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Why You Need A Boot Room

I’m not sure when my obsession with boot rooms started, although it was probably around the same time as when the Plain English kitchens started to get advertised in Elle Decor, House Beautiful and The World Of Interiors!

Not only are these English inventions pretty cool, they are also super practical. Although I only ever saw these make an appearance win mansion houses or country houses, there is no reason why you can’t take this idea and use it in your home too.

Practical reasons (pro arguments) for getting one of these installed or made at either the front or back door to your home.

1. A separate boot room can reduce condensation in your home!

Not sure why, but here in the UK houses don’t get built with “airlocks” or foyers. This for me is an obvious reason for condensation and mould growth in many an English home. Understandably space is an issue over here, but the health benefits in my opinion outlay the need for more and more “space”. What is the point of space if it isn’t practical anyway?

2. Leaving Your shoes at the door is Hygienic.

I’m pretty sure I have written about this before. The ground outside is dirrrrty! People spitting, animals pooing, chemicals from cars and trucks remain on the streets and we step on these with our shoes. You may disagree, but it makes sense to me to take these off when getting home (preferably before trumping through the house in them) and change into something cleaner. Imagine if you have a baby crawling around…

3. A boot room can help keep your household organised.

It isn’t so much in Australia in terms of hanging jackets, scarves, gloves and hats but it can be a very useful place anywhere in the world that helps you organise your shoes in one place (ok depending on size) as well as helps items such as dog leads, umbrellas and gum boots have a permanent place!  Also, many everyday families with children or those that have pets or avid couples who cycle or are very sporty need a place to leave their equipment or sports gear so it is easy to find.  A boot room appropriately situated, could help keep everyone on time and always with their kit.

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4. Possibly adds privacy when working from home.

This may not apply to everyone, but many more couples have started working from home together and sometimes a boot room can be used as a separate one between public and private spaces. For example, one person may receive a lot of deliveries whilst another is teaching a meditation class in another room. This adds an extra layer between in inside, more private areas of the house.

5. It Can save you energy!

This is a spin-off to the airlock in number 1. If you have a staircase opposite your front door (like many traditional English homes) and the air just flows up like a draughty tunnel and escapes into the roof, putting an airlock (aka boot room) can help keep the rest of your home toasty and warm in winter and save you money on your heating bills. I know that some Scandinavians put up a curtain behind their front door – this has the same effect. This also works the other way round, many people in warmer countries air-condition their homes, so a boot room could save you money and energy on cooling…

So you know what I’m working on now.. yep my own one of these.. stay tuned to see the result!

The beautiful, warm, practical and inviting boot room in my blog image today is what inspired me to create my own boot room about a year ago! I’m obsessed with the joinery from this company and love just perving their website…  You can find that image and their work at http://www.thomasfordandsons.com/

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!