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Nothing is ever black and white…

When doing up a room we go through a whole process of evaluation about what we need, what we want, what we can afford, what we’re physically able to do… and we find ourselves asking what seem to be obvious questions. Take that process out of our heads and share it with others, and we’re often faced with a whole host of totally different, and very valid questions. Nothing is ever fixed, ideas evolve and change, other voices bring new concepts, new perspective, it's never just black and white.

These are some of the questions I’ve been asked about my new guest bedroom:

“why did you want to build a wall and fireplace making the room smaller?”

“What made you choose black and white for a colour scheme, isn’t it rather cold and stark?”

“Why did you paint the floor, didn't you prefer floorboards?”

I’ve had so many lovely comments on the work I’ve been doing and they are really encouraging. But getting direct questions is a wonderful way of revisiting the initial plan and checking whether what we’re doing is in line with our vision, or whether our vision has shifted.

I’ve also had a lot of very curious and practical enquiries about how I’ve done what I’ve done, and although I’m no expert, I do like to experiment and I’m more than happy to share my experiences.

When it came to this room I had two very real factors: The first was budget. I still have another bathroom to finish and redoing the main corridor was unexpected and took a lot of my budget up. So this bedroom had to be done… creatively. The second factor was that I was going to have to do all the work myself and that meant I had to keep the design within what I could do or felt I was able to do.

The room was initially pretty big and lacking any original characteristics other than the cieling. Rather than buy wardrobes, I decided to spend the money on building a walk in wardrobe. Many people don't like looking at suitcases when they stay somewhere so I thought a place to put them would be a good option for a room this size. This then developed into giving the room a focal point and designing a fake fireplace to sit between the entrance and the window wall.

The dividing wall would be built of Ytong (look it up! I love it!) This would be the wall separating the wardrobe from the bedroom which would also house the fake fireplace. As Ytong is insulating it would make the space warmer and also act as a point in which the new electricity could enter the room.

I built the wall and fireplace pretty quickly. I chose a Tudor style fireplace with a feeling of possibly being of the Victorian era. I love Tudor and Jacobean British houses and at the same time I love Arts and Crafts and Victorian buildings so I tried to get this across in the way I built and carved (yes!!! You can carve Ytong!!!) the fireplace, doorway to the wardrobe, and other details.

I positioned the wall in such a place as to more or less centre the off-centre window and create a space with a central fireplace. The newly created wardrobe would be large enough to hold clothes, accessories and luggage with a carved stone effect doorway facing you as you enter the room.

I wanted the fireplace to be a sandstone colour and texture which I achieved by painting the Ytong blocks with watered down tile cement to give it a stone like texture, a coat of beige acrylic paint, and once dry, a wash of white water based paint that I wiped back and dried to give a dusty stone like feel.

The floor is concrete and this is something I couldn’t change. Putting a wooden floor down would have been far too expensive. This part of the house is also well insulated and doesn’t get too cold in winter, but heats up in summer so I felt the existing cement floor would work, but needed a facelift in the form of a lick of paint!

I knew I wanted the background colour scheme of this room to be a neutral sepia: black, white, and a kind of beige bringing in the whitewash walls, beams, and sandy fireplace. But I also wanted this effect to be softer and more muted... a kind of background for something brighter and gemlike maybe.

So I started this palette with the painted floor. The black and white tile effect I did in cream and grey I mixed myself. Using acrylic based paint directly onto the cement, I firstly covered the floor in cream and left it to dry. I then drew out the design of 14cm squares and started the process of hand painting the dark warm grey over the top.

Once I finished and it was dry I went over each of the squares giving them an individual look. I wanted the tiled floor to look ancient and trodden and lived in. This meant that I needed some tiles to look dark cream, or light grey, or flecked with dark patches, stained with salting etc. and I did this with various shades of the paints I had.

I finished the edges, did the area in front of the fireplace using a similar checkered design, and then painted the whole floor with layers of clear, matt polyurethane varnish.

I’d repainted the walls and ceiling white but decided to go for a mural on one or more walls. This took a lot of thinking about as I wanted something that fitted in with the natural, classic theme, but felt like it added to the room while also looking like it just seamlessly fitted in.

I settled on a wallpaper of a woodland scene but decided to paint it myself. I’d never painted a scene on a wall before and kept thinking it was just too much of a challenge. In the end I decided I just had to go for it! I mapped out the wall, did some sketching, and just started!

I chose five colours ranging in tonal value from white, through beiges, to the same dark grey of the floor tiles. I painted the background first, adding the mid-ground bushes and trees, finishing with the largest trees and grasses in the foreground.

I changed the design slightly changing the trees to ones I see in the woods here around the house: Beach trees, Ash, Hazel etc. I also found it quite funny that I was painting a copy of a wallpaper, which was essentially a copy of a painting, which was a copy of the natural world!

Whenever possible I like to try and spend time in a space I'm doing up even if it's not finished. I think it helps generate ideas. As soon as the floor and fireplace were done, I did some sewing and craft classes in the space with guests, and I even spent a few nights sleeping in there.

I’ve got to the point where I need to step back, look at, and reflect on the room with fresh eyes, go back to my original themes and ideas, go back to Pinterest, evaluate, and then continue. I’ve let myself experiment with materials, mix my own paints, and try things I wasn’t sure I was able to do. I now need to adjust my vision of how I want the room to eventually be, where I want the furniture, what colours to introduce... and in the meantime, as always, there's plenty to be getting on with in a house like No 19 🖤

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