Monthly Archives: June 2015

Industrial decor and a fast track ageing process

Until this week a long tee was something I wore at the beach to cover my bum. Although these days it appears to be fashionable to have a disproportionately large derriere. Perhaps I should ditch the coverups and flaunt it now curves are fashionable in the western world? But I’m wandering off topic….

One of the things I love about being a designer is the continual learning, whether it’s new techniques for creating paint finishes or working with new materials. This week my eyes have been opened to a whole new world of long tees, base flanges and elbow clamps thanks to the lovely people at Racking Man! (cue superhero music) Great name isn’t it. Conjures up images of a beefy tradesman brandishing a wrench, wearing a cape and underpants over his Apache cargo pants. If only they really looked like that, but again I’m going off topic….

So I’m working on designs for a Retail customer and I’m going for an ‘old theatre’ look, think wood floors, ladders, industrial spotlighting, slightly faded velvet curtains etc. etc. I don’t want to give away too much in case my customer is reading this. (You know who you are so stop reading now if you want any surprises when I deliver the final designs!) I’m incorporating some industrial looking shelving into the design and want to use scaffolding pipes. Hence my trip yesterday to Racking Man. I’d already spoken with the very helpful owner Patrick earlier in the week but I wanted to physically see the products to make a decision on size. Turns out its a family business and his wife Gillian (hard G) is equally helpful. As a result I now know what fittings I want and what size, and it all fits together with an allen key – simple! If you’re feeling adventurous and want to have a go at making your own furniture out of scaffolding materials their website has some very useful info to help you figure out what your need, including this handy picture of the various clamps and joints.

Scaffolding clamps taken from Racking Man website

Different scaffolding clamps and joints taken from www.rackingman.co.uk

And if you’re not feeling up to the challenge they have some great pieces on Notonthehighstreet and Etsy like these:

Wall mounted scaffolding shelving from not on the high street

Wall mounted scaffolding shelving from not on the high street

Scaffolding clothes rail from Etsy

Scaffolding clothes rail from Etsy

I’ve also been experimenting with wood finishes for this commission and for the new bar thats going in my summer house. I was thinking of using reclaimed scaffolding planks which I’ve worked with before but you spend a lot of time sanding them and cutting them to size. Its easier and not much more expensive to order pre-sanded, cut to size planks and boards from your local timber merchant, or pick up standard sizes from your local DIY store. For my experiments I bought a 5-pack of 90cm long tongue and groove from B&Q for £3.

Giving wood an aged weathered look is really simple. A few days before you plan to start get a big glass jar, half fill it with white vinegar, stuff a chunk of fine grade steel wool in it and leave it. The wool will disintegrate over time creating a homemade oxidising solution.

When you’re ready to start, lay your wood out on some newspaper and brew a hot pot of really strong black tea. The tea adds tannins to the wood which then react with your oxidising solution to created the weathered look. Some woods, like oak, already have high tannin levels and may not need the tea, or very little. But woods like pine don’t so you’ll need two or three coats. Apply with a paintbrush and leave to dry.

Next paint the oxidising solution on to the wood with a paintbrush. Immediately you will see the wood start to turn grey. The older your solution, the stronger it is, and the darker your wood will turn. So always do a test piece and water it down with water or more vinegar if you want a lighter shade. Once the wood is dry, polish with some clear wax to give a light sheen and a smooth feel.

If you want to go a step further and give your wood a beachy tone you can add liming wax which will fill the cracks in the grain and leave a bluey-white sheen on top of the grey. You can buy liming wax online. I’m currently using one made by Liberon. To create the effect rub a little of the wax onto your wood using fine steel wool, leave it to try for 2-3 minutes and then wipe of the excess and buff. If the colour is too blue/white then use a damp cloth to wipe off more of the wax, if you like it light then add more wax.

Finished results: from left, plain tongue and groove, weathered look, beachy look.

Giving new wood a weathered or beachy look

 

Here’s a couple of examples of finished products.

