kitchen light

Another Day, Another Development

New developments sprout up in our area on a regular basis.  I know there is a lot of old housing stock which is getting bought up and refurbished.  There are also refurbishments of refurbishments.  On our former street in St. John’s Wood, a house that had been completely redone by a developer was then refurbished by the new owners to suit their tastes.  The new refurbishment meant chucking out an unused Poggenpohl kitchen in the skip – what a waste of a beautiful kitchen! They could easily have sold the kitchen.

I had a look at another refurbishment/extension in the neighbourhood across from the new development of luxury apartments that I loved.  I thought I would share some tips on buying a newly refurbished house.  One of the perks of buying a new home is the joy of moving in without having to do work unless, of course, you clearly have money to throw away like our former neighbour.  Oh yes, if you do have money to throw away, you can stop reading right here and consider donating to one of my favourite charities, Missing Persons.

Bring a builder you trust to a viewing if you have one.  

Your builder will know how well the refurbishments have been done.  For example, my builder pointed out that he did not think they would have gotten building control sign off on some of the work that was done because he thought there were some building code violations.  The estate agent had no idea when he was asked.  Sure, you will find that out in the solicitors exchange of emails but by then you have already committed time and money towards buying the property.  And, sure, you can take a view and just go ahead and buy the place.  Remember though it may come to haunt you later when you go to sell because a future buyer may not be so accommodating.

 

I will, however, point out that in my experience no builder likes what another has done.  They would always have done stuff differently.  It’s the big picture critique you need to hear – issues that may cost you money you hadn’t planned on spending.

See how the doors, drawers and their related mechanisms feel.

In the development I just saw, the pocket doors came right off their hinges.  I was told that occurred because I had pulled it too far.  Hello?!  I have children.  They are not going to be gentle with the pocket doors.  A properly made pocket door should have a mechanism that stops it from going off its rails or too far out into the opening.

 

The kitchen was billed as designer and luxury but no brand was named.  Although the units looked good enough, when I opened a drawer it felt flimsy in my hand.  Designer drawers don’t feel flimsy or wiggle on their tracks.  Try and gently slam a closed door.  If it doesn’t close gently and slowly, you know you will have hurt little fingers in the future at some point.

kitchen light

I have nothing against cheaper kitchen units – the carcasses are just as well made as the expensive ones in my opinion.  In a luxury kitchen, you are paying extra for the hinges and closing mechanisms to be a better quality. Just don’t ask me to pay premium prices for a kitchen that is billed as premium..

Calculate all the extras you will need.

Not putting in closets in a refurbishment not only saves the developer money but also makes the rooms appear bigger.  They sell it to you like they are doing you a favour.  Wouldn’t it be great that you can put in closets to suit your own tastes?! Whatever.  Everyone needs storage.  In rooms without closet space, you will need to factor in the cost of adding closets or buying wardrobes.

 

Once again well-made closets are not cheap.  In the development I just saw, none of the 6 smaller bedrooms had closets and the master bedroom’s walk-in closet was not fitted out.  A walk-in closet without shelving is just a large single room in my opinion.

Assess if you can live with the design choices that have been made.

You aren’t going to love everything that you see.  You will need, however, to live with the most expensive stuff (unless you don’t care about the money).  Some examples of small changes that can make a big difference:

  • Paint and wallpaper can be changed.
  • Shelves can be added.
  • Windows can be frosted to take out an unsightly view.
  • Door knobs and handles can be changed easily.
  • Paint over kitchen cabinets if the colour or wood is not to your taste.

I painted out a wood kitchen to a contemporary white in my summer house because I disliked the boring faux oak.  I also hated the fact that the door handles were brass and the internal fittings in the bathrooms were chrome – but still haven’t gotten around to fixing that yet.  Basically, your annoying little details need to be minor enough that you can get used to them in case you never do get around to changing them!  In my next post, I will share with you several of  my pet peeves in refurbishments.  These are more substantial changes and will require a lot more money than a few hours work by a handyman.  As ever pet peeves are a personal thing.

