I am 100% an outdoor person. Outdoor living, eating, drinking, exercising, relaxing, working (when I can), the whole shebang. The garden was the main reason I bought Holly Cottage in 2010, and because of the state it was in, one of the reasons Mr W didn’t want to buy it…..Since I won that battle my outdoor space has been slowly evolving. Thought it’s fair to say the evolutionary pace has certainly picked up since I started my own interior design business. FYI constantly updating your own home because you see new and beautiful things every day is a hazard of the job I’m prepared to accept…. Continue reading “Outdoor Living – My Garden Style”
I thought I was never going to be able to show you my new outdoor kitchen what with all this crappy weather. Technically there was nothing stopping me from showing you, but bare furniture, BBQ covers and a tarp over the pizza oven just ain’t that photogenic. But yesterday the sun poked its head out and looked like it might hang around so I did my best headless chicken impression and spent an hour dressing it up real pretty, while praying the rain would hold off just long enough for me to get a few decent pics. Which I did, just keep your eyes off the deck and ignore any leaves, muddy dog prints and chicken poo. There’s only so much I can edit out.
The Outdoor Kitchen Project
When we bought Holly Cottage in 2010 this is what this section of the garden looked like.
Phase I – The Summerhouse
After a few failed Percy Thrower style gardening attempts I realised that it was never going to be more than a dark boggy area where nothing would grow. But on the plus side you get a great view of the fells from there so I just built a summerhouse on it.
This also gave me the opportunity to give Mr W the bar I’d been promising him since we bought the house, especially since I’d turned the original planned location for said bar into a wetroom….
Now Mr W is retired and we both live in Cumbria we eat dinner together almost every night, and despite what you think about Cumbrian weather we do manage to eat outside quite a lot. Which is what led me to thinking about an outdoor kitchen. Originally it was going to be a simple cooking area on the patio behind the house with a pizza oven and space for BBQ’s. But then I had ‘duh’ moment, you know when you realise how dumb you’re being. I design internal kitchen, living, dining spaces for customers all the time, why not extend the deck outside the summerhouse and have all of this in my garden?
Phase II – The Outdoor Kitchen
So this was the extent of the deck before.
….and this is it now
I did spend ages looking at gorgeous outdoor tiles and synthetic decking, but my budget just wouldn’t go there so traditional decking it was.
Now I don’t know about you but when we eat outside it always involves half a dozen trips back to the kitchen for things we’ve forgotten. So when I started planning this I just asked myself what I would have in a regular kitchen.
So we have an oven and two BBQ’s which means we can bake, roast, fry or grill pretty much anything. My step-daughters partner baked a mean dessert for us recently made from croissants, custard and cream. Bloody delicious. Email me if you want the recipe.
The supplier of the pizza oven also supplied a stand for it. But it bore no resemblance whatsoever to the stand shown on their website and was quite frankly a piece of junk (I’m still trying to get my money back). So in collaboration with the landscapers Coombe & Sharpe we came up with a chunky rustic style stand made from sleepers.
A kitchen needs a sink and I found a huge Belfast sink in my local reclamation yard. It was very stained so I just tarted it up with a couple of coats of tile paint. The landscapers built me a stand to match the pizza oven stand, and Mr W added the tile splashback for me.
The tap is fed from a water butt that collects rainwater from the roof, and drains into a ditch in the field behind the garden. We can’t drink the water but to be honest the sinks main purpose is to be a massive ice bucket for parties as we only have a small fridge in the summerhouse. But I can rinse stuff under the tap and water my plants using it so it has a few other uses.
I probably put more thought into the fence than anything else. I wanted this to be an extension of the summerhouse structure, so the slats needed to be horizontal not vertical, and the same width as the horizontal planks that the summerhouse is made of so that it flowed. I also wanted gaps between the slats so I could hang stuff on it, and to let light through and glimpses of the greenery behind, while giving some protection against the rain but letting the wind through so it wouldn’t blow down. I won’t be painting the fence, I want it to weather so that it looks like silver birch. I wish I’d done that with the summerhouse and the original deck but hey ho you learn.
More importantly the fence is my kitchen cupboards and shelves with storage and containers for utensils, cutlery, plates, condiments and herbs.
Hell there’s even a magnetic knife rack.No more traipsing back to the kitchen for the bread knife just as you’re about to serve up the hot dogs…..
