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……
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?
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.
My absolute favourite thing in this bathroom is the floating 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.
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.
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.
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?
I love lighting. I will even stick my neck out and say it’s the most important thing when it comes to designing a space. Yes there is a long list of other things which are important, but your lighting lets you see all those other things, particularly when the sun has gone down, or between the hours of 3pm and 9am if you spend winter in Cumbria……..Perhaps necessity is the reason why I’m such a lighting fan? #lightbulbmoment.
To prove my love of lighting I thought I’d give you a mini tour of the lighting in my house if you’re up for that? But first a bit of techy stuff but I’m going to keep it short before you get all ‘get on with it woman, show us the pics’……
A Quick Guide to Lighting
I’m going to assume you’ve made the smart decision and switched to more energy-efficient LED lightbulbs. Although some of you may still be a little bit baffled by lumens and what size of LED bulb you need to replace your old 60W bulbs… if so here’s a handy little table from CNET magazine:
A quick and dirty way to figure out how much light you need in a room is to multiply the size of the room in square metres by 1.5. For example, a 4m x 4m room = 16 m2 x 1.5 = 24W in LED bulbs. So if this was a living room a semi-flush light with 4 x 6W bulbs should be sufficient, or you could spread the 24W between a ceiling light and wall lights. In rooms like kitchens or home offices where you need more light multiple the m2 by 2.5.
You also need to figure out what colour you want your ‘white’ lights to be. This is called the light temperature and is measured in Kelvins. Here’s another handy little chart. As a guide 1000k is candlelight and 2700k is what our old incandescent bulbs would typically be. Interesting fact – apparently people who live in colder climates prefer warmer white lights, and those living in hotter climates favour more blue or white light.
So you’ve worked out how much light you need and what colour you like so now where to put it?
Ambient (or general lighting) is your main source of light. It’s what you would put on if you’d lost the back of your earring and needed to scrabble around on the floor to find it.
Task Lighting would be the reading lamp over your favourite chair, or the light above your bathroom mirror you need to spot those weird long dark hairs that appear overnight on your face, and don’t pretend that’s never happened to you…
Accent Lighting can be as simple as a couple of table lamps for the evening or something more for visual effect, such as plinth lighting in a kitchen.
My tip would be to have as many sources of light in a room as you can without it looking like a lighting shop. Oh, and put your general lights on a dimmer so you have even more flexibility.
So enough boring stuff – how about some pics?
The Summer House
I’m going to start here in the Summer House as pretty much every seat in here has it’s own light.
Wait there’s more…..
And it doesn’t stop at the door. I also have exterior wall lights, path lights and strings of fairground style lightbulbs around the summerhouse and in the trees. Told you I love my lighting.
Lets pop inside now shall we?
This is a dark room with little natural light so I have your typical downlighters, under cupboard and some in-cupboard lighting and the hob light. But my favourite lights are the large dark pewter pendants over the island and sink from Industville.
The Utility Room
This room is soooo small and dark it is impossible to photograph so I’m just going to make my life easier and show you a pic of the cage lights I have lighting it….
Another dark room and I still don’t think I’ve got the lighting right. For general lighting I went with downlighters because it has a very low ceiling.
The old over picture lights you can see above were too dim and a bit boring, so I changed these to 2-light wall lights with glass shades but these are too bright. I think they need to be on a dimmer.
I also have a large concrete base table lamp, but this isn’t enough on it’s own and I like dim light, so I end up lighting lots of candles.
You’d think being an interior designer and all that I’d have this figured out…..lets move on.
This is a tiny room, which to it’s credit does seat 7 people just don’t come for dinner if you have personal space issues.. There isn’t room for much lighting wise so I just have 3 ribbed glass ceiling pendants over the table and on a dimmer.
Check out the new pheasant wallpaper.
Another tiny room where we watch TV. I have a couple of downlighters for when we can’t find the remote and a floor lamp which serves as a task lamp and accent lighting.
But when I’m watching a movie I like to light a smelly candle and put on this amber globe bulb lamp from Cult Furniture.
I recently changed the lighting in my office and it was a classic case of needing to practice what you preach. I need bright light to work and the room had two 3-lamp ceiling lights which provided that…….but they were butt ugly. I initially changed them to metal coolie pendants which I loved but they couldn’t have given off less light if they tried. So thanks to my very patient electrician I now I have a single 5-bulb cluster light in the centre of the room.
