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
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.
I thought I was never going to be able to show you my new outdoor kitchen what with all this crappy weather. Technically there was nothing stopping me from showing you, but bare furniture, BBQ covers and a tarp over the pizza oven just ain’t that photogenic. But yesterday the sun poked its head out and looked like it might hang around so I did my best headless chicken impression and spent an hour dressing it up real pretty, while praying the rain would hold off just long enough for me to get a few decent pics. Which I did, just keep your eyes off the deck and ignore any leaves, muddy dog prints and chicken poo. There’s only so much I can edit out.
The Outdoor Kitchen Project
When we bought Holly Cottage in 2010 this is what this section of the garden looked like.
Phase I – The Summerhouse
After a few failed Percy Thrower style gardening attempts I realised that it was never going to be more than a dark boggy area where nothing would grow. But on the plus side you get a great view of the fells from there so I just built a summerhouse on it.
This also gave me the opportunity to give Mr W the bar I’d been promising him since we bought the house, especially since I’d turned the original planned location for said bar into a wetroom….
Now Mr W is retired and we both live in Cumbria we eat dinner together almost every night, and despite what you think about Cumbrian weather we do manage to eat outside quite a lot. Which is what led me to thinking about an outdoor kitchen. Originally it was going to be a simple cooking area on the patio behind the house with a pizza oven and space for BBQ’s. But then I had ‘duh’ moment, you know when you realise how dumb you’re being. I design internal kitchen, living, dining spaces for customers all the time, why not extend the deck outside the summerhouse and have all of this in my garden?
Phase II – The Outdoor Kitchen
So this was the extent of the deck before.
….and this is it now
I did spend ages looking at gorgeous outdoor tiles and synthetic decking, but my budget just wouldn’t go there so traditional decking it was.
Now I don’t know about you but when we eat outside it always involves half a dozen trips back to the kitchen for things we’ve forgotten. So when I started planning this I just asked myself what I would have in a regular kitchen.
So we have an oven and two BBQ’s which means we can bake, roast, fry or grill pretty much anything. My step-daughters partner baked a mean dessert for us recently made from croissants, custard and cream. Bloody delicious. Email me if you want the recipe.
The supplier of the pizza oven also supplied a stand for it. But it bore no resemblance whatsoever to the stand shown on their website and was quite frankly a piece of junk (I’m still trying to get my money back). So in collaboration with the landscapers Coombe & Sharpe we came up with a chunky rustic style stand made from sleepers.
A kitchen needs a sink and I found a huge Belfast sink in my local reclamation yard. It was very stained so I just tarted it up with a couple of coats of tile paint. The landscapers built me a stand to match the pizza oven stand, and Mr W added the tile splashback for me.
The tap is fed from a water butt that collects rainwater from the roof, and drains into a ditch in the field behind the garden. We can’t drink the water but to be honest the sinks main purpose is to be a massive ice bucket for parties as we only have a small fridge in the summerhouse. But I can rinse stuff under the tap and water my plants using it so it has a few other uses.
I probably put more thought into the fence than anything else. I wanted this to be an extension of the summerhouse structure, so the slats needed to be horizontal not vertical, and the same width as the horizontal planks that the summerhouse is made of so that it flowed. I also wanted gaps between the slats so I could hang stuff on it, and to let light through and glimpses of the greenery behind, while giving some protection against the rain but letting the wind through so it wouldn’t blow down. I won’t be painting the fence, I want it to weather so that it looks like silver birch. I wish I’d done that with the summerhouse and the original deck but hey ho you learn.
More importantly the fence is my kitchen cupboards and shelves with storage and containers for utensils, cutlery, plates, condiments and herbs.
Hell there’s even a magnetic knife rack.No more traipsing back to the kitchen for the bread knife just as you’re about to serve up the hot dogs…..
You can’t beat IKEA for kitchen paraphernalia. It’s all steel so it shouldn’t rust, but if it does it’s easily and cheaply replaced.
Just before I left London I was walking through the Kings Cross area on my way to an appointment when I came across this table on the pavement outside an office building next to a pile of rubbish bags. Long story short it was outside the Diesel HQ and this was an ex display table they were scrapping. A few smiles and a promise to return the next day with a vehicle and suddenly I was the owner of one very cool industrial style table. A bit of Hammerite and some outdoor varnish and voila one kitchen counter, or island since it can be moved.
