Continuous Improvement

The subject of today’s blog is along the theme of ‘continuous improvement’. It’s a term we regularly use at work in a quality / lean process sort of a way, to signify the journey towards being world class in something. Never stopping with being satisfied with what you did today, and always striving to do better. It seemed like the perfect title for the design journey I’ve been on over the past few years.

The entrance hallway in our house is the perfect example of how skills evolve, and admitting that sometimes you don’t get it right the first time.

This is our hallway when we first moved into our 1969-built Prairie Style Minnesotan home. It was very beige, and very dated.

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Hallway when we moved in (circa 1969)

I set about renovating it to make it feel more like a modern cabin (as we live in the woods.) I tried to make it feel rustic with the use of the aged wood wall partition that we made, and the antler chandelier. To give it a modern twist, I added faux taxidermy in white only on the gallery wall.

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Hallway after reno No.1

To give it more of a British hunting lodge / country feel, I opted for flagstone style flooring, and added things like the antique umbrella stand and horse bit artwork. We gave the wall a gold paint effect finish to add some richness and the traditional feel.

But it felt dark…

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After living in the house for 4 years now, I’ve come to realize that living in the middle of the woods, with such heavy tree coverage, that the only time the house is ever bright inside is during the winter when there are no leaves on the trees. So the decoration inside has to account for this lack of natural light.

The other thing I’ve noticed whilst living in the US, is the growing trend for light, bright and airy spaces. Practically every new-build and renovated home has white-painted trim. The spaces are made bright from large white windows and white or light grey walls. Any wood is generally kept natural, such as natural white oak.

After living here for a while now, my tastes have evolved to the more contemporary side, so we set about with renovation No.2 to our hallway…

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Hallway today (after lessons learnt)

We removed the aged-wood partition wall we made, as we felt it made the space darker, and the dark wood made it feel a little dated. We opted instead for a more open half wall, which we painted in white and grey to match the new open-plan kitchen / dining room. And changed all the floors for natural white oak.

The biggest change was to the feature wall. Now when you enter the house, you’re met with a wall of white split-face marble, which adds depth and texture to the room, whilst still being bright, and yet at the same time, rustic.

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I had to keep the antler chandelier, it’s the little nod to the modern hunting lodge theme we were originally trying to achieve. I think now we’ve actually managed to achieve it. By keeping the colors light and limited, and introducing interest through texture, and pops of natural wood colors.

I’m the first to admit that my first attempt at ‘modern cabin’ was not that successful. But with a few more years of experience of both living in this house, in the US and having completed many more renovation projects, I can gladly say my skills have improved for the better.

To quote Lloyd Dobyns:

“Continual improvement is an unending journey.”

Thanks for reading, until next time.

Jo (aka Britflipper and continuous improvement seeker)

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Kitchen Reveal

The time has finally come to reveal our kitchen make-over. What started out as a 6 week project turned into the 7 month project from hell! Anything that could’ve gone wrong, went wrong. Even after months of pre-planning, Gannt charts and double checking everything. We had cabinets that didn’t fit; doors that were warped; fridges, microwaves and vent hoods that didn’t fit; walls that undulated; ovens that didn’t work… I’m glad to say that this nightmare project has now come to an end, and boy was it worth the wait!

Here’s a reminder of what it used to look like…

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And here’s the new kitchen…

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Full list of products used:

