Deborah Bowness
New Ribbon
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'FUR: AN ISSUE OF LIFE AND DEATH' EXHIBIT OPENS

Fur. The mere mention of the word makes many cringe. In western urban culture, it's a contentious topic that divides us into two groups: those who deem fur fashion READ MORE...
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RED HOT: EXHIBIT OF GINGER MEN IS NOW A BOOK

Earlier this week, I was in the comments section of a blog I frequent, and someone had posted a photo of a shirtless, young guy with red hair sticking his tongue out cheekily READ MORE...
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A MODERN CHRISTMAS AT THE SLEEPER HOUSE

The Sculptured House, also known as the Sleeper House since 1973 when it featured in Woody Allen's sci-fi comedy, Sleeper, is so cool it's painful. An elliptical curiosity in concrete and glass perched on Colorado's READ MORE...
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FASHION FILMS TO FEATURE AT ASFF

The BAFTA qualifying Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF) has teamed up with London College of Fashion to establish a new fashion film strand at this year’s event, showcasing READ MORE...
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'KNITTING FOR JULIET' COMPETITION LAUNCHES IN ITALY

Knitwear designers studying in Italy are invited to enter the Knitting for Juliet competition launched by Fashion Ground Academy of Italian Design READ MORE...
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NICHOLAS ROSE'S FULL COLOUR LIVING

It was not possible to walk past Nicholas Rose's luminous, contoured lamp shades at 100% Design the other week, I felt like a moth drawn to a flame. READ MORE...
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#UNLOCK ART FILM SERIES ENDS ON A HUMOROUS NOTE

The film series, #UnlockArt, produced by Tate and supported by Le Meridien, concluded with the release of the last of eight films, What's So Funny?, decided by an online poll READ MORE...
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November 19, 2014

A Christmas Tree for the Ultimate Minimalist

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A tree for Christmas doesn't get more minimalist than this. (Well, I guess it could, if it were just a line drawing of a tree done right on the wall. But that wouldn't be very festive.) Deborah Bowness is not just any wallpaper designer; she plays with illusion to create unique trompe l'oeil effects for the home, from garments to furniture to whole walls of books, or at least it looks that way. Her 'Trees for Life' are aptly named as they don't die like real evergreens, and they don't suck the life out of you every December like the artificial ones when you have to dislodge the giant box from the dusty, sooty attic (what is all that black stuff up there in these British houses?!) and negotiate a safe journey down the ladder. And then back up again. (I have almost sold myself on buying one of her flat paper pines.) Ok, the trees, while realistic, are not really trompe l'oeil unless they make you believe you're looking out a window into a Scandinavian forest. But they're still a neat alternative to the full-on glittery celebration if that's where your head's at. And you can still decorate them if you want to by pinning the bauble loops through them. 

The rest of Bowness' collection really does trick the eye. But the twist is two-fold. Take this design from 'Illusions of Grandeur':

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What I love about this particular collection is how each design appears to be a simple wallcovering in a traditional pattern (complete with skirting boards from the era), but it feels a bit unsettled. Look again and you can see the patterns are intentionally askew (both in the design itself and the way the drops are hung), the effect a kind of irreverent nod to the past, taking the old and stuffy and slapping a sense of humour into it. (In my paranoid mind I would be worried guests would think I hadn't put the drops on the wall properly and failed to notice, and then I would have to explain to each person who saw it for the first time that it was meant to look that way. And then awkward smiles would follow. Then lots of wine to forget.) 

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Bowness' wallpapers are great for adding texture, colour, dimension, and well, things you just may not have the space for, or aren't practical or affordable to do, such as tiling a wall, like with the 'Tube Station' tile design, above. (I don't think anything in that photo is real, it's all paper. Even the cabinet and the teapot, and the floor is a wallpaper, too. Imagine an entire room done this way...it would feel a bit eerie, wouldn't it? Like some kind of fun house where nothing is as it seems.)

I'm starting to look around the room and wondering how a corner of 'Genuine Fake Books' might look:

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Have a look around Deborah Bowness' website to see the rest of her range, it's all really exciting. Her work comes with an unusual presence you can feel simply by looking at the photos, so imagine what it's like actually living with these sly strips of art.

