a way of life...

Month: June 2016

Children’s Guest Room Makeover

Anyone with experience of children will know that in the blink of an eye they have grown from tiny infants to independent little people and their bedrooms are no longer big enough to accommodate them and their stuff. Since moving to our house some ten years ago the children in our life have turned from toddlers to teenagers and the little guest room that was reserved for them has suddenly become very overcrowded. Short of moving house we have had to find a solution to provide a bit more space for these very important visitors.

Very important visitors

Very important visitors

Until now the room has been furnished with a Laura Ashley daybed and a lovely old pine wardrobe. Needless to say floor area is limited and once the trundle bed is erected there is no visible floor space at all. It had become obvious that the wardrobe would have to be removed and rehoused. It was also apparent that the fading Fired Earth colour on the wall was in need of revitalisation.

Mood board

Mood board

Throwing caution to the wind I decided that the whole room needed to be painted with a much more vibrant colour. Aware of the constraints concerning size and the soft furnishings that I wished to keep, I opted for a lovely Fired Earth Oak Fern green for the walls, and a matt white emulsion for the ceiling and eaves. I felt confident that the tiny room wouldn’t suffer as a consequence of this bold colour combination as there is a fairly even split between wall and ceiling area. I was delighted with the outcome. The room had been transformed from a pretty average space to a lovely, lively, little guest room. With the original pictures put back on the walls and the string of tiny lampshades back on the bed the whole room had a much more cohesive look and feel.

Pictures and lamps

Pictures and lamps

Another concern had been that the existing curtains which I had designed and sewn myself would no longer match. In fact, the new scheme has given them a new lease of life. To complete the room I couldn’t resist squeezing in the little hand painted “toy” cupboard at the foot of the bed to accommodate a selection of updated family photographs and bedside lamp.

Toy box and photographs

Toy box and family photographs

The only problem remaining was where to put the wardrobe. The other bedrooms were not an option as they already had plenty of cupboards. The only sensible place was the entrance hall downstairs. Again, I carefully weighed up the pros and cons and was pleased with the result when it was finally in place.

The door mirror not only reflects the morning light from an east facing window but in its new position the reflection in the mirror has created a picture all of its own; the combination of the striped Crucial Trading carpet that boldly leads up the staircase from the flagstone floor, the dark wood balustrades and handrail, and the colourful Sanderson curtains that frame the little window, add a whole other pleasing dimension to the entrance hall.

Reflection in wardrobe mirroe

Reflection in wardrobe mirror


Creating The Wow Factor

F3 outside view

20th century apartment block

Transforming a property that has been let out and uncared for is not a particularly big ask. Working to a tight timescale and budget, however, can present an enormous challenge. This was the task I was presented with when I took on a two bedroom flat on the South Coast which had recently been vacated and was in need of a quick turnaround so that it could be put back on the market.

When first viewed, apart from a whole lot of clutter, there didn’t appear to be too much damage. Unfortunately, prior to handing back the keys, the tenants were required to redecorate. To do this they chose to use a rather hideous battleship grey paint.  Add to that the stained, and ruined, light coloured carpet which was revealed once the furniture was removed, plus the build up of grease in the kitchen which the “professional” clean had not touched, I soon realised the task in hand was greater than first imagined. The final blow was when I realised that the dark wood framed, double-glazed windows were completely rotten.

Hideous grey lounge

Hideous grey lounge

The property, circa 1980, looked as though it still had its original gloss paint which had turned from white to yellow with age. It also had an inherently old fashioned kitchen and bathroom.

Old stair carpet

Yellowing paintwork and stained carpet

Keen to get to work I quickly drew up an action plan and prioritised the list. Taking into account the budget constraints I decided that the kitchen and bathroom could be made good with a really good clean and a few minor tweaks. The windows, carpet and décor, however, would need more serious attention.

Dingy single bedroom

Dark wood window frames in dingy single bedroom

Having local contacts is always a bonus and I soon had a decorator, carpet fitter and window company on-board. Add to that the recommendation of a rubbish removal company and a trusted electrician and a schedule was soon worked up.

As the flat was to be re-let it was important to make it look as clean, spacious and neutral as possible. The only items dictating the final scheme were the pale blue ceramic floor tiles in the kitchen, the blue/grey detailing on the kitchen units, and the black and gold tiles in the bathroom. The medium dark wood internal doors with stainless furniture would, to a certain degree, dictate the style.

Internal doors

Internal doors

It struck me that the layout of the flat was not dissimilar to those that are being built at the present time in as much as there was an element of open plan living. The galley-style kitchen is open to the lounge at either end, whilst the other rooms are accessed from a good size landing. I felt that it had potential as, in my mind, once refurbished it would become an ideal backdrop for a mid-century/’70’s revival vibe. Mindful of this, and wishing to create a feeling of a light and airy space,  I chose a white paint finish throughout that would tie in with the existing finishes .

The last design decision to be made was with regards to the new flooring. I opted for carpeting rather than hard flooring to provide some isolation between the other flats. I took advice with regards to the quality of the composition and underlay, and learnt that modern day carpets can even be cleaned with bleach! An absolute must for a rental property. The average lead time for the works to be commenced was three to four weeks which meant that the project could be turned around within the month.

