Posts tagged interior design
House Tour: Sadie Spikes Curious Cabinet
Sadie Spikes Curious Cabinet Bedroom

The particular atmosphere of a house, or indeed any building, is something I have been attuned to and fascinated by since childhood, so it was a real privilege for me to meet Bristol artist Sadie Spikes recently at her extraordinary home. An art gallery, installation, studio, family home and guesthouse all rolled in to one, the Curious Cabinet in Fishponds has the most fantastically tranquil and restorative ambience. It is a stunningly light-filled space without suffocating carpets but naked floorboards throughout revealing plenty of warmth and character. There are many thoughtful, detailed touches dotted around, such as a hand written labels for the teas, quotes and notes, bath luxuries, carefully chosen books, fairy lights, baskets of blankets, beautiful crockery - all simple little pleasures that encourage a certain slowing down, mindfulness even, and joy in quiet everyday moments. Despite serving so many purposes and housing a collection of vintage treasures the house feels anything but cluttered. I caught up with Sadie to find out how she does it. 

Sadie Spikes Curious Cabinet Bedroom

How did it all begin Sadie? 

The Guesthouse grew in part from necessity when my 14 year career as an art lecturer was suddenly reduced to nil hours. My partner (now husband) and I had just bought this fairly large wreck of a house, which seemed to shine under the years of neglect it had suffered, and was beckoning for attention. The lovely, slightly naive idea at the time was that I could do up the house, have a business, be at home for my daughter as she was still little, and have a studio art practice. I had already built myself a studio at the end of my garden so it could all begin. 

Sadie Spikes Curious Cabinet

That would have been quite a juggle! Your artwork for sale is displayed on the walls in the gallery areas, but the house itself seems to be an artwork in its own right. What can you tell me about that?  

As we grew together (myself and the house) organically over time, I was always aware that language or dialogue was taking place between us! The house itself became another installation of sorts, and I am constantly shifting and responding to the essence or soul that the house most definitely has. It has always felt as if we had a symbiotic relationship; one which grew as I gradually peeled back the layers of an unloved surface, and breathed new life into her with every single brush stroke. I knew she was thanking me. In return, she has an undoubtable peaceful atmosphere that is palpable. Every guest we have had has said so. So I weave my artworks and objects ‘into’ the walls of the house via my paintbrush, and I use the space to create a constant shifting installation with the objects held within that all evoke a feeling or tell a story. There is nothing here by accident. I love it, and it is a never-ending artwork. I have come to understand that everything I do is very interconnected, and it is difficult to discern if there is a line which delineates what is art and what is life! 

Sadie Spikes Curious Cabinet Gallery

There are plenty of interesting vintage items around the house but rather than cluttering the place up, like so many collections do, their placement looks carefully considered, curated even, into little vignettes. 

I am drawn to objects which each hold their own story in their patina, and am fascinated by the journey that these objects take you on, like portals to another place. My artwork, installations, and objects have always had a strong sense of time and history, and contain glimpses of our shared collective human experience.

Sadie Spikes Curious Cabinet

Now that you have studied Feng Shui (the ancient Chinese practice of mapping out houses to allow energy to flow so as to harmonise people with their surroundings) do you use any Feng Shui principles in your house? 

The course was was an absolutely extraordinary and eye-opening experience. I understood just by the feeling of our house that something other than bricks and mortar was at play, and the movement of energy in our homes impacts us in ways we just don’t even realise. It opened the door to an incredibly complex ancient knowledge. As a result I completely overhauled and decluttered the house over the last year and reconfigured all of the gathered, stagnant stuff. It now feels incredible and almost upkeeps itself, which is amazing for a large five bedroomed house! 

Sadie Spikes Curious Cabinet Bathroom

What is your vision for the house going forwards? 

The next vision for the house, myself, and maybe the vans in our ever-changing journey is to start small, intimate retreats for women in the house to create amazing, life affirming, and creative short breaks that nurture the soul. Sharing skills through a variety of workshops and talks, inspiring each other whilst being recharged in the house’s peaceful atmosphere. By collaborating with other like-minded creative women, I am hoping to create something quite magical in the house. I am currently looking for other women with a vision who love the idea of sharing their skills and talents in a small group setting to come forward and join me; if you have a workshop idea and would like to get involved please get in touch. 

Sadie Spikes Curious Cabinet

These retreats sound amazing. Please make sure I’m first on the list to find out when they start happening! Thank you so much for sharing with me. 

View Sadie Spikes’ art, Show Vans and her Curious Cabinet online here

Sadie Spikes Curious Cabinet Bedroom






The Trouble With Trends - Mindful Interiors
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Pouring over magazines and instagram squares to see the latest interior design trends is undoubtedly a lovely and relaxing way to spend some ‘me-time’, but the truth is that trends are trouble. Firstly, trends really date a home. If you have ever bought an item of clothing at the height of its popularity, perhaps egged on by a sale price, but soon after felt uncomfortable wearing it because it starts to look ‘of a time’ (rather than authentically YOU) then you will recognise that feeling of buyer’s remorse that comes from fleetingly being a fashion-victim. The same applies to home decorating. Remember avocado-coloured bathroom suites? Totally 1970s. How about red and grey diagonal stripes or zig-zag wallpapers? Instantly transported back to the 1980s. Just as Yves Saint Laurent said, “fashions fade, style is eternal”. 

