Renovating a rundown property: where to start

Renovating a property can be hugely exciting and, if the project runs smoothly, ultimately rewarding. But don’t be under any illusions – it’s a massive task to take on and it will feel overwhelming at times. Done properly, you’ll end up with a beautiful new home which has increased in value too, giving you a return on your investment and hopefully a chunk more on top.

Still, that’s the end result and might seem a long way off when you’ve just bought a rundown property – perhaps at a bargain price at an auction – and are gazing at a house in a state of disrepair, looking rather sorry for itself. Here are a few tips as to where to start with your renovation project:

You really should have had a clear vision in mind (ideally down on paper) before you bought the property – if not, the first step after purchasing it is to finalise the design. This guide from Homebuilding & Renovating states it well: ‘The very best thing to do is to take a long, hard look at the house and its grounds and work out which are its best bits, the features that drew you to the house in the first place (such as its views, large garden, characterful beams or original fireplaces and windows) and which are the worst.’

Don’t rush this part of the process. Take the time to work out what you really want and what will draw the very best from the property. You may not be able to do this yourself; you might need to appoint a designer and be prepared to go back and forth making revisions until you’re happy with it.

You’ll also need to hire an architect to formally assess the project, the condition of the property, and draw up plans. Ideal Home has a great checklist to help you to find the most suitable architect for your renovation project. An architect can assist with any structural changes that need making – although he may advise inspection and evaluation from a structural engineer if you want to remove internal walls and load-bearing walls. Depending on the renovation and work you intend to carry out, you might need planning permission or to obtain Building Regulations approval. The architect can manage this process on your behalf. The Royal Institute of British Architects – RIBA – can help you to search for architects in your region.

Of course, you’ll need a good builder to take on the project. It’s vital that you select the right person or company for the job. Getting recommendations from friends and family is a great way to start – do you know anyone who has had similar work done recently? If so, ask to visit their property and view what was done. Discuss any issues that came up, how they were resolved, how long the project took, and so on.

Don’t go with the first builder you speak to. Set up meetings with at least three or four builders, get quotes in from all of them and compare costs. Price shouldn’t be the only factor in your decision. Have they handled such projects before? Can they show you examples of previous work? If one builder’s quote is significantly cheaper than all the others’ you may feel suspicious and have a right to feel that way – look back through it and see what is and isn’t included. Ask for more detail if you need.

Discuss availability, too. If one builder is booked up for the next six months that’s perhaps a good sign – they’re in demand and busy. If another says they can start immediately, be wary.

Make your choice, agree start dates, share design and architect plans, and discuss a payment structure. If the project isn’t due to start for several months, stay in touch with any updates.

A final one before the work starts – don’t overlook the smaller details. When the property is legally yours, you are responsible for its maintenance and protection. Even if you’re planning to stay elsewhere while the work is being done, you must have insurance in place – look up RAC Home and Contents insurance for quotes – and you must inform the insurers of your circumstances.


Good luck!

Italian Leather, Fabric and Lace

Italy is well-known for its fabric, leather and couture.

Many of KOTHEA’s velvets are sourced from Italy’s finest mills to provide some of the most luxurious upholstery and curtain fabrics available.

High-end upholstery is often reliant on high quality Italian leather Shoelaces, trimmings and smaller items can be made up from the remnants of the hides that are used on the furniture.

KOTHEA occasionally deal with full hides but, more often than not, designers these days choose faux leathers to minimise wastage and to ensure consistency of finish with a realistic finish often reminescent of Italian leather Lace manufacturers and coutire houses also often make use with off-cuts for handbags and other apparel usages.

Do Interior Designers Register and Charge VAT?

widget_fashion[1]If you are a small Interior Design practice selling your services to the public then it will not have escaped your notice that if you register for VAT then you immediately become 20% more expensive to your retail clients.

IE you have to charge your clients for your design services AND the products you re-sell to them with an additional 20% on top. It is unlikely that your retail/public client will be able to recoup any of that cost.

Of course most of your larger competitors will be in the same boat.

If you sell your services solely to other, larger businesses then they will almost certainly be themselves VAT registered and the VAT you charge to them is irrelevant – as those clients of yours can reclaim ALL the VAT back.

But of course if you DO register then immediately all the VAT you are charged by your suppliers can be reclaimed ie the stuff you buy will be cheaper.

What are the options?

  1. If your turnover (broadly) is £82,000.00 then you MUST register for VAT and charge it to your clients.
  2. As a small company you can get your client to purchase products directly from suppliers. Most companies, like us (KOTHEA), will do this if we know that we are supporting how the designer wants to bill the project.  Whilst your client will still have to pay VAT for these goods you may be able to avoid charging them VAT on your interior design services.
    • One problem with this is that you have to chase and manage your client’s payment for goods.
  3. Working on a cash basis with no documentation is illegal. You will eventually get found out and fined…a lot. Putting illegality to one side, you place yourself at greater risk with unscrupulous clients.
  4. If you are VAT registered and you export from the EU, with proof of export, then (broadly) no VAT is chargeable.
  5. If you are VAT registered and your client is based in the EU but not in the UK then you will (broadly) not charge them VAT if
    • Delivery is to a non-UK address in the EU (YOU must organise the shipping to make the proof easier, if the client organises shipping then you must charge VAT and then refund it once proof of export is provided to you)
    • The client can supply you with a valid EU VAT registration number – which you must validate.
  6. Register for VAT if you sell your services/products mostly to other organisations. You can recoup the VAT costs from ALL the things you buy for your business.


