Moving on and settling down with Debenhams

It’s been all change here at lls. I’ve said goodbye to our clifftop abode and moved onto pastures new. It was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to our wonderful photographer and designer Darren, packed my delightful little retro trinkets into a van and headed to start a new life in London town.

I’m very lucky to have plenty of pals to help with such a big transition, and it was the lovely folks at Debenhams that were first to welcome me to our new home with a little box of goodies. I were delighted with the thoughtful gifts that arrived wrapped lovingly in pink and purple tissue paper with a simple note – “enjoy a relaxing night in with us”. So sweet!

Gifties!

Gifties!

All the perfect elements for a lovely night in!

All the perfect elements for a lovely night in!

Debenhams know my style very well, and managed to pick items that perfectly reflect my home and my tastes.

I took Debenham’s advice and took an evening to myself to contemplate my new life, wander around my cute new flat, think about the past and muse on what the future might bring.

New sofa, new cushion, new life!

New sofa, new cushion, new life!

All the perfect things for a night in!

All the perfect things for a night in!

Welcome home ...

Welcome home …

Finding a place for everything ...

Finding a place for everything …

Making a house a home

Making a house a home

So, it’s the London life for me for now … but who knows what might be next. Watch this space!

Monday’s Modernist Makeover

You may or may not be interested to know that the UK is currently going through the biggest baby boom it’s seen in 40 years. A combination of the current financial climate and inclement weather over recent years (with this summer proving very much the exception that proves the rule) is said to be keeping people at home – and spending more time than usual in the bedroom!

With this in mind, we thought it apt for our first makeover photo shoot to take place in the heart of the home – the boudoir!

The inspiration behind this room are the cool, classic lines and colours of a 1960s Hollywood motel room. We wanted to bring together elements that incorporated both retro and modern elements  to create a cool, contemporary space that still had warmth and just a hint of sex appeal.

The inspiration (image: flickriver.com)

The inspiration (image: flickriver.com)

What we had to work with - a dull 90s disaster!

What we had to work with – a dull 90s disaster!

We always like to start with a blank canvas, so our first task was to prep the walls and get everything painted PBW (that’s pure brilliant white to the uninitiated). White certainly isn’t to everyone’s taste, but here at lls we believe it’s the perfect beginning to any room. From this neutral but bright and light beginning, you can start to shape and mould the space using texture, light and, of course, furniture!

To add warmth and texture we decided to do away with the stripped wood floors and instead add a rich, thick-pile carpet in lime green. This bold statement carpet works really well with the cool crispness of the walls, and lends an overall 60s feel to the room.

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

With the walls looking crisp, it was time to turn our attention to the most crucial piece of furniture in the room – the bed. We wanted to achieve a retro feel without going overboard – comfort is paramount, and whilst bold patterns or prints  may make a  statement,  when it comes to the morning after the night before it’s muted, respectful tones you want to wake up to, rather than a assault to the eyes!

We chose a simple fabric-covered bedframe from IKEA (£270) featuring a statement padded headboard with button details in light grey (£160). We wanted to develop the notion of a cool, understated 60s Hollywood motel room, as well as allow the room versatility, so we chose white bedding, but to stay true to our retro brief we chose a white microfibre duvet cover and pillowcases. The microfibre feels a little like retro terry-cloth, and gives off a subtle, matt softness that crisp cotton does not.

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

The duvet and pillows themselves are from Snuggledown’s Ultimate Hungarian Goose Down range. The duvet (kingsize, 13.5 tog) retails at £510 and the pillows are £165 each.  The duvet and pillows really are “the ultimate” – they’re incredibly soft, warm and inviting without being heavy or lumpy – they’re light and fluffy but still really cosy – perfect!

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

What’s fantastic about a bedroom is the ability to quickly and easily create a dynamic, strong impression that’s instantly interchangeable – with the simple addition of cushions. We wanted to choose a blend of colours, textures and prints to develop depth and really help to set the tone of the whole room. By combining plain colours with textured fabrics and bold, statement cushions we built up a fun, eclectic blend that picked out colours from the artwork on the walls and draws the eye to the bed.

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

We love Parris Wakefield Additions’ statement cushions – we chose Field 3 (30cmx60cm £66.40) and Destiny 2 (60cmx60cm £75.60) – the retro-inspired colours and geometric shapes make them the perfect combination of modern and retro – we couldn’t have designed them better ourselves!

