At the weekend I had an excuse to go west and visit some very good friends who have chosen the good life away from the hustle and bustle of London.
This stylish couple have settled for a very stylish abode in rural Somerset. On route to their delightful home via the A303 I stopped in Castle Cary, a Fair Trade town, which lies on the edge of the rolling countryside halfway between the Mendip Hills and the Blackmore Vale.
The HOME Café was my first stop. Here they served a delicious Crispy Duck Wrap and a scrummy Bakewell sponge cake followed.
Opposite the café I spied a florist and an art gallery housed in a beautiful old bank building. Here the large windows exhibited gorgeous bouquets of flowers and intriguing works of art.
One shop that I did make time to visit was The Shed located a few doors down from Home. The antiquities on display in their window caught my eye.
Inside there was a late summer room-set against a corrugated iron wall. It was a photograph opportunity waiting to happen.
A little further along the High Street at Number One was a very unusual butcher’s shop.
Rather than having a display of fresh meat in the window there was an array of colourful china, woven baskets, and delicate parasols.
Not far away was Needful Things Interiors. Here the team offer an unusual and eclectic range of ideas for the home.
The shop is also well known for its bespoke curtain and blind making service.
Virgin Radio DJ Chris Evans claims that shades of orange and green are abundant in his house and garden even though it seems to have come about organically rather than by a conscious thought process. He also realised that is wardrobe shared a similar colour palette.
When you look at the colours of nature it’s not surprising that this is such a winning combination. Whether it be fruits, flowers, or vegetables, the leaves and the fruit compliment each other perfectly.
Like all colours though there are many, many variations and as such will suit a whole host of interior styles.
The more subtle hues would work well in a rustic environment like this kitchen below. The softness of the green herbs offsets the pale reclaimed bricks and their earthen coloured pointing.
Rustic isn’t for everyone, especially in the 21st century when the has been a revival of mid-20th century trends. The paint chart below picks up on the more popular shades of orange and green.
Lush velvets in teal and a tomato soup orange light up this monochrome interior. They are a complete contrast to the geometric patterns on the flooring and scatter cushions and as such add a touch of drama.
Blocks of teal and a more subtle shade of orange make a statement in this kitchenette. The block of white tiles bring some much needed relief from the otherwise completely dark wall and again a monochrome floor grounds the whole scheme.
When you have a high ceiling you can afford to add a colour that gives the impression of bringing it down a tad. The kitchen featured below is a real eclectic mix of different periods in time. The stainless steel range and overhead extractor hood sit surprisingly well amidst the antique mirror and enamel bread bin.
Whatever your style there will be a colour that makes your heart sing.
However, f you’re not sure whether a paint colour will match existing finishes Little Greene paint and paper produce a colour chart with flying paint chips.
Simply bend the card along the ready-made creases to reveal each hand-painted colour chip without the white background. Genius!
As Chris Evans proved fashion invariably overlaps with interior styles. See my blog a Dash of Orange for an inspired example of this in action.
I love this recipe as an accompaniment to slow roasted shoulder of pork. It is taken from Jamie Oliver’s cook book “Jamie At Home , Cook Your Own Way To A Good Life”. The full recipe is Roasted Carrots And Beets With The Juiciest Pork Chops. It is especially relevant during the mid to late summer months as carrots and beets are readily available.
750g peeled carrots, mixed colours if available
750g beets, different sizes and colours if available
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bulb garlic, broken apart, half the cloves smashed, half left whole
extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 orange
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 220° C/425 °F, gas 7
Put carrots into a large saucepan and beets into another
Add enough water to cover them
Cook for 15-20 minutes until just tender
Drain and place in separate bowls
Peel beets, and cut any larger carrots and beets in half or quarters (leave small ones whole)
Add flavourings while veg are still hot
Toss carrots with half the smashed garlic and a glug of olive oil
Add the orange juice and thyme leaves and toss again
Mix the beets with the rest of the garlic, the rosemary, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper
Now put veg into a large roasting tray with carrots in one half and beets in the other
Place in the middle of the preheated oven and roast for around half an hour or until golden
Serve as side dish or as a main
This serves 4 as a side dish.
It is ideal served with a pork joint or pork chops.
Whether it is artificial or natural, light is at the heart of any interior scheme, and should be one of the first things to consider.
On a practical note wiring, sockets, switches, and light fittings will need to be accommodated in walls, floors, and ceilings. If starting from scratch a separate 5-amp circuit for occasional lamps is a must in my book.
