Polished Concrete Floor; Should I or Shouldn't I?

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I was talking to someone over the weekend who really wanted to have a polished concrete floor in the new house they were building but had been put off by all the negatives she had heard about living day to day with a concrete floor.

As someone who has polished concrete floor in my own house and was a complete non negotiable when I was building my own place I was intrigued to hear what the perceived negatives were:

  • Its hard underfoot

  • Its cold

  • It stains easily

Now i’m not going to lie, it is hard underfoot if you are standing/walking about your home all day in bare feet like I do but this is the same with the flagstones I have in the older part of the property and is easily negated by using lots of rugs (although it is a bit of a shame to cover up the gorgeous concrete floor) or you can wear slippers around the house to provide some comfort. But realistically unless you are on your feet constantly in your home this isn’t too much of a problem.

The second con of it being cold, yes this would be the case if you didn’t have any underfloor heating but again this would also be the case if you laid flagstones or porcelain tiles. I wouldn’t recommend going down the polished concrete floor route if you aren’t having underfloor heating.

So does polished concrete stain? As someone who is incredibly clumsy I can assure you that a polished concrete floor is no more liable to staining than a wooden floor if sealed correctly. We didn’t seal the floor in the kitchen section (we have a 60msq of concrete in an open plan space broken up into 3 sections) we had planned to do it when we moved in and then life took over and we still haven’t done it. Even in this area we only have a couple of stains and this is from spilled fat, it seems to be the only substance that permeates it and believe me I have dropped numerous liquids on this floor. In the areas we did seal we have had no such problem, we made sure to seal with an oil based sealant so any liquid sits on top of the concrete and doesn’t seep through.I’ve dropped red wine onto this floor and there has been no staining!

Now after living with a polished concrete floor for 3 years I feel confident to let you know what the pros of having one are:

  • Its warm underfoot

  • It makes a space feel bigger

  • Its durable

  • Its easy to clean

Polished concrete floor and underfloor heating are natural bedfellows. In fact a thick pad of concrete is the best conductor for the heat. The concrete can take a bit of time to heat up the concrete but once it does it retains the heat incredibly well. This warmth also surprisingly provides a little softness underfoot too

By not having lots of grout lines as you would with tiles the concrete helps make the space feel bigger.

The concrete is incredibly durable, we walk across it in heels, muddy boots and we have to contend with claws from both a cat and a dog and it withstands it all.

Its also incredibly easy to keep clean, a quick brush and a mop will see you right

If you are laying a new screed as part of your build, having a concrete floor is a relatively cost effective option as you are needing to order concrete anyway but just adding a few sq metres extra. There is a lot of pre planning and prep if you are going to go down the diy route like we did as you need to make sure you order the correct grade of concrete and that there are no fibres in the mix. Then you need to make sure all hands are on deck the day it arrives to float it and get the ‘cream/fat’ to the top to give it that nice finish before it starts hardening. The most agonising aspect though is then covering it up for months and not knowing how its going to look until its fully hardened and by this point apart from polishing it up to get the sheen you want you are basically stuck with how it looks.

There are many companies offering this service out there now and if you are nervous about going down the diy route I would definitely suggest hiring someone professional to come and do the job.

So hopefully I have helped clear up any misconceptions over having a concrete floor and I would be really interested in hearing if you went for it. I love my polished concrete floor and so glad we went for it!

Grand Designs Magazine 2019

Did you know we were featured in the March issue of Grand Designs Magazine?

This was a very exciting moment for me as I have grown up watching Grand Designs and wanted to undertake a property renovation similar to those that you see in the magazines and TV shows so to be featured in the magazine was literally a dream come true.

For me Grand Designs is more than just about the interiors it’s about the whole house construction and interior design working together to create a home that works for you.

It was such an exciting day having the photographer here and getting to see our property, which we had painstakingly renovated with the help of builders, through other peoples eyes.

In the article we talk about what it was about the property that drew us to it, the little original gems we uncovered throughout the renovation and also the process we went through to get it finished.

Below are a few images of the magazine.

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The Olde Bell Hurley

The Olde Bell in Hurley is up there with one of the best hotels I have ever stayed in. Its an old coaching inn and the design is a contemporary take on the traditional coaching inn using British materials and furniture.

