Up-Cycling, Pre-Loved, Vintage, Re-Purposed and Artisans

Bespoke upcycled furniture lamps and interior accessories

Bespoke upcycled furniture, lamps and interior accessories by Sarah Maidment Interiors

Whether you call it up-cycling, pre-loved, Vintage, or re-purposed, lets hear it for the artisans, up-cyclers’ and restorers and the current passion for craft. These people spend hours sourcing the right piece at a reasonable price. The item may need repairing and new handles etc. purchased. Sometimes a piece shouts out exactly what you’d like to create, whilst others take time to decide. Having said that, sometimes you create a piece and you decide to add or change the design because your first idea didn’t work out how you’d hoped. Designs evolve, the plethora of bespoke designs created by each individual ensures there is plenty of choice and something to fit in with your interior. Many accept commissions on your own pieces of furniture also. There is skill, time, expertise and expense involved.

You can understand then, my annoyance when I overheard a lady in a shop recently who was viewing a chest of drawers ( not mine, I hasten to add) remark to her husband ‘Oh, this has been tarted up, and they still want £80.00 for it.’ The drawers had been painted, beautifully applied Decoupage and the knobs replaced with new china ones. Clearly this lady has never attempted any of the skills required, and £80.00 was a bargain! Whether or not the piece was what you were looking for, it had been beautifully done.

There is a current craving for authenticity to counter balance mass produced, highly branded products. These mass produced products are often more expensive than individual pieces, and don’t always stand the test of time. You can spend the same amount or less on old pieces which will become part of your story, as they remind you of shopping trips more than a brand new item will. The finding of various tables, lamps, chairs, pieces of china and ornaments etc. will  give  a room it’s charm.

Sustainably  sourced and ethically produced,  are important factors to many consumers when considering purchases. There is only so much space  available for landfill! Considered purchasing, whilst supporting small businesses is a win, win.

Shopping is always more interesting and exciting (as you never know what you’re going to find) whether in Antique shops, Vintage stores, Auctions ( houses and online), Charity shops, Etsy and even Amazon Handmade.  These are all great places to find affordable items. Always think about a couple of options for example. like a chair which could be put in either a hall or bedro rule applies thand made artefacts by artists and crafters.

Often pieces are very reasonably priced to sell. We all love a bargain, but sadly, all too often people ask for a disportionate discount which can be  insulting to the artisan, bearing in mind their costs and time to produce an item. Maybe they’ve been watching too many episodes of ‘ Bargain Hunter’ and don’t realise it’s been set up especially for the programme. I think that customers would think twice about asking for a discount in a charity shop, which can be more expensive than independent traders.

All items pictured are from traders at The Three Wise Monkeys Vintage and Arts Emporium in St Albans.  https://threewisemonkeysemporium.wordpress.com/

Featured Traders – Sarah Maidment Interiors, First Class Creations, Baskerville and Ross, Linslade Antiques.

Loads more traders offering a florist, stained glass, upholstery services, and  many interesting items for sale, ( along with a tea room too) well worth a visit!



Guide to Lighting with Lamps

Display of lampshades with coolie by shades by Anoush

Display of lamps by Anouska  Hempel Design


As the clocks go back and our days grow darker, good lighting is essential. Not only for task lighting ( cleaning, cooking and reading etc.) but for creating a warm and comfortable ambience. Lighting is a huge topic, but in this guide I will advise on lamps. No living space should be without a lamp.

Before considering buying new table or standard lamps, make the most of what you’ve got already.

  1. Try changing the bulbs. It maybe that you need a bulb with a higher or lower wattage or Lumins,  or a different shape or make. For example a large globe light will give a better quality of light than a standard bulb.
  2. 70 watt/230 volt clear energy saving bulb is equivalent to a 100 watt standard incandescent bulb. This type is dimmerble and provides good colour to shades.
  3. 18 watt/230 volt compact florescent bulb gives a greyer and flatter light than that of a standard energy saving bulb. Although equivalent to a 100 watt bulb, it does not appear to be as bright as a 70 watt energy saving bulb.
  4. 7 watt/230 volt LED classic shaped bulb is equivalent to a 25 watt incandescent bulb. Most of the light will travel upwards in the lamp and sometimes a ‘cold’ light is produced, so buy a ‘warm’ LED bulb.
  5. Use the maximum wattage a shade will allow, as a brighter one may singe or discolour the shade.
  6. A frosted or pearl bulb provides a softer more shadow free light.


