Why there’s so much more to Green Houses than ripening tomatoes..

All the boho outdoor living I’ve been doing this summer has really got under my skin and despite the fact that September is on the horizon I’m still not quite ready to give up all ideas of it. So my thoughts have  been tuned into how can I prolong this outdoor living/dining experience.

I was  musing on this subject recently whilst watering my tomato plants and  was reminded of how hard it was last year getting them to turn red, we definitely need a green house I thought.

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We’ve got just the spot ready and waiting where a past Greenhouse must have once stood, so I decided to do a little research on them.

I was imagining something beautiful and period in style, so I did a little google search on Victorian style green houses  and what did I find..

dining
Alitex

Okay so those are lemons not Tomatoes but THAT is a dining table with a chandelier, albeit a bit on the small side for my taste but it got me thinking so further investigation was required..

Green house dining 2
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Who knew?

I’d never really considered a green house as a dining space, but apparently many others had! By now I’m hooked and a full on Pinterest search followed…

I just love the bohemian, thrown together vibe of this one, who couldn’t sit for hours chatting over a boozy lunch here .. just shows that apart from a little imagination, how much more do you need?

green house
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And although again, I would love to see larger and lower chandeliers in here, guess you know me and my thoughts on chandeliers by now, I love how a pretty standard aluminum greenhouse is turned into something rather special don’t you? I mean ghost chairs, I’m starting to get ‘design goosebumps’!!

Green house dining
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This beauty is by Alitex  and is pretty substantial by most standards, but how beautiful, all made in the UK and bespoke..

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but they do come in all shapes and sizes..

Alitex, Swaffer greenhouse, Arundel 10.8.07
Alitex, Swaffer greenhouse

When you think about it there are so many possibilities…who wouldn’t love a summer kitchen or winter come to that,  like this?

Green house
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A bathroom perhaps ? Okay maybe this is a step too far but pretty cool if you live in the woods!

Outdoor bathrooms
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But who needs tomatoes anyway?

She shed 2
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‘She shed’ anyone?

She shed
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Phew! after all that I am now on the brink of completely justifying the investment of said glasshouse as not only a fabulous way of getting red tomatoes and lots of other fine produce but as the perfect elegant boho dining space and as I said, I have just the spot, crying out for it!

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I am imagining a pathway lit by lanterns leading my guests up to this pop up dining space. Green Egg barbecue close by methinks..

All that remains is to convince himself not just of the endless possibilities but the actual necessity of the investment. Think I will open up the bifold doors tonight, light the candles, load up with a few dozen extra plants from the garden centre, fire up the barbie and set the scene. This could of course be a bit counter productive as I might just end up creating the effect I am trying to sell in… Hmmm well you can’t see the stars through our kitchen/dining space roof and we sure as hell aren’t going to get the tomatoes red in there plus there is so much more to a green house than ripening tomatoes and I intend to prove it! 

However this probably could turn out to be a bit of a long term dream project so in the meantime I will continue to Pin Greenhouse images over on my dedicated Pinterest board, go check it out…and would love to know of any other gorgeous green houses out there. Do you know or have a gorgeous glass house to share? Tell us all about it…

 

 

THE VALUE OF A ‘TRUSTED TRADER’ AND HOW TO FIND ONE.

HOW TO FIND A TRUSTED A TRADER (POST)

Hi Everyone,

You may or may not have been wondering where I’ve been lately due to the lack of posts since the Kitchen Design series, which had great feedback by the way so I will be doing more of these types of posts and my first foray into Vlogging, the LIVE intro to Brigitte?  Yeah yeah I know it wasn’t brilliant, but at least you got a live view of Brigitte and I will be subjecting you to another in the next couple of weeks when I reveal her in all her glory! (have you checked out the sneak peeks of her on my socials?) Plus I think vlogging may be the easiest way to stay in touch with you all when I am camped out on the beach with expected dubious internet connection!

You may also be wondering when the hell she will be finished and like ‘how long does it take to decorate a caravan?’ Truth is, I haven’t been working on my lovely Brigitte all this time, in fact she is all but finished even though we have had some hold ups, I’ve mainly been working flat out on an apartment refurbishment project in North London. This I will blog about in more detail in a later post, but, suffice to say for now, completing the renovation of a vintage caravan and ripping out and completely refitting an apartment in six weeks takes A.Stamina with a touch of masochism and B.a good team of tradesmen and it is on the subject of trusted tradesmen that I write today.

The extremely tight six week schedule on this project has reminded me of  just how crucial having  a good team of trusted tradesmen around you is. I’m glad to say generally I have built up quite a good team of people whom I work with, but on this project I had to use a couple of new tradesmen and the outcome was mixed, ie one good and one definitely not so, which resulted in delay and almost completely threw the schedule off! It’s all sorted and we are back on track, but it is seriously stressful when you find you are dealing with an incompetent tradesman not to mention often costly! There are a few things I’ve learnt you can do to help safe guard against this (none of them will ever be full proof obviously) and I definitely overlooked one of these when I took this particular guy on. I could kick myself, but when you are up against it managing a project schedule and doing all the other million things involved like ordering and specifying etc.. it happens and to be honest it’s the challenge of project management, getting everything to work together, materials ordered and delivered on time, co-ordinating the work and scheduling the trades, is part of what I love about renovations.