The interiors are designed by Ilse Crawford MBE from StudioIlse and provides a constant source of inspiration to me in my own projects.

The interior scheme has a very calm feel to it through the use of a restrained colour palette and the focus on lots of natural and tactile materials that appeal to all the senses. Its a great mix of traditional and classic pieces such as the Ercol armchairs and the modern high armchair and minimalist bed frame.

https://www.theoldebell.co.uk

Mood Board Inspiration

Green is such a calming colour in any interior scheme and it works really well alongside other tonal greens and also neutral colours inspired by nature. This board would be the perfect spring board for creating a modern textured scheme suitable for any interior.

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The 'What Kitchen Sink conundrum?'

So you are in the midst of designing and deciding what kitchen you want and the time comes to figure out what type of sink will go best with your design and you become slightly overwhelmed with the choices on offer and don’t know what the pros and cons of each are? Well worry no more as I am here to help you out of your sink quagmire with my easy and simple guide to sinks and the pros and cons of each so you can decide which one best suits your lifestyle.

Stainless Steel

This is probably the most popular choice for kitchen sinks and its not hard to see why when you look at its main attributes:

Heat resistant - Stainless steel is extremely heat resistant and you can safely place a searingly hot pan directly onto the surface of the stainless steel and not suffer any consequences

Impact resistant - This is perfect for those of us who are slightly clumsy and find your self dropping things in the sink as stainless steel is the most forgiving of all the sink materials on impact and its the least likely to damage your glass or china and whilst remaining relatively unscathed also.

Hygienic - There is a reason stainless steel is the top choice of materials of work surfaces and sinks for professional chefs as its a totally non porous surface that is easy to keep clean and is therefore the most hygienic. Its non porous characteristic also means that its the least likely to stain if you spill anything

Care

Cleaning- As a general rule neat bleach shouldn’t be used when cleaning a kitchen sink as the corrosive effect of the bleach can eventually damage the sink, being water soluble though if rinsed away immediately after you have cleaned the sink there shouldn’t be too much issue.

Scratches - Stainless steel will scratch but eventually these will eventually blend together into the overall finish of the sink

Plastic Washing up bowls - Its never really advisable to use a plastic washing up bowl in the sink as they can pick up grit and particles and the bottom of the bowl can act like sandpaper on the steel surface and leave an area of tiny scratches.

CERAMIC

One of the more traditional styles of sinks in the form of Belfast this style sink can look great in both modern and traditional kitchens.

Heat Resistant - ceramic is heat resistant up to 1200 degree centigrade so you can rest easy if you place your hot sink/pan straight into its surface

Hygienic - Non-porous, the smooth surface is one of the most hygienic sinks and is easy to keep clean.

Hardness - Extremely resistant to impact (if you have ever dropped a glass into one of these sinks you will know it comes off second best!) its so hard cutlery won’t scratch the surface through ‘normal’ every day use.

Care

Cleaning - Avoid abrasive cleaners as this will dull the surface. A dilute solution of bleach will maintain the shiny surface and keep it looking spotless.

GRANITE SINKS

Made up of natural quartz sand and an acrylic resin the granite sink has been specifically designed to cope with the demands of modern kitchen. This style sink lends itself to a more modern sleek style and as its man made can come in a variety of different colours.

Heat and Impact Resistant- Can withstand extremely high temperatures

Dirt/odour and stain repellant - A massive pro for the granite sink is the coating that is applied to the sink that means the it is dirt repellant and the sort simply runs off, this coating also means odour don’t line and is completely stain resistant.

Care

Cleaning - Avoid abrasive cleaners as this can eat away at the coating on the sink making it less resistant to stains. A dilute solution of bleach will be enough to keep it clean but it must be rinsed off to make sure no bleach is left on the surface.

By all means this list isn’t exhaustive and there are many ways other sink materials such as copper, corian, marble but without a doubt these are the 3 most popular and readily available sink materials that are on the market at the minute.