November 12, 2014

World Interiors News Annual Awards 2014 Winners

WIN_1Gamsei by Buero Wagner, emulates the ambience of a Bavarian beer hall through amphitheatre-style benches against opposing walls, thus eliminating the common separation of bartender and guest. 

The latest design awards to be handed out have come from World Interior News, the digital resource for the latest interior design projects and innovative products from across the globe (and a very nice thing to find in your inbox). Their list of winners recognises the designs that made the greatest impact on the cultural landscape over the past year. As expected, they are pretty cool. (The down side of being aware of such innovations is it may have us scrutinising the spaces we occupy each day and longing for what they could be!)

Here are my favourite category winners:

BAR INTERIORS

Gamsei by Buero Wagner, Munich, Germany

Designed and executed by Fabian A. Wagner of Buero Wagner with Andreas Kreft, this bar interior of solid oak looks for new configurations whilst paying a tribute to the local Bavarian culture and craftsmanship. The result is a new kind of cocktail bar that provides something novel in terms of relationship between the bartender and drinkers. This bar is all about interaction, and I imagine its patrons don't have issues with physical proximity. 

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FURNITURE

Wire LoungeChair by Overgaard and Dyrman, Copenhagen

One glance at the underside of this chair will reveal the influence of traditional saddlery. Its front in soft vegetable-tanned leather and back in full-grain leather combined with a metal work frame, transports traditional craftsmanship into the 21st century with impressive and refined detailing and an amazing shape. The Wire Lounge Chair is a part of a collection that also includes a Lounge Chair, Lounge Sofa, Coffee Table and a Dining Chair, and all come in a black coated steel frame or in a clear coated brushed steel frame.

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LIGHTING PRODUCTS 

Trick by iGuzzini, Italy

Trick is an LED, programmable light capable of generating spectacular geometrical effects including circles, concentrated lines, and decorative graphic elements in infinite combinations, as well as grazing light effects. This is iGuzzini's second consecutive win in the Lighting Products category. 

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INTERIOR ACCESSORIES 

Soe Cup series by Hanna Kruse, Offenbach, Germany

We're all familiar with trinket boxes, but what if we want to show what we store, in a minimalist fashion? That's the question designer Hanna Kruse answered with her Soe Cup series of ceramic compound cups that can be covered with different lid designs. The cups are created with a handmade casting and finishing process without burning, allowing for eco-friendly manufacturing while keeping every piece unique. The steel covers come in two different designs and are available in plated finishes, including powder, copper, silver and 24k gold, allowing for different combinations. 

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LEISURE OR ENTERTAINMENT VENUES

Nanchang Insun International Cinema, Nanchang, China
One Plus Partnership Limited

One Plus were inspired by connective elements in the mediums of film and book, using a striking black and white palette to inspire the imagination of those visiting this elegant cinema, telling a meaningful story through their design. The space is unconventional yet coherent, with a strong identity that stands out above and beyond that of traditional cinema design.

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HOTEL INTERIORS 

Al Khan Resort, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq)

The aim of this project is to revive and showcase the charm of Al Khan, once a flourishing fishing village in one of the oldest areas in the Emirate of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Inspired by the waves of the sea and the lifestyle of Emirati fisherman, the Al Khan interiors manifest this concept using a sleek and contemporary approach that also uses remnants of the existing building's fabric. The Al Khan prototype project was completed in February of 2014. In addtion to the private five star resort, the master plan includes public spaces including a Souq, museums, mosques and fortified towers.

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LIGHTING PROJECTS

Städel Museum, Frankfurt, Germany
Licht Kunst Licht AG

195 circular skylights provide a multitude of functions for the Städel Museum, in a clever scheme that provides for diverse conservational or curatorial requirements. Highly engineered yet seemingly simple, the lighting is intelligent, attractive and perfectly refined.

