Montgomery – a Welsh gem

Have just been to visit a client in the Welsh town of Montgomery – what a lovely place! Packed full of stunning Georgian architecture, half timbered houses, a 13th century castle and attractive little shops and tea rooms.  Fortunately I had a little time to spare to enjoy the delights of this small town that punches well above its weight in attractiveness.

The walk up to the castle is steep but tantalising glimpses of interesting architecture surrounded by wild roses helps take the mind off the aching calf muscles.

Interesting architecture set off by wild roses and buddlea

Interesting architecture set off by wild roses and buddleia

The castle itself is a ‘romantic ruin’ – courtesy of Oliver Cromwell – but was erected by Henry III to oversee this gateway to Wales (which, of course, was also the gateway to England for his Welsh adversaries). The views are stunning though – those Medieval kings certainly knew how to pick a site!

Montgomery castle - romantic ruin

Montgomery castle – romantic ruin

Great views over the Welsh countryside

Great views over the Welsh countryside

The Old Bell museum, run by the local Civic Society, was also a delight – plenty to see covering the whole period of Montgomery’s history and well interpreted. As a window stylings designer I got a taste of what I might have been recommending to a discerning client had I been around in the 15th century.

Window shutters for the discerning Medieval homeowner?

Window shutters for the discerning Medieval homeowner?

The shutters I offer nowadays are still long lasting and British made but perhaps offer a little more in terms of light control, colour choice and adjustability!

Apparently the town had quite a makeover in the Georgian period as one enthusiastic resident explained when he caught me admiring his home – presumably some ancestor of Kirsty Allsopp at work? At every turn though, some architectural delight greets your eye, so if you are ever in that neck of the woods then I thoroughly recommend a visit.

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A cascade of lives lost!

How do you visualise quantities? Do you think in terms of football pitches for large areas, or elephants for heavy weights?

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How about numbers of people? How would you go about imagining what a crowd of 888,246 would look like? Artist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper have come up with a meaningful and moving way for us to comprehend the magnitude of that number – which happens to be the total lives lost by British and Colonial forces during World War 1.

Their evolving installation – Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red – comprises ceramic poppies cascading from an upper window to fill the dry moat of the Tower of London. It will be officially launched on Tuesday 5th August 2014,  which is 100 years on from the first full day of Britain’s involvement in the First World War.

More poppies will be added through the summer, until 11th November 2014, by which time there will be the full compliment of 888,246.

Do go and visit if you get the chance – it is a moving tribute to the fallen. If only it truly had been the ‘war to end all wars’.

For peeping Toms (and Tomasinas)

Spent the afternoon in the pretty town of Nantwich on Monday. Great choice of independent shops, lovely cafes, some really attractive half timbered buildings, river walk, talented busker…and sunshine. As I walked back to the car park I passed some very attractive brick built terraces probably built to house Georgian artisans but now home to DINKYS and the SKI set.

These terraces were right on the pavement and I defy anyone not to have a peek through the window as you stroll past….which is fine if you have an empty designer room. Not so good however if your ipad, sound system and TV are on full display, or the aftermath of a party is on show to the world…and especially not if you want to slob out having a drink and watching sport or your favourite soap.

Well, you could draw the curtains across – certainly stops prying eyes but also cuts out all natural light. Then there’s (shudder) awful net curtains.

However, a number of more stylish and practical options are available….

Tier on Tier shutters, for example. The louvres on the lower tier can be adjusted to block peeping Toms, whilst the upper tier can be left as open as you like, giving you full light into the room.

Tier on tier shutters giving you privacy whilst letting in the light

Tier on tier shutters giving you privacy whilst letting in the light

Twin shade blinds give you versatility and privacy with a splash of colour as seen in the image. The white blind can be combined with a palette of colours to suit your decor so that light levels can be adjusted, without compromising privacy.

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So, with these design solutions, voyeurs beware!