Projects are always challenging and inefficient or bad tradesmen are the kind of issues that can and often do threaten to throw things off track, but you have to hang on in there and with the help of pills and wine, bring it back. I jest obviously (though I’m not going to deny a glass or two can help at the end of a stressful day!) however the more trusted the team you are working with and/or the better the network you can call on, the easier this is to do. Not so easy if renovation works are not something  you are doing regularly, so how can you find a tradesman you can trust for your project ? Well if you asking me I think we should first take a look at what constitutes a trusted tradesman , this is what I look for and have found pretty much sum up my own favourite tradesmen:

WHAT MAKES A GOOD TRADESMAN?

  • SKILL & WORKMANSHIP

This is obviously the key consideration. I’m looking for quality and a conscientious workmanship. Someone who cares about the work they are producing for both themselves and me. Pride in their work is their main motivator.

  • RELIABILITY

I want someone who is as good as his or her word. Churning out great work is clearly the first criteria but if a project is going to run smoothly I also need someone who will turn up when they say they will, complete the job within the timescale that both they and I set.

  • FRIENDLY ATTITUDE

Who wants to work alongside a grumpy, unhelpful person? I certainly don’t. Part of  what I love about a project is the team work and interacting with others and thats quite apart from the fact you often need tradesmen to ‘dovetail’ their work in with the next or work alongside to make things happen. So a friendly team player really does help!

  • CLEAN & TIDY

This will vary but there has to be a reasonable level of tidiness and respect for where they are working. I find looking at the way they turn out and the condition in which they keep their vehicles will give you quite a good idea.

  •  FAIR PRICING

I’m always keen to get good prices from tradesmen and I am known to haggle quite hard at times but I’ve generally found that if all the other qualities are there, a fair price or day rate is usually a ‘given’ Sure some trades do charge fairly high rates but as long as they fall into that general rate and aren’t being greedy I’m fine with that. I’m wary of those that charge too low as well as too high. Most good tradesmen know the going rate if they need to undercut or they are charging up there is a reason and it’s usually not a good one!

How to find a good tradesman ?

  So how do you find one? Check out my top tips below:

  • RECOMMENDATION

This is a fairly obvious one and the first thing most people think to do if they need to hire someone for a job large or small and why not? its probably the best and most fool proof way BUT be mindful of the fact that everyone has different standards and ideas about what is good, acceptable and shoddy workmanship, you know it, its like, “I love Tesco’s Own label” whereas it could be “I won’t touch anything that isn’t Waitrose” Not only that but there is also a case for “horses for courses” there are some tradesmen who will happily handle something fairly straight forward very well but there are maybe other more complex jobs that require more skill, think GP, Doctor, Consultant. So if a friend of yours had a shower tiled on a basic wall with standard ceramic tiles and is delighted with the result, be sure that their recommended tiler is capable, read ‘accustomed to’, laying  and cutting your Fired Earth natural stone or Calacatta Marble! different ball game..

  • KEEP ON THE LOOK OUT FOR GOOD WORK

If you are likely to be wanting some work done in the near future or even if you haven’t anything planned when you are out and about keep an eye open for good workmanship. Maybe a friend may have something done, ask for the name of the tradesman and keep a note. It may be you are out and notice a sign written van that catches your eye because they are advertising something specialist or a way that makes you look twice, I usually take a photo on my phone or if I can I will strike up a conversation with the tradesman ask them about their work, get a card. It could be you are in a restaurant or shop and see some great workmanship or something different, ask the owner or manager for the tradesman’s details.

  • DO YOUR HOMEWORK

Do some research on the work you are looking to get done. Have some knowledge up your sleeve this will help you to see through some of the ‘BS’ that you will get fed. I’m not saying you need to be an expert but the internet is an amazing resource and you can find out so much about pretty much anything. Its my biggest yard stick, I’m not saying I could do it myself but after having being involved with so many renovations now, I am up to speed on the basics of how most of this stuff is done and what can and can’t be, I have to be to work a schedule, you may find my  previous post ‘when to ignore the builder’s advice‘ an interesting read at this point. Some, not all, but usually the ones I don’t end up taking on funnily enough, will use a smoke screen of BS to blind you with science and try to appear super knowledgable, this is usually to hide inadequacy in my experience, the good ones don’t usually need to. Its worse too if you are a woman I might add, but it happens to men also, we are all familiar with the sucking in of air scratching of chin scenario, this usually means they aren’t up to it, avoid!

  • TRY BEFORE YOU BUY!

See and get quotes from at least 3 and preferably 5 tradesman, you will definitely get a feel for price and who you feel comfortable with. Then when you have eliminated the ones you definitely don’t want, ask the rest to give you contact details of previous clients. Call them up and ask questions, about there time keeping etc.. not just about the end result, ideally ask if they would mind you taking a look, though I get that this doesn’t always seem the right or easiest thing to do. I would definitely ask though if it is a major build and if the builder is good they won’t have a problem with giving you names and details. If someone asked me, I wouldn’t mind would you?

  • CHECK OUT ONLINE TRADESMEN SITES

This would probably not be my first port of call, but I have used it before and had mixed results.I’m thinking of Trust a Trader, Rated People, MyBuilder.com and the like.  The good thing about these sites is that they do run on customer reviews which can be helpful BUT as I said before everybody has a different idea about what ‘good’ is and so they can be misleading. You don’t really know what was involved in previous jobs they may have been more simple and  not requiring same skill set or level. So be aware. They work like Tripadvisor, one man’s caviar is another man’s, well, fish eggs!

