Design Life

After an intense last year, pandemic notwithstanding, I have finally complete my degree at UWE and am delighted to have received First Class Honours. From this, I am now at the stage of launching out into the design world, plus I can dedicate more time to this blog which has been sorely neglected.

I am already working on hospitality designs in the tourism sector, and designing holiday homes for Urban Blossom who are a luxury brand and deliver quite different buildings to the norm. This has been a long journey but very rewarding. I had free rein to design, and they are alll based on natural shapes. In terms of construction, they are very challenging and I am sure I have had people cursing me secretly when I deliver the designs for fabrication. But hey, what else is a structural engineer for!!! Given that I am not an architect but have trained as an Interior Designer, they have been a steep learning curve, and I have a wonderful technical team who can realise the designs practically.

One of my first designs I created for them is being built in the Lake District as I type, and is is surreal to see something initially doodled on paper turning into a real-life (and actually quite huge) building. This shape was based on a dried seed head I found, and from there it became an octagonal two storey building encased in an exo-skelton of curving struts.

‘The Bud’ Concept Design

The client wanted this external shape of The Bud, but with footprint of another Urban Blossom building I designed which is larger. So they will have an additional roof terrace area on the top. This structure is going to be placed adjacent to a huge natural swimming pool/lake, so you can exit the building onto a jetty and jump straight into the water. I am so excited to see it all when it ifs finally completed, but for now it is a building site.

Here are the construction crew at work as it starts.

It is mainly made from extruded structural recycled glass which is carbon positive, fireproof, lightweight and recyclable. This new materials had to go through structural testing and accreditation as a building material for use, so it is very exciting to be able to use it and is a forward-thinking material for future builds. All of that glass that people recycle religiously tends to actually end up in landfill, so this material takes it and repurposes it for a much better use.

In addition I am designing some lodges for a hospitality group to be sited in Yorkshire, construction starts this year. These adhere to Caravan Act parameters so they are modular, built offsite in sections, a set width and can be sat on a chassis (which you can hide in a pit or cover with surrounding decking). I wanted to get far away from the whole aesthetic of what people expect from a caravan. No plastic exterior/interiors, and using beautiful architectural materials such as seam wrapped aluminium and natural wood. These designs should change perceptions of holiday living and caravans. Here is a concept sketch.

Hospitality design is definitely my main passion. I have also been speaking to some of the most respectable and creative Design Studios who concentrate more on the hotels/restaurant sector for potential work. However, I am a bit of an anomaly I think as I am not the typical recent grad for a Junior Designer, but I don’t have years of experience in a studio setting to make me Middleweight Level. So I am getting a lot of ‘you will get bored & leave’ and ‘we are not sure where you will fit’ comments, which is definitely not true as there is always more to learn and absorb. The idea of growing within an existing studio is very attractive, as that spin-off from other designers and architects is something which I think really helps the design process. At the moment it is just me in my little studio on my lonesome, which can be very quiet!

More pictures to come on the build as it happens. Meanwhile I think those workers need some sunscreen delivered as it was boiling hot this week and they have no shade..

Hospitality Design

Over the past several months I have been designing holiday accommodation aimed at the luxury end of the market – far beyond glamping, these buildings are intended for those who want the very best on their getaway breaks. They are about to go into production, and I am so excited to be able to share them here.

HOW?

I sort of fell into this whole scenario by accident. Initially I was asked to design the interiors by the development and manufacturing companies involved, but I ended up designing the entire buildings as they liked my ideas and encouraged me to do them. I also agreed initially to work on them as they are made from carbon neutral materials – using amazing new technology and products to recycle and reuse materials. I am passionate about sustainable design, and so this really piqued my interest. I was also challenged to create a design that would be fabricated off-site, and then shipped in to construct so as to avoid as much disruption to the landowners as possible. They can be totally off-grid; water, power and waste can all be managed in a sustainable way as well. What’s not to love?!

Once the designs are done, a structural engineer and the manufacturing company take over to make sure they are fit for purpose and fulfilling all building regulations. Although I am a designer, I am not a qualified architect so these measures are 100% necessary. We have an amazing alternative to standard foundations, these buildings sit on what basically look like huge screws. These are embedded in the ground, and can go near tree roots, on uneven ground, into a lake bed and so on.

