A quick update on our latest project. We submitted plans last week for our extension, now crossing fingers and toes we can get planning permission. It took a little bit of time to find the right architect and then final plans that really worked for us but we’re now really excited. We’ve put in for a double storey down the side of our house which extends a little out the back as well. We have a 250ft garden so loosing a bit of the garden really isn’t an issue for us. If approved, it’ll give us an extra bedroom and bathroom upstairs plus a huge open plan kitchen/diner/family space with a utility room at the front of the house. Moving to the next house on the ladder really isn’t an option right now, plus we love where we are, so this really would enable us to make the space really work for us. We’re a year or two behind on what was our original timescale for this when we bought the house but I think living with the space for that bit longer has really helped us to be clearer with what we want from extending. I’ll keep you posted.
It’s been a ridiculous amount of time since I last blogged. Life has been very hectic with a toddler, a return to work and a number of house projects underway!
We’ve started putting the wheels in motion to extend our house. When we bought it this was always the plan and now feels like the right time to do it. We’re in process of getting plans drawn up so it’s very early days, but it’s very exciting as we’ll likely change the layout of the house downstairs a fair bit plus gain extra rooms upstairs. Lots of blog posts to come on that I suspect.
In the meantime we’ve been working on our spare bedroom. We thought this one day may become the bathroom so didn’t plan to do anything as yet but after discussions with our architect we now know it will definitely be a bedroom. So we’ve started doing it up for little B. We had to rip out some old cupboards which used to have the hot water system in, a lot of mess but it’s really opened up the room. I’m starting with a blank canvas, we’ve so far painted the walls and ceiling in Farrow & Ball’s Wevet. But I have a plan in my head for a mural wall and lots of other little features to make it a fun space for him that will hopefully work for a few years as he grows
Now I’m sure they are just being nice but my friends often say how relaxing our lounge is. It’s a lovely compliment as we did put a lot of work into it. We wanted an elegant, yet cosy living space and that’s quite a tough balance to pull off. I’m by no means an expert but I’m often asked for advice on colours or furnishings and how we planned our room so this got me thinking recently about my five top tips I could share for designing a new living space…
1. Live in it first.
There’s always that temptation when you first move into a new home to make changes or go crazy with the paint brush but I really think it’s important to just live with it as it is for a while, especially for a lounge or main living space. See how the house flows, how you want to use the space and also how the light can change in a room throughout the day. If you’re just redecorating a room in a house you’ve lived in for a while you’ll already know all this – and that’s possibly why you’re wanting to redecorate.
2. Focal point.
You might have a feature that’s already part of the space that will be key to your new room scheme. For us this was our fireplace, which was why we choose to have cupboards and shelving designed and built to work alongside it. It’s worth sitting down and thinking about how you want the room to work around a focal point that already exists. If you don’t have something, or perhaps have a more contemporary home – think about what you want the eye to be drawn to when you walk in. I’ve a bit of a pet hate about TV’s being the focal point of the room, but that’s just a personal preference. I’d much rather have a sociable living room which will work for a number of uses.
Very obvious I know, but always think about what furniture you want to incorporate. For a lounge – seating will clearly be key, have you got enough of it? If you don’t have a lot of room, think about soft furnishings (big cushions you can pull out for extra seats when there are extra bums) or furniture that has a dual purpose. We bought a gorgeous Laura Ashley footstool, which we can also use as a coffee table (with a tray on) or for extra seating when there are lots of us. Think about your storage options too – do you want to hide stuff away for a more minimalist look or display your finds for all to see (you all know I go with the latter!).
It’s tempting to reach straight for the paint charts – but I think if you spend a bit of time thinking through the design of the room first it pays off. Colour is very much down to personal choice – and your choices will no doubt reflect your personality. Colour can really affect the mood of the room – so think about what type of atmosphere you want to create. When I’m testing colours for a room I always put a bit on every wall as you’d be amazed how different they can sometimes look depending on light. Check test patches too in the morning and evening light as again at different times of the day colours can look different. Remember that different paint finishes can also change the way a colour scheme looks. I always use eggshell on our woodwork for example as I’m not keen on a gloss finish.
5. Enjoy it.
Lastly, there’s nothing like that feeling when a room is finally finished, the paint is dry, everything is in its place and you can sit down (in my case ideally with a glass of wine) and enjoy all your hard work. Be proud of it and show it off.
I’m often asked why I picked the name Walnut Tree Home. As I’m sure anyone who has gone through the same process knows, it’s a lot harder than you think to come up with a name that will become your brand.
When we first viewed our house, we had no idea about the size of garden it had. The estate agent’s pictures didn’t show much of the garden and it wasn’t until we walked out the back door and started to wander that we discovered all 250ft of it. Right at the very end of the garden, through a little gate and past a few fruit trees stood a huge great walnut tree, complete with rustic swing, it was at that point I fell in love and knew this was where we were going to live. So really, it made sense for me to incorporate such an important element into the name.
Gardening has taken a bit of a back seat whilst we’ve concentrated on the inside of the house, which led to a very overgrown end of the garden. We spent a whole day clearing it last week and finally uncovered the swing again…
Out of all the rooms in our home this was one of the biggest jobs (it felt even bigger than dealing with the wall incident in the main bedroom). We’d always planned to tackle this room last, as hideous blue carpet aside, it was in a lot better shape than the rest of the house. We love our stove, which we use all through winter, so that was always going to stay, but we hated what had been done to the fireplace (see picture below). Having uncovered the chimney breast in our bedroom we knew that the chances were there was something lovely hiding behind all the cracked plaster.
It took a whole weekend but we chipped away at the plaster and uncovered some lovely brickwork, which we re-pointed to form our main feature. I’d already begun to form an idea for the colour scheme, I wanted something a little more contemporary so opted for a grey palette. I’ve stuck with Farrow & Ball. For the walls I used Purbeck Stone and Ammonite for the woodwork. My brother is a carpenter and he created the bespoke cupboard and shelving in the alcoves – using a piece of American walnut for the cupboard top and mantle piece, it’s a gorgeous piece of wood and against the grey Ammonite really stands out. I’m not a huge fan of symmetry (or straight lines) so on the right of the fireplace I wanted a free standing piece of furniture for the TV, we found this bargain on Ebay and with a little TLC and a lick of paint, it worked perfectly. I handmade the curtains and soft furnishings, using a Laura Ashley fabric for the curtains – Bacall which is a linen mix, I interlined them too to make the room extra cosy. Other finishing touches include the freestanding lamp which provides another level of lighting, and the upholstered Laura Ashley footstool which doubles up as a coffee table. It’s been a long project, but I think this is now one of our favourite rooms, now pass me a cup of tea…