Trends are invented. In case you don’t already know how it works, forecasters scour design trade shows and spot themes among the innovative new products on display. Taking into account current affairs and changes in public mood they combine all this research and fabricate a ‘story’, complete with colour palettes and image moodboards, all for the sole purpose of predicting which ideas will be commercially profitable for big brands to run with, essentially so they can sell you more stuff. Before you know it, that cool indie designer-maker you saw at a craft fair has been ‘spotted’ and their work has become trendy, then quickly plagiarised by a giant supermarket chain (by which time it is no longer the zeitgeist). They’ll ensure there are plenty of cheap and cheerful accessories in their homeware section so you can inexpensively buy into the trend and keep your home looking current, now, and again in a few months time when they release a new collection. 

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So following trends can make our homes and wardrobes look unfashionable very quickly and  encourage both the creation and consumption of more stuff, but there is even bigger problem with all of this - plastic and climate change. It is fine for us to buy new things for our homes regularly if they are made from sustainably and ethically sourced biodegradable materials, built to last for forever, passed on afterwards and can be recycled or reused as something else at the end of their lifetime. The reality though, is that we are very detached from how things are made and the impact they have during manufacturing (both environmentally and on factory workers), transportation, and disposal. 

We are becoming increasingly aware of the problems with fast fashion and micro-fibres, but it is time we became more switched on about homeware as well. While it is lovely that nice things are affordable and accessible, what is the true cost? 

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Next time you see an influencer promoting the latest resin cactus, plastic palm tree or other objet du jour they’ve been gifted, if you feel yourself getting swept along by a wave of ‘ooh isn’t it fabulous’ or ‘I’ve just gotta have it’, pause for a moment and ask yourself ‘do I really want this’? Do I really need it? Will I tire of it and want to replace it next season? Can I find a vintage or handmade alternative, even if that means I have to wait a bit longer? 

We have a real responsibility to ourselves and our planet to stop being mugs and furnish more mindfully. Even in the face of constant bombardment of fabulous interior inspiration from instagram! There is a movement of homeowners with small budgets proudly decorating slowly as time and money permits and sharing their progress online. Browse the hashtag #slowdecor on twitter or instagram and you will find plenty of handmade homes full of traditional crafting skills, vintage textiles, plants (and a healthy dose of crochet and macrame) that are well worth taking inspiration from. 

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Make Your Home Unique With Red Dog Glass Design Art Panels
Red Dog Glass Design Grey Kitchen

One of the perks of writing my interior design blog is that I am often approached by the most extraordinarily talented and interesting artists, designers and makers. Recently I caught up with Sally, one of my fellow finalists in the Homes & Interiors category at this year’s Bristol Life Awards to find out more about the how and why she created her innovative new venture, Red Dog Glass Design. A long-time painter for pleasure Sally became a full time artist relatively recently and has developed her work into a high quality glass product that is tough enough to be installed as kitchen splash-backs and shower panels, among other architectural applications. Serving a practical function as well as being enjoyed for its vibrant colour, texture and visual rhythm Sally’s art is now the ultimate option for those wishing to make their interiors bespoke and truly unique.

How did you begin your career as an artist?

Well it’s a bit of a long story but my art career is roughly my 8th career change – Im always looking for a new challenge and crikey the art world has definitely presented me with that!! I have painted as a hobby for the past 20 years but 4 years ago I decided I had absolutely had enough of the corporate world and it was time to follow my passion, painting!I So I have been to art school and now I have a fabulous studio ‘The Works’ down in Bedminster. I exhibit my work regularly in both Bristol and London as launched Red Dog Glass Design in November 2018. 

What made you paint onto perspex?

I was experimenting with the interaction between paint and different surfaces. I experimented on copper, sheet metal, aluminium and the obvious canvas/paper but Perspex was intriguing. I worked out how to paint in reverse on the perspex playing with colour combinations – it was fabulous – I created 2 large paintings (1m x1m) that I suspended from the ceiling in the gallery so you could circumnavigate it. I used spot lights to add an additional element. 

Red Dog Glass Design White Kitchen

How did you come to realise you could apply your art to glass panels?

Well, it all happened after a really interesting response I had from visitors to an exhibition in December 2017. I made an experimental painting on perspex, and hung it from the ceiling of the gallery so you could circumnavigate it. These visitors were imagining it hung in all sorts of places, and this really got me thinking …. lightbulb moment…. and the idea for contemporary art glass panels for the home was born.  What excited me was the opportunity to introduce my artwork into people’s homes in a different medium which is both really practical and makes an impressive visual statement too. I was excited by the challenge of learning how to transfer my work to new materials. Glass renders the colours (which I love!) in such a beautiful, rich way. I have started by focussing on kitchens and bathrooms but hotels and office spaces are quickly following, all very exciting, watch this space!


