a way of life...

Month: April 2015

Garden Furniture Revival

Looking forward to the weekend I rose bright and early this morning to trial some F&B sample pots.   I love this time of year and it was a joy to be out in the early morning sunshine in the quiet of my garden.  I have an ambition to revive my rather tired garden furniture before the onset of summer.  On my list is my favourite  café table and chair set, my love seat, and my newly delivered wooden arbour . 

Prior to this morning I had shortlisted three of six colours to sample on the actual furniture.  Bearing in mind that my garden is mostly planted with purples, blues and pinks, and I would like to find a colour that will blend with the planting but still look good in its own right. My shortlist consisted of Plummet, French Grey and Pavillion Grey.

Having tried each of the colours on one of the chairs my instinct is to run with Plummett; the darker of the three shades. I must admit, however, that I think they make a fantastic combination and am now tempted to experiment with all three colours!  Let me know what you think and I will report back after the weekend with hopefully some finished pieces.

Go to www.farrow-ball.com to see their full range of colours.


21st Century She Shed

Listening to the radio in my car this week I heard Joel Bird talking about his allotment roof shed which won the Cuprinol Shed of the Year award in 2014 which made me think of my own 21st Century high tech “she shed” which I invested in, primarily, as a space to complete my interior design studies.

Tables and chairs in hut

Habitat table & wicker chair

After much research I chose a relatively high quality log cabin complete with light well, double glazed “tilt and turn” windows and double glazed French doors opening onto the garden. For maximum comfort I paid a little extra to have the floor insulated, and for durability, had the timber factory finished.

External image of hut

Lugarde log cabin

Prior to the erection of the building I made provision for electrical power, broadband, TV, and telephone cables to be available for connection on completion. Once the shell was erected the cables were hidden behind skirting boards, under the floor boards, and in some discreetly positioned plastic trunking. To ensure all year round use of the space I invested in an air conditioning unit which is capable of heating or cooling the room depending on the ambient air temperature. With the use of the remote control unit I can switch it on or off from inside the house or alternatively preset the timer. The space also boasts a sophisticated lighting system which is operated by way of a programmable EIB switch. There is a 5 amp lighting circuit for table and floor standing lamps and a ceiling mounted string of adjustable halogen spots.

Air conditioning unit & bookshelves

Air conditioning unit & bookshelves

To furnish the cabin to accommodate my vast collection of books, magazines, fabrics, and drawing equipment I begged, borrowed and bought some key pieces. The pine bookshelves were bought new and unfinished. The plans chest and filing cabinet were design office cast offs. The lovely Habitat table was bought on Ebay for £51, and the wicker chairs and cushions were retrieved from the garden shed. I chose an eggshell paint from the Little Green paint range to finish the shelving, plans chest and cabinet to tie in with the colour of the fitted carpet.

Drawing board in hut

Drawing equipment

Entries for the 2015 Shed of The Year close on Friday May 1st. Go to www.readershed.co.uk  for more information.

See http://www.lugarde-garden-buildings.co.uk/prima-max.html for similar log cabins

See www.coolelectrics.com for air conditioning and lighting controls.

Interior Designer or Interior Decorator?

I was talking to a friend last weekend and he asked what makes an Interior Designer? He implied that his analysis of such, was somebody who added the finishing touches; the soft furnishings, if you like. I was surprised by his question, but said I thought he was confusing an Interior Designer with an Interior Decorator. In essence, to gain a professional qualification in Interior Design takes approximately the same amount of time as studying for a degree, whereas an Interior Decorator course might take anything from a few weeks to a few months. The subjects I studied to gain my Diploma in I.D. covered the History of Design, Materials, Drafting, Colour, Furniture & Fittings (parts 1 & 2), Construction, and Professional Practice culminating in a Final Test which had a timescale of five months to complete. Having completed my studies I must admit that I do enjoy choosing the “frou-frou” elements for a scheme but I enjoy far more the fundamental designing of a space; the challenge of understanding the constraints and working towards the best possible solution in any given circumstances.

Lovingly tended garden

Lovingly tended garden

A very recent example of this was working with a couple who’s lives had changed beyond recognition due to one of them becoming very poorly. The home in which they live, and in which they intend to stay, suddenly became totally unsuitable. They no longer had easy access to the upstairs rooms and suddenly found that doorways had to be widened, thresholds levelled, and the bathroom completely gutted and reworked. As if that wasn’t enough they could no longer share a bedroom and were therefore forced to put another bed in one of the downstairs rooms. This is where I stepped in to try and help them find the best solution. Through a series of discussions, and a complete survey of the house, which included everything from the location of power sockets through to lighting, heating, ventilation, and storage, I prepared some coloured renderings to help them visualise how their existing furniture could be moved around to make the best use of the space available.

