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Bathroom Design Basics (Everyone Should Know)…

I get asked a lot what the pitfalls of bathroom design are for designer’s who are just starting out in the business and I would have to say that bathrooms and kitchens are by far the hardest if they have never experienced renovating their own or a friend’s first!

Kitchen’s are a whole other ballpark and come with many, many opportunities for mistakes for the unwitting, fresh designer, so I thought I would start with bathrooms as we could fit this into one blog post!

There are a few key areas that are really important with bathroom design and refurbishment that are really important to highlight to a novice who has never undertaken a project like this before. Often, an interior designer will eventually get asked to design a bathroom for a client and they will say yes, then think “its just about choosing tiles and a suite, right?”


Finishes

  • Walls – This is possibly the trickiest thing to consider when undertaking a bathroom renovation or design as the first thing to consider is how much space you have for finishes! If the architraves are staying (as they will most likely do in a low cost or budget renovation), then you will need to measure how deep they are so that you can design around the doors and windows.
  • Floors – Next, unless you want a “lovely” toe scratching metal bar or even worse, a toe breaking step up into the bathroom, you will need to understand what the juxtaposing floor finish is going to be (or is) and how deep that is too. Whilst you’re at it, if your client hasn’t got a big budget to ask the carpenter to cut the door to fit your 30mm stone flooring, then you might want to measure how much gap you have under the door too, just to make sure you know how much space you have to play with.
  • Ceiling – If you can’t measure the void within the ceiling or can’t photograph it, then think about whether the property is a flat and what floor it is on. You may need to consider fire-hoods / casing and some LED lighting will have large heat diffusing backs and or may require transformers in an accessible place, close to the lights themselves. Don’t forget that bathroom lighting in Zones 1 and 2 needs to be IP44 rated minimum (Zone one is the area in the bath, shower or around the sink and Zone 2 is the area around those areas up to about 60cm – which is more of a splash zone).

Just as a rule of thumb, I would look at the thickness of what I am proposing (the depth of the tile or stone) and then know that I will probably need around the same amount of space behind the tile to fix it in place. Usually, a 3mm tile can get away with a much thinner bed, but a 20mm piece of stone will need at least 10mm bed with at least a cementitious board that can carry the weight of the stone.

Don’t forget that not all wall tiles can be used on the floor either. Ceramic tiles which are usually cheaper will usually be only for the walls as they are much softer than porcelain tiles or stone, so always check before making your final decision on your finishes.

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash


Drainage

I used to get teased in offices I worked in because I actually am a total geek with drainage and love working it out. I used to get a lot of the s**t jobs passed to me as I genuinely enjoyed them! I love drainage! I even considered changing careers at one point to re-train as a plumber (then I realized I have a very sensitive nose…)

Drainage is one of those things that if you don’t know what you are doing, then leave it alone and don’t mess with it. The cheapest thing with a bathroom is to leave the pieces where they are and replace them like for like. Even something as simple as changing a bath to a shower can cause problems, as a shower trap will need to fit in the floor and that isn’t always possible on a refurbishment. That is why you see those poor showers that need stepping up in to (oh the humanity!)

The key with bathrooms, however, is looking at where the riser is. You’ll spot it easily in an older building as it will probably be boxed out, but in a new building, it will most likely be concealed slightly better (you’d hope). The toilet is usually positioned pretty close to it, so that is your first give away. Moving a toilet or shower around the riser is usually not too much of a problem because the proximity to the connection is the key.

As a rule of thumb, a shower waste will be around 50mm and a toilet waste pipe will be around 110mm in diameter and they require a fall to the riser of 1:60 (that’s 1 meter in height for every 60m in length – or about 2cm drop per meter. That doesn’t sound like much, but considering the floor depth is usually around 250mm, then you start to encroach on the ceiling below if moving it more than a couple of meters.