What can you tell us about the fabrication process?

Pretty well all orders tend to be a bespoke size– once you have provided accurate measurements, the glass will be cut to size and then go through a toughening process, We use 6mm toughened, low iron glass which meets BS6206 standards and all the glass panels supplied are heat resistant to 220˚C. All external glass edges are polished smooth and the manufacturer provides a 10 year guarantee against colour or print delamination (peeling). Our manufacturer uses hi-tech machinery which ensures extremely accurate and close- fitting cuts, it can accommodate notches, curves and other irregular shapes.

Once the design and colour is agreed the image is printed into the glass, cured and then sealed.

Your finished work of art on glass will be delivered to you in a hand-built wooden crate,  it is looked after and treated with the utmost care – it will arrive at your door as a piece of fine art work would.

Red Dog Glass Design White Kitchen

What other applications are there for your pieces?

Red Dog Glass panels are extremely versatile works of fine art, they can be used as kitchen splash-backs, amazing waterproof feature walls in your shower (no more cleaning tiles), behind baths or sinks in your bathroom. We have supplied some for peoples living rooms as a standalone artwork. Communal reception spaces in hotels, apartment blocks, office buildings and hospitals. The beauty of Red Dog Design is that they are not just works of contemporary art that can be manufactured up to 3090mm x 1000mm per panel in size, they are also highly practical and can be wiped and cleaned very easily. Perfect for busy living spaces.

Who buys your work?

I have a real selection of customers / potential customers ranging from private residential clients, interior designers, architects, kitchen/bathroom designers, property developers looking to create something new and fresh for their new build for either the apartments or the communal reception areas,  hotels, corporates, lift companies, interiors for yachts and hospitals – the beauty of this product is that is unique contemporary art yet it is practical as you can just wipe it clean.

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Where did the name Red Dog come from?

Red pigment paintings of dogs can be found in early cave paintings around the world – the earliest dwellings and therefore the original symbol of our desire to make home and decorate it with personal and meaningful art. Living spaces even tens of thousands of years ago were as important then as in the 21st century. Red Dog belongs at the heart of all living spaces.

What is next for your business?

I’m working very hard in the marketing of the product at the moment as it is such a new product to market I need to spread the word and make people aware of its existence. Lots of meetings in both Bristol and London with designers and architects. In addition to this I have been approached by an overseas developer to supply glass for their new apartment block so I am investigating the logistical aspects of this new challenge!! I also continue to develop my painting practice and have started to build some new images for 2020’s limited edition. 

Red Dog Glass Design Shower

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about your fantastic product Sally!

Find out more about Red Dog Glass Design online

Special thanks to Lizzie Everard

How to tell Brand Stories in Interior Design
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One of the most obvious ways to bring a brand image into an interior scheme is to base it around the logo, but colours that work well on digital or printed logos don’t necessarily suit soft furnishings or large walls. Colours behave differently on various textures and surfaces and the proportion in which they are each used can affect the feeling they inspire. Simply using a few splashes of logo colours around the place is a perfectly acceptable thing to do for a cash strapped start-up of course, but it can never fully convey a brand story.  Also, how on earth do you even arrive at meaningfully choosing colours or creating a look without a story in place first? 

Last year I was asked to create a new image and interior for a restaurant business that wanted to completely change its name, appearance and even the style of cuisine on offer. One of the challenges was that they had yet to decide for sure what the new name and theme would even be. Ordinarily I would refer clients who are at this uncertain stage in their business journey to a branding specialist to help cement their ideas before coming back to me. However there wasn’t time or budget for that and their initial thoughts had legs so I agreed to help. Wanting to move away from burgers my clients turned to their Iranian heritage and shared interest its ancient history. They soon settled on serving Persian cuisine and after debating several contenders chose Mithra as the name. Instantly their passion for the business was reignited because it was personal and therefore meaningful.

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I’m not a branding designer but I approached the challenge in just the same way as I used to when creating concepts for my theatre sets and costumes. Instead of starting with pictures, I start with words. Just a like a play text or a film script.  In Persian mythology Mithra is the name of the ancient god associated with the sun, light and friendship. These three words began my design research. Wanting the finished interior to be contemporary rather than anachronistic, iconic or museum-like, I added ‘convivial, friendly and welcoming’ (like the business owners!) to the brief and began finding imagery to suit. That meant looking for photographs of sunsets and sunrays to extract a colour palette, and also graphic art and screen printed depictions of the sun to find crisp and contemporary styling.

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Searching for ‘friendship’ images led me to friendship bracelets and the hand woven nature of these reminded me of the great tradition of Persian carpet weaving and its sumptuous dyes and yarns. Yellow and orange are thought of as welcoming colours, and have associations with the sun, friendship and optimism so had to be included. Fortunately they are also appetite stimulating making them a doubly suitable choice for a food business. During this research and development stage I happened upon the work of artist Maya Hayuk and found her graphic, geometric murals perfectly represented in paint some of the imagery I was trying to pull together for Mithra’s new look.

