Monthly Archives:July 2014

Creative design starts with simple shapes

29 Jul 14
Michelle Gaffaney
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We all remember how we drew houses as a child: a simple box with a triangle roof and square windows. It’s too easy to think grown-up style has to be complicated. Going back to square one by sketching simple shapes can be a real eye-opener.

An A-frame vacation home using simple shapes

Take the example of this A-frame vacation home in Brecht, Belgium. It looks like a simple triangle fitted onto a rectangular house, but the designers dmvA have used symmetry, plain materials and stark palettes to make it look incredibly sophisticated.

This is the kind of home that could look childish or silly on paper, but the real thing is anything but. Inside the white and grey tones avoid any sense of being overdone and create a calm space to appreciate all the lovely angles made by the intersecting shapes. It really shows how getting back to basics with shape can pay dividends.

How to get started with a creative design

It’s really fun to curl up with a pen and paper and just draw some shapes to discover how you want your design to be. Take the buildings of Zaha Hadid for example – they often look like they started with a doodle on a piece of paper. One of her most recent buildings has a big curved wave over the entrance – it’s impossible to keep your eyes off it in the city skyline.

If you’re looking for the right shape for your home, whether it’s a new staircase, the shape of your kitchen or the layout of your garden, it’s a good idea to start out simply by thinking of what inspires you and what sort of shapes fit well with the surroundings. Simple shapes are the key to keeping things calm and relaxed.

The right approach for your home

Luckily for you, we have years of experience in helping people find the right shapes and styles for their home. We always start with a sketch and the design evolves with your thinking. That’s the beauty of having an architect to help you with your project – we’re there to support you and help you find the right choice for you.

There’s a great gallery of pictures on Cimot’s blog that shows you just where a simple shape can take you – check it out!


Straw bale walls going up at Castle Hill School

28 Jul 14
Michelle Gaffaney
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The new straw bale classroom at Castle Hill School is progressing well!

Since the pupils broke up for the summer holidays, building on-site has been continuing at a fantastic pace, with most of the straw bale walls now in place.

Straw bale walls

Straw bale walls

We’ve had two different site managers looking after the build. Craig Taylor has managed the site up until the wall-raising, taking care of all the preliminary work, foundation-laying, service installation and much more.

Craig Taylor

Site manager Craig Taylor

Laying foundations

Laying foundations

Now the walls are going up, our straw bale expert Emma Appleton has stepped in to manage this part of the build.

Emma Appleton

Straw manager Emma Appleton

straw bale wall raising

Straw bale wall raising

Straw bales, twine and baling needles

Straw bales, twine and baling needles

We’ve been incredibly lucky with the weather – as you can imagine, naked straw and rain don’t mix. But although the walls have been covered with tarpaulins each night in case of rain, thanks to the hot, sunny spell we’ve been enjoying recently everything has stayed nice and dry. That said, our building team have had deliveries of rehydration salts and ice lollies to keep them going in the heat…

straw bale building

Thirsty work…!

Jamie gets an unofficial visit

Jamie gets an unofficial visit!

We’re hoping that the straw bale walls will be completed this week.

At this point we’ll be ready to add the ‘wall plate’, which helps to compress the bales and will provide a sturdy platform for the roof. Then it’s more carpentry as the timber-framed roof goes up, and we prepare for rendering and plastering the external and internal walls.

Emma with the pre-built wall plate

Emma with the pre-built wall plate

The sofa of your dreams

20 Jul 14
Michelle Gaffaney
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Perhaps more than any other piece of furniture, sofas really express personality. They can make or break a room and you should expect one to last you long enough that it feels like an old friend.

A fitting way of sitting

The first thing to think about is how you like to sit on your sofa. This might sound like a silly question, but you would be surprised how much variety there is in whether people like firm support, something soft and pillowy, or a nice deep seat. The best way to find out your preference is to take a trip to a store and get sitting!

An expression of your style

Obviously sofas are pretty big, so it will make a big impact on the overall look of your room. We can help you find something that expresses your personal style, whether it’s sleek and modern like this capsule sofa or pretty and retro like this patterned number. We recommend spending time to find the perfect piece and going for quality – after all, you will spend a long time sitting on it!

Multifunctional and practical

When someone mentions a sofa bed to me, I tend to groan – we’ve all had uncomfortable night staying at a friend’s house on something cheap and uncomfortable. It doesn’t have to be that way – there are some great, well-made sofas out there with inbuilt storage, integral coffee shelves and guest beds that still look great and deliver on comfort. You can even have an inbuilt sound system and iPod dock. Check out these ideas for multifunctional pieces.