Old oak whisky barrel, already weathered

Old oak whisky barrel, already weathered

Oak whisky barrel bar table

New bar table complete with table top salvaged from my local tip

Coffee table made from reclaimed scaffolding planks, aged and treated with liming wax

Coffee table made from reclaimed scaffolding planks, aged and treated with liming wax

Does seem a little ironic, we spend a fortune on products to slow down the personal ageing process, but our love for old and used goods has led us to develop creative ways to speed it up elsewhere. Anyway, better get back to work, I’m experimenting with paint finishes now…

Shed envy

According to the last three tests I took on Facebook, positivity is my greatest strength, I have an optimistic personality (courtesy of the inkblot test), and Happy by Pharell Williams is the ‘legendary’ song that describes my life. So it’s hardly surprising I’m possibly the only person in the UK that isn’t complaining about the weather and actually believes summer is here. Or maybe that’s because I live in Cumbria and 4hrs of sunshine does equal summer.

Anyway all this glorious weather is causing me to turn my attention to the garden, and more specifically the summer house. We built it 2 years ago when Holly Cottage was still a second home, so it got decorated rather quickly and was largely furnished with furniture that didn’t fit anywhere else. Well that’s what I’m telling myself in order to have an excuse to redecorate. It’s not just me, Mr W also wants a new bar. Apparently the current one just doesn’t fit. I don’t agree but I’m not arguing as the re-decoration (budget albeit unspecified..) now has his sign off.

To be honest I’m also blaming George Clarke a little. Suppliers of garden rooms, sheds, summer houses, decking and all other associated paraphernalia must be rubbing their hands with glee every time a new episode of Amazing Spaces Shed of the Year airs. The whole nation must have shed envy right now. The great news is that this project gives me an outlet for my love of industrial decor, which is very hard to satisfy in a Georgian cottage. So expect lots of lovely industrial treats over the next few weeks while I fit this new project in between actual work.

First up, the Louix Chair. They won’t be going in my summer house as I need high bar stools but I had to share them as they made me ooh when I saw them. They’re an original Alexandre Arrazole Martagon design from Aleks Design Studio. They’re made of steel and teak and are available on www.cultfurniture.com at £149. Gorgeous aren’t they…the white is my favourite.

Louix Chair by Alexandre Arrazole Martagon at Aleks Design Studio. Available at www.cultfurniture.com

Louix Chair by Alexandre Arrazole Martagon at Aleks Design Studio. Available at www.cultfurniture.com

Louix Chair by Alexandre Arrazole Martagon at Aleks Design Studio. Available at www.cultfurniture.com

Quackers about Charlotte Gerrards artwork

Tonight it’s a very short post as I’m a wee bit tired after 3 days galavanting around London. The primary reason for my trip was House, the interiors show at Olympia, but it would have been rude not to fit in a few cocktails with friends. Great timing meant I also fitted in my annual pilgrimage to Taste of London, which I love, but it has to be said the balance of food to drink exhibitors swings a little further to the right each year. This year definitely being the year of gin with herbaceous, floral, citrus and spice infused gins on every corner. Me and my liver are both relieved to be back home. Future restaurant tip – The Modern Pantry. We tried their mince and tatties with bombay potato and it was to die for.

But back to interiors….House was a huge success for me with new purchases for Holly Cottage and some great ideas for customers. I’ve attended shows in the past with a few too many wooden hearts on string for my liking but this was definitely not one of those events, the variety and quality of exhibitors was very high. Mr W also enjoyed himself and had to be reined in on more than one stand before he broke the bank.

So before I go to bed (its now 12.30am…..) I just wanted to share the work of artist Charlotte Gerrard who we met at Olympia. I’ve been concerned about Holly Cottage becoming too rustic, and have been on the look out for a few modern touches to funk up the place without confusing the decor. I found just what I was looking for on Charlottes stand. She produces paintings and screen prints of animals, cows being her favourite. But I fell in love with her ducks. Modern style, rural subject matter, perfect for my wet room!

Community Charge - screen print by Charlotte Gerrard

‘Community charge’

Waddling on - screen print by Charlotte Gerard

‘Waddling on’

Classic - screen print by Charlotte Gerrard

‘Classic’

Meet the kids - screen print by Charlotte Gerrard

‘Meet the kids’

 

 

Triathlons, chicken proofing and a virtual world of interiors

Cumbrians are hardy people, fond of extreme outdoor activity. The county is known as the adventure capital of the UK with a full calendar of swimming, cycling and running events, often combining all three, and almost all involving steep hills. If you don’t get involved then you’re not really Cumbrian. So today was my initiation ceremony and my first ever triathlon. Its clearly the secret to a long life as a rather large percentage of the competitors were pensioners. I was mortified when one geriatric overtook me on the run…. but I finished in an acceptable time and now feel officially Cumbrian.

Amelia Wilson after completing the Cockermouth Triathlon 2015

I have also been making the most of the sunshine (Cumbria was warmer than the Algarve and Ibiza this week I’ll have you know), and doing a spot of gardening, or more specifically chicken proofing it. If you’re not familiar with the term then this involves placing stones on every bare patch of soil to prevent them having soil baths and digging up all your plants in the process. It also means planting a 4 inch high trim along the edges of borders to stop them kicking all your bark chippings and soil into the path when they’re digging for grubs. I even had to cover one raised bed entirely with netting as this was their last stop before Cluckingham Palace at night, and had become their equivalent of your local kebab shop. It looked like a plague of locust had visited it. Although I may not need to bother if the dramas continue. Agata met her end 2 weeks ago after an encounter with the farmers dog, and next doors spaniel tried to fetch Beate for his owner earlier in the week. It’s made them all a little jumpy as you can imagine.

Anyway, when I haven’t been achieving a wondrous work life balance I have actually been doing some interiors work, and while researching for a couple of commercial projects have become fascinated by fakes. Historically our interiors choices have been significantly more limited. It used to be the case that if you wanted a wood floor you had to buy wood floor and hope it didn’t get damaged by damp or children. If you wanted bare brick you had to chip the plaster off your walls. Gas fires looked like gas fires. TV’s looked like TV’s and bookshelves were made of… well, actual books. But the world of interiors has now become a world of clever special effects thanks to technology and innovation and I love it.

I recently discovered a Swedish company called Happywall which offers a wide range of wall murals including a collection of extremely realistic and highly touchable backgrounds. They can be made to whatever size you need, which adds to the reality. I love this one below with the chipped red paint. Perhaps this isn’t the greatest advert but it sort of reminds me of the deserted cabin in the woods in a serial killer movie…..

Chipped red paint on wood mural from Happywall

They also have some great metal finishes like these rusted corrugated and sheet steel  murals. I might even like these more than the Brooklyn Tins wallpaper by Merci….

Rusted corrugated steel effect wall mural from Happywall   Rusted sheet steel effect wall mural from Happywall

If you have a dining room, wine cellar or bar that needs a bit of decoration how about their wine bottle mural?

Wine bottle wall mural from Happywall

And what about this grungy mustard coloured mural. In a smart room it would look like crushed velvet, but in an industrial setting or dark bar it would make the walls look aged and damp.

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 18.33.31
This one isn’t really a fake as you’d never find a tree big enough to create a wall out of the stump, or want to for that matter, but this made me go “oooh” when I saw it.

Tree rings effect wall mural from Happywall

But this is my favourite. The mural is as clear as the photographic image which was clearly used to create it, and look how it appears on a living room wall. It’s as if you’re sat in a derelict building. Not everyones idea of style, but imagine if you lived in a cool loft apartment with steel beams and a concrete floor….

Grungy wall effect wall mural from Happywall

Grungy wall effect wall mural from Happywall

All of this got me wondering where this will lead. Will we eventually live in a world of interiors virtual reality, where all our walls and floors are white and we project images on to them to match the latest trends, our mood, the time of day or the seasons? You could have that loft apartment with the concrete floor and exposed brick walls, then when you’re fed up with it download a new scheme. Wake up to a grassy meadow in the sunshine, go to sleep to the sun setting over the desert. It might mean our furniture needs to be cheaper and more disposable (in an environmentally friendly way), or maybe renting your furniture becomes the trend. Whatever happens it can only mean more choice which is a good thing. Bring on the fakes I say.