Amazing Architecture

Before and After

We often get asked to provide before and after photos on our website. We’d love to do so, but it’s problematic. On the one hand, without showing how we have transformed a space, we can’t get full credit for it. For all you know, looking at the finished picture, we might have just put up some wallpaper and curtains and slapped a vase on a console table. In reality that space may have originally been boarded-up, decommissioned dumb waiter shaft. But on the other hand, some people have a hard time translating before and after images, as we have changed the space so much it becomes unrecognisable and the photos bear very little or no resemblance to each other.

For example, here are 3 areas of a project we have recently completed (although the “after” photos were taken a few weeks before finishing). Even though the transformations are quite dramatic, the images are taken from the same position and you can see that some features remain.

before and after bathroom before and after hallway before and after kitchen

But how do you show photos when the area is unrecognisable?

Take this view, for example:

before photo knightsbridge

In this space we have added several walls and a corridor to create a study and master bedroom. The after photos make very little visual sense. The below photo was taken in more or less the same spot, the one below it shows the area around the windows. Without carefully point this out, a potential client quickly browsing through your portfolio isn’t really going to see what you’ve created.

after photo study

after photo master bedroom

So that’s why we don’t often show before and afters. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what it looked like before, it’s the finished result that the client wants that counts.

If you are interested in how we alter layouts to save, or rearrange space, floor plans are a far more accessible medium to display this. Check out our other blogs on space saving.

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Ever wanted a secret passageway?

‘A house with a secret passageway’ tops most people’s “lotto win dream house” list. They feature largely in the children’s literature and adventure films that dominate people’s formative years. Later in life you might really see the appeal of being able to sneak out a lover, bump someone on the head and make a swift exit, or you might want to be ready to conceal a priest at short notice…

A more 21st century friendly secret passage usually leads to a private bathroom, office or walk-in wardrobe. It’s more about uninterrupted clean lines and reflective spaces than secrecy. On the occasions we are commissioned to build a secret room, it’s more likely to be for shoes than a 50 Shades of Grey style chamber. Pity.

At Kia Designs, we’ve used hidden rooms in several builds as a means of problem solving. Older fire regulations usually stipulated that you need a door between each room and the main entrance, and before open plan living became popular, entrance halls were all the rage, even in the smallest flats. The combination of the two tended to result in a hall of doors, all identical and very confusing for guests. We also can’t tell you the number of flats we went into that would have a large storage cupboard in the hall, covered by a “room door’, designed to give the impression you have another bedroom. This style of layout is impractical and aesthetically unappealing. It’s also wasteful in small spaces.

We were recently faced with this situation in a 1 bed Chelsea pied-à-terre, which contained a very large hallway, filled with 6 identical doors, leading to a: cupboard, a W/C, a bathroom, a bedroom, the living room and a kitchen. We made subtle changes to the layout which not only made the flat feel a lot bigger, but freed up a lot more usable space and made the area more visually interesting. Firstly, we combined the kitchen and living room and thus removed the need for 1 door. We also borrowed from the overly generous entrance space to add to a newly combined and now much larger bathroom and W/C, which also left enough space to add a utility room with linen and winter sports store. Down another door. 4 doors still seems too many, so the bedroom door was cleverly hidden behind a full length mirror. This looked fantastic, was extremely practical, and made the bedroom a far more private space. This is an easy trick you can do in your own home (just check that your door can support the weight of a mirror and that it is firmly attached!). The client was still a little short on storage space, so our pièce de résistance:  the new utility room door became fully working bookcase, swung easily on reinforced steel hinges.

Secret passageway

2 of the rooms have been cleverly concealed behind useful objects

secret room

The bookcase easily swings away to reveal the hidden utility space

Another client requested bedroom access to a family bathroom, so we created a secret passage, along a walk-through wardrobe, hidden seamlessly behind the storage units in the master suite. We playfully referred to this as the ‘lover’s retreat’.

secret rooms



These weren’t particularly expensive solutions, and have great practical value. And they are super fun. Why not consider being more playful and inventive with your home…

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Art Deco Influences in a Knightsbridge flat

Our current refurbishment of a large, period mansion block flat in the heart of Knightsbridge, incorporates key elements of the deco style through use of exotic woods, geometric motifs and strong vertical lines, but toned down with added softer, more modern silhouettes and furnishings and state of the art technology and materials. The result will be a stately and timeless home with distinctive drama and elegance.

en suite floor

Art deco inspired mosaic floor

Pocket doors in bold smoked oak, with inset chrome flush pull handles, slide away to reveal unimpeded views throughout the entire flat and allow the client to really open up and make the most of the floorspace. The skirting, in tulipwood, allows for a smoother finish, as the fine grained texture rarely results in knots and burls. The skirting is also higher than usual, making the most of the generous ceiling heights and balancing nicely with the stepped cornicing, reclaiming the room’s original, grander, proportions. Likewise the plaster architraves are all generously deep and create framed vistas throughout.


