I love interior design. I have no training in it, bar an 8 week course I took many years ago - which, to be frank, was not at all what I was expecting. I was imagining making up gorgeous swatches and mood boards. Erm, no. I had to learn how to use a T-square and make curtains. Pfff.
My nightmare is a minimalist look. To me, a minimalist room looks empty and a little bit sad. I don't appreciate the clean lines and all that. I want to fill every corner and surface with things that make me happy. Most importantly, things in my house reflect us and who we are, where we come from and where we've been. I don't trust people who don't display family photographs. Serial killers.
The house my family lives in now is on the edge of minimalism, interior design wise. I am not happy about this, but am trying to come to terms with it and calm down about it all. Our last house was Victorian, had all the original wood panelling, parquet flooring, mouldings and masses of charm and character. This house is a classic American Colonial (with columns at the back, SHUDDER). We gutted most of the ground floor and changed a lot of the layout upstairs. Now it just looks Colonial from the outside. My husband, who loves interior design as much as me, won the minimalist argument. I was preoccupied with a 5 month old baby and dropped the ball. Never again. Next time, I shall be there with the contractors, hard hat and steel capped boots on, even if I have a baby strapped to my chest and only 3 hours sleep in my body.
Anyhow, the house is lovely. Large, spacious and airy. My husband did a magnificent job. Happily we have a similar taste for most things design-related. Sometimes though, I wish he were a man with zero interest in design. We've had arguments about furniture upholstery, coffee machine placement, how much a curtain puddles, even cushion cover colours (??!!). I've always been someone who wakes up at 4am with an idea about how to redesign my sitting room - and I used to do it right there and then. On a mission. Obsessed. Now, I have to confer with my other half and actually care about his opinion. Quite grating that is.
Our kitchen is wonderful, I love it. We designed it with daily cooking and baking in mind - a proper working kitchen. The placement of the fridge, sink, sockets etc was really important, as was the placement of which cupboards would house what. I know, anally retentive, right? We chose a BlueStar stove top. That's some seriously powerful shit. I know this primarily because of lighting a cigarette off a burner and coming out of that with half an eyebrow gone. Yes, that nonsense is supposed to stop when you're a teenager, but I had no matches or lighter. The hood is so powerful that I can smoke right underneath it and all the smoke gets sucked away instantaneously. Perfect for when it's too cold to smoke outside :-). PS Smoking is very bad for you, please do not do it.
The main attraction so to speak is the Calacatta marble island in the middle of the kitchen. That was a labour of love - for my husband. At this point, I was way too into dressing up my boy in lovely clothes to give a monkeys. It involved him making lots of visits out to the suburbs to find large enough, matching pieces of marble. It was a lot harder than it sounds. My hubby, ever the committed (read: anally retentive) amateur designer, stuck with it and we were rewarded with a stunning island. For the first few days, I'd lie on it and pretend I was in a hammam in Istanbul.
One wish list item I had (okay, it was a demand) was a double oven. I do a lot of baking, so it was a real pain to only have one oven. We chose a Wolf double oven - one atop another rather than side by side because of space. Unlike what I'd always had before, the oven isn't underneath the stove. That took a bit of getting used to. The bending down with a really heavy and full tray only to find a drawer full of pans. Where the f is the oven?
Rather than have sockets ruin the island or be dotted around the worktops, we had 12 sockets built into the oversized hood, so when nothing is plugged in, they're invisible. So well disguised in fact that it took us over a week to discover them. We would plug in appliances on the floor in the hallway - faintly embarrassing when we had guests over.
The tap is an industrial design - a regular tap plus a stretchy arm one that most restaurants have, so I can be all Heston Blumenthal when the moment takes me and "spray" my vegetables. Ahem. We also installed what's called a pasta tap on the wall behind and over the stove - so one can fill up large saucepans on the stove rather than hulking them over from the sink. A laziness tap is what it should be renamed. If you get one, make sure it has a master off-knob - quite handy when one has a toddler that climbs up, turns on the tap and fills the entire stove top and burners with water.
The lighting is recessed. Some are regular halogen recessed lights in the ceiling. Others are halogen spotlights set into a trench cut into the ceiling. Saw it in a magazine and asked the contractor to give it a shot. Happily we liked it, or we'd have had a long hole in the ceiling. We had the best architects and contractors; they really took care and didn't flinch at all (not outwardly anyway) when my husband changed his mind about things after they'd been done. (Don't get me started on the floor colour that was done by HAND by ONE man. The entire house. On his hands and knees he was with a cloth and pots full of customised stain. The day before we were to move in, a certain person decided the floor colour was hideous and needed to be redone. That poor floor man had to remove all the stain and redo it. I almost wept for him.)
One important factor in the design of the kitchen was to have lots of storage space. What comes with that is a lot of surface space. What doesn't come with a lot of surface space is minimalism. Not for me anyway. I've managed to reign in my obsession with surface-covering, everywhere except the kitchen. I have filled the island and other worktops with so many "cositas" and flowers that when I need to roll out pastry, I am confined to a space of 6 inches by 6 inches. My husband cannot understand this. I tell him it's because I'm British and we like our small spaces.
The cabinets are very similar to ones from Ikea. Sadly the Ikea ones weren't the right dimensions. We don't have handles on most of the doors, they're push/magnetic - note to those with small children...babyproofing gets hard without handles. However, I found great ones on Amazon. See photo of what happens sans babyproofing...oh and you get to see the pull out drawers inside, bonus shot. I love these, it saves on reaching to the back and not knowing exactly what your hand is going to land on. The drawers (we have 24 in the kitchen) have very simple handles. Nothing fancy or expensive.
The fridge. I desperately wanted a bright yellow Smeg. Can you believe they only manufacture them for Europe?! After I recovered from my depression at not being able to have the fridge of my dreams, we decided on an extra wide, 48 inch, Sub-Zero. It's the double door set up - freezer on left, fridge on right. No under the counter fridge - they call that a European refrigerator, cheeky sods - unless it's for booze.
It's a kitchen with lots of sunlight, cookery books, appliances - and my most special area, a wall covered in my toddler boy's paintings. It's a happy room that's almost always got something going on in it. A cat or dog sleeping somewhere, the fish (still alive) pootling about his fish hotel, my son scooting about on his toy bicycle but more likely chasing an animal with helmet on head and stick in hand, shrieking... The only time it's quiet in there is when everyone is sleeping.
It's not finished yet - later this year we'll be replacing the bay window at the back with a rather fun and modern design. If Nat decides I've not bored her readers to death, perhaps I'll be invited back to let you know about that project ;-)
The main photo shows the kitchen in almost its entirety. The floors were stained a custom colour and so far have held up well. Note - get them sealed or the food remnants will find a new home inbetween each and every sodding plank of wood...
Disclaimer - this photo was taken almost 2 years ago, so it's very spartan looking. It's basically the same today, just with a deep yellow backsplash (no tiles) and generally messier (read: child friendly, sob).