Although that still doesn’t mean you can move them because it also depends on what the floor or ceiling structure is made from. If you are dealing with a timber floor and the joists are running in the right direction, (check the engineer’s or architects drawings) you can get lucky and you can run the pipes within the floor, but if your joists are running in the wrong direction and you don’t have a ceiling void below, you will have to alter your layout (or opt for a syphoned toilet…)


Sanitary Fittings

Ah, the joy! Just when you find the perfect shower in the right finish, you can’t match the mixer, or just when you find the perfect set for everything it doesn’t have WRAS approval. This can be a minefield and unless working on super low-cost projects are often best dealt with a contact or supplier from a specific company. There are so many parts and mechanisms that go along with and need to be ordered to fit a shower or tap that it is best to work alongside someone who knows their stock.

This is the kind of thing you don’t really want to leave to your plumber. Low-cost projects usually do and that is where you start to get mismatched items or showers not working well. If you know it, you will also need to know the pressure you currently have and the type of system in your property. A gravity led system has much less pressure than mains pressure and you may need to also install pressure reducing valves (for the designer that means fitting more things in behind the already full walls or hiding more stuff or trying to box it in).

What I’m trying to say is that choosing a shower head and matching mixer is not as simple as matching the style to the mixer on the basin. There are a lot of things that are needed to be considered alongside the items themselves to make sure they work correctly once installed. Add to this water reducing filters and water saving devices you have to really know what items will work to give you the desired end result.

Before choosing sanitary items and before speaking to the manufacturer (you always should before ordering to make sure you are specifying the right parts) make sure you have to hand the following things:

  1. The type of boiler and hot water installation (ie mains or gravity pressure).
  2. Water saving or regulatory requirements (usually only for new builds or historic projects) or any unique property specific requirements.
  3. The depth of the walls, floors and ceilings and construction type for installation and fixing – sometimes noggins or ply need to be inserted into the wall to fix the mixers, towel rails etc.)
  4. Depth and profile of the finishes (Eg. a highly profiled tile can look terrible with a flat plate for a mixer stuck on it, no matter how aligned it is!)
  5. Which direction the floor and ceiling joists run (if timber construction) and where the wall studs are.

And just one final note, don’t expect to be able to use an external wall depth to add to the room you have. External walls should not be messed with, especially in new construction where any penetration could affect the airtightness or vapour control of the building. As a general rule, if you want to hide some piping in an external wall, you will need to build a new wall or boxing in front of it so that you don’t damage the external envelope of the building which could cause damp or allow vermin into the walls. Refurbishments are where most of the big mistakes happen because the initial build is tightly controlled but small or minor works in between aren’t usually monitored and often done by uneducated homeowners, on the cheap or in a DIY way.

Buildings are getting more complicated and there are more things that can be damaged than just a bit of mould getting through a wall. Partitions, floors and ceilings all act as fire compartmentalization so some alterations, if not completed by a competent person who knows the local laws may be unknowingly creating a dangerous situation.

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When Should I Hire An Interior Designer?

My clients always ask, when is the right time to hire an interior designer? Funnily enough, pretty much 99% of the time, clients want and need you to start their project ASAP.

Its funny, you can’t imagine how many phone calls and emails I get from prospective clients who say, “we need things to be complete next month when we move in”. To be honest these days my tradie contacts mixed with my online service and the awesome addition of assistants means that I can deliver great results in such a short deadline.

The reality for most interior designer’s however, is that, like a good builder, we are booked up months in advance because we need to be to ensure good cash flow for our businesses. Unfortunately for designers, clients, want you and your attention on their dream home and they want it now, not in a month’s time and DEFINITELY NOT in two (are you crazy!)

So even though I want to write to every client saying, hire your designer as early as possible, that still will never “feel” early enough for the designer, because early enough for our client’s means, you get one week to measure and draw up the house (because you start tomorrow right?)

…and then you have one week to come up with the best designs in the world and then present them to us in the most easily understandable and beautiful way possible that is awe-inspiring and worthy of a gold medal and make any updates and changes we request and reissue right?

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…and then you have one week to order, organize and call, find, agree on a fee for all of the finishes and tradesmen.

