The Lowther Project – Final Reveal

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

Interiors Styling & Photography

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

Bathroom with Victorian floor tiles, walk in shower and marble top washstand designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd
Bathroom I designed and styled for Real Homes magazine. Photograph by Jeremy Phillips.

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

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

The Lowther Project – Before

Lowther Village conservation village in the Lowther Castle estate
The Crescent, Lowther Village

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Plan

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

Interiors before and afters
Moodboard for living room

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

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

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

Image via Cumbrian Cottages

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

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

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

Image via Cumbrian Cottages

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

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

Image via Cumbrian Cottages

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

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

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

Image via Cumbrian Cottages

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

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

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

Image via Cumbrian Cottages

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

Image via Cumbrian Cottages

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

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

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

Image via Cumbrian Cottages

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

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

Image via Cumbrian Cottages

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

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

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

Image via Cumbrian Cottages

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

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

Image via Cumbrian Cottages

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

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

I Love Lighting – My Mini House Tour

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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…
  3. 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.

Scandinavian design nordic style summerhouse designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors
From left – IKEA Hektar floor lamp, theatre spotlight style table lamp from Homesense, wooden lamp base from John Lewis with faux deer hide lampshade (homemade) and an assortment of candle holders and lanterns.

Wait there’s more…..

Scandinavian design nordic style summerhouse designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors
The matching table lamp with faux deer hide shade is hiding behind those ferns. Blue enamel pendant lights over the bar are from Nook London.

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?

The Kitchen

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.

Rustic kitchen industrial lighting
Brooklyn metal dome pendants from Industville

Industrial lighting rectory red kitchen traditional shaker style kitchen

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….

Industrial cage wall lights
Industrial cage wall lights from eBay

Living Room

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.

Rustic living room with wood burning stove and exposed beams
My living room

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.

Industrial wall lights with glass shades in rustic living room
New wall lights

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.

Concrete base table lamp in rustic living room
Table lamp bought from local retailer Lily & Co now called Indigo Lounge

You’d think being an interior designer and all that I’d have this figured out…..lets move on.

Dining Room

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.

Vintage ribbed glass pendant lights from Fritz Fryer
Vintage ribbed glass pendant lights from Fritz Fryer

Check out the new pheasant wallpaper.

Vintage ribbed glass lights pheasant wallpaper church furniture dining room
Pheasant wallpaper by Barneby Gates, available from Wallpaper Direct

The Snug

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.

Bronze Hektar floor lamp from IKEA
Bronze Hektar floor lamp from IKEA

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.

Amber glass globe bulb table lamp from Cult Furniture
Globe bulb table lamp from Cult Furniture

My Office

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.

Clear globe cluster lighting
Chrome bulb holders, grey flex and 5-light ceiling rose from Nook London.

I also updated the desk lamps recently with simple Hektar plug in’s from IKEA. Say hello to Florence the Flamingo.

Hektar plug in clamp and wall lights from IKEA
Hektar plug in clamp and wall lights from IKEA

Wetroom

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.

Large rustic wetroom walk in shower large velux
My wetroom

Much better don’t you think? And yes I do like ducks. The framed prints are by the very talented artist Charlotte Gerrard

Rustic wetroom industrial lighting traditional vanity unit cast iron radiator
Industrial cone glass wall scones from eBay

Lets go upstairs shall we?

Bedrooms

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.

My bedroom at Holly Cottage

I also have a couple of lamps in the bedroom with shades from my favourite lampshade supplier Love Frankie

Love Frankie navy silk and gold lined lampshade in vintage bedroom
Navy silk and gold lined lampshade from 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.

‘Chintzy’ guest bedroom

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?

Simple rustic bedroom with vintage dormitory style bed and swan neck wall lights
Single guest bedroom with vintage wall lights
Vintage swan neck ribbed glass wall lights from Fritz Fryer
Vintage swan neck ribbed glass wall lights from Fritz Fryer

 The Bathroom

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.

Vintage brass and ribbed glass wall lights from Fritz Fryer
Vintage brass and ribbed glass wall lights from Fritz Fryer

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….

Rustic Victorian style bathroom with exposed sandstone and exposed beams
My rustic bathroom

Stairs

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).

Amber glass lantern from John Lewis
Amber glass lantern from John Lewis

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.

 

Behold the Boutique-Victorian Mashup Bathroom

That’s quite a title isn’t it? But a grand bathroom like the one I’m about to show you deserves a grand title, and oh lordy what a transformation. Shall we jump right in with a few fabulous before pics?

Bathroom design before images
Dated cramped shower and my biggest pet hate, no alcoves for shampoo and conditioner
Bathroom design before images
More pet hates, free standing storage and cluttered sinks
Bathroom design before pictures
Just two words. Orange bath….

