Tag Archives: interior design

How much does it cost to do up a house?

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.

Amelia Wilson Interior Designer Cumbria

Picture from my recent feature in Cumbria Life explaining my move from Insurance to Interior Design

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.

Interior designer Cumbria Amelia Wilson moodpboard

Moodboard for the red dining room project, it took me to mediate between the homeowners to agree on the colour of this room. Before and afters still to come.

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.Interior Designer Cumbria Amelia Wilson

If we’re doing the whole house there will also be a summary that looks something like this:

Interior Designer Cumbria Amelia Wilson

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!)

Amelia Wilson Interior Designer Cumbria

Picture from my recent Cumbria Life feature

The Lowther Project – Final Reveal

If you read my post 10 things you might not expect from an Interior Designer (and thank you if you did) you’ll appreciate just how diverse the role of the interior designer can be. And the multi-tasking doesn’t stop there. As a small business owner I’m also Head of IT, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Chief Finance Officer, Operations Manager, Receptionist and Office Cleaner, i.e. it’s just me. When I worked in London I had a team to support me, access to expert resources, and I’m embarrassed to admit it…… an assistant. I realise now that I was proper pampered. But I’m also proud of how I’ve mastered a whole bunch of new skills. Well all but one that is.

Interiors Styling & Photography

One of the most important things when you’re an interior designer is being able to show people your work. Your website is your shop front so you need lots of images, and they need to be good. This isn’t as simple as you would think and it takes time. The rooms you see in magazines have been styled within an inch of their life. The stylist will have planned in advance how tidy or casual the room should look. Every accessory will have been carefully chosen from a stash which won’t all make it into the photographs. They will have been placed and then moved 3 or 4 times before the stylist was happy with the result. Greenery is a given, but the stylist will have thought carefully about what kind. And they will have played and played and then played some more with the lighting until it was just right.

Bathroom with Victorian floor tiles, walk in shower and marble top washstand designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

Bathroom I designed and styled for Real Homes magazine. Photograph by Jeremy Phillips.

Styling is an art which is why there is a whole industry behind it. But the greater skill in my view is the photography, which is where I fall down. Hard. Lighting regularly defeats me, but it’s also knowing which angle would be best, how wide to go on the perspectives, and how soft or sharp on the close ups. I’ve got a decent camera and editing software but it’s a bit ‘all the gear and no idea’. If I had the time I’d take a course. In fact maybe that should be my New Years resolution. Lets face it ‘lose a stone’ is getting a bit like Groundhog Day.

Which is why I’m chuffed to bits to see the holiday home I finished recently on the rental market with Cumbrian Cottages,. I’d taken some pics when it was finished but when I started editing I wasn’t happy with them and knew I would have to go back. But thankfully Cumbrian Cottages  have done a much better job as I’m about to show you. But first things first people, the before pics!

The Lowther Project – Before

Lowther Village conservation village in the Lowther Castle estate

The Crescent, Lowther Village

The property is grade II* listed and was built in the 1770’s for the workers of Lowther Castle. It’s like the tardis. From the outside it looks like an end terrace, but inside there are 3 bedrooms, two bathrooms a kitchen and living room spread over 3 floors.

The kitchen was very dated but big enough to make a comfortable kitchen-dining room.Interiors before and afters

The property had been heated by a boiler stove which we replaced with an electric boiler and a regular stove so that guests arriving late could have instant heating and hot water.
Interiors before and afters

On the ground floor was the only bathroom with an electric over bath shower.
Interiors before and afters

The stairs looked like something out of the ’70’s and not in a cool retro way.
Interiors before and afters

The master bedroom on the first floor was very stark.
Interiors before and afters

…and the single bedroom opposite wasn’t any cosier.
Interiors before and afters

On the lower ground floor was this store room fitted out with cheap kitchen cupboards.Interiors before and afters

….and a third bedroom with a fake stone wall and castle mural.Interiors before and aftersInteriors before and afters

The Plan

The owners initially said they wanted a traditional look that reflected the age of the property, but after sharing images with them via Houzz I could see that they also liked vintage and industrial elements and weren’t afraid of going dark when it came to wall colour.

Interiors before and afters

Moodboard for living room

To give you an idea of how long a project like this can take, the homeowners first got in touch in March and I started work 3 weeks later. We need listed building consent from the Lake District National Park planning office before any work could start. So I completed the detailed designs and submitted the application at the end of May. We got the approval at the end of July and work started early August and completed mid October.

So are you ready to see what it looks like now?

The Lowther Project – Final Reveal Cumbrian Cottages Holiday let in Lowther designed by Amelia Wilson interiors Ltd. Interiors before and afters

Image via Cumbrian Cottages

When you’re working to a budget it’s important to know where to spend and where to save. Using a mixture of new and secondhand furniture is a great way to save money, and old furniture is often better quality. It also adds character and makes a place look like it was furnished over a period of time.

Buying blinds from Blinds2Go and shopping around for lighting, cushions and throws meant we could splash out on Moon fabric to cover a footstool and lampshades.

Cumbrian Cottages Traditional living room with leather armchairs and moon fabric soft furnishings, Interiors before and afters

Image via Cumbrian Cottages

I’m particularly proud of what we achieved with the budget for the kitchen. The units are from Howdens and we bought all the appliances online. The granite worktops were supplied and fitted by Lakeland Granite. They had some surplus stock they wanted shot of so we got a good price.

Cumbrian Cottages. Granite worktops shaker kitchen period property Lowther Village. Interiors before and afters

Image via Cumbrian Cottages

We used black slate flooring throughout the ground floor and on the lower ground floor which has its own external door so that the property could be pet friendly.