We thought the pin-up girl cushion from LS Prints (£16.99) was fun and frivolous, and the fabric mirrors the duvet cover – a subtle soft-touch textile in delightfully bold blue and gentle, sweeping cream – hand-made in Yorkshire to an incredibly high standard. And, after all, how could you makeover a seaside house without a little nod to the nautical?!

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

No bed would be complete without a gorgeous throw or two to add warmth and depth. We chose a lovely grey knitted cotton blanket from Laura Ashley (currently £56.25) layered with a gorgeous bold retro-coloured tartan cashmere and merino blanket from Humphreys of Henley (£115). The green of the throw compliments the carpet, and the brighter colours brings a little bit of fun to the room, whilst still being a classic design that’s practical too for those cold winter nights.

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

We spent a long time sourcing the perfect retro furniture and accessories to complement to room – sticking to blonde woods to keep things light and bright, and some kitsch, fun items alongside more classic pieces. We used vintage mirrors to reflect light and for practical considerations too – both mirrors are placed on the wall at a level that allows a full-length view, and the one on the feature wall adds another dimension.

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

One bug-bear of ours is big, beastly televisions dominating rooms in all their ugliness – slapped on the wall with wires trailing down and not a thought for how they ruin the lines of the space. For this project we decided to use an Apple iMac (21.5 inch, £1099) instead of a television; they’re smaller,  a less offensive colour, and you can use them much like a TV simply using playback features, Netflix and other subscription services, as well as watching DVDs and download films from iTunes. More than that, the screensaver feature means that we could further disguise the computer amongst the other pictures by choosing a selection of Tretchikoff images to change every few minutes – far better than a big dark screen controlling the space.

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

We used a combination of genuine vintage pictures, original artwork and fun, cheeky prints to add a little bit of fun to the room. We made sure there was a combination of sizes and shapes, and plenty to keep the eye busy (we particularly like the super-kitsch holographic “3D” image of Jesus – it’s a little tounge-in-cheek and complements the little Jesus figurine we picked up at a thrift store in New Orleans.

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

Lighting-wise we again took our inspiration from a 60s Hollywood motel room – creating arcs of soft light from above and using dimmer switches to give superior control of the ambience. We used Reno pendant lights in white (currently out of stock but available in black or chrome from BHS for £32 each). We also sourced a sweet little burnt orange desk lamp that adds a further dimension of light on the sideboard and allows for even more control over light levels and direction.

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

Finally, we chose a whole host of Yankee Candles to add both ambience and a delicious scent to the room – these chunky, bright candles are beautiful enough to have on display, they last ages and there are few finer things to add a little romance to proceedings than the gentle flicker of a candle wick. Oooh la la.

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

live.love.space. Monday Modernist Makeover

Designing this sophisticated, retro boudoir has been a labour of love, and we are thrilled with the results. If you’d like to talk to us about room styling, vintage sourcing or anything else interiors just drop us a note in the contact form below.

Happy decorating!

The Joy of Erections, part 4

Move over, Estee Lauder… I’ve discovered that plaster dust is an effective dry shampoo and skin powder!

Weeks 10-13

The last instalment finished on a thrilling cliffhanger. Would I change the roof tiles? Would the builder batter me over the head with them? He didn’t, but packed me off to the roofing merchant’s yard where I minced through the heavy machinery to a hoary man in a hi-vis jacket. He saw at once that the tiles in situ were entirely unsuitable (and machine made), and together we chose a sympathetic hand-made alternative. A few days (and some extra cash) later they were on the roof.

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New hand-made roof tiles – still a bit uniform, but a better colour. Can you spot the missing one?

A lot of progress has been made, and a lot of people have been coming and going. Some of them are people I’ve known for years, most are new, and some are almost invisible – in and out in a couple of days or even hours. I enjoy seeing the old faces and meeting new ones, and am constantly amazed by what I get to hear over a cup of tea and downed power tools: tales of family discord, local gossip, gardening tips and sexual misadventure to name a few. Unfortunately, our electrician – who I have known for 7 years – died unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago following a routine operation. It is a sad loss, summed up by the plumber, who told me “Yeah, the other electricians [currently working here] are gutted ‘cos they were hoping he’d be back at work soon and finish off this job”. The secrets and mysteries of our electrics have literally been taken to the grave.

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The chimney – awaiting a date brick

The biggest milestones have been the removal of the scaffolding (revealing the beauty of the brickwork – like a bride taking off her veil), the installation of the windows, and The Knock Through. This last left everything in the adjacent rooms coated in a thin layer of dust, looking a bit like the remains of Pompeii. It’s in my hair, up my nose, and in my mouth but my hair has gone from lank to bouncy and my oily T-zone has completely vanished!

