Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Kitchen a year on.....what works...what doesn't?

The thought behind this post was to look over the year of test driving a new kitchen and to pick out positives and negatives which may help anyone looking at planning a new kitchen.
Over all we are happy with the end result from  both a functional and 'look' point of view. Whilst I played it a little safe and decided against a funky, modern, shiny minimalist design (units), the wooden painted kitchen works for us. I'm not sure how long a sleek, shiny kitchen would have stayed sleek and shiny with 5 year old boy scooting up and down and an 11 year old girl on roller skates whizzing up and down! In our heads we are (sometimes) precious, minimalist, young singletons. In reality, we are a hectic household with muddy boots, clumsy children, pets and everything else 'normal'. The ability to be able to get the paint pot out and touch up knocks is reassuring...even if we rarely do it.
The choice of paint colour was good. The choice of paint manufacturer...not so good, for the kitchen units at least. We used Little Greene and our painter found them difficult to apply evenly and although egg shell, I have found them slightly difficult to keep mark-free. Our previous units were painted in a Dulux paint and I found the finish a far better one.
Tip 1. Consider the practicalities....
The floor choice was a good one. We had endless debate over what to put down, with half of those in on the debate favouring tiled floor and half wood.
Naturally, the debate centred around practicality above look, with those favouring tiles questioning the durability of wood in the kitchen end....water spills, fat spitting, under floor heating effectiveness and general wear and tear. I googled endless sites looking at the pros and cons of both and in the end found no consensus of opinion! Not very helpful. For all of the cons there were pros for both.
We went with oiled engineered oak and so far it has worked a treat. We didn't go for under floor heating and we haven't needed it. The wood feels warm under foot, even in the winter and because our kitchen benefits from being triple aspect, in the summer it is warm anyway. I love the feel of bare feet on wood as well and as I often poddle around with no shoes on this is a bonus.
Yes. The floor has scratched in places but it is fairly light oak and marks and scuffs barely show. Yes. It is advisable to wipe up spills straight away....but wouldn't most people do that anyway?
I've had tiled kitchen floors previously and there is no doubt that they win hands down on durability......but don't discount wood as an option in the kitchen...despite what you may be told. It's warm, looks great and is comfortable.
An oversight on my behalf (I left the workers alone one day....) has been that the carpenter permanently attached the kick boards under the units. Mistake number one. I would not recommend this. I would always go with the clip on variety. I recently had a disaster with my blender and some watercress soup and the inability to remove the kick boards as the soup made for the very slight gaps between kick board and floor means that god only knows what's going on under the units! A case of what goes on under the units stays under the units!
With the general kitchen design, everything seems to be working well. We applied the usual design principle of the kitchen triangle....fridge, stove, sink...but also took some time working out where to have drawers and where to have cupboards. Worth taking that extra bit of time to think about what you need to grab and when when you're in the kitchen!
On a practical level, having a bin drawer is a bonus. I'm not a fan of pedal bins of any shape or size. They are never big enough and you always have to find a place for them which invariably means in front of something if they are to be near to where you're working. Having a drawer dedicated to hiding a bin is great. It's positioned right in the centre of the functioning end of the kitchen, by the hob and chopping bit of the kitchen. We just had a frame built in the draw that was big enough to house a large, plain, lidless bin. Definitely worth considering if you can sacrifice storage space.
The larder cupboard is also a bonus from a practical point of view. Being able to pull out drawers means you can see and get to stuff at the back without fighting your way through the rest.
I appreciate that some of these suggestions rely upon having the necessary space, but even smaller versions of these ideas would work and these are not expensive extras.

Pan drawers are also incredibly practical and perfect housed under the hob.


A couple of additions have been plain and simple roller blinds at four windows in very dark charcoal. These we ordered from www.blinds-2go.co.uk We've ordered a number of blinds from this website. They are inexpensive, made to measure....no frills....speedy delivery and perfectly acceptable for what we required.

White work surfaces are great. The downside is that they show up dust and marks unlike our previous wood surfaces. In general, period kitchens are far easier to keep clean....or should I say, require less pampering than modern kitchens. Clean lines means more cleaning. Definitely a downside!

On to the next project. Moving the entrance hall and staircase from the 60's in to the present little by little. Tune in over the next month to see how that one goes!