I used track lighting for the ceiling pendant so it can be moved into the centre of the room when they extend the dining table to seat 6 – clever idea eh?

Cumbrian Cottages Shaker kitchen grey kitchen granite worktops track lighting metro tiles.Interiors before and afters

Image via Cumbrian Cottages

We installed a new shower room on the lower ground floor so we could take out the over bath shower and create a big family bathroom. One where you drink champagne in the bath of course….

The decorator did a lovely job treating the new softwood ledged and braced doors to make them look older.Cumbrian Cottages Back to wall freestanding bath victorian floor tiles metro wall tiles traditional bathroom. Interiors before and afters

Image via Cumbrian CottagesCumbrian Cottages Vintage crates vintage bathroom accessories. Interiors before and afters

Image via Cumbrian Cottages

When you’re renovating a whole house there are a lot of moving parts to manage so if you can find a contractor that is multi-skilled it can really help. Almost all the work on this project was done by Ben Butler Kitchens & Bathrooms. The staircase was probably one of the simplest jobs on his very long list but it has made such a difference to how the property looks.Cumbrian Cottages Industrial pendant lighting Farrow & Ball Brinjal Interiors before and afters

Image via Cumbrian Cottages

The dark blue wall in the master bedroom is Farrow & Ball Stiffkey Blue which I liked so much I recently painted my own bedroom the same colour. It goes beautifully with the antique pine and the burnt orange.

Cumbrian Cottages Farrow and Ball Stiffkey Blue vintage bedroom vintage accessories Interiors before and afters

Image via Cumbrian CottagesCumbrian Cottages Vintage bedroom furniture traditional bedroom Interiors before and afters

Image via Cumbrian Cottages

The twin bedroom is very compact. There isn’t enough ceiling height for bunk beds but we were able to get in two small singles with just enough space to walk between them.

We painted all the walls dark grey (Dulux Urban Obsession) and it really defines rather than crowds the space. Cumbrian Cottages Dulux urban obsession scandi style bedroom Interiors before and afters

Image via Cumbrian Cottages

Remember the store room with the old kitchen cupboards? Well look at it now. Just shows what you can do with a space with some careful planning.

The hexagon wall and floor tiles are from Topps Tiles and made me very unpopular with Ben. “I’ve done the best I can” was his parting shot that day. But I think they look pretty good.

Cumbrian Cottages Walk in shower room with hexagon wall and floor tiles and vintage accessories Interiors before and afters

Image via Cumbrian Cottages

The third bedroom on the lower ground floor also looks fabulous but you’ll just have to take my word for it. The lighting in there is really poor and it seems the professional photographer struggled with it too, so I don’t feel quite so inadequate. But I will take some more pics when I go back and show you just how fab it looks.

Before I finish I just wanted to show you the difference between photography for interiors and photography for holiday rentalsCumbrian Cottages Interiors before and afters

Image via Cumbrian Cottages

Yes cheese. I won’t lie, when I saw this pic on the Cumbrian Cottages site I did think how nice it would be to curl up in front of that log burner with a glass of red and some stinky cheese. But if I put this pic on my website you’d think I was bonkers.

So if you’re looking for an uber cosy holiday home to rent in the Lake District head over to the Cumbrian Cottages website and get it booked. There’s a good pub close by and it’s walking distance from Lowther Castle where they hold Kendal Calling every year, just think no campsite toilets…..

Eat Sleep Paint Repeat

Over the last few years Mr W has stopped raising concerns or objections over my decorating plans he just goes with the flow. It’s not that I didn’t get my way before, we wouldn’t be living in Holly Cottage if that was the case, or have a red kitchen, or exposed stone walls in the bathroom. In fact our house would look very different if I wasn’t so bossy persuasive. But now I don’t even have to argue with him, he just lets me get on with it. He tells me that I’ve proven I know what I’m doing and he now trusts my decisions. I think I’ve just worn him down. Either way – yay for me.

The Bedroom Makeover

Living with an interior designer is like a version of that Fat Boy Slim tune – Eat, Sleep, Paint, Repeat. And I’m not even going to bother defending myself. It is both a perk and a curse when it’s your job to seek out and create beautiful interiors. The latest room in my house to get a makeover is our bedroom, and if you follow my social media feeds you might remember the wallpapers I was considering, this one being top of my list.

Cranes in flight wallpaper by Harlequin available at Jane Clayton

Cranes in Flight wallpaper by Harlequin

In the end I decided I didn’t want to break up the room with one papered wall and wanted to keep it all one colour. And with my new found decorating freedom I wanted to go darker. A lot lot darker.

Dark Interiors

Dark interiors are a bit like marmite, you either love them or hate them, but even those who love them aren’t always brave enough to take the plunge at home.

Dark grey living room with emerald green upholstered chair

Image by Ingrid Rasmussen Photography via Houzz

Usually they’re concerned because there isn’t enough natural light in the room, or they think the room is too small to carry a dark tone. But if you have a small dark room, painting it white is probably going to make it look very stark, whereas going dark will make it cosy and a whole lot more interesting.

Cloakroom decorated in black and gold

Cloakroom decorated in black and gold – image via Houzz

I’m a fan of dark interiors but unfortunately Mr W is not, and it’s the one battle I’ve never been able to win. Until now of course…..

Home of designer Abigail Ahern, champion of dark interiors

The home of designer Abigail Ahern, champion of dark interiors

The Bedroom Makeover – Phase I

So back to the bedroom. Before I show you in it all its lovely inky glory you have to see what it looked like before. And I’m going to take you way way back to the day I first viewed the house. I have to apologise for the very poor quality pics but this was 2010 when all I had was a blackberry, and if you see the pics you’ll understand why Mr W didn’t even want to buy the house.