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Window on the world

Unusually shaped windows in a home can be a wonderful feature – round, arched, trapezoidal – adding interest and charm. If you have them the last thing want to do is hide them away behind curtains.

But with so many simply stunning alternative window stylings available why would you want to? Depending on the location of the window and your individual design needs and taste, there’s really is a solution that is perfect for you!

Here are some examples………..

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In this lovely bathroom, cafe style blinds have been used to great effect to maintain privacy, add a touch of colour, let in the light and retain the arched shape.

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On the ground floor, more privacy might be required, so shutters would be a good choice. The shutters can be fitted flush with the window and shaped to fit the contours of the window as above.

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Alternatively, cafe style shutters work particularly well for this very ornate recessed window. When open, they serve as a frame to lead the eye into the picture and beyond.

With so many modern stylings to choose from, there is no need to hide behind the curtains!

Cool blinds and cold beers

Just been trying to work my way through a report on heat convection and room temperature – for work purposes of course, it’s not the sort of thing I usually read for recreation, honest!

However, the offer of a cold beer and the chance to enjoy heat convection first hand by sitting in the garden on a beautiful summer evening could not be ignored! My wife advised the wearing of a hat as my brain was already overheating from struggling through the report.  Admittedly my physics A Level was a long way off but I like to think I can still grasp the rudiments – how like a loved one to shatter your illusions.

But this is not meant to be a blog about cold beer and summer evenings – although maybe that would get more readers? I was reading the report to better understand exactly why some of the window stylings I sell have a positive effect on room temperature – obviously concentrating on keeping a room cool at this time of year!

I don’t know if I’m any nearer understanding it. I tried explaining it to my wife but she threatened to throw my cold beer over me (mine note, not hers). Anyway, whether I understand it or not, Duette fabric blinds for example, can still reduce the amount of solar heat passing through a window by up to 78% due to their double layer construction.

Cool blinds - in every sense!

Cool blinds – in every sense!

We put insulation in our lofts, pump foam into our cavity walls but how much consideration do we normally give to the effect that great big pane of glass is having on heat loss/gain, notwithstanding the effect of double glazing. It is possible to have great window stylings, save energy and give tangible benefits on keeping cooler in summer and warmer in winter. So when you are looking at making energy saving improvements to home or office, give some thought to those windows – and do it with style! And I’ll be very happy to advise 😉

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Seeing images of the new luxury apartments at Battersea Power Station  took my mind back to a previous life in the mid 80s,  directing a creative photo shoot inside the power station with the backdrop of huge turbines.  Even then, it was obvious from my early architectural training what a wonderful gallery space it would make – and its potential to provide luxurious riverside accommodation. I’m delighted to see this coming to fruition – even if it has been a long time in gestation.

What the architects  have done with the space is awesome however, I’m not too keen on some of the furnishings. The bathroom is to die for – although maybe I’d need a diving board to get into it! The huge windows are fabulous, but are crying out for powered Duette or Silhouette blinds to control temperature and light – whilst still allowing the fabulous view to be appreciated to the full. Perhaps a pale blue blind to brighten up even a wintery London sky?

 

A window on the Monday blues!

It’s Monday, which means all over the country people are settling down for another week of sitting in offices staring at uninspiring views or, even worse, in my opinion, a set of dull, grey vertical blinds which their colleague has pulled across to stop the glare on their screen. Mind you, half the verticals will be either missing or not tilting properly so maybe they will be able to catch a glimpse of the office block across the street after all.

If the sun is coming down from above, why not have a window blind that is adjustable from the top down? Verticals are either open or shut – or neither one or the other if the plastic bead strings have become brittle and broken losing any adjustment capability!

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Sorry but I have a thing about verticals, so before I get into a grumpy old man rant, here’s my question….

Does anyone have good examples of exciting window covering solutions used in offices? Almost anything that isn’t vertical blinds.

I have some excellent products that I know would add style, proper functionality, colour and even a touch of inspiration to an office environment – my mission is to influence office designers and managers to look at window stylings in a new light!