To Style Or Not To Style – Interior Styling

Styling is definitely not something I learned in architecture school! For many an architect or designer, it would have been seen as a failure if you had to add a vase or mirror to the space to make it feel the way you wanted it to feel. The ultimate goal would have been to make the property feel right with my architectural language – structure, solid / void, light, shadow, material, texture, abstraction… rather than populating it with “stuff”.

Although the dictionary meaning suggests that styling is just arranging things in a particular way, I like to describe it as setting the mood for a space.

The reality is that styling is a very useful tool that helps us imagine how to use a room. I remember my brother saying to me that he wishes he was as creative as I was. I never really understood that he wasn’t creative and still don’t believe that he isn’t, I just think sometimes his imagination isn’t easily triggered. I use styling to help trigger that imagination in a space by using architectural language and styling to create a story or mood that inspires someone’s imagination to enjoy a space.

The main ways I use styling in my life and business are:

  • To help developers and builders sell newly built homes when they are empty.
  • I help buyers of newly built homes create their requested mood in their homes once the empty house is bought.
  • For real-estate agents and landlords, I style a space so that potential renters or home buyers imagine how to use a space.
  • For my clients, I style a 3D or sketch to help them feel how they can use a space I am creating for them.
  • At home for my husband, guests or just for myself, I style my rooms to make the space feel the way I want it to feel either for a party or just for us to accentuate how lovely the morning, space or evening is.

In one of the architectural offices I worked in, interior designers were looked down on and they were seen as “pillow puffers”. At the time I was working on high rise, new build apartments and the work was particularly technical, in that the common thought about the spaces was just units, figures, numbers, areas, not what I saw – spaces for living a life in.

In their minds the planning department and the developer decided how many windows there had to be in a room, it wasn’t guided by how the space was used.

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It shocked me that there was so little love for the thousands of homes being built for happy new homeowners trying to create a life and saving for what was most probably their first home. I have struggled to decorate some newly built properties as there often is no soul or connection from the structure to the interior. Even in architecture school, I was taught to explore the relationship between the inside and outside or even Mies Van der Rohe’s basics of “form follows function”… but I love what I do and I realise creating homes, houses, properties, buildings is my dream.

So styling can help you when the other architectural elements aren’t working or it can help you adjust a mood in a space.  You can use styling to enhance particular features of a room or to help someone’s see what you can see in a space.  Sometimes you can use styling as a picture frame – to frame an idea, to tell a story or to show off a piece of art.

More and more often I see builders or developers altering properties or arranging spaces or positioning windows and doors without a care for the person’s life in it. With such a disconnect between the end user and the “designer” no wonder styling has become more and more a part of my work. I have to try really hard sometimes to make a space feel like a home, imagine someone like my brother who hasn’t trained that imagination muscle? Soon you’ll need more than two degrees just to furnish a home to function in the right way – or you could just start styling.

How To Solve A Zoning Issue At Home

Zoning issues arise from the way we use our homes. It could be that you bought a home that was in the right area but the house itself never really worked for your family. It can happen if your family grows and changes and your home cannot be altered to deal with those changes (I.e. you rent the property and can’t add or remove walls or extend).

Being limited by the layout of a home that doesn’t work for your family is where zoning issues really arise. One home could be a perfect fit for the lifestyle of one family but may be totally wrong for another family. It is also interesting in the way that more often than not, I see the families blaming lack of storage or the size of the house as the main issue.

The reality is that your lifestyle can be altered for better or worse by the layout of your house. Take a person who struggles to go upstairs and give him or her a large open plan, ground floor without many obstructions where they can easily go into each space. Now put that same person in a 5 story, narrow, terrace house with a limited or largely terraced garden and the same person becomes hugely limited in how much of the home he or she can experience freely, mixing up private and public zones by way of necessity.

Another example is if you work from home and have people in and out all day, but are limited by those people having to enter the house a particular way whilst also not being able to alter the property due to it being rented or shared with others. Arguments arise over items left in areas that are visible to guests (public zone) and tidiness becomes a much bigger issue.

The Victorians were masters at public/private zoning. They had sculleries, hidden hallways, secondary stairs, all for back of house duties that could be hidden from daily view. When we design hotels and commercial or stadium buildings, we also create back of house areas hidden from public view where other duties can be performed without the disruption of other tasks.

