Home Design Painting –- Subtle Pattern Effects

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

Simple paint effect give unusual and stylish results without the enormous expense often associated with such sophistication. Decorative paint techniques have a sort of mystique surroundings them but, although the more subtle effects do need great skill, especially when applied to architecturally graceful houses, simple effects can be produced by the relatively inexperienced painter in the sort of homes most of us live in.

Once you have grasped the idea, you can create the sift chalky colors of old Italian plasterwork, the more silky effect of faux marbling or the textured impression produced by using a darker shade in patches over a slightly lighter shade of the same color.

Generally, these techniques look best in a fairly disciplined household where the finish can be appreciated; otherwise the effect will be wasted and become part of the general chaos.

You will need to experiment with colors and the effect on a test piece of paper may be very different to when colors are seen on the whole wall. Often a quite surprising combination will appeal, such as green and pink or yellow and blue.

Some color combinations only work when both are overlaid with a ‘smoky’ color, which tones down what otherwise might be too sugary and links the two colors. Only experimentation can discover the right combination for you. The best way to experiment is on the actual walls, trying a small square of color and getting used to it for a day or so, then adding a little of another color or a little white or black until it looks right.

You may have the wall completely covered in small squares of different colors before you hit on the one you like. If you choose colors which please you, rather than colors suggested to you as being fashionable, you will find they automatically co-ordinate with your paintings, prints and fabrics.

Making the most of space — Japanese-style living

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

The Japanese have made an art of living in small spaces, using sliding screens and doors to make their living spaces highly versatile. Sliding partitions can also play a part in saving space in Western households. We have already recognized the value of the futon, and have adopted it as a good-looking means of providing seating during the day and bedding at night. Japanese rooms are low as well as small, so much so that you can often reach up and touch the ceiling. They are mostly absolutely square, with perhaps one recess in the best room.

Rooms are divided by sliding partitions or screens consisting of lightweight frames covered with rice paper to let the light through. In a traditional Japanese house the futons are stored in a cupboard during the day, since the Japanese kneel rather than sit and would have no use for a sofa.

Screens in Western homes do not have to be sliding or fitted. Folding screens have been used for centuries to keep out drafts, to provide an element of privacy while people were dressing and as a psychological division between one part of a room and another. Recently they have begun to be popular again. In a room in which several activities take place at the same time, a screen can be used to separate the kitchen-dining area, say, from the main living area. Folding screens can be covered in woven tapestry fabric or in decoupage. You could also use lace or anything else you think would look good.

Japanese-type shoji screens can be bought in shops specializing in futons and other Japanese furniture, but they are very simple to make yourself. Use them to cover untidy shelving, to screen a window with an ugly view or as room-dividers. Venetian blinds can also be used to divide a room, but are pulled up rather than folded vertically.

Making the most spaces in your home — use the height

Filed Under: Crafts, Do it yourself, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

In many small homes, the height of the rooms is scarcely used but could almost double both the storage and the living potential. For example, it might be possible to create a balcony area in a living room which could be used as workspace, play space or for visitors to stat overnight.

If there is not enough height for that, a built-up platform could provide storage underneath, at the same time giving the room an added dimension.

In a small bedroom, build the bed on top of a 1.2m (4ft) high cupboard. This is just the right height for being able to see out of the window from the bed, an enormous bonus if you have a pretty view. The cupboard underneath will provide useful storage space for quite large objects, anything from clothes to small pieces of furniture, pictures and pieces of equipment which you may not want to throw away but do not need at present It is also useful for duvets and pillows for guests. A more primitive version would be a bed base resting on two chests-of-drawers.

Make the bed base out of slats with a good 12mm between them; if you are using solid pieces of board, drill holes to allow the mattress to air. For a 1m (3ft) high bed you won’t need a stepladder but you will need a step of some kind. A box-step can hold lightweight objects so that you have no difficulty raising it when you want to get into the cupboard. A chest-of-drawers next to the bed, at about the same height, acts as a bedside table.

A tall bed can be curtained off with muslin or pretty cotton print fabric to give the enclosed and private feeling of a four-poster.

Practicalities of doing up small spaces in your home design

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

Picture frames

Professional frames are expensive but worth it for valuable pictures. It is also advisable to have a picture professionally framed if the sides are longer than 1 m (3ft) because a frame as big as this is difficult for a beginner to handle.

