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Downsizing

Seeing clearly now: 5 steps to a brighter, lighter home with Catherine Woram

July 31, 2016
jola piesakowska buildmumahouse hallway balham home

What on earth is going on ? I always had pin sharp vision. As a cheeky child I’d giggle as I was the first one to tell my mum what number bus was coming down from Gipsy Corner. Well, that’s not me any more. It all started when my arms weren’t long enough to read the menu in restaurants and then it progressed to squinting at train destination boards.

A rather blunt optician told me a few years ago: of course you need glasses you’re over 40.

Well, I’m over 50 and now I need to find my glasses when I’m hunting for things around the house …and it’s worse in twilight.

I’ve read that as we age, muscles that control our pupil size and reaction to light lose some strength. This causes the pupil to become smaller and less responsive to changes in ambient lighting.

Because these changes continue, people in their 60s need three times more ambient light for comfortable reading than those in their 20s

Ok, so what can we do to make our homes brighter and lighter so that we make things easier for our eyesight. without compromising on style?

I spoke to Catherine Woram about this, it’s in one of her houses that I found the spa bathrooms that were perfect for any age. I love the way Catherine’s locations have a magical sparkling atmosphere, and seem to be about gently reflected light, ambient light and bouncing light.

I asked Catherine for tips on how we can bring light into our homes, beautifully – as we age our eye sight weakens ( and for some people its not age related) and bringing as much light into your home as possible brings clarity into your life while also lifting your spirits.

STEP 1: WHITE

My style has always been about white – for some reason I am obsessed with it and have painted things white for as long as I can remember!

jola piesakowska white bedroom hopton road

“Even when we lived in Australia for a year and furnished our flat from local junk shops I still painted everything white. My husband thought I had gone a step too far once when I saw the trees in Greece with white painted trunks and decided to do the same in our tiny London garden at the time!

I now run three location houses which take up a lot of time. Needless to say they are predominantly white and a mix of my favourite styles – decorative French and Moroccan styles. We have just found a house in Spain that we plan to transform with an awful lot of white paint plus Moroccan furniture in white/silver and gold”

STEP 2: ADD GREY

“White of course in its many shades as well as soft greys – but you have to be very careful with grey as it needs to have a slight warmth to it otherwise it can look like undercoat.

I love carvedjola piesakowska buildmumahouse grey white carved walls furniture of any kind – from pretty French pieces to heavier Moroccan designs – providing I paint them white!”

jola piesakowska buildmumahouse grey and white shades

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 3: OPEN UP TO NATURAL LIGHT

When you are in any of Catherine’s houses you realise that natural light is part of her vision.

“Light is always important and we have always thought carefully about light whether it is putting a roof light in the top landing in a small Victorian terraced house or a large kitchen extension.”

Many of the doors have glass panels, are double doors and very tall how does that open a house up to light? By the way, your double doors and wide doors are great for future proofing a home – entertaining friends and family, children running around, guests and maybe oneself with walking frames or wheelchairs.jola piesakowska buildmumahouse living room doors

“We have repeated the tall glazed French doors in three houses now – I had always wanted internal glazed doors similar to the ones you see in many old Parisian apartments.

We copied the design from a set of garden doors in a Victorian terrace and had a friend from the North East of England make them up in a taller design and opened up the walls to fit them. We repeated the design in the dressing room and bedrooms but used mirror rather than glass in these doors. They are, as you say, great for the home and also wheel-chair friendly as they can both be opened up.”

 

 

Skylight on the landing – HOW DID YOU DO THAT!!!! – it’s beautiful.

jola piesakowska buildmumahouse hopton loft light“The sky light was already there but featured an old Victorian window that we felt wasn’t very safe. I have kept the old window for another project and we replaced it with toughened glass below a large Velux window to light up the hall.

Our next project in the same vein is to open the ceiling at our Ross Road house and put a ready-made conservatory on the top and install a metal spiral staircase to provide access to the roof top as well as lots of light to the landing.”

 

 

 

STEP 4:  KITCHEN BRIGHT, CLEAN LINES

 The kitchen at Hopton Road is clean bright, white worktops but so classy and elegant – how do you get light of a modern kitchen and cross pollinate it with a classic look?