THE DESIGNS

I designed 3 different houses based on natural shapes – The Seed, The Poppy & The Bud. They comprise of an octagonal inner house wrapped in an external skeleton of curved, linear struts which embrace the inner house. The sizes and configurations vary, offering choice to the customer in terms of scale, site and cost. They are raised above the ground to elevate the views, two have roof terraces, and the other had an internal balcony so that you can be above the canopy to take full advantage of the views and location.

THE DETAIL

We also commissioned some fly-through videos to show how the designs look in place, although I had built them in 3D I needed some superior rendering and animation skills to really bring them to life – they look amazing.

With the whole Covid scenario, the desire for holidays in the UK has really changed, and these are perfect for staycations when set in beautiful landscapes and woodlands. The company has had amazing feedback for them, and orders are coming in. I have to pinch myself occasionally from what started as a doodle in a meeting (below) to the realisation of the final product.

The starting point….

How a pot of paint can cause chaos…

In the last couple of weeks I decided to repaint my sitting room.  It has been the same colour for ages, and I felt an update was in order.  I am getting very drawn to orange at the moment, and as the room has a lot of light and high ceilings, I felt that it could take a dark tone and create a different feel to the existing colour.  This is the room as it was…

It was originally painted in Drab, a now discontinued Farrow & Ball paint.  I chose a strong orange by Valspar called Storybook Sundown to replace it.  I have orange elsewhere in the room in the rug, upholstery and cushions and this colour complimented them the best…

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So with 5 litres I started to paint.  You  know that moment when you think ‘Hmm, not sure if I am liking this…?”, well it came pretty soon after the first coat.  I have been so used to the previous colour and this is so out of my comfort zone that I started to to think I had made a mistake.  But I decided to continue to see what would happen.

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BUT… once it was done I loved it.  Really vibrant, rich and cocooning.

Now this is where the chaos started… when I say chaos I mean a nuclear chain of events starting from the initial one pot of paint.   My sofa now looked really insipid against all of the other bright colours.  The room needed something stronger/darker in colour/tone to work with these walls.  The current sofa is a Wesley Barrell Knole, and cost a huge amount when purchased.  It is quite tired now and has been an old faithful for over a decade, so I thought this would be the time to revamp it.  Investigations into re-upholstering it revealed it costs as much if not more to do as getting a new sofa.  The seat cushions alone cost £500 for new inserts, not to mention 15m of fabric and upholstery costs.

Egged on by my daughter we set out to find a new sofa.  On my wish list the main priority was NEVER HAVING TO EVER PLUMP ANOTHER CUSHION AGAIN.  This has been the bane of my life with sofas, and actually if I add the hours spent doing it I could have learnt a new language or trekked across a country instead.  So number one priority was a sprung seat and back sofa.

Research then ensued; size, shape, fabric, finish, durability… The internet is great for hunting, but I want to see them in the flesh too and sit on them to see if they are comfortable.  A bit like Goldilocks and her chairs – too firm, too soft or just right?  A sofa is a big expense as well, so once a shortlist had been made we set off in the car on a sofa bouncing mission.

Stop one was a high street store that had not been on my wish list, but was on the way to another shop.  As we mooched about I spotted the perfect sofa; sprung, buttoned and available in the fabric I wanted. It was in DFS, is called the Trafalgar and is a modern version of the chesterfield with buttoned seat and back, plus proper springing.  The shape is more angular than the traditional rounded chesterfield but that is why it looks so nice.

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The detailing is lovely, with upholstery studs along the front:

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But this colour is too pale and I wanted a richer more textural fabric.  And voila, in their books I found:

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The perfect velvet; not shiny like a lot of modern versions but lustrous and deepest black.  And so reader, I ordered one.. and it comes in about 6 weeks to reface the old faithful Knole sofa (which incidentally is going to a very good home where it will be loved  for many more years).

So that was Chaos Element No 1.  This pot of paint has now cost me a new sofa.. but it doesn’t end there.  I like the idea of adding in more black to define the room, so black lampshades have now been ordered for the lamps around the room in black, and passementerie trimmings have been ordered to jazz them up.  That’s Chaos Element No 2.

On top of that I have now started hunting for new curtains to add more drama and tie up the room visually as the current ones are lovely, but look quite pale now compared to the other colours going on in the room, and that’s a 10ft tall bay window to negotiate as a starter.  Not something you can use readymades on easily… so let’s call that Chaos Element No 3.  I’m thinking watered black silk puddling on the floor would be a bit special…

With that I will sign off, as I need to plan how to create these curtains on a budget, but so they don’t look it.  All this from just one pot of paint…

 

 

Design Trip – Denmark

I recently returned from a design trip to Copenhagen, where the Interior Design department visited many museums, galleries and buildings to develop our practice.  What I noticed on the trip was how I have started to question design in relation to my visual cultural studies since starting the academic year.

