Planning your Renovation – Six Key Points to Consider

Front elevation of a completed cottage renovation
Front elevation of a completed cottage renovation
A newly completed cottage renovation

So, you’ve bought a property to renovate – how exciting! You’re itching to get started, full of ideas, energy, enthusiasm and the illusion that ”it won’t take long’ . Whether planning a basic renovation, such as replacing the bathroom, installing a new kitchen and decorating throughout; or major surgery  such as removing walls, re-wiring, plumbing, replacing the windows and possibly adding an extension, planning is the key to a successful project and conclusion. The age-old adage: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is true for a very good reason. But there’s another saying: “The best laid plans of mice and men plans often go awry” and despite careful planning things often do.  It doesn’t matter if it’s your first (and maybe your last?) attempt at home renovation, I have listed some key points you must consider when starting your renovation project.

1. Invest money and time in the main fabric of the building.

Roof, walls, windows, doors, electrics, plumbing, gutters etc. are the ‘bones’ of your home. If this means having to wait until funds allow for the beautiful furniture and furnishings you would like, it is a wait that is worth it. A wall in a bad state of repair will not be improved just by painting it a different colour.

2. Does the existing floor layout suit your needs and lifestyle?

If not, draw a rough plan of the existing layout and look at ways this can be improved. It maybe as simple as hanging a door the other way round! Does a wall need removing? If so, then consult a structural engineer to ensure that it is not a supporting wall and consequently is holding your house up. If it is, then a qualified engineer will be able to calculate the steel support beam required to be installed by professional builders.  You or your builder will have to notify Building Regulations at the Planning Office who will carry out a site visit to inspect that the work is being carried out correctly, and if satisfied will issue an approval notice for the work.

A stairwell box taking up most of the third bedroom
An intrusive ‘box’ stairwell in a bedroom
En-suite converted from a small box room
The ‘box was reduced, doors moved making an en-suite

For structural alterations, it is advisable to employ professionals, including loft conversions and extensions. An architect is best for extension plans, but still show them your own rough plan of ideas of the sort of thing you would like at your first meeting. This is useful to the architect, and it avoids them going off on an expensive and unnecessary ‘Grand Design’-style tangent.

Ensure that you have a good working relationship with any professional you hire. Once you are happy with the design,  the plans will be submitted to the planning department of the local authority for approval. The decision process takes approximately 10 weeks. If the plans are not approved, changes will have to be made to your drawings and submitted again for approval.  This is the most frustrating part of any renovation. You just want to get started! But the law dictates that any buildings or extensions built without planning permission may well have to be demolished, the last thing anybody wants! There are some permitted development rights, which allow you to improve your home and build an extension, but ensure you check with your local planning office for details first.

An original 1930’s dining room
Before the renovations began. The original 1930’s dining room
Grey kitchen in a 1930’s house renovation
The window is in it’s original position. Walls were moved and an extension was built.

3. Plan Room Layouts

It’s never too early to start thinking about your room layouts. Starting by positioning your furniture around your floor plan will save you a lot of unnecessary changes later. Draw a scale plan with a scale ruler on paper or on a computer if you prefer, and position your furniture in each room. If  you struggle to visualise things in this way, you can also measure the room with a tape measure and mark out the furniture positions with sticky tape. You will be able to see if you have sufficient plug sockets in the right places for your needs, for lamps by the beds, or in the living room, computer, printers etc.

Do you need any additional forms of  lighting? Mark these on your master plan drawings and incorporate into your costs. If you are planning to change the layout of your bathroom consult a professional plumber,  bathroom installer or talk to a specialist bathroom supplies showroom. They will advise you if it possible to move the toilet etc. to another position. It’s not always as simple as you think, we often forget how the waste water is going to be disposed of! Likewise, visit a kitchen designer to help you plan your kitchen, but do take along your ideas and rough plans too. These professionals will make sure that there is no oversight in your plans.

Basic drawing of a living room layout
Basic room layout drawing will help on electrical requirements.

4. Plan your Budget

It doesn’t matter how big or small your budget is, this is key to a successful project. Remember to add about 20% of the total budget as a contingency fund, in case unforeseen problems arise.