Monday, 30 March 2015

London Calling....

I'm sitting with the warm sunshine on my back feeling somewhat exhausted after a weekend getting my fix of London life.
Rounding off a fortnight of celebrations for my husband's birthday, we took the short (ish) hop on the train down to London. Having moved slightly further north recently, we are actually, in terms of time it takes on the train, nearer to London than we were before! I'd like to say that was planned........so I will! It was!
Living in the country means by the end of the weekend, we crave open space again, but whilst we are there we love the buzz of the city, the rich diversity of life and the access to everything that London has to offer.
The only slight disappointment was we left London not having spied a single famous person! Boo.
My husband (not in the slightest bit interested in star spotting of that kind) takes great sport in disbelieving my excited tales of having previously bumped in to Nellie Boswell (Jean Boht) buying smalls in M&S on the King's Road, talking pointed boots with boxer Chris Eubank (very friendly he was too) in Selfridges, standing next to Merlin's Morgana on the tube and spotting one of my fantasy husbands, Louis Theroux, as I waltzed around on a white horse carousel outside the NHM.....not to mention seeing DJ Mike Read as I was about to board the train home. Some years back I stood behind Neil Morrissey (during his Men Behaving Badly years) and his then girlfriend Rachel Weisz, now Mrs Craig, in the queue somewhere. I think Mum had the best haul (in terms of celebrity points) ever when she spotted Elton John (loading box after box) of shoes into the back of his Bentley at Patrick Cox and Prince Charles in one afternoon!
Maybe I take my husband's point. It sounds a little sad when I read it back!
Our stay culminated in a gathering for a birthday meal at The Dairy on Clapham Common. Wow. What a treat that was! The food was exquisite. As we were a largish party, we had the tasting menu and every single dish was small but perfectly formed and served on the most beautiful, but heavy (the waiting staff must have muscles like rocks!) rivened stoneware plates/dishes. The Head Chef and Owner, Robin Gill, has quite a CV and it shows.
We began the evening at W & C (Wine and Charcuterie) on Clapham Common, the converted loos now a funky, busy bar underneath Clapham Common tube station. Very little has been done to the building....I guess apart from removing the urinals and giving it a darn good clean!! Our conversations on arrival centred around the rather unsavoury stories those walls could probably tell....disgraced MP's and the rest!

To list every shop we went in and every item I could have purchased would take another few pages, so I will pick my one favourite visit of the day....and one I've mentioned previously. If you want somewhere that has every little bit of kitchen gadgetry (husband satisfied) and all things decorative and functional for the kitchen/dining table then Divertimenti is definitely the shop to head to.

My exciting purchase of the visit......electric scales in the exact raspberry red of our Alessi Alessandro M corkscrew. I had to stop there. It was all getting too Rock and Roll......!!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

More tea Vicar?

Trend is a funny word. What does it mean to be 'trendy'? Does it mean you are good at following trends and implementing them or does it mean you are forward thinking and create your own?

I was recently asked by a friend if Orla Kiely (the design, rather than Orla herself...) was ok or....a little too try hard.....a little last year?

I guess my honest answer would be 'yes' to all of those three from a 'trend' perspective....but who gives a fig about that?

I didn't want to reply in the style of a man/husband/partner by saying...'If you like it, I like it.' Or....'If you like it, that's all that matters.' That would be just plain annoying as we all know!

Though, in actual fact, that is all that matters.  If you like it, go with it.

I do appreciate the dilemma though. There are certain designs/designers around at the moment that have dominated the high street for some time meaning that if you have an eye for originality, you should probably steer clear as it is bound to niggle visiting houses and seeing the same quilt cover, cake tin, apron, bag or hand painted animal mug!

On a slightly more mundane topic, I have been tasked with finding some storage containers  on the high street for tea and coffee. Not that easy for someone who doesn't drink either on a regular basis and therefore hides them away in a cupboard.

So these are the ones I came up with and they vary in price to nice but not so reasonable to not so reasonable in my opinion!

I'm a fan of colour, especially if your storage jars are going to be out on display. The ones below are definite display items....not to be hidden away in a cupboard.

