Creating Change; A Retrospective & Becoming International

So it’s been a long time since I’ve written to you.  It’s been in the back of my mind to check in and let you know how things are going but honestly, this last year has been so break neck that I’ve been consumed with just keeping the machine going in the right direction!

A quick synopsis for anyone that needs it! At the end of 2017 I resolved to move fully into interior design. I had been doing projects for a number of years but more as a sideline. I didn’t account at the time for how quickly this would happen for me and by January I found myself spending most of my days working on a variety of projects that came knocking on my door. In the first half of 2018 the pendulum swung fully in the direction of interiors and my retro furniture business had to take a back seat(I had set this up in 2015).  Of course, due to my compulsive addiction to furniture buying I wasn’t able to give it up completely! I just didn’t have the time to market my pieces like I used to. I also had to give up doing vintage furniture fairs because I found I was working weekends also on the interior design.

My first year in interior design hasn’t perhaps been the usual experience in that I had geared myself up for people wanting advice and guidance on how to do their rooms up and what I actually got was people asking me if I’d be able to do their entire house.  Literally ‘here are the keys, send me mood boards and then get on with it’. So from the word go I was nose deep in working with all the trades, project managing whole house conversions and renovations and having creative control over the ‘look’. All of this I had done before on my own projects but nothing prepares you for the level of anxiety that doing it for someone else invokes(see all my blogs that focus on mindfulness!). 

By July I had completed 3 whole house renovations and a number of lighter touch projects.  The sands shifted again in the second half of the year when I was asked to come on board with a larger scale commercial project. I had worked commercially in the past but this one was unusual in that the company brought me on board at the same time as the build commenced. Normally I would have expected to have several months of preparation time for something like that. Talk about thinking on your feet! 

That commercial project over ran and took all of my time up until leaving for my holiday in New York in early November. I had a chance over there to reflect on what the year had thrown at me and came to the realisation that I’d love the opportunity to diversify with the work I do, allow it to take me across borders and dare I say make use of the 4 languages I speak.. I resolved to become an international interior designer. I mean, why not?

Of course you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs so I knew that there would have to be a few changes and some decisions had to be taken in order to open this new avenue up for me. The trouble with doing the job that I do, is that there is no blue print for it. There are no manuals that tell you how to succeed in your career. If you are a teacher, then there are thousands of books you can buy that will help you create the correct flight path for your career with handy hints and tips along the way. For interior designers that also run vintage furniture companies? Not so much!

So I decided to take the bull by the horns and do what I always do in these situations- just make it the fuck up and roll with it. Step one was to ease the pressure with the retro furniture side of the business. I knew I couldn’t commit any longer to the amount of time it took to run the company successfully online but I also knew I couldn’t bear to give it up so I compromised, got a showroom and now open it once a week to the local community (12-3 Saturdays , M16 0BP. Come say hi!-shameless plug). 

Step two was to put everything in place to be able to work continentally. My fiancee, who is also my business partner and I talked at length about where we wanted our careers to go and where we wanted to spend our time from now on, and with one eye on the political situation in the UK at the moment decided that actually now is the time for audacious moves. Tickets booked we set off to find a location abroad that would work as a base for us when we weren’t in Britain.

After 5 months of negotiation and MANY emails we are finally a week away for receiving the keys for our foreign investment. I’m so excited for the future and what it might bring. I feel I’ve created the opportunity now for my interior design to hopefully continue flourishing in the UK and also over the coming years on the continent and worldwide. I’ll maintain a base in Manchester, allowing me to carry on with all my projects and clients over here whilst raising my profile abroad and having a bloody good time whilst doing it!

I hope that you, and many more will come with me on this new journey and that in the fullness of time maybe some of you might even like to come over there and stay with us. There is plenty room for everyone and in the next week over on my instagram I’ll be sharing images and info about what it is we have bought exactly.