The easiest way to to do a budget is on a spreadsheet. List all the items, product codes, supplier, with possible delivery lead times of the items, and the price.  It’s also useful to have all your information in one place to refer to as the project progresses.  Knowing the delivery lead times of fixtures and fittings avoids a mad rush and panic buying when an item is needed and avoids delays. The most expensive items are not always the best quality, so shop around. Always get at least three written quotations from qualified and recommended trades people for the work for cost comparison. Do not ask for, or accept an estimate. An estimate is exactly what it says, and will no doubt cost you more than you have budgeted for. For ease of quote comparisons draw up a detailed  list of the work you require them to do, along with any drawings which can include details of your specific fixtures and fittings if they are to supply them. You will also want to know their expected start and finish dates.  A written contract or agreement of some type should be signed to avoid disputes by both parties. For large projects you may want to include a penalty clause, should work not be completed within the agreed time frame. Depending on the size of your project, it may also be a wise decision to appoint a Project Manager on your behalf.

Before - a sliding door separating dining room to a badly planned kitchen.
Before, a sliding door into a badly planned kitchen
After picture of a well planned kitchen in a small cottage
After – Dividing sliding door removed and a well planned kitchen installed

5. Keep to your Budget

This is a lot easier said than done, we all know this. By keeping to your master plan and by not changing your mind during the work or choosing more expensive fixtures and fittings will help avoid going over budget If you do change your mind on fixtures and fittings, when you update your spread sheet it will immediately show you how much you will go over budget, and perhaps you can make savings elsewhere to compensate. Be prepared to compromise.

6. Time Plan

Be realistic. ‘By Christmas’ is often quoted as a bench mark date. Christmas comes and goes and you’re still unfinished. Everything usually takes longer than expected.  As with any project have a start and finish date which is realistically achievable, and allows inclement weather to avoid stress and disappointment.

The start of a new kitchen installation
You don’t want to have a kitchen half finished with guests arriving.
Kitchen diner with central island
The finished kitchen now ready to receive guests

 

Be Prepared – For a lot of mess and disruption to your life, if you’re  planning to live in the property whilst work is being done. Be prepared for blood, sweat, tears and possibly disagreements and heated arguments.  As the project progresses you can get very tired and stressed. Keeping a sense of proportion and  humour is not always easy.  But the sense of achievement and joy when you’ve finished your home makes it all worthwhile.

 

The Art of French Dressing

French inspired fireplace and mantle vignette Chateau Lartigolle
French inspired fireplace and mantle vignette Chateau Lartigolle
French inspired fire place and mantle vignette at Chateau Lartigolle

French Country-style evokes memories of holidays in rural France and the lifestyle many hanker after, simpler and pared back. French linens on beds, sack cloth cushions, delicate lace panels, shutters and sturdy, functional wooden furniture. However, you need not be a slave to replicate every detail to reproduce this style. Add some modern paintings and lighting as successfully married together at La Souqueto  Chambres D’ Hotes  http://lasouqueto.com/

This style is in stark contrast to excesses of King Louis X1V and the ‘Versailles’ heavily gilded ornate furniture and lavish furnishings (with a lifestyle to match!). French Baroque with grand chandeliers, heavy drapes embellished with brocades hung at large windows and around beds in grand palaces.

Ornate French bedroom
Heavily adorned French bedroom

This of course is different to Parisian homes, where space is generally at a premium. Chic, pared down, with a considered use of available square footage. Think of the famous words of Coco Chanel ‘Less is more’ which is true for interiors as well as fashion.

Then, of course, there is the French Chateau, which can be a mix of ornate furniture, chandeliers, Toile de Jouy fabric and wallpaper, distressed painted wall treatments all add to the atmosphere, to simple lime washed walls.

Before investing in gallons of white paint as a starting point, what about colour? Homes in warmer climates use white to brighten their dark shuttered rooms, but can appear ‘cold’ in more northern homes. Think of the fields of sunflowers and lavender, Monet’s use of colour at his home in Girverny.

Perhaps there are elements from the traditional French interior styles you like and dislike. Try mixing the items you like together, oversized chandeliers with rustic wooden furniture. Simple Roman blinds made from French linen edged with a brocade, picking out colours within the room for a cohesive scheme. Do you want to create a romantic French feel to your bedroom (boudoir!) with lace, Toile in greys and blues or French country kitchen?

Chateau La Lartigolle http://www.lartigolle.com/ has beautifully and successfully transformed into a chic boutique country house hotel using a mixture of dark and ‘sludgy’ colours on their interior walls as well as wallpaper. They’ve mixed traditional French style with antique, modern and vintage pieces from 1930’s armchairs to 1950’s side tables, wall art from the 1960’s, including Jimmy Hendrix and modern contemporary pieces. The Chateau creates a surprising eclectic mix which is warm, comfortable and very easy to live with. Ideas to inspire and perhaps steal?