…and then your guys (and gals) have a week to lay the floors and paint the walls (at the same time) in a 4 bedroom house and then they’ll be moving in when everything has dried (another day after that right?)

I’m joking, well actually no I’m not.

So, when should I hire an interior designer?

My message to clients:

  • Please give your designer as much time as realistically possible to provide you with the best service that you deserve. Hire them as soon as you find the house or if you trust your designer’s opinion, get them on board when searching for the right house.

My message to designers:

  • Keep yourself 80% booked, not 100% so that you don’t have to say no to a wonderful client that you really want to work with.

 

5 Ways To Update Your bathroom

Bathrooms can be rooms that get overlooked in a house and they shouldn’t. These spaces are nearly always the first place we go to when we wake up and the last room we leave before we go to sleep, so they should make us feel great.

I’m one of those “bath lovers” so I can really spend hours in my bathroom as its the place I actually go to to try to relax.  Below are a few ways you can update your bathroom to give it a fresh finish.

1. Add plants

There isn’t a single room in your house which won’t benefit from housing a plant. Not only are they so varied and beautiful, they are also proven to help reduce stress and create a sense of well-being. Plants can also help to reduce noise and improve air quality! Ok I’ll stop singing plants’ praises, but now you know, you have no reason not to add some greenery to your bathroom!  This is one of the fastest, most fun and easiest ways to update your bathroom.

Bathrooms aren’t always filled with lots of natural light so choose plants which require low lighting to thrive. Humidity and temperate levels are also important as hot running water and lots of steam can cause these levels to increase, and some plants are not happy about this.

Most bathrooms aren’t huge in size either, so opt for plants which can sit on a shelves and windowsills, trail down walls and hang from the ceiling. My favourites are aloe vera, ivy and the cast iron plant, which lives up to its name. Not even I can kill this one!

Image source http://www.housemixblog.com/2017/03/28/plant-wall-in-the-bathroom/

2. Add art

Art work is another way to update your bathroom. If you think your bathroom or downstairs toilet is too small for art work, it isn’t! Artwork comes in every form and size these days and you may be surprised at what works in this space.

Seascapes and beaches are a great go to for bathroom art work but really anything can work. Nature is another art subject which sits well in a bathroom as it will help to bring the feeling of the outdoors in to your space. If you want a cosmopolitan feel printed typography and graphics are a fun way to freshen up the room.

3. Updating shower curtains and screens

Refreshing your bathroom can be as easy as changing your shower curtain. Long gone are the days of plain white shower curtains which stick to your wet body whenever you try to move!

The High street and lots of online retailers offer various colours patterns and designs which can be suited to any style. I would suggest opting for something fun and patterned or colourful to really add some life to your bathroom. The best thing about shower curtains too is that they can be changed easily and as soon as you think it has had its day. They are also great if you like to change your style from time to time and can be a cheap way to update your bathroom.

Another option is to invest in updating your shower curtain to a glass screen. This option will help to modernise a bathroom space, possibly making it feel lighter and arguably even cleaner.

Image source – https://www.urbanoutfitters.com/shop/saskia-pomeroy-plants-shower-curtain-001?category=A_NEWARRIVALS&cm_mmc=social-_-pin-_-562016-_-plantsshowercurtain

4. Updating Towels

Updating your towels is also a really easy way to freshen up your bathroom. Adding luxurious towels in contrasting or complimentary colours will make the space look nicer, but importantly when you get out of the shower or dry your hands, they will feel nicer on your skin.

There’s nothing better than placing your towel over the radiator before washing and then stepping into a warm fluffy towel!

image source https://www.wayfair.co.uk/textiles-bedding/pdp/behrens-zen-hand-towel-brns1033.html

5. Window furnishings

Updating your window furnishings is another great way to bring your bathroom to life. Blinds don’t have to be extortionate and colourful prints or designs will help to instantly uplift the room. As with choosing art work and shower curtains, you can have lots of fun with choosing patterns and colours for blinds. The designs are endless and there is a design out there to suit everyone.

