Author Archives: Colin Stephenson

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Bathroom design mistakes

7 Bathroom design mistakes to avoid making

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Avoid these 7 bathroom design mistakes and discover indoor space and grace you never knew you had.


1. Clutter

Clutter makes a small space look even smaller. It’s important to keep items on display to a minimum. So, this means packing away your hair dyer after you use it, along with your toiletries and other bathroom products.


2. Drab lighting

Poor lighting in a bathroom can really affect the atmosphere and bathroom design, especially if it highlights an odd or cluttered space. Try installing lights in the middle of the ceiling or around the mirror to help brighten up the room. Mirror lights also serve a functional purpose, as you won’t leave the house with foundation on your face that doesn’t match your body.


3. Using a toilet rug

A styling no-no is a rug wrapped around the base of the toilet. Besides collecting germs, it really doesn’t serve much of a purpose – except making people think you’re much older than you actually are!


4. Grubby shower curtain

Changing the curtain is an easy and inexpensive way to freshen up a bathroom – but before you splash your cash, try putting your old shower curtain through the washing machine with two towels (to prevent it from crinkling), some laundry soap and a tablespoon of eucalyptus oil. Hang it on the line in the sun – it might scrub up okay.


5. Raggedy towels on display

Having fresh, fluffy towels hanging on your towel rack can make a great deal of difference in terms of brightening up a worn-out space. Try colour coordinating your towels with the colour scheme of your bathroom.


6. Not enough storage

Not having enough storage to house all your bathroom items can add to a messy and cluttered space. Invest in a bathroom vanity with cupboards.


7. A big empty bathroom without personality

This is a good problem to have. Having a large bathroom is a great advantage – but not if you don’t make the most of it. Try adding a vase of flowers to your vanity, a mat to the tiles and an artwork on the wall. These tricks can space out the room nicely.

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How to design the perfect bedroom

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The key to creating the perfect bedroom is thinking about the space as a retreat.

Our lives are so scheduled and dynamic. We’re on at all times – whether it’s through technology or our work life. The bedroom is the last secret place of refuge and peace in a home. In this article, we outline the seven key steps to creating a quiet escape.


1. Plan for function

Always start with functionality. In bedrooms, this means tackling the largest element in the room: the mattress. When buying a mattress, there are many factors to consider, from the size to the firmness to its composition, like memory foam or spring coils.

Delve into your preferences and make the mattress the first purchase in the room’s design. Mattress heights, with or without a box spring, vary widely, and will affect which headboard can be purchased. Once the mattress is chosen, the rest of the room’s selections can flow from there.

Next, review other living requirements. Do you usually stay up late? Should you have blackout shades for early morning sun? Would you like focused reading lights, or a television? Will dressers or an armoire be needed for storage? This will all influence the selection of furniture pieces and the room’s layout.


2. Pinpoint mood and aesthetic

The bedroom tends to be the place of relaxation and refuge, the quiet space within the house. But what ‘quiet’ means can be different to different people. For some, a refuge might only include soft neutrals or dark walls, whereas others will want to be surrounded by bright colours and patterns.

Perhaps you can’t sleep unless the room is empty of all knickknacks, or you want to recreate the hotel scheme from a favourite vacation spot. Consider what colours and surroundings help you to relax, and how that can be translated into a decorative scheme.


3. Create balance

The default focal point of the room is usually the headboard, but not always. You may want an incredible large patterned headboard and then have everything else in the room be really neutral.

Or, you might choose a neutral textural piece for the headboard, then add brightly coloured bedding. The goal is to have all of the pieces in the room strike a balance between functionality, colour, scale, pattern, and texture.


4. Mind the gaps

The ideal clearance around the bed is at least 760mm, in order to provide a comfortable walkway for occupants to reach both sides, although you can get away with less in smaller footprints. To that end, 760mm wide nightstands on either side of the bed provide a good amount of table top space and storage.

The key is that their height should be the same approximate height as the top of the mattress from the floor. Too much higher or lower can make the scale of the nightstands look “off” beside the bed.


5. Choose appropriate lighting

With the bed taking up so much space, bedroom light fixtures become the designer’s trick for drawing the eye up from its horizontal plane and add a decorative element. Lighting can be an amazing feature. For functionality, it’s best to install a central overhead pendant in every bedroom to make it easy to illuminate the space upon entering.

When choosing bedside lights, the important factor is getting the sizing right. A bedside lamp should be at least 700mm tall, so it has presence next to the headboard.

When hanging sconces, the light source should be about 500 – 600mm off the top of the nightstand, emulating where a bulb would be in a lamp and preventing an awkward reach from the pillow. For an unexpected touch, hang pendants on either side of the bed, with each one centered over a nightstand.


6. Collect bedding

It’s important to consider the way you sleep and what is comfortable for you. Do you prefer sleeping under a pile of blankets with a mound of pillows? Or would you rather go the minimalist route, with just a bottom sheet and a duvet?

Once you know your needs, we recommend choosing individual pieces from different manufacturers. Having a collected feel to your bedding brings warmth and interest.

Why not incorporate patterned sheets? People forget that the sheets themselves can be part of the decorative design. Different styles can be mixed and matched, for coordinating patterns and contrasting textures, like a cotton coverlet and chunky knit throw that stay true to the colour story.


7. Put a rug underfoot

Going barefoot in the bedroom is inevitable, so a rug in the bedroom makes it feel cozy and warm. Try a layered look: Spread a large neutral rug that’s cut to fill the space, leaving a border of 100 – 150mm between the rug edge and the walls. Then add a second, more interesting rug with different pattern and texture, over top the first and under the bed.