There are various types of framing kit available, offering a choice of assembly, finish and color, the main drawback being that most of them are comparatively small. One of the cheapest is in the form of an acrylic box with a close-fitting piece of board to hold the picture in place. When finished, this has no visible frame. More sophisticated kits contain pieces of frame, mitred corners and clips, and fastenings to hang the picture from,- check whether you have to buy the backing board and glass separately.

Sandwich framing

An alternative to conventional framing is to place the picture between a sheet of board and a sheet of glass or acrylic, and to simply clip the edges together. This is quite easy to do at home because you can get the glass and board cut to size when you buy them and there is no complicated cutting or assembly.

Spring-loaded clips are available from art shops and framers. Clip sizes vary and should suit the thickness of the combined backing board, glass, picture and mount. Metal or plastic mirror clips, sold by glass merchants, ironmongers and DIY shops, can be used as well.

To fit spring clips:

1 Push a spring clip over the backing board on all four edges. Make a pencil mark where the inner edge of the clip meets the board.

2 Measure between the pencil mark and the edge of the board. Drawl lines this distance away and parallel to all the edges.

3 Make holes with a bradawl on the lines you have drawn through the smooth side of the board, a quarter of the board’s width from each corner.

4 Place the glass, mount and board face down on a cloth. Fit the spring clips so that the inner ends notch into the holes made with the bradawl.

Panel mounting

Cheap prints, labels and other paper ephemera can be mounted directly onto chipboard panels without glass.

1 Cut the panel to the size of the item and smooth the edges with sandpaper.

2 Chamfer the edges with a plane and fill them with cellulose filler. Rub down with sandpaper when dry.

3 Paint the edges with emulsion. (Black is the most popular color.)

4 Mount the picture onto the panel, using the ‘wet mounting’ technique (see below).

Wet mounting Paper expands when it gets wet, so handle it with extreme care and practice first on something unimportant.

1 Size the cardboard or chipboard backing board with smooth wallpaper paste.

2 When the size is dry, moisten the back of the print with a damp rag then dab with blotting paper or tissues until the print is limp but not wet.

3 Brush a thin coat of wallpaper paste over the back of the print.

4 Lift the pasted print carefully by the top edge. Align the bottom edge with the edges of the backing.

5 Lower the print onto the board as evenly as you can.

6 Cover the print with greaseproof paper and smooth it with a dry sponge, working from the centre outwards to remove any air bubbles and wrinkles.

7 Remove the greaseproof paper and wipe off any excess paste.

8 Cover the print with another sheet of greaseproof paper and a sheet of card. Weight down until dry.

(Large prints may buckle the backing board as they dry. To prevent this, stick paper roughly the same weight as the print onto the back of the board, using the same technique.)

Hanging pictures

– Use nylon cord or 3-ply picture wire (not string) knotted into D-rings, screw eyes or back hooks.

– Screw eyes are suitable if the moulding of the frame is thick enough to take the screw without splitting.

– For heavy pictures, use back hooks and screw them to the back of the frame mouldings.

– Hang pictures on picture hooks (sold as single or double hooks). These come complete with fine masonry nails that can be hammered into the wall.

– For concrete walls or walls which have been given a concrete coating to prevent damp, use special plastic hooks with three or four short, needle-like nails to hammer in. Beware with these because the nails are intentionally very short, which means they may become dislodged if pulled.

Storage galore — miscellaneous storage in your home

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

No amount of pre-planned storage is going to solve all your storage problems. There are always little items like drawing pins, elastic bands, corks, postage stamps, pens and pencils and computer disks, and medium-sized things like calculators, cameras, film and so on which don’t fall into any convenient storage category.

It is important to find places for all these, otherwise they become the very things you can’t find when you need them most. There are also bulky items—extra blankets, sleeping bags, duvets and pillows for visitors, and the inevitable stepladders, bicycles and pushchairs.

Let’s look at the bulky items first. Drawers that pull out from under beds are practical for extra bedclothes. If the bed is tall enough drawers from an old chest-of-drawers will do, but if you are buying a new bed or divan choose one with drawers specially designed to go under it. Large but comparatively narrow items such as bicycles can be hung on a wall.

In modern, minimalist homes they can be a decorative element in a living room, but they take up potential storage space which could be used for other items and this idea would not suit everybody’s taste. Items which fold up into narrow shapes take up less space when hung than when simply leaned against a wall.

When it comes to the medium-sized items such as calculators and cameras, you can allocate a drawer to a particular type of storage so that cameras, film and boxes of slides will all be found together.

