Numbers schmumbers

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

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

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

Kiko frames by Nkuku - www.notonthehighstreet.com
Kiko frames by Nkuku

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

Grey cow hide lampshade by Begolden
Grey cow hide lampshade by Begolden

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

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

Nordic style sunburst clock
Nordic style sunburst clock

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

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.

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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!

 

Getting close to the Finnish line

In my old life I travelled a lot. Thanks to Daddy Warbucks (aka Mr W) I still manage my fair share of holidays. OK I probably take more holidays than the average person. OK I’m only just trumped by Judith Chalmers, but I’ve earned it! In my last job I was travelling almost every week. And as every business traveller knows, its rarely glamorous and often tiring. But I enjoyed it, and a lot of my interior design ideas are influenced by the places I’ve visited and the hotels and I’ve stayed in. Subtly of course, I’m not talking Greek taverna style kitchen after a week in Crete.

I recently suggested to a customer that we cover some of her IKEA wardrobe doors in white PVC to re-create the glamorous effect I saw in a hotel in Lisbon. For those of you looking aghast she liked the idea and if we go ahead I’ll share the photos to prove it will work! The idea for my downstairs wet room actually came from outdoor showers I’d seen in Africa and the Maldives. Now I appreciate that nobody wants to take a shower outside in Cumbria, even in summer, but the high ceiling, light stone effect wall and floor tiles and huge skylight were supposed to create the same feeling of being outdoors. Well I think I achieved it, even if it did take underfloor heating and the worlds largest cast iron radiator to match the temperature…

Large wet room with stone effect wall and floor tiles and huge skylight
Wet room influenced by outdoor showers

The Nordic countries were among my favourite places to visit. (Scandinavia plus Finland and Iceland for those of you not familiar with this part of the world). I haven’t made it to Iceland yet but Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen are great cities for people, culture and food (surprisingly its not all pickled herring), and 2am karaoke in Helsinki with a group of Finns is not to me missed. They may seem a little gruff but Finnish hospitality is fabulous and the Finns love of alcohol and heavy metal is only surpassed by their love of saunas (Google world sauna championships for more on this). It is these countries and specifically their summer houses which they retreat to in July and August which have influenced my own summer house and the new decor I am working on.

The old interior was thrown together mainly with stuff I already had as Holly Cottage was still a second home then. The new interior will be modern rustic with a Nordic feel. The colour scheme will mix greys and white with natural linen and dashes of bright blue. I’m painting the whole interior my new favourite grey – ‘bottlefly wings’ by Valspar. Admittedly the name is my favourite thing about this colour, but it is a lovely almost white grey with a tinge of blue to it. I’m hoping it will look as light and airy as this one I found on Pinterest.

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If you’ve ever been to an exercise class (I prefer self torture these days) you will be familiar with the warm up where the instructor gets you to stick your arms out to the sides, palms facing out and make circles backwards and forwards. Do that for 2 hours and that’s how my arms feel today after transforming our new bar from natural pine to this…..

Weathered effect wood on bar
Our new weathered wood bar

It’s a great match for the weathered wood effect tiles we’ve had laid. I toyed with the idea of stripping and treating the floorboards again but decided tiles were more practical in a county that gets more than 4m of rainfall a year.

We’re adding new pendant lights above the bar to make more of a feature of it. I found these great enamel pendants online from Nook London. They also supply the full kit with a choice of metal finishes and cables.

Small enamel pendant light in midnight blue from Nook London
Small enamel pendant light in midnight blue from Nook London

I can’t justify replacing the furniture so we’re getting new sofa covers made up as soon as I’ve found a fabric suitable for upholstery that resembles heavy natural linen. The armchairs aren’t perfect but with the right cushions and throws they’ll blend in. I picked this beauty up in John Lewis on my last jaunt to London.

Striped linen throw, currently £49.50 on sale at John Lewis
Striped linen throw, currently £49.50 on sale at John Lewis

When I was treating the bar I gave the scaffolding plank table (last years upcycle) a lick of dark wax so it now matches the bar too.

