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Posts from the ‘Upcycling’ Category

Prep & Pour | DIY your kitchen worktops

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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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! 

 

 

 

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Taz Pollard | It’s A Human Thing

This week we spoke with Taz of Taz Pollard Ceramics who works from North Devon. This British designer has had a busy few years creating handmade vibrant ceramics inspired by shapes from cola bottles to drainpipes. In 2013 she was shortlisted for a Confessions of A Design Geek bursary and won the One Year On award at New Designers in 2014. Her work has also been sold through a number of galleries and design shops to include Heals in Tottenham Court Road and Future and Found so she’s one busy lady!

So Taz – how do you come up with such original ‘ceramic with attitude’ designs? You’re obviously bold with colour and materials so where does your exploratory process start? 

Most of my ideas start with historical ceramics and looking at how we value objects. Plastics are the new ‘everyday pottery’ something which is used and discarded with little regard to its design or origins. I find it interesting that you can take a fairly mundane object such as a disused piece of drainpipe or an old plastic bottle and create something beautiful within it.

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Given your bold use of colour in your ceramics what impact do you think using colour in the home has? 

Bright splashes of colour are so uplifting and cheerful. I think using accessories, vases and soft furnishings are such a great way of injecting a bit of colour into the home but with the neon in this range less is definitely more! Neon is a bit of a head turner…

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You describe your work as ‘perfectly imperfect’ reflecting the fact the pieces are handmade. What do you think being handmade adds to a product? 

Being handmade brings life to a piece, a bowl which is perfectly round is easily ignored by the brain as we already understand the shape and move on subconsciously; a bowl which undulates holds the viewer for longer as the brain tries to work out what it is seeing. It’s a human thing, a reflection on the human condition you could say, it’s our beautiful imperfections which makes us stand out. For me it’s also about investment, when I hold a handmade mug I know someone has invested time, love and thought into that piece and it definitely makes the tea taste better!

What eco credentials to your work do you have and do these inform your designs? 

Ceramic production is a very non-eco sector which desperately needs investment and innovation, particularly in kilns and firing. I am very lucky to have a studio at Woodlands in North Devon which was sustainably built and low impact with a passive energy business centre which we regularly use.

FullSizeRender 3So, what products are next in the pipeline? 

I am currently working on my new ‘spirits range’ which will be launched at Clerkenwell Design Week (24th-26th May 2016). The range includes shot cups, tumblers, olive trays and a large tray in porcelain with bold royal blue and gold touches. Come and say hello!

If you want some ceramics with attitude in your life then visit the blog, Not On The Hightstreet or link with Taz on social media to include Instagram and Twitter.

Please note Taz sent us a drainpipe vase to photograph to accompany the interview. All photos ecomodernstudios. 

 

 

 

 

A thriving little indoor jungle!

We’ve never been involved in #urbanjunglebloggers before but have long since loved the shot of green they instill into our social media feeds.

Each month you’re challenged to photograph your house plants in different ways to celebrate all that they bring to our home environments (mood-lifting colour, clean healthier air and a connection to the outdoors to name a few). This month it’s all about the urban jungle with some cheeky animal folk getting in on the act.

Despite the inevitable hilarity of these challenges its a great motivation to pot up some succulents, ferns, air plants or spider plants for your home. Studies suggest there are benefits aside from the aesthetic; lowering blood pressure and increasing concentration as per this recent article in the Guardian on how houseplants have charmed a new generation of gardeners.

Scroll down to see how we got on with bringing a little jungle to our children’s room!

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‘J’ is for Jungle! This fabric letter is from the brilliant Kitty McCall and sits against a spiky aloe vera plant potted up in a terracotta pot which we sprayed copper and let drip dry.

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The kids love playing amongst the pots with their dinosaurs, peg figures and a cheeky wooden Kay Bojesen bear with moveable arms and legs which can lead chase from behind the pots! The ‘J’ hanger is from Anthropologie with their wonderful letter products.

If you’d like to join in on the planty antics then sign up for the Urban Jungle Bloggers monthly newsletter or follow on the usual social media suspects including Instagram!

In the words of #urbanjunglebloggers: Rooooooooooaaaaarrr!

Lemonaid. Honest drink. Happy Head.

Here’s a company we can identify with: ‘when you’ve finished your drink, you can show off your DIY Skills’.

If you’ve not heard of Lemonaid its a nifty company with a moral compass. Every bottle of their organic ChariTea and Lemonaid range actively supports social initiatives in the farming regions in Asia, Africa and South America where the raw ingredients for the drinks are grown.

So far more than £560,000 has been given to social, economic and cultural projects in these regions as part of their ‘help people to help themselves’ approach on top of the Fair-trade premium pay they receive. The idea is that ’empowered people hold the key to overcoming many of the world’s problems’. How great is that? Especially in what seemed like very dark days in 2015…

So perhaps get Lemonaid on your radar and then try out your own crafty ‘upcycle’ project. Here’s a few ideas to get your creative thinking going. Some simple and some requiring a little more DIY prowess!

By attaching pourers and pumps (which can be easily bought online) you can turn bottles into oil & Vinegar or Sugar or soap dispensers. Or if you want to go big what about a cluster of lights – any qualified electrician can help with this:

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Or a set of variable height stools with the crates? We could see these in a playroom to help with fortress making…

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Or a spice rack for those who cook and want proper storage sizes!

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Or lastly (but not least) the ultimate outdoor ‘chandelier’ light. Perfect if you love hosting bbqs or mini-festivals in your garden. Simply insert an LED light into the middle to give a beautiful glow at night.

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If you try any of these upcycles then do send us an image. We would love to see them (or any of your creations!).

Have a great weekend and look differently at those objects around you! It’s often the most satisfying and fun process…

ecomodernstudios x

To read more about the positive changes coming about through this company visit here.