I was watching a magazine programme on one of the lifestyle channels recently. The hostess was chatting to a couple who had recently won an award for the innovative home design that was centred on clever use of natural materials for heat retention; furiture, furnishings that could be sourced using local materials to save transportation costs and other ideas for using as few ‘bought ins’ as possible. There were too many to recall without looking up the programme’s details but they were thrilled with the result. There had been a great deal of work done up front with their choice of architect and advisers at the planning stage. Getting wood and materials for the flooring to incorporate heating involved much research too. There are the products out there but it needs a completely fresh approach to make these available for more ‘new age’ homes. Engaging designers and architects with these interests will always be your first consideration of course.
I was watching quite an old episode of a long standing property programme – where folk buy a place at the local property auction and hopefully gut it and totally transform it into an absolute delight. My heart sinks as soon as I see a certain type of buyer – I know well in advance that they’re not going to invest any money to speak of. Just the minimum to tidy it, take the mould and garbage out and then let it as soon as possible. They have a bit of a nerve calling themselves property developers . . . . I much prefer the buyer who does develop the place. Adding a bathroom upstairs or maybe extending the kitchen out to make a large sunny space. It’s nice to see money really spent well. To note the rise in value of the place with a well planned and executed project fund is inspiring. Sometimes it’s not a case of just getting a quick buck, but the importance of turning a property round from dump to palace.
I have been in my house for nearly twenty years and at first we had luscious honey coloured carpet throughout the downstairs apart from the kitchen. I can’t imagine why we thought it a good idea to have it in the hall and family room – one leads off from the front door and also has the integral garage door . . . the other leads from the busy kitchen and has a patio door directly out to the garden. Also having a complete petrol head partner at the time, the prospects for those sections of carpet were always flawed. We realised after 3 years that no amount of carpet cleaning was ever going to restore the glory that had been so we cut our losses and had sealed wooden flooring to replace all but the lounge and dining room. I’ve never regretted that and after all these remaining years, I wish to goodness that I’d had those two carpets too – it’s so easy to care for a wooden floor and with modern cleaning products, mine come up bright and almost shiny. Getting a good wooden floor supplier and installer is the trick of course.
When we’re sizing up our options for upgrading our decor and furnishings, there is rather a lot that we need to take into consideration. Choosing the right store to take our business to is a major one in itself – it is easy to go blundering along trying this place and that. Some folk like to spend time in one location looking at beds and then another for the matress – why?! Another couple I know never actually get round to purchasing anything new because they don’t feel the job’s done unless they sweep out all the old and replace with new. They have to take their time about every single stage – they need to physically visit every outlet that deals with the decor; soft furnishings; curtains etc., collecting umpteen colour swatches and paint sample pots in the process. It’ll probably take them another ten years to agree combinations of all those but they will eventually get everything they want.
We do have a massive range of flooring available to us these days. We can select from solid floors – beautiful oak lathes that click and fit together so superbly it looks as if it was poured into position. So easy to keep clean with a broom and very lightly dampened mop. Of course, we can’t swab it with lashings of water because it will ruin the wood – it soaks up the water and as the boards dry, they expand and buckle out of shape with all sorts of unrepairable damage. The alternative to real wood is laminate – this is man made fibre to look as closely matched to wood as possible. It is hard wearing and can be scrubbed down with more vigour but doesn’t have the finish, smell or sound of real wood. These hard floor alternatives to carpet are here to stay – generally with families needing more and more time for activities, sports, going to work etc., the need for easy clean flooring solutions has never been greater.
I’ve been very interested in a housing project not far from my house. The property is a 1920s bungalow has not been renovated or refurbished at all since first build. It’s really exciting as the owners had originaly planned to strip it out completely and rebuild with all new – in fact, make a fully modernised palace inside a 1920s shell. Lots of folk had misgivings about this, particularly the elder of the company chosen to do the plans and design the work. With some prompting the owner has now agreed to retain as much of the original build as possible – and just to renovate to make safe and clean. The parquet flooring and hand painted ceramic tiles on fireplaces and in the bathroom are of note. A local company has been sourced to work on the parquet flooring and another on the hand painted ceramic tiles. It will look wonderful when the project comes really comes together.
I was wandering along a village ‘high street’ recently and noticed one tiny terraced cottage for sale, and a couple of doors along, an almost identical one for rent. I thought I’d see what was on offer with both of them. Since moving out of my very first house purchase some years ago, I have only stayed in old cottages as part of a holiday so I’ve not been involved in the refurishment, interior decorating or any other kind of furnishing responsibility. The cottage for sale was less glorious, it has to be said and needed a jolly good paint job and the flooring looked pretty worn out. Perhaps it had been lived in for many years by the same person – with a dog or two. So the price I found later on the agent’s site rather astounded me! The cottage for rental had appeared a great deal more luxurious from the kitchen window. Smart wooden flooring througout a now very open concept layout. Just like on tv property shows!
I help out at a small country manor house that is open the public – I volunteer on a regular basis as a room steward and it’s lovely. Firstly I get to see the beautiful building and the remains of furniture acquired by the various generations of the family owners. I also get to experience the joy of others who come in their droves to visit and help with the upkeep of this dear little house. Helping to care for these treasures has made me really appreciate the art of furniture care and custom. I now find myself surfing the online sites for similar room displays and am always researching how I too can furnish my house in the country manor style – but at a fraction of the real cost of course. I like to check out colour schemes that would work sympathetically with the themes in my head – just to be ready for when I can live in that style!
When we moved into my lovely spacious family home some years ago, we were fortunate enough to be able to buy new beds and headboards for each bedroom. At the time we had a suite of pine furniture for each room. I have since then upgraded – to my absolute joy I was able to speak to an interior decor planner and between us we found some beautiful solid oak dressers and cabinets which exactly match the fitted wardrobes. Steamlined or what . . . . the smell and feel of this oak furniture is still divine, even 4 years down the line. This has led me to think about having my kitchen and living quarters upgraded. To get the right egonomic design too – rearranging my kitchen needs thought. I’m looking out for the perfect partnership of beauty, durability, sustainability and class. All that comes from oak with just a little glass and steel!
This is the perfect time of year for looking around the home, noting any furniture and furnishings that may have been overlooked for cleaning or renovating and working through a list. When I was young we had whitewood furniture – not sure what wood it was, but a range of items could bought for very reasonable prices. They were pale new wood, not varnished or painted. It was down to the buyer t finish them off with paint or plain wood varnish. Looking back, these were the precursor of the scandinavian pale wood flatpack items that we have been relying on over thelast 30 or so years, to fill our homes, for a very modest sum. You pays your money and takes your choice. The better finish, i.e. actually ready assembled, painted or polished, will obviously make the home more finished earlier. Not everyone can afford this so some stores make furnishin a first home that bit less painful with the flatpack, self assembly method!