So, the Olympics and Paralympics are over and the summer – as brief as it was – is disapating at speed, what’s to look forward to? Well, in my case, this morning it was zooming down to the shop to get my hands on the October edition of Homes and Gardens magazine – yes, I know, simple pleasures for simple minds!
But for me it’s more than my weird obsession with interiors magazines and lovely glossy pictures of lovely glossy houses that has me buzzing, it is due to the fact that this contains our first national piece of PR coverage, which for a boutique company like EV ID is quite the coup!
After writing my most recent blog post on Downlighting for Dummies, Homes and Gardens magazine, one of the biggest interiors magazines in the UK called me and asked me to contribute to a piece they were doing on residential lighting. I was delighted to contribute.
Our contribution sits within a fantastic piece which contains lots of advice and explanations from some big names in the interiors industry on exactly how to use lighting effectively in your home and de-mystify the jargon.
Our relatively small but perfectly formed pearls of wisdom can be found on pages 129 and 130.
As we draw ever-closer in to longer nights and shorter days lighting really comes in to it’s own to help cheer us up from the lack of natural light our bleaker seasons offer us. If you’d like some help to create the perfect room to keep you feeling enlightened and positive in the darker seasons, as well as lighting planning EV ID has got the comfy sofas, the lush curtains and squashy rugs covered too. Just drop us a line!
Have a look at our facebook page to see the article itself.
Downlighters are the go-to choice when it comes to light fittings for homes in a large proportion of modern properties. In new builds they are almost exclusively used as the primary source of lighting with opportunities to use decorative pendants brushed aside in favour of uniformity and simplicity.
Downlighters, if used well, can be an excellent choice to not only provide a room with light – the basic function of course but essentially, for anyone wanting to get the best from their interior, to highlight key focal points in the room and create different moods.
Whilst colour choices of fabric, furniture and walls are obviously important to give a room personality a purely white space can be given just as much character by having a well-planned lighting scheme using 3-4 different light circuits.
Unfortunately the placement of downlighters in many properties, especially new builds is not a plan at all but moreover a geometric pattern that looks ‘tidy’ when the lights are off.
Common Mistakes: Inability to tilt means lights only light the floor, no thought to placement means in this instance one corner of the door frame and the bare wall next to the extractor have been highlighted.
Poor use of downlights: These downlights are not lighting anything particular but creating harsh sconces of light on the bare wall. If the coving is to be the focus then a better solution would be to use uplights to highlight that instead.
Top Five Questions To Ask Before Using Downlights
As with most things, to do lighting well requires some thought or more pertinently the right questions:
1) What is the space to be used for? The greater the number of activities to be undertaken within the room the more flexible the lighting scheme should be.
2) What are the primary focal points? A lovely piece of furniture, artwork or perhaps even a decorative chandelier – lighting a beautiful light is not as absurd as it sounds!
3) What are the differing moods you would you like to achieve? Intimate dining by candlelight or open and spacious – or more likely if the space is multi-functional, both.
4) What would you not like to highlight? With light comes shadow, thinking about what features of the room you’d rather blend in to the background, an ugly air conditioning unit or the computer desk can be just as important as identifying the pretty parts.
5) Finally, less is more, don’t have too many focal points or the room will look messy and confused.
There are a truly overwhelming number of different downlighters on the market. A key point to bear in mind is the cheaper the fitting the less flexibility you will have and the less cost-efficient the bulbs will be to use within them.
A good starting point when considering a downlight is to ensure it does the following:
1) Can tilt a minimum of 30 degrees without seeing the back of the fitting or the insides
2) Can be rotated 360 degrees without having to remove it from the ceiling
3) The best downlights have a recessed seat for the lamp with an anti-glare barrel to reduce glare
4) Magnetic surrounds create a quality looking finish and make it much easier to change bulbs
The Science Part: LEDs Vs. Halogen
LED lights are very energy efficient. They are expensive though and need to be used with the correct “Driver”. A driver is an electrical device which is used to control and keep constant the power needed to light an LED. LEDs power requirements change constantly and without a driver they may become too hot which would result in poor light or a complete failure. When used with the correct drivers LEDs can operate at a very low voltage (under 10w), they do not get as hot to touch as halogen and do not need to be changed – rather the light quality will degrade over (a long) time. However, the light they emit is quite white and cold and although certain LED bulbs can be dimmed they have yet to create one which matches the performance of a 12v Halogen dimmer.
