Features: May '10

How to create... a cool kids bedroom

by Emma Foale on May 28, 2010
beds and bunk
Tilly and George bunk bed, £775, Great Little Trading Company

When decorating a kid’s room you can really be as imaginative as you want, and have some fun with the great choice of products available from Furnish.

Any parent will know just how difficult it can be to create a bedroom for their kids that will keep them happy and help them learn, whilst also maintaining that ‘cool’ status for when they have friends round.

Wallpaper is a feature that will determine the overall mood of a room, and if you want to go for something decorative and colourful, then Butterflies wallpaper from Lover's Lounge is a great choice for either a playful feature wall or to cover all four walls. Another imaginative way of decorating your children’s bedroom is with wall stickers; these offer the perfect alternative to wallpaper and can liven up a bland wall. I love that these can be both easily applied and simply removed if you or your child decide that you want a change. For example, Animal tower wall stickers from Lover's lounge are perfect for toddlers to measure their height as they grow.

coat racks and stand
Rainbow coat rack, £20, Great Little Trading Company

Storage is essentially one of the most important parts of a children’s bedroom; ultimately you will want to achieve a tidy room with accessible storage. The multi-purpose play table with trundle drawers from Great Little Trading Company is any parents’ dream because not only does it serve a practical solution with drawers for storing all your kid’s toys in, but it also provides a play table with different activities to choose from so your child won’t get bored. No longer will your child be afraid of the dark with Plug in Night Lights from Great Little Trading Company; these are a safe and simple way of ensuring a good night’s sleep all round. Any cool kid’s bedroom would also not be complete without a ceiling light, such as Twit Twoo from Hunkydory Home, which has a colourful print and gorgeous owl design.

If you have children sharing the same room but want to create space then bunk beds are a good solution, they give you more space and kids love them. The Tilly and George bunk bed from Great Little Trading Company is ideal for a cool kid’s bedroom because it has a modern design made from traditional wood providing a sturdy sleeping place. Themed bunk beds are also a very popular choice. For furnishing a children’s room but still keeping it fun, the Magis Plastic Puppy from Utility is a great seat to keep in their bedroom. You may want to have a couple of these in different colours so that their friends can join in too.

Twit Twoo, £30, Hunkydory Home

Children’s accessories are often the most imaginative and creative part of a room, and are the best way to encourage your child to learn but enjoy it at the same time. The magnetic Blackboard clock from Great Little Trading Company allows you to write in your own numbers, timings or reminders, and this way kids can become more independent in remembering what activities they are doing and when. When starting school kids will need to be organised and so functional accessories like the Rainbow Coat Rack from Great Little Trading Company will help them keep their coat and bags tidy.

In a sense, the greatest freedom you have with decorating and furnishing a cool kid’s bedroom is that there are no strict rules, although fun and practicality should merge to give the room the best potential for your child to enjoy playing as much as learning.

Arched Window Mirror from Graham & Green

by Catherine Gregg on May 27, 2010
Arched Window Mirror, £166, Graham & Green

Get some light on the scene with this Arched Window Mirror from Graham & Green, £166.

This fantastic Arched Window Mirror can be used inside to give the illusion of looking into another room, or outside to give the impression of a bigger garden. It’s a bit Alice in Wonderland, which is why I like it so much. And I’ve always wanted to live in a house with arched windows.

Fabulous in a hallway or above a fireplace it looks wonderful propped against the wall, reflecting light back into the room. And outside in the garden it’ll create a lovely courtyard feel. It’s got the look of architectural salvage about it, but with a metal frame and wood effect finish, it won’t degrade outside.

Fabulous leaning against a wall, you get a lot of mirror for your money

Standing at over a metre tall and almost a metre wide, you get a lot of mirror for your money. The same thing from a reclamation yard would be more or less double the price.

Our weekly pick of interior blogs...

by Catherine Gregg on May 26, 2010
Art Deco inspired interior by From the Desk of Lola, on Domicidal Maniac

We’ve been roaming the highways and byways of the internet for inspirational interiors blogs, and we haven’t come home empty-handed.

