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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?

 

Space Saving Ideas For Homes

Having lived in shared accommodation for most of my life and having travelled and moved way too many times, I have so many space saving ideas that I have used and also thought about using! Here are some of the ideas that you may be able to implement in your own home to save space and make better use of it too.

Use a narrow dressing table or hall table as a desk.

I spent many a sleepless week wedged between a stool and a (very nice cherry wood) futon whilst living in Perth (some great idea I had once to move to one of the most remote parts of the world). During that semester at university, whilst I worked endlessly on my design projects and competitions, I realised that I not only gave myself RSI, but also ruined my lower back, by staying in a random position working from the floor for literally weeks on end. So, I wouldn’t be doing that anymore, but how do you fit a desk in a room smaller than a tin can? I remember when I found the solution for all of my problems! I was living in a pretty big (2.7 x 3.5m2) room in Reading, and one of my flatmates was moving out, when I noticed his desk was much thinner than mine.. it was a dressing table.  It was beautifully narrow, albeit awfully ugly. When I tactfully swapped my clunker for his narrow commode, I had made enough space not only for a desk, but there was also just enough space to do yoga in front of my desk!  In our Battersea apartment, I bought a wonderfully narrow dressing table and used it as my desk and it worked perfectly and it still does today in my home office. This idea can be transferred to breakfast tables, sofas, hallway tables. Think what piece of furniture in a tight or multi-use space could be a different shape but still function as it needs to, which allows either more space around it or another function (and double bonus if you don’t have to fork out money for it!)

Make your rooms work hard for you.

When space was really tight, I made sure almost every single room had at least 2 functions. For example, my bathroom was also a storage room with a hidden utility, my kitchen was also the dining, guest room and living space and my bedroom was my yoga space, home office, walk-in wardrobe and sleep space. If your rooms are thought out properly, you can make them work harder than just a whole room designed to be an office… that is unless of course, you have the opposite problem where you have too much space and coming up with how to fill the space seems impossible without leaving large patches of emptiness and miniature looking seating arrangements.

Be Tidy.

If you do just one thing – designate a space for certain things. Thats it. You won’t have to think about where something goes ever again and you are more likely to put it where it belongs. I also don’t mean the floor in front of the cupboard (I know people like this). I mean office stuff is always in the top drawer, glasses are always in the cupboard above the sink, bags all belong on the rack and shoes by the front door or in their boxes. Create a system that works for you and makes it easy to put things away. If for example the box for your shoes is the last one behind three others under the bed and you know it takes at least 4 minutes to access it, the likelihood of you putting it away at 1am when you are falling into bed is zero.

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Build Anything you can ‘in’.

Yes, I mean built-in wardrobes, built-in shelving, built-in kitchen cupboards build it in! I can hear the naysayers already, yes ok it saves inches, but … it saves inches. When you live in a small space, you need all the space you can get. Building it in, means that when you undoubtedly start over filling everything, it also has more chance of surviving, that’s because if its built-in, its usually more sturdy and intended to last longer. For example, book shelves. We’ve all had one, over stuffed and more crooked than Pisa. Ive never seen a built-in one fail… and in fact I’ve had to rip a few out on building projects, surprised to see that they were still going strong 50 years from the day they were installed.

Use air space and use solid space.

By air I mean ‘in the air’ and by solid I mean use the space under your existing furniture. Obvious examples are using the space above and below your bed. I designed a storage wall for my apartment because my partner has loads of cds and dvds and these fit perfectly into narrow cupboards, which when mixed with deeper cupboards can look a bit more modern. Yes I struggle with the fact that storing things under my bed is bad Feng Shui and I know most of you will think argh, its so 60’s to build cupboards around my bed, but it ultimately is how you design it. Yes it can look crap, or you can make it work for you and it can look great!

Use practical furniture.

Yes unfortunately the word practical must feature here. Lounges with built in storage that convert to beds (seriously ugly, but man how practical is that?) I decided on a bar table in our dining area and bought two stools without backs, so that when they aren’t being used we can keep them under the table. There are some really ugly practical pieces of furniture, but these days with access to the internet and online designers, there really is no excuse, well, unless its a gift, or a hand-me-down, or an heir loom… but there is usually a solution for those too.

I hope that gave you a few ideas to try.

When is it ok to mix timber flooring colours?

When designing a space from scratch, the flooring is usually one of the last things I consider. That is because I am able to design the scheme to work seamlessly for the whole project and tie things together, add texture or add light or contrast to the overall scheme with the large surface area. So it is usually at this point that I will make the decision to mix or not to mix timber flooring colours or flooring materials.

I find it can be a little trickier to decide whether to mix timber flooring colours on smaller projects, however, as little bits and pieces here and there, (especially if only one room is getting the makeover) can look patchy, unprofessional or even worse, a bit of a mistake.

So I thought I would share some designer guidance on how I make the decision to keep or mix timber flooring colours on a project.

So this is usually what I do to decide – is it ok to mix timber flooring colours?

When is it ok?

Contrasting dual tones can look fantastic, especially when the look is deliberate. The thing I would like to emphasise here is that it needs to be deliberate in order to achieve a certain look or feel. You can get some amazing looking spaces mixing different timbers especially when you take them up the vertical surfaces or frame patterns in beautifully worked bespoke flooring. I also find that texture, pattern and colour are your friend when working with timber flooring, so use them to help achieve your desired goals.

The key is to know and understand what the consequence to the surrounding spaces will be. If for example, you plan on adding a dark floor to a space and everything around it is light, that can work, but know that the dark floored space will be special, it will draw attention to it and you will need to treat that space differently.

