Category Archives: Indoor Spaces

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.


Kenwood’s Colourful Library

I had the pleasure of having a tour of Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath a couple of weeks ago.  English Heritage has undertaken a fabulous restoration of Kenwood.  The result is light and bright, a far cry from the austere, gloomy house I remember from visiting a few years ago.


Kenwood House was originally built in the early 17th century.  Bought in 1754 by William Murray, the Lord Chief Justice and the 1st Earl of Mansfield, the house was enlarged to make it grander.  For example, the library and the columns in the front were added.  In addition, Adam relocated the road (Hampstead Lane) which ran in front of the house to a discreet distance away.  The house fell out of favour with the Mansfield family and went into decline.  It was eventually bought by Lord Iveagh, a member of the Guinness family, who donated it to the nation upon his death in 1927.

The Library or Great Room was my favourite room and created by Robert Adam, Scottish architect and the go-to starchitect of the time.  The largest room in the house, the Library is believed to be one of the best preserved Adam interiors in the country.


leather-bound books

The room is decorated in a beautiful pastel colour scheme of blues, greens and pinks with white plasterwork.


The 19 ceiling paintings by a Venetian artist depict scenes from Lord Mansfield’s life.  There is a giant portrait of Lord Mansfield over the mantlepiece.


arched ceiling

Apparently there was a big debate on the amount of gilding there should be in the room.  The painted white faction won out but achieved a compromise.  The gilding is underneath the paint and can be restored if further historic research reveals that the room was indeed gilded.

library post-restoration


I love these library steps.  They fold and convert into a table!

library steps

steps convertible to a table

The large French mirror is original to the house.  It was brought from France because the British could not create mirrors this size.  The red curtains also are part of the original furnishings.


Kenwood House has been restored to its Georgian splendour. I’m really glad that I saw the Georgians Revealed exhibit at the British Museum which helped with understanding the social and historic context of this house.

Interestingly, this house was almost burned to the ground in June 1780.  The Gordon riots (anti-Catholic riots) rampaged through London creating chaos.  As Lord Chief Justice, the mob burned Mansfield’s London town house to the ground. They followed him to Kenwood but the savvy publican at The Spaniard’s Inn pub on Hampstead Lane offered them free ale.  They got distracted and Kenwood was saved!  I guess English yobs have a long history of being sidetracked by beer!

Here are some more photos of this stunning room.



ornate giltwork



I’ll write another post on the rest of Kenwood House.  The library was cool enough to deserve its own post in my opinion.  If you have the chance, you should definitely visit Kenwood House!


High Drama at High Tea

I always find myself ready for a snack after visiting a museum or other excursion but usually museum cafes are fairly uninspiring and crowded.  The Drawing Rooms of the Ampersand Hotel is a perfect alternative if you are visiting the museums in South Kensington.  I was delighted to be invited with a group of other bloggers to experience Afternoon Tea at The Ampersand.

The Drawing Rooms are adorably quirky and set up as someone’s living room so they are comfortable yet elegant.  I thought the interior decor of The Drawing Rooms was charming.  A combination of sweet animals which together gave off a cool English quirkiness!  Fear not, the eccentric is applied with a light touch so that you won’t have flashbacks of being stuck in some crazy old Aunt’s front room making polite conversation.

I loved the use of old vintage bottles arranged with a few stems.  Although Afternoon Tea was served on china plates etc, the flower arrangements added a casual and modern flair.  Definitely nothing matronly about this Afternoon Tea!

The hotel window’s are massive and let in a lot of natural light. The hotel has emphasised this light by having carefully placed mirrors everywhere.  The whole effect is bright and welcoming.

drawing room

Mirror on mirror is an old decorator’s trick.  Here they have used a mirrored vase on a mirrored table so that the image is magnified.

mirrored flowers

This chandelier is so cool.  A long chandelier dropping down the flights of stairs is a pretty traditional look.  Here it is updated with the use of ‘bare bulbs’ and feathers attached in artistic fashion.  Is it me or does this look like doves or angels flying into the sky?

OK, enough about the decor – what about the Afternoon Tea itself? We were invited to the Science Tea which is one of their special Afternoon Tea experiences.   It was fairly decadent with divine little sandwiches made with choux pastry.  The scrumptious scones were white chocolate with clotted cream and jam.  The desserts really played into the Science part of the tea – a citrus cocktail in a beaker, a pistachio macaron with a cherry pipette and a raspberry sponge cake shaped like a planet.  My hands-down favourite, however, was the chocolate cake decorated with chocolate dinosaurs set on a bed of dry ice which gave off a volcano effect!  very cool!

