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 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.

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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.

Omega1

Stained glass roundel by Roger Fry for Omega Workshops

Omega2

The Omega Workshops transformed English interior design

Omega3

Semi abstract paintings on furniture were revolutionary at the time

Omega4

Rug collaboration by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant

Omega5

Semi abstract patterns on textiles

Omega6

Omega7

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

Omega8

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

Omega9

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

Omega10

"Bathers screen" - Vanessa Bell

Omega12

Duncan Grant's studio/sitting room

Omega13

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

Barcelona1

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

Barcelona4

The Barcelona chair makes its mark on an all white scheme

Barcelona5

Black Barcelona chairs in a contemporary sitting room

Barcelona6

These white Barcelona chairs look stunning against a period backdrop

Barcelona8

A typical mid-century scene with Barcelona chairs and stool

Barcelona9

Barcelona chairs work beautifully with these ethnic rugs and carvings

Barcelona10

A peaceful place for contemplation

Barcelona11

Tan leather Barcelona chairs balance the warmth of the wood furniture

Barcelona12

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

Barcelona13

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
handle3
 
 
Bin cabinet pulls in dark bronze
Handle1
 
 
Polished chrome cup handle
handle2
 
Cut glass catches the light
handle4
 
 
Inlaid semi-precious bar handles
handle5
 
 
 
Antique brass segment handles
handle6
 
 
Rustic forged bar pulls
handle7
 
 
 
Complementary bar and knob handles
handle8
 
Antique brass recessed pull handles
handle9
 
Chunky contemporary light bronze knobs
handle10
 
 
Polished nickel cabinet latch
handle11
 
 
Rustic brass pull handles
handle12

Opposites Attract

01
SEP2016

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Opposites Attract

This two-bedroom apartment is nestled in the old quarter of Hvar town, on the Croatian island of the same name. It sits within a tightly knit cluster of mediaeval buildings, characterised by picturesque narrow alleys where the creamy local limestone is punctuated by gothic windows. It's an great example of a sympathetic and stylish renovation; the classical features are retained yet the interior furnishings are chic and modern.

The soft hues and grainy texture of the stone walls have been sympathetically married with natural oak floorboards, limestone sills and cool white plaster. In stark contrast, the modish kitchen units are sharply styled in ebonised wood, with yellow gloss laminate as accent.

It's a brilliant blend of old and new and so refreshing to discover bold splashes of canary yellow inside a mediaeval building! Wisely, the use of such a striking colour is sparing; these bold accents are complemented by teal coloured rugs and casual sofas against cool white plaster. The result is a delightful celebration of contemporary fusion style, cleverly incorporating simple and traditional materials such as forged iron, hammered metal, natural fibres (linen sheets, cotton rugs and cushions) alongside glass doors and laminated gloss shelves and cupboards.

The furnishings have individuality, flair and character giving a boutique feel. It all makes for a fun and charming holiday apartment.

The gothic windows typical in the old quarter

The gothic windows typical in the old quarter

Quirky touches

Quirky touches

Relaxed and comfortable

Relaxed and comfortable

The master bedroom

The master bedroom

A glimpse into the guest room

A glimpse into the guest room

Modern kitchen against the old stone walls

Modern kitchen against the old stone walls

A welcome splash of yellow

A welcome splash of yellow

Modern chic doesn't overwhelm

Modern chic doesn't overwhelm

Glossy laminated shelves contrast with the old stone

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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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Are You Sitting Comfortably?

Cushions perform a vital role in interior design, but not just for aesthetic reasons. They are essential, particularly in a sitting room or bedroom, for a truly relaxed and comfortable seating experience. 

Cushions date back as far as the early Middle Ages, their purpose being entirely functional; to provide support and comfort on a hard or angled seat. 

People come in all shapes and sizes so if the depth of a chair or sofa is perfect for one member of the family it's highly likely that it isn't ideal for everyone else. What suits someone with short legs, a long torso or a large bottom won't necessarily suit everyone else, yet we often need to share the same piece of furniture. 