Give it detail

Once you’ve chosen your dream sofa, you’re going to want to make sure it look as good as possible in your room. You might want to keep the sofa clear but hang a picture or position a rug to accentuate a particular colour or part of your room. Alternatively, you might want to get super cosy with cushions and throws that make you feel snug. For a really comforting style, there’s nothing like having bespoke cushions made with photographs of loved ones, children’s drawings or a favourite saying. Or why not get one of these beautiful cushions from Spoonflower showing an aerial photograph of your home?

Build a blossoming walkway

11 Jul 14
Michelle Gaffaney
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Create a peaceful, durable path through your garden with a tree-lined avenue or modern promenade. It will help divide your space into sections and help make wildlife feel at home

A beautiful covered walkway

In high summer it’s lovely to find somewhere shady and cosy to curl up with a book. A summer house is great if you have the space and budget, but you can achieve the same thing for less by making a covered walkway in your garden.

The concept is really versatile – you can use pillars, wiring, trellis or pretty much any other material you can think of to make a structure that will stand the test of time and give your garden a really distinctive, restful feel – all without breaking the bank. Add some seating and you have a versatile, durable feature to really give your garden structure and style.

A calming and tranquil stroll

A walkway can be used to join buildings together or create a boundary between different parts of your garden. Think about how you can divide your garden into sections that contrast and complement each other. A walkway can really help to define the different parts of the garden.

Check out these walkway ideas on our favourite blog, We love traditional walkways as well as a modern look – there is nothing better than being under a mass of fragrant wisteria blossoms in spring, or heading through a tunnel of stunning roses.

Benefits for wildlife

If you’re a bird lover, a covered walkway is a really great idea for encouraging feathered friends into the garden. They provide lots of nooks and crannies where birds can perch and you might even find some make nests there. At ground level, some clever planning could invite an amazing array of insects to take up residence. Why not build bug hotels into the walkway structure, or set birdhouses into the walls?

If you’re interested in finding out more about how to invite wildlife into your garden, take a look at this Guardian article which gives some handy hints. Contact us to see how they would translate into your home.


Make your home feel like a castle

04 Jul 14
Michelle Gaffaney
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You might not be able to afford that huge country mansion this year, but don’t despair. Our ten top tips will help you make your home feel like a castle, whatever its size.

1. An amazing front door

Front doors are like lipstick for houses – plain ones are fine, but something colourful and shapely with a huge shiny knocker will make you feel great every time you come home. We can help you choose something affordable but wonderful.

2. Get a handle on it

It’s the little touches that make stately homes feel special. Think of all those tiny vases of flowers in dull corners, or ornate curtain ties with huge tassels. Investing in touches of luxury like special door handles, light switches or fittings will make a huge difference to the way it feels to be in your house.

3. A breathtaking garden

You don’t need a full-time gardener to have a breathtaking garden. With a bit of planning, even the smallest garden can be a place of inspiration and relaxation all year round. Why not grow towering delphiniums, spectacular alliums or a regal rose garden? The secret is careful planning so that your garden is full of interesting shapes and stunning colours all year round.

4. A four-poster bed

Ok, this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but there is nothing like waking up in a four-poster to kick-start your day. The effect is even better if you can get your other half to bring you a hot cup of tea every morning.

5. An orderly hallway

Stately homes make a strong impression the minute you cross the threshold. You don’t need a maidservant to take your coat and hat – with the right furniture you can shed your outdoor things in an instant and create a sense of order and neatness that will spread through the house. Furniture options include antiques, built-in storage or something beautifully repurposed.

6. Real paintings

Pictures are such a focal point in a room, adding colour and character. Posters are all well and good, but for a really unique look you can’t beat a proper painting. Why not commission a painting by a local artist? It could be a portrait or an image of your favourite place or possession. We can help you build your room around the picture to emphasise it, choosing just the right fittings and colours to bring out the character.

7. A knock-out fireplace

Do you have an unloved fireplace that you dream of turning into a feature? Whether you want to go for a wood burning stove, have a roaring open fire or just find a way of keeping out draughts while making it look great, we’ll be able to help.

8. Homely rugs

We love rugs. There are so many shapes, sizes and textures and they make such a difference to a room. Stately homes usually choose just the right colours and textures. We can show you how to choose something to enhance your home while keeping your toes warm!

9. A sociable games room

Get on your smoking jacket, steady your monocle and grab a quick martini – it’s time for billiards! Games rooms are so atmospheric. It’s all in the lighting: keep it moody, with lots of lamps and velvety surfaces. It doesn’t have to be billiards – an activity room can be used for table tennis, board games or crafts projects. It’s a brilliant way to bring families together and much more fun than TV!

10. Being the boss

It sounds corny, but the best thing about being lord or lady of your own castle is that you’re top dog. We want to work with you to find out what will suit your taste and lifestyle – just see us as your very own design butler! Get in touch today to see how we can transform your home into your own special, stately sanctuary.