Changing your shades will update your room and can improve and change the light. The shape, colour, size, material and lining are all key to the shades look and use. Images by Design Bump and Apartment Therapy.

  1. Light coloured shades in silk, parchment and paper will cast a cool light as the bulb transmits colour from the shade.
  2. A cream coloured silk pleated coolie shade is a popular choice, but doesn’t always hide the light source or add anything to the room.
  3. Dark colours will add drama and a atmospheric mood.
  4. A lined shade will soften the light source. Unlined shades tend to allow hot spots of light to show through the shade. If this happens you can paint the inside of the shade in gold or silver paint, which gives a warm glow to the room. Alternatively, choose a contrasting colour which picks up another colour in your room, for example red or green.
  5. Always opt for fewer lamps with larger shades for impact.

Above images by Thelampshade’s web blog and SugarCube.

Lampshade to base ratio guide

Ensure the shade size suits the base

Lampshade to base ratio guide

Ensure your lampshade is the correct size to the base. Images by Oka

Shade Shapes and Sizes

  1. Coolie or Empire is the most common shape of shade. A sloped coolie pushes most of the light downwards. Because of this, choose the biggest shade you can to provide useful light.
Oversized coolie or empire shade and base

Maximum light where it’s needed with a coolie shade

Oversized coolie shade and lampbase

Add impact with an oversized coolie lampshade and base

2. Drum – A drum shaped shade, deep or shallow, allows light to travel upwards and downwards, adding to ambient light and task lighting below. This shape of shade is also good for showing the fabric or design of the shade.

Burlap drum shaped lampshdes

Drum shaped lampshades made from burlap from The Pottery Barn

3. Oval – The deep slim oval shape performs in a similar way to the drum, and is suitable for smaller spaces.

Oval shaped lampshade on contemporary base by Obus

Oval shaped lampsde ideal fro smaller spaces by Obus

4. Cylinder – An elegant and contemporary shape, especially if mounted on a candlestick lamp base.

Cylindrical shaped lampshde and base

Cylindrical lampshde and base. Image atgstores.com

5. Conical – This is usually seen on small candlestick lamps and provides narrow pockets of downward light.

Example of conical shade directing light downwards

Conical shaped shade directs light downwards Image sminteriors.co.uk

6. Square or Tapered Square – A square shade instantly updates a room. It gives both upwards and downwards light and looks great in a corner of a room. It gives a far better light than a conical shape.

Square shaped lampshades on a console table

Square shaped shades directs light upwards and downwards. Image by homestrendy.com

7. Rectangle or Tapered Rectangle – This shape also gives both upwards and downwards light, and gives a room a modern look. Useful on a bar or side table.

Contemporary table lamp by John Cullen Lighting

Contemporary shade and base. The light is directed both upwards and downwards by John Cullen Lighting.

It’s worth experimenting with different shapes, sizes and colours of shades to compare the differences it can make. The shade needs to be appropriate to the amount and type of light you want it to achieve, it’s purpose and height and width of the base. The more open the shade, the more light you will get. Shadow is just as important as the light in a good interior to prevent a ‘flat’ ambience.

Lamps should be fit for their intended purpose of course, whether for reading in a chair, where a floor standing or standard lamp is useful,  bedside lamps or sitting on a bedside cabinet.

Modern standard lamp for a reading corner.

A modern standard lamp is perfect for a reading corner. Image by DevaDesigns.co.uk

Table lampshade and Base ideal for reading corner

Light bounces downwards to where you need it. Image Google.co.uk

Classic Sitting Room with orange he

The colour of the shade picks up colours elsewhere in the room. Image Kit Kemp


Want It Done By Christmas?

On a recent site visit to a prospective client, who wanted a quote for their kitchen and bathroom installation, my husband who runs Random Task Plumbing asked what they were having and did they have any plans he could see. The client didn’t know what they wanted, other than for all the works to be completed by mid December, in time for Christmas. Bearing in mind that the client hadn’t yet exchanged contracts on the property and presently lived in another part of the country.