I already had an outdoor dining table so I just moved this up to the deck in true open plan style so nobody has to leave the party to check on dinner.
If it’s just the two of us there are also a couple of adirondack chairs for me and Mr W to have pre-dinner drinks. Above these is possibly my favourite thing in the outdoor kitchen – the huge industrial style outdoor mirror made specially for me by the lovely and very talented Ursh of Refunk’d. I love the way it reflects the garden so that it looks like a window.
Obviously the sun is the main light source in an outdoor kitchen but this is a 24hr kitchen so we also have wall lights along the fence and the front of the summer house. There are deck lights all the way round the perimeter and on every step to prevent nocturnal accidents…. and these beautiful fairground lights which give off a surprising amount of light. I also have an abundance of candle lanterns.
Soft furnishings are what really makes an outdoor space look inviting, and in this part of the world you need a plentiful supply of throws and blankets if you want to use your space after the sun’s gone down. I also have a fire pit and a chimnea which we bring up onto the deck when it’s really chilly.
I’m still humming and haa’ing over outdoor rugs. I obviously want them but not sure how practical they are when I’ve got chickens and two dogs, and its where to store them when I’m not using them?? I do think the ‘living room’ looks a little bare without one though……
And this was the reason I bought Holly Cottage – the view.
So what do you think, did I miss anything?
I was at a BBQ recently on what I now realise was the only sunny day of the year, i.e. summer. A former colleague was asking me how things were going since I’d left the glamorous world of insurance *raises eyebrows* to become an interior designer. As I described a few projects and some of the challenges I’d been dealing with he started to develop a very confused look. In fact he looked a bit like the delicious Mark Wahlberg does here.
At this point I should probably mention that he’s American. Now his nationality isn’t key to this story, although my northern accent has got a tad stronger since I moved to Cumbria so there’s a good chance this might have been the case. No, he was confused because it seems that in America an interior designer typically focuses on furniture and soft furnishings after all the other stuff has happened, you know like walls coming down or going up, pipes getting moved, rewiring, plastering etc. The stuff that takes up most of the money and that annoyingly none of your visitors appreciate when they come round for dinner when the skip has finally gone and the place no longer resembles a war zone. Apparently in America interior designers just get to do all of the nice stuff.
“I know Mark, that makes me pretty cross too”
I make no apologies for the shameless use of Mark Wahlbergs image. What’s not to like…
So after a short period wondering if I should relocate, and then knocking that idea on the head because (a) really not loving Trump, and (b) really loving Cumbria I started to wonder if my fellow Brits were also in the dark as to how much we can do. Does the average Joe or Jo really think we are just cushion scatterers? This horrifying thought compelled me to compile a list of “10 things you might not expect from an interior designer. So here goes.
Ten Things You Might Not Expect From An Interior Designer
1. Planning applications
If your house is listed or you want to add something big, high or unusual (I’m summarizing obviously) you are probably going to need planning permission. This means submitting scale plans and drawings which normally has people immediately googling ‘local architect’. But if what you are doing is straightforward then this might be something your interior designer could do and save you a bit of money. I recently completed a Listed Building Consent application for this Grade II* listed property that included site plans, elevations and a complete design and heritage statement. Not bad for a cushion scatterer eh? And yes it got approved.
2. Moving your meter
Sods law states that if you want a new ground floor wet room it’s likely to be where your electricity meter is. Or maybe I’m just unlucky as this has happened to me on more than one occasion. Gas and electricity meters can only be moved by the utility company, and you usually have to submit scale plans showing where the meter is now and where you’d like it to go. The utility company are used to dealing with third party applicants, and your interior designer will already have drawn plans showing you what your fancy new wet room is going to look like, so dealing with the utility company is no big shakes.
3. Organising a structural engineer
Structural engineers must love the trend for open plan interiors and flowing indoor outdoor spaces ‘cos where there’s a supporting wall you might just need a structural engineer. Most interior designers will see stuff like this all the time so will likely know a good engineer, by which I mean one that knows their stuff, doesn’t charge an arm and a leg and knows the local planners so can advise on best approach to getting your plans approved. Hell we might even be able to jump the queue for you as the good ones will (or should) be busy.
4. Tech advice
When I’m designing kitchens and bathrooms my customers often want advice on appliances and fittings in terms of spec, quality and price. This is of course something they can research themselves, but often don’t have the time. And as interior designers we have experience from previous projects and insight from customers, suppliers and trades that we can share. Online reviews are great but you can’t beat feedback from people you know. We don’t just advise on the pretty stuff ya’ know.