For the little items which are so difficult to organize, mini chests-of-drawers intended for carpenters’ nails and screws are excellent for home office use and will take labels, paperclips and other small items which need to be separate and available. Other drawers can hold buttons, thimbles, hooks and eyes, and other sewing equipment.

Filing can be a problem. Paper never looks tidy and gets lost so easily. Specially designed chunky ‘household’ files with categorized compartments are theoretically the answer, but the pre-ordained categories seldom correspond to those one actually needs and the files usually end up being too small. It may be better to buy box files or even to use shoeboxes for filing.

A low filing cabinet may be the answer, where you can store writing paper, envelopes and other office paraphernalia as well as letters. In a room which has to double as an office and a guest room, files can act as low room-dividers and there’s a choice of colors to make them less industrial-looking.

Many bits and pieces can be organized into albums. Photographs take up far too much drawer space and are largely wasted because of the trouble of sorting through them. Albums can be lined up in a bookcase, where they look orderly, take up less space and are easy to find. If you keep Christmas cards, postcards, children’s paintings and letters, they will be better preserved by being kept in scrapbooks rather than scattered about in cupboards and chests.

The importance of lighting in your home — highlighting

Filed Under: Home repair, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

Many people have decorative displays of china, glass or other collections, and objects such as copper pans, books and even architectural details can all be highly decorative. To do them justice, they should be well lit so that they stand out from the rest of the room.

There are various ways of highlighting. For pictures, there are special picture lights which are fixed above the picture and shine down on it, leaving the surroundings in shadow. Spot lamps can highlight objects satisfactorily but you need to experiment to make sure the beam falls on the object from the right direction and at the right angle, without glaring into people’s eyes. Ceiling tracks are useful if you want several spots on different objects, but again the placing of the track is important so that the spots can be directed without glare.

Glass is most effective lit from behind. Daylight coming through a window gives it a wonderful sparkle and a collection of colored glass bottles looks spectacular on a windowsill. At night, subdued light at the back will emphasize the colors and reflections in an entirely different way.

Flower arrangements also come to life when lit from behind. A gentle, diffused light will not compete with the flowers but will throw the shapes and colors into relief so that they and their container take on an extra charm.

If you are lighting objects in a glass cabinet, it is best to use small strip lights at the back. If you try to shine a light on the cabinet from outside, the reflections in the glass will prevent you from seeing the objects inside.

Tips for lighting for home computers

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Money tips, Redecorating, Remodeling, Shopping    by: ITC

Most computer screens have a poor light output themselves so bright lighting in the room will simply overpower the images on the screen. However, you do need some background light because the contrast between a dark room and the words on the screen makes it hard for the eyes to adjust from one to the other and is therefore very tiring. Since light levels from the window vary from hour to hour, you want to be able to adjust the room light to make it as comfortable as possible for you while you work and this is an instance where dimmer switches will help. Desk lamps are sometimes helpful.

When you are setting up the lighting for computer work, check that there are no reflections on the screen. What usually happens is that the operator gets so used to reflections that he or she doesn’t notice them, but if they do exist they are an extra strain on the eyes and are distracting. If you can see the ceiling fixtures reflected in the corner of the screen or if there are bright spots of glare from the general room lighting, then a dimmer will help to reduce them; better still, alter the lighting in the room or the position of the computer screen so as to eliminate them.

Fixed spot lamps and ceiling lights are the least flexible, although spots on a track can be adjusted. If the ceiling is high enough and the room small enough, any ceiling fitting will probably be out of sight of the screen anyway. Shiny objects such as mirrors and glass-covered paintings should not be hung in a computer room.

Remember that lighting is just as important for children’s computers as it is for adults, if not more so.

How to do up small spaces when living with children

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

Walls and ceilings

It is fun to do your own mural and paint a child’s favorite story on the wall. Use a base color for the background and paint the details on top with emulsion and/or gouache, similar to the technique except that the picture takes the place of the wash coat.

An ocean-with-fish theme is easy even for the inexperienced, with the help of illustrations from a book. Children won’t expect you to be Michelangelo and will be delighted whatever the result. You can get a landscape onto one small wall or a whole ocean of sea creatures and all the stars in the firmament on the ceiling, given an extra twinkle by the addition of self-stick glowing stars and moons. Friendly pictures of this kind will help children go to sleep at bedtime and will give them something to look at when they are ill.