Firstly, a detailed quote is impossible to give if you only have a rough idea of what you want, or don’t know what you want at all. Also any tradesperson worth their salt, will have at least a 2 to 3 month lead time, especially leading up to Christmas. Whilst basic help and advice can be given to guide clients regarding types of showers suitable for their water systems and the feasibility  to move the loo to a different location (soil stacks are often forgotten by clients) and draw a scaled plan, most small tradespeople don’t have the time to offer a detailed design consultancy. The fixtures, fittings and finishings have to be chosen by you, the client. After all it’s your bathroom, kitchen etc. and it’s imperative that you love the finished results, it’s your home.

Bathroom Moodboard by designbykaty.com

Detailed Bathroom Moodboard by Designsbykaty.com

So before calling a tradespersons to quote, take time over your plans, keep revisiting them and show them to other people. Think about how you will use the space and how you want it to make you feel. If this is difficult for you, then an Interior Design consultancy is invaluable. For as little as £95.00 a design consultancy could save you a lot of time and possibly money too. Good interior design is about planning, not just about carefully coordinated fabric and paint swatches. This consultancy maybe all you need to set you off to implement yourself. If you require more help tailored to your specific needs, these can be accommodated too, regardless of budget. Of course everyone has budget.

First floor plans of a four bedroom house

You don’t need such detailed drawings unless major renovations are planned.

Interior Designers use local trade, craftspeople and suppliers and only recommend those whose work and people they trust. When deciding, look at reviews, ask to see previous completed work. Personality compatibility also is valuable – can you work with them?

I understand that you want everything ‘done’ and perfect for Christmas, but be realistic with your time scales. Even when you’ve decided on your plans, fixtures, fittings etc. There are supplier lead times to consider too. The last thing you want is a half-finished job over the festive season, especially if planning to have guests.

assembled cupboard carcass's

Kitchen install in progress not what you want at Christmas

After - Kitchen with island and glass partition wall and door to hall.

After – Kitchen with glass partition and door to hall

Once you have detailed plans, you can then invite local tradespeople to quote and provide approximate dates of availability. They will all be able to quote ‘from the same song sheet’, which makes price comparisons clearer. However, remember that cheaper isn’t always better, you often get what you pay for. Allow for a lead time on quotes being received too.

Tiling in progress in shower en-suite shower area

A half finished guest en-suite – not what you want when having guests

Completed Guest En- Suite

Completed Guest En- Suite

Plan the work in stages – what can be implemented and finished by your self-imposed Christmas deadline? Is this in the correct order of your work schedule? If so, fine. If not, then it’s far more beneficial to be patient and schedule the works for early in the New Year, thus eleviating the extra stress of Christmas and giving your home the consideration it deserves.

There’s  always next Christmas!


Design a Home and Garden that means Something to you

What does your home and garden mean to you? A place to relax, entertain and spend time with families. How do they make you feel? Our homes and gardens should create a feeling of happiness and well being – a haven of peace in a busy world, and reflect your personality and chosen lifestyle. Ha! in a perfect world I hear you say.

How often have you visited either a National Trust garden, https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/gardens-and-parks,  The Chelsea Flower Show  or an open garden as part of the National Garden Scheme charity fundraising, https://www.ngs.org.uk/ and become inspired to create a lovely garden of your own, only to become despondent on returning home, faced with your own small patch of turf? We’ve also been guilty on the first of the warm, sunny days of rushing out to the local nursery or garden centre and purchasing seasonal plants for instant display, only to find that you don’t actually know where to plant them? Like all home and garden projects it’s down to good planning, you are, after all, creating an outside ‘room’ extension to your home.

Create a Mood board, after all many interior mood boards are inspired by nature’s colours’, textures and movement. Ensure that your outside space compliments your interior space, a cohesive, seamless boundary between the two.

