Fireplaces – how they define us!

Symmetrical fireplace 4

Fireplaces – how they define us

Take a look at your fireplace – go on, a long, hard look. What’s positioned around it? Above it? What’s on your mantlepiece? What’s sitting on your hearth?

The way we choose to decorate our fireplaces, the main focal point in any space, is very personal and all about balance.

Good balance in a room is crucial to your well-being. If you don’t feel in harmony in your living space you’ll feel dissatisfied and dispirited.

Of course balance is a difficult concept to define but the main idea is symmetry. The fireplace examples above and below show symmetrical balance, where the fireplace acts as a central line and either side is identical.

 

symmetrical fireplace 3

 

This is what we know as conventional or traditional but it shouldn’t be mistaken for old-fashioned. Symmetrical balance is a choice. The majority of people find symmetrical balance pleasing because they have two functioning eyes and see their surroundings through both of them.

Asymmetrical balance on the other hand is less common and is usually appreciated by those people who don’t see equally through both eyes.

Asymmetrical fireplace 2

In the Interior above, the fireplace itself is ‘off-centre’ and the owners have chosen to decorate it with irregular shaped glass ornaments and a central picture which is positioned slightly to the left of centre. This arrangement would seriously de-stabilise a symmetrically balanced person but give satisfaction to an asymmetrically balanced person.

Of course it’s all a matter of degree. You may find total symmetry too demanding and controlling (as I do!) or asymmetry too unruly and anarchic. So, it’s important to understand what kind of symmetry you desire and to what degree.

Is it total asymmetry like the example below?

Asymmetrical fireplace

Or is it something in the middle?

Fireplace, books

traditional-decorated-fireplace-mantle

Fireplace, seashells

However you decide to decorate your fireplace, you should think very carefully about the balance, because choosing the right balance will bring pleasing rewards!

Fireplace update

Fireplace update

Keeping the idea of light in the fireplace

The fireplace is so important in a room, not only as the main focal point but also as a place that garners respect and adulation. After all we need to have warmth and light to live our lives – never underestimate the instinctive draw of the fireplace. In the living room makeover, the fireplace was sadly lacking in living flame. Although the owner had decorated it with accents of red and brown to tie it in to the rug, it wasn’t especially cosy or inviting.

The plan was for a rather lovely log burner to warm up the chilly winter months inside. After much catalogue browsing and showroom visiting, a suitable model was chosen.

Then began the process of installation. Not for the faint-hearted! The chimney was first investigated and luckily after inspection it was found to need nothing more than a good sweep. It’s very important to check the chimney. More often than not if it’s not been used it will need a new liner. When the fire surround was pulled away from the wall, the fire cavity was deemed to be just the kind of space that a log burner could occupy. However there were several bricks on the arch which were in a rather crumbly state. The brickie that was employed to rebuild the arch and make good the walls instated brand new pink bricks!! Being aVictorian house the effect was very incongruous with the other bricks. But, with advice from a friend, the owner rubbed in several handfuls of soot and hey presto – new to old in less than 10 minutes.

 

The new fireplace with logburner

The new log burner complements the theme of the room – cosy, warm-coloured and natural – a perfect choice.

A log basket and candle decorate and enhance the fireplace.

 

The fireplace is now life-affirming! Somewhere to snuggle up beside and feel comforted by. Just in time for winter!

The Glorious Chandelier

The Glorious Chandelier has been part of our interiors since Georgian times. Before then,the chandelier was just a practical way of holding candles so that their light could give some kind of luminosity to the room.

 

An early ‘candle-lier’

 

 

 But even those early ‘candle-liers’ were cartwheel shapes hung from the centre of the ceilings, just as they are today. Then, as now, the chandelier was mimicking the sun. After all, along with food and oxygen, it is probably one of the most important things in our lives! The sun is our warmth and our light. I want to share some of my favourite chandeliers with you…..and of course the best are the ones which stay closely linked to that giant orb in the sky.