I also updated the desk lamps recently with simple Hektar plug in’s from IKEA. Say hello to Florence the Flamingo.
The ceiling in my Wetroom is sloped with exposed beams and doesn’t really lend itself to any form of ceiling light so I have 4 bright wall lights and the biggest velux I could find to light up the room. I recently replaced the old IKEA lights you can see in the first pic with black and antique gold industrial wall lights I found on eBay.
Much better don’t you think? And yes I do like ducks. The framed prints are by the very talented artist Charlotte Gerrard
Lets go upstairs shall we?
In my bedroom I have an 18th century Czech glass chandler with an old 100 watt bulb which I haven’t got round to replacing *hangs head in shame* In theory I should need twice the lumens for a room of this size but the light reflects off the glass and lights up the room like an operating theatre. I bought it from an antique dealer for just under £500 but you can pick up reconditioned chandeliers like this one up for a lot less on eBay or Etsy.
I also have a couple of lamps in the bedroom with shades from my favourite lampshade supplier Love Frankie
I have another chandelier in the guest bedroom next door which cost £120 from a local antique shop, and a couple of mismatched table lamps. You’ll have to excuse the chintz in this room. I decorated it in 2010 when I bought the house and was a bit giddy about buying a cottage in the countryside which is clearly reflected in the decor…. I really like the wall colour (Farrow & Ball Old White) but I’m not loving the rest so much anymore. I just haven’t got round to figuring out what I want to do in here.
My single guest bedroom is very bijou and has a sloped ceiling so I just have two wall lights for lighting in here, but they turn on and off independently so the one over the bed also acts as a task light and accent lighting. Clever eh?
Although the ceiling slopes in here I still added a couple of downlighters at the highest point for general lighting. Them we have wall lights over the mirror and one on the wall opposite.
I also have a tiny spotlight behind the lowest beam to light up the bath and provide low light for relaxing baths and the inevitable at my age late night bathroom visits….
So the only light in the house I haven’t shown you hangs over the landing
and here you go (I couldn’t get a decent shot so a pic from the retailer will have to do I’m afraid).
And thats the tour over. Hope you enjoyed a nosy round my place. Get in touch if you need any help with your lighting, or anything else in your home for that matter, I’d love to hear from you.
This living room transformation should have been finished in December but a late sofa scuppered our plans. I did show you a few cheeky shots just before Christmas but I thought you might like to see the finished room and get a little more background on how we got there.
The Living Room Challenge
The homeowners called me because working out what to do with their living room was giving them a headache. They hated the decor they’d inherited, particularly the ceiling. I wish I’d taken a close up of those beams to show you the crime committed by the previous owners who had built the place. Basically there are huge steel beams holding up the roof and they had clad them in moulded plaster work stained brown to try and make them look like oak. They had failed. Miserably. To make matters worse they then clad the rest of the ceiling with antique stained pine. Criminal.
They also hated the huge gas fire which obscured the opening in the chimney breast where there had once been an open fire. It’s not clear why the previous owners blocked it up but the soot stains on the chimney breast suggest it hadn’t been vented properly.
They were also struggling with how to furnish a room that’s the size of two living room. They wanted lots of seating for family gatherings, but they couldn’t work out how to position it all. And they didn’t want to make it a living/dining space as they already had a dining area between the living room and the kitchen, which had another ugly ceiling fan and a wrought iron staircase which had to go.
The Living Room Transformation
So if you caught my post before Christmas you’ll know I came up with a plan to create two zones. A grown up area by the new stove for curling up with a glass of wine….
….and a more child friendly area with a squishy rug and a big snuggler chair
As you can see we plastered and painted the ceiling but we came very close to chipping off the plaster and cladding them in wood.
The first test we did with oak veneer failed because we could see the joins when we oiled the wood. The joiner (Kevin Robinson of Curwen Joinery) then came up with another option which was to highlight the joins using Japanese beam joints and then add oak pegs to make it look even more authentic.
We all got a bit excited about this but in the end cost, and not knowing exactly how it was going to look until it was finished, meant we had to go back to their original plan which was to just plaster and paint the ceiling. And to be honest as fabulous as the Japanese beam joints could have looked the ceiling looks pretty good now. Especially with those huge black metal orb lights.