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Two become one – the knock through downstairs

There have been a raft of decisions to be made: internal doors, radiators, flooring, door knobs, finishes and handles on the windows and sills – and Sunpipes for the kitchen. I went to see one in operation in the builder’s own house and was instantly converted. Fortunately they don’t need sun to be effective, just light. I wondered about having a periscope installed in one of them so I could check on the neighbours without twitching the curtains. I might even be able to uncover the long-running mystery of who doesn’t pick up their dog’s excremement from the church path!

I might keep them like this to save on cleaning

I might keep them like this to save on cleaning

The Joy of Erections, part 3

The worst part of having building work done is that you become a bit of a weather bore.

Weeks 6-9

Let me tell you we had quite a lot of dry weather last month – until the day the old roof was cut into, when a rain and hail storm of biblical proportions rolled in.

However, domestic life is not really interrupted by the work. The only effects have been the arrival of a new Dark Age in the kitchen and the loss of the master bedroom (it was either move out, or set to with a duster every day).

The carpenters worked on the roof over the bank holiday weekend, and tiling started while I was away for a few days. The tiles were chosen months ago and approved by the Conservation Officer, but look… (below). In time-honoured cowardly fashion I have just texted the builder to say I don’t like them, and nervously await his reply.

The new roof tiles

The new roof tiles

Old tiles (foreground, right), new tiles (back)

Old tiles (foreground, right), new tiles (back)

The chimney is mostly built, and has its lead tray in place. Another skip is full of bits of wood, masonry and high-energy drinks bottles, and every time I go out into the garden that song by Daftpunk is on the radio. I know I will hear it in 10 years’ time and be transported back to now, just as other songs remind me of holidays, boyfriends and big nights out!

This (below) is how the new master bedroom is looking. Someone please do something about that droopy bit of Sellotex.

You've got to have vision...

You’ve got to have vision…

The week ahead sees the first stage of work on the under-floor heating in the dining room and the electricians’ first fix. And then [fanfare] the cutting through from the kitchen into the new dining room (fingers crossed this will give me some light back). I have prepared myself for the worst, dust-wise, but I’m told the builders will be using a special oscillating cutter which will minimise the mess. Hmm.

As predicted, the raised beds (nursery beds for the plants in the way of the building works) have become the best bit of the garden!

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An offer you can’t refuse

Every home needs shelves. Fact. But stylish shelving is elusive, so imagine my joy at finding these modular ‘Croquet’ shelves, designed by Michael Marriott, at Clerkenwell Design Week. Made from powder-coated steel and oak, they come in a selection of retro-contemporary colours and in sets of 3 and 5 for a great range of combination opportunities. What’s more, they are available at a 10% discount until 4th June! From verygoodandproper.co.uk – just enter CDW2013 at the checkout.

A modern classic.

Croquet modular shelving by Michael Marriott, available from verygoodandproper.co.uk

Check out their stacking Canteen chairs too…

Stacking Canteen chairs, also available from verygoodandproper.co.uk

By the way, we are 100% independent and not in alliance with any particular brand. We only promote things that we love and that we want to share with you.

Clerkenwell Design Week

Clerkenwell Design Week opened today, and runs for another 2 more. It’s a free 3 day hip-fest of commercial and domestic design talent spread across various venues in EC1. You’d have to work hard to cover it all in a day, but I managed a diverse range of events at several locations in just a few hours.

Even the catering's cool - London Transport's mobile canteen in the Farmiloe Building

Even the catering’s cool – London Transport’s mobile canteen in the Farmiloe Building

Inside the Farmiloe Building - CDW is sponsored by Jaguar

Inside the Farmiloe Building – CDW is sponsored by Jaguar

My visit began in the Farmiloe Building at the bottom of St John Street, where I was on time but the organisers were not. Built in 1868 and used until 1999 as a head office and warehouse, it is bursting with character and is the perfect backdrop for the best in contemporary furniture and accessories. The whole place looked like a high-class Ikea, with a strong 1950’s and 60’s influence.

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Chairs from VG&P

Emu's stand

Emu’s stand

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Vases from Shake the Dust

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Light by Issey Miyake

The breadth of CDW is extraordinary. It encompasses not just exhibitions, but guided walks, screenings, visits to artists’ studios, pop-up shops – and even lessons in making your own gin infusions – in a number of historic and interesting locations in EC1. Their website has an excellent day-by-day guide to events, and there is also a free app to help you get the best out of your visit. Be prepared for some strange sights – my favourites were the Textile Hut (made from old hot air balloons and tights) and the sheep outside Sedus wearing woolly jumpers!