Kitchen Update Project

Hi all! It’s been quite a while since I’ve done an interior design related blog and so apologies to those of you that expected more of them from me at the time. The past year has been so busy for me that the little head space I found I had left at the end of my day was taken up with trying to practice mindfulness. This is why my updates have really focussed on that.

At any rate, here I am and I’m about to give my kitchen a bit of a going over, so I thought what better time to get back in contact with you and let you in on what I’m planning! How the fuck are you all? I’m good.

So last week I visited New York. As you do over there, you spend a lot of time in subways staring at walls. Unlike the rest of the world, when I do this, my mind wanders in all kinds of directions and I find myself making patterns out of what I see. One particular morning I saw a dark (damp stained I suspect!) wall with a flash of purple running across it (God knows what that was), broken up by a crisp white tile. Being me I suddenly realised and understood I must return to my kitchen posthaste and recreate this mess in my own home. Don’t ask.

 Just down there, just down where the black bit begins.
Just down there, just down where the black bit begins.

So later on that day and with the help of a vino or three, a realisation came to light. This year I have been really getting excited about Christmas. I can’t really ever remember feeling that way about the season so I’m embracing it. Thinking more about it though I started to dig into the whole idea behind Christmas decoration, how people put tinsel and trees up that last for a week or two (or three months if you’re really committed), we’ll decorate for events but not for seasons. Even though it costs less than £100 to redecorate a room on a budget and may take a day or two out of your life, we just don’t commit in that way to our interior.

I’m not saying that’s wrong or anything, at the end of the day we are busy people with lives to lead. All I really am saying here is, if you have the time and a bit of spare cash, and the inclination takes you, then why not pick up a cheeky can of new paint every six months or so and change your rooms up? I’m planning on having winter and summer colour schemes from now on I think. I may get carried away with work and so this may not be something that I can stick to in every room all the time but I’m certainly not sticking anymore to that idea that once a room is done, it’s done.

 My kitchen currently.
My kitchen currently.

So basically what I’m saying here is I’m taking the influence of the time of year and using that to direct the room that needs decorating at the moment, and that is the kitchen. I’m taking the ideas I got in that subway for dark, warm shades and crisp white and translating that into the black kitchen units I already have and oak worktop with white metro tiles and adding deep, deep, berry tones with flashes of brass and greenery. I’ve put together a cheeky mood board for you.

Because the room is part of an open plan scheme, i’ll be taking aspects of it and running them into the dining area next. I’ve picked a completely different shade for in there, which once again will either be fabulous or a total disaster. GO HARD OR GO HOME!

If you follow my instagram and check my stories over the next week or so you’ll see all the updates.

I like chatting with you, so let me know your ideas and responses to my blog.

Things That Go Bump In The Night.

 The view from the kitchen in our old house in the sky.
The view from the kitchen in our old house in the sky.

So before we took on our money pit, we lived in a brand new, bought off plan duplex apartment in the city centre. The type of place I refer to as a ‘laminated shoebox’.  It was characterless (when I arrived but not by the time I had finished with it!) but it was full of right angles, dry floors and rooms that heated to expected temperatures.  Then we bought Heywood House, our current Edwardian semi on the edge of Chorlton, and by edge I mean no where near but gets nearer when drunk and talking to strangers.

On day one, hour one, the boiler wouldn’t start. Turns out the gas had been capped because the place had been derelict for so long. This took many engineers and a lot of money to work out. On day two the boiler spat the dummy and stopped doing the usual stuff boilers like doing.

This went from 1 engineer saying it would take 60 quid to two engineers charging 180 quid after a buttload of head scratching, looking around, trying to work out how much money we had and what would be a feasibly large bill to land us with that wouldn’t result in refusal to pay at all. Frankly at that point in time had they said I would have to sell my sole to the devil for working heating I would have signed on the line before the sentence was finished. I was genuinely starting to wonder what the hell I had let myself In for at this stage.