The walls are painted Elk Antler by Valspar and I recommended painting the ceiling the same colour as I felt a huge white ceiling would introduce lines that would interrupt the flow of the space. It’s about the only thing that made this job easier for Mike the decorator (Michael Fulton Professional Painter & Decorator) I also suggested simple plaster wall lights that we could paint so that these would also blend into the background.
Brodie the family pet is very happy with the new layout and the endless seating options he now has. He likes this sofa so he can keep an eye on the front door.
But he also likes his new chaise…..
We ripped out the old staircase which was also too wide, and replaced it with a simple wooden staircase we could paint.
Kevin did a great job reducing the width of the staircase and cladding the stairs with the new laminate floor that we carried through from the hallway.
The dining area didn’t need much after that, just a few pics and some new curtains for the patio doors.
Another delayed delivery meant the new sideboard didn’t feature in my pre-Christmas photos…
…or the gallery walls
So thats a wrap. I’d love to know what you think. This is what the homeowners think….*beams proudly*
“We moved into our home around 2yrs ago and whilst saving to transform it we had to ensure dark wood cladded ceilings and floral carpets. Our living room is 11 metres long and was not a functional room. We were looking at making it more homely and Amelia exceeded all our expectations. We now have the modern country look living room we wanted which is a cosy family space which we are thoroughly enjoying. Everything she picked for the room we loved and she was always in communication with us. She managed the project which involved plasterers, joiners, electricians and decorators and ensured we were complete for Christmas”
“Amelia has just finished the first of a 2 room project for my wife and I. The first room (and the largest) was no mean feat. We knew what style we wanted but were unable to agree on colours, furniture or finishes. Amelia has done an amazing job of translating everything we described to her and we achieved our ‘modern country’ look perfectly. We’ve lived in a scaffolded living room and building site for well over a month in order for Amelia to have the project finished just in time for Xmas. We’ve enjoyed a wonderful Xmas in our new living room and still in awe of the finished article”
It’s been a hectic year for Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd, aka me. My version of the Twelve Days of Christmas would go something like ‘6 living rooms, 5 bathrooms, 4 bedrooms, 3 kitchens, 1 dressing room, 1 dining room, 1 hallway, a pub, a showroom, a shop and an office. Good job I wasn’t approached by a partridge in a pear tree as I’d have had to turn it down.
I’ve been so busy I haven’t even had time to properly photograph finished projects to show you lovely people. I know I know the before and afters are the best bit. We all love howling at how ugly the old carpet/wallpaper/sofa was don’t we. So I promise to pull my finger out in the New Year….*adds another item to list of New Years resolutions after stop eating so much and start running again*
So although the room I’m about to show you was still missing a sofa and a sideboard when I left on Wednesday, and the pictures and gallery wall will go up in January I’m going to show you some pics anyway ‘cos it’s Christmas, it’s fabulous and it’s the largest single room I’ve ever decorated – I’ve got friends in London with smaller flats. So without further ado I present to you – the Ginormous Living Room.
Now before you start pointing fingers NONE of this was furnished or decorated by the homeowners. They inherited the whole kit and caboodle from the previous owners and have been saving since they bought the property so they could change everything. The challenge though was what to do with such a big room.
The good news was that the homeowners knew the look they wanted, which I call ‘modern country’. And that doesn’t mean Taylor Swift, it’s more about mixing traditionally rustic features with modern elements. You’ll see what I mean if I show you the plans. It took two moodboards the room is so big….
The newly decorated Ginormous Living Room
Now before I show you anything, please excuse the amateur iPhone photography, the sun kept streaming through the windows (what’s all that about in Cumbria in bloody December), so I’ve had to edit the pics to get rid of the glare. Please also avert your eyes from the rubbish outside which we haven’t had time to shift. Sorry, I’ll stop apologising and just get on with it – ta da!
Totally different room right? Bye bye ugly fake beams, antique pine clad ceiling and wrought iron staircase (we don’t even need to mention the carpet do we…). Hello beautiful, and relaxing but elegant living room.
That chimney was just crying out for a stove wasn’t it?