 The two below from Habitat are possibly my favourites, with the Balham on the left coming in orange, yellow and grey and the Tira on the right in orange and white with the stripes. Range from £10.00.

The Alessi 'Gianni' jars below left start at around £12.00 and are both a bit of fun and a design classic.
Going back to Orla Kiely, I do happen to like the colours of the raised stem canisters below and this range starts at £10.00.

 For a more classic, country look the jar below is by Denby with a starting price of around £27.50 and in a variety of colours. Morphy Richards range start at approx. £12.00.


Very nice, but a little bit of a budget buster are the ranges above, both from Not on The Highstreet.com. The first range is by Tom Gloster and are £89.50 for a set of 3 (ouch!) and the white coffee, tea and sugar jars are £26.95 each.

And finally,  on a completely different note, before I run off and do the school run, this is  Lottie's Interiors reader Sue's newly painted front door. Inspired by reading one of my most popular posts yet on front doors! It looks the great, Sue. Very smart! For anyone interested, the colour is Farrow and Ball 'Pitch Blue'.

 Feel free to send me your front door pics. I'm looking for inspiration!


Friday, 6 February 2015

Lottie's Interiors and Paint by Conran

There are few names more synonymous with British design than Conran.

Sir Terence Conran is one of the world’s best known designers, restaurateurs and retailers. He made modern design accessible to many when he opened the first Habitat shop in Chelsea in 1964.

Today he heads up Conran and Partners, an architecture and design studio as well as owning shops, restaurants and hotels across the globe.

One of my most memorable experiences is of a trip to London in the early ‘90’s and marvelling at the flagship Conran Shop which opened in 1987 in the historic Michelin House on Fulham Road. I think I spent most of the afternoon in there before eating in Bibendum, one of the few times I have eaten in a ‘proper posh’ restaurant! Still today, no trip to London for me is complete without a visit to Peter Jones, Divertimenti on Brompton Road and the Conran Shop.

The Conran flare for design didn’t stop there, with the Conran children following in their father's footsteps. Jasper (fashion and design), Sebastian (design), Tom (restaurateur) and Sophie (cars, design and pies!)

So, you can imagine my excitement when I was approached by Paint by Conran asking if I had any projects with which they could be of assistance.
It just so happened that I had met a family living in the village we had moved in to who were in the process of renovating their beautiful Georgian farmhouse nestled in the centre of the village. Sarah asked me if I would help her transform their dining room in time for them to use it at Christmas. The perfect opportunity to look at Conran paints.

 A little bit about Paint by Conran
Paint by Conran is the culmination of 2 ½ years’ work and is a dedicated paint range developed in conjunction with The Conran Partnership and Sir Terence Conran. The range currently has 96 colours split into 5 collections, for ease of colour matching, as illustrated by the 5 images above and draws inspiration from the glorious British countryside. Paint by Conran has been created in partnership with Master Paintmakers who, as part of an international paint group, have been making paints for 120 years.
"I have always been passionate about colour because it adds flavour to life and can have a profoundly positive impact on our mood. (Sir Terence Conran)
The brief was to create a country look and not stray too much away from that but with an injection of colour to add depth and interest. Sarah had already chosen curtain fabric, the delicious Voyage ‘Hedgerow’ fabric. We set about creating a mini mood board which, to be honest, was not too difficult as when we opened up the Conran paint chart and set it against the fabric, the colour we selected pretty much jumped off the page like it was meant to be!
We picked out a colour in the fabric and matched it to Midnight Thyme from the Highland collection. As this is a deep, fairly rich colour, we then selected Pastures New from the Harvest collection to work alongside this.
And here’s the result.
And after....
I’m now trying to decide which colours and where I can introduce some Conran colour in to my own home!

For more information and to visit the website, click on www.paintbyconran.com

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Snow Designs and Interiors, Stamford.