A section of wall covered in cork tiles provides an exhibition space in which to pin up children’s own paintings. Cork tiles covering a whole wall will act as insulation in rooms which suffer from condensation, particularly attics or rooms which open onto a central staircase where drafts make them feel chilly.

Another idea is to have one completely white, washable wall on which children are allowed to draw and scribble. When it is full of artwork, you simply paint over it again. Fixing a blackboard to the wall takes up less space than having a free-standing easel and blackboard. Painting and scribbling activities are very absorbing, keeping children occupied for a long time, and they are good for manual, visual and artistic skills so it is worth providing a permanent place for them.

Work and play

There should be plenty of room for books and writing things, as well as a well-lit place to write comfortably. There should also be adequate background lighting in the room, and reading lights by the bed and over the desk area.

If toys are played with in the living room, try, if you can, to put up with them for the whole day and then sort and store them in the evening, otherwise you will be putting things away all day and will be resentful when the children want to turn a new lot out onto the floor.
Crawling babies and toddlers love to get under tables and discover electric sockets. Socket guards are available for when a socket is not in use and it really is sensible to invest in one or two of these cheap and effective safety devices.


There are a number of ways to provide gentle lighting. Wax nightlights were the old-fashioned way of giving children assurance, but they didn’t last the whole night through and were superseded by tiny glass lamps in the shape of animals or birds which glowed in the dark. Nowadays there is a whole menagerie of lifelike geese, rabbits, ducks, pigs and sheep to keep a child company at night.

Children really seem to love these lit-up creatures and often make friends of them. Other lamps include ceramic pixie and mouse homes, old women in shoes and suchlike which light up inside, giving a cosy feeling. If you place a nightlight on the floor, be sure you choose a safe model where the bulb socket is inserted in such a way that a child cannot pull it out.

Even the ceiling light can be used as a nightlight if it is on a dimmer switch and can be left as just a faintly luminous glow when the child is asleep.

A shared bedroom

If you have to share a bedroom with your new baby, the most pressing need is to provide a degree of privacy for the parents. Again, planning the space is important. There are advantages to sharing: you know at once if the child is restless at night and can comfort it and get it back to sleep almost before it (or you) has woken up. Nursing mothers may also find sharing the room convenient for night feeds.

A very young baby does not take up much room. A small crib and a storage unit are the only essentials, although a comfortable low chair for feeding is a good idea. A folding screen will help to provide a certain amount of privacy and can be fitted with rails or hooks for hanging tiny clothes, so that it becomes dual-purpose.

Alternatively the cot area can be screened by a row of chests or shelving units, either tall or low which will also act as storage. Nappy-changing can take place on the parental bed, with its essential equipment stored in a bedside table. Play equipment can be stored in the living room if necessary, or spread around there and the bathroom and perhaps the hall.

What can you do about lighting in the home office?

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

The home office may be in a room on its own, it may share the kitchen table or a corner of the living room, or it may simply be a wide shelf in a child’s room where homework is done.

Wherever it is, adequate lighting with no confusing shadows is necessary and similar lighting is required for close work such as model making, sewing or drawing. For all these activities, the lighting requirements remain the same: for close work, you need at least 200 watts of incandescent light (the most common form of lighting, using standard screw or bayonet light bulbs and rather yellow) or 400 watts of fluorescent light directed onto the work area, with a good general back-up light from elsewhere.

You always need sufficient background light to see the room and its contents, otherwise the contrast between the darkness of the room and the brightness of the work area will strain your eyes.

A desk is best placed against the wall rather than in front of the window because light from outside alters constantly, being dull sometimes and brightly sunny at others, so that the interior lighting would need to be constantly adjusted.

Fluorescent light is used a great deal in large offices because of its white, shadow less quality. In small rooms, however, low-voltage work lamps give a clear, white light which is ideal for working and even an incandescent angled lamp will give a perfectly adequate light.

Lighting should come from above and behind the worker, and should shine on the work without casting shadows or glaring into the eyes. A good form of lighting for a workspace which doubles as a dining table is a rise-and-fall lamp hanging from the ceiling. This can be pulled down low over the table for intimate conversations, raised slightly for reading and writing, and raised still higher to give a more general illumination.

Desk lamps should stand so that the lower edge of the shade is about level with your eyes when you are sitting working. Use a 75 watt or 100 watt incandescent bulb with a reflective (silvered) interior, which concentrates the light and gives the impression of a larger bulb.