So I’ve given the room two zones – and this is the grown up’s bit for a glass of wine after the little’un is in bed and when they have friends round.
The plan was to paint the lower half of that coffee table in Farrow & Ball Rectory Red, and we might still.
I think the new lighting is my favourite bit.
So this is where the second couch (leather BTW) will go when it arrives. They did promise before Christmas so they still have 24hrs but I’m not holding my breath….
…and this is where the sideboard now sits in the more child friendly zone, i.e. wipe clean sofa, washable covers on the armchair and a very fluffy rug for floor play time. Now that the sideboard has arrived I can work out how big the gallery wall we have planned needs to be. I love that snuggler chair and footstool from IKEA, it’s a perfect match for the Laura Ashley plaid sofa isn’t it?
And just when you thought the room couldn’t get any bigger it wraps around into the dining room (the kitchen is to the left). I wish now I’d taken a decent pic of the new staircase that fabulous joiner Kevin Robinson supplied and fitted, but you’ll see it when I do the final photographs.
So it brought a few challenges – that high ceiling being one for the plasterers, decorator and electrician, and getting the layout right. But what a transformation eh?. I’m chuffed to bits with the result, and I must confess have a little bit of house envy.
No thats not a typo *tuts* and I’m not inviting you to snoop round my house either. Tho if you happen to be in the area and you bring biscuits I’m fairly sure I’d let you in. No, Mi Abode is a Scandinavian interiors and homeware retailer in Uppermill, Saddleworth. Which is a little off the beaten track for us Cumbrians but luckily also has an online store. Phew…
So what makes Mi Abode worth talking about? Well for starters they sell a mixture of beautiful but very affordable vintage and contemporary Scandinavian design pieces. But more importantly Mia the owner is actually Scandinavian, and many of the items she sells are actually from Sweden. But what I really love is that some of them are made by her mum Helga. Yes Helga. From Sweden. Could this Scandinavian interiors shop be any more authentic?
So want to see what caught my eye when I happened to be in Uppermill for a very important breakfast meeting (by which I mean a catch up with my sister over heavily buttered fruit toast and coffee)?
The first thing I spotted was these felt baskets. Perfect for rolled up towels or loo rolls in the bathroom, or magazines or throws in the living room.
And then I fell in love with these little fellas.
Mamma Helga makes these Elf Christmas decorations in various shapes, sizes and shades. I bought the big guy, now known as Lars. He will probably spend Christmas on the living room hearth but he will spend the rest of the year in my Scandi styled summer house……which just might have been featured in Real Homes magazine this month *tosses hair over shoulder celebrity style*
Mia stocks the key pieces needed to get Hygge like the Danes, i.e. scented candles throws and cushions
….and its not all monochrome.
She also has some pretty funky artwork…..
and fab lighting, including these concrete pendants.
The shop is a veritable treat for the eyes, everywhere you look there’s something you want to prod and poke
And its not just pretty stuff, there are practical things too. Instead of stuffing your kitchen drawers with postcards that you don’t want to throw away, recipes you’ve cut out of magazines and vouchers you want to keep, what about putting them in these cool storage books?
Don’t worry I’m not venturing into the world of stand up comedy. Anyone who has heard me tell a joke knows that would be a mistake. But I would like to update the joke from how many (insert profession, nationality, gender etc) does it take to change a lightbulb, to how long does it take them. I say this because ‘fess up, how many of you have:
Left a lightbulb unchanged after it has blown for more than a month
Put up a new light and stuck an ugly lightbulb in it just to get it lit then never got round to putting a better one in
Noticed that each lightbulb in your matching pendant or ceiling lights is a different colour or wattage and done nothing about it
All of the above
I’m an interior designer and I would have to tick option 4.
But today I smacked myself round the chops and sorted out all my lightbulb laziness in one fell swoop. I could tell you that I drew up an inventory of lightbulbs needed, did weeks of extensive research, placed multiple orders and spent half a day correcting all my mistakes, but I’d be lying. Here’s what really happened.
It started with these lovely cage lights.