Small Space? Not a problem with these five DIY projects

Source: Evans Home
Source: Evans Home

Small spaces can be restrictive and frustrating. The BBC website claimed that the UK has ‘some of the smallest new homes in Europe,’ and many houses also have only a pocket handkerchief sized garden. Worse still, some houses have little or no outside space at all. If your property only has a small space outside, don’t despair – here are five projects that can help you make the best of that area.


  1. Making the best of the great outdoors

Whether your garden is minute or you can only access the outdoors through your window, there are many tricks you can use to enhance your surroundings. Trellises are ideal. You can fix them onto your garden wall or even place them on the wall surrounding your windows. Take a look at the Ashridge Trees website to gain some ideas and inspiration about what to plant against your trellis. You don’t have to stick to flowers; strawberry plants can be encouraged to drape their tendrils along the side of a sunny wall.


  1. Use your furniture wisely

If your flat is tiny, you don’t want to clutter it up with too much furniture. With some clever shelving options you could knock down a wall between the kitchen and living space (provided it’s not a load bearing wall) and use the shelving to increase the light in your flat and store more objects too. You could always use a bunk bed for your children, which will free up space below the bed to use for homework or an additional play area.


  1. Create an illusion

Every inch of space is important if your home is on the miniscule size. The magazine House and Garden suggests using mirrors to enhance natural light. This will always make a room appear larger than it actually is. Hang a mirror close to a window so that the light can bounce off the mirror and flood into the room.


You can also create an illusion of space if you replace your roof with skylights in order to make the most of the valuable source of natural light. You may have to work with or receive advice from a professional builder in order to carry out this project.


  1. Paint is important

Another way of making the most of your small living space is to choose your colours for your walls wisely. You don’t have to stick to magnolia; crisp white walls always look good. If you really must have a feature wall – they’re not suitable for all small spaces – then make sure the colours you select don’t dominate your home. Purple and black may look dramatic in a large house but will look overwhelming in a smaller space. Bright blues or dazzling yellows might be more suitable.


  1. Hang things from the ceiling Kitchens can look very cluttered. One way to overcome this problem is to build cupboards so that any surplus kitchen equipment can be stored away. Investing in a ceiling rack is an ideal way of dealing with saucepans and utensils.


By the end of these DIY schemes you won’t have increased the space in your accommodation at all, but you will be making far better use of the available room and that’s a major bonus.





Moving House? How To Speed Up The Removal Process

Source: Harriet Anstruther
Source: Harriet Anstruther

Moving house is often listed as one of the most stressful things we can do in our lives, but the average person does this eight times!

Latest research from Money Supermarket has revealed that nearly nine out of 10 (86%) of Brits have found the moving process stressful, with almost half admitting they didn’t feel in control.

When the time comes to move out of your current home and into a new one, don’t you wish you could just click your fingers and be there? Well, unfortunately you can’t do that! However, there are a few ways you can speed up the removal process.

Plan your move

One of the best ways you can personally speed up the removal process is by being as prepared as possible. Plan your move down to the last detail. Obviously this doesn’t guarantee a completely smooth move, but it will help to avoid any unnecessary issues. The best way to do this is by creating a checklist of everything you need to do in the order it needs doing – then you can tick each one off as you go.

Have a clear out

You don’t want to waste time and effort moving things that don’t actually need to be moved and will only be got rid of at a later date. Firstly, sort out what you don’t want anymore – then throw it away, put into charity bags or list it on eBay and make some extra money to spend in your new home! During this time why not take advantage of storage? Everything you don’t need at the moment or aren’t sure about can be put into Ready Steady Store – to be collected at a later date.


Start packing early

First of all, you need to start accumulating boxes – otherwise where will you put everything? Then, while you are having a clear out, you can start packing the belongings you will be taking with you into boxes. Start packing as soon as you can, starting with items that you don’t need, and leave the essentials till last.

Clean before moving day

In the days leading up to the move you should start cleaning your home! Take it a room at a time, leaving the ones that you are still using (particularly the kitchen and bathroom) until last!

Pack strategically

Label each box with its contents and the room it’s for. This may seem to make the packing process slightly longer, but will save time in the long run when you get to the other end and just want to be unpacked. While doing this, make a plan of where everything will go – particularly large items of furniture – in the new house! Remember to pack a separate box with a moving day survival kit; nothing will make you more stressed than trying to find the kettle among the contents of your house when you are gasping for a cup of tea!

All the above should be done in the lead up to moving day so that on the actual day you can sit back and relax as the removal men transport your belongings from your old house to your new home. The last thing you want is to be running around, as the new family are trying to move their stuff into your old home, packing items and cleaning appliances. The more prepared you are and the earlier you start preparing, the less stress you will have across the whole process.

