When to ignore the builder’s advice !



The ‘Incident’

If you’ve been following me on Facebook and Insta over the last few days you will have noticed I’m hiding out in the french Alps this week. In fact as I speak the snow is still falling. Bit of an incident occurred shortly after we arrived though, darling Ricky fell through the decking on the terrace where the outdoor jacuzzi sits, whilst clearing snow, whoops! Its fine, he’s ok and apart couple of scratches and a bruise, which he is making the most of obviously, we ended up laughing about it later. It did bring up though the whole question of practical and functional decor solutions and how I will often ignore these in favour of the beautiful aesthetic. I’m a creative for goodness sake, what do you expect?

When only ‘proper’ wood will do.

The point in question being of course the ‘failed’ wooden decking. I had insisted against advice, on this occasion given by darling Ricky, that we use gorgeous large planks of rustic wood in keeping with the surroundings, rather than the pressurised decking wood, that he suggested would be longer lasting and therefore much more practical but which I really don’t like! So you can imagine the, “I told you so” convo we had after the ‘inccident’ That stuff just looks a bit, ‘garden centre’rey (I know thats not a real word). I mean natural wood is such an amazing material, I just love it. I pretty well always include wood to some degree in any scheme I come up with, my fave being reclaimed wood, which I most recently used to make up a headboard. It just has such a warmth and texture about it that it adds instant character.

So we called up Stephane our amazingly talented local carpenter. As you might expect from a Carpenter, particularly one from these alpine parts where wood is practically a religion, he loves his wood and so completely got what I meant re the pressurised stuff. He also was surprised that the wood had rotted so quickly (5 years) but I guess the weather is pretty extreme here compared to blighty, hot sun in the summer and lots of snow through the winter. Anyway we are going to have the terrace replaced before someone kills themselves, in… drum roll…guess what ? decking I hear you cry, hell no, wood!, ha but this time we are going to use good old hard wood instead of pine and not just any old hard wood, only the trunk from a large old oak that had fallen in the garden and which we’d had stripped and sawn and has been laying in wait for some project or other of mine. I mean how eco is that! I did actually have it earmarked for a James Bond style alpine bar but heho, will have to come up with another plan for that one. So alls well that ends well.

When to ignore the builders advice!

Okay so maybe I did get that one wrong-ish but I’ve learnt my lesson from the past regarding accepting, how ever well meaning, advice on  “what I really need to use  is…” We’ve all been there haven’t we ? you’ve been collecting gorgeous images on Pinterest for weeks and you have the ideal scheme for your dream bathroom, you meet with the builder;

YOU: “well what I was thinking was wooden flooring.. BUILDER: “WOOD, (sucks in air through teeth) no you don’t want to use that love, not in a bathroom, you won’t want to be getting that wet, it will rot, you can’t wash it, it moves and shrinks, expensive too, no what you want is tiles OR you could use a nice laminate floor? nice and practical, lovely” So you end up ditching the dream bathroom scheme for something, well, sort of what you wanted, i.e. the same kind of colour! Its worth mentioning at this point that builders are well builders and not interior designers or decorators, they are trained (well hopefully) to construct, not design, so why do so many people get pushed into decisions about decor as a result of the builders recommendation? I mean I’m not suggesting all builders have no creative skills, but thats not what you are employing them for is it.

Over my years project management I’ve taken such advice when I knew deep down it was not what I really wanted but felt perhaps slightly intimidated by the builder, then later bitterly regretting not going ahead with my initial plan. Now I know to be confident and assertive. Once I have made my decision to go with something (after having weighed up the options and pros and cons first obviously), I am now not swayed by ‘would be’ designers aka ‘the builder’ Once they know who is in charge they usually get the message. They will doubtless have their own opinions on how you should decorate your home but its your home not theirs so “stick to your guns” Plus more often than not the builder will nearly always want you to opt for the easiest installation or for the material that they can get hold of at the best trade price and this often results in them trying to persuade you in certain direction.

Example, inspired by a lovely existing kitchen staircase wall which had original old T & G  painted over a thousand times,(which the painter of course wanted to strip back completely to get a nice smooth surface to repaint, nooo, all those old bumpy layers of paint from years of redecorating, you can’t buy that look, thats the point!) I insisted that the T & G I had specified for my country kitchen was real wood, even though the advice from the kitchen joiner was to use routed MDF, so practical and won’t be affected by water, yuk! I wanted authentic and character, I hate it when people rip the heart out of old buildings instead of adding to their beauty. So I did what people used to do before MDF and painted the real wood T & G to protect it, simple, not rocket science? I know aluminium window frames don’t rot and last a life time but sorry, I just don’t like them, so I will just repaint my wooden ones every few years. What is the obsession with things lasting for ever, its not like you are never going to want a change is it. Another one, wallpaper in the bathroom? gasp! er yeah. Just make sure its hung properly with quality adhesive and you have good ventilation, obviously don’t hang it actually in the shower, but on a wall in the bathroom, why not? Live dangerously!

Seriously though I’m definitely being a bit generic here. I’ve actually had the pleasure to work with some great builders and tradesmen who are actually very creative and ‘get’ exactly where I’m coming from. You need to be sure you have found the builder that is going to get what you want though, then they can be an invaluable asset to the project, tips on that in another post methinks.

To create a dream interior there are definitely times when you need to ditch practical, ignore advice and take some calculated risks, I mean life is too short to chose practicality every time over beauty. Okay so you probably wouldn’t want to use a wood floor in a family bathroom  with a well used shower, but you might want to use it in a guest bathroom. Wood actually is a living thing that grows outside… and it gets wet, see where I’m coming from? I’ve successfully used wood in my bathrooms both here and at home in Herts. Yes, where there are showers I’ve used tiles but I’ve used wood on floors in ‘bath only’ rooms and I’ve used it extensively here for bath surrounds and vanity units and guess what? seven years later it hasn’t rotted, tell it to the oak tree! (click on images for slide show).

In the end its all a question of balance. There are definitely times you need practical and functional if you’ve a house full of kids and pets then surfaces are going to get a bashing so it makes sense to chose accordingly, but there are likely to be areas like your own bedroom, bathroom or maybe a guest room that you can be a bit ‘out there’ and choose purely for love. I’ve installed a giant piece of art in my guest bathroom above the bath which I absolutely adore (and the floor is wood, sharp in take of breath) but I wouldn’t chose it in a full on family bathroom. Now I have no kids at home and I am resisting the temptation of getting a dog, I’m embracing the ability to have what I want and not having to worry about it getting trashed. So for all those people who’ve come to visit us in Herts and smashed their heads on my enormous chandeliers that I have hanging real low and in your face, looking drop dead gorgeous in my sitting room, sorry about that, but just walk round them next time!






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