Garden Moodboard for inspiration

Garden Mood board by thepapermulberryblogspot.com

Ten Guidelines on Planning your Outside Space

  1. Budget – How much are you prepared to spend?
  2. Measure your site.
  3. Note the aspect, is it North, south, East or West? This has an influence over choice of plants, and where you want your seating and entertaining area to be.
  4. Hard Landscaping – Hedges, fences, decking paths etc. working within fixed boundaries. Do you want a water feature? Do you want outside lighting? These should be incorporated into you plan now to allow for electrical wiring requirements.
  5. Soil. Unless you’re exceptionally lucky most of us have ‘rubbish’ soil – clay, chalk, sand, silt, loams and peat. https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=179 (It maybe full of stones and builders debris too). To identify your soil type go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/htbg/module1/soil_types1.shtml  which offer great information other than purchasing a soil acid test kit. It’s important to choose the right plants for your soil if they’re to thrive ( not just the pretty ones). https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/beginners-guide/planting
  6. Collect ideas together you like from gardens, magazines etc. and think how you could incorporate some of these in your own garden. Also think about the transition from your interior to your garden. These should compliment each other and could be linked by either colour in the planting, fence or decking, or style of seating furniture and containers.  The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has an amazing website full of advice https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/design
  7. Prepare the planting border. Dig over at least fork deep, remove bricks, flints and anything else you may find and remove weeds. Then dig in well rotted manure. This is hard work, so not recommended on a hot day!
  8. Plan your planting scheme. Based on the aspect, space, soil type and desired final design and colour. Do you want a wildlife garden, attracting butterflies, birds and bees, a minimalist with maintenance to match? How much time, realistically are you’re going to spend gardening?

9. Now Buy your plants according to your list.

10. Compromise You maybe horrified by the price of your chosen plants, especially if selecting larger plants and shrubs for instant impact. Buy smaller specimens instead and be patient. Alternatively, consider scouring the clearance section for reductions, especially in the Autumn. O.K. they maybe going over for this season, but shrubs and perennials will come back next year to enhance your garden at a lower cost.

Be patient, gardens like homes evolve and grow over time. Below, are before, during and after picture’s of an overgrown and neglected garden, taken over two years.


The garden now, two years on. Just wondering how many beers had been consumed prior to cutting the lawn, judging by the stripes!

Which Decade Does Your Home Reflect?

Did you move into your present home some years ago, decorating and furnishing it up to date fixtures, fittings with enthusiasm and sat back and enjoyed since? How many years ago?

Now, sit back, look at your home objectively – is it looking ‘tired’ a little worse for wear? Does it look slightly ‘dated’? Be honest. It’s easy to settle into a comfortable living way of life. You’ve modernised, decorated and furnished it all once, why do it again? Because it ages you, puts you right into a certain decade, which decade is your home from? So unless you are deliberately trying to recreate a certain era or decade in your home, visit http://www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/  it needs changing.

Alms House Interior Geffrye Museum

Alms House Interior Geffrye Museum

Inspiration and ideas from previous decades can successfully be incorporated into present interiors and are often used as research for paint, paper and fabric design companies. Morris and Co https://www.william-morris.co.uk/shop/new-collections/

Morris and Co New Collection

Inspiration from the past. Morris and Co

In the late 70’s and early 80’s the trend was for stripped pine. Antique pieces are still acceptable, (however, the Victorians would never have had their cheap pine furniture on show, and it would have been painted or stained to look like mahogany or hidden below stairs). The more modern pine pieces – I use this term loosely, turn an orange colour over time and not only look awful but are dated. Same is to be said of heavy dark furniture popular from the Victorians to the 1940’s.

Before and after painted pine funiture

Update your existing furniture with paint.Image sweetsmith.com


Before discarding the usually well made, real wood furniture for flat pack modern pieces, consider updating your existing furniture with paint – unless of course you have a budget for a better quality product. Furniture can be transformed with paint. Do check though before painting, that the item of furniture is not a valuable piece.


Kitchens are a huge investment and if yours is well planned and works well  few changes to update it maybe all that it requires.

Doors- Again these can be painted and swap the handles and knobs with new ones.

Work Tops – Replace with new to blend in with your new door fronts.

Splash Backs – Remove the tiles if they are from a decade you wish to move on from, and replace with specialist glass or a contemporary tile design.

Flooring – Perhaps lay new vinyl if the existing is worn, with an up to date design to compliment the other changes made. If floor tiles are dated, remove them and lay new. This is more expensive and more difficult if they are laid under the existing fitted cabinets. Never lay tiles over tiles, you’re asking for trouble with cracking and movement. If the tiles are acceptable, and you wish to keep them, choose cabinet and work top colours to compliment the floor. Using specialist floor paint is also an option, can work well if done properly. Hang a new blind, and add some fresh accessories and tea towels.

Walls- Unless you live in a beautiful Victorian house wall paper borders are a no, no. So are dado and picture rails stained a mahogany colour. This is another 80’s hangover.

Image example of dado rail in period home

Painted dado and picture rails in a period home Image Pinterest

Decoration – If you love your paintings, pictures and prints try re framing them. The difference in using a double mount and new frame will not only enhance the art work but also your room. Hang pictures in groups either by subject matter or in matching frames for an eye catching display. Do not hang them as in the 70’s in a triangular mode across the wall, or too high.