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Our desire for open plan living is influenced by the modernist movement, but those original layouts and homes were exceptionally well thought out and when analysed, still had very specific and clear public and private zones or separation by way of screens or circulation.

So how do you live happily in a zone-less house or a house where your public and private zones are all muddled up? It is more a creative and design process that is required, but if you want to give it a go on your own, here is a place to start:

  1. Think about the most important daily functions required of each space. For example, a living room may also be an entry hall, study space for children as well as a relaxation space in the evenings for parents as well as where guests are invited.
  2. Work out which functions aren’t working the best or which cause the most arguments. If we use the same space above work out if it’s the lack of a functional entry hall which is causing lots of items to be left in the living room or whether the location of a TV and the only comfortable chair for relaxing are in the same room and yet one person needs quiet and another likes to watch TV really loud.
  3. Once you identify some functions, habits and possibly practical issues about how you are using the space, think about how to relocate some of those functions to other areas (such as a quiet, comfortable reading space).
  4. The next step is to think about the practical requirements of each space. An entry hall is very important in a home and yet, at least here in England many homes are too small for an entrance hall or the walls have been removed to create an open plan living space, removing the separation between those zones. Try some creative storage ideas or separate with a screen or piece of furniture that can act as a “dumping” ground for when entering the house.
  5. Finally look again at the main problem space and try to filter out the final issues. Can you rearrange the furniture to create some privacy or perhaps make the space more social. Could you child’s desk also double as a lovely shelving unit for other display or personal items?

Give it a go. You might have to try the process a few times, but don’t give up, as your quality of life will change, you just have to have a good look at how you are using the space!

Here is a fun exercise for you:

Identify an item in your home that doesn’t have a specific place to be or live, it could be a hat, blanket, anything that you use but hasn’t got a real home. Watch it over 2 weeks to see where it moves to.  How much energy did it take to find it and how much energy did it take to think about where it was if it was in a different location each time?

 

Zoning and why you need it in your home

It is strange, I have had a few clients recently with the same home/usage /functionality challenges, which makes living life in their current home feel either temporary or just makes them use a lot of energy to live.

The problem is public and private zoning within the home. It is something I remember learning at uni and I really loved the idea of diagramming a home to understand how it functions. By searching out the facts of where people spend time to undertake certain tasks, you can figure out how efficiently spaces are being used… or you could equally just ask the person living in the home and they will tell you…

However, it’s not until most people get a chance to stop and really focus or analyze the way they are living in a space that helps them see it isn’t really working or it is prohibiting them from living in the way they want to be living.

For example, how many people do you know that don’t invite visitors around because there isn’t a place for everyone to sit or they never have events at their house because it doesn’t function well with more than just them in the house?

The amount of effort that goes into hiding or moving personal items that haven’t got a place to live is so wasteful.

So what are zones in the home and why do we need them? There are in my mind an unlimited number of zones we could have in a home! But to make this actually useful for my wonderful readers I will narrow these down to two very important ones that will make a difference in your home life: public and private zoning

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Zones set up a set of boundaries that allow you to undertake a certain amount of activities. They are loose boundaries but they are there to give you peace of mind that if a visitor comes into your home you don’t have to run and hide the book you were just reading, or take down the notes you pinned up on the wall as reminders. Your public zone should pretty much be ready to receive visitors at any time (in a relaxed and ‘you’ kind of way) and your private zones in your home are just that, private, so you don’t have to stress when you have visitors that someone will question your religious or spiritual beliefs or see a bra hanging on the door handle.

What happens when you don’t have zones for public /private? To help you realize that you may be living this way, here are a couple of things that might be going on for you if you haven’t got some real zoning going on:

  1. Visitors see your daily stuff, even if you don’t want them to.
  2. You don’t have a place to relax because other activities or other family members are using the space for another activity that is contrary to the one you want to do at the same time (reading quietly or watching a really distracting TV show).
  3. Members of the house end up on top of each other and don’t have privacy.
  4. You end up avoiding having guests over because you feel embarrassed about your home.
  5. You waste energy clearing up, moving things around or changing things around for another activity to take place.

