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November 11, 2012 |

Archive for » November 11th, 2012«

Interiors:’The décor was stuck in 1981, which is when the house was built’

The couple are a hands-on pair, relishing the opportunity to get their hands dirty in order to get the finish and quality they want. Gordon is an electrical contractor with his own business, Pulse Electrical, so is both practical and professional when tackling work in the home.

Bernie and Gordon bought the detached four-bedroom house in Renfrewshire from a couple who had only owned it for a year – the previous owner had started the renovation, but the Crangles very quickly took the reins and led the refurbishment to the finish line, re-plastering every wall and ceiling, re-carpeting and fitting oak floors, skirtings, architraves and a staircase, replacing all three bathrooms, and creating a bespoke kitchen.

“The décor was stuck in 1981, which is when the house was built,” recalls Bernie, who runs Bernie’s Café Deli in Bridge of Weir. “Every wall had three or four layers of wallpaper which we had to take off. We had to re-plaster most walls, though some were so bad that we had to get them completely re-done with Gyproc and then plastered. There was a lot of old wood panelling around the house, the bathrooms in particular were covered with it on the walls and ceilings.”

She adds: “The previous owner had put in double glazing and a new boiler, so that was two big jobs that we didn’t need to do. Instead, we concentrated on re-doing the interior and décor. We did a lot of work ourselves, with advice and support from a joiner friend who fitted the kitchen, the doors and skirtings and so on.”

The couple also had a very important deadline to work around – while they got the keys to the house mid-August 2010, Bernie was due to give birth to Lexi, now aged two, at the end of September. Her priority was getting the kitchen complete before the baby was born.

“There was a playroom adjacent to the kitchen that had patio doors out to the garden and really good views,” says Bernie. “We decided to take the wall between the two rooms down to create a very large kitchen and living area with a sofa and TV. It’s a fabulous space. We really prioritised having the kitchen area completed by the time the baby was born – my thinking was that if the kitchen was done then I knew that we could effectively live in there as it had the seating area, and the rest of the house could be done as we went along. We had been through this kind of work before so I knew the light at the end of the tunnel would not be too far away.”

The kitchen was indeed completed by the time Lexi was born – with the exception of the silver granite and solid oak worktops which arrived two weeks later. The kitchen has a distinct chic bistro feel to it, thanks to the cream gloss and frosted glass units, the aqua glass splashbacks, wine chiller in the island, and the integrated coffee maker on tap. The couple opted for cream ceramic tiles underfoot, with the silver sofa in the living space cleverly toning with the granite worktop and chrome cooker hood. The adjacent utility room is finished with wooden units.

“Most people go for black granite but I hate the whole black and white or black and cream combo – I like softer colours,” says Bernie. “I wanted colours, like the cream floor and the aqua tones, so they are not obtrusive. We have the warmth of the oak, with the rest being subtle tones. I wanted to bring other colour in through accessories that can easily be changed.”

Throughout the house, the couple have used Dulux’s Natural Hessian range for each room. In the living room, which is accessed at half-landing level, they have used two tones, with a darker hue on the main wall where they installed a sumptuous limestone fireplace with long rectangular inset. A large L-shaped brown leather sofa dominates the room, which has doors leading out to a balcony.

“The living room walls are very long so we wanted to ensure the space was being used to its best and went for the longer style limestone fireplace that protrudes from the wall,” says Bernie. “The walls in here had thick flocked wallpaper and the roof was covered with a cherry-red wood. We had to Gyproc and plaster the whole room and put a new ceiling up.”

The dining room is a large space that engulfs an eight-seater oak table with brown leather chairs and sizeable oak sideboard. Meanwhile, the main family bathroom has now lost its apricot suite and pine panelled walls in favour of textured stone wall tiles, with a limestone alcove, rain shower and a rectangular sink set into a high-gloss, brown storage unit. The master en-suite and downstairs WC are also finished with textured stone tiles.

The couple’s love of abstract lines is continued in the master bedroom where smoked glass-fronted sliding wardrobes reflect the tones of the subtle latte and silver hexagonal feature wallpaper. One of the guest bedrooms features a bolder striped wallcovering in similar shades.

Outside, as well as monoblocking the driveway, the couple have created a large decked area to the rear and, where they kept lawn, they have replaced it with Astroturf. The views to the front and back are breathtaking – with a 180 degree panorama over Glasgow in one direction and towards the Erskine Bridge and Kilpatrick Hills in the other.

It is clear that Gordon and Bernie have relished the opportunity to bring this home into the 21st Century, though they are now selling.