These are just some things to think about when you are buying a refurbished property which will have a premium price tag relative to its neighbours.  Unless money isn’t an option (lucky you!), you need to make sure you are getting value for the price differential.

What can you add to my list?  I’m sure there’s stuff I’ve forgotten, or possibly just never knew.

London townhouses

I Got The Mansion Tax Blues

The people over at Property Division have put together an infographic on how the proposed mansion tax will affect London (see below).  For those of you reading from outside of Britain, the mansion tax is a proposal by the Labour Party to have an annual tax on real properties worth over £2 million.  The actual plan is a little fuzzy.  Originally it would have been an annual levy of 1% of the amount over £2 million but there’s been some step-back on that proposal.

London is disproportionately hit by the mansion tax.  According to reports, 11,462 London homes will face the mansion tax.  Calling the tax a mansion tax is a misnomer as well.  From my own experience, I have found that in Hampstead/St. John’s Wood, the price per square foot is upwards of £1200/s.f..  As such, a 1500 s.f. place could put you over the £2 million threshold.  In Manhattan, 1500 s.f., will get you a good-sized 3 bedroom apartment and in London 3-4 bedrooms, depending on how poky that fourth bedroom is.  Hardly a mansion, either way.

London townhouses

image credit: Rightmove

According to the Labour Party, the approximately £1.2 million raised will go towards the NHS.  That is ,of course, assuming that Labour actually raise the $1.2 billion because they will also let people roll-over the mansion tax if they are under a certain income threshold until the owners sell or die.  My street in Belsize Park actually had a retired couple whose grandfather had bought their house from the Victorian developer of the street.  Although hardly an ancestral pile in the usual sense, their home has been passed down through the family and is now worth well over the £2 million threshold.  They had planned on leaving the house to their daughter and family but this super-charged death tax will probably make that impossible.  They are relatively young and healthy (in their 60’s) and a possible 20-30 years of mansion tax rollover with accrued interest will be a massive amount.  Maybe this particular couple can hold out until a future government repeals the tax.  Death and taxes may be a certainty in life, but so are changes in governments.

An alternative plan would be to increase the council tax bands instead of levying the mansion tax.  I know the council tax rates we paid in St. Johns Wood were laughable.  They had so much money coming in from Westminster businesses, the residents pay the lowest council rates in England.  Our council services in Westminster were excellent by the way and much better than services we experienced in Islington or Camden councils.  The big problem with the Lib Dem plan though is that council tax goes directly to the council and not to the Treasury.  As such, the revenue is out of the potential Labour government’s reach. Money raised from the mansion tax going into the Treasury doesn’t automatically mean NHS funding either but it is a good public relations move.

NW8 road sign

In my opinion, mansion tax is all about wealth redistribution. The top 1% of taxpayers in Britain contribute almost 30% of the revenue for the Treasury.  The mansion tax is just another tax on income that’s already been taxed.  Nice double-dipping if you can get it.

double-dipping

***

11,462 London Homes Face Mansion Tax - Inforgraphic

Brought to you by Property Division, The Property Investment News Hub.

 

 

what's your story?

Help! My Blog is Schizophrenic!

Why do I blog?

The money, the power, the prestige.  Ha ha.

I’m sure people wonder why I blog.  With my second blogging anniversary just having passed I have been asking myself the same question.  Technically though my blogging anniversary is a fluid concept sort of like some celebrity birthdays (and marriages).   I got off to a really slow start publishing one post a month from the last quarter of 2012  until the first quarter of 2013 when I doubled my output (2 posts a month!).

I was on a roll! There’s no stopping me now.  Why do I do it?

  • I like to write.  I don’t have the interest or discipline to write a book.  Law firm writing suited me perfectly – precise, non-fiction and factual.  I’ve enjoyed, however, writing about matters that are less dry than the topics I used to cover as a lawyer (e.g., the relative competitiveness of major players in the cement industry or the risk factors associated with the use of barely-seaworthy cargo ships).  I kid you not.  I really did waste hours of my youth researching for, and writing about, such topics.
what's your story?