My children love the Science Museum but, sometimes, I feel it overwhelming and noisy with so many children running around.  I will look forward to museum excursions now that I have discovered tea at The Ampersand is such a treat!

I was provided the Science Tea at The Ampersand Hotel free of charge in exchange for my review but all words and opinions are my own.

The New Terrariums

Interested in creating a terrarium for your home?  Terrariums are simply a fancy word for little gardens enclosed in a glass case. They were popular with the Victorians and are now in vogue again.  Presumably urban minimalists with limited outdoor space and/or crafting enthusiasm need a (small) outlet for their green thumbs.  I’m looking to do a terrarium that is vaguely zen and cool looking.  And, preferably without plants because I seem to kill all houseplants I come across.  So, I was pretty delighted when I came across this article.

Apparently, the key to creating a great terrarium according to this Telegraph article on making terrariums seems to be to keep it simple.  I can do simple.  So simple I won’t even have any plants!  I’m thinking pretty stones, moss, and geodes.

I’m, however, in two minds about having Tillandsias (so-called air plants) because they are easy to grow.  They don’t need soil or direct sunlight.  They do, however, need water once a week.  Not too hard you would think, except that we travel a lot.  I would have to add terrarium watering to the list of things that need to be addressed in our absence.

I thought briefly about doing this project with my daughter because National Geographic Kids has a nice project with a mason jar that is meant for children.  I am afraid, however, we will wind up with a dwarf living inside the terrarium as pictured.  And, there goes my uber-cool zen garden.


What do you think?  Would you make one of these terrariums for your home?

Oh yeah, if you are wondering why this post is shorter than usual and doesn’t have my regular enthusiasm for accompanying photos, I thought I’d mix it up a bit.  Besides, I have the children off school for half-term.  And, my blog is giving me grief uploading photos (except for the dwarf terrarium, of course).  So I am using a post from Houzz (which I love!) as a springboard for this post on terrariums.

camel racing

A Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

I was asked about my favourite night’s sleep while travelling.  Recently, my hands-down favourite place to bunk down was the guest bedroom in my friend’s flat in Abu Dhabi.  The flat is part of the St. Regis Abu Dhabi located on the Corniche which has both a hotel and residential apartments.   Most, if not all, the apartments are rented out to Western expats working in Abu Dhabi.  The view from the flat was spectacular!  You fall asleep to the twinkling lights of the city and wake up to the sun glinting off an azure blue sea.

view over Abu Dhabi

view of Abu Dhabi

My friend had moved to Abu Dhabi for work a couple of months before our visit and was sounding uncharacteristically chirpy and happy.  I wasn’t sure if she was putting on a brave face for her friends and family back home and so the children and I decided to visit during October half-term last year.  Because that is what good friends do… especially if there is a luxury apartment involved 🙂

The flat, a duplex overlooking the city with floor to ceiling windows, is so high up on a 50+ floor that no window coverings were needed. We arrived at night and the lights of the city were sparkling.  My children were so enthralled, they stood mouth agape at the front door.  Unfortunately, none of my photos of the night view came out well.

My friend’s two cats love sitting and watching the view and chasing each other around the apartment.  Marble floors make it extra slippery.

If you live in the St. Regis Towers, you have membership benefits at the hotel.  There  is an amazing pool (with waiter service naturally), a spa, restaurants and bars.  Of course, I had to try out all of them.  If you live in a building with an elevator down to a spa, of course, you would have to try it out right?


The week I was there, the King of Morocco was visiting the even more luxurious Emirates Palace nearby.  He put his overflow staff at the St. Regis hotel so there were important-looking men and security guards everywhere.

Some of the complex is still being built, like the Beach Club across the street and the Lamborghini dealership downstairs.  I’ve joked around that next time I visit I’ll order a Lamborghini for my friend and stick it on the tab for her flat.  I expect Abu Dhabi is exactly the sort of place where you could do that.

I was happy to report to our mutual friends that my friend was indeed loving life.  After experiencing her fabulous flat and the expat lifestyle in Abu Dhabi, I know some of the reason why.