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The end result comprises some repurposed furniture form the old venture and some new, themed artwork and authentic textiles, with some customisation to the scheme by the owners - it is their business after all. So as you can see there are always reasons why a design scheme looks and feels the way it does and it is often quite a journey to get from the first spark of an idea to the end result. 

I would be fascinated to know how other designers might have interpreted the same brief as  everyone has different processes and imaginations. What might you have done?! If you run a business how will you choose to tell your brand story in your interiors? Starting with words, or another way?

To enjoy an authentic taste of Iran at Mithra visit their facebook page for booking information and you can Read Bristol 247’s review here

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Five Ways to Decorate with Ultraviolet
My digs at dear family friends’ when I visit them in London.

My digs at dear family friends’ when I visit them in London.

If you are at all interested in interior design it cannot have escaped your notice that the Pantone Colour Of the year for 2018 is Ultraviolet. As the year draws to a close you might spot purples appearing in all sorts of products and interior schemes. If you are intrigued by enigmatic, mystical and unconventional Ultraviolet but unsure how you can incorporate it into your home here, are a few pointers to help you create a successful scheme.


Quantity

When it comes to using a ‘marmite’ decorating colour like purple you might want to consider first whether for you it is a case of more is more or less is more. Are you prepared to fully commit and paint large expanses of it on all the walls? Or will a few sprigs of lavender styled into a collection of vases be enough for you? In a small room with minimal natural light, such as a downstairs loo, you can afford to go wild with a rich, dark, deep purple all over. You won’t spend a long time in there so the drama will be exciting and enjoyable for short periods. In a larger room where you pass more time, unless you are a real purple lover and feeling game you may prefer to use purple in a smaller portion on armchair upholstery, bedding, a throw or art print. 

Intensity

Pantone are celebrating Ultraviolet in a range of shades this year, so there’s no reason why you can’t vary the intensity of the purple(s) you choose and turn the saturation ‘volume’ up high with an intense, rich tone. Or dial it down and go for the pastel, lilac end end of the purple spectrum. 

Texture

Colour can never be considered in isolation in interior design. Sometimes the surface it is applied to can make or break the scheme. Deep purple looks sumptuous on a luxurious velvet, but that chocolate bar wrapper shade of paint can make shelves or walls look flat and cheap, even garish. There are no real rules about what works and what doesn’t but always bear the finish in mind and consider whether it really suits the colour (and please yourself!). 

Colour Pairings

Unless you want to be fully immersed in ultraviolet on every wall you might be asking ‘what else does it go with?’ In which case there are a few options. The complimentary colour of purple is yellow and that could be a zingy tone or a more sedate mustard. If the purple you choose is closer to blue then orange would be its compliment. Or for a more harmonious (as opposed to contrasting) colour scheme you could also incorporate the colours either side of purple on the Colour Wheel. These would be blues and pinks and together with purple would form what’s called an Analogous colour scheme, very easy on the eye as nothing jars. 

Contrast 

Feature walls are generally not talked about too kindly these days. I think it’s perhaps because in most examples the feature wall is really loud and often busy with pattern and the walls around it are white or close enough, and its the stark contrast between the two that makes the feature wall a bit of a screamer. For a more soothing atmosphere consider reducing the contrast between the purple and other elements in the room. A rich aubergine purple colour palette might better suit wooden furniture or shelving in an equally rich walnut, as opposed to a light pine, for example. 


Browse my collection of favourite ultraviolet / purple interiors on my Ultraviolet Pinterest board and see if you can become inspired to use it in your home. If you do and feel proud of your purpley creation then if you live in Bristol please do share a photo of your success with us on instagram using the hashtag #mybristolhome for a chance to be featured!

Make Yours a Rebel Home With A Street Art Mural
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Bristol is well known for celebrating art on the city’s walls, but local business Graft Workshop are increasingly bringing street style murals to the great indoors. Run by husband and wife team Rob and Sophie Wheeler since 2012, Graft have been commissioned to spray numerous homes and business walls around town and they also teach graffiti skills to those who fancy giving it a go themselves. Interior design and street art may not at first be obvious bedfellows but of course this is Bristol, where anything goes. 

Just like designing an interior scheme, putting a mural together requires more skill and careful thought than you might at first think. From taking a brief and researching sources of inspiration like local history, pattern design, architecture and other cultures to planning the composition, scaling up designs from preliminary sketches and perhaps preparing stencils, there is a lot that goes into a finished piece of work. I’ve always admired graffiti artists and rebellious interior designs, so I caught up with Rob to find out more about Graft Workshop.

How did you get into graffiti? 