Poor quality image of master bedroom in 2010

Grim eh?

Poor quality image of master bedroom in 2010

FYI the homeowners didn’t have any small children…

The Bedroom Makeover – Phase II

So when I first decorated I was living in an uber modern flat in London. I was a bit giddy about owning an old house in the country and got carried away with the country slash vintage vibe.

Traditional vintage style bedroom in cottage

Our entire flat in London was floor to ceiling white so the darkest I could get Mr W to agree to was a light mushroom, and that took some convincing…..

Oak wardrobes in Georgian cottage designed by Amelia Wilson

Now I liked it, but I felt we could do better.

The Bedroom Makeover – Final Reveal

When you’re taking a non-believer over to the dark side its all about breaking them in gently. So when I first mentioned navy blue to Mr W I told him we’d just paint one wall. This one.

Bedroom painted stiffkey blue by Farrow & Ball

Stiffkey Blue by Farrow & Ball

And he loved it. Thank god. As I’d already bought the paint for the rest of the room.

The pics aren’t great as this is a dark room, but that was my rational for going dark. Its a bedroom, it’s usually dark outside when I’m in there, and you want it to be cosy.

Roman blind in Antique Gold Alvar fabric by Clarke & Clarke, made by Di's Soft Furnishings

Roman blind in Antique Gold Alvar fabric by Clarke & Clarke, made by Di’s Soft Furnishings

All the furniture is the same, we just changed the curtains to a roman blind, bought new bedside lamp bases and shades, a new bedspread and pillow shams, and moved our existing artwork and accessories around. Total spend approx. £900.

Don’t the oak wardrobes and the gold sunburst mirror look amazing against the blue?

I absolutely love it. The colours are so rich, and its so warm looking.

Antique gold bedspread and pillow shams by Dorma at Dunelm.

Antique gold bedspread and pillow shams by Dorma at Dunelm.

I swear I’m sleeping better because it’s darker.

Velvet shades from Dunelm, gold bases from Wayfair

Velvet shades from Dunelm, gold bases from Wayfair

So what do you think? Could you be persuaded to go a few shades darker?

The Show Home Final Reveal

Throughout my career whatever job I was doing I always had a reputation for ‘getting stuff done’. And as an interior designer I continue to focus on doing things right, doing them on time, and always on or under budget. I am also a tad competitive (possibly the worlds greatest understatement…) So when the owner of the John Dalton Building in Cockermouth set me the challenge of turning one of their new apartments into a show home in just 4 weeks I set myself the goal of doing it in 3, and I did. So who is up for an exclusive sneak preview before open house this weekend? Continue reading

Two Beautiful Bathrooms – Part Two

I’ve designed more bathrooms than any other room since I started my business, but I never get bored of doing them because I love the problem solving aspect. People rarely have huge bathrooms and there are always logistical issues you have to work with.

And the problem solving doesn’t stop when you’ve planned bathrooms. The first fix, which is when any new pipework and electrical cables get installed before the walls are plastered, often uncovers new issues that can mean a re-think. I had to break from writing this post to go to one of my sites to talk to the bathroom fitter about raising the shower tray because the floor joists didn’t run parallel with where the waste pipe need to go. You can drill a hole in a joist for a ½” water pipe or an electric cable but not a 40mm waste pipe, you need to raise the shower tray. This then led to discussions about the height of the shelf in the shower for shampoo bottles and whether the shower screen would still fit as the ceiling had been removed to bring in light from a roof light and there was a beam in the way. This is why I never let bathroom projects start when I’m on holiday…..

Two Beautiful Bathrooms – Part Two

The bathroom I’m about to show you is very different to the one I showed you in part one of this post, and not just in style. There were lots of juicy little problems that needed to be solved in terms of the layout. But how about I show you what it used to look like before we get into that?

Bathrooms - Family bathroom before makeover by Amelia Wilson

The customer said I could only show you these if I could guarantee her full anonymity……

Bathrooms - Dated bathroom before renovation by Amelia Wilson Interiors LtdMake a mental note of the door below, even that got a makeover. Just noticed the random rubik’s cube LOL.

Bathrooms - Cottage door before stripping in bathroom makeover by Amelia Wilson

The Look

Sometimes working out what customers will like is harder than solving the layout problems, as it isn’t always easy to describe what you like you just know it when you see it. Which is why I use tools like Houzz and Pinterest to share images with customers, and encourage them to add their own images and comments so I can build up a profile for them. After collaborating on an Ideabook with these customers I decided to design them a bathroom which had a country feel but with modern touches, lots of natural wood for Mr S and lots of pastel colours with a few copper touches for Mrs S.

Bathrooms - Traditional moodboard for family bathroom projectAre you ready to take a look?

The Pretty Family Bathroom

Bathrooms - Modern country style pastel pink bathroom with copper lights and painted vanity unit by Amelia Wilson Interiors

I’ll give you a minute to appreciate the transformation before I run through all the juicy little problems I had to solve.

The Challenges

Firstly, they wanted a shower but needed to keep a bath as they have two small children and the room isn’t big enough for a separate shower cubicle. Yes I know the obvious solution is an over bath shower but if only it was that straightforward.

Mr S is VERY tall and the ceiling is not, and we needed to lower it to fit downlighters as the loft had been insulated and boarded and there is no longer access to the space above the bathroom. So after checking, double-checking and triple checking the height of the reinforced bath (which you really need when very tall adults are going to be standing in it to take a shower), and finding some very shallow LED spotlights, I calculated I only needed to lower the ceiling by 10cm. This might sound like a lot for shallow downlighters but there has to be a gap above the spotlight to allow it to ventilate. Technically you can fit them directly under loft insulation if you use breathable loft caps, but as I mentioned there was no loft access to do this so new ceiling it had to be.