  • WORK VIA ANOTHER PROFESSIONAL

If your project is a fairly large one, you may opt to work with a trusted professional. An Architect, Interior Designer or general Builder who who will already have gathered their own team of  trusted tradesmen this will take a big pressure from you if you choose correctly. If its a larger project you may want to consider all three of these. The Architect and Interior Designer would be involved at the earlier stages and can also help you by project managing if you feel thats what you wanted. If the work doesn’t require an Architect you could employ and Interior Designer to design and bring in their tradesmen to complete the works. If you are confident on your design a good general Builder can project manage and bring in his/her trusted tradesmen. You should check these professionals first though as l have ready suggested with individual traders. There are good and bad standards in all areas but you also need to be able to work with them and so you should feel comfortable to do that too.

  • TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS

Follow your gut instincts. If you get the wrong feeling or something just doesn’t feel right listen to yourself, this is often one of the best yard sticks.

FINALLY – GET IT IN WRITING

I always like to put something in writing when I’ve agreed it, even if it is just a text to confirm whats to be done, the start and finish dates and the price. It may make no difference at the end of the day but I find it keeps it very clear. You must get their written confirmation though and if they don’t seem to want to give you that then I would question why.

So what do you think? Have you had good/bad experiences with Tradesmen? Would love you to share your ideas and thoughts with us?

And here’s a handy checklist to help you in your search for a trusty trader!

TRADESMAN CHECKLIST POST

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be you own Interior Designer – Kitchen Renovations Part 3

How to avoid Kitchen laboratory syndrome.

Hi people,

Apologies in advance for any spelling and grammatical errors I may make, I’m struggling a bit to keep up with my blogging schedule this week and I am having to write this late into the evening, which is never a great time for me to try and concentrate since I am an early to rise, early to bed type. So awake at 5.30am, up by 6 am and fading fast by 7 pm is pretty much the weekday norm, but needs must and I’m nothing if not reliable and I hate having to back track on commitments.

It’s been full on getting Brigitte prepared since the weekend and I’m quite ‘painted out’ Its only a little 6 square metre caravan but the painting seems to be taking me longer than the largest room in my house and I’ve still a way to go! ENOUGH, let’s get on with it, I’m intending to update you on Brigitte’s progress next post, I may even try a VLOG, yeek!

Theres nothing I hate more than a brand spanking new cold lifeless kitchen, usually white or some such neutral, rows of matching cupboards and zero character and warmth, ‘laboratory syndrome’ is what I call it. You know what I mean right? those kitchens you often see in ads with prices splashed all over them, can’t think why they would imagine anyone would be enticed to buy whatever the price, or the ones in the estate agents details that the builder has just put up for sale. You know, the one that’s ‘neutral’ so you can put your own stamp on it but of course it’s too late for you to put your own stamp on it as it’s already in and a posh coffee machine on the side just isn’t going to cut it!

Sorry to be a bit scathing about it but I honestly do hate it when I see perfectly good homes, particularly period homes, that have been ‘renovated’ by builders who basically rip the heart out of a house and put in sterile bathrooms and kitchens. I want to shout, “bring back the skip, rip up the laminate and paint the floor boards!” I could go on about this but I think it’s best that I move on..

I think you have to be really careful that you don’t get dragged into ‘Lab Syn’ when you are designing your own kitchen and I think it’s an easy trap to fall into especially since there are so many options and it’s a big investment so it’s natural to want to play it safe. Chances are the kitchen designer may also head you down the ‘standard’ route, partly because they also want to play it safe with your liking it and also because they are churning these plans out and probably repeating layouts and designs over and over.

So what can you do to ensure that your kitchen is the heart and soul of your home. After all these days the kitchen is rarely just a practical room to cook in, it’s also our dining and main living area. Where we gather with friends and family to work, eat, drink, chat and be merry so it needs to tick all the boxes.  Practicality for sure but also stylish, homely and comfortable and maybe even a little glam if that’s your thing.

Find some inspiration..

The inspiration for my country kitchen was the lovely working but homely kitchens and below stairs rooms on the Downton Abbey set. I loved the gorgeous greeny grey colour and the copper pans, the dimly lit cosy space and the old wood furniture, it oozed home didn’t it? all that baking and drama! I mean I loved some of the glamorous upstairs sets too, but this looked the most relaxed. I actually googled the colours for the set and found they had used two greys from the Myland paint range, this is a truly fabulous paint range if you haven’t tried it by the way. I didn’t actually use their greys in the end, but that’s another story, however the point I am trying to make is that I wanted the feel of that living space and this became my inspiration. What you don’t want to really do is find an image of a kitchen and copy it. Sure take note of features in it that you like, but it won’t translate as very personal if you don’t put your stamp on it. If you’ve done your pre-planning, as suggested in part 1,  you will have found some inspiration before you start and have it all mapped out on your mood board.

Colour and texture

You will have guessed from my earlier comments that personally I’m not a great fan of white kitchens, she says whilst in the middle of painting her retro caravan kitchen F&B ‘All White’ oops! well this is not a proper kitchen but a mere kitchenette and there is more cooker than cabinet, you will see what I mean soon. I don’t really dislike them if they look something like the images above which have added texture and other neutral colours. If you don’t add different textures and colours though they can look, well, cold and sterile like a lab! The use in these designs of natural textures like wood and brick have really brought these spaces to life and added warmth and as for this image below, texture and colour OMG, tick !

Ok so this one is a pretty amazing space but what a combo of texture and colour, not to mention the oversized lights! It’s still a do-able combo any where though. The exposed brick wall is a current favourite and can add instant interest and texture, plus now you don’t actually have to have a real exposed brick wall with either some of the brilliant brick effect wallpaper such as Mr Perswall available from Rockett St George or faux Brick panels.