  • Cabinets: Austin cabinets in Urban Stone by Cliqstudios
  • Countertop and backsplash: Calacatta Gold by Silestone
  • Flooring: Vintage French Oak by Lumber Liquidators
  • Cabinet hardware: Knobs by Emtek style 86152US3NL, pulls by Emtek style 86123US14 both in polished nickel
  • Window: 400 Series by Andersen Windows & Doors
  • Paint: White Veil by Behr
  • Kitchen chandelier: Halo by Gallery
  • Dining room chandeliers: Rosalias modern cage light by Warehouse of Tiffany
  • Oven: Slide-in gas range by Samsung (model:NX58H9500WS)
  • Refrigerator: Counter-depth refrigerator by Samsung (model: RF23M8070SR)
  • Faucet / tap: Alea pull-down faucet in polished nickel by Pfister
  • Instant hot water faucet / tap: Insinkerator in polished nickel
  • Sink: Apron front sink by IPT Sink Company
  • Stools: Gelsomina counter stool by Joss & Main
  • Upholstered dining chairs: Kenleigh tufted side chair by Wayfair with upholstery nails added
  • Dining table: Emma dining table by Hom Furniture
  • Cane dining chairs: Bought from a friend

To learn about how the kitchen was planned read my blog ‘Goodbye 1987’. To learn how to overcome common kitchen renovation problems read my other blog post ‘Kitchen update: How to avoid delays’.

As always, thanks for reading!

Jo (aka Britflipper)

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Using color and texture to bring the inside out

We had our first taste of 80F+ weather here in Minnesota this week and it’s got me thinking about our deck and indoor / outdoor living. When our kitchen finally gets finished I want the deck off the kitchen to feel like an extension of this room. Now I’m about as un-green-fingered as they come, so don’t expect any plant maintenance tips in this post! But I can tell you what I’ve found out about bringing the inside out through color and texture. (Translation note: a garden is a backyard in British English.)

Tip 1: Keep a similar color theme inside and out

I think this is where we’ve been going wrong. Our house is dark brown outside and we’ve been accessorizing with burnt orange as it added a pop of color and tied in really nicely with the brown. But nothing inside our house is orange so it just makes the outside feel very different to the inside.

Our new kitchen will be warm grays, whites and natural wood. So to tie in the deck to this room we need to accessorize with neutrals to make it flow. I absolutely love this London garden by Claire Mee.

Leopoldina Haynes’ London garden by Claire Mee

The colors are beautifully neutral. She kept the paint on the wall neutral with Dulux Chalky Downs, and tied in the fabrics in a similar warm grey. Even the plants are neutral! Which is an important point to make. Don’t buy all your furniture and soft furnishings in your theme color then forget about planting colors (like I often do!) The plant colors should be part of the design, not just the flowers but the foliage too.

Tip 2: Don’t forget about plant color!

She used white and green flowering plants, such as hydrangeas and cyclamen, and plants with silvery foliage such as the olive trees in the back. She also used round buxus topiaries to add more green and also structure.

Leopoldina Haynes’ London garden by Claire Mee

Tip 3: Use fabrics to make an outdoor room cozy

Texture can also play a big part in bringing the inside out and making a cohesive space. The fabrics Claire Mee used in this modern country garden design are natural in cotton and linen and work well for this style.

Leopoldina Haynes’ London garden by Claire Mee

Usiing fabrics outdoors can also help make the space feel cozy and make it feel more like an outdoor room. Louise Jones’ garden below uses lots of soft furnishing and makes this space feel very welcoming.

Mediterranean garden by Louise Jones

Tip 4: Use other textures such as wicker

Claire Mee also used a lot of wicker, even the planters. I love these planters! They add so much texture and tie the warm grays into the design that little bit more.

Leopoldina Haynes’ London garden by Claire Mee

You could tie in the wicker by using wicker chairs around your dining table like this design did.

Wicker dining chairs add texture

I tried to take all these points into account when giving our balcony a make-over last year.

We were on a very tight budget so I actually reused plants out of the garden and planted them in some inexpensive resin wicker planters we bought from At Home. The loungers were from Wayfair for around $300. And the lanterns were from Pier 1.

I’m hoping to create a similar style on the lower deck this year. Using neutral colors, adding in some fabrics, and textures to create a cozy homely feel. Stay tuned for that one.

For now though, thanks for reading and I hope it was helpful. I’d love to see how you make your outdoor spaces feel more like home. Please share your tips and photos with me.

Jo @britflipper