The homeowner has a lovely Victorian townhouse and wanted a mixture of new and traditional in the new bathroom. I actually quite liked the existing sink and toilet and the taps, and they wouldn’t have been out of place in a new bathroom with some traditional features but the homeowner was adamant, she wanted a completely new bathroom, and who am I to argue…. (Cue rubbing of hands with glee at prospect of picking new stuff…)

I love a monochrome bathroom but they can look a little stark, and as I’d just turned the homeowner on to the idea of colour after painting her bedroom pink (see the pink bedroom project) I needed to inject a little colour into the bathroom. I plumped for bottle green after spotting some green glass bottles in a local homeware shop, which got me thinking about peacock feathers, and before you could say wowzers I had a plan with wow factor.

Bathroom design moodboard
The Boutique-Victorian mashup moodboard

The focal point in the new bathroom is without a shadow of a doubt the free standing double ended slipper bath. Now if you’re going to have a fabulous bath like this one it needs to stand out. When I told the homeowner I wanted to panel half the wall behind and paint it all black she was a little shocked but thankfully decided to trust me. So what do you think – was I right?

Bathroom - double ended slipper bath against a black panelled wall and lit from below
Free standing feature bath

The panelling is from an eBay seller who can make whatever style or size you want. It’s made of water resistant MDF so fine for a bathroom and only cost £110 including delivery.

Deck lights used in a bathroom to light a free standing bath from below
In floor spotlights light the bath from below and provide a useful night light

The bath was a real bargain too, only £400 from Bathandshower.com. Look how glam it looks lit from below. Just the right amount of light for those late night bathroom visits, or more importantly soaking in the bath with a glass of wine….We used outdoor deck lights so it wouldn’t matter if water sloshed over the edge of the bath. The guys at my local electrical wholesalers told me I could submerge them or stand on them and they’d still work. If you’re wondering what the lights are above the bath its just the reflection from a row of glass tealight holders sitting on a shelf I got the fitter to fit on top of the panelling. You gotta have candlelight when you take a bath.

Those fabulous Victorian style floor tiles were also a bargain at around £20 a square metre. They’re called Harrow Grafito and I bought them from Roccia (formerly Tile Mart) in Preston. If you’re up that way its worth popping into their enormous showroom for a nosy. (If you see Ben say hi from me).

I decided early on in the process, before I’d even picked a colour scheme, that this bathroom was going to have an antique marble topped washstand. A modern vanity unit just wasn’t going to cut it. And I found a beauty in one of my regular haunts, Old Mill Antiques in Manchester.

Antique marble topped washstand in a Victorian boutique style bathroom
Antique marble topped washstand

I intentionally picked an oval sink and mirror to match the shape of the bath and the sink looks beautiful sat on top of that grey marble. The cut glass accessories are also a great fit. They’re from Homesense (aka land of amazing finds). Oh and see that black leather cube bottom left? It’s an ottoman doubling as a laundry bin, or somewhere to sit your book when you’re climbing into the bath. Assuming of course you have time to read in the bath….It does three jobs and was only £10 (from Dunelm) – now that’s what I call a bargain.

Bathroom - Grey marble topped antique washstand with oval sink, traditional taps and cut glass accessories
Oval sink and traditional taps and cut glass accessories

If I could only give you one bathroom tip (which would make for a very short blog), it would be to always install the biggest shower you can and get your fitter to build a false wall so that you can have alcoves for shampoo bottles. I hate cramped shower cubicles, and I want to cry when I see those horrible metal baskets stuck to the walls, or worse still shampoo bottles sitting in the shower tray…..

Bathroom - Large rectangular shower enclosure with traditional shower and lighting in alcove
Large rectangular enclosure with traditional shower and lighting in alcove

The homeowner was worried the shower enclosure was going to be too big but again she trusted me and was glad she did. I have to give the fitter Ben Butler credit for the light in the alcove as it was his idea – nice touch eh?

Bathroom - lighting in shower enclosure
Lighting in alcove

I also wanted to mention the paintwork as I guess it’s not every day you see black woodwork. But it’s a great way to frame light coloured walls.  I love the black door. The wall colour is called Sleeping Inn by Valspar which is white with a touch of grey. The black paint colour is Downing Street by Valspar, very topical at the moment…..

Bathroom door and woodwork painted in Downing Street by Valspar
Door and new skirting boards painted in Downing Street by Valspar

As Charles Eames said, “The details are not the details. They make the design”. Which is why I hunted for the right toilet roll holder until I found this one on eBay. It might seem trivial to some but like the washstand a modern one would have looked out of place.

Bathroom - Reproduction Victorian style toilet roll holder
Reproduction Victorian style toilet roll holder

I bought both the vintage frameless mirrors on eBay for a total of £60. It amazes me that these mirrors can be picked up so cheaply as I think they’re beautiful. The peacock artwork is also from an eBay seller. I bought 4 for £22.50 and framed them in black frames from Wilko.

Bathroom - Vintage bevelled edge frameless mirror and peacock artwork
Vintage bevelled edge frameless mirror and peacock artwork

I always like to add personal touches to my designs that the customer will appreciate. In this case it’s these lights I made using battery operated fairly lights from IKEA and cut glass decanters from a charity shop. The homeowner loved them.

Bathroom - battery operated fairy lights in vintage cut glass decanters
Battery operated fairy lights in cut glass decanters

So what do you think of my Boutique-Victorian mashup, is this a bathroom with wow factor?