Remodelled lounge to incorporate dining area

Remodelled lounge to include dining area

This was a particularly difficult project as this couple had lived in, and loved, their home for a very long time. They had lovingly tended the garden and kept the house impeccable; they couldn’t possibly have foreseen how their circumstances would change overnight. As such neither were prepared for the complete upheaval of their home and, needless to say, there has been resistance to change, and, I feel, little consideration for the longer term.

Dining room with sofa bed closed

Remodelled dining room; sofa bed folded up

In my role as Interior Designer I have tried to demonstrate a sensitivity to their needs and help them visualise how the rooms could work. It is not my intention to bully them into changing everything around, as, at the end of the day, that’s not my place. What I will do is combine all of the renderings into a presentation folder for them to peruse. I’m sure they will have questions, possibly even alternative suggestions, but I believe that is how a design should develop, and, if necessary, a compromise met.

Remodelled dining room with sofa bed opened out

Remodelled dining room; sofa-bed open

In this case, it may be that once the current building works are complete this couple will feel a lot more positive about the future and agree that it is time to make some more changes. I’m not pushing for a decision, but just leaving them to think about how it could work off into the future. For more information on study courses go to www.rhodec.org or www.klc.co.uk

Vinyl Revival

I was listening to an impromptu interview on BBC Radio 2 this morning between DJ Chris Evans and his not so secret guest Martin Talbot. They were both enthusing about the current vinyl revival which seems, as much as anything, to be driven by today’s teenagers. Having hit rock bottom in 2007, when sales in the UK were around 200,000 a year it seems that sales of vinyl albums in the UK are likely to hit 2,000,000 in 2015.  This music medium has become so popular that there is now a dedicated chart to track the sale of vinyl recordings. Martin Talbot, described on the radio “as chief in charge of the official charts company”, said that there has been so much enthusiasm for the biggest selling vinyl albums of the year that they have decided to broadcast official weekly charts dedicated to the format that will count down the top 40 best-selling singles (including both 7in and 12in formats) and albums.

Crosley tan

Crosley portable turntable in tan

I must admit that I still have a collection of mid-70’s to early- ’90’s singles in my loft and was somewhat surprised to find that once again moderately priced record players are on sale in some of the well known High Street stores. Urban Outfitters (OU) sell a vast range of home furnishings and accessories, many of which have a mid-century influence.

Crosley turquoise

Crosley portable turntable in turquoise

They have the coolest looking range of portable and static retro style record players in an assortment of colours and finishes. The Crosley range of turntables can play 7” and 12” records at speeds of 33.3, 45 & 78, and, to my surprise can connect to an iPod or iPhone. They range in price from £100 to £250 and come with either an EU or UK plug. UO also have a range of turntable accessories and a classic collection of vinyl singles and albums. Go to www.urbanoutfitters.com  to see the full range. I must admit, having thought I would make an investment, I was put off by some of the scathing reviews regarding their ability to perform.

GPO slant

GPO Stylo turntable

GPO open

GPO turntable from Argos

With this in mind I did some further research and found that you could pay anything from a few tens of pounds to many thousands of pounds for a serious piece of kit. Knowing that I was only looking for a machine on which to play my rather aged, and not very cared for singles collection I fell upon the GPO turntable at Argos.  Despite its ridiculously low price of £40 the reviews, on the whole, were positive. It’s described as having a retro look which I think is stretching the truth somewhat but in essence it is small, neat and, much to my satisfaction, reproduces the soundtrack of my youth.


GPO closed

GPO turntable in black or red

To further promote the sale of recorded music this Saturday, April 18th, is Record Store Day which celebrates the UK’s independent record shops. Go to www.recordstoreday.co.uk for exclusive product releases and a list of 200+ participating stores. The organisers are calling upon recording artists to support the day and turn-up unannounced at random stores to sign any vinyl with which they are associated. It would seem that vinyl isn’t just about golden oldies as many of today’s artists are laying down tracks in this age old way. A very good example of this is Noel Gallagher’s band, High Flying Birds, who have had both the best-selling vinyl single and album in the first three months of 2015.

Alliums & Dahlias

I'm in the garden

I always look forward to the long Easter weekend as it gives me a chance to do some work in the garden.  Today I’m planning to get my onion sets planted along with some new Dahlia tubers that I bought to add to the collection that I already have in my allotment.  Last year seemed to be a bumper year and I managed to cut lots of flowers to bring indoors.  I must admit I love Dahlias and I always aspired to grow them like my mum used to in the garden of the house where I grew up. I have a very clear recollection of her cutting a few stems and wrapping them for me to take to school for my teacher.  I can only think that it would have been at the beginning of the new school year as they are usually ready to harvest in the Autumn.

Cut flowers










This year I have chosen two new varieties to add to these lovely reds, purples and whites.  I have chosen Edge of Joy and Blue Bayou.

New Dahlias


I’m just hoping for some fine weather now to spend outdoors.  Happy Easter!


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