Everyone has a story.

  • Believe it or not, being a stay at home mother is not all coffee mornings and time at the gym. It is long days of chaos and confusion interspersed with mind-numbing tedium.  If you don’t keep yourself interesting, then God knows, your children won’t.
Yes, this is  my day. Every day.

Yes, this is my day. Every day.

  • My blog is a record-keeper of our family’s times and interests.  By the time my children get around to asking about their childhood, I may not be around or, just as likely, have lost my marbles.  I wonder if my children will read about poured cement floors with the same distaste that I accord shag carpeting these days.
fabric swatches from 2013

Colours and patterns from 2013

  • My blog has turned into a journal of our family travels.  Having a blog has forced me to pay attention to the details and to capture moments in my head before I put words to paper.  It’s so very easy to forget the details.  In some ways, I am sorry I did not start blogging earlier.  With the passing of time, I have forgotten details of trips we have taken or activities we did.  For example, Mr. N and I found this fantastic little Italian restaurant in Rapallo in Liguria tucked away on some backstreet.  We ate dinner 3 out of the 5 nights at this restaurant but now can’t remember what it was called.
travel

We want to travel everywhere!

  • I have always loved photography and now I have another reason to snap away.  My children are thankful they are no longer the sole subject of my camera lenses.  In fact, instead of complaining about having to take photos, now they are always photobombing my pictures.  It’s a variation of that old adage – treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen.

For a record-keeping exercise, this blog is neither very introspective nor very personal for the simple reason that  I despise navel-gazing.  I am perfectly happy accepting that I am not a special little snowflake.

This introduction brings me to The Big Announcement.  I’ve given my blog its annual check-up and in my best non-medical expertise have diagnosed a severe case of schizophrenia. So far my blog’s multiple personalities revolve around home, family and travel.  I hate to use the word lifestyle because I don’t actually have much of a lifestyle. (I consider Netflix one of the best things that ever happened to my life, right after getting married and having children.)

I can empathise.

I can empathise.

Although I will continue to post here about homes and family, I’ve decided to send my travel posts away to their own little home.  From now onwards, my travel posts will only appear exclusively at Just Go places blog, the blog for the family travel inspiration website I am associated with, Just Go Places.  I’d love it if you joined me there.

So, thanks to all my readers for following along with my random musings. Now you can find me at two places. I still find it amazing that anyone reads these posts but Google Analytics assures me that lots of you do.  And, if I don’t trust Google, who can I possibly trust?!

ghosts in trees

Ready for Halloween

Are you ready for Halloween?  We have been ready since last year’s Halloween.  We live in a part of North London that takes Halloween seriously.

front doro

Enter if you dare!

Decorating the house is always fun.  Living in a rental flat, glue tack is my new best friend. It seems I have a massive spider infestation!

spider web decor

spider infestation

This year we are lucky enough to have a giant tree in front of our house that we can hang ghosts from.

ghosts in trees

Ghosts to welcome you!

I am only doing a limited bit of trick or treating with the children and we are having a small party at our flat.  We have had a lot of fun making the decorations and hanging them up.  There was a lot of creative use of gauze cloth, paper chains, and plastic table clothes.  We’ve carved our pumpkin, blown up balloons and filled a piñata.  This afternoon will be spent making zombie faced cupcakes and skeleton cookies.  (After all, the sugar from the candy isn’t going to be enough!).

I’m also going to do a Haunted House treasure search in our flat.  With the lights turned off and dusk so early nowadays, the flat is pretty dark.  Each twin will lead their team to find four mason jars hidden throughout the house.  I’ve got a couple of parents signed up to be the obligatory scary monsters jumping out of closets. I’m also giving each team a flashlight and one iTouch so that they can video the whole thing.  Our own version of The Blair Witch Project – I wonder how it’ll turn out!  In my experience, just the darkness and random screams of others is enough to spook children.  I’ll let you know how it goes – assuming we don’t have any child that truly goes into hysterics and we need to call the whole thing off.