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PUBLIC SECTOR

Lakewood Cemetery Garden Mausoleum, Minneapolis, United States
HGA Architects and Engineers

While mausoleums historically have been dark, introverted spaces, Lakewood inverts this paradigm with light-filled rooms connected to its new garden. Daylight strengthens the relationship between the spiritual and the earth-bound while offering a serene and healing environment. Each crypt and columbarium room uniquely frames a view through a singular element, capturing the changing angles of sunlight through large windows or rotating, shifting skylights, comforting the eye with the presence of near or distant gardens, the tree canopy, or the sky.

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WEN_1 WEN_1 WEN_3Photos by Paul Crosby Photography

RESIDENTIAL INTERIORS

LOFT MM, Bilzen, Belgium
C.T. Architects

Although LOFT MM is specifically designed as an apartment for a wheelchair-bound inhabitant, there is nothing that even hints at a handicap. This remodelling of a small ground floor storage space cum garage into a micro-loft is arranged within a 3m wide by 25m long space and features the familiar succession of increasingly private spaces: living room, dining area, a narrow hallway with the kitchen on one side and the bathroom on the other, and at the end the bedroom/study. Almost all of the furniture and design solutions are custom-made, both for the occupant’s convenience but also in order to comply with Belgian disability codes. Careful attention was given to design solutions that encouraged the client’s direct personal involvement (such as he himself painting all furniture by hand), thus contributing to a sense of self-awareness and self-confidence after a serious car accident left him with diminished motor and memory skills.

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Photos by Tim Vandevelde

RESTAURANT INTERIORS

Restaurant & Bar Nazdrowje, Stockholm, Sweden
Richard Lindvall

If only I'd gone searching for Polish food while in Stockholm, I may have found this place. Nazdrowje, which means 'Cheers' in Polish, is a transformed concrete parking garage that took inspiration from a research trip of factories and other sites in Poland. To give the concrete interior warmth, copper accents were added as table tops, lighting, a fireplace, and basins in the bathroom. And those Tolix stools are not only not knock-offs, they are vintage originals that brought with them a patina that complements the raw interior atmosphere. The artwork was the idea of the photographer, Mattias Lindbäck, who got to know the staff and thought they'd make great portraits to hang in the restaurant. 

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Photos by Mattias Lindbäck

RETAIL INTERIORS LESS THAN 200 SQ.M

Relojeria Alemana Born, Palma de Mallorca
OHLAB / oliver hernaiz architecture lab

OHLAB have questioned the concept of luxury, using simple, orthogonal boxes to create a sculptural, abstract and unpredictable environment where things are not what they seem. Stephen Jones of Woods Bagot commented this is a 'truly innovative project, bringing customers a new perspective on retail and the luxury shopping experience, a one-of-a-kind design that not only reflects the brand but takes it to the next and newest level.' I'm thinking that this unique and surreal shopping experience will leave you too distracted to remember that pricey item you're walking out with. At least for a few minutes. 

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WEN_4 WEN_3Photos by Josehevia D

Spun, London, United Kingdom
Nick Leith-Smith Architecture + Design

As a former diabetic (that's what the doctors tell me), this interior for Spun candy shop in Covent Garden appears to have been plucked out of a wish fulfillment dream I once had.  Nick Leith Smith Architecture + Design were briefed with taking an established graphic identity and corporate colour scheme and bringing it to life in a strong retail environment. Spun’s vision is built around the process of sweet making, the skill of cutting candy, blending flavours and boiling and mixing ingredients. This is a sweets shop adults can enjoy as much as kids. Probably more. 

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WEN_9Photos by Quintin Lake

WORKSPACE INTERIORS LESS THAN 10,000 SQ.M

T2 Headquarters, Melbourne, Australia
Landini Associates

Warning: unless you work in a spectacularly designed and furnished office, looking at these photos (and reading the captions because that's what pushes the stinger in further), you may have difficulty going into work tomorrow. Respecting and celebrating the detailing of a former industrial warehouse, while creating a dramatic statement to represent the T2 company ethos, Landini Associates have created a space with fantastic blurring of boundaries; encompassing office, tea bar and tea tasting and workshop area. An amazing environment for employees and customers alike that maintains a strong expression of the T2 brand throughout. And surely all the delicious tea one could possibly consume in a work day. 

