Tips on mixing utility with decoration in your home

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

A well-stocked kitchen dresser is full of everyday items, anything from jugs and plates to graters and wire salad baskets. People who choose to keep their kitchen equipment on view are usually very particular about what they buy, and will look for things they like or consider to be well designed so that the dresser is an exhibition area as well as a work unit. In the same way, a simple, narrow kitchen shelving unit allows the packaging and labeling of tins, jars and bottles to create their own entertaining and decorative display.

Another example of mixing the practical with the decorative is to intersperse shelves of humdrum objects (folded towels or the family’s toys and games) with one or two shelves in the middle set aside for a display of pretty china. The eye will be drawn to this collection and will ignore the rest, particularly if the display shelves are lit from the back by concealed strip lights so that the china stands out in a warm glow. Other possibilities are to use the central shelf or shelves for a vase of flowers or a collection of intriguing objects.

Shelves in themselves can be a source of interest, particularly if they are asymmetrical and thereby add a shape of their own. Modular shelving systems, which can be built up in various ways, will fit into almost any space. Another way of combining utility and decoration is to place small sets of shelves at random on walls between pictures or prints. Here they will provide space for those small objects which are always difficult to display but which it is a shame to have to relegate to the permanent darkness of chests-of-drawers or the backs of cupboards.

Small, awkwardly shaped alcoves provide a good balance between the useful and the decorative. A tiny alcove can become a highly personal showcase fitted with just two shelves, comparatively wide apart, so that the top shelf can house the music centre (out of reach of young children) while the lower shelf can hold a selection of small prized possessions and perhaps a painting tucked in at the back.

Some restaurants make a feature of their wine collections by fitting wine-racks all around the walls, up the stairs and over the doors. Wine connoisseurs could take a leaf out of their book and use wine-racks as decorative additions to the room. They can be fitted into the alcoves made by a chimneybreast or the alcoves created by building a deep-arched division between one room and another. The simplest wine-rack, filled with bottles, looks exotic.

Some things are awkwardly shaped for storage— umbrellas, walking sticks, ladders, hats, tennis rackets, and so on. Yet all these things together, perhaps with some purely decorative additions such as hand-carved decoy ducks, can look picturesque. It helps if you hang them from something with more character than the normal nails or screws—try small brass or china cupboard door handles, or colored cup hooks, coming practicality and interest.

Building a Stud Partition

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

The easiest form of partition to build is the wood frame variety — it is ideal for dividing one bedroom into two, making an extra powder room or bathroom, or splitting a dining area from a kitchen or living room. The wood frame is simply nailed together and faced with drywall on each side; it is easily adapted for doorways, pass through or windows. Being essentially hollow, it can also be used to conceal electrical wiring and water pipes.

The framework comprises a number of uprights called “studs” fitted between lengths of wood spanning the width of the ceiling and floor. These are called the “head plate” and “sole plate” respectively. Short horizontal lengths of wood are fixed between the uprights to brace them and support the cladding. In most cases 2 x 3in rough sawn softwood is ideal for the studs and bracing, with 11/2 x 3in for the head and sole plates. If the partition is to carry a lot of weight such as shelves or cupboards, a larger size should be used, say 2 x 4in.

Planning the partition

Deciding where to put the partition is the first thing to do so that you end up with two usable rooms. If possible arrange things so that each new room gets the benefit of a window, but do not be tempted to set the partition so that it divides a window in two. Not only does this look dreadful, but in some cases it is also illegal. If you cannot provide a window for each room, glaze the upper portion of the partition so that you can “borrow” some natural light from the room with the window. Similarly, if you cannot provide an opening window for each new room, you will be required to install a form of mechanical ventilation.

Important considerations are the layouts of floor and ceiling joists since the head and sole plates will be attached to these. Ideally, the partition should run at right angles to the joists so that its weight is spread across them. If this is not possible, it must be directly above a joist. With a solid floor, there is no problem.

If the head plate does not span the ceiling joists and does not come below a single joist because the ceiling joists do not line up with the floor joists, you should nail lengths of 2in sq blocking between the ceiling joists and attach the head plate to these.

Before you begin work, check under the floor and above the ceiling for any cables or pipes that might be damaged by nails or screws. It is also a good idea to check with your local Building Code before carrying out any structural work.

Erecting the framework by cutting the head and sole plates to length; whenever possible buy wood long enough so that you can span the room with one piece. Nail the sole plate to the joists through the floorboards using 4in long common nails or fix it to a concrete floor with 4in long No.10 woodscrews and wall plugs or with masonry anchors or masonry nails. Screw the head plate to the ceiling joists.

Cut the studs for each end of the partition, leaving them a fraction over-length so that they will be a tight fit between the head and sole plates, and screw them to the wall. Use 4in long No.10 screw and wall plugs.

Then mark off the positions of the other studs along the sole plate, making sure their centers are 16in or no more than 24in apart. They should be positioned so that the edges of the cladding material will meet along their center lines (standard sheets of drywall are 4ft wide). If the partition is to have a door in it, the stud positions on each side of the opening must be adjusted to allow for the door width and the thickness of the lining.

Measure and cut each stud individually as there is no guarantee that head and sole plates will be parallel.

Set each stud in place, making sure it is vertical with a spirit level, and fix it by driving 3 or 4in common nails at an angle through the side of the stud into the head and sole plate (known as toe-nails).