This post is part of a blog hop on a memorable night’s sleep from a group of travel bloggers I have gotten to know.  Check out the rest of the posts on Around the World in 80 Pairs of Shoes, a New Zealander’s adventures living in England travelling around the world (but always with good accessories!).  My kind of lady!

industrial bar

The Cumberland Hotel, Grand Dame and Hipster

The Sleep Hotel asked designers to envision a hotel which had been redone from the 1960’s to give it a contemporary look.  Last week I visited an actual hotel, The Cumberland, which had its heyday in Swinging Sixties and, after an extensive refurbishment, has emerged as a sleek contemporary oasis of 21st century chic.

I love hotels with history.  Built in the 1920’s, the hotel opened its door for guests in 1933 with luxurious mod-cons for the day (en-suite bathrooms and telephones in each room).  King George V and Queen Mary even attended the grand opening.  Fast forward to the Sixties, and the hotel’s most famous guest, Jimi Hendrix.  He lived here prior to his death in a suite of rooms which had fabulous views over Hyde Park.  The hotel was even listed as his residence on his death certificate.

I hadn’t appreciated how large The Cumberland Hotel really is.  The main building has almost 1000 rooms including a variety of singles, doubles, and suites.  Across the street, there is a separate building with 1 bedroom apartments which have access to all the hotels facilities.  The rooms are contemporary and quietly elegant.  There are small touches which tie the rooms together into a cohesive scheme such as the headboards.  The headboards on each floor have etched glass designs reflecting elements of the building’s outside architecture.

twin room

The hotel lobby is filled with cool life-size sculptures by Sean Henry representing movement.


The reception area has a wall shrine to Jimi Hendrix.  His rooms which now make up the Jimi Hendrix Suite are very popular with guests.

Carbon, the industrial-style bar is very cool and very popular with the after-work crowd.

industrial bar

You can get the edgy, alternative vibe of Shoreditch at Carbon without leaving the comfort and convenience of the West End.

industrial bar


I love the use of materials and textures in this bar – the metal chain, the leather chairs, the wood of the floors and casks, the concrete floors and the steel beams.


casks and steel beams

As part of the remodel, the former entrance is now a small, moody private dining room with an Art Deco feel.

private dining

The large dining room has been designed by Kelly Hoppen and has its own entrance and bar area.   The whole space feels incredibly indulgent with Spina chandeliers, velvet chairs, and antique mirrors.  It hosts events regularly including a Lipsy launch and a travel blogger conference recently.

The conference facilities are all located on the lower ground floor which makes for good circulation for attendees.  Alternatively, hotel guests are insulated from feeling they are in a business hotel.

I feel this hotel has two halves. The modern but neutral guest rooms and the contemporary, public areas with its modern art and edgy bars and restaurants.  The location is also hard to beat with the hotel pretty much next door to the Marble Arch tube, across from Hyde Park and at the end of Park Lane and Oxford Street.

This grand old dame has transformed herself in a big way.  There’s definitely life in the old girl yet!

I was provided with a tour of the hotel and lunch at the Brasserie free of charge in exchange for my review but all words and opinions are my own.

Pop Art At The Sleep Hotel

The Sleep Hotel was a brief given to create 6 hotel rooms inspired by Pop Art at the Sleep Event which showcases European hotel design.  Sleep Hotel has been dubbed the ‘catwalk of hotel design’ and brought together 6 different leading and emerging hotel room designers to create a full-size hotel room and bathroom installation.

This year the theme was Pop Art because of the interest and influence of 60’s design around us.  One of the judges was Catherine Ince, the curator of The Barbican exhibition Pop Art Design (running now until February 2014).  The spirit of the 60’s, with its splashes of subversiveness reflected in the counterculture movement and hippy colour inspired by the idealism of the Flower Children, shines through clearly.

With bigger budgets and bigger canvases, hotel design can really push the envelope on interior design. Each designer was given the same brief — redesign a junior suite in a hotel which had its heyday in the 60’s into a more contemporary style.

Let’s look at some of the details on this hotel catwalk!

Hickson Design Partnership

Hickson Design Partnership designed the Night Night Suite. The designers wanted to combine the creative spirit of the 60’s with residential styling and homey touches.  For example, night night is a reference to being tucked into bed in your childhood.

