Tagged: Interior Design Projects / All Articles / Design Inspiration

 Interior Designers -  Understanding the Value; Agreeing the Cost

One of the most common questions asked on interior design discussion panels is how interior designers charge for their services. This can vary depending on whether the designer is independent or part of a large studio or retail outlet - so understanding the different ways designers charge for their services couldn’t be more important.

1. Fixed Design Fee

Except for the most complex of projects, this is the approach we take at Julie Maclean Interior Design. We work out how much time we think the project will take and charge a fixed fee for the service. We believe this approach works best as both sides have a clear understanding of the work that will be undertaken and the amount payable for that service.

It’s important to agree a payment schedule and to understand what the time commitment is up-front. It’s also important to agree a clear design brief and budget so that your designer knows what they’re supposed to be delivering. If the brief is clear, succinct and accurate the designer should be able to meet the brief.

Usually a couple of changes can be made without additional charge, but it’s important to be reasonable about this.

2. Time Based Fee

This is popular with some designers, particularly in the USA. The designer works on an hourly rate and logs their hours. We started out working in this way but, as we found ourselves working on so many projects, it became harder to quantify the exact number of hours to allocate to each client. And of course it’s hard for a client to understand why some things take a long time to source.

3. Price per Room Fee

Occasionally designers charge a ‘price per room’ or ‘price per square foot’, but this is less common. We often use a price per room as a rough guide when initially discussing the cost of a job with a client, confirming a fixed fee after a home visit.

4. Margin on sourcing product

Often combined with a design-fee, this is where the designer purchases materials and products at a wholesale price and sells them on at a retail price. This is how we work at Julie Maclean Interior Design as it enables us to keep our design fees relatively low. It’s important to know and understand how your designer works. A transparent relationship is a happy relationship.

Some clients expect a discount from their designers; we don’t offer this unless there’s a special reason for it, particularly because many of our suppliers feel that it undermines the value of their products. Again, understanding and agreeing the basis on which goods are ordered and delivered is an important part of developing a trusting relationship with your designer.

5. Project Management

Often designers, like architects or project managers, will charge a fee for managing the project; ensuring trades and materials are on site when required and keeping the project on track. The fee can be time-related, a percentage of the total project cost, or (less commonly) a fixed fee agreed in advance.

For smaller projects we often don’t charge a specific management fee but, for larger and more complex projects that consume a lot of time, we charge a percentage of the total cost which is built into the overall cost for the job. Again, it’s important for the client to know and understand what this charge is in advance.

6. Summary

As a client it’s important to understand the work that goes into completing a project, much of which cannot be seen (there’s a lot of running around and figuring out solutions to problems behind the scenes). Our advice is to choose your designer wisely (make sure you get on well and have references as to the quality of their work), then to value them! Discuss any problems or misunderstandings as they arise. As with any relationship, honesty and transparency is the best approach.

Every interior designer has a responsibility to deliver a result their clients will enjoy. At Julie Maclean Interior Design we take this responsibility seriously.

We listen carefully to our clients so that we understand the brief.

We combine creative thinking with a friendly and practical approach to delivering the brief within budget.

We try to bring new ideas to our clients to help them to see opportunities and expand their horizons.

We use reliable and reputable suppliers and our trades are first rate.

We appreciate being asked to work in your home and we take a responsible approach to everything we do.

Tagged: Interior Design Projects / All Articles / Design Inspiration

Modern Design Classics, No. 4  Omega Workshops: Bloomsbury Group 1913-1919

Modern Design Classics, No. 4

Omega Workshops: Bloomsbury Group 1913-1919

In 1913 artist and influential art critic Roger Fry brought together a collective of some of the most cutting edge artists of the day, who designed and made products under the anonymous banner of the Omega Workshop. Artists included Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and others of the Bloomsbury Group; Wyndham Lewis, Frederick Etchells, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Winifred Gill. No artist was allowed to sign their work, and everything produced by the Workshops bore only the Greek letter Ω (Omega).

The Omega Workshops brought radical and avant-garde art and design to domestic interiors in Edwardian Britain, creating a range of objects for the home; rugs and linens to ceramics, furniture and clothing were all boldly coloured with dynamic abstract patterns. Fry wanted to inject some fun into furniture and fabrics, to get away from the dull seriousness of Edwardian interior design. Omega blurred the line between fine art and furnishing, producing both functional and highly decorative pieces.Young artists designed bright chintzes alongside painted tables and chairs. Ceramics and fabrics used the same outline patterns or shapes, but were produced in a number of different colour-ways or glazes.

For a while the Omega Workshops were the only place in London to shop for a ‘Fauve’ shawl, a ‘Post-Impressionist’ chair or a Cubist-inspired rug. Clients included Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, W.B. Yeats and E.M. Forster, as well as bohemian high society figures like Lady Ottoline Morrell.

The Workshop managed to stay open during the First World War but failed to make a profit, eventually closing in 1919. Although it operated for just six years, it saw the creation of an impressive sequence of thrillingly bold designs which were well ahead of their time. Some of these designs have been reproduced or reimagined, including the Christopher Farr Omega rugs as shown below.


Stained glass roundel by Roger Fry for Omega Workshops


The Omega Workshops transformed English interior design


Semi abstract paintings on furniture were revolutionary at the time


Rug collaboration by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant


Semi abstract patterns on textiles



The Garden Room at Charleston, decorated by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant


Garden Room showing curtains designed by Duncan Grant and cushion cover by Vanessa Bell


Gramophone cabinet (Angelica Garnet), portrait of Vanessa Bell by Duncan Grant, mug by Vanessa Bell


"Bathers screen" - Vanessa Bell


Duncan Grant's studio/sitting room


Omega furniture - Roger Fry


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Modern Design Classics, No 3. Mies van der Rohe & Lily Reich: Barcelona chair (1929)

The Barcelona chair was designed by German Bauhaus Architect Ludwig Mies van de Rohe, in collaboration with interior designer Lily Reich. The chair was originally made for the German Pavilion in the International Exposition of 1929, held in Barcelona, Spain. It was first used in Villa Tugendhat, in Brno, Czech Republic which the architect designed and built, with Reich working on the interiors. The Villa is now a World Heritage site, a fine example of modernist architecture.