12v Halogen bulbs are the technology of choice at the moment for most designers. The electricity from our mains supply is 240v. If these bulbs are used within a good quality fitting and with an electric transformer (a little box which converts a higher voltage into a lower voltage) they are more energy efficient than mains voltage (240v) halogen. Mains Voltage Halogen are used in your standard cheap downlights. 12v Halogen is still less energy efficient than LEDs. They are still used because they emit the best quality light and have a warmer tone to them. Again, the more expensive they are the longer they will last but it is a false economy to think you can put good bulbs in to cheap light fittings; you will not get the best from them.
The best way to use 12v halogen downlighters is only when and where they are needed to actually do something, not just have one switch powering 12 downlights which chugs a huge amount of electricity in to the room focused only on the floor. Have different sets of two or three lights on different circuits to operate independently of each other and use dimmer switches to allow further flexibility. Combine the halogen lights with energy efficient LEDs; strips of LEDs hidden on top of a unit or beneath some stairs, for example, can make a great and long term cost-effective lighting statement.
Great execution of lighting the simplest of spaces in an effective way. Hidden strips of LED lights are used to create a framed effect of the shelves and their contents.
The lighting in this bathroom has been thoughtfully designed to highlight key features; two downlights wash down the back of the shower, one is placed in a small alcove, the picture hanging above the bath is highlighted and in addition, a light has been tilted to focus on another picture on the far side of the sink.
A beautifully lit hallway, tilting downlights highlight a stunning sculpture piece and artwork.
My top tip: use a well-informed, not just a well-qualified electrician.
In quite a few of my projects, the best solution for a client has been to design something bespoke, in terms of furniture, to satisfy precisely their needs in terms of both use and aesthetic. I love designing bespoke furniture, it means I can get really creative coming up with neat little details which I know will not only make the client’s life easier but when friends come around to visit will have the “Oooo, I like that!” factor. Examples of this have been the sliding ladder for bespoke floor to ceiling bookshelves for a bookworm client (see below) and a statement “cocktail making area” with spot lighting and plug socket for various gadgetry within alcove units for a dapper city client who loves to entertain.
The man I have turned to for such flights of fancy has been Ben Fletcher of Spaced In. A local craftsman of impressive ability coupled with fair pricing, a rare combination.
At this juncture I feel I must make clear my love for real, solid wood. It looks beautiful, it smells good and feels wonderful to touch. There’s something delicious about something made out of au naturel solid wood plus it will last and last and last. That being said, Ben makes an interesting case for the use of MDF, especially when creating bespoke furniture. Price and time savings aside, the obvious benefits of course, the key point Ben makes is that when treated correctly by a person who understands how and when to use it, with the correct machinery and understanding of wood in all of it’s forms it can produce surprisingly beautiful results which actually do stand the test of time.
With the trend for painted furniture well and truly in vogue at present it is arguable whether painting over a beautiful piece of solid wood, especially considering how much it probably cost and the inherent beauty you are covering, is, well, perhaps a bit silly… what do you think?
Even MDF has a grain.
By Ben Fletcher
Speed is not inherently a bad thing but MDF has plenty to teach us about how to use it wisely. Badly made MDF furniture that you often see is as a result of this speed without craftsmanship to guide it. When I was an apprentice two of the old boys were Pat and Old Jim. Pat would never apparently move other than to roll incredibly neat roll ups. Jim would be dripping sweat rushing about the bench. At the end of the day Pat’s bench would have a stack of pristine door frames leant against it. Jims would be half as deep and scrappy. Speed is a modern factor but coping with it is a traditional skill.
Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF); to a wood purist it is regarded with contempt. Not wishing to think of my work as contemptible has led to a process of self-justification.
Having worked with a variety of woods for over 20 years, and whilst flattering myself that I can appreciate beautiful figure as well as the next person, I have come to the conclusion that wood hates you. An unromantic theory I grant you but one that seems to be unarguable when you consider all the ways that wood can and will stitch you up given half a chance.