You can’t beat IKEA for kitchen paraphernalia. It’s all steel so it shouldn’t rust, but if it does it’s easily and cheaply replaced.
Just before I left London I was walking through the Kings Cross area on my way to an appointment when I came across this table on the pavement outside an office building next to a pile of rubbish bags. Long story short it was outside the Diesel HQ and this was an ex display table they were scrapping. A few smiles and a promise to return the next day with a vehicle and suddenly I was the owner of one very cool industrial style table. A bit of Hammerite and some outdoor varnish and voila one kitchen counter, or island since it can be moved.
I already had an outdoor dining table so I just moved this up to the deck in true open plan style so nobody has to leave the party to check on dinner.
If it’s just the two of us there are also a couple of adirondack chairs for me and Mr W to have pre-dinner drinks. Above these is possibly my favourite thing in the outdoor kitchen – the huge industrial style outdoor mirror made specially for me by the lovely and very talented Ursh of Refunk’d. I love the way it reflects the garden so that it looks like a window.
Obviously the sun is the main light source in an outdoor kitchen but this is a 24hr kitchen so we also have wall lights along the fence and the front of the summer house. There are deck lights all the way round the perimeter and on every step to prevent nocturnal accidents…. and these beautiful fairground lights which give off a surprising amount of light. I also have an abundance of candle lanterns.
Soft furnishings are what really makes an outdoor space look inviting, and in this part of the world you need a plentiful supply of throws and blankets if you want to use your space after the sun’s gone down. I also have a fire pit and a chimnea which we bring up onto the deck when it’s really chilly.
I’m still humming and haa’ing over outdoor rugs. I obviously want them but not sure how practical they are when I’ve got chickens and two dogs, and its where to store them when I’m not using them?? I do think the ‘living room’ looks a little bare without one though……
And this was the reason I bought Holly Cottage – the view.
So what do you think, did I miss anything?
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.
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.
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!
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…
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.
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…..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…….
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.
Beate is still with us so I’m starting to think she’s just more like her namesake (my friend Beate Schmitt) than I realised. Both ladies are smart, (chicken Beate was the first to find the water butt). Both like to avoid the crowds, (chicken Beate prefers the nesting box to the perch at night). Both enjoy a quiet moment, (chicken Beate sometimes like to stand quietly in the corner of the pen). Perhaps I have an uncanny knack to spot a chickens character traits early on. I wonder if there is a market for this unusual skill – Mrs W, chicken whisperer?
Turns out my chickens also provide great party entertainment as my weekend guests spent hours trying to outwit each other with new chicken names. The clear winners being Margaret Hatcher, Yolko Ono and Princess Lay-er.
We had fabulous weather for the BBQ yesterday and when the sun finally went down we lit the fire pit, the chimnea and the stove in the summer house so the festivities could continue in the garden until after midnight. The garden was one of the things that attracted me to Holly Cottage when we viewed it. But only because of the size and the views of the fells; thankfully I could see the potential, Mr W couldn’t. The former owners had made some disastrous design choices including rows of fruit bushes mid garden, a huge potato field in one corner which I think was once a compost heap, and randomly placed fences. They had also neglected some areas completely, leaving me with mounds of brambles and weeds to deal with. Every year for the last 4 years I have tackled a new area with the help of Alan my local landscaper, and the major re-modelling is now complete. I describe myself as an interior design fanatic, but perhaps I should drop the ‘interior’ as I don’t limit myself to the house. Rooms should be designed to be both beautiful and functional and the same principle applies to gardens. I have a particular fondness for incorporating unusual articles into my garden design. Currently these include a mangle, old pot manholes, and cable reels.
I completed a new project just in time for the party – a bar table made from an old oak whiskey barrel and a table top I salvaged from the local tip. (The guys at the tip recognise me now and let me take items that catch my eye). I sanded, aged and waxed the table top using a homemade oxidising solution and liming wax. I did the same with the barrel and then painted the iron hoops with black Hammerite. The result is a beautiful soft blue-grey finish that blends into its surroundings.
So I just need some bar stools to go with my new bar table. I have the bases, as I bought a set of 6 in a junk shop in Greenwich. I’m now on the hunt for the perfect seats. I’ve toyed with tractor seats and sanded tree stumps but I think I can do better than that. If you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them!