Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Merry Christmas to you all!

A lovely reader asked for a Christmas styled Border Oak home and so I searched my archives and found this - our home, decorated for Christmas three years ago! It was quite funny looking through the pics and seeing how the house and our decorations have changed - basically there are a lot less because 
a) I have no time to make all the little details and fun things and
b) Gabriel has no appreciation of 'seasonal interior arrangements'  - in his mind a bauble is a ball, a wreath is a throwing device, flowers are for eating and presents are for giving back to whoever gave it to you (I know, what kind of child doesn't like opening presents?!)
But I thought this may just get us in a festive mood.............

 The surprising thing is how well the landscaping has done over the last three years - the beech hedge at the front is now 4ft high and THICK! It all looks a bit sparse in this pic but in reality it is quite verdant! Well, it is currently under 7 inches of white fluff.

The hallway table has gone - but you can see my beloved Sophie Cook pots and the Cote Bastide jar I bought from a gorgeous shop call Igigi - in Hove. I think it has featured in a few Border Oak photo shoots! This is a prime example of what has changed - can you imagine Gabriel and a table of candles? OMG as a teenager would say.

 The sitting room is still pretty much the same as this - the tree is bigger and in a different position with a few more decorations (I like to buy one or two a year, last years polar bear and Mins home made angel are current favourites) Breakable stuff is at the top, the rest is fair game.

We have just moved the kitchen table around so we can squeeze a few more chums round for New Year. I love the wooden chair, made locally and recently gave one to my adorable God son whose 1st Birthday it is today. Min and Gabriel still use theirs and lots of people ask about them - I know that they are completely non Health and Safety but neither of mine have ever fallen out. Jumped, yes, but not fallen.

 Gypsophylia is much underrated if you ask me - pretty, subtle, frothy and inexpensive = perfect flower.
I am wondering about changing my lights - I still love them, but they seem to be everywhere I look now and change is good right?

It's not this tidy anymore - not even close. New blinds in the new year, yippee (and maybe new cushions and rug too, but don't tell Ben).

I LOVE WREATHS - I love how they look, I love making them. This year we have a viburnum wreath which isn't as pretty but was all that I had in the garden. I used my french pruning clippers with leather handles bought at Daylesford which was a JOY. I am a girl of simple pleasures (some might say a simple girl)

Min found this feather and it sits in my memory cupboard now - she is very good at finding things for my 'brochurees' as she says.

again, a 'free' wreath made from ivy found in the lane behind my house - it was hanging from a tree so was long and perfect for winding around the stairs - this was the left over end. THis year someone beat me to the hanging ivy so we are greenery free - apart from Mistletoe!

And some little details........

And so although my house no longer looks this neat or this green, I hope you enjoyed this distinctly Christmassy post. It is snowing here and so it is time to crack open the mulled wine and wrap some pressies.

Merry Christmas to you all - I hope you have a wonderful, relaxing day with the people that mean the most to you.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

calling all border oak house owners!

I have just been sent these gorgeous photos of a Border Oak house in the snow - one of them now graces the border oak website home page - www.borderoak.com. Thank you Alison!

And this got me thinking.............
Email me a few snaps of your Border Oak house in the snow or frost (you can be as artistic as you like - ie out of focus) and I will enter you all into a draw for a famous Border Oak goodie box and the best pic can be our Christmas card next year with a donation going to a charity nominated by the winners!

Isn't this just lovely - like the winters of my childhood (or is that my mind playing nostalgia tricks on me?) The river in my village has however frozen over for the first time since 1963........my dad has lived there since a baby and he remembers the whole village walking on the river, including a horse and cart (yes, he is OLD) Strangely they also had a bonfire on the ice, which seems to me to be a Health and Safety violation?

The house is picture postcard perfect - a lovely cottage which also featured on My Flat Pack home - which I have just heard has been recommissioned because the first series was the Home channels most watched programmes. Excellent news!

And speaking of Christmas cards I am off to collect this years from the most amazing letter press printers (in nearby Ledbury) tomorrow - I will write a new post about that once I have collected them because it really is worthy of a whole post. My most exciting 'find' of the whole year I think.

no 4 - the floor plans

Lots of you have asked for the cottage floor plans - so here they are. I made a few changes to these - omiting the kitchen door, rejigging the upstairs landing  and bathroom door and re positioning the kitchen units and bathrooms suites - little things that have made quite a big difference to the house which has a small foot print (so space maximisation is crucial).