Art deco coving

In the bathrooms ceramic tiles create bold mosaics in geometric motifs on the floors. Contemporary moulded basins are paired with hexagonal mixer taps. Marble lines the walls and all fixtures and fittings are in chrome. In the master suite a feature, back-lit, slab of translucent onyx creates the most luxurious of statements.


The kitchen area is more focused on the 21st century, with a clean, scandinavian feel. A large marble-topped Roundhouse kitchen in Farrow and Ball chalk paint with contrasting bronze fixtures, is the focus of the room. Handleless cupboards, mitered edges and state-of-the-art appliances combine symmetry and balance with a high level of comfort and technical innovation. Key philosophies of the art deco movement. Nods to deco are introduced through the mirrored splashback, which adds glamour and light, and through the hexagonal floor tiles, which cascade spectacularly into the wooden floor in the dining area.

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Putting In A Spiral Staircase

London projects are often short on space for everything, and this can include even staircases for this reason spiral staircases are becoming a more popular choice. The design of them can range from the extremely inspiring to the downright dull and everything in between.

Every item in a design doesn’t have to be a feature piece, imagine wearing all your favourite items of clothing at the same time and you can imagine how horrific that would look, every item of the design needs to provide a sense of balance and all help to serve the same end design aesthetic.

This video from CANAL architectural shows just some of the care and attention that is put in to the design and manufacture of a stunning bespoke staircase.

In one of our projects this is particularly important.  The project is in Baker Street and had previously been part of a larger building. It is a Grade II listed building located within the Dorset Square Conservation Area. The building forms part of a long terrace of houses constructed as part of the Portman Estate during 1815-20.

spiral staircase in london

Spiral staircases are a great solution for tight spaces

The project is on the top two floors of the property and was created during a conversion in the mid-1970s. It is believed that at this time was stripped of almost all its period features and so it doesn’t have a huge amount of interest.  At this time the original staircase was taken out and a spiral staircase was put in, this was a necessity of the design because the space is now extremely small.

For the space it works but it doesn’t inspire the kind of wow factor that we are looking for in the entrance hall.  The project below gives a better idea of the kid of wow factor we are looking for form a staircase. This is CANAL Architectures Park Gate Spiral project and although it is a commercial property it would also work fantastically well in a residential setting.

square spiral staircase

Poured cement, glass and stainless steel structure

The design also provides a much safer design for a property like this as the stairs would go fully out the walls in each direction, providing larger stairs for children and also taking away the openness that can often be daunting when spiral staircases have spindles.

Scandinavian style spiral

A clean, modern, sweeping spiral staircase

For a slightly softer look that still looks to solve safety issues we may have with a spiral staircase Wapping Lane project from Spiral Staircases.  Their description of it is perfect

“A powder coated white central column with white painted timber balustrade incorporating the capping handrail linked with solid oak treads and risers, all without a visible fixing.

This feature staircase makes a bold statement in this luxury penthouse apartment – the staircase rises from the living area to a roof terrace with tremendous views across London.”

It is this kind of bold statement that we are looking at for the entrance way, we will see which kind of staircase makes its way in to the final design.

Thank you to CANAL and Spiral Staircases for the use of their images to be able to illustrate the best in spiral staircase design.

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How to use lighting in a bathroom

Design Essentials – Lighting 

Lighting is literally the life blood of a design; it can make a design shine (pardon the pun!). Interior Design is all about making the absolute best of every space, and bathrooms can unfortunately be sadly overlooked when it comes to lighting.  This is a huge shame as it can create some of the most dramatic bathrooms.

Project 1 - Mayfair - Image 12

This bathroom was designed for a gorgeous town house Interior Design in Mayfair.  It needed to work within the more traditional design of the house, but with a slightly more contemporary feel.  We needed to replicate the original cornice that we had retained throughout the rest of the property; this had unfortunately been removed from these two levels during a 1970s renovation, however was still present on the other 4 floors of the house.  However, we wanted to create more of a feature with the cornice and lighting on the newly renovated floors.  Normally, the bathroom gets abandoned at this point and gets stuck with the normal spot lighting.  We will not abandon the bathroom, we want it to be just as gorgeous as the rest of the property, and so we also used the beautiful cornice lighting within both bathrooms.