Top of the list of picturesque pit stops this week is the fabulously titled Domicidal Maniac. The maniac in question is Washington-based interior designer and window dresser, Scott Fanzzini. This is window-shopping in the virtual world, with inspiration at every turn: new designers, envy inducing interiors, style crushes and all manner of good-looking things (including Mr Fanzzini, I might add). He’s also got a penchant for old movies – check out his post celebrating the set designs on How To Marry a Millionaire.

Next stop on the scenic route is Diary of a Wandering Eye. Another American boy with eclectic tastes, this anonymous blogger will lead you on a wanton chase through a landscape of visual delights. The Covet section left me slack-jawed with desire, especially for Greg Kulharic’s ceramic vegetable pots. Whoever this wandering eye belongs to it knows where to look. And with a jaunty writing style, the hand’s not bad either. The boy’s got style in spades – just look at the fantasy musings and scrapbook photos in the My Future Home series.

Beautiful tiles in Le Chandelier teashop, East Dulwich, on Tea for Joy

Back in Blighty, there’s time to stop off for a pot of Earl Grey and a cucumber sandwich with Lynne at Tea for Joy. Dedicated to two of my favourite things – tea and vintage - this one’s right up my street. And it really is a joy to behold – a reverie of teashops and teacups, patterns and prints, fifties furniture and beautiful British designs.

That’s it for this week, but remember, if you write your own interiors blog get in touch and we’ll flag it up next time.

How to create... a glamorous bedroom

by Emma Foale on May 24, 2010
Mimi Mimi chandelier, £185, The French Bedroom Company

Many of us aspire to have a more glamorous boudoir that exudes style and comfort. We advise how you can use different elements to pull it together.

The first step is to start experimenting with colours, for example, pastel colours create a natural and calming feel in a bedroom. However, you should not be afraid to be more adventurous with colour, particularly when choosing your furniture and accessories, to make a bold statement.

Wallpaper can be the perfect backdrop to portray the romantic mood in a bedroom. True Blue wallpaper from BODIE and FOU is a perfect example of how your walls can ignite some passion and excitement into your bedroom. The high quality gold pigment gives a shimmery effect and a warm feel, which works well with earthy tones and with a few candles lit will create a romantic mood. If you want to create a feature wall in a bedroom, this works particularly well behind the bed as it draws your attention, and it allows you to set the theme of you room. Floral patterns are a great way to add a feminine touch to a room, or an intricate design like Sparrow wallpaper from 95% Danish adds detail and pattern to your decor.

Chateau carved bed, £630, Lover’s Lounge

French-style, mirrored or ornate bedroom furniture is essential for a glamorous look. From bedside tables to wardrobes, you can choose to go big and bold or small and elegant, but either way you cannot fail to make your room more enchanting. Your bed will essentially be the focal point of your room, and so choosing one that has beautiful detailing such as the French provincial style Chateau carved bed from Lover's Lounge, will instantly give your boudoir a glamorous look. Accompany your bed with the hand painted Verona Silver Leaf bedside table from Sweet Pea and Willow, or a dressing table, to give you storage but in a way that does not look cluttered, and keeps the theme of glamour running through your room. For a sense of glamour, soft textures such as suede, silk or faux fur, or velvet are always a great way to make your room feel luxurious. Add a sumptuous and cosy feel to your bedroom with the Velvet quilt in Mulberry from Lombok, which would be the ideal feature to bring out pastel colours in your wallpaper. What better way to add glamour to you room than with sequins which can be on throws, bedspreads or cushions, like the small silver sequin cushion from Rockett St George. I love this cushion because it combines fun and style, and ties together the theme of luxury and comfort.

Small silver sequin cushion, £29.95, Rockett St George

Finally, the key to a glamorous bedroom is mood lighting; to create a romantic setting choose a chandelier like Mimi Mimi Chandelier from The French Bedroom Company, which is ideal for smaller rooms. Ceiling lights can be hung over the bed and to illuminate all the best features in your room. Subtle lighting can create a romantic mood, and also give a dramatic feel of grandeur and elegance. Or if you’d prefer a free standing light to brighten up a corner, then why not choose something unique like the Miro Floor lamp from Tom Faulkner, with its hand finished silver leaf pattern.

