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.

 

How to Add Wow! to Your Bedroom

Design Advise and Inspiration for your bedroom
Design Advise and Inspiration for your bedroom
Design advise and inspiration for your bedroom.

Does your bedroom resemble a walk-in wardrobe? Is the decor O.K. but the room looks ‘tired’ and dysfunctional? Does your bedroom look like this…..?

A disorganised bedroom requiring love and attention
A bedroom in much need of love and attention in all areas.

Your bedroom should be a refuge at the end of a busy day, somewhere peaceful with the feel good factor to help relax and induce sleep. It should also make you feel good in the morning, all are psychological factors in our subconsciousness and effect health and sleep.

The most important item is your bed, well, your mattress to be precise. You must ensure that it is giving you the correct lumbar support. Always try out the mattress before purchasing.

As your bed is probably the largest item of furniture in the room, it is the obvious focal point. Your eyes will naturally be drawn to the bed. Make it look inviting and gorgeous. A statement headboard can be just the thing you need to add the ‘Wow’ factor to your bedroom.

This is why here at Sarah Maidment Interiors, we are excited to launch our very own range of bespoke headboards. Our headboards are available in a range of sizes to suit either standard bed sizes, or made to measure. They can be wall or bed mounted if you have a divan bed.

 

Whether covered in a plain fabric with studs, or upholstered in a fabulous fabric to compliment your decor, our exclusive design will certainly ‘pack a punch’.

We custom make every order, so if you’re looking for a ‘designer’ headboard with extra height, a specific design or fabric of your choosing, then we will be more than happy to accommodate. The possibilities are endless! https://sminteriors.co.uk/Bespoke_Headboards_Bedheads.html

 

The cheapest way to achieve a boost  is with some new bedding. Some prefer plain and white bedding only; they choose to dress the bed by adding a throw or blanket and perhaps some cushions. I rarely add more than two cushions personally, otherwise they get thrown across the room by my husband. He finds the cushions irritating. You cannot please everyone!

If you are the sort of person who loves patterns and prints, just be careful to ensure that the colour and design compliment your existing colour scheme. If you’re planning to decorate the whole room, an eye-catching duvet cover can serve as a staring point for your new bedroom decor scheme.

 

Storage

There’s rarely enough storage for clothes in a bedroom, given the changeable climate of the U.K.

A large number of homes have free standing wardrobes, but built-in ones offer clever storage facilities and make better use of available space. Interior wardrobe lighting is important too, whether wired in LED sensor strip lights or self adhesive sensor lights. It does help find what your looking for! A ‘wash’ of lighting in the exterior creates ambience.

Built in wardrobes with external lighting
Built in wardrobes makes good use of all space. By ohinteriors.co.uk

Chests of Drawers provide great storage and can also double as a bedside cabinet if space allows – just ensure that the height of the chest of drawers is the correct height to your bed. This rule applies to bedside cabinets and tables too; you need to be able to easily access your morning tea, or water without spillage. These do not have to be matching. Add interest with different tables or drawers.

 

A vintage trunk, basket or ottoman at the foot of the bed is great for storing bedding and spare linens and frees up space in an airing cupboard. Ottoman beds are an ideal choice if space is tight for items not required on a frequent basis. A bedroom chair is useful, but all too often hidden under a pile of discarded clothes!

 

Lighting is crucial to get right. A bedroom requires several layers of light intended for different moods and uses. A good over head light is needed for cleaning ( and perhaps rummaging in your wardrobe if you don’t have internal lighting). A dimmer pendant light offers flexibility to add a softer light when required.

Bedroom lighting shown in layers.
Example of layered lighting in a bedroom. By lissyparker.com

Bedside tables and cabinet lamps add textural or patterned interest with the shade, which introduces another element into your rooms decor.  Ensure the base of the lampshade is at least shoulder height when sitting in bed to enable reading. A separate wall mounted reading light could be added too, such as an angle poise lamp which offers greater flexibility.

 

 

Good lighting on a dressing table to reflect light onto your face for make up application and hair drying is essential. This could be a dimmer light or nice lamp, whichever is your preference.

Flooring is a very personal choice.  Whether a fitted carpet, wooden floor boards or tiles;  rugs add both a luxury element and anchor the room.  One way to achieve this is by using small rugs placed each side of the bed, or one large rug placed centrally under the bed to add another decorative dimension and interest to your bedroom.

 

And so to bed….zzzzz

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.

 

Ten Interior Design Tips Using Mirrors in Your Home

Ten interior design tips using mirrors in your home
How to enhance light, display and create the illusion of space

‘Mirror, mirror on the wall’, is often quoted in jest. However, ‘never a truer word is spoken in jest’. So apart from using mirrors to check your spots (if a teenager), broccoli stuck between your teeth, shaving and make up application, which to be fair are necessary to daily life, let’s explore the possibilities.