Hope you have a fun Halloween!

bluestem curtains

Fabulous Fabrics in the Living Room

I am knee-deep in renovations for our new house.  Unfortunately, Casa del Dumpo is still in the early stages of work, specifically the carting-rubble-away-in-skips stage.  Not very exciting.

I’ve been looking at window dressings for the new house, including the living room, to keep me inspired through the long slog of the unexciting but necessary basics of the build.  For my window dressings, I would like to pick floaty linen curtains. The windows in the back will be large and south-facing. I definitely will need some sort of window covering to diffuse the light.  Nothing worse than glare on the computer screen if you are trying to do some work! I do not, however, want anything heavy because we are not overlooked in the back by other houses.

I asked for some samples from The Natural Curtain Company of their linen fabrics. My favourite is this linen fabric in Bluestem which is a gorgeous duck egg blue colour.  I love this soft faded shade of blue which is both calming and gentle. The fabric itself is 100% linen and gentle to the touch.  The Natural Curtain Company uses a non-chemical process to soften the colour to create this dreamy shade and to create a relaxed drape in the fabric.

The elegance of linen which is at once simple and sophisticated inspires me to create a contemporary Scandinavian look mood board.  The duck egg blue colour coordinates well with the greys and off-whites I like so much. The linen fabric likewise works really well with values that focus on natural, simplicity and eco-friendly design.

fabulous fabrics

The Natural Curtain Company’s linen fabrics come in a variety of modern colours and prints.  I was tempted by these other colours but, as soon as I saw the Bluestem fabric, I knew it was The One.  Interestingly, I thought my favourite was Field Gold when I saw the swatches on my computer and, perhaps, Bluestem was a bit too dark a blue.  When I received the swatch, however, the blue was not dark at all but more faded with a tinge of grey and green. This experience once again underscored how important it is to see a real sample and not rely on computer screen colours.

I love this vintage print linen curtain and the styling in this photo.  It looks so relaxing and serene. I think the windows would have looked too bare without the curtains.  There’s a lot of wood in that photo without the softening effect of fabric.

In the past I’ve had linen blinds like those pictured below.  Although these particular curtains are relaxed, I’ve had linen curtains stiffened so they look more formal.  I’m ready to go with curtains for my next house, however, because the windows are so wide I think blinds will look somewhat unwieldy.  In addition, for privacy and sunlight I will be able to adjust the curtains as little or as lot as I need.

It seems I’ve chosen my living room curtain fabric!  The Natural Curtain Company will be able to make made-to-measure curtains that will fit my windows perfectly when I’m ready.  If only, however, I had a house! I’ve also started a Pinterest Board for inspiration on this fabric and colour scheme.
What do you think?  Do you love the natural look of linen curtains and blinds as much as I do?
maze

The Small But Perfect Cheyenne Botanic Gardens

When Cheyenne in South Dakota was first settled, there were only a few scraggly trees in the area.  The land and climate was simply not great for plants and trees.  Either it doesn’t rain or it rains so hard that the water bounces off the parched earth without a chance to soak into the ground. Cheyenne is now a leafy city because the city’s women made a point of planting trees and maintaining them.  They would take a train out to where there were trees, dig them up and return with them to plant in their city.  When their children went to school, they were sent with a bucket of water that the household had recycled and expected to water a tree. The school children would leave the bucket by the tree so that other children would know that tree had been watered.