Theres a bit of a green theme going on here, but there’s that combo again, different shade of green than before but again with wood, black, brick, white and metallic they are looking fabulously thrown together don’t you think? Nothing flat pack about these babies! Also loving that gold hanging rail and the old random cabinet. Cool lived-in luxe with bags of personality and individuality, absolutely no white coats here!

Then of course there’s just TEXTURE or just COLOUR..

 

Using vintage and antiques

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Desiretoinspire.net

Being clever by adding the odd piece of vintage or antique furniture to an otherwise modern space can really add personality, the really clever use of this table with modern stools and a backdrop of geometric tiles is perfect and you saw above how  an old cabinet sat perfectly among more modern furniture. The key here is to use the pieces in neutral colours or woods which themselves should be considered neutral. I would tend to keep the same tone of woods to keep a cohesive look as the designer Jessica Helgerson has done here.

Black magic

Black is BIG in kitchens at the moment, it’s dramatic and glamorous

Or adds some lux to rustic

certainly no lab coats in here!

Shelve the cupboards

What you will note in most of the images so far is that rows of wall units are not a feature. Open shelving, which can also be great interspersed with units are a great way to add interest. These can be full on ..

Or a bit more restrained if you think you are the kind of family that will keep this casual look looking a bit more casual than you would like!

Even white kitchens can look good with open shelving!

And hang your pans

and for those who say “but my kitchen is only diddy”

small on size big on personality

And finally….accessorise

“The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize”

So says Clairee Belcher, Steel Magnolias, 1989 and so true (one of my fave all time movies, watch it you won’t be sorry)

Accessorise in your kitchen as you do in all other areas of your home, forget that old idea of keeping things clear and clinical, we’re ditching that idea ok?

Stuffed animals, dripping chandeliers..

Art and whatever else you fancy.

So then, a few ideas for you to consider. Which ones are your favourites? If anyone is doing or about to do a kitchen renovation would love to hear from you on any tips you would like to share with us or maybe you would to share your kitchen pics of before and after? It’s a huge subject and I certainly haven’t covered everything but let me know if there’s something you would like me to post about. Use the comments below to share or feel free to email me at jane@janeashton.com

 

BE YOUR OWN INTERIOR DESIGNER – KITCHEN RENOVATIONS PART 2

 

 

Yellow Industrial Table

Hi People,

Hope you all had a great Easter break and indulged in all that ‘floats your boat’  Been a week or so since I posted as I took some time out to spend with friends and family and I have to say it worked out pretty well. Since my Birthday fell in the week leading up to Easter I managed to extract every last drop out of the whole week, just like me to kick the proverbial ‘backside’ out of it, if it’s worth doing as they say..  I had a fab time, one of the best birthdays ever! Plus, if you follow me on the socials you would have noticed I went out with a bang after my country house project was chosen as Abigail Ahern’s House Crush, whoop, whoop! Such praise coming from Abigail, who has been revered as the current ‘High Priestess of Interiors’ is flattery indeed and I received an outpouring of wonderful positive response from so many for my style and blog, I was ‘made up’, head grew, needed to sit down!

As a result, lots of interior junkies have found me in cyber space and so I would also like to warmly welcome quite a few newbies to our little community. Really hope you will enjoy being here and I value your support and beg your patience, as I maybe an old hand at renovations and interiors but a definite beginner blogger! so feel completely free to comment, good and bad, on stuff I’m doing and showing to keep or put me on the track you want. This blog is all about me giving you guys the most helpful and entertaining interiors blog I can and I hope to do more and facilitate that as I get more proficient, so your feedback is really important to me.

I have a busy and exciting few months planned and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you. There’s an apartment renovation challenge soon to get underway and the completion and reveal of the ‘Brigitte’ project, which is building momentum. Not to mention her maiden voyage, so watch this space and connect with me on the socials so you don’t miss any of the updates and I’d love to hear from you, so come on and lets get chatty!!

Anyway, Kitchens and despite storm Katie, (that seems way to nice a name to me to give such a destructive force don’t you think?) Spring is in the air, I can definitely feel it so I thought a kitchen, well kitchen/diner image featuring the ultimate spring colour was in order. I like daffodils but I really don’t think I could do a whole yellow kitchen, but certain shades of .. ie for me mustard-y  or certain objects by way of a highlight can be splendid. I have yellow Le Crueset pans as you can see in my kitchen (as old as my marriage, which you may also see) and I love sunflowers (it was summer time when this was taken) and I think I could definitely manage that yellow industrial table in a dining area, what do you think? pretty cool huh? ..gorgeous image is courtesy of the shootfactory a location agency that I mentioned in a past post about hiring out your house for shoots.. anyway enough of all that lets get on with this Kitchen renovation series, you’ve work to do..

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Now you’ve stuck and pinned your scrap book to your hearts content, you should be a lot more focused and confident, less overwhelmed. It’s no mean feat pulling together and completing any large project so give yourself a pat on the back for ‘going there’ in the first place. For an Interior Designer, projects are a mixture of creative thinking and practical and ordered execution. Approaching your project in a methodical way will definitely help you stay on top of things.

The Design Process

  1. The Brief
  2. Design Analysis
  3. Mood or concept
  4. Design Development
  5. working drawings
  6. Quotes and costings
  7. Implementation and project management

4. Design Development

You will remember from part 1 that we looked at how to attack stages 1-3 of the design process, in practice a budget will be discussed at the brief stage, but as an Interior Designer I would now be asking lots of questions to ascertain how the budget should be apportioned, to take the design forward.