Image via Amazon
I wanted two for my utility room which has just had a makeover (more on that soon). I found them on Amazon for £20.99 each with free delivery thanks to my Amazon Prime membership, which BTW paid for itself in no time at all thanks to all the stuff I order online. I liked the size, the price and the fact they are hinged so the cage can point up, down, sideways or at a jaunty angle. I also liked how good they look with a filament lightbulb
Image via Amazon
What I didn’t realise though was that I would need a lightbulb that would fit through the cage as the neck of the cage is really narrow. So in the interim I stuck some ugly but skinny LED lightbulbs in (see below…) and went on the hunt for pretty ones.
A lot of the filament lightbulbs available have been designed for restaurants and bars, who want moody or romantic lighting not an airport runway so they tend to be 40W max. My utility room is below ground with one tiny window looking onto my garden path so I needed at least 60W if I wanted to stop mixing my darks with whites. After a couple of evenings on the couch I finally found these beauties on Amazon.
Image via Amazon
LED? Check. Right size? Check. Bright enough? Check. Pretty? Check. Right price? Hell yes. £10.68 for a pack of 6 with free Amazon Prime delivery which works out at just £1.78 each and 3000 hours of bright and beautiful light per lightbulb. Bingo. They’re from KingSo a US retailer but available on Amazon through Lerpby
Image via Amazon
And this my friends is how my other lightbulb mistakes got fixed. I used two to replace the ugly ones in the utility room. I then had a lightbulb moment (I had to get that in somewhere) and put one in the landing light as the lightbulb blew last month. In my defence when it’s light from 4am to 10.30pm its hard to motivate yourself to rummage in the garage for a replacement, carry a chair upstairs to stand on, fiddle with the awkward screws that hold the very fragile amber glass shade in place and change the lightbulb. Apologies for the naff picture. It’s really hard to photograph a lit lightbulb, especially when there’s a window in the background.
As an aside filament lightbulbs look lovely in clear glass but they are in their element (no pun intended) in amber glass shades – see.
I put the last three in my summer house where I had managed to commit all three sins. A blown lightbulb, an ugly lightbulb, and a mix of different coloured lightbulbs (one cool white and two warm white). Now doesn’t that look better.
If this has caused you to look round your home and acknowledge all the broken, ugly and mismatched lightbulbs you own, and you’re considering the filament route Nook London has a great range of shapes and sizes. Most are 40W but you could go for a large globe and lose the shade. Or install a cluster of the same lightbulbs….
Image via Notonthehighstreet.com
or a cluster of different lightbulb shapes or filament styles.
Image via Fritz Fryer
If you can’t find a multi-pendant light you like you can fit multiple pendants or get your electrician to fit them under one ceiling rose. Coloured cable adds a bit of extra impact. Or create a modern chandelier by fitting ceiling hooks and looping the cable through them. If you’re feeling adventurous Nook London have all the accessories you’ll ever need.
Last point before i stop waffling. Don’t think you have to betray your local retailers and shop online to get the best range and prices. Find the lights you like and show them to your local guys, sometimes they can source the same or a similar item for the same price or even less as I found out recently when my local retailer ordered a bathroom light for me for half the price of a major online retailer.
So right go – fix that lightbulb laziness right now.
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 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.
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?
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…..
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.
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.
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.
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!
Last week when I wasn’t checking on my sick chicken (Margo this time) or maintaining my flood defences (more on that later) I was thinking about wardrobe space, because my customer decided she trusts me enough to design the interior of her new fitted wardrobes without her input. Talk about pressure. As a former clothes and shoe junkie I am well qualified for the task but I get this wrong and she’ll never forgive me, and neither will her husband because it will be him that suffers. Everyone knows the whole equal partnership thing goes out of the window when it comes to clothes space. The wife automatically gets 70% – its practically the law.
I have asked them about their clothes, (amount hung versus folded, number of long coats or dresses etc.), but I’m expecting wild inaccuracies in their answers. Women always say not that much, and the men immediately disagree. Everyone forgets how many coats they own as most are seasonal purchases, never mind the new holiday clothes we buy each year. Men are worse than women at acknowledging how many pairs of shoes they own. Mr W must have at least 5 pairs of brown casual shoes which all look identical to me, 2-3 pairs of work shoes, at least 2 pairs of boots, 3-4 pairs of trainers, plus walking and cycling shoes. The list goes on…but if you ask him he will say he has 6 pairs. So I asked the clothes questions but also probed about the activities they pursue, and rummaged in their current wardrobes! So if you ever find yourself in my position or want to design your own space here are my tips:
1. Start with the hanging space. Limit the amount of full height hanging space to what you think they need and then double up everywhere else. I’d always recommend side mounted rails. It doesn’t matter how well lit your wardrobe is you can never see what’s at the back, and if you’re like me, if you can’t see it you forget you have it. If I’m honest I also don’t quite understand the point of the rails you pull down with a hook, unless you are really short or have mobility issues. All the images I’ve ever seen of them feature average height agile looking women, its a mystery to me….
