Trick of the trade

Sliding doors have become more and more popular in the last 5 years as technology has improved and contemporary aesthetics have reduced the home owner’s desire for conventional side hung doors that take up space. Unlike their clumsy predecessors, modern mechanisms can be discreet and can even be used as a feature in their own right.

There is a long history of using sliding doors, or shoji, in Japan, where they are an integral part of the traditional architecture. Used as a door or window, or to make divisions between rooms, they are usually made of translucent mulberry paper over a wooden frame, allowing light to penetrate while still affording some degree of privacy.

In the UK we are more familiar with the large glass systems that are commonly used to redefine the open and closed space, seamlessly joining warm climate controlled interiors with the natural landscape. However, it is also becoming fashionable to use doors of this type in other formal spaces , particularly in flats or basements where space is limited.

In a recent project, one of the challenges set by our clients was to combine the busy life of a modern family with a small basement living space, while keeping the heart of the house – the kitchen – as functional and as welcoming as possible. By widening the opening and replacing the original hinged door with a sliding glass system (designed and built by Goodbody & Co.) the room was transformed into a much brighter and more spacious area. The door frame cleverly hides one of Hafele’s best creations … the ‘invisible’ sliding mechanism.

For more information about our interior design services click here.

5 Mini makeovers to improve your home

Believe it or not, you don’t have to go through a lot of noise, dust and endless planning applications to give your house a makeover. We look at 5 easy steps that can change your living space.

  • Perfect storage solutions

    No matter how much we de-clutter, we always seem to run out of space. The temptation is to rent a storage unit or worse, plan a whole basement refurbishment … but why not look at unused spaces around the house that could be fitted with cupboards and shelves instead. A storage seat beneath a bay window; a cupboard/shelving unit to fit snugly within the awkward angles of your loft or book shelves at the top of the stairs. Alternatively if your mattress is on its last legs … buy a storage bed!

  • Playing with colours

    In a previous newsletter we discussed how daunting it is selecting the right colour scheme for your home. Even choosing a plain white can be difficult now that there are so many different shades and variations to choose from. Why not add colour to just one wall instead? Paint the wall behind your bed to make a minimalist headboard, or as a splashback in your kitchen. You will need to allow 2-7 days for it to dry and air – and if you change your mind about it later, it will be just as quick and easy to repaint it again!

  • That front garden…

    The first impression you get of any home is its front garden. It is often a small and tricky space but simple changes can make all the difference to a private home or rental property. Painting the front door, fixing broken path tiles, adding a few plants or building a shed for your bins will usually do the trick and take very little time. (Note – in a conservation area, you may need planning permission.)

  • The power of mirrors

    Hanging mirrors on your walls will instantly create a sense of space, whether you invest in one large antique frame or hang several smaller ones together. They can even be used in your garden or on your balcony to give the illusion of endless outdoor greenery.

  • Fix the floor

    The summer holiday is a great time to refresh your floors. Since household ‘traffic’ and access is the main issue when refurbishing floors, try to sort these out while the family is away. Wooden floors can generally be sanded down and re-varnished, or you could try painting the boards to add an alternative splash of colour. Similarly cleaning or replacing a tired carpet will only take 2-3 days and will immediately lift a tired room.

The secret life of your house

We look at two typical activities and tips on how to help them run smoothly while you are away.

Contrary to popular belief, the summer can be a very busy time for your home. With a little planning, you could easily organize a significant refresh or even more comprehensive works to take place while you are relaxing on the beach. Here are two activities you could consider and some thoughts to help you plan ahead:

Damp proofing:

The summer is the best time for damp proofing. Drying times are considerably reduced (allowing work to be completed by that all important back to school date) and with the family away, work can be done in the more active areas of the house without disruption to family life. Some things to consider:

  1. Professional damp proofing companies rarely take responsibility for stripping out and reinstating fixtures and finishes. Select a principle contractor who will not only produce the quality of reinstatement you need but can also demonstrate a good track record of managing well intentioned but messy damp proofing subcontractors.
  2. Discuss the principle contractor’s phase plan well in advance – and build in some leeway (even if you do so privately). Drying out times can be very unpredictable and the worst thing your contractor can do is to rush the decoration before the walls have had time to dry naturally. Trapped moisture will only lead to further problems.
  3. Removing old render is a very dusty process. Ensure the affected area can be self-contained, sealed off and ideally have its own exterior access. Assume the rooms adjacent to the work will also be exposed to fine dust so it is worth putting dustsheets over soft furnishings and sealing drawers and cupboards.
  4. Check your contractor has allowed for proper protection of finishes – particularly the floors. During the course of the works, a lot of sand is likely to be transported through your home. If this gets trapped under poorly applied protection it may lead to deep and untreatable scratches.