I was always drawing, from comics, from 80s colour saturated adverts, from life, and eventually from the early graffiti pieces I was seeing in magazines. My first attempts with a spraycan weren't too successful though - a can of car paint on a porous board in my parents' back garden somehow didn't turn out quite like the New York train pieces I'd seen!

Do you always use spray cans or do you use brushes or markers as well?

In my work I always use spray-cans. It's important to me that I'm making that connection with the original graffiti scene and techniques, especially while rendering a pattern inspired by a nineteenth century wallpaper! In workshops we teach people how to use markers as well as spray-cans, as they're great for the small name boards we get people creating.

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What do you teach in your workshops?

We usually start with a guided tour of some of Bristol's amazing pieces, sharing a bit of background to the scene and some lesser known stories. We then get them thinking about a graffiti name, and playing with lettering styles to create a name board with paint markers. Then it's on to spray-can techniques, and having a play with freehand spray-painting as well as stencils. It's all about building self-esteem - lots of people think they can't draw, but it's a level playing field, whether it's a team of lawyers on an away day or a group of young people with learning difficulties.


How / when did you start to bring your street art style to interiors?

I had a few commissions early on for different organisations, cafes etc, but it's only since we launched Graft as a business in 2012 that I've really started to explore the potential of graffiti murals as an interior design element. I take a lot of inspiration for the Arts and Crafts and Aesthetic movements, and I love referencing designers such as William Morris (and many more!), adapting elements to reflect the history, geography and cultural heritage of the site, mixing those influences with the art of the spray-can.

If someone was to commission you for their own home / biz, what would they need to consider first?

Above all I think it's important to make sure you like the style of the artist you're commissioning, and that it chimes with what you want for your space. We have had some unusual enquiries which don't really fit with what we do! I would then ask the client if there are any elements of my other murals they particularly like, before discussing concepts and colours.

Like me you are a fan of Bristol's answer to William Morris, E. W. Godwin. How did you first hear of his work and what do you most admire about it?

I first learned about Godwin through the PRSC (People's Republic of Stokes Croft) and their campaign to save the Carriageworks building which was designed by him, and have it developed in a community-centred way. Chris Chalkley of the PRSC is a huge Godwin fan and let me pore over his Godwin library! When Milk Teeth cafe was opening at the address Godwin once lived at on Portland Square, I approached the owner Josh and proposed to paint a Godwin-inspired mural in the cafe. He loved the idea, and I'm really pleased at how it turned out.

Graft Workshop Mural

Where else can people spot your work around Bristol?

I've recently painted commissions in Nutmeg restaurant on the Mall in Clifton, the downstairs bar of Zaza Bazaar, Easton Community Centre, St Werburghs City Farm, St Barnabas Primary School, and of course Milk Teeth. 

Anything else you would like to add?

Everyone's home has a wall which could benefit from an original mural - whether it's that big white wall in your garden, one wall of the dining room, or even in your bedroom. Arts and Crafts wallpaper is hugely popular at the moment - but how many people have a lavish damask design painted by hand in spray-paint, in colours they've chosen?!

That is indeed pretty awesome Rob! Bespoke murals really are a fantastic way to add a truly unique element to a Forever Home, and unlike famous street art pieces there is no danger of someone chipping it off the wall to nick it, tagging it, or chucking protest paint all over it! 

If you like the idea of owning an art wall you can commission one, or learn how to create your own smaller scale piece on a board. Just head to https://www.graftworkshop.co.uk to find out more. To visit the E.W. Godwin mural at his former home in St Paul’s head to Milk Teeth cafe

Make Your Interior Unique with Artisan Surface Design
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This year you might have noticed the resurgence of terrazzo in magazines, on tiles and even printed pattern versions on the high street. One local artisan is quite the expert at this  five hundred year old technique, applying it to table tops, kitchen work-surfaces, tiles, cladding, wall art and sculptures, but it is terrazzo with a twist.

 

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Not wanting to be restricted to fabrics and yarns while studying Textiles at Central Saint Martins, Stephanie Tudor began experimenting with “any material she could get her hands on”. Now a specialist in bespoke surface design working predominately on a commission basis, typical clients can include “friends buying a bespoke tile or an architecture firm commissioning public sculptures”. Using jesmonite, a water-based gypsum composite resin that can be mixed with coloured pigments and metal powders, Stephanie produces fire-proof, hard wearing and ultimately unique pieces from pots and trays to splash-backs. I had to ask what the interiors trend this year has meant for her, if anything. “Terrazzo is big right now, and trends never last for long! I have definitely caught a wave of work from it which has been great, but also am reassured that my work is developing away from terrazzo effect surfaces which I am excited about.” 