 

The magnificent banqueting hall chandelier in the Brighton Pavilion

 

Where better to start than the magnificent chandelier in the banqueting hall in Brighton Pavilion. George IV wasn’t  a shy, retiring king and he wanted a room to impress his guests. And impress it certainly does!. The chandelier takes pride of place over the enormous table yet it’s scaled in such a way that it doesn’t appear to be ostentatious.

 

The Music Room in Brighton Pavilion

 

Move into the music room in the pavilion and you get more chandeliers, this time delightful dishes hung around the perimeter of a domed ceiling. Sunbeams perhaps??

Concentric ringed chandelier

These contemporary chandeliers are also reminiscent of sunbeams or bursts of sunlight, still contained in the circular shape. They light up a large public space. Aren’t they joyful?

A Murano glass Sunflower’ chandelier.

 

And talking about joyful……this amazing Murano glass chandelier (hand-made of course) which has used the idea of sunflowers (what else) in a giant burst of happiness. Who wouldn’t smile looking up at this creation, even if it’s not to your taste.

A Murano Crystal Chandelier

 

Another Murano creation takes on the same sunburst design. Those individually-worked glass drops make up a bigger design that seems to say “look at me – I’m something special”, which in my opinion is what a chandelier should say.

 

A twisted tube chandelier

 

A smaller version of the Murano is this contemporary twisted tube chandelier. Those glass twists are surely the sunrays casting out their light? A little too small I think to make a big impact but nevertheless interesting and engaging.

Offset, contemporary chandelier

 

 

Here we have a large, orb-like contemporary chandelier made up of seperate metal parts, giving it a highly relective quality . What I love is that it has been hung off-centre in the room and yet because the building has open views over the landscape it appears as if it’s hanging in the sky (sun-like) and reflecting the light around.

A Glass Bubble Chandelier

And another contemporary chandelier which uses the idea of’ the orb’ but this time repeated in an arrangement. This one looks very organic to me – think frogspawn or cell structure – ?? The softness of the shapes make it appear to be quite vulnerable-looking. I like it for it’s globular audacity.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

 

Speaking of audaciousness – look at this fandabadozee chandelier in the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. This truly is the sun coming right out of the sky and touching you on the head. The coloured drops on the very tip are there as a reminder that the sunlight is a collection of coloured rays influencing the way we see the things around us. Light and colour= colour and light.

The Cavalli Club chandeliers

 

Here too, the chandeliers are very imposing and completely dominate the space. But sitting in this restaurant, looking up at this wonderful array, wouldn’t you feel special as you’re bathed in the twinkling lights? There is a suggestion of moonbeams here rather than sunbeams but it’s still very atmospheric.

Muranese masterpiece ‘Drape Gioello

 

Finally, my absolute favourite is this hand-made designer chandelier by Rocco Borghese. It’s created in fine silver-plated jewellery chain and laced with Egyptian crystal. It ticks all the boxes – elegant yet imposing, fine yet magnificent in scale and proportion. And, of course, there is that connection with the sun.

 

 

Displaying children’s art

Displaying Children’s Art

 

Children are so creative aren’t they? Give any 7 year-old a paintbrush and some paint and they’ll have no problem attempting a masterpiece. But what do you do with said masterpiece when they bring it home and proudly present it to you? To display or not to display, that is the question!

All my kids (being very talented little wonders) have at some stage during their education, brought home their own works of art. What have I done with them?

 

Well the best of them I’ve framed and hung in carefully chosen places. It’s amazing how much a quality frame can transform a child’s naïve painting into what might appear to be a modern abstract!

Single pictures, especially large ones, can literally act as a starting point. My daughter had several large canvases that she painted for her A Level Art course. One of them now takes pride of place in my kitchen – the black and white colourway being the inspiration for the colour of the walls and tiling.

 

 

But just like any other picture or accessory which you place in your home it should, in my opinion, reflect the colour and styleof the room.