Dark red walls old leather armchair with interesting accessories makes a cosy corner
A cosy corner for a quiet read.
Blue Bedroom at Chateau Latigolle
The Blue Bedroom at Chateau Latigolle is calming and understated.
Mixed Vintage furniture in Chateau Latigolle
Mixed vintage pieces create a comfortable eclectic interior
White wall clock modern and contemporary art pop out against a dark grey wall
Mixed styles work well together
Modern art with pearlescent paint refllects light on a dark wall
Pearlescent paint reflects light in a dark corner.
A glass vignette on a table
A glass vignette
A mantle Piece styled with blue glass ornaments books and bust
A beautifully styled mantle piece
Hearth and fireplace style with Venician mirror bust blue glass and Chinese vases
A mixture of styles and arrangements makes a stunning focal point.
Jimmy Hendrix hangs on wall in Chateau Latigolle
Jimmy Hendrix hung on a sitting room wall at Chateau Latigolle
A glass window vignette at Chateau Latigolle
Window Vignette
Grand staircase dressed with chandelier and modern prints
A grand staircase with chandelier and modern prints

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

Design a Home and Garden that means Something to you

Design a home garden that reflects you
Design a home garden that reflects you
Even the smallest of spaces can be made into an outside ‘room’

What does your home and garden mean to you? A place to relax, entertain and spend time with families. How do they make you feel? Our homes and gardens should create a feeling of happiness and well being – a haven of peace in a busy world, and reflect your personality and chosen lifestyle. During events this year more people have found solace in their outside space.

How often in the past, alas not this year, have you visited either a National Trust garden, https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/gardens-and-parks,  The Chelsea Flower Show  or an open garden as part of the National Garden Scheme charity fundraising, https://www.ngs.org.uk/ and become inspired to create a lovely garden of your own, only to become despondent on returning home, faced with your own small patch of turf? We’ve also been guilty on the first of the warm, sunny days of rushing out to the local nursery or garden centre and purchasing seasonal plants for instant display, only to find that you don’t actually know where to plant them? Like all home and garden projects it’s down to good planning, you are, after all, creating an outside ‘room’ extension to your home.

As with interiors, create a Mood board, after all many interior mood boards are inspired by nature’s colours’, textures and movement. Ensure that your outside space compliments your interior space, a cohesive, seamless boundary between the two.

Garden Moodboard for inspiration
Garden Mood board by thepapermulberryblogspot.com

Ten Guidelines on Planning your Outside Space

  1. Budget – How much are you prepared to spend?
  2. Measure your site.
  3. Note the aspect, is it North, south, East or West? This has an influence over choice of plants, and where you want your seating and entertaining area to be.
  4. Hard Landscaping – Hedges, fences, decking paths etc. working within fixed boundaries. Do you want a water feature? Do you want outside lighting? These should be incorporated into you plan now to allow for electrical wiring requirements.
  5. Soil. Unless you’re exceptionally lucky most of us have ‘rubbish’ soil – clay, chalk, sand, silt, loams and peat. https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=179 (It maybe full of stones and builders debris too). To identify your soil type go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/htbg/module1/soil_types1.shtml  which offer great information other than purchasing a soil acid test kit. It’s important to choose the right plants for your soil if they’re to thrive ( not just the pretty ones). https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/beginners-guide/planting
  6. Collect ideas together you like from gardens, magazines etc. and think how you could incorporate some of these in your own garden. Also think about the transition from your interior to your garden. These should compliment each other and could be linked by either colour in the planting, fence or decking, or style of seating furniture and containers.  The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has an amazing website full of advice https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/design
  7. Prepare the planting border. Dig over at least fork deep, remove bricks, flints and anything else you may find and remove weeds. Then dig in well rotted manure. This is hard work, so not recommended on a hot day!
  8. Plan your planting scheme. Based on the aspect, space, soil type and desired final design and colour. Do you want a wildlife garden, attracting butterflies, birds and bees, a minimalist with maintenance to match? How much time, realistically are you’re going to spend gardening?

9. Now Buy your plants according to your list.

10. Compromise You maybe horrified by the price of your chosen plants, especially if selecting larger plants and shrubs for instant impact. Buy smaller specimens instead and be patient. Alternatively, consider scouring the clearance section for reductions, especially in the Autumn. O.K. they maybe going over for this season, but shrubs and perennials will come back next year to enhance your garden at a lower cost.