The Budget

What this will be is obviously down to you, but I can help you to consider it. You will probably have a budget in mind already but it’s now time to gather in some prices and work out how you will be apportioning it. Gathering in your costs and setting out the budget will in reality happen somewhat simultaneously, but you can start first by thinking through the main priorities.

What you can afford v’s what is proportionate and appropriate

Primarily the first consideration will probably be down to what you can afford and of course this is the most important but that shouldn’t necessarily be the only consideration. It will also depend on what you want, expect and need from your kitchen. You need now to set not only the total budget but where you are best advised to proportion it, so consider:

  • The amount of wear it’s likely to get – do you have children and/or pets? skimping on quality for the sake of looks and design in this case maybe a false economy, if it’s likely to take a daily bashing it will soon need replacing!
  • If it needs to be ‘hard core’ go for most hardwearing worktops and finishes and the best quality appliances the budget will allow. Better to go for basic good quality appliances rather than fancy non-essentials such as sleek built in coffee machines and sunken TV’s if this is the case. Sounds obvious?  yes, but those kitchen showrooms are nothing if not seductive, you can easily forget that it’s likely that rather than relaxingly knocking up a stir-fry for two over a glass of chablis on a moody lit kitchen island, you are more likely to be surrounded by kids playing tag and the labrador chasing them round that island whilst you drain off the potatoes for the mash! 
  • Are you a mad keen cook/chef? – a good range of high tech quality appliances will definitely be worth investing in if you spend a lot of time cooking for pleasure.
  • If not maybe better quality or more decorative items are worth the splurge.
  • How long are you intending to stay at the property ? – It’s probably not necessary to buy top of the range if you are going to be leaving in a years time, however its worth matching the expectation of quality and design to the type of buyer you are likely to sell to. From a resale point of view investment in a Kitchen is usually a good thing, as long as you haven’t spent £80k on a Bulthaup and your house is worth £200k! proportion obviously is the key here, but any estate agent will tell you that the kitchen can often sell a house today. People love the open plan living of a kitchen/dining space, so design and choose carefully.

Consider the route that works best for you..

You now know what you are aiming to achieve, the style and form you are looking for, you know your budget and the priorities for how it will be apportioned. There are three routes you can take to complete the design development and take you through the final steps of working drawings and implementation. Now to decide on which of the three routes will suit your needs the best:

  1. Kitchen company
  2. Interior Designer
  3. DIY – BE YOUR OWN INTERIOR DESIGNER

Whichever of the three options you decide to take, now is the time to get yourself out there and check out the quality and features of whats on offer.

1. The Kitchen Company

Choose your kitchen supplier don’t let them choose you!

All kitchen suppliers from the top to the bottom of the chain will offer a free kitchen design service which is great but before you jump in and book in a design appointment first check out whats on offer and who’s got what.

You will have already spotted who has got designs you are looking for (you will have done this in step 1). Now go and physically check them out for the quality they are offering and at what price. There is quite a variation. According to Which, their survey on several big kitchen companies including Ikea, B&Q and John Lewis, revealed prices for a basic, standard set of eight units for a small kitchen, varied from around £500 to almost £5,000 (these prices include units only and are excluding installation and appliances). The majority of the kitchens cost between £1,000 and £3,000 at this end of the market. Further up the scale bespoke kitchens will obviously be more expensive but even these can vary enormously.

Whatever your budget you are going to want to get the best value you can for your money so look at the quality of the actual carcass. More expensive units will tend to be made with thicker and denser material, look at the drawers runners, hinges, and the backs of the units, what are they made of? These are the areas that will wear first, so be sure they are going to be what you need them to be. What are the guarantees being offered?

It would be a good idea now to get some comparative quotes from two or three different suppliers. Ask them for a price list or a quote on a small basic kitchen, comprising:

  • Sink and base unit
  • Two base units with a drawer and shelf
  • A base unit with four drawers
  • Two wall units with a door and two shelves each
  • A housing unit for an oven,
  • All including handles, hinges and fixings, and a 40mm worktop.

Its worth remembering the kitchen designer is in reality a salesman for the company and their job is to sell you as many and as much of their product as possible. They normally won’t let you take away any design they draw up until you have agreed a deal and paid a deposit, so you won’t be able to take it away and get a comparative quote and they will invariably add in items that other suppliers don’t have etc  so you need to keep it simple. Getting a basic price like this will allow you to gauge prices more accurately. Once you have started going down the route of kitchen design appointments you will have jumped this stage and may find it very difficult to make direct comparisons, especially once they start offering you all sorts of deals and discounts. It’s important to stay ahead and in control of the game remember you are doing the choosing not the other way around.

Remember..

NEVER agree to a deal on the day, however attractive or ‘about to end’ the offer is, this is hard selling and should put you off anyway! always go home and sleep on it, that deal will still be there next week, trust!

Advantages & Disadvantages

The advantage of a kitchen company is mainly convenience. They will design your kitchen and supply working drawings and supply and fit. However you will need to ensure that any other remodelling works are done before they fit. For example if you are removing walls, extending, moving services etc.. you will need to get tradesmen in prior to this. The convenience will also come at a higher cost. Designers, showrooms and advertising are all costs you will ultimately be paying for in the price of your kitchen.

2. The Interior Designer

You might also want consider on-boarding an interior designer on a consultancy basis for to help you with the design development and drawings. You will have a clear picture of what you are looking for and most designers will be happy to take on consultancy for certain stages and aspects of your project. If you are keen to manage the project yourself  but find the idea of working drawings and space planning a bit more than you want to take on, this could be an ideal solution. 

