Monthly Archives: March 2015

The first rule of interior design – there are no rules.

This is what attracts me most to interior design, there are literally no rules. Yes, there are guiding principles and building regulations but much of this is just good common sense. One of the things that drove me crazy in my old life was the adherence to pure theory in some areas of the company (project managers you know what I’m talking about), and the way in which management theories were regurgitated, re-branded and slavishly adopted in a way David Koresh would have been envied. I once worked for a guy that would embrace anything that came in a 2×2 matrix, and another that liked anything with 7 steps. I became very skilful in shoe-horning plans into grids and developing acronyms to illustrate my vision and ensure support for my ideas. I am much happier now I don’t need to find a theory to back up my ideas, just using mood boards to illustrate my vision.

Stakeholder management is still important though. You can’t take a customer completely out of their comfort zone without a presentation strategy. I had a situation like this last week when I presented my proposals to a client for her children’s bedrooms. FYI – this is a client who told me she invested a significant amount of time and money in decorating a former home in a range of neutral Farrow & Ball tones, only to have a friend admire her for painting her whole house the same colour…..When I presented the teal feature wall and brick effect wall paper I was suggesting for her sons bedroom, alongside the dark wood and metal furniture she could see how cool it looked but was completely out of her comfort zone. Her husband and son loved it – I’m still waiting to here if she adopts the plan in its entirety….

IMG_4199

Mood board for her sons bedroom. A little bit geek, a little bit rock and a whole lot of cool

My latest bathroom project challenges traditional views that oppose combining styles. I started out with a clear plan for a Victorian style bathroom. But removing the plaster exposed the most beautiful red sandstone, which resulted in a new plan that combined rustic and Victorian styles. All the pipework was diverted to the utility room below to avoid any boxing at skirting level. The lighting plan had to change as the wall lights needed a flat surface and the cables had to be hidden between the stones so new positions had to be found. We had planned a bathroom cabinet but this was no longer practical with such uneven walls so this was replaced with a vintage mirror. The contractors did an excellent job of using pieces of sandstone from the garden to plug any gaps in the walls, and we hid the concrete and brick lintels above the window and door behind some fake aged oak lintels. My favourite feature is the spotlight hidden behind the beam above the cast iron bath which lights it up. I think the end result is striking but you can judge for yourself.

IMG_2872 IMG_2882 IMG_2883 IMG_2874 IMG_2879 IMG_2885 IMG_2873

[pinterest]

The final touch will be pictures for the one plastered wall. I’m currently sourcing a painting to match the one below. If I can’t find the right match we’ll stick with the one painting which I fell in love with the moment I saw it – what can I say its my love of chickens….

IMG_2886

 

Suppliers and contractors:

Milbrook petite cast iron bath from the cast iron bath company, painted in F&B Pavilion Grey. Marble top vanity unit from Bathstore. Toilet from Heritage range. Radiator from Castrads, painted in F&B Cornforth White. Tiles from Walls & Floors Victorian unglazed range. Lighting from Fritz Fryer. Gold taps and accessories from Victorian Plumbing. Plastered wall painted in Dulux Pebble Shore. 

All stonework, plumbing and tiling by J D Osborn Plumbing & Heating Engineers. Joinery by Curwen. Electrics by Cockton Electrical. Decorating by Michael Fulton.

The worlds most challenging interior design jobs?

Things have been a little hectic of late (hence the overdue blog) and now Mr W and I are co-habiting again. A novelty which I am sure will soon wear off for us both. Long story short he’s been diagnosed with diabetes and is under hospital supervision until his glucose levels can be stabilised with insulin. So all his business travel has been cancelled and I’m playing nurse. I did manage a couple of trips before his diagnosis though which provided some interesting sight seeing for an interior designer.

First stop Rotterdam to see an old school friend who took us to see the cube houses designed by architect Piet Blom. There are 39 in Rotterdam, each tilted 45 degrees and resting on a hexagon shaped pylon. They were built in 1977 and his design is supposed to represent a village within a city, where each house represents a tree, and all the houses together, a forest. One has been maintained as a museum and getting inside is a challenge in itself as the stairs are steep, narrow and windy. Once you’re in the views from the windows almost induce vertigo as you feel like you’re facing the ground below. But the biggest challenge with these houses must be furnishing them, your only real options being flat packed or custom made. My verdict? Interesting and worth a visit but I’m a bit of a space utilisation freak so they left this interior designer twitching…