“We reused some of the old kitchen at Hopton and had new MDF door fronts made and mixed them with IKEA cabinets where we were missing cabinets. The long shelves avoid that cluttered look that many kitchens have with rows of wall cabinets. We used IKEA wall brackets for the shelves and painted everything in the same shade of white. The worktop is fake marble – real marble stains badly although more beautiful.”

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Catherine’s very modern kitchen in Balham opens up the house to unfiltered light

 

STEP 5: WHITE MATT SURFACES FOR A TRANQUIL,  CALM LIGHT

jola piesakowska buildmumahouse shower

“Glass shower enclosures with white tiles blend with the room while walls in a bathroom block light. I avoid any fitted pieces and tend to use freestanding baths/ antique tables set with basins and ornate silver taps sourced in Marrakesh. Where wall tiles are necessary (as I don’t like them) we use large matt white tiles so that they blend with the walls as much as possible.

Having said that I do love some of the new patterned tiles around and plan to use them…at some stage!”

 

If you would like to see more details of how Catherine has opened her houses up to the light, and to see more of the details that make her style so magical, follow me on Instagram @buildmumahouse or pop over to the Pinterest board on @buildmumahouse.

For more information and to read more about how we can all help ourselves and our families to lower the risks of vision loss follow this link to Bold Blind Beauty for some simple but effective guidelines.

 

5 tips to Upsize your Downsized home with Marianne Shillingford

July 13, 2016

Downsizing: you’re thinking of it, you’ve done it but how can you maximise your minimal space?

I spoke to Marianne Shillingford from Dulux about this – she has so much experience and love of colour and she explained to me that you can trick the eye and senses and make interiors feel more spacious and welcoming. I love colour but when it comes to decorating I’m so unadventurous- I keep reaching for the magnolia…everywhere! Marianne however, has some brilliant tips and insight to share with us, so here they are

                   5…4…3…2..1

Marianne Shillingford Creative Director of Dulux and Design Director of the Dulux Design Service

Marianne Shillingford Creative Director of Dulux and Design Director of the Dulux Design Service

Tip 1: Creating a guest room/ home office combo

Whilst it may seem difficult to catch the balance between creating a productive home office and cosy guest bedroom it is important to remember that both spaces should encourage serenity.


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Go with the Flow …busting 6 myths about stairlifts

May 24, 2016
Buildmumahouse stairlist stannah stairlift jola piesakowska

There is a load of old twaddle about stairlifts. There are more jokes about stairlifts than any other mobility aid. People love ’em or hate ’em and some people can’t use their upstairs without ’em.

Stairlifts can mean that people can stay living in their home and don’t have to move so that they can reach their bedrooms easily. I installed a stairlift in my mum’s house and built a wider staircase to give it a wide berth, but if you are adapting a home and your staircase is narrow, or has a turn or two in it, there is a stairlift that solves that problem. The Flow 2. I checked it out at the Naidex show so, let’s bust some myths about stairlifts

Myth 1 My walls aren’t strong enough to support a stairlift.

You know what, the trackflow2 stairlift detail that a stairlift rides on is attached to the stairs, the design is safer this way because all the weight is sent downwards. Plus, the brackets that hold the rail aren’t attached to every step and that’s why installation can be done in a few hours.

 

Myth 2 If I leave something on the stairs the stairlift will crash into it and cause an accident.

Stairlifts move slowly and smoothly and modern sensors work to stop the chair well before you get too close to that handbag that someone left half-way up the stairs… And they won’t run your cat over either.

Myth 3 My stairs are too narrow I’ll hit my knees …and my stairs are too steep.

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Have a look at the Flow 2 stairlift, it has a swivelling and levelling motion that means that when the seat rides up or down at an angle it rotates and stays level: making steep and narrow stairs a doddle.

 

 

 

 

Myth 4  My legs are too long and my feet will drag on the stairs, my wife’s a lot short than me.

Sorry, the stairlift chairs are easily and fully adjustable.

Myth 5 It’s easy to be thrown off it

All stairlifts comScreen Shot 2016-05-24 at 20.36.52e with seat belts and the Flow 2  has an extra feature – the armrests are curved so that they wrap around you, you’re are almost cradled in the arms of your chair.

 

Myth 6 The chairs are ugly.

