Monthly Archives: October 2015

My glamorous life and some great before and afters

As you can probably guess the life of an interior designer is very glamorous. This week I have:

  • Driven hundreds of miles sourcing things for various projects
  • Spent 2 hours trying to remember how many miles I drove in the last 3 months for the records my accountant keeps telling me I need to keep, that I keep forgetting about
  • Collected, cleaned, restored and delivered secondhand furniture
  • Spray painted a chair…..plus my hands, shoes and a bit of the dog
  • Updated my own website so that I’m no longer on page 42 of Google when you search for ‘interior designer Cockermouth’ (am now on page 1 – result!)
  • Spent more hours on the phone that I can remember begging and bartering ruthlessly with suppliers for freebies and discounts
  • Photographed and edited a completed project
  • Started designs for a new customer and completed the designs and estimates for 4 kitchens in the showroom I’m updating

I then spent yesterday in the kitchen showroom meeting customers. So after a few drinks and dinner in Cockermouth with Mr W I was in bed (with the dog) at 9pm. Rock and roll.

But I wouldn’t change my new life for anything, its fab. And I LOVE designing kitchens. Probably because most people leave theirs until they become so outdated they’re almost fashionable again, which makes the transformation amazing. I can understand how this happens. The average customer now spends between £10,000 and £15,000 on a new kitchen and the mess and disruption can be quite stressful so you can’t just change it when you spot a new trend you like. Of course there are ways you can update your existing kitchen without spending too much,. You can keep the units but change the doors or paint the existing ones, replace the floor or wall tiles, or just change the lighting and accessories. Even a few small changes can often make a big difference. But lets be honest you can’t beat the WOW of a complete makeover.

To prove it I’m going to show you the finished kitchen which I photographed this week. This was part of a complete house renovation project I worked on, and has got to be one of my favourite before and afters. You’ll soon see why….if you’re holding a small child, or more importantly a glass of wine, put it down first, I don’t want you to spill it.

So here is how it looked. Magnificent mahogany!

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Poor lighting, gloomy tiling and useless corner shelves…..

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A very anti-social wall facing breakfast bar which nobody wanted to sit at….

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A window that didn’t get blocked in when the extension was built…..

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and a corridor of wasted space leading to random patio doors that open onto the front drive…

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So a huge kitchen with loads of potential and the owners wanted it gutting – I was in my element!

And here’s how it now looks…..

Cream shaker style kitchen by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

The first thing I put in the plan was a downstairs loo which I put in the corridor of wasted space. Next to this I added a cupboard for the boiler which we wanted to move out of an upstairs bathroom, and a laundry area with a new washer dryer (the old kitchen included a separate washer and dryer). A small dividing wall zoned this area off from the main kitchen. Replacing the patio doors with a regular door meant the owners could use it to bring shopping straight into the kitchen. The owners were delighted when I showed them the plan as they have a lot of parties and really wanted a toilet downstairs to stop visitors traipsing upstairs.

Zoned utility area in kitchen for toilet, boiler cupboard and washer/dryer

And we still had room for all the extra ovens the lady of the house wanted for her annual Thanks Giving bash when she cooks dinner for 30+ people. Her husband would like me to point out though that this is the only meal she cooks. For the rest of the year it’s restaurants and microwave meals. (Sorry Wendy – he’ll only add a comment if I fail to mention this…)

Two ovens, microwave and plate warmer at eye level

and we still had room for a hob and a new wine cooler – yes this is the worlds longest kitchen…..

Gas hob with herringbone effect metro tiles

Next on my list was obviously the window which had to go, and a new belfast sink and taps to give the kitchen the more traditional look the owners wanted.

Cream shaker style kitchen with Belfast sink and herringbone effect metro tiles

I originally gave them a plan that included an island but after a bit of deliberation the owners decided against it as they were worried about losing floor space. Secretly I think this might have been dance floor space as they do like a party. So I reworked the plan to include a new breakfast bar that was more sociable with diner style lighting. (These pendants were a bargain BTW – under £40 from Tesco!)

Breakfast bar with diner style lighting

This meant the old breakfast bar could go and we could have more cupboard space with internal lighting. The fitters did a great job of modifying the left units so they fit around the stairs which are behind the kitchen.

Cream shaker style kitchen with in cupboard lighting

I re-designed the units behind the breakfast bar to look like a dresser to add to the traditional feel of the kitchen. I wasn’t concerned about losing the work surface between the units as there was plenty in the rest of the kitchen and the central horizontal wine rack made a nice feature.

Dresser style kitchen units

The owners had already decided they wanted a buttermilk colour, and when they went to see the kitchen supplier I’d found for them he suggested a contrasting worktop colour which he’d used with similar cream kitchens and they loved it.

I suggested keeping the painted walls and wall tiles neutral to avoid too many colours but used a dark grout and herringbone effect around the sink and hob to make the tiles stand out.

Herringbone effect cream metro tiles

I showed the owners a selection of simple stone effect floor tiles, and they liked these best. Both the wall and floor tiles are from Walls & Floors

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The owner had seen some bar stools that she liked which had copper coloured tops so we got these and I added a few more copper touches to complete the look. The owner has added a few  more since.