In relation to areas in which my practice is specifically connected, I found that there is a real hierarchy of design ‘owners’, in that a small number of people have classed items as being of importance, and to that end the rest must follow suit in agreeing and accepting those definitions.  In terms of design history that makes absolute sense, eg: The Bauhaus changed ornamentation into form follows function and delineated all items, and given the age in which it happened it connects to social and economic change.   I do love modern architecture, especially Brutalism and post modernist hard lines, as it visually inspires me, but every item has a subjective reaction.
Continue reading “Design Trip – Denmark”

A Year of Learning…

So being a busy-bee student has definitely been a real adventure this academic year… but what a blast and I love every minute of it.

Next week I get my final crit from Tutors for my latest project.  I have been charged to design a Pavilion (full on Architecture style, from fixings to weights to construction), a bar to go in it, and do it all within a Grade I* listed site so absolutely no touching of the fabric of the building etc.  I am finding that I have a bit of Brutalist slant to my work, which is very surprising given the chaotic clutter which I live in (and love)…

I realised I have not posted any work on here since I started back at Uni, so here’s a few bits and bobs I have done this year to prove why I have had no social life, sleep or spare time to post much… 🙂

Semester 1:  Theatre Design & Product Design

Here I started out learning about Orthographics and site surveys.  Basically if you do this type of drawing by hand, JUST as you reach the end of a drawing your hand slips and you have to either scalpel off the ink, or more usually START AGAIN…Gah!  My tutor also is an architect, and knows if I am on a 0.01 or 0.1 pen so you can’t make any mistakes as he’ll know.

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I started to learn how to make scale models.  This is something I love doing, and think I am like Gulliver but maybe with more fumbly fingers and a tendency to superglue myself to small things…PORTFOLIO MASTER COPY 4 UPLOAD copy8

My next challenge was to design a theatre installation inside a beautiful Medieval Hall showing an excerpt of a scene from Macbeth.  This is where the brutalist streak started coming through I think… why try and complete with 600 year old carvings, go the opposite way….!  I also made films as part of the design as that is something I used to do in the past for a living, and this design had no budget attached so I went all out for it…

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The next project was to design a piece of modular furniture to be used in a travelling exhibition planned for the first ‘Martian House’.  This will be a pod designed a bit like the Antarctic science stations for prolonged living on the red plant in 2030.  I was asked to focus on wellbeing and health, so came up with a multipurpose item that becomes  amongst other things gym parts with added games to spice up what will be probably be a very dull life on Mars…

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Semester 2/3:  Staircase / Pavilion & Bar Design

I had to present a project on the design of a staircase by a notable architect, (right down to delivering a correctly scaled model).  I was given one by the architect Santiago Calatrava, one with NO KNOWN MEASUREMENTS ANYWHERE, which resulted in me travelling to Basel in Switzerland tape measure in hand.  But I measured the thing and managed to build the model to scale.

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Below is my last project this year, and I will know if I have been slayed by the end of June (gulp)….  I have worked myself to the bone in this one, and cannot even begin to count the hours/days/weeks/months it has taken…

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What have I learnt?

Less is More and document everything!  I have to justify and be accountable for every minute detail, right down to fixings and screws.  I have also had to learn a huge amount of new digital skills as presentation boards are so vital; Photoshop, Rhino, Sketchup, Illustrator, Lightworks, CAD and so on.  My iCloud storage is huge already as a result and I have over 11,000 photos on my phone….

I have also learnt brilliant practical skills; steam bending, digital fabric printing, woodwork, welding, plasma metal cutting, textiles, ceramics, 3D printing, laser cutting, fabric manipulation, resin and jesmonite techniques, and more.  I have learnt the (new) ways of digital studio shooting in photography, (I am so vintage that I did my first degree in photography on film, and digital did not even exist!).  The fabrication facilities are amazing at my University and the technical staff are brilliant, I am making them a huge cake next week to thank them for teaching me so much already.

On top of all of the practical I also had to deliver a critical blog and essays.   Now I know why Uni students have/need such long summer holidays, I am frazzled but still raring to go for September this year although I think the pressure will be on even more….