The process of hand making bespoke furniture for individuals forces you, given a desire to earn enough in 40 hours a week and to live reasonably comfortably in London, to use medium density fibreboard (MDF) which as a wood purist you would regard with contempt. Not wishing to think of my work as contemptible has led to a process of self-justification.
The stubborn determination of wood not to play our silly games has come up against our ingenuity and willingness to use limitless violence. So what we’ve done is to take your basic tree, ideally intensively grown and then clear cut to minimise any annoying wildlife, and grind it up in a massive machine into tiny bits. We then mix up the bits with the same amount of urea formaldehyde (toxic but cheap and effective) adhesive in a giant blender before squirting it into a box and crushing it flat with immense force. The resulting sheet gets trimmed to size and added to the pile ready to be used up. However I am trying to claim MDF can be well used rather than just used up. Used by someone who through his tools wants to however tenuously be able to feel a bond with countless brothers firmly based in ancient traditions rather than as if floating in an individual bubble making merely money.
It’s with the trimmed size that I will start trying to reconnect this industrially processed material with the long tradition of craftsmanship in wood. I would like to link this apparently bland and featureless material with the wood from which it came by explaining how it still has a grain to be worked in specific ways. It has to be understood and engaged with on its own terms, if it is to be used well. The fact is that it is possible to use MDF in a knowledgeable way or not – a craftsman like way or not. MDF has its own rules and its own personality. If you are going to use it well you need to have learnt these rules, practiced the techniques and bought the equipment that enable you to bring the best out of it. You also need to have the desire to do so. Whereas timber has a grain like the intertwining of straws, MDF’s grain is like layers of paper (arguably paper begat cardboard which begat hardboard which evolved into MDF so if you don’t like the stuff blame the Egyptians) which makes the face and the edge of MDF very different beasts. When not treated correctly by someone who both knows and cares then the finished product looks amateurish and won’t last.
One of the best descriptions I’ve heard of MDF is that it has no memory. Kind of sad but what it means in practice is that 18mm MDF is no use for adjustable book shelves of any span of more than about a foot. This will be apparent to the unwitting consumer about a month after installation as their shelves take on the shape of a banana. In contrast pine shelves, whilst also deflecting under load are always trying due to the existence of long fibres (straws) running along the length, to get back to the shape they remember being. This fibrous memory is why wood often bends in irritating ways when it is sawn. However it is the faint echo of this tendency for wood to start doing its own thing once it is re-sawn that I can hear sometimes when I’m cutting MDF that’s been in the rack for a while. Yet it cheers me up as it shows that even after all that’s been done to it some of woods obstinacy remains at the heart of MDF, however faint, this echo of memory is another thread connecting it to its roots.
The reason there is a market today for handmade furniture can be credited to the Arts and Crafts movement which arose around 1850 in defiance of the machines increasing dominance. Part of the justification for this Luddite approach to modernity was the romantic socialist desire of some in the arts and crafts movement that skilfully hand made things should be available to people on ordinary incomes in the belief that the existence of such things would uplift the souls of those who made and owned them. Could it be that the existence of a cheap board material along with the affordable power tools required to work it enables this? Whilst I don’t suppose William Morris would have been too keen on MDF as a substance I like to think he would have applauded bringing handmade work and the capital equipment necessary to work it within reach of most people even if what had brought it was the free market.
Owing to its papery nature MDF has a low resistance to moisture. The edges will suck up water like a sponge and swell up whilst delaminating, the face going from smooth to rough as each individual fleck of pine expands. If you don’t take the time to design and finish it properly and combine that with ill-defined mouldings routed out to form clumsily proportioned fake panelled doors then you are in a truly shoddy kitchen. Alternatively if you are looking at the same uneven finish but with pinned on mouldings used to form the ill proportioned fake panels on clumsy boxes beside the fire place then you are in an ugly front room. The box looks clumsy because whilst using MDF makes it quicker to make a box it can’t think through in advance how the doors, framing and top are all going to work together. This lack of initial thought means you end up with skirting that sticks out in odd ways and overhangs that are too small or too big. The fact that the Ogee or Astragal mouldings used to fake up the panels have a lineage traced back to the Ancient Greeks adds insult to the injury. When you add in the pointlessly curved framing at the top unrelated to anything else in the room then you have furniture that will steal a little piece of your soul every time you see it.
