Traditionally the Scandinavians and Japanese like to do it sat up. Europeans typically like to do it lying down. For me it depends on the location, and the view. I’m talking about bathing of course. What did you think I meant?
The reason I’m talking about this at all is because I recently stumbled across the most beautiful bathroom furniture. And not bathroom furniture in the traditional sense, i.e. vanity units etc. but baths and basins made from wood that are so beautiful they are like pieces of furniture. Continue reading “Sitting up or lying down?”
Before I became an interior designer I would dread the inevitable ‘so what do you do for a living’ question when I met new people. My actual job title made no sense to anybody outside my organisation (or most of my colleagues for that matter), and ‘work for an insurance company’ just sounds soooo dull. And if the person asking did look interested it was only because they were about to bore me senseless with the scintillating story of their last insurance claim, or ask me how they could get cheaper car insurance. Don’t care, don’t know, being my responses to both if I’d had too many sav blancs. When I became an interior designer I thought, at last a sexy job title I can be proud of! But this has now created a new problem. Being put on the spot.
Interior Designer FAQ’s
There are 2 questions I get asked all the time. The first is “What colour should I paint my living room?” (It isn’t always a living room it can be any room in the house). People ask me this question without providing any other background information, such as room size, what the light is like, what colours they prefer or what furniture they have. And they look at me expectantly like I should have the answer. I’m an interior designer not a psychic mindreading magician.
The second FAQ is “I want to do up my house how much will it cost me?” My quick answer to this has become, “How much do you want to spend?” But I thought I would share my approach to the long answer with you as it’s actually a really good question.
What’s my budget?
Most of the people I work with really have no idea how much it’s going to cost them, and it’s not just the first time buyers. I met a lovely couple last week, and one of them was a minister. They had spent most of their lives living in church houses so they had never had to replace a kitchen or bathroom or do any major renovations so had come to me for guidance. Not spiritual obviously.
Whether I am doing a single room or a whole house the first thing I do with most new customers is estimate the cost of the project so that we can agree a budget. To do this I need the answers to three questions, which also shape the overall brief:
1. What work is needed?
This isn’t just how many rooms they have, and whether it includes a kitchen or bathroom, but also the state of things like the windows and doors and the plumbing and electrics, i.e. the things that can really eat into your budget.
2. What is the desired look?
This covers both style and level of quality. Are we talking top of the range German kitchen and solid wood flooring, or secondhand furniture and ready-made curtains, or a mixture of both?
3. What are the priorities?
What do we spend money on and where do we compromise in order to keep within budget?
I then give the customer a spreadsheet like this for every room so we can look at the figures together and agree a budget.
If we’re doing the whole house there will also be a summary that looks something like this:
The true cost of home improvements
I’ve found that when I work on whole houses we typically spend half the budget on labour, unless the customers can carry out work themselves. But I still do all of this early estimating before I bring any trades in to quote. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Firstly, I’ve been doing this long enough now to know roughly what things cost. Obviously there are things I can’t estimate, especially when you get into bespoke joinery and mysterious damp problems (for that I really need Damp Gary), but my estimates for most things are usually pretty accurate.
But more importantly I don’t like to waste peoples’ time. If we need to make compromises, and this means customers doing their own decorating, then I’d rather establish this before I bring a decorator in to price the job.
But the main reason for this early estimating is that in order to get an accurate overall cost for a room you need to have designed it. But you don’t want to design a room and go to the trouble of getting quotes from trades for a look that the customer will love but can’t afford. You need to manage your customers expectations and to do this you need to know what your budget is.
So what does it cost to do up a house?
So as you can see there isn’t a simple answer. But I will go out on a limb and say that if you have a two or three bedroom house which you want to completely redecorate and furnish, with a medium sized kitchen, an average sized bathroom, and one ensuite, then the figures in my examples above are pretty realistic for midrange in terms of quality. Obviously you can always spend more or less but I wanted to leave you with something to ponder now the Christmas decorations have come down leaving your rooms looking tired and bare.
And if you think you might want my help get in touch quickly as enquiries have been rolling in since I became a local media sensation…. (a customers words not mine after seeing my features in Cumbria Life and The Whitehaven News!)