Scaffolding plank coffee table and cow hide rug
Scaffolding plank coffee table – last years upcycle with a new coat of dark wax

The huge cow hide rug I bought at Grand Designs in May, the reindeer throws and the wall antlers are all staying to give it that Nordic look and I’ll finish it off with some rustic accessories like these jugs and willow log baskets.

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The UFO? I already have it but you’ll just have to wait. Our annual summer BBQ is at the end of August so it has to be Finnished (see what I did there..) by then. Pics to follow soon!

PS chicken count is still 5…….

Interior Design UFOs

Ever since I started working as an interior designer people have been asking me “what’s your style?”  I dread this question, particularly if it comes from a potential customer or a journalist as the reality is I don’t have one and I worry this makes me sound flaky. Maybe one day when I’m an internationally famous and fabulously rich designer (cue giggling and pig snort) I will develop a trademark style that is instantly recognizable and much sought after. But right now I genuinely like working with and can appreciate all styles of décor if they work. In fact I find that if I’ve been doing a lot of one style I start missing others. Right now I’m itching to rock a bit of 70’s retro but I might need to look outside Cumbria for that..

Having said all that I have noticed a trait starting to appear in my work, the interior design UFO. The unexpected final object. I can’t resist finishing off a room with a little surprise. It’s usually something personal to the room owner and/or a bit quirky, without being out of place or tacky. The feeling I get when customers spot it and chuckle is deeply satisfying as I’ve made them laugh. For them the design instantly becomes unique and they will get the same enjoyment I get when their visitors spot the UFO and chuckle.

Here’s some couple of my recent UFO’s

‘Ear protection must be worn’ sign in the bedroom of a young drum player, sourced from a company that supplies construction companies.

‘Ear protection must be worn’ sign in a young boys bedroom – he likes to play the drums. Signs like this are not expensive and easily available from companies that supply factories and construction companies.

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Pub wall sign in traditional Cumbrian dialect. Joe Fagan is the pub landlord and a true Cumbrian. The sign means no spitting, no shouting, no fighting.

Tap towel hooks in add a bit of fun to a very classical bathroom. The customer loved them so much we put them in all 3 of her bathrooms.

The customer loved these tap towel hooks so much we put them in all 3 of her bathrooms!

Personalised selfie coasters ordered from Snapfish using photos downloaded from the customers Facebook page

Personalised selfie coasters ordered from Snapfish using photos downloaded from the customers Facebook page

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Custom made time zone clocks in my own kitchen. Mr W is often in New York or Europe so it helps me figure out if I can call him without waking him up!

So maybe the UFO will become my trademark, and photographs of my work will become the interior design version of where’s Wally, who knows. Or maybe I’ll just continue to sound flaky until I’m rich and famous, and possibly beyond…..

Another quick chicken count before I sign off. Unfortuntely we are now down to 5. Victoria Peckham recovered from her run in with Finlay the spaniel but Beate is MIA presumed dead. It’s made the remaining ladies very nervous and they now roam around my garden and the neighbouring fields together watching each others backs. It won’t be for long though. Harold is making me a new chicken coop so next week I’m off chicken shopping to fill it and restore egg production at Holly Cottage. I’m thinking about silkies – look how cute they are – pom pom chickens!

Silkie breed of chickens

 

 

 

 

 

 

Triathlons, chicken proofing and a virtual world of interiors

Cumbrians are hardy people, fond of extreme outdoor activity. The county is known as the adventure capital of the UK with a full calendar of swimming, cycling and running events, often combining all three, and almost all involving steep hills. If you don’t get involved then you’re not really Cumbrian. So today was my initiation ceremony and my first ever triathlon. Its clearly the secret to a long life as a rather large percentage of the competitors were pensioners. I was mortified when one geriatric overtook me on the run…. but I finished in an acceptable time and now feel officially Cumbrian.