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A catwalk from the garage (the staff entrance) houses storage and divides the staff into left and right brained teams

WEN_10"I'm here for Lemongrass and Ginger?" A brew bar and tea library replace the traditional reception desk. 

WEN_11A meeting room with an operable wall and sheep shearing buckets as lights

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 Tea library, meeting space and entrance collide. 

WEN_2Staff kitchen with an herb garden and a window view into an old boiler room  

WEN_3The tea making and tasting workshop features a white background to highlight the colour of the teas

Photos by Trevor Mein

November 06, 2014

A Modern Christmas at the Sleeper House

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The Sculptured House, also known as the Sleeper House since 1973 when it featured in Woody Allen's sci-fi comedy, Sleeper, is so cool it's painful. An elliptical curiosity in concrete and glass perched on Colorado's Genessee Mountain, it was built in 1963 by architect Charles Deaton who said of his inspiration, "I found a high point of land where I could stand and feel the great reaches of the Earth. I wanted the shape of it to sing an unencumbered song." If envy is taking over, you might be interested to know that we all have something in common with Deaton; none of us got to live in the Sculptured House! Heartbreakingly, he ran out of money before the interior was completed and his family didn't get their dream home. (Was it any consolation they were saved a very time-consuming school run every morning?) In fact, it was not actually used as a home until 2006 when, after sitting with its insides unfinished for nearly three decades, it was purchased and lived in. Until 2010 when the owner defaulted on the mortgage. The agony! It was sold at a foreclosure auction later that year.

That brings us to today. It was recently used to show off the range from Modern Christmas Trees and make us all wish we had a protruding disc-like roof to reflect the suspended tree's brilliant blue (or red) circular light show. It's nice to see this exceptional home finally serve its intended purpose. And it was Deaton's daughter, Charlee, who was, perhaps fatefully, commissioned to design the interior. It was completed in 2003. 

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Sleeper_1  Sculptured-sleeper_housePhoto source

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Photos by JC Buck, BlackBikeProductions.com, unless otherwise credited 

October 06, 2014

Nicholas Rose's Full Colour Living

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It was not possible to walk past Nicholas Rose's luminous, contoured lamp shades at 100% Design the other week, I felt like a moth drawn to a flame. The Leeds-based designer has an affinity for colour, and combined with a knack for inventing unique, pleasing forms, creates interior pieces that make homes happy. 

Here's a look at Nicholas Rose's latest product launch, his Albino and Tulip lampshades which are constructed from flourescent coloured acrylic brackets, tinting the Lycra fabric covering when the light is on and transforming an opaque shade into one of vibrant translucency. 

The collection is available to buy at www.nicholasrosedesign.co.uk

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August 29, 2014

Five Festive Tips for an Alternative Christmas Celebration

Scandi-christmas-dining-roomFor a different kind of Christmas, try following the Scandinavian traditions - it's stylish yet warm and cozy. 

Come again? I know, it’s still summer, and you’re still wearing shorts. On the better days. Or at least around the house. But Christmas is coming and some of us might even be looking forward to it, just a little bit. If you're not, it might be because getting organised tends to happen at the last minute and it winds up causing more agony than joy, especially if you're hosting.  

You don't have to follow the traditions, though, and you can have a lot of fun with a celebration that is a bit different. The trick is to have some good ideas put into place early on, so that you don't get overwhelmed in the days leading up; and then you can enjoy the season as it comes. 

Here are some ideas to spark your imagination:

1. Light

Our distant ancestors set fire to things at the darkest time of the year, in order to persuade the sun to return, and that's how midwinter festivals got started. Lighting decorations are an essential part of Christmas, but you don't have to have an illuminated Santa on the roof or go full Griswald. LED lights are a good choice, combining low energy consumption with a wonderfully twinkly effect. A door wreath made entirely of LED lights looks stunning, or you could use a string of lights to outline something unusual and eco-friendly, such as a bicycle.