Us Brits love a good pub but often for different reasons. For Mr W it’s always about the beer. When we lived in Leeds he used to drag me to this godawful place with a sticky floor and customers that resembled the cast of The Hobbit because he swore the beer was the best in Yorkshire. His new favourite haunt is The Swan Inn in Cockermouth which I worked on last year, and which he says serves the best pint in Cumbria.
For me a good pub has to have character. I want to see unusual features or something different in the deco that will spark one of those ‘ooh I like those lights’ kind of conversations. The kind of conversations Mr W just loves. Just like I love our chats about Leeds Uniteds chance of promotion this year…..
I like a pub where there are plenty of things to look at when me and Mr W are enjoying a comfortable silence. While he’s fantasising about Leeds Utd winning trophies I sit there mentally filing all the ideas I like for future projects and silently slagging off critiquing those I don’t. So I was very excited when the owner of The Mill at Ulverston got in touch after seeing what I’d done at The Swan Inn. Here was another chance to create the kind of eye catching details I look for when I go in a new pub, and to be honest The Mill already had lots of interesting original features to look at, they just weren’t making the most of them. So are you ready for a few before and afters? I make no apologies for the number of pics – there’s lots to show you.
The Mill at Ulverston
The Mill was originally one of Ulverston’s flour mills and parts of this grade II listed building date back to the 12th century. It was refurbished in 2009 but the interior was looking more than a little tired and the owner wanted to give it a makeover as part of a larger programme of investment, which included bringing in multi award winning chef Steven Doherty as their new Executive Consultant Chef. I won’t lie the menu was very uninspiring when I first visited The Mill but now the food alone is a reason to visit. But anyway back to the decor….
Faux leather chairs, cheap lighting and bare windows. Pretty bland eh?
The Brief & The Plan
The owner wanted The Mill to look like the gastropub he was planning to turn it into – a little bit traditional, a little bit modern and a little bit quirky. But not too different as the customers liked the original features, and I’ve found that in any pub regulars never like too much change. So I talked with the staff and (purely in the interest of research) spent a Friday night in the bar checking out and chatting to the customers. I then came up with a plan. The new interior would have a more industrial/vintage look by using metal, wood, leather and wool in the décor that would link it to the history of Ulverston, and its industrial and agricultural heritage. We would maximise the original waterwheel feature by improving the lighting and surrounding area, and introduce new decorative features based around the history of Ulverston and famous Ulverstonians. Intrigued?
The Restaurant at The Mill
So lets start here shall we? The restaurant had loads of great features already, a high ceiling, original beams, exposed stone walls, beautiful windows and a great wood floor but it was very cold looking and to be honest a tad boring.
But not anymore.
A big room needs big lighting so we replaced the chintzy chandeliers with large black metal orb lights and added matching rope and metal wall lights.
The combination of metal and rope really works in this industrial space but the lights are still ‘glam’ enough for the kind of restaurant this was going to be.
There is a long wall on one side of the restaurant and the owner desperately wanted something doing with it but didn’t know what. I came up with two ideas;
Have wallpaper made up of an old local ordnance survey map
Ssuspend’ large industrial style mirrors from rope
I was a little stumped when he said yes to both. But when we got the wallpaper up we all agreed covering it with mirrors would be a mistake so we stuck with the wallpaper. It was made by a company called Redcliffe Imaging who were great at helping me work out what area to include. and how to best position the town name.
We still managed to incorporate my suspended mirror idea but just hung one on the wall opposite. The mirror is fixed to the wall but we used rope and hooks to make it appear suspended from the ceiling.
Throughout the building I’ve added quotes from famous Ulverstonians and the one in the restaurant is my favourite. They were made for me by Wallboss who also made the wall stickers for The Swan.
The Ground Floor
The room behind the main bar on the ground floor has always been a favourite with families and locals who want somewhere a little quieter to sit. The problem was it was a bit too dark and very stark looking – see? (Make note of that wall clock….)
Looks a little more inviting now me thinks.
These new wall lights made a big difference, much brighter, and we added a couple more in the darker spots.
The wall clock is gone and in its place is a collection of vintage beer bottles in lighted alcoves. This false wall with recesses was easy to create and it instantly draws your eye when you walk into the room. The wall panelling on the lower half of the walls was something the owner really wanted, and painting it a darker colour breaks up the walls.
Next to this we added a butchers paper roll for specials and re-hung some of their old prints with a few other items including mirrors, a couple of barometers and an alarm clock to add more interest.