Amelia Wilson after completing the Cockermouth Triathlon 2015

I have also been making the most of the sunshine (Cumbria was warmer than the Algarve and Ibiza this week I’ll have you know), and doing a spot of gardening, or more specifically chicken proofing it. If you’re not familiar with the term then this involves placing stones on every bare patch of soil to prevent them having soil baths and digging up all your plants in the process. It also means planting a 4 inch high trim along the edges of borders to stop them kicking all your bark chippings and soil into the path when they’re digging for grubs. I even had to cover one raised bed entirely with netting as this was their last stop before Cluckingham Palace at night, and had become their equivalent of your local kebab shop. It looked like a plague of locust had visited it. Although I may not need to bother if the dramas continue. Agata met her end 2 weeks ago after an encounter with the farmers dog, and next doors spaniel tried to fetch Beate for his owner earlier in the week. It’s made them all a little jumpy as you can imagine.

Anyway, when I haven’t been achieving a wondrous work life balance I have actually been doing some interiors work, and while researching for a couple of commercial projects have become fascinated by fakes. Historically our interiors choices have been significantly more limited. It used to be the case that if you wanted a wood floor you had to buy wood floor and hope it didn’t get damaged by damp or children. If you wanted bare brick you had to chip the plaster off your walls. Gas fires looked like gas fires. TV’s looked like TV’s and bookshelves were made of… well, actual books. But the world of interiors has now become a world of clever special effects thanks to technology and innovation and I love it.

I recently discovered a Swedish company called Happywall which offers a wide range of wall murals including a collection of extremely realistic and highly touchable backgrounds. They can be made to whatever size you need, which adds to the reality. I love this one below with the chipped red paint. Perhaps this isn’t the greatest advert but it sort of reminds me of the deserted cabin in the woods in a serial killer movie…..

Chipped red paint on wood mural from Happywall

They also have some great metal finishes like these rusted corrugated and sheet steel  murals. I might even like these more than the Brooklyn Tins wallpaper by Merci….

Rusted corrugated steel effect wall mural from Happywall   Rusted sheet steel effect wall mural from Happywall

If you have a dining room, wine cellar or bar that needs a bit of decoration how about their wine bottle mural?

Wine bottle wall mural from Happywall

And what about this grungy mustard coloured mural. In a smart room it would look like crushed velvet, but in an industrial setting or dark bar it would make the walls look aged and damp.

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This one isn’t really a fake as you’d never find a tree big enough to create a wall out of the stump, or want to for that matter, but this made me go “oooh” when I saw it.

Tree rings effect wall mural from Happywall

But this is my favourite. The mural is as clear as the photographic image which was clearly used to create it, and look how it appears on a living room wall. It’s as if you’re sat in a derelict building. Not everyones idea of style, but imagine if you lived in a cool loft apartment with steel beams and a concrete floor….

Grungy wall effect wall mural from Happywall

Grungy wall effect wall mural from Happywall

All of this got me wondering where this will lead. Will we eventually live in a world of interiors virtual reality, where all our walls and floors are white and we project images on to them to match the latest trends, our mood, the time of day or the seasons? You could have that loft apartment with the concrete floor and exposed brick walls, then when you’re fed up with it download a new scheme. Wake up to a grassy meadow in the sunshine, go to sleep to the sun setting over the desert. It might mean our furniture needs to be cheaper and more disposable (in an environmentally friendly way), or maybe renting your furniture becomes the trend. Whatever happens it can only mean more choice which is a good thing. Bring on the fakes I say.

Is yellow the new mustard?