This meant that a shower head on a riser would work but there wasn’t enough head height for one of those lovely big ceiling mounted or fixed rainfall shower heads which they would have liked. But I did manage to find a good compromise after hunting around on the Internet – a shower kit with a 160mm head instead of the usual 110mm. So shower problems solved.

Bathrooms - Grohe 160mm shower riser kit and bifold shower screen in bathroom designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors

Next issue is they wanted a bigger window but it couldn’t be any wider or the sill would always be covered in water from the shower. We could have sloped the window sill but the customer also wanted clear glass and there is a public park behind their house. So unless they wanted to attract unwanted attention and possibly complaints they would need a blind, which would have got wet and mouldy. So the new window would have to be taller but not too low because the bath needed to go under the window (trust me I tried every possible layout). Even though I had checked, double-checked and triple-checked the bath height I still didn’t rest until that bath was fitted.

From the childrens’ perspective, the advantage of this low window sill is that they can use it as a slide into the bath something Mrs S found out the other night….

Bathrooms - Over bath shower with white metro tiles and pebble grout from Topps tiles by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

On to the next challenge; they desperately needed storage but I needed to keep the space next to the bath relatively clear so that the shower screen could fold outwards 90 degrees, because if the shower screen can only fold into the bath you can’t access the bath taps. And before you say what about putting the bath taps in the middle of the bath, baths designed for central taps have two sloped ends instead of one, which isn’t great when your shower is over the bath as you can’t get right under the shower head unless you ceiling mount it. See earlier challenge. I also had to find a bath mixer tap that would pivot 90 degrees so you wouldn’t bash your shins on it when you took a shower. Something I wish some hotels would take into account.

So anyway back to storage, I put the biggest vanity unit I could next to the door, with a raised shelf behind it for additional counter space.

Bathrooms - Top mounted basin and wall mounted taps over oak vanity in bathroom designed by Amelia Wilson InteriorsThe vanity unit was made by a company called Parker & Walkers Furniture who can make any size and style you want and paint it in your chosen colour. Although apparently Farrow & Ball Dead Salmon was a first for them.

Bathrooms - Oak vanity painted in Farrow & Ball Dead Salmon in bathroom designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors

I also included a custom built cupboard the same depth as the toilet cistern above the toilet. I’m lucky to work with Ben Butler Kitchens & Bathrooms, Ben is a fitter and joiner so he can make me things like this. The frame for the cupboard and the cistern housing were built in pine and then clad in solid oak tongue and groove to match the top of the vanity unit.

The shower screen is a bifold that can fold in or out 90 degrees so it can fold flat against the cupboard when they bath the kids.

Bathrooms - Custom built oak cupboard in bathroom designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors

The walls and ceiling have been painted in Farrow & Ball Calamine which looks lovely with the oak and the copper wall lights. Two of the things I learned about Mrs S through the Ideabook is that (1) she likes flamingos, hence the wall print which just happened to be the right shades of blue and pink, and (2) she likes round mirrors. Neither of these things she knew herself until we started looking at images together.

Bathrooms - Flamingo print and copper lights in bathroom designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors

I found a towel radiator to match the copper wall lights. The heat output isn’t enough for a bathroom this size, but they’d already decided they wanted underfloor heating which would provide the heat needed so this could just be a very pretty towel dryer.

Bathrooms - Copper radiator in bathroom designed by Amelia Wilson InteriorsRemember how their old cottage door looked before? Well it cost £30 to get it stripped locally and Mr S filled the holes and gave it a coat or two of oil and now it looks gorgeous. The rest of the doors in the house will be getting the same treatment. The oak effect floor tiles are so realistic you almost have to touch them to check they’re not solid oak.

Cottage door stripped and oiled in bathroom designed by Amelia WilsonI have to give Ben credit for the lights along the edge of the bath. I wanted lighting in the alcove in the shower and down the outside of the shower wall but there wasn’t room for the lighting down the edge of the shower so this was his suggestion and it’s a beautiful feature.

Under bath lighting in bathroom designed by Amelia Wilson InteriorsSo now you’ve seen both beautiful bathrooms which one is your favourite?

Two Beautiful Bathrooms – Part One

I’ve come to realise that I like variety in all aspects of my life. I rarely eat the same thing twice in one week, and that includes breakfast. When I’m cooking dinner you might catch me crooning to a little country or throwing age inappropriate shapes to the Prodigy. I like to watch musicals and wildlife documentaries. And my favourite things to read are sci-fi and anything about serial killers. I’m not cultured I just like a lot of different stuff. Thankfully my eclectic taste also extends to interiors as all my customers have different styles, and I don’t think I’d like my job or be very good at it if I had to work with things I didn’t like all the time.

Don’t get me wrong there have been times when I’ve had to steer customers away from potentially disastrous choices, or accept that their sofa (which I don’t like) has to stay for budget reasons. But find me an interior designer who hasn’t had to deal with that. OK, so maybe Kelly Hoppen’s customers can always afford a new sofa. And as the queen of taupe she probably hasn’t had to tell a customer that tangerine orange walls with blue wall tiles would be a bad idea as I did recently……

Signature taupe bedroom by Kelly Hoppen

Signature taupe bedroom by Kelly Hoppen

There’s nothing wrong with an interior designer having a particular look or style of course, quite the opposite. It becomes your brand and customers seek you out because of it. But I just like lots of different styles and thankfully that works for me and my customers.