5. Waiting in for deliveries
As an interior designer I spend a lot of time looking for unique items and bargains for my customers, and when I find ‘em I buy ‘em quick before they’re gone. I work from home so it’s easy to have customer goods delivered to me and I just store them until we’re ready for them. Not so easy for things like sofas and appliances but if the customer can’t be home for the delivery then I just take my Macbook and work from theirs until it arrives. All part of the service people.
6. Cleaning your house
Bet you weren’t expecting this one were you? One of the things I can organise for customers is a big clean after the messy work has finished. Claire and her team are so good that this has led to a permanent arrangement for some customers. I know not everyone can afford a cleaner but once you’ve had Claire & Co clean your house you realise how poor your own attempts at cleaning were. And there’s nothing better than someone else magically making all that plaster dust disappear.
7. Stocking your cupboards
Now I’m not saying we’ll do your regular Friday big shop, but if you want to do a complete out with the old and in with the new then we can help with more than just the decorative stuff. I’m currently working on a 3 bed holiday let and second home and I’ve bought the crockery for the kitchen, the handwash for the bathrooms, the bulbs for all the lights and the logs for the fire. Literally everything including the kitchen sink.
8. Restoring furniture
Before I became an interior designer I took a number of upholstery and furniture restoration courses, and I love finding old pieces with character and giving them a bit of TLC. This is also something I’ve done for customers and I know other designers who don’t mind getting their hands dirty in pursuit of your dream home.
9. Selling your old furniture
I hate to see things go to the tip. Where I can I work with customers to rehome their old kitchens, bathrooms and furniture. This can mean sticking stuff on eBay for them, or taking it to the local auctioneers or charity shop. I’ve even sold their unwanted items to other customers. This customer may have a beautiful new bath but my next door neighbour bought and painted her old one so she has a spanking new bathroom too.
10.Counselling and mediation
This is obviously a little tongue in cheek but a good interior designer also needs a good dose of emotional intelligence. Even good change can be very stressful for people, particularly when it involves spending what will feel like large sums of money. Just because a customer has a small budget doesn’t mean it isn’t a lot of money for them. This means being sensitive to this, managing their expectations and not rushing them into decisions. Similarly couples don’t always agree on plans and a little practical mediation can help them reach agreement. Remember the red versus green dining room?
So out of 10 how did you score? Many surprises?
Never before has a room been so inappropriately named as this snug which my customers use as a TV room. At over 25 square metres it’s bigger than somewhere a London estate agent once tried to flog me as a one bedroom flat.
It’s the second room I’ve decorated for my customers. Our first project was their Ginormous Living Room – click the link if you want to pop back and take a look. It was a major transformation and they loved the final result which set high expectations for round two. I needed to come up with something at least as fabulous, preferably better and I think I rose to the challenge but I’ll let you be the judge. Ready for some before pics?
The Snug – Before
Their TV room was originally the garage but the previous owners who built the house later decided they needed an extra living space and converted it. God knows what they were using the ginormous living room for. Tennis court? Ballroom? Seriously pop back and take a look it’s big enough.
And if you did take a look you’ll know that the previous owners were also fans of a fake beam or two. They managed to squeeze three more in here, along with a staircase that we think came out of a church. It also had a strange laminate floor and carpet combo going on.
Those stairs lead up to the loft space where there is another fabulous fake beam and some badly designed storage. Lets not discuss the carpet, wallpaper and curtains – all the previous owners doing.
The previous owners also liked to cut corners and didn’t bother moving the electricity meter, they just hid it behind an oddly shaped cupboard….. and a darts board.
The Big TV Challenge
When I design living rooms I usually try to hide the TV, or at least make it blend into the background. But if you have a room that’s main purpose is for watching TV in you’re allowed to give it a little more stage presence. However, a lot of TV stands are ugly, even the expensive ones, and they don’t always hide all the wires. The other issue is size. You need to fill the wall that the TV sits against with ‘stuff’ so it doesn’t look lost. Here’s some approaches I’ve taken.
1. Incorporate the TV into a wall of storage and/or artwork
Image from AVSO.ORG
Image via Pinterest
2. Make the wall behind the TV the feature
I recently tiled a wall like the image below and used concealed lighting to pick out the contours. I’ll show you some pics of my own project just as soon as their new TV stand arrives. The current one is not pretty enough for pics…..
