Skip to content

Bright Designs at Home by Halifax

We are delighted to have partnered up with the nation’s largest mortgage lender to talk all things interior design at their upcoming homebuyer events. Home by Halifax is their innovative new concept branch in the City, with an events space and a talk programme. It’ll be nice for Maria to return to the City, having worked there for years in her previous Equity Markets career!

Don’t expect the usual blah-blah about colour trends, curtains and cushions. Maria’s approach to interior design is much more pragmatic. She will talk about creating meaningful spaces for people; after all, us humans are an indoor species. We spend >90% of our time indoors yet give so little thought to our built environment. Let’s discuss!

First Time Buyer Event: 6pm, Tuesday 5 November 2019

Home Mover Event: 6pm, Thursday 7 November 2019

Free and open to all!

The kitchen where less is more: sustainable and healthy Miinus

Earlier this year, an opportunity came my way which I took on with great pleasure: designing and supplying Miinus kitchens, from Finland’s leading kitchen manufacturer Puustelli. These are not any kitchens. These are kitchens where less is more, quite literally. Unique in several ways, Miinus represents a genuine innovation in the slightly stale world of kitchen design. Read on if you are looking to create a sustainable home.

The alternative kitchen research project

Here’s the problem with the highly fragmented home improvement and interior design industry: R&D budgets are virtually non-existent. Big respect is due, therefore, to Finland’s leading kitchen manufacturer Puustelli for spending 2.5 years developing a new model for the decades-old kitchen design template. Their aim? To create a kitchen that would be more sustainable as well as better for the health of its users.  

Sustainable Miinus kitchen bioframe development journey displayed in models
The design and development journey of the sustainable Miinus kitchen bioframe involved several iterations.

Scandinavian eco mindset

Scandinavian countries, you see, are lightyears ahead of us here on the British Isles in all things to do with environmental sustainability. Have you heard of their elaborate recycling systems? Bike friendly cities? Alternative energy generation projects? The plogging craze? The list goes on. This mindset surely has something to do with the thinking behind Miinus kitchens. 

Goodbye traditional kitchen materials

In order to understand why the new model is better, it helps to first understand where the old model went wrong. Traditionally, kitchen units are made of a carcass (a box of sorts), with a door on the front. More often than not, the carcass is made of one of the popular composite wood products i.e. primarily MDF or MFC. These materials have various problems associated with them. For one, they are heavy. They don’t like water (you can see how that can be a problem in a kitchen…) The small wood particles making up these boards need to be held together somehow. Strong and toxic adhesives tend to be used (e.g. MDF can contain up to 10% formaldehyde).  

Traditional kitchen carcass construction for frames and unframed kitchens
Traditional kitchen carcass build. Source: https://www.merit-kitchens.com/about-cabinets/cabinetry-101/

Enter the patented Miinus bioframe with a 30-year guarantee. Instead of the cumbersome boxes, the kitchen is propped up by a ‘skeleton’ of sorts. The frame is made using an injection-moulding technique, and combines the best that natural and manmade materials have to offer (wood fibres and plastic no.5 polypropylene — strong and safe).

Flexible and recyclable innovation

The result? A frame that is robust yet light, water-resistant, and can handle both hot and cold. The development means that the volume of material used in the construction of a kitchen is cut in half, as is its weight and therefore transport footprint (think CO2 emissions). You can recycle the biocomposite frame, or better even, repurpose it as much as you please. Ready-made holes for assembly and fitting of mechanical parts make this a breeze. They don’t deteriorate with time, meaning hinged cabinets can turn into drawers or open shelving units (and vice versa).

Sustainable Miinus kitchen carcass visible in open shelves
Less is more: the patented bioframe construction that replaces the traditional kitchen carcass.

The ‘other’ 90%: we are an indoor species

But in my opinion, the best part is something else. We as 21st century humans spend 90-95% of our time indoors. It’s a stunning stat that the media and authorities have seemingly not yet caught onto. Who cares about diesel car fumes when we barely spend any time outdoors? Surely we should be discussing indoor air quality instead. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates indoor air quality to be 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air, on average. This is even the case in some of the largest most industrial cities in the world. Yikes.

There are many materials and products that contribute to the quality of indoor air, and among them are the composite wood materials that traditional kitchens are made of. Volatile organic compounds (chemicals that linger in the air around us and find their way into our bodies) are among the main polluters, and ones that have been drastically cut in Miinus kitchens.  

Not just ultra sustainable, but also ultra stylish

So there’s plenty of substance to these kitchens, but they don’t exactly lack in the style department either. Materials and door styles are unique and exciting. For the young urban dwellers there is the cost-effective FOSB door style that is both funky and on-trend. My personal favourite is the technical veneer (and judging by the reaction of the House and Garden Festival visitors, where we displayed, it’s the public’s favourite too). Brushed pine is a high-end material that sits stunningly in luxurious spaces, while more traditional oak and birch veneers in a range of colour ways are also available. Too many options to choose from! (Tip: we’ve picked a few favourite schemes that can be viewed here).

Sustainable Miinus kitchen drawers in technical birch veneer material with brass pulls
One of the stunning technical veneer door materials from the Miinus range, shown with brushed brass pull handles.

I’ve said this before, but at Bright Designs it’s all about the ethos of design. Style comes second. It is indeed the ethos of the Miinus kitchen that prompted me to get involved with the range. My verdict: better for people and better for the planet. It is genuinely hard to come across products and materials for an eco home renovation or build, but this one ticks the right boxes. Drop us a line if you’d like to hear more!