Two Beautiful Bathrooms – Part One

So this week I photographed two finished bathrooms that couldn’t be more different if they tried and I love them both. I’d love to know which is your favourite, assuming you like either of them of course…. But firstly I have to tell you I’m a little bit gutted as Apple appears to have lost the before pics somewhere between my Mac and the Cloud so I’m going to need you to use your imagination I’m afraid. It used to be two rooms; a shower room and separate toilet and the décor was a little 90’s show home, you know small square shower, pedestal basin, ordinary toilet and two tone tiles with a border. Get the picture? OK lets move on.

The Hotel Bathroom

This wasn’t a typical project for me as the customer already had a strong sense of what she wanted. Initially I was just going to work on her new kitchen and dining room (more pics to follow) but we extended this to include a little help with the bathroom layout and someone to bounce ideas off and help her choose fittings. So ready for the result of this collaboration?

Contemporary bathroom with stone effect tiles

I’m calling it the hotel bathroom because Mr W said “wow, it looks like a hotel bathroom” when he saw it, and I agree, assuming he meant posh hotel in the Alps and not Travel Lodge.

The beautiful porcelain tiles are from Italy. My customer saw them in one of our local bathroom showrooms and we used my trade discount to make a healthy saving.

Porcelain Des Alpes porcelain tiles in Bruno

Des Alpes Bruno porcelain wall and floor tiles

My absolute favourite thing in this bathroom is the floating basin.

Contemporary shower room by Amelia Wilson

Utopia Geo solid surface free flow basin

I’m not a huge fan of vanity units as so many are ugly. I often buy regular furniture and fit a sink on it, or I have the fitter build me something. But this wall mounted basin has been designed to perfectly conceals all the pipework. The two drawers below provide some storage and a shelf for towels but they also help give it a little more substance as I think the basin would look lost floating there on its own.

The short stud wall between the shower and the basin gives that feeling of privacy when you’re in the shower (though you’d hope not to have too many unexpected guests..). We also added it so that the shower screen wasn’t butting up to the basin making it hard to clean.

Ben the bathroom fitter suggested the little corner shelf for the hand wash to keep the basin top clear.

Tiling by Ben Butler Bathrooms and Kitchens

Bathroom fitted and tiled by Ben Butler Kitchens & Bathrooms

The unit above the back to wall toilet and bidet provides extra storage and somewhere to display some of the decorative items the customer has collected on her travels.

Contemporary towel radiator in contemporary shower room by Amelia Wilson

The bathroom complies with my ‘must have three sources of lighting rule’ and has recessed spotlights in the ceiling, the over mirror light and small spotlights in the wall cupboard, all on separate circuits of course.

Lighting in contemporary bathroom by Amelia Wilson

The plants you see were actually props for the photographs but I think my customer will be popping down to the garden centre this week after she saw how good they looked.

So what do you think, or do you want to wait for part two?

The Outdoor Kitchen Living Dining Space

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.

The outdoor kitchen before image of garden

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.

Outdoor kitchen and nordic style summerhouse designed by Amelia Wilson

The summerhouse at Holly Cottage – photograph by Jeremy Phillips for Real Homes magazine

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….

Outdoor kitchen and scandi style summerhouse designed by Amelia Wilson

The summerhouse at Holly Cottage – photography by Jeremy Phillips for Real Homes magazine

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.

Nordic scandinavian summerhouse and outdoor kitchen designed by Amelia Wilson

Photograph by Jeremy Phillips for Real Homes magazine

….and this is it now

Outdoor kitchen living dining space designed by Amelia WilsonI did spend ages looking at gorgeous outdoor tiles and synthetic decking, but my budget just wouldn’t go there so traditional decking it was.

The Design

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.

eMoodboard for outdoor 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.

Outdoor kitchen living dining space with pizza oven designed by Amelia Wilson

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.

Pizza oven in outdoor kitchen on stand made from rustic 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.

Sink in outdoor kitchen living dining space

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.

Reclaimed belfast sink in outdoor kitchen

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.

Storage and hanging space in outdoor kitchen

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…..

Utensil holders in outdoor kitchen

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.

Hanging herb pots from IKEA in outdoor kitchenJust 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.

Industrial style metal table in outdoor kitchen

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.

Dining area in rustic outdoor kitchen

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.

Industrial style outdoor mirror made by Refunk'd for Amelia Wilson

Lighting

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.

Large garden mirror designed by Amelia Wilson and made by Refunk'd

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.

Soft furnishings in outdoor kitchen 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……

Lounge are in outdoor kitchen living dining space

And this was the reason I bought Holly Cottage – the view.

View from deck in outdoor kitchen living dining spaceSo what do you think, did I miss anything?

 

10 Things You Might Not Expect From An Interior Designer

I was at a BBQ recently on what I now realise was the only sunny day of the year, i.e. summer. A former colleague was asking me how things were going since I’d left the glamorous world of insurance *raises eyebrows* to become an interior designer. As I described a few projects and some of the challenges I’d been dealing with he started to develop a very confused look. In fact he looked a bit like the delicious Mark Wahlberg does here.

10 things you might not expect from an interior designer

At this point I should probably mention that he’s American. Now his nationality isn’t key to this story, although my northern accent has got a tad stronger since I moved to Cumbria so there’s a good chance this might have been the case. No, he was confused because it seems that in America an interior designer typically focuses on furniture and soft furnishings after all the other stuff has happened, you know like walls coming down or going up, pipes getting moved, rewiring, plastering etc. The stuff that takes up most of the money and that annoyingly none of your visitors appreciate when they come round for dinner when the skip has finally gone and the place no longer resembles a war zone. Apparently in America interior designers just get to do all of the nice stuff.

