Sometimes when you’ve been doing a raft of things around your house, you end up feeling slightly resentful that it takes so much time and that you’ve unwittingly taken on a project that will never end! Believe me, I know. In a bid to create a more comfortable space for my son who was in the smallest room and is now suddenly 6’3″, he became the owner of the loft room last autumn. Great idea, no more guitar bothering the neighbours, no more being accused of listening to his conversations (delivered full volume over Skype, I hasten to add). Plenty of room for friends to sleepover, as demonstrated after mocks finished in January. But since then, I’ve been playing catch up.
Where do I hang my laundry? Where do I store my sewing machines? And how do I block out the light when the current blinds don’t quite fit the windows?
Sometimes our living space is simply not flexible enough for our needs and it creates a certain amount of frustration. Rearranging the rooms was always my intention and the Shed Roof Project (September 2013) was about creating a space to store and work on my fabric based projects, but within the house this opens up the full range of storage issues from the simple – where will he hang his school blazer, to the complex – where will I store the clothing on its way to the charity shop? And here’s the thing, having to think through the function of the house while you are trying to function in it, is surprisingly challenging.
The laundry issue was solved quite quickly. The very high void above the stairs to the loft is easy to access and so I investigated hanging racks that could be suspended over the stairs. Of course the weight of the rack was a consideration, as was the style… Not wanting anything too traditional – and a good price too – I stumbled across the Lofti from Lakeland.
As gadgets go, this is pretty low tech, it’s made of aluminium and plastic, clicks together and is strung with a nylon cord and pulley system that is ceiling fixed. But oh my, the results are high satisfaction! I’d so go far as to say that a hanging rack – traditional style or not – is an absolute must for any home. And it takes advantage of space that had no practical use for anything else. It’s easy to access from the stairs and while you might not want to hang out laundry when you’re in danger of toppling over, it completely frees up the areas usually given over to laundry, like radiators. Because heat rises up the stairs, the laundry dries quickly too and I can even hang the sheets on it – I now only use my drier for towels. So this one piece of kit saves me money, reduces condensation and uses space that couldn’t be accessed before. Yes, I admit it, I’m feeling smug!
But my next and arguably more important issue, isn’t so easily solved – the window blinds. With the clocks going forward, it won’t be long before it’s getting light at 4am and the temporary curtain isn’t quite up to the job. My obvious choice is a blackout window blind, but who knew how difficult I was going to find the process! In the course of researching what I could do to improve the situation, I discovered that the velux window wasn’t actually a Velux brand. All Velux windows have a code panel on the inside of the frame (visible when the window is open) with details about the specification, making things very simple for ordering window blinds, motorised parts etc. This roof light doesn’t have that and so I’ve had to investigate the options.
As a designer, I’ve just simply used and specified Velux – because I knew that the coded panels made adding accessories (like blinds) quite straightforward. But I had no idea that there were so many brands of roof lights out there and – oh joy – they all have a code panel to identify themselves. So here I am with something installed by the previous owners and I don’t know how old it is, or what make it is. Apparently its not enough to simply give someone the dimensions of the glass.
So, to date I have spoken to five different companies, all of whom have insisted that if it doesn’t have a code panel, they can’t help me. But I have found one who have said if I send in a picture and the dimensions, they might be able to work out who it’s made by… And this is where you start to feel that design has over-ridden function. It should be a simple matter to order a window blind, but these companies have overcomplicated the process. If you have a modern roof light, no problem, but as with all innovations, the early adopters get caught out, because at that stage, the window was enough! One thing I would say though, they are noisy in the rain and it is very easy to forget they’re open – and thus cause a flood in a flash storm – but that’s a small thing if it allows you to use the space how you want.
The good thing is I can chalk this type of investigation up to research and for a client I would continue with the fact finding until I felt we had a solution that would work, but for myself – it’s just the teeniest bit boring. A LOT of home owners feel that way and that’s why DIY can be frustrating. ‘Learning on the job’ as you do up your home involves lots of false starts and planning that ends up not being quite what you need. It’s all good experience though because being practically minded is a really important part of interior design. And when you strike the right combination, the results will be wonderful.
As a temporary measure – i.e. until such a time as I know what make the wretched thing is – I’m installing a lightweight MDF panel, cut to fit, with brackets to hold it in place at night. Needs must!