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

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.