A little escape to Cornwall and some design lessons learnt this November...
Posts from the ‘architecture’ Category
One definition of the noun ‘maze’ is a network of paths and hedges designed as a puzzle through which one has to find a way. This helps to sum up the experience of using the playful products from Maze Interiors.
Not, you understand that it is confusing, but rather that their products ask you to interact with them to discover what works best for your home – they don’t come with a rulebook!
Recently Wallpaper Magazine described the brackets as ‘mathematical shelving which allow reconstruction at the drop of a hat depending on the collection of objects on display’. It’s this functional flexibility which future-proofs Maze products in order to maximise their lifespan; a refreshing change to the planned obsolescence we often see with consumer products these days.
Take the brass-coated pythagorus shelving bracket system designed by Gustav Rosen as a case in point. You can arrange them in symmetry, mix and match with different colours or choose how they are hung (there are four options offering visual variety and freedom).
The beautiful glow of the brass coating was a magnet for us here at ecomodernstudios. We wanted to hang these in our grey and concrete kitchen to contrast the stark functionality with warmth and geometric interest. We had fun thinking about how best to hang the brackets and whilst you can buy the shelves from Maze too we chose to make our own using ply offcuts to tie in with existing shelves. Intrigued about the brand behind these playful products we sat down with CEO Lotta De Visscher to talk about the ethos behind this successful Swedish brand.
Hi Lotta, the website states ‘Nature in all its splendour is the greatest inspiration in history. It should be only logical to feel driven to protect it’ but what is it about nature specifically which is inspiring your current designs?
The natural geometrics of nature and the exciting variety of natures own materials are inspiring us right now. We find a lot of inspiration in natures own natural geometrics and patterns. The smartness and self-explication of its lines, curves and solutions. As always we enjoy natures vast variety of natural materials, differing surfaces and exciting colours to inform our work.
The ethos behind the ‘slow produced’ collection is fantastic. Are there household items which have been handed down to you which you treasure?
I think most of us have our old family treasures big or small, like an old single chair or a wooden kitchen table that we really love and cherish. These items are often filled with a lot of personal history, memories and stories that pass down through the generations and don’t we all love quality materials worn smooth by time and use?
Personally I treasure an embroidered pillow made by my grandmother which she used to have on her sofa when I grew up. A colleague treasures a bat armchair from the 1960s handed down from his parents, which has already been upholstered twice, but is an essential at home – it’s all about good warm memories isn’t it?
The pythagorus bracket system allows homeowners to be playful and flexible in how they use Maze Interior products. Much of your storage design follows in this vein – how did this approach come about?
We have always believed that when someone buys a Maze product it immediately becomes theirs to take over and they naturally become co-creators in how they choose to use it, where to put it and how they combine it with other things and furniture in their home. They create their own personal relationship with it. We encourage this as much as we possibly can because when you really add value to our products they become a living part of peoples lives.
If you could sum up Swedish design in 3 words what would they be?
Honest, clever and smart
In the interest of transparency Maze Interiors sent us the brackets for the purpose of photography to accompany this interview.
When we moved into our 1970s bungalow in Dorset from our terraced Bath Stone 1930s home packed full of character the initial impression wasn’t one of immediate attraction… However we knew that there were plenty of pluses with bungalows. The first being space, the second being all-on-one-level (handy with two tiny children) and the third being detatched. The bungalow was also a 5 minute walk to the beach which was a definite selling point and 3 years on we’re in love with the home we’re working so hard to create. It feels like home.
Here’s a little before & now photo which illustrates our work to date to keep a midcentury vibe but reference its coastal setting with the addition of new window sizes, shutters, cedar wood slatting, a white and grey paint update and tropical landscaping to include banana plants and numerous spiky plants.
Our focus has remained very much on getting the back extension and internal renovation finished but next up is to remove the green tile-hung frontage and replace with cedar wood, update the guttering and to relocate the ugly yellow alarm box! Even though there is a never-ending to-do list we can appreciate how far we’ve come and it was lovely when Michelle from Roxwell Press offered to capture our home renovation project with her customised illustration portrait service.