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The Textile Hut in St John Street

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Sheep wearing woolly jumpers outside Sedus in St John Street

My next expedition was to Kinnarps, manufacturers and designers of office spaces. Office design isn’t something I give much thought to, but I was blown away by their uber-stylish premises in Turnmill Street – the result of a collaboration with acclaimed Swedish designer Bea Szenfeld. I could have happily lived there, never mind spent a few hours a day scratching a living! They have an artist in residence – Joe McCrae – for CDW.

Here’s what it would be like to work at Kinnarps

Trying not to think about my own woefully inadequate working conditions (battered chair, desk covered with food crumbs, leads trailing…), I set out for the Living Furniture Project‘s exhibition, conveniently sited in a cafe in Farringdon Lane. The LFP is a charity which employs and trains homeless people to restore, up-cycle and create furniture such as this (below) from found and donated goods.

Up-cycled furniture from The Living Furniture Project

Up-cycled furniture from The Living Furniture Project

Heading towards my final destination in Charterhouse Square, my eye was caught by a stunning necklace in the window of the Lesley Craze Gallery in Clerkenwell Green. I was given a personal tour of their Special Exhibition, featuring imaginative, high-quality and quirky jewellery, and the beautiful ‘cobweb’ adornment by Craig Mcauley (below) – made from resin droplets on strands of nylon monofilament.

Craig Macauley's 'cobweb'

Craig Macauley’s ‘cobweb’

The pop-up pavilion in Charterhouse Square is all about walls and floors. I was lucky enough to get talking to the charming people at Muraspec, producers of textured and faux-fabric wall coverings which made me salivate. Less glamorous, but certainly innovative, is their new IdeaPaint which turns any surface into a whiteboard. I learned a lot and left with a strong urge to clad my bathroom walls in sequins…

Get the message across: turn your conference room into an all-over whiteboard

This was but the tip of the iceberg. My plimsolls have a hole in them, I am weak with desire, and my head is spinning with the sheer talent on display. If you can possibly get there, do. Phone in sick or cancel lunch with your best friend if you have to.

The Joy of Erections, part 2

While everyone else is soaking up the sun in their gardens, mine is full of brick dust and tattoos.

Weeks 3-6

I get back from holiday to find that the fireplace is too small to accommodate any wood burning stove on the market. Fortunately the brickwork is only about 4 courses high and this is easily remedied. As the building grows, I also think that the windows are a bit small. In both cases, measuring reveals that the builders have done exactly what the plans specify. I hadn’t realised until then how important the architect’s drawings are. If you think something looks a little bit out of scale on a small drawing it will be exaggerated in the final build.

piles of bricks stacked in garden

At least they’re tidy

I pay a very large bill on the eve of our builder’s holiday to Barbados and keep my fingers crossed for his safe return. I also receive 2 invoices from a surveyor, whose involvement in the project I’m rather hazy about. It turns out that the council no longer make site visits to ensure work complies with regulations, and you have to employ a surveyor to do it.

Two bricklayers and an assistant are working in weather conditions raging from Arctic blizzard to Mediterranean summer. They are doing an excellent job of matching the flat pointing to the rest of the house and tell me proudly that they are using a wooden ‘donger’ to achieve this. The bricks are new and handmade (rather than reclaimed) in order to get a good colour and texture match with the existing. My son tells me they look ‘broken’.

Diamond detail on brick chimney

Fancy detail to chimney

Joists are positioned, giving us a ceiling and a floor, and our kitchen is plunged into darkness (this is where the extension joins the house). We discuss installing a sun pipe and/or some more lighting.

New dining room looking towards kitchen

New dining room looking towards kitchen

My husband makes detailed plans with the electrician. I have to rein him in on some things (such as built-in air conditioning), but agree it’s easier to put more in than you might need at this stage than it is to fit retrospectively. The plumber pops in and makes some gloomy prognostications about timings.

Suddenly there is a spate of deaths in the village (not connected to our building works) – and a wedding. As our drive is shared with the church, we diligently move all materials, sweep up and hose down the dust, cover the skip (which is positioned as discreetly as possible) with a green tarpaulin, and even put out some tubs of flowers. I am thanked, but also told “It was a pity the skip couldn’t have been moved”!

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End of week 6