Hickson Design Partnership_2Z9C3159small

The bathroom, however, really stood out for me.  Here is a creative use of subway tiles but with a twist.  The end tiles have texture which is attention-grabbing in a subtle way.  The textured subway tiles are the same size as regular subway tiles and so the design can be varied in countless ways.

subway textured tile

The sinks are designed to be his and hers sinks.  The large bowl is for men (for shaving?) and the shallow bowl for women.  I’m not sure about this concept in a hotel room – what about his/his sinks or hers/hers sinks?  I do like the juxtaposition of two slightly different sinks though on the same bathroom furniture that is a surprising and unique element.


Cullinan Interior & Infinite Architecture

Cullinan Interior & Infinite Architecture had the winning hotel design.  It was an incredibly cool design that photographs can’t do justice because of its innovative use of space.

Cullinan Interiors&Infinite Architecture_2Z9C3108small

They were inspired by the radicalism and youthful optimism of the 60’s.  They put a ‘spin’ on this concept by spinning the room slightly sideways.  A part of the bathroom goes behind the wall of the bedroom and the bathtub peaks out into the bedroom.

spin room

Check out the faux Banksy mouse in the corner which is a playful, subversive and  mainstream at the same time.

Banksy detail

Purpose Design

The Pop Art element was strong in this bedroom such, as for, example the cartoon dimension of the wood panelling and strong splashes of acid colour.

Purpose Design_2Z9C3142small

Pop Art-y slogans are carved into the wood panelling.

wood panelling

The groovy pillows pick up the geometric pop art theme.


I love this bathroom!  Very Austin Powers.  Groovy baby.


Kelly Hoppen & Crosswater

The hotel room designed by Kelly Hoppen had her trademark taupes and studied calm.

Kelly Hoppen Interiors_2Z9C2348small

I liked the use of subtle texture throughout which caught the eye and saved the design from getting stuck in the 1990’s on its way to the Swinging 1960’s.

The bathroom is calm and peaceful – very zen.  Nothing too new or exciting here, but perhaps subtle touches are a good thing when you are weary from travelling.

Squared Interiors & DEA Contracts

This suite designed by Squared Interiors & DEA Contracts makes great use of texture and patterns.

Squared Interiors_2Z9C3115small

This bathroom has a sunken bathtub and very colourful walls.  I like the discordant yet cool patterns in the wallpaper – I can just see these patterns as clothes worn by a 60’s hippy.  The modern bathtub and wood flooring bring the design back down to Earth.

photo 1-1

Here is the bedroom which is also 60’s styled but showing more restraint which is more conducive to a good night’s sleep.

photo 2-2

I hope you’ve found some of these photos as inspiring as I have!  The Sleep Hotel has made me realise how much 60’s Pop Art has permeated our cultural influences and design.  What’s your favourite element of 60’s Pop Art?

towel radiators

My C.P. Hart Dream Bathroom in 3D

Remember the dream bathroom that I created a mood board for as part of a C.P. Hart bathroom challenge?  My dream bathroom would evoke the colours of a New England summer –  muted blues and greys of sun and sea, the translucet  whites and greens of sea glass, and the weathered brown and yellows of driftwood and sand.

mood board

I won the challenge and so I worked with C.P. Hart Waterloo showroom designer, Rebecca Milnes, to convert a moodboard into a bathroom.  Finally, I can now show you my dream bathroom in 3D rendering.

First, a bird’s eye view of the room.  I opted for a period room since I love the high ceilings and the sash windows.

birds eye view

These are the colours I used in the bathroom.   Although muted and tranquil, the Farrow and Ball Stiffkey Blue really  has a depth which reminds me of the ocean.  Fanciful, I know, but the Azulej tiles reminded me of the shape of kites.  They are used on the shower wall to provide a focal point upon entering the room.

colour chart

(clockwise from top: Farrow and Ball Cornforth White, Farrow and Ball Sfiffkey Blue, Patricia Urquiola for Domus Azulej Gira, Artelinea Monolite moulded opalite glass, Patricia Urquiola for Domus City Life Arg Prata)

Of course, my dream bathroom had to have a free standing tub with a cool Abigail Ahern porcelain rod chandelier hung low.  Good thing about dream world is that you don’t have to worry about electricity certificates.  In the real world, of course, you could have a low chandelier that is merely decorative to bypass any legal requirements.  This beauty is from C.P. Hart’s own range – the Coniston Bath which is made from stone and the Libero Freestanding Bath/Shower Mixer.