The Barcelona chair is one of the most recognized pieces of furniture of the last century and an icon of the modern movement. It exudes a simple elegance that epitomizes Mies van der Rohe's famous maxim “less is more.” The Barcelona chair is a tribute to the marriage of modern design and exceptional craftsmanship.

The classic, elegant but simple styling of this chair and it’s compact proportions, make it an exceptionally versatile piece of furniture. It works equally well in a grand period building with elaborate plasterwork as in a more rustic or ethnic setting and, of course, it is commonly seen in mid-century styling. It has an uncanny ability to impose order when surrounded by a degree of clutter. It’s invaluable as a functional piece in a library or music room or as an occasional chair in a bedroom or sitting room. As a stand alone piece in an entrance hall it makes a great statement. Less is indeed more.

For the Exposition the chair was originally made in ivory coloured pigskin and the frame was initially designed to be bolted together.

In 1950 it was redesigned, with the frame being formed by a seamless piece of steel, giving it a smoother appearance, and with the seat manufactured in bovine leather. Since 1953 the chair has been manufactured by Knoll and was named the Barcelona chair. Vintage Barcelona chairs that have developed a rich patina to the leather are highly sought after.

Today the chair is available in either a chrome or stainless steel finish with leather buttoned cushions filled with foam. The most popular colours are black or white, but tan is my favourite. It also comes in shades of grey, parchment and two tones of red. It’s a compact and comfortable chair (Dimensions H: 75cms W: 75cms D: 75cms), is largely hand-crafted using fine quality materials, with a copy of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's signature stamped into each chair.

Barcelona Tugendhat1

The Barcelona chairs as designed for Villa Tugendhat, seen here in the Villa

Barcelona Tugendhat3

The Barcelona chair works well as a pair in a classic modern setting


The Barcelona chairs impose order and symmetry on this gallery of irregular shapes


The Barcelona chair makes its mark on an all white scheme


Black Barcelona chairs in a contemporary sitting room


These white Barcelona chairs look stunning against a period backdrop


A typical mid-century scene with Barcelona chairs and stool


Barcelona chairs work beautifully with these ethnic rugs and carvings


A peaceful place for contemplation


Tan leather Barcelona chairs balance the warmth of the wood furniture


Less is definitely more, the chairs bring calm and order to this scene


The Barcelona chair is a useful addition to this blend of modern and classic furnishings



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Modern Design Classics, no 2.               Poul Henningsen:  PH Artichoke Pendant Light (1958)

The PH Artichoke pendant light was designed by Danish architect Poul Henningsen in 1958, originally for the Langelinie Pavillon restaurant in Copenhagen, where the copper fittings are still hanging today. The Artichoke pendants have a distinctive sculptural shape, reminiscent of the attractive vegetable after which they are named. But beyond that, the clever design of overlapping leaves shields the light source, so the light emitted lends a subtle and ethereal quality to a room. The PH Artichoke was immediately recognised as an exciting new contribution to contemporary design, and has since become a modern design classic.

Poul Henningsen was an architect and author, but his most valuable contribution was to the field of lighting. He was obsessed by light and its importance to our well being and spent his life exploring ways of harnessing its properties in a striking and attractive way. In 1925 he designed the PH lamp which, like his later designs,  carefully reflected and baffled the light rays from the bulb to achieve glare-free and uniform illumination.  He designed several other notable pieces for Danish lighting company Louis Polsen, most still manufactured today. 

The artichoke is arguably one of the most iconic and internationally recognised pendant lights available today. The 72 precisely positioned leaves form 12 unique rows and give the light 100% anti-glare when viewed from any angle. They illuminate the fixture as well as emitting diffused light with a unique pattern. The resulting effect is remarkable, highly decorative yet effective and comfortable lighting. 

It's available in two sizes and three finishes, copper, stainless steel or white painted. 

Although it was designed for a commercial setting, it works equally well in a residential design scheme. In a period home the light's perfect proportions makes a confident statement and beautifully illuminates decorative cornicing and similar features. The Artichoke works surprisingly well in a rustic environment, the sculptural shape contrasting with basic and even crude materials. With contemporary or mid-century furniture it's a natural bedfellow, though it is always striking and slightly surprising. A true modern design classic and a great addition to any room. 

Artichoke 1

The Artichoke light works well with basic, even crude materials like the concrete walls here

Artichoke 2

Perfectly matched with mid century Danish furniture and modern art

Artichoke 3

Confident and elegant, the Artichoke light beautifully illuminates this period dining room

Artichoke 4

A striking feature in a contemporary monochrome scheme

Artichoke 7

Available in 3 finishes - white painted, stainless steel and copper

Artichoke 8

The leaves are cleverly positioned so the light source is hidden from every angle

Artichoke 10

Bringing drama to an all white kitchen

Artichoke 11

The large Artichoke makes a statement in a contemporary bedroom

Artichoke 13

The Artichoke lights compliment the grandeur of these high ceilings and pillars

Artichoke 15

The copper finish brings interest and warmth to this all white room


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Modern Design Classics, no 1.         Eileen Gray: Bibendum Chair (1926)

In 1926, Eileen Gray created the curvaceous and inviting Bibendum chair. The figure hugging chair was aptly named after a voluptuous male figure, the legendary Bibendum man: an advertising character created in the late 19th century for the Michelin tyre Company.

The chair was relatively large; its depth approximately 84cm and its height 74cm. The visible frame was made of a polished, chromium-plated, stainless steel tube. The seat frame was made of beechwood, with rubber webbing inter-woven across the base of the seat to provide added comfort. The seat, back and arm rests were encased in soft, pale leather. The chair was originally created as part of an overall interior design scheme for a Paris apartment, and embraced the new Modern design aesthetic.

