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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?

 

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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The Best Instigator For An All-Out House Clean

Yes, the start or end of a season will do it to me and so will an event like Christmas or Easter, but there’s nothing like having my mum and in-laws over to stay for a week that has gotten my husband and me to transform our home across the last fortnight and put in the hours required for an all-out house clean.

In the past week, we moved our bedroom, relocated and re-built my husbands studio, cleaned the garage, cleared the gardens and removed lots of rubbish that had accumulated around the house (I didn’t think I was the person who would live with a 1970s dishwasher in my backyard for a year – but supposedly I’m that guy after all).

We did this whilst still working full time and whilst still attending meetings (with just a little more dust on my shoes that I’d like to admit). But, I tell ya, there is nothing like a functioning home and a good ol’ house clean. Those light switches with missing screws (they just happened to have the perfect screw that fit my husband’s amplifier) are now back to normal.  We thought about and decided (within milliseconds) about a new location for a studio and Ta-Dah, I have a dining room for the first time in my life! Now my guests can sit together during their visit AND can actually enjoy a meal whilst sitting down (bonus).

This whole whirlwind fortnight made me think about how much we need an “instigator” to get our butts into gear. My husband has been working from our dining room for over a year and a half now. It was never the best idea and it never worked well for either of us, so why have we waited this long to make a decision to change it?

In one way we were forced to change our living conditions before our visitors arrived as they were slightly embarrassing. Two entrepreneurs working from home that was bought as a renovation project that never really kicked off… Nothing like some overseas visitors to kick us into action.

Fast forward two weeks and I have a dining room. OK, it still has sound deadening, black carpet tiles on one wall and the other wall has black cheap Lino tiles, but apart from the black curtains and goth look (against my peach,16 year old, cheap, developer, falling apart kitchen in the background with the broken door), its practical, layout heaven. It works.

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Yesterday, for the first time, I sat in my dining room at my outdoor dining table (baby steps) and enjoyed a new view from my home that I have lived in for well over a year now.  Why didn’t we do this earlier?  The results are so worth it, but we couldn’t find the time.

And guess what? Now it totally makes sense to go ahead and start our kitchen renovation, which I have been pining for, for like every second since we moved in (and also every second since I can remember as I have never actually had a nice kitchen) and that is a sore spot for me because I associate kitchens with health! The moral of this story? If you just can’t stand living in a certain way and just can’t find the time to make those changes around the house that you really genuinely want to make, why not try the visitor technique and force change in your surroundings for the better!

So, watch this space! My interiors blog might just have a kitchen reveal coming soon! (OMG another girl squeal – I think that’s two weeks in a row!)

How To Layout A Large Room

In the UK, I don’t get asked this question too often! The spaces here are much, much smaller than I have come across anywhere else in the world. Often times I hear my clients saying “back home the spaces are so big, my family laugh at our expensive little house here in the UK.”

I have to admit; growing up in Australia the spaces were also much larger so I had to perfect my skill of designing in super small spaces (starting with my own). But I surprisingly get a good mix of tiny, medium and large house designs to work with these days and my clients come to me usually because they find the largest spaces by far the hardest to furnish and I know why!

I approach the design of large rooms differently than I do smaller ones and the order of operations usually looks a lot like this:

Function

Get to know my clients function of this room. An answer like “a living room” won’t cut it either, I need to know their habits, how they live in the space, what time of day it is used most, any existing furniture they have (and the exact dimensions of it), how they want to feel in the space and any relevant information about my client and their lifestyle.

Location & Geography

What has this got to do with a room? Pretty much everything! I need to know what hemisphere and location the room is in because I like to know the type of light that I am dealing with. The light in a northern facing room in Norway is very different to the light in a southern facing room in this example I have shown in Dubai.

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Dimensions and Characteristics

Every room is different! Ironically the biggest reason I hear people not wanting to hire a designer is because (at least here in the UK) they say that “all the houses are the same, I can’t do anything different with mine!” This makes me so sad to hear, because I know how to find the unique potential in every space! This one is pretty obvious, because you will obviously need to know the size of the room to get started, but don’t forget things like the ceiling height, how windows and doors open within the room and distances away from objects such a fireplaces and TVs, as these will all have an impact on the layout of the room!

