Something’s Afoot

We all like to have something nice underfoot, don’t we? Something soft and level, something warm and easy to move about on. It’s a completely subconscious thing this checking to make sure we’re walking on even ground. We don’t even realise it but our feet act as warning systems to stop us from injuring ourselves. If we feel off balance, we stop or throw our arms out. Around the home we take for granted that we’re on level footing, but when carpet gets a bit old and threadbare, you’re not on safe ground. Suddenly ‘watch your step’ and ‘mind how you go’ have a real meaning other than the catch phrase of the overly cautious. I bet you never really took notice of those platitudes before, but when your home is a building site and the floor in particular is affected, being cautious and looking at your feet become essential for staying safe. When your home is in that state, (the space under your floorboards is a real eye opener and not in a good way) it’s really hard to imagine it all being complete and back to normal again, but part of the process is having to plan for the finish, to get the area measured and to select the flooring that will most suit your space.

flooring textures

In bedrooms I have to admit carpet feels lovely underfoot. And my most recent project the master bedroom and ensuite wanted something that ‘did not look like a hotel.’ Both of them work abroad regularly and this aversion to hotels has become a defining voice throughout the job. Not only did they want the ensuite to be luxurious – because they’ve spent so much time in hotels – they wanted it to be more specific to their home (hence the sloping ceiling). So how we treated the bedroom suite was a very personal process. They wanted a more understated feel, something comfortable and welcoming, but ultimately of good quality and a high level of finish. And we decided that carpet in the bedroom and dressing area was one way to achieve that.

Most often when I’m looking for carpets I go the wool route and plan a high woollen content. But recently I’ve seen carpet that’s been attacked by moths because it has a high wool content! London seems to have had a few years where moth larvae have been out of control and not only do they attack clothing, in a dimly lit corner your carpet will also provide many happy hours of munching! How depressing. If it’s a dimly lit corner its likely to be somewhere you don’t disturb very often – like under the bed or other furniture, or around the cupboards and because of that when you do decide to move things round you’re left with an unsightly bald patch. It also appears that household insurance doesn’t cover this type of damage because moths come under the heading of vermin. So with this level of information I decided to start afresh and find a product that would look good and be unattractive to insects.

No, I didn’t even consider a nylon carpet.

final selection

But the samples that caught my eye were man made! Polypropylene carpet has come a long way since I first saw it on the market. This time round, the fibre is soft and tactile. The pile is dense and luxurious. So much so I first thought it was a silk based product because the fibres have a lustre to them. It feels nice and doesn’t create static, it’s naturally repellent to stains – and to insects – and it’s about 30% cheaper than a wool carpet! That’s one way to get my attention… Very interesting indeed. And when I put the wool velvet carpet beside the Luxelle as its called, the wool looked much less expensive – and uninteresting.

carpet choices

One of the last pieces of the design puzzle is the carpet. So getting down to this choice happened while the space was in a complete uproar, but it’s important to get the room measured professionally – even if it’s a building site – and to be guided by their findings, because it is a specialist trade and mistakes can be made.

Especially if the fitters misunderstand the brief.

If your quote has been written for a carpet join in a specific area, stick with that – don’t vary from the arrangements. This is what we had happen and the carpet – surprise surprise – is having to be replaced! Carpet comes in 4 metre and 5 metre widths (what is known as broadloom) so the calculations for the space are tabulated on the area that most easily fits within either of those widths. If the room is wider than that as our bedroom/dressing area space is, a join has to be factored in. I’d signed off on the quote to have the joins in the chimney breast alcoves, but the carpet fitters came to me and said they could hide the join at the wardrobe end because the wardrobes would cover it.

alcove units

Firstly, if the carpet measure had shown that this was possible, that is what the quote would have provided for, secondly the carpet fitters had plucked a wardrobe measurement out of the air (it wasn’t on the quote and they did not ask me) so now we have a join that can not be hidden 5cm in front of the wardrobes. Do I need to tell you that the clients aren’t happy?? It’s a mystery to me how something like this can happen but what I do know is that there are now so many versions of the story that it really is impossible to work out who is to blame. This is the true meaning of ‘too late to change your mind’ and for that I have to take some of the responsibility. Thinking about it, it’s a case of over complicating a situation that wasn’t actually a problem – and in the process making things a lot worse!

By the way if you’ve ever had any moth damage in your home, apparently May is the time they lay their eggs, so get hoovering now, pull out all the furniture, shake up the lavender bags in your drawers, declutter and freshen the dark corners with a lavender spray.

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Old Wives Tales

Have you ever wondered how the cleaning products that get used in our homes have come to be created? How do you know which products work and which don’t? How do you choose which to use? A few years ago my daughter was having problems with eczema – and then I began to suffer from it on my hands and feet in the winter months as well. I started to think about the contact that my skin was having with chemicals and I came to the conclusion that using bleaches and detergents in the bathroom wasn’t helping, because although I always use gloves when I’m cleaning, there is going to be residue on the bath or the base of the shower – which our skin will have contact with when we bathe.

travertine tiles

So what can we do about this? How you we keep our houses clean and be kind to our skin at the same time? By using products that have the same impact on bacteria but are grown naturally. My biggest and best cleaning tip is lemon juice. Oh yes. It dissolves lime scale – you can actually see the calcium fizz as the lemon juice works – it bleaches out mould spots and tired grout, it lifts soap scum and it leaves glass clean. What’s not to like?? Ok, so its not as convenient to have a supply of lemons that you have to cut for use when you’re cleaning, but this is household chemistry at its finest. Lemons contain citric acid, lime scale is alkali and bizarrely it seems that many household cleaners designed for the bathroom are based on chlorine, which is alkaline. We use the phrase opposites attract constantly; this is the perfect demonstration of that very thing! Even though citric acid is considered to be a gentle acid, because lemons are so astringent they kill everyday bacteria (though if someone has been ill, I think I would rely on an antiseptic as well) but other than stinging a cut or graze, they leave the acid mantle of the skin alone.

lemon

I tried it out, thinking that my children would end up getting ill because I wasn’t killing the bacteria sufficiently and that this little experiment would all end in tears. But other than needing to use a drain product every six months, using lemons to clean my bathroom has been a huge success. No more eczema, no more wheezing when I was doing the cleaning (I’d forgotten how badly the fumes affected my breathing) no stinging eyes, no gritty film on the hand basin or the bath and guess what, I started this experiment 12 years ago!

I didn’t start out thinking about the environment, which is so often the motivation that cleaning product manufacturers use to try and convert the consumer, but I am a convert to using natural cleaning products where I can because it benefits my family in the most basic ways. If my skin, my lungs and my eyes are comfortable because I’m not using chemical compounds then it follows that I’m not upsetting the chemical balance of my home. If the waste products leaving my home are less toxic, then the impact they have on the environment will be too.

For those of you doing decorating projects around the house, cut onions get rid of the paint fumes. I know, right! Get a nice big onion and cut it in half, stand the halves cut side up on a plate and leave it in the middle of the room. Shut the door and the following day the smell will be greatly reduced. And believe it or not, the room won’t smell of onions either!

onions

And another fantastic trick is to clean your silver using tin foil. Yep. My cousin – see how these things get passed on – told me to line my kitchen sink with aluminium foil, add a tablespoon of soda crystals, put in the silver items I wanted to clean and then pour over freshly boiled water from the kettle. The smell is horrendous, so don’t stand over the sink while the steam is still rising. Then you can give your silver a gentle rub (make sure you wear rubber gloves) and voila, beautiful clean silver.

soda crystals

Guess what else I do that sounds nuts but works? Cut pizza with scissors. 😉