Monthly Archives: February 2016

Boutique on a budget

It’s pretty easy to make a room look good if you’ve got big bucks to spend. I’m not saying big spenders don’t make interior design mistakes, you only need to watch MTV cribs or Through The Keyhole to prove it. And I make no apologies for watching these shows, they are house porn in its purest form. But it takes a lot more creativity and resourcefulness to create the wow factor on a budget. Which is why the theme for my stand this week at the Lakes Hospitality show was boutique on a budget. The majority of attendees own small businesses – restaurants, hotels, B&B’s, guest houses and holiday lets, and although the lakes remains a popular destination for tourists they still have to work hard to make a profit, and that’s before the recent floods hit. So I wanted to show attendees that you can create impact without breaking the bank.

Now every designer likes a blank canvas, but exhibition stands bring a whole new meaning to the word drab.

Standard exhibition shell stand at the lakes hospitality association trade show in Cumbria

If I wanted to wow I needed wallpaper but it needed to be high impact low cost. I um’ed and ah’ed for weeks over the right look, and was nearly seduced by three that I’d found on offer at wallpaper direct.com. All usually £35 a roll but reduced to £10.

My first love was this black and gold wallpaper with the back to back usherettes. Great colours for a luxe look and very striking from a distance. But maybe not right for the Lakes…..

Interval from the Albany Performance Wallpaper Collection

Interval from the Albany Performance Wallpaper Collection. Image via Houzz

Next I was strangely drawn to this Chorus Line wallpaper. I loved the idea of the black background with hot pink accessories. But again perhaps not right for the Lakes.

Chorus Line from the Albany Performance Wallpaper Collection

Chorus Line from the Albany Performance Wallpaper Collection. Image via Houzz

And then I spotted this blush pink and gold Geisha wallpaper. The colours are bang on trend, and its very pretty, but AGAIN perhaps not in the Lakes.

Geisha from the Albany Performance Wallpaper Collection

Geisha from the Albany Performance Wallpaper Collection. Image via Houzz

And then I found the perfect specimen. A natural looking motif that’s not ‘country cottage’, a striking design that isn’t garish, and a colourway that works with a boutique look. And £10.99 a roll – hurrah. I had sleepless nights over my plan to screw plywood sheets to the stand and wallpaper on site, particularly since its been 20 years since I wielded a wallpaper pasting brush. There were also a couple of attempts to foil my plan on the day that involved getting the electrician to move cables and borrowing a saw to cut two of the sheets to fit but we did it, and I managed a wallpapering job that would have my decorator in tears but looked perfect from a distance of 3ft. Result.

Mr W wielding a sword on the Amelia Wilson Interiors stand at the 2016 Lakes Hospitality show in Cumbria

(A very frustrated Mr W after we realised we’d need to cut two of the board to fit)

The wallpaper is called Whisper by Arthouse and available from wallpaper direct.com – what do you think, enough wow? Amelia Wilson Interiors exhibition stand at Lakes Hospitality show. Whisper wallpaper by Arthouse

Whisper by Arthouse wallpapers available at wallpaper direct.com

I needed  a way of displaying examples of my work without taking up too much room and decided a gallery wall would do the trick. It also fit with my ‘hotel lounge’ idea. A few old frames I found in my garage mixed with a few from my neighbours garage (everyone has picture frames in their garage…) and some recent charity shop purchases and voila! The lovely inky grey paint is called Evening Coat by Valspar and was supplied free courtesy of my lovely local rep Becky in return for a plug (here you go Becky – thank you)

Gallery wall painted in Evening Coat by Valspar and covered in old frames

Gallery wall painted in Evening Coat by Valspar

In my mind no guesthouse or B&B lounge would be complete without a hostess trolley, and look at this beauty I found on eBay for £20. Straight out of my granny’s living room and perfect for my gold and grey colour scheme.

Gold retro hostess gin trolley

A few vintage decanters and tumblers, an empty whisky bottle filled with cold tea (clever eh), some old books from Oxfam and a magnifying glass from Homesense (£7.99) and it looks like its straight off the set of Fawlty Towers…

Vintage decanters, old books and magnifying glass used to style a retro hostess gin trolley  I put a black Biba decanter on the bottom tray which picked up for a tenner in the House of Fraser sale. Looks fab with a few black ostrich feathers doesn’t it?

Black decanter from BIBA and black ostrich feathers used to dress retro hostess gin trolley

The centre piece of my stand was going to be an old console table that used to reside in my flat in London many moons ago. It was originally from Heals and is the Tina Turner of tables (great legs). I wouldn’t normally paint wooden furniture but the veneer was damaged in a few places and couldn’t be repaired so I took a big gulp and painted it Evening Coat grey to match the gallery wall and sealed it with a clear varnish to prevent chipping.