Get An Idea

Sometimes Il swap this around with the next step, depending on how difficult the space is, but I will always have a “design idea” at the back of my mind. This could come from clues about my client’s style or just a creative idea based around something my client desires.

Grid & Layout

Once I have the above information, I will usually start by drawing a few grids on the page. I know that Kelly Hoppen talks about a grid, but I’m not sure if this is how she does it. (I would love to have the pleasure to ask her one day!) I will divide the spaces up into zones depending on my clients requirements and then play around with beautiful and fun layouts. I genuinely have so much fun doing this that I will usually give my client a few options so that they can also see the potential in their spaces. It is much cheaper (and less tiring) to play around on paper (or CAD in my case) than it is in real life! You can do this for free digitally these days with sketchup and many other free room builders – I think even IKEA has one now!

Connecting Spaces

The area you are trying to layout will almost always have a connection to another space that will need considering.  What are the views, relationships, obstructions, functions of the spaces around and how do they affect the idea and use of the house?  For example, in the living room layout I have provided in today’s blog, the view from the entrance hall is spectacular and I wouldn’t want to obscure that view with my furniture layout.

Furniture & Storage

There are millions of variations on any piece you can imagine!  So playing around with the shape and size of furniture will help you fit pretty much anything in any way that you want, you just have to get creative and know about what kind of furniture you want to use.  This also ties in with the last step:

Style

This is different for all of my projects as the approach I take is dependent on my client’s style. I will basically give them what they want, but I always have a bit of fun because for some reason my clients genuinely don’t know how awesome they are and they always play down things they like. So I will always give them a little gift in their designs, which reveals something special and unique about them and their personality, which they might or might not have known about.

 

Why Black Can Sometimes Feel Light and Make A Space Feel Larger

Yes, in design we usually use black to make things stand out, bring them closer visually, to create a luxury feel or to create contrast. But black should be treated differently to other dark colours, especially in an interior.

So how can you use black in an interior to make a space feel larger?

Black actually gives you the impression or feeling of more space or infinite space, but don’t be fooled other dark colours don’t do this. Having a husband who is a an online guitar teacher and full time musician, I have many a random black painted wall in my home (and have done, ever since we moved in together). So I have had a long lasting relationship with black! (I sit here writing this morning’s blog post from my bed in my unfinished / un-renovated bedroom with random black walls set up for recordings).

Lets use the combined living / dining / kitchen from the Battersea Flat as an example. In this room, if we had used any other colour, light or dark, we might have accentuated the tunnel like effect of the room. Notice that the black units of the kitchen are there, but instead of feeling overpowering, they just fade away.

It was difficult to photograph a small space, so we used a wide angle lens when taking the photos, which helps explain what I mean a little, because it gives you the feeling of the black “surface”, which kind of disappears when you are in the room.

In this instance I used high gloss black cabinets to bounce the light deeper into the space too, as it was a long narrow room that had lots of functions! The high gloss black also looked white during most of the day (say what?) Yes! The high gloss black works like a mirror, especially with direct light on it. In the area where it was close to the window, the whole window ended up being reflected again, deeper into the room, which created an even brighter space, especially during the day.

The depth that black can add is amazing. It tricks our eyes into feeling the space goes on forever and subconsciously helps you feel as though there is more space than there really is. I also find black to be really warming and calming. It is a really special “colour” to use in the home, but more than any other “colour” you will need to really consider the following when using black at home:

Texture (rough or smooth) – this will be extremely visible with black.

Finish (high gloss or matt) – this will make the end result look as though it is absorbing the space or reflecting it.

Quantity (focal point / accent or surface) – The black will fade away or draw your eye to something specific.

I have found many people feel really confident to use white at home, but I want to give you another very useful tool to add to your repertoire as I know you are interested in interiors and design. So start to test black with natural timbers, monochrome or muted colour schemes to start building your confidence to get to know black, rather than to avoid it. You really are missing out on a lot!

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The photo on the right is one of the “work-in-progress” photos that you rarely get to see as most designers won’t share them (and I have to admit I was reluctant to as well!)  But this photo really shows how black reacts in different ways.  Look at the black TV (a high gloss black) and how different it reacts to the black textured mat on the wall behind or the soft sheen, texted black on the floor.

If you want to see some black interiors that I think have been created successfully, check out my Pinterest board called “Nice dark interiors”