Stamp Collection Mugs from Utility

by Catherine Gregg on May 20, 2010
'Sent with Love' Stamp Collection Mug

Earl Grey’s in first class company with these Stamp Collection Mugs from Utility. £10.95

Featuring the iconic image of the Queen on UK stamps, these striking mugs have vindicated my pastime. Stamp collecting is officially cool.

I don’t mind admitting that I collected stamps as a child and I still save envelopes if I like the designs. So I felt just a little bit smug when I saw these Stamp Collection Mugs from Utility. Representing the best of graphic design in miniature, I don’t even know why stamp collecting is seen as such a turn off.

'First Class' Stamp Collection Mug

But anyway, rather than go on a rant I’ll let the mugs speak for themselves. Choose from the ‘Sent with Love’ version featuring the classic red first class stamp in a repeat pattern, or go large with a single stamp on the front and back of the ‘First Class’ version. And if you still don’t believe in the inherent coolness of stamps, check out the fabulous original colours on the different denominations wrapping round the ‘Multi Stamp’ mug.

'Multi Stamp' Stamp Collection Mug

Put the kettle on and have a first class cuppa.

Living with the colour white

by Catherine Gregg on May 19, 2010
Eames RAR (rocking armchair rod base), £365, Vitra at Occa Home

Reflecting light, stretching space, and revealing architectural form, a judicious application of white can quietly make a room express its full potential.

Applied to the walls or floor, white provides a silent surface on which anything goes.

White is as much a friend to poky rooms and dark corners as to grand, sun-filled studios. And you don’t have to be an obsessive minimalist to enjoy it. Used in the right way, white will make space for the red wine drinker and the sticky fingered kid.

Living with White and Kids

While all vinyl matt paints are wipeable to an extent, Dulux Endurance is extra hardwearing and washable without loss of colour. Developed to deal with kids horsing around at home, Dulux also recommend the Endurance range ‘if you fancy yourself as a bit of party animal’.

With their arsenal of crayons, if you’ve got young children and you want to go in for white furnishings, it’s wise to choose sofas and armchairs with removable covers. The Sorrento range at John Lewis has removable and machine-washable covers, in a classic Jacquard stripe. At Ikea, the majority of fabric sofas and armchairs have removable, washable, and replaceable covers (just don’t take the kids with you). Bemz also create bespoke covers to fit Ikea’s most popular sofas and chairs.

White can be great for kids’ bedrooms, particularly if space is an issue. With white walls and furniture as a base, introduce colour through accessories. The Little White Company offers simple, good quality white furniture. For the design-conscious child, the iconic (and wipe-clean) Panton chair comes in a diminutive ‘junior’ size, while for toddlers the Eames Elephant makes a cheerful companion. And if you’re getting up for night feeds, an Eames rocker might just make it more bearable.

Jonathan Adler Ceramic Turtle Box, £130, Heal’s

Making White Work

From walls and floors, to furnishing and accessories, the key to making white work is in your choice of materials. Whether you want to create an all-white house or use white sparingly as an accent, engaging the senses with variations in texture, natural materials, mirrors and lighting, will prevent white from becoming alienating and clinical. Sculptural plants cast dramatic shadows against white walls, for example, while mirrors enhance the capacity of white to highlight structural detailing.

Paintwork: For walls and ceilings, choose paint with a chalky, soft matt texture to avoid a glaring finish. The Little Greene Paint Company’s Acrylic Matt Emulsion is particularly good, while their ULTIMATT® formula is also washable. For wood and metalwork a high gloss finish makes a striking contrast, but if you want something softer, go for a lower sheen with silk or eggshell. Little Greene’s Acrylic Eggshell gives a subtle sheen to complement matt walls.