If you have any questions relating to your own kitchen design then please get in touch

Decorating with Mirrors

Using mirrors within your decorating scheme can help reflect light around a room, creates the illusion of space, adds a focal point to the room and can add a much needed hit of glamour, its fair to say that the humble mirror is a hardworking piece of decoration!

There are numerous ways you can add a mirror into your home, below I talk about a few different ways you can add them into your space. 

 

Fireplace/Mantel Mirrors

Adding a mirror over a mantel /fireplace is a very classic way of introducing a mirror into your room. It creates a focal point, bounces around lots of light and reflects back anything you happen to place on the mantel helping add depth to both the mantel and the room. If a mirror happens to be opposite a window or catches the light from a natural source it doubles the amount of light you have in the room which is great if your room is starved of much needed light. 

The bigger the mirror the more space it will create, however, you don't need to just hang one large mirror above a fireplace, you can achieve the same effect by hanging groups of mirrors together.

Hanging mirrors opposite each other

Hanging 2 mirrors opposite each other creates quite a dramatic effect in the room as they mirror the reflection in its opposite number and creates an illusion of depth and bounces lots of light around the room. Its a very traditional way of decorating and something you see quite a lot in stately homes and palaces, such as Versailles, as a way to increase the amount of light before the advent of electricity.  

 

Groups of mirrors

Hanging groups of mirrors together creates a dramatic feature in a room. This works best when all the mirrors have something in common, be that shape, frame colour or style. This style of hanging mirrors works best in an uncluttered space as it could feel a little too chaotic otherwise. By hanging lots of mirrors like this you again bounce lots of light around the room whilst also creating individual vignettes of your room in each mirror.

 

Reflective surfaces

You don't have to just stick to a traditional hung mirror in order to achieve a sense of space and create lots of light in your room, by using antique/smoked glass as a surround for your shower enclosure or by adding a wall of mirrors onto the front of your fitted wardrobes you can also achieve an illusion of space. 

 

The image below shows perfectly everything that I have been talking about in this post. They have cleverly used mirrors in the alcoves of the chimney breast to add a sense of depth to the room, it almost looks as though the mirrors aren't there and the room runs behind the chimney, they have also placed a light in front of the mirror which will help to bounce light around the room. Overall a fab and innovative use of mirrors to alter the perceived space.

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Although most of these images are of mirrors hung on the wall this isn't to say its the only way. Im a big fan of propping large mirrors against the wall on the floor as a piece of furniture, this works especially well in a hallway or any narrow space where you want to create a feeling of more space.

 

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You can find lots of great and inexpensive mirrors on the high street if you want to create an interior that is unique to you then you can't go wrong with rummaging in your local charity shop, eBay or car boot as you can quite often pick up a little gem for a fraction of the price. It may have a bit of wear and tear and may not be in perfect condition but for me this only helps add to the character and helps you achieve an individual look. 

Kafenion, Birmingham

Back in August 2018 I was commissioned to help convert and design an old Post Office and Cafe into a new modern space that was a friendly, inclusive space at the heart of the community that appealed to all demographics. The Cafe is situated in the Bournville area of Birmingham, a model village built by the Cadbury family in an Arts and Crafts style and overlooks the village green. 

The old Post Office and Cafe is split over 2 rooms with the old cafe being at the back and featuring an amazing parquet floor, the old post office is at the front of the property overlooking the green and also has great original features such as the old post box, safe and entrance that the clients were keen to keep within the new design. 

Below are some images of the property before we made any changes.

The clients brief was to create a warm, welcoming, relaxed European style Cafe with a feeling that it had existed for years and had developed a patina over time. They also wanted to be mindful of the area it was situated and the history behind the property. 

The 1st step was deciding how we wanted to use the space, we wanted to make sure the space was as user friendly for the customer as it was for the employee. Key to this is the bar layout, the original cafe had a very small counter area that I felt wasn't very practical and there wasn't much space behind it. We decided for cost reasons to keep the original fridge and the bar in roughly the same area as moving it would have incurred lots of extra costs. The clients wanted to make it bigger and have plenty of storage so we designed this 'L' shaped bar with lots of hidden shelves and added in a row of back counter cupboards and shelving to provide lots of valuable storage space and an area to showcase their product. 