If I were to give any tips for working with a small ish cottage it would be this:

1) Plan your kitchen and bathroom layouts with the utmost care - and be clever rather than crowd the rooms with units and fittings. For example all the kitchen appliances are built in which means the eye isn't drawn to unsightly white goods (which make a small room look cluttered). We bought a small dresser to act as a larder and display, which matches the units but also works as a stand alone feature. We used a concealed cistern in the downstairs WC for the same stream lined approach and turned the bathroom door outward (so it opens on the the landing) which gave more useable floor area.

2) Think of  any potential 'view through' opportunities. I made sure you could see the outside from one end of the house to the other - aligning door ways and making sure colour schemes were tonal/complementary from one room to the next. Your eye can then 'borrow' space from the adjoining room and has an extended line of vision which gives the perception of spaciousness.

3) Consider the interior treatments - I chose oak boards for the entire ground floor so that your eye isn't disturbed by different materials and the rooms have a harmonious relationship (it is also less expensive because , despite oak being more costly than travertine, the slab could be laid to one level and we only needed one trade to lay the flooring (a carpenter - versus a carpenter and tiler if we had two coverings)
I also had the ceilings, windows and walls painted the same colour throughout - I think having white ceilings can work when the ceiling is flat, but not when the ceiling is vaulted or sloping. We painted the upstairs doors the same colour so that we didn't have 'wood wars' (ie too much wood, conflicting against itself in terms of colour, texture and general orangeyness)

4)Buy the best you can - one advantage of a small house is that there isn't much to buy in general , and so you can probably afford to finish the house well. Hand made roof tiles, hand knapped cobbles, oak flooring, blacksmith made fittings, reclaimed stone hearth - all make a big difference in little cottage but proportionally aren't that much more than 'cheaper' alternatives. It would have been less expensive to have flat ceilings but the vaulted ceilings are a significant feature and make the upstairs feel large and bright. Luckily the house was so pretty externally that I only had to spend about £800 on plants and shrubs to 'green' up the lovely courtyard and pathways.

If I think of anything else I will let you know...............and if you have any specific questions do leave me a comment, I love to read your comments and it makes writing the blog worthwhile. Thank you!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

No 3

The kitchen was made by Sambourne Kitchens to a Border Oak design - it is fully integrated with a dishwasher, washing machine and fridge behind the doors. We added a small dresser/larder for storage. The oak shelf was made by my cousin to my design as I didn't want too many wall units.

My cousin also made this pin board I designed - I have used one of my many antique sheets (that usually sit in a cupboard somewhere so ben won't moan about me buying more old sheets that aren't for making beds with - he finds it very confusing. I knew that I would find a purpose for the antique linen one day!)
The Shaker boxes are from Border Oak and similar chairs can be found at many of the antique shops in Leominster, Ludlow or Hay - I think this was about £100 - miles better value than a new chair I think.

I especially like the landing. Here we rejigged the floor and balustrade to create a few extra square feet - not much I know but it makes the landing feel completely different. And originally the ceiling was flat but it seemed a shame to hide the oak frame, so we added a velux roof light and a handmade eco wall light (made by local potter Yen Robinson) and now the landing is bright, full of texture and interest. It is also big enough for the bathroom door to open onto the landing , making the bathroom more spacious.

I love this bed! I bought if from Tinsmiths about 5 years ago and it has served Min well - Gabriel will now sleep in it and the cot can be given away..........the baby days are officially over I guess? Boo hoo!
Anyway, the star garland is easy to make and the box file was from Llewellyn and Co in Hay. The rabbit lamp was from........um.........I have forgotten! sorry. And the cowboy picture (in honour of my father who likes cowboys - not in a Brokeback mountain sort of way I must stress - more in a leather chaps sort of way, which is not much better is it? Lets just say he has wanted a cowboy outfit for a while, oh lord I am making him sound like one of the Pet Shop Boys.....I will leave this subject now - oh dear) anyhoo the picture is by Belle and Boo.
The tatty old box is just one of my 'finds' that other people can't believe I actually paid money for. I have a lot of tatty stuff - which is different to tatt.

Ad here is a view from one bed to the other - lovely.
External photos and floor plans to follow.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

No 2

This is the back door - painted in F&B french grey. I really like the painted timber against the oak and lime render and hope the stainless steel handle avoids any 'olde worlde' trap?
The wreath was made by a local lady - her company is called Bare Blooms - and cost a mere £15!! I usually make my own but don't think I could have found anything as pretty for under twenty pounds.

This is probably my favorite view, from one end of the cottage to the other - and I think is illustrates how using a simple palette throughout the house can give a continuity and harmony (the sofa is the same colour as the kitchen units and we used Linnet White by Dulux everywhere else, even the ceilings).

