curtains to a roman blind, bought new bedside lamp bases and shades, a new bedspread and pillow shams, and moved our existing artwork and accessories around. Total spend approx. £900.
Don’t the oak wardrobes and the gold sunburst mirror look amazing against the blue?
I absolutely love it. The colours are so rich, and its so warm looking.
I swear I’m sleeping better because it’s darker.
So what do you think? Could you be persuaded to go a few shades darker?
Although I absolutely love Christmas, and literally smother my house in Christmas decorations every year, preparations do not start until at least 1st of December. Anybody wanting to get into the Christmas spirit earlier than this is quite welcome to but do not be playing Mariah Carey within my earshot, or asking me to pick off a Christmas menu. And no I haven’t started my bloody Christmas shopping yet, it’s October! So you can imagine how torn I was when a magazine asked me if they can photograph my house all decorated for Christmas…..next week. Yes Ilona Hadfield I can hear you laughing from here.
So this year Christmas is coming early to Holly Cottage as I haven’t got the energy to decorate, undecorate and then decorate again. And I’m kicking off with my first Christmas present. I have teemed up with the lovely people at Blinds2Go to offer one of you lucky people the chance to win a window blind of your choice worth up to £150.
I’ve been working with Blinds2Go ever since I started Amelia Wilson Interiors as they offer a very affordable made to measure service where you can choose from a large range of fabrics.
Their range includes lots of different colours with both plain and patterned designs.
And the quality and service is also very good, with most blinds being made and delivered within 2 weeks.
So to be in with a chance to win all you need to do is head over to Instagram and follow these simple rules (I know not everyone uses Instagram but it would be worth downloading the app just for this):
- Follow me @mrswpics and @blinds2go
- Post a picture of the window you would like a new blind for
- Include the hashtag #blinds2gomakeover in your post and tag at least two friends
- You can post as many pics as you like but you must tag new friends each time
The competition will run until 21st November when a winner will be selected at random. The winner will then be contacted and asked to choose their new blind from the Blinds2Go website and provide the necessary dimensions etc. so that their blind can be made and delivered in time for Christmas.
It’s as simple as that so get snapping and posting those window pics and in the meantime I’ll start putting up my Christmas decorations… Ho Ho Ho!
Throughout my career whatever job I was doing I always had a reputation for ‘getting stuff done’. And as an interior designer I continue to focus on doing things right, doing them on time, and always on or under budget. I am also a tad competitive (possibly the worlds greatest understatement…) So when the owner of the John Dalton Building in Cockermouth set me the challenge of turning one of their new apartments into a show home in just 4 weeks I set myself the goal of doing it in 3, and I did. So who is up for an exclusive sneak preview before open house this weekend? Continue reading “The Show Home Final Reveal”
I’ve designed more bathrooms than any other room since I started my business, but I never get bored of doing them because I love the problem solving aspect. People rarely have huge bathrooms and there are always logistical issues you have to work with.
And the problem solving doesn’t stop when you’ve planned bathrooms. The first fix, which is when any new pipework and electrical cables get installed before the walls are plastered, often uncovers new issues that can mean a re-think. I had to break from writing this post to go to one of my sites to talk to the bathroom fitter about raising the shower tray because the floor joists didn’t run parallel with where the waste pipe need to go. You can drill a hole in a joist for a ½” water pipe or an electric cable but not a 40mm waste pipe, you need to raise the shower tray. This then led to discussions about the height of the shelf in the shower for shampoo bottles and whether the shower screen would still fit as the ceiling had been removed to bring in light from a roof light and there was a beam in the way. This is why I never let bathroom projects start when I’m on holiday…..
Two Beautiful Bathrooms – Part Two
The bathroom I’m about to show you is very different to the one I showed you in part one of this post, and not just in style. There were lots of juicy little problems that needed to be solved in terms of the layout. But how about I show you what it used to look like before we get into that?
The customer said I could only show you these if I could guarantee her full anonymity……
Make a mental note of the door below, even that got a makeover. Just noticed the random rubik’s cube LOL.