“I know Mark, that makes me pretty cross too”

I make no apologies for the shameless use of Mark Wahlbergs image. What’s not to like…

10 things you might not expect from an interior designer

So after a short period wondering if I should relocate, and then knocking that idea on the head because (a) really not loving Trump, and (b) really loving Cumbria I started to wonder if my fellow Brits were also in the dark as to how much we can do. Does the average Joe or Jo really think we are just cushion scatterers? This horrifying thought compelled me to compile a list of “10 things you might not expect from an interior designer. So here goes.

Ten Things You Might Not Expect From An Interior Designer

1. Planning applications

If your house is listed or you want to add something big, high or unusual (I’m summarizing obviously) you are probably going to need planning permission. This means submitting scale plans and drawings which normally has people immediately googling ‘local architect’. But if what you are doing is straightforward then this might be something your interior designer could do and save you a bit of money. I recently completed a Listed Building Consent application for this Grade II* listed property that included site plans, elevations and a complete design and heritage statement. Not bad for a cushion scatterer eh? And yes it got approved.

The Crescent at Lowther Village near Penrith

The Crescent at Lowther Village near Penrith – work underway and expected to complete September 2017

2. Moving your meter

Sods law states that if you want a new ground floor wet room it’s likely to be where your electricity meter is. Or maybe I’m just unlucky as this has happened to me on more than one occasion. Gas and electricity meters can only be moved by the utility company, and you usually have to submit scale plans showing where the meter is now and where you’d like it to go. The utility company are used to dealing with third party applicants, and your interior designer will already have drawn plans showing you what your fancy new wet room is going to look like, so dealing with the utility company is no big shakes.

Interior Design Blog - large wet room designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

My wet room once an adjoining outbuilding and home to my electricity meter

3. Organising a structural engineer

Structural engineers must love the trend for open plan interiors and flowing indoor outdoor spaces ‘cos where there’s a supporting wall you might just need a structural engineer. Most interior designers will see stuff like this all the time so will likely know a good engineer, by which I mean one that knows their stuff, doesn’t charge an arm and a leg and knows the local planners so can advise on best approach to getting your plans approved. Hell we might even be able to jump the queue for you as the good ones will (or should) be busy.

Interior Design Blog - moodboards for open plan kitchen living dining space

A structural engineer was brought in to advise on this open plan kitchen, living, dining space I recently designed

4. Tech advice

When I’m designing kitchens and bathrooms my customers often want advice on appliances and fittings in terms of spec, quality and price. This is of course something they can research themselves, but often don’t have the time. And as interior designers we have experience from previous projects and insight from customers, suppliers and trades that we can share. Online reviews are great but you can’t beat feedback from people you know. We don’t just advise on the pretty stuff ya’ know.

Interior Design Blog

One of the kitchens I designed for Cockermouth Kitchens new showroom – a supplier I regularly go to for appliance advice

5. Waiting in for deliveries

As an interior designer I spend a lot of time looking for unique items and bargains for my customers, and when I find ‘em I buy ‘em quick before they’re gone. I work from home so it’s easy to have customer goods delivered to me and I just store them until we’re ready for them. Not so easy for things like sofas and appliances but if the customer can’t be home for the delivery then I just take my Macbook and work from theirs until it arrives. All part of the service people.

Interior Design Blog

Thankfully no shots of me accepting deliveries from DPD so you’ll have to make do with this random image…

6. Cleaning your house

Bet you weren’t expecting this one were you? One of the things I can organise for customers is a big clean after the messy work has finished. Claire and her team are so good that this has led to a permanent arrangement for some customers. I know not everyone can afford a cleaner but once you’ve had Claire & Co clean your house you realise how poor your own attempts at cleaning were. And there’s nothing better than someone else magically making all that plaster dust disappear.

Interior Design Blog

A recent TV room project – Claire & Co came in to clean up after the builders had left and are now regular visitors

7. Stocking your cupboards

Now I’m not saying we’ll do your regular Friday big shop, but if you want to do a complete out with the old and in with the new then we can help with more than just the decorative stuff. I’m currently working on a 3 bed holiday let and second home and I’ve bought the crockery for the kitchen, the handwash for the bathrooms, the bulbs for all the lights and the logs for the fire. Literally everything including the kitchen sink.

Interior Design Blog

A recent budget bathroom project where I supplied everything from the bathmat to the bath foam

8. Restoring furniture

Before I became an interior designer I took a number of upholstery and furniture restoration courses, and I love finding old pieces with character and giving them a bit of TLC. This is also something I’ve done for customers and I know other designers who don’t mind getting their hands dirty in pursuit of your dream home.

Interior Design Blog

I bought this chair for £3 from a charity shop and reupholstered it myself

9. Selling your old furniture

I hate to see things go to the tip. Where I can I work with customers to rehome their old kitchens, bathrooms and furniture. This can mean sticking stuff on eBay for them, or taking it to the local auctioneers or charity shop. I’ve even sold their unwanted items to other customers. This customer may have a beautiful new bath but my next door neighbour bought and painted her old one so she has a spanking new bathroom too.

Interior Design Blog

Bathroom I designed in 2016 which was featured in Real Homes magazine. Photograph by Jeremy Phillips

10.Counselling and mediation

This is obviously a little tongue in cheek but a good interior designer also needs a good dose of emotional intelligence. Even good change can be very stressful for people, particularly when it involves spending what will feel like large sums of money. Just because a customer has a small budget doesn’t mean it isn’t a lot of money for them. This means being sensitive to this, managing their expectations and not rushing them into decisions. Similarly couples don’t always agree on plans and a little practical mediation can help them reach agreement. Remember the red versus green dining room?

