At home with The Urban Mole
You've seen her on the third series of The Great Interior design Challenge working her upcycling magic around a bedroom in a self-build estate in South London, a reception room in the model village of Bourneville and a farmer's kitchen. Talie Mole from The Urban Mole joins me today to discuss upcycling, personal styles and lessons learnt from the #GIDC. She is also sharing her home with us and examples of her fabulous upcycling.
Talie lives in a1930s semi in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, with husband Ian and their 3 dogs, Bug, Fen and Olive while also sharing the home part of the time with 2 step-children, Luke 20 and Lauren 13. They have lived here 3 years.
Before moving here, Talie had been living/working in Wiltshire and Ian had been renting an executive apartment in Milton Keynes. In her words "We didn’t even own a knife and fork between us! We were desperate to find the right property as this was our first together. The 1930s house was perfect, good room sizes, sturdy, good size outdoor space and a few charms."
"We decided to live in it for a year before deciding on how we were going to change it and design it. It was dated and tired but habitable. We spent 5 months decorating, building and styling the home. Smaller decorating work included removing all artex and skimming the ceiling, removing all chipboard paper and replacing the stair balustrade from a rickety pine to a solid oak.
We also knocked through the existing kitchen and dining room and added an extension with bi-fold doors to create an open plan living kitchen area. Finally we fitted a new high gloss kitchen, integral appliances, quartz tops, replaced all flooring and painted and wallpapered throughout.
Talie STOP! I'm tired already! But how did you put your own stamp on the spaces ?
Making our home individual was very important to us. It had to work for our lifestyles and also create a really good bright socialising space. I wanted the bedrooms to be colorful and individual and also reflect the person who inhabits each. Ours is sumptuous and romantic. Lauren's is bright, happy and great for a teenager. Luke’s is simple, slightly masculine with creative touches.
What is your absolute favorite room or feature?
"I love the open plan kitchen/living area, but I also love my landing, which is a good size and very light. The stripped carpet and reading area really gives it character."
You obviously love upcycling. Could you show us a few projects you worked on?
"I spent a year working on upcycling projects which I sold through a shop and Etsy. I wanted to create a different look other than shabby chic (not my thing). I feel in love with mid-century so bred some life into old G Plan, Meredew and other unloved pieces. I have a few elements in my home – But it’s not a showcase for my work."
What do your friends and family think of your home ?
"People are always shocked as it is a complete Tardis from the outside. They all seem to love it and enjoy partying here. I am very proud of my home and work hard to maintain it, but it’s a place for people to enjoy not feel intimidated."
Where are your favourite places to shop for homewares ?
I absolutely love my local Auction House Auction Keynes and also TK Maxx – There are fabulous one off pieces you can pick up there and also their cushions are affordable and fabulous quality. Online: MADE.com and Rocket St George.
Are there particular items you think you shouldn’t scrimp on ? And others you think you shouldn’t splash out on ?
Your main furniture and lighting is very important so buy quality. I would rather buy a top quality second hand sofa then a brand new cheap sofa. I bought a solid oak 8 seater dining room table for £250 from an online auction site. I spent 2 hours cleaning and oiling it and now it looks and would sell for over £2000.
The GIDC on BBC2
The Great Interior Design Challenge! Where you able to see the property and take precise measurement before going away to make your mood boards ? Where you able to see the rest of the house and the client's individual style ?
"We got a short clip of the room. A photo of the homeowner and shots of the room. There were measurements sent, but quite often these were slightly out, so it was important for me to be mindful when ordering things like bespoke blinds that these could be altered on the day. We got a brief of the homeowners likes and dislikes but again some important information was missing, like the homeowners dislike for blue on my first project!!! Yikes.
Talie's last mood board of the Farmer's Kitchen
Is it ok to push a client out of their comfort zone and when ?
"There’s a fine line between pushing a client out of their comfort zone and completely going off brief. I tried to add elements that the homeowner wouldn’t have thought off, but not going too outlandish. I wanted to walk away from each design knowing that they would be proud to live in that room and not think – Damn, I should have put more cotton-wool onto that lampshade!"
What comes first, design or practicality ?
"Practicality wins every time for me, though they are not exclusive. Design trends and styles change, but being practical is paramount for everyday living. We don’t live in show homes, so designing a room, like a lounge with a TV behind the sofa because it doesn’t fit in with the wallpaper in my eyes is ridiculous. I guess it didn’t make me popular with the judges."
If you could re-do the last room (farmer's kitchen) would you have changed anything or would you have stuck to the original design ?
"It was nearly a year ago filming the farmhouse. I sit back and get annoyed at myself by playing it too safe with the colour. I should have had a soft pink on the walls, dressed the room with more interesting items, but I wouldn’t have changed anything with regards to the design products or the colour of the units."
Has taking part in the GIDC helped you and are you more confident to work as an interiors stylist now ?
"I launched my property styling business back in November 2015. I have ticked over nicely and things are only getting busier as I continue to market myself. I also am doing an Interior Design diploma, this really is just to increase my knowledge of the history of ID, plus I always think it’s important to continually learn and improve your knowledge on any subject you enjoy.
It’s funny, when the judges were banging on about me and my lack of creativity, but, I was cohesive and professional, I actually was delighted with those remarks. None of my clients have asked for whacky, outrageous product upcycles or unusual paint murals. Instead, they want a room/home that depicts their lifestyle and somewhere they can love, enjoy and feel utterly proud off. So being “cohesive and professional” works just fine for me.
I also run a column for the local paper OneMK, where I will be writing a monthly piece on everything regarding the property market and homes."
Talie Mole is certainly not one to hold back and I only wish she was less conservative with her last design in the GIDC. She was innovative (the moving kitchen island that was not really shown, see below) and transformed the lounge/kitchen of the B&B from plain to interesting. Most of all she delivered a practical kitchen - easy to clean and maintain with its tiled floor and stainless steel surfaces. With £1,000 (which I am told includes the electrician fees as well) and having bought a new sofa for the room, that does not leave much for decoration other than basic stuff. So I think Talie should feel proud of her achievement. Ab fab!