On top of the table I wanted two oversized table lamps. I’ve been scouring Homesense for a while for the perfect pair but to no avail, so in the end I opted for a couple of bases (£15 each) which I sprayed gold, and made shades using kits from Needcraft and some grey velvet and ostrich feather fringing I bought off eBay.

Gold lamp base with grey velvet lampshade with grey ostrich feather fringing

(Re-sprayed lamp bases and homemade lampshades. Total cost around £35 each)

I found the gold mirrored tray below on sale at Laura Ashley (reduced to £30) and added some more charity shop glassware, another Biba vase from House of Fraser (£8) and an old Hendricks bottle. The tray is going in my bathroom when I’ve unpacked….

Vintage glassware, BIba vase and Hendricks bottle use to decorate a mirrored gold tray from Laura Ashley

And the finished effect? Check out the table legs – beautiful aren’t they…

Grey console table with gold and grey table lamps styled by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

Now you can’t have boutique without a velvet chair but space was limited. However, I am lucky enough to have a very talented upholsterer friend, who produced the perfect petite piece. A vintage French cocktail chair which she picked up for a few quid on one of her antique market jaunts.

Vintage French cocktail chair before being upholstered by Ilona Hadfield, proprietor of Fandango

Don’t believe what you see on the Great Interior Design Challenge. Upholstery is not easy. And it involves more than just a staple gun. Well it does if you want it to look good and last. I know this because I spent two evenings a week for 6 months trying to learn the skill. There is a reason we pay professionals and thats exactly what Ilona is. She upholstered it in beautiful Designers Guild velvet with contrasting gold buttons and piping. Unsurprisingly it had a few ladies swooning on the day. It’s for sale BTW so message me if you’re interested.

Vintage French cocktail chair upholstered in Designers Guild crushed velvet with contrasting gold piping and buttons by Ilona Hadfield

A tall frothy potted palm plant from Ikea and the stand was finished. What do you think? Could you imagine yourself transported to the Lake District on a cold November evening, in an old Victorian guesthouse, lounging on a velvet chair sipping whisky listening to the open fire crackling and the rain outside?

IMG_0266

OK, maybe I have a very vivid imagination, but it certainly pulled the crowds at the show. Better than some boring grey felt eh?

Kitchen Mystery No. 3 – Kitchen Stools

Sorry it’s been a few weeks since my last post but I’ve got that rather nice problem of lots of work right now. I’ve got a few projects in implementation, including The Swan Inn, which is really starting to take shape. I’ve been pillaging the local charity shops for accessories and dragged Mr W in there last night so he can see work in progress. Well I say dragged….  It was quite entertaining actually, I was like a mystery shopper quizzing all the regulars about what they thought of the changes without telling them I was the designer. Thankfully feedback was good or it might would have ruined my night.. us designers are sensitive about our work you know.

I’ve also got three new design jobs on including a Victorian terrace, a Georgian farm cottage and an already very elegant stone townhouse. And if that wasn’t enough to keep me busy I’m taking a stand at the Lakes Hospitality Association trade show next week. To say the plan for my stand is ambitious is an understatement. It’s been like the Great Interior Design challenge at Holly Cottage, what with me making lampshades and hunting for accessories on eBay (including the fabulous hostess trolley below). Mr W has been painting furniture, papering plywood boards and fixing picture frames all week. Not sure what I’d have done if he hadn’t become my house husband retired.

Gold hostess trolley

We also had some friends stay last week who were on route to Black Sail youth hostel (possibly the most isolated hostel in the country, but great walking and spectacular views).  One of them has been running an amusing series of posts on Facebook entitled ‘Kitchen Mysteries’.

Kitchen Mystery No 1 – Tupperware

Why can you never find the matching lid for the plastic container you want to use? (Check out how organised she is tho, you open my tupperware cupboard and everything falls out).

Kitchen mystery number 1 - why no lids for the tuppaware

Kitchen Mystery No. 2 – Herbs & Spices

Why is it that you can have a cupboard full of herbs and spices but never the ones you need for the recipe you want to cook? (Again, very organised, but she did used to work for Ikea and I think they make you take a course on storage).

Kitchen mystery number 2 - never the spices you need

This week I offer up my contribution, a problem that almost drove me crazy this month when I was working on a new kitchen design.

Kitchen Mystery No. 3 – Kitchen Stools

Why are retailers still selling ugly kitchen stools that belong in the 1980’s, without even pretending they’re retro?

Seriously, google kitchen stools and see the monstrosities that pop up. Like these. Yikes.