Adios for now

Emma

Stairs & Landings – the ‘nearly’ finished results…

In my earlier post, you may have been aware of my procrastination about finishing off the top floor of my hall and stairs.  But it is finally done, with some serious hanging off bannisters paining techniques.  I forced myself to start yesterday, and it is now finished, well very nearly….

This was looking up to the next level before I changed the wall colours.  That wallpaper which is in in the strange ‘door-to-nowhere” architrave is going to change too, I have ordered some samples of eye-wateringly expensive wallpaper from the lovely Fabricsandwallpapers.com and we’ll see what works best when they arrive.  They are all very large scale patterns:

I am really forgetful about before and after shots as I tend to dash in with paintbrushes on a whim.  So I don’t have any photos of the floor above pre-makeover!  Probably as it was always such a dumping ground, it had loads of overflowing bookcases, an electric piano in pieces, and I never really liked it so never photographed it.  Sorry….😐

Anyhow, I cleared out all of the books and had a huge cull so there are boxes and boxes ready to go off to charity shops, and I removed 2 out of 3 bookcases.  I had to keep hubby’s collection of comics, books and coca-cola limited edition bottles, plus we had a lot of film posters and things to hang.  This is now what it looks like looking down the stairs with the dark grey walls.

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And here is the artwork.  The weird original Harry Potter troll picture was a present to my daughter from her Godfather, who got it from the art/concept designer Rob Bliss from the films.  If you look carefully, he has pierced nipples, which Warner Brothers obviously asked him to tone down for the final film!  It scared my daughter to bits when she got it, so it has been hiding in the loft until now. That is the bonus of having older teens, I can put whatever I want on the walls now without fear!

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At the top of the stairs is an odd landing which goes nowhere, a bit like the door mid-way down the stairs.  What is it about my house and places going nowhere?  Originally this landing had 3 full size bookcases on it, now it has been reduced to one,  And I have hung the strangest huge anatomical drawing/chart on it which the hubby gave me, and until now I had no idea what to do with.  But I think he looks great against the red carpet!

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It looks so much better than before.  There is no natural daylight in this landing, so I was a bit worried about how dark it would be with the grey walls.  But it looks bigger in a strange way as the corners vanish with the dark grey.  I kept the original wall light which was a converted victorian gas light, and got 2 excellent wire cages to go on the top from eBay.  The ceiling is white so light can bounce around still, so it’s not dark at all.

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The bookcase generally houses Hubby’s stuff, and I have moved the books I saved for myself elsewhere so it looks much more spacious now – althought somewhat random items are on it…

I’ll do a final post when the wallpapers have come, and I have decided what to do with the ‘door-to-nowhere’.  I also have the odd corner wall to hang something on so I am hunting for something large like a mirror to go on it, or maybe a lovely bit of taxidermy.

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Student flat 24 hour makeover

You know when time slips away from you…I am feeling full of guilt as I have not posted for ages, and I apologise to those of you who nudge for an update.

24 HOUR MAKEOVER

I have been really busy of late, my daughter has moved to London to study music at a Conservatoire and we did a 24 hour makeover on her new abode.  It is an unfurnished flat where she will live with her partner, and I really wanted her to have a clean, safe space that felt like home.

So we hired a van, stripped my house of a lot of furniture and accessories and then headed up to the big smoke.

Apart from getting a few bits at Dunelm and IKEA, the latter which I delighted in handing over for flat-pack building lessons, we had pretty much all we needed.  Plus we had zero budget!  It went from a dark, bland place to a rather smart des-res in 24 hours with a bit of creativity and styling.

My daughter is definitely a chip off the old block, she had Pinterest boards ready to show me in the style she liked!  It is very Scandi, with lots of palms, copper accents and retro touches.

Here is the flat when we viewed it originally.

For the bedroom I made some great bedside lights from old IKEA wooden shelf brackets I had lying around.

Using Annie Sloans Graphite chalk paint to jazz them up, I upcycled them into light holders.  A long retro style pendant light with a filament bulb is wrapped around each one and hangs over the bedside tables.  These were reduced to just £5 each at Dunelm so the total project cost just £10!  The bedside drawers await a makeover with paint and new handles, I am trying to train up my daughter to embrace chalk paint!



The sitting room has to be a multi functional space- living, working, a music studio and also a spare bedroom for when mum comes to stay (that’s me!).  It is a good sized room which really helped.  We used a day bed that coverts into a full double bed as a sofa, and covered it with lots of emerald green velvet and shaggy cushions.  A leather chair from home and a cute retro table which my daughter’s boyfriend owned finish off the seating area.