2. Unless you’re stuck in the 80’s and still wearing shoulder pads, cropped tops and bolero jackets you need a minimum depth of 600mm and at least 1050mm height, including 50-100mm above the rail so you can get hangers on and off easily.
3. Next think about shoes; work wear, evening wear, casual wear, summer sandals, winter boots and sports shoes. Unless your house will always be 100% female use mens shoes to calculate your requirements. The average mens shoes are approx. 240mm wide and 300mm long (if you live with a giant measure their shoes…). So in a wardrobe 750mm wide and 600 deep you could get 6 pairs on a flat side mounted pull out rack. If you have a small footwear collection or a walk in closet the back-lit cubby holes look great but they take up a lot of space. Bookshelf type arrangements are great if you’ve got a narrow hallway, shallow alcove, or room behind a door. You can also put these on the inside of your wardrobe doors if you deep wardrobe space (add 300mm onto the 600mm min depth) If you’re Imelda Marcos you might want to consider the multiple tier pull out racks, or the racks with poles you hang your shoes on.
4. Next is shelf space. This will differ based on the climate you live in. Obviously folded knitwear takes up a hell of a lot more room than t-shirts and vests. If you are going for boxes then they need to be at least 300mm by 300mm each. If you go for open shelves then calculate the width based on multiples of 300mm so you don’t have dead space you can’t use. I went for 600mm deep shelves in my own wardrobes so that I can rotate my folded clothes based on weather.
5. Drawers are also an option for folded clothes, but are essential if you need to store underwear in your wardrobes. For drawers I would go wider and deeper than shelves. We may start with the best intentions but most people are not neat freaks and simply stuff our underwear and socks in our drawers. If you’re going to be rummaging anyway no point wasting space on too many dividers. I would also recommend solid versus wire baskets which can look untidy.
6. There seems to have been a boom in accessories in the last 5 years, and I would wager that most men and women have a healthy selection these days which could include hats, belts, scarves, gloves, ties and you may even need to find a solution for costume jewellery. There are lots of rack solutions available online, including pull out and over door. Hat boxes are only really necessary if you’re a fan of Ascot or fascinators!
7. If you’re an early riser and your partner isn’t. I would highly recommend lighting if you don’t want to wind up single. Mr W went through a stint of taking 5am flights and started leaving his clothes in another room to avoid the abuse I would give him for turning on lights. Spot lights can work but only if the space below is uninterrupted. If you have a wide space then strip lighting can be better than spots. Personally I think the best thing for wardrobes are the flexible strips of LED lights you can now get. They’re relatively cheap (£5 or £6 a meter) and your electrician can cut them to fit. They also come in a range of colours if you’re so inclined.
In the end I wasn’t brave enough to give the joiner the designs without my customer seeing them (probably room for a chicken pun there), but she loved them so we’re good to go and I can go back to checking on Margo. For the last week she has barely left the coop and I’m having to put her on the perch with the others every night. I’m starting to think she’s being picked (pecked?) on when I’m not there and am considering installing a chicken cam…..As for maintaining flood defences I think I’ll get this week off as the rain has turned to snow so hopefully my streams will freeze instead of overflowing every day. My business cards should say Interior Designer, Chicken Whisperer and Drain Doctor.