2. Colour

Traditional Christmas colours are red and green, but there are plenty of other options. How about a purple theme, for example? It's a really festive colour. You could make a fabulous garland or wreath incorporating purple glass baubles (there are some lovelies at Christmas Lights Etc.). If you need a real talking point, the same company produces an upside-down Christmas tree!

3. Greenery

Another ancient midwinter tradition involves bringing evergreens into the house. For something slightly different, a Christmas cactus is a good way of adding colour (and humour - imagine the reactions of guests). These are easily-grown plants, native to Brazil, which naturally flower in December. Schlumbergera 'Purple Dancer' is a spectacular choice, which should keep flowering every winter if properly looked after. For the ecologically-conscious, this plant has the added property of absorbing poisonous formaldehyde from the atmosphere! As a focal decorative point, a real Christmas tree is wonderful, but an artificial one is admittedly much less trouble, and some of them also come pre-decorated if you'd rather just get it over with. You'll be forgiven. 

4. Food

Nothing divides families like the choice of Christmas food. On one side you have the traditionalists for whom nothing except turkey and pudding will do. On the other side are those who argue that turkey is dry and tasteless, and Christmas pudding is stodgy. If you want to do the turkey regardless, a way to please both might be to offer a unique stuffing, made with apricots or pineapple and nuts, to go with your choice of meat. A rich and festive ice-cream, whether home-made or bought in, might be more appealing to the Christmas pudding-haters. The greedy will eat both, of course – t’is the season, after all!

5. Activity

There are families for whom the television set is the focal point of Christmas Day, and others who cover it with a blanket. It's a good idea to get outside at some point, and even a short walk will help with the digestion of all that food. Quizzes and games are traditional but can be fun, at least if board games such as Monopoly don't get everyone fighting. For a truly memorable break from routine, though, you could consider offering your services as a volunteer.

Many charities and caring organisations need extra help over the Christmas season, and volunteering can be fun and rewarding as well as useful. A good place to start would be timebank.org.uk who are in touch with many organisations needing Christmas volunteers. They do point out, though, that charities need to plan ahead, so it's best if you offer your services in good time.

With months of planning left until the big day, there’s more than enough time for you to get cracking and make your festive season truly unique. Rather than repeating the same cycle year on year, these ideas will hopefully provide you with enough inspiration to make this Christmas truly one to remember - for the right reasons!

August 27, 2014

Design and Craft: Made London Returns to One Marylebone

 

The Design and Craft Fair, MADE LONDON, returns to One Marylebone 24-26 October to present the very best in contemporary craft and design. Showcasing over 120 highly original makers and designers from the UK and Europe, the show offers visitors the opportunity to view and buy unique hand crafted pieces in a friendly, informal and beautiful atmosphere. Long established and well known makers mix with emerging makers to offer a selection of works that are truly varied and exciting.

At the fair you'll find a vast range of expertly crafted items including colourful glassware, soft knitted textiles, functional ceramics, beautiful jewellery, classic furniture as well as great fashion. A full list of exhibitors can be seen here.

One Marylebone is a stunning church conversion in central London near Regents Park. MADE LONDON will occupy all three floors, including the double height crypt and mezzanine.  Be sure to stop by the cafe in the crypt to relax with a drink and a treat!

For more information you can visit www.madelondon.org

August 26, 2014

How to Add International Design Influences to Your Space

Scandinavian-interior-design-for-dining-room-wood-floor

One of the greatest aspects of travelling is discovering other styles of interiors that reflect a life and culture different from our own, then trying to recreate them at home. Local designs tend to be influenced by the colours and materials present in the surrounding environment. Take India; the bright desert sun and the red earth are reflected in their colourful saris, the great rainforests of Indonesia provide the woods for their furniture, and the lushly decorated temples inspire the use of gold and luxurious silk.

Scandinavia is another region that represents one of the most distinct interiors aesthetics, rooted in simple, practical design that is emulated well beyond its borders. Light is a factor thanks to the long, dark winters, and vast, sustainable forests makes wood the natural choice of material for just about everything, often painted white for ceilings and floors to brighten interior spaces. Decorative items are placed to add colour and form, but used sparingly to keep the space clean and calm. Reindeer skins finish the room with texture and warmth.