The woodburner was salvaged from another derelict cottage - but with a spray of paint and some new glass it was good as new. I made the butterfly picture using the love letters I sent to ben when we were younger - I think the sentiment was lost on him!!

You can just see the patio garden through the beautifully wide French doors - I designed some raised oak beds with an oak bench built between and then planted the beds very simply with large box balls and two conical yew trees. It made a huge difference and looks very smart. I planted white flowers and shrubs everywhere else with box hedging lining all the paths and a run of lavender along the back.

The hallway worked out very well in the end - I was so worried it would feel claustrophobic but by leaving the kitchen door off, lining up the wc wall and setting the stairs back it actually felt roomy and inviting. There was actually plenty of space for a desk and somewhere to hang coats and put on wellies too. Behind the oak door is a loo. The mirror on the desk was made by my cousin to my design - I bought some 'antiqued' glass scraps when I went to see my bestest ever chum last year, then found a warped bit of carved and painted wood at a local reclaimation yard. Having a carpenter cousin is very handy and I think he is used to my strange requests and always does a great job. He also made the desk for me too. The handrail was made by the Border Oak blacksmith - we got it right eventually!

Friday, 26 November 2010

teeny tiny cottage - installment 1

So, I studied (very carefully) all your thoughts and considered your recommendations most seriously and it transpires that your most requested requests were:
1. More small houses
2. More interiors
3. Information on the items and products within

And so I proudly bring to you a diddy little house with lots of interior shots of which I will let you know where the stuff came from! Now that should cheer up your weekend - snow or no!

Here is installment No 1............and beware, there are quite a few photos to come (I will nudge you to wake you up some time on Sunday)

Sitting room - special features = extra wide french doors, rounded fireplace sides, oak floor. We found fabulous reclaimed flags with rounded edges for the fire hearth and used handmade bricks laid with lime mortar provide texture.

Kitchen - open plan to the hallway (which helps both rooms feel larger and less partitioned), matt granite work tops, eco friendly down lights. I used oak boards throughout the ground floor to streamline the view through and avoid any thresholds or change in levels. It is around 110m square in size so every trick that gives the impression of space is crucial.

Front bedroom - vaulted ceiling and handmade painted windows finished with fabulous silk blinds (the blinds throughout were made by the marvellous Marina - a past client who now makes all sorts of soft furnishings - these are the best Roman blinds I have seen, and believe me I have seen a few).
Main bedroom - both bedrooms are very generous doubles, which I thought was better than have three pokey rooms. I love this space as it is symmetrical and the exposed oak is just right. The photos here show the oak as a darker shade than real life - but we styled the photos on a VERY dark day so the light played a few tricks on us.

Simple classic white bathroom suite with 1930's style rectangular tiles. And although the suite is simple the room was far from - we went through about a zillion possible layouts and couldn't quite fit a shower in but in the end it worked very well. The best decision was probably swapping the door so it opened onto the landing rather than into the bathroom. I have a bit of a 'thing' about the way doors open - sad but true.

Well as I said, installments of more photos coming to you throughout the weekend with details of the products in the main pics. Enjoy.

panorama drama

A client very kindly sent us some lovely photos of his oak garden room and porch and also added a clever set of panoramic photos of two Border Oak cottages we are building next door to him. We often find that our projects come in clusters like this - seems the Border Oak word spreads like a panoramic lens...........

The cottages are a Halfpenny with glazed lean to (thats the woody one) next to a Suckley type Pearmain Cottage (a bit like mine) and I think they make a really good pair. And the plot looks fabulous doesn't it? Can't wait to see these two once they are finished.

p.s The porch and garden room look great too don't they?

Thursday, 18 November 2010

drum roll please........

So firstly a MASSIVE thank you for all comments, suggestions and general all round niceness.
It is great to know you like the blog and even better to know what you would like to see - I will aim to please!

And so enough of that, I really should just get on with the important news - announcing the lucky, randomly selected, winner of the Border Oak goodie box...........so without any further prevarication..........here is how we came across the winner........ha ha ha!

I wrote all your names (including those who who emailed me at work) onto some slips of paper, folded them and put them all into my beautiful mixing bowl (it says full, half full and empty in typewriter font which I think is adorable and makes the bowl, well, a pleasure to mix in) sorry, where was I? Oh yes, all the names went into the bowl and Minerva (who is dressed like a slightly mad old lady because she is poorly and our 'sick day' rules include wearing whatever you like and watching Mary Poppins as many times as you can while eating chocolate biscuits under the cashmere blanket and no chores - lucky children eh?)