Sometimes working out what customers will like is harder than solving the layout problems, as it isn’t always easy to describe what you like you just know it when you see it. Which is why I use tools like Houzz and Pinterest to share images with customers, and encourage them to add their own images and comments so I can build up a profile for them. After collaborating on an Ideabook with these customers I decided to design them a bathroom which had a country feel but with modern touches, lots of natural wood for Mr S and lots of pastel colours with a few copper touches for Mrs S.
Are you ready to take a look?
The Pretty Family Bathroom
I’ll give you a minute to appreciate the transformation before I run through all the juicy little problems I had to solve.
Firstly, they wanted a shower but needed to keep a bath as they have two small children and the room isn’t big enough for a separate shower cubicle. Yes I know the obvious solution is an over bath shower but if only it was that straightforward.
Mr S is VERY tall and the ceiling is not, and we needed to lower it to fit downlighters as the loft had been insulated and boarded and there is no longer access to the space above the bathroom. So after checking, double-checking and triple checking the height of the reinforced bath (which you really need when very tall adults are going to be standing in it to take a shower), and finding some very shallow LED spotlights, I calculated I only needed to lower the ceiling by 10cm. This might sound like a lot for shallow downlighters but there has to be a gap above the spotlight to allow it to ventilate. Technically you can fit them directly under loft insulation if you use breathable loft caps, but as I mentioned there was no loft access to do this so new ceiling it had to be.
This meant that a shower head on a riser would work but there wasn’t enough head height for one of those lovely big ceiling mounted or fixed rainfall shower heads which they would have liked. But I did manage to find a good compromise after hunting around on the Internet – a shower kit with a 160mm head instead of the usual 110mm. So shower problems solved.
Next issue is they wanted a bigger window but it couldn’t be any wider or the sill would always be covered in water from the shower. We could have sloped the window sill but the customer also wanted clear glass and there is a public park behind their house. So unless they wanted to attract unwanted attention and possibly complaints they would need a blind, which would have got wet and mouldy. So the new window would have to be taller but not too low because the bath needed to go under the window (trust me I tried every possible layout). Even though I had checked, double-checked and triple-checked the bath height I still didn’t rest until that bath was fitted.
From the childrens’ perspective, the advantage of this low window sill is that they can use it as a slide into the bath something Mrs S found out the other night….
On to the next challenge; they desperately needed storage but I needed to keep the space next to the bath relatively clear so that the shower screen could fold outwards 90 degrees, because if the shower screen can only fold into the bath you can’t access the bath taps. And before you say what about putting the bath taps in the middle of the bath, baths designed for central taps have two sloped ends instead of one, which isn’t great when your shower is over the bath as you can’t get right under the shower head unless you ceiling mount it. See earlier challenge. I also had to find a bath mixer tap that would pivot 90 degrees so you wouldn’t bash your shins on it when you took a shower. Something I wish some hotels would take into account.
So anyway back to storage, I put the biggest vanity unit I could next to the door, with a raised shelf behind it for additional counter space.
The vanity unit was made by a company called Parker & Walkers Furniture who can make any size and style you want and paint it in your chosen colour. Although apparently Farrow & Ball Dead Salmon was a first for them.
I also included a custom built cupboard the same depth as the toilet cistern above the toilet. I’m lucky to work with Ben Butler Kitchens & Bathrooms, Ben is a fitter and joiner so he can make me things like this. The frame for the cupboard and the cistern housing were built in pine and then clad in solid oak tongue and groove to match the top of the vanity unit.
The shower screen is a bifold that can fold in or out 90 degrees so it can fold flat against the cupboard when they bath the kids.
The walls and ceiling have been painted in Farrow & Ball Calamine which looks lovely with the oak and the copper wall lights. Two of the things I learned about Mrs S through the Ideabook is that (1) she likes flamingos, hence the wall print which just happened to be the right shades of blue and pink, and (2) she likes round mirrors. Neither of these things she knew herself until we started looking at images together.
I found a towel radiator to match the copper wall lights. The heat output isn’t enough for a bathroom this size, but they’d already decided they wanted underfloor heating which would provide the heat needed so this could just be a very pretty towel dryer.
