Inspired by Nature and William Morris

Inspired by Nature and William Morris
Interior inspirations from nature and the influence of William Morris. Bring a sense of history and well being into your home.

William Morris founded the of the Arts and Crafts Movement in 1861 with friends Marshall, Faulkner and Co. An interior design business which championed well crafted furniture, textiles and wallpaper. He wanted to revive a sense of beauty in home life, to restore the dignity of art into ordinary households. He thought:

“. . . that every home, however modest, could benefit from such practical beginnings as choosing items that were beautiful and useful. The great difficulty was not starting with nothing, but by having too much. By the accumulation of useless things not only were beautiful things kept out, but the very sense of beauty perpetually dulled and ground away”.

He once lectured against “the acquisitiveness of fortunate classes” (which he called digesting machines). Perhaps we’ve come full circle; The human race has become a digesting machine, with our relentless quest for ‘stuff’- beautiful, useful or otherwise. The Arts and Crafts Movement wanted to move away from cheap mass produced items in factories.

Before the Industrial Revolution and machines, people worked with nature, the land and their hands, but then moved to cities and factories to work making cheap mass produced items, destined for landfill. There was little self worth, job satisfaction or pride in their work. Morris and Co clients were reassured that “good decoration, involving the luxury of taste rather than the luxury of costliness” and set up their own work spaces for traditional crafts and skills in weaving and dyeing and offered apprenticeships, and tried to ensure his employees were looked after by paying them a wage which merited their skills.

True craftsmanship, up-cycling, re-purposed, pre-loved, vintage, antique,  restored and responsibly sourced are slowly becoming mainstream, thank goodness. The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust funds the education of talented and aspiring craftspeople. They have published a book ‘A Celebration of British Craftsmanship’ which features portraits and and stories of some of the craftsmen and women from across the United Kingdom that the Trust has supported since 1990.  Many craftspeople are also self taught, either from library books or YouTube tutorials. Making the most of what we have already and including them into our homes. This requires careful editing, giving things space, thus avoiding a cluttered appearance. Sound familiar?

Stained glass fire screen by William Morris
Stained glass fire screen by William Morris

Avoid ‘stage’ sets or showrooms, mix items up a bit. Old and new, vintage, inherited pieces and those items that you love. Ensure you know where it will go, how it will fit into the designated space and how well it will sit with your existing furnishings.  Also make sure they are practical and fit for purpose. This is what will make your home, adding depth and character and preventing your home from feeling void of your personality. Pair an assortment of items from different periods and styles, which prevents your home looking too of the ‘period’. Good design and craftsmanship have an enduring quality and will stand test of time.

Inspired by nature, William Morris bought nature inside. He believed that “love of nature in all it’s forms must be the ruling spirit”. He also wanted houses to sit well in their plot and their exteriors to blend and compliment the garden. By surrounding ourselves with anything which engages our senses is a key to positive thinking, our mood and well being.

Standen House and garden in Autumn
Standen House and garden in Autumn

What can we learn from these lessons? As an advocate of restorations, be they homes, furniture or gardens, it is with love and care bestowed into these projects giving character, depth and above all soul. HRH Prince of Wales said when planning his garden at Highgrove, (but is a true statement for our homes too, our need to connect to, and endlessly inspired by nature). “We need to feed the soul, warm our heart and delight the eye”.

William Morris quote Art for the few
William Morris Quote

Planning Your Dream D.I.Y. Wedding? Read This First!

Bride and flower girl at her Rustic Fusion Wedding
Bride and flower girl at her Rustic Fusion Wedding
Bride and flower girl at her Rustic Fusion Wedding

Whilst the U.K. basked in hot sunshine, thoughts turned to outside living, holidays and Summer being the main wedding season.  Whatever season you choose for your perfect wedding, the sooner you start planning the better.

Mention the word ‘Wedding’ and £££££ visualise in couples’ minds, along with their ‘dream wedding’; be it traditional, humanist, or civil service and their venue. Hotels will offer complete packages with flowers, set menus, format and D.J. which can be impersonal, especially if another wedding is going on at the same time in another room. Or indeed the hotel starting to clear your room before your wedding has finished because they have another wedding the following day exactly the same as yours, which needs to be set up. This hardly makes you feel that your wedding is special does it? Which it is. Very.

Many couples are now seeking alternative wedding venues from marquees, tipis, barns, woodland, as well as Church and Village Halls and pub function rooms. Most hire companies offer an empty space, perhaps with standard tables and chairs. Some will provide photographs of previous weddings held there and suggest local catering firms and florists etc. The list is endless and can be mind boggling.

 

So, armed with a budget be it big or small and an empty space, what and how do you choose? It’s similar to designing and staging rooms in your home – a blank canvas with a few fixtures and fittings to retain.

 

Weddings are big business and there are thousands of ideas on Pinterest, bridal magazines and wedding fairs to inspire, but what and how do you choose within your budget and chosen venue and how can you create it? A Wedding Staging Service maybe of help if you lack the time or creativity, whose services range from initial ideas to the full implementation package, depending on how much help is needed.

