House Renovation Led Me Into The Luxury Velvet Cushion Business
From a Shell to a Home
As anyone who knew us through 2015 & 2016 can confirm, our build project did not go entirely to plan! But the lessons I learnt and the confidence I gained have ultimately led me to set up in business.
We bought our London home at number 39 when it seemed nobody else wanted it. We have lived in the area for years so when the house came on the market we were immediately interested but it was out of our budget......but then the price fell, and then fell again, and it felt that it was meant to be ours!!
What I didn't reallise before embarking on this epic project is that Victorian houses are fundamentally wooden structures which are clad in brick. On starting the renovation my neighbour asked if he could have any discarded wood for his fire. I naively replied 'I don't think there'll be much wood'!! As the walls, floors and ceilings came down I realised just how little I knew about Victorian House renovations.....
It was at around the time that this photo was take that we realised our main contractor was bankrupt, but we were kind of committed to the project by now!! We had the enormous fortune of having an amazing carpenter on site who knew other great trades people and through his little book of contacts we managed to reach the finish line, many months later than scheduled and somewhat battered from the experience.
What got us through the project was having a pretty defined vision of the end result we wanted to achieve and firm design plans. We approached all parts of the renovation with 2 fundamental design principles:
- to be sympathetic to the property while not making it a museum piece
- to use natural materials and fabrics in the finish throughout.
Just as the structure of the house is wood so we wanted to put a lot of natural wood through the house. The herring bone parquet flooring, which stretches throughout the ground floor, was the starting point of the interior design. As the costs mounted the floor was looked at as a potential saving but I found other areas to cut rather than lose my dream floor. After the painstaking task of laying the floor (our carpenter never wants to do another in his life!!) we simply sanded it and naturally sealed it to let the full beauty of the wood shine through. The best thing is that it improves with age and survives the high heels of parties (the fact that it gives fat cat camouflage cover was a total coincidence!)
The kitchen is a hand made wooden kitchen in the shaker style which suits the house and can be updated with a simple change of paint colour if we ever tire of our blue kitchen (although 3 years in and I'm definitely not tiring). It is finished with a monochrome granite work top, cut from one piece of granite so the natural pattern of the grain is shown in its stunning natural beauty. There is no reason why this kitchen can't be here in 30/40 or more years with appliance upgrades and repaints.
Natural fabrics work together, naturally. Leather kitchen chairs in navy blue look beautiful against a Scandinavian wooden table in the wood and granite kitchen. A leather ottoman in olive green looks great against the wooden floor in the sitting room. Marble effect bathrooms tiles contrast beautifully with granite topped washstands which are finished with victorian styled taps and fixtures. Glass and silver lamp stands are finished with silk lamp shades in all colours and placed throughout the house.
I remember the only source of water for the house coming up in a corner of the living room, yet what people comment on when they come into this room are the cornicing and ceiling rose. We put real time into choosing finishes we really love as it is genuinely only this final 10% which anyone notices, and now, 3 years on, they are all that I notice.
Another big win was the installation of high skirting boards. Boring, but they again make a huge difference.
I have rediscovered a love for house plants in a child of the 70s type way and find they make a huge impact in the house. A few early morning trips to Covent Garden Flower Market to buy amazing quality plants at great prices, coupled with a recently discovered ability to keep plants alive, means my house is filled with the natural energy of plants in all gorgeous shades of green. This wall of plants is now down to the floor and my cheese plants are growing amazingly from the tiny plants they were.
And miraculously my newly discovered green fingers work in the garden....
And so to the cushions ....
I started to make velvet cushions for the house well before we were anywhere near ready for them. They acted as a motivator to keep us focused on finishing the build and getting a home fit for cushions. The 'luxury' velvet cushions available on the market were shoddily made of inferior, often synthetic, fabrics and were frequently only actually one side velvet. After all the stress, sleepless nights and sheer hard work we had put into getting through the build project I refused to let it all down with inferior cushions.
They are the final, finishing touch in the house and are again made of natural fabric with the velvet being 100% cotton pile. Light plays off cotton velvet, bouncing around a room and even dark shades such as navy and slate grey velvet catch the light and reflect beautifully, giving off a radiance and lux.
I believe that filling your home with natural fabrics and colours is a great starting point in creating a positive space. Colour is fun and uplifting and cushions allow you to move colours around in the home and change the look and feel of a room from day to day depending on your mood, the weather or the time of year.
First I made traditional, single coloured velvet cushions with both sides the same colour velvet, which I call 'Gemstone Cushions' on the website, www.luxe39.com. Then I came up with the concept of the 'Cocktail Cushion', with 2 contrasting coloured velvet sides. These double sided, double colour velvet cushions are extremely versatile in interiors as by simply flipping the cushion around you can alter the colour scheme of a room.
When looking for cushions for my own home I became aware of the very limited choice of sizes and shapes on offer. For this reason I have established Luxe 39 to offer 8 standard choices of cushion size, with other, special order sizes available on request. From small velvet cushions for a colour accent to large velvet cushions or velvet scatter cushions for impact, we offer the options of square cushions or rectangular velvet bolster cushions.
So, making velvet cushions was at the end of my journey of house renovation and the beginning of my journey in setting up a small business at number 39........
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