A Scandinavian feel can be added to more traditional or eclectic interiors through wall murals in pale greys or blues to create a subtle nod to nature.

Scandinavian-wall

 

In direct contrast to the Scandinavian coolness is the Arabic interior style. Strong patterns and vivid colours are mixed freely. Although dark wood furniture is popular, the blazing heat makes tiles a popular material for both floors and decoration. Moroccan tiles are the King of Tiles, and although the genuine  article is expensive, they are as gorgeous as they are timeless. Ornate mirrors and colourful Turkish lanterns abound. Persian rugs complete the picture. To create an Arabian room with a contemporary feel, you can paint the walls white and let the colours of the furnishings do the rest.

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In Chinese interior design, more is more. Furniture with wood carvings, gold accessories, red silk lanterns, and ornate table cloths all find their way into the Chinese room. 

The principles of fengshui govern what goes where in the room and water features with gold fish and wooden bird cages with a colourful resident are there to bring good fortune. Jade ornaments introduces a rich green colour into the gold, dark wood and red. Yellow was once a colour reserved for royalty only, but it has been making its way into ordinary homes. Laquerware is popular both for furniture as well as boxes and trinkets.

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Reproducing any of these styles for your own home is easier than you think. Use your creativity and start with a clear idea of how you would want it to look. Then take your time and make sure to search for items that will make your room look authentic. With just a few stand-out pieces, your new, world-design room will emerge. 

August 19, 2014

My Home Extension 'Before': Finishing and Rookie Mistakes

The-swelle-life_13There's a newly built room waiting for me back in England that isn't quite finished but now has honeycomb blinds that lock down, a floor, modular sofa, and dining table. And a huge TV mounted on the wall - a bit of an eyesore but I'm not going to pretend I don't watch TV! It's a great space of mostly windows, a raised glass ceiling, and there's even some garden to spare after a fairly substantial extension of the house off the kitchen. It was a scramble to get it painted and the flooring installed before heading back to Canada for the summer; I think I narrowly avoided an aneuryism. 

As for the paint, I wanted a clean, pale grey - to me that means a cool undertone that is as neutral as possible - that delivers depth and works in every kind of natural and artificial light. I didn't want 'colour' per se, opting for light and airy but didn't want to go with white which seems to be the default colour for so many orangeries and conservatories. Luckily I found my shade, but I got a surprise when painting. (It was a DIY job because a decorator would have had to have been booked about six months prior and the extension wasn't even conceived of then. I don't recommend it. Painting an entire room, especially one with so many windows and boxed electrics, is hard. I didn't need my lower back anyway.)

Back to the surprise. It became apparent once the primer was on and the first coat of that lovely grey was being applied, that the plasterer did a terrible job. Shameless, actually. I could live with a few imperfections but we're talking floor to ceiling moon craters. I guess I just hadn't looked closely at it, taking in the entire room and not scrutinising the walls. The construction is very sound - I watched it being built and it was pretty cool to see how it's done - but all it takes is one sloppy guy to ruin it all. (And I made him so much coffee! The cheek!) Luckily that part is fixable, though extremely frustrating to have to do so after the (very expensive) paint is on. (I'm downplaying this part a bit, the truth is I freaked.)

In contrast, the floor was a success story. Thank goodness. As you know from previous posts, I laboured over what type and style of flooring to go with, and at the time underfloor heating was to be installed first. It turns out that UFH can be a lot harder to source than you'd think (actually I hadn't a clue what's involved with that), especially on a time crunch, and after two false leads it was just easier to find another heating solution. (And save a ton of money in the process.) I chose laminate flooring in a 'white' wood grain from Homebase to keep with the light and airy feel, and was able to find a very good installer at the last minute - how rare is that? 

First, I went to the store to see the flooring I picked out online to be sure I liked it and also to compare it to others. It remained my number one choice and I bought a sample to take home. It looks funny, but I put it under the legs of our dining table hoping to get a sense of how it would work. Hey, you have to try! 