I have lain on white sandy beaches listening to the rolling surf on many beautiful islands, in the mediterranean, the caribbean and the indian ocean, but these are not the islands I dream about. It’s kitchen islands that float through my head at night. In my most erotic dreams the kitchen island is situated in a basement kitchen with skylights and a dumb waiter (not the two legged variety). I once came close to living this dream in a house in Yorkshire but sadly the house was next to a busy road in a less than salubrious neighbourhood so we had to leave it on the market. But now thanks to the two foot stone walls in Holly Cottage and the extra foot of chimney breast in the kitchen I can push the stove into the chimney and create enough space for an island in my new kitchen. Even greater news is that when I chipped off the wall tiles on the chimney breast the original red sandstone lintels are still in place which I can move up to frame the new stove. They will need grit blasting (she says with a sinking heart as this creates a terrible mess), but it will be worth it as we found when we discovered the original red sandstone fireplace in the living room hiding behind a gas fire and plaster wall (which has to be an interior design crime).
Sandstone – before in the kitchen, and after in the living room
So it’s been all kitchens go for the last 3 weeks as I worked on the design and scoured the market (no pun intended) for products. I’ve settled on a painted wood kitchen from the 1909 range. It’s a beautiful shaker style “with a timeless quintessentially British feel” as they put it in their brochure. Perfect for my period property and a style that I can carry through into other areas of the house like the porch and the utility room. The kitchen is a dark room, despite the 2 windows. We have made it lighter by replacing the staircase that leads to the bedroom above and removing the wall that enclosed the previous one, but it’s still a little dingy at times which impacts my colour choices. I wanted to introduce a rich dark red as this colour will flow throughout the downstairs, but the room couldn’t take it so I’ve limited this to the base units and will be having cream coloured units at eye level. I mixed black and white units in an open plan kitchen in London and it was very effective. My local supplier will order the cupboards from 1909 in natural wood and have them painted in my chosen F&B colours.
Half pencil and scalloped kitchen from 1909 and Farrow & Balls Rectory Red and Ringwold Ground
It has to be black granite work surfaces as Mr W is a red wine drinker, but I am treating my island to a thick oak butchers block top. I can cope with occasionally re-sanding and oiling a small area but not the whole kitchen. The granite will compliment the black SMEG cooker I intend to pick up at discount at Grand Designs next week in Birmingham. The show is always worth a visit but it is even more worthwhile if you are about to purchase a pricey item and the supplier is exhibiting. Light cream metro tiles will finish it off nicely as you can see in the photo below.
I spent hours trying to figure out how I could have more fridge space without installing a tall unit as I wanted the red below and cream above design to be consistent and a tall unit would scupper this. Jim at The Cockermouth Kitchen Company, my supplier, suggested a 2 drawer fridge by Hotpoint. No more squatting in front of the fridge for me! I can now put all Mr W’s beer, cheese and chilli products in the bottom drawer and all the useful stuff in the top drawer (i.e. butter and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc). By installing this in the island it will be handy for food prep, and allow me to maintain the triangle you need for navigation between the fridge, cooker and sink. We’re also installing a dishwasher which my current kitchen sadly lacks, and a decent under counter bin. This probably sounds like an obvious comment but after living for the last 4 years with one of those frames on the back of a door that you hang plastic bags on this is probably the thing I am most excited about, after the island of course…
Lighting has been tricky to source as I really want a double pendant light above the island but the fixed bars are too long for me low ceilings. But then I discovered David Hunt Lighting at Decorex last month, and they can manufacture bespoke sizes which means I can have this beautiful station lamp altered to the size I need, and get a matching single light pendant for above the sink. With a few spotlights and some under cupboard and in cupboard lighting we can say goodbye to the dingy kitchen.
The only important feature I need to finalise before I get into the fun stuff, i.e. replacing all the Ikea kitchenware with new, is the taps. I’ve still got a little research to do but I’ve seen a few I like such as this brushed nickel colonial bridge sink mixer tap by Bristan.
So the order will be placed tomorrow to ensure a pre-Christmas installation. I didn’t think the grit blasting would produce enough mess (!) so I’ve decided to install a wet underfloor heating system which involves digging up the existing floor. But there is nothing nicer than bare feet on warm stone flags, and it means I can remove the radiator to create space for a window seat with a pan drawer below it. So Scratchy the cat also has a seat when me and Mr W are seated at the island I can’t stop dreaming about.
Photo’s to follow when it’s all installed. In the meantime I’m off to scramble some eggs with one of the double yolkers my ladies keep producing. Must be all the treats I feed them. They go mad for corn on the cob. They were all chasing Margo round the hen house last week when she managed to grab a piece for herself. I might have to rename her Usain after her performance.