What is the solution? You’ll have to wait for next week’s blog to find out!

How Different Colours Make You Feel (with a free worksheet)

We are surrounded by colour, in our homes, workplaces, schools, shopping centres, museums, streets, TV and online. It really is a part of our day.

Did you know that we feel and absorb the colour we see around us? We are stimulated, energised and relaxed by certain colours. Wearing or being exposed to a colour can change our mood and enhance our health and wellbeing. I know personally when I see colourful food, I immediately feel energised, excited and healthy!

Violet

The shortest wavelength it affects our bodies in a calming and balancing way. Historically purple was associated with regality – such as kings and queens as it was an expensive colour to turn into a fabric, yet these days we may associate it with old ladies and lavender! Violet is an amazing colour it suppresses our hunger, helps you to cool down and is even known to have antiseptic and purifying effects on us. This is also the colour that stimulates creativity and imagination.

Blue

Being the world’s most popular colour we find blue calming, cooling and relaxing, but did you know that dark blue has pain-healing and anti-inflammatory effects on us?

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Green

When we think of green, we think of trees, leaves, grass and nature, so no wonder the effect of green on us is a feeling of balance and equilibrium. I once read that looking at the green in nature relaxes our eyes. How amazing that we can have such a strong physical reaction by looking at something green?

Yellow

Yellow is a motivating and stimulating colour. We associate it with brightness, warmth and sunshine. It is a truly energizing colour for us.

Red

Did you know that red is the most physical of all colours? It has the longest wavelength and emits the slowest vibration of any colour. In daily life, red signifies love, danger, pain and heat. Red makes us feel warm but can also make us feel irritable!

3 Ways To Create A Scandi Interior

The one thing many of my clients have been saying recently is that they are inspired by Scandinavian style interiors. So here are a few say guidelines for those of you who want to try this at home.

All of these rooms have a dark floor that really works, but most timber floors and most monochrome dark or light (as long as they aren’t too red) will work too.

Split the room in half

The easiest way to a Scandi interior design is to keep everything on the bottom half of the room dark and the upper half-light. It doesn’t matter if you mix timbers, fabrics and materials, just stick to light walls and dark floor and furniture, you’ll be able to pull this off easily.

All white

It does take massive control to pull this look off, but it really is a very cheap and simple pallet! To create this all-white Scandi Interior t isn’t hard but don’t forget to stick to similar whites (all warm or all cool) and don’t forget to mix up the textures as the hardest thing about making white on white look great is getting depth and variety in the objects to create interest.

Halfway

This is more difficult to create for a novice mainly because you will need to balance the room. But if you choose dark pieces like a sofa, then stay light for everything else.

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3 Home Decorating Cures (with a free, downloadable workbook)

If you have been working on redecorating a room and things just don’t seem to be right, especially right when you sit in that chair and look around! If you were expecting a “wow its exactly like I imagined”, but got more of a “there’s something just not right yet”, then try these home decorating cures.

1. The function may not be clear

Every room needs to be guided by a function, whether that is a multi-functioning space like a lounge that also acts like a walkway in a flat share or a relaxing space like a conservatory or reception room. If the function isn’t clear in a room, you may not be able to position furniture correctly and you might have even bought furniture that is the wrong size for the room to allow for other functions. Getting clarity on what you want to do in the room you are decorating is a really good way to judge whether it is a successful space, war least functionally!

2. Appropriate Storage

If your function in the room is clear, then you can easily decide what kind of storage you need. Bike hanging racks in a hallway could actually just be the ticket! I will usually question all of the potential uses of a space and wonder where things will go before I start any work on a room. I also question the items that are going to be stored and gather information about behaviour and personality as this helps to create imaginative possibilities (like using a low shelf as a desk). If your room doesn’t feel just right yet, check whether it is because you are missing something practical like somewhere to place your books whilst sitting in a chair under the window.