large windows

A practical necessity would be a large walk-in shower.  I like the way you can walk in either side of this shower.  Also, check out how the studwall is built away from the windows to enlarge the shower area but also to provide shallow shelving for shower necessities.  Finally, the bathtub in front of a a low wall in front of the shower gives the room a layered effect.  Everything against the walls and nothing in the middle would just look boring!  Or, as the Americans say, like a Shaker meeting (because Shakers left the middle of the room clear so they could shake with religious frenzy unimpeded by furniture).

bathroom chandelier

(Hansgrohe Raindance overhead E 240, Crosswater handset,  C.P.Hart Libero controls)

The glass double-sink is practical yet beautiful with a sinuous look.  The moulded glass from Artilinea is sleek and translucent.  Similar to pearls, you really have to see it in real life to appreciate its subtle beauty.

double sink

(Artelinea Monolite vanity with moulded opalite basins, Artelinea Monolite low unit,
C.P.Hart Libero wall mounted basin mixers, Hoxton bevelled mirrors)

Photos and mementos add warmth and a living room feel.  There is a growing trend in bathrooms to mimic other living spaces and not look so utilitarian.  The Starck Ghost Chair is a practical acrylic material, useful as a seat and attractive.

I really like the idea of hanging art in the bathroom as well.  As long as the room is well-ventilated, there shouldn’t be a problem.  The piece I have here is a photograph printed onto glass.  It is from the Angel Series by Zena Holloway  who exhibits at The Doinel Gallery.  Zena is a self-taught underwater photographer whose photographs look ethereal and shows off her fashion photography background.

window decor

What do you think of the minimal look of these radiators?  Made by Vola, the clutter of the piping is actually hidden behind the tiling.  The bars are widely spaced so that you can get big, fluffy towels on them easily.

towel radiators

The toilet is tucked away behind the door.  Frosted glass provides a degree of privacy without visually blocking the space.


(Giro wall hung pan, Axor Massaud roll holder, Axor Massaud brush and holder,
Axor Massaud freestanding towel holder)

Of course, there is lots of storage.  I am a big fan of storage because, let’s face it, bathroom clutter is not the most attractive. The storage in this bathroom is from Artilinea.  There is a tower for extra towels, a set of boxes for pretty often-used items and under sink storage for less-attractive necessities.

free standing tub

What did I learn from this bathroom designing experience?

  • Bathroom design is really tricky.  I was really lucky to have Rebecca Milnes who knew the products well and made helpful suggestions.  Left to my own, I could have made some really bad decisions.
  • Even though you know what you want, having a 3D rendering is wonderful to visualize the space.  I went back and made some changes to the tiles, for example, because one of the tiles I picked looked really busy on a large scale.
  • Neither a limitless budget nor a sizeable room are the bonanza they would seem. It helps to be limited by something to help you define what you can achieve.  There are way too many nice things in the world!!  And, if they are bathroom-related, C.P. Hart will probably have them!

What do you think of my dream bathroom?  What would your dream bathroom look like?

Contemporary New England Coastal

Last we left our befuddled protagonist (me), I was knee-deep in macrame and dark brown furniture in Edgartown.  As ever, I turned to a trusted source of information – the bookstore.

In my favourite Vineyard bookstore, A Bunch of Grapes, I found this gorgeous book, Martha’s Vineyard:  Contemporary Living by Keith Moskow and Robert Linn.



It’s their second book on modern Martha’s Vineyard houses – the first having been published in 2005.  The book helpfully places the featured houses on a map of the Vineyard.  None of the houses are in Edgartown proper and many are up-island amongst the farms and estates of West Tisbury and Chilmark.

House in Chilmark photo: Stephen Blatt Architects

House in Chilmark
photo: Stephen Blatt Architects

I suppose a crowded space-poor town isn’t ideal for the low-lying, spacious houses featured in the book.  For example, in the photo of the below house, I love the lack of fencing around the property and the openness of the deck.

photo:  Stephen Blatt Associates

photo: Stephen Blatt Associates

The book features 25 homes from different architectural practices.  Although some of the practices are from the Vineyard, many are from elsewhere such as Cape Cod (Jill Neubauer Architects), Maine (Steven Blatt Architects) and Connecticut (Shope Reno Wharton).  The architects, however, all seem to value a natural, low-maintenance build emphasising the stunning natural location of each house.

photo:  New England Home Magazine; Albert, Righter & Tittman Architects

photo: New England Home Magazine; Albert, Righter & Tittman Architects

Note in the house above, the lack of adornment resulting from not using shutters and window trim.  This home is a beautiful mix of the traditional and modern styling.

photo:  Hecht and Associates Architects

photo: Hecht and Associates Architects

I like these houses because they blend into the landscape.  I’m sure they are quite large but most don’t look and feel like McMansions.  Although very modern, many of these houses pay homage to the Vineyard tradition of cedar, stone and teak which will age with time.