Image via Pinterest
3. Use a false wall
Image via Pinterest
Or the false wall can look like a chimney breast or run the length of the room with the TV and media equipment buried in it. This approach works well when you want a more minimalistic look so that the emphasis is on other elements in the room. I love the image below but I’m not convinced you should have a TV above a fire.
Image via Pinterest
So back to the snug.
I wanted to carry some of that modern country look through from the living room for continuity but add a touch more luxury. This translated to a scheme that includes a plush velvet sofa and grey plaid wallpaper (I can’t call it tartan without thinking of the Krankies).
So are you ready?
The Snug – Final Reveal
When my customer told me she quite fancied a velvet sofa my heart practically skipped a beat. Many of my customers have dogs and/or small children so velvet (especially deep buttoned) is a big no no. And although my customers have both a dog and a small child they also have the aforementioned ginormous living room, which they can use when everyone isn’t as clean as they should be. So we could make this room a bit more grown up and sophisticated. Bring it on!
The focal point is obviously the new media wall. The gas fire has gone and a new stud wall has been built to resemble a chimney breast so that we could wallpaper the alcoves either side. This gives the whole wall interest so it’s not just about the TV. The shelves below the TV are big enough to accommodate the current media equipment and any future equipment the customers might want, and there is concealed lighting along the top to give just the right amount of light for late night movie watching.
The wallpaper adds a posh country hotel vibe doesn’t it, and it was only £10 a roll……
The side table tops come off and can be used as trays so you have somewhere for your wine and popcorn when you’re watching a movie.
My customers are a VERY photogenic family and had loads of lovely pics I could use as artwork. The black and white prints and simple white frames look lovely against the wallpaper, and we hung the pictures high to make the walls seem longer.
The large admiral blue deep buttoned velvet sofa and matching ottoman with storage is from Next. There was room for two sofas or a sofa and armchair combo but frankly the homeowners sit in here to watch TV so one large sofa means everyone is facing in the right direction.
You remember the rule about area rugs right? Buy the biggest you can afford, preferably one that is wider than the sofa so it doesn’t look lost. This plush deep pile one is from IKEA, because it’s multiple shades of blue it contrasts with the carpet but doesn’t clash with the sofa. Perfect.
We papered the wall behind the sofa so that side of the room didn’t look bare. The dark wood doors were replaced with white 6 panel ones to match the rest of the house and all the woodwork was painted white, including the new under-stairs storage (with push to open fittings so it doesn’t look like cupboards), and the new cupboard that houses the electricity meter.
Replacing the staircase wasn’t an option, or necessary to be honest so we just replaced the newel post with a more contemporary square one, and the new grey carpet carries up the stairs into the space which will become an office, right now it’s just a nicely decorated box with lots more new storage space – see.
Most of the budget had to go on things you probably can’t appreciate like getting all the radiator pipes chased in, sorting out the lighting and plug sockets and boarding and plastering the ceiling. But there was enough for a simple console table behind the sofa and a few more framed family photos.
I toyed with the idea of floor to ceiling curtains to make the ceiling seem higher but because of the position of the radiators roman blinds made more sense (curtains would block heat from the room in winter), and to be honest blinds look more contemporary. They are a pale grey felt like material and couple of shades darker than the walls. They just add a little more texture to the room without competing with the sofa.
I love lighting. I will even stick my neck out and say it’s the most important thing when it comes to designing a space. Yes there is a long list of other things which are important, but your lighting lets you see all those other things, particularly when the sun has gone down, or between the hours of 3pm and 9am if you spend winter in Cumbria……..Perhaps necessity is the reason why I’m such a lighting fan? #lightbulbmoment.
To prove my love of lighting I thought I’d give you a mini tour of the lighting in my house if you’re up for that? But first a bit of techy stuff but I’m going to keep it short before you get all ‘get on with it woman, show us the pics’……
A Quick Guide to Lighting
I’m going to assume you’ve made the smart decision and switched to more energy-efficient LED lightbulbs. Although some of you may still be a little bit baffled by lumens and what size of LED bulb you need to replace your old 60W bulbs… if so here’s a handy little table from CNET magazine:
A quick and dirty way to figure out how much light you need in a room is to multiply the size of the room in square metres by 1.5. For example, a 4m x 4m room = 16 m2 x 1.5 = 24W in LED bulbs. So if this was a living room a semi-flush light with 4 x 6W bulbs should be sufficient, or you could spread the 24W between a ceiling light and wall lights. In rooms like kitchens or home offices where you need more light multiple the m2 by 2.5.