Firstly, think about yourselves as a couple, your lifestyle and who you are. Your likes and dislikes, hobbies and interests and how these elements could be introduced into your wedding. Once identified, the key most important elements will be clear. These can then be worked on to create a visually stunning venue, personal to the happy couple to reflect the couple and things special to you both.

Create a scrap book of things you like and a picture will emerge. Depending on your chosen venue, are there different areas to be considered and included other than the main reception room such as the ceremony area, or entrance? Now how do you put this altogether?

Draw a floor plan and create inspirational mood boards for each area, making decisions easier. You now have a plan. Implementing your plan will take time and commitment from all those involved.

Key Things to Consider When Doing It Yourselves.

1. Be realistic about what you or family and friends can do yourselves. Tap into any special talents and delegate specific tasks to talents.

2. If specialist skills are required from outside sources, then book well in advance.

3. Are the people helping reliable, dedicated and prepared to put in the hours required of them?

4. Allow plenty of time to decorate and set up the venue, remembering that you will also have to dismantle it it all by a certain time the next day. So allow for late hung over helpers!

5. Have everything labelled in boxes and provide a floor plan with a key where the decor is going. This allows helpers to know what they’re doing and saves time.

6. Tool box, Step ladders.

Indeed there are wedding planners and events companies who will take care of everything on your behalf, but more and more couples are wanting family and friends involvement in their wedding and is a key personal element, so decide which services are the right choice for you.

 

Adding Character to Your Home

Adding Character to your home using vintage and antiques
Create a home which tells your story

Inject your personality, style and soul into your home and garden, not by sourcing everything from one high street shop. Your home will end up looking like a show home, far too contrived and bland. Whether you’re preferred taste is Retro, Shabby Chic, Vintage, Industrial, contemporary or even a mixture of styles creating an eclectic, individual home. By mixing it up a bit you’re creating a home which reflects you, and enhances your home. Take time to enjoy gathering ‘loved’ items. Homes and gardens evolve over time.

Selection of elecltic Interiors for every room
Eclectic interior ideas

If you’re looking for an unusual or particular item of furniture, lighting or accessories to add personality to your home or garden by visiting local vintage shops, such as The Vintage Vagabond or Home and Colonial in Berkhamsted, and Emporiums. The Fleetville and Hitchin emporiums are home to many small traders, as well as  Station Mill Antique, The  Old Flight House and the Three Wise Monkeys ( formally at The Saddlery, St Albans, now at a smaller venue at Woodside Farm, Slip End and the images shown here are of the previous premises). Packed with unusual items. Some will revoke memories of childhood ( scary, as some of us realize that we, too are vintage!). A monthly Antique and Vintage Street Market is held once a month in St Albans, which is definitely worth a visit.

 

 

A few pieces of furniture have been ‘upcycled’ into bespoke one-off  items, which could transform a room. Images show pieces by Carmel of Piece Unique and by me Sarah Maidment Interiors. We both take commissions  if you have your own item of furniture which you’d like customising.

 

 

You will also find Kelim rugs, cushions, and  stools and chairs upholstered in gorgeous Kelim rugs from Rug Addiction https://www.rugaddiction.co.uk/ . Other chairs re-upholstered, homemade cushions and artwork to grace your walls.

Kelim rugs, cushions and upholstered furniture
An array of Kelim rugs, cushions and upholstered furniture by Rug Addiction

If vintage clothing is your passion, Little Viking  https://www.littlevikingvintage.com have an array of dresses, jackets, shoes and bags for all. ‘Oh Sew Vintage’ for handmade dresses for all occasions.

 

 

You will also find every conceivable Doc Martin design boot you could ever wish for.

Selection of Doc Martin Boots, vintage heaters and lamp
Doc Martin boots, vintage heaters and lighting

Vintage books, comics, and  postcards can be found for collectors and unusual hand-made jewellery by local artisans.

 

 

Modern works of art and photography adorn the walls. This stunning picture of Nelson Mandela (below) taken by the photographer Greg Bartley would look amazing gracing the wall of a large room.

 

Limited edition framed photograph of Nelson Mandela by Greg Bartley
Visually stunning photograph of Nelson Mandela by Greg Bartley

IMG_6804Come and say ‘hello’ and meet Colin the resident ‘horse’ .

Fake horse called Colin
Colin, a reminder of the barns former life as a saddlery and stables

Deck The Halls -Christmas Decorating Ideas

A welcoming Christmas entrance hall
A welcoming Christmas entrance hall
A Christmas welcome

 

 

 

Deck the halls with boughs of holly…. as the Christmas Carol says; a tradition which goes back to medieval times and continues today. Either combined with ivy, fir, cinnamon sticks and baubles are made into garlands, hung from stair banisters’ and fireplaces or simply draped over pictures and mirrors.