Project 1 - Mayfair - Image 13

As you can see it makes quite an effect! This bathroom was designed with blue LED strip lighting and completely changes the room from a more contemporary feel to a rocking modern feel that literally charges with energy.

It can be a much more subtle effect when using a bright white LED light, as you can see below.  It still makes the entire shower room glow, but is less “in your face” and more subtle.

Project 1 - Mayfair - Image 9

We always treat each of our clients as individuals, and we realise that the LED blue lighting may not be for everyone, but it exactly fulfilled our clients brief. Interior Design is always about the finished project and we were ecstatic to see the look on our clients faces when they saw the bathrooms that we had created for them.

Then book your first consultation today. We can’t wait to work with you

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One of the best design shows in London…

September is always a really interesting time of year in the design world; together with the change from flip-flops to boots we are invited to attend a whole host of amazing design shows.  One of my favourites of these shows is Tent London, held in the Old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch this show always produces something wonderful that gets you instantly thinking of how you can push your designs further, make more of your space and widen the choices you offer clients.  This year’s tent was no exception; in fact it was by far the most inspirational yet.

This year I was super impressed that Tent actually took over the ground floor area of the brewery which was transformed beautifully from its normal market stalls and gorgeous food to a sleek and modern design show – the space was almost unrecognisable!  The show really made the most of the different levels available to it and it flowed together from level to level very easily – I loved it!

These are a few of my favourite selections from the show…

First up, and the first things that hits you as you come through is Portuguese company Ginger & Jagger’s collaborative stall with Munna.  The Walnut cabinet is simply beautiful (although I think it would be greatly improved with slow close hinges!) and will make a fantastic feature piece for future designs as it would work great as bedroom storage or even as a bar in a formal lounge!

The detailing is fantastic.

One of my favourite finds was Endesigns ( they do some amazing, quirky and very differently designed pieces. I love the floor tiles below (how cool would these be in a funky boutique hotel lobby?!)

Overall the show, I felt, was a great success and was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday as we woke up much more energized and excited to look in to all the new products on Monday morning!

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Behind the white on white design

This design was the Finalist in the Living Space design of the year only recently and we are constantly getting questions on how to re-create parts of this wonderful white on white design.  Here we break down a few of the amazing features of this design

The aim of this bathroom was to have some glitz and glamour whilst still having a completely usable space…and of course it HAD to be white! Mosaic by Bizazza Floor tiles by Surface Bath and toilet by Living House.

Project 3 - Notting Hill - Image 8

1. Did you used the same tile on all walls?
The wall tiles are two different colours of Bizazza Tiles, the beautiful splash back is actually inlaid with white gold to create an extremely glitzy finish. They are called ‘Narcisio’ part of the Shading blends

2. What size are the floor tiles?
They are 60cm square
(Did you know the image below has been added to almost 10,000 ideas books over on Houzz??!)

Project 3 - Notting Hill - Image 63. How is the bed held up?
The bed is attached to the supporting wall behind the headboard and has a central leg. It’s from a company called Lago and the details of the bed can be found here

4. Do you remember the brand of flooring used here? Is it laminate floating floor?
The flooring used here is an engineered German oak in a brushed ‘fridge white’ it is from one of our trade suppliers so unfortunately I can’t pass on any contact details that would be of use to you. It was very important with this flooring that it as a brushed finish rather than a sprayed finish as it means that it retains more of the patina of the wood.

Project 3 - Notting Hill - Image 7

5. What is the wall colour?
The whole property has been painted in Brilliant White

6. How do you tuck the duvet underneath the bed?
There is a thin platform with the slats underneath for the mattress, this is where the duvet is tucked in

Interesting in having your property designed?

So if you have any more questions on any of our designs please don’t hesitate to leave us a comment or give us a tweet

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Why bespoke wardrobes are best for busy people

Wardrobes are wardrobes, right? Wrong! Bespoke wardrobes add value to your property, make your rooms look gorgeous and they even save you time! They are a fantastic investment for you and your property.

Project 1 - Mayfair - Image 8

Most of our clients are extremely busy people who run their own businesses, they are CEOs and Directors, they don’t have time to waste and, let’s be honest, fashion isn’t always the top priority in the boardroom. However, everyone likes to look their best and creating a wardrobe storage system that is tailored perfectly to you will allow you to look your best and may even give you a few extra minutes in bed (we can’t promise that however!)