You also need to figure out what colour you want your ‘white’ lights to be. This is called the light temperature and is measured in Kelvins. Here’s another handy little chart. As a guide 1000k is candlelight and 2700k is what our old incandescent bulbs would typically be. Interesting fact – apparently people who live in colder climates prefer warmer white lights, and those living in hotter climates favour more blue or white light.
So you’ve worked out how much light you need and what colour you like so now where to put it?
- Ambient (or general lighting) is your main source of light. It’s what you would put on if you’d lost the back of your earring and needed to scrabble around on the floor to find it.
- Task Lighting would be the reading lamp over your favourite chair, or the light above your bathroom mirror you need to spot those weird long dark hairs that appear overnight on your face, and don’t pretend that’s never happened to you…
- Accent Lighting can be as simple as a couple of table lamps for the evening or something more for visual effect, such as plinth lighting in a kitchen.
My tip would be to have as many sources of light in a room as you can without it looking like a lighting shop. Oh, and put your general lights on a dimmer so you have even more flexibility.
So enough boring stuff – how about some pics?
The Summer House
I’m going to start here in the Summer House as pretty much every seat in here has it’s own light.
Wait there’s more…..
And it doesn’t stop at the door. I also have exterior wall lights, path lights and strings of fairground style lightbulbs around the summerhouse and in the trees. Told you I love my lighting.
Lets pop inside now shall we?
This is a dark room with little natural light so I have your typical downlighters, under cupboard and some in-cupboard lighting and the hob light. But my favourite lights are the large dark pewter pendants over the island and sink from Industville.
The Utility Room
This room is soooo small and dark it is impossible to photograph so I’m just going to make my life easier and show you a pic of the cage lights I have lighting it….
Another dark room and I still don’t think I’ve got the lighting right. For general lighting I went with downlighters because it has a very low ceiling.
The old over picture lights you can see above were too dim and a bit boring, so I changed these to 2-light wall lights with glass shades but these are too bright. I think they need to be on a dimmer.
I also have a large concrete base table lamp, but this isn’t enough on it’s own and I like dim light, so I end up lighting lots of candles.
You’d think being an interior designer and all that I’d have this figured out…..lets move on.
This is a tiny room, which to it’s credit does seat 7 people just don’t come for dinner if you have personal space issues.. There isn’t room for much lighting wise so I just have 3 ribbed glass ceiling pendants over the table and on a dimmer.
Check out the new pheasant wallpaper.
Another tiny room where we watch TV. I have a couple of downlighters for when we can’t find the remote and a floor lamp which serves as a task lamp and accent lighting.
But when I’m watching a movie I like to light a smelly candle and put on this amber globe bulb lamp from Cult Furniture.
I recently changed the lighting in my office and it was a classic case of needing to practice what you preach. I need bright light to work and the room had two 3-lamp ceiling lights which provided that…….but they were butt ugly. I initially changed them to metal coolie pendants which I loved but they couldn’t have given off less light if they tried. So thanks to my very patient electrician I now I have a single 5-bulb cluster light in the centre of the room.
I also updated the desk lamps recently with simple Hektar plug in’s from IKEA. Say hello to Florence the Flamingo.
The ceiling in my Wetroom is sloped with exposed beams and doesn’t really lend itself to any form of ceiling light so I have 4 bright wall lights and the biggest velux I could find to light up the room. I recently replaced the old IKEA lights you can see in the first pic with black and antique gold industrial wall lights I found on eBay.
Much better don’t you think? And yes I do like ducks. The framed prints are by the very talented artist Charlotte Gerrard
Lets go upstairs shall we?
In my bedroom I have an 18th century Czech glass chandler with an old 100 watt bulb which I haven’t got round to replacing *hangs head in shame* In theory I should need twice the lumens for a room of this size but the light reflects off the glass and lights up the room like an operating theatre. I bought it from an antique dealer for just under £500 but you can pick up reconditioned chandeliers like this one up for a lot less on eBay or Etsy.
