B and Q sales drop

Retail giant B and Q have reported a sales drop of 4.4% in recent weeks on a like for like basis.  They have kept sales up very well during the recession but it seems like even they are now feeling the pinch.  It doesn’t bode well for other retailers if the benchmark for the industry is seeing sales drop despite their massive presence and huge advertising budget.

It makes you wonder who will be next to report a sles dip or even go into administration like a few of the other big boys such as MFI and the like.

How to keep your bathroom tidy

A laundry basket helps to keep the room tidy. Towels and clothes can be dropped into it the moment they are discarded. Some laundry bins are lined with a fabric bag which can be detached, allowing the laundry to be carried straight to the washing machine. ln most bathrooms, furnishings are limited to the essentials, but if you add a chair the atmosphere immediately becomes more relaxed and inviting. ln a large, well-ventilated bathroom decorated in traditional or country style, an upholstered armchair brings comfort and a touch of luxury, but in a smaller space, light, moisture-resistant wicker or loom is a better choice. ln a modern bathroom, a shapely plastic chair produced by one of the modern makers will be impervious to water and contribute to the contemporary style.

Bathrooms too small for a chair generally have room for a stool or folding cafe chair. The extra surfaces and storage provided by a small table, chest of drawers or small cupboard are not, strictly speaking, essential in a bathroom, but if you are aiming for a softer, more lived-in look than pared—down functionalism, they are a worthwhile addition.

A small table or cabinet drawn alongside the tub makes a suitable place to put your book, a drink and the radio while you indulge in a relaxing bath, and a chest of drawers with a mirror hung above it will serve as an attractive dressing table

Family friendly bathrooms

childrens bathroomFamilies are never static, and in a househeld with young children the bathroom should be flexible enough to adapt as they grow. Get the basics right by prcviding efficient heating, waterproof surfaces and rebust fittings that will stand up to the heavy wear they will inevitably receive, and respond to your children’s developing tastes by changing the decor and accessories.

Children tend to splash water around, and wall and surface materials that wipe down easily and won’t be damaged by water are ideal. Tiles or special bathroom paints are the most tolerant wall treatments, while laminate, tile or stone surfaces for shelves and the tops of units are good-looking and robust.

Provide plenty of storage in the form of pegs to hold dressing gowns, laundry bags and towels, open shelves for things in frequent use such as toiletries, spare towels, baby- changing items and toys, and cupboards — some of them lockable — to keep potentially hazardous cleaning products, medicines and perfume sprays out of harm’s way.

Try coIour—coding toothbrushes, mugs and towels to remind children to use only their own personal kit and fit rails lower on the wall to encourage them to hang up towels. Allow early independence by providing sturdy, stable step stools to give easier access to the basin and lavatory.

Very young children need help with every aspect of personal care from teeth-cleaning to using the lavatory, so bathrooms designed for families must have plenty of clear space to allow parent and child to move around easily. The bath in particular needs enough space for a parent to kneel or sit beside the tub to supervise bathing, read stories or just discuss the day before helping their child towel dry and put on their pyjamas.

When choosing fittings, opt for a bigger bath — preferably with taps and plug hole placed centrally — so two children can bathe at the same time. lf there is room, fit twin basins; they will be invaluable when children start school and the whole family needs to leave home at the same time in the morning.

Walls, floors and other surfaces should be both safe and practical. Floors must be waterproof, slip-resistant and warm to the touch. Materials such as rubber, linoleum, cork and vinyl have the right characteristics and, unlike ceramic tiles, provide a relatively soft landing if accidents do happen.

Bathroom colours

A mixture of pale colours, clear glass and reflective surfaces can create an illusion of space in a small bathroom. Moreover, improved plumbing and specially designed fixtures mean there is no reason why compactness should preclude efficiencyand elegance.

The en suite bathroom in a good hotel demonstrates how successful a small bathroom can be. Rarely larger than is absolutely necessary, it contains all the essentials, yet still manages to convey a sense of luxury through its streamlined layout and use of top-quality fittings and surfaces. The domestic bathrobathroom coloursom differs from this onlyin its need to include adequate storage.

In a compact space, cupboards and drawers are preferable to open shelves because they allow you to reduce the amount of clutter on view and make good use of otherwise dead areas under the basin, in alcoves and behind the panelling that conceals cisterns and pipework and encloses the bath.

The way fittings are arranged within a room affects how spacious it seems. As well as making a floor plan, it is worth drawing an elevation of each wall so you can take the height and bulk of the fixtures into account as well as the ground space they occupy. lt is tempting to find room for all the fixtures on your wish list but sometimes the layout works better, and the room feels more open, if you compromise by having an over-bath shower instead of a separate shower.

Food preperation

An efficient workspace for food preparation needs careful planning. Think about its location in relation to other activity areas, the type of food you prepare, the amount of people you cook for on a daily basis, and whether you need extra preparation areas for others to share the work.

How much day—to-day wear are your food preparation worktops subjected to?
Do you prepare several meals at home daily, or do you often eat out?
Do you cook for just yourself, for you and your partner, or do you have a family to feed?
Do you prepare food on your own, or does your partner or children share the work and space with you?
If children are involved in food preparation, would a low—level worktop be useful?
Do you cook with mainly fresh food that requires lots of preparation space, or a high proportion of convenience foods that require minimal preparation space?
Would you like worktops made from different materials to suit different cooking activities, such as a cool, smooth slab of marble for pastry-making?
Or, would you prefer the same surface material throughout the kitchen?
Are you a sociable cook and prefer facing into the room while you work?
Or, do you prefer facing the wall, or looking out of a window while you prepare food?

Kitchen food storage

The number of people you cater for, how many meals you cook at home, the type of foods you use, how you shop, and who needs access to storage, determine the type and amount of storage space you need in your kitchen.

Do you cook with a mixture of fresh, frozen, chilled, dried, preserved, or tinned foods, or does one type predominate?
Do you have enough fridge, freezer, and cupboard space to house your preferred choice of cooking ingredients?
If you cook with mainly fresh ingredients, do you have cool, well- ventilated storage for vegetables etc., or do you rely solely on the fridge?
If you like to prepare meals well in advance and freeze them, do you have enough storage space in your freezer?
Do you work all day, live far from the shops, or are without a car so that you need more than the average amount of storage space?
Do you buy essential items in bulk and need additional space to keep large packets, tins, and bottles?
Do you store bottles of good wine and so need an even temperature site away from the oven and hob?
Are your food storage facilities, such as the fridge and larder, within a few steps of food preparation areas to save journeys across the kitchen?
Are items of food well-organized so that they are easy to find, not lost or forgotten at the back of kitchen cupboards?
Do you expend unnecessary energy reaching up to pick cooking ingredients off high shelves, or bending down to reach into units below counter level?
If so, could you reorganize your storage cupboards more efficiently so that frequently used kitchen food storageitems are kept somewhere between knee height and eye level?

Creative bathroom tiling

Ceramic tiles have long been recognized as one of the most practical surfaces for a bathroom, particularly in areas likely to come into contact with water. For practical reasons, it’s a sound proposition to half- or fully-tile a bath- room wall as well as tiling the casing and surrounds of fitments such as bath and basin.

Much modern tiling is of course pleasing to the eye as well as practical, and in recent years the options for creative use of tiling have rapidly expanded. For the adventurous, this wide range of tiles presents a challenge to put creativity to work on designing a tiling effect uniquely suited to individual bathroom requirements and personal taste. There certainly is no shortage of possibilities, with a splendid array of vibrant colours and unusual shapes, such as diamond, hexagonal and octagonal. The actual surface of a tile can be plain, raised, embossed, or incised. Patterns range from the prettily floral to modern geometric designs, with some also borrowing inspiration from a past era – there are many good copies of Victorian and Edwardian styles. Others, for example the high tech metallic Hnishes are distinctly futuristic.

Mural tiles orrichly-decorated tile panels can create a focal point, and a range of attractive borders adds to the possibilities of creative tiling. Before you let your imagination run riot, however, you must first sort out the practicalities. Start your initial planning by examining the shape and size of your room. Clever tiling can help to conceal flaws and highlight strengths.

Which areas do you want to enhance, which encourage to fade into the background?
You must also study the surfaces. Are the walls square? Tiles produce such a perfect grid that flaws can be obvious.
Use a spirit level to trace any fault, and plan so that a row of cut tiles falls in the least obvious place.

With such a wealth of ideas to choose from, remember mistakes can be costly. Spend time planning your tiling designs; it’s too late to change your mind once the tiles are Hnally up. When looking for inspiration, End pictures of
finished rooms, rather than making decisions based on a small section of tiling: what can be pleasing in small measure may be overpowering on four walls.
Draw on graph paper a plan of the walls and tile positioning; pin this up, with variations, in your bathroom and live with the idea for a while, until you are quite certain about your choice.

If you are using standard—sized tiles and your design is complex, invest in a grid which Hxes to the wall, providing a framework for arranging and rearranging the design so you can see the result before you Hnally cement your tiles in place. Alternatively, lay the tiles down on a large flat surface to check the positioning.

Bathroom surfaces

Extremes of temperature, steam and moisture all take their toll on a bathroom surprisingly quickly. Surfaces need to be tough, waterproof and easy to maintain if they are to survive bathroom conditions and look good.
The most common materials are paint, wallpaper, tiles, or a combination. The colder, harder and shinier the surface, the more it will suffer from condensation. Mirrors and windows are the worst to mist up and steam will turn quickly to water against a tiled wall.

Condensation
Unless a bathroom is kept warm and well ventilated, moisture in the air from a steaming hot bath or shower condenses, streaming down the walls and misting up mirrors and windows. ln a small bathroom or in one without a window, the problems are multiplied. The two basic ways to deal with condensation are to install an extractor fan for ventilation and to keep the bathroom at a constant heat.

Ventilation
To stop the bathroom misting up, it is essential to allow the moisture laden air to escape. Fans that rely on convection should be positioned high on the outside wall, removing the warm, wet air as it rises. Motorized extractors are more ethcient, sucking the moist air out.

Warmth
There are several kinds of instant heater if you don’t have central heating or want to boost the temperature during the winter; wall mounted fan heaters or radiant fires warm up a room quickly and, although inadequate on its own, a heated towel rail gives some background heat.

Kitchen character

The personality of a room is determined by the individual elements. In kitchens, these elements also have to be functional because they are used more intensively than other household furniture, and come into daily contact with heat, steam, and water. Stainless steel fridges and worktops, for example, contribute an air of professionalism to the domestic kitchen as this highly durable material is frequently used in restaurant kitchens.

Wood cupboards, on the other hand, or cooking utensils hanging from racks, provide the vvarm atmosphere associated with country kitchens. lt is not only kitchen appliances that matter. Other details, such as your choice of vvorktops, lighting, cabinet finishes, Wallcoverings, and flooring, all present an opportunity to influence
the character of the room and contribute to a comfortable kitchen environment. When choosing these elements, bear in mind both aesthetic and practical considerations. Kitchen flooring, for example, needs to be hygienic, hardvvearing, and “soft” underfoot, as vvell as beautiful to look at, while a vvell thought-out mix of task lights and soft, ambient lighting can make all the difference to working and eating areas. For kitchen cabinets, the quality of
craftsmanship and choice of materials are vital if they are to withstand daily wear and tear. Also, by choosing from a range of gloss or matt, pale or dark, cabinet finishes, you can affect how the cabinets reflect natural light in the kitchen room.

For me, kitchen planning tends to fall into two categories, fitted and “unfitted”. Fitted kitchens, developed in the 1950s as the “dream” solution to kitchen design, rely upon units being placed against the walls, while unfitted types use a variety of freestanding elements to furnish the room.
The “unfitted” approach particularly interests me, and it is an area of kitchen planning that l pioneered throughout the 1980s. It has grown in popularity, as for many individuals the warm, comfortable appearance of unfitted kitchens is both easier to live with, and work in.

The family kitchen  is an example of this planning. By grouping all the cooking and preparation facilities together, fewer elements have to be placed around the walls, leaving space for a table, a sofa, and doors opening out onto the garden. Above all, the purpose of this book is to explain how to arrive at an ergonomic kitchen design where the user feels comfortable. Whether your kitchen is large or small, it will help you to choose appliances and furniture according to your needs, and arrange them for ease of use, in a way that is not only practical but looks wonderful.

Kitchen activities

Start by deciding what you will be doing and how much time you want to spend in your new kitchen. Do you want to use it just for cooking the occasional meal, for professional cooking, or would you like it to be the main family room in the house? I’ve found many of my clients prefer kitchens that contain not only a cooking area but an informal dining area, where adults can entertain and children can do their homework, draw, or paint. They also request a “soft” area with a carpet or children to play on, a sofa and television for relaxation, and a kitchen desk for dealing with home administration and telephone calls.

ln order to produce a successful kitchen design that matches your needs, you have to go back to fundamentals. First establish what you enjoy and what you dislike about your existing kitchen, and use the ideas to help build up a picture of your ideal kitchen. Consider hovv you move about the room: how far do you have to travel from the fridge to the food preparation area? Are storage cupboards difficult to reach?

Are worktops close to the hob? ls it easy to carry in shopping bags from the car? Once you have worked out how you are going to use the space, research the Features that best suit your needs. The pros and cons of the major kitchen appliances are outlined. For example, if you cook with plenty of fresh ingredients you will be able to judge Whether a pantry cupboard or a family sized fridge is a better investment. Whatever the dimensions of your kitchen, try to limit the number of elements to keep the plan simple. In small kitchens, durable items that offer multi purpose functions may be better than specialized natures that have only an occasional use. The same applies to small gadgets and electrical appliances whose limited purpose may not justify the amount of space they occupy.