Category Archives: Lighting

Lighting up your life

People often assume that if you’re logical and organised then you’re not creative, and that creative people are away with the fairies. Codswallop. I’m sure there are those that fit this stereotype but I couldn’t come up with the ideas and designs that I produce if I wasn’t creative, yet I love a good process, and my friends and family will tell you my organisational skills are superhuman. Of course there’s a fine line between being organised and being bossy and I probably walk that line…

Designing a room is an interative process for me. I typically follow a number of steps, but then repeat them to see if everything still works together. There are always changes so I keep repeating the steps until I’m happy with the whole scheme. It’s not always this logical of course, sometimes I find an amazing light and I build the whole scheme around it. Flexible too see!

Speaking of lighting, I see lots of lighting mistakes – ceiling runways (too many recessed spotlights in the ceiling), wall lights and ceiling light that are too small for the room, floor lamps that are too big for the room. Not enough lighting is the most common. So I thought I’d share a few tips in case any of this sounds familiar.

Tip 1, try planning your lighting around scenarios. Take the living room for example, these would be my scenarios:

  • I’m building flatpack furniture and need all the light (and help…) I can get
  • I’ve got friends coming over and need to dim the lights so they won’t notice I haven’t hoovered or dusted…
  • It’s been a long day and I want just enough light that I won’t fall over the furniture when topping up my wine

You then match each scenario to a lighting source. It works for all rooms – try it!

Tip 2, you should aim for at least 2, preferably 3 sources of light. Even my tiny upstairs bathroom below has 3 light sources – recessed ceiling spots for bright light, over mirror light for tweezing (come on we all do it), and a tiny spot light hidden behind a beam for night time bathroom visits.

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Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

Tip 3, don’t limit yourself to the obvious solutions, be creative. The kitchen isn’t the only place you can have under shelf and in-cupboard lighting. Forget about ceiling lights, what about floor and skirting board lights. Make features of your mirrors and artwork with over and behind frame lighting. No surface, nook or cranny should be overlooked.

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Hidden lighting at 3 levels in this bathroom by FORM Architectural Bureau

Tip 4, your light fittings don’t need to match either, in fact it’s better if they don’t or your room can end up looking like a page from the (insert name of retailer) catalogue. It increases your opportunity to add more interest, colour and texture to your room. I just paired blue enamel pendants with faux deer hide table lamp shades in my summer house.

Midnight blue enamel pendants in my summer house from Nook London

Enamel pendants in my summer house from Nook London

Custom made faux deer hide lampshades using Albany wallpaper

Custom made faux deer hide lampshade using Albany wallpaper

So take a look around, how many sources of light do you have, do you need another? Just don’t add more ceiling spots – very unflattering!

 

 

 

 

Numbers schmumbers

In my old life I managed, and was managed, by numbers. Targets, stretch targets, submission volumes, hit ratios, conversation rates, growth rates, retention rates and a million other metrics. I introduced a tool that measured the value of all our producers that went viral in my organisation, earning everyone involved the equivalent of celebrity status in our global corporate world, and my new business budget had more zeros than you’d find in a model agency waiting room. These days many of my business decisions are unashamedly driven by emotion. Of course I’ve used my business acumen to develop and follow a sound business plan, but when it comes to the customer interaction I follow my passion. When I fall in a love with a place, or when I view a property begging to be made over, or when I know me and the customer will have fun, I flex the pricing model. Because I want every job to be one that I can’t stop thinking about, one that keeps me up at night and one that I bore everyone senseless with. The only problem is I feel like that about almost every job I go to see….Thankfully my conversion rate has been good or my head would be full of ideas for jobs I didn’t get!

I love my job so much I’ve even brought my Macbook on holiday to Dubrovnik. In my old life colleagues were told to text me if a life or death situation arose as all emails would be ignored until I landed back in the UK. But every morning before my sister and niece get out of bed I’m on the internet looking for interiors stuff for customers or working on marketing ideas. There was a time when my old job had the same effect, but I think that was youth and ambition. This feels different – this feels like a calling for want of a better cliche.

When I remember I’m supposed to be on holiday I look at things for my summer house which I’m redecorating before our annual summer BBQ at the end of this month. This morning I ordered some fabulous Kiko frames from notonthehighstreet.com. I’m going to fill them with some of my favourite holiday snaps.

Kiko frames by Nkuku - www.notonthehighstreet.com

Kiko frames by Nkuku

I also spent some time slavering over these cow hide lampshades also on notonthehighstreet.com. In the end I decided I couldn’t justify the £75 price tag. It’s not actually their fault. The lampshades they’re replacing cost roughly the same and I’m feeling guilty about replacing them so as I haven’t found anything else I like I’m thinking about making my own. I’ve ordered some wallpaper samples to experiment with……photos to follow if they work out.