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I’m looking forward to seeing how Stephanie’s new work turns out and am avidly following her adventures on her current artist residency in Finland - casting, moulding and firing interesting things in the woods! It is a privilege to see some of the processes involved. You can see too on instagram or browse more of her work and make an enquiry at www.stephanietudor.co.uk

If you have enjoyed this or any of the other posts on the blog please help Stylemongers Of Bristol to make to the shortlist at the Amara Interior Blog Awards this year! Someone kindly nominated the blog in the Best Interior Designer Blog category. All voters are entered into prize draw to win a pic camera too so you could be the lucky winner! CLICK HERE TO VOTE! Thank you xx

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Happy By Design: How to create a happy healthy home
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I read this book in a single sitting recently on a day when I was good for nothing but lying on the sofa with a stinking summer cold. It was quite a tonic with it’s gentle optimism and suggestions of how to make your home a happier place. That’s something surely everyone aspires to, especially with our busy lives full of work.

Encompassing lifestyle choices as well as design and decorating advice, Victoria Harrison takes the reader on a meander through mindfulness in the home, from tending houseplants to engaging in conversation and the simple pleasure of looking after a pet. There is some good old fashioned advice that greenery, the presence of light and the absence of clutter make for favourable living conditions. What makes this more compelling than opinion or anecdote alone though is the inclusion of easy to digest research - from NASA scientists, no less! There is also sage colour advice from Farrow & Ball’s international colour consultant Joe Studholme on how best to introduce that most joyful of colours, yellow.

All senses have been considered in writing this lovely little book with ideas on using scent, music, art and the optimal ways to consistently achieve nourishing sleep. The overall tone is informative and avoids being instructive which makes it a lovely gift for anyone setting up their first home or in need of cheering up with a few easy tweaks to their interiors. I’ll certainly be referring back to my copy now and then, like a manual for good living. 

Order a copy from your local independent bookshop or online here!

How To Stay Sane When The Builders Are In

If you have ever had renovation work carried out on your house, particularly whilst still living in it, you will probably already know just how difficult it can be. After a disastrous and still unresolved experience in my own home I felt compelled to put together some top tips to help you survive the merry mayhem of home improvements.

With my tried, tested and trusted builders of choice already booked in to create a new kitchen extension I designed for valued clients of mine I could hardly jump the queue. Not wanting to wait for their next window of availability or project manage it myself due to spinning several other plates already, I arranged for an alternative company to do it all. Believing I was in safe hands I foolishly didn't dot all the Is and cross the Ts quite as I would for a client job and also chose the wrong guys. These two mistakes caused untold stress, delay and regret, so read on to find out how you can maintain your mental health during a refurb. Grab a cuppa, its a long one!

Most of us are pretty familiar with tales of builders not turning up on time, at a completely different time to what was arranged or indeed not at all. Then there are sagas about delayed projects that go on seemingly forever, and mistakes that don’t get rectified because in the end people just want tradesmen out of the house. Construction work is by its very nature prone to being at least a little unpredictable. Every project will encounter problems, especially in older or neglected properties where discovering clandestine complications is more likely. Some delays and upward revisions of the anticipated expense are inevitable and cannot always be helped. 

Although we know to expect a level of disruption, even when everything goes to plan, we still find it stressful, but why?

Finances and Feelings

The reasons for instructing construction work in the first place may be emotionally charged; such as preparing for the arrival of a new baby, adaptations for a disabled family member, creating a granny annexe for an ageing parent. In these situations it is critical that the work is completed on time which adds an extra layer of pressure. Inheriting, saving up or remortgaging to borrow a large sum of money to pay for the work can also mean the stakes are already high. There will likely be emotion attached to that money and even going through the remortgaging process can be stressful before you have even begun the project. 

 

Physical Disruption

Even if you can stay in a hotel or with family during the build there is no escaping the tangible displacement of things. Having furniture and possessions in disarray can be deeply unsettling for some. Being without a working kitchen or bathroom for any length of time, especially beyond the expected finish date, is enough to bring out the princess in even the hardiest of campers.

Time Consumption

Whether you opt to co-ordinate your own tradesmen or instruct a project manager or company to oversee all the labour it will still require your time and energy.

 

Mental Exhaustion

There are a huge amount of decisions to be made from layouts to power socket locations and details like handles which can be fatiguing and overwhelming. This is one reason why so many people run out of steam once their extensions are completed, fall out of love with the whole project, then don't get around to decorating for years afterwards.

 

Marital Problems

Any kind of stress or endless joint decision making will test a relationship. Renovation is no exception!

 

Project Timeline by Stylemongers Of Bristol

Project Timeline by Stylemongers Of Bristol

Feeling out of control

When there is a lack of communication about what is happening when, or if progress stalls, it becomes very difficult to organise your everyday life. Naturally this is incendiary for most people and leads to a feeling of uncertainty which can create waves of chaos in all areas of life.

 

Stress and Frustration

Even the smoothest running of jobs can cause some discomfort, so when things go wrong or are delayed it can be affecting in a very big way. A healthy dose of perspective about the world’s problems is always important, but don’t be surprised or hard on yourself if you find you’re getting in as much of a state about your comparatively trivial living room as worrying about a relative in hospital. The human body doesn’t distinguish one kind of stress from another. 

 

So how can you reduce the negative impact of construction chaos?

As with most things in life, preparation is everything.

 

Do your homework

Plan as much of the interior decor in advance as you can. Allow for long lead times on special items. You don’t want to be making rash decisions about tiles or taps once the builders are on site. At that late-in-the-day stage some interior designers may politely decline to come to your rescue. They will be loyal to their current clients’ projects and may not want to be involved in a panic situation because correctly specifying details takes time and careful thought.

Another advantage of planning ahead is that you can feel resolute about your design decisions and won’t be swayed by opinionated tradesmen or pushed into purchasing products that the company may have a vested interest in supplying.

 

Choose the right builders

Allow as much time as possible to find your preferred builders as you will may have to wait months for the best teams to be available. People buy from people its true, but this is not about making friends. Although you want to feel comfortable with who you deal with and invite in to your home, it is almost more important that they are competent and prepared to go the extra mile to do a good job with pride. Trust your instinctive gut feeling but do not rely on that alone. Check qualifications, credentials and experience, and read the reviews on google or checkatrade etc not just the testimonials on the company website. 

If you have whittled it down to two but are struggling to choose between them invite another to quote. Be nosy. You are spending thousands of pounds so it is not rude to want to feel secure in your choice. Ask questions about how they work. How many projects will they run concurrently? Do they have sufficient staff or subcontractors in their pool to fulfil that workload? Will they promise to remain on site until your job is complete? Can they guarantee an estimated finish date and what is the procedure if they need to extend the deadline? What about their aftercare policy? Can they put you in touch with past clients for a review? If they are confident in their level of service and client satisfaction they will.

 

Get Organised

If you can, take some time off work particularly if you are project managing tradespeople yourself. Thinking about the million and one decisions and troubleshooting problems can really cloud your mind and slow you down. Make a list of questions or anything you are unsure about write down in a project folder or notebook, or even on the wall so you can add to it as the job progresses and tick things off when resolved. There’s no hiding form a big list in plain sight writ large on the wall. Having a tangible list will help prevent you forgetting things or having to search through emails. If spreadsheets are more your thing, go for it. t’s always good to have a paper trail of your correspondence but beware the email that “went astray”. Ensure you have a proper sit down planning meeting to work through the project and action plan before any physical work starts so that everyone’s expectations are clear.

Drawings

On smaller projects it can be tempting to skip floorplans and elevations but they are absolutely invaluable essentials. Even the most rudimentary of hand sketches is better than nothing. You might have agreed something with one person but can you be sure they have communicated it correctly to the trades on site? If it is all being stored inside someone’s head, your project is in trouble. Insist on drawings before any work begins. With the best plan in the world there will almost always be some changes that arise on site, but these can always be added to the drawings (and dated) so that everybody knows what is going on.

 

Look after your trades

Being a tradesman is hard graft. Everyone likes to feel appreciated in the workplace and a little goodwill goes a long way. Having the builders in can start to feel like you are running a cafe after a while though, especially if there’s a big team. If you are busy, automate the tea and coffee with a designated tray of goodies by the kettle and invite them all to feel welcome using it.

 

Photo by  jesse orrico  on  Unsplash

Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

Look After Yourself

All the standard self-care advice for elevating mood applies here. Be kind to yourself and your partner for the duration and put tension down to the challenging circumstances construction can create. The symptoms of stress can be anything from a low mood or energy, short temper, muddy thoughts, overwhelm and nightmares to a heavy chest, shortness of breath, insomnia, teeth grinding and anxiety to name just a few. Practice mindfulness, do your favourite exercise, read a book, socialise with friends and get out in to nature to keep up your resilience to stress, reduce its impact and better cope with the strain. 

 

Set Boundaries

If you work from home you will already know how enjoyable a good old chat is whenever you see another adult. However; it is important to be explicit that you are ‘going to work now’, particularly if you don't have a separate office or shed to work in, or you may end up in a longwinded discussions or be frequently interrupted. Consider renting a space for the short term or hot-desking so you can escape and remain productive.

 

Leave Early

If you need to go out ensure you start saying your goodbyes half an hour earlier than you actually need to leave, otherwise you can guarantee that the moment the plumber or spark has your attention you will suddenly be needed to make thirteen decisions about details which will take at least twenty more minutes. Often this might be due to minute details not being arranged in advance. It can be tempting to simply sneak off without fanfare to avoid this, but then you risk delaying the project or being unnecessarily interrupted on the phone while you are out. If possible check in with the team at the start of each day so that you can iron out any queries then. If you have a project manager then a weekly inspection and update meeting may be sufficient, assuming progress is steady and everything in hand.

 

Children and SEND

Noise, strangers in the house, change, disrupted routine and not knowing when it will end can all be very difficult for young children to understand and cope with, particularly those with additional needs. Prepare them as best as you can with picture cards or visual timetables. Anticipate that the chaos may cause flare ups in challenging behaviour so that you can feel understanding and tolerant of and prepared for any tantrums.