I used one of my daughter’s plasticine collages (that she did at an arts and crafts summer school when she was 10) to add a certain ‘focus’ to my study.  The furniture and soft furnishings are rather plain and business-like, so the collage seems to draw you to the desk like a target board. I picked out a purple colour in one of the circles and reflected it in a feature wall.

 

The purple wall was painted to reflect the colours in the mosaic.

 

But if you have difficulty throwing away any of the masterpieces lovingly created by children, it’s better to group them together as a unit.

There’s always the ‘ pegging on the line’ technique which can look quite attractive if you manage to make it look random, yet interesting. Again the trick is to keep a colour theme and link it in some way to the colour scheme of the room or the surrounding features.

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But the traditional way of grouping – by mounting together in one space,  undoubtedly has its style advantages.
Children's artwork on clipboards
This great way of ‘grouping’ using clipboards is so versatile. Think how many permutations you could have in a year!

Whether it’s creating a gallery with different sized and shaped frames or employing rigid symmetry with exactly the same frames hung in a geometric format, the effect is one of harmony and unity.
Chilen's art n different coloured frmes on green wall

A collection of different sized and coloured frames arranged on a green wall is complemented with bright white chairs and table. The link between the yellow vase and the yellow frame ties the design together.
Children's art grouped on wall

 

 

 

 

My favourite example of grouping though has to be this lovely room. Children’s paintings (of people and cats) have been mounted in small, white, square frames and hung closely together to form one large rectangle. Your eye is drawn to the delightful pictures and then it takes in the co-ordinating fabrics of the cushions and rug. And what a clever choice is the delicate, layered lampshade, mirroring the square frames but opposing their symmetry with a clump-like design!

 

 

Revitalise Your Living Room

Many of us these days lead very busy lives and there isn’t the time to spend on designing our homes. The main living area has many functions – entertainment space, workspace, play space for children as well as an area to relax or socialise with family and friends. It has to work very hard indeed. It’s no wonder that it sometimes gets a little tired-looking.

But with careful consideration and a free weekend, you can revitalise your living room and create an environment which serves your needs and gives back to you that wonderful feeling of being ‘at home’.

Living Room in need of revitalising

Living Room in need of revitalising

The living room shown here was used for many different functions by the owner. She had a very heavy work/family balance which meant that there was little time to think about decoration. Working from home part time, entertaining friends and relatives, relaxing in front of the TV or listening to music and providing a suitable living space for two teenage boys were just a few of the functions which the room needed to fulfil.

The first consideration were the items of furniture and furnishings in the room. There was a large off-white leather sofa and another rattan style sofa which had to be accommodated. The owner wanted to keep these in the room as well as an oak chest which had a lovely rich grain. She also liked an ethnic patterned rug. All other things could be replaced or relocated somewhere else.

So, after some careful thought and much browsing of magazines, it was decided to reflect some of the colours in the rug and chest in the wall colour and fabric choice and to work around the keywords, “ethnic” and “cosy”. A light yellow was chosen for three walls with a richer, darker tone for the fireplace wall. The wooden floor was to have a dark stain treatment and gorgeous orangey striped curtains were selected for the two windows. The overall colour scheme was warm and harmonious.

The layout of furniture was of prime importance. If the keyword, “cosy” was to be implemented, the seating had to encourage sociability and yet still be functional. It was decided to place the two sofas at a right angle to each other so that they faced the TV and the fireplace. Placing the wooden chest between them as a coffee table linked them together.

It was essential to have a work area in the room, so the existing computer desk was discarded for a smarter, wooden desk which could be placed along the wall nearest to the door and behind the sofa, which meant it didn’t dominate the room but was easy to access.

To accessorise the scheme and provide some soft ambient light, three lamps were chosen; a floor lamp, a table lamp and a ceiling lightshade. They all had curvy, rounded shapes with interesting textures. The floor lamp was to stand against the curved architectural feature wall, enhancing the shape. A large mirror with a rattan style frame was to be purchased to hang on the chimney breast and a new log burner was earmarked for the future.