I’ve been a mustard fan for some time now. Not the English or whole grain varieties, but the kind that has been creeping into interiors for the past year or so. It was inevitable really what with all the beautiful grey paints and soft furnishings available, it’s a natural pairing. Like the grey it’s sophisticated and elegant, but it brightens up a scheme without being gaudy. However, it might be the sunshine going to my head but I’m beginning to think we can go a bit brighter……

It started when my friend Annie arrived yesterday for a short break. Annie is a bold decorator who loves a bit of glitz and glamour. Her master bathroom features a black bath with a sparkly floor and a glittery disco ball, her favourite colour is red, and she’s not shy when it comes to animal prints, in her wardrobe or home. So I wasn’t at all surprised when she told me she was on the look out for and struggling to find a canary yellow metal garden table to go with the red metal chairs she’d recently acquired. I love an interiors challenge, so while she flicked through a stack of my house porn I started surfing, and the more yellow I saw the more I liked it. By the time dinner was ready I’d already decided the replacement covers for the sofa in my summer house were going to be yellow. Here are just a few reasons why I think yellow might just be the new mustard.

Yellow chest of drawers in vintage bedroom

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It’s a good warm, sunny colour for a young girls bedroom, but not as a wall colour, just a piece of furniture with hints in the soft furnishings like here.

Yellow fireplace in a grey living room

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I can honestly say I would never have thought of painting a fireplace yellow but look how well this works against the pale grey walls.

Yellow sofa in living room

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I’m even considering it for the sofa in my summer house after seeing this but I think it needs to be surrounded by bold prints as shown in this room to avoid looking too twee.

Yellow four poster bed frame

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I recently used mustard as an accent colour in a pale green room with botanical elements, but a brighter yellow would have worked just as well and I love this four poster bed frame.

Yellow kitchen units in grey kitchen

 

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I’m still not sure about yellow kitchen units though……it does remind me of the toy kitchens made for little girls.

Yellow front door

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But I do love it as a front door colour, very cheery and welcoming. This one looks great with the white walls and rosy pink rugs.

So are you sold or do you think it will be a summer fad replaced by mustard again in October? I’ll leave you to ponder while I go and hunt for yellow fabric for my sofa….but before I go, great news Agata has returned! AWOL for 36hrs then strolls nonchalantly up the drive as if she’s never been away. Where she was is a mystery but she still has that jaunty look about her which suggests she was having fun…..the dirty stop out.

 

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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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Funky pop art decorated toilet Hanging basket chair

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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….

The definition of house porn

The term house porn has been in my vocabulary for years and one I use frequently but it only struck me this week that I might need to explain myself in case I’m branded a pervert. Surprisingly Wikipedia my favourite online encyclopaedia describes food porn but not house porn, which presents me with a golden opportunity to define it myself, I’ve even created my own Wikipedia account in order to start the process! In the meantime this is my draft, which admittedly plagiarises heavily Wikipedias definition of food porn…..

House porn – a glamourised spectacular visual presentation of homes, interiors or home furnishings in advertisements, print and digital media, blogs, television shows, events or other visual media intended to arouse a desire to own the objects displayed or re-create the effects shown.

What do you think, do I have the makings of a Wikipedia article?

In the meantime here’s some house porn from Grand Designs Live this weekend!

Pendant cocoon lights from Mac Master Design

Stunning cocoon pendant lights from Mac Master Design

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Wide plank wood flooring from Siberian FloorsWide plank wood flooring from Siberian FloorsWide plank wood flooring from Siberian FloorsScreen Shot 2015-05-10 at 22.48.23Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 22.48.39

Gorgeous wide plank wooden flooring from Siberian Flooring

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Stylish kitchen from Prentice Furniture

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Walls, crawl and all that jazz – my hunt for the perfect wallpaper

Before I became an interior designer I worked for the same company for 20 years but in multiple roles. Every 2 years or so I would change jobs, and would joke that it was so they would never find out I was rubbish. But the reality was every 2 years they would offer me new challenges and I would accept them. When Human Resources or Management would ask me want I wanted to do next I always gave the same answer; anything, as long as it not internally focused, too narrow a role, or business as usual. Fortunately for me the company was big enough (and challenged enough) that they never struggled to meet these criteria. In the end though it became a case of different job same challenges and my motivation had gone so it was time for a complete change and the opportunity to follow my true passion, interior design. This need for customer interaction, diversity and a challenge is probably why I love being an interior designer. Even a small bathroom needs wallpaper or paint, flooring, lighting, furniture, heating and plumbing, which are all specialisms in their own right, but an interior designer has to be knowledgable about them all. And when a customer says she wants flooring that looks like the one she saw in Frankie & Benny’s you have to accept the challenge…. I kid you not this actually happened to me, and I found her the exact match. She recently told me she wanted kitchen stools like ones she’d seen in Nando’s. I told her husband he needed to start taking her to classier places….

