Totally wired

 

I’ve found a new love that has replaced my love of willow. I’m talking baskets now. Having 4 log burners at Holly Cottage requires a lot of logs and a lot of baskets, which is where the willow obsession started. I have big willow baskets for logs, small ones for kindling, shallow ones for towels in the guest bedrooms, round ones for toilet rolls in the bathrooms, a tiny one filled with fir cones under the coffee table. It’s got a little out of hand to be honest. But there’s something about the lovely grey colour that says I might be rustic but I’m a bit cooler than wicker or rattan, I belong next to sheepskin and reindeer skins and old leather, I can sit on limestone flags or a wooden floor. I could be in a swish Swedish summerhouse or a New York loft I’m that cool. Sorry, I’m getting a little carried away. Baskets don’t talk. Classic basket case.

Anyway, my new love is wire and it’s even more versatile than willow. It’s been a bedroom storage staple for some time but it’s now out of the closest and working the room elsewhere.

It works in the bathroom

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Pinterest

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Pinterest

It works in the kitchen

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Pinterest

It works in the hall or utility room

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Pinterest

It works in your home office

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Birdie wall mounted desk from Loaf

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Neatfreak memo board and organiser from Loaf

Its upped its game in accessories

Juxtapose teal geometric wire bowl from House of Fraser

Juxtapose teal wire bowl from House of Fraser

Gold metal wire basket from H&M

Gold metal wire basket from H&M

It doesn’t limit itself to storage. It’s become way more visible in lighting (literally) ever since the industrial trend was born, and now It’s worked its way into the furniture market too. I think that actor chap (Michael?) on the Great Interior Design Challenge who had a wire obsession might have been the catalyst.

Black wire cage side tables from Dwell

Black wire cage side tables from Dwell

And it works in my summerhouse. I’ve started with a set of 3 wire baskets I picked up in Homesense for about £40. The big one is for throws, the middle one for magazines and the small one is perfect for fruit on the bar. (It’s important to have fruit in your cocktails – helps with the 5 a day).

Its far easier to clean than willow and you can spray paint it any colour you like – whats not to love?

Charles Eames style blue wire chair from Cult Furniture

Charles Eames style blue wire chair from Cult Furniture

I suspect the wire will slowly creep through the house until all the willow has been relegated to the interiors graveyard that is my garage. I used to take my rejects to the charity shop, auction or tip. Now they sit in the graveyard, I mean garage, waiting for a place in future projects. Who knows when I might need that extra pair of antlers I have? Or this industrial table I rescued from outside the Diesel HQ in London? (The manager even gave me the planks for the top and bottom shelf #worldsgreatestfreebie). I might need to start clearing some room for all those willow baskets though…..

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Lush Interiors

I love love love greenery. It’s my favourite interiors accessory by a country mile. Yes I like flowers, but for me its the foliage in floral arrangements that bring them to life. It’s probably why I chose to live in Cumbria 20 miles from the wettest place in England – Seathwaite if you’re interested.

Sunflowers and mint floral arrangement
Sunflowers £4 from Morrisons. Mint fresh from my garden!

Before Cumbria became my permanent home we had a huge roof garden in London that my green fingered sister (Hunter Gardening Services) designed and helped me build. We spent one glorious Sunday buying half the plants at Columbia Road flower market to stock it. Big Sis was in her element, it was like letting Immelda Marcus loose in Manolo Blahnik. Took us 3 car trips to get them all home. It was fabulous, all ferns, hostas, reeds and grasses. Mr W loved the garden too, but he did complain about the lack of colour. I kept telling him green is a colour!

Don’t worry this isn’t a  gardeners trip down memory lane. I am going to get to the interiors bit shortly…..

Anyway, when we bought Holly Cottage I was desperate to add some greenery indoors but it was initially a second home and I don’t share my sisters green fingered genes so I knew any plants would have a very low life expectancy, even if I did remember to water them during my fortnightly visits. I hunted high and low for lush, vibrant looking artificial plants, that weren’t plasticky or dusty looking but no joy, so the house stood foliage-less…..until now.

‘Now I’m based here I can indulge myself with the real thing. Succulents, cacti (or cactuses – both are grammatically correct) and ferns are my favourite. I like to plant them up in glass vases so you can see the soil, and top them with moss I scrape off my garden walls. Unfortunately however even the hardiest don’t last long though. Yes, I can even kill cactus. Turns out I’m still rubbish at watering stuff even on site.