The painting took an intense weekend of work but looked amazing when finished. The yellow warmed up the space, reflecting the sun’s rays as it moved around the room from one window in the morning to the other window in the late afternoon. The dark-stained floor gave a rich, earthy feel and complimented the wooden chest.

When the other items were displayed and the furniture arranged in its new place, the room felt like a completely different space. She hadn’t realised it before but the room had had an unsettling atmosphere where she had never felt content. She now finds that the room is working for her in a very positive way, allowing her to relax or work or entertain with confidence.

A smarter, wooden desk could be placed behind the sofa

A smarter, wooden desk could be placed behind the sofa, which meant it didn’t dominate the room but was easy to access.

The overall colour scheme was warm and harmonious

The overall colour scheme was warm and harmonious

Three lamps were chosen with curvy, rounded shapes

To accessorise the scheme and provide some soft ambient light, three lamps were chosen with curvy, rounded shapes and interesting textures.

The rooms we have outside

This being my very first blog, I thought I’d make it a little different by talking about the exterior rather than the interior. Gardens, or let’s call them ‘the rooms we have outside’, are really important now, aren’t they? It’s no longer acceptable to have a square bit of lawn and a little flower border. Now we have to have a well thought out space with appropriate planting. Depending on size, we can have a bar-b-cue area, a sitting area where we watch the sunset whilst drinking our glass of wine, a play area for the kids and of course a dining area. Even if we have a small yard outside, there is still the need to ‘furnish’ it with pretty pot plants and accessories such as wind chimes or ornaments.

I visited Hampton Court Flower Show this weekend and I was amazed at how many of the show gardens were ‘dressed’ with furniture and accessories just the same as you would find in an interior design show such as The Ideal Home Show.

A garden in the Hampton Court Flower Show

A garden in the Hampton Court Flower Show

We often hear people saying that they are ‘bringing the outside in’ when they decorate with natural colours and textures. I think these days we are doing more of the reverse – we are taking the inside out!

Here are a few of my favourites from Hampton Court. Of course, they all include furniture and accessories and even a fireplace!

Contemporary Contemplation

Contemporary Contemplation – all that calm greenery and filigree white (lace?). The white grid at the back reminded me of a Victorian lace panel that I once had at my window.

Where are we – out or in?

These rocking chairs with their cushions, the coffee table, the ‘picture’ on the wall and the fireplace – where are we – out or in?

Interiors on the outside

Are our gardens our interiors on the outside?

And this delightful example of a garden which is inside a building? Definitely makes you consider whether our gardens are our interiors on the outside.

My favourite garden though was the Russian Museum Garden. This garden, according to the blurb in the handout, aims to encapsulate the essence of St Petersburg and its history as well as the art of the Russian Museum. There were some wonderful shapes mimicking Russian artefacts such as the nesting dolls but what I thought was really interesting was the way your eye was lead into the space like you were walking into the museum itself.

At the front there was a white structural arch with a hanging chandelier almost like the entrance to a very grand room and around the walls was an elegant black rococo-like fence which would look fabulous as wallpaper. When you stepped over the threshold, you came across a circular, carpeted seating area enhanced by the ‘art’ on the walls. It was truly the grandeur of the Russian palace but in a garden. I loved it!

Russian Museum Garden

The Russian Museum Garden aimed to encapsulate the essence of St Petersburg and its history as well as the art of the Russian Museum.

White structural arch with a hanging chandelier

A white structural arch with a hanging chandelier almost like the entrance to a very grand room

A circular, carpeted seating area

When you stepped over the threshold, you came across a circular, carpeted seating area enhanced by the ‘art’ on the walls.

The grandeur of the Russian palace

Truly the grandeur of the Russian palace but in a garden. I loved it!