When the result arrived via post it was incredible to see how she’d really captured the spirit of the place (also kindly future-proofing the portrait with the cedar cladding rather than the current green tiles!). Michelle created the portrait by working from photographs we provided and asked about planting, colours and textures and it was this attention to detail that has ensured such a pleasing portrait which feels like home.
The bungalow always really sings on a bright blue day and it’s amazing to have this captured in the illustration. All that remains is to get it framed and hung. We’re thinking in the kitchen and know it’ll be a talking point!
The good news is that YOU can actually win a customised house portrait worth £100 by entering this competition which is running until 6th October. All you need to do is sign up with your email address to receive her occasional e-newsletters which feature sample sales, competitions and free hand-designed wallpapers for your screen. There is also currently free delivery on all orders (including a single card) at the moment so do take a look at her website or perhaps get an early order in for Christmas cards (if we’re allowed to mention the ‘C’ word yet).
If you’re not lucky enough to win Roxwell Press will offer a discount code to everyone whose signed up to the e-newsletter for the launch of this new house portrait service or you can skip the queue and pre-order with Michelle@roxwellpress.co.uk.
SO many people told us we were mad to try and create our own DIY kitchen worktop but what is life if not for a little adventure?
Creating our own worktop allowed us to be flexible with our kitchen design and we love the results. Here’s a little step-by-step photo explanation of the prep and pour phase of creating our worktops. We used a system which enables you to make a bespoke frame to suit your requirements from Z Counterform Europe and we love the fact we created one continuous surface with a story behind it!
Step 1: Create a ply base on top of your units. Z counterform suggest using Durarock but we went with ply. In retrospect the ply repels the water when Durarock absorbs it so it made the mix slightly wetter to work with (which made it messier) but it worked fine!
Step 2: Fit the plastic formwork to the edges of the worktop and around holes you’ll need to keep e.g. sink and hob. You will need to cut the edges at a 45 degree angle so they sit tightly together which is made easy by the mitre block provided. Duct tape and silicone EVERY joint you can see!
We bought a few tools but the pack was really comprehensive and included the mitre block, plastic formwork, plastic spacers and screws, glass fibre reinforcement mesh, the dry pre-mixed cement and magnesium float. All we did was buy a paddle mixer and some additional trowels.
Step 3: Roll out the fibre glass mesh to the length you need and overlap the mesh slightly on the corners to ensure the joints are strong. Using lightweight gloves is a good idea as otherwise it makes your hands itchy! You then need to snap off the longer plastic legs of the Z clips which are provided (you only need the shorter legs for domestic use) and attach them to the fibre glass mesh approx every 10 cm in a square formation and lastly adding a central clip to each square. There are 2 grooves in each Z clip to hold the mesh so this ensures your mesh will stay at the correct level when the concrete is poured on top. Using an electric drill is a must when you have so many screws but a good tip is to buy a magnetic tip for your drill if you don’t have one. It holds the screws on the end of the drill when you’re trying to fix down and stops a lot of cursing!
Step 4: Remove your drawers / cupboard doors and protect your floor and units with lots of plastic (we used packaging from appliances we’d bought which worked fine). We also cut plastic bags and taped them over sockets and the extractor hood to avoid splashing concrete onto them. We covered over the holes for the sink and hob with the ply which we’d cut out from the ply worktop to stop too much concrete seeping in. Be sure to leave holes in the corners though to be able to easily remove once the concrete is set! This worked for us but they took a while to cut around the ply edges as concrete had dripped and set into the joints. In retrospect styrofoam would have been easier and worked just as well from a protection POV with the added bonus of being quick to break up after the concrete was set.