So I would suggest keeping in mind the other elements of the room. A patterned artwork, blind and shower curtain will probably be too much for one space so choose one element and make it work for you. As for me, I would be heading straight for a safari patterned blind, to give my bathroom a real tropical feel. (I’m still in the middle of my safari craze and am loving it!)

image source http://wadeweissmannarchitecture.com/

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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.

3 Free Ways To Create A Beautiful Home

My husband asked me what I was writing this morning and I bet you thought the same thing when you read the title of today’s blog! “Yeah Right!” But when I told him what the three things were, his eyebrows raised and then he left without saying anything! So here are my 3 free ways to create a beautiful home!

Have A Big Clean

I know this is a running theme through my work but clearing clutter (regularly) and cleaning, dusting, refreshing, soaking things that get used will really get them back to life and is the easiest way to create a beautiful home. For example. I am living with this horrible white plastic kitchen sink that is around 16 years old. For its age, it should look much better than it does, but the whole kitchen is in a sad state, which reminds me what it was like to rent and I couldn’t change things I disliked in the house. Saving for my kitchen renovation really feels like I’m renting again, but nothing makes it spiffy like a serious clean. I try to use natural cleaning products, but I have to admit on the sink I need to pour bleach and let it sit for a few hours. It does come up all sparkly eventually, which really does make a huge difference. If you aren’t loving an area of your home or if you want to make a big change at home, start with a huge clean and clear out. It’s free and you could even make some money by selling some old items you don’t need anymore.

Make A Natural Perfume

The way your home smells can change everything and for me, this creates an emotional trigger and defines a beautiful home for me. I recently made a vanilla natural home perfume spray and I absolutely love it. My mum has a lavender one she made that inspired me and I still remember that beautiful smell in her home (it was different to dried lavender, I could hardly recognise it as lavender, it was so fresh and aromatherapy like!)

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Creating a chosen smell at home could come from picking some of your garden plants and arranging them stylishly in key areas such as the front door, hallway, living room and kitchen. When I lived in a tower block in London, I used to trim the lavender from the communal garden and I would have drying lavender for a week smelling so pretty, that I knew it was coming to Autumn. In spring I love Daffodils, and now that I have my own garden I have them for free! I also found that planting fragrant plants near my window and front door (such as Jasmine) really wafts inside and just makes me feel so good when I smell it!

Create A Fun vignette

A vignette is really just a creative way of displaying a few objects and this extra effort you put into making little areas look nice definitely help create a beautiful home. You can do this on your bookshelf, coffee table, kitchen table/bar, entrance hall, bedside table, kitchen or bathroom window, dining room – you get the picture! You can just choose one place in every room where you can create something fun or special that brings you joy by jogging your memory (photographs) or by motivating you (inspirational quotes) or by creating nice smells (arranging flowers). The whole point with vignettes is that it should make you feel something when you see it. My favourite person to look to for vignette ideas is Kelly Hoppen (I know, I have an obvious lady crush), but hers always refer back to nature somehow, so I feel subconsciously drawn to them.

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!)

Two Ways To Choose Paint Colours For Your Home

Some people find choosing paint colours easy and others can change their minds a million times before finally deciding on an option.

There really are are an unlimited number of ways to choose paint colours for your home. But sometimes you just want to narrow down the choice and make it a bit easier for yourself. You have enough stress with builders or decorators on site (heaven forbid you are living amongst your renovations) add children, noise and dust into the mix and one day of this is enough to throw every colour chart out the window and leave it to the builder to decide! (NB – as a rule don’t do that!)

Hopefully, this will break it down for you enough so that you can make a confident choice about what colours to paint your walls.

Work with something you already have in the room. This is a great option if you already have a stand-out piece of furniture, had previously invested in expensive window furnishings or have a dominant floor or fireplace. Even if you don’t like the colour of the main item in the room, if it is staying, it is worthwhile taking it into consideration, and sometimes it narrows down the options so as to make choosing colours for your room quite easy!

Don’t forget that a large floor covering will impact your wall colours and vice versa. So you should really know what colour you are working with if using an existing large surface. So what to do?