Flooring: White walls look fantastic against the rich tones of a real wood floor. The Natural Wood Floor Company has a beautiful selection, but if you want a white floor and you’re lucky enough to have floorboards in good condition, try Ecos Organic's hardwearing floor paint. Floor tiles are also a great way to achieve a white finish using natural materials. The Limestone Gallery will cut and finish their extensive range to your specifications. A rug in bleached cowhide or with variation in pile depth will add another layer of texture to the room.

Soft Furnishings: The White Company has layering pretty much sewn up, with a sumptuous range of cushions and throws in cashmere and chunky knits, hand-quilted cotton and silk, each with individual textural details. White leather can look stunning, but to avoid the Miami effect, go for a design classic like Robin Day’s Forum sofa. Reissued by Habitat, the wooden side panels in ash or walnut soften the bright white Italian leather.

Accessories: Anything geometric or highly textured will take advantage of the striking contrasts of light and shade achieved in white. JDS Architects’ crushed bowls are particularly impressive, while the quirky and tactile pottery animals in Jonathan Adler’s Menagerie add a sense of frivolity to a highly styled white home. A faceted Asteroid table lamp by Koray Ozgen will refract light across white walls, and the corrugated shades on George Nelson’s wall sconces, reissued by Modernica, invite interesting shadows.

vases and bowl
Crushed Bowl by JDS Architects, bone china, from £36

The Off-Whites

If you don’t want to go all in for brilliant white, the off-white palette is softer and more forgiving, particularly in period homes. Fired Earth and Farrow and Ball offer excellent choice in off-whites and subtle shades. Particularly lovely are Bone White at Fired Earth and Pale Powder at Farrow and Ball. For wood and metalwork go for a brilliant white gloss to create a contrast or for a complementary look, go two shades lighter or two shades darker than the walls. A brilliant white ceiling will make the room feel larger. Choose accessories and soft furnishings in varying tones in the off-white palette for a calm and relaxing space. The Rug Company has a particularly good collection of cushions, wallhangings and pale carpets.

Living with white can be liberating, stylish and practical. Have a go, and if the worst happens, it’s the easiest colour to paint over.

Our weekly roundup of interiors blogs

by Catherine Gregg on May 17, 2010
A feature wall of decorative plates on Simply Seleta

It's that time again where we pick out our favourite interiors blogs from around the globe.

First up this week is all-American blog Simply Seleta. Full of ideas for creative interiors projects and illustrated with beautiful photographs, it’s a really uplifting read (as long as you’re not the jealous type – check out these beach photos). The work of a designer mom of four, it’s a lifestyle blog with an emphasis on homemaking, daydreaming, and taking inspiration from daily life. But expect to find a bit of everything – this lady is real magpie. Taking in yard sales, road trips, and all kinds of interiors, you could spend all day on here, living the American dream vicariously.

Saint Cecilia Hotel, Austin, Texas, on Carolina Eclectic

In my American dream I’m a cowboy on a wild-west ranch, but failing that I’ll settle for this amazing Texan castle posted on Carolina Eclectic. If you’re a bit of voyeur when it comes to other people’s homes (I failed my driving test by looking into living rooms rather than at the road), then the ‘Look Inside’ section of this blog is perfect. You get to follow Carolina into wherever she’s been, wallow in the photographs and pick up some ideas along the way.

Recently reissued, La Lampe Gras (1921) by French engineer Bernard-Albin Gras, on House of Beauty and Culture

The final pick this week is the fabulously camp House of Beauty and Culture. This catty post on Gerard Butler’s dubious design choices can’t fail to amuse. With a ‘now playing’ note beneath most posts, and a play list spanning Rick Astley and Kate Bush to Mahler and Nick Cave, the content is just as eclectic, taking in auction finds (and disappointments), design icons rediscovered, out of print interiors books and new exhibitions. I love this cultural rundown of 1979.

As always, if you write your own design blog, get in touch and we’ll give you a nod next time.

How to buy... Vintage Furniture

by Catherine Gregg on May 15, 2010
dining chair
Ply Stacking Chairs, £75 + VAT each, Retrouvius

Avoid the pitfalls and embrace the competitive spirit with our guide to buying vintage furniture.

