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Posts Tagged ‘cate burren’

Have you noticed how many things that were absolutely finished have proved to be anything but obsolete and are now really rather fashionable in our lives and homes? Remember how cinemas were going to die out when the DVD (or VHS machines for those of us of a certain vintage) came along, or when records were taken over by tape cassettes and then CDs and then music was just simply downloaded. And finally the beloved book was going to be replaced with a kindle or tablet or phone. Thank goodness that none of these predictions have come true and indeed we seem to now have the best of all worlds available to us as LPs make a huge comeback, cinemas thrive (in fact most of us seem obsessed with not only going to the pictures but trying to recreate both the surround sound and the size of the screen at home) and books sales, including eBooks, flourish. How wonderful to have choices and to not lose the old, whilst embracing the new.

I am well aware that I am a sucker for books. I have always loved them and seeing a well presented, personal collection of books really does lift my heart. Just occasionally I encounter a home without books – more often this is a holiday cottage or a guest room where the owners just haven’t thought to leave any books – and I am surprised how characterless it can feel without them.

Presenting your books is a somewhat trickier business than you would imagine. I like to think that being able to access your books (by which I mean comfortably taking them off the shelf) is crucial to good usage of your collection so you need space in front of them to get to them, a good orderly system that means if you remove a few tomes, the whole row doesn’t fall over and some sort of order to where things go (subject matter, alphabetical etc. – but more of this later). The late lamented Karl Lagerfeld was a notorious book collector with purportedly over 300,000 books in his collection. He claimed that he had no room left in his house to collect anything other than books and he stacked them high and sideways (if you look at ‘Karl Lagerfeld book collection’ in google images, you will see what I mean). Whilst this was typically dramatic, I can’t think that if you are searching for that one book that you need, you are going to be able to easily lay your hands on it, or indeed extract it from the bottom of the pile should you stumble across it.

Displaying books so they look good is a different matter (and I suspect presentation was high in Karl’s mind but I could be doing him a disservice). I think books of similar heights work well on bookcases and not having too much wasted height between the top of the books and the shelf above is generally an aesthetic bonus. Fortunately, types of books (novels, cookery books, gardening books etc.) seem to have approximately similar heights as I have witnessed regularly in bookshops so you can make your collection look good and still have some sense of order. I have occasionally seen books arranged by colour of spine (in overly stylish interiors magazines) and this seems a step too far, unless of course you really can remember the colour of the spine of all the books you own so you can find them again, in which case you may need to get out more, as indeed does the arranger of books by colour.

On a more practical note, a client of mine made a very good and obvious point, when you think about it, that if you put children’s books low down where they can reach them, or better still use a bookcase where they can see the fronts of them, they are more likely to be tempted to get them out and read them. And not just in their bedrooms, in communal household spaces too – it may be a long shot to think that a book would catch their eye and they might end up reading rather than watching telly – but it is surely worth a try.

For similar reasons, I am a very big fan of books in bathrooms and kitchen – we tend to think that books don’t really live in either room (apart from the collection of current trendy cookbooks arranged ostentatiously within an open wall unit) but I think they should. I have an ever-changing selection of books in my bathroom which I browse when bathing and a large bookcase in my kitchen which I like to think distracts me from eating, although unfortunately this is one bit of multitasking I do seem to be good at.

Of course, an actual library in your home is a wonderful thing – to have a calm space, surrounded by books, comfortable reading chairs, appropriate lighting is a slice of heaven, but I think that libraries can be created even if you don’t have a room to allocate to it, as most of us don’t. A dining room can double up beautifully as a library, as can a spacious landing or hallway, or sometimes just a corner of a room with well-designed built in bookcases can give a library feel and add interest to a room. Thinking about how best to house your collection of books – precious or otherwise – will mean that you get the most from them and they will add character and familiarity to your home.

And just a final thought for you which is perhaps not totally interiors related but is a reminder to you from me, just as a book lover. We all love Amazon. We like the speed, the price and the Amazon delivery person arriving on our doorstep with exactly what we ordered. However, I am going to say to you what I regularly say to myself. Try to resist, or at least, try other approaches as well. Bookshops are magical, wondrous places and feeling the book in your hands, sampling its contents at your will and looking at its pictures will lead you to books that you would not necessarily be drawn to online. And whilst I am doling out advice that I am not qualified to give, I am also going to encourage you to think about second hand books – a book with a rich history, an interesting smell, a heritage is an individual object that only you have. Really, I would defy any who truly loves books to enter the Amnesty bookshop on Mill Road and not leave clutching a purchase that feels like an absolute treasure.