Interior Design Blog

Moodboard for the red dining room project. The final decision on colour was based on how well the Christmas tree would stand out…..

So out of 10 how did you score? Many surprises?

The Inappropriately Named Snug & The Big TV Challenge

Never before has a room been so inappropriately named as this snug which my customers use as a TV room. At over 25 square metres it’s bigger than somewhere a London estate agent once tried to flog me as a one bedroom flat.

It’s the second room I’ve decorated for my customers. Our first project was their Ginormous Living Room – click the link if you want to pop back and take a look. It was a major transformation and they loved the final result which set high expectations for round two. I needed to come up with something at least as fabulous, preferably better and I think I rose to the challenge but I’ll let you be the judge. Ready for some before pics?

The Snug – Before

Their TV room was originally the garage but the previous owners who built the house later decided they needed an extra living space and converted it. God knows what they were using the ginormous living room for. Tennis court? Ballroom? Seriously pop back and take a look it’s big enough.

TV room - before image of the snug designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

And if you did take a look you’ll know that the previous owners were also fans of a fake beam or two. They managed to squeeze three more in here, along with a staircase that we think came out of a church. It also had a strange laminate floor and carpet combo going on.

TV room - before image of the snug designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

Those stairs lead up to the loft space where there is another fabulous fake beam and some badly designed storage. Lets not discuss the carpet, wallpaper and curtains – all the previous owners doing.

TV room - before image of the snug designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

The previous owners also liked to cut corners and didn’t bother moving the electricity meter, they just hid it behind an oddly shaped cupboard….. and a darts board.

TV room - before image of the snug designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

The Big TV Challenge

When I design living rooms I usually try to hide the TV, or at least make it blend into the background. But if you have a room that’s main purpose is for watching TV in you’re allowed to give it a little more stage presence. However, a lot of TV stands are ugly, even the expensive ones, and they don’t always hide all the wires. The other issue is size. You need to fill the wall that the TV sits against with ‘stuff’ so it doesn’t look lost. Here’s some approaches I’ve taken.

1. Incorporate the TV into a wall of storage and/or artwork

TV room media room solutions for TV storage in a living room

Image from AVSO.ORG

Storage doesn’t need to be purpose built like this as I know that can be expensive, a TV stand or cupboard with some well placed floating shelves and/or artwork will do the trick.TV room media room solutions for TV storage in a living room

Image via Pinterest

2. Make the wall behind the TV the feature

I recently tiled a wall like the image below and used concealed lighting to pick out the contours. I’ll show you some pics of my own project just as soon as their new TV stand arrives. The current one is not pretty enough for pics…..

TV room media room solutions for TV storage in a living room

Image via Pinterest

3. Use a false wall

The false wall can either be a feature in itself like the image below where the TV and media equipment are mounted on cladding.TV room media room solutions for TV storage in a living room

Image via Pinterest

Or the false wall can look like a chimney breast or run the length of the room with the TV and media equipment buried in it. This approach works well when you want a more minimalistic look so that the emphasis is on other elements in the room. I love the image below but I’m not convinced you should have a TV above a fire.

TV room media room solutions for TV storage in a living room

Image via Pinterest

The Plan

So back to the snug.


Moodboard for plush modern country TV room with blue velvet sofa, grey and white decor and grey plaid wallpaper and chrome accessories

I wanted to carry some of that modern country look through from the living room for continuity but add a touch more luxury. This translated to a scheme that includes a plush velvet sofa and grey plaid wallpaper (I can’t call it tartan without thinking of the Krankies).

So are you ready?

The Snug – Final Reveal

Grey TV room with blue velvet sofa media wall and plaid wallpaper

Plush modern country style TV room with blue velvet sofa tartan wallpaper grey walls

When my customer told me she quite fancied a velvet sofa my heart practically skipped a beat. Many of my customers have dogs and/or small children so velvet (especially deep buttoned) is a big no no. And although my customers have both a dog and a small child they also have the aforementioned ginormous living room, which they can use when everyone isn’t as clean as they should be. So we could make this room a bit more grown up and sophisticated. Bring it on!

Media wall in grey TV room with wall mounted concealed TV and concealed lighting

The focal point is obviously the new media wall. The gas fire has gone and a new stud wall has been built to resemble a chimney breast so that we could wallpaper the alcoves either side. This gives the whole wall interest so it’s not just about the TV. The shelves below the TV are big enough to accommodate the current media equipment and any future equipment the customers might want, and there is concealed lighting along the top to give just the right amount of light for late night movie watching.Grey tartan wallpaper in TV room with white tray table and white framed artwork

The wallpaper adds a posh country hotel vibe doesn’t it, and it was only £10 a roll……

The side table tops come off and can be used as trays so you have somewhere for your wine and popcorn when you’re watching a movie.

Chrome tripod floor lamp with grey shade grey plaid wallpaper in TV room

My customers are a VERY photogenic family and had loads of lovely pics I could use as artwork. The black and white prints and simple white frames look lovely against the wallpaper, and we hung the pictures high to make the walls seem longer.

The chrome tripod floor lamp is part of a set which includes a matching table lamp. They were another billy bargain at £50 for the pair from B&Q. 

The large admiral blue deep buttoned velvet sofa and matching ottoman with storage is from Next. There was room for two sofas or a sofa and armchair combo but frankly the homeowners sit in here to watch TV so one large sofa means everyone is facing in the right direction.