The-swelle-life-14 (1 of 1)(Little Coco thinks this room is hers.) The table is my first Magis piece, and the chair was just a spare I put there for some reason. I still haven't decided on the chairs but they definitely won't have metal legs. I also tried my Eames DRW with dark maple legs which adds a bit of warmth to what is going to be a cool, minimalist room, so I might buy three more of them to liven things up a bit. 

As the flooring was being installed I was hopeful, but nervous. I liked the floor, but would it work with the room? Would it feel right? Would I want to live with it for years? I told the installer it looked good so far and he began to tell me about a recent customer, then said, 'Maybe I shouldn't tell you.' I told him to go on. He continued, telling me she chose a similar looking floor and was also redoing her entire downstairs, and when it was done she said, "I hate it. It's a lovely floor and you did a good job, but I hate it." I groaned good naturedly but was secretly imploding at the thought of feeling that way with even this one room, never mind the kitchen and hallway as was the plan. But when it was finished I was really happy with it. It delivered the look and feel I wanted, complementing the walls and the platinum shade of the blinds. Hopefully the disappointed woman felt differently after a few days; I think changing a large space so drastically can be very disconcerting and a strong emotional reaction is normal; we're profoundly connected to our homes and I think we don't realise how much a change can throw us off until we're faced with it. 

I'll be coming back with a 'reveal' post after I return to England. It will take a little while to complete the room but you'll be able to see how it all works together with the modular sofa. 

In the meantime, benefit from my rookie mistakes and avoid them when building and finishing a room in your home:

  1. Check that the concrete foundation has set evenly. Walk on it. Look for slopes. If it doesn't feel consistent throughout the room request it be fixed. A floor consists of very thin underlay and the flooring itself is generally not especially thick so it will not compensate for obvious imbalances in the foundation. Your installer can't do anything about it so take care of it before the floor goes down, or be prepared to live with it. 
  2. Inspect the surface of the walls when the plasterer tells you he's finished. This will be the last thing that's done. Depending on the light, some flaws are discernable to the eye, while others only to the touch, so run your hand over the surfaces. I can attest to the fact that priming and painting does not smooth out even the slightest of imperfections; in fact it seems to amplify them. This room has spotlights in the boxing which essentially showcases every flaw that falls below them!
  3. Are the edges of the boxing sharp and even? Sometimes where two sections of boxing meets there's an overlap. I'm not clear on how easy or not this is to fix once it's done, and it's not really obvious unless you're looking for it. But if you're a perfectionist it will probably bother you after the fact so keep an eye out before painting. 
  4. Check that any crown moulding is secure and doesn't show any cracks. 
  5. If you're looking to wall mount a TV, have about three metres of HDMI cable ready BEFORE the drywall goes up. This way your cables are hidden. (Luckily this wasn't a mistake and may seem like a no-brainer, but easily forgotten amongst the chaos.) 

Be firm about anything you want fixed; there's no reason things shouldn't be perfect!

August 09, 2014

Toronto Sea Life: Ripley's Aquarium

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It's called Ripley's Aquarium of Canada (as opposed to Ripley's Aquarium of Toronto which would follow the format for their US locations), which is not helping the general notion down south that there's nothing in Canada but a few things. (Hey you're from Canada? Do you know Dave from Canada?) I guess they don't plan to open any other locations in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal.... 

Odd naming choices aside, Ripley's Aquarium - as in Ripley's Believe it or Not That's the Ticket Price (ok rant is really over now, my holiday from blogging has made me come back with some pent-up feistiness) is a pretty cool place. Located in the CN Tower complex, it's a very busy attraction, especially at the height of summer for tourists and locals alike, so plan for that if you go. What impressed me were some particularly beautiful displays, such as the stunning anemones whose tank was so pretty and serene in its colourful and varied arrangement it appeared to have been styled, as well as the jellyfish which pulsated and plunged to a succession of changing lights in bright hues which coloured their translucent bodies. And I saw some things I didn't know existed, such as a bright blue lobster (which unfortunately just would not photograph clearly for some reason), and one of the coolest things I've ever seen, a Sea Dragon, part of the Syngnathidae family which also includes seahorses.  They float as if in a state of suspended animation. I wonder what they're thinking. If anything. 