This article first appeared in Velvet Magazine 

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The February edition of Velvet Magazine is out and it is looking lovelier than ever! Here is a little taster with the contribution from Angel and Blume.

Drowning in stuff? Cate Burren reflects on the ever-increasing number of possessions we have in our homes.

‘I tried hard to resist the temptation to raise the topic of decluttering our homes at this time of year – it seems as big a cliché as offering diet tips or holiday ideas – but then I read a truly compelling article about the average number of things we have in our homes and it has stayed with me ever since. Go on, guess how many (think books, DVDs, shoes, teaspoons, general stuff in drawers – each thing counts) keep going, keep going – ok, I will tell you. 300,000. My initial reaction without really thinking about it was that I don’t have nearly that number of items but when I started to count, I was less sure. In the name of research, I have been testing the number out on those around me and several people have been unsurprised, or guessed a higher number. One of my colleagues was utterly unmoved when I revealed the answer to her and announced that she thought her husband had 100,000 items in his shed alone.

Of course the right reaction would be to think that we can’t possibly need 300,000 items in our homes and the truth is that we don’t, in our modern world most of us have just ended up with too much stuff. Before I move on, I’ll just hit you with a few other eye-openers along the same lines. These are my favourites but there are loads to choose from:

• The average American home has more TVs than people (2.86 sets v 2.44 people) and I’ll bet we are only fractionally behind them.
• British children have an average of 238 toys but regularly play with just 12
• 1 in 10 Americans rent a storage locker, some of which are abandoned and dismantled when the rental invoice isn’t paid. (My husband did this before he met me – twice – and I am ashamed to say that I am far more obsessed with what was in the storage lockers than I am on questioning him about any other parts of his previous life).

Image by Peter Bennett Photography

I think I have made my point. The question is, short of binning much of what we have worked so hard to accumulate, which doesn’t really seem to address the problem anyway, what can we usefully take from this for the future? I have pondered this recently, mainly on the way to the Milton Recycling Centre, and my thoughts are as follows:

1. Much has been said already about the throw-away society we are currently in and I think that this in absolutely true in our homes. Shops like Ikea, Homes Sense and T K Maxx allow us to buy things for our home cheaply, which is good, but does lead to us to not buying the right item in the first place, something which will last, can be repaired/mended in future, that we can to take to future homes and then pass on to others. We buy items on the basis that we will probably throw them away when we find, or can afford, the item we actually want. It is hard to wait, save up, make the right choice and then keep the item for a long time, but it is much the best way to do things. Buying quality and keeping things doesn’t de-clutter our homes but it is ultimately cost effective and better for the planet. It also means that we have something we like in our homes rather than an interim piece which we don’t really like and will probably stay with us for longer than we originally intended.

2. If you have decent quality items (and sometimes even if they are cheap to start off with), you can have them mended when they are worn or damaged. I am constantly amazed and delighted to find craftspeople who can undertake repairs to items that we think are beyond help. In Cambridgeshire alone, we have Restorers, French Polishers, Seamstresses, people who will repair enamel on baths, people who will repair metal work and so on. Just as it is worth buying something you like to start off with, it is worth repairing something you like rather than immediately thinking of buying a new one.

3. I think we often buy something new because it makes us feel better – it’s a treat – but we justify it by saying we need it. As an example, I constantly buy books (interior design books, cookery books, novels etc.) when I have shelves heaving with books of each type that I haven’t read yet. Stopping ourselves before we buy anything – books, clothes, toys, tellies – and asking ourselves if we really do need it or whether we have something in the home already that could be used – may produce surprising results.

4. Often we have things in our homes that we feel we can’t get rid of because they have sentimental value, or because we are storing them for other people (children are a primary example). It is hard but I think you have to be strict on this. The home should be for the people in it, not a place to store items that are not wanted by the inhabitants. Be creative with how you do this to avoid upset. e.g. ‘We are going to sell Great Auntie Margies sideboard that she loved but is not quite our thing and buy a picture we do like to remind ourselves of her’ or ‘We love you and support you but we don’t want to house your childhood teddy bear collection any more – can we help you to move it to your (trendy minimalist) flat?’