Grey cow hide lampshade by Begolden

Grey cow hide lampshade by Begolden

The fabrics for the soft furnishings have been ordered. Ada & Ina came up trumps and delivered three gorgeous linens.

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So now its just down to the finishing touches. The scouting trip is planned for next week and I’m very excited. Targets include vintage enamelware and a clock. I’d like something like this if you know where I can find one….

Nordic style sunburst clock

Nordic style sunburst clock

Before I go, a Trevor McDonald style ‘and finally’ chicken update. We’ve doubled the occupancy at Cluckingham Palace. Whitney, Britney, Christina, Shakira and Cilla (RIP) moved in at the beginning of the month. The pecking order is still being established. The existing tenants are not happy about sharing their perch or their morning treats and making it known. Shakira and Cilla have formed a tag team, protecting each other when Harriet or Phyllis (known trouble makers) go on the attack. Whitney, Britney and Christina have been temporarily located to a separate run until they’re big enough to stand up for themselves. I’m hoping things will have settled down when I get back but I’m not confident, I may have too many divas for one coop.

A Saturday night out with a difference

I had another reminder tonight of how different my life now is. Normally on Saturday night I’m draining a bottle of NZSB, tonight I was draining my stream. The stream runs down the front garden and into a pipe under the road. I installed it 3 years ago to divert the water from the fields behind which had been turning the front garden into a swamp. Everything usually works but autumn leaves had blocked the pipe and the heavy rain tonight had turned the lane into a lake. So I had no choice but to get a torch and a spade, stick my wellies on and get out there to clear it. It might sound like a nightmare but I actually like dealing with this kind of stuff, it’s very grounding.

Before the flood alert I was doing a little recycling with some coffee sacks I bought online from a small chain of coffee shops in Lancashire. There are plenty of companies now selling these sacks online but I like to support small local businesses when I can. I’m working on project to redecorate a conservatory in the style of a coffee shop. I’ve bought the coffee sacks to upholster the bench seat I’m having made but using them for light shades will bring the room together. Needcraft is an online store which sells these really simple lampshade making kits at a very reasonable price. They’re so cheap and easy to use its a no-brainier really if you want to cover your own shades. I’m pretty pleased with the way they look, and can’t wait to see them in the finished room

Barrel shade

Barrel shade

Wall light shade

Wall light shade

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So jobs done, time now for a little indulgence. No Mr W so X Factor, curry out of the freezer and a little NZSB, we’ll it is Saturday night……

My island dreams

I have lain on white sandy beaches listening to the rolling surf on many beautiful islands, in the mediterranean, the caribbean and the indian ocean, but these are not the islands I dream about. It’s kitchen islands that float through my head at night. In my most erotic dreams the kitchen island is situated in a basement kitchen with skylights and a dumb waiter (not the two legged variety). I once came close to living this dream in a house in Yorkshire but sadly the house was next to a busy road in a less than salubrious neighbourhood so we had to leave it on the market. But now thanks to the two foot stone walls in Holly Cottage and the extra foot of chimney breast in the kitchen I can push the stove into the chimney and create enough space for an island in my new kitchen. Even greater news is that when I chipped off the wall tiles on the chimney breast the original red sandstone lintels are still in place which I can move up to frame the new stove. They will need grit blasting (she says with a sinking heart as this creates a terrible mess), but it will be worth it as we found when we discovered the original red sandstone fireplace in the living room hiding behind a gas fire and plaster wall (which has to be an interior design crime).

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Sandstone – before in the kitchen, and after in the living room

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So it’s been all kitchens go for the last 3 weeks as I worked on the design and scoured the market (no pun intended) for products. I’ve settled on a painted wood kitchen from the 1909 range. It’s a beautiful shaker style “with a timeless quintessentially British feel” as they put it in their brochure. Perfect for my period property and a style that I can carry through into other areas of the house like the porch and the utility room. The kitchen is a dark room, despite the 2 windows. We have made it lighter by replacing the staircase that leads to the bedroom above and removing the wall that enclosed the previous one, but it’s still a little dingy at times which impacts my colour choices. I wanted to introduce a rich dark red as this colour will flow throughout the downstairs, but the room couldn’t take it so I’ve limited this to the base units and will be having cream coloured units at eye level. I mixed black and white units in an open plan kitchen in London and it was very effective. My local supplier will order the cupboards from 1909 in natural wood and have them painted in my chosen F&B colours.