Flooring – No swirly carpets – sorry. People use this description when describing a house in need of an update ‘All swirly  carpets’ and people understand what the house is like, dated. Swirly carpets can also compete with the rest of the furnishings.

West Indian Front Room

Everything is competing with each other Image by Studio International.com

Have you got wood underneath  the existing carpet that is worth exposing, then lay a   large rug for warmth in colours to complement your other furnishings? If carpet is preferred a plain neutral carpet usually works best in the majority of standard size homes as it makes the rooms appear larger.

Lighting– It’s fine if you live in a period property or re- creating a particular decade style because you like it, otherwise try changing the shades and lamps to a more contemporary style. Florescent strips in the kitchen offer great light, but its unforgiving and provides little ambience. Try changing the strip to a budget friendly track system. The adjustability of the spots makes it easy to aim the light where its most needed.

Now get into a decade where you and your home belong be it traditional, classic or contemporary.

Bathrooms can be more tricky to update without major work. However, if the layout works well, update with new tiles and flooring. Ditch the carpet for a start! It’s a far better job if the old tiles are removed prior to laying new, especially when tiling down to a bath, basin and shower. However if you have a plaster board wall, this may come away with the old tiles in places, which will need to be repaired before tiling. This is not a quick update job. If storage is a problem, try replacing your pedestal basin with a vanity unit and basin, and add a mirrored cabinet above it. Hang a new blind and add new towels to compliment the room.

Now which decade does your home reflect?

Images from annesage.com, hative, HousetoHome,Geffrye Museum,Little Greene Paint






Light Bulb Moment

I have had always had an aversion to a single central pendant light as the only source of lighting in a room. This light creates a dull soulless room, illuminating a non flattering light not only to the room, but to it’s inhabitants. Lamps, whether table or standard, are my preference especially in a sitting room to add warmth and ambiance. The central light only being used when cleaning. My children have either inherited, or most likely have been drilled into the same aversion; To the point that my daughter actually removed the bulb from the central pendant light in a student house she once shared, forcing them to switch on the lamps instead, knowing that no-one would be bothered to replace the bulb. Drastic measures!

Lighting is one of the most important features when designing any room, and should be planned simultaneously and included in the drawings of the rooms intended use and layout. Lighting is intrinsic. It is no good wishing you had a plug socket for a table lamp once the room is completed.Lighting can make or break a completed room.

Lighting is basically divided into three categories – Ambient, Task (function) and Background, each serving a particular purpose. When these three elements are put together it is called ‘Layered’ lighting.

Ambient Lighting is created with lamps and wall lights. The illumination is soft, warm and relaxing.

Task lights which provide light for reading, or cooking – activities. Overhead ceiling or pendant lights, Spotlights

Background lighting is used as under cupboard lights in kitchens, under plinths, or perhaps to highlight a painting or wall texture.

Depending of the uses of the space there is a lighting solution available to suit. This is all very well if you are planning a major re-fit including electrical works, but what about the room you just want to paint and update on a budget? Make the most of the light you’ve got already. Anything to increase natural light into your home is beneficial to save on your bills. If you have small windows try replacing heavy curtains with a roman blind instead. If privacy is an issue consider wooden shutters with adjustable slats or a sheer fabric.

Change your bulbs. How many times have you bought a replacement light bulb and when you get home discover it is the wrong bulb, despite standing looking at the vast array on display, and end up with a drawer full of assorted bulbs which won’t fit anything in your home. If you need one, I’ve probably got one. It maybe you need a bulb of a higher or lower wattage, or a different shape, make or type. A large globe will give a better quality light than a standard bulb. Use a frosted or pearl bulb if you can as they provide a softer shadow free light. Use energy efficient bulbs where you can. This is basic advice, because if I went into all the different types of bulbs here you would certainly switch off! Sorry!

Replace lamp shades.The size, shape, material colour and lining are all key to shade’s look and use.The shade must not only complement the decor but just as importantly directs light in a way you intend.

Add ‘plug – ins’. A plug -in is a basically a light you plug into your socket – a lamp if you like. If plugged in the right area of a room it can add instant drama by high lighting a plant or art work or or light up dead corners or a room.

Then there is outside lighting to be considered too.

There is too much to say about lighting in just one blog, so  lighting will be included in future blogs on room by room designs.