I didn't want to have just a plain wooden bar front so to create a bit of interest I designed a pattern that was a nod to the parquet flooring but wasn't too over the top that it detracted from the other pieces in the room.

 

In terms of lighting we had to make sure there was a good mix of task and accent lighting over the counter, these spindle pendants from Rothschild & Bickers over the counter top provide a focal point in the room whilst also being practical. 

 

The colour we chose for the scheme was Farrow & Balls Inchyra Blue, this colour was chosen specifically for its soft blue colour that in some lights can also appear green. We decided to use this colour throughout on both the ceilings and the walls to help make the space feel larger.

 

The client was keen to have pops of colour throughout the scheme so we went with handmade tiles from specialist Mexican shop on London's Columbia Road, Milagros for the splash back. The fact that they are handmade meant that they weren't perfectly straight and although this caused a bit of bother initially for the builder I believe this handmade quality makes them even more charming.

 

 

 

As the client was keen for the space to feel as though it had been there for years and have a European feel I thought it would be nice to have a mix of vintage pieces within the scheme. These wall mirrors, sourced through one of our trusted suppliers Stowaway London, were found in France and have a nicely aged mirror plate to them.

 

For lighting in this area I didn't want to have too much stark overhead lighting so decided to go with these deco style lampshades from Lotus Lampshades, on top of standard lamps. The shape is very traditional and is a nice reference to the period in which this property was built

 

The chairs were sourced from a wedding furniture company, Papa Shop, and I decided to reupholster the seat with something a little more exciting to add some extra interest, both myself and the client loved this Meh Meh fabric from House of Hackney, it provided a subtle hit of colour within the scheme. We mixed this House Of Hackney fabric in with a leather in green/blue colour to provide a bit of variety on the chairs and provide more comfort to the customer.

 

 

In the front room, in what was the old Post Office, we again wanted to keep the relaxed feeling, we carried on the Inchyra blue from Farrow & Ball, the use of vintage mirrors, deco style lampshades and the House Of Hackney and leather upholstered chairs. I also added into the mix some leather armchairs that had a lovely worn quality to them and provide a softer seating area, some Ercol style chairs and also a raised bar section with leather topped stools.

 

At the start of the project I was particularly keen to see if there were any brick walls that could be exposed in the property as I think having this brings some character to the room, creates a focal point and juxtaposes nicely against the silk of the lampshades. After tentatively removing some of the plaster we were pleased to see that the brick behind was in good enough condition to expose whcih we were very pleased about. 

 

The Vintage School House pendant lighting, from Fritz Fryer, add to the vintage look of the scheme and provide much needed light to this room.

By keeping the old Post Box and the Safe and integrating them into the scheme helps gives the interior a sense of place and is a reference to its history.

 

 

 

With thanks to my key suppliers on this project: Stowaway London, Rothschild & Bickers, Farrow & Ball, Fritz Fryer, Lotus Lampshades, Cult Furniture, Papa Shop, House of Hackney, North Wales Stone, Milagros and very special mention to Rhys Evans Joinery.

 

Kitchen worktops

The range and styles of kitchen worktops out on the market at the minute can be a little overwhelming when you are starting to design your own kitchen.  Below i have broken down the most common types and discussed the pros and cons of each for you to help ease the pain.

 

Granite

Granite has traditionally been the go to choice for luxurious kitchens due to its stylish markings and glossy appearance. Its popularity is in part down to its hard wearing nature, its very difficult to chip or scratch this surface and once installed requires no more maintenance than a quick wipe with a cloth. On top of this the stone has antibacterial properties and is heat resistant. All of this does, however, come at a price, its generally one of the more expensive options for a work surface as its not a material that can be cut by anyone. This material is super heavy and requires templating and fitting by professionals. Also worth noting is that the markings on granite are irregular in appearance due to it being a naturally formed material, so its no good for those who like uniformity in their design.

Quartz

Quartz is a man made alternative to granite and has grown in popularity over the last decade due to its more uniform and contemporary work surface. Quartz is made by combining quartz/reconstructed stone with a resin to create an extremely hard wearing and generally stain resistant worktop. Elements such as mirrors, glass and metals can be added to the mix to create a unique pattern. One of the main benefits of quartz is the fact it's non porous and therefore resistant to staining, it does have a reasonable heat resistance and as it comes in larger slabs than other materials there are fewer joints and joins in the material. It also comes in thinner sheets so is perfect for those wanting a more modern look.