Be patient, gardens like homes evolve and grow over time. Below, are before, during and after picture’s of an overgrown and neglected garden, taken over two years.

 

The garden now, two years on. Just wondering how many beers had been consumed prior to cutting the lawn, judging by the stripes!

 

Garden after 5 years maturity
The garden now 5 years later, maturing nicely

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House Before and After Pictures

Front porch of renovated 1930's house

I have now compiled ‘before and after’ pictures, with the occasional ‘during’ photo (remember it always gets worse before it gets better) which I hope you’ll enjoy and give you momentum to commence or  finish your projects.

The renovation and restoration of a 1930’s house is finished! Are you ever finished in a home? Probably not.

Front Elevation

Before – Sad and neglected                                        After – Restored and extended

Hall

Before - The original 1930s' entrance hall prior to renovations.
Before – The original front entrance hall prior to renovations.
Original 1930's entrance hall
Before – The original hall was dark and poky.
Acro props before steel beam is installed
During an internal hall wall removal.

 

After - The finished entrance hall in a 1930's house
After – The completed entrance hall

Sitting Room

Before - The sitting room with the original 1930's brick fireplace.
Before – The sitting room with the original 1930s’ brick fireplace.
After - The original 1930's brick fireplace cleaned up
After – The original 1930’s brick fireplace was retained, so too were the original Crittal French doors.
Before Original 1930's sitting room complete with Crittal French doors and brick fireplace
Before – A 1930’s sitting room with original Crittal French doors and brick fireplace.

Kitchen

Before - The original 1930's dining room
Before – The original 1930’s dining room
During - The wall dividing the kitchen and dining room has been removed.
The dividing wall between the kitchen and dining room has been removed, to be re-positioned.
After - the completed new kitchen
After – The completed kitchen
After - Kitchen with island and glass partition wall and door to hall.
After – Kitchen with glass partition and door to hall. Original servants bell box is re-hung – shame no staff though!
Open plan kitchen/diner/day room with bi-fold doors onto garden.
View into dining/ day room area from kitchen
Before- original 1930s' dining room
Before- the original dining room prior extension and renovation work – damp wall is now where clock is hung.

Living Room

Rear Footings 3rd feb 2015
Before – Laying the foundations
Painted Stove and Fireplace
During – Marking the wall for the multi-fuel stove
Trescotte Sitting Room Afer 073
After – The finished sitting room

Family Bathroom

Before- A tired and dated bedroom                         After – A family bathroom

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom during construction
The first fix electrics in the master bedroom
After - Large master bedroom with Heals four poster bed
After – The finished master bedroom
master bedroom with four poster bed from Heals
After – The large master bedroom complete with a four-poster bed from Heals.

The Loo

Before with original cistern          After – Re-sited and restored cistern

Guest Bedroom

Originally a landing with airing cupboard, bathroom with separate loo. Now a guest bedroom, painted in ‘Setting Plaster’ Farrow and Ball http://www.farrow-ball.com/setting%20plaster/colours/farrow-ball/fcp-product/100231

Rear Elevation

Before – An overgrown garden                           Waiting to mature!

However carefully one plans either a renovation or restoration project, it rarely comes in on budget – it’s usually over budget. This is not just because of unforeseen problems like discovering structural problems once the work has commenced, it can due to adding a few extra plug sockets here and there (it all adds up) or choosing high specification kitchen, bathrooms and fittings. Usually it’s because we’ve under estimated the basic build/renovation costs – raw materials labour plus VAT.  Comparing your projected budget spread sheet to the actual costs spreadsheet, helps analyse where you under budgeted or over spent.

Did we go over budget? Yes, we knew we’d go over budget when we decided to install the Sonas system. However, the original quote was less than the final invoice due to the time-lapse between the first fix and completion – the labour and equipment had increased in price. The quote was valid for 30 days only, lesson learned.  The building material costs were higher too, despite having a breakdown of these costs from the supplier which our budget spreadsheet was based upon. Generally, the majority of people under-estimate their expenditure.

With the uncertainty of property the market, and the impact Brexit may have, many home owners are opting to improve their current home instead of moving. Having had nearly forty years experience in renovating properties, although home values may dip from time to time, they always go up, and on the whole a good investment.

If you think I can be of benefit to you and your project, whether big or small just contact me.