 

Wreaths – Traditionally hung on front doors, but look equally as festive hung on a wall inside, perhaps in place of a picture during Christmas. A simple willow wreath or zinc with lights will brighten a dark corner.

Focal Points

The Christmas Tree is usually the focal point in a room, especially if you don’t have a fireplace – but do measure the size you require prior to purchasing; trees have a knack of looking smaller in a shop than in your sitting room!

Decorating your tree is personal preference of course, and can lead to disagreements on occasion.  Sometimes people have two trees to avoid differences of opinion!  Choosing  from traditional, contemporary, Nordic, and Vintage themes.  The choice of decorations available is endless, so too are the choice of lights. Your tree should reflect your personality and creative ability, however just ensure that it complements the rooms’ surroundings rather than compete with it, to do both justice.

Fireplaces and Hearths – With traditional fireplace with a mantle and surround the choices are limitless. Greenery, candles, cones, ornaments. Again, choose decorations, colours and design which complement the fire surround and your room to create an overall cohesive design.

A faux fireplace decorated for Christmas
A faux fireplace decorated for Christmas
A stunning arrangement of lights candles and stars
A simple arrangement of lights candles and stars is easy to do.
A collection of a woodland theme on a hearth for Christmas
A collection on a theme looks festive
Candles in a hearth to imitate a real fire
Candles replace the glow of a real fire to great effect
Candles and greenery for an effective hearth arrangement
Simple greenery with candles which will reflect in the mirror
Countrystyle hearth and decor
Countrystyle hearth and decoration wwwwhitecompany.com

It’s advisable to have a faux garland near a wood burner or multi fuel stove, due to the heat output, if you want your ‘greenery’ to look fresh for the Christmas period. Led lights woven through and baubles can be added to enhance your garland. Or have a garland made from dried fruit and foliage. Keep the look simple with piles of logs for a rustic appeal.

A faux garland for a multi fuel stove works best
It’s advisable to use a faux garland near a stove. House to Home.com

Floral displays as table centre pieces, again with candles look stunning. However, ensure the arrangement is not too tall to block out the person sitting opposite (you may find this a bonus though!) and is easily removed if requiring the space for serving dishes. A floral display on occasional tables looks stunning too, but if time is at a premium or not your thing, try grouping three of the same plants together for effect like Poinsettia or Hellebores’ ( Christmas Rose).

Exteriors – You’ve all seen the extravagant light displays some homes have at Christmas, sometimes complete with a Santa on the roof! If your taste is somewhat less flamboyant (I know mine is) then less can be more. Fairy lights hung around the front porch or small trees by the door give a warm festive welcome. If locating a suitable electrical point is difficult, place lanterns outside with LED tea lights or candles instead. A wreath or a simple bunch of evergreen tied with a festive bow hung on the door.

Christmas front entrance idea
A festive front entrance from House to Home
An evergreen Christmas door wreath
An evergreen wreath always makes a Christmas
Greenery in urn with lantern and sculpture
An unusual compilation of greenery, lantern and sculpture prettypinktulips.com
Rusted star lanterns from Cox and Cox
Rusted star lanterns from Cox and Cox

Whatever your Christmas  decorating choice – let your personality and ideas shine.

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas.

Images fairytaillightsandfun.com royal collection.org.uk http://www.busybeestudio.co.uk next.co.uk iheartshabbychic.com sarahgordonhome.co.uk  Sarah Raven sjarmerendejul.blogspot.com inspirationsdeco.blogspot.fr

Which Decade Does Your Home Reflect?

Morris and Co New Collection

Did you move into your present home some years ago, decorating and furnishing it up to date fixtures, fittings with enthusiasm and sat back and enjoyed since? How many years ago?

Now, sit back, look at your home objectively – is it looking ‘tired’ a little worse for wear? Does it look slightly ‘dated’? Be honest. It’s easy to settle into a comfortable living way of life. You’ve modernised, decorated and furnished it all once, why do it again? Because it ages you, puts you right into a certain decade, which decade is your home from? So unless you are deliberately trying to recreate a certain era or decade in your home, visit http://www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/  it needs changing.

Alms House Interior Geffrye Museum
Alms House Interior Geffrye Museum

Inspiration and ideas from previous decades can successfully be incorporated into present interiors and are often used as research for paint, paper and fabric design companies. Morris and Co https://www.william-morris.co.uk/shop/new-collections/

Morris and Co New Collection
Inspiration from the past. Morris and Co

In the late 70’s and early 80’s the trend was for stripped pine. Antique pieces are still acceptable, (however, the Victorians would never have had their cheap pine furniture on show, and it would have been painted or stained to look like mahogany or hidden below stairs). The more modern pine pieces – I use this term loosely, turn an orange colour over time and not only look awful but are dated. Same is to be said of heavy dark furniture popular from the Victorians to the 1940’s.