Above the daybed we hung large rattan plates as the start of a collection of natural objects.  My daughter also started to map out a gallery wall with frames ready to fill.  For the moment they have wrapping paper in them!


We got two lampshades from Dunlem which are made from twisted wire and they cast great patterns across the room.


One corner is used as a recording studio, so IKEA came to the rescue with their work tables and some wall hooks for all the leads.  I have had the shelves for years in storage and never got rid of them as I knew they would come in useful again.  They got a lick of paint and have lots of baskets on them to stash things away.



The bathroom got a fresh coat of paint and some accessories to jazz it up.  It’s very small so not many options to get creative, and I fitted a nice new loo seat, (it’s my least favourite job crawling around lavatories).



Finally we dressed the sitting room with layered rugs and lots of plants, and for a student pad it is pretty nice.  In fact, my own student flat was grotty beyond belief so I think she has landed on her feet.  I drive home feeling exhausted in a large empty can, but I know she loves her new little home and it is somewhere to go and relax after very busy days at Conservatoire.



Hang on!  My daughter has nicer mugs than me 😳. There’s still lots to do such as hang pictures and sort out the kitchen, (which has a garden table and chairs in it for the moment until we find a bargain on eBay or gumtree).  But they have a lovely home now and can grow into it themselves with their own styling and treasures, plus I can visit and pretend it is my pied a terre!

Photo Shoot for 25 Beautiful Homes

‘Jewel In The Crown’

This week my house featured in the December 2017 issue of 25 Beautiful Homes.  The house was dressed to the nines with Christmas cheer, and styled beautifully by Sian Williams and photographed by Brent Darby.  It’s the second time one of my houses has been featured in the magazine, so thank you 25 Beautiful Homes.

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What is always odd about shoots for magazines is that they are done so far ahead in advance.  This feature was shot months ago, and since then new bits have been added or tweaked, so the photographs always remind me how much evolves in the house.  The houses always look so large due to the lenses used, and so CLEAN too!  The latter is due to a whirlwind of cleaning in preparation, so the ‘owner’s photo’ is always a bit hideous as I look very tired!

Here are some of the proofs that were taken.  The favourites are then picked out by the editors for the final piece:

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And here is the final layout, my rather useless scanner has not shown how lovely they actually look so apologies about that…

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Anyhow, job done.  It’s time to move house again now I think so I can start all over again….

 

My house in ‘The English Home’ Magazine, November Issue 2015

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I am very pleased that my home has had a feature in the interiors magazine ‘The English Home’ this month (November 2015 issue).  It is a very smart glossy, and it seems like a lifetime ago that the crew appeared to photograph the house. I can safely say that I have never cleaned a house as much as I did in the lead up to the shoot, it was pristine.  Even the picture rails got a clean….

Since then I have already redecorated two rooms – the breakfast room and the spare bedroom, so it shows that I just cannot sit still when it comes to experimenting and using the house as a testing ground.

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The photographer very kindly sent me copies of the photos, as my own image capturing skills above look a bit lacking:)

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It is quite a mixed bunch of feelings seeing your home immortalised!  One one hand, it looks so grown up and calm (unlike real life most of the time!), and on the other hand it makes me itch to punch some darker colours and patterns into it.  I think I need to be braver and bolder in the use of colours now.  I had my last home featured in 25 Beautiful Homes, and it is interesting to see how some of the furniture and objects are rehoused/placed/decorated in a different way in this current house.  Plus I also can see how much retail therapy has taken place, which is a bit alarming!

Moodboards making life more simple….

Today I have been preparing various moodboards to help visualise the styles available for a friend and client who wants a complete change in their living room.  They like a lot of very eclectic items from colonial to industrial to fantastic items from Anthropologie, so to try and narrow down to what it is they want to live with and what works cohesively, I have come up with the following boards.

I have instructions for no bright colours unless from Anthropologie, natural wood, creams and neutrals and statement pieces via lighting or furniture.  Hopefully the boards will start to whittle down what it is they really like and don’t like so I can prepare a final board for them.  They don’t have small children, and are happy to use pale fabrics on chairs and sofas, and they also love accent turquoise and teal which works well against neutrals and bare wood.

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ColonialThe boards are really useful generally for clients to let me know what they do and don’t like, plus they are also a good reference for me to keep generally.  I am LOVING the Anthropologie pendant flower lights, and may have to try and fit them into my own scheme in the near future…