Friday, 27 January 2012

Bonjour Paris!

Due to its stunning architecture, beautifully lit streets, and a great metro system, Paris is one of the best cities to go for a long weekend.
Its Friday 7.45am and we are on our way to Paris; I end up driving the whole way and although tired I love driving. Hubby says I am always trying to break the sound barrier (he is prone to exaggeration at times).  
We arrive Friday mid afternoon after an hour sitting in a jam on the Périphériques and check into the Ideal Hotel Design which we find is extremely well situated with the Porte D’Orleans metro just outside its doors; great to get us around Paris and I love going on the metro abroad.
I am particular about hotel rooms; we have the choice of reliving the 70's and feel like James Bond against Doctor No while curling in an egg chair and maybe accept the mission of discovering Paris! (Which we choose and the egg chair was loved and tried by all).

Or Because Design rimes with Audacity; they imagined a room where sensuality reigns! Perfect for a trip with your loved one, while enjoying a journey in an original atmosphere... (Ha ha I know who had this one; sorry long story).

Parisians dedicate hours to appreciate food over casual conversation and bottles of wine so we feel right at home (well at least I sure did). With a plethora of wonderful bistros to choose from, it is difficult to choose one although we were sure they were all superb and luckily a friend recommends a delightful restaurant with mouth-watering seasonal French dishes which we love.
Parisians are serious about their culture understandably but unfortunately that’s not why we were there so I left that to hubby to which he happily attended.
Deciding to wake up early Saturday after a lovely breakfast with superb coffee, we set off to Maison & Object excited about all we are about to see. The acquisition of a Visite Paris ticket proves troublesome with three goes at establishing the optimum ticket. Each transport official gives a different recommendation. We plump for an aller-retour to Parc Des Exposition rather than a one day pass.

The M&O press office was well appointed and it being France the food was excellent. But less attention was given to the press kits and we hardly had any info at hand on the exhibitors.
Once we’ve had our design fix, we head back to the hotel to get ready for our farewell dinner in Paris. We don’t get our Moules Marinières but we do get amazingly huge Steak Frites with a good dose of St Emillion.
To find the best bars and clubs after dark you need to be with a Parisian or a frequent visitor; be sure to look your best as otherwise you won’t be let in.
Unfortunately we fit neither criteria and nor do we have time to visit the antiques within the 7th Arrondissement but let me tell you another trip is already being planned just for that.
Sunday sees an improvement in the weather. The grey drizzle has turned into sunshine and showers. We decide to have one last design fix and to M&O we head along with hubby who expresses an interest in understanding what designers and stylists really do. I accompany him as he eats his way around Hall 3 – the tableware (designer cookery) hall.
By the end of more visits to Halls 5, 6, 7 & 8 my feet were hurting, my stomach was full of delicious food and so I was just about ready to head home.
Three days in a capital filled with culture, beaming with delicious bistros and the one of the most amazing interiors fair - Maison & Object left us salivating for more.
Paris, à bientôt!


Thursday, 19 January 2012

Making a green home viable!

Have you ever thought of taking a step back from your daily habits, consumer choices and try to understand their impact on the environment? Are you aware your house is a major source of pollution?! And did you know one third of the UK’S CO2 emissions are from construction? Scary don’t you think! 

How we design and use our houses has a massive impact on the environment so Interior designers and architects have an important role in sustainability and energy saving.

Immoderate resource, energy consumption and CO2 generation are some of the problems we and future generations are facing which demand immediate attention.  

Yes the industrialized world has largely created most of the problem so they have a responsibility to come up with solutions but so does it with us. I’m not saying we all have to have our toilets flush with rainwater, have the walls insulated with newspapers, the kitchen built from yoghurt pots and the doorbell and shower their own solar panel. But when designing your home try and remember some of this. It benefits you, your wallet and the environment.  

By 2016 all new housing has be built to higher carbon neutral standard or preferably to Sustainable Homes’ code “Level 6”; the house would be designed so it needs no space heating or cooling (known as the passivhaus standard), plus there has to be a balance between residual energy use such as water heating, lighting, appliances and ambient energy generated on site i.e. photovoltaic panels or wind turbines.

The above thermal image shows heat loss from a Passive House (right) compared to a traditional house (left)
 For a successful design to meet the passivhaus standard there must be:

·         Super-insulation of fabric and glazing i.e. 400mm of cellulose fibre or 200mm of phenolic foam roof insulation.

·         Incorporation of available thermal mass i.e. in dense floor and internal wall materials to absorb and even out heat gains.

·         Designs for effective control of internal and external heat gains i.e. passive solar design, heat reclaim ventilation and so on.

The code will also call for environmentally friendly kitchen materials including glass and metal instead of plastic, forest service-certified wood and chemical-free glues. Indeed these materials often cost more although the long-term results are certainly worth it. 

While the code sets a requirement to design buildings to a higher standard we are struggling with the legacy of the poor environmental standards of older buildings. Short of introducing a home scrappage scheme or insisting enhancements and alterations to existing buildings meet the new code there is little that can be done to improve the environmental footprint of the building stock. It is a gradual process.

We have a huge opportunity to improve the environment and our future just by applying these high standards when doing a home refurbishment or new build - so be green, enjoy building but most of all be creative.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

That special room: the nursery.