On an aesthetic note light will determine how a colour appears a particular environment. A shade that looks good in daylight might not be so appealing in artificial light.
It is always advisable when choosing colours to source samples and look at them at different times of the day and in the parts of the room where they are to be applied. Ideally, these samples should be at least an A3 size to get an accurate reading. Cutting up a roll of lining wallpaper is ideal for this purpose.
The purpose of the environment should also be given thought so that appropriate lighting can be selected. Whilst ambient lighting might be preferable in some rooms, task lighting might also be required for reading or for other close work. Bedroom lighting is a good example as it has to be truly multi-purpose.
Kitchen lighting can be especially challenging if the room doubles up for dining. In this situation a successful lighting scheme could consist of a series of LED down-lighters, recessed under-cabinet lighting, strategically placed table lamps, and a dimmable pendant(s).
Size also matters! Scale is really important when selecting a table lamp or ceiling pendant. Too small and it will look ridiculous; too big and it will swamp the room.
The materials of which a lamp is constructed will also have an impact on the finished scheme. Recycled glass for a chandelier or for a lamp base could look both elegant and stylish without being overbearing. Choosing the correct size shade will also play an important role in the success of the scheme.
Lighting really can make or break a scheme. Designed well it will be both functional and decorative. A poor design will lead to endless frustrations.
Here are some of my favourite suppliers of extraordinary light fittings:
Storage baskets come in a variety of shapes and sizes, textures and colours. Use them to store kindling, toys, games, clothes, toiletries, magazines, remote controls, DVD’s, etc. etc.
With their neutral colour and relaxed vibe they can provide the ideal storage solution for any room in the house.
In the utility room storage baskets provide the perfect vessel for dirty laundry or ironing.
In the bedroom use a wicker storage trunk as a bedside table or as a trunk at the end of the bed. Use them to store spare bedding, clothes, toys, books, or a whole host of miscellaneous bits and pieces.
A stair basket is a fantastic invention. Not only is it pretty and decorative, it is practical as well.
In the bathroom these can store everything from toiletries to to towels, hairdryers to spare loo rolls. Keep them on display or tidy away in cupboards.
Buying a selection of sizes to fit on shelves is a great way of organising a pantry or larder. Group similar items together in appropriately sized baskets.
Use storage baskets can in an entrance hall to store shoes, hats, gloves, handbags and umbrellas. Tuck square ones beneath a console table out of the way to keep the area tidy and welcoming.
The choice is endless. From the most exotic to the most simple. Find them on-line, on the High Street or from the makers themselves. The possibilities are endless and only limited by one’s own imagination.
To start your search for the perfect basket try any of these links below:
Air-con, or climate control, as it is sometimes called.
Prior to installing air-conditioning at home my only real experience of it was whilst holidaying abroad.
A trip to San Francisco in 1991 was the first time I really became aware of its existence. I recall dressing to go out for dinner clothes that were appropriate for the heat generated by the Californian sunshine.
What I hadn’t taken into account was that most of the Downtown restaurants were air conditioned. I spent the entire evening absolutely freezing!
My experience of Mediterranean systems has been equally unsatisfactory. As they are usually required at night I found that they tended to be both noisy and inefficient.
Nowadays I am a changed person; almost a complete convert.
The reason behind my change of heart is that I have learnt how beneficial an air-conditioning installation can be in lots of ways.
The fact that modern day air-conditioning installations can efficiently provide a means of both heating and cooling is a real benefit. It means that rooms can be used all year round rather than just seasonally.
Going back to my list my mum can now use her conservatory during hot and cold spells.
My partner can use his workshop all year round. He is neither too hot nor too cold.
My beautifully constructed garden cabin can also be heated or cooled depending upon the season.
My son’s home has a system which runs in conjunction with his underfloor heating system. Again it provides year round comfort.
An office with a controlled temperature aids productivity and energy efficiency.
In all of these applications the installed systems have intelligent controls:
A Weekly Timer which can be programmed to meet home or office schedules.
An Intelligent Eye sensor which detects human movement.
Inbuilt Comfort Airflow direction ensures the air output is not directed at occupants.
The Outdoor Unit Quiet operation does exactly that.
Ceiling mounted units
On the whole the most practical solution for me has been the installation of a split system, which comprises an indoor and outdoor unit.
