Industrial Cool

Industrial cool hasn’t yet got an Oxford English dictionary definition and the jury’s out at the moment as to cobbling together a definition. I’ll have a go of trying to explain what it is. And what it is not.
It is not you going to the remains of the Fukushima nuclear plant and saying “cool”! Nor should it be applied to any genuine industrial building, set of buildings or complex. That’s not to say that there are not some great modern stylish designs for modern industrial buildings out there. My interpretation of industrial cool is closer to home, and more domestic. I think it relates to rooms in a home, and the furniture and equipment that adorn those rooms, being of an “industrial” nature. That is having the appearance of being more suited to a factory floor, a car or retro electrical workshop, a warehouse, a railway shed, a power production facility.
A common industrial chic room or series of rooms are likely to be open plan, and have bare brickwork walls, or brick walls that have had a coat or two of paint applied to them. But better still if that was a few years ago and they are peeling in places. It adds extra kudos to the cool factor! Yes anything distressed is halfway to being industrial cool. That can include furniture, floors, walls ceiling, light fittings and even baths and plumbing items!
I lived with someone who imported some functional no-nonsense metal furniture that had been sold by the closed down New York Mental Institution. I was never sure of the metal, but they had certainly seen action, and were grubby and discoloured. No actual rust, but scars and scrapes that the furniture had accumulated over the 50 years they had been in use in the Institution. They were much admired, and when I came to sell them after 5 years (when moving to a cottage-type home where they would have been quite unsuitable, I was paid more than I originally paid for them. Such is the lure of industrial cool!
However industrial cool does NOT mean making your living spaces as close to possible as a factory floor. By putting a little colour and some wood and rugs and even modern artwork or sculpture you can create a juxtaposition of the homely and the hard industrial.. A warm antagonism if you will. For example if you have flagstone floors in your living area or dining room, then have an earthy but homely heavy duty rug on them to stamp homeliness on industrial harshness. Do you get the idea?
Look out for old wooden barrels to refurbish and have seat cushions made for them. Look out for old Billiard and Snooker Table or Hall lights.. These are great to have over your dining room table. Chic and cool. Industrial cool.
Once you’ve got “on the beam” as to what industrial cool is, then you start to spot things in skips and in junk shops that you could acquire and (partially) renovate to add to your industrial cool room. It’s a little more difficult (but not impossible for kitchens) to have industrial cool, because of course you want any room where food is being prepared to be ultra-clean. But my friend acquired some old Post Office wooden sorting racks with pigeonholes for letters and parcels. These look great on her wall, housing much of her kitchen bits and bobs.

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Sideboard Styling

The sideboard. Once an essential part of any family home, it has suffered some setbacks over the years since its heyday in the post war decades. I remember it having pride of wall place in my parents’ home. They bought it on HP (Hire Purchase- a sort of loan system whereby you paid a deposit and received the item, then had a series of weekly or monthly payments to make or the item was repossessed). The one we had was a rosewood one, but they also came in a variety of solid woods and veneers; teak, cherry, maple and even the occasional mahogany!
The sideboard is on the rise again as new designers and furniture makers realise that there is not just a nostalgia for the piece, but also a need to provide extra storage with style in the living room or dining room. Where did it first come from?
The sideboard was originally conceived as an item of furniture for use in the dining room for serving food, for storage, and sometimes for displaying serving dishes such as silver on its flat surface (it is not like a welsh dresser with shelves and grooves to display plates at an angle). It usually consisted (and most often now consists) of a single integrated set of cabinets, or cupboards, and one or more drawers, all topped by a flat display surface for conveniently holding food, serving dishes, and even lights. The overall height of the tops of most sideboards is approximately waist level. This is not co-incidental; it’s the best height to serve food from. Too low and one has to stoop; too high and one has to reach high.
The earliest versions of the sideboard familiar today made their appearance in the 18th century, but they gained most of their popularity during the 19th century as households became prosperous enough to dedicate a room solely to dining. Sideboards began to get elaborate and were made in a range of decorative styles and were frequently ornamented with costly veneers, intricate patterns and inlays.
In traditional formal dining rooms today, an antique sideboard is seen by many as a desirable and fashionable accessory, and finely styled versions from the late-18th or early-19th centuries are the most sought-after and most costly. But even if you don’t have a dedicated room for dining, there is a growing enthusiasm for having a modern sideboard somewhere in your home.
This partly it reflects our increased enthusiasm for entertaining at home and the increased desire to cook for friends and family, fuelled by the myriad of cooking programmes that have mushroomed on the television over the last five years. But it can be used to hold other things as well. It can be used as a Hi-Fi or TV cabinet with the player(s) on top and the CDs or DVDs within. Take a look around; today’s best non-retro sideboards should be sleek, slim and well-toned in a mellow wood, beech, or even white-washed oak. There are some very classy and stylish sideboard examples around – ranging from those Scandinavian-style svelte models through to the strictly practical. You can opt for lots of doors, shelves and clutter space, or have it minimalist
The sideboard has not had its day- it is back and here to stay!