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3. A Mix Of Old And New

All homes develop over time, even ones that I decorate from scratch will have a few pieces from another home or personal items that have some history and personality. If your room feels a bit sterile, is it because you lifted it straight from John Lewis’s decorating department? Why not take away some items and swap them with some of your personal items and you will see life slowly creeping back into your room. This can be a little more difficult because you will need to edit and filter whilst also keeping your original intention in mind. Don’t steer away from your original goal, ensure your main ideas are still true in your decorating scheme for the room. If you aren’t experienced in this area, try and get some help from a pro. Houzz have a free Q&A section where you can ask a designer ANYTHING and I also answer questions on my facebook page click HERE

If you have a room that needs some decor help, download my free workbook here: Decorating Cure Workbook

How To Choose The Perfect Grey

I had a message from my dear friend the past week and it said: “Just painted a wall grey only to notice it is baby blue…” To be honest this happens more often than the average DIYer likes to admit. Colours are complex, then you have the complexities of light, direction, window numbers and sizes and then add large pieces of furniture into a room and watch the colours change again!

Our 21st Century love of neutrals doesn’t help either, especially as spaces get smaller and walls get lighter. (Ok you won’t understand this if you live in a suburb in the US or Australia or like my friend in a gorgeous, huge mansion retreat in Finland) but believe me its “typically” true for the rest of us.  I actually wrote about the Greige Rage earlier this year.  You can read that blog post here.

So unless you like painting your walls a few times to get the right colour, here are a few things to think about before painting your wall the wrong shade of grey:

Every Grey Has A “Colour”

The amazing Maria Killam has a system that is called “understanding undertones”. From all of my years in the design and building industries, this is the clearest way I have seen neutrals explained. Because Maria does it so well, with her trademarked understanding undertones” so if you want to learn more, that is definitely the person I would go to for that colour theory lesson.

Growing up, I thought that grey was made by adding white paint to black paint or visa-versa. It is, but most of the greys we pick up from the shops isn’t actually created that way. Most greys are made from a base colour to make it a “warm” or “cool” grey and can also be just a “shade” of a colour on a chart. Unless you know your colour charts very well, I would definitely not recommend picking a colour for your walls from a colour chart. Always buy a sample pot and paint a large piece of white card (so your existing wall colour doesn’t come through underneath).

So when choosing a grey, the first thing you need to think of is what is the base colour in this grey? The easiest way to do this is to think right down to a primary colour. Is it red, blue or yellow? If you can’t see it yet, try a secondary colour, (green, purple, orange – just in case you forgot) which you will usually be able to tell if you put the colour against a brilliant bright white (if you have a piece of melamine at home, like in your kitchen or bathroom cabinets try it against that for now).

If you cant be bothered finding the colour by thinking, you can use an app to do it for you… There is an app called ColorSnap which tells you which colours are in the photo you just took.

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Natural & artificial light

It is important to consider what kind of light you will see your grey with. During the day, ask yourself which direction does your window in the room face and during the night, ask what kind of bulbs am I using or want to use?

So this is equally important because you cant see colour without light… Artificial light has a colour, so this will change the colour of your walls too (and those of you who buy 4500K LED with a colour rendering of over 85 to have it “as close to natural daylight as possible”, good for you, but unless you have SAD or want your home to look like an office, the intention and cost more often than not is not to replicate natural daylight).

Natural daylight also has colours. The evening sun is more red, orange (sometimes a warm purple) and the morning sun is more gold (but also blue) and during the day daylight is white. Also depending on which hemisphere you are in and which direction your windows face, your colour will also be affected by natural daylight. So during the day, if you are in the Northern Hemisphere with one window in your room facing North (this would be similar to a South facing Window in the Southern Hemisphere), there is no direct sunlight into the room, so the room will have more of a greyish light coming through the window. This changes the colour fo your grey again (because as we now know that without light we can’t see colour)…

So the trick is to know your light in the room where you are painting your grey. You don’t want it to be a depressing jail!

I love lighting, I wrote about it recently if you didn’t get a chance to read it here.

Context

Here I just wanted to point out that your room doesn’t stand alone and often it will be viewed from another room! You may fall in love with the grey colour and you might have thought about it from every angle and then once its al complete you sit down in another room and look at your walls through the door and find that your gorgeous taupe/grey looks pink or green, from a distance making the room you are sitting in look off..
Don’t forget to view your grey from other rooms and see how it flows between the spaces.