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If you want a dark-floored room off of a light floored room, that will also work, but ensure the transition between the rooms is deliberate and they are treated as two separate spaces and maybe consider introducing the new timber into other elements of the surrounding spaces (see an example of this in the main blog photo).

As soon as you understand the contrast and become confident in using this technique as a tool, you will start to naturally feel when mixing timbers feels like the right thing to do.

Usually, I use different coloured timber flooring to define areas in open plan spaces. You can do this with texture, levels, lighting or different materials, but using different coloured timber flooring can give you stunning results. Don’t forget that you can also paint timber floors and they look fantastic too!

mixing-timber-colours

When is it not ok to mix different coloured timber flooring?

Typically if you have tried to match an engineered, laminate or wood flooring that was laid previously and you can’t find the exact tone, type or finish, so you think – oh this is so close, no one will notice… This is when it is wrong, yes we will notice.

You might also want to reconsider mixing your timber flooring when you haven’t thought out the whole space. Step back and think will that cherry laminate really look like next to the walnut and why is the transition necessary?

If there is no reason for it and it can’t be justified with a design aesthetic or a deliberate design intention, then perhaps it is time to think a little bit deeper about the end result or get some pro advice.

Some styles of interior actually look really great with mismatched timbers and or different types of timber in the same spaces. Have a read about the following design aesthetics if you are considering mixing flooring or timbers in your home: modern, industrial, shabby chic, oriental, alpine and rustic styles.

 

How to Make a Small Room Feel Huge – Part 1

Having lived in small, shared, inner-city spaces for much of my 20’s, I found lots of ways of making my tiny rooms appear much bigger than they were and more importantly store all of my guitars and sporting equipment like snowboards, climbing gear and bikes out of the way for daily life.

I remember my first room in London was less than 4m2 (13 square feet) and I loved living there so much. It was cosy, with a big window and I even had one of my super tall besties stay with me in that room. I remember he had to sleep diagonally across with his feet in the storage part of my undersized bed. I think I paid £60 a week to live there (ahh memories).

It wasn’t until recently, when I was working with a client who loves large open spaces that I found he wasn’t convinced about something I had proposed, which led me having to make a digital 3D model to explain it. That is when I realised that this stuff can be quite hard to visualise, unless you have experimented with it or seen the results yourself.

So here I am going to share some of my secrets and experience with you. I hope this is useful and helps you to live better in your small space and enjoy your time there so that you too can look back in years to come with fond memories and a few good stories to tell

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Top ways to living in a small space and make it feel bigger than it is:

  1. Use reflective surfaces (high gloss) and mirrors. When the surface is super reflective you can even use black as it reflects just like a mirror.
  2. Keep furniture low so that your eye casts over it and doesn’t obscure the room when looking around.
  3. Use sliding doors and pocket sliding doors. These will free up the space in front of cupboards, bathrooms and allow you to use the surface of the wall that the hinged door usually hides.
  4. Keep vertical and horizontal lines going full length or height and use built-in furniture to accentuate vertical or horizontal lines. Our eye naturally follows the lines and when the line stops with an obstruction, our eyes rest on it. In a smaller space, you want your eye to be able to move at least a little bit before it stops dead, so stand back and see what is stopping your eyes from flowing.
  5. Put a reflective surface or mirror on the wall opposite the window. This will bounce light around the room and acts like another light source.

In one of my apartments, I built–in high gloss floor to ceiling cupboards with sliding doors on the wall opposite the window. It made the room feel huge and gave me a practical way of hiding all of my clothes.

Want 5 more tips and some good habits for living in a small space too?

To Walk-in Wardrobe or Not To Walk-in Wardrobe

Since moving into our cute, albeit average, three-bed house in Berkshire I have dreamed of finally having a walk-in wardrobe. The reality is, there are two of us in a three-bedroom house, so it is a possibility and it could potentially suit our lifestyle.

When is it ok to remove a bedroom to use it as a walk-in wardrobe? I always ask myself the following things when deciding this for a client:

  1.   What are my daily habits and will a walk-in wardrobe transform my life and really make a difference?
  2.  Is there any other place or space to fit a semi walk-in wardrobe, rather than taking up a whole room for this necessary and hugely practical life changer?
  3.  What kind of property is it, and what affect on the property price, functionality and overall practicality will taking a bedroom away have?
  4. What do the market and location suggest about this decision?
  5. Who is using this house and how? Who will want to use this house in the future and how?
  6. Am I lowering the property function and value by customising the house to my own needs?

I have transformed bedrooms into walk-in wardrobes for clients in super luxurious properties in Sloane Avenue and other places in London, although I would definitely think twice about doing the same thing in our three bed Berkshire home.

Why? The area we live in is a family area. It is domestic, and people want and need three bedrooms. If my husband and I were considering selling and we had created a home with 2 bedrooms in a house that would have sold for 3 we would have cut ourselves short by a bedroom and might also find it difficult to sell the property.  Our home isn’t in an area where houses are large enough to command a more luxurious lifestyle either.  If our 3 bedder was an apartment in a dense city environment where a 3 bedroom property is usually difficult to lease out and the area was in high demand for young, corporate couples, then I think the choice would have been a lot easier.

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I don’t like making long-term or expensive decisions that would lower the functionality of a perfectly good home, even if that functionality is adding to my own life. However, if it transforms my life in a way that nothing else would (ehem, yes we are talking about a wardrobe) then I would look deeper into it.

Currently, I am not at that place where a walk-in wardrobe is going to completely change the way I live, mainly because my clothing and shoe collection is very manageable. To those of you who laugh in the face of house prices based on how many rooms it has (rather than m2), I envy the simplicity.

For now, it looks like I might end up with a brand new wardrobe, about the same size as I currently have, just a bit nicer, more practical and with a few more drawer packs. That is until we build the master suite in the loft, of course…