The trick with the rug on top is that you want at least two feet of rug sticking out around the bed. Be sure to walk barefoot on it before you buy, so you know how it will feel against your toes every morning.


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How we design the perfect kitchen

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By Alex’s kitchen design team provides personalized kitchen designs for clients, both local and remote, with a flair for innovation.

To date, our team has completed more than 2000 kitchen packages, including new and renovations. In this article, Alex shares the nine essential ingredients for creating the perfect kitchen.


1. Begin with the big picture

We start by evaluating the kitchen’s existing conditions and reviewing certain elements, like doors and windows, which will affect how the kitchen should be arranged. Then we consider how the house is used in general and how the kitchen relates to adjacent rooms.

“We start with the as-built plan to take a look at how everything’s working and what’s not functioning very well,” says Alex. The new design will address the shortcomings and patterns of use that he finds.

Next, he drafts several sketches of very different layouts to see what the client responds to, such as a U-shape versus a galley versus an L-shape. Once the rough layout is pinned down, appliances are chosen, since their dimensions affect counter and cabinet measurements.

“They’re the biggest pieces,” he says. “I don’t want that to be a surprise down the line.” Alex recommends these large appliances.


2. Observe how you use the space

During layout planning, Alex wants to know how his clients cook. “What are you doing in here? How do you work? What’s your morning routine?” Alex asks.

Some people might not use the stovetop as much as others, or need separate stations for activities like juicing, baking, or making espresso. “All those things factor in towards what counters will need the most bandwidth,” Alex says.


3. Create clusters

Since the 1940s, the idea of the kitchen triangle has dominated. The sink, stove, and refrigerator each make up a point of the triangle and should be within a certain distance to one another for efficiency. Instead of a strict triangle, Alex thinks in terms of clustering related activities.

He suggests that the sink, prep counter, and stove be grouped together. The prep space should only be used for prep activities (such as cleaning food, chopping, and mixing ingredients), have easy access to trash, and won’t overlap with the dirty dish stockpile.

He pairs the refrigerator with the pantry for a food storage cluster. “While the sink and range are obviously close together, the refrigerator is going to be a little bit further, usually because it’s such a big element and needs to be tucked away,” he says.


4. Keep “chaos” contained

The sink and stove elements should be located so that they are protected from main walkways, if possible. “It’s chaos. There’s fire. There’s water. You don’t want little hands in the hot zone,” Alex says.

Plan to keep that area tucked away as much as possible. Additionally, “Everybody wants to know how they can have a kitchen that’s more social,” so designate a spot that allows people to linger without stepping on the cook’s toes. Lastly, plan for easy access to the trashcans outside, to avoid hauling a dripping trash bag through another finished room.


5. Rethink can lights

“We always prefer daylight whenever possible,” says Alex. When he’s organizing the layout, he ensures the kitchen takes advantage of natural light and exterior views. In one of his past kitchen designs, this meant floating shelves across a nearly six-foot window, so that the homeowner could get the incoming light, extra storage, and have easy access to dishes for plating meals.

For artificial lighting, Alex personally avoids recessed. He prefers to install alternative styles such as surface mounts, sconces, and under-cabinet strips, aiming for “focused lights in meaningful places.” Installing a dimmer switch ensures lights can be task-oriented, as well as atmospheric.


6. Use drawers and doors deliberately

Cabinetry should include both fully-extended drawers and vertical storage. Both have their purposes. “Drawers are awesome for reaching to the back of the cabinet space,” he says, making them ideal for dishes, mixing bowls, and smaller saucepans. “But then certain things don’t work very well in drawers, like baking sheets, cutting boards, and sometimes skillets,” says Alex.

Deeper vertical cabinets, sometimes fitted with slots, can accommodate more awkward shapes. Take an inventory of your kitchen equipment so you’ll know exactly what you need. Alex uses Grass for their special range of hinges to accommodate extraordinary spaces.


7. Choose materials wisely

When choosing counter tops and other finishes, Alex likes to get a sense of the homeowner’s housekeeping inclinations. It’s also important to note how bothered they are by evidence of wear.

“This comes up a lot with marble counter tops,” he says. “They will show wear, chip a little bit, and have etching marks. There are certain personalities that are okay with that,” whereas others will want to rip it out immediately.

He cautions that despite industry claims, no material will look pristine forever. “There’s no such thing as an indestructible material. Everything will show wear,” he says. “Ask yourself, what do you want to feel and see everyday?” To that end, he likes this tile place and the wood counter tops from this place. Before deciding, always look at samples of the exact items under consideration.


8. Let the kitchen “make sense”

Style-wise, Alex takes cues from the architecture of the existing house, so that the kitchen “makes sense” with the whole. In a 1950 home with many red brick walls, Alex made sure the kitchen’s finish selections “related” to the existing brick.

“The kitchen should have some tie-in so it doesn’t look like it was just dropped from the sky,” says Alex. Neither does he believe the kitchen has to “match”. If you’re drawn to a particular trend, think about why you like it and try to adapt it to the home’s existing style, rather than just copying it.


9. Cozy up in the dining room

It’s always a good idea to make the dining rooms intimate and he suggests oversizing the table. “You don’t want the table swimming in a big room,” he says. Walkways and clearances around the table should be at least 900mm wide.

Hang pendant lights or a chandelier 700mm – 1m from the tabletop to create cozy pools of light. This will draw diners’ attention to what’s most important: good food and great company.


Alex’s commitment and passion for detail will ensure that your new kitchen ticks all the boxes and more, leaving you free and inspired to unleash your inner masterchef!


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