Furniture & Large Items

This is a great one and not many people actually realize that your walls will be affected by other items in your room. Your grey wall might look pink if you have a red kitchen or a bright red sofa in the room. All items have a presence and especially larger items in your room. So don’t forget to consider the colour of your furniture when choosing your greys too!

I hope this gave you a head start and a better chance of getting it right the first time.

A Few Things You Should Know About Paint:

This week we have been testing paint for our new kitchen and it hasn’t been easy! Of course, I wanted to use luxury paint like Farrow and Ball, Benjamin Moore, and Little Green because that is what I specify for my clients.

However, a tin of Farrow & Ball is almost triple the price of standard off-the-shelf paint from Colours, Dulux or Valspar, so my standard go-to is to colour match my more expensive paint so that at least it looks pretty close to that perfect dream look I am aiming for…

The only problem is that colour matching works pretty well, its around 98% accurate, but in my experience, not with lighter colours!  I would only colour match with mid-tone to darker colours as lighter colours (especially with expensive paint) are made up of complex pigments, which are what give the paint its subtle but beautiful colour.

A matching machine will pick up the strongest colour it can read and then create a similar tone from the collection of colours it has and then mixes the colour for you. In my kitchen, initially, I wanted everything brilliant bright white, as you may know from following my blog, that my house is quite dark, but the kitchen is naturally the brightest room in the house and so I wanted to accentuate the feeling of brightness as this is going to be my haven! Once we painted the undercoat, the white felt bright, but a bit too stark in this situation, so I went to my trusty sources and chose a few of my well known “light grey” colours that I am confident using (aka have used more than a few times now).

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I colour matched the lighter colours hoping they would just “work”, but I realized that the colour matching on the Farrow and Ball Strong White was completely off (as in, un-useable off) because the colour match picked up a red undertone making the paint look pink, but it actually has more of a yellowy brown to it, so I couldn’t colour match to the colours I was hoping to use!

I went and bought the super expensive, luxurious and gorgeous Farrow and Ball tester pot to see how it would look in my kitchen.  The other problem I had though, now that I had at least the right colour on the wall, is that it wasn’t as subtle in this room as I had hoped! It was too dark. I just want the “lightest warmth” added to my walls. I want it to feel cosy but be super light at the same time.

We still had the 25 Litre bucket of Leyland Brilliant Bright White sitting around and so we started testing how much colour we wanted. In the end, we came up with our colour and it was so subtle that we were pleased with it!

So we decided to create our own subtle, custom colour by throwing a tester pot amount of our chosen colour (Colours light rain actually) into our mega bucket of cheap brilliant bright white, saving us hundreds and giving this designer her desired “subtle but bright” result!

A Few Things You Should Know About Paint:
  1. Expensive paint is not only VOC free or super low in VOC’s (usually), the colour pigments and mixes are really superior. They give you a depth and complexity that cheaper paints, just cannot mimic or create.
  2. Colour matching works well on mid-tone to darker colours. Trying to colour match lighter colours, isn’t accurate (at all in my opinion).
  3. Light and location of your wall and any windows have a huge effect on the way you experience the colour, so always test your colour on multiple walls (if you m=plan on using it everywhere), and view it during different times of the day to see if it needs altering (ie, I think its too light in the mornings or too dark in the evenings…)
  4. Mixing your own paint can be a really cost-effective way of getting a custom paint colour, especially if you mix it yourself and use a cheaper base for the mix. (We saved over £500 using our own mix over the Farrow & Ball tins… and got a perfect colour – one that was customised and perfect for the look and feel we wanted in our room).
  5. The amount of reflection and (I also think darkness) vary with the sheen.  The truest colour (I find) is the most matt 2% sheen finish).
  6. The same colour in wood paint, metal paint or wall paint will always be a slightly different colour (usually the gloss will add the darkness to it – just my observation).

Kitchen Countertops Pros and Cons

So how do you choose a kitchen countertop? Price is a huge factor for most, but look comes a close second, third practicality pops in and out (how easily does it stain?) and then if it is a man-made material whether it is “healthy” or ethical.