Anyway to build the suspense here is a picture of Gabriel - who didn't get to pull out a name but did get to play with the Kitchen Aid and lick the bowl..........

And here is my wonderful niece Willow who popped by just as were picking out a name and had no idea what we were up to but so wanted to pull out another name - therefore we have a 'runner up' who will also receive a little prize (congratulations Alison!) But the first name out was...................


Min's reading is getting pretty good but neither of us could pronounce this name! She, however, was very very excited that a rabbit had won our competition.

So if Alison and Sacarleysrabbits could send me a message with their addresses I will pop your parcels in the post.

All of your ideas were useful and interesting and I will now make sure that I blog about all the bits and bobs you mentioned. Some of the ideas (self build diary, photo case studies etc) will make their way onto the Border Oak website. Here on the blog I will put more effort into smallish houses and making sure you get a regular bit of oaky eye candy and info on where to find the 'stuff' that creates the "Border Oak Look". It's going to be fun - thank you!


We would love to see lots of prospective house builders at our open day - a development of three bespoke oak houses in a courtyard complex, with air source heat pumps, oak outbuildings and lots of interesting features.
We don't hold many open days and so this is a great opportunity to come and look at our work and get some inspiration.
Call the office to book an appointment and leave your details.
We will have mince pies and mulled wine so you can linger whilst browsing our portfolios.

See you there!

ps later tonight - the winners of my first ever give away -it's so exciting I can barely breathe!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

last chance saloon

Just a reminder that there are just two days left to leave a comment and enter the draw for a bag of goodies - I will randomly select a name on Wednesday to win a selection of treats (including a limited edition Border Oak mug - I know, I know, so exciting you are all jumping around your kitchens as I type!)

All you need to do is leave a little comment about what you would like to see on this blog and hey presto you could be a winner - it could be you!!

And to keep you going, here is a little teaser of next weeks blog.........the long awaited teeny tiny cottage I have been building with my dad (well strictly speaking, he paid for it, I chose stuff for it and other people who have 'real' skills actually built it).

enjoy your weekend!!

ps if you can get a friend to comment I will add your name in to the draw twice (but make sure they let me know who told them about the blog) easy!

Monday, 8 November 2010

reader survey

I just wanted to thank you all for reading my blog - I know I am sporadic, unfocused and that the post are all a bit samey (too much oak framing?) but it is wonderful to think that people like Border Oak houses.

When I started it I really had no idea just how many of you would bother to check back in each week. I am really touched that somewhere, in the techno ether, there are people reading about the houses, and about Border Oak and my family. Ben found the blog stats on the weekend and it has freaked me out a bit to know that anyone actually reads it but I promise to try and make it better and more regular now that I do know. Apparently I have quite a following in the Ukraine (well 2 readers) and also a regular visitor from Afghanistan too (hello to you all!) which is exciting.

And so to say thank you to you all for your interest and loyalty I am holding a 'giveaway' (that's what real bloggers do yes?) and if you leave me a comment and let me know what you would like to see more of on my little blog I will enter you into a draw to win some Border Oak goodies (well, maybe some 'normal' stuff too- it will be lovely I promise). I will keep the competition open for a week or so. I love reading all your comments and your thoughts so please let me know what you like and don't like and what I need to do more of to keep you all happy!

Thank you so much.

some sunny skies........

The weather here is officially rubbish - and so I guess this is the beginning of many bad hair days for me (think Michael Jackson from the Jackson 5 era).

It was bad enough at the village bonfire party where I wandered round a muddy field in the rain looking for Ben and Minnie for nearly an hour - only to find they had decided to go back home without us - but by that point I looked like a cross between King Charles the Second and a boufant poodle. And the school run this morning in torrential rain, gale force winds with a push chair and an umbrella was not a good look. I almost thought about phoning school and saying Min was a bit 'under the weather' (see, not really a lie but more of a difference of interpretation?) but decided my own vanity shouldn't scupper the education of my children..........that is my dedication to motherhood.

Anyhoo - here are some photos with lovely sunny skies to remind us all that we are a nation of distinct and beautiful seasons. Which reminds me - I have taken the last of this years photos (and yes the weather was rubbish then too) so will post the new pics here sometime this week. And then hopefully I can concentrate on the new website (I have decided to be firm and maybe a tad pushy to ensure that the site is up and live in a reasonable time - ie before 2012) If any of you have some favorite websites that you think really work, or look amazing, or push the boundaries (in a good way) do let me know. All ideas gratefully stolen - I mean 'borrowed'.