Irish born, Eileen Gray had a privileged background which enabled her to travel frequently and she attended prestigious private art schools in London and Paris. Shortly after the First World War Gray settled in Paris, where she was invited to re-design an apartment for Madame Mathieu Lévy, a successful boutique owner.

Gray's aim was that the apartment would not look too cluttered and that the eye would be drawn, first of all, to the tribal art on display. Gray designed most of its furniture, including her famous Bibendum chair, and made a point of using plain furnishing coverings. The process took four years and the result was favourably reviewed by several art critics who saw it as innovative and original.

Only a few pieces of furniture designed by women have achieved the status of Eileen Gray’s Bibendum Chair. However it was not until the 1970s that Gray signed a contract with Aram Designs, London, to authentically reproduce the Bibendum chair, which is still in production in leather and wool finishes. Today, Gray’s work is more admired and valued than ever.

Michelin Chair 1

The Bibendum chair sits beautifully with ethnic and retro schemes

Michelin Chair 2

The Bibendum chair works exceptionally well with modern art

Michelin Chair 3

The Bibendum chair is available in assorted colours, wool and leather

Michelin Chair 4

As a stand-alone piece it is stunning.

Michelin Chair 5

The Bibendum chair works equally well in a classic or contemporary setting

Michelin Chair 6

The Bibendum chair takes centre stage in an eclectic scheme

Michelin Chair 7

The Bibendum chair in soft brown leather against a floral backdrop

Michelin Chair 8

The Bibendum chair as originally conceived for a Paris apartment

Michelin Chair 9

The Bibendum chair was so Modern for it's time

Michelin Chair 10

The Bibendum chair is generously proportioned and comfortable

Michelin Man

The Bibendum character that provided the inspiration

Michelin Man Glass

The Bibendum character in the stained glass window of London's famed Michelin building

Michelin Creator

Eileen Gray (1878 - 1976)

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Getting a Grip on Things...
Much as we pride ourselves on the quality of our bespoke cabinetry, the careful selection of a well-designed handle can hugely influence the appearance of a piece of furniture. 
Copper is making a fantastic come-back in the kitchen, and it looks particularly fantastic when paired with the cool white or grey tones of marble or against deep, dark colours like forest green or indigo. Lots of companies are now producing knob and pull handles in a variety of finishes, from polished bright to dull and aged copper. 
Similarly, we’ve been using bronze and antiqued brass against naturally dark or ebonised woods to great effect. There’s something particularly satisfying about the combination of a contemporary cupboard style against the pitted rustic charm of handles in these materials. 
And for a very effective low cost solution you can’t beat forged steel pull handles - there’s a simple honesty about them that works extremely well even in a contemporary setting.  
We’ve recently chosen some mother of pearl and nickel handles for a black lacquered vanity unit.  Cut glass knobs are also brilliant at catching the light and adding sophistication and a little drama to cabinets in a dressing room or bathroom. 
Polished nickel or chrome is eye-catching and brings an element of glamour to any situation. People worry that they will show all the fingerprints, but we’ve never found this to be a problem. 
Here are some of our current favourites: 
Copper handles and pulls
Bin cabinet pulls in dark bronze
Polished chrome cup handle
Cut glass catches the light
Inlaid semi-precious bar handles
Antique brass segment handles
Rustic forged bar pulls
Complementary bar and knob handles
Antique brass recessed pull handles
Chunky contemporary light bronze knobs
Polished nickel cabinet latch
Rustic brass pull handles

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Kitchen Trends 2016 (UK)

The Houzz UK Kitchen Trends 2016 Study confirms several of our own observations about the general direction of kitchen design. People are increasingly turning to interior designers to help them fully integrate the kitchen into their home and maximise the potential of this space.

Our clients want a really smart space where they can entertain in comfort, so we find ourselves experimenting with different styles and materials to keep ahead of traditional kitchen trends.

Changing lifestyles mean that more than ever before, people want the kitchen to be a multi-functional space where we not only cook and eat, but work, play and live. It’s special place as the heart of the home is expanding and evolving into a room where the entire family gathers together, and where we increasingly entertain, socialise and work; for a third of respondents the kitchen is the place where kids do homework or they even work themselves. Almost two thirds of us spend more than 3 hours a day in the kitchen.

Not surprisingly, the top activity in the kitchen is cooking and dining. We can’t help wondering if the success of The Great British Bake-off is responsible for the fact that 63 percent of people now list baking as an important activity!

We're demanding more from this important room. However, the top functional priority remains being able to store and find things easily. A pantry cupboard is one of the top built-in requirements and a separate walk in pantry is currently one of the most desirable upgrades, for those who have the option, though once considered old-fashioned its making a big comeback.

The trend for contemporary styling continues, with half of all new kitchens fitting this description. It has to be chic and stylish as well as functional.

Overwhelmingly, the biggest motivation for updating the family kitchen is to change the layout, opening up to other rooms to gain more space. Most people embarking on a kitchen modernisation project want to gain as much of a lifestyle improvement as they possibly can from the changes. The most coveted upgrade is to open up to the garden, often with large slide and fold doors.

With the trend towards more home working and advances in communications technology, it’s perhaps not so surprising that people prefer to work from the most stylish room in the house. With a laptop and a mobile phone one can just as easily sit at the kitchen table, as at a desk in a study or office. And our experience with our own clients has been that increasingly, people are making exactly this choice. 

Who wouldn’t want to settle comfortably into the very heart of their home, admire the wonderful view of the garden and breathe in the aroma of freshly baked bread? It’s a win-win investment.