Health benefits of using natural materials in interiors

When writing, I like approaching a topic within a problem-solution framework. If the problem part of the equation is something people can relate to, then chances are they will read on. For my latest post in Designer Kitchen and Bathroom Magazine I was asked to write about natural materials in interiors. There is an obvious link between natural materials and my very favourite interiors topic – Healthy Spaces – which is what I explore here. The problem I present is poor internal air quality (important, seen as we spend some 90% of our time indoors!)

Natural materials can be a solution. I am ever more convinced that there is more to Interior Design than meets the eye. E.g. such as described in my article, the potential benefits to the health of the users of a space from the materials specified by the designer. Not to mention the principles of the fascinating and inspiring Biophilic design movement, which I am also becoming ever more attuned to. Watch this space!

Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 23.00.58

The psychological effects of colour in interiors

Given my love of colour, and my ongoing search for deeper meaning in all things interiors related, I was asked to contribute a guest post to the Designer Kitchen and Bathroom Magazine. The publication focuses on new ideas and inspirational designs – a big pleasure to be associated with such a respected voice in the industry!

My piece explores the psychological effects of colour in interiors. I argue that colour decisions in this context are far from superficial, and can have a major influence not only on the space itself but also on its users. Read it here in full. 

screen-shot-2018-06-05-at-17-58-16-e1528230808871.png

The ‘other’ 90%, or why interiors matter

Last time I wrote, I promised to post soon on the value of Interior Design. If you’re wondering what on earth I am on about, read on.

The design discipline that is most profoundly connected to human concerns

Here’s a stat that might surprise and shock you in equal measure. On average, we spend 90% of our time indoors (no, there is no typo there). In other words, we spend most of our lives interacting with some form of interior (yes, we even interact with some form of interior when we sleep). It follows that what we do with our interiors has a significant effect on us, certainly bigger than I had imagined.  

The state of our built environment and interiors affects our wellbeing, mood, health, productivity, interaction with one another, comfort, safety and more. Not many regard Interior Design as overarching as this, but as the inspirational Shashi Caan argues (a guru Interior Design thinker and practitioner), Interior Design is the design discipline that is “most profoundly connected to human concerns” (http://www.sccollective.com/profile/publications – this book is my bible!) 

I first came across the 90% statistic when researching the concept of Healthy Spaces (more on that soon, in a different blog post); and have never looked at the built environment quite the same way again. Let’s break down the argument and look at some examples. 

Interiors impact your mood…

Can you recall a time you entered a space and your face lit up? A swoonsome new restaurant, a cool and relaxed co-working space, or the most amazing hotel bedroom you have ever slept in in your life. By the same token, you probably remember some drab spaces that have made you feel down in the dumps, wanting to turn around and leave. A miserable old-fashioned office, a cluttered and dingy home, or perhaps a drab function hall with ridiculously high ceilings, freezing temperature and cold lighting. In these instances, you will note that the state of a given interior has had a direct influence on how you felt. Well, this happens all the time, with every single space that we enter. It happens so much that we don’t even think about it, but perhaps we should?

Perrachica Madrid
Uplifting restaurant interior (Perrachica Madrid) – how would you feel entering this space? Source: http://perrachica.com

…and interiors impact your health and wellbeing

As for health and wellbeing, don’t even get me started. I’m sorry to say, but I have recently found out that more often than not, interiors contribute to making us physically unwell (in addition to making us less happy and less productive!) There is a growing body of authoritative evidence suggesting that indoor air quality can be more seriously polluted than outdoor air, even in the largest most industrial cities. E.g. the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates indoor air quality to be 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air, on average. I will go into the detail of why this is the case, and what can be done about it, in a separate post. Do make a mental note to check back soon and read it, if interested. The bottom line is, that just like healthy food and healthy lifestyles are becoming mainstream, something similar is sure to happen in the sphere of the built environment. The transition will take time, and will be uncomfortable for many in the industry (but it will happen). 

Symptoms of Indoor Air Pollution
A less cheery topic: indoor air pollution.
Source: https://www.aplusinspections.net/indoor-air-quality-mold-inspections/

Interiors even impact how we interact with one another

Moving on to interaction and our dealings with one another. I cannot help but notice how much these are affected by the way our interiors are set up. Example. I take my children to a gymnastics class, and the organisers have been clever enough to separate a small part of the hall for parents and children to sit in before and after their class. Now unfortunately the cleverness ends there, as the chairs are always arranged in long rows, all facing into one direction. In addition to being uncomfortable and impractical (oh, and you are literally staring at a wall), the arrangement also discourages interaction. How about putting them in a circle, into clusters, or even scattering randomly around the space.

This is just one real-life example. Time and time again, I notice people: A) not interacting with one another when they could be; or B) being visibly uncomfortable when dealing with others, in settings where interiors have been poorly designed. At reception desks, commercial counters, offices, you name it.

Cartoon of man at office desk
Comfort (or lack thereof) in an office setting. Source: http://www.hysdfurniture.com/?p=2984

Poorly designed interiors are a problem

Sure, these are just little things and situations, but they all add up to a bigger problem. When interiors are poorly designed (or not designed at all), their users suffer. (I’m not trying to be overly dramatic, to be clear this may be literal or metaphorical!) I know that some people will be sceptical, suggesting I tone down my cheerleading for Interior Designers. But maybe try this thought process:

Most of the housing, commercial, institutional and retail building stock that we will come across in our lifetimes has already been built, i.e. it exists. It follows that what we do with these existing buildings and their interiors, the very definition of Interior Design, can make a meaningful difference to our lives (and our planet – more on this in another forthcoming blog post). Interior Design is at its most useful when it concerns itself first with people, and second with spaces (not vice versa).