 

 

  1. Use as a Focal Point. Hang one large or over sized statement mirror above a fireplace or behind a bed. (Please ensure its securely anchored to the wall capable to hold the weight). This will add impact to your room.

 

 

2. Use as a Display. Use a collection of mirrors with different frames and sizes and hang on one wall. This really does make a lovely display wall and a change from artwork.

 

 

 

3. Group Together. If you have two, three or five ( general rule of thumb is ratios of odd numbers, but a matching pair does work too) of the same style mirror, even possibly different sizes: these can be hung above an item of furniture such as a chest of drawers or console table to ‘anchor’ them. With the addition of a table lamp to reflect the light, and some well chosen ornaments you will create a lovely vignette.

Lamps placed in front of large mirrors creates a vingnette
Lamps placed in front of mirrors look stunning at night.

4. Light Reflection. This is a well known and loved interior design trick to add light to a poorly lit room from a window. Place the mirror on the opposite or adjacent wall to the window to reflect the light into the room.

 

 

 

5. Image Reflection. To visually help create the illusion of space, hang a mirror to reflect an outside view back into the room (only if its a good view mind,) or from an opposite wall in the room. This will help highlight the rooms best features.

6. Frames. Consider choosing interesting frames in a variety of shapes and sizes. Or you could choose frames with all the same colour. All will add interest and individuality to your decor.

 

 

7. Style. The frame will reflect ( sorry!) the style and look of the mirror, modern, antique, contemporary, traditional etc. So ensure that the style chosen will compliment your existing rooms decor.

8. Size Matters. Ensure you know where you want to hang the mirror, with approximate dimensions before purchasing. However, should you expectantly fall in love with a mirror whilst out, try thinking of at least one other place you could hang the mirror, to avoid a disappointing investment.

Colour washed mirror glass
Stunning paint washed mirror from Anthropologie.com

9. Mirrored Doors. Often used on wardrobe doors,  useful space saving and full length uses. Great for small walk in wardrobes to create the illusion of space, and ‘visually creating a sense of space’. Personally, if at all possible I would avoid hanging these opposite my bed. I wouldn’t particularly like to see myself sitting in bed. I also understand that it’s bad Feng Shui.

 

 

 

10. Mirrored Frames. Art work, paintings and photographs can look very effective framed with mirrored glass. These could be used as an alternative to mirrors for display purposes.

 

Set of pictures framed with mirror frames
Mirrored Picture Frames

Guide to Lighting with Lamps

Advice and guidance on lighting with lamps whether upgrading present lighting or buying new
Advice and guidance on lighting with lamps whether upgrading present lighting or buying new
Lamp lighting is crucial to create the right ambience in rooms.

 

As the clocks go back and our days grow darker, good lighting is essential. Not only for task lighting ( cleaning, cooking and reading etc.) but for creating a warm and comfortable ambience. Lighting is a huge topic, but in this guide I will advise on lamps. No living space should be without a lamp.

Before considering buying new table or standard lamps, make the most of what you’ve got already.

  1. Try changing the bulbs. It maybe that you need a bulb with a higher or lower wattage or Lumins,  or a different shape or make. For example a large globe light will give a better quality of light than a standard bulb.
  2. 70 watt/230 volt clear energy saving bulb is equivalent to a 100 watt standard incandescent bulb. This type is dimmerble and provides good colour to shades.
  3. 18 watt/230 volt compact florescent bulb gives a greyer and flatter light than that of a standard energy saving bulb. Although equivalent to a 100 watt bulb, it does not appear to be as bright as a 70 watt energy saving bulb.
  4. 7 watt/230 volt LED classic shaped bulb is equivalent to a 25 watt incandescent bulb. Most of the light will travel upwards in the lamp and sometimes a ‘cold’ light is produced, so buy a ‘warm’ LED bulb.
  5. Use the maximum wattage a shade will allow, as a brighter one may singe or discolour the shade.
  6. A frosted or pearl bulb provides a softer more shadow free light.

 

 

Changing your shades will update your room and can improve and change the light. The shape, colour, size, material and lining are all key to the shades look and use. Images by Design Bump and Apartment Therapy.

 

  1. Light coloured shades in silk, parchment and paper will cast a cool light as the bulb transmits colour from the shade.
  2. A cream coloured silk pleated coolie shade is a popular choice, but doesn’t always hide the light source or add anything to the room.
  3. Dark colours will add drama and a atmospheric mood.
  4. A lined shade will soften the light source. Unlined shades tend to allow hot spots of light to show through the shade. If this happens you can paint the inside of the shade in gold or silver paint, which gives a warm glow to the room. Alternatively, choose a contrasting colour which picks up another colour in your room, for example red or green.
  5. Always opt for fewer lamps with larger shades for impact.