You remember the rule about area rugs right? Buy the biggest you can afford, preferably one that is wider than the sofa so it doesn’t look lost. This plush deep pile one is from IKEA, because it’s multiple shades of blue it contrasts with the carpet but doesn’t clash with the sofa. Perfect.

Grey tartan wallpaper grey walls and white woodwork in modern country style TV media room

We papered the wall behind the sofa so that side of the room didn’t look bare. The dark wood doors were replaced with white 6 panel ones to match the rest of the house and all the woodwork was painted white, including the new under-stairs storage (with push to open fittings so it doesn’t look like cupboards), and the new cupboard that houses the electricity meter.

White painted staircase with square newel post in grey and white TV room with grey carpet

Replacing the staircase wasn’t an option, or necessary to be honest so we just replaced the newel post with a more contemporary square one, and the new grey carpet carries up the stairs into the space which will become an office, right now it’s just a nicely decorated box with lots more new storage space – see.

New office space with additional storage in loft space above TV room with grey and white decor

Most of the budget had to go on things you probably can’t appreciate like getting all the radiator pipes chased in, sorting out the lighting and plug sockets and boarding and plastering the ceiling. But there was enough for a simple console table behind the sofa and a few more framed family photos.

Grey tartan wallpaper white console table white gallery wall in TV room

I toyed with the idea of floor to ceiling curtains to make the ceiling seem higher but because of the position of the radiators roman blinds made more sense (curtains would block heat from the room in winter), and to be honest blinds look more contemporary. They are a pale grey felt like material and couple of shades darker than the walls. They just add a little more texture to the room without competing with the sofa.
Pale grey felt roman blinds in grey and white TV room designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

A couple more pineapple accessories and we’re done. What do you think?Chrome pineapple candlesticks from Next in grey and white modern country style TV living room designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

 

 

The Mill at Ulverston

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.

The Swan Inn Cockermouth Kirkgate Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd Joe Fagan

The Swan Inn, Cockermouth

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 at Ulverston Gastropub Cumbria Steven Doherty Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

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….

The Mill at Ulverston, Gastropub, interior design by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

The main bar before the refurbishment

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?

Mood board for the main bar in The Mill at Ulverston gastropub in Cumbria

Mood board for the main bar

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.

The Mill at Ulverston gastropub Cumbria

The Restaurant at The Mill before the refurbishment

But not anymore.

Restaurant at The Mill at Ulverston gastropub Cumbria interior design by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

The Restaurant at The Mill at Ulverston – the new tan leather chairs and wool roman blinds instantly add colour and warmth

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.

8-light metal orb chandeliers from Wayfair

8-light metal orb chandeliers from Wayfair

The Mill at Ulverston - rope and black metal candle wall lights from Homary

Rope and black metal candle wall lights from Homary

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.

Restaurant at The Mill at Ulverston gastropub Cumbria interior design by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

The restaurant at The Mill at Ulverston

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;

  1. Have wallpaper made up of an old local ordnance survey map
  2. 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.

Restaurant at The Mill at Ulverston gastropub in Cumbria interior design by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

Ordnance survey map wallpaper

Restaurant at The Mill at Ulverston gastropub in Cumbria interior design by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

The metal and rope wall lights look great against the old map wallpaper

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.

Industrial mirrors and lighting in the restaurant at The Mill at Ulverston gastropub in Cumbria interior design by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

Industrial mirror from Maisons du Monde ‘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….)

The Bistro at The Mill in Ulverston before the refurbishment by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

The Bistro at The Mill before the refurbishment

Looks a little more inviting now me thinks.

The Bistro at The Mill at Ulverston gastropub in Cumbria interior design by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

The newly refurbished Bistro at The Mill

These new wall lights made a big difference, much brighter, and we added a couple more in the darker spots.

New industrial lighting at the mill in Ulverston

Industrial style antique bronze and clear globe wall lights from eBay

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.

Feature walls at The Mill at Ulverston gastropub in Cumbria interior design by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

New feature 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.

Feature walls at The Mill at Ulverston gastropub in Cumbria interior design by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

Butchers pall roll for daily specials

Feature wall clock in The Mill at Ulverston gastropub in Cumbria interior design by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

The new wall clock – though I think it’s only a matter of time before some joker decides to set the alarm….

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 Mill at Ulverston wood burning stove gastro pub in Cumbria

The vintage road sign above the fireplace was from Etsy

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.

The Mill at Ulverston

Corridor linking the ground floor rooms at The Mill

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.

Timeline of historic events at The Mill in Ulverston

Timeline of historic events in Ulverston

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.

The Mill at Ulverston - Antique bronze Brinley wall lights by Elstead and supplied by Limelighting in Cockermouth

Antique bronze Brinley wall lights by Elstead and supplied by Limelighting in Cockermouth

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.

The Mill at Ulverston gastropub Cumbria

The fireside in the Cask Bar before the refurbishment

…and now look at it.

The Mill at Ulverston gastropub Cumbria

The fireside in the Cask Bar after the refurbishment

The whole bar is just so much more inviting.

The Mill at Ulverston gastropub Cumbria

The Cask Bar after the refurbishment

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.

Candle lanterns on the window ledge and faux pillar candles for tealights supplied by Griege

The area of the bar I’m particularly pleased with is the snug behind the stove, which used to be very bare.

The Mill at Ulverston gastropub Cumbria

The snug before the refurbishment

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.

The Mill at Ulverston gastropub Cumbria

The snug after the refurbishment

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.

The Mill at Ulverston gastropub Cumbria wall stickers by Wallboss

One of the quotes from famous Ulverstonians to be found on the walls at The Mill