But I would like to claim that MDF can be used honestly, if with a not unpleasant whiff of postmodern irony, even with Greek mouldings! If I make the panel at the correct depth and the framing the right width to suit an Ogee moulding deep enough to have some character and surround the doors with subtly detailed flush framing. If this framing is scribed neatly to the walls and the finish encourages you to run your hands over it. If the clients possessions look at home displayed on the well-proportioned shelves that will never bend then they pay me the ultimate compliment ; “It looks like it has always been there”. My individual self has vanished into work that even if stylistically very different stands with that which came before. Every piece of the work has been sufficiently considered and well-practiced to seem inevitable and therefore give no clue to my personality. The marks of tools have all disappeared through their own sharpness or through the orderly process of construction. I can walk away knowing I am an unknown MDF craftsman.
For those with a keen eye you may have noticed my blog has been a little bereft of content contributions for a while. This has been due to two very happy reasons, initially I was flat out with projects at the start of 2011 – testimonials for those projects can be found here – and then, in July 2011, a day after my own ’significant’ birthday (no numbers shall be discussed!) I had my first baby, a joyous little boy called William and have been busy with him ever since!
However, Emma Victoria ID is now officially back open and trading and I am keen as the proverbial condiment to get my teeth in to some new projects. I will also be out and about visiting my usual and new suppliers, exhibitions and trade shows to scout for beautiful fabrics and furniture with a view to letting you in on the secret.
First stop: London Design Week 11-16th March 2012, at Chelsea Harbour
I remember the first “proper book” I ever read, my father gave it to me and he’d picked it up from the station on the commute home from London. I can even remember what bag it was in; a green and white striped paper bag with jagged edges, like a big sweetie bag, inside was Matilda by Roald Dahl. I was five years-old at the time and I absolutely devoured it – discovering an imagination like his, the way he crafted those stories – always from the point of view of a child was like someone had turned on a part of my brain that hadn’t worked before. I never looked back and have read every single book he has ever written.
Part of the appeal of those great stories were the iconic illustrations by Quentin Blake, as an avid reader his name was as recognisable as the authors, and still is. Without even opening the book or seeing the author’s name those illustrations excited you when you saw the books on the shelf because you knew who it was by and it was going to be great!
Imagine my excitement then, when it came to my attention this week that Quentin Blake has designed an entire range for children for Osborne and Little called “Zagazoo”. I was like a kid at Christmas – and boy it doesn’t disappoint!
That distinctive Quentin Blake style has been translated onto fabrics and wallpapers for children – with bright and bold colours and patterns. My favourite being Cockatoos (Above – Wallpaper code W6060) and I also adored the “Quentin’s ABC” wallpaper with the alphabet letters in his unmistakable script in bright and perky colours on a blackboard style background (W6062/07). It would be so stimulating in a child’s room and such a relief to get away from the gender stereotypes of pink for girls and blue for boys.
For those of you who don’t want to give up your child’s room entirely to story-book brights and wanted a more subtle approach, then there is also the “Alphabet Tales” line which is basically a Toile for kiddies, in subtle hues of blues, reds and neutrals – just like the traditional grown-up version, each letter of the alphabet is accompanied by a little scene to represent that letter, pure genius.
Incredibly the range is also a one-size fits all price for wallpaper and fabrics at £37.28 per roll of wallpaper or £37.28 per M for the fabrics. A slice of childhood nostalgia for under £40 – to me that’s priceless!
Love Emma xx
In the words of Soul II Soul ‘back to life, back to reality’ after a wonderful first-time trip to New York City last week, I’m back to the office and now all I want to do is talk about it! I drank in the beautiful surroundings (cocktails) and architecture and below documents my design highlights of one of the best cities I’ve ever visited.