Potted ferns in my summer house
Potted ferns in my summer house – the terraniums on the shelves below lie empty waiting for me to find the perfect occupants…

This is why I’m very excited about the recent announcement from Interior Designer and Retailer Abigail Ahern. Abigail is already famous for her faux flowers, and I’ve been coveting one of her giant cactuses for a while.

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Current plant range from Abigail Ahern

But after relying on suppliers, leaving her with demand outweighing supply, she has decided to start manufacturing her own faux botanicals, which means there will be no holding her back. Her new range will be bigger, more eclectic and even more decadent. If you’re familiar with AA’s work you’ll understand why I’m so excited. This is the lady that brought us my favourite ever lamp.

Teal flock Pelican lamp from Abigail Ahern available at Debenhams

Teal flock Pelican lamp available at Debenhams

Her faux botanicals range will be launched September 23rd but she’s promising us a sneak preview of the website anytime soon…..

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Coming soon!

I’m also excited about the faux florist she’s opening next to the Heals store on Tottenham Court Rd. If you’re an interiors obsessive like me, you’ll already know that TCR has enough interiors stores to keep a fanatic like me happy for a day. Now I have another reason to head down there on my next London jaunt. I’m seriously contemplating a day trip for the opening. But I may need a companion to help me carry the tree I’m likely to buy. Big Sis once helped me carry a 10ft reed from the Chelsea Flower Show across London, utilising a tuk tuk, two buses and two tubes so she’s my first call. Holly Cottage could be looking a whole lot greener soon.

PS I wasn’t paid to say all this, I’m just an AA fan.

Lighting up your life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

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

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

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

Midnight blue enamel pendants in my summer house from Nook London
Enamel pendants in my summer house from Nook London
Custom made faux deer hide lampshades using Albany wallpaper
Custom made faux deer hide lampshade using Albany wallpaper

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

 

 

 

 

The Christmas Tree Conundrum

Don’t worry this post isn’t about finding the perfect Christmas tree, it’s way too early for that kind of shenanigans. I hate festive talk before December 1st, and have already berated my Retail employed friends for sharing details of their Christmas ranges when I’m still trying to find a bikini that can miraculously reduce me from a size 12 (….ok 14) to a size 10 (totally happy with 12..). But on the basis I’ve had conversations with two customers this month about this very issue I feel compelled to discuss it now.

September seems to be a popular time to redecorate your living room, perhaps prompted by all the annoying DFS adverts promising to deliver your sofa by Christmas if you order RIGHT NOW! A common mistake many homeowners make when decorating their living rooms is not allowing for the Christmas tree. Now I’m not talking about having a empty space for 49 weeks of the year but it does require a plan that won’t obscure 50% of the TV screen or leave no space for emergency chairs. Here are a few suggestions about how to incorporate your tree so it looks like it was always meant to be there.

Tip 1: If buying a new sofa and armchairs, consider how often your armchairs would be sat in. Could you replace one or more of your armchairs with accent chairs which are smaller and could be relocated to another part of the house more easily. I recently paired this sofa with these chairs for a customer so that she has more room and a place for the Christmas tree.

Alexis large two-seater sofa from Multiyork
Alexis sofa from Multiyork
Lille chair in Oatmeal from Swoon Editions
Lille chair in Oatmeal from Swoon Editions

Tip 2: If you’re planning a scheme that includes side tables and table lamps consider if one of them could be replaced by the tree at Christmas. The table and lamp could be moved to the garage or loft for a few weeks, and if you add enough lights to the tree your room won’t be any darker. Last year I also bought light up boxes like these for the foot for the tree.

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These are available on Amazon if your local garden centre doesn’t stock them

Tip 3: Buy a narrow tree. It seems the manufacturers of artificial trees have finally realised that the average living room isn’t big enough for something 6ft tall and 4ft wide. I have an alcove next to my fireplace that is only 70cm wide and usually houses a log basket. But for 3 weeks of the year it is home to a tall narrow artificial tree which fits perfectly and looks very realistic . I was so pleased with it I actually bought two more so I can have a tree in the TV room and another in the summer house (its actually a year round garden room thanks to the log burner). Yes, I might get huffy about festive talk in November but on 1st December I become Mrs Claus and Holly Cottage turns into a Lapland grotto…

Narrow artificial Christmas tree
Most garden centres and retailers now include slimmer trees in their range

4. Think outside the box. I’m not going to suggest replacing your tree with some twigs in a vase hung with baubles that’s just a teeny weeny bit sad, but if you’re really stuck for space what about a wall sticker? No need to worry about it being behind a door, or too near the sofa. The cat can’t climb it and it’s a lot easier to remove on 12th night. This one from John Lewis is 100cm x 76cm. It might be £55 but by the time you’ve bought a tree, some new decorations that you didn’t need but were too cute to leave in the shop and some replacement lights because last years don’t work any more you’d have spent at least that.