Copper kitchen accessories

When it comes to kitchens people tend to have strong opinions about what they like, and preferences they don’t even realise they have. Gas vs electric, mixer taps vs separate taps, knobs vs handles or levers, amount of fridge vs freezer space, combined or separate washer/dryers, recycling bins, traditional or jug kettles, 2 or 4 slice toasters….the list is endless…. This means these projects have to be far more collaborative than other rooms. It’s a big investment so it has to be right.

It’s probably another reason I enjoy doing kitchens so much – teamwork! Blimey thats a bit cheesy isn’t it, I was almost back in my former life ‘motivate the sales team’ mode then…..

So what do you think – best before and afters ever?

My name is Amelia Wilson and I’m an addict

Good morning, my name is Amelia Wilson and I’m an interior designer and addict. Phew good to get that off my chest….. Thankfully my addiction doesn’t ruin lives, quite the opposite. It’s a versatile addiction too. I can get my fix anywhere and I feed my addiction 24/7 as its a hungry one. Sorry I should have mentioned, I’m addicted to learning. It’s one of the reasons I changed career. I was teaching more than I was learning, and although I think we all have a responsibility to help others learn, like all addicts I’m selfish.

So I’ve been in my element for the past year or so. Learning from others, learning on the job and squeezing in a postgraduate diploma in interior design. In interior design people are more interested in the work you’ve done than any qualifications you might have. But there are a lot of practical things you learn when you start a new job working for a company, and I was going to be working alone so I started the diploma to fill this gap.

I’m telling you all of this because my latest assignment asks for an essay on what constitutes a well designed home. I pondered this for a few minutes and came up with 3 criteria, but then decided to dig around on the internet to see what others thought. I’ve written before about how easily distracted I am by google so I should have known better. I wasted an hour chuckling at the Gwyneth Paltrowesque guff I found, which I now feel compelled to share with you. I’m not naming and shaming in case they band together and get me struck off the ‘cushion scatterer’ list…….

First up, an interior designer and blogger that offers 12 ways a well designed home impacts your life, starting with ‘being proud of your space is like vitamin D for the soul’. What??? I think she ran out after 9 as number 10 (Beauty makes you smile. Being in a beautiful space just feels good!) sounds remarkably like number 1 repackaged. It also came with a picture of a smiling baby, admittedly very beautiful….

Beautiful baby

Another blog that offers ‘interior design ideas and lifestyle nourishment’ (nuff said) suggests there are only 10 things needed which includes ‘a place to set down a beverage from every seat’. Sounds like she might have an addiction too. She failed to supply an image so I’ve provided my own.

Olivia Pope in Scandal

Olivia Pope in Scandal – crisis manager, snappy dresser and red wine drinker. Every seat in her house definitely has somewhere to place a beverage

I meandered from the precise to the vague, pausing briefly on a site that suggested you need unity, variety, emphasis and rhythm. Apparently you must have variety but without sacrificing unity, in order to achieve harmony. (Clicks back and scrolls to next search result….)

Most bizarre award goes to one designer who suggested 4 good pieces of detailed advice, and one very random offering. ‘A mix of eclectic furniture, chic lamps with dim lighting, a smart sound system, a good scent…..and a signature drink’ ????? Apparently you offer guests your signature drink so it becomes your trademark. Not quite sure what this has to do with a well designed home but whatever. I’m a NZSB girl so thats what all my guests get anyway….

NZSB aka New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

So what are my criteria for a well designed home? Not sure I want to share them now in case you start calling me Gwynnie but here goes….

Beautiful (in the eye of the beholder) – Whoever you are designing a home for it must be beautiful to them. As interior designers it is our job to design a home that the occupant will love but it is also important to remember that often the reason we have been employed is because the client doesn’t trust their own choices. So it is right to challenge them if they ask for things that will look terrible. Having said that I have had to incorporate items into designs that personally I haven’t liked but the owner has insisted on. My best example of this is a client who wanted armchairs in her living room that looked like they belonged on an airplane, because she insisted they were the most comfortable things she had ever sat on. I handled it by making the fireplace the focal point, picking a colour scheme where the armchairs blended in, and added throws and cushions to soften the way they looked. The final result was something we were both very happy with.

Functional – I have had many debates about what’s more important, beauty or functionality? My view as an interior designer is that they are of equal importance. It doesn’t matter how beautiful a room is, if it doesn’t meet your needs you won’t use it. Similarly, if a room is functional but ugly you won’t enjoy it. Functional covers a multitude of things. It might be the amount of light needed, the type of furniture required or even the wall space. This is why it is important to do your research at the outset and invest time in finding out what the space is, will or could be used for.

Energy efficient – even if you’re not sensible enough to care about the environment I’ve yet to find a customer who isn’t concerned about costs. So patios with underfloor heating and a house full of halogen light bulbs should be a no no.

After all that guff mine sound really boring so I think I’ll add one more – big fluffy towels. Who doesn’t love a big fluffy towel – one of life’s essentials surely?