Before and after painted pine funiture
Update your existing furniture with paint.Image sweetsmith.com

 

Before discarding the usually well made, real wood furniture for flat pack modern pieces, consider updating your existing furniture with paint – unless of course you have a budget for a better quality product. Furniture can be transformed with paint. Do check though before painting, that the item of furniture is not a valuable piece.

 

Kitchens are a huge investment and if yours is well planned and works well  few changes to update it maybe all that it requires.

Doors- Again these can be painted and swap the handles and knobs with new ones.

Work Tops – Replace with new to blend in with your new door fronts.

Splash Backs – Remove the tiles if they are from a decade you wish to move on from, and replace with specialist glass or a contemporary tile design.

Flooring – Perhaps lay new vinyl if the existing is worn, with an up to date design to compliment the other changes made. If floor tiles are dated, remove them and lay new. This is more expensive and more difficult if they are laid under the existing fitted cabinets. Never lay tiles over tiles, you’re asking for trouble with cracking and movement. If the tiles are acceptable, and you wish to keep them, choose cabinet and work top colours to compliment the floor. Using specialist floor paint is also an option, can work well if done properly. Hang a new blind, and add some fresh accessories and tea towels.

Walls- Unless you live in a beautiful Victorian house wall paper borders are a no, no. So are dado and picture rails stained a mahogany colour. This is another 80’s hangover.

Image example of dado rail in period home
Painted dado and picture rails in a period home Image Pinterest

Decoration – If you love your paintings, pictures and prints try re framing them. The difference in using a double mount and new frame will not only enhance the art work but also your room. Hang pictures in groups either by subject matter or in matching frames for an eye catching display. Do not hang them as in the 70’s in a triangular mode across the wall, or too high.

Flooring – No swirly carpets – sorry. People use this description when describing a house in need of an update ‘All swirly  carpets’ and people understand what the house is like, dated. Swirly carpets can also compete with the rest of the furnishings.

West Indian Front Room
Everything is competing with each other Image by Studio International.com

Have you got wood underneath  the existing carpet that is worth exposing, then lay a   large rug for warmth in colours to complement your other furnishings? If carpet is preferred a plain neutral carpet usually works best in the majority of standard size homes as it makes the rooms appear larger.

Lighting– It’s fine if you live in a period property or re- creating a particular decade style because you like it, otherwise try changing the shades and lamps to a more contemporary style. Florescent strips in the kitchen offer great light, but its unforgiving and provides little ambience. Try changing the strip to a budget friendly track system. The adjustability of the spots makes it easy to aim the light where its most needed.

Now get into a decade where you and your home belong be it traditional, classic or contemporary.

Bathrooms can be more tricky to update without major work. However, if the layout works well, update with new tiles and flooring. Ditch the carpet for a start! It’s a far better job if the old tiles are removed prior to laying new, especially when tiling down to a bath, basin and shower. However if you have a plaster board wall, this may come away with the old tiles in places, which will need to be repaired before tiling. This is not a quick update job. If storage is a problem, try replacing your pedestal basin with a vanity unit and basin, and add a mirrored cabinet above it. Hang a new blind and add new towels to compliment the room.

Now which decade does your home reflect?

Images from annesage.com, hative, HousetoHome,Geffrye Museum,Little Greene Paint

 

 

 

 

 

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House (15 ) Getting Plastered!

The garden path being laid down the garden
The path being laid down the garden

Each trade moves projects forward, but when the plasterers arrive with their skill ( along with the mess) covering the walls, suddenly rooms begin to take shape. Our plasterers have also rendered round the exterior windows, doors and block work. Once completed and dry, we were itching to stabilize and then paint the render, to tidy up the exterior a little after looking so sad for so long. This won’t be fully completed until the side boiler/ mud room, porch and garage have been finished.

Once the plaster was dry the walls were ready to be painted with a ‘mist’ coat, this being a watered down trade white emulsion. Applying this base coat to new plastered walls will save on the finished emulsion paint coat required due to the porousness of bare plaster. It also shows up imperfections in the plaster which can be filled and sanded if necessary, leaving a smooth even surface for the final coats of your chosen colour. Also, if having metal light sockets and switches, the base mist coat will prevent moisture transgressing and causing discolouration  after the second fix electrics. The house suddenly became lighter and brighter. The ceilings had two coats of their final colour  but just one coat on the walls as the skirting boards have yet to be fixed in some rooms. I would wait for the comments from the different trades as they viewed my chosen colours’ being applied, which is mainly a neutral palette of soft greys. “What colour  do you call that”? They would ask. “Corpse Dick” I would reply. Taken aback I explained and showed them my niece’s comedy sketch about Farrow and Ball   http://www.farrow-ball.com/colours/paint/fcp-category/list and interior designers. https://sinteriors.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=161087&action=edit

Other colours chosen to prevent the house from appearing too bland are similar to the popular choices from the 1930s’, which I found under the layers of wallpaper and can be bought from many paint companies.