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Once you have chosen your item that you are working around (floor, a piece of furniture, natural timber wall panelling or even a view through large windows)!

The next step is to understand what basic colour that item is. I mean basic as in what primary colour does it stem from is it red, blue or yellow? If you genuinely can’t tell then try a secondary colour, green, purple or orange. If you have beige floor tiles, try to figure out if they are pinky or yellowy? Try to trace every item colour back to a primary colour and then at least you can understand what colour you are working with and what has been added to it to make it the colour it is.

Then you will need to know if the colour is dirty (aka muted, shaded, muddy) or clean. All colours that have had black added to them will be a muddier or dirtier colour. This is important to know because clean colours and muddy colours rarely look good together! So once you decipher whether the existing colour you are working with is dirty or clean, you will now be able to disregard a whole batch of colours (phew!) *There are exceptions, but I won’t go into them here!*

Now you have to look into the future a little and imagine how you want the room to look or feel. You probably have a few ideas and have an inspiration image to guide you. Once you have chosen one or two adjectives to describe your space use these to help decide on your colour scheme. For example, I want my room to feel bright, warm, cosy, comforting, serene etc…

Now you can choose up to 3 colours. You can choose one light, one mid-tone and one darker shade of different colours or of the same colour or choose 3 light, mid-tone or dark shades, that help you achieve your desired mood. The key is to test them with large samples in each room (yes they will look different in every room). I have to admit, I will usually choose more colours than I end up using, but I always like having the flexibility of choice! I also like the complexity of colour, so I will push some ideas to the limit.

Now you have some easy steps:

1. Find out what basic colours you are working with.
2. Know whether your colour scheme is muted or clean.
3. Know your end result and how you want your room to look and or feel.
4. Have 3 shades to work with that look great with your existing item.
5. Test them in every room with large samples on the surface you are planning on painting with that exact colour (and visit them during different times of the day).
6. Make a decision. Yes, you have to make one!
7. Use your furniture, soft furnishings in the room to balance the colours by either toning up or down.

Once your furniture goes back in, you will have a chance to really have some fun by enhancing certain areas with your colour palette. Putting furniture in and styling a room is a whole new topic too, so that is for a different day!

Next week I will share another way to choose paint colours for your home by starting from scratch! If in the meantime you want to know what to do before choosing paint colours, you can read that blog post here.

If in the meantime you want to know what to do before choosing paint colours, you can read that blog post here.

The Easiest Way To Save Money On Your Renovation or Building Project

So you have decided to make some changes to your home or have decided to build a new one. How exciting! You are probably reading everything you can to find about renovating projects or watching loads of TV shows or reading lots of magazines to get ideas. That’s actually a pretty good idea. Getting clear on what you actually want is the easiest way to save money on your renovation or building project!

If you didn’t hire a designer or opted for the cheaper alternative at the beginning (DIY or technician) or even worse, letting your builder deal with the design and detailing, you might be up for some nasty surprises when you fit your final bill at the end of your building project (if you get that far).

As you can imagine builders have their own agenda (nothing against builders here) they just aren’t designers and they just want to get on with the job and finish it to the best of their ability and make a pretty decent profit on the job and have a happy customer. There is nothing wrong with that. Where many innocent renovators come into problems is when they start asking their builder to do something different than what was agreed at the beginning (all that time ago when you showed him that picture).

Not everyone can visualize what your project will look like. Visualization is like a muscle and many clients are only just starting to use that muscle when they embark on their first building or renovation project. What you want to avoid happening is to start making decisions and rearranging things when the builder is on site. (“oh just move that wall by 10cm to the left and we could fit a bigger shower”).

Testing ideas with a designer and playing around on a drawing, might cost you a couple of hundred pounds before the project gets on site. Testing ideas in reality when your project is on site can cost you thousands.