Kitchen mystery number 3 - why are there so many ugly kitchen stools on the market

The Kitchen Stool Challenge

The biggest problem I have when I’m designing kitchens and looking for seating is height. There are lots of lovely bar stools on the market, probably because the designers of bar stools understand that there are bar owners that care about aesthetics. But I’ll be honest I’m not quite sure what some kitchen stool designers are thinking. Or maybe I’m just rubbish at my job and can’t find all the nice ones. But anyway, back to height. The difference if you’re wondering is about 10-15cm. If your breakfast bar is the same height as your kitchen worktops then you need a seat height of around 65cm for your kitchen stools, whereas bar stools tend to be 75-80cm. Fascinating eh?

Now you can raise your breakfast bar, which is what our American friends tend to do.

Breakfast bar in white kitchen designed by Kitchen Stori via Houzz

Raised breakfast bar in contemporary kitchen designed by Kitchen Stori, image via Houzz

Then you could have these babies by Zeitraum. Well you could if £579 per stool isn’t an issue.

Kitchens - Morph walnut wood bar stool by Zeitraum, available from madeindesign.co.uk

Morph walnut bar stool by Zeitraum available at madeindesign.com

You can also lower the counter and use dining chairs. Personally I’m not a fan as it always feels a little like I’m sitting at the kiddy table.

Low level breakfast bar in Highgate Kitchen photographed by Paul Craig Photography

Low level breakfast bar, image via Houzz

But these two tone dining chairs from Design Icons would look fabulous, and they come in red, taupe, nougat, mustard, sky blue, black and white so you can mix ’em up if you like. Currently in sale for £137.70 each so a little more affordable than the bar stools above.

Calligaris Jam dining chairs with sleigh style legs

Calligaris Jam dining chairs available from designicons.co.uk

So what I have I managed to find for you lovely people that just want a regular counter level breakfast bar? Well thank you for asking, I’ll show you.

First up these lovely wire kitchen stools by Pastoe and available on Clippings.com. You have a choice of black, white, grey, blue or red. Lovely as they are though, at £270 each they’re not going to be in everyones budget. They also come as a bar stool or a dining chair so very versatile. If I could afford them I think I’d need to add a seat pad. I don’t want to think about the amount of my bum that would poke through the gaps…..

KM06 Kitchen stool in Haze Grey by Pastoe on Clippings.com

Wire kitchen stools by Pastoe and available on clippings.com

Adjustable seats are very handy if like me you’re a short arse. And if you like the industrial look then these from Industville are great quality and at £99 very affordable. I put one of them in the kitchen showroom I designed recently and they’ve been very popular.

Adjustable height industrial kitchen stool from Industville

Adjustable height industrial kitchen stool from Industville

If you need a bit of cushioning what about these glam girls? Available in black or white leather, and in two heights. They’re not cheap at $375 (£260 to us Brits) from One Kings Lane. Unfortunately they don’t ship outside the US but there are some suggested shipping companies on their website. Would look great if you’re going for the luxe look in your kitchen or if you had a retro bar.

Black leather and gold kitchen counter or bar stool from One Kings Lane

Lakeshore stool from One Kings Lane

I’m starting to wish I’d bought something with a backrest for my own kitchen though. I’m too old these days to perch on a stool that doesn’t have lumbar support. So I’m thinking about these beauties made by District Eight Design in Vietnam and available through outandoutoriginal.com. Just don’t tell Mr W as he thinks the kitchen is finished. When will he realise that your home is NEVER finished when you live with an interior designer?

Adjustable industrial kitchen stool by District Eight Design

Industrial kitchen stools by District Eight Design

When I was styling the showroom for Cockermouth Kitchens I bought a couple of these moulded plastic chairs from Cult Furniture. They come in 12 different colours (shown here in olive) and a choice of leg finishes. They are soooo comfortable and only £89 each.

Moulded plastic Charles Eames style kitchen stools with eiffel legs from Cult Furniture

So this is what ended up on the mood board for the kitchen I just finished. The homeowner wanted affordable, adjustable, cushioned, easy to clean and with a backrest. So they might not be your cup of tea but they met the brief (£99 for two BTW) and the customer loved them. Personally I’m not a fan of stools with a gas lift mechanism but I do like the leather and curves on these.  A little Charles Eames-esque

Carcaso chrome and brown leather adjustable height bar stools from www.simplybarstools.co.uk

Brown leather and chrome adjustable stools from www.simplybarstools.co.uk

So logging off now. I’ve got lists to make for the show this week. Can’t get half way down the motorway and realise I’ve forgotten the electric screwdriver or the pasting table…..

P.S I nearly called this post Stool Samples which had me sniggering for ages, but Mr W the professional part of me wouldn’t allow it.