Cut to a month later, and the building work has started.  I go down to the basement one day, or what I laughingly referred to as my ‘work shop’, and it’s full of water, as in literally about a foot high.  It was at this point that I realised the previous owner for reasons that I don’t want to know had tiled the walls of said basement but only down to precisely where the water now triumphantly licked their edges. Known problem. Can’t believe it didn’t click when we were viewing it before purchase. Fast forward a few months and after many, many interesting and sometimes quite eventful conversations with First Utilities, they eventually agree that they are responsible for this all and fit a ‘no return valve’ on the drain. Problem solved and will to live lost ever so slightly more.

 It was with great, almost fevered delight that we realised all the fireplaces were still working.
It was with great, almost fevered delight that we realised all the fireplaces were still working.

The hours of dialogue involved in fixing all the stuff above must run into days by now I would have thought, although in all fairness they pale in comparison to the amount of time that we, our immediate and extended family, friends and sometimes vague acquaintances have discussed….the temperature in the house. Honest to God, I cannot tell you how prominently this issue features when you buy an old house. Ours is not a particularly large 4 bed but it does have 23 windows and three doors – one being a patio set. That is a lot of opportunity for heat to escape right there.

 Nestled just down in the right hand corner is Alexa. The teller of the temperature.
Nestled just down in the right hand corner is Alexa. The teller of the temperature.

 

 

 

 

 

To begin with we didn’t notice it so much because we were renovating and so basically confined to the miserable life you lead when in this position which basically entails living in your bed or scrambling over things to get to the shower. It was more after the noise finally calmed and the builders had left and winter arrived the following year that we began to, slowly at first, and then in ever decreasing circles start to obsess about how warm it was in the house. We bought a Hive thermostat system so we could remotely check how warm it was in the house. Sometimes from the other side of the world, when we weren’t even in the fucking house or likely to be for days or weeks. We began frantically stock piling wood and coal for the burner. You know, just in case the temperature dips. Eventually it was beginning to cause RSI having to check the thermostat constantly so we bought an Alexa who allowed us to  just ask her instead ‘Alexa, what temperature is it inside?’. More often than not at Heywood House this will lead to immediate scrambling for things to burn and/or accusations of carelessly long opening of front doors etc causing said ‘dip’. Most recently we spent hundreds of pounds hanging a set of curtains over the entrance to the living area. The entrance we paid thousands and thousands of pounds to create.  You know, just to keep the heat in. Ah the joys of breezy old houses.

 

Breezy old houses have another quirk of course. Noise.  Noises. Queer, sharp claps and creaks. Groans and bangs. Clicks and taps.  Mostly taking place in the dead of night. When your over active brain is already desperately looking for any reason at all to convince you that death in imminent and there is evidence to suggest it will come in the form of an ax murderer who has likely entered through one of the gaping holes between the windows and walls created by the water entering in the basement. Ah the noises. For the first few months I didn’t sleep alone in the house. Because beforehand we had lived on the 4th floor of a gated entry building with security guard present (when he could be fucked), I was suddenly very aware of our 20+ points of entry and total lack of boundary fence – see the blogs on the garden. It took a while. It took a while also to get used to the noises. In fact two years later this morning as I lay in bed at 6.30am thinking about what to write a blog on as my other half showered I realised how much of these noises I now no longer pay attention to as one by one they present themselves. I’m far too preoccupied with temperature to be honest.

Finding & Creating Mid Century Influenced Planters

So I’m at that stage where I need to begin sourcing containers for the ridiculously large amount of seeds that I have been propagating and I’ve been astounded at how difficult it is to find reasonably priced, aesthetically pleasing planters that fit my remit.  Basically I want clean lines, with interesting textures at a price that won’t make eyes water.  

One thing that running a mid century furniture store has taught me is that a genuine outdoors planter that has survived the past 60+ years is as rare as a hens tooth. For this reason I’ll be blending new with old in our outside space. 