This is because the builder has a program that he is working to. He also worked this out, before he started setting up his men or started digging those holes. He knew how much your project would cost based on the information you, your designer, architect or technician gave him when you agreed a price. His men or subcontractors are being paid either per hour or per job depending on what was agreed. There is a contingency sum allowed for in your contract (there should be!) but don’t be fooled, this isn’t for you to make changes. There are so many unknown site conditions and so many things can affect your building project (like the cost of metal or oil), that you will want to keep this sum for just that – the unknown. Any design changes (even “little ones”) might push back other jobs (electricians have to wait for the plaster to dry which should have been completed according to the schedule and now you are paying them to just stand around).

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Most builders are also pretty booked up, so your changes could quite possibly be causing them delays on other projects.

So as nice a guy as your builder is, he will charge you for the work and rightfully so. Moving walls or adding drainage in the wrong order on a building site is a right faff! So taking the time to get the design right, before you get on site is worth its weight in gold.

A good designer or architect should go out of their way to ensure that their client knows exactly what they are getting. Often this will require 3D drawings, detailed explanations, to-ing and frow-ing with design ideas and options and working out details to get them just right. A technician isn’t trained in design, so don’t forget if you hire a technician, don’t expect them to go out of their way to present ideas in a way a designer would. That isn’t what you hired them to do. A technician is a great choice to save money at building regulations stage if you have a very clear design already worked out or you are experienced and knowledgeable about building projects. But don’t expect a “beautifully considered and thoughtful design, because (98% of the time) you will get a bog standard extension.

There is no guarantee that working everything out before you get on site will avoid any problems or mean that things won’t need changing on site. Although a good, experienced designer or architect will ensure that many common and foreseeable issues have been dealt with and they should also ensure their client knows exactly what they are getting.

And don’t let an architect or builder treats you like an idiot. A good designer will ensure his client is informed and knows exactly what is going on. This can also help catch mistakes early or avoid mistakes altogether (the more eyes the better!) as things just can and do go wrong on building sites… like building your house back to front or in the wrong spot… oh yes, I have seen it happen.

How To Furnish A New Home – Where To Start Step By Step Guide

Buying a new house is a beautiful fresh new start and is a really great time to consider starting fresh with your furniture, especially if you have been renting for years up to the point of your purchase.

But where do you start? You probably have a few pieces of furniture, a bed, lots of small bits and pieces, books, dining set perhaps and if you are in the UK, probably even less than that!

If you have a lot of furniture from another home or if you have lots of hand-me-downs that you love (this is key, why keep it if you don’t want to?), then you will need to consider these pieces and work around them, especially if they are quite large, like a sofa, chairs etc. If you plan on getting rid of them eventually, just ignore them when designing your interior and start replacing it as and when you can afford to.

So, let’s go shopping! Not quite. There is actually quite a lot to think about before you open your wallet.

Start with your site

Locate your house in the world and know some key things about where the sun rises, sets and how this impacts your home. Knowing that the sun rises in your bedroom and sets in the living area or that the living room is dark all day, is really important and although seems irrelevant to buying furniture, is actually key to how you end up using your house.

I would also include major disturbances in my little study, such as a busy road, train line, neighbours with a different lifestyle to your own (night or early morning people) – also include the best views, which time of the day your garden is the most enjoyable to you, and anything else you can think of. Imagine a weekday and a weekend of living in the home and mark where you will be in the house and what you will be doing there.

Knowing about external factors and environment will inform how you live in your home. Furnishing your home is expensive and should not be approached with the attitude of just choosing a cushion that suits a wall colour… Think about making intelligent decisions with one of your most expensive purchases to date, and making it perfect as a tool for enhancing your life.

Know Your Dimensions

Next, you must know the boundaries in your spaces. This is pretty obvious, but you can’t imagine how many time I hear someone say to me – “once I bought the sofas I realized I could have gone bigger, or smaller”. Imagine if you had just gone out and bought a super large table for entertaining in the kitchen and found out that it was too large for the space, then had to move it to another part of the house where it wasn’t really intended (assuming you didn’t return it because you “loved it so much.”