“I have the café in Bridge of Weir – it is literally a few minutes walk to work for me, but it is a bit too close as I feel I never escape,” confides Bernie. “The plan is to stay within the area but just a little bit out of Bridge of Weir to give me a little bit of distance from work.” k

11 Glen Brae, Bridge of Weir, is for sale at offers over £349,000 through Cochran Dickie (01505 613807, 
www.cochrandickie.co.uk)

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The Kitchen, and All Its Wonders

Not that today’s trophy cookware costs quite as much as a farm, but the authepsa was the Ancient Roman equivalent of the stratospherically expensive ovens that now promise to bake soufflés at a temperature set to the nearest 0.01 degree, and fashionably laboratorial gizmos like centrifuges, compressors and homogenizers.

The evolution of the tools we have used for cooking and eating is the theme of a new book, “Consider the Fork: A History of Invention in the Kitchen,” by the British food writer and historian Bee Wilson. Every so often a book appears that may not necessarily have set out to be about design, but provides fascinating insights into its impact on a particular field. This book does so by exploring how the design not only of the fork, but of everything else that has been used to prepare and consume food over the centuries has determined what has been eaten in different eras, and its impact on people’s health, well-being and behavior.

The story begins with prehistoric cups and bowls being made from whatever material was readily available and fit for purpose. Some cultures continued this custom, with American Indians cooking in clamshells, certain Amazonian tribes favoring turtle shells, and vegetable gourds, animal stomachs and bamboo stems being deployed in other parts of the world. As Ms. Wilson points out, you can still see echoes of those makeshift utensils in New England clambakes and the Scottish tradition of boiling haggis in sheeps’ stomachs.

The emergence of ceramic cooking pots made it possible to customize individual containers that suited different types of food. Boiling up grains like wheat, maize and rice enabled humans to make more productive use of the time they had once spent foraging for meat and fish as hunter-gatherers. Ms. Wilson traces the impact of the culinary innovations of the Bronze Age and Iron Age, then Ancient Greece and Rome, where numerous food tools were invented, including the pricey authepsa. Diets became richer and more varied, but after the fall of the Roman Empire, many of those utensils disappeared, and for centuries most cooks were dependent on a single pot, typically a cauldron, that they used for everything.

Those cauldrons were cooked on blisteringly hot open hearths, which could be dirty, smelly and dangerous. The cooks in wealthy households were almost all men, because women’s flowing robes were considered to be fire risks. As male cooks often worked naked or in their underclothes, it was deemed unseemly for female servants to see them, and they were confined to dairies and sculleries. Open hearth cooking disappeared in many European countries with the adoption of closed brick chimneys and cast iron fire grates during the 16th and 17th centuries. Kitchens became cleaner, women were hired as cooks, shiny brass and pewter pots replaced grimy cast iron cauldrons, and the trophy kitchenware phenomenon began.

The design of new kitchen tools has since been triggered by unpredictable combinations of instinct, ingenuity and technology. Sometimes, the catalyst was the development of a new material or manufacturing process, like carbon steel, which was used to produce sharper, more intricate knives from the 18th century onward. Until then, most Europeans had eaten using a single knife and carried it with them for the purpose. The availability of more sophisticated knives enabled cooks to be more inventive. French chefs proved to be particularly adept at devising new uses for them and the cutting techniques they developed, including slicing food into long, thin julienne strips or chopping it finely into mince, became the foundation of haute cuisine, which was to dominate fine dining for centuries.

Other innovations were the work of doughty individuals who pursued specific goals. The automatic pop-up toaster was invented in 1921 by Charles Strite, a mechanic in Minnesota, who was fed up with eating the burned toast in his factory canteen. Similarly, the Cuisinart food processor was developed in the early 1970s by an American engineer, Carl Sontheimer, who loved classic French food and sought a simpler means of making it. After acquiring the U.S. distribution rights for a 1960s French processor, the Robo-Coupe, he dismembered it in his garage and redesigned it.

The frozen food phenomenon was hatched by an American biologist-turned-fur trapper, Clarence Birdseye, when he and his family were living in the icy Labrador region of northern Canada in the 1910s. Having noticed that their fish and game tasted better in winter than summer, he realized it was because it had frozen faster and worked out how to replicate that process on an industrial scale. There are parallels between his experiments and those of the pioneers of molecular gastronomy, like the Spanish chef Ferran Adrià, who works with designers to develop the specialist tools required to make his dishes, and to eat them.

The origins of other kitchen tools are more enigmatic, having evolved by trial and error. Like the formidable Chinese knife, the tou, which is equally adept at mincing meat, chopping firewood, slaughtering pigs and crushing garlic. “Perhaps no knife is quite as multifunctional, or quite as essential to a food culture,” Ms. Wilson writes.

One of the delights of “Consider the Fork” is that her fascination with the history of food is balanced by the pleasure she takes in preparing dishes herself, watching others do so and, best of all, tasting the results. Ms. Wilson’s design critiques of different utensils, from the humble wooden spoon to a snazzy sous-vide water bath, are all the more convincing for being made by a knowledgeable and passionate cook, who isn’t afraid to admit to her failures, yet longs for delicious successes.

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