Design Manifesto: Part 2, Assessing a Home's Shell

Find out what we look for (and what we avoid) in a home in terms of its shell.

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The Hobart Spring Estate, Plum Guide home in Norfolk, UK

Architectural Style

Plum: Loft conversion with lots of original industrial architectural elements and character 

'Plum' - industrial loft setting

'Plum' - industrial loft setting

Not Plum: Uninspiring proportions and no architectural interest whatsoever

Plum: Georgian period townhouse – lofty proportions and large sash windows 

Not Plum: Low ceilings and furniture too large for size of room 

Plum: Modernist/mid-century modern house – low-slung, wide footprint, and floor-to- ceiling windows 

'Plum' - mid-century modern architecture

'Plum' - mid-century modern architecture

Not Plum: Newbuild – poorly proportioned rooms and small windows 

Plum: Old Italian building with classical proportions and exposed original wood-beamed ceiling 

'Plum' - old Italian building

'Plum' - old Italian building

Not Plum: Strangely designed room – spacing of architectural elements very fussy and unbalanced 

'Not Plum' – poorly proportioned and too much furniture for size of room

'Not Plum' – poorly proportioned and too much furniture for size of room

Layout

Plum: Open-plan kitchen/ living space which opens up directly onto garden

Not Plum: Small, poky kitchen, separate to living space 

Plum: Double-height ceilings which can be enjoyed both from main space and mezzanine area 

'Plum' - double height ceilings

'Plum' - double height ceilings

Not Plum: Low ceilings, cramped furniture layout 

'Not Plum' – cramped furniture layout and low ceilings

'Not Plum' – cramped furniture layout and low ceilings

Plum: Open-plan (no wasted space/poky corridors)

Not Plum: Long, narrow corridor layout with no natural light

Plum: Open-plan dining area layout

'Plum' - open dining area

'Plum' - open dining area

Not Plum: Bland dining room in separate room to kitchen/living space feels old-fashioned

Flooring

Plum: Beautiful, old parquet floorboards

'Plum' - original parquet floorboards

'Plum' - original parquet floorboards

Not Plum: Horrible lino imitation wood floor, with dodgy pattern (planks too short, grain too varied) 

Plum: Polished concrete floor – nice industrial character that provides clean, minimalist base 

'Plum' - polished concrete floor

'Plum' - polished concrete floor

Not Plum: Fake stone vinyl flooring – as a general rule, imitation materials should be avoided in favour of the real thing 

Plum: Coir coco matting – nice textural interest, and natural, earthy look

Not Plum: Generic, beige fitted carpet

Plum: Victorian hallway tiles – encaustic, original, long-lasting quality, very characterful

Not Plum: Generic cheap tiles

Walls

Plum: Chic wallpaper, nice texture, variation, matt finish

Not Plum: Ugly, tacky wallpaper – generic pattern and cheap shiny metallic finish

Plum: Panelled walls, painted inexpensive-looking colour (high pigment-to-binder ratio)

Not Plum: Dated mahogany-style panelling – the detailing/proportions are too fussy and finish is dated

Plum: Original exposed brickwork creates warmth, gives sense of history of the building and long-lasting, quality natural materials

'Plum' - exposed brickwork wall

'Plum' - exposed brickwork wall

Not Plum: Dated, bland, unadventurous magnolia-coloured walls with small, cheap skirting board

Plum: Walls painted in expensive, pigment-rich (not all lurid) colours – that is key in creating moody, cosy feel of the room

Not Plum: Very dated textured walls

Windows

Plum: Period sash windows (single-glazed)

'Plum' - sash windows

'Plum' - sash windows

Not Plum: White plastic, double-glazed windows

Plum: Crittall windows (metal, single glazed, 1930s inspired)

'Plum' - Crittall-style windows

'Plum' - Crittall-style windows

Not Plum: Generic, double-glazed white plastic sliding doors

Plum: Brass ironmongery catches/fittings

Not Plum: Plastic handles

'Not Plum' - plastic window handles

'Not Plum' - plastic window handles

Plum: Attractively proportioned bay window with period sash windows

Not Plum: Imitation period windows (proportions aren't right) and cheap-looking frosted/patterned glass

Ceilings

Plum: Original plaster mouldings (cornices and rose)

Not Plum: Fussy, textured plaster ceilings

'Not Plum' - fussy textured plaster ceilings

'Not Plum' - fussy textured plaster ceilings

Plum: Vaulted A-frame ceiling – gives character and a lofty, airy, double-height feeling

Not Plum: Aniglypta (painted, textured wall coverings made from either paper of vinyl)