Cheyenne botanic garden

This background is what makes the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens so beautiful.  The garden is small by botanical garden standards and occupies only 9 acres. I’m sure keeping this garden lush takes some serious effort in the High Plains climate.  Starting off as a small community garden in the 1970’s, the botanic gardens are still the state of Wyoming’s only public garden.  The garden, however, is free to the public and run and maintained by volunteers.  Many of the volunteers are the elderly, at-risk children or the disabled.  Working with the garden is considered horticultural therapy for them.

cheyenne botanic garden

For visitors, the garden is also very family-friendly.  There are lots of shaded areas and paths to meander along which are well-protected from the blazing sun.  The wetlands area has funny poems which my children liked to read explaining how wetlands work.

dragonfly poem

The garden also has lots of sculptures and other things to maintain your interest, such as these stones with quotes.  There is an old out-of-service locomotive engine on the grounds too.  After all, you can not forget that Cheyenne started off as a railroad town.

The little maze was charming even if it wasn’t very high.

maze

There is a separate children’s garden which not only provides entertainment but also teaches with interactive exhibits on solar energy, windmill power etc.  The whole thing is based on sustainability and promotes eco-awareness to a new generation in a fun way.  Adding to the crunch granola feel is the little peace garden.

peace tile

There are also lakes where you can take a paddle boat or a row boat out.  These lakes were actually watering holes back in the days when the cattle barons would drive their cattle into Cheyenne for sale.  During our visit, we saw lots of families.  In fact, I think I saw more families at this botanical garden than usual because more traditional gardens are probably a bit boring for children.  It’s hard to maintain a child’s interest in dozens of varieties of roses!

We spent a lovely morning in this garden.  In Cheyenne’s heat, it would be very easy to stay inside in air conditioning.  This garden, however, lets the whole family enjoy fresh air and beautiful surroundings in a climate-challenged environment.

samosas

An Evening of Indian Cuisine at Poggenpohl

The other week I was invited to Poggenpohl’s North London branch for a champagne reception with a celebrity chef.  I love Poggenpohl kitchens and plan on having one in my new house.  In fact, I have already bought the kitchen but that is a story for another time.  The celebrity chef was Cyrus Todiwalla, owner of Cafe Spice Namaste and co-presenter of BBC television show, The Incredible Spice Men.

IMG_2436

Chef Todiwala was fantastic! Seriously, I’m a fan girl now.  He’s really witty, charming and an amazing cook.  I usually lose interest in cooking demonstrations (eating is my thing!) but Chef Todiwala was really informative.  He peppers his demonstration with random trivia which holds your attention.

I learned more than I thought possible about onions and about rice, both of which are very important in Indian cuisine.  Chef Todiwala says his four restaurants use about 11 tons of rice a year and so the man clearly knows a thing or two about rice.  He suggests that after you start the rice on the stovetop you transfer the rice for the rest of the cooking time to the oven in a closed oven-proof pot.  I’ve cooked Risotto in the oven but never basmati.  I may have to try this technique because risotto is so much easier in the oven.  In addition, he rejects the idea that you can not store leftover cooked rice.  He says you can keep rice by cooling it first uncovered in the refrigerator.  As soon as you cover it when it is warm, the moisture builds up and bacteria can grow on the bottom of the rice.  By the way, did you know rice can go stale?  I didn’t, but then again, we never keep rice around long enough in our household to go stale.  Apparently, you can’t smell the staleness of rice unlike lots of other ingredients.  However, if you hold rice near the light and it glows, then the rice is past its best-by date.

IMG_2466

As for onions, Chef Todiwala suggests you buy small onions.  Large onions just have more water and less concentrated flavour.  In addition, larger onions are harder to chop because the sections split up.  When you chop an onion, cut off the bottom but retain the top so that you can use it as a stem to hold the onion as you chop.  The small cheap onions sold by the bag in supermarkets are the best onions.  Finally, you should store onions in the wine fridge because that is the best temperature for them.

IMG_2464

I thought it was charming that Chef Todiwala brought along his pre-measured/sliced etc. ingredients in little Tupperware containers even though he could probably afford some high-end variation of containers.  It’s very Indian to have a whole collection of these little plastic containers.  Most Indian households (including mine which isn’t very Indian really) have a cupboard full of plastic containers.

IMG_2465

The appetisers at the reception were delicious.  They were traditional dishes but with a modern twist which is Chef Todiwala’s signature approach.  My favourite, though, was the lentil fritters which were even better than my mother’s ones.