Astonishing Sweet Kitchens
White, contemporary kitchens remain most popular. Astonishing Sweet Kitchens
Jon Maniscato Architecture
A smart place for entertaining is important. Jon Maniscato Architecture
House and Garden
Being connected to outdoors is important, as are easy clean surfaces. House & Garden
interconnecting rooms
Opening up to other rooms is increasingly popular
dining room
Eye level appliances and good extraction are highly desirable
Architectural digest
Being connected to the outdoors is important, even in a city. Architectural Digest
Kitchen Diner
Family dining kitchens with direct access to the garden are a modern lifestyle choice
Blakes kitchens
Even rustic kitchens are going contemporary, with flat panel doors. Blakes Kitchens


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Through the Looking Glass...

Mirrors are invaluable, there are simply endless ways to use them. Virtually every room in the house will benefit from a well-chosen mirror. They can add a surprise element and, well placed, truly open up an unexpected world.

As mirrored glass is reflective it’s particularly useful in small or narrow spaces. We can’t always change the dimensions of a room, but we can influence how small or dark it feels. Adding a large mirror into a confined area effectively doubles the sense of light and space, adding depth and tricking the eye. We sometimes use tinted or antiqued glass so the reflection is muted and subtle, it depends on the setting.

A well-placed mirror produces intrigue and interest in a large space. The randomly sized sections of antiqued mirror glass bring a welcome relief to the repeating patterns of beamed walls in the huge barn conversion above.  

In a narrow hall large mirror has the effect of widening the space and producing a changing landscape of reflected images as you pass through the room. This effect also works if you use a series of smaller mirrors of different shapes and sizes. It adds extra interest and will reflect both natural and artificial light. However, think carefully about what you might reflect, as a poorly placed mirror can produce unfortunate results.

Mirrored glass is a fantastic way of reflecting images of artwork. This works exceptionally well in a sitting or dining room where one tends to sit and contemplate a selected piece, either directly or as a reflection. It means interesting pieces can be tucked around a room in otherwise inaccessible places.

In some cases the mirror can be a work of art in and of itself. An ornate or texturally interesting frame will become the centre of attention with the reflective glass almost a secondary feature. The beauty of the stunning Orbis mirror is in the frame!

We often source beautiful antique mirrors for our clients, with exquisitely elaborate silvered or gilded frames. But there are also some excellent reproduction mirrors in Florentine or Chippendale style, available in a variety of natural wood or gilded finishes.

Equally, a fabulous contemporary mirror will make a statement. Porta Romana’s delightful shell mirror is a work of art, and we love the fringed frames of the Peggy and Coco mirrors from Knowles et Christou and Ochre, respectively. Don’t be afraid to mix old and new. An antique mirror can look stunning in a modern house and vice versa.

Some pieces are timeless and work well in almost any setting. For instance, we love huge vintage convex mirrors, they are so versatile with their rusty metal frames and distorted reflections. Likewise, a large venetian mirror is enormously diverse in its applications to different spaces and schemes.

Here are some illustrations and a few of our current favourites:

Double the illusion of space with mirrored wardrobe doors

Double the illusion of space with huge mirrored wardrobe doors

A large mirror in a narrow hall

A large mirror will add depth and interest to a narrow hall

Antique pressed brass mirror

The intricate detail of a pressed brass mirror

Vintage industrial convex mirror

Vintage industrial convex mirror

Chippendale mirror

Chippendale mirror - Looking Glass of Bath

Peggy mirror - Knowles et Christou

Peggy mirror - Knowles et Christou

Antique rococo mirror

Antique rococo mirror - small but impressive

Coco mirror - Ochre

Coco mirror - Ochre

Rope mirror - Julian Chichester

Vellum Rope mirror - Julian Chichester

Convex mirror with Eagle

Convex mirror with Eagle 

Palazzo mirror - Julian Chichester

Palazzo mirror - Julian Chichester

Sandos mirror - William Yeoward

Sandos mirror - William Yeoward

Shell mirror - Porta Romana

Shell mirror - Porta Romana 


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House and Garden - The List

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Case Study - Cambridge Town House

We were recently approached by the owners of a modern 5 bedroom town house in Cambridge with quite a design challenge!

The Problem:This young professional couple have 3 children under the age of 5, and were struggling with an impractical layout. The house is part of a terraced crescent and as such some of the walls are angled at 45 degrees. The kitchen is at the front of the house, and currently isolated from the living and eating areas as well as the garden.

Naturally this presents a problem when trying to juggle family life; preparing meals, doing the laundry and supervising 3 lively little boys at the same time! But when we discussed the problems this causes we quickly realised they would be common to most home-owners, whether single, couples or families.

The present dining area is too narrow for a standard sized dining table, and the sitting room doesn’t lend itself terribly well to a sociable seating arrangement.

The Solution:Having discussed their needs with our clients we suggested removing most of the internal walls on the ground floor and creating a broken-plan living/kitchen/dining room. To keep clutter hidden and noise levels to a minimum, we created a large and separate utility room to house washing machine and tumble drier, with plenty of extra storage.

The kitchen overlooks a small park and children’s playground at the front of the house, but is now connected via a peninsula unit to a generous dining area with enlarged French doors to the garden beyond. This allows for a very sociable use of the kitchen/dining space. For the next few years there will be a stair-gate between the peninsula and the tall cupboards, keeping toddlers out when necessary.

There will be a solid wall between the kitchen and sitting area, allowing for a cosy retreat in which to read or watch TV that is still open plan to the dining and play areas.

You can see the existing and proposed layouts in the images below, and some perspective drawings of the kitchen, dining and living areas.

The Conclusion:The owners are delighted with the designs and can’t wait for the transformation to take place.

Proposed Layout:

 Proposed Layout

Proposed Dining Area

 Proposed Dining/Kitchen Area

Proposed Kitchen Area

Proposed Kitchen/Lounge

Proposed Lounge Area

Existing Layout:

Existing Layout

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Bathroom for a Victorian Cottage

What to do to freshen up a tiny bathroom in a Victorian cottage? It’s used daily by Maisie, aged 7, and by visitors and overnight guests. So it has to be practical and cheerful; fun but not childish.