Craig and Rose available at B and Q, Crown, Dulux, Little Greene Paint, Fired Earth, and of course Farrow and Ball, to name a few. One of which was called ‘Fresh Plaster,’ from Craig and Rose, which of course caused amusement and comments from the plasterers. I have used this colour in a north – facing room as it’s a warm colour. Remember, ceilings do not have to be white. In some cases this can cause the wall colour to look different than you intended. The ceiling can be painted the same colour as the walls, giving the appearance of a higher ceiling. This also makes the cutting in (where the walls meet the ceiling) a lot easier. If you have a hall or landing with a lot of doors, which don’t have any architectural appeal, by painting the same colour as the walls the appearance is less like a corridor because the doors blend into the walls. This is a popular current trend, but ensure that an eggshell, or paint specifically for woodwork finish is used and available in the same colour as the emulsion  Not all paint manufacturers produce all finishes in all colours’.

My biggest painting challenge was the Master Bedroom with its high vaulted ceiling. I had to climb a ladder onto a tower to enable me to reach the ceiling with the roller. I then had to climb down and ask someone strong to move the tower along a little, only to climb up again and paint the next area of ceiling. Progress was slow, over several days, but who needs a gym with all that exercise? Being such a large room I needed gallons of paint and good natural day light as the electrics had not yet been connected. Once completed and the paint dry, some of the walls appeared to be patchy and slightly different colours. This was due to different batches of paint of the same colour, despite my order for all the paint made at the same time. The only way to rectify this was to repaint the wall with a final coat of the same batch number paint. I must say I was very relieved to escape this room and move onto the next!

A tower used to reach the ceiling
A tower used to reach the ceiling

Our neighbour came round one afternoon, concerned about the fence boandary  and his hedge, wishing to see how we had dealt with it, since laying our new garden path alongside the boundary. The ancient, now rusted wire fence and remains of the wooden posts – hidden for decades behind over grown shrubs and trees was still there, where it had always been. He wanted to ensure that we knew where his boundary was, up to the remains of wire fence, and that the hedge was his. The wooden fence, such as it was and what remained of it was rotten and leaning inwards towards our garden due to his overgrown hedge and would need to be cut back before a new fence could be erected ( by us). This was pointed out to him, but he didn’t cut it back, he said ” as it didn’t effect him”. So we cut out the problem branches and returned the debris as it belonged to him, and our skip was already full.

In the main sitting room the new fireplace wall was divided into three equal sections. The centre section being left as bare plaster ready for the bricks which would be laid behind the multi- fuel stove. The two side sections were painted in. This was a compromise to the completed brick wall. Great discussions on the final design of the fireplace ensued. The finished height of the hearth ( so logs could be stored underneath) and the size of the multi fuel stove. Due to the volume of the room we only required a stove with a 5 kW out put, to avoid cooking ourselves. However, we wondered if the size of the stove would look too small in the room. Pencil mark measurements were made on the plaster and we painted a ‘stove’ in situ to visualise the space. The original quote we received from a company we had used before was very high, not due to the stove itself, but for the building of the hearth with a granite top and flue installation. They were not forthcoming or helpful when I explained I just wanted the stove and flue installed. Our builders are very caperble of building the hearth design with bricks, and making the hearth from cast concrete. This was the finished look I wanted to achieve. The hearth was constructed in a wooden frame and strengthened with steel wire. Coloured concrete was poured into the frame and left to set. Once dried and set it was removed from the frame and lifted into place by four men and secured. It looks amazing and was achieved at a fraction of the cost of granite. We sourced the multi fuel stove and flu from another company and installed by approved fitters. The long established installers thought the hearth was solid York Stone and couldn’t believe it was cast concrete.

The company who made our steel lintels also make a small selection of iron work railings,  and made to measure the Juliete balcony for the Master Bedroom. I was glad once they had installed this, so I could open the French doors and let some fresh air in and finish off the rear elevation.

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House (11) – Compromises with Budget and Design

Compromised by the weather
Compromised by the weather

The Party Wall Award was signed and sealed on Friday 22nd January, which was a relief as the digger was due for delivery on the following Monday ready to dig the footings. The building inspector had been booked for late on Tuesday morning to inspect and hopefully pass the excavations, in time for the concrete to arrive and commence pouring from twelve noon onwards to fill the same. So thankfully our deadline and schedule went according to plan. It was very exciting to watch the footings being dug, a major landmark on the project, and to see what had just been until now on drawings. This week the beam and block floors on the extension and garage are being laid, ready for the next stage.

