Thursday, 14 May 2015

My radical radiator transformation

About a year ago, I put this radiator on eBay for sale. 

It had been in the kitchen (it looks old, but I think it's an Acova column design, which you can find in B&Q). Anyway, it took up too much space and got replaced with a tall, skinny one.

At the time, I wrote briefly about a man who'd come to buy it, because I'd been fascinated to discover he was planning to turn it into a chair.

And now, he has! Last week, I got an email with a photo of this beautiful looking thing. I can hardly believe it used to be fixed to the wall in the kitchen. What a wondrous piece of recycling.

The clever man behind this impressive transformation is Kent-based Mark Casswell, otherwise known as the Barefoot Welder. Look him up.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Homes: Porn for modernist architecture geeks

A while back I posted some photos of my kitchen, in which you could just see a little of my worktop...

And it inspired Adam Jacobs-Dean to post a comment and a link to some photos of his own kitchen on Pinterest. He was too polite to say so, but his worktops are how mine should have looked. 

My own kitchen work surface is a slightly bodged-together affair, constructed from a super cheap and ugly worktop (installed backwards; curved edge hidden by the wall and silicone) hidden with a covering of separately bought Formica – one of the company's reissued 1950s designs. 

Adam's, as you can see, are only similar in their pastel Formica-ness and square edges. But the worktops are just one detail of this beautiful kitchen, which Adam designed himself.

"The kitchen is my pride and joy," he explains. "I designed the units and then found a local carpenter to build the kitchen for me in beech furniture ply, laminated with Formica in three different colours." The walls are covered with hexagonal mosaic tiles.

Adam is lucky enough to live in a Span House, in Blackheath, southeast London. Again, Adam's done it properly (I live in my local authority's 1970s copycat version of a Span house). Span homes were built throughout the 1950s and 60s in London and the southeast, by Span Developments, a company co-founded by the British architect and designer, Eric Lyons to create affordable, well-designed housing. The houses are many a modernist architecture fan's fantasy dwelling, and some of the Span estates now have Conservation Area status. Light, open-plan and set within generous communal green space, they're a design classic.

But back to the kitchen: Adam explains that the houses originally had a partition wall with a serving opening between the kitchen and dining space. You can see how this looks, mid-refurb, in another Span House. In Adam's home, a T2 Span design, built in 1957, this had already been replaced with a stud wall when they moved in. "We pulled it down to open up the kitchen space, stealing some space from the dining area to have a larger kitchen," he explains.

This is how it looked before...

Have a nose around some more of the house. Below, the conservatory.

"We're also putting in a new garden," Adam says. "I want to replace the existing decking with exposed aggregate concrete pavers, to match the front paths and road finish. But they're not easy to source."

"We've furnished the house largely with eBay buys – Avalon and Tomado Ladderax shelving, an Ercol Plank dining table and repro Eames chairs – things we've picked up at the Dulwich Mid-century Modern Fair – dark green Cado modular chairs and Kandya bar stools – and new furniture – the light green corner sofa is from SCP and the orange and white wall unit in the conservatory is from Ikea."

"We have lived in Southest London since we graduated," Adam adds, "and were desperate to own a Span house – it took us three properties to get there, but we plan to stay put for the foreseeable future!"

Wouldn't you?

Adam's kitchen was designed by London firm, Christopher Davies Associates, in case you are in the area and after something similar.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Slow Wallpaper

An exhibition devoted to wallpaper designs is my kind of exhibition. 

W is for Wallpaper, at the Ruthin Craft Centre this September, is rather special for two reasons – most importantly, because of its focus on traditional hand screen and lino printing techniques, which many of the papers exhibited used. And secondly because it takes place in North Wales, one of my favourite places ever. I feel the excuse for a long weekend coming...

Meanwhile, a few highlights from the show. Above, Custhom design and fabricate some of the most innovative wallpapers around. I've written about their digital embroidery previously and their contribution to the exhibition is the Igneous paper, a luxurious looking design that resembles marble bursting with solidified gold. Made from carbon powder and hand-foiled, the non-repetitive design is named after the effect of crystalized igneous rocks, which are formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava. It's currently also on sale on the Custhom website for £159 a roll.

The exhibition features designs by Timorous Beasties, Sian Elin, Angie Lewin, Deborah Bowness, Kirath Ghundoo, Brigitte Zeiger,
Edward Bawden and William Morris among plenty more. Such as Daniel Heath, whose Heal's-stocked Perivale paper celebrates the art deco architecture of the Hoover Building.