I think the rail on the Flow2 is very nicely designed but when it comes to the seat..Yup I agree. Go for the neutral colour upholstery and it won’t offend.

 

If you aren’t sure about stairlifts and would like some more information about them, drop me an email buildmumahouse@gmail.com. Let’s talk.

 

 

How to make cooking easier and more enjoyable at any age – 5 design features that Howdens Inclusive kitchens deliver on

May 18, 2016

Howdens, the best kept secret in kitchens. If you’re not a builder with an account with them this is how it will stay. You won’t find out that this is a company with a fantastic attitude to delivering well thought out kitchen options across the full range of their designs and to suit your budget.

If your builder doesn’t have an account with them, you won’t find out that when they design a kitchen for you its well designed, delivered on time and if there are any problems they get sorted out straight away. You won’t know that when you, the client, go into Howdens they are really friendly and sort out your question quickly.

So… I’m unlocking the Big Secret for you – they make Inclusive kitchens. Really good ones. In all colours, finishes and prices. I couldn’t get my hands on these until I went to Naidex the UK’s largest disability, rehabilitation and homecare event … and these are the top 5 secrets that I’m sharing with you.

1. Accessible Wall Cupboards

This is my favourite secret, wall cupboards with shelves that come down to you. I took these pictures at Naidex, you can see that if you are in a wheelchair this makes your stuff easy to reach- but this is just as important for anyone who is elderly and can’t reach up to wall cupboards or in fact anyone who finds a step stool a bit precarious.

Standard pull-down shelf 2 wire base baskets with a smooth, adjustable operating piston mechanism. Compatible with 600mm wall cabinets.

Standard pull-down shelf 2 wire base baskets with a smooth, adjustable operating piston mechanism. Compatible with 600mm wall cabinets.

2. Adjustable base unit height.

There are two plinth heights with the Inclusive option, depending, on your needs you can have all of your kitchen lower or higher for easy access.

You can sit with your feet under the hob and you can option to make this adjustable.

You can sit at the hob and cook with ease.

 

The really fantastic features in the base units, though, is the sink and hob. With both of these you can sit down either on a stool or in a wheelchair, put your knees under the unit and get stuck in with the cooking (or peeling the spuds over the sink). Both have an option to be raised or lowered with the flick of a switch- which is good if your family has a range of needs and ages.

 

 

 

 

 

3. Easy to use appliances.

Howdens supply their own appliances range called Lamona, as well as AEG, Neff and Bosch. It’s the easy to reach ovens that really understand what people need. The side opening Lamona oven is ideal for easy access for anyone in a wheelchair, support or elderly. Read my review of electric ovens for more information. Match this oven with the Inclusive tower unit and you can install it at a lower height than usual, and add a telescopic shelf beneath the oven. This shelf is so useful for that hot or heavy dish coming out of the oven – ideal for safe use. Just wish the oven came without a clock. How many carers get the call to go over to reset the oven clock?

And the cooking extractor with a remote control. Simply Brilliant.

4. Door Handles

The kitchens on display at Naidex had integrated door handles. This really isn’t much good for anyone elderly, with a weakend grip or restricted movement in their hands. A ‘D’ handle is ideal, a comfortable shaped door handle for opening drawers and cupboards. Howdens do a good range of handles and the good thing is that the Integrated features can be added to any kitchen in their ranges. But do shop around – I found some lovely well designed, easy to use, well priced ones in Ikea.

5. Good range of bright worktops.

Elderly people or anyone with a poor eyesight will benefit from the definition that a light and bright kitchen worktop will give. I was delighted to see that Howdens have a lot of choice across all the price points and again they seem to have lots in stock with short delivery lead times.

So.. that’s the five big Howden secrets that will help you plan a kitchen for yourself or for an elderly parent, or for someone who wants to remain independent and continue to enjoy cooking and entertaining. You will also find a good list of tips and hints on the Which? website but have a look at my Pinterest boards for more inspiration for a kitchen that addresses mobility issues and is on trend.

 

 

 

 

 

Going Electric: Ovens

April 22, 2016

… it turns out after 60 years that its good bye to a gas oven that warms your calves after you lean down to open the door and hello to an electric oven with an easy reach grill.