However, we are in need of a good carpenter to construct the roof beams. One recommended carpenter is too busy, and another has fallen out with our builder over a prior job for some reason, and refuses to work on the same site. Running any project requires diplomatic, political and communication skills! There is a shortage of skilled trades people, especially reliable ones who don’t disappear int the middle of your job to start another one, and leave you at a standstill. To have your workers on site everyday, solely working on your build is brilliant and the work moves consistently forward. The phrase ‘Hospital job’ is occasionally mentioned, whereby your work can be perceived as a ‘fill in’ when other jobs take priority. This can be costly, time consuming and frustrating. A written, signed agreement is recommended and perhaps a penalty clause added whereby the builder is fined if not finished at the pre agreed date.This is quite normal with the larger building companies. Smaller individual trades people will normally provide a written quote, with a fixed price but allow for ‘unknowns’ such as repairs to walls when tiles have been removed. There is no way of telling if the wall will come away with the tiles or not, therefore if full repair to the wall is required this will obviously be more expensive than if the wall is O.K. and the price is adjusted accordingly by prior agreement. I avoid ‘day rate’ pricing, unless how many days the job will take is given in writing.  Otherwise you have no control over the cost or time to complete the work.

Some quotes have been slow in being returned, and now have to be chased. It is best to allow for the ‘benefit of doubt’. Emails or post gone astray, which invariably happens, but once confirmed that all the necessary information has been received and given a few weeks to return the quote, I follow up with a phone call. I will not chase or contact again, as I feel that if I’m chasing them, when trying to give them work, what service will I receive once they have my work?

Choosing tiles from large DIY retailers has been difficult and disappointing, I had hoped for some possible sale bargains. End of line or to be discontinued tiles can be a good source of  savings. Just ensure you buy enough for the intended job, allowing 10% for breakages and wastage. Nothing is more irritating than running out, and desperately hunting, or unable to get any more. Insufficient quantities of tiles of choice were available, and the new lines for 2015 would not be on the shelves until sometime in February, so no joy as yet. Tile specialist shops are my next port of call. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t just buy the tile online without actually seeing and feeling it, as colour representations aren’t always accurate. You can often order tile samples, which helps with online purchasing.  The same goes for wallpaper too, and check the batch numbers. I have been luckier buying curtains in the January sales though. My husband thinks I’m nuts buying curtains before we have any actual building or windows. But if you have your window sizes and add 10cm cm below the cill and 10   cm above the window for the rail. Add at least 10cm to the width of each curtain to allow for the rod overhang at each end. This guide for a basic pair of curtains and if you know what colours’ and design you need for each room, then it saves time, and money when you are ready to hang them. If you are planning more elaborate or complicated window dressings, and are unsure at this stage what type of rail you will have, then it is best to wait until you have decided.

Curtain rail positions
If you are confident to buy curtains prior to the rooms completion, then do so. otherwise wait until you are sure where the rail or fixings will be hung, to avoid errors.

Ideally I wanted to have one wall (the wall behind the wood burning stove) in the sitting room built in bricks. The idea being it would create a slight industrial vibe, add texture and link the original brick fireplace in the existing sitting room. There are thousands of different bricks available, salvaged bricks from previous buildings are a great eco recycling option, but are  invariably more expensive due to the labour content of removing the old mortar stuck to the brick. Unfortunately, we couldn’t use the bricks from the demolished garage or side lean to, because the bricks had been rendered on the outside, and painted on the inside. We have used some of these as a hardcore base for the terrace to be built much later on. To match the brick as near as possible to the fireplace I took some photo’s to compare with the bricks on display at a builders merchant. I have narrowed it down to one brick, isn’t that amazing? Bricks are priced by the thousand. I need  a 1000 bricks, which included 5% wastage for one wall. The cost of the bricks is £895.00 per thousand. Plus the cost of labour and mortar, so for one wall it would cost £ 1200.00.  A price comparison to a block work wall, mortar, labour, plaster and plaster and paint finish would be approximately the same. If you feel that  a whole wall of bricks would be too over powering in the room, then try adapting your initial idea to suit. Perhaps just a brick chimney breast  would suffice. In my case it won’t as I will not have a chimney breast, just a flue pipe from the stove up the wall and outside. A wall paper imitating bricks could be a solution, or perhaps just a raised brick hearth would be a compromise. My original design thought was to have a raised hearth, sufficiently high enough to allow for wood to be stored below the hearth and the stove raised enough to actually see it across the room, without being hidden from view by a coffee table.  In which case bricks would not really work. A cast concrete, slate or granite plinth (hearth) placed on the same, would work. House renovation, I have found is often one of compromise, not only due to budgets and designs, but with partners too!

All images other than my own are from Pinterest.

Planning Ahead – Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House

Present front elevation of the house. This is about to change.
Present front elevation of the house. This is about to change.

We have now received planning approval for our extension. This is great news, but has not been without changes to the original plans. The Planning office objected to the position of the boundary wall in relation to our neigbours, and wanted it bought in by at least a metre. Our plans had been based on the existing boundary, where the garage now stands which has stood in this position since it was built in the 1930’s. This was no longer acceptable. Our architects amended the plans by moving the side elevation in by one metre, but elongated the rear dimensions, so as not to compromise on the design. This was accepted by the planners. Sometimes compromises have to be made. We are now just waiting for our architects to complete the Building Regulation drawings.