Husband and I took a little trip to the picturesque Lincolnshire town of Stamford yesterday.
A couple of Stamford factoids.....
Stamford was the first town in the country to create a conservation area in 1967 and as a result has retained a rich architectural heritage. Stamford provided the backdrop for television costume dramas such as Middlemarch and the 2005 film Pride and Prejudice and it regularly features as a finalist in the Sunday Times list of the best places to live!
As well as being generally  a pleasant place to have a wander and a spot of lunch, Stamford also boasts a number of lovely interiors shops and Snow Designs is one well worth checking out.
Snow Designs and Interiors offers a veritable feast over four floors of interesting and unique products all sourced from independent British designers.
I've fallen in love with this place! It's crammed full of things I could buy. Lighting, furniture, prints, ceramics, mirrors, decorative bits and pieces and more. The shop frontage is really promising and inviting and stepping through the door just delivers on that promise.
Rather than pick out individual items (I would have struggled to narrow it down) I've just included a number of in store shots and would just urge you to pay Snow a visit if you are any where near by. Visit their Facebook page or take a look on the website.
Snow Designs and Interiors, 32 Mary's Street, Stamford. www.snowdesignsandinteriors.com




Sunday, 18 January 2015

Sundays - The fantasy versus the reality!

Sundays, in my head, are all about lazing around in comfy clothes, reading the Sunday papers and then lighting a fire and curling up on the sofa watching a good film.....possibly Great Expectations ( John Mills version) or something like that. The children will be playing together harmoniously or sitting doing their homework, unaided.

The reality is not quite this. We did watch a film. Postman Pat the Movie. Quite good....but not my choice. Scruffs? Not quite. Half way house with that one. I'm not dolled up to the nines, but with the possibility of a visit from friends, I thought I'd better make half an effort, at least.

In this respect, I have not learned from my mum. I once turned up at my parents' house, unexpectedly, to find mum in the garden wearing what I can only describe as the outfit of a mad woman. This consisted of short wellies, knee socks, cut off trousers and my dad's jumper. The piece de resistance was a scarf tied round her head with her hair poking up above like an erupting volcano. Not exactly The Good Life's Barbara! I was accompanied by a friend  (male) who had not met my parents before....Goodness knows what he thought.

The homework challenge is always something we look forward to. It's a battle of wills really. The combination of a  nearly 11 year old who will not be told when her answer is not quite (completely wrong) right and a 5 year old who is just not interested, full stop. (Unless it is crafting an imaginary creature out of toilet rolls and paint.) Harmonious it never is! I rarely feel as hot and bothered as I do than after homework sessions.....and I know I am not alone on this one!

I did get to have a quick glance at the property section of the paper. There was an article on range cookers which caught my eye.

I have never hankered after a real range....of the Rayburn, Aga variety. Always makes me smile (inwardly, of course) when, on property programs, house viewers enter a kitchen and coo the minute they spy a range or a Belfast sink....both, and they are unable to contain themselves!  Those I know that have ever owned a range (the real deal...not an electric version) complain of the inefficiency of running one in terms of fuel costs and the impracticability of having them on all the time.

The article concludes with a section on  quick and easy ways to cut your bills, in addition to ditching the range, taken from Good Housekeeping. Always of interest. I'm stealing their pointers....but they sounded like sensible ones.

  • Put foam strips on draughty windows and doors and this claims to save £35 - £50 per year. Secondary glazing also a worthwhile and cost effective solution.
  • Turn off the television instead of leaving it on standby. Claims to save £50-£90 per year.
  • Install a water efficient shower head for as little as £30. Could save a family of 4 £75 a year plus a further £90, if, like us, you are on a water meter. And/or, for a couple of pounds, add a shower timer.
  • Turning down your thermostat by just 1ÂșC can cut heating bills by around £75 a year according to the Energy Saving Trust. Save even more by turning off the radiators in rooms you rarely go in.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Post Christmas blues...and greens and neutrals....

Well. It's all over for another year. The tree is down and all the dec's are wrapped in tissue and back in their boxes,  tucked up and hibernating until next year.
The one good thing about de-Christmasing the house is that it is never cleaner!  Dust, like tumbleweed appears from behind the tinsel and in corners where furniture has been temporarily moved in order to house the tree.
With Christmas bringing a much needed respite from all things decorating related (in my own home at least...), I am now refreshed and ready to launch into 2015's projects.
A possible wallpapering of the downstairs cloak maybe?
Here are a few choice examples of contemporary wallpapers that I think would look great in a bathroom, downstairs loo or anywhere else for that matter!
Papers chosen from Zoffany, Cole & Son, Farrow & Ball, Sophie Conran for Arthouse and Harlequin.