So the last 7 days has been all about wallpaper, specifically the perfect, simple, but contemporary, and a little bit glamorous wallpaper for a clients bedroom. I think we have the winner but the search has uncovered some beauties I wanted to share with you, and in the process I uncovered the source of the fabulous paper that I saw in Artisan (the recent hen night venue).

1. Brooklyn tins by Merci – first up is the paper I spotted in Artisan. Designed to look like vintage painted tiles, you have to touch it to believe its not real. It looks amazing on walls and ceilings and comes in 8 different designs. Usually £219 per roll, (although Hut.com have it for £139.99), which means most of us could afford to do at least 1 wall or ceiling……

Brooklyn tins wallpaper by Merci Brooklyn tins wallpaper by Merci Brooklyn tins wallpaper by Merci

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2. Vienna by Zoffany – when I got my hands on a sample of this in silver it looked like leather, and when I showed it to a client she thought it was like coral shells. It looks and feels gorgeous, most striking in the darker shades. 10 different colour ways, and £85 a roll so it won’t break the bank if you limit it to a feature wall.

Vienna wallpaper by Zoffany Vienna wallpaper by Zoffany Vienna wallpaper by Zoffany Vienna wallpaper by Zoffany

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3. Komodo, Cobra by Osborne & Little – this is so sexy it practically slithers off the walls and into bed with you. Comes in 5 colour ways, and at £56 per roll you could afford to do a few walls. Check out their other animal prints too, I also love Panthera and Boa

Komodo, Cobra wallpaper by Osborne & Little Komodo, Cobra wallpaper by Osborne & Little Komodo, Cobra wallpaper by Osborne & Little

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4. In the picture, Issue in Parchment – my customer has a white leather headboard on her bed which is what drew me to this wallpaper as it reminded me of the leather cushioning. It seems no one is brave enough to try it on their walls yet though as I couldn’t find any pics of it hung. Only £40 though so worth a gamble

In the picture, Issue wallpaper in Parchment

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5. Anaglypta Wallpapers, Herringbone – mention anaglypta and I automatically think about those awful 70’s patterned wallpapers and then I saw this. I admit I’m a little obsessed with herringbone pattern in any form but painted up this is divine and only £21 per roll. Perfect for halls and stairs I think

Anaglypta Wallpapers, Herringbone Anaglypta Wallpapers, Herringbone

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6. Tree Bark by Clarke & Clarke – another wallpaper that people view differently, I see silver birch and my customer thought it was distressed concrete. We both loved it though, but I agree with her its perhaps a little industrial looking for a bedroom. Around £40 per roll.

Tree Bark wallpaper in Birch by Clarke & Clarke Tree Bark wallpaper in Birch by Clarke & Clarke

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7. Mey Fern by Nina Campbell – and I think this might be the winner. It comes in 4 colour ways and is £56 per roll. I matched it with a paint called Oyster Shoal by Valspar and some very touchable crushed velvet by Clarke & Clarke. I also found some bedside wall lights that had up and down lighters to highlight the sweep of the ferns. With her white gloss bedroom furniture I think it will create the right amount of glamour – what do you think?

Mey Fern wallpaper by Nina Campbell Mey Fern wallpaper by Nina Campbell

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So in between wallpaper hunting and working on other client projects I have been feeling very young. Firstly, because I decided to enter my first ever triathlon. Long story short, work and illness has led to a decline in my exercise regime, which coupled with carb loading with Mr W after his diabetes diagnosis has caused me to gain more weight than I lost last year. The triathlon entry is to ensure I do not fall off the diet and exercise wagon. However, I have never been able to swim front crawl so I have also signed up for swimming lessons. Flailing around in cold water while being barked at by the rather formidable Elaine made me feel like I was 8 years old again. All that was missing was a brick at the bottom of the pool, a pair of pyjamas and veruca socks. Hats off to her though, within 30 minutes she had me doing a passable crawl which neither of us thought was possible at the start.