We received a letter from our neigbour, from whose boundary we had to build away from, expressing their concerns, and asking about the Party Wall Agreement. I have replied, stating that an Agreement will be drawn up, and that every effort will be made to avoid too much disruption to her whilst the work is being carried out. Good communication is essential concerning all parties to try and avoid conflicts.

Now we have actual scaled drawings, we have been able to plan the kitchen and bathroom layouts, as well as the electrical schematics to be put on the working drawings. Our landscaping plans have been roughly sketched out but not drawn to scale as yet. These drawings need to be done now to allow for the exterior lighting and power points to to be laid in the right positions at the right time during the work and not to be treated as an after thought, retro fitting can be expensive. Also positions of outside taps etc. need to be thought about and planned. These drawings will then be sent to contractors for quotes.

In the meantime the bathroom and kitchen have been stripped out ready for internal wall removal in the existing layout. Unfortunately one of the original basins I wanted to re use was cracked, so had to be skipped. All other salvageable items are now stored safely off site. We had hoped that these internal alterations would have been done by now to push the project on, but builders would prefer to carry out all the work in one go. Our scheduled start date on site is the first working day in the new year, so lots to plan now.

Whilst away on holiday lots of ideas have been gathered from the hotel we stayed in. Inspiration and ideas can be gleaned from everywhere to either copy or adapt to your needs accordingly. The hotel had been architecturally  designed to blend in with it’s location. The dining rooms, bedrooms, bars and lounge areas have been decorated in a French Colonial style, which suited the buildings, setting  and the islands history which was on a beach in Mauritius. There were lots of ideas, not only for the restoration of our 1930’s house, but also for other projects.

The  flooring in the main areas impressed me. It had been laid with a charcoal coloured polished concrete, and marked with lines to imitate over sized stone slabs or tiles. This choice of flooring is ideal for ‘hardworking areas’ in a home and relatively easy to achieve if laying a new solid screed floor. With under floor heating laid beneath the finished concrete layer to prevent it feeling cold in the winter. Concrete is an adaptable medium which can be coloured and patterned to imitate tiles and wood. The same concrete and finish can be laid on a terrace or patio thereby continuing the flow from the inside to out. If you have a large outside space, you could  add interest by creating zones for eating by putting a different pattern in the concrete or mixing with decking or slabs. There is a decking material made from bamboo and resin which is available in different colours’, and is a sustainable product which lasts longer and is fairly maintenance free, which is worth looking at if considering a decked area. I have found conflicting information regarding the costs per square meter of concrete floors. Some sites state that it is cheaper than tiling others say it’s more expensive, so shop around to find the best deals. For more information go to  http://www.madaboutthehouse.com/should-i-have-polished-concrete-floors/   So it is difficult to compare with the cost of laying porcelain tiles, which is the cost of the tiles plus labour of between £30 to £40 per square meter. Another material which is eco friendly can be found from http://www.concreateflooring.co.uk

Our hotel room had a small courtyard partially covered with a wooden pergoda with a glass roof and greenery. Something similar to this I feel needs to be erected at the rear of our 1930’s house from our dining room. This elevation faces due south and needs shade on hot summer days. It would also provide a structure for lighting for outside dining. A glass roof of course would be unsuitable due to the ‘greenhouse effect’. A solid roof would make the interior too dark. Greenery such as a wisteria or grape vine look lovely, but can take years to mature. Some pergolas have canvas covers which can be operated manually or automatically when cover is required. This option provides the flexibility needed for the English summer, especially if the canvas cover is water proof! http://www.shadefxcanopies.com/blog/

Some images are from Pinterest.

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House (2)

Thousands of new homes were built in the 1930’s, mostly in the suburbs. There were two main architectural trends in the 1930’s. One being Art Deco, with it’s angular lines and modern tiled fireplaces.  The other more traditional based on mock Tudor, with leaded windows, beams, paneled doors and brick tiled fireplaces,  old world charm if you like. Personally I have always favoured the latter more traditional architecture, I am not really a fan of Art Deco or Moderne architecture. It appears that my house is a mixture of the two architectural styles with Crittal windows, flush doors with Art Deco handles, but has brick fireplaces and not tiled.

 

This is a renovation project to bring the house back to life after years of neglect. It is also in part a restoration to maintain it’s history and origin without slavishly recreating a time capsule museum – a nod to it’s past.  I don’t want to take out all the period details, which was common in the 60’s and 70’s when removing decorative original fireplaces they were replaced with a gas fire. Only to find a few decades later new occupants replacing the gas fires with those of the period to the house.  We plan to extend the house to add a fourth bedroom and en-suite, knock out the wall between the kitchen and dining room to create a large family dining kitchen to reflect today’s lifestyle. We would also like to add a garden room at the rear to make the most of the garden.

A builder would most probably knock down the house and re -build a purpose built modern home. It is easier for them to cost the project and they can reclaim the 20% VAT. Unfortunately, home owners do not get the same financial help on extensions or property renovation unless it is a listed building. This is a shame as the extra 20% would certainly help property owners maintain and improve  homes.