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Half pencil and scalloped kitchen from 1909 and Farrow & Balls Rectory Red and Ringwold Ground

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It has to be black granite work surfaces as Mr W is a red wine drinker, but I am treating my island to a thick oak butchers block top. I can cope with occasionally re-sanding and oiling a small area but not the whole kitchen. The granite will compliment the black SMEG cooker I intend to pick up at discount at Grand Designs next week in Birmingham. The show is always worth a visit but it is even more worthwhile if you are about to purchase a pricey item and the supplier is exhibiting. Light cream metro tiles will finish it off nicely as you can see in the photo below.

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I spent hours trying to figure out how I could have more fridge space without installing a tall unit as I wanted the red below and cream above design to be consistent and a tall unit would scupper this. Jim at The Cockermouth Kitchen Company, my supplier, suggested a 2 drawer fridge by Hotpoint. No more squatting in front of the fridge for me! I can now put all Mr W’s beer, cheese and chilli products in the bottom drawer and all the useful stuff in the top drawer (i.e. butter and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc). By installing this in the island it will be handy for food prep, and allow me to maintain the triangle you need for navigation between the fridge, cooker and sink. We’re also installing a dishwasher which my current kitchen sadly lacks, and a decent under counter bin. This probably sounds like an obvious comment but after living for the last 4 years with one of those frames on the back of a door that you hang plastic bags on this is probably the thing I am most excited about, after the island of course…

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Lighting has been tricky to source as I really want  a double pendant light above the island but the fixed bars are too long for me low ceilings. But then I discovered David Hunt Lighting at Decorex last month, and they can manufacture bespoke sizes which means I can have this beautiful station lamp altered to the size I need, and get a matching single light pendant for above the sink. With a few spotlights and some under cupboard and in cupboard lighting we can say goodbye to the dingy kitchen.

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The only important feature I need to finalise before I get into the fun stuff, i.e. replacing all the Ikea kitchenware with new, is the taps. I’ve still got a little research to do but I’ve seen a few I like such as this brushed nickel colonial bridge sink mixer tap by Bristan.

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So the order will be placed tomorrow to ensure a pre-Christmas installation. I didn’t think the grit blasting would produce enough mess (!) so I’ve decided to install a wet underfloor heating system which involves digging up the existing floor. But there is nothing nicer than bare feet on warm stone flags, and it means I can remove the radiator to create space for a window seat with a pan drawer below it. So Scratchy the cat also has a seat when me and Mr W are seated at the island I can’t stop dreaming about.

Photo’s to follow when it’s all installed. In the meantime I’m off to scramble some eggs with one of the double yolkers my ladies keep producing. Must be all the treats I feed them. They go mad for corn on the cob. They were all chasing Margo round the hen house last week when she managed to grab a piece for herself. I might have to rename her Usain after her performance.

48hrs in the fast lane

I was back in the fast lane last week for 48hrs to attend my first interior design trade show. Far more interesting than the trade shows I attended in my previous life I can tell you. Not many insurance trade shows host a champagne bar, and the men to women ratio was significantly lower, making for a more attractive show all round. Decorex is a high end interiors show for designers and retailers specialising in the residential and hotel spaces and it delivers what it says on the tin. 400+ exhibitors under one roof makes for an exhausting day if like me you can’t attend all 4 days but I left with some new inspirations and a list of potential suppliers. Here are some of my favourites from the day.

These beautiful fringed shades from David Hunt lighting would make a great feature over a cozy corner dining area or in a boudoir style bedroom. I also loved the seed cloud installation by Ochre – these solid glass pendants are lit by tiny LED’s above them.

Loved these beautiful fringed shades from David Hunt Lighting image

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House of Hackneys rose patterned wallpaper and matching chintzy shades, paired with animal prints looked wild but very cool, and I particularly liked the pineapple lamp. I know a girl who would love a bedroom like this!

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I didn’t go looking for paint or paint technique ideas but this stand by Little Greene really caught my eye. They had 6 rooms over two floors all showcasing the effects you can create with paint. Very creative and eye catching.

My favourite stand by far from Little Greene showcasing creative use of their paint range

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Antiques by Design take every day and unusual items and incorporate them into lighting and other accessories. I’m a sucker for this style when its done well and is innovative. This shepherd hut wheel mirror is original and unique. My love of this style probably explains why I also liked the tap display on one stand. I don’t think they intended it to be wall art but you could make a great feature wall in a bathroom with framed bathroom accessories like this. I’m considering it for my own place….

