9 Oct 2014

Choosing paint

It was really important to us that the materials we use "inside the envelope" are as healthy and environmentally friendly as possible. This is always a difficult choice as there is always a axis with these things and everyone will take a different position as to what they feel is 'green'.  The paints are marketed variously as eco, natural, green, and organic each implying a different viewpoint and ethos and the trick is discovering what that means, what you think is important and which direction you are going to go in...!

About 10yrs ago we first used an eco paint which was made from milk proteins.   We bought powdered pigment and mixed the colours ourselves.  We were very proud of ourselves but we had to admit that the paint coverage was patchy and not terribly stable as it yellowed over a couple of years.  

I wanted to choose paints with low toxicity, and environmentally friendly production methods.  I also wanted a paint product that could stand up to the rigours of family life.  I spent a number of weeks thoroughly researching the UK market in eco-friendly paints. 

All the products within the 'eco' end of the market vary hugely regarding-
the pigments they use
the binders used such as milk, veg based (e.g. soya), clay, or mineral derived
the VOCs (volatile organic chemicals)
the production methods
the additives

It's a bit of a nightmare to suddenly have to become an expert in all these things just to choose paint. I looked on the internet and the results are pretty poor as there really aren't many reviews out there regarding paint!  Low VOC is the most obvious starting point, the big brands are now obliged by law to bring the VOC levels down but they still don't compare to a lot of the eco-brands I looked at which are virtually no VOC.  It seems that in the past 10 years the eco paints have all become better at coverage and less patchy. As each company has a different ethos it's easy to end up going around in circles as they all tell you what is great about their paints and what green credentials they can offer.

After chatting to retailers, and pretty much everyone else I could find, as well as browsing a number of forums (hooray for Mumsnet) I realised that for most people colour choice is normally the biggest factor in choosing a brand of paint.   Intially it appears that everyone has the same colours, but it's only when you decide that you want to use a specific colour, such as dark blue, that you realise that each company will only have one or two shades and actually you do have an opinion about which you prefer- it's all in the detail.  You also find out really quickly that everyone has about 50 shades of white (did you see what I did there?).  How on earth does one go about selecting the correct white?!?  Generally you get what you pay for as the more expensive paints use greater amounts of pigments which makes their colours more complex.

© Mark Scott Photography

After taking lots of advice and thoroughly interrogating the colour charts we decided to use Little Greene Paint.  I felt that Little Greene was a great match for us as they have been one of the leaders for developing paint with excellent environmental credentials in the UK.  Their paints have been awarded the European Environmental standard and Child Safety accreditation which I find very reassuring.  I was also really interested in their "intelligent finish" paints which are designed to be washable and stand up to more wear and tear as well as being matt and beautiful- perfect for my home which is filled with small people who couldn't care less about the paint.  Little Greene is not in the budget end of the marketplace but I feel it is worth the extra as you get fantastic paint quality, with excellent coverage and a really, really, really good colour range (they use loads of pigment and the colours have masses of depth).  Decision made - tick!  Next, to choose some colours...

I thought you might be interested in the Paint companies which were also considered, we didn't choose them but they may work for you - 
Earthborne - lovely clay paint 
Auro - milk based paint
Farrow and Ball, Fired Earth, Pots of Paint, Nutshell Paints, Ecos

6 Oct 2014

Bathroom tiles - Sourcing

Early in the bathroom design process I had moaned about how cleaning the grout on bathroom tiles has to one of the most miserable domestic jobs, second only to cleaning the oven. I looked for ages for an alternative to a tiled wall.  

Charlie and I discussed a morrocan style of lime plaster called Tadelakt. Very elegant and calm looking.  You can go on courses to learn how to do it yourself. 

Tadelakt lime plaster ©MikeWye.co.uk

But in the end I conceded to a tiled wall. In the tidal wave of choices this was just an easier path to take. In order to minimise grout cleaning one should choose the very popular large format tiles.  But if I'm being really honest, and please don't get offended, I've seen too much of them in the last few years and I'm never one to do the easy thing.  So I hit pinterest to see what tiling alternative there were out there.

I have a deep love of geometric pattern (Sam my kitchen designer even says i am obsessed with straight lines- I like to think that is fascinated is a better term...).  Hexagons were a major contender, but not necessarily a cost-effective choice (have you seen the prices!).

I decided that a small rectangular tile (the ubiquitous metro) laid in a herringbone bond was what I wanted.  It met design criteria 1 & 2 (see here) as it used low cost materials creatively. It also allowed me to express my love of parquet flooring in another way. I busily set about researching plain white tiles and grey grout (to minimise staining and cleaning).  

However on my sister-in-law's recommendation (she had picked up some amazing bargains) we went to visit the Fired Earth Factory Shop in Adderbury the next time we were in Oxfordshire.  Behind the main shop they have a large storeroom area full of discounted products; tiles, brassware, sanitaryware, furniture etc.  Some of it is seconds, some ex-display and some used on photo shoots.

Amazingly we hit the jackpot!  There was a pile of boxes containing light grey rectangular tiles from their new Forecast range. Lovely glazed tiles from Spain which look handmade. It turned out that these were seconds as the colour tint didn't quite match.  They were perfect - a lovely grey colour which would work with the concrete floor and really textured and handmade looking so would offer texture and softness as a counterpoint to the clean lines in the rest of the bathroom.  Off I went to agree a price (less than half the retail price!) and reserved loads of boxes of the tiles.  The plan was then to go home and work out exactly how many tiles would be needed and then purchase the correct amount.  We had also put a reserve on a couple of Geberit Monolith cisterns they had in the warehouse, but needed to check for components.  The following week we confirmed how many boxes we wanted to buy and I arranged a date for collection a couple of weeks later.  

Fired Earth Forecast Cromarty tiles

When the day arrived, there was utter heartache when it appeared that they had inadvertantly sold my tiles to someone else (my advice now is to always get those tiles in your car as soon as possible). I would now have to go back to square one as the budget did not stretch to full price Fired Earth tiles, and that was so hard when I had already imagined how fab those tiles would have looked.  However after a couple of days nursing my heartache and convincing myself that the Gods had decided to show me that nothing should be that easy and I needed to work harder and be more creative...The very amazing Paul from F.E. called me to apologise and assure me that as it was their error, I would still be able to purchase the volume of tiles I needed at the price we had agreed.  HOORAY, HOORAY, HOORAY! Just another little emotional rollercoaster but with a happy ending. Is it all going to be like this?