We also choose to arrange ourselves in different ways for ultimate relaxation, some prefer to lounge or semi-lie on a sofa rather than sit. The possibilities are endless! A well placed cushion or two can make all the difference, so it's important to have a selection of cushions in different shapes and sizes that can be tucked into the small of the back for extra support, or large enough to actually lounge into. This is just as important when you are sitting up reading in bed as watching tv. 

We use top quality feather and down cushions that are densely stuffed so they hold their shape well. And of course cushions provide a welcome splash of colour pattern or texture so they can enliven any design scheme. That's the fun part of them! 

Here are some of our current favourites: 

Embroidered Cushions - Niki Jones

Embroidered cushions - Niki Jones

Floral scatter cushions - Missoni

All shapes and sizes - Missoni

Natural wool cushion - The Good Shepherd

Natural wool cushion - The Good Shepherd

Ethnic elements - De le Cuona 

Ethnic elements - De Le Cuona 

Grand Salon Seating

Functional scatter cushions - Grand Salon Seating 

Zig Zag cushion - Paul Smith

Zig Zag cushion - Paul Smith 

Crewelwork cushions - Niki Jones

Crewelwork cushions - Niki Jones 

Cat cushion - Rose de Borman

Cat cushion - Rose de Borman 

Tribe cushion - The Original Cushion Company

Tribe - The Original Cushion Company

Silk Ikat cushions - Sofa.com

Silk Ikat cushions - Sofa.com

Shalford - The Original Cushion Company

Shalford - The Original Cushion Company 

Scatter Cushions - Boeme

Artwork cushions - Boeme 

 

 

 

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You Can't Beat a Beautiful Rug...

Rugs are often an important part of an interior design scheme, and for a variety of reasons, both practical and aesthetic. Wood and stone floors are beautiful, but there are also places where it's simply more comfortable to have something soft and warm underfoot.

In a living or drawing room a rug can be a valuable focal feature; indeed an interesting rug is often the most prominent item in the room and a patterned or multi-coloured rug can pull together a myriad of different colours or styles. Conversely sometimes something calm and contemplative is required, with exquisite textural qualities or subtle aesthetic detail.

In a large open plan space, one or more rugs can be used to define and separate sitting and dining  areas, though it is best to avoid having two strong "feature" rugs competing for centre stage. Their textural depth and softness helps absorb sound waves in any scheme with a large expanse of hard flooring.

An antique or traditional hand-woven rug will complement a classic scheme, but can work equally well in a contemporary setting. Vice versa, a contemporary rug can provide a real lift to a period home and many work startlingly well when juxtaposed with antiques, particularly geometrics. This applies in all areas of the home, from entrance halls to bedrooms, kitchens and even bathrooms.

Classic rugs like Berbers, Ikats and Kilims are timeless and will never go out of fashion and there are currently some fun recycled traditional styles, such as this vintage patchwork from the Handmade Rug Company. In the Erased Heritage collection for Front London Jan Kath has used a process to deliberately wear and age rugs which are then re-dyed, with striking artistic re-interpretation; these will surely become contemporary classics.

Other rug designers are using traditional techniques in contemporary colours and materials to create an exciting new genre of statement rugs; we love the zany Kaya hand-tufted rug from A Rum Fellow, and Stark's Synthesis Jubilee from the Nairamat Tibetan Collection.

Here are some of our current favourites, rugs that we've recently purchase or considered including in projects for our clients:

 

Karl Popper - Luke Irwin

Rug KarlPopper

Claudius Poppy - Luke Irwin

Rug MosaicCollection

Mamounia Sky for Rug Company - Martyn Lawrence Bullark

Rug MamouniaSky

Branches in Sky - Tania Johnson

Rug Branches_in_sky

Kilim Runner - Liberty London

Kilim Liberty

Synthesis Jubilee

Rug Nair

Maze II - Jennifer Manners

Rug JenManners

Vintage Patchwork Rug - Handmade Rug Company

Rug VintagePatchwork

Erased Heritage - Front London

Rug Erased_Heritage

Erased Heritage - Jan Kath

Rug Erased_Heritage11

A Rum Fellow - Kaya

Rug Kaya

 Peacock Light - Matthew Williamson

Rug PeacockLight

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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.

