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  1. I picked up a lovely book from our local library the other week called ‘Sense of Style, Colour & Space’. It’s a book that celebrates colour in all its forms and is written in an unpretentious style by Australian author, Shannon Fricke. I love her passion, sense of humour and believe that style should be unique to each one of us;

    ‘True style stems from the heart, not from the pocket.’

    500_SH20_OU02_

    In my experience of talking to people, we can all be a bit wary or even frightened of using colour in our homes. No one wants to get it wrong and be ‘hemmed in’ by a colour scheme that they no longer like!

    It’s also easy to be swayed by what is in vogue at the time (hand me the Farrow & Ball colour chart) or to stick with safe muted whites or colours that we’ve tried and tested in the past. But in what way does that reflect who we are?

    Deecorating your home should be about filling it with colours that mean something to you; that give an insight into the interests, lives and personality of you and your family.

    What really stuck in my mind from this book is Shannon’s message on how incredibly emotive colour is, and how every one of us has our own personal colour associations (much as we might do with certain names).

    I’ve been thinking about this ever since and suddenly realised why I never feel comfortable in an Emerald Green jumper that I bought this winter. It’s the same colour as the shapeless sweater that I had to wear for years in my former life as a fitness instructor. No matter that it is now teamed with some silver hoops and skinny jeans - I can’t escape that deep routed feeling which means that shade of green will probably never be for me.

    So when choosing colours for your home, it stands to reason that you should choose tones and shades with positive associations. Get your creative brain on and think about what it is in life that you really enjoy?

    What things do you like to collect and surround yourself with? It might be the food you eat, the clothes you wear, your favourite holiday destinations. Inspiration can be found in magazines, books, art and the likes of Pinterest. Everything has images and colour associated with it.

    Blue Flower Window Box

    My favourite places are by the sea, walking in the woods or picnicking in a field. I love being in the great outdoors. The colours I associate with these places are greens and blues (which I do use a lot in my home) as well as browns and more earthy colours. I also love burnt orange, the colour of dusk, and am toying with the idea of using this on one wall in my lounge when we next re-decorate. 

    Orange Wall

    http://www.vtwonen.nl/wooninspiratie/brutaal-oranje.html

    Think about your own life story and the colours you associate with it. Take a bit of time to stand in a room and visualise how you want it to look and feel. Take into account the light from the windows, lighting, the space and what you want to use the room for. Do you want a relaxed vibe? Or do you want the room to be a hive of activity?

    We recently painted our kitchen in Apple Green as the double doors and windows look out onto the back garden where there are a myriad of different shades of green.

    ‘Green connects us with nature, with the trees and plants around us, with the very things that enable us to thrive.’ Shannon Fricke.

    The garden is punctuated with displays of different colour throughout the year; currently white from the Spirea and Japanese Magnolia, soon to be the most fabulous purple from the Ceanothus at the back of the garden.

    Garden View From Kitchen

    In line with these pops of colour I have lots of different colour accents in the kitchen; a multi coloured pompom garland, blue and white blinds, a red wall print, the children’s artwork, to name but a few. It all flows with the garden and is a fun, welcoming room.

    Book Bag Holder & Pompom Garland in Kitchen

    Colours can work for us in very different ways. White is a colour with which I have a mixed relationship. I have succumbed to the white wall fashion in the past and spent the entire time feeling as though the room were unfinished. White walls just don’t work for me.

    Yet I absolutely love white bedding, a crisp white shirt, white flowers and blossoms. This morning I picked up a little sprig of white blossom that had fallen from a tree. It’s now on the windowsill with a branch of Spirea and I absolutely love it. White has a certain luminosity that works better for me as an accent colour rather than the backdrop – after all, that’s how nature uses it!

    Glass Jar With White Apple Blossom

    Shannon does give some great advice of some of the more generic qualities for each colour and which colours work best for which rooms. Here are a few examples with extracts taken directly from her book.

    GREEN

    Did you know that our eye can recognise more shades of the colour green than it can of any other colour?

    Some generic associations of green are; harmonious, relaxing, tranquil, nature, energy, life.

    Green works where…

    In areas of the home needing calm and serenity such as bedrooms; and in bathrooms and lounge rooms, which are primarily used for relaxation.

    ORANGE

    Orange is the happiest colour.’ Frank Sinatra

    Orange is associated with; warmth, retro, funky, dusk, creativity, strength

    Orange works where…

    Anywhere that could do with some energy and humour, such as lounge rooms, kitchen and even bathrooms. (I quite like the idea of it for my son’s bedroom).

    BLUE

    Because of the relaxing qualities of blue, a room can cope with being awash with even the most intense shade. Blue is the colour that many of us hold most dear.

    Blue is associated with; the sky, the sea, vitality, sunny days, happiness, soothing, positive thoughts

    If you need to get something done, but lack focus, dip into blue for a quick burst of enthusiasm.

    Blue works where…

    Everywhere! Blue and white is a fresh combination (and a personal favourite). Blue and green will put you in a meditative mood, and in touch with your inner self. Blue and red will give you an injection of spirit.

    Mood Lifters Taken From Pinterest

    http://www.pinterest.com/pin/570690584003367338/

    Hopefully I’ve now wet your appetite for colour in all its glory! Just stop, look around you, and start to build your own colour palette. Oh and be brave!!

    Shannon also has a great blog for more inspiration; http://shannonfricke.com/blog

     

  2. I re-discovered a newspaper cutting the other day that I’d ripped out from The Times last October. It contains extracts from Kevin McCloud’s new book ‘43 Principles of Home’ and contains some gems of information and insights into how we view our homes.