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In my 48hrs I also managed a trip to Buckingham Palace (I named my hen house Cluckingham Palace BTW) and another jaunt to Soho where I had dinner at La Bodega Negra a Mexican bar and restaurant I’ve been wanting to try for a while. The interior is too dark to read the menu never mind take photo’s so I can’t share any of the things that caught my eye, such as the grand piano bookcase or the copper bathroom sinks. But the outside is probably what most people remember anyway. If you didn’t know what you were looking for you would never find the place as the entrance is designed to look like a sex shop, complete with peep show and girls, girls, girls signs. I was very cautious when I opened the door just in case I caught an eyeful of a real peep show, and I couldn’t resist posing when we left.

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So now I’m safely back in Cumbria and its all kitchens go as I race to find the perfect kitchen and complete the design in time for a pre-Christmas installation. I’ve got a man with a mallet coming tomorrow to help me knock a hole in the existing chimney breast to see if the original red sandstone lintels are still there. This isn’t wishful thinking this is what we found when we removed the gas fire in the living room. Its crazy what people cover up. Fingers, legs and eyes crossed!

Perspective is everything

6 weeks in and I’m starting to see the positive impact Cumbrian life is having on me. When I lived in London I had an unhealthy relationship with food and obsessed about my weight and body shape. When you’re in meetings and presenting at conferences you’re constantly being scrutinised by other women, and I’m not criticising as I’ve caught myself doing it, but its not surprising you spend a lot of time judging yourself in the mirror. I was also unfulfilled at work so sought comfort in food and would be planning what I was going to eat hours (and sometimes days if I had dinner plans) ahead of schedule. I was never satisfied with what was in my fridge, which resulted in multiple supermarket trips, takeaways or eating out which meant more drinking…it was exhausting. Now subconsciously I have stopped thinking about food so much. I eat what’s available in the fridge and only visit the supermarket weekly when I pick Mr W up from the station. I don’t own a pair or scales or a full length mirror. Its totally liberating. Don’t get me wrong I still love food and a loving having the time to cook again, its just not such a dominant feature in my life. I think I am a little thinner as my clothes are looser in places, but I just see that as a positive side effect, I am not going to diet. If I want butter I’m having butter!

I also have a reputation for being highly competitive, and I used to put a ridiculous amount of pressure on myself to be the best at everything and to complete everything in record time. I’ve not lost these traits post move, but they’re less obvious. My neighbour Sharon would probably disagree as she thinks I’m keeping myself far too busy and trying to do to much too soon, but I know what I was like so I know this is a healthy work ethic and not as a result of pressure. Take my new career as an interior designer. It was always the plan to set this up next year when I’ve completed the house renovations and my studies and that’s still the plan even though people regularly ask me how the new business is coming along. Old me would have felt pressured to start sooner to avoid being seen as a failure. New me is just enjoying herself. I’m even happy in the slow lane at the swimming pool where I’ve started swimming lengths – this would never have been me in London, I’d have pulled muscles in the fast lane to try and keep up with the crawlers (I can only do breast stroke….) rather than admit I’m no Rebecca Addlington.

This week has been the usual scrum of contractors in the house as the joiners and electricians teamed up to board out the ceilings downstairs and install new lighting. To remain close enough to supervise without being under their feet I took advantage of the sunshine and did a little furniture restoration in the garden. Our dining room is tiny and oddly shaped which requires non-standard furniture if you want to seat more than 4. I bought a dining table on eBay 4 years ago which was narrower than a standard table which I stripped and stained, and since then I’ve been looking for the right seating solution. In Lille I found one half of this when I spotted a lovely narrow church pew. I then picked up 4 matching church chairs in an antiques mill in Manchester. For some reason church furniture is much narrower than standard furniture these days – must have been to make room for those massive altars and organs! The pew and the chairs were in pretty good nick but required a light sand to remove stains, paint chips and chewing gum….ugh. I then re-stained the pew seat and oiled everything with my trusty osmo oil. The result is stunning as the chairs are maple and the bench is oak and pine and the oil has brought out the grain and given them a lovely warm glow.

They are now installed in my dining room which is not yet ready (radiator, plastering, painting and window dressing still to be done) but already the room has been transformed just with the restored beams, new ceiling boards and lights and now the new furniture. The pendant lights are from Fritz & Fryer who I recently discovered online. I suspect I will be making a few more purchases from them.

Below is an old photo of the room which I took when I viewed the house so you can see how cluttered it was. The previous owner used it as his office, in fact it was called the Station Masters Office as he kept his train set in another room (FYI he was 65 not 12).

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Before I leave you a quick chuck update. Phyllis is not sick she is ‘clocking’ as they call it in Cumbria. The silly bird is broody and trying too hatch her unfertilised eggs. I think I need to send Harold in to teach her the facts of life. No cockerel, no chicks, chuck.