The other activity that people often undertake during the long holiday is decoration. Even eco-paint fumes are not pleasant, so it is common to carry these activities out when the house is unoccupied. Here are some things to look out for:

  1. Security is one the biggest concerns during the summer. People are more inclined to leave windows open or unattended. Discuss how you contractor will deal with security while you are away and ideally have a neighbor or cat sitter check that the house is secure every night.
  2. Put away smaller objects and houseplants before your contractors come on site. There may be a lot of furniture movement during the course of the project and reducing clutter will not only speed up the work but give the team one less thing to worry about.
  3. Furniture will be exposed to paint dust as well as wet paint. Try to protect items stored in cupboards with a spare pillowcase or something you can easily throw into the washing machine after work is complete.
  4. The majority of contractors will respect your home as they would their own but remember that they don’t know it as well as you do. If there is a delicate wallpaper or French polished door that needs to be carefully protected, discuss it in advance. Removing paint on completion is tricky, time consuming and can lead to bad feeling on a job that had otherwise gone smoothly for all involved.

Did you know?

The London skyline is one of the most rapidly changing views in Europe: just count the number of cranes and you can see how much building work is going on.

But what is really happening? Here are a few of the changes taking place.

Portobello Village

Portobello Road has always been a busy, bustling area, but since 2015 The Westway Trust and RBCK have had backing from the Mayor of London for plans to re-invigorate and support the area. The proposal, affecting the existing markets and traders is not without controversy. Plans are afoot to create new space for local cultural and community activities, make significant improvements to local green spaces and most importantly to make more provision for local housing.

Battersea Power Station

After years of uncertainty, one of London’s most iconic and loved buildings, Battersea Power Station, is finally undergoing a long-overdue facelift. Frank Gehry and Foster + Partners are collaborating on a vibrant new community area, offering homes, restaurants, shops and event spaces. Foster + Partners are designing the Roof Gardens, a ‘strongly delineated, rippling building . . . organic and soft…’ while Gehry is overseeing an almost futuristic cluster of buildings known as Prospect Place. They are also building a new Zone 1 London Underground station and connecting it to the River Bus services. This will definitely be one to watch!

Code of Construction Practice – IMPORTANT

It is worth noting that since April 2016, London boroughs have adopted a new Code of Construction Practice aimed at minimizing the impact of noise, vibration and dust across all London boroughs. Luckily for you, this means that noisy work on Saturdays is now prohibited … as well as Sundays and Bank Holidays.

And more…

  • Redevelopment plans for Earl’s Court and West Brompton Village
  • The Tate Modern extension, opened on 17th June 2016
  • The Design Museum is relocating to the former Commonwealth Institute building on Kensington High Street and will open on 24 November 2016

Portrait of…

Matt (Mindaugas Mattas) is one of our longest serving joiners and carpenters. At 36 years old, he has been with the company since its formation: from fitting kitchens in his first year, to the full renovation and restoration projects of today.

Originally from Lithuania, he began to hone his skills on his father’s house, helping to build it from scratch nearly 20 years ago. He then moved to London in 2002 working for a number of different companies before joining Goodbody & Co. in 2008. A precise cabinet-maker and joiner, he is also a knowledgeable builder and at his happiest when making unusual projects run smoothly.

Over the last two years he has been meticulously restoring a beautiful Tudor hall in East Anglia with a team of other specialists including Gints Ozols and Tomasz Proba, who are also long serving members of the company.

The challenges have come in many forms. The sheer scale of the building has made every minor alteration an exercise in planning and creativity, while its unique history has demanded the attention of consulting architects, engineers, heritage consultants and planning officers – all of whom needed to be shepherded around the building on a near monthly basis.

To date, the greatest challenge has been the restoration of structural timberwork over the main stairs (see Newsletter 1). The 8 ton beam structure is now entirely concealed within the lath and plaster walls and ceiling and the efforts to support and restore it all but invisible to the casual eye. In Matt’s view this is the perfect outcome.

More recently Matt and the team have completed the restoration of the historic panel work in various state and formal rooms, spending several weeks studying and copying the existing panels in order to produce closely matched details.

Asked what the project has taught him, Matt is philosophical: “we will never know all the secrets of this beautiful house but we have started to understand how 16th century craftsmen managed without power tools.“

For more information about restoration work, see our most recent Restoration of Historic paneling case study