5. Don’t immediately bin things – so much can be released back into the wild. Many things can be sold if you take a little time and make the effort to find the right place. It doesn’t have to be Ebay, which is useful but labour intensive, places like The Curtain Exchange, Willingham Auctions and Cheffins Antique sales will all give you honest advice on the item and will do the work for you, for a fair share of the proceeds. In addition, giving decent quality items to charity shops (try think of which charity could make best use of the item you are donating) will make you feel good and will genuinely help others.

I am sometimes guilty of giving advice that I don’t always follow myself (do what I say, not what I do) but I was actually so shocked, and frankly depressed, by what I read about the amount of stuff we have that I am determined to make changes to slowly reduce what I own. I have a feeling it will be rather liberating.’

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We have a whole new format for our classes this year with sessions on Friday and Saturday mornings. We have five to choose from (not including the Christmas special at the end of November!) and if you are able to attend one or all, we would love to see you.

We are covering a range of topics that people have asked us for in the past and areas of interior design that we know are tricky. Things like planning your new bathroom or kitchen, sorting out your lighting, selecting your colours and thinking about how you want your home to look and work.

The classes are being held in our studio at 17 Emmanuel Road and we are only minutes from masses of restaurants and shops so you can make a day of your visit to central Cambridge!

In all areas, we hope to simplify, inform and to have fun. So whether you are planning a minor update, a major project or you are just interested, there are lots to choose from. More information, dates and times on the website.

We look forward to seeing you!

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In this contemporary scheme, a comfortable statement sofa worked well to bring a relaxed feel to the room. Photography by Simon Whitmore

It’s weird thing that sofas are so hard to get right, but they really are. Furniture is generally easier to select than say redesigning a bathroom or commissioning joinery but over the years I have heard many sorry stories of profound disappointment on receipt of an eagerly awaited sofa. With this in mind, I often find myself using the 3am worry slot to agonise over an impending sofa delivery. However much I know that we have done exhaustive investigation, double-checking and confirming on behalf of, and involving, our clients in the run up to placing a sofa order, it is always a few hours prior to delivery that I decide that we have definitely overlooked something.

There are a lot of things to consider before buying (or commissioning, more on this later) a sofa. Firstly, you need to think about what style of sofa is going to work in your room – do you lean towards a contemporary or traditional feel, mid-century modern or shabby chic? You don’t need to put a name to the style you want but if you are unsure of what look you prefer then you are not ready to enter a sofa shop yet. Fabric choice is important too and hard to consider in isolation. Building up a picture of the final scheme including wall colour, flooring, other items of furniture, curtains or blinds and so on will help you to avoid a fabric choice that you find hard to match to or that is a bland disappointment. There is a raft of other decisions to also be considered and these crucially include size – a measure of the room with consideration to other items of furniture is vital – and comfort levels of which height of back, depth of seat, filling and how the sofa is constructed all play a role. There are lots more decisions that are important but I won’t go into all of these for fear that you may decide that your hand-me-down, battered sofa that you hated when you started reading is perfectly all right. However, I will say that it is better to consider a lot of these decisions prior to spending that nightmare Saturday morning trailing around high street furniture shops and ending up feeling overwhelmed by information, underwhelmed with what you have seen and temporarily less keen on the loved one that you left the house with that morning.

Can I also at this point, strongly steer you away from the idea that buying a cheap Ikea sofa with the plan to bin it in future and get the one you actually want is a sensible decision. This thought has been shared with me in my professional capacity more times than I care to remember and it is a notion that is riddled with flaws, the primary one being that all you are doing is delaying doing the work to get the right sofa and in the meantime putting up with a piece of furniture that isn’t right because you haven’t given proper consideration to what you do want (whether it ends up coming from our fine Swedish friends or not.)