 


Wood

Wood is a very popular choice for those seeking a traditional feel in their kitchen. For some the patina it develops over time is a huge appeal to many but the maintenance that wood does require, oiling on a regular basis, cleaning up spills immediately, puts others off. If maintained properly it also has anti bacterial properties It is considerably cheaper than stone and comes in a variety of colours and grains with hardwoods being the most popular choice. Fitting of a wooden worktop can be done by a joiner or your kitchen supplier on site which also helps cut down on templating and labour costs.

 

 Laminate

Laminates are a very cost effective worktop option and come in a large range of colour and styles. Its easy to maintain and clean and if not scratched or damaged can have anti bacterial properties. A laminate will suit any kind of kitchen style but you really do get what you pay for with. There is a huge variation in quality and cheaper options can peel, burn/melt and scratch easily. Where previously you could only get bull nose finish many laminate companies are now offering square edge and thinner profiled options for those that want to create a more modern look.

Concrete

Concrete has become a fashionable option over the last couple of years in kitchen worktops, it suits both industrial style settings but can also look great when paired with a modern gloss and shaker style cabinets. As it is created in situ it can be seamlessly produced and there is no need for joints, as its a bespoke piece  the finished texture and dappling really is unique to each worktop. The downsides is that the concrete does require sealing as its a natural porous material and all spills need to be cleaned up asap in order to prevent staining, but a quick wipe with soapy water is all thats needed to keep it clean. Many people think of this as a cold hard material but it can look warm when used in the right setting.

 

 Stainless Steel

Normally the preserve of commercial kitchens stainless steel has become a go to choice for residential kitchens over the last couple of years due to the fact its incredibly durable, naturally antibacterial, easy to clean, is waterproof and heat and acid resistant. Its a very light and modern material but could feel a little overwhelming if used over a large area, many people are therefore using it on islands or a small section of workspace to help soften what could otherwise be a cold feeling material.

 

 Composite materials

Composite worktops have many of the benefits of quartz and stone, cool to touch, heat and scratch resistant, stain resistant, coloured all the way through and is seamless but without the high cost. Its a seamless material so even if you need a joint it should be invisible. It can also be moulded into any shape, so is perfect for seamlessly integrated sinks and can be cut on site by a competent joiner. In terms of price it is generally cheaper than a quartz or granite and comes in standard lengths of 3000mm - 4050mm, some of the key brands to look for are Corian which is at the top end of the price bracket and Miro stone which is a very budget friendly option. Its a great alternative to stone and the style goes as well with a high gloss/matt handless design or a traditional shaker

 

Hopefully I have helped clear the waters when it comes to choosing a worktop but if you are still unsure as to what worktop is right for you then please drop me a message on the contact page

Kitchen Styles

The kitchen is probably one of the most important and hardworking multi functional spaces in the house. Its also one of the biggest expenses so you want to make sure that you choose one that is going to stand the test of time and not be bored of in a year or 2.

There are numerous kitchen styles and designs out there to choose from and it can be be a bit overwhelming when you 1st decide to re do your own space. With that in mind I thought  I would help guide you with me easy explanation of all the different kitchen styles out there and help explain what each one is. Although many of these kitchens in these images are bespoke pieces and are incredibly expensive there are many elements you can take and use in your own home, just because you have a lower budget doesn't mean you should have to compromise on style.

Many of the big kitchen companies such as Howdens, Wicks, Ikea, B&Q etc have their own versions of these and you can easily create something unique to you.

See below for the 4 most common kitchen styles out there: 

 

Contemporary Kitchen

Contemporary Kitchens are characterised by their sleek, clean lines in modern materials such as concrete, gloss, steel and laminate. A minimal colour palette is used and they are generally neutral in colour, most colour is brought in by the use of artwork or carefully placed accessories.

They are un cluttured and minimalist in their design and feature high functioning and modern gadgets such as induction cooktops, built in coffee makers and minimalist cooker hoods.