I also have a couple of lamps in the bedroom with shades from my favourite lampshade supplier Love Frankie
I have another chandelier in the guest bedroom next door which cost £120 from a local antique shop, and a couple of mismatched table lamps. You’ll have to excuse the chintz in this room. I decorated it in 2010 when I bought the house and was a bit giddy about buying a cottage in the countryside which is clearly reflected in the decor…. I really like the wall colour (Farrow & Ball Old White) but I’m not loving the rest so much anymore. I just haven’t got round to figuring out what I want to do in here.
My single guest bedroom is very bijou and has a sloped ceiling so I just have two wall lights for lighting in here, but they turn on and off independently so the one over the bed also acts as a task light and accent lighting. Clever eh?
Although the ceiling slopes in here I still added a couple of downlighters at the highest point for general lighting. Them we have wall lights over the mirror and one on the wall opposite.
I also have a tiny spotlight behind the lowest beam to light up the bath and provide low light for relaxing baths and the inevitable at my age late night bathroom visits….
So the only light in the house I haven’t shown you hangs over the landing
and here you go (I couldn’t get a decent shot so a pic from the retailer will have to do I’m afraid).
And thats the tour over. Hope you enjoyed a nosy round my place. Get in touch if you need any help with your lighting, or anything else in your home for that matter, I’d love to hear from you.
Us Brits love a good pub but often for different reasons. For Mr W it’s always about the beer. When we lived in Leeds he used to drag me to this godawful place with a sticky floor and customers that resembled the cast of The Hobbit because he swore the beer was the best in Yorkshire. His new favourite haunt is The Swan Inn in Cockermouth which I worked on last year, and which he says serves the best pint in Cumbria.
For me a good pub has to have character. I want to see unusual features or something different in the deco that will spark one of those ‘ooh I like those lights’ kind of conversations. The kind of conversations Mr W just loves. Just like I love our chats about Leeds Uniteds chance of promotion this year…..
I like a pub where there are plenty of things to look at when me and Mr W are enjoying a comfortable silence. While he’s fantasising about Leeds Utd winning trophies I sit there mentally filing all the ideas I like for future projects and silently slagging off critiquing those I don’t. So I was very excited when the owner of The Mill at Ulverston got in touch after seeing what I’d done at The Swan Inn. Here was another chance to create the kind of eye catching details I look for when I go in a new pub, and to be honest The Mill already had lots of interesting original features to look at, they just weren’t making the most of them. So are you ready for a few before and afters? I make no apologies for the number of pics – there’s lots to show you.
The Mill at Ulverston
The Mill was originally one of Ulverston’s flour mills and parts of this grade II listed building date back to the 12th century. It was refurbished in 2009 but the interior was looking more than a little tired and the owner wanted to give it a makeover as part of a larger programme of investment, which included bringing in multi award winning chef Steven Doherty as their new Executive Consultant Chef. I won’t lie the menu was very uninspiring when I first visited The Mill but now the food alone is a reason to visit. But anyway back to the decor….
Faux leather chairs, cheap lighting and bare windows. Pretty bland eh?
The Brief & The Plan
The owner wanted The Mill to look like the gastropub he was planning to turn it into – a little bit traditional, a little bit modern and a little bit quirky. But not too different as the customers liked the original features, and I’ve found that in any pub regulars never like too much change. So I talked with the staff and (purely in the interest of research) spent a Friday night in the bar checking out and chatting to the customers. I then came up with a plan. The new interior would have a more industrial/vintage look by using metal, wood, leather and wool in the décor that would link it to the history of Ulverston, and its industrial and agricultural heritage. We would maximise the original waterwheel feature by improving the lighting and surrounding area, and introduce new decorative features based around the history of Ulverston and famous Ulverstonians. Intrigued?
The Restaurant at The Mill
So lets start here shall we? The restaurant had loads of great features already, a high ceiling, original beams, exposed stone walls, beautiful windows and a great wood floor but it was very cold looking and to be honest a tad boring.
But not anymore.
A big room needs big lighting so we replaced the chintzy chandeliers with large black metal orb lights and added matching rope and metal wall lights.
The combination of metal and rope really works in this industrial space but the lights are still ‘glam’ enough for the kind of restaurant this was going to be.
There is a long wall on one side of the restaurant and the owner desperately wanted something doing with it but didn’t know what. I came up with two ideas;
- Have wallpaper made up of an old local ordnance survey map
- Ssuspend’ large industrial style mirrors from rope
I was a little stumped when he said yes to both. But when we got the wallpaper up we all agreed covering it with mirrors would be a mistake so we stuck with the wallpaper. It was made by a company called Redcliffe Imaging who were great at helping me work out what area to include. and how to best position the town name.