If you’re prepared to spend upwards of 400 quid per effing planter then I’ve got very good news for you; the UK market is awash with companies that are more than prepared to extort you of your cash. Literally the general price for large plastic pots is in the region of £450.00.  For plastic pots. Plastic. Pots.

Rant over. So I have been beavering away on the net trying to find an interesting array of pieces that will both add to the architecture of the outside space by varying in height, width and texture and also provide stimulation in the winter months when mostly everything organic effectively either looks dead or has had to be protected in the polytunnel (damn my intense desire to try and create a tropical garden in freezing Manchester).

One thing that I am passionate about is repurposing items when and where I can.  I grow all my veg in troughs made from free pallets. Recently I got my hands on an epic 1 metre square pallet box for free which made me very happy. My plan for it is to buy some interesting sheet metal and cover the piece in it.  This will be my first foray into cutting sheet metal so that should be interesting if not highly dangerous!

 I’ll most likely use Cortex to create this interesting array of shades that will grow as the garden does over the years.
I’ll most likely use Cortex to create this interesting array of shades that will grow as the garden does over the years.

 

 

Without further ado now, I introduce you to my top choices for mid century influenced planters, that are reasonably priced and not vile. If you click on the images, the wonder of modern technology will show you where you can source them.

I’m a bit in love with this bamboo influenced pot which for us will marry up our bamboo floor with the outdoors.  At any rate, it’s a reasonably priced aesthetically pleasing piece to my eyes.

Again, another interesting texture and nice clean lines that will draw the eye to the main feature whilst contributing to the architecture of the area.

For a splash of psychadelic realness how about these fun pots for the very underrated Homebase?  Could they be any cheaper!?

Lets be clear, if you can manage to get your hands on one of these puppies I will hate you.  I have spent several months traveling like a gypsy from store to store in vain hope. Come on Homebase – MAKE MORE!

Adding height to the arrangement, this metal planter is ideal for creating year round light in the garden and also with all that battered surface unlikely to be something that slugs will want to traverse.

 

 

Creeping slight up the price scale, but still affordable is the Palmo bowl. Ideal for acheiving that LA cool feel and such a fantastic colour.

There’s no escaping that larger will mean more expensive, but at under 150 quid, the Lince Dove Grey pot is excellent value for money and definitely a purchase I’m making.

The Daniel bowl is so reminiscent of that atomic era obsession with all things UFO shaped, and with it’s wide floor coverage it’s a piece that will add real depth to your arrangement.

So there we have it folks, these are my top contenders for planting vessels in the outdoor area.  I’d love to hear about your finds!

 

 

 

Creating the Right Structure for the Mid Century Inspired Garden

Spring is around the corner, or so I tell myself every day when I open the curtains and am greeted by yet more cold and drizzle.  I’ve been busy planting oodles of seeds from an array of sunflowers, gazanias and lobelia to the fodder for our newly erected poly tunnel.  Courgettes, 6 varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, two types of peas, broad beans, cayenne, bell peppers, sweetcorn, coriander, spinach and rocket will start us off this year. 

Effectively however I suspect that the attention I have been spending on the poly tunnel has in part been due to my ambivalence over getting the structure of our mid century inspired garden right. If you haven’t been following the blog, we are basically creating a garden out of what was a tarmac car park. However, after some further work on decking this past weekend, and in-depth discussions over time, I think I’ve cracked it finally.

It felt really to me like there was always some key aspect to my plans missing in the designs I was coming up with for our garden and I think this was reflected in the height that I was hoping to achieve though the planting that I aimed to have.  Standing back from the project with fresh eyes over the winter season it became clear that actually we have an opportunity to create quite a striking architectural feature along the rear end of the garden.  