Floor tiles on cloakroom floor     http://www.firedearth.com/tiles/range/patisserie/sucre-1 and entrance floor  http://www.firedearth.com/tiles/range/casino-floor/mode/grid

Artwork by Kim Major George  http://www.majorgeorge.co.uk/

 

 

Renovation of a 1930’s House – Planning the Design – Kitchen

Kitchen design mood board for Modern Contrystyle from pinterest
Kitchen design mood board for Modern Countrystyle. Image from Pinterest

The old adage “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is true. Careful planning is the key to a successful and required outcome. However, another saying ” The best laid plans of mice and men” means that despite careful planning things can still go awry! This said, planning a home layout which incorporates your desired layout, accommodation and budget takes time and input.

Prior to our meeting with our architects who had sketched out a few different ideas for discussion, we sketched out a few layouts and ideas of our own, which if possible we would like to include in the design. One plan presented to us by the architect left very little of the original house – a few walls in fact, and the remainder  re-built. Not only were we not keen on the design layout, but if so much of the original house was demolished we may as well flatten the lot, build a new house and save ourselves 20% VAT in the process. Having bought a structurally sound house, we thought it unnecessary to take such drastic measures, we don’t think the existing house is that bad!

It is interesting the way in which different people have such different ideas on the use of space in design layouts. Some of which we had not thought of or considered, which is why you need an architect. Some of these ideas have been incorporated into a master drawing plan, ‘a fusion of ideas’ and not a mish-match as described by my husband. The main constraint in the design was the roof pitch. The extension design needs to work with the existing roof.

Having now decided on the layout, I needed to be sure that the proposed kitchen was going to be sufficient in terms of space and layout,it needs to be workable. It is no good re-siting walls etc. only to find that the space doesn’t work for the way you like to live and what you want from your kitchen.It is easier to move the door or window position now on paper, than when they have been built.

Armed with a scale ruler, sharp pencils and an eraser I plotted the available space. Kitchens have different zones in them, cooking, wet (sinks and dishwashers) food prep area, storage for groceries and china, fridges and freezers, plus ideally, somewhere to sit. How this is plotted also depends on individual work style preferences and the space available. The zones need to flow for ease of use and not too far apart to avoid unnecessary leg work. Regardless of your budget the key is in the planning of the design. Make yourself a checklist by asking yourself questions and answers.

How much you cook will dictate your needs.

What type of cooker? Range, wall mounted ovens and counter top hob or Aga? Will the hob be gas or electric? Consider the cooker hood extractor, how will it be vented?

Which fridges and freezers do you need to suit your cooking requirements? Do you want a free standing statement piece or fully integrated appliances?

Do you want a tap that provides instant boiling water to replace the kettle?

What is your preferred sink? under mounted, Belfast, single or double drainer?

Your choice of sink will dictate the choice of work top materials. Natural granite, silestone, a composite stone, wood or Laminate. You can’t have an under mounted sink with formica.

What style do you prefer? Modern gloss, contemporary, country?

Do you want splash backs? Will these be tiled,  glass or another material?

What is your flooring preferences? Tiled, wood, vinyl, or another material?

Once you are happy with your layout, if it’s an open plan kitchen, consider how the space integrates and one area to another especially the flooring. When you have decided what you want from your kitchen visit a kitchen showroom, and speak to kitchen planners, they may have ideas which you had not thought of or knew existed which can be included into your design. Prior planning helps you and the kitchen designer.

I would like to include an island with bar stools or chairs on one side or end, for breakfast and entertaining whilst cooking. The other side of the island will be used as a preparation zone with appliances below. Islands are a great way to maximize the available space. Consider ‘traffic flow’ too. People walking through to other rooms, does a door need to be moved to create better use of space, or a door need hanging the other way. Our kitchen will open out onto a garden room designed to be the dining room/ family area with glass doors opening directly onto the garden. Although the kitchen will not be huge, it will be very easy to work in and incorporate my key zones.

A galley plan layout
A galley plan layout

Lighting is a key element in design and very important in a kitchen. Task lighting so you can see what you are doing and lighting to create different moods and activities. The controls should be flexible, controllable and dimmerble. I will do a detailed lighting plan at a later date which will be for the whole house for the electricians to quote on and work from. LED’s work well under wall mounted cabinets as they won’t heat up the contents in the above cupboard.Consider hanging directional spot or inset lights in line with the edge of your counter top. Angle the light to bounce  off the wall to avoid casting a shadow. If you have more than 12″ or 30 cm of space above a wall cupboard install a warm white fluorescent, a linear low voltage or Linear LED to create a diffused light to bounce off the ceiling. A light at kick board height is dramatic when dark. Statement pendant lights, whether you want one or more over the island adds atmosphere and helps break up the solid line of cabinets.Layer the lighting for multifunctions in the room.