The most popular lamps among architects, designers and other people who work at desks or drawing boards are angled desk lamps such as an Angle poise or a lamp called the ‘2001’, which have springs to keep them in place once they have been positioned. The heads are flexible and they can be used as down lighters, shining down on the page, or as up lighters illuminating the whole of the work area with reflected light from the wall or ceiling. (This is particularly good for computer work.)

They are available in table-mounted, clamp or clip-on versions and some are available with floor stands, the head and arm sections simply slotting into whatever base you choose. Their flexibility makes them ideal for small workspaces.

Safety with small spaces

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

People feel very secure in their own homes and are usually unaware of what a very dangerous place the home really is, especially for small children who are inexperienced, unsteady on their feet and insatiably curious. These are some of the dangers to plan against.


– Stairs should be well lit so that shadows do not confuse.

– Stair carpet should be well fitted and taut, with no loose stair rods or rucked-up areas which could cause a child to trip.

– If young children live in the house, there should be a child safety gate at the bottom and top of the stairs until they learn to negotiate them safely by themselves. This is particularly important in houses which have steep, narrow staircases and it is worth teaching an active toddler how to come downstairs backwards. Until you have achieved that, it is essential to have a gate.


– All floors should be non-slip.

– Carpets should be smooth and flat and not rucked up.

– Vinyl, cork and linoleum tiles should be undamaged and properly stuck down, particularly at the corners.

– Carpets on stairs and floors should be in good repair. Electricity

– Electric power points should be fitted flush to the wall and out of reach of young children.

– Electric leads should not trail over the floor.

– Lights in children’s rooms should be fixed to the wall or ceiling so that they cannot be knocked over.

– Electric sockets should be covered with socket guards.

– Buy electrical equipment with an official safety-approved label on it, which shows that it has been checked and has passed certain safety regulations. If using foreign equipment, check that it is suitable for use with the voltage of the country you are living in.

Doors and windows

-Doors leading outside, or to a hall or landing, should be protected with safety locks and handles which young children cannot operate on their own.

– Fix protective metal bars or a grid to the frames of upstairs windows, at least on the lower half of the window.


– Shower doors should be made of plastic or glass covered in safety film so that it will not splinter if it breaks.

– Make sure the flooring is non-slip, and use non-slip bathmats.

– Bathroom heaters should be wall-mounted and children should not be able to reach the switches from the bath.

– Use a rubber safety mat in the bath.

– Fit doors with two-way bolt indicators which can be opened from the outside.

– Install a high door handle to stop a child entering the bathroom alone.

– Fix the medicine cabinet out of child s reach and keep it locked. All medicines must be stored here. Eighteen month to two-and-a-half-year-olds are the main victims of home-poisoning accidents and aspirin is the main cause.


– Fit safety catches on cupboards and drawers to prevent children from getting into them.

– Keep high chairs away from worktops, doors and through areas so that children cannot reach anything dangerous, and also so that you will not trip over the legs. Children should always wear a safety harness in the kitchen.

– In a small kitchen it is particularly important to prevent children bumping into things, knocking over pans or playing with the cooker.

– Install cooker guards to keep prying fingers away.

– It is better to have rounded edges on tables than square ones as children are less likely to knock into them when they are running around.

– Make sure you have a non-slip floor and wipe up all grease spills immediately.

– Divide the kitchen, if it is big enough, with a waist-high storage unit and a gate so that children can play within sight but out of danger.

– The most convenient place for cleaning equipment is unfortunately under the sink, which is also the most dangerous. Keep chemical cleaners and all poisonous substances in a locked cupboard well out of reach of a two-year-old standing on a chair.

– The following are all poisonous: adhesives, air- freshener blocks, ammonia, bleach, upholstery and carpet cleaners, dyes, detergents, disinfectants, dry- cleaning fluids, paint solvents, fertilizer liquids, marking ink, insecticides, match heads, metal polish, moth treatments, oven cleaners, paint strippers, shoe polish, paraffin, scouring powders, silver polish, lavatory cleaners, turpentine, washing powders, washing up liquids and window-cleaning preparations.


– Never leave any fire unguarded. The best guards are made of metal mesh and are about 90cm (3ft) high and 1.2m (4ft) wide, with sides which prevent a child from getting anywhere near the fire.

– Place a piece of furniture in front of hot radiators or hot pipes to prevent young children bumping into them by accident.

– Do not use a portable paraffin heater in a room where a child may be left alone.