The lighting is also either of the very discreet variety, hidden underneath hung cabinets and lots of spots or they feature architectural lighting fixtures.

Contemporary kitchens don't have to be cold white spaces, by introducing warm materials such as wood and metal you can create a very inviting but also practical space.

 

 

Traditional Kitchens

Traditional styles such as this ‘Shaker’ Kitchens, have traditional elements such as Belfast sinks, wooden worktops and inset paneled painted cabinets and are characterised by their clean simple lines. This style is unpretentious with all the emphasis on the quality craftmanship rather than elaborate decoration or fussy detailing

This style of kitchen suits any type of property, from country cottages through to grand houses and have a resemblance to many of the traditional working kitchens found in large country homes.

A shaker kitchen is very versatile and with the right accessories and hardware can also have an industrial or modern feel and the main bonus about a painted kitchen such as this is if you eventually get bored of it you can easily paint the cabinet fronts

 

 

Freestanding Kitchens

Freestanding kitchens are essentially ones that are made up of lots of Independent fixtures, it can create an eclectic look and is easy to create an Individual kitchen. Freestanding kitchens give you the opportunity to move pieces about if needed and to add on extra storage or replace elements on an ad hoc basis.

This sort of style would suit a house that has wonky walls in which fitting cabinetry would be difficult.

Freestanding kitchens can be a cost effective way to create a kitchen as it can be sourced from flea markets or through upcycling old bits of furniture. 

 

 Country Kitchens

A country style kitchen is one that represents a rural farmhouse type design. There are lots of traditional elements within this kitchen such as panelled wooden doors, wooden worktops and many will feature  classic components such as AGA’s, Islands and Dressers on which crockery is displayed.

They usually come in a muted palette of creams, pastels, blues and soft greys along side wood. The cabinet fronts are quite often panelled and feature simple door handles in turned wood or simple hardware

All the elements that make up a country kitchen are warm, tactile and inviting where the kitchen is seen as the heart of the home and take their inspiration from English style kitchens, French farmhouse and rustic Tuscan kitchens

 

 

This list of kitchen styles is by no means exhaustive and within each style you can get further categories such as, modern industrial, modern rustic, eclectic, Scandi, modern country etc etc. the list goes on but these are a good starting point for when you are wanting to research your own kitchen design . 

If you are considering a new kitchen and would like some help with your designs or just helping you decide which style you would like then please feel free to contact me.

Scandinavian Style Interiors

I love Scandinavian style interiors, its all about functionality, simplicity and beauty, with its clean lines simple design and understated elegance.

This style of decorating our home is becoming more and more fashionable with many remembering the hype surrounding 'Hygge' back in 2016 and our love for Ikea. But there are easy ways of incorporating this look into your home without going for a full blown Ikea makeover.

There isn't one specific Scandinavian style interior but there are elements that make up and help define Scandinavian Interiors. These include mixing vintage and traditional pieces with modern furniture with clean and simple lines. Using materials that add texture into our homes and provide a feeling of warmth, such as wood, fur, linen, velvet, metallics. Layering all these textures in one scheme in complementary shades creates depth and adds interest to what could be an otherwise bland scheme.

One of the key elements to the Scandinavian look is the use of mirrors to reflect light around the room and the use of furniture that has reflective properties, such as gloss cabinets. Alongside this the use of greenery and foliage within the interior space is extremely important and you will find many of the homes will have both large scale plants and small succulents scattered around. 

In terms of colour white is a key component to Scandinavian style interiors and works particularly well in South facing rooms where there is lots of daylight, the sun warms the colour up and the bright white walls helps bounce this sunlight around the room creating the feeling of airiness and spaciousness.

In North facing rooms you would need to add in warmer whites that have a touch of grey as their base colour, Farrow and Ball colours such as Cornforth White or Ammonite that would be perfect for this.

The white base used in many Scandinavian schemes acts as a great base for pops of colour, including black which adds a bit of drama to any scheme. 

And last point to bear in mind, don't over decorate! Scandinavian interior design is about keeping things simple and not cluttered. Easier said than done for many of us, no matter how much we love the aesthetic!

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