We’ve decided to install an Aqualisa Hi-Qu digital remote shower over a standard 170cm wide bath, with a fixed clear-glass screen to prevent splashing. Maisie normally enjoys a bath but visitors prefer a shower, and the Aqualisa remote system is very easy for guests to operate. There’s just enough room at the end of the bath for a small shelf on which to store toiletries.

We’re changing the layout slightly and using a space-saving short projection WC and wall hung washbasin to increase the available floor space. The room will be fully tiled except for large mirrors on two adjacent walls. The effect should be quite striking.

We’ve chosen pretty, patterned tiles from the Patisserie range at Fired Earth to create a bit of interest on the floor. We’ll pick up on the blue colour-way with an accent border, blue-painted ceiling and matching blue towels.


Bathroom layout birds-eye view

Mirrors enlarge the space

Bathroom from doorway

Space-saving WC & wall-hung basin

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Custom Made Drinks Cabinets

We love working with new and different materials, so when we were asked for ideas in this lovely Georgian dining room we were keen to do something different. Our clients wanted the room to be interesting, inspiring, rather exotic and elegantly and tastefully opulent.

In a pair of alcoves framing an old range fireplace we built generously sized storage cabinets. We kept the style simple, the flush doors are made from ebonised oak, with hand forged antique bronze bar handles from Haute Deco.

To bring a touch of glamour we manufactured a deep brass countertop which we then hand-distressed and rubbed back to give the gently glowing effect you can see in the photos.

The interior was finished in gloss turquoise lacquer, a wonderful surprise when you open the doors!

Custom made drinks cabinet

Ebonised oak doors & brass countertop

Aged brass countertops

Bronze bar handles

Turquoise interior

Custom made drinks cabinet 2


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Kitchen Design - Kitchen Extension to Thatched Cottage

We're often asked to design a kitchen for an extension that hasn't yet been built. It's always an interesting and an exciting process, both for us and the client.

This kitchen has been designed for a small extension to a grade II listed 17th century thatched cottage. The house is full of period character and charm, with exposed beams, inglenook fireplaces, brick and oak floors, low ceilings and small multi-paned windows.

The existing kitchen is small and rather dark, with limited storage and dining space. Our suggestion was to make the kitchen a sympathetic contrast to the rest of the house, with large windows overlooking the pretty garden. This, combined with velux roof lights, will maximise the available light.

We've deliberately kept the kitchen area compact, using a wide peninsula to link to the extension, which will be used as a bar and dining area. The base units will be matt white with integrated handles and white countertops. The tall larder units and freestanding sideboard will be constructed in walnut, with hand-forged bar handles in light bronze.

We're using a concealed integrated extractor rather than a hood, against a feature wall of copper furnace tiles from Fired Earth. A traditional flagstone floor throughout kitchen and extension will ensure a graceful link to the rest of this period house.

Cupboard and drawer interiors will be a combination of white oak and walnut, with dovetailed joints and our usual attention to detail.

Our client loves the designs and materials proposed. Building work starts soon. Here's a sneak preview of the floor plan and CAD perspectives alongside photos of some of the furniture and light fittings.

Kitchen Extension Floorplan

Kitchen Extension View to Extension

Kitchen Extension Walnut Larder

Furnace Copper Tiles

Salperton Wall Lights

Husk Volcanic Lamp

Copper Pendant Light

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Kitchen Design - Quality Cabinets

Quality is key to everything we do. We have the experience not only to select appropriate materials, but also to understand how they will perform. When selecting an appropriate timber for kitchen cabinets there are many things to take into consideration, one of which is the grain.

As well as looking for a suitable grain along the face of the board, it’s just as important to pay attention to the end grain. We use quarter sawn timber for the rails on a shaker-style or panelled door, as it gives the doors far greater stability, minimising the risk of warping and movement.

When the grain is perpendicular to the face a piece of wood will be far more stable. If the end grain is parallel to the face or, more usually, in a curve from the shape of the tree, then the piece of wood is more likely to warp as the moisture content of the wood changes. This can lead to the rails in a kitchen door twisting and not lining up correctly. Usually this movement is small but occasionally the displacement stands out and the door will need adjusting or replacing.

Careful selection of timber is one of the ways we try to reduce this as much as possible.

Quarter-sawn Timber



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Interesting & Effective Lighting - Table Lamps

Interesting and effective lighting is an important part of any interior design scheme, as a well lit room will be attractive and inviting.

The best lighting schemes adopt a multi-layered approach for flexible results. We create atmosphere and mood by careful selection and placement of light sources; shadow is as important as light, and reflective surfaces can be used to great effect.

When choosing lamps the most important consideration is the scale and height of the fitting, along with the size and shape of the shade, as this will greatly influence the effect of light and shadow created.

Table lamps are also an excellent way of adding artistic character to a room. Here are just twelve of our current favourites; each one makes an important contribution to the design scheme, in terms of shape, texture, colour or sheer eccentricity!

1960s Ceramic Lamps, Talisman

Tribal Mask Lamp, Tyson

Almeria Table Lamp, Julian Chichester

Giacometti Leaf Lamp, Porta Romana

Stages Lamp, Gareth Devonald Smith

Calabash Lamp, Ecco Trading

Pumpkin Lamp, Porta Romana

Cicero Sage, Heathfield for Zoffany

Cabbage Lamp, Ecco Trading

Doulton Lambeth Faience lamps, Norfolk Decorative Antiques

Bronze Grotto Lamp, Cox London 

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Kitchens - Boiling Water Taps

Several manufacturers are now producing these exciting new kitchen appliances; here are some of our favourites.

The Quooker delivers pure filtered water at 100C, from a combined hot & cold kitchen tap. It is highly energy efficient with built-in safety features, and comes in four alternative tap designs. Reasonably priced, it is a popular choice.