Advantages & Disadvantages

The advantages of hiring an interior designer are that they are not tied in to any one company and will be looking to design the best solution for you. In contrast to the kitchen company, who in the main offer a kitchen space planning service, they are designers as and will also be considering the whole space including your dining area etc..and how it will also work cohesively. They can give you great design ideas and features and probably give you the confidence to add the extra wow factor that you really want but are not quite sure how to achieve and hopefully help you to avoid what I call ‘kitchen laboratory syndrome’ which I will cover in another post!

They will charge you for their services but the cost maybe off set by the discounts they maybe able to obtain for you (most will pass these on to their client). They may also, as I did in my kitchen, work directly with joiners, who will execute their designs to create a bespoke kitchen at a much lower cost than an upper end kitchen company.

3. DIY -Be Your Own Interior Designer

Its not as easy as 1 and 2 but its do-able. Basically It will involve all of the above. You will need to go and check out the suppliers for quality and gather basic cost kitchen prices. If you are going it alone you will have to get your design together but there are now plenty of online programs to help you with this. Many companies such as IKEA and Homebase have their own programs. They are obviously provided to help sell their product so are fine if you have decided on that particular kitchen but these will be of limited use if you want a general plan. I would suggest that you draw up a plan on a generic design program such as Easy Planner 3d there are a few like this around and most are free. If this feels a bit scary you can always buy some graph paper and cut out pieces of paper to scale, representing the units and devise a layout this way, it’s a bit more basic and you won’t have the advantage of 3d but at least it will be to scale and you will know if it fits! You can then either buy off the shelf units from your chosen supplier or submit your plans to smaller joiners in your local area for quotes.

Advantages & Disadvantages

The advantage of doing it yourself is of course the cost. If you can lose the cost of the design fee via the more expensive kitchen company or the Interior Designer’s fee, you are definitely going to save. However this is only worth it if you feel you are going to be confident in getting the design that you want. You don’t want to be making expensive mistakes.

“Take your time, kitchens are a major investment and the heart of the home”

A few things to consider then. Most importantly I think is take your time kitchens are a major investment whatever your budget and the heart of the home, so it’s important to give it plenty of thought and planning, it’s not something you are likely to be doing again for a while and it causes a fair amount of upheaval so you want to be in control and sure you are going to get exactly what you want.

In the next post of this Kitchen Design Series I’m going to look at adding personality to your kitchen and avoiding ‘Laboratory syndrome’ hope you are enjoying the series? would love to know your thoughts and if there are other areas you would like me to cover? Drop me a line in the comments below.. or at jane@janeashton.com

Jx

PS If you need Design Consultancy and would like more information on working with me would love to hear from you, find out more here

BE YOUR OWN INTERIOR DESIGNER- KITCHEN RENOVATION PART ONE.

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PLANNING YOUR KITCHEN RENOVATION

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail” 

I’m one of those people who loves, no NEEDS to be organised. I like lists and plans as I approach a project, well its not just projects  its day to day life to be honest. Darling Richy finds it rather amusing when he sees me religiously filling in my Action Day Weekly Planner  for the week ahead. Laugh he may, but I live by the old Benjamin Franklin saying ‘Failing to prepare, is preparing to fail” I find it helps not only so I make sure I don’t miss anything, with so many things flying around my head, the words memory and sieve spring to mind, but also I like to be focused or I find that it is way to easy with all thats out there to get side tracked down another completely unrelated path! So if you’ve decided on or you are thinking about a kitchen renovation and you’ve started looking around at what is available, I’ve no doubt you are already feeling a little overwhelmed and rightly so it’s a nightmare out there!

We are now lucky enough to have an enormous amount of supplier choice and access to a huge selection of kitchen image inspiration thanks to the web and we can even design our own kitchen with the help of numerous online design tools and resources. If only we knew where to start right? Even more reason then you need to be fully ‘prepped’ and mentally focused on what you are looking to achieve if you are not going to drown in that ‘kitchen sea’…makes me feel queasy just thinking about it! Therefore the first post in this Kitchen Design series is looking at what I call the ‘Pre-Planning‘ phase, the bit before the actual designing, think of it as diving training, but you don’t need to hold your breath or shout for a raft I’m going to give you an oxygen tank!

If you were to hire an Interior Designer to help you to renovate and redesign your kitchen they would take you through a design process to enable them to ascertain and focus on the style and function you are trying to attain in your Kitchen Design. They would be looking at several aspects so that they can work out the best way to do this within your budget.

To be guided through this Kitchen design process by an Interior Designer is obviously much easier, but a service you would pay for. However it could save you money in the long run whether on the cost of the actual kitchen via trade contacts and discounts that most Interior Designers these days will pass on to you and/or by ensuring that you don’t make expensive mistakes. They would also design and draw up a bespoke kitchen especially for you, with extra design features and a layout to suit your needs, not the needs and/or sales targets or limitations of the kitchen company! (More about that later in the series) Oh yes and they would also take care of the organising and managing of  the project, phew! However if this is not for you, do not fear, with some desire and stamina. it’s completely possible to guide yourself through a similar process and be your own Interior Designer, read on..

THE DESIGN PROCESS

  • The Brief
  • Design Analysis
  • Mood or Concept
  • Design Development
  • Working Drawings
  • Quotes and Costings
  • Implementation & Project Management

These are the general steps an Interior Designer will follow to get you to where you want to be. Maybe you will be looking to manage the whole Kitchen renovation from the brief to implementation or perhaps you are planning to hand most of the process over to a kitchen design company. Either way the pre-planning phase, that is the Brief to the Mood or Concept Board, would be well worth spending some time on and here are my tips on how.