Plum: Original wood beams give character and sense of building's age and 'authenticity'

'Plum' - original wooden beams

'Plum' - original wooden beams

Not Plum: Very visually distracting ceiling lighting design – feels a bit sci-fi (not in a good way)

Plum: Clean, minimal ceiling, with no visually messy, inbuilt ceiling lights

Not Plum: Dodgy, imitation period-style cornicing (this kind of ornate style should be original only and stayed well away from if new)

Fixed lights

Plum: Industrial/farmhouse-style hanging pendant lights (low-level and keeps ceiling looking cleaner)

'Plum' - farmhouse style lighting

'Plum' - farmhouse style lighting

Not Plum: Lots of ugly recessed ceiling lights (very visually distracting and much less cosy that low-level lighting)

Plum: More contemporary-feeling spotlights (both the cleaner shape, and the materials – warm/glam gold and matt black)

Not Plum: Dated/1990s-looking spotlights

Plum: Industrial style light – resilient, timeless design

'Plum' - industrial lighting

'Plum' - industrial lighting

Not Plum: Cheap/dated, fussy design

'Not Plum' - overly ornate and dated design, cheap-looking

'Not Plum' - overly ornate and dated design, cheap-looking

Plum: Art deco inspired, pendant light – retro but still feels current and contemporary

Not Plum: Very dated, fussy chandelier light/fan combo – very twee and OTT (not in a good way)

'Not Plum' - very dated light/fan combo

'Not Plum' - very dated light/fan combo

Kitchen

Plum: Large and beautifully proportioned room, with lovely Plain English style kitchen, pendant lights, sociable island, open shelving and articulated wall lights

'Plum' - large, beautifully proportioned room

'Plum' - large, beautifully proportioned room

Not Plum: Kitchen in poky, separate room (i.e. not open-plan) with no natural light and barely space for more than one person so not very sociable for the cook

'Not Plum' - small and unsociable with lots of appliances on display

'Not Plum' - small and unsociable with lots of appliances on display

Plum: Plain English-style units, in expensive-looking colour (matt finish) with reclaimed, brass taps – has strong character and given same design attention as any room

Not Plum: Very dated kitchen – wall-mounted cabinets feel heavy, ugly microwave and oven, shiny wood cabinets feel dated, colours are too rich and not cosy

'Not Plum' - very dated kitchen design and choice of wood

'Not Plum' - very dated kitchen design and choice of wood

Plum: Traditional brass farmhouse mixer tap, marble work surface, open shelving, brass articulated wall light, attractive green finish on painted units, integrated appliances

Not Plum: Very old-fashioned overall, numerous ugly, cheap, exposed white goods (fridge, oven, dishwasher), heavy wall cabinets, ugly, glaring light

Plum: Wide, steel, sturdy 6-ringed gas 'chef's stove'

Not Plum: Plastic, cheap-feeling, narrow oven with electric hobs (not as popular as gas hobs for proper chefs)

Bathrooms

Plum: Freestanding bath, attractive wooden basin cabinet, traditional brass taps and wall lights, painted floorboards, sophisticated and characterful colour

Not Plum: Spacious and has natural light but very ugly – cheap, lurid paint colour, dodgy chandelier light (completely visually incoherent), ugly, fiddly tiles in shower

'Not Plum' - spacious with plenty of natural light, but very dated design

'Not Plum' - spacious with plenty of natural light, but very dated design

Plum: Bold personality, deep blue subway tiles, lots of natural light through attractive sash window, mid-century modern furniture

Not Plum: Extremely generic bathroom, very cramped, no natural light, and no design flair whatsoever, very beige colour scheme, not a space you'd want to pamper yourself in

Plum: Very spacious, natural light, freestanding bath, beautiful floorboards, brass fixtures, bench to sit on, sculptural house plant, very coherent minimal feel

'Plum' - freestanding bath surrounded by thoughtful design features

'Plum' - freestanding bath surrounded by thoughtful design features

Not Plum: Weird-shaped, plastic bath with ugly shower enclosure, and cheap taps and shower head

'Not Plum' - oddly-shaped bath, dated shower tiles and lack of consistency in the overall design

'Not Plum' - oddly-shaped bath, dated shower tiles and lack of consistency in the overall design

Plum: Very nice bath colour, brass and wood design scheme – Aesop products always a good sign.

'Plum' - Aesop products are always a good sign

'Plum' - Aesop products are always a good sign

Not Plum: Generic tiling, no colour, dodgy curtains, very ugly exposed washing machine, fussy wall lights, cramped.

Next up in our Design Manifesto, we move on from the shell and turn our attention to the things within a home.

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