The contemporary interiors, likewise, have clean, elegant lines.  Not a frou frou in sight.

Although Breese Architects did a Vineyard Haven house featured in the book, I preferred these homes featured in their website portfolio.  I love the deep blue of the bedroom and the open free-standing bathtub.

If you have a fireplace in the Vineyard, there seems to be an unwritten rule that it must be made of rock.  However, the fireplace below has played on this concept with large slabs of stone.  Heavy, geometric, perfect.

Breese Architects

Breese Architects

Anyway, I’ve digressed from the book.  I was just so excited to find contemporary interiors that I loved.

I found the Contemporary Living book pure eye-candy – unattainable, beachfront properties with perfect views.  None of the houses have anything in common with our modest little summer house.

I wonder, however, if it is possible to use some of the principles preached to achieve a budget version of a natural home at ease with its location.  I’m thinking lots of unpainted cedar shingle, wood floors and an unprepossessing porch.  What do you think?

Summer Home Reno: Inspiration

Bricks and stones won’t break my bones, but they can send me into a state of frenzy.  The only way to not drive yourself crazy is to be fairly organised.  First, though you need to come up with the inspiration!  After all, you have to know what to organise.

I always envision what I want the living space to feel like.  Our summer house is our haven where we escape the real world for a brief couple of months.  I want our home to be a well-deserved break before heading back to school, work and the daily grind.

Back to school

I find the colours of the beach take me to my ‘happy’ place.  My inspiration board below reflects the colours of a New England beach and items washed ashore.  I love the the muted tones of the blues and greens of the sea and beach glass and the greys and browns of driftwood and stones.  These colours have a natural harmony which I find rejuvenating.  Besides, on a practical note, we have renters and most people like natural colours.

inspiration board

This inspiration board will set the tone for the paint colours, furniture and accessories. I won’t replace our old furniture which some interior designers insist is necessary to get their vision right.  I like my old stuff – it’s got nicks and scratches and associated good memories.

old furniture in a field

Although I find this photo amusing, abandoning old furniture into the woods in our back yard would only give the racoons a place to sit and watch us.  I will try and incorporate existing pieces into the new scheme with some minor tweaking.  For example, I have changed the slipcovers for the sofa from a cheery yellow stripe to a neutral metal grey colour.  The sofa can be jazzed up with good accessories, such as pillows made in outdoor material which can stand up to the beating the children will give them.

furniture change

You think with a limited palette of blue and green, sorting out the paint colours for the house should be easy.  Nope.  Who knew how many shades of misty greens and blues there are in the world??!  I’ve limited myself to BenJamin Moore paints because I have used and liked this brand previously.  Getting my beloved Farrow & Ball colours onto the Vineyard is an extra expense I can do without.

Benjamin Moore Paint Colours

This colour board is where I’ve gotten to so far on the ground floor.  I’m pretty happy with it but may still swap out a colour or two.  I LOVE the Hidden Sapphire and think it would be a cool front door colour even thought I’ve gotten used to having a red front door.  Traditionally, porch ceilings are painted the colour of the sky.  I like Wythe Blue for the covered porch and the screened porch ceilings because it is not as icy as a true light blue.

I’m repeating most of these ground floor colours for the upstairs bedrooms.  I like to have continuity in the house in terms of colour.  Also, it’s a pain to keep track of too many bitty colours.  I keep a note of each room and its colour for future reference for paint touch ups in the future.

top floor colours

I’m in two minds about putting Hidden Sapphire in Bedroom 1 in lieu of Saybrook Sage.  It looks fabulous with the lime green curtains in the room and I’ve always liked the combination of navy and green.  I’m afraid, however, it may look a little dark for the renters.  Saybrook Sage is a safer choice and the room will just be fairly monochromatic in shades of green.

What do you think of these colours?  I definitely reserve the right to change my mind as the renovation gets under way.  Do you have any suggestions?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.