The Grohe Red Duo system keeps three litres of filtered kettle-hot water ready for immediate use at all times, available from the same hot & cold water tap, delivering instant refreshment on demand. Its cool touch technology insulates the tap so well you can touch it without any risk at all, which is an important safety feature that parents with small children will find reassuring.

The Franke Minerva has a 4.7 litre tank and provides 100degsC boiling filtered and cold water, as well as the usual mains hot & cold. The filter provides high quality drinking water and also protects the boiler from limescale build-up. It requires minimal maintenance; each filter lasting 6-9 months with its replacement being as easy as changing a lightbulb. 

Form meets function with the sophisticated and innovative Zip Hydro Tap Elite. A simple and stylish design demonstrates how beautifully engineered a Hydro Tap can be. It provides water any way you like it, pure filtered instant boiling, chilled and sparkling. Fabulous!

Quooker Fusion Boiling Water Tap

Grohe Red Boiling Water Tap

Zip Hydrotap All-in-One

Franke Omni Boiling Water Tap

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Bespoke Dining Table

We sometimes design and construct our own furniture, particularly when we need specific proportions or dimensions, or sometimes just because we know exactly how we want it to look. We are lucky to work with a skilled and talented furniture-maker who specialises in traditional wood-turning techniques.

This dining table was designed by Julie and constructed by Jonathan for a large dining room in a lovely period house in Cambridge. The table is constructed in well seasoned English oak, bleached and white oiled for a fairly relaxed and contemporary look. Dimensions are 100 x 3000 x 740cms, so the table seats 10 in absolute comfort. The turned pedestals and feet are generously proportioned so the table is quite imposing. You could say it “owns” the space!

Here are some photos of the finished piece, and also of various points in the construction process.

Dining table bespoke design

Dining table - finished pedestal

Dining table pedestal under construction

Dining table pedestal on the lathe

Featured on Houzz


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Featured on Houzz

We have been featured on the Houzz website.

Our bespoke glass splashback has been featured on the Houzz website as part of their feature on how to enhance a solid timber kitchen benchtop with a splashback that brings out its beauty.

Houzz Logo
Splashbacks That Look Good With Wood

Annie Phillips

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Ingenious Storage Solutions

In homes with limited storage space and where there is no separate utility room, it can be a problem finding somewhere to air the laundry. It isn’t practical or desirable to tumble dry everything and laundry airing racks are not an attractive feature, especially in a contemporary home where all clutter is meant to be out of sight.

For a recent project my clients wanted a super smart kitchen but they also needed to incorporate the clothes washing and drying operations. We designed and built a bespoke airing cabinet to match the rest of the kitchen. When the doors are closed it fits in perfectly with its streamlined surroundings. Inside the cupboard there are several drying racks, with a small heater and plenty of ventilation so it doesn’t get mouldy over time. There’s room for the ironing board, step stool, etc. and of course it’s useful to have somewhere to hide the daily clutter before guests arrive.

In the photos below you can see the necessary vents and how it fits in neatly with the strong, clean lines in the rest of the kitchen.

Bespoke Drying CupboardDrying Cupboard InteriorWall of tall units

Art Splash-Back


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Art Splash-Back

We’ve recently completed a kitchen extension in a Victorian terraced house in Cambridge. As with many terraced houses there was a long narrow kitchen at the back of the house, and a long, narrow, unattractive alleyway alongside it. We’ve extended sideways into the alley on the ground floor and built a small extension (5 metres x 1 metre) with velux windows; this has made a huge difference; widening the room to create a large, light and airy family kitchen/diner.

My clients are a young family; they wanted a contemporary kitchen and like fresh, bright colours. The focal point of the kitchen is a large glass art splash-back by batik artist, Annie Phillips. Annie creates wonderful abstract artworks in vivid colours which are perfect for this scheme. We’ve used red, green and white Eames DSW chairs around a limed oak dining table, and made up bold striped curtains on the French doors to the garden. This has enabled us to keep the rest of the scheme clean and light, with high gloss white units, white walls, oak worktops and oak flooring throughout.

Art Splash-backkitchen4Annie Phillipsdining area

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Intelligent Lighting

Imagine an intelligent building that welcomes you as you arrive home, creates lighting scenes to suit your mood or activity, plays music in every room, controls heating and security, and can be monitored or controlled from your iPad when you're away.

Sounds fantastic? It is!I've been working with Baulogic of Cambridge, putting the finishing touches to an intelligent lighting scheme in an Edwardian house. We've recently refurbished, extended and modernised this house so it is really exciting to see the scenes in action. We’ve included some lovely lighting effects, including back-lit bookcases and spot-lit display cases.But the best effects come from using layers of lights; using a combination of downlights, spots, wall and picture lights, lamps and feature lighting to create wonderful atmospheric lighting and and welcoming home.

A welcome sceneLighting layersAccent lightingFeature lightingPractical accents

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Guest bedroom suite

I’ve almost finished re-furbishing a guest bedroom and en-suite in a lovely country vicarage. My clients wanted something calm and peaceful with classic styling so I’ve used GP&J Baker’s Emperor’s Garden for curtains and blinds. It’s a classic floral print inspired by hand painted Chinese wallpapers, branches laden in peony and cherry blossom, with exotic birds of paradise, re-worked in a contemporary colourway with d elicate silvers/blue-greys and pearl/beige contrasting with charcoal. I’ve accented the charcoal with a plain Zoffany braid and ebonised oak bedside tables from Julian Chichester. The super king-sized bed (not seen) is upholstered in elephant matt velvet. Walls in Little Greene Mid Lead.

In the en-suite we’ve installed a large low profile shower tray with clear glass fixed screen from Majestic; this and a big vanity mirror reflects the view of the gardens and visually enlarges the space. Lighting is soft and subtle. The sanitary ware, drawer unit and fittings are from Bauhaus. Iridescent black mosaics by Fired Earth.

The result is a delightful room and ensuite; tranquil and luxurious. A contemporary bespoke wardrobe in light smoked oak will complete the picture.