There was nothing wrong with the tables and chairs in here but we did reupholster the seats in a mix of tartan wool fabrics, again from Abraham Moon. FYI I had big plans to make more of a feature of that fireplace but we ran out of time and budget.
The Cask Bar
A long corridor connects the room above to the Cask Bar at the front of The Mill and this is what it used to look like.
When I was doing my research it struck me how many interesting things had happened in Ulverston, which is what led to the idea of creating a timeline of events. I had sleepless nights worrying I’d got the dimensions (and the facts) wrong and that it wouldn’t fit round the new lights, and I had quite an audience when I was installing it as every customer who visited the loo had a read over my shoulder. But it looks fab and has created a real talking point. Apologies for the first pic – it’s impossible to get a good picture without the lights on.
All the new lights in The Mill are industrial or vintage in style but we made a point of using different lighting in each area to make it more interesting. We used these Brinley wall lights and the matching pendants in the Cask Bar.
So now we’re in the main bar I have to show you some more before and after pics just to highlight the difference. Lets start by the fire.
…and now look at it.
The whole bar is just so much more inviting.
I also suggested a future money saving idea which the owner liked. They used to spend a fortune on candles, but I found these faux pillar candles which hold a tea light so instead of paying £1 or more for a candle which would last 2 nights at best they would pay pennies for tea lights. Genius eh? They’re from a company called Greige if you’re interested.
The area of the bar I’m particularly pleased with is the snug behind the stove, which used to be very bare.
It’s now uber cosy and a little bit edgy with it’s industrial mirror, rise and fall pendants and gallery wall. Those dark walls are painted in Farrow & Ball Salon Drab, and we used Valspar Earthy Beige where we needed to go a little lighter.
So what do you think? Could this be your kind of pub?
I’m going to leave you with a final quote from another famous Ulverstonian, Mr Stan Laurel. If you want to see which other celebs were born in Ulverston you’ll have to pop in.
I’ve been learning a whole new language since I moved to Cumbria, the latest word being flartching. Before you try Google translate, don’t bother. For all you offcomers there’s a dictionary at the end. And FYI it was my dog that was described as a flartch not me, but to be fair we’ve both been known to flartch to get our own way. Other words that have now entered my vocabulary include ratching, laal and lonnin. I’ve even uttered ‘aas gan yam’ once or twice but I might have had a few… Now I wouldn’t skelp you for assuming that Cumbrian words were corruptions of English words, I used to be feckless too. But according to historians Cumbrian isn’t a dialect it’s a complete language. You only have to hear my neighbour Harold yammering with his old pals if you need evidence. But what’s this got to do with interior design you’re thinking? Well stop your twining I’m getting to it.
Joe Fagan is a proud Cumbrian, Cockermouth born and bred and a local businessman. He is also the landlord of The Swan Inn in Cockermouth and I’ve been helping him with a refurb.
When Joe took over the pub he just gave it a quick lick of paint, but after a great year of increasing customer numbers he wanted to show the regulars his gratitude and invest some of his own money in smartening up the place. His brief was quite clear though, we needed to retain all the character but tidy it up without it being unrecognisable to the regulars, i.e. a change without change. We also needed to acknowledge the various communities that used the pub, which included rugby fans, a brass band, folk singers, the quiz team and scrabble fans. Some brief eh? Shall we start with a few before images so you know what I was working with?
Original sash windows
Natural zones – two lounges, a bar area and TV/darts room
A few good pieces of furniture
Lots of nice prints and photos of the local area
Some vintage paraphernalia we could use to accessorise
Bright red, chipped paint
A mixture of REALLY ugly lights
Some cheap pine furniture
Faded curtains covering the windows
Horrible pub carpet
A jumble sale of cheap picture frames, dying plants and crockery
Want to see it now? Well come on into the bar for a deekabout, just watch your napper.
Much more inviting me thinks. Now lets move from the bar into the lower lounge, rarely used before but now much more popular. We moved all the old pews down there which really helps with the layout.
It’s also much brighter without the old curtains and you can now see the lovely sash windows.
Come on through to what the regulars are now calling The Library. You wouldn’t believe how many people have admired the new bookcase….
Pub goers love a good conversation point and this wallpaper has certainly given them that.