Stairs and landing

Freshly painted stairs and newly carpeted landing

Tweaked bathroom

Tweaked bathroom

Looking to the kitchen I decided the most cost effective way to modernise it would be to change the white ceramic drawer pulls and door handles for stainless-steel. Ikea’s ORRNÄS range of brushed stainless-steel knobs and handles provided the solution. The more challenging task of installing a stainless-steel extractor hood would not only drag the room into the twenty-first century, but also deal with the odours and moisture generated whilst cooking.

My one serious aesthetic concern was that the wall-mounted microwave oven was on full display to the lounge. The logic for its position was obvious, in as much as it was to save space on what is a limited amount of worktop area. My solution was to move the microwave to a more discreet location and to make up for the now lost worktop area with three LIMHAMN stainless-steel wall shelves mounted in its place. Here would be an opportunity for the eventual inhabitant to create a “picture” that they would wish to view from their sofa whilst not losing any storage space.

Stainless kitchen as before

New streamlined kitchen with stainless door furniture and cooker hood

Given my background I just couldn’t resist a little stylisation. My one indulgence was the acquisition of three Ikea KRUSNING pendant lamp shades; one for each of the bedrooms, and one for the lounge. I couldn’t resist their cloud like structures which were constructed from seven flat squares of stiffened flexible paper crumbled into shape. They come with a choice of cord set and oversized NITTIO LED bulb light bulb with silver- or copper-colour globe.

Crumbled paper lamp shades

Crumbled paper lamp shades

This was my wow factor…..


New lounge

Newly painted lounge with white window frames and KRUSNING lamp shade

Once the work was complete I played around with some ideas to demonstrate how a style could be created according to the accessories added to this blank canvas.  Using the shelves in the kitchen, now clearly visible from the lounge, I created three different themes and called them 1970’s Revival, Traditional and Modern Country.

I will of course remove my personal effects before the arrival of new tenants but by leaving them on display for the time being I hope I’ve added a touch of homeliness to this little flat that is now looking for a new occupant to love and cherish it as I have over these past few weeks…


'70's revival

’70’s Revival









Modern country

Modern Country


Birthday Treat

Magnolia is not a word that you will hear at a presentation by F&B colourist Joa Studholme.  What you would hear though is a brilliantly comprehensive talk based on Joa’s twenty year’s with Farrow & Ball and her enthusiasm for colour and how to use it successfully.

As a birthday treat I was lucky enough to be invited to a talk hosted by Great Fosters‘ dining club yesterday lunchtime. Set amongst fifty acres of Surrey parkland this Grade 1 listed building was the perfect setting for this informal event.

The talk commenced with an introduction to a series of neutral colour groups. The first group, Traditional Neutrals, is exactly what they say on the tin. These were some of the earliest colours formulated by F&B for mainly historic properties. The underlying tone is green.

Yellow Based Neutrals and Red Based Neutrals are again some of the original formulations but have a slightly warmer tone than the green based ones.

The next three groups are the more modern colours which are more sympathetic to contemporary surroundings.

Farrow & Ball neutral groups

Farrow & Ball neutral groups

When presented with so much choice it is often difficult to choose a colour, or combination of colours, that will work in a particular space. Joa was keen to undo some of the mystic that seems to arrive with a colour chart.  Her overwhelming enthusiasm and hands-on experience is a brilliant source of knowledge and one of the first aspects to consider when decorating is how an area is lit. So often a colour will look completely different whether it is in a north, south, east or west facing room, or even in natural or artificial light. Her advice, and something I’m sure many of us do as a matter of course, is to sample the paint of your choice in the room where it is intended to be used. This doesn’t necessarily mean painting it on to the wall but better on an item that can be moved around to different parts of the room. I usually use a piece of lining paper so that I can paint a reasonably sized sample and move it from place to place and see how it looks in different lights and with different elements in the room.

Again, to dispel some of the mystery Joa had compiled each set of neutrals from colours that would work well together. Regardless, of whether they were in the same room or as part of an overall scheme, success would be assured if the essence of the group remained constant. Having studied colour and decoration myself for a number of years I fully appreciate this discipline but also love the evolvement of this idea as promoted by F&B.

Joa showed photographs of historic houses where, traditionally, a room would be painted with one colour. Walls, skirting, doors, window frames, architraves, picture and dado rails, would all be finished in the same way. And it worked. Like all good design this type of scheme is experiencing a revival and coming back into fashion. During the talk our conventional way of thinking was turned on its head when we were shown schemes where white woodwork and dark walls had been reversed. There were also tiny rooms with no natural light that were painted from top to toe in the deepest darkest tones, and in contrast brightly lit spaces that were painted completely white. Joa’s advice – don’t fight nature. If a room is dark and gloomy then run with that and make a feature of it. If it is bright and light then make that a feature of that too rather than try and turn it into something that it’s not meant to be. There were far too many ideas and inspirations to mention here but these can be found in a new book, How to Decorate by Farrow & Ball, which was co-written by Joa Studholme.

Farrow & Ball future trends

Farrow & Ball future trends

It is always good to attend an event such as this as so much information can be gleaned especially with regards to future trends.  Going forward Joa was of the opinion that greys are making way for a warmer palette of pinks, reds and browns. I think this is probably driven by the mid-century/70’s revival that has been growing in pace and is a style that is becoming more and more evident in hotels and on the High Street. For examples of this refer to my recent blogs Penchant for Pink, FCUK Home Arrives in Guildford, and Hoxton Hotel Amsterdam.

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