Emperor's Garden2Percy Bedsides2Classic stylingBauhaus basin unithoned granite & porcelainMajestic shower screenIridescent glass mosaics
Roman blind

Design Schemes


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Design Schemes

July has been a very busy month! We've been working on a scheme for a 1950s house in Ely, making a huge book and display case (4 metres wide by 2.2 metres high) with integrated lighting. This will form the focal point of a very large sitting room; the perfect contemporary backdrop for the mid-century furniture and styling we’ve agreed for this lovely house. The unit is being primed now, ready for painting after installation.

For a new master bedroom suite in a large Victorian house on the outskirts of Cambridge I’ve created an eclectic design scheme with a mix of oriental, period and contemporary elements. My clients enjoy travelling and collecting art so this influence has been incorporated into the rooms. We’ve just hung curtains and blinds in beautiful, soft, hand-woven paisley wool and embroidered silk fabrics. A combination of green and aubergine will keep the room calm and restful. The furniture (bedsides and a large cabinet) is covered in vellum, a delightful calf-skin that is experiencing a renaissance in contemporary furniture-making due to the trend for early modern styles.

For a different scheme my clients needed a complete transformation of their entrance hall. As the house is the heart of a working farm the hall has to be hard wearing and practical but smart and interesting, giving an indication of what lies beyond in this beautiful 17th century farmhouse. A bespoke cloaks cupboard will hide the daily clutter, while partially glazed double doors will create an elegant opening and bring light into a rather dark but charming inner hall. Grand restoration wide oak boards and printed linen fabrics by Brunschwig & Fils will be in keeping with the rest of the house, the russets and ochre colours sitting comfortably with the original quarry tiles in the connecting room. But of course there will be some surprising contemporary elements as well! Work starts in the autumn.

paisley curtains

master bedroom suite

Ahead of Schedule


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Ahead of Schedule

We have almost finished this terraced house extension in Cambridge. Over the past 3 months we've knocked two small sitting rooms into one, removed a chimney breast to create more space, knocked out walls and extended sideways to create a super new kitchen, and replaced windows, radiators and all the practical things to make the house warm and cosy.

The last month has seen a particular transformation as oak floors and worktops have been installed and the interior has been painted pure white. Now we’re on to the finishing touches – fixing light fittings, shutters and shelves.

After a major clean this weekend we’ll be ready for the new furniture and furnishings – bright, colourful sofas and chairs, oak lamps and bleached pine tables. Together with some contemporary artwork, fun striped curtains and naive prints this scheme will suit the lifestyle of this young family perfectly.

My clients love the changes; the house is light and spacious now with a lovely sun-filled contemporary kitchen. And they’ll be moving back in 3 weeks ahead of schedule. Have a look at these "almost finished" after photos below:




sitting room


NSPCC Remnant Sale


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NSPCC Remnant Sale

Ever wondered what happens to the small pieces of fabric left over when we make curtains and blinds? Well yesterday we held a coffee morning and remnant sale for the local community, offering beautiful designer fabrics at knock-down prices.

Most pieces were small, just enough for a cushion or footstool, and there was a lot of interest in the big jumble of trimmings suitable for quilting and patchwork. The sale was very popular and we managed to raise £411.40 which went to the NSPCC.

Thanks to everyone who came and purchased, or contributed cakes and jams for sale too.

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Wimbledon Open Studios

Today I visited my first of the summer Open Studios down in Wimbledon. The standard of work here has improved steadily and there were several established and upcoming artists whose work was really interesting for me.

Particularly notable were Alex Rennie, Jilly Vainer, Paul Gemmerson, Paul Lemmon, Sarah Ollerenshaw, Khristina Evans, Anna Masters, Jayson Lilley, Linda Smith, Anissa Nadra, Claire Burke, Vaughn Horsman, Nicholas Gentilli and Henrietta Stuart.

An excellent exhibition – a truly inspiring afternoon! Here are just a few of my favourites:

Wimbledon Art ShowWimbledon11Wimbledon Art ShowWimbledon Art ShowWimbledon2Wimbledon5Wimbledon9


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Terraced House Update

We’ve made major progress this week on a Cambridge terraced house, where we have already removed walls and a chimney breast and are now building an extension. The final supporting beam has gone in, enabling us to knock through and incorporate the side alley at the back of the house in a spacious kitchen/diner.

Within the next couple of weeks the extension will be completed, new windows and doors installed and work will begin on the finishing process.

Preparing for Steel Beam

Steel Beam

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Re-framing pictures

My clients have some antique book plates that had previously been framed but were looking a bit tired and dated.  These pictures are of tremendous sentimental value as each Scottish landscape or street scene is one they have grown up with; recognised and loved.

We grouped them according to location and had them re-framed by Robinsons of Haslingfield using a variety of antiqued black frames, sized to suit each picture. All the plates are now on conservation board, with conservation mounts and behind UV glass.

A couple of the pictures have a quadruple mount which gives them added depth and interest.  We hung them this morning and they add a really personal touch to this lovely home.

Pictures of Ayr

Cloakroom pictures

Quadruple Mount

Kitchen Design


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Kitchen Design

It always amazes me how varied people are. I’m currently working on two different designs for large kitchen/diners and the needs of the two families could not be more different. This is what makes my job so interesting :)

When designing a kitchen I try to understand the occupants of the house and how they live their lives. I therefore start by asking lots of questions; the answers help me determine how the space should be set out to best address the needs of the people who will be using it daily.

More than any other room in the house, lifestyle affects a kitchen layout. A kitchen should be designed to suit the clients’ specific needs, rather than to fit the shape of the room, or just to look attractive.  

This is particularly important now with the trend to larger open plan kitchen-dining-living arrangements; a large kitchen that is badly planned can be a constant irritant, and not just for the cook. 