Plug sockets for appliances from the kettle, toaster, coffee machine and food processor. Have plug sockets put in your island too, and perhaps a drawer or cupboard for charging mobile appliances such as phones. Where these are sited depends on how you like to work in your kitchen.Plugs for dishwashers, electrics for the hob and oven need to be planned also.

Pull up sockets when required.
Pull up sockets when required.
Special Appliance Storage
Special Appliance Storage

Whether your budget  is a for a  flat pack or bespoke kitchen, the layout will be the same, the design is the key to it’s success. I haven’t decided on cabinets, sinks and specific appliances yet, although have a style in mind. At this stage I’m content with the design layout, the rest will follow more easily now.

Seaside Rendevous

Coastal or seaside, although is a key trend this season, is always popular, especially in bathrooms, it must be all the water!  Our love affair of glorious summer days spent by the coast. Blue skies and sea, sandy beaches, stripped check chairs and wind breaks (if you’re on the East coast). Fishing, hunting for crabs and collecting shells. Whether your idea of coastal is the pared down natural look, nautical, or  bright deck chair stripes reminding you of Brighton beach, there are products for you.

 

The coastal style can be introduced successfully into your home ( other than the bathroom) even if most of us aren’t lucky enough to live by the sea. The trick is not to be overly themed, keep it subtle.  Obvious accessories like wooden fish and  boats should be kept to a minimum.  Blue is the first colour which generally springs to mind, sometimes with a dash of red used as an accent colour, on furniture or fabric. Vibrant cobalt and inky indigo give a fresh feel.

Fabrics  Striped, plain  natural linens and clever designs for curtains, cushions and bedding.

Blue is not the only choice of colour. Try using the colour of coral, sea shells, or sand.

Team with grey striped fabric (to echo a cloudy sky).

Ticking fabric from Ian Mankin
Ticking fabric from Ian Mankin

Flooring – Any natural flooring looks great, whether painted in an off white or natural wood. Natural  seagrass carpets or a textured rug all add to the tactile elements required.

 

Accessories –  Cleverly displays of collections will add impact. Seascape paintings hung on the walls, fisherman’s lamps hung over the dining table. Glass hurricane lamps filled with pebbles to secure a candle, placed on a table. Seashells used as ornaments or displayed in a glass jar. Mismatched tableware add style, using the same colour theme. Lobster pots as ornaments. All major high street stores and supermarkets have a range of goods emanating the trend, to suit all budgets. I was impressed with Matalan’s range for a great selection at great prices. Team up with items found in different shops, to avoid looking contrived.

 

Furniture – Rough textured wood for furniture to echo driftwood. Reclaimed wooden furniture is perfect for adding a relaxed seaside vibe. Paint dining chairs different shades of blue, or cover with a stripped fabric.

 

 

White Room

‘White Room’ by Cream, The White Album by The Beatles or  ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ by Pocal Harum were popular songs and album in the 60’s. Indeed decorating with white (along with more psychedelia) was also popular in the 60’s. The songs are still played on the radio, and white is still a perennial favourite used in our homes. White is very versatile, sitting well in contemporary, modern or traditional schemes. As summer approaches we often long for a new freshness in our homes. Throw open doors and windows and let the light in. We long for a brighter (if not sunnier) interior. If lots of bright colour on your walls is not to your taste, or  you are feeling bold enough to splash on a  coat of orange emulsion,  you opt for the safe ‘I’m just going to paint all the walls white’ option. Which white  would that be? Brilliant white, off white, barley white? The list of names and shades of white run into the hundreds.

Choosing the right white White like all other colour changes with natural and artificial light. White also takes on different hues, depending what it sits next to. Think about the aspect of the room, if facing north it will have a colder light, so choose a shade of white with red or yellow based undertones  like Farrow and Balls ‘Pointing’ or ‘White Tie’. Or try Little Greene Paint Company, they have a plethora of whites in all  Likewise a sunnier southern aspect will receive a warmer light, so a white and grey tones in it will not make the room appear cold. Farrow and Balls  ‘Strong White’ or ‘Wevet’.  You can paint the walls in one white and choose toning shades of white for the ceiling, cornices and woodwork creating a calm graduated colour scheme.