House Build - Girls Bedroom - sm

This wardrobe system was created for a client that had a teenage daughter, the wardrobe is actually triangular and contains a larger variety of different internal storage so that there is a place for everything! Just the way it should be!

Looking to have your home re-designed? Want a unique approach that doesn’t waste your time and creates a home that not only looking amazing but works for you?

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Behind the award nominated design

Just FYI we have been nominated for the International Design & Architecture Awards 2013 and so we have decided to give you a little bit of behind the scenes knowledge of one of the most popular award nominated design projects we have completed.

Project 2 - Earls Court - Image 9

We often get asked a lot of questions about parts of this design so here we are going to answer a few of them.

1. Bar stool/stools? Isn’t anyone going to ask – are they a custom design?
These amazing stools are actually not a custom piece, They are actually a piece from Ligne Roset and are called the Mirlino
2. I love the finish on the floors. Do you know what was used?
The flooring is an engineered German Oak parquet with a natural varnish. We thought it would be the perfect offset for the gorgeous high ceilings and modern look

Project 2 - Earls Court - Image 6

3. Can you tell me who makes the chair? – Beautiful! Who makes the chair?
The chair is acutally from Andrew Martin.

(Did you know the design above is one of our most popular designs having been added to over 1200 idea books on Houzz?)

Project 2 - Earls Court - Image 44. Who makes the drops and where are they available?
The pendants over the dining room table are by Tom Dixon and they are available from his store. They were the perfect pick for this design as they produce a wow factor without being overly fussy

If you have any other questions on our designs please feel free to either visit us on Facebook and leave a comment on our photos or tweet us

If you feel like voting for us you can do that here! Thank you!

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Timorous Beasties Rugs for Brintons


Brintons_Timorous_Beasties_Grand Lilac

There are certain companies that always strike a cord with you, Timorous Beasties is one of those companies.  This year they have seemed up with Brintons (the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality woven carpets operating in both commercial and residential markets)

This is the second collaboration between these two fantastic companies and I have to say that I adore there latest collaboration that is going to be launched next month at Clerkenwell Design Week!

The Collection has been divided into seven themes that are inspired by natural and spiritual influences. Arboresque, Atholl Gardens, Aviary, Paradise Lost, Plantation, This Modern World and Tree Of Life.The collection features many traditional elements that have been re-interpreted through contemporary design.

On Thursday 23rd May, during Clerkenwell Design Week there will be a talk in Brintons showroom.
Timorous Beasties & Archive discussion forum 2pm – Part one – Alistair McAuley, Paul Simmons (TB) and John Bain (Brintons Global Design Director). Part two of the forum –  Brintons Carpets holds one of the world’s largest design and historical pattern archives which is preserved by Brintons own dedicated archivist, Yvonne Smith. Yvonne will talk about the archive and some of its treasured pieces.

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Why You Should Never Try And Colour Match Paints

Specifying paint colours is always more of an art than a science.  What we tend to do for most projects it pick a colour for the initial design and then when it comes to fully specifying it we are insistent that we order at least 3 samples for each room. Lighting will always affect colours however it can often be very dramatic and so putting up 3 similar tones can often produce wildly different results.


On a recent project we had a slight dilemma, we had originally specified up the entire house in Dulux paints. As they have a selection of over 20,000 colours they offer a remarkable selection of whites and off whites.  However, a bit of miss communication with the German house builders and we were told that we could in fact only use their own eco friendly paint…which can only be made up in colours from NCS colour system.

Well I am sorry but that just doesn’t work for me, white is not just white, we went through over 50 different dulux colours on site so that we knew we would be completely happy with the end result and there is simply no way to colour match a white from one company to a white from another.  I did give it a go


But as you can see the tones are ever-so-slightly off and unfortunately ever-so-slightly is more than I would be able to stand. So after many a debate we have decided to aim for perfect but not so eco-friendly and have gone with the original Dulux colours.

Have been really happy with how they have all turned out! You’ll get to see more in the big reveal in a few weeks!

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Creating A Bespoke Piece Of Art For A Client

For me interior design is so personal, every room we create is created especially for that person in mind, it is created to full fill their brief and to create a space in which they can live comfortably and happily.

