Cornwall LivingIssue #107

Home pride

Ideas, tips and insights from two of Cornwall’s leading home improvement specialists.

Our homes are something we should all be proud of. At least, in my opinion, they should be! This is particularly true in light of the many months we’ve all spent unable to venture far beyond those same four walls, and as national restrictions look set to slowly ease and our freedom restored to once more spend time with our nearest and dearest, I, at least, cannot wait to welcome friends and family into our humble abode for a long-overdue catch up.

This is all very exciting, but having spent so much time at home over the last year, it’s highly likely that there are parts of our homes – perhaps entire rooms – that we’ve noticed could use some ‘TLC’. It could be the need for a new coat of paint in the hallway, some new furniture to replace old and abused seating in the living room, or for those who have ‘had it up to here’ with their tired and outdated interiors, it could be a complete home makeover. It needn’t necessarily be limited to the insides of our homes, either. The lockdown of March last year brought with it some incredible weather, which meant that we could at least enjoy some time outside, but just the same as with our interiors, the more time we spend in the garden, the more things we naturally notice that could do with just a little bit of love.

For these reasons, I’ve decided to take a long hard look at my own home and the things we’ve decided to upgrade, fix, or out and out replace – to inspire some questions for two of Cornwall’s leading interior (and exterior) specialists, the answers to which, I hope, will help inspire you to get to work on your own home project.

First, I speak to Ali Cary, owner and founder of Truro’s The Cotton Mills Design House. As inspiration for your own post-lockdown interior makeover, Ali unveils a recent project that she and the team undertook for a client in their beautiful Cornish home.

The client initially approached The Cotton Mills to help achieve an uncluttered interior. Without wanting to be shy in their use of colour, they nevertheless wished to keep the palette contemporary. In short, says Ali: “They didn’t want to complicate it by adding too much to the mix.

“They understood that the open-plan living space meant they needed to be a bit bold and use a colour they liked, a colour which was strong enough for such a large area,” continues Ali.  “Their stunning charcoal grey velvet sofa needed some contrast, so we used some dark navy fabric to complement the room and perfectly offset the grey. The light-coloured floor was a great backdrop to the navy and white embroidered curtains, giving relief to the dark navy fabric and also picking up on the light floor tiles.” Ali and The Cotton Mills also used a complementary colour for the snug – a warm golden yellow which, as Ali puts it, “naturally complemented the main open-plan area while still creating that ‘snug’ feeling.”

As we move upstairs I learn that Ali’s clients decided to maintain the bedrooms’ coastal theme by using washed-out linens. This is an important point: often, it is not necessary to completely change the look of a room. In this case, Ali tells me that: “The guest bedrooms are opposite each other, and we came to the conclusion that rather than change the style of the fabric, we would use the same design but in a different colour.”

Similarly, the main bedroom already had a gorgeous bluebell headboard, so Ali and the team built the room’s new scheme around it. “A border in a similar colour to the headboard was added to the curtains,” Ali explains, “giving the room a seamless flow. The white shutters and a light-coloured love seat, meanwhile, give some contrast and texture to the scheme.”

This project is typical of those which Ali and The Cotton Mills team are regularly asked to help with. By employing a proven process that takes you from an initial plan ‘on paper’ all the way through to picking out your favourite colours, choosing whether to build on existing features, and finally settling on the perfect interior scheme, The Cotton Mills can help with every interior challenge. If you’re stuck for ideas, why not give them a call?

Next, I speak to Zowie Brooks of Heart, Smoke & Soal, specialists in creative outdoor living. Now, I have to admit that outdoor cooking has, for a long time, been a great love of mine. Growing up, there was something about the ‘back to basics’ nature of a simple seaside barbeque with friends, that instilled in me a lifetime affection for food eaten al fresco. And as I’ve grown up, having been fortunate enough to buy a house with my partner here in Cornwall, this passion (or, depending on who you ask, obsession) has evolved into a dream of one day installing my own outdoor kitchen. With that in mind, it was with great interest (and much salivation) that I first stumbled across the range of outdoor living products on offer through Heart, Smoke & Soal.

Setting aside my own bias, I first ask Zowie about the benefits of outdoor cooking – of ‘bringing the inside out’. During the current climate, she tells me that more and more have discovered the pleasures of cooking at home, and explains that she, herself, has been able to try out different recipes and dishes that she would usually only eat out in restaurants. What’s more, says Zowie: “Having the time to cook something outside gives you that Hygge feeling.” ‘Hygge’ is a Scandinavian term that, in its simplest terms, refers to a state of wellbeing, and it’s one that can be applied anywhere – inside or out.

“I think the past 12 months have brought our gardens to the forefront of our minds when it comes to what we can do at home,” says Zowie. “Cooking outdoors doesn’t have to be something for special occasions, or just the odd weekend; it is there to be enjoyed all year round, and we want to encourage people to get out there and cook something up. I think there is something about being out in the fresh air whilst eating, cooking and having a drink – having time to yourself to relax to just to enjoy where you are in the moment.” That, if you are still unsure, is Hygge!

So, if you love to cook and want to combine your passion with time spent in your garden, where should you start? “This can vary,” explains Zowie. “Some or our customers have tried different barbeques – maybe a smoker, a Tandoori oven, or a grill – and want to focus on putting this into long-term equipment in the form of a built-in kitchen feature. Others may not necessarily want an outdoor kitchen, instead opting for a bar, or perhaps a gazebo to cover their spa.”

Interestingly though, as outdoor dining and the installation of outdoor kitchens begins to trend here in the UK – already being extremely popular in America and Europe – Zowie tells me that some equipment brands can actually add value to your home, explaining that “a barbeque kitchen may not be the obvious upgrade for a home, but it’s certainly a trend that is here to stay!”

With a vast selection of equipment and accessories from world-leading brands, it’s clear that you’ll find what you’re looking for through companies like Heart, Smoke & Soal, but some – me included – may be wondering whether you need to have lots of outdoor space to work with. Zowie puts my mind at ease, explaining: “No, you don’t need a lot of space. It could be a veranda or a small patio; there are lots of different options, from built-in hardstanding kitchens, to modular units.” In fact, there is so much that can be done with the brands available to you that you’re sure to find a solution for your garden.

As a top tip for those with smaller gardens (in answer to a question loaded with my own interests) Zowie suggests thinking about how many people you entertain and how often.

“This will help you gauge what equipment you need for your outdoor space. Also, how do you like to cook? Some people prefer solid fuels, others prefer the convenience of gas. Some even prefer multiple appliances, so they may have a solid-fuel grill and a gas pizza oven, so different types of food can be cooked depending on mood and guests.”

The short answer, is that there are no real ‘hard and fast’ rules. It’s entirely down to your answer to a very simple question: how do you want to use your garden? Much the same as when considering layouts and décor ideas for the interior of your home, with some careful thought and planning, and, of course, advice from the experts, realising your vision for your perfect outside space can actually be quite simple.

Whatever the nature of your home improvement, the most important thing is to have some fun with it. After all, our homes are there to be enjoyed, so whether you’re painting a single room, upgrading your furniture, or installing a brand new outdoor kitchen, it’s something you should certainly be excited about.