I have always opted for wall mounted units due to the design of the rooms in which they’ve been installed.
Flush mounted indoor ducted ceiling units are also available so long as there is sufficient space for the unit and ducting in the ceiling or loft void.
Year round comfort
As we experience hotter summers in the UK air-con is becoming much more common place in private residential properties.
It undoubtedly adds a level of comfort as our mini heatwaves seem to become more frequent.
All of our systems were installed by my son’s company, Cool Electrics Ltd. He covers the South West London area and Cobham in Surrey. For an unbiased opinion, or to find an installer in your area, visit www.Checkatrade.com
In my experience its an exciting and nerve-wracking time when your first grandchild comes to stay for his or her first sleepover.
Exciting and terrifying all at the same time.
When my friend found herself in this position she asked my help to make the experience perfect for her first granddaughter. The child’s bedroom had to be “fit for a princess”.
At the heart of the design was a child’s “sweetheart” bed. It was love at first sight for my friend so she bought it without hesitation.
As the room was L-shaped we had the choice of the bed facing the door or facing the window. The dilemma was whether to create floor space coming into the room or floor space in front of the window.
A decision also had to be made with regards to storage – what was needed, and how best could it be accommodated?
The first option considered was a built-in set of bookcases with an integral desk. Whilst this would have maximised the amount of storage it would have taken up the whole wall, and required the bed to be facing the door.
The second option removed the bookcases and incorporated a free standing dressing table as well as a bedside table and a toy box.
The thought process for including these items allowed the child to grow in the room without a need to keep replacing the furniture.
The final scheme incorporated these items but positioned the bedside table between the door and the bed. I imagined the dressing table being used as a desk as the child grew and the toy box being used to store clothes, bags, or shoes as the years passed.
Having devised a workable layout the fun began as colours, textures, and accessories were added.
The brief was to design a scheme that embraced the fact we were designing a child’s bedroom for a little girl. It had to be a magical space that would create lasting happy childhood memories for her.
At the heart of the design was the Sweetheart bed, a Designer’s Guild fabric that my friend adored, and a multicolour chandelier from Cox and Cox.
The only real constraint was a request to keep the existing floor-covering which was a grey carpet.
I took measurements and made notes and and a scheme started to evolve.
Designers Guild “Around The World” products were chosen for the “statement” wall, bedding, and rug. These vibrant colours would light up the room with their apple greens, blossom pinks, and occasional clashing reds.
The combination laid the foundation for a bright and cheerful palette that would evolve as the child grew-up.
To counter the patchwork bedding, painterly wallpaper, and floral rug, I chose Designer Guild’s Cold White Emulsion for the all but the statement wall, and the same colour in water-based eggshell for the door, skirting, and window frames.
My very favourite accessory was the multicolour chandelier that added a sense of drama and grandeur to the room.
Right from the beginning I felt it important that the design should stand the test of time as children have the habit of growing up far too quickly; toddlers have the tendency to turn into teenagers before the paint has had a chance to dry.
The plan was to make the space enchanting for a growing child but to also provide a practical space that would stand the test of time.
The end result was all of these things; colourful, sunny, sophisticated, and the perfect place for a little girl to enjoy sleepovers at her nan’s house.
Using 3D computer modelling software is extremely powerful. This past week I have been using SketchupPro to model the room shown below.
Whether you are creating a room, or the furnishings within that room, the same range of modelling tools are used to create the shapes.
Paint colours, fabric patterns, and textures, can be imported into the model to ensure the look and feel of the rooms has some bearing on reality.
Leather, velvet, linen, to name but a few, can all be selected and imported.
Paint colours can be matched from a manufacturers website using the colour-picking “pipette”.
It is also feasible to photograph and import fabric designs for cushions, curtains, and other soft-furnishings.
Brick, wood, glass, and metal finishes are also available within software’s library. This enabled me to accurately model the mirrors, lamps, and curtain poles, as well as the chimney breast with mantlepiece.
A 3D warehouse extension to the modelling software provides a whole range of items available for immediate download. In this instance I imported the wood-burning stove, radiator, and television.
The finished model can be viewed from all angles.
Once modelled, room layouts can be completely rearranged, and finishes completely overhauled.
And as a final nod to reality shadows can be added to depict a particular time of day and year.
I can see now why so many interior designers have utilised SketchupPro 3D modelling software. It not only accelerates the design process but also acts as an excellent presentation tool.