The secret of decorating with white so as not to look too clinical, bland or cold is to add texture into the scheme. Instead of heavy, lined curtains at the windows, try hanging a sheer fabric like voile or muslin to filter the light. Many materials have delicate designs woven into the fabric. This may have to be accompanied with a black out blind in a bedroom if you you want to block out street lighting and very early morning sunshine pouring in (if you window faces east).

Fresh, white bedding always brightens a bedroom and looks smart. Team it with a contrasting colour for the bedhead or a white headboard with texture such as a distressed limed wood in white.

White carpets are not a practical choice if you have children,  teenagers or a dog  living in your home. These must be saved for master bedrooms or guest rooms, unless you want to be constantly cleaning the carpet and getting stressed. White ceramic, porcelain or granite floor tiles are easier to keep clean, but will of course show the dirt. White floor paint is another option on floor boards or ‘lime wash’ them to add texture and interest. How to lime wash floors yourself – http://www.woodandbeyond.com/blog/what-is-lime-washed-wood-flooring/

White wall tiles in a bathroom, kitchen or utility room do not need to look clinical, if arranged in different patterns or different shapes and sizes. There is something luxurious about a pile of  white, clean, fluffy towels folded neatly in a bathroom. The opposite effect is of course when they have been discarded in a wet heap on the floor!

The living room decorated in white can take on many guises. It can be accompanied  with glass chandeliers, mirrors, an off white textured rug and formal furniture to create a classic, sophisticated room, or a more relaxed country vibe with rough painted distressed wooden furniture and knitted throws. Or create a Gustavian ambiance with grey based whites of painted furniture.

A dining table set with white china, lit by candle light looks special. White china also displays food well. Collections of white china and ornaments displayed on dressers or shelves look stunning in a ‘white room’, especially if  well lit with directional lighting or lamps.

So opting for white need not be boring, clinical or safe, if used well. All pictures from Pinterest

Adding Value to Your Home

Add value from top to bottom
Add value from top to bottom

Buying a home is probably the biggest investment most of us will ever make, therefore as well as making it as comfortable as possible for ourselves whilst living in our home, we want to get the maximum return on our investment too. Location is a key element. You can change the property, but not the location. The more desirable the location, generally the higher the price you will have to pay.However the returns should pay dividends when you eventually sell. If you don’t have the necessary funds for the best location, you may decide to buy a house in a popular road, but at the ‘dodgy end’ of the same road, or in an area adjacent to the ‘prefferred’ area in the hope that the area will eventually become more desirable. This can work, but should be viewed as a longer term return on your capital investment. You may have to wait a long time.

Advice The thrill of owning your own home can carry you away on a DIY spree, or with builders quotes for major improvements. Do not be too hasty to knock down walls, live in the house or flat for a while, find out what works and doesn’t work for you and your lifestyle. Long term homes evolve gradually. For shorter term homes used as a step ladder in the property market, think about who your target market will be when you come to sell. Who will want to live in your property, what will they need and want. Then plan any updating and renovations on this basis. immaterial of your goals, do your sums first, do not over do or over develop as this can have a derogatory effect and end up costing you. Recently I have viewed properties which are in need of renovation. The asking price did not particularly make it a bargain to instantly grab. After planning and costing the work necessary to bring the property up to standard, I asked the selling agent what selling price could realistically be achieved. The agent suggested a vague figure. “Oh” I said. “By the time I had bought the property, spent X amount on it, not mentioning the blood, sweat and tears) the house will be worth maybe a little more, or even less than it had actually cost me”. The agent replied that I should look at it as a long term investment. Even so, you at least want to break even, better still make some money for all your efforts, otherwise you might as well go and buy something already completed and lovely, and save yourself all the grief and bother. The same can be said when over developing a property on very expensive and unnecessary improvements. Use the existing values of  houses in the same vicinity as a guide for the ceiling price which could realistically be achieved, and don’t forget to take market fluctuations into account too.

Value Added

Kitchen – Will add up 4-5 % value. A well planned and designed kitchen help sell a property. It will also give you pleasure whilst working in it. Don’t install a very expensive kitchen in a modest house,  your gain will not cover the cost of the kitchen. Likewise a very cheap kitchen could de -value an up market home. Think about which style of kitchen is going to suit your target market. You may love bright orange, but will they?