10988427_10153292383541844_6078024623290884616_n IMG_2616 IMG_2620

[pinterest]

Next stop Norway. Hurtiguten run a fleet of cargo/passenger ferry/cruise ships along the coast from Bergen to Kirkenes. They sail non-stop and dock everywhere to load and unload passengers and goods. Its a great way to see the coastline, and at this time of year also the Northern lights. We boarded halfway in Tromso and sailed to Kirkenes and back. At Kirkenes we visited the snow hotel as an add on to a husky dog sledding excursion. Now I’ve seen a snow hotel all romantic notions of staying in one have disappeared. The rooms are freezing, the air is damp, there’s little privacy and the bathrooms are down an icy corridor. I don’t know what I was expecting but perhaps a little more decor, and the only signs of any interior design are the ice carvings on the walls. My verdict? Worth a nosy if you’re in the vicinity but unless your Bear Grylls I’d avoid an overnighter….

IMG_2699 10425088_10153309036511844_1968820227424544328_n IMG_2716

[pinterest]

So these places left me pondering about other challenging interior design jobs. Here’s some I’d like to get my teeth into….

1. Possibly the smallest house in London. Only 188 sq ft which is one fifth the size of an average new build. Only one bedroom and unsurprisingly open plan living space. It sold recently for £275k which will  prompt much sucking in of breath from my northern friends…You’d need a sparse wardrobe and be a fan of eBooks, digital music and movie streaming to live here. And check out the bathroom – I’ve seen bigger on boats.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 16.56.51 Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 17.51.25

[pinterest]

2. Most definitely the least private house in the world. This 914 sq ft house built by Sou Fujimoto Architects is definitely only a home for exhibitionists as it’s completely transparent. Apparently it was inspired by our ancient predecessors who inhabited trees. Once I’d got past the bathroom issue my next thought was how have they hidden all the plumbing and electrics?

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 17.08.01 Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 17.59.44

[pinterest]

3. A very eco-friendly house. Located in France is a bio-climatic solar house that has been designed as a three-dimensional sundial which keeps the temperature cool in summer and warm the rest of the year. I’m not sure I could live in a temperature controlled glass box though. I’d get very little sleep in the summer as there don’t appear to be any window dressings and I’d definitely want to get a window cleaner.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 17.17.09 Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 17.46.29

[pinterest]

4. A house with a view. Not a penthouse or a mobile home but a rotating house. It took the 73yr old builder more than 20 years to complete this house in the Czech Republic but what an invention. He said he built it because he got bored building ordinary houses. The lower level is a swimming pool, the house moves up and down by flipping a switch, and it can rotate 180 degrees, albeit manually. When the house is submerged it maintains a stable temperature year round making it energy efficient too. The round walls would present a bit of an interior design challenge furniture wise but I love it – imagine being able to change your view when you wanted to.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 17.39.27 Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 17.39.47

Much as I like the rotating house my dream home is still one that overlooks water, but Holly Cottage fits the bill for now

10553535_10153330390656844_7309230067120337951_n

Interior design or child’s play?

I should have realised a long time ago that I wanted to be an interior designer, just based on the number of times I would re-arrange my bedroom furniture and beg my mum to redecorate. Money was tight and we were a single parent family so my mum handled all home improvements herself. She could do anything, and I mean anything. She even owned her own set of drain rods. Best not to ask why. She once embarked on a project to convert our cellars into a granny flat and undertook all the work herself, by which I mean her plus her personal child labour force. My friends still laugh now at the memory of staying over at my house during school holidays and my mum’s parting shot (shouted up the stairs as I was still in bed) as she went off to work being “Amy! I want three wheel barrows of soil off you before you go out”. When I look back I admire her ‘can do’ attitude and work ethic (which I inherited) but I wish she hadn’t been quite as…..inclusive. The motorbike, cigar smoking, naturism and accordion playing also made for an interesting childhood but that’s a whole book not a blog post….

My accordion playing mum (centre) and my musical aunties

My accordion playing mum (centre) and my musical aunties

So back to children’s bedrooms. I have a new customer and my first deliverable is designs for her 7yr old daughter and her 8yr old sons bedrooms. For the daughter, mum would like simple and tasteful, with a splash of Laura Ashley. Something that will see her into her teen years. Daughter wants pink hearts, princesses and diamonds. The kind of bedroom I would have loved but never been allowed. The son is actually trickier. He is interested but not passionate about a range of things including football, rugby, drumming and getting a dog, and likes just about every primary colour. Our conversations yesterday just showed me that kids are not that different to a lot of adults when it comes to decorating their bedrooms. They don’t really know what they want. They’ve seen a few accessories or a bed they like, but can’t visualize or create a coherent scheme which incorporates them. But that’s great news, because that’s my job as an interior designer.