Avoiding any kind of exercise regime, I prefer to engage in the competitive sports of auction bidding and car-boot bartering. There’s nothing like spotting a beautifully designed piece of vintage furniture to get the heart racing and bring out the covetous side of my nature. Only recently, I clambered past the hoards at a village jumble sale to buy a fantastic 1970s chrome-framed armchair for a mere five pounds. And I’m still regretting not having bought for myself the sleek Danish sideboard I found for a friend at auction: the hindrance of a small flat, but at least I get visiting rights.

Love, as they say, is blind, and the one-of-a-kind allure of vintage furniture - a gloriously tapered leg or a perfectly proportioned handle – is often so entrancing that it leads to rashness and blinds us to flaws. Whether it’s paying over the odds or succumbing to false advertising, when the panic of ‘I’ll never see another’ sets in, mistakes are easily made. So to avoid the pitfalls here are our top tips:

Buying at auction

Check the auction house policy regarding:

  • Commission – the percentage you pay on top of the hammer price
  • Item collection – you will be charged a storage fee if you fail to collect on time, so make sure you have transport sorted before placing any bids
Tomado Sheving Unit, £225, The Peanut Vendor

Do your research:

  • Even if the sale has an illustrated online catalogue, always view in the flesh – all auction houses have viewing days before the sale

  • Find out previous hammer prices on similar items – this will help you work out the market value and set your bidding limit (remembering to factor in the commission)

Bidding methods:

  • In person - the auctioneer will always aim to start the bidding as high as possible so wait until the price has dropped before you raise your paddle (or your eyebrow)

  • Absentee bidding - if you can’t make the sale or if, like me, you’re likely to get carried away in the room, placing an absentee bid is a good option. However, be aware that the room always takes precedence over any bids on the auctioneer’s book. The onus is on you to check with the auction house after the sale to find out if you’re the highest bidder

  • Telephone bidding - the auction house will ring you when your item is up, so keep the line free and stay glued to the phone. Many auctions also provide the option of internet bidding, again in real time

sideboards and display cabinet
Rosewood Sideboard, £895, Danish Homestore

Buying on Ebay

  • Be wary of item descriptions with phrases like ‘Merrow style’ or ‘Eames era’ – if the item is by a particular designer, the seller should provide a photograph of the maker’s label or other such verification
  • Always read the full description - if an item is stated as in ‘good condition for its age’, it’s worth asking the seller to clarify, with object-specific questions about damage
  • Ensure that the photographs depict the actual item for sale and haven’t been swiped off the internet – this can happen with iconic designs

Buying from a shop

  • Build up a rapport with the owners - many independent vintage shops are willing to bargain, especially if you’re buying more than one item and if you’re paying in cash
  • It’s worth putting an item on hold in order to do some research or, in my case, to have a lie down in a darkened room

Finally, if you’re buying at car-boots or jumbles, all I can say is hone those bartering skills and get your elbows at the ready. Happy hunting…

Blooming Bench from Benchmark

by Alan Bradburne on May 03, 2010
dining bench

Add a quirky twist to your garden with the Blooming Bench from Benchmark. £377

People often look amazed when I tell them I live in London AND have a garden. I can’t blame them, it’s one of those statements that are often met with oohs and ahhs by fellow metropolis-dwellers.

And while it isn’t exactly Kew, it is wonderful to have some outdoor space to relax in and call my own.

Due to the impending heat wave (yeah right!) I’ve been thinking a lot of summer parties, family barbecues and cosy al fresco suppers for two, but what I would really like is a piece of statement furniture to give my garden an edge.

Sadly, it’s too small an amazing daybed or stunning swing but I’ll certainly be making room for this Blooming Bench from Benchmark.

dining bench

Designed by Benchmark’s in-house team, this bench cleverly incorporates a large terracotta pot into its design. Absolutely perfect for those who don’t have space for both, the bench is made from Oak and the pot from terracotta.

It is without a doubt the most original bench I have seen for some time and I can’t wait to get in my garden.