Merry Christmas!

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We at Poles Direct would like to wish a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our lovely customers and readers.

Thank you for reading our blog posts and for placing countless orders with us throughout the year. We look forward to bringing you even more engaging and interesting blog posts in 2016 – not to mention supplying you with just as stylish and sturdy curtain poles!

Cut down on the energy bills

Poles Direct infographic

Poles Direct is here to help in more ways than just supplying the best quality bespoke curtain poles in the business.

Today, we are furnishing you with some simple and easy ways to keep your home warm, without having to resort to turn up the heating. Energy prices are ever on the rise, so whatever you can do to save some money in this area of the home, it’s worth a shot.

Incidentally, we mention purchasing some thermal curtains in the infographic above. Our sister site, Custom Curtains, is currently hosting a fabulous Winter Collection, including a gorgeous selection of stylish fabrics, any one of which can be made with a thermal lining. You are going to need some curtains for your curtain poles, after all!

Get the Christmas look

xmas infographic - Poles Direct

At Poles Direct, we are not just about supplying you with top quality, made to measure curtain poles and accessories, we also happen to have a great eye for style. It’s this eye, in fact, which helps us to make an informed decision when we are choosing, and helping you to choose, the most stylish curtain poles, finials, and everything else we sell on our website.

Christmas is just around the corner, and we are certainly getting in the spirit of things here in Grange Moor; the tree is up, the garish Christmas jumpers are being shamelessly flaunted and the festive tunes are being blasted from the radio.

We have compiled this fun little infographic above in the hope that it will inspire you to be as festive as we are within your home. Incidentally, if you would like some curtains like the ones we mention in point 2, why not head over to our sister site, Custom Curtains, who are currently boasting a fabulous Winter Collection?

Using curtain poles as a storage solution

In times of austerity people who rent or own their own home try to cut back on the non-essentials; repainting rooms, buying new furniture for the living room or splashing out on new carpets for a bedroom is not an option for many families up and down the country.

Money is tight, families are struggling to pay the bills, and paying for food and rent is becoming increasing difficult for parents both in and out of employment. With recent research suggesting that for the first time since 1918 more people are renting than buying it seems that stagnant wages, increasing rent rates and rising house prices are leaving people stuck in unsuitable housing.

Growing families can often struggle for space in rented accommodation and if they don’t have the money or permission to improve storage space, life can become tough.  For those of you looking for extra storage space without the price tag consider reducing the clutter in your bedrooms with our step by step guide on how to transform your curtains into a safe storage space for clothes, belts or hats. You don’t have to be an expert, or even know how to sew and drill – here are the steps to transform your room in minutes:

Step 1.

Find as many scarves as you can that you would like to convert into curtains. You don’t need to do anything to apart from hang them up so don’t worry about cutting anything. Alternatively, you can use loose material you no longer need if you don’t have scarves.

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Step 2.

Once the scarves are hung up, make sure each one at the end is slightly longer. Then take the longer piece of each scarf and wrap it around the rest of them.

Tied scarf's hanging on a curtain pole photo Curtains_zpsaad6daf3.jpg

Step 3.

You have the freedom to experiment here, and you could try hanging fairy lights on the curtain pole to make it more of a feature and it doesn’t have to be expensive.

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Storage

Small rooms mean it can be difficult to find any storage space. Take clothes for example, long dresses which you need to hang for a night out can be tricky. Not everyone has the space for a walk-in wardrobe, although most would love one. So why not make your own using your curtain pole? All you have to do is hang your clothes with hangers. Not only does this save you money but you have more freedom over rearranging your room.

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The issue most of us have is lack of space, as our lifestyles leave us with not enough room.

Another way a curtain pole can be used creatively is as a room divider – allowing you to partition areas of a room off. This allows you to allocate specific tasks or functions to each subdivision of the room which serves to increase a smaller room’s functionality.

Max Wong, who is a frugal writer and always has useful tips on recycling, expands upon this idea:

“If you live in a small space, you can hang a curtain rod from the ceiling and use drapery to create a room divider. For example, if you live in a one room apartment, you can create a private sleeping space around your bed with a curtain. Depending on the thickness of the curtain, this will also keep your sleeping area warmer during cold weather. ”

This works particularly well if you want to keep your personal items to yourself. Even if you don’t share a room, it is just as effective if you want a relaxing and creative space. Partitioning a room also allows you to keep your possesions contained within a certain area of the room. For example, if you have a dressing area curtained off from the room’s main area, the curtain encourages you to keep your clothes within this area and keep clutter to a minimum.

So why not have a go and tell us how you get on – and feel free to let us know any more tips!

Go minimalist!

Poles Direct - Go minimalist

If you believe it is time to de-clutter and go back to basics with your decor, chances are you probably need to. Minimalism is a timeless style, which has never gone out of fashion in the world of interior design. If you are serious about going minimalist, it means getting rid of all the junk you don’t need – or at the very least putting it out of sight – and replacing your essentials with simplistic styles and designs.  In the world of minimalism, less really is more, which is why we have compiled this little infographic above, to show you exactly what we mean.