Step 5: Mix and pour the concrete as per the instructions on the packets. Make sure you mix up a trial amount first to check the consistency and make sure it’s suitable for working with. This process is messy and renders you feeling rather kid-like! It was an incredibly exciting / scary morning! Once the concrete is level vibrate the edges of the formwork by tapping on them with the end of a trowel or by using a sander. We did the latter and this worked brilliantly for us – we have very little holes on the edges as a result.
Step 6: As the concrete started to set we peeled back the plastic sheeting and wiped the plastic formwork clean. We also used a little trowel to move any concrete spillage from the edge of the ‘holes’ so that it would be easier to take the ply protection out. Tidying before the concrete dries was really easy and we were glad we’d done it when it came to removing the formwork later on.
Step 7: On Day 2 the concrete had dried a lighter colour and we could take the ply framing out of the holes for the sink and the hob. It required a bit of jiggery pokery but worked fine. We could then test that our fitted appliances would fit snuggly on the new surface.
Step 8: Break the formwork off – this peels away and is a very satisfying step! You’ll need to sand the top, edges and corners so don’t be worried about a little bit of excess concrete as shown below on the corner edge.
This is when it starts to get fun and you can put in a few drawers back in to start to imagine the final effect! We chose a simple square edge formwork frame with a white concrete mix but there were so many options to choose from according to your style which you can check out here.
We posted about our progress on our Instagram account and the most frequently asked question we had was ‘is it possible for an amateur DIY-er to do?’. We would respond – absolutely! We had both sets of our wonderful parents over to help and definitely a little ‘team’ is recommended when little leaks start to spout or the drills overheat as this is a time-pressured activity! However going with Z Counterform meant they provided links to videos which really highlight each stage and this took the fear out of the process for us. If you follow them on Instagram you can see some of their latest projects to get ideas and we found this really helpful for imagining the final result.
Next up we’ll cover the sanding and sealing process so watch out for the next blog later this month… We’d love to hear your comments though on our DIY adventure and thoughts on using a concrete worktop!
In the interest of transparency we received a discount from Z Counterform when purchasing their products but this post genuinely depict the process we undertook to create our first DIY countertop!
Just a quick little post to share the great news… Voting for #IBA16 is now open!
ecomodernstudios is a place to celebrate innovative fun design and our experiences in design. This year we have been fortunate enough to be included in the Best Design Inspiration Blog category in the Amara Interior Blog Awards. The awards were set up by Amara.com in 2014 and driven by an appreciation of great design – they stock really beautiful designers which include Tom Dixon, Orla Kiely and Kartell for starters!
So, if you enjoy reading the blog please do click on the link below which will take you through to the voting page:
There are some fantastic bloggers in this category so we’re really honoured to be listed, some incredibly well known bloggers and some less so, so it’s definitely worth checking out the list to discover some real talent.
Voting will close on 9th September and only one vote per person is allowed!
Thank you for your support xx
Kitchens are often described as the ‘hub of the home’ and something we here in England obsess about. There is an alarming trend for spending enormous sums on a kitchen created by a designer which leaves the rest of us wondering how on earth we can afford one. The answer is by taking it back into your own hands and getting creative.
With us moving our kitchen into the new extension everything had to be from scratch which meant we weren’t confined to existing drainage or electricity points and it put the onus on us to get the design right. This is our longterm home and we wanted to install something with longevity for both ourselves and future owners. Whilst we argued over if there was space for a breakfast bar (there wasn’t) we spent time creating a practical triangle (between the oven, hob and sink) and ensuring placements were practical (dishwasher next to the sink etc). Whilst in the design phase it’s often easy to gloss over impractical placements but DO fight the urge to put pretty ahead of practical!
We’re only part way through our kitchen build but thought we’d showcase progress so far:
We bought the kitchen cabinets from IKEA and had them delivered which was a practical choice given there were 120 flat-pack boxes!