Lovely!

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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How to Choose an Interior Designer

Good advice from Abigail Owens in an article for Houzz.com

 

 

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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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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

03
OCT2013

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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

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Interesting Antiques and Artefacts

At the weekend I visited Brighton for an interesting open studio - a collection of antiques, art,  mid century furniture and interesting artefacts. Everything was beautifully displayed by Alex MacArthur in an elegant 5 storey early 19th Century townhouse in Kemptown. 

I am always looking for unusual things so it's wonderful to visit these open house events to get inspiration and ideas for current projects.

Antique bed with old leather gym bench

Antlers

Wall light

Artefacts

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Design Series, Excel

I headed to the Excel exhibition centre for the last day of the Design Series show, which included lighting, interiors, and Kitchens, Bedrooms and Bathrooms.

It was good to see a number of small British companies winning awards for well-designed, good quality and stylish pieces of contemporary furniture and accessories, a lot with a nostalgic 50s feel, and heavily influenced by the Danish design school of that era; Invisible City, Deadgood, James.

Or perhaps that's what I noticed because I like this style so much? Check out the iconic Imeuble shelf unit from Bjorn Jorund Blikstad, below, and the Mensa table from Lazerian.

Excel 4

Mensa table

Excel 1

Invisible City

Excel 3

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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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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

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Barcelona penthouse hotel suite

This weekend we're staying in the luxurious Majestic hotel in Barcelona, in one of the penthouse suites, with an amazing view over this incredible city. This is not our normal habit, we tend to seek out boutique hotels with charm and character. However the hotel Murmuri had to transfer our booking to their sister hotel and we are being royally treated.

The rooms at the Majestic are elegantly furnished; light oak floors, marble skirtings, neutral colours, white and cream upholstery. Nothing terribly new there, but the lighting is clever; creating a cosy atmosphere with striking accents onto interesting features. For example, within the enormous marble bathroom there is a seperate shower room measuring around 4 square metres, again marble tiled, with rainshower head and diverter valves. There is a single recessed downlight washing light down one corner only, reinforcing my opinion that very little direct light is necessary in a shower. The same muted effects were present in the rest of the room, yet two wall lights mounted on the mirror generate all the light you need for practical purposes. Beautiful.

Bedroom suite

Marble bathroom

Attic Shower Room

09
FEB2013

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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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Copenhagen, Denmark

During a weekend in Copenhagen I visited the Danish Museum of Art & Design. It houses a fantastic collection of furniture and lighting by famous Danish designers Arne Jacobsen, Carl Hansen, Poul Henningsen and Kaare Klimt. I love the clean lines of these modern design classics.  Here's the Baker sofa by Finn Juhl, designed 1951, and looking as good today as it did 60 years ago.

Baker sofa by Finn Juhl

V&A Museum, London

29
SEP2012

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V&A Museum, London

To the V&A museum in London for the Thomas Heatherwick exhibition. Great to see the prototype for Seed Pod up so close - the detail is truly inspired. But most amazing was the design for the cauldron for the London Olympics - the aim was "to create a moment in time", an objective certainly accomplished.

London Olympics Cauldron

Delft, Netherlands

07
FEB2012

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Delft, Netherlands

In Delft, Netherlands for a long weekend. The Dutch are really stylish and love mixing old and new; beautiful 16th and 17th century townhouses along the canals showcase exciting contemporary furniture and lighting. The interiors shops are a delight. I loved these book and display cases from Van Waay & Soetekouw.

Delft, Display Unit

Delft, Shelves