Chef Todiwala’s demonstration involved some favourite dishes from his Parsi background using the Poggenpohl kitchen and Gaggenau appliances.  (Parsis are ethnic Persians who relocated many generations ago into India.)  Before our eyes, he whipped up a handful of dishes, including rice, a vegetable curry, a baked chicken and a pan-cooked egg and potato dish.

Poggenpohl had large-screen televisions set up to show the cooking demonstration throughout the showroom.

vegetable curry

Chef Todiwala has several books to his name – Cafe Spice Namaste and Indian Summer both from 1998, Mr. Todiwala’s Bombay: Recipes and Memories from India (2013) and The Incredible Spice Men (2013).   He says all of the dishes he cooked are in his books.  For someone who is a fan of spices and has a television show about spices, he says you can get away with having only a handful of spices (coriander, chili, cumin, turmeric, cloves, cardamom and peppercorns) and still create amazing dishes.  If you would like to try out some of his dishes, they are available on the BBC Food website.

Chef Todiwala is a natural teacher which is readily apparent.  Probably a good thing because Chef Todiwala and Poggenpohl are teaming up to offer cooking classes at his Cafe Spice Namaste restaurant near Tower Bridge.  You know I’ll be there!

Shaadi Dance

Hail Britannia in Contemporary Ballet

George Balanchine, who was one of the early promoters of contemporary ballet, described his work as a melange of different influences weaved into a form which itself is a mesh of classical ballet and modern dance.

“God creates.  I do not create.  I assemble and I steal from everywhere to do it – from what I see, from what the dancers can do, from what others do…”

George Balanchine

Hail Britannia is four new pieces of contemporary ballet reflecting many such diverse influences.  Performed by Murley Dance, each piece shows different aspects of British culture and is set among three acts.  It is performed by 14 professional dancers who have a wide range of experience (such as the English National Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Bucharest National Opera Ballet and Royal New Zealand Ballet).

Hail Britannia programmes

Image Credit: Murley Dance

Choreographed by Anaish Parmar, the first act is devoted to a piece called Shaadi which is the Hindi word for marriage.  Attired in colourful garb, the dancers were exuberant in their joy.  The dances depicted a traditional Indian marriage and its related customs such as the Mehndi (henna) party for the bride.

Shaadi Dance

Image Credit: Murley Dance

The music was also a mix of Hindi and English songs.  Of course, A Brimful of Asha was featured.

Shaadi

Image credit: Murley Dance

The second act has two set pieces, one set in British history and the other in modern times. Wayward Kinship (choreographed by Richard Chappell) tells the story of the troubled relationship between Henry II and Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, which eventually ends in the murder of Becket by Henry II’s knights.

Wayward Kinship Dance

Image Credit: Murley Dance

Choreographed by David Murley, Frisky Claptrap is set to a background of a train station and scenes of the countryside rolling in the background.  The dancers are 3 backpackers who travel around England looking for oddly-named towns (e.g., Happy Bottom, Bushy Gap, Fannyfield etc.).  The humour is along the traditional lines of Benny Hill comedy.

Frisky Claptrap

Image Credit: Murley Dance

The third act, called Highgrove Suite, was also choreographed by David Murley.  Highgrove Suite was commissioned by HRH The Prince of Wales to celebrate the gardens at his country home, Highgrove House, from renowned composer Patrick Hawes in 2009.  Due to its association with the Prince Charles who is famously fond of tradition, you knew it was going to be more classical in feel and look – no Kings and Archbishops in short shorts for him.  My daughter would have loved the ballerinas in big, poufy tutus.

ballerinas in tutus

The music was absolutely beautiful (Prince Charles got his money’s worth).  The dance tells the story of a woman’s growth through innocence, maturity and love.  In the end, our heroine runs off with a gladiator (??) having escaped her widowed mother’s stifling grief.  I have no idea what the symbolism of the gladiator was supposed to have been.  If you tie it into the Benny Hill aspects of the previous act, perhaps he artfully wielded his sword.