Here's a tour from the outside in starting with the CN Tower, the tallest free-standing structure in the western hemisphere at 553.33 metres (which I've never been up because I'm scared crapless of heights and that's never, ever going to change):

  

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(Get your scrolling finger warmed up, there's a ton of fishy photos and they get better as it goes along)

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Lion Fish

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Starfish

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Seahorses

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Sea Dragons (so cool)

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Anemones

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This picturesque tank marks the entrance of a sea tunnel which you are taken through on a conveyor (and probably will wander off it to get better pictures of the other side of the tank, but nobody is there to chastise you)

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Inside the Tunnel

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Sharks 

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Rays

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Jellyfish

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This is the kind of jellyfish (below) I see washed up on the beach where I live by the North Sea, in the hundreds. It's not often but it's a scene I've come across many times, both sad and beautiful. From what I've read, it seems high winds bring in the jellyfish from warmer waters and high tides deliver them to their final resting place.  The biggest I've seen is a little bigger than your head and I've seen them as small as a 10p coin. Poor little things. The seagulls get the little crabs early in the morning and leave their legs scattered all over, but they will not touch these guys. They're not good eatin' I guess, maybe poisonous. Though the aquarium tanks have the coloured lights, the four rings in the centre of these jellyfish's bodies are coloured exactly as they appear - almost a neon purple against a mostly opaque, white, firm gelatenous body when out of the water. These ones don't have tentacles, I've never seen any and even turned one over to investigate; their bodies are very streamlined, like jelly disks. 

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Finally, before being dumped into the gift shop on the way out, we saw the area with the tanks that regulate the delicate balance needed to sustain the various species living in the aquarium. They've made the tanks look pretty cool:

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Goodbye aquarium:

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And CN Tower (which I never realised gives a light show at night)

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Photos © The Swelle Life

July 18, 2014

Transform Your Bathroom With These 3 Simple Ideas

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Your bathroom may not be the biggest or the most glamourous room in the house but it is one of the most important to keep up-to-date and fresh. Along with the kitchen, the master bathroom is the most valuable asset, and making sure that it looks good and works well can increase the selling price of your home. 

The bathroom is also a great place to unwind and clear your mind, especially if you're a bath person. So you want the décor and ambience to make it as inviting as it can be. In this guest post we take a look at some of the easiest and most cost effective ways to transform your bathroom to give it that enjoyable and relaxed feel.

Re-Paint Or Tile The Walls    

The simplest and most effective way to make your bathroom look fresh is to update the paint. A new coat, even if it is the same colour, can go a long way to making your bathroom look and feel brand new again. If you want to change the colour, keep it light to make it feel as open and airy as possible. 

Add Ceiling Cladding

Bathroom-ceiling-cladding-dbs-bathroomsOne of the most overlooked areas is the ceiling as it tends to be considered too expensive to change. However, specialist retailers, such as DBS Bathrooms,  are starting to supply new product such as ceiling cladding that can be designed to fit any area while making your bathroom stand out with style.

Ceiling cladding is perfect for the fluctuations in temperature in your bathroom, and unlike paint it won’t suffer from damp in a poorly ventilated area. The cladding is easy to install and with a variety of styles to choose from you can give your bathroom an instant lift. 

Select the Right Lighting

In the majority of bathrooms, the main lighting source will be overhead and usually attached to the ceiling. While this is often the most practical place for the lights, it is not necessarily the best place if you spend a lot of time using the mirror. By adding a lighting source around eye level next to your mirror you will be able to see what you are doing – perfect for applying make-up or shaving, especially if your space is lacking in natural light.

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While changing the electrics is better left to a professional, it is still possible to do all the ground work of mounting the light. It’s essential when working with electrics, or indeed any aspect of your bathroom, to have the right tools. Quality is important for effectivness, longevity and safety, so use a specialist retailer like The Big Tools Shop for equipment to help get you on your way to updating your bathroom. By using one or all of these simple and cost effective tips you can keep your bathroom looking fresh and up-to-date without breaking your budget. 

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