Obviously the new lights have swan necks, and I’ve added a few swans here and there. This pair came from a shop in Lisbon of all places.
I pillaged all the local charity shops for old books to scatter round the place as I love the character of an old book. If you pop in take a closer look there are some great reads among them.
This is one of only two lights that survived as it makes quite a nice feature between the lounge and the library.
I often tell customers that if there are 10 things they want to change but can only change 7 the other 3 won’t look so bad anyway, and this is definitely the case with the upholstery. Yes it is a little worn but it should be in a pub this old.
So this is ‘band corner’ a small area we have dedicated to the local brass band. The alcove has been papered with some very discreet musical note wallpaper, and there are pics of the band and a few instruments on the wall. They love the umbrella stand which I am told is an E-Flat Base not a Tuba.
I think the transformation is most obvious in the TV/Darts room. We’ve decorated with old pictures of the local rugby team and a few vintage rugby items. I let Joe keep one pub mirror but only because it has the local Jennings brewery on it.
The regulars love the new toilet signs. They also serve as a distraction, I don’t think anyone has noticed I’ve taken down all the horse brasses.
The bar rules are my favourite addition. The football lads can get a little rowdy you know…..
The signs above the arch are actually essential. Not for me and the landlord, us being a little vertically challenged, but the signs make everyone else take note before passing through. Keeps the accident numbers down.
So what do you think? Fancy a pint?
You should pop in if you’re in the area. Mr W tells me that Joe keeps the best beer in Cumbria and he always has time for a crack with everyone.
Cumbrian – English Translation
Flartching – flirting
Offcomer – non-native of Cumbria
Ratching – rummaging
Laal – little
Lonnin – lane
Aas gan yam – I’m going home
Kelp – slap
Yammering – speaking quickly and unintelligibly
Twining – complaining
Deekabout – look around
Napper – head
Crack – gossip, banter
Lasses – women
Marras – in West Cumbria women refer to their male partners as marras but its also a general term for mate or friend
Grotting, gollering and brawling – spitting, shouting and fighting
Living and working in London made it pretty easy to visit the west end and catch a show. I often went mid-week with friends, buying the cheap tickets if we weren’t sure how good it would be. I’ll watch most things for under £20 if the company’s good! Living in West Cumbria I now have a different style of show on offer and they typically only run for the summer season. This week I attended two; the Keswick show and Ennerdale show. OK so they weren’t preceded by cocktails and a pre-show dinner but they beat the west end hands down for variety. It seems you can enter just about anything in these shows to try for a prize; cattle, sheep, poultry, dogs, pets, eggs, vegetables, fruit, plants, flower arrangements, cakes, biscuits….the list is endless. One lady who shall remain nameless seemed to have an entry in just about every category at the Keswick show. They both had exhibitions of vintage cars and vintage agricultural machinery and the Keswick show had a display of quad bikes that gave Mr W high expectations for Christmas. They also go all out on the entertainment. In Keswick I watched champion sheep shearer Peter claim 1st prize for manually shearing 3 sheep with the biggest sharpest looking shears I have ever seen. You can watch (or participate in!) cumberland wrestling. You can enter a fell run (running up and down very steep hills for those that are unfamiliar). You can also shop – with local farm produce, plants, arts and crafts all on offer. Not a bad way to while away a few hours for less than £10 entry (£7 Keswick and £5 Ennerdale).
There’s even something for interior design fanatics like me at these shows. At Keswick I met a very talented lady called Mel who is a traditional woodturner and produces beautiful lamps, tableware and other items in her workshop in Egremont. I bought one of her paraffin lamps as I really liked the combination of the old fashioned method with the modern design.
At the Ennerdale show I met another very talented lady, Vivienne Coleman. Vivienne is a professional artist who specialises in pencil drawings. Her drawings of sheep really caught my eye, and I will be ordering some of her work for my new staircase. You can see her work on her website http://www.pencil-drawing.co.uk, and she has a gallery on Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/vivienne-c/sets/72157625020434836/
I have one other show in my diary that I’ve been wanting to attend ever since I bought our place in Cumbria but haven’t been able too make so far. This one includes….wait for it….the world gurning championships! Visit http://www.egremontcrabfair.com if you’re not familiar with this particular sport and would like to see last years winner and runners up…..And maybe next year my chickens eggs will be good enough to beat the multi-talented lady from Keswick…