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A traditional sofa in a plain fabric looks very happy in this country drawing room. Photography by Simon Whitmore

Once you have done your homework deciding which sofa is perfect for you, there is the possibility that you won’t be able to find what you want on the high street. Retailers are undoubtedly getting better at offering flexibility on size, fillings, legs, fabric and so on but I do find that we often have to commission a completely bespoke sofa in order to get what we want and this route is available to everyone. A good sofa maker is able to make or commission a frame to an agreed size, shape and style and then upholster it to your requirements which means that the world is your oyster. It also means that you are speaking directly to the expert, the person who is going to actually make it, so you should receive excellent advice. I know that you will be thinking that this all sounds very expensive and although it is not a bargain basement option, I always think it is less expensive than one would imagine, which is a reflection of not paying for a middle man and normally not paying for a swanky showroom and a glossy brochure. Although there are many excellent sofa makers all over the country, for historical reasons many are located in and around Nottingham which is where our ace upholsterer is based. There isn’t a chance that I will reveal his name but if you find a workshop with stressed looking craftsmen looking at an order and muttering ‘what on earth are they asking for now’, you may be in the right place.

What I will share with you are a few of my sofa related tips drawn from many years of professional sofa buying, some more painfully learnt than others, that I hope will help you in your quest to avoid sofa disaster:

  1. I’ve mentioned checking the size of the room but the other key measurement is the size of the doorway/staircase/sharp turn from corridor to room etc. A beautiful new sofa that won’t go into the room is not a pretty sight and if you think your proposed sofa won’t fit you may be able to have it delivered in pieces (removable legs or arms etc.) but you need to check that carefully.
  2. Don’t rule out the idea of an antique sofa that may or may not (if you are really lucky) need recovering. Often the frames (and sometimes the fillings) are well made and antique sofas can offer something a bit different. As an example, there is a company called Pelikan in Haverhill that buy original mid-century sofas from Denmark and restore and recover them. If your style leans in this direction, and you are in the market for a sofa, you should visit them immediately.
  3. Sofabeds are much better now than they used to be when neither the sofa nor the bed were all that comfortable. They are a good option if you are short of guest sleeping space but remember to consider how the room will function when it is transformed into a bedroom – do you have to move furniture in order to unfold the bed, where does bedding live, where do guests put their things? – often sofabeds are not used as beds because the room doesn’t really work as a bedroom, so it may be better to concentrate on sofa comfort rather than incorporating the bed facility.
  4. I hate hard and fast rules from interior designers because there is normally an exception but I am going to stick my neck out on scatter cushions made from the same fabric as the sofa. I genuinely can’t think of a situation where they are a good idea. The purpose of a scatter cushion (not back cushions or any cushion that is part of the sofa) is primarily decorative and small square cushions that blend into the sofa are apologetic at best.
  5. Lastly sales. Panic buying leads to mistakes. It is great to get a bargain but it is not a money saver if you immediately want to change it. There are many sales throughout the year and I guarantee that if you miss a sale bargain, there will be another tasty offer available sooner than you think.

Finally to anyone who has made a mistake with a sofa purchase, and my heart goes out to you if you have, don’t add to the problem by matching to the mistake. I have had customers say to me that they have a sofa they hate but for whatever reason it has to stay so we need to build a scheme round it. This is not a good plan. My approach would be to design a scheme that we love without considering the offending sofa, and implement it, which will hopefully dilute the impact of the mistake. We may add a few accessories that tie it into the scheme and then we wait for the day the right sofa can be put into the room and the sofa mistake can be found a new home somewhere that it is welcome.

This article first appeared the February edition of Cambridge Magazine 

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Our summer term classes are on Interior Designing your own Home and are starting on May 5th. Held at our office in Emmanuel Road, they will cover how to find your own style, how to get the best layout for your home, lighting, using colour, how to pull your schemes together and finally how to manage your project to get the best results. If you are updating your home there will be vital information about how to achieve the results you want , and hopefully some fun in the process. Get more information on our website www.angelandblume.com.

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Panelling is a wonderful and practical way to add character to a room and can transform a plain wall into a beautiful backdrop for your furnishings.

Some homes have the great advantage of still having their original panelling but if you haven’t inherited any with the house, there is no reason that it can’t be added. If you choose the right style of panelling for your home and get the colour and the execution right, it will look as if it has always been there.

Sawston Hall, Angel + Blume

The wonderful wooden panelling at Sawston Hall would have originally been installed to help insulate rooms from the cold stone walls. It also adds a lovely depth of colour to the rooms.

Farrow and Ball, panelled room

Painted panelling makes a room lighter which can be easier to live with. It also offers endless colour options so you aren’t restricted by a backdrop of wood. This lovely room is painted in Farrow and Ball French Grey and the colour has been applied to the walls, cornicing, skirting boards, door and door frame – everywhere other than floor and ceiling – which creates a calm, unified look.