Bathroom -Will add  will add up 3% to the value. Keep it simple by adding a white suite,  a shower screen (if over the bath) instead of a curtain.  a chrome heated towel rail, nice taps and shower heads.

Conservatories or Orangeries – Will add   up  7% to the value. Create extra square footage by adding a conservatory or orangery.  Always build it as big as you can, but do not compromise your garden. Place furniture in it for it’s intended use i.e. dining or lounging area. Make the space flow from the existing house and not look like an added ‘bolt on’ afterthought.

Loft Conversions – Will add  up to 12.5  %  to the value Use a ‘dead’ space for living space and extra square footage. However be careful not to compromise  the existing accommodation  to fit in the stairs  i.e. by encroaching on small bedrooms or landings. Employ a specialist company to plan and execute the work. Building Regulations will be required.

Converted Cellars and Basements Unless your home is worth £300 per square foot, which is the cost of doing a basement, you will not get a return on your investment, only add extra living space. Though expensive, this is a very popular choice of adding extra living space for kitchens or family rooms. A specialist basement conversion company should be hired to carry out the works.

 Garages –  Not many houses actually use the garage for their car. It is often used for storing stuff. Turn it into living space. The cost will be approximately £10,000. To calculate the added value simply multiply the square footage gained by the local price per square foot of property.

Less is more, it is better to do less very well with good quality fixtures, fittings and finish, than more done badly.

Conservatories, Orangeries and Garden Rooms

 

 

A few brief, tantalizing warm sunny days drew us out into our gardens and garden centres in droves, under the false impression that Spring had sprung. Now driven back indoors to view our gardens from the warmth of our homes to view and admire the flowering spring bulbs. If, like me you are a fair weather gardener, a garden room, conservatory or orangery are ideal places to enjoy your garden all year round, and will bring light and extra space to your existing home.

Decide on the purpose of your conservatory, orangery or garden room. Is it to create a kitchen, dining area, living space or even somewhere to indulge in hobbies such as painting or plant propagation. Make the room as big as you can afford. Ensure the design will compliment the existing style of your house, this includes the brickwork, cladding and paintwork. Which material you choose will come down to budget. Hardwood being the most expensive, softwood much cheaper, but will require higher maintenance with regular painting or staining, UVPC and Aluminium. These do not have to be white, UVPC and Aluminium are now available in a myriad of colour’s, which can be matched to your existing window colour. Why not choose a shade of green for the inside colour, thus blending with the garden. All conservatories orangeries and garden rooms can and should have double and sometimes triple glazed units.

Plot your required furniture placement on your plans.
Plot your required furniture placement on your plans.

Heating is a must, and underfloor heating laid beneath a well insulated floor is efficient under tiles. If opting for another form of flooring, check the manufacturers recommendations with under floor heating. Good ventilation with roof lights is recommended. These can be manual or automated and can even include rain censors. Depending on the aspect of  your glass extension, solar controlled glass, and temperature controlled technology in glass means that it will reflect the the heat when cold and let the heat out when hot. Roof blinds maybe necessary too to avoid too much glare and spoil plants. If you want plants on a window cill, use tiles, perhaps off cuts from your floor tiles for the surface other than wood in case of water spillage.

Lighting is a primary consideration in a glass room. Light reflecting the glass at night makes a stunning atmosphere, whether electrical or candle. Plot where you want your furniture to be placed and plan the lighting requirements around this. Plotting your furniture also helps decide where to place the door into garden, and traffic flow. If you plan to dine in it fit a decorative pendant light over the table. Specify this in planning, as structural changes maybe necessary. Plot wall sockets for table lamps. If it has a high pitched roof , light this space up with with cowled directional LED spot lights to add sparkle, minimizing glare and prevent cold expanses of darkness at night. A row of low voltage up/downlights bring out texture of a wall, can highlight wall art or mirrors and creates drama. Use a dimmer controlled switch.

Furnishings, really depends on your intended use of course, and should blend and compliment the joining rooms. Pick a colour from the adjacent room and use in the conservatory for example. Choose good quality fabrics which won’t fade too quickly in strong sunlight. Group several small potted plants together on a table, this has more impact than several individual plants dotted around. Or opt for one or two  over sized containers with large specimen’s. use framed botanical prints and add a mirror on the wall. Try not to look too contrived, a mix of styles looks more relaxed and informal.

There are many specialist conservatory, orangery and garden room companies, for all budgets, and will sometimes involve Building Control approval, so do check this out.