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Lovely Living with Loaf

Loaf? You mean the expression “Use your loaf?” Well it could be! Loaf is an online company that sells beds and sofas. “Online”??? Yes, it seems counter-intuitive to be considering buying a sofa or a bed without having seen it in the flesh, as it were. The dangers would seem to be the following:
• That the colours in the photos online may have been tinted and played with online to make them seem more vibrant.
• That you cannot feel or test the bed or sofa. What if it’s poor quality and sags?
• What if the texture of the fabric is shoddy and thin?
All these are genuine concerns and would be relevant to a fly-by-night company that wants to shift a large quantity of inferior goods as quickly as possible and then cover their tracks.
Loaf isn’t like that. Charlie Marshall has seen to that. The creator of Loaf decided to start his own business selling beds and sofas and more online after a disastrous Saturday trying to buy a bed. He lost a whole day. He decided to change things and make the whole process as quick and easy as possible. Two years later, nearly 200 mattress factories and some seriously comfy beds later, Loaf was born in December 2008. It seemed that it was not only Charlie who disliked the shopping-for-a-bed experience. A lot of other people loved the vibe, and consequently Loaf has become one of the fastest-growing companies in the UK.
When they started out the company was called “The Sleep Room”. But The Sleep Room was no longer appropriate when they added selling kitchen tables and sofas, so a new name was needed and in 2012 The Sleep Room became Loaf.
All Loaf beds are tested. They are guaranteed comfortable. They are cheaper than the High Street; because they have no expensive High Street shops to set up, run and pay rates on.
There’s more good news. If you live in or around London, delivery is free. Even beyond the M25 Loaf ask for a contribution to the delivery costs. You are not hit by excessive delivery costs. The delivery men won’t just come and dump a bed on your doorstep and speed away. They will unpack it, assemble it, check it and take away the packing. For a small fee they will even take away your old sofa or bed for recycling.
You have fourteen days to check out the bed or sofa (or other item) and if you want it taken back, Loaf will collect it and give you all your money back (including any delivery costs) provided it is in pristine condition and with the protective mattress cover unopened.
Such has been the success of Loaf that they do have a showroom if you want to go and see their beds, sofas and other products. It’s in Notting Hill, London. You can also order the catalogue online.
So, here we have a supplier of beds, sofas, tables and a host of other furniture that is, cheap, good quality, delivered and unpacked and assembled for you, and that doesn’t ruin a Saturday bed-hunting!

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Gold is Chic and Modern: Brass Fixtures to Upgrade your Kitchen