Highgrove Suite

Image Credit: Murley Dance

Contemporary ballet is released from the strictures of classical ballet in that it may not tell a story.  The works in Hail Britannia are loosely related in depicting British history and culture.  My favourite was Shaadi which I thought was a very clever merging of Indian culture and music with a Western dance form.  You can catch Hail Britannia at its last performance this season on October 25th in Cheltenham.

B&B italia hive collection

Put a Hex-agon on Your Room

Hex-quisite Design.  Design Hex and the City.  Interiors Hex-traordinary.  Please, someone stop me.  The bad puns just keep popping into my head.  In addition to geometrics generally, it seems the interiors world has gone crazy for hexagons, specifically.

One of my favourite mid-century modern designer, Isamu Noguchi, created a design classic with the Prismatic side table in 1957.  The three-legged table is a beautiful, simple, geometric shape made entirely of folded aluminium.  Inspired by origami (the Japanese art of paper folding) the Prismatic table was also the last piece of furniture Noguchi designed.

Noguchi Prismatic table

Image credit: Vitra

The hexagon side table comes in many iterations.  Not only are most of them easy to configure in multiples and move about as needed, they look great too.  Here are six of my favourites.

Clockwise from top left:  Hexxed by Diesel (available in 2 heights and 3 colour combinations including black and metallics); the double-decker Hex table from Dwell in white, wood or stone; the Hex side table from West Elm with a marble top and steel legs; the Hive collection from B&B Italia are side tables in two heights and ottomans in a leather finish; Hex glass mirror from Gram & Green with a ground glass top and a trio of gold Hexagonal legs; the Slit table from Hay is available in 6 metal colours and also mirror and brass.

Interestingly, the Hay table like Noguchi’s table was influenced by origami and is named after the slit that is formed when the metal frame is folded underneath the table top. The B&B Italia Hive Collection was inspired by the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.  This natural phenomenon of 40,000+ polygonal basalt columns is a UNESCO Heritage site.  The resemblance is really striking isn’t it?

Giant's Causeway

Giant’s Causeway
Image Credit: Andrew Hurley

The patterns you can make with hexagons work really well on the wall too.  Check out this simple shelving idea which makes a big impact.  The blog, Nestful of Love, has directions on how to make your own hexagon shelving.  Alternatively, you can buy hexagonal shelves as a set of three at Next Home.

Hexagonal mirrors also look great on a wall.  I can see these mirrored tiles creating an interesting honeycomb configuration in a hallway.  From Graham & Green, the mirrored tiles come in sets of 18.

Hexagonal tile mirrors

Image credit: Graham and Green

In addition to mirrors, many more tiles are now available in hexagon shapes.  Here are examples  created by Spanish designer, Patricia Urquiola from the Dechirer range which blend contemporary large-format tiles with an artisanal cement heritage.

For you commitment-phones, there are lots of hexagonal accessories which won’t require you either to spend so much or to make a long-term design decision.  I think a group of this hexagon boxes on a table is a really cool way to clear clutter.

evie group hex boxes

image credit: Evie Group

Although contemporary Danish design brand, Hay have had their Kaleido tray system for some time, they are now available in new colours of chocolate, jade and blue.  You can use them individually or mix and match for a fun modular look.  This season they have added these sweet trio of hexagon-shaped notebooks.  Yes, they are notebooks! They are almost too pretty to disturb never mind use.

On the British design side, Tom Dixon has added to his hexagon tea light holders this year with this new etched wood design on steel, brass or copper.  I also loved the hand-hammered hexagonal bowl in still-trendy copper.

What do you think?  Would you consider hexagonal side tables, shelves hex-cetera in your home?

 

poggenpohl kitchen

A Subtle-Luxe London Flat

Just in case you think I have a general disdain for property developers, I should clarify that you can get some really good developments.  What separates the good from the bad just comes down to the care given to the details and finish.

I visited a new development on Saturday that I thought was really well done.  Once again, this development is near Casa del Dumpo.  This time, however, the development is a small block of flats instead of a McMansion.  Although each flat is 3 bedrooms, the layouts differ as does the square footage.  It’s not as cookie-cutter as it sounds!

living room sofa

The living room is spacious and has engineered dark oak flooring.  The ceiling is slightly dropped to allow for shadow lighting and the air-conditioning. I am neurotic enough to worry that the dropped ceiling is just a dust-trap but it is a minor niggle.  The whole flat has air-conditioning.  I guess air-conditioning really is de rigeur in high-end developments now!

living room ceiling

The living room opens onto the Poggenpohl kitchen with sliding pocket doors which is a nice touch.  I like pocket doors because they allow you to open or divide space as the occasion needs.  The beautiful kitchen furniture is a high-gloss grey with dark wood combination which is different from the usual white kitchen.

poggenpohl kitchen

Many of the Miele appliances come in pairs.  For example, each of the two refrigerators and freezers are side by side. I think this is a clever idea because two medium-size refrigerators can hold more than one large refrigerator.  Moreover, things get lost in a big refrigerator in the back.  It would be easier to separate out food into groups with two refrigerators.  It doesn’t look like there are that many units but that is because the handleless unit doors cover the drawers inside.  The look is sleeker than having individual handleless cupboards or drawers.  Check out how nicely the cabinets join the ceiling.

kitchen sink

I really like the way the worktop becomes the splash back.  Visually, it’s a very clean line and also more hygienic.  No cracks for dirt to fall into!

worktop

The clean lines and simple yet luxurious finish extends into the bathrooms as well.

heath_door

The bathrooms are luxuriously clad in marble from floor to ceiling.  I like the marble being mosaic tiling on the shower floor – a little detail which will prevent slipping on the water.

heath_shower

I like this simple detail of a cut-out in the glass for opening the shower door.

shower door

shower door handle

The master bathroom is relatively small.  My daughter fell in love with the television at the end of the tub in the master bath.  She’s added that detail to her wish list for her future room.  I’ve told her though that if she’s not having a television in her bedroom, she’s definitely not having one in her bathroom.  I also noticed the Artelinea moulded-glass bathroom sinks in the master bath.  Love!  The bathroom lights are on motion sensors like in the other development I saw.

Artilinea vanity unit

The bedrooms are carpeted and plush.  Two of the three bedrooms are a good size with built-in wardrobes.  The master bedroom even has a dressing area with wardrobes.  The third bedroom in the show flat was furnished as a study.  It didn’t have any fitted wardrobes detracting from the floor space which would probably only have emphasised that it was a small double/large single.  These flats average about 1800 square feet – there’s definitely room for 3 good-sized bedrooms especially as they are all en-suite.  I think that was a mistake in the design of the floor plan.

grey bedroom

The only heating is under-floor heating.  Presumably with a new build, the requirements for air-tightness and insulation are so high you may not need traditional radiators to heat the rooms.

bedroom/study

The lighting is controlled by a Rako system which I hear is becoming increasingly popular.  We used Lutron in our last house which used to be a fairly-standard for the high end market.  Apparently, Rako is just as good but much cheaper.  I will definitely be investigating (and possibly writing a post on that in the future!).

The system is controlled by an iPad set on the wall.  Having done that ourselves in our last house, I would not do that again.  First of all, the iPad was continuously going missing since the children could find it fairly easily on the wall and take it down to play.  Second, I don’t want to put my bets on a control system based on Apple technology which rolls out new models every year. Presumably after putting in a state of the art system, you don’t want the control obsolete in a year.  For example, we had our glass backsplash in the kitchen cut to fit an iPad II inset holder, but within months, Apple introduced the iPad Air which is a different size inset. Upgrading the inset would have meant replacing the whole backsplash – annoying!

What did you think of this developer’s show flat?  Do you like subtle-luxe as much as I do?