The second time I felt very young was on Monday night at the Theatre By The Lake in Keswick. It’s the jazz festival this week and we went to see Ray Gelato & The Giants. The last time I saw them play it was the late show at Ronnie Scotts and involved cocktails, dinner and plenty of wine. This time I had a coffee in the interval and was in bed by 10.30pm. Normally that would make me fell old but the average age of the audience was probably 72 so I still felt pretty sprightly.

Anyway, time to get my young self off to the swimming pool for lesson 3, only 5 weeks until the triathlon and I’m a long way off 20 continuous lengths…..

 

Partying, porn and Jessica Zoob

Not much interior designing this week but I’m still exhausted. It started with a hen night, which transitioned into a few days at Holly Cottage with the bride to be and the girls, and ended with a wedding. I’ve realised I’m now too old for that much partying. Normally Mr W has to spend his weekends coping with my ADD. This weekend he was starting to wonder whether I had narcolepsy. Too tired to cook, I even ate salad, which to me is the equivalent of offering a vegan a fry up. It was a fun week though and it did provide plenty of interior design porn.

First stop Artisan in Manchester, the venue for the hen night. Somewhere between a very cool loft apartment and a warehouse, it managed to be uber cool without being pretentious. The vintage plaster effect wallpaper on the ladies bathroom ceiling really caught my eye.

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I also loved the herb planters outside the kitchen, the metal framed doors, windows and mirrors, and the slightly bonkers wall art (PS thats my beautiful sister below centre)

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Add some funky industrial lighting, and a couple of Mona Lisa’s and you have one very stylish bar and restaurant, and the food was pretty good too.

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My next interior design fix came the day after when we stopped at The Plough in Lupton for some much needed carbohydrate and fluids. The minute we stepped into the dining room I fell in love with the wallpaper. At first it reminded me of the deserted houses you see in 80’s American horror movies when the plaster is crumbling and the paper has peeled off, then you look closer and its like looking into a lake on a Monet painting, all blues, pinks and greens. A little research and its from a new range of wallpapers and fabrics designed by the contemporary impressionist artist Jessica Zoob. It is stunning, but at £495 for a 2 roll pack (gulp) it could be some time before I get to hang it anywhere.

I’d assumed the decor was the work of a professional interior designer, but turns out it was just a friend of the owner called Amanda Delaney. Hats off to her for an amazing job. I loved everything from the copper coloured radiators to the rugs on the chairs by the stove.

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If you ever find yourself somewhere between Yorkshire and Cumbria you have to visit The Plough. They served up possibly the best Sunday Roast I have ever tasted, and when I expressed an interest in their decor a very nice young lady showed us around all 6 of their bedrooms which were as beautifully decorated as the dining room and bar area.

Top tip – if you want to treat your loved one to a romantic night away book the Torsin room – absolutely stunning.

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Last stop was the aptly named Nutters Restaurant in Rochdale (if you’ve met the bride you’ll understand why so apt….), the venue for the wedding. This fed my love of architecture and restoration. Built in 1850 as a private gothic-style manor house, it has since been a hospital, a night club and a Brewsters steak house. It was bought in 2003 by Rodney Nutter, father of celebrity chef Andrew Nutter, and is now a restaurant and wedding venue. It’s the grounds and exterior that make this place a great venue for weddings. It was another great dining experience too, and the straw that broke the camels back. I am now on a diet…..

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So normal service resumes this week – work, study, exercise. But a huge thank you to the  bride and the ladies that made last week so much fun. I’m still giggling at the facelift selfies….

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And finally, congratulations to Matt and Karen the bride and groom. It was a fantastic wedding.

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