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Disputes

You the customer are always right (even when you’re not) and when you are spending thousands of pounds with a company or individual you can expect to be treated as such. If you’re unhappy or unsure about the quality of any of the work don’t wait until the end to raise concerns. Remember everybody is human and makes mistakes, as long as they are actively and genuinely trying to solve problems there is no need to be obnoxious. Act promptly as soon as you spot anything that troubles you, because waiting can mean having to undo work in order fix a mistake. Say it with a smile before it gets to the stage where you can only say it through gritted teeth, and hopefully it won't reach the point where you have to cry and stamp your feet in order to be heard.

Should the worst happen and work is not carried out to the required standard and nothing is being done about it, particularly if you have a concern about safety, the Building Control department at your local council can advise. In certain circumstances they should be informed of the works at your property either by you or the people working for you anyway, so do check. If you also feel your consumer rights are not being respected then you can always consult Citizens Advice Bureau, seek legal advice or if things get really ugly use a professional mediator.

 

 

Don’t be put off!

For all the horror stories there are plenty of fantastically skilled, caring, competent and civilised Women’s-Hour-listening, Earl-Grey-drinking builders who will be a pleasure to have in your home and even sign for your parcels. You might even miss them when they are gone! But to avoid feeling like you cant wait for them to leave or put Watchdog/Rogue Traders on speed dial, take a look on the Federation of Master Builders directory and see who you can find in your area. That extension or new kitchen will be worth it in the end.

If you want help with planning your interior design in advance of renovating then you can book a design consultation in your home or learn how to do it yourself at one of my regular Interior Design Masterclasses in Bristol.

If you have already been through the process is there any advice you would give yourself, with the glorious benefit of hindsight, before going through a house build or renovation? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

 

 

 

How to have fun with your fifth wall
Photo by  Maros Fecik  on  Unsplash

Photo by Maros Fecik on Unsplash

Leaving the ceiling white is absolutely the status quo when it comes to decorating. Occasionally my advice to paint ceilings even a pale off-white, is met with shock and surprise, but to a designer’s mind leaving the ceiling white is just that: leaving it.

Increasingly known as ‘the fifth wall’, ceilings are all too often forgotten about despite being just as large a surface as the floor. The convention is to use the lightest paint on the upper reaches of rooms which makes sense when you think of the sky being above us. A white ceiling presiding over a scheme that does not include a significant amount of pure white however can make for a very stark contrast, so my usual advice would be to opt instead for a pale neutral or off-white with undertones that match the rest of the scheme. Little Greene even categorise their paints as warm whites and cool whites, none of which look very ‘white’. This is where we enter the territory of wedding-dress-white paint names like Oyster, Ivory, Platinum, Alabaster, Pearl, even Dover Cliffs and Bone White. Viewed against white paper or card even the palest of these will look strong or even dark, but in the context of a decorative scheme and placed up high on a ceiling, these paints will read as white, and with careful choosing, The Right White. There’s nothing so much fun as ripping up the rule book of course. Painting a ceiling the same colour as the walls, particularly when they are dark, is a great way to erase the ‘horizon’ line between the two planes, tricking the eye into perceiving the space as larger or taller than it really is. Rich colours, patterns, wallpapers, textures and high gloss finishes are all valid choices for ceilings, and if you don’t believe me take a look at my Pinterest board called Fifth Wall Fun to see if you change your mind, and possibly your ceiling!

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/zoehewettdesign/fifth-wall-fun/

Photo by  Yiran Ding  on  Unsplash

Photo by Yiran Ding on Unsplash

Terrazzo: Interior Trend of The Year 2018

It may horrify some readers to know that the 1970s has been hotly tipped to make a comeback this year.  Personally I am quite excited as there is really lots to love about the decade that style forgot. With dubious colour combinations that you know you shouldn’t really like but secretly do abit, curvy graphic wallpapers, macrame, bamboo and rattan, there’s lots of scope for reimagining the style in new ways. My favourite decorative element has to be Terrazzo though. 

Photo by  Tj Kolesnik  on  Unsplash

Photo by Tj Kolesnik on Unsplash

If you are not too sure what I am talking about just check out this delightful pup who has somehow managed to style himself and his bed perfectly on top of this yellow ochre example. Used on floors and sometimes walls, terrazzo is the artful arranging and setting of marble or stone chips into cement, followed by laborious grinding and polishing to create a quality finish. It pre-dates the 1970s by about half a century of course, but when the technique of using resin instead of cement was developed in the 70s, it became easier to produce and has been associated with the period ever since. Granite, glass, metals and quartz offcuts and chips can all be used, giving it reasonable environmental credentials with this possibility for waste recycling. It is not easy to achieve at home as a DIY project, and bespoke poured terrazzo does not come cheap, but there are tiles and slabs ‘in the style of‘ available. If you don't mind your soft furnishings resembling hard, cold floors, you can now even find terrazzo patterns printed on to cushions and duvet covers (I told you it was trendy)! Take a look at some of my favourite examples below (all from Pinterest).

Terrazzo Moodboard

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