While in Lisbon for Christmas I found out my cousin is having a baby and yes I did what silly people do at times – I thought she had put on weight and refrained from saying anything. Later while having a meal I asked why she wasn’t drinking wine (don’t get me wrong, we are not alcoholics). And yes I got a scolding for not noticing…Oops a daisy!
Well I started thinking about the nursery and all she has to get ready.  Not easy then…! Having to deal with the pregnancy, baby clothes and at the same time prepare the little haven.
Stuck for ideas and need some inspiration! Here are a few tips to help create a comfortable, simple and stylish baby room.
Furniture & storage:
Cots with removable sides are ideal; they can be transformed into a toddler’s bed as your child grows. Buy a unit that has a removable changing mat with shelf space underneath; it can still be used for storage once your baby has grown. Also wheelie baskets are an ideal solution for stowing toys as you can easily move them from one room to the next.
A baby bouncer is also a great way to keep your child entertained, get rid of excess energy and it will give you a bit of free time - if you are lucky.
A rocking horse is great to help your child develop balance; choose the ones with a safety rail designed for younger children.
Go neutral; it will be easier and cheaper for you in the long term. You won’t have to redecorate when it is time to move. Neutral, pastel and muted colour schemes work best as the nursery is a place for rest, so it is important to create a serene environment.
Use alphabet and number wall stickers; great to liven up a nursery while creating a stimulating learning environment.
Textiles & accessories:
Choose nursery bedding, curtains and rugs. If your walls are in a neutral colour this is where you can splash some colour. Or choose accessories in bright colours to accent the room.
A baby play mat or soft rug is a must as it is more comfortable; they spend most of their time on all fours. The choice is endless so it will be easy finding something to suit your décor.
Every nursery needs a night light; a night light will help your child sleep better, without having problems with the darkness.
Decorating the nursery safely:
-If you house is older than 1965 then you must be careful since the paint used to decorate will contain lead; this can be dangerous when inhaled, even when dried. Don’t go scraping off any paint which could be hidden a couple of coats down, hire someone to do the job.
-Also beware that even today’s paints can be toxic to newborns and people with allergies; chose a paint that is low in, or free from, VOC (volatile organic compounds). Any paint for safety should be dry for at least three months before moving your baby into the room and the same with a newly laid carpet.
-Every power outlet needs to be protected against baby usage. These gadgets can be found in every store that is selling electric devices plus they are easy to install.
-The bed must be placed in a place where nothing can fall on in, i.e. away from shelves.
Do keep this in mind and you will have an amazing, stylish and safe nursery for your little one to arrive to.
 And finally if you are looking for some cool gadgets then check this out!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Spice up your kitchen.

The kitchen was the hub of my family's life; where my parents, my sisters and I cooked together in the kitchen, sharing family recipes and where secrets were passed from one generation to the next. The food we served was extremely important as was the ambience of the kitchen; colour played a vital role in achieving a setting that encouraged storytelling. To help you with your colour selection I will be giving you a few tips. 

Bright colours give you energy and dark tones are intimate and cosy. Neutral earthy tones are calming and soothing and will make your décor and appliances the central focus. Depending on the chosen colour your room will either be enhanced or appear smaller. 

Always buy a small tin of paint and experiment; paint a poster board in the chosen colour to see if you like it and can live with it before you buy gallons.

White - Well you know you can’t go wrong with white and, in fact, a white kitchen can be warm or it can be cool depending on the shade of white you have chosen and the lighting - the type of lights you use will impact the colour on your walls and cabinets. There is so much more to white then meets the eye; you have different hues, tones, tints, intensities and all will determine the outcome. Coupled with warm coloured accessories, soft furnishings, wooden surfaces and plants will soften the look.

Red – An energizing colour which will make people talk, eat more and stay longer. Red is the colour of confidence and passion. Reds come in all kinds of shades and tones, including Indian reds, spicy reds, burgundy, terra cotta, pure reds and so on. 

Pink - Go retro and break all the rules; apply a splash of hot pink on your kitchen walls or cabinets. You are sure to get comments, you are making a statement. If you can live with this colour then go ahead.

Orange – It is a great colour and known to stimulate the appetite so not a great choice if you’re trying to lose weight. The colour orange is frequently associated with food and makes people feel comfortable and at ease. 

Black and white – Great for a sleek and contemporary look and add some stainless steel appliances to finish the look. For some it might be too stark but for others that love the minimal style this is ideal.

Blue and white - Blue is a wonderful colour to use as an accent to white. Display porcelain such as Wedgewood blue or Delft for a great look. For a warmer look add red and green for a cooler look. 

Yellow - Yellow is always a great colour for a kitchen because it is sunny, cheerful and will make a small kitchen look bigger. However pick your shade carefully, consider how much natural light is in the kitchen and how this will impact the colour on your walls; this is something you need to consider regardless of the colour paint you choose. 

Grey - A good colour to use with stainless steel is grey; these appliances give your kitchen a contemporary look, although they can be incorporated successfully into any kitchen style. The colour grey looks elegant and chic, particularly when paired with shiny metals, copper and stainless steel. Again grey goes really well with warm colours such has burgundy. 

Neutrals - When you use neutral colours on your walls you will focus on other objects such as your countertops, cabinets and back splashes. Insert colour in your chair cushions and other accessories if you want to add some colour. Granite counter tops, porcelain or stainless steel sinks and dark or light wood cabinets will all look amazing in a neutral kitchen.

Statistics reveal we now spend more waking hours in our kitchens than any other room. You best start painting.