This will have several different functions, firstly it will bring together the three distinct areas that have been created and guide you through the design in stages, but also it will provide that consistency to the look of the area as the seasons change and the bountiful summer gives way to the barren land that winter provides.  This structure aims to clearly define each area against the back wall almost as a distinct room, but then also from a distance speak a language that tips the cap in a very humble way towards the Huf Haus or the work of Miles van Der Rohe. 

At 10 metres in length by 3 in depth, it’s not going to be a diminutive structure, and adding to this that I plan to paint the entire thing black this is the kind of thing that will either make or break the design. EEEK!

Currently this is where the garden stands in terms of progress.  

 

The new decking that was laid over the weekend will be treated but remain pretty much the shade that it currently is.

  This area will have a hanging chair, like the one available in our online store currently and this bargainous set of garden furniture available now in Asda, U.K. for under £90.00 in the teal blue.

  The central area will have a 3 metre long waist height herb planter along the boundary wall with either white pebbles on the floor or potentially a tiled area.  In front of this the plan is to place a water feature of some description, but the court’s still out on that one!

 The aim within this area is to create a corridor between the dining area and the evening terrace that will be multi sensory with trickling water and heady herb scents.
The aim within this area is to create a corridor between the dining area and the evening terrace that will be multi sensory with trickling water and heady herb scents.

 

The dining area is all but complete now, although still requires the brickwork to be secured.  The bricks you see here are actually the ones I salvaged from the removal of our dining room wall.

 The current furniture is our stop gap stuff.  I fancy getting my hands on a large slab of marble for the final table.
The current furniture is our stop gap stuff.  I fancy getting my hands on a large slab of marble for the final table.

 

So what will this towering mega structure look like that effectively will house our social area, well similar in style and feel to this. 

 

Quite a minimalist pergola using a chunky enough timber that the over all sense is of strength but not so much as to over power the delicacy of the Wisteria and grape vine that will eventually meander their way across it.

 

The final design of this structure is in negotiation, however I aim for it to be in place ideally by April in order to also create the lawn area where you can currently see rubble and the poly tunnel (which will be repositioned to the side of the property). 

 I like the angles and feel of this structure over head.
I like the angles and feel of this structure over head.

 

Alongside the plans I have for this structure, I’m finding one other key area of tension and that’s sourcing aesthetically pleasing minimalist, reasonably priced, planters.  Big planters that can host my Gunnera Manicata, Banana Tree and Alocasia Calidora.  So far I have turned my attention elsewhere in order to source suitable vessels and this includes salvaging a pallet tub and a bed frame both of which I hope to clad in sheet metal. I’ll look further into my progress with these in future blogs.

 

As always your comments are very much welcomed.

Mid Century Garden Update

Well here I am 4 months after my last blog about creating a mid century inspired garden, and by god has it been an uphill struggle.  It would be ace at this stage to be able to upload loads of pictures of my effortlessly cool, well landscaped and inspirational outside living space, but frankly I suspect I’m at least one year away from that.  So, instead I thought I would show you a before and after of the current situation out there!  

 

When we first purchased last October, the house had been a set of bedsits which had laid empty for some time so in terms of landscaping or established plant stock we were basically at page 1 of an empty book.

 The house was pretty much a scratch and sniff of bad DIY decisions and poor upkeep.
The house was pretty much a scratch and sniff of bad DIY decisions and poor upkeep.

 

The rear side of the house had a feral concrete garage with asbestos roof, and what would be a garden had been covered in asphalt to create a car park.  Nice!

 

Where do you start with this?   Well stage 1 was to create a space directly outside our new kitchen patio doors (so as to stop ourselves from falling out of the house every time we stepped out)

 We went for an 8m by 6m decked area with raised beds.
We went for an 8m by 6m decked area with raised beds.

 

 

Really this is still at stage one, it is yet to have a slanted timber roof attached from which I plan to hang a wicker chair.  This area works well for herb and tomato growing I have found. I think Id like to go several shades darker on the flooring here to get a better match to the bamboo floor in the kitchen. But it’s a good start I think.