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Terraced House Transformation

We’ve started work in earnest this week on a small but pretty terraced house in Cambridge. We've removed a wall and a redundant chimney breast to create a large family living room out of two small sitting rooms. The next phase is to extend into the side alley at the back of the house, then knock through into the existing narrow kitchen.

The end result will be a spacious kitchen/diner with French doors into the garden, and 1/2 glazed double doors leading into this sitting room. Light, bright and modern.

The family have moved out for a few months while we transform their cramped house into a super new home.

Joining two small sitting rooms

knocking through

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Curtis Jere Trees Sculpture

We’ve just hung this 1960s Curtis Jere sculpture in a Hertfordshire barn. The skeletal form of the trees perfectly reflects the open winter landscape that surrounds this rural barn conversion.  The warm lustre of the metal provides a focal point for the sitting room, and will dance in the light of the open fire below.

Curtis Jere is the signature name of Curtis Freiler and Jerry Fels. These two artists combined in the 1960s to found Artisan House, their original goal being to produce gallery-quality art for the masses. Under Freiler's meticulous direction, the workers sheared, crimped, torched and welded brass, copper and other metals before coating them with luminous patinas, resurrecting lost techniques in the process.

Today these pieces are highly collectable, attracting the admiration of leading dealers in vintage chic.

Curtis Jere Trees

Curtis Jere signature

Kitchen Extension


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Kitchen Extension

We have recently completed a kitchen/diner/utility room in a 1980s house. The kitchen was previously rather dark and cluttered, so my clients wanted a light modern kitchen and were willing to consider extending. The extension has given them a compact working area and separate dining zone with uninterrupted views over their lovely garden.

The kitchen units were hand-built, with extra deep drawers to maximise use of the space. The colour combinations of ivory, charcoal and varying shades of muted greys contrasts well with the oak windows and bamboo floor, and the clients’ own collection of red glass and china.

We also designed and made a hand-painted dresser for the dining area to complement an antique table which the clients intend to use.

Kitchen layout

Dresser & garden extension

Wall & base units

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Terraced House Kitchen

We’ve just completed the kitchen layout plans for an extension in a Victorian terraced house in Cambridge. As with many terraced houses there is a long narrow kitchen at the back of the house, and a long, narrow, unattractive alleyway alongside it. We’re knocking through into the alley on the ground floor and building a small extension (5 metres x 1 metre) with velux windows; this will widen the space and enable us to create a large, light and airy family kitchen/diner.

Work on the extension starts next week.

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New project - Georgian Farmhouse

sitting room rug

I’ve just taken on a new project – a winter sitting room in a lovely Georgian farmhouse. The room is dominated by an enormous red brick inglenook fireplace. It is rather dark at present so the aim is to create a light but cosy and comfortable sitting room. Our starting point is this beautiful rug; we’ll pick out one or two of the colours and pull together an eclectic mix of textiles to create that timeless English country house look. 

Attic Shower Room


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Attic Shower Room

We’re putting the finishing touches to a tiny en-suite shower room in a grade II* thatched cottage. The project has been quite a challenge as the room is tiny; as it’s built into the eaves the ceiling height is very restricted. However, we’ve managed to install a 1400 x 800mm shower tray with bespoke frameless glass doors, which feels really light and spacious.

We’ve also created lots of storage by building white high gloss units which make use of every nook and cranny. We’ve used Avonite, a highly practical material as it’s impervious to water. By polishing the units to a high gloss and using large matt white tiles elsewhere we’ve created a room which looks light, bright and uncluttered.

Take a look at the pictures below:

frameless shower screen

basin unitstorage

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Paul Lemmon - artist

I've been working with Wimbledon artist Paul Lemmon, trying out a selection of paintings for a very large dining / living / reception room. Paul's paintings are magnificent - deeply textured, rich and vibrant, fun and quirky. I knew they would be perfect for this situation. My clients are very sociable people and entertain a lot - they love Paul's themes of relaxed eating and drinking.  Having seen the paintings in situ they decided to commission a slightly smaller version of "Much too Much" which will make a really dramatic focal point - perfect for this huge space. "Let Them Talk" looks great in the sitting area too.

Much too Much

Let them Talk

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Cambridge Entrance Hall

Today we installed the beautiful Cymbidium lamp in an entrance hall in Cambridge. A limited edition piece, it’s designed and created by Jeremy Cole of New Zealand;  hand sculpted slivers of bone china in the shape of an orchid, within a simple glass vessel, and lit from below to create an ethereal image. Set on the Flute console table (Decorus) and reflected in a plain antiqued glass mirror it looks absolutely stunning, as you can see. A lovely welcome home after a hard day at the office.

Cymbidium Lamp


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Worktops in Cambridgeshire

Today we installed Silestone work tops in a kitchen we've designed and made for a newly built extension in Bourn. The cemento spa is a warm deep grey and complements the lagoon faux carrara marble on the island unit. Both surfaces are in a leather finish - akin to a honed stone but very practical. Almost finished...

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Hertfordshire Barn Conversion

We've just installed the beautiful Paul Weinstein Sunburst sculpture (1970s) and a huge antiqued glass mirror in a Hertfordshire barn. The mirror is composed of varying sized panels of antiqued and foxed mirror glass, some panels darker and more aged than others. It reflects the imposing structure of this ancient timber barn in a muted way. The Sunburst is just over one metre in diameter and makes a striking centrepiece between the two Porta Romana wall lights.

Antique MirrorPaul Weinstein Sunburst sculpture

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X Frame Table in Norfolk

Today we installed this X Frame table in a north Norfolk barn conversion.  The table measures almost 4 metres in length, seating 14-16 comfortably. The base was hand forged and finished with an iron paste, giving it a rich lustre. The chunky oak top was bleached to this lovely pale silvery-grey and nature oiled. We're allowing it to dry out naturally so it will split and warp and develop its own unique character. The materials work well with the natural grey and charcoal tones in the traditional brick and flint walls of this lovely building.

X Frame Table