6 ways to upcycle your old office furniture

If you’re fed up with the look of your office and feel that the whole space could do with some re-vamping, why not look at ways of upcycling your existing furniture? All you need is some imagination, and the confidence to transform your ideas into reality. Here are six ideas you might find useful.


  1. Upcycling chairs

You don’t necessarily have to have the painting skills of a professional artist, nor do you have to be master carpenter but if you are useful with a staple gun, this will help in your upcycling project. The upholstery of many office chairs, including those with castors from Tente attached, will look shabby after years of use, though the frame will still be perfectly sound. Simply choose a hard wearing fabric that you like and recover the headrest and seat of the chair. If you’re at all unsure follow the link here for some expert advice. The transformation will surprise you and you’ll have a piece of furniture that looks stylish and will last for years.


  1. Transforming dull filing cabinets

Dull grey metallic filing cabinets never look good even when they’re brand new. With a can of spray paint you can easily transform this item into a thing of beauty. Even though we are allegedly living in a paperless society, most people do keep a hard copy of essential documents and need somewhere to store these items, hence the enduring popularity of the filing cabinet. Using stencils you could always enhance your filing cabinet with some vibrant designs.


  1. Renovating the office desk

If your office desk is looking tired, and is constructed from either wood or metal, why not learn a little bit about decoupage? This process is achingly fashionable, and importantly it will give your sad old desk a new lease of sophisticated life. You can cover the surface of the desk with either fabric or paper and the resulting design will be sealed in a resilient coating of varnish. Try not to select a design that’s too busy as you may spend more time gazing at your beautiful new desk rather than working on it.


  1. Look at your lights

A can of spray paint is an essential tool in every upcycler’s arsenal. If your desk lamps are metal, simply respray them. You can go for primary colours or you could invest in metallic shades – it depends which colours will fit in with your existing design. Alternatively you could experiment with a new lampshade, and paint the base of the lamp.


  1. Upcyle your windows dressings

Blinds always look better in an office than curtains; if you have been using fabric curtains this might be the time to swap to blinds. You can always use the curtain material to make some attractive cushions.  You can quite simply construct a new blind from unwanted tea towels according to the style magazine House and Garden. Upcycling really does mean that you’ll rarely throw anything away again.


  1. Bookshelves need love

Despite the growth of all things digital most officers still need a few reference books to hand and bookshelves in which to house them. If your wooden bookshelf is looking sad, strip the surface, and then varnish. If you want to add colour, go for it and paint the shelves.

Linen Velvet Upholstery

Grey Mohair Velvet Upholstery
Fine Grey Velvet Finn Juhl Pelikan chair
Fine Grey Velvet Finn Juhl Pelikan chair

KOTHEA were recently asked if any fabric companies still made linen velvet.

Yes. We do. Ours has a 100% linen pile and a Martindale of 20,000 making it suitable for upholstery and curtains.

We sell other velvets including; mohair velvet; silk velvet; cashmere silk velvet; cotton velvet and linen velvet.

Cotton Velvet vs. Mohair Velvet

Contemporary beige cotton velvet chair
Black Mohair Velvet Contemporary Chair
Black Mohair Velvet Contemporary Chair

KOTHEA was asked “what is the difference between cotton velvet and mohair velvet upholstery fabric”.

More of an explanation about velvet is given here – essentially ‘velvet’ is the finish arrived at by a specific production process. That process can be applied to many fibres. Mohair usually refers to a silk-like fabric or yarn made from the hair of the Angora goat and cotton is a natural fibre that grows from the cotton plant.

Faux Leather For Flooring

Cream Faux Leather Upholstery
Black Faux Leather Upholstery
Black Faux Leather Upholstery

KOTHEA was asked if Faux Leather could be used as flooring. We have experience of putting faux leather just about on any surface: in yachts, in hotels, in villas, on doors, on walls, on bars and of course on furniture. But sadly no experience with floors.

Some of the faux leathers/faux skins we sell have a Martindale / Rub test of over 100,000. This is suitable for HEAVY/CONTRACT upholstery. However to extrapolate that to even light use flooring is risky. The rub test mimics more the action of sitting rather than being walked upon. The forces exerted by walking, running and carrying things on faux leather would be much more than in seating areas. This would be further complicated by the adhesive which would have to be both perfectly bonded throughout the entire area in contact with the floor (possible) and the adhesive would have to be strong (possible).

Having said that I have a sneaky feeling that it is possible in reasonably low traffic areas. After all it is possible to buy leather tiles. Perhaps also the covering applied after laying can improve stability and durability. If you would like me to give a more definitive response on this issue please leave a comment.

Usage of Linen Velvet

Upholstery Linen Chair Bibendum Eileen Gray
Yellow Linen Upholstery
Yellow Linen Upholstery

KOTHEA was asked what linen velvet fabric could be used for.

A: General uses. Upholstery, curtains, cushions. The 100% linen velvet we have has a Martindale / Rub Test of 20,000 so it is certainly suitbale for appropriate upholstery uses. A linen velvet offers a relatively unusual yet natural fibre for a velvet.