 

Stage two was to create some kind of vegetable growing area, for which the location was determined by the patterns of the sun.  For this reason I have placed it to the right of the front door.  Again I have painted the planters blue black as part of a plan to keep the area as monochrome as possible in terms of structures.  Incidentally can you spot the repurposed bed base?  All the other planters were made out of disused crates.  Literally this area cost me just over £30 to make.

 The plan will be to surround this area with mid century inspired trellis.
The plan will be to surround this area with mid century inspired trellis.

 

Stage three was the removal of the garage, which we have put together into a snappy little video for you.  This was a bit of a landmark occasion for us and will now allow us to go ahead and put up the boundary fence.  In an ideal world I would like a skimmed wall to surround the area, but realistically this won’t be feasible and so we’ll be going for a 6ft feather edged fence possibly also painted blue back.

 

After the fence, I’ll be focusing on creating an outside dining space using the existing foundations of the garage area, which now looks like this.

 

It’s a long road, I’m just trying to focus on building capacity for those mid century lines and curves that I have in my minds eye.

Thoughts and opinions are always welcome!

Need a Builder?

 

 

 

On the Homes Rahe Stress inventory, renovating your home in fact only appears at number 28 in the list. Although the more savvy of us will be aware that any stage of the act could in fact propel you straight into first place of ‘death of a spouse’ with just the flick of a colour chart.

 

I have renovated.  Have you renovated?  It’s such an idealistic notion isn’t it?  I mean at the end of the day, we all watch Grand Designs and I am totally familiar with George Clarke’s moon face and determination to be the most Sunderlandish person ever born.  I’ll be honest and say at times I can’t even fathom what he’s actually saying. 

 

Any one can renovate can’t they? If you’re in a relationship then it’ll be even easier won’t it – because there’s two of you to shoulder the load isn’t there.  Just be prepared – have a contingency plan, order everything ahead and get a good builder. Get a good builder.  Easy enough.

 

Two months of consistent arguing about what kind of bidet tap to order.  One solid week of shrieking about why anyone would actually want a fucking bidet. Objects thrown over ‘someones’ idea of having slate window cills (yes that someone was me and yes I stand by the decision). Generic, consistent, discontent at pretty much all decisions for one reason or another. Chippy dinners for two full weeks due to no functioning kitchen, leading to extreme wall climbing and possible rickets. Everything covered in dust leading to the daily Catherine Wheel bicker match which normally will result in one giant mud slinging contest.  Yes, it’s easy enough.  Renovate a house – they do it all the time on Grand Designs.

 

What you don’t see on Grand Designs is all the epic editing that is required to make it appear like the couple are still able to be in the same room as each other at the end of it all. We were lucky, and that’s all I can describe it as.  We managed to find a middle ground that allowed us to either a) agree to disagree on decisions that would then allow us to progress with the build or b) kick up such a cavalcade of discontent that by the end of it we couldn’t actually remember what had started the drama in the first place by which point our builder would have just made the decision for us.

A slate cill is a good idea.  Repeat until you agree.

Yes, renovating truly is wonderful.  Of course, as I sit here in my luxurious palace now sheathed in marble and Swarovski, whilst my wild cats languidly pace their gilt cages I realise that it has all been worth it.  Not really – it’s all a lot more Scandinavian with the odd cow hide but it has of course been worth it. Would I do it again?  Not without the right builder.  We were exceptionally fortunate to find someone that was human and not a liar; rare traits from my experience. Apologies to all those exceptional builders out there that have the morals of Mother Theresa – In the words of Michael Bublé ‘ I just haven’t met you yet’.  I’m not the kind to give advice.  Let me give you some advice; get the right builder if you are going to dip your toe into the hell ocean of doing a place up.  Indeed – get my builder if you need one and you’re local to me.  Also, get wine.  Lots and lots of wine.  Lots and lots and lots of wine.