Above images by Thelampshade’s web blog and SugarCube.

Lampshade to base ratio guide
Ensure the shade size suits the base
Lampshade to base ratio guide
Ensure your lampshade is the correct size to the base. Images by Oka

Shade Shapes and Sizes

  1. Coolie or Empire is the most common shape of shade. A sloped coolie pushes most of the light downwards. Because of this, choose the biggest shade you can to provide useful light.
Oversized coolie or empire shade and base
Maximum light where it’s needed with a coolie shade
Oversized coolie shade and lampbase
Add impact with an oversized coolie lampshade and base

2. Drum – A drum shaped shade, deep or shallow, allows light to travel upwards and downwards, adding to ambient light and task lighting below. This shape of shade is also good for showing the fabric or design of the shade.

Burlap drum shaped lampshdes
Drum shaped lampshades made from burlap from The Pottery Barn

3. Oval – The deep slim oval shape performs in a similar way to the drum, and is suitable for smaller spaces.

Oval shaped lampshade on contemporary base by Obus
Oval shaped lampsde ideal fro smaller spaces by Obus

4. Cylinder – An elegant and contemporary shape, especially if mounted on a candlestick lamp base.

Cylindrical shaped lampshde and base
Cylindrical lampshde and base. Image atgstores.com

5. Conical – This is usually seen on small candlestick lamps and provides narrow pockets of downward light.

Example of conical shade directing light downwards
Conical shaped shade directs light downwards Image sminteriors.co.uk

6. Square or Tapered Square – A square shade instantly updates a room. It gives both upwards and downwards light and looks great in a corner of a room. It gives a far better light than a conical shape.

Square shaped lampshades on a console table
Square shaped shades directs light upwards and downwards. Image by homestrendy.com

7. Rectangle or Tapered Rectangle – This shape also gives both upwards and downwards light, and gives a room a modern look. Useful on a bar or side table.

Contemporary table lamp by John Cullen Lighting
Contemporary shade and base. The light is directed both upwards and downwards by John Cullen Lighting.

It’s worth experimenting with different shapes, sizes and colours of shades to compare the differences it can make. The shade needs to be appropriate to the amount and type of light you want it to achieve, it’s purpose and height and width of the base. The more open the shade, the more light you will get. Shadow is just as important as the light in a good interior to prevent a ‘flat’ ambience.

Lamps should be fit for their intended purpose of course, whether for reading in a chair, where a floor standing or standard lamp is useful,  bedside lamps or sitting on a bedside cabinet.

Modern standard lamp for a reading corner.
A modern standard lamp is perfect for a reading corner. Image by DevaDesigns.co.uk
Table lampshade and Base ideal for reading corner
Light bounces downwards to where you need it. Image Google.co.uk
Classic Sitting Room with orange he
The colour of the shade picks up colours elsewhere in the room. Image Kit Kemp

 

Want It Done By Christmas?

Bathroom Moodboard by designbykaty.com

On a recent site visit to a prospective client, who wanted a quote for their kitchen and bathroom installation, my husband who runs Random Task Plumbing asked what they were having and did they have any plans he could see. The client didn’t know what they wanted, other than for all the works to be completed by mid December, in time for Christmas. Bearing in mind that the client hadn’t yet exchanged contracts on the property and presently lived in another part of the country.

Firstly, a detailed quote is impossible to give if you only have a rough idea of what you want, or don’t know what you want at all. Also any tradesperson worth their salt, will have at least a 2 to 3 month lead time, especially leading up to Christmas. Whilst basic help and advice can be given to guide clients regarding types of showers suitable for their water systems and the feasibility  to move the loo to a different location (soil stacks are often forgotten by clients) and draw a scaled plan, most small tradespeople don’t have the time to offer a detailed design consultancy. The fixtures, fittings and finishings have to be chosen by you, the client. After all it’s your bathroom, kitchen etc. and it’s imperative that you love the finished results, it’s your home.

Bathroom Moodboard by designbykaty.com
Detailed Bathroom Moodboard by Designsbykaty.com

So before calling a tradespersons to quote, take time over your plans, keep revisiting them and show them to other people. Think about how you will use the space and how you want it to make you feel. If this is difficult for you, then an Interior Design consultancy is invaluable. For as little as £95.00 a design consultancy could save you a lot of time and possibly money too. Good interior design is about planning, not just about carefully coordinated fabric and paint swatches. This consultancy maybe all you need to set you off to implement yourself. If you require more help tailored to your specific needs, these can be accommodated too, regardless of budget. Of course everyone has budget.

First floor plans of a four bedroom house
You don’t need such detailed drawings unless major renovations are planned.