I was lucky enough to eat at some of the most wonderful restaurants which boasted the most uniquely designed interiors. The New Yorker’s do not scrimp on an interior and boy-oh-boy my little eyes were feasting on the surroundings just as much as the frankly outstanding food, not to mention some of the celebrity clientele! I’m unashamed to admit the appearance of Justin Timberlake at the Meatpacking District’s Abe and Arthur’s, a few tables over from me somewhat ‘enhanced’ my enjoyment of a truly gorgeous establishment, designed perfectly in symbiosis with the iconic area it inhabits.
The Meatpacking District in New York is the equivalent (in feel and original purpose) of Smithfield’s Market here in London. In the 1900’s there were 250 slaughterhouses there – as you would expect from the name. As the century progressed the area took a decidedly seedy turn, but at the beginning of the 90’s those lovely fashion-designer types set up camp and the area started to become the uber trendy place it is today with some of the best concentration of restaurants and designer boutiques in the whole city.
The Meatpacking District combines the old architecture of the area, classic deep-red brick buildings, metal fire-escapes zigzagging across the huge windows and cobbled stoned streets with the achingly trendy, clean lines of the various shop fronts, new hotels and community buildings.
Abe and Arthur’s did not disappoint with it’s interior which echoed this complement of old and new inside. On the floor in the main bar were gorgeous white butcher shop tiles laid in a herringbone design which was a nice nod towards the origins of the area. Traditional dark wood panelling on the walls gave it a formality and intimacy, juxtaposed with modern orange-glow vertical lights and that great American-style long bar, backlit to perfection.
The main double level dining room was brighter, but not at the sacrifice of the ambiance but enough to appreciate the loveliness on your plate and with wall to ceiling glass with visible steel joists it gave an industrialised luxury feel. Light came pouring down from oversized paper-drums suspended from up high. We sat in a burnished orange-brown leather (naturally, it is a steakhouse after all!) booth, I loved the intimacy and comfort a booth provides (if given the choice I would choose a booth every time) and for some reason find myself feeling rather giddy in booths over tables and chairs! The lighting as well as the soft white tablecloths and swishy curtains upstairs helped to soften the hard edges of all that glass and steel. Abe and Arthur’s was a fabulous example of the delicate balance required in design, bringing in the right aesthetics to match the history of the area as well as creating the right atmosphere for the functionality of the venue.
Another notable interior on my trip was a fish restaurant called Lure in the very hip Soho, below Prada. You will notice a lot of my trip revolved around food, these aren’t restaurant reviews but a focus on the interiors – that would be a whole other blog! I have tried to make sure the interiors I mention are all unique in their own way and from each other…
The restaurant is barely visible from the outside, and entering down some steel steps straight away gives you the feeling that you are happening upon something a little special where only people in-the-know, know!
This interior I loved because, even though on a basic level it could be seen as “themed” the way this was executed was just exceptional and it was definitely more yacht than boat. You would think porthole style lights and hand-rails would look too obvious and pastiche for a fish restaurant but this place exuded class – once again the lighting was at the perfect level. Every detail “belonged” and had been carefully selected to work with the yacht-inspired concept. The walls were adorned with planks of a buffed-to-a-shine warm American Walnut, as was the bar itself.
We sat at the far end of the bar, which had a much more cosier feel from the main dining room. Like being ensconced in the warming hull of a luxurious liner, the ceiling was lower and the use of soft, tactile fabrics balanced out the heavy use of the wood and gave the restaurant a sense of depth as there was a different vibe from one part to the next, rather than one expanse of room.There was a soft tartan carpet and we sat on a deep turqouise velvet upholstered booth (a booth again, I was happy!), turquoise being a natural choice for the nautical without subscribing to the well-trotted out navy, white and red stripes.
We stayed in the SoHo/ Greenwhich Village area of NYC which has a similar trendy vibe as Hoxton, North London but blended with the exclusivity of, say, Bond Street, rather than the “gritty” Old Street, a lovely combination I can assure you. The SoHo Grand Hotel was, as the name suggests, ‘Grand’ but it is also described as ‘Boutique’ and it seems to manage the impossible of straddling both concepts. It is in no means stuffy. The website describes the design concept thus “The hotel design’s permeating sense of sophistication is a signature trait of interior designer William Sofield of Studio Sofield, who created the clean, romantically eclectic space with one eye on the street and the other in the heavens”.