Interesting wallpaper fact: in the early 18th century, a wallpaper tax was introduced that lasted until 1836, after which there was a boom in the popularity of papered walls, which suddenly became far more financially accessible to many.

I've already featured a couple of Eley Kishimoto's bold and bouncy wallpapers here before, but they're too good not to show again (above and two below).

Artist Hugh Dunford Wood painstakingly hand-printing one of his papers. Below, two more of his designs.

The designs are printed using lino blocks engraved by Huge in his studio, which overlooks the sea in Lyme Regis on the Dorset coast.

John Burgerman's innovative and kids' room-perfect colour-it-in-yourself design, 'Burgerdoodles'. 

Award-winning Tracy Kendall's extraordinary Another Colour wallpaper, above and below, is tantalisingly tactile. It looks beautiful – but what about the dusting?

A Claire Florey-Hitchcox woodblock, above. Claire, who graduated just last year and chose to take a step back from new technology, carves her designs onto woodblocks and then prints using her awe-inspiring 18th century Columbian printing press. You can see photos of it on her website.

Mini Moderns' graphic Gulls paper already feels like a classic.

W is for Wallpaper is on at the Ruthin Craft Centre, Denbighshire, North Wales from 26 September–22 November 2015. Admission free. #WisforWallpaper

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Before & After: the dark grey hallway takeover continues

I've been banging on about my hall sporadically over the past couple of months. The entryway part of it got quite a major overhaul to boost light and declutter it. 

But leftover was this little understairs nook. Which I sort of liked as it was...

But since we'd painted a wall in the top part of the hall dark grey, there was an argument that the new wall needed a same-coloured buddy to balance things out (you can check out the other wall here, where I also asked your advice about whether or not to repaint the stairs nook dark grey too).

Apart from the untidy lighting wire I need to find a solution to, the area looked OK. But because there's no natural light, the white never really looked especially white...

Though it still was a vast improvement from what it had been previously...

...somewhat cluttered. It was my workspace for a while when I had lodgers, and I'm not sure now what those charts were stuck up on that shelf, but seeing them every time I came in and out of the neighbouring kitchen can't have been relaxing.

Even tidy it looked pretty busy.

But then this scary giant clear-out happened, and I moved my workspace upstairs and out of sight from day-to-day living.

But in the end, I was seduced by dark paint. And things went from this... this...

...and this...

I'm kind of over dark grey, but – like its wall partner up the stairs – the understairs area had to blend with the floor to visually create more space rather than being chopped up with colour changes (and the floor isn't due for a change for a good while yet). And the other point was to make it dark so it was cosy rather than grubby looking. I think it's better. Do you?

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Object of the day: new Muji shelving

I can lose hours going into a branch of Muji. All those satisfyingly minimal solutions for storage you never knew you needed...

Sometimes I just like to imagine I'm really organised and, if I was, what I'd put in all those little acrylic containers. But this season it's Muji's wood that's got me going. And since last week was all about beautiful Japanese things that are hard to buy, it only seems right to share.

The new shelving range (on sale n the flagship London branch, Tottenham Court Road, and online) is beautiful in its simplicity. It's also designed to be configured to your space, so the wall beam above (these start at £12.95, depending on length) works well alone or in a long line or in any arrangement you fancy.

I really love these shelves and might have considered them for the bit of my living room revamp I have yet to polish and unveil (a long shelf along one wall for, well, that's what I'm working on). As it was I went for painted MDF but this would have added a nice warm feature.

So often, when people come over to the house they comment on the wall hooks I have up in the hall. They're really simple wooden ones that I bought in bulk in Ikea a few years ago (I now have lots of them lined up for coat and bag storage, as well as one on the back of each bedroom door and in the bathroom). Last time I went to the great Swedish megastore I didn't see them and am not sure they're still available there. But these understated hooks from Muji are a good second best. Unlike the Ikea ones, they only come as singles, but you might not feel the need to put them everywhere in your house as I have.

The range comes in this finish – natural – and also in a darker wood. I love this one the best.

The box shelf is £29.95. Wall beam as before.

A couple of years ago, when my house looked quite different, I photographed it for the Muji newsletter (I really am a superfan) and the focus of that was also storage. For a bit of a Throwback Tuesday, you can nose at it in this previous post if you're interested (please forgive the typo).

Find the new range here at the Muji website.

I'm up for doing the newsletter sort of thing for any other brands I love and have featured on this blog (or would happily feature on it), so do get in touch if of interest.

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