We chose the inexpensive Veddinge fitted kitchen in matt grey. Whilst stand-alone units are wonderful, fitted cabinets really maximise storage and being a family of 4 this is now one of our top priorities! Being IKEA you can of course change the colours of the doors / styles as necessary and we liked the ‘future proofing’ this provided. The units are solid so they don’t have gaps for installing utilities like other kitchens you can buy in the UK but its easy enough to drill access holes and this doesn’t compromise the strength of the units. We then spent a long weekend putting together the carcases and even the kids were great with some of the repetitive builds like the plastic feet.
The next part is fixing the cabinets to the wall (and to each other). It’s here you discover the walls aren’t perfectly straight or you have wobbly floors so its best to allow lots of time (and patience) for this part. In our last kitchen we used hidden push openers but they didn’t cope with the heavy drawers well so unfortunately (we love the minimalism of handleless drawers) we’ve decided we need to install handles. The handles we’re using are fixed to the inside of the drawers at the top so it means we can change them in the future if we want to change the look or functionality as the handles we’ve chosen leave the doors perfectly in tact from the front.
With the washing machine at the end of the units we had to build an ‘end’ to it which the husband swiftly did with sheets of mdf. We always look to build in display storage wherever we can to add character and functionality to spaces and this was a handy place to display cookery books (in addition to the two yellow boxouts we bought). We’ll accent the bookshelf by painting the backing in Little Greene Mister David Yellow or possibly Lamp Black.
Similarly to hide the kitchen worktop from the kitchen table we raised the area above the sink with a simple timber construction clad in mdf. This also avoids any splash back to people sitting at the table and in time we’ll add a simple shelf, splashback glass and paint.
The next step felt really exciting – using ply to create the worktop template for the concrete pour. We’ve gone with a wonderful company called Z Counterform who let you DIY using their kits. This means you can create kitchen worktops which are personal to you and the space you’ve created (no annoying joints). We settled on a White Concrete mix with a square edge profile (but you can choose whichever you like). and they look like stone on completion so are a sturdy look for your kitchen which adds to that feeling of home. Watch out for a blog post on this shortly.
Our top tips so far:
- When you’re 90% sure which kitchen you want to proceed with buy a unit. We decided to go with a grey kitchen. Installing a kitchen into a room which wasn’t a previous kitchen was daunting so we bought a single unit and built it in situ to check before taking the plunge and ordering the kitchen. Whilst it seemed risky spending £100 on something we couldn’t return we knew worst case scenario we could use it in the garage and it would be easier than returning 120 boxes after we’d ordered it if they didn’t look right!
- Think of your triangle. Using packaging cut out templates for the size of sink and hob so you can check the proportion of workspace you have around them as you’ll want everything in proportion which can be tricky to visualise when starting from scratch.
- Shop around and if you can – buy in advance and store to avoid panic-buying. Through cash back schemes, brand online outlet stores and eBay we’ve saved a fortune on our appliances. Warning: it might take over your evenings though…
- Splurge on the items you’ll use every day. We’ve gone for an induction hob for the benefits of safety, lower energy consumption and speed. We know we will cook every day! Likewise our Rangemaster sink was a splurge but we loved the unusual modernist square proportions of it which visually tied to some of our bargain Smeg appliances and we don’t regret it.
- Think about storage and add in display areas if you can to break up the ‘fitted’ nature of the space to make it feel more like you. Our yellow display boxes handily matched with the shots of yellow we had in the house and whilst they were fiddly for us to build them out to be flush with the wall units we think the extra work was worth it. Likewise extra storage for cookbooks with their lovely covers on display seemed a handy and colourful way to finish off the end of the unit in the kitchen. Don’t be afraid to add your stamp!
Would love to hear your experiences and tips too!
Last month we were up in London for the UK Blog Awards and were lucky enough to stay at the luxury serviced home-from-home Orchid Way from Merino Hospitality. Caio met with us at the property just off Russell Square and was so friendly and personable we felt instantly at ease. He explained our Bloomsbury surroundings as our eyes grew wider at the opportunities of being so enviably located in central London (think the tube one street away, rows of independent shops and cafés, the iconic 1970s Brutalist Brunswick centre around the corner… we were starting to feel there wasn’t going to be enough time).