We still managed to incorporate my suspended mirror idea but just hung one on the wall opposite. The mirror is fixed to the wall but we used rope and hooks to make it appear suspended from the ceiling.
The Ground Floor
The room behind the main bar on the ground floor has always been a favourite with families and locals who want somewhere a little quieter to sit. The problem was it was a bit too dark and very stark looking – see? (Make note of that wall clock….)
Looks a little more inviting now me thinks.
These new wall lights made a big difference, much brighter, and we added a couple more in the darker spots.
The wall clock is gone and in its place is a collection of vintage beer bottles in lighted alcoves. This false wall with recesses was easy to create and it instantly draws your eye when you walk into the room. The wall panelling on the lower half of the walls was something the owner really wanted, and painting it a darker colour breaks up the walls.
Next to this we added a butchers paper roll for specials and re-hung some of their old prints with a few other items including mirrors, a couple of barometers and an alarm clock to add more interest.
There was nothing wrong with the tables and chairs in here but we did reupholster the seats in a mix of tartan wool fabrics, again from Abraham Moon. FYI I had big plans to make more of a feature of that fireplace but we ran out of time and budget.
The Cask Bar
A long corridor connects the room above to the Cask Bar at the front of The Mill and this is what it used to look like.
When I was doing my research it struck me how many interesting things had happened in Ulverston, which is what led to the idea of creating a timeline of events. I had sleepless nights worrying I’d got the dimensions (and the facts) wrong and that it wouldn’t fit round the new lights, and I had quite an audience when I was installing it as every customer who visited the loo had a read over my shoulder. But it looks fab and has created a real talking point. Apologies for the first pic – it’s impossible to get a good picture without the lights on.
All the new lights in The Mill are industrial or vintage in style but we made a point of using different lighting in each area to make it more interesting. We used these Brinley wall lights and the matching pendants in the Cask Bar.
So now we’re in the main bar I have to show you some more before and after pics just to highlight the difference. Lets start by the fire.
…and now look at it.
The whole bar is just so much more inviting.
I also suggested a future money saving idea which the owner liked. They used to spend a fortune on candles, but I found these faux pillar candles which hold a tea light so instead of paying £1 or more for a candle which would last 2 nights at best they would pay pennies for tea lights. Genius eh? They’re from a company called Greige if you’re interested.
The area of the bar I’m particularly pleased with is the snug behind the stove, which used to be very bare.
It’s now uber cosy and a little bit edgy with it’s industrial mirror, rise and fall pendants and gallery wall. Those dark walls are painted in Farrow & Ball Salon Drab, and we used Valspar Earthy Beige where we needed to go a little lighter.
So what do you think? Could this be your kind of pub?
I’m going to leave you with a final quote from another famous Ulverstonian, Mr Stan Laurel. If you want to see which other celebs were born in Ulverston you’ll have to pop in.
As an interior designer I believe the relationships we have with our homes are no different to the relationships we have with our partners in some respects. They are rarely perfect, and always involve compromise. At Holly Cottage I traded lack of natural light for space, character and garden. Obviously Mr W is perfect…..as well as a reader of my blog *slaps leg and chuckles at her own wit*
And like our personal relationships, sometimes we neglect them. We get complacent. Treats don’t need to be expensive but we stop making an effort. And if this goes on for too long we forget what we fell in love with and start noticing every flaw. And sadly in both cases this can lead us to Rightmove.
The role of the Interior Designer
An interior designer wears many hats, a fellow interior designer once referred to us as ‘project managers and problem solvers with taste’ which about sums it up. But what a good interior designer can also do is make you fall in love with your home again. We’re like new buyers when we walk into your homes, but the kind that can see potential. That fresh pair of eyes and the ability to see what could be achieved is worth its weight in gold. Mr W would never have bought Holly Cottage if I hadn’t a hissy fit. I know, so unlike me….
And just to blow my own trumpet for a second, I am told I have a hugely infectious positive can-do attitude. You see gloomy 1980’s kitchen….
I see the smart modern shaker style kitchen you’ve dreamed about with space for the downstairs loo you’ve always wanted.
I’m a whirlwind of positive energy that will practically force you to fall in love with your home again. Remember that poky dark guest bedroom you had?