At Poles Direct, we stock a vast range of chrome curtain poles, any of which would be ideal for a modernistic/minimalist look.

We have included a white curtain from our sister website, Custom Curtains, as there are no better colour for minimalism than whites and creams. However, don’t feel limited to just this colour; feel free to experiment – just keep things to a minimum!

What is a Ming Vase?

 

Along with rugs from Persia and watches from Switzerland, porcelain has a long established connection with China. So much so, porcelain is often simply referred to as China. And when we think of Chinese porcelain, we think of Ming vases. But what exactly is a Ming vase? Poles Direct take a look into this cultural icon.

Ming Vase

China has a long history with porcelain, well, to put it more accurately, they have the longest history with porcelain. Pieces of porcelain have been found that have been carbon dated to be around 20,000 years old. Though these were coarse, rough ware used for practical purposes, they started the ball rolling.

Things started to get interesting around the time of the Han dynasty*.

*Side note – dynasties in China are odd things. They signify a certain climate of politics and culture, as opposed to a specific set of rulers. Typically they rise to a peak, before crumbling due to corruption and other such things. Dynasties can range anywhere from a couple of decades to hundreds of years, and can be set over different areas of China. We won’t go too deep into it in his post, but it’s worth a read.

Though the distinction between proto-porcelain ware and true porcelain is a tough one to make, some experts put the emergence of true porcelain in the Han dynasty (202-220 AD). This is when the temperatures of the kilns started to get hotter than previously, thus producing finer porcelain.

Han Dynasty Vase

Han Vase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, we are here to learn about Ming Vases! So we’ll jump forward a thousand years or so, to 1368, the start of the Ming dynasty.

In the Ming dynasty new techniques, designs and shapes were experimented with. These new designs used more colour than before, and due to a period of exploration, were subject to a lot of foreign influence. There was also great technical advancements. During the Xuande period (142-1435) it was discovered that adding manganese to the cobalt colouring used, while slightly dulling its brilliance, dramatically decreased how much the colour ran. Thus giving much finer detail. Xuande period porcelain is now considered amongst some of the finest Ming porcelain available.

Ming Vase 1

Not only this, but enamelled decoration was perfected under the Chenghua Emporar, and led to highly ornamental pieces. These pieces, probably due to fashion, ended up being considered as valuable as pieces from the Song dynasty, which preceded these Ming pieces by around 300 to 600 years.

But why do we have this connotation with Ming China and particularly, Ming Vases.

Well, the answer is slightly less romantic than we first hoped, and comes from a few sources. Simply put, the Ming dynasty was the first to mass produce, and export its wares. Which meant that it was largely during the Ming dynasty that the western world learned of Chinese porcelain. It quickly became hugely fashionable and desirable and swept through most of Europe, and so the association began.

Ming BowlMing Bowl 2

Another reason is: there was essentially two types of porcelain made during the Ming Dynasty – Min Yao and Guan Yao. Min Yao roughly translates as, people’s ware, and was normal porcelain made by, and for the use of, the general population. As such, it was typically small, plain objects such as bowls and cups, and was not crafted to a very high standard. Guan Yao, on the other hand, translates as imperial ware. These are items that were specifically made for, or commissioned by, the Chinese Emperor and imperial family. As such it was crafted to an extremely high standard, and the pieces were often larger and more ornamental, such as vases. These are the pieces we typically picture in our heads, with the pure white bodies and crisp blue paint. And it’s these pieces that are so rare, and valuable.

Ming Vase Colourful

A Look at Tiles, with Laura Manners

Tiles have been used in and out of the home for quite some time. The earliest form of brick glazing, therefore tiling, known is at the Elamite Temple at Chogha Zanbil, which was built in the 13th century BC. So, suffice it to say, we’ve been tiling for a while.

Tiles are actually quite versatile, and can be used in many different areas of the home, both internally and externally. There are beautiful examples of tiles used on the exteriors of buildings, which are a testament to the love of the craftsman who built it.

tiled roof

Typically when we imagine tiles inside the home we think of two places: the bathroom and the kitchen, with the former being most prevalent. The reason for this is simple: not only are glazed tiles aesthetically beautiful, but they are non-porous. This has obvious advantages in bathrooms and kitchens.

Tiled Stairs 2

One trend that’s emerging is a more haphazard approach to tile choice. Good quality, handmade tiles are very expensive. Complete sets of vintage tiles are also very rare, due to the fragility of porcelain or ceramic. Therefore one way to get around both these issues is to break up a plain wall, made from cheaper tiles with a patchwork of random vintage tiles. When done properly, it can look wonderful.

When choosing tiles, some of the terminology can be a bit confusing; so we reached out to up and coming potter, Laura Manners to answer a few questions.

Poles Direct Could you, as simply as possible, tell us the difference between ceramic and porcelain, and glazed and unglazed tiles?