For my own kitchen we have decided to go for concrete again (I know, I haven’t learned my lesson yet…) After all the trouble I had with my black concrete countertop that my husband and I made ourselves, in the end, I fell in love with that ol’ dawg and I miss it like crazy. So let’s start with the not so popular concrete countertop:

Concrete Kitchen Countertops

Pros:
Original, beautiful, flexible design, ¼ of the cost of quartz or stone countertops, can be built in any form or shape, changes over time, can be created in any colour, “easy to repair” (technically, done well you shouldn’t have any problems repairing concrete and it can be done artistically to hide the problem area completely), totally bespoke in every way with loads of flexibility in design, doesn’t have to be high maintenance (if you like to see it change over time), bloody strong mate (I wanted to write indestructible, but it isn’t quite, although I miss your strength blacky….)

Cons:

Will still require expansion joints in certain places (we didn’t listen to the rules and created a 6m run without a joint line and it was fine, no cracks and still a beauty), stains if not impregnated with the right sealant, changes over time, can be difficult to maintain, not to everyone’s taste (acquired taste), not “pretty” like marble (if you know what I mean), sealant is expensive and will require reapplication annually, high maintenance (or not, see above), some mixes and sealants can be toxic (not all concrete is made equal man).

Laminate Kitchen Countertops

Pros:
Cheap, new styles coming out continuously, cheap, last relatively long considering they are just a thin layer of stuff tacked onto some chipboard… Can be fixed pretty easily (with the right tools), cheap, new solid versions out now that don’t have the same problems as the chipboard ones, cheap.

Cons:
Can be fugly when not thought out, don’t last long if not installed perfectly (sealed along the edges), once damaged can deteriorate quickly, standard patterns give it away that its laminate straight away (more often than not), look… cheap.

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Timber Kitchen Countertops

Pros:
Pretty cheap! Look gorgeous, are warm, range of colours and stains can be painted, can be fixed “easily”,

Cons:
They always stain black around the sink (oh the humanity), need resealing, can stain.

Tiled Kitchen Countertops

Pros:
Can look great, solid, flexibility in design, can be cost-effective (for example you can still get marble tiles which will be a fraction of the price in comparison to a slab of marble or granite), technically easy to fix (just keep some spare tiles aside), can be very customisable and creative.

Cons:
I grew up with a 60’s style tile on our countertops, I hated it (can’t remember why so much now, but I do remember the grout discolouring and having to scrub it for ages. Can date easily, has a specific / acquired look, can be uneven if not fitted correctly, can fall apart (literally) and can be high maintenance if not maintained.

Natural Stone Countertops (AKA Marble & Granite)

Pros:
Undeniably gorgeous, natural stone has that feeling of…. well, erm.. nature… and Jo likes nature (except for cockroaches, aggressive birds and slugs).

Cons:
Totally a luxury item, (just get one priced up – seriously and then consider your home’s LTV against it), needs sealing, depending on the stone can be porous (as in absorbent to the max!), joints are hard to hide (well), like with any natural stone can vary in colour and pattern and not in a nice way.

Quartz, Corian & Silestone (& In Other Brand Names Zodiaq, Cambria Etc.) Kitchen Countertops

Oo, look at me throwing these into the “same pile”. Yes ok Quartz is made up of natural crushed rock mixed with resin (rocks & plastic), Corian is built from acrylic polymer and alumina trihydrate (rocks and plastic) and Silestone is made up of quartz and resin (you get my point…)

Pros:
Flexible in terms of design options, can choose pretty much any colour, any design within the proprietor’s range, cost-effective in comparison to granite and natural stone, very strong,

Cons:
Can look too modern for more traditional kitchens, still unattainable when you want it but you’re on a laminate budget, no matter what anyone says these still stain…

Resin Kitchen Countertops

Ah, joy. Did I mention that when we couldn’t import (times have changed) the concrete countertop sealant we needed from the US to the UK we tested resin? Oh dear… This is a tough material to work with (fun, but tough).

Pros:
Tres flexible in terms of design, colour, form, can be clear (pretty cool).

Cons:
Scratches, oh boy does it scratch horrifically to a point where it is unrecognisable, even the UV resistant one can change colour over time, yellowing (you’ll know what I mean), brittle, stains, toxic, why do we use this for kitchen countertops?

Stainless Steel Kitchen Countertops

Pros:

Clean, industrial looking.