Gold Christmas tree wall sticker from John Lewis
Gold Christmas tree wall sticker from John Lewis

Right that’s enough Christmas chat, I’m starting to twitch.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating the luxury look on a budget

In my former life I was rarely alone. I lived and worked in central London, and if I wasn’t travelling I was out with friends enjoying the city. Now I live in rural Cumbria, only see Mr W at weekends, and could go days without seeing anyone if I didn’t visit my neighbours (aged 65 and 88 respectively..) and get a lot of deliveries. I’m on first name terms with Kev from DPD and have him on speed dial in case I’m running late for his exceptionally punctual visits.

I wouldn’t change my new life for anything but unsurprisingly I can get lonely now and again. So last week I adopted a 3 year old girl called Lexi. Before you think that’s a little extreme she’s an American Bulldog and I am totally besotted with her. I think the feeling is mutual.

Lexi the American Bulldog
Lexi my gorgeous girl

Another feature of my former life was staying in fancy pants hotels, both for business and pleasure so I’ve really been enjoying one of my jobs this week which has been to recreate the luxury hotel bedroom look on a budget. Here are a couple of tips on how to achieve this:

1. Layering

If your budget is limited you’ll need to shop around to find affordable items. Save yourself time trying to colour match everything exactly by going for a layered look. Pick your key colour and then look for items in tones of this colour. A neutral colour like grey is perfect for this look. But it also works with brighter colours.

Grey bedroom
Bedroom designed with layers of grey

2. Customise

There are people that knock Ikea but you can’t beat them for affordable simple furniture, and their self assembly model means you can customise pieces before you ignore the instructions and try and work out where everything goes (or is that just me?). I stayed at the uber glam Epic Sana Hotel in Lisbon earlier this year in a room that had white leather walls and wardrobe doors. I think this look could be replicated using Ikea’s high gloss wardrobe doors, good quality white faux leather and a glue gun. My thought was to only cover the middle doors in 3 door wardrobes to add a touch of glamour and introduce some texture into the scheme. If my customer goes for the idea I’ll share the results.

Bedroom at the Epic Sana in Lisbon
Bedroom at the Epic Sana in Lisbon

3. Google

Web technology means any retailer can add text to the images on their website so that they show up in Google images. Even if they’re a one man (or woman) band and built the website themselves from a free template. So if you need amber glass accessories to complete your look, just google amber glass and see what pops up. I’ve found countless bargains scouring google images, and I’ve found products from major retailers that I’d missed when I was in store either because they’d sold out or because I was distracted by handbags and shoes I can’t afford…. I picked up the bargain below for £50 after googling grey zig zag rug.

Bargain Cabone rug from Lookagain.co.uk
Bargain Cabone rug from Lookagain.co.uk

4. Make regular trips to your local Homesense and TK Maxx stores

I know I’ve said this before but I just love TK Maxx and their homewares stores Homesense. They introduce new stock on a daily basis and you can find some great quality bargains at knock down prices. (The staff are also really helpful and chatty too). The rug above was for a customers guest bedroom. The room is less than 2m wide so even with a small 4ft 6″ double bed there was little room for bedside tables. But I found these stylish ceramic topped side tables in the garden section  of TK Maxx. Only 30cm wide and £24.99 each.

Small black and white zig zag patterned tiled side tables from TK Maxx
Small zig zag tiled side tables from TK Maxx

It’s great when you get a customer that wants and can afford luxury but most of my customers can’t, and to be honest I think I get more pleasure from creating a stylish look on a budget. It must be my northern roots – you can take the girl out of Manchester and all that.

Quick chicken count before I go – we’re still at 6 but Victoria Peckham is on the watch list. She had a narrow escape from Finlay the spaniel and may have a broken leg. If it doesn’t heal we may have to intervene to put her out of her misery. Thats the royal we of course, by which I mean Harold the farmer….