However, it was clear that the mews home was going to provide the R&R we needed after all this excitement. Situated on a quiet street behind the famous Hotel Russell it was private and retreat-like and the home had enough gadgets to render us childlike (handmade beds with integrated lighting, SONOS audio which could link to your mobile, Netflix TV, solar heating system, rain sensor skylights, Wi-fi, a fully-fitted kitchen and a huge selection of Pecksniff and Aromatherapy Associates toiletries). You get the picture!
There’s so much to talk about with Orchid Way but lets begin with something which impressed us from the start. As soon as you walk in from the cobbled mews street the feel is one which is independent, artistic and worldly. There is artwork throughout the house, books displayed in frames, flowers, pretty ceramics, carafes with water, art supplies and huge wall decos – this is not your average pad. Far from it and it’s origins are just as interesting as these now multi-million pound mews houses were originally built as stable blocks back in the 18th century.
The house retains this sense of character and history and the contemporary interiors work to bring out these architectural gems through their use of quality materials. In retaining the stable doors, creating a loft-like open space upstairs and allowing you to open the house up entirely to the cobbled street outside you have the feeling you have your own little slice of London – and in fact the owners went one step further in allowing their guests to design the entire house from scratch… Intrigued by this concept we were excited to see if the notion of ‘design by committee’ is ever a good idea for the resulting design and delved a little deeper into the process they undertook.
When Merino Hospitality took the property on they decided to trust in those who had trusted in them; their guests. They sent a video to over 1,000 of their previous guests from neighbouring mews properties asking for their help in designing Orchid Way.
Guests were provided with a moodboard for the house with around 5 options for every item from cutlery to sofas (and everything in-between!). They were also welcomed to make their own suggestions outside of these options as the owners totally relinquished control to make this a highly unusual and democratic renovation not seen often in the design world. When asked about how they felt about undertaking it Caio said: ‘When we decided to do this we were certainly nervous about the potential outcome of such a leap of faith but luckily enough our guests have great taste so it was actually an incredibly exciting process’.
Guests listed their preferences in order and the most voted items were put in place which, as you can imagine, required considerable work behind the scenes! This belief and dedication to being client-led also extended to the name of the house as guests were encouraged to name the property as an homage to someone or something that was important to them. Even the artwork was chosen by the people in the Merino Hospitality office so everyone had their say! The resulting design is eclectic but really works as the spaces are unified by repetitive materials such as the light ash wooden flooring, minamalist glass balustrades and white walls giving it a restful feel.
So whose up for a little house tour?
The accomodation comprises of two bedrooms and two bathrooms with a large mezzanine and hidden playden but lets start from the ground floor which is open-plan meaning you have a combined living / kitchen area with a large wet room off the hall.
Walking up the stairs you arrive at the first of several split levels. Off this floor is a large bedroom with a coastal airy style with beautiful built in shelving and the master bathroom.
There are then a few further steps to take up which unveils the master bedroom which is full height to the roof and incorporates a large mezzanine and a hidden playroom (through the little door top right).
The master bedroom has a gorgeous autumnal forest scheme and feels cosy despite being full height. The beds are something which slightly blew our minds too. They’re bespoke and handmade and exclusive to the properties Merino Hospitality provide. Layered with Merino wool, white cotton felt, fabric, silk and individually pocketed springs you can imagine how deep and comfy they are to sleep in. The beds themselves are also fitted with sensors so when you step out of bed at night low-level light casts across the floor to help guide you. If we could have packed the bed in our bags we might have…
Light shines through the automatic skylights which have rain sensors and automatic closing functions. They also provide beautiful glimpses of the London rooflines.
Likewise you look out onto beautiful apartments with green zinc detailing from the front windows, the patina of the metal glows according to the level of light outside making them feel part of the artwork in the house and they capture your attention through the glass balustrades.