A huge part of any design should be art work, we often work with clients who have extremely large selections of artwork – a client recently had one of the most beautiful collection of MF Husain artwork I think I have ever seen, we could probably start an amazing gallery with their beautiful artwork collection! However, this is not always the case and so for some of our clients we create artwork that perfectly fits the designs scheme rather than being the initial inspiration behind it.

This was the case for a recent project we have completed in Baker Street.  These artworks were created to bring together every colour and texture you see in the interior design from the walnut TV unit to the silk Armani Casa rug to the amazing faux flowers (which we will be showing you next week!)

We are going to breakdown for you here exactly how this amazing bespoke piece of art was created…

Firstly I wanted a piece that flowed through the lounge, I didn’t want it to be a main focal point I wanted it to harmonise the room and to pull the viewer attention around the room.  The large white walls of this project provided a wonderful backdrop to be able to let this happen as the artwork would sit beautifully on it in a gallery style.

Here was the wall minus artwork:  IMG_4347-smThe design was really coming together but it needed a piece of art to really push it to completion.   The inspiration for the artwork was actually taken from a piece I had seen the company had produced beforeTAY_big-img-sm

However we wanted the painting to flow further along the wall and to incorporate all the colours of our design, we looked at two optionsKIA_APT9_TRIPTYCH_350x100cm_OPTION1-sm


And decided that the first one was best as it was more subtle and the colours worked a lot more in the space.  Then it is the waiting game as your amazing bespoke artwork is created.  We of course get a chance to sign off on it before the canvases are stretched. At this point you really have to use your imagination as the artwork can look a little distorted


However, it was all worth it in the end when it was stretched and put up it really makes the room!


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This quirky design should be award winning!

We go to a lot of design shows and a lot of different showrooms, but every now and then there is a product that just stops you dead in your tracks. This year the product was “Venus of Cupertino.”

Your eyes do not deceive you.  That is exactly was you think it is: a fertility goddess holding an iPad. And yes, she is naked.  Not only is she holding the iPad, she is actually charging it! Described as a, “sculptural docking station,” Venus gently cradles your iPad to her bosom and looks after it until you need it . You will never misplace your iPad again!!

All images from  and you can now purchase online here

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A very special armoire

Every now and then, you will stumble across a product that stops you in your tracks[G1] . For me, this armoire from Alexander Lamont is one of those products.  An extremely elegant piece, it was inspired by the idea of light beneath the ocean and the surface is actually covered with parchment – this gives it a quite fragile and weathered look.



Of course the highlight of the armoire is the handles; they are simply stunning and were made especially for the piece. I am especially excited about this piece as it is from a Thai company that we will be visiting at the end of the year – I cannot wait to see all their gorgeous products in-the-flesh!


For more information visit Alexander Lamont 


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The dark days of a project…

A wonderful quote from one of my favourite movies is, “They say there are only two days you enjoy a boat: the day you buy it and the day you sell it.” Thankfully this doesn’t ring true of our homes; however, it can seem like it when you are in the middle of a huge building project!

You start off with an amazing set of plans and such a huge choice of, well, everything, that your eyes become glazed with all the amazing possibilities.  For me. the beginning of the project is so exciting! We get to find out how our clients are actually going to use their home.  This project is a complete new build so we started off with some gorgeous plans from the architect. However, we were still able to make a large amount of changes when we were in Germany with the clients specifying (how cool  is it to be able to move a wall just because you want the dressing room 20cm larger?!)

Then you get to the exciting part where the previous gets razed to the ground and the amazing new basement goes in.  Although it is still a building site at this point, all the plans are fully realised, we have all the layouts, furniture, wall finishes, lighting, and everything is arranged, ordered and ready to go.

Then, it gets even more exciting when the house arrives in great big, huge trucks and gets put up in an amazing five days!! The staircases are already fully in and you can walk around your new home; it’s wonderful at this point as clients start to be able to get more of a feel of exactly how they are going to be able to live in the space even though it is still just a shell.

Next,  it feels like everything slows down, progress seems slow, and the site can look like it never changes.  This is probably one of the most difficult parts of the project, as all you want at this point is to have it finished and to move in!  It’s most definitely worth the wait. but it can be difficult when three weeks worth of progress takes you from that, to this….

Doesn’t look like much of a change really does it? Never mind, it’s getting there and when it’s all finished you will be amazed that it ever even looked like this!! So what’s this area suppose to look like in the end? Well it’s going to look like a much more alive version of this!

Yes. it’s going to be spectacular!! We will, of course, be keeping you completely in the loop as to how it is going.

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