Remember how their old cottage door looked before? Well it cost £30 to get it stripped locally and Mr S filled the holes and gave it a coat or two of oil and now it looks gorgeous. The rest of the doors in the house will be getting the same treatment. The oak effect floor tiles are so realistic you almost have to touch them to check they’re not solid oak.
I have to give Ben credit for the lights along the edge of the bath. I wanted lighting in the alcove in the shower and down the outside of the shower wall but there wasn’t room for the lighting down the edge of the shower so this was his suggestion and it’s a beautiful feature.
I’ve come to realise that I like variety in all aspects of my life. I rarely eat the same thing twice in one week, and that includes breakfast. When I’m cooking dinner you might catch me crooning to a little country or throwing age inappropriate shapes to the Prodigy. I like to watch musicals and wildlife documentaries. And my favourite things to read are sci-fi and anything about serial killers. I’m not cultured I just like a lot of different stuff. Thankfully my eclectic taste also extends to interiors as all my customers have different styles, and I don’t think I’d like my job or be very good at it if I had to work with things I didn’t like all the time.
Don’t get me wrong there have been times when I’ve had to steer customers away from potentially disastrous choices, or accept that their sofa (which I don’t like) has to stay for budget reasons. But find me an interior designer who hasn’t had to deal with that. OK, so maybe Kelly Hoppen’s customers can always afford a new sofa. And as the queen of taupe she probably hasn’t had to tell a customer that tangerine orange walls with blue wall tiles would be a bad idea as I did recently……
There’s nothing wrong with an interior designer having a particular look or style of course, quite the opposite. It becomes your brand and customers seek you out because of it. But I just like lots of different styles and thankfully that works for me and my customers.
Two Beautiful Bathrooms – Part One
So this week I photographed two finished bathrooms that couldn’t be more different if they tried and I love them both. I’d love to know which is your favourite, assuming you like either of them of course…. But firstly I have to tell you I’m a little bit gutted as Apple appears to have lost the before pics somewhere between my Mac and the Cloud so I’m going to need you to use your imagination I’m afraid. It used to be two rooms; a shower room and separate toilet and the décor was a little 90’s show home, you know small square shower, pedestal basin, ordinary toilet and two tone tiles with a border. Get the picture? OK lets move on.
The Hotel Bathroom
This wasn’t a typical project for me as the customer already had a strong sense of what she wanted. Initially I was just going to work on her new kitchen and dining room (more pics to follow) but we extended this to include a little help with the bathroom layout and someone to bounce ideas off and help her choose fittings. So ready for the result of this collaboration?
I’m calling it the hotel bathroom because Mr W said “wow, it looks like a hotel bathroom” when he saw it, and I agree, assuming he meant posh hotel in the Alps and not Travel Lodge.
The beautiful porcelain tiles are from Italy. My customer saw them in one of our local bathroom showrooms and we used my trade discount to make a healthy saving.
My absolute favourite thing in this bathroom is the floating basin.
I’m not a huge fan of vanity units as so many are ugly. I often buy regular furniture and fit a sink on it, or I have the fitter build me something. But this wall mounted basin has been designed to perfectly conceals all the pipework. The two drawers below provide some storage and a shelf for towels but they also help give it a little more substance as I think the basin would look lost floating there on its own.
The short stud wall between the shower and the basin gives that feeling of privacy when you’re in the shower (though you’d hope not to have too many unexpected guests..). We also added it so that the shower screen wasn’t butting up to the basin making it hard to clean.
Ben the bathroom fitter suggested the little corner shelf for the hand wash to keep the basin top clear.
The unit above the back to wall toilet and bidet provides extra storage and somewhere to display some of the decorative items the customer has collected on her travels.
The bathroom complies with my ‘must have three sources of lighting rule’ and has recessed spotlights in the ceiling, the over mirror light and small spotlights in the wall cupboard, all on separate circuits of course.
The plants you see were actually props for the photographs but I think my customer will be popping down to the garden centre this week after she saw how good they looked.