Friday, 28 May 2010

Making adults feel at home once the toys are put away

One of the challenges with which we are frequently presented is the best way to design a true family room where everyone can relax, play games or watch TV. The main problem being that "family" areas frequently become "child dominated" with parents having to put up with lots of toys and mess.

A couple who recently engaged our services have two children under five and were fed up living in a cluttered space. They wanted a room that would allow the children free rein during the day, but revert to an adult friendly space in the evening.  The design key to achieving this goal is storage, and this design has it in spades without compromising on style.

The first item I designed was an oversize leather ottoman – one of our favourite problem-solvers. It is a versatile piece of furniture and something many homes that are short on space could benefit from.  The large surface makes it the perfect place for playing board games, while the padded leather top and carefully calculated height ensure it also makes the ideal foot-stool.   I sometimes incorporate hardwood centres surrounded by cushion, which make it more usable as a coffee table, but these are never quite as comfortable.  

A large, low ottoman provides masses of space for toys of a variety of sizes.  For those with really small children I would recommend a hydraulic hinge to avoid any accidents with trapped fingers.

The two bespoke cupboards contain a large amount of shelving behind mirrored doors at the top and mesh panel doors at the base. The top section was designed to hold books, DVDs and CDs without any visible mess. 

The lower section served a different purpose in each cupboard. One cupboard remained the property of the junior children with maximum space for storing larger items, such as toy pushchairs. The other cupboard has a lock and more shelving and holds the majority of the clients' audio visual equipment, which is operable without need for the cupboard to be open.

From the outside, the cupboards look identical, which is critical when placing pieces either side of a fire if your design is going to succeed.

A bespoke surround for the TV ensures it does not dominate the room and ties in with the cupboards on either side.

Young families need plenty of fun, so the strong colours of the furniture and rug were chosen to invigorate and enthuse. The soft textures also feel warm and tactile and are amazingly resilient to wear and tear. The softer shades of the walls and cabinetry act as a soothing backdrop and ensure that any evening transformation is perfect.

This particular room does not benefit from terrific external light, so I added the large wall mirror and mirrored doors of the cupboards to help reflect extra light in and around the room.

The combination of overhead and wall lamps ensure the perfect range of lighting from high to muted, depending on who would be using the room. A conscious decision was made to avoid using table lamps to minimise the risk of potential accidents as small children career around the room.

Contemporary side-tables reflect the modern taste of the couple and provide the ideal place for a gin and tonic or favourite book in the evening when this is once again an adult space.

Finally, a remote-control gas fire completes the cosy feel of this room and ensures heat without any hassle when required.

Jamie Hempsall is a member of the British Institute of Interior Design. Contact him on 01777 248463, follow him on Twitter or visit

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The bench mark for a summer of relaxation

Ever hopeful of a wonderful summer, now is the time to check out the pick of benches to provide the ultimate rest and contemplation point in any garden.  Interior Designer Jamie Hempsall picks his favourites.

We are now headlong into May and approaching what is the busiest and most rewarding of times for the garden enthusiast. After time spent weeding, I always enjoy the opportunity to sit back and relax on a bench in the sun to maximise the use of my outdoor space which, for the next few months, will become a welcome extra room.

You would not just run to the nearest dump any old piece of furniture in your home and the same should apply to items you choose for your garden. Whatever you do, choose a piece that is comfortable, but also one that adds visual impact either in colour or form – think of it as an extra piece of garden sculpture and as an investment. A good quality bench will last a lifetime, if looked after properly, bringing happy memories as it gracefully ages.

There are plenty of options out there and good design has never been better – or cheaper – than it is today, so you should be able to find something to satisfy your personal taste. Here is a selection of my favourite benches that I think would enliven anyone’s garden.

Simple & Stylish

Saigon Garden Bench from B&Q

1920s Elegance

Haddoncraft Charleston Seat

Contemporary Funk

Quilt Bench from Edge Company

Design Icon

Teak Marlborough Lutyens Bench
Kingshall Furniture

Romantic Rendezvous

Two-seater Sorrento Bench from Kit Stone

Ultimate Indulgence

Torino Rattan Daybed
Zebrano Rattan Furniture

Jamie Hempsall is a member of the British Institute of Interior Design.  For more details visit him at or call 01777 248463

Monday, 17 May 2010

Want to avoid hideous low energy lamps for your chandelier or wall light? Go Halogen!

We all know it is increasingly important to do your bit for the environment with recycling and energy saving around the home now commonplace. Recent legislation regarding the phasing out of the traditional incandescent bulb makes common sense and no doubt those of you who have invested in energy saving bulbs (known as compact fluorescent or CFL bulbs) will have noticed the energy savings that they provide.

However, there is no getting away from the fact that CFL bulbs are not attractive and provide a more muted glow, rather than the clear light required for wall lights and particularly chandeliers that have traditionally used bare, candle bulbs.

It has taken some time, but manufacturers have now woken up to this fact and are just beginning to introduce Energy Saving Halogen Bulbs. The likes of Philips and Osram have developed bulbs that look exactly like their clear incandescent cousins – even on close inspection. There is no frosted outer or huge white base to spoil the aesthetics of your fitting.

These new bulbs are not as energy efficient as CFLs, but still use around 25 – 30% less wattage than traditional bulbs. Manufacturers also claim you should expect them to last twice the time of an incandescent bulb.

However, the main advantage of Energy Saving Halogen Bulbs is that they light up immediately and give off a clear light which is essential to ensure you gain maximum impact from decorative pieces (such as chandeliers) that have traditionally used the refractive qualities of glass to provide dramatic effect.

They are also fully dimmable, a luxury we have all grown used to over the decades to provide maximum flexibility in our lighting schemes.

The ranges feature small screw candle versions, which are perfect for historical chandelier fittings and come in equivalents from 60w to 15w.

One word of caution, they do need to be handled more carefully as they run hotter than incandescent bulbs and should not be used if the outer coating is scratched.

You can also get Energy Saving Halogen versions of the traditional shaped bulb; a suitable alternative for use in areas such as hallways or cupboards, where CLFs have traditionally been impractical due to the time they take to provide full light.

With these new options, there really is no need to have to compromise the look of your lighting to ensure a more energy efficient home.

Jamie Hempsall is a member of the British Institute of Interior Design and one of the leading designers in the region. Visit his website at