 

Industrial decor and a fast track ageing process

Until this week a long tee was something I wore at the beach to cover my bum. Although these days it appears to be fashionable to have a disproportionately large derriere. Perhaps I should ditch the coverups and flaunt it now curves are fashionable in the western world? But I’m wandering off topic….

One of the things I love about being a designer is the continual learning, whether it’s new techniques for creating paint finishes or working with new materials. This week my eyes have been opened to a whole new world of long tees, base flanges and elbow clamps thanks to the lovely people at Racking Man! (cue superhero music) Great name isn’t it. Conjures up images of a beefy tradesman brandishing a wrench, wearing a cape and underpants over his Apache cargo pants. If only they really looked like that, but again I’m going off topic….

So I’m working on designs for a Retail customer and I’m going for an ‘old theatre’ look, think wood floors, ladders, industrial spotlighting, slightly faded velvet curtains etc. etc. I don’t want to give away too much in case my customer is reading this. (You know who you are so stop reading now if you want any surprises when I deliver the final designs!) I’m incorporating some industrial looking shelving into the design and want to use scaffolding pipes. Hence my trip yesterday to Racking Man. I’d already spoken with the very helpful owner Patrick earlier in the week but I wanted to physically see the products to make a decision on size. Turns out its a family business and his wife Gillian (hard G) is equally helpful. As a result I now know what fittings I want and what size, and it all fits together with an allen key – simple! If you’re feeling adventurous and want to have a go at making your own furniture out of scaffolding materials their website has some very useful info to help you figure out what your need, including this handy picture of the various clamps and joints.

Scaffolding clamps taken from Racking Man website
Different scaffolding clamps and joints taken from www.rackingman.co.uk

And if you’re not feeling up to the challenge they have some great pieces on Notonthehighstreet and Etsy like these:

Wall mounted scaffolding shelving from not on the high street
Wall mounted scaffolding shelving from not on the high street
Scaffolding clothes rail from Etsy
Scaffolding clothes rail from Etsy

I’ve also been experimenting with wood finishes for this commission and for the new bar thats going in my summer house. I was thinking of using reclaimed scaffolding planks which I’ve worked with before but you spend a lot of time sanding them and cutting them to size. Its easier and not much more expensive to order pre-sanded, cut to size planks and boards from your local timber merchant, or pick up standard sizes from your local DIY store. For my experiments I bought a 5-pack of 90cm long tongue and groove from B&Q for £3.

Giving wood an aged weathered look is really simple. A few days before you plan to start get a big glass jar, half fill it with white vinegar, stuff a chunk of fine grade steel wool in it and leave it. The wool will disintegrate over time creating a homemade oxidising solution.

When you’re ready to start, lay your wood out on some newspaper and brew a hot pot of really strong black tea. The tea adds tannins to the wood which then react with your oxidising solution to created the weathered look. Some woods, like oak, already have high tannin levels and may not need the tea, or very little. But woods like pine don’t so you’ll need two or three coats. Apply with a paintbrush and leave to dry.

Next paint the oxidising solution on to the wood with a paintbrush. Immediately you will see the wood start to turn grey. The older your solution, the stronger it is, and the darker your wood will turn. So always do a test piece and water it down with water or more vinegar if you want a lighter shade. Once the wood is dry, polish with some clear wax to give a light sheen and a smooth feel.

If you want to go a step further and give your wood a beachy tone you can add liming wax which will fill the cracks in the grain and leave a bluey-white sheen on top of the grey. You can buy liming wax online. I’m currently using one made by Liberon. To create the effect rub a little of the wax onto your wood using fine steel wool, leave it to try for 2-3 minutes and then wipe of the excess and buff. If the colour is too blue/white then use a damp cloth to wipe off more of the wax, if you like it light then add more wax.

Finished results: from left, plain tongue and groove, weathered look, beachy look.

Giving new wood a weathered or beachy look

 

Here’s a couple of examples of finished products.

Old oak whisky barrel, already weathered
Old oak whisky barrel, already weathered
Oak whisky barrel bar table
New bar table complete with table top salvaged from my local tip
Coffee table made from reclaimed scaffolding planks, aged and treated with liming wax
Coffee table made from reclaimed scaffolding planks, aged and treated with liming wax

Does seem a little ironic, we spend a fortune on products to slow down the personal ageing process, but our love for old and used goods has led us to develop creative ways to speed it up elsewhere. Anyway, better get back to work, I’m experimenting with paint finishes now…