    I’ve picked out the best bits to share with you.

    'We use twice as much electricity at home now as we did in the 1970s and the amount is still rising, not least because the average household has 12 gadgets on standby at any point, consuming about two power stations’ worth of fuel.’ How awful!

    Kevin says that there has been ‘...a change in the way we view our homes – not as personal statements, where thrift, character and autobiography matter, but as statements of luxury.’

    I totally agree with him; technology is in danger of taking over our homes, with TVs often in nearly every room, along with a collection of other devices. Huge flat screen TVs are not pretty, or necessary, and they can't be good for your eyes?!

    The homes that I love most are characterised by the things that the occupants have collected over time; books, pictures, photos, fabrics, furniture (old and new), plants and other individual touches. Large flat screen TVs, fuel-hungry range cookers and American-style fridges do not give a home its soul.

    Things at home NOT worth investing in

    Kitchen Cupboard & Doors

    According to Kevin, ‘the best made kitchens in the world are still “carcassed out” using strand board, chipboard or plywood. Structurally, there’s a negligible difference in quality between the £5,000 kitchen and its £50,000 equivalent.’

    I’ve also been told before that the fitting of the kitchen is the crucial part. A well-fitted kitchen will last much longer than one that was poorly fitted in the first place (which may explain why our doors are hanging off the hinges).

    I do disagree in part with his statement as I think a handmade kitchen does look beautiful and should last a lifetime. My auntie and uncle had their beautiful bespoke oak kitchen made and fitted by a local carpenter and it does look a cut above our Howden’s kitchen! I think that if you are in your ‘forever’ home, then it may be worth spending more.

    The Fancy Cooker

    I KNOW that this might be a point of contention, but Kevin argues that ‘the Fancy Cooker will make hot food no better and no more quickly than an old enamel Belling out of a skip.’ (He owns a Belling cooker from a skip). ‘A cooker doesn’t do anything other than cook food. In fact, it’s so stupid that it doesn’t even do that, because people cook food.’

    I do agree with the basic point that we don’t all need energy hungry range cookers to cook the nightly family meal. However, my mum has always said that a decent oven is worth its weight in gold and so I would be suspicious of buying a cheap oven (maybe it’s better to get one off of a skip?!). I own a very normal sized Neff oven and it’s always been perfect for us. And I’ve never needed to use more than 4 hobs at one time…

    The American-style giant fridge

    The kind that makes ice, chills your wine to optimum temperature and provides enough space for you to hide inside.

    ‘Despite many of them achieving an “A” rating for power efficiency, most of then consume more than 500 kilowatt hours per year of electricity (which is a huge amount). In How To Live A Low-Carbon Life, Chris Goodall gives a rule of thumb. Look for a fridge of around 300 litres in size that uses 300kWh of electricity a year and that costs under £300.’

    I feel a bit guilty about owning a Smeg fridge after reading this. Did I buy it based on looks alone? Yes, but at least it has a teeny freezer compartment. I can only imagine what our Kev would say about wine fridges, very un eco-friendly and unnecessary (I don’t own one of those by the way).

    Things at home worth investing in

    Taps

    Kevin simply says that it is worth spending more on things that you use repeatedly every day and on which you rely on to work properly.

    It’s amazing what a difference a nice tap can make to a standard white enamel sink, toilet or bath. When we moved into our house we couldn’t afford a major overhaul of the bathroom so we invested in a new toilet but kept with the existing sink and bath and just added new taps and metal fittings around the plug. It all looked as good as new afterwards.

    We’re about to re-do our downstairs bathroom and whilst planning to buy a fairly standard, reasonably priced sink and toilet we have picked a posh tap to give the whole thing a more upmarket look.

    Door Handles

    Same reasons as above plus, as Kevin says, if you buy cheap, it WILL wobble, fall apart or creak/ squeak when used. We have an inherited cheap handle on the loft bathroom door – night time visitors to the toilet wake the whole house up just by pushing the handle down!

    Kitchen worktops

    ‘On this surface you’re likely to prepare your food for the next ten years, make tea and repeatedly wipe down. It’s got to be sanitary, durable and tactile. ‘

    I do think that a nice worktop does make a big difference in the kitchen. Kevin recommends stone, granite, stainless steel (has he tried cleaning it?) and resin (made from recycled materials). I still like a wooden worktop – it might be hard to prevent it from staining, but it is the stains and marks that give it character in much the same way as with a dining table.

    Stair handrails

    ‘A sensuously flowing, flawless and tactile handrail can make up for any amount of clumsiness in the design of the staircase itself.’

    Ours is stripped wood and we haven’t touched it since we moved in. It is smooth but maybe not sensuous and certainly not flawless! It has its own character.

    Admittedly though, a smart handrail can change the look of a hallway. One of my friends single-handedly took on the job of stripping and re-painting her stair rail, a hideous task which took much patience (and admiration from her friends!). The end result is fantastic.

    So that’s just to give you a few of the points made in Kevin McCloud’s book, ’43 Principles of Home’. What do you think? I like the idea that we need to get back to basics with our homes. A home should reflect our personalities, passions and the way we live. I’ll finish with a quote from William Morris, who reminded us all of the simple pleasures in life:

    ‘Simplicity of life, even the barest, is not a misery, but the very foundation of refinement: a sanded floor and whitewashed walls and the green trees, and flowery means, and living waters outside.’

    I’m off to hug a tree…

     

     


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