After much debate about how an oven will fit into her new downsized life, my mum reckons she can put up with an electric oven; she will only use one occasionally, but most importantly, when the family visit, she can roast a chicken. So that’s how we came to the conclusion that she needed a full size oven, a half oven was a downsize too far.

Once we had established that we were going electric I had to consider what would fit in with my mum’s physical needs. And that’s how I came up with 3 things that I need to find in an oven to change her mind about cooking electric

  • install the oven at worktop height
  • an oven door opening side ways allowing full access to the oven
  • controls that are clear and easy to turn for her limited dexterity

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Is this the most luxurious sleep ever?

April 5, 2016

Getting a good night’s sleep is pretty high up on my list of ‘must haves’, having a luxurious night’s sleep is a dream.

The usual gripes are that the bed is too soft, too hard to lumpy but there are lots of other factors, your other half is too hot, too cold, gets up at night, needs a higher/lower bed than you, tosses and turns until the early hours…. Along with the downsizing and age proof living decisions comes the thorny subject of the new bed – couples with different needs considering ‘investing’ in single beds…

I’ve taken a look at beds that can be for singles or doubles that offer a luxurious night’s rest and solve a lot of the demands that all of us have at night time – or at other times; taking a nap or watching tv or reading a good book. Beds that can be raised with no effort to lift and support your legs, to lift your head and shoulders, to sit you up, beds that can be raised up so that getting out of bed is easier, bed frames that has a light that gently shines to help your way at night. All without disturbing your other half. Or as a single bed that genuinely suits you.

I’m talking well sprung mattress plus a mechanised bed frame, and it doesn’t get classier than Treca Interiors. I had a look at their beds and I was  delighted that so many physical (and emotional needs) were addressed and with a serious eye on high quality finish, smooth mechanisms, beautiful design and luxury finishes.

Treca Interiors Platinum Supercad bed base

 

50 years ago,Treca Interiors Paris developed their first articulated bed base called the CAD: Couché, Assis, Détendu : sleep, sit, relax. Now their range includes the Supercad with a travelling base that lifts your head and also slides back to close the gap between the headboard, and also the Trecaflex M5 that has suspension slats and pocket springs for added comfort and support beneath the mattress.

The Supercad is the top of the Treca Interiors range, it has four silent motors that smoothly move five independent sleeping surfaces. Everything is made for comfort and reliability: a “travelling” system slides the the frame and enables you to remain near to the headboard when your head and upper body are raised in the reclining position.

All of this is controlled by a radio remote control rather than a control attached to the bed.  Using the control you can adjust the bed frame so that you can find your ideal position and if you get muddled up with all that, don’t worry your favourite three can be memorised in the control. I love that you could also programme it to control other electrical appliances such as your tv and even your bedroom lights – fewer remote controls on your bedside table to rummage through.

Motorised Bed Lift

Motorised Bed Lift

The Supercad has three useful extras that are also remote controlled. Firstly, there is a heating pad that can be placed on the mattress at your legs. As with everything that they do Treca produce these using high tech heating elements and finish it in luxurious fabrics.

Secondly, there are motorised bed legs that can be added to the adjustable bed frame and allow either mattress to be lifted and lowered using the remote control. This is a real help in the mornings to get out of bed, or lift the bed up to make getting into bed easier for you. I like this feature because it means that once you are in bed, your half can be lowered to match your other half’s.

And thirdly, there is the ingenious ‘why I didn’t I think of that’ feature: soft downlights on the edge of the bed that shine down to the floor, lighting up your path in the night as you walk past the bed – no need to put the bedroom lights on and you won’t disturb your partner’s night.

All of this plush upholstery and high quality engineering is topped off with a range of specialist mattresses designed to use with the Supercad bed and made from the finest materials, put together with traditional craftsmanship. Silk, Horsehair, Alpaca….

material beds

Put together by hand….

making the mattress

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and just when you thought it couldn’t get any more luxurious, embroidered details and all finished with a customised topper…

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Treca Supercad combine high quality engineering and luxury hand crafted mattresses to provide supreme comfort. Their styling, attention to detail and flexibility make you realise that these beds are not only for the elderly or the infirm but are genuinely luxury age proof items for any age. Adjustable beds are ideal for resting, relaxing and sleeping well and for couples, genuinely accommodates both sets of needs. If you are planning to downsize, this could be your new bedroom splurge! Have a look at the video: