Built-in custom furniture

Punctuating open-plan living

Open plan living is something many of our clients want to achieve. That feeling of space, the flow of activity from one space to another, those well-lit views through windows from every corner – it’s no wonder it’s a popular choice.

Open plan comes with its own particular challenges though. The obvious one is building in storage so that the impression created is of spacious calm order, not a really big room full of stuff. If we lose interior walls, we also lose some of the natural places to accommodate shelves, cupboards and drawers.

Another one, paradoxically, is the need to demarcate space. Long sight-lines are great, but our lifestyles tend to require certain areas for certain functions. It helps to design a series of open plan rooms to allow the space to be naturally ‘punctuated’ to create separation within an open-plan whole.

A home organistion hub designed by Bear Interiors separates an open plan kitchen and dining room

This custom-built home organisation hub elegantly solves both problems. Making effective use of the brick piers between kitchen and dining area in this listed 1960s home (but it could equally be free standing) this is the spot where domestic paperwork is done and immediately filed in robust office-standard filing drawers.

The home computer and phone are on hand with cabling neatly hidden, and the coffee machine helps make this the go-to spot to use and store useful home admin stuff.

The hub uses the same timber, veneer and genuine Formica finishes used in the rest of the kitchen, all designed, built and installed by Bear Interiors. Details like the polished chrome kickplate add an extra touch of luxury to a highly functional piece of custom furniture.

By separating kitchen and dining with a half-height unit, the family can enjoy the size and aspect of their open plan room but keep the more functional bits and pieces out of sight while they sit down over a meal. The feature is equally good to look at from the dining room side, providing a useful wall to site a radiator (another common issue when interior walls are missing).

A custom built altar table by Bear Interiors

 

This attractive altar table serves as a useful serving and display area. Designed and built by us and inspired by the 1960s aesthetic of the house, it also fits exactly around the radiator to ensure the heat can reach the room.

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Simple is beautiful

When it comes to planning storage and home design, sometimes the simplest solutions have the most to offer. The test of good design can be that we barely know it’s there.

In the right setting, a highly decorated or unusual layout is absolutely right. Often, though, we simply want our bits and bobs out of the way in a piece of furniture so convenient, classic and well-built that we hardly notice it at all.

It becomes part of the room, like it’s always been there, especially when a pair of wardrobes fit a couple of alcoves like hands in gloves. The effect may be simple but the execution to make it so is critical: like the wardrobes we designed here – the fit, the perfect infills, the top detailing matching the height and style of the picture rail – all of these need careful thought and skilled installation to create the effect.

Simple alcove wardrobes harmonise with the room with plinth details and perfectly fitted infills

Simple alcove wardrobes harmonise with the room with plinth details and perfectly fitted infills

In a living area, the bits and bobs multiply. To create a clean, open-plan feel it’s vital to have the right storage to make whisking all our stuff away as easy as pie. The effect is ordered, and helps us relax in an uncluttered room where we know exactly where to find a necessary item.

In high-ceilinged rooms like the one for which we created the storage wall below, built-in furniture makes efficient use of high-up space for less used items, which stay orderly, dust-free and still readily accessible. Even room heating is integrated for a fuss-free feel.

A full-height storage wall creates an ordered feel and makes efficient use of high-up wall space

A full-height storage wall creates an ordered feel and makes efficient use of high-up wall space

Our ordered home needs space for outside storage too. You might be surprised how many conversations we have with clients about storing bins, recycling and other useful but unattractive paraphernalia. If we get this right, the rest of the home feels instantly better.

The client for whom we designed this contemporary side passage (below) wanted a covered area to keep waste disposal bins dry (helpfully also keeping the rain off people using them) and out of sight. A sloping waterproof roof was necessary, but was given the invisibility treatment with a hard-wearing slatted wall. It’s simple but thoughtful, attractive but low-key.

There are more custom-built home storage ideas on our website, or call us to discuss what you need on 01225 330124.

Outdoor storage can also be clean, well-designed and contemporary

Outdoor storage can also be clean, well-designed and contemporary

Garden cabins, re-imagined

A beautiful garden office by Garden Affairs is made even more attractive and usable by Bear Interiors

A beautiful garden office by Garden Affairs is made even more attractive and usable by Bear Interiors

A timber garden building is a wonderful addition to your home. Not a dusty shed, you understand, but one of these solid pine, insulated cabins you can use all year round.

Make it an office, a hobby room, a treatment space, a guest suite, a summer house, you name it. Designed and installed by our friends at Garden Affairs in Trowbridge, it’s quicker and less expensive than an extension and will outlast most of us.

I was inspired by the many different styles available, from the most traditional copper-roofed period piece to flat-roofed uber-contemporary. Clever options like sliding doors, combined garden stores and roofed verandah areas make the very most of the space available.

So it was a treat to be asked to design and build furniture for one of these beauties, already in situ in a client’s garden – and even more of a treat to be asked by Garden Affairs to get creative in their office and show buildings.

With the solid construction of the garden rooms, we didn’t have to accommodate any special requirements for the furnishings: most are normal ceiling height, the floors are as solid as in your house, and with treated timber walls there’s no damp or condensation.

What we did need to do was think about how an average family might make use of a garden building. The cabins come in every style, big and small, and all feel surprisingly spacious inside, but thoughtful storage and display will make any size of room calm, multi-functional and pleasant to be in.

Organised storage and a foldaway desk in a garden office

Organised storage and a foldaway desk in a garden office

Built-in furniture designed to fit exactly makes best use of available space, and foldaway elements like the desk above make the room easy to adapt for other uses. Close off your work space and meet clients in a home office, or entertain guests in a room also used for a hobby or craft. (True in your house too, or course, as our custom-built furniture customers will tell you.)

With robust and hard-wearing materials and finishes, these units are built to last and withstand all the use your family can throw at them. I’m loving the exposed ply and clean white laminate in this treatment, but you can choose any style you like.

Our Forest Contracts manufacturing partner combines craftsman standards with CNC factory precision, to make your garden room furniture both bespoke and affordable.

I love imagining a happy garden cabin owner walking down the garden path to their inviting, orderly personal space, with everything ready for them to work, play or relax.

You can visit the Garden Affairs show site at Trowbridge Garden Centre, Wiltshire. If you can’t wait, take a virtual tour – and check out their Bear Interiors sales office furnishings too!

A kitchenette nestles in a built-in module, keeping things tidy and functional in the garden office

A kitchenette nestles in a built-in module, keeping things tidy and functional in the garden office

 

 

 

 

 

A hard-working home office

A multi-functional custom built home office designed by Bear Interiors

A multi-functional custom built home office designed by Bear Interiors

A good bit of the interior design work we do at Bear Interiors is making space work really hard. However large or small a home, you can always winkle a bit more use out of well-planned rooms. Investment in clever design – and furniture which fits spaces perfectly – really delivers.

And many of our clients have rooms which need to do more than one job: the kitchen which also serves as a reception room, the dining room which needs to double as an office. It’s a rarity for a design to meet just one single brief.

Take our clients who needed a home office. Not only do they want a functional and enjoyable workspace for themselves, but staffing levels in their city centre offices also fluctuate according to projects on the go, and sometimes there’s a need for overspill into their home office. That calls for more deskspace, but also the storage and separation which makes it easy to welcome colleagues into a defined area without falling over domestic bits and bobs.

Home-based working can make family contact easier too – as long as you plan it right. Our clients wanted this office to be an attractive place for their children to come and do homework (on the days when their co-workers weren’t using the desks!) while still maintaining a calm and professional working environment.

The solution is creating several flexible desk areas, served by more storage than you can shake a data-stick at, even using under-desk space to the maximum. The space seems far more generous when you can use it in multiple ways, and an air of order keeps everything ticking over even when multiple users need the space.

I especially like the window seat (below), making practical use of the alcove and, of course, building in more storage. We’ve designed similar solutions to under-stairs space and nooks of every size and shape.

Using every available space for clever storage creates a calm and inviting working area

Using every available space for clever storage creates a calm and inviting working area

 

 

Orangery serving area? Be our guest

An elegant serving and storage area to serve guests in an orangery

An elegant serving and storage area to serve guests in an orangery

I’m thinking of my clients and their lovely orangery as the sun finally shows its face. It’s a perfect location to have people around – that wonderful indoor / outdoor space which creates a special ambience for drinks, a formal dinner or a cheerful chat, cool on summer evenings or cosy in winter.

The only problem they had was how to keep guests comfortably topped up with food and drink when the kitchen is a little further away. Constant trips to and fro make for distracted hosts and interrupted conversation.

The answer is this elegantly custom-built serving area, complete with storage for tableware, a drinks fridge and a serving area for a buffet or hot food. Open shelves at the ends could be used decoratively or for the most frequently-used items, but the rest are discreetly stored away, ready to be whisked out when it’s time to set the mood.

In my experience, people naturally tend to cluster around an area like this at a party (nothing to do with it being the bar, I’m sure!) The flow around a serving space is important, so we’ve kept the profile slim and the corners soft.

The fabulous orangery setting called for something more than an off the shelf item. Practical it may be, but it’s also on show and part of a room designed for entertainment and warm hospitality. Our clients liked the one-off carved design in the cupboard doors, making a subtle aesthetic statement without overdoing things.

A piece like this could be used in any dining or reception room to make entertaining more fun, and built to fit the space allowed perfectly. We’ve also created custom-built units for clients which double as room dividers, as well as freestanding sideboards offering oodles of handy storage.

 

 

 

Ten ways to get the most from an interior designer

If you’re thinking about reworking one or more rooms at home, it’s a great idea to pick the brains of an interior designer.

At Bear Interiors we advise customers all the time, so here’s our guide to the preparation you can do to really get the most from the conversation – and help you decide if you want to buy your interior designer’s services.

Living room of Ducklings Retreat, Cartmel, designed by Bear Interiors

Living room of Ducklings Retreat, Cartmel, designed by Bear Interiors

1. Choose an interior designer whose work you like. Personal recommendations are great if you have friends who wanted something similar to you. Any good designer will show you a portfolio of recent projects and provide you with customer references. If like us they also build and install custom-made furniture, ask to see (and feel!) examples of their wares.

2. Look around for inspiration. Take cuttings from magazines, ask for swatches in wallpaper and fabric shops, and take photos of things you like wherever you go. Even if the features you like would need re-working for your home, they are very useful guides to your taste, the colours you love and the feel you’re after, which aren’t always easy to describe in words.

3. Have a little measure up. Obviously an interior designer will do this thoroughly if you give them your commission, but a sketched floor plan including dimensions will make sure your initial conversation is accurately based on the existing room, its nooks and crannies, and help you illustrate what you’d like it to become. Don’t forget to note the height of the room too.

A rough sketch plan - helping you describe your brief to an interior designer

A rough sketch plan – helping you describe your brief to an interior designer

4. For practical interior design proposals and an idea of costs, it’s important to know if a new design is going to require structural changes like moving utilities, drains, radiators, interior walls or windows, so mark existing positions on your sketched floor plan. If you are having building work done, you may have drawings already, and it’s helpful to have some copies available.

5. If you’re not meeting at home, take along some photos of your existing room to go with your sketch plan – on a phone is fine.

6. Have an idea of maximum budget, and don’t be embarrassed about setting a limit. It’s much better for a designer to know a realistic figure and work within it than to propose something that won’t be affordable, and some are great at suggesting clever cost saving ideas. In working out your budget, have a think about the current value of your home and what your transformation may add to that. As a very rough guide, a newly built kitchen will add an average of 8% to the value of your home, though that varies. It’s not the only consideration and it matters less if you have no intention of moving soon, but it’s sensible not to spend amounts far in excess of what you could recoup.

7. Be ready to share a little information. It won’t get too intimate, but we are talking about your home here, and it needs to reflect who lives there, how you use it and what you like doing. Giving your designer some clues about your lifestyle will help them offer ideas just right for you – whether it’s for a storage unit the right size for fishing rods, a desk to fit a particular alcove, a love for home cinema or enthusiasm for all things tartan. Don’t worry, we interior designers are like doctors, we’ve heard it all!

8. Think about the future. Especially if you’re aiming to stay put in your home, your needs will change. Kids grow up and want media walls instead of play dens. Career changes could require home office space, and retirement opens up new ways of spending time. Family members may need provision for reduced mobility, and even pets have their own accommodation needs. You can’t predict everything but if you share the possibilities with your interior designer, you can create options with greater inbuilt flexibility for change.

A design for a child's room can have inbuilt flexibility for changing needs

A design for a child’s room can have inbuilt flexibility for changing needs

9. Be ready to listen to advice. A good designer will take your brief and add value to it. They may suggest things you didn’t know you could do, or they may come up with a different solution to your design challenge. Don’t be pushed around, but don’t dismiss new ideas out of hand either – ask why they are suggesting something different, and make sure you’re satisfied with the answer. They will have worked on many similar projects and their interior design expertise is what you’re going to be paying for. If they can spot an issue early on and work around it, they may save you a lot of time and trouble.

An initial kitchen design render helps you see in detail what you'll be getting

An initial kitchen design render helps you see in detail what you’ll be getting

10. At the end of your conversation, be clear about what you’d like the interior designer to do. If you want time to think about it or want to talk to another supplier before you decide, that’s fine. If you want your designer to start working on designs for a kitchen, living room or bedroom or the whole house, make sure you’re aware of the costs involved and agree what you’ll get for your money and when. It could be the start of something beautiful for your home!

More information about the Bear Interiors design service

Contemporary Georgian? No problem

Contemporary storage for a modern orangery - Bear Interiors, BathWorking with a lovely family locally I’m reminded that houses don’t come with instruction manuals. You have to live in a new space, get to know it and what you want from it to really know what you need.

This family’s beautiful home had a stable block which has been converted to include a master bedroom suite, with a newly-built orangery attached. The stately Georgian proportions mean the furnishings need a certain scale and impact, but with new additions, contemporary has to work alongside period. And the fact that it’s a real-life family home means its needs lots of storage including purpose built media space.

Not a solution your average furniture shop can come up with. Here’s where custom-made furnishings can pay off, and where the investment in interior design time is really worth while – not just a few sketches, but a slow evolution of ideas over weeks and months.

It’s worth spending the time living with an idea, exploring and improving ways to get the final delivery right, and that’s what happened with this family as they were getting to know their extended home afresh.

It’s nice when an idea is spot-on first time, but it rarely works that way. As a client, you have the right to take an idea away and live with it for a while before you come back with refinements that make it perfect – for you.

There’s more about our approach and lots of design ideas at www.bear-interiors.co.uk

Wardrobes and desk by Bear Interiors, Bath

Built-in wardrobe space and freestanding bureau desk for master bedroom

Custom made media unit by Bear Interiors, Bath

A freestanding media unit with concealed cable management