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1. TAKE YOUR OWN BRIEF

This is where the Interior Designer, thats you, would establish the client’s, also you, aims and objectives. Before you start, get yourself a nice note book, label it up Kitchen Design and ask yourself some questions and note down the answers: What you are trying to achieve and why? Do you need more space? Do you want to modernise? How will you want to use the space ie cooking and/or family dining, entertaining? home study area? What functions will it need to perform? Are you a keen cook ? What will be the scope of the work? Will  you be looking to or need to extend? can you extend? what is your budget, what are the time scales? Really drill down into who, how and what is  required and needed.

Yes it sounds obvious but sometimes it’s good to just take some time to define your reasons and specify your goals before you take steps to action them. It could be that you and your partner have different ideas and now is a good time to make sure you are reading from the same page!

2. DESIGN ANALYSES – DO A RECCE

Right so now you know what you are trying to achieve, let’s see what you need to do to get there. Take stock of what you have in your existing kitchen. Are you going to revamp or renew? Perhaps you can adapt and/or add or just renew parts of  what you have already to achieve the desired affect? You may have already decided that you want to dump the lot and start again, thats fine, but even if you do there is still value in taking a view on whats working and whats not. So take out that note book and note your findings..

What exists?  What is desired ?  What is possible?

Look at your current layout, appliances, finishes etc and analyse what you think about them so that you can ensure that you can carry things (even if not literally) that are working over or not as the case maybe, example:

  • Definitely like wooden worktops but wouldn’t have them in the sink area again.
  • love that my sink is under the window so I can look out into the garden
  • Units are in quite good condition but I hate the door finishes.

…that kind of thing. Plus once you move on to the budget phase you may need to revert to a revamp rather than renew if what you are aiming for is falling way out of the budget!

Mood Board kitchen

3. MAKE UP A MOODBOARD

“your mood board is your visual reference whilst sourcing and designing”

Before you even start thinking about walking into a showroom spend some time just getting your head around the sort of style and feel that you want to achieve. You may be inclined at this stage to want to start visiting showrooms and contacting suppliers but I would suggest you don’t do that yet for two reasons. a) You will get completely confused by the choice available and likelihood is that you will be attracted to more than one style, so its a good idea if you get focused on what you are going out looking for before you start. Its a bit like going into the supermarket hungry and without a shopping list…see where I’m coming from? and b) this is a big deal and a long haul you will need all the preparation and motivation you can get to keep you moving on to the final result once you get started!

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Get into Blue Peter mode, Start pinning and tearing and sticking!

If you haven’t done so already sign up to Pinterest and start pinning your fave kitchen images, search the web, pull out pics in mags, spend some time on this at least a couple of weeks or more time if the project is planned a way off. Then when you feel you are ‘kitchen’ed out’! start to edit and analyse. A theme will have probably emerged and you will now see what you are most attracted to in terms of colour, style, finishes etc..Edit it down so that you don’t have lots of repeated images but make sure you have enough of all the features, colours and decorative looks that you love. Include decorative lighting wallpaper tiles etc.. If you have the sources of these take a note of them now, this will help later. Pinterest is effectively a bookmarking tool linking you back to the original source so its really useful for this purpose too.

Now you can create a mood board, this is the fun and creative part of the process and used properly this will really help you to stay on track. You can do this on Pinterest or even better I find is a physical board, get yourself down to hobbycraft and pick up some board (you can print images from the web if needs be) so you can keep it in your sight. This isn’t obviously set in stone and you can adapt and add other things you might find, but the more you can drill down into what style and design you really want the easier and more enjoyable you will find the journey! The more detail the better, knobs and handles styles, decorative lighting that kind of thing. Narrow it down as much as you can.

Your mood board is your visual reference whilst sourcing and designing your Kitchen and will help you keep focused. Once you are happy that you have the look and finishes you want start collecting samples of tiles, wall/floor coverings etc.., many companies will let you order these on line, often free of charge. Collect a few different qualities and price ranges so that you have some options when it comes to making your selection. Once you move on to budgeting you will then be able to bring together your actual sample board, ie the finished selection.

PRE – PLANNING DONE!

Next Kitchen Design post – Design Development, Quotes and Costings.

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Top 10 of the best… side tables

Side tables and stuff..

Spring has sprung…no honestly, its happening but don’t change over the winter wardrobe just yet you know thats just asking for trouble! Ok well I think we can all see it glimmering in the distance and after the usual hibernation and frugality of January and February perhaps we are starting to think about a spring spruce up indoors and not only a spring clear out, but maybe some shipping  in of some new stuff? So I thought I would start a spring accessories round up featuring my top 10 of the best..

First up its side tables. Side tables are one of those things I could probably buy all day long, I have to say there are some pretty gorgeous looking baby’s out there at the moment and I’ve struggled to narrow it down to 10 from the 90 odd I’ve recently pinned on my Pinterest 

“An essential for your cocktail..”

The good old side table is an essential, for your book, tea, specs., wine, cocktail?.. Pretty awkward when you go visiting and theres no where to put your drink! Invariable the coffee table is stuck out in the middle of the room and/or only accessible to the few who’ve ‘bagged’ the best spot. You’re then on your own and its either hang on to it and refuse the nibbles/biscuits or risk the ‘putting it on the floor’ scenario!

“You can never have too many..”

