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

 

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

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/

 

 

Which Decade Does Your Home Reflect?

Morris and Co New Collection

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

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

Alms House Interior Geffrye Museum
Alms House Interior Geffrye Museum

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now which decade does your home reflect?

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

 

 

 

 

 

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House – Wind in the Willows

Mole from Kenneth Graham's Wind in the Willows

 

 

The wind in our willow and the only mole was ‘Mole’s Breath’ by Farrow and Ball.

We were very upset one morning looking down the garden. The whole of the lawn was covered with a fallen tree, battered by the wind from a storm the previous night. The tree had been a magnificent weeping willow and we installed a light especially highlight it when dark, with plans for a shaded seating area below its boughs.  Now all that remains is a broken stump – two thirds of the original size, not quite the ambience I had envisaged.  The willow had been key to the garden design. I really miss that tree.

 

Luckily the tree had not fallen on either our or our neighbours shed, however, it had to be cleared and removed as soon as possible so as not to damage the lawn further. Another huge job which took several days.  The tree had to be cut into manageable pieces to move it – logs for the multi-fuel stove, smaller twigs, branches and leaves. This was done in the relentless pouring rain. We had toyed about making a willow fence which was a nice idea but we really don’t have the time, know how or inclination.

A willow fence looks lovely in a garden
Making a willow fence from our pile of debris was beyond my caperbilities!

We hired a shredder so the smaller pieces could then be used as a mulch on the borders to help keep the weeds down. Its been so mild this winter they were continuing to sprout, along with the lawn. But, instead of raking the mulch over the borders my husband placed small neat piles and I now have what looks like termite mounds (or mole hills for that matter) all over the borders.

 

I had applied one coat of deep grey paint to a wall in the study, behind the original brick fireplace some months ago, prior to the wooden floor being laid.  Unfortunately it had dried in patches of lighter and darker tones, despite the wall having been prepped with a mist coat of paint over the bare dried plaster. I thought it was just a dodgy tin of paint although bought from a reputable company. My husband said it was the way I had painted it? –  I purchased another tin of exactly the same paint, and this time my husband painted the same wall. This also dried in patches. He applied a second coat, but with the same results. Dark at the edges where applied ‘cut in’ with a brush and around sockets, light where applied with a roller, and lighter still showing the outline of the plasterers mesh.

 

I abandoned this make of paint and purchased Farrow and Ball’s Mole’s Breath – being a similar colour to my original choice. http://www.farrow-ball.com/mole’s-breath//farrow-ball/fcp-product/100276    One coat of paint was applied and dried perfectly. Having already experienced problems with patchy and colour differentials in the master bedroom, I felt the company should be told about the problems with their product. After several weeks of email exchanges containing pictures, receipts of proof of purchase and batch numbers I received a refund for the two faulty tins of paint and a £5.00 gift voucher for my trouble. This hardly covers the time and expense of repeated wall painting. I just hope that the paint product problems will be investigated by the company concerned and rectified.

 

Farrow and Ball – Mole’s Breath dried uniformly and a great finish.

The wood flooring has now been laid to the ground floor. What a difference it has made to the whole house. Not only covering up dusty concrete floors, but means we can now fix the architraves and skirting boards to the walls. These can now be prepped for painting and a final coat of paint applied to the ground floor walls.

 

Although mild for the season, the underfloor heating has been switched on low to gradually acclimatise the wooden floor. This will swell and contact, as will some of the doors, which may need some adjustment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compromised by the weather
Compromised by the weather

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

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

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

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

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

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

All images other than my own are from Pinterest.

Christmas Past, Present and Those Yet to Come

Lighthearted view on why we keep our Christmas traditions
Lighthearted view on why we keep our Christmas traditions
A lighthearted view on our Christmas traditions and why we keep them.

I wonder how many people retrieved their Christmas decorations from the attic or from the back of a cupboard this last weekend, ready to decorate their homes during the coming weeks. My large boxes of decorations have grown in number from one to four, adding to the collection over the years. I don’t use all the decorations from all of the boxes, just selecting a few depending on the chosen colour to blend and not compete with the rooms decor or theme for the current year. However, some favourite ones are used each year evoking memories of Christmas’s past.