A distant memory since I turned it into a second sitting room overlooking the fields behind your house, with a sofa bed for guests and a new dressing area for you.
If I had a theme tune it would be Take That’s ‘Re-light my fire’. You complain about lack of wardrobe space in your bedroom and can’t see a solution that doesn’t involve swapping your marital kingsize bed for bunk beds…
I suggest we steal 60cm from the room next door and double your hanging space and save your marriage. You see unsurmountable problems. I show you the light at the end of the tunnel.
When I bought Holly Cottage the kitchen lacked storage and worktop space and had this huge void in the centre of the room.
So I built out the chimney breast and knocked a hole in it big enough for a new range cooker and added an island. Well I didn’t personally but you know what I mean.
You see a reason to move.
I show you why you should stay. I’m like Viagra for the house.
Got time for a couple more before and afters?
Go on, one more since you asked so nicely..
So if you’ve fallen out of love with your home and can’t see any way of getting it back don’t despair, get in touch and I’ll help you put the fire back into your relationship.
Amelia Wilson, Interior Designer and Passion Reigniter!
I live in an old house with uneven walls. Consequently I only have one wall that could take wallpaper. So I get very excited when I get the opportunity to wallpaper a customers house. But I also brace myself for a challenge because I’m VERY picky about wallpaper. There are fine lines between bold and gaudy, and striking or gives you a headache. And then there are the quirky ones which can be kinda cool, but can also look like they belong in the childrens ward of a hospital. And I get very twitchy around faux effect wallpapers. I’m not ruling them out in houses but I think they work best in pubs and restaurants and other commercial premises where you want unusual, eye catching features. But I can even take issue with subtle wallpapers. I look at some and think thats so subtle why are you bothering?
Murusbiblusphobia – the fear of wallpaper
OK I just made this up using the latin words for wall and paper, but to stop you all from thinking I suffer from an aversion to wallpaper I thought I would show you five that have drawn my eye lately. And I’m pleased to report, at least for my own sake, that sitings of favourable wallpapers are on the increase.
1. Pheasant by Barneby Gates
I’m going to start with the one I am considering for the single wallpaperable (another made up word from me) wall in my house. This Pheasant wallpaper by Barneby Gates is quirky but not mad and has the right amount of ‘traditional’ for my house without it being boring. I’m waiting for the sample to arrive so it might not make a formal appearance at Holly Cottage. But I hope it does as I rather like the idea of pheasants roaming across my dining room wall.
2. Pindorama by Arthouse
There are lots of bold tropical and botanical wallpapers around at the moment, perfect to go with the must have for 2017 if you want to be bang on trend – a velvet sofa. I love the orchids and fuchsia in this wallpaper but if I’m honest what probably drew me in was the way the stylist had it working with the fuchsia pink border and ceiling. They should have used a huge navy or fuchsia sofa though, that little grey one looks positively out of place in this setting.
3. House Plants by Miss Print
I’ve been looking for wallpaper for one wall in a large contemporary kitchen/living/dining space and instantly fell in love with this retro style wallpaper from MissPrint. MissPrint was created in 2005 by mother-daughter co-founders Yvonne and Rebecca Drury and every MissPrint pattern is hand-illustrated by Rebecca which is what makes their designs so unique. What I really like about this wallpaper (and any of their designs for that matter) is that although they have a midcentury feel you could make them work in a traditional or contemporary setting.
4. Kumo by Albany
This cloud wallpaper is going in an office/study/reading room I’ve just designed for a customer. I suggested it because I thought the pattern was so relaxing. Maybe not great for an office but definitely right for a reading room. For me this is one of those subtle designs that is subtle but is still noticeable. My customer hasn’t been able to use this room since they bought the house as it was being used for storage so she’s very excited about having her own space. So much so she jokingly referred to this room as her lady cave…. so wrong.
5. Veranda Trellis by Zoffany
Last up is a wallpaper I’m thinking of for a living room I’m in the process of designing. I want something contemporary but elegant, and like the idea of a geometric pattern but so many of them make my head hurt when I look at them for too long. This one doesn’t and I think that’s because it’s just simple green on white. My eyes can’t seem to cope with geometrics in more than two colours. Print size helps too – too small and I feel like I’m being hypnotised.
So that’s my fab five. I’ll let you know if the pheasants make it onto the walls of Holly Cottage.