Just measure the rooms and take the plans or dimensions of the room and:

Decide on a layout

Before you find the furniture? Yes! It seems so absurd to me that you would do it the other way around, but I realise that this is actually the way most people buy furniture. Play around with ideas. In my experience, the people who test a few ideas have more chance of getting it right, than the ones that just go out an buy furniture based on what they were sold in a store!

The world of buying furniture can be very tricky, especially when your starting point is going shopping. If you have skipped the most important things you need to do before buying furniture, you are already on a path to failure… (unless you have subconsciously thought about the above things and or are super, super lucky..)

Know your style and personality

Are you super sleek and like clean lines or do you have a deep routed bohemian hidden inside? Just by acknowledging what you like, can filter out all of the unnecessary things you might spend your money on – like being subconsciously sold on a lounge suite that looks great in the showroom, but actually isn’t your style at all once you bring it home and put it in the space.

Know your style and stay confident and true to it. You can always add eclectic or complementary parts of your personality later. A pro will be able to intertwine these in a more complex way, but if you are doing it on your own, stay simple, there are loads of styles and they can be quite complex, but for now, filter the noise by figuring out if you are

  • Traditional (including vintage)
  • Modern (including mid-century, minimalist)
  • Classic
  • Industrial (including 60’s and retro)
  • Country (including coastal)
  • Contemporary (whatever is current)
  • International or cultural (Scandinavian, Japanese, Asian styles)

If you aren’t completely sure, just pick 2-3 that you are more likely to be able to live with and narrow it down once you start shopping!

Buy your large items first

If your walls are already painted and are going to stay that colour – Buy the main pieces first. This may seem obvious, but actually, many people don’t do this. That is because they aren’t ready to commit, or because they already have loads of smaller items from renting, so they keep buying little bits and filling up the space whilst not having the major items thought out.

If you haven’t painted yet, you may have to consider the room colours first, or else you may find your furniture looks brown at home, when it should look yellow! If you want to design your décor in order to help you buy furniture read my post 2 things you must do before buying furniture or choosing paint colours or this one on how to create an interior design mood board.

Get the main pieces first, and define your spaces with your furniture. Don’t be afraid to try putting a chair in a location that is unconventional – just because you want to sit there and look at the view or create boundaries to spaces with screens, tall lamps, plants or sculptures.

Look at your walls to help you define your spaces

This is important, as you can start to compliment or highlight colours, in soft furnishings, personality with art, brighten with mirrors and start to see the room coming together. Don’t forget you can contrast, highlight, light up, blend in – get creative and don’t forget this should be fun!

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The complimentary pieces

I put rugs, coffee tables, lamps, flowers, candles, decorative items, vignettes (small displays – if you have a large display this should be thought about in in your layout), cushions etc, into this pile. These should bring the room together and make it feel just right rather than cluttered or too bare.

The finishing touches

What could be the finishing touch? Your personality! I can believe that no one that I work with (except for the boldest and most confident people who would classify themselves as such) really allow their personality to speak around them.

Your personality is so intrinsic to how you feel inside your homes. I can’t believe how many people actually dismiss this important part. We connect with objects from our past, photographs and things give us meaning. This is not an excuse for the ultra clutterers of the world to say “hooray I can add all my things back in now because I like having them around” – this is a time to edit and filter out and really decide what things you want to see every day – have a reason for it – because it makes me smile when I see it – because the memory is so strong and beautiful it brings me so much joy remembering that time…

Don’t Be Afraid To Get Rid Of The White Elephant

Lastly – New homes can be hard to furnish, especially if you have existing furniture you are working with bought for another home with a different personality. If your old items don’t make sense in your new interior (and I know it is a very difficult decision to make especially when you spend so much money on it) – but if it really isn’t right, or if you bought an item and it just doesn’t fit, don’t fight with it. Sell it on ebay or give it to charity. Don’t think twice about it, it will waste your time and cost you more money trying to make it all right. If it is a family heirloom and you won’t get rid of it (I totally understand!) – why not highlight it and make in an artwork of some kind?

Edit

Your home will evolve with you and your life.  Add and remove pieces that make your life better, easier, more beautiful and more fun!

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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.