 We have met a couple of architects at the house to discuss possible options and to quote for  the drawings and submission to planning at the local council. Both architects I found on Google search, and though  very different, both we felt would do a good job. It was very difficult deciding which architect to choose. However, one architect had just taken on a very large project and we felt would be too busy for our little job, with the possibility  we might end up at the bottom of the pile. We had hoped to have the plans drawn up and ready to submit to planning on completion of the purchase.  This was not the case, and our architect is presently drawing plans and  incorporating our ideas as discussed at our initial site meeting  including their own ideas. This the key part of the process, as any  changes made later will cost time and money.

Please excuse the extremely poor quality of these drawings, but I have had a spot of bother with my scanner! I hope it gives you an idea though.

Once the plans are finalized and prior to submitting to planning we can pay for a consultation (this service used to be free) with the planning department to see if they think our plans will be passed first time or whether or not changes need to be made in line with their planning guidelines. This could save valuable time and money rather than having to re-submit  altered drawings if the original plans were refused after the initial 10 week wait for a decision. You would then have another 10 week wait for a planning decision. We hope to submit for planning at the beginning of August at the latest. The eight to ten week wait then applies before we know whether or not our application has been successful or not. If not we have to change the plans inline with the councils recommendations and submit another application (and fee of course) and wait it out again for  10 weeks. Once planning permission is granted, the architect and engineer will draw plans to be submitted to the council for building regulation approval. This can take six to eight weeks. If approved, we can finally start building – if your builder is able start then that is! This is the slow bit, when your’e just itching to get going.

I have been busy also getting quotes from tree surgeons and landscaping companies to cut down and remove some trees, cut back shrubs and create some semblance of order in the wilderness of a garden.  A fifty foot cypress tree at the front is too near the house (roots) and blocks a lot of light. Luckily there are no Tree Protection Orders nor is the property within a conservation area.  Otherwise applications, plus fees have to be made to the council for permission to carry out the work.

Oh, I forgot to mention bats and Glis Glis.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edible_dormouse  (Apparently the Romans used to eat them).  Glis Glis were introduced into the area by Baron Lionel Rothschild, the Naturalist. Glis Glis escaped from his private collection into the wild. Glis Glis scuttle around attics and like warm airing cupboards. Once the council receive the plans, they will send an ecological consultant (another fee ) to check the attic and any outbuildings affected by the proposed works for bats or Glis Glis living in these spaces. Both are protected species and until the Glis Glis are removed by a licensed company and the bats have been provided with an alternative roost you cannot commence the work if it affects these species. Nobody said it was easy!

 

 

 

1930’s House Renovation

We have just bought a house, my husband and I.  It needs some work, a total renovation really. In most peoples’ eyes it would be classed as ‘uninhabitable’, despite the house having a kitchen, bathroom, electricity and running water. The house was empty when we viewed it apart from tattered curtains at the windows and well worn carpets in the dining and sitting rooms. The previous owner, an elderly lady who had recently died, lived in the house for 50 years raising her family and living her life. It was sad to see the state of disrepair and neglect her home and garden had fallen into around her.

The house, built in the 1930’s gives  little away of it’s history. It is detached, has the original Crittal windows, and is laid out of houses typical of the era with a kitchen at the front and dining room in the rear, a sitting room, three bedrooms, two of which still have their original wash basins, bathroom and separate loo. The bathroom basin was obviously replaced in the 70’s due to it’s avocado colour, in an otherwise predominantly white bathroom complete with original black and white tiles. Patterned formica work top near the sink area in the kitchen from the 60’s. (I can date this as I remember having the same in my childhood home) in an otherwise original kitchen, except that someone has removed the Rayburn or Aga. Above the kitchen door is the original bell box, which would have lit up depending in which room the bell button had been pushed by whoever required service. There are still buttons in the rooms, but have no longer work. I told my husband not to get any ideas!  I was surprised to find a bell service in such a modest home. I suppose in the 1930’s it would have been quite grand, complete with a garage for a car, and to employ a cook or housekeeper on a daily basis. There is a serving hatch between the kitchen and dining room which has a double sets of doors, maybe this was to prevent the cook from eavesdropping!

I was surprised not to find tiled Art Deco fireplaces associated with the  architecture on the exterior, complete with the original ‘Crittal’ windows. Instead there are original red brick fireplaces in the dining and sitting rooms, which is more in keeping with the mock Tudor 1930’s architecture, also a popular design at the time.  The internal doors are flush complete with chrome Deco design door handles.  With the brick fireplaces I would have imagined leaded windows and wooden paneled internal doors. Two conflicting styles from the same decade in one house.

The garden is quite big, as far as we can tell. It is very overgrown with brambles, weeds and very long grass. Trees and shrubs have grown unchecked for years, hiding the house from view at the front. There is a range of beautiful Rhododendrons, which we aim to keep, but cut back.

I aim to blog in intervals during the renovations from start to finish, with information which i hope will be of interest. I will keep you posted on the updates.