The interior design grenade

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.

Chicken shed painted in Cuprinol Muted Clay
Cluckingham Palace

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.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 16.05.23 Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 16.05.39 Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 16.06.05 Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 16.06.20

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!

 

Shed envy

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.

Louix Chair by Alexandre Arrazole Martagon at Aleks Design Studio. Available at www.cultfurniture.com

Louix Chair by Alexandre Arrazole Martagon at Aleks Design Studio. Available at www.cultfurniture.com

Louix Chair by Alexandre Arrazole Martagon at Aleks Design Studio. Available at www.cultfurniture.com

Warning, reading this will cause severe house envy….

Its back to life in the slow lane again after my recent London jaunt. I do love my new life but a city fix is needed occasionally or there’s a strong chance I will become very unkempt and a bit dotty from spending to much time with chickens. This trip also delivered evidence that dispels two myths about London that I have enjoyed sharing with my fellow Cumbrians.

Myth One – Eating out in London is expensive: Two of the best meals I had that weekend cost less than a fiver. The first was a homemade, warm from the oven scotch egg. Orangey yolk, wonderfully seasoned pork with a touch of black pudding. Absolutely delicious. If you ever find yourself in N1 and hungry, find The Marquess and you will not be disappointed. The second was a portion of chips and curry sauce from a chippy in Blackheath Royal Standard, which would have knocked the socks of any triple cooked, gastro-pub efforts. Classy no, delicious, hell yes.

Myth two – Londoners are unfriendly: In preparation for my triathalon next month I went for a run in Greenwich park and five minutes from the house tripped over my own clumsy feet and took the skin off both knees and palms like a 6 year old. Half a dozen people offered assistance, including a lovely couple that administered first aid and two passing drivers who offered to take me to A&E. Thankfully my pride was the biggest injury sustained but it was heart warming to encounter so many good Samaritans.

But the highlight of my trip was without a doubt the North London House Tour organized by Livingetc. A chance to nosy around seven amazing private homes with a bunch of like-minded interiors enthusiasts, with all proceeds going to Crisis the national charity for single homeless people. We had been asked not to take photographs inside the houses but the staff and homeowners gave me permission to take a few which I can share with you now – apologies for the image quality, they really don’t do these properties justice.

I started at house #4 on the tour, a 5-storey Victorian property that despite being filled to the rafters with artwork and curiosities didn’t feel cluttered. I stood for 10 minutes in the living room alone just soaking it all in. I didn’t even ask if I could take a photo I was so in awe so this is the one from the tour guide. Favourite thing about this house – the vintage lights.

Green and white room with vintage lights

[pinterest]

Next stop was house #3, a stained back cedar cube nestled between brick Georgian properties. Overall I found this house a little too stark. However, there were two things that took my breath away. The first was the view of their neighbours tree from the living room window, a huge expanse of glass that stretched the length of the room, which made you feel like you were in the treetops. On the opposite side of the room was a wall of floor to ceiling cupboards, and if I can offer my interiors two-penneth, personally I would have given them mirrored glass doors to reflect this vista, which would have been stunning all year round. The second was the view of the Japanese maple (Acer) in a private courtyard outside one of the bedrooms.

Stunning tree view from living room window View of Japanese maple (acer) from bedroom window

[pinterest]

On to house #2, a 3-storey Victorian villa with the most amazing kitchen overlooking the garden. What made the interior of this house so eye catching was the neutral colour scheme with the pops of bright primary colours in window blinds, bathroom vanity units and other items.

image

[pinterest]

Thankfully house #1 was just around the corner as I was starting to flag at this point. The house was beautifully decorated and furnished but the thing that caught my eye was the paint effects, particularly this one below which really framed the eves of the house.

Paint effect that frames the room

[pinterest]

On route to house #5 I popped into The Marquess for sustenance and was treated to another interiors surprise which I hope my fellow enthusiasts discovered. The lighting is what stood out, but I also loved the exotic ceiling fans in the main dining room.

Cluster of black vintage ceiling pendants in The Marquess in N1 image

[pinterest]

The trek to house #5 was a little long, but worth it. Another multi-storey Victorian villa, but this time a minimalists dream, all pale greys and very little furniture. I’m actually convinced this house isn’t lived in yet, as there was little evidence of occupancy . But it was here I suffered a severe case of bathroom envy.

White, grey and marble bathroom in Victorian property with gold fixtures

[pinterest]

I nearly didn’t make it to house #6 which was entirely my own fault for getting lost, taking the wrong bus and missing my stop when I found the right bus. This Edwardian terrace is owned by an artist who has turned it into an oasis of light and calm. I had another bout of bathroom envy when I saw the pebbled floors, and I loved her use of pale pink, which is a colour I have never liked and now want to plagiarise. And yet another beautiful garden….

Pebbled bathroom floor image image

[pinterest]

Last stop was at the top of an almighty hill but worth the climb as they had saved the best till last. The owner is an interior designer (Mad Cow Interiors) who has a bold and eclectic style which might not be for everyone but I loved it. The corrugated metal effect wallpaper, the hanging basket chair in the living room, the customised furniture, the album cover floor in the games room, the first floor sun deck, her amazing walk in wardrobe and boudoir bedroom. Even the downstairs loo was cool. I wanted to move in.

image  Customised sideboardimage image

 

Funky pop art decorated toilet Hanging basket chair

[pinterest]

So a huge thank you to the organisers, volunteers and home owners for delivering such an amazing event, I will definitely be back next year, by which time I should have recovered from the severe case of house envy. But for now I’d better go and feed those chickens….in the rain….and wind….