So what were the details which made this property so special? Aside from the lovely touches such as greeting baskets and flowers it was the attention to detail which made this feel like such a special base. The bath had a tap behind your head so you could instantly control the heat and speed of the water cascading onto your toes. There were automatic low-level lights for nighttime, perspex side tables by the bed, secure Banham locking systems… books you actually wanted to pick up. It felt like home but a spoily home and everything was impeccably clean making it feel like a healthy place to be.
There are lots of architectural tricks to take from living (albeit temporarily) in such a thoughtfully created space. It has added meaning when you know that this space was conceived with the input from 1,000 people worldwide. So maybe when we’re renovating our own homes we should open ourselves up a little more to the opinions of friends and family to end up with a space which is much more than the sum of its parts.
We were guests of Orchid Way but all thoughts and photographs our own. We will be back!
Founded in 2014 by Katy Goutefangea, Ola creates traditionally crafted stationery collections, featuring original prints of such zingy energising patterns. ‘Made in the UK’ adorns their wares which is a refreshing statement in a time when we’re often told ‘costs have forced us elsewhere’…
The quality of the cards is something which is immediate to see with heavy thick set card and foil blocked designs – this sits well with the principle behind the designs: ‘each item is a quiet celebration of pattern, influenced by architecture, abstract geometry and artists such as Sol LeWitt, Anni Albers and Donald Judd’. There is a quiet brilliance to this brand and we were lucky enough to sit down with Katy to ask a few questions about the inspirations and design processes behind Ola.
What is it about architecture that you find so inspiring?
I’m often drawn to the ornament found in architecture. There’s an interesting interaction between the size of buildings and their smaller human scale detailing. The period we research will often change depending on the collection we’re working on – at the moment there are lots of postmodern buildings on the pinboard!
These architectural references make for a really refreshing offering. Ola products are crafted in small quantities with a dedication to detail – stitching in place of gluing, inks laid with a roller instead of digitally – traditional craftsmanship which just shines with quality. Take for instance the patterned spine notebooks which are designed so that the spines will match when shelved for display and ease of organisation.
Do you dream in geometry and pattern? What impact do you think colour and pattern plays in our lives?
Pattern is, and always has been, a huge part of human life. Some of the earliest items in known history are decorated – it’s something we’ve been doing since the beginning of time. The prints on each of our notepads have been developed to balance pattern and subtlety. It’s important that the prints enhance the notebooks aesthetically and inspire the user, without distracting from what is essentially a blank space to record thoughts and ideas. The patterns are intended to be almost meditative, somewhere you can rest your gaze while thinking of something else.
Katy, when so many are going digital why have you focused on going ‘analogue’ with paper and traditional craftsmanship / manufacturing?
There is something very different about writing in a notepad to taking notes digitally. They definitely both have their place. Paper can be used to sketch and write simultaneously, it can be rotated and torn. It doesn’t need to be switched on to record a passing thought. It can be carried anywhere, crumpled and dropped without much worry. It can be flicked through at a later date and stored on a shelf. The same cannot be said for any digital device.
This detail matters. Despite the technologically dominated age we’re living in stationery design continues to grow in the UK – we still all feel a connection with writing, with posting, with making. The tactile nature of these beautiful products will only continue to strengthen this bond and play their part in attracting new generations of paper addicts for all the right reasons; to help people tell their own story.
We will be trialling out some origami techniques with paper from the current range ‘Dash Print in Klein Blue’ and ‘Victor Print in Turquoise Blue’ using this lovely book ‘Folding Techniques for Designers’. These pattern papers are traditionally printed in England, using vegetable based inks and soft white uncoated paper stocks and is a lovely quality for craft (or wrapping for that special person). We love the bold geometric inspired patterns so we’re excited to see the results… watch this space on our Instagram feed for progress!
Please note we were sent products to photograph for the purpose of this interview. All photographs ecomodernstudios