In my little snug room and it is little believe me, I have four, bit excessive you may think? but because they are small , all different styles and heights, it works, not sure you can have too many, they are useful for so many things. I have one with a plant on, one with a lamp on and one each side of the sofa for me and himself  to put our drinks. I actually prefer a few side tables to one larger coffee table in many situations. An ottoman in the centre of the seating, which also doubles up as seating slash foot stool as well as somewhere to pop a tray and then several small, more flexible side tables, I think can often work much better than everyone trying to access the larger central coffee table.

The ideal plan is for all seated to be able to access some kind of perch either in front, side or behind via a console. Of course if you are short on space there is always the nest of tables, yes they’re back, not sure they ever left to be honest but I don’t think I have wanted them for a few years, slightly reminiscent of tea at the grandparents! come on, they made sense and they are back looking pretty glam I might add.

In terms of trends we’ve got finishes of metallic, marble, concrete, wood,  Jute. Designs are wired, mirrored, carved, geometric, tribal, animal and nature inspired.

1. First up it’s currently my no.1 fave, is this hot Pavo side table from Anthropologie which comes in an antiqued brass or silver finish, at £368 it’s not cheap but I think its a real statement piece and you might want to put this pride of place!

10 best side tables

2. Copper is still going strong despite the talk that it may soon be on the way out. I think it’s likely to hang around a bit longer yet and why not I’m certainly not tiring of it. My choice is this wire one from Mia Fleur, who in my opinion have one of the cutest curated selection of all the boutique ‘onliners’at the mo..  This one also has the added benefit of storage, can’t go wrong, hurry they are already on wait list with this and I’m not surprised. Mia Fleur £172.00MiaFleur- Copper Wire Side Table £172

3. Always on the money with her design is Abigail Ahern’s brass Emerson stool, one of which proudly sits in my sitting room, this one also doubles as a stool, so win win! £165

Top 10 of the best side tables AA

4. Marble is still reigning strong with plenty to choose from, I struggled with this,  finally settling on one of the  marvellous marble top Rockett St. George  offering at £120

Top 10 of the best side tables RSG

5. You can’t beat a touch of humour in the room to loosen things up a bit! of the fun animal ‘tongue in cheek’ offerings, this is cute from Urban Outfitters £80 Top 10 of the best side tables UO

6. When it comes to the ethnic inspired offerings my money is on this one from Okadirect at £159 and made from handwoven sturdy rattan, great to add a hint of  exotic travel to your room.

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7. Best geometric category goes to… Abigail Ahern for her Malone side table, £250

Top 10 of the best side tables AA2

8. Couldn’t miss out a true vintage piece and my best search found this beauty from The Old Cinema, a 1950’s mosaic topped table at £120

Top 10 of the best side tables OC

9. Best wood category goes to this cute small teak table from Zara home £99.99

Top 10 of the best side tables Zara

10. And finally the ‘Nest’ award to Swoon Editions for their contemporary brass with antiqued mirror , nothing ‘Granny’ about these! £249

Top 10 of the best side tables Swoon E1

Well thats my pick and you can find the best of the rest over on my Pinterest board. Which is your favourite?

 

DESIGN SAVVY HEADBOARDS YOU NEED TO SEE…

 

Design savvy headboards F &FB-4

Hey y’all,

The headboard thing just isn’t going away, it’s keeping me up nights. Just think more ‘cred’ should be given to the poor old headboard and poor they certainly can be. OMG there are some seriously boring and dare I say shocking ones out there. Okay so yes it does do a practical job, this I definitely can report to be the case since I haven’t actually got one and believe me when I tell you that it’s not the same drinking your cuppa in bed without, bit messy to be honest! but do they have to be so drab? So where are we going with this? It seems to me we need to go high, go bold, go graphic, go wood, go boho, go old, go luxe or go wow !  I think a little trip down headboard inspo lane is  required…

‘GO HIGH’

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See I’m liking the idea of using the whole wall a headboard, how very luxe and how comfortable to sit up against that black velvet! Not sure I think the grey one needed a sort of mini headboard within it, think it would have looked better if it had come down to the floor like the black but I love the addition of the mirror. Imagine how much less gorgeous these rooms would look with short headboards, no wow there then!

‘GO BOLD

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I am positively swooning over that red board against that Green, it’s making my mouth water! The other shows clever use of colour by painting in the headboard structure in the same hue as the walls adding interest but acting as a fab backdrop to the main event, that yellow, love!

‘GO GRAPHIC’

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What guy wouldn’t love these wall murals? needs little else in these rooms, just a bed and your done! there are loads to chose from and not just for the boys. check out Pixers.

‘GO WOOD’

Something for everyone here. Whether you like smooth and sleek, classic or rustic, a real wood head board or wood wall is hard to beat. I had my clever Dad make mine up with reclaimed floor boards!

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‘GO BOHO’

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What can I say, Release your inner child! I know couple of these do actually have headboards but the backdrop is so gorgeous we aren’t even really noticing so that works too!

‘GO OLD”

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Nothing drab about these beauties, grab one at auction or try Sunbury Antiques fair at Kempton Park Race course, the first and last Tuesday of every month.

‘GO LUXE’

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Mirrors in the headboard would normally be a bit tacky, not here! and I’m not sure what I’m loving more the colour or the sheer height of the teal velvet headboard, swoon!

‘GO WOW’

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Not sure what I can even say about these fabulous combos but I’m thinking there is only one way to go from here….

‘GO WITHOUT’

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Lets be honest if the backdrop is as beautiful as this, we can probably do without, no?

…….OR GO HOME

Nothing like a  bit of headboard porn for the weekend, they’re so much more than a headrest don’t you think?  I’m collecting more on Pinterest, go check them out…Jx