Cons:

Constant cleaning required can stain, industrial looking,

So my conclusion:

Everything stains (and if it doesn’t, let me have a go), therefore get what you want (and can afford) and look after it the best you can.

Kitchen Design Basics

I have worked on over 400 kitchens, either alongside a kitchen designer or just designing them for client’s (or bosses) and I always stick to the design rules I was taught.  So, when it came to designing my own kitchen, I kept going around in circles, balancing my budget, style and functionality and getting no-where. My husband saved me from my own design rules and said: “we’re putting the fridge on the other wall and removing the kitchen table, period”.

I cringed at the thought of my kitchen not functioning with a perfect work triangle and had to think about it (for a few weeks). I gave in because he was totally right. I had fallen into a trap with my kitchen designs that didn’t allow me to think freely first, practically second and I always led with practicality first.

I suppose that has come from my love of kitchens, but also my requirement to always provide the most “appropriate” solution for my clients that was not only functional but beautiful.

My husband just said “I want the fridge there”, that’s it, he didn’t consider that it was on the other side of the bar to the sink. When I questioned how I was going to cook, he said, it’s even better, you can lay stuff out on the bench rather than keeping the fridge door open with your foot…

So here are the kitchen design basics I work to 99% of the time:

Measure The Space (Exactly)

When it comes to joinery, work to millimetre precision (I remember learning that from a joiner I worked with and I had just been working on lots of old crooked buildings thinking “are you mad”? He was completely right. Even in an old crooked building, work to millimetre precision. That entails measuring the distances multiple times up the walls (to check if your walls are straight – lucky you if they are).

Dream A Bit

Installing a new kitchen is probably one of the most expensive alterations the average person does in their property, so definitely consider it as a special place, even if you don’t like to cook or eat out a lot. I love designing kitchen areas in my projects! I really love imagining myself using each kitchen and really consider the absolute best scenario for each occasion. Think about the things you always wanted and think about budget later (boo). Starting off your design with a practical hat on will give you an uninspiring kitchen (always), so at least in the beginning, go and have some fun and check some inspirational images to get some cool ideas and motivate you to love the space a little more.

Function & Socialising

I put these together because they are both equally important to my clients these days. Gone are the days where you cook on your own in a separate room. Yes there needs to be an option for closing the room off (or else consider noisy distractions and excellent extraction / ventilation), but ultimately, we want to monitor children, have the TV on in the background or be part of a conversation (at least once a week) while we cook in our kitchens and those times really matter.

Think about the location of the main items sink, stove, oven, fridge and preparation areas and how you move around them (I always work to the work triangle – except in my own kitchen!) I LOVE to cook, so I just imagine myself cooking the biggest meal possible in every kitchen and if it can handle that situation at a time when I’m also wanting to socialise, then I know that she’ll be right mate.

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Storage

I always seem to be battled on this one. You always NEED more storage than you expect in a kitchen. If you are building a kitchen that is for a family, or for someone who likes to cook (moi), you NEED storage space, pantry space, space to put things that can’t be stacked on top of each other because it will ruin the coating kind of space. As I get older (waaah) I also can’t lift really heavy pans as easily as I used to, so not having to faff about lifting other heavy pans off of the ones I need to use is not only practical, it keeps the pain out cooking. Always add more space than you think you need.

Style

Consider the flow of your house and style of your kitchen.  The one thing that makes me cringe every time with kitchens is getting the “style” wrong.  Know what date your home was built, putting a glossy Art Deco style kitchen into a country cottage (or visa versa) just looks as though you don’t know what you are doing (or you made a mistake).  Consider the context of your kitchen, in your home and as a whole.  If you have a modern home, you have more flexibility with style, but again, a cutsie country cottage style kitchen in your high-rise might be a bit kitsch, so look around at the materials such as your windows and walls to guide your decisions.

Budget & Extras

That gorgeous hot water tap and exceptional door style ARE going to cost more, so, more often than not, you will have to weigh up your options. If you just have to have that SubZero fridge, but its out of budget, why not try an alternative company that can also make up two separate fridge freezer columns or find a way of building in an American style fridge / freezer to give you the “same” (ok its not the same it’s kind of similar) feel.