Secrets of a Stylish Home, by Cate Burren

This beautiful hallway in a Victorian country house was given some detail with simple panelling framing the wall areas below the picture rails, which were painted in with the colour of the walls.

Secrets of a Stylish Home, by Cate Burren

Bathrooms can benefit hugely from panelling and is especially useful when incorporating a roll top bath as a simple ledge can be created on the top of the panelling for your soap dish, shampoo and cup of tea.

The Painted Wall PanellingCompany

The style that you choose for your panelling is really important and will alter the feeling of the room. This lovely panelling from the Painted Wall Panelling Company has a distinct Arts and Crafts feel to it and creates a wonderful ledge to display accessories.

Farrow and Ball panelling colours

Farrow and Ball panelling colours

You can make a really bold statement if you choose contrasting colours above and below your panelling. Your eye is naturally drawn to where the colour changes so the height of your panelling needs to be considered carefully. If you choose a dark colour for your panelling, make sure your skirting boards are in the same colour as the panelling or you will end up with a white stripe at the base of your panels.

The English Panelling Company

It is fine to panel around your windows if they fall below the height of the panelling that you choose. This delightful bathroom makes a feature out of a pretty window by painting it the same colour as the panelling. Panelling by The English Panelling Company.

The Wall Panelling Company

Finally artwork looks great on panelling and if your pictures are larger than the panels , it can still work to hang them across the panels. These pictures work really well against the panelling as they have been centred across the panels. Panelling by The Wall Panelling Company.

All the rooms featured here have a traditional feel. However, panelling can look just as wonderful in contemporary settings – we will be bringing you a feature on this soon, watch this space!

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Cate was recently interviewed by Cambridge Magazine and she was asked for five top tips to creating great interiors. Here are some of her tricks of the trade.

Be bold with your style

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Statement chairs in a contemporary home

This is advice that I give in my classes and that I always try to apply to my design work and what I mean is to know your own personal taste and be confident in it. If your interior style is say neutral, calm, quiet, shabby chic, then don’t be afraid to boldly execute this in your design work. We can sometimes get confused by thinking that there are things we must or must not do in our homes, or that there is good or bad taste in interior design, and when we deviate from our personal style, this is when blandness can set in. Trust your own taste and try to apply it to all elements of your home.

 

Accessories change everything

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Flowers, lamps, books and pictures all help to personalise your space

 

Whether you are undertaking a full renovation project or simply freshening up your home, good accessorising makes a huge difference to the final result. Try to bear your own personal style in mind when selecting your finishing touches as it is easy to make a mistake when the purchase is not expensive, and make sure you think about what accessories you need before you shop. If in doubt, add your accessories slowly and see what looks good and the old saying of ‘only have what you know to be beautiful or useful’ is just as true with accessories as with other areas of the home.

 

 

Don’t forget your lighting

Concealed lighting adds glamour to this display

You can create a beautiful interior space but without good lighting, it will never shine. Plan your lighting with the uses of the space in mind – activities like working, reading, putting on make-up need task lighting whilst artwork, favourite spaces and beautiful pieces of furniture need feature lighting and so on. Having some contrasts with lighting will make your home seem larger and more interesting and using separate switching for different lighting types will enable you to change the feel of your home depending on whether you are entertaining, watching TV, working or even cleaning!          

 

Colour is king

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Warm blue and cream makes a lovely space of this boot room

 

Colour is an interior designer’s best friend. A coat of paint can add character and personalise a space, create light and dark contrasts, highlight features and create a warm or cool, calm or stimulating, comforting or inspiring impression depending on what you want to achieve. Although the paint on our walls makes up a large part of the colour palette of a room, the flooring, fabrics, furnishings and accessories of a room all play their part in creating a look so consider your colour choices as a whole before selecting your paint or wallpaper colours.        

 

 

Think differently

We are bombarded in the media by images of what the modern home should look like, and we can sometimes lose our own imagination. If you go back to basics and think about how you want to use your home and what you want it to look like, you will start to create a picture of how your home can work for you. Only then will you start to select images, products and ideas from outside sources that will work for you. By using this approach you will be able to create a unique home that truly reflects your personality.

 

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A collection of sporting trophies creates a lovely personal feel

 Let us know what you think?

Did you see the article, or do you have some design tips of your own? We’d love to hear from you!

 

 

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