The biggest Hollywood celebrities have gold plated bathroom accessories. These don’t come cheap and if you do decide to upgrade your kitchen and bathroom with real gold plated equipment it don’t come cheap. Also there’s a sort of instant knee-jerk backlash against the opulence of gold fittings. But there’s a better way to go. Brass. It’s darker than gold but that more burnished look is something more and more people are getting to appreciate.
Stainless steel surfaces taps and fittings may well be great for the ultra-contemporary mega-clean antiseptic clinical look. But many people have realised that while silver-clean-machine kitchens are great to walk in and walk out of, if you are going to spend time cooking in them, they ain’t got no soul!
There is an alternative if you got bored of the same-old, same-old stainless steel faucets and fixtures, go for gold-toned fixtures and faucets with custom brass finish. They really stand out and create an interesting contrast without being too extravagant. It may look like dark gold, but it is not real gold. You are not flaunting your money (and some would say lack of taste) you are giving a nod to times gone by when brass fittings were the mainstay of kitchens and other areas of the home where plumbing was involved.
When looking at home furnishings and décor, especially if thinking of buying or renting a property and moving in, we are usually quick to notice outdated fixtures, faucets and hardware. Perhaps when you moved into your first home, those 80’s brass relics; blasts from the pasts, were the first things to go. But be a little cautious in your approach- don’t make up your mind too quickly about brass. There are already signs that the brass fixture (new or reconditioned) has become a classic and has been reinvented for a modern and sophisticated look with a nod back to the past! These fixtures are sleek and glam, and would be a brilliant accent for your bathroom or kitchen if you plan and integrate them in a subtle retro/contemporary look style.
So is this a big movement for 2014-2015? Is stainless steel going out and brass coming back? One has to recognise that all design trends come and go. Like fashion, when a new look is cutting edge and draw-dropping, the next season it may well be viewed as tired and stale. Once a kitchen design or metal/substance is widely used, edgy people want something different, while the rest of the pack will soon tire of seeing the same thing in each other’s homes. Stainless steel is so standard now in Western homes, and I believe that it will soon to be replaced by brass. Brass accents add sophisticated warmth and retro chic to a kitchen so consider brass for your next kitchen remodel.
While the gold or brass tones might not jump out at you as really obvious in your kitchen, you can conjure it up in small doses and mixed in with other metals. Why not get some brass knobs and draw handles for your kitchen cabinets? These can look quite striking.

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Made in Birmingham: Industrial style metal shelving by Bowles & Bowles

London has long been seen as the design arts & crafts and music centre on the United Kingdom. Didn’t Tracy Emin, David Bailey and The Beatles all beat a path to London to find success? Maybe, but there has always been something that Sheffield, Birmingham and other “northern” cities have got that London no longer has- a manufacturing history and heavy industry credo.
Despite the recent economic downturn, quite a lot of it still goes on in the Midlands you know? And that’s not just mindless manufacturing, but some crème-de-la-crème design and craftsmanship. Bowles & Bowles furniture is such a beacon of midlands’ excellence; characterised by functionality, quality of materials and best-of-British skill. Available in either weathered copper or zinc wire mesh (yep, hold on to your hats here!), the original 12-piece launch collection includes seating, storage and tables inspired by the old school lockers made at the group’s Birmingham metalworks.
Of course Birmingham’s nouveau rich illuminati have tried to move on super-fast from the city’s roots and portray it as a more gentile sophisticated and glossy city. That’s as may be, but I think people should never forget the city and surrounding areas’ glorious industrial heritage, and celebrate it rather than sweep it under a carpet like it never happened.
This innovative furniture company is named after founders Peter Bowles and son Charlie. With its sense of purpose, history and stripped back aesthetic, Bowles & Bowles furniture is characterised by functionality, quality of materials and best-of-British honed craftsmanship. The father-and-son team have a track record in reinvigorating British design and industry (that’s a nice term for saying they’ve kicked up the rear some established furniture designers who prefer to sit on their laurels rather than go outside the envelope. With the goal of taking traditional manufacturing techniques and making them relevant for today’s audiences, Bowles & Bowles has lifted simple wire mesh from its humble roots.
How is each piece manufactured? Each piece is pressed, welded and folded in Birmingham using the factory’s genuinely antique tools and original machinery. Steel wire is bent to create the outline of each piece, held in place by a wooden jig. Then individually cut mesh sheets are spot-welded to the frame inch by inch, then cut and smoothed by hand. Lockers and desks are finished with door catches pressed from sheet steel using a traditional fly press, while desks and tables are topped with tasteful smoked glass that again evokes the “dark satanic mills” up north!
The business is expanding and in 2014 Bowles and Bowles will be launching non mesh-based furniture collections. I hope that this is just in addition to their trademark designs and productions- we can’t have Birmingham’s industrial heritage being left behind again! But somehow I trust this father and son team to keep to the products that made them and keep wire mesh furniture in their catalogues for years to come.

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