Monthly Archives: July 2015

The interior design grenade

Looking forward to putting my feet up tonight as I’m been doing some old fashioned prospecting this week, getting out and introducing myself to local businesses. All businesses are built on relationships no matter what you do, and successful business owners and managers don’t have time to read all the junk mail that hits their inbox or doormat but I find they’re usually happy to chat for a few mins if you pick the right time of day and focus on asking and listening instead of talking. I’ve really enjoyed it, I’ve met some lovely people, made some new contacts and been shown round some lovely properties. From a sales perspective the great thing about being a designer is you can offer advice on the spot which can build immediate confidence. Obviously you need to talk sense and a portfolio of completed work and personal references helps, but it’s not like other trades where you have to physically deliver something before there is any evidence of your skill.

A few months ago I met a homeowner who is now a customer. She potentially wanted help with her new build and we were stood in what would be her master bedroom talking about her planned layout. I could see immediately that she had nowhere near enough clothes storage so I threw in an interior design grenade and asked her how often she watched TV in bed. She looked at me blankly…. I was fairly confident that as a mother of three young children there would be little time for snuggling up with her partner to watch a movie, and I was right. She decided there and then the newly installed TV sockets would be obscured by an additional wardrobe. I think that was also the point she decided I could help her.

I’ve used the interior design grenade a few times and I’ve done some free work because it has built relationships and supported my long terms goals. Clearly we’d all like to be paid for every minute of our time, but referrals are the biggest source of new business in a trade like mine so build bridges, and never burn them.

I’ve also been project managing a new build at Holly Cottage this week. Cluckingham Palace has been demolished and the new chicken shed went in today. Very happy with the new colour. Cuprinol does a shade called Muted Clay which looks like naturally weathered wood so it matches my year old sleeper beds perfectly. . It looks so fancy I’m tempted to add a few hanging baskets. Check out the recycled living room window…. Chicken shopping tomorrow. The breeder I bought from last year has had his entire stock wiped out by foxes so I’m off to see a new man in the morning.

Chicken shed painted in Cuprinol Muted Clay

Cluckingham Palace

At the other end of the garden the summer house refurb is coming along too. The sparkies were here today fitting trunking for the pendant lights so that the decorator can paint. I think I may have found the fabrics for the sofa covers and other soft furnishings at Ada & Ina, an online company specialising in natural fabrics. Their Amaril range almost matches my planned colour scheme and has just the right amount of texture.

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So I’ve decided I’m celebrating tonight. I’ve been spam free for 5 days thanks to my new spam killing software. No more drivel about minecraft, no more incomprehensible comments in Chinese and most importantly no frankly disgusting comments with links to porn. I’ve also been wine free for a week (I have to wear a bikini in public in 7 days so desperate measures needed….) so I think I’ll celebrate with a glass or two of NZSB and the stack of house porn I haven’t had chance to read yet. Sounds like a perfect Friday night. Enjoy your weekends!

 

Getting close to the Finnish line

In my old life I travelled a lot. Thanks to Daddy Warbucks (aka Mr W) I still manage my fair share of holidays. OK I probably take more holidays than the average person. OK I’m only just trumped by Judith Chalmers, but I’ve earned it! In my last job I was travelling almost every week. And as every business traveller knows, its rarely glamorous and often tiring. But I enjoyed it, and a lot of my interior design ideas are influenced by the places I’ve visited and the hotels and I’ve stayed in. Subtly of course, I’m not talking Greek taverna style kitchen after a week in Crete.

I recently suggested to a customer that we cover some of her IKEA wardrobe doors in white PVC to re-create the glamorous effect I saw in a hotel in Lisbon. For those of you looking aghast she liked the idea and if we go ahead I’ll share the photos to prove it will work! The idea for my downstairs wet room actually came from outdoor showers I’d seen in Africa and the Maldives. Now I appreciate that nobody wants to take a shower outside in Cumbria, even in summer, but the high ceiling, light stone effect wall and floor tiles and huge skylight were supposed to create the same feeling of being outdoors. Well I think I achieved it, even if it did take underfloor heating and the worlds largest cast iron radiator to match the temperature…

Large wet room with stone effect wall and floor tiles and huge skylight

Wet room influenced by outdoor showers

The Nordic countries were among my favourite places to visit. (Scandinavia plus Finland and Iceland for those of you not familiar with this part of the world). I haven’t made it to Iceland yet but Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen are great cities for people, culture and food (surprisingly its not all pickled herring), and 2am karaoke in Helsinki with a group of Finns is not to me missed. They may seem a little gruff but Finnish hospitality is fabulous and the Finns love of alcohol and heavy metal is only surpassed by their love of saunas (Google world sauna championships for more on this). It is these countries and specifically their summer houses which they retreat to in July and August which have influenced my own summer house and the new decor I am working on.

The old interior was thrown together mainly with stuff I already had as Holly Cottage was still a second home then. The new interior will be modern rustic with a Nordic feel. The colour scheme will mix greys and white with natural linen and dashes of bright blue. I’m painting the whole interior my new favourite grey – ‘bottlefly wings’ by Valspar. Admittedly the name is my favourite thing about this colour, but it is a lovely almost white grey with a tinge of blue to it. I’m hoping it will look as light and airy as this one I found on Pinterest.

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If you’ve ever been to an exercise class (I prefer self torture these days) you will be familiar with the warm up where the instructor gets you to stick your arms out to the sides, palms facing out and make circles backwards and forwards. Do that for 2 hours and that’s how my arms feel today after transforming our new bar from natural pine to this…..

Weathered effect wood on bar

Our new weathered wood bar

It’s a great match for the weathered wood effect tiles we’ve had laid. I toyed with the idea of stripping and treating the floorboards again but decided tiles were more practical in a county that gets more than 4m of rainfall a year.

We’re adding new pendant lights above the bar to make more of a feature of it. I found these great enamel pendants online from Nook London. They also supply the full kit with a choice of metal finishes and cables.

Small enamel pendant light in midnight blue from Nook London

Small enamel pendant light in midnight blue from Nook London

I can’t justify replacing the furniture so we’re getting new sofa covers made up as soon as I’ve found a fabric suitable for upholstery that resembles heavy natural linen. The armchairs aren’t perfect but with the right cushions and throws they’ll blend in. I picked this beauty up in John Lewis on my last jaunt to London.

Striped linen throw, currently £49.50 on sale at John Lewis

Striped linen throw, currently £49.50 on sale at John Lewis

When I was treating the bar I gave the scaffolding plank table (last years upcycle) a lick of dark wax so it now matches the bar too.

Scaffolding plank coffee table and cow hide rug

Scaffolding plank coffee table – last years upcycle with a new coat of dark wax

The huge cow hide rug I bought at Grand Designs in May, the reindeer throws and the wall antlers are all staying to give it that Nordic look and I’ll finish it off with some rustic accessories like these jugs and willow log baskets.

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The UFO? I already have it but you’ll just have to wait. Our annual summer BBQ is at the end of August so it has to be Finnished (see what I did there..) by then. Pics to follow soon!

PS chicken count is still 5…….

Interior Design UFOs

Ever since I started working as an interior designer people have been asking me “what’s your style?”  I dread this question, particularly if it comes from a potential customer or a journalist as the reality is I don’t have one and I worry this makes me sound flaky. Maybe one day when I’m an internationally famous and fabulously rich designer (cue giggling and pig snort) I will develop a trademark style that is instantly recognizable and much sought after. But right now I genuinely like working with and can appreciate all styles of décor if they work. In fact I find that if I’ve been doing a lot of one style I start missing others. Right now I’m itching to rock a bit of 70’s retro but I might need to look outside Cumbria for that..

Having said all that I have noticed a trait starting to appear in my work, the interior design UFO. The unexpected final object. I can’t resist finishing off a room with a little surprise. It’s usually something personal to the room owner and/or a bit quirky, without being out of place or tacky. The feeling I get when customers spot it and chuckle is deeply satisfying as I’ve made them laugh. For them the design instantly becomes unique and they will get the same enjoyment I get when their visitors spot the UFO and chuckle.

Here’s some couple of my recent UFO’s

‘Ear protection must be worn’ sign in the bedroom of a young drum player, sourced from a company that supplies construction companies.

‘Ear protection must be worn’ sign in a young boys bedroom – he likes to play the drums. Signs like this are not expensive and easily available from companies that supply factories and construction companies.

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Pub wall sign in traditional Cumbrian dialect. Joe Fagan is the pub landlord and a true Cumbrian. The sign means no spitting, no shouting, no fighting.

Tap towel hooks in add a bit of fun to a very classical bathroom. The customer loved them so much we put them in all 3 of her bathrooms.

The customer loved these tap towel hooks so much we put them in all 3 of her bathrooms!

Personalised selfie coasters ordered from Snapfish using photos downloaded from the customers Facebook page

Personalised selfie coasters ordered from Snapfish using photos downloaded from the customers Facebook page

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Custom made time zone clocks in my own kitchen. Mr W is often in New York or Europe so it helps me figure out if I can call him without waking him up!

So maybe the UFO will become my trademark, and photographs of my work will become the interior design version of where’s Wally, who knows. Or maybe I’ll just continue to sound flaky until I’m rich and famous, and possibly beyond…..

Another quick chicken count before I sign off. Unfortuntely we are now down to 5. Victoria Peckham recovered from her run in with Finlay the spaniel but Beate is MIA presumed dead. It’s made the remaining ladies very nervous and they now roam around my garden and the neighbouring fields together watching each others backs. It won’t be for long though. Harold is making me a new chicken coop so next week I’m off chicken shopping to fill it and restore egg production at Holly Cottage. I’m thinking about silkies – look how cute they are – pom pom chickens!

Silkie breed of chickens

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating the luxury look on a budget

In my former life I was rarely alone. I lived and worked in central London, and if I wasn’t travelling I was out with friends enjoying the city. Now I live in rural Cumbria, only see Mr W at weekends, and could go days without seeing anyone if I didn’t visit my neighbours (aged 65 and 88 respectively..) and get a lot of deliveries. I’m on first name terms with Kev from DPD and have him on speed dial in case I’m running late for his exceptionally punctual visits.

I wouldn’t change my new life for anything but unsurprisingly I can get lonely now and again. So last week I adopted a 3 year old girl called Lexi. Before you think that’s a little extreme she’s an American Bulldog and I am totally besotted with her. I think the feeling is mutual.

Lexi the American Bulldog

Lexi my gorgeous girl

Another feature of my former life was staying in fancy pants hotels, both for business and pleasure so I’ve really been enjoying one of my jobs this week which has been to recreate the luxury hotel bedroom look on a budget. Here are a couple of tips on how to achieve this:

1. Layering

If your budget is limited you’ll need to shop around to find affordable items. Save yourself time trying to colour match everything exactly by going for a layered look. Pick your key colour and then look for items in tones of this colour. A neutral colour like grey is perfect for this look. But it also works with brighter colours.

Grey bedroom

Bedroom designed with layers of grey

2. Customise

There are people that knock Ikea but you can’t beat them for affordable simple furniture, and their self assembly model means you can customise pieces before you ignore the instructions and try and work out where everything goes (or is that just me?). I stayed at the uber glam Epic Sana Hotel in Lisbon earlier this year in a room that had white leather walls and wardrobe doors. I think this look could be replicated using Ikea’s high gloss wardrobe doors, good quality white faux leather and a glue gun. My thought was to only cover the middle doors in 3 door wardrobes to add a touch of glamour and introduce some texture into the scheme. If my customer goes for the idea I’ll share the results.

Bedroom at the Epic Sana in Lisbon

Bedroom at the Epic Sana in Lisbon

3. Google

Web technology means any retailer can add text to the images on their website so that they show up in Google images. Even if they’re a one man (or woman) band and built the website themselves from a free template. So if you need amber glass accessories to complete your look, just google amber glass and see what pops up. I’ve found countless bargains scouring google images, and I’ve found products from major retailers that I’d missed when I was in store either because they’d sold out or because I was distracted by handbags and shoes I can’t afford…. I picked up the bargain below for £50 after googling grey zig zag rug.

Bargain Cabone rug from Lookagain.co.uk

Bargain Cabone rug from Lookagain.co.uk

4. Make regular trips to your local Homesense and TK Maxx stores

I know I’ve said this before but I just love TK Maxx and their homewares stores Homesense. They introduce new stock on a daily basis and you can find some great quality bargains at knock down prices. (The staff are also really helpful and chatty too). The rug above was for a customers guest bedroom. The room is less than 2m wide so even with a small 4ft 6″ double bed there was little room for bedside tables. But I found these stylish ceramic topped side tables in the garden section  of TK Maxx. Only 30cm wide and £24.99 each.

Small black and white zig zag patterned tiled side tables from TK Maxx

Small zig zag tiled side tables from TK Maxx

It’s great when you get a customer that wants and can afford luxury but most of my customers can’t, and to be honest I think I get more pleasure from creating a stylish look on a budget. It must be my northern roots – you can take the girl out of Manchester and all that.

Quick chicken count before I go – we’re still at 6 but Victoria Peckham is on the watch list. She had a narrow escape from Finlay the spaniel and may have a broken leg. If it doesn’t heal we may have to intervene to put her out of her misery. Thats the royal we of course, by which I mean Harold the farmer….