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 08.36.26 Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 08.36.00 Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 08.35.40

Things the daughter would love: from left, tutu table cover from Etsy, carriage bed found on babble.com and princess bedroom from decorative bedroom.com.

[pinterest]

So I’ve got some ideas and as the research has been so much fun I thought I would share some of my findings. Stop reading now if a) you are bitter about the boring bedroom you had as a kid, b) you’re reading this with a small child and don’t want them to see stuff you won’t want to buy them, or c) you hate pink.

Great storage idea for dolls. If you're not handy with a dewing machine just use one of those over door hangers for shoes Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 08.49.30 Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 08.50.13

Great storage idea for dolls or action figures. If you’re not a seamstress just use one of those over door hangers for shoes. (Sources from left: lovechicliving.co.uk, Buzzfeed and Babble.com)

[pinterest]

I like this bedroom as its girly but has a little funk to it, not to twee

I love this girls bedroom as it’s girly but a little whimsical (hello unicorn) with a vintage edge. (Source: Pinterest)

[pinterest]

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 08.56.14

Eerio Aarnio is a Finnish interior designer and furniture designer and has created this ball chair in a variety of colours. This pink one would look cool in a retro teenagers bedroom, but look away if you can’t afford the £500 price tag….

[pinterest]

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 08.27.37

This bedroom has been designed for a teenage girl but with different coloured seating could work just as well for a boy. It’s got that cool ‘Manhattan loft’ vibe without being too grown up. (Source: Pinterest)

[pinterest]

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 08.30.28

Definitely one for the boys now. I love the attention to detail around this amazing plane bed; the  world map wallpaper, the luggage clothes storage, the cloud ceiling. Truly fantastic interior design. (Source: hgtv.com)

[pinterest]

 Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 08.22.07 Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 08.21.35 Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 09.21.36

High beds for small children make me a little nervous. But you have to admit, who wouldn’t want a slide in their bedroom? (all from Pinterest)

How white made this interior designer see red

Last week Alana MacInnes became famous overnight when she posted online a picture of a dress that to some people (me) looked white and gold and to others looked blue and black. Check out #TheDress on Twitter if you missed it. While this was going viral I was dealing with other optical illusions in the world of interior design.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 22.08.53

It started on Thursday with a late night email from a slightly rattled customer asking me whether the bathroom suite the builders had installed was supposed to be 3 different shades of white….By the time he called me in the morning explaining it was a false alarm and a trick of the light I was already on a white knuckle ride to the nearest showroom to check it out for myself, and had arranged for a replacement suite to be shipped out as soon as I gave the word. Thankfully no longer necessary.

Friday had me dealing with the white lies of furniture retailers. Call me old fashioned but the furniture in this photo below looks pure white to me. Well its not. I won’t shame the retailer as they’re not alone in marketing whiter than white images of goods that are ivory, cream or another shade of off white but as an interior designer it’s very frustrating. White should be the safe colour when it comes to internet shopping.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 22.47.38

Saturday morning brought more white noise. This time a call from one of the builders asking if the wardrobe doors he’d just picked up for me were supposed to be off-white. They weren’t. I was starting to regret leaving the white collar world when I hopped back in the car (which is white BTW) and headed to site to check it out for myself. Thankfully another false alarm. When we got them out of the van, lined up next to some white MDF and some white polystyrene the difference was negligible.

Now it might not sound like it, but I actually love the fact that we have more than fifty shades of white (I had to get that in somewhere). Two of my favourite colours right now are Cornforth White and Old White by Farrow & Ball. The first is a beautiful pale grey and the second looks grey in bright light and green in shadier rooms. My point is, manufacturers and retailers need to play the white man and provide accurate images and descriptions of their products.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 22.26.16

Hallway painted in Cornforth White by Farrow & Ball

IMG_2423

Bedroom walls in Old White by Farrow & Ball

So thats enough (white) trash talk from me. But before the men in white coats come to take me away I leave you with a word of warning. If you want something that is as white as a sheet, don’t trust images, go and check it out to avoid being left with a white elephant.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 23.15.32