You can see what they mean, the materials used are plain to see; lot’s of exposed brickwork inside and out as well as smooth-as-silk concrete and wrought iron balustrades. This look is frequent in the more chic areas of NYC and is characterised by the more industrial-influenced modern style of architecture (exposed metal, simple and straight facades and lots of glass) seen throughout the city as a stark contrast to the early 20th century style of architecture which was heavily influenced by the ornate and romantic styles of ancient Greece and Rome (pillars, friezes and mouldings). Examples of which can be seen in the ornate exteriors and interiors of the famous Waldorf Astoria or Plaza Hotels featured in many-a late 80’s, early 90’s movie like “Scent of A Woman” starring Al Pacino. This architectural evolution was also depicted in the famous novel “The Fountain Head” by Ann Rand. Both styles are equally at home here.
The lobby had these fantastic floor to ceiling bird cages with bright azure blue and turquoise faux-birds in them which picked out the vibrant colours of the upholstery.
I could go on and on, The Guggenheim is well worth a visit if not for the contents of the questionable exhibition of “Modern Art” (read: a load of post-rationalised nonsense) but because it has the sexiest curves of any building in New York and beyond. Thai at Thomson Sixty is just the most sumptious combination of orientally influenced carved wood and the most stunning indoor water feature which is so still and smooth you have to touch it to check it’s not actually glass (well, I did but you’re not supposed to!).
So I went to New York and fell in love, I’m such a sucker for a good-looker, it was always going to end this way, ahh summer romances….
Love Emma xx
Just a reminder to you all that many furniture makers and fabric houses close down for the entire month of August for the annual summer break. Although here at Emma Victoria ID we will not be closing, lead times from our suppliers will be extended due to the holiday period.
It’s worth bearing in mind, using 8 weeks as an average delivery period that last orders for an end of July delivery would need to be made by week commencing Monday 14th June.
That means that it’s decision time people!
Love Emma x
As promised, here are some delectable photos of one of our projects completed last year. A large Master Bedroom in a Victorian terraced house in Balham.
The bedroom, with it’s wall to wall beige, was in desperate need of some livening up to reflect the client’s personality and to give her the beautiful and luxurious retreat she’d always wanted but never had the time to complete herself.
Many thanks to the photographic skills of Rod Barker-Benfield @ Rodography for capturing the beauty of this room during the shoot.
I hope these help to inspire!
Love Emma x
Hi everyone! A quick note to let you know EV ID has now re-located to Tooting Bec in London from Clapham Common. New address details can be found on the Contact Us page. Please note, despite an epic battle to keep it, the landline number has also changed to 0208 244 4929. The mobile and email remain the same.
I hope you all had a wonderful Easter!
Love Emma x
As I look out of my window of a morning I can hardly say I’ve been inspired to spring out of bed and attack the day, it’s STILL raining and STILL cold, bleurgh!
It’s at times like these that I like to look forward to the next time I hope to see a bit of sun. Even with the best will in the world looking forward to a summer holiday is a step too far in February (!) but as March approaches I’m convincing myself it’s nearly spring and I have been unconsciously seeking outdoor inspired, fresh and bright colours and artwork to keep me perky.
On a trip back from a weekend in the Leicestershire countryside I stopped off at a lovely gastro-pub called The Flying Horse, Clophill. Despite the fact it’s slapped on a round-a-bout on the A6 my other half and I popped in and were delighted by the interior and menu. It was one of those great little finds.
It was here I spotted the above artwork which I had to snap for the blog. I loved the distressed old wood and the bright colours and subject matter of the vegetables and fruit (there were lots more variants lemons, beetroot etc). The artist, thankfully, signs her work and I looked her up (save yourself a google search). Her name is Sarah Durston and it turns out she is a self taught artist and has a great collection of various subject matters, such as these old wine bottles below, all on painted wooden boards. I think these would look fabulous in a country-style kitchen or in a dining room next to a big chunky wooden table.
Have a look here for more examples and to buy.