Vintage glass baubles. image from mahoninghistory.org
Vintage glass baubles. image from mahoninghistory.org

I have vintage glass baubles, still in their original boxes, given by mother during a house move, which remind me of our Christmas trees as a child. In another shoe box are an assortment of decorations my children made whilst at school, one of which is a felt ‘Father Christmas’, which now has a boot missing, but is always hung on the tree. The Angel or Fairy is the same one I had as a child. I did give her a bit of a ‘makeover’ a few years ago with gold ribbon and new wings, although now rather tired and jaded again she sits in pride of place on top of the tree, above the star, always last as the crowning glory. There is a green luminous rubber spider, once retrieved from a cracker which always creeps onto the tree – hung to irritate me of course. I remove it, and it manages to reappear as if by magic! The ‘tinsel issue’ always appears too. I prefer ribbon wrapped round, the others like tinsel. Silver tinsel can look great in the right setting – but not mine. It’s amazing too, how quickly foil wrapped chocolates disappear, completely on their own of course! However you choose to decorate your tree, like your interiors, ensure it reflects you and your personality.

 

Some decorations have been bought on holidays, beautiful Indian beaded stars, bells and trees. I have a Waterford glass Angel with a message etched onto it, given by friends. I think of them always whilst hanging it from a branch. We gather together to decorate the tree, and put on what the kids call ‘Cheesy Christmas music’, which is a family tradition. This year my son put on a South Park Christmas CD, which just wasn’t the same!

 

Choosing the right tree is not to be taken lightly. I love to observe people buying their trees. Without being sexist,  guys will generally walk in, pick up the first tree he comes to and is ready to go to the pay desk, until his partner stops him. Women tend to pick over several trees, and any  ‘possibles’ are held by the partner whilst she scrutinizes them. The trees are held patiently – sometimes offering suggestions which are often ignored. You spot the ‘perfect’ tree someone else has picked out and hover nearby hoping they will reject it, and eagerly pounce on it if it is. Conversations maybe struck up with other tree shoppers on the merits of each tree. Some people sing or hum along to the Christmas music being played, unaware that they are doing so. This process will continue for a while, until the perfect tree has been found, or the partner has really had enough!

The 'perfect' tree. painting by Carl Larsen
The ‘perfect’ tree. painting by Carl Larsen

1. Remember the tree will look smaller amongst the other trees when buying. Trees tend to ‘grow’ when placed in it’s designated area in your home.

2. Choose the position carefully. Furniture will often have to be re-arranged to accommodate your tree, but not to the detriment of comfort or the view of the T.V. Consider access to a plug socket for the fairy lights and ease of switching them off and on.

3. Height – measure your ceiling height. You don’t want to pay extra if paying by the foot only to find you have to cut off the top or bottom of the tree in order for it to fit.

4. Shape – Not too busy at the bottom, with a sparse top. A graduated triangular shape is ideal.

5. If placing your tree on a table top ensure it will not be too heavy to lift or for the surface to withhold the weight.

6. Think about the container  or stand for the tree, ensuring that it is stable and fit for purpose. You can always cover a plastic bucket with a grain sack, (a sheet of  crumpled Christmas wrapping paper is a poor effort) place in an attractive garden pot. Trees last longer whether with or without roots if you can water them.

 

My ninety year old, partially sighted mother puts up her small table top imitation tree each year in her flat and hangs the same decorations. The tree and decorations are from 1982, so very retro! The tree and decorations were my sisters, now sadly no longer with us, but the tree is bought out each year in memory of her. Although she lives alone, my mother enjoys the pleasure her tree gives, and thinks it’s worth all the effort.

I’m sure in Christmas’s yet to come, many decorations  will evoke memories and traditions carried on by future generations. Happy Christmas!

Image from flickr.com

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some images are from Pinterest.