In the market for a dream kitchen?

Just a short post today as I have an exciting announcement! I have formed a partnership with Cockermouth Kitchen Company to provide customers with a full interior design service. CKC are a local company with years of experience in designing and fitting kitchens, and they specialise in providing bespoke kitchens at affordable prices. As it’s been my goal from the start to make my interior design services affordable, and I love creating designer looks on a budget, I felt we would make great partners. I also bought my own kitchen from them so I can vouch for the quality of their kitchens and their fitting service.

Customers taking advantage of the service will receive detailed kitchen plans, a design mood board and details of where all items on the board can be purchased.

Kitchen mood board - Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

The cost of this service is only £300 which is fully refundable if you purchase your kitchen and appliances from Cockermouth Kitchen Company. When you consider what an investment a new kitchen is, it makes sense to take advantage of any expertise you can lay your hands on, especially if it isn’t going to cost you anything!

We launch the service next Saturday and I will be in the showroom all day to meet with customers, so come on down and say hello. I’m off now to celebrate – happy Friday!

Bold rustic kitchen with industrial elements designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

My very own dream kitchen

My new Nordic style sanctuary

If you live in the UK there’s a very good chance that there are days when you’re stuck indoors because it’s raining. If you have Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sky or a life this probably doesn’t bother you. But it bothers me. I like being outside. I hate being stuck inside whatever the weather. I just googled ‘what’s the opposite of agoraphobia’ to see if there was a name for it. It’s claustrophobia apparently, which I don’t have. But I think I have macrophobia (fear of long waits) and nomophobia (fear of losing cell phone contact). Oh the power and distraction of google. You search for a Jamie Oliver recipe and before you know it you’re reading about Japanese snow monkeys. Or maybe it’s just me. I once went out to buy a hairdryer and bought a car…….Favourite phobia on the list? Sesquipedalphobia, the fear of long words which, as the author points out seems like a cruel joke. Check out the list, its very funny informative 100 Weird Phobias.

Anyway, I digress. My point is, 3 years ago I came up with a solution. A way of being outside, enjoying the fresh air and my fell views without having to sit in the rain. I built a summer house. Well I say I….. I bought the house flatpack from Dunster House and had my local landscapers put it together and build a huge deck around three sides. It also solved the problem of what to do with the boggy bit of the garden that nothing grew in. At the time I didn’t want to spend a lot on the interior so just slapped on some paint and furnished it with spare furniture I already had. But it’s just had a makeover and ‘cor blimey’ it looks lovely. Want to come and take a look inside?

Nordic style summer house by Amelia Wilson Interiors. Interior Designer in Cockermouth, Workington and Keswick

The summer house makeover was my chance to work with styles and materials that don’t fit in my very rustic cottage. So although it’s still a little rustic (it is a log cabin after all) it has both Nordic and industrial elements.

Nordic summer house mood board by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

It’s basically a big wooden shed in what can be a very wet garden so I had to keep my practical hat on hence the rustic wood effect floor tiles. But occasionally the hat fell off, and a cow hide rug appeared…

Nordic style summer house by Amelia Wilson Interiors. Interior Designer in Cockermouth, Workington and Keswick

Almost everything in this room is ‘my favourite thing’ but I am really happy with the new sofa covers and cushions which were made by my friend Di (Di’s Soft Furnishings). The sofa bed didn’t need replacing but I hated the old covers – duck egg blue and very twee….The linen fabrics are from Ada & Ina. I love the funky chevron and zig zag patterns, and the bright indigo which is becoming very popular right now, just pop into John Lewis if you need any proof.

Nordic style summer house by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

Mr W’s favourite thing is the new bar built by a fabulous local joiner Kev (Curwen Joinery). I used an ageing technique on the wood to give it that weathered look. The metal bar stools were a billy bargain from Debenhams – reduced from £100 to £40 each! The pendant lights are from Nook London – aren’t they gorgeous.

Home bar in Nordic summer house by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

I couldn’t find lampshades I liked so I made these using a roll of Albany deer hide effect wallpaper and kits I bought online. The effect is so realistic and looks fab with the reindeer rugs and antlers.

Nordic summer house by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

The coffee table is another DIY triumph constructed from scaffolding planks, and treated using the same ageing technique I used on the bar.

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You need something to look at when you’re sat at the bar waiting for Mr W to pull you a pint (yes we have pumps too but they only come out for parties). So I’ve started a gallery wall of ‘good times’ – I found these fab Kiko frames at Not On The High Street which I’m a huge fan of.

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A bit of greenery always brings a room to life and ferns and succulents have a better chance than most of surviving my exceptionally un-green fingers…… The pineapple is from M&S. Its supposed to be a hanging bird feeder but I thought it would make a good tea light holder.

Potted fern and terranium. Pineapple tea light holder from M&S

The gnome is also M&S. I couldn’t resist him…….

Garden gnome from M&S in Nordic style summer house by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

So I love my new Nordic style sanctuary, and now its getting a bit cold, wet and windy I can retreat up the garden, fire up the log burner and watch the rain any time I like….