Interior Designers use local trade, craftspeople and suppliers and only recommend those whose work and people they trust. When deciding, look at reviews, ask to see previous completed work. Personality compatibility also is valuable – can you work with them?

I understand that you want everything ‘done’ and perfect for Christmas, but be realistic with your time scales. Even when you’ve decided on your plans, fixtures, fittings etc. There are supplier lead times to consider too. The last thing you want is a half-finished job over the festive season, especially if planning to have guests.

assembled cupboard carcass's
Kitchen install in progress not what you want at Christmas
After - Kitchen with island and glass partition wall and door to hall.
After – Kitchen with glass partition and door to hall

Once you have detailed plans, you can then invite local tradespeople to quote and provide approximate dates of availability. They will all be able to quote ‘from the same song sheet’, which makes price comparisons clearer. However, remember that cheaper isn’t always better, you often get what you pay for. Allow for a lead time on quotes being received too.

Tiling in progress in shower en-suite shower area
A half finished guest en-suite – not what you want when having guests
Completed Guest En- Suite
Completed Guest En- Suite

Plan the work in stages – what can be implemented and finished by your self-imposed Christmas deadline? Is this in the correct order of your work schedule? If so, fine. If not, then it’s far more beneficial to be patient and schedule the works for early in the New Year, thus eleviating the extra stress of Christmas and giving your home the consideration it deserves.

There’s  always next Christmas!

 

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

Larders and Pantries

Walk in pantry with shelves and storage jars
Walk in pantry with shelves and storage jars
A walk in pantry

Do you member a walk in cupboard in the corner of a kitchen with shelves for foods stuffs – the larder? Perhaps jars of conserves, a basket with fresh vegetables, meats and dairy produce and perhaps cakes too? In larger family homes there were large walk in pantries with stone or concrete counter tops, with shelves above. In some cases a sink too. These would be positioned adjacent to the main kitchen of course, for easy access in the usually north facing (coldest) aspect of the house. These were the mainstay of homes prior to refrigerators and freezers where fresh produce was kept to keep cool and lengthen their shelf life.

In an Edwardian house, I once lived in, we had a cellar, complete with a built-in ‘food safe’ which had a sliding door with fly mesh. This was so useful, especially at Christmas to store the turkey and ham. It was also a great place in which to hide ( outside of Christmas) which my children did when playing hide and seek. Except that it was too good – their friends gave up looking!

Above are images of a Georgian pantry meat or food safe and housekeepers pantry at Number 1 Royal Crescent Bath.  http://no1royalcrescent.org.uk/

As sleek and modern kitchens were introduced, along with more affordable refrigeration and later the freezer, the larder in the corner of the kitchen became obsolete and was knocked out to make way for the state of the art kitchen.

There is however, a return to the larder and pantry idea, and being re-introduced in many new kitchen designs, due to popular demand. These range from large ‘larder cupboards’ either integrated or free-standing with bespoke shelves and drawers to enable easy access to foodstuffs all in one place, hidden behind bi-fold, fold away doors or a sliding tamber, instead of dotted around the kitchen in various cupboards. Breakfast or drinks ‘stations’ too have risen in popularity, whose designs are similar to that of a larder cupboard. A friend of mine had a tea and coffee larder cupboard installed on her landing, so guests could help themselves to an early morning cuppa and chat, freeing up her kitchen so she could prepare the breakfast.

If you’re lucky enough to have the space, walk in pantries with bespoke fittings are popular too. These pantries can also include a sink and dishwasher to keep the kitchen clear whilst entertaining. Some pantries include wine chiller cabinets and fridges too. Although ‘white goods’ appliances generate heat, in which case it would be wise to install an air conditioning unit.

Remember you don’t want to have to walk the equivalent of 2 miles when preparing a meal, so think carefully how and what you cook and the frequency you need certain items to hand on a daily basis. This focus’ the design on the interior of the pantry to your requirements. If you don’t have an adjacent room to the kitchen suitable, but your kitchen is large, you could partition and area specifically for a walk in. Or build a wall of cupboards with everything hidden behind doors when not in use.

A kitchen plan including walk in pantry design
A kitchen plan which includes a walk in pantry design

Consider your lighting and sockets positions if you want to keep your coffee machine and toaster in the cupboard, a breakfast station if you like. Narrow shelves for herbs and spices – easily retrievable whilst in the midst of cooking. If possible, a cold stone, or concrete counter top which is cold and easily cleaned. Do you want shelves for storage jars, and preserves, perhaps drawers for fresh produce or items not used very often including crockery and large platters? Tailor the design to suit your kitchen working and lifestyle.

Bespoke larder and pantry designs available from Plain English, DeVol, Neptune, Martin Moore to name but a few who have now introduced these designs.

 

 

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