Laura Manners – Porcelain is just one of three classes of clay:

Porcelain (Kaolin) – non porous when high fired

Stoneware – non porous when high fired

Earthenware – porous, even when high fired

We get these categories of clay by determining the level of decay (age), and earth conditions of the area that the clay is sourced from.

Vitrification is a term to describe a stage of chemical structure change. When stonewear and porcelain increase in temperature they vitrify and become non-porous.

LM Vase

PD – Is it right that when creating a glaze on a tile, or on any piece of pottery, that it is a bit of a lottery how it will turn out?

LM – Designing a glaze for any ceramic product is actually a very precise science. Once a correct firing program (correct temperature, ‘soak length’ and ‘ramp speed’) for the relevant object form, size and clay has been developed then the glaze should be consistent. However, even a tiny malfunction or inconsistency will produce variations in the outcome, which is why studio ceramics are usually more ‘imperfect’ than mass produced ceramics. But rather than detracting from the beauty, I think that this adds to it.

LM Mug

PD – Do you have any advice when choosing tiles for the home? Both inside and out?

LM – Aesthetic qualities are usually at the top of the list for selecting tiles, however the way a space is to be used could influence a decision.

Like carpets, black or white flooring shows up debris and dirt more than patterned surfaces. So if it is a high traffic area like a family kitchen, or where there is a high chance of dust and dirt such as in a conservatory or utility room, this is something which one might want to consider.

With regards to wear resistance, although earthenware is lower fired and more porous than stoneware or porcelain, most people are familiar with a terracotta ‘quarry tile’ which are found in many period homes and have withstood traffic well for years. Also surface area would play a part. If you are having to cover floors with uneven surfaces or accommodate short inclines you could potentially have areas of unsupported tile, increasing the chance of cracks and breakages.

It would make sense to buy something more aesthetically driven for a wall tile, as there is much less wear and tear in this area. In the bathroom a glazed tile will ensure the room hordes less atmospheric moisture and will be more sanitary, an unglazed tile will culture bacteria in the exposed pores and will be almost impossible to clean.

LM Bowl

PD – What was the hardest thing to learn when you started working with pottery?

LM – Ceramics theory has many elements, and you can spend a lifetime studying one single area, so becoming knowledgeable about pottery as a whole takes more study than people first imagine. It’s just as difficult as mastering the motor skills required to make the objects.

The areas of real, in-depth study are the various making techniques such as thrown, hand-building and sculpting & casting. As well as glaze design (which is very much chemistry & geology based), history of clay production in art & industry, the nature of clay bodies, firing techniques and creative design.

Each of these have many, many subcategories and to specialise in them all is nearly impossible.

LM Industry

PD – Do you have anything in particular you like to make?

LM – I am a thrower, which translates to making vessels predominantly on a pottery wheel. I use various traditional & non-traditional decorating techniques, mainly involving slip techniques which is liquidised clay applied to the surface of a pot.

LM Throwing

Thank you for that! for more information about Laura and her work, just visit www.lauramanners.com 

 

 

Our Autumn Collection

 

autumn-coming-soon

We are currently working on our Autumn Collection, set to launch on 16/10/15.

While we were creating this collection we had a specific image in our head. We pictured a cosy room, warmed by a fire. No TV, just a few sofas and chairs, piled high with warm blankets. Soulful music is background to laughter as a group of friends share drinks and talk about good times passed. This room is warm and safe and full of laughter, the blinds are closed, keeping the cold world outside at bay.

Blackout Blinds – Saviour of the Universe

 

Blackout Blinds are one of today’s unsung heroes. Anyone who has suffered the glare from a street light, usefully located directly outside of the bedroom window, or a night shift worker who has a vampire’s attitude toward the sun can testify to the absolute necessity of a blackout blind.

BLACKOUT-1B-1BLACKOUT-1A

Blackout Blinds are made with a special layer of fabric between the face and backing of the blind, which light cannot penetrate. This makes them nearly 100% blackout (light can sometimes get down the edges of the blind).

Blackout blinds are incredibly useful for many circumstances. If you are a light sleeper for example, blackout blinds will help you get better quality sleep. The value of a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated. Poor sleep can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes and even increase the risk of a stroke. See our blog post about the risk of sleep deprivation here.

However, not only will blackout blinds save your life, but they are also very useful from a technical standpoint. Due to the extra layer of fabric in the blind they are excellent heat insulators. This means that you can shut your heating off a little earlier, and run it on a slightly lower temperature, thus saving you money. Now we are getting to the winter months this is more important than ever. As the temperature drops you will want your home to be as efficient as possible.

A look at Children’s blinds

Imagination is key to a child’s development. From the tooth fairy, to Santa, to superheroes. Pretending and play time is essential to a child growing up.

This doesn’t have to be reserved for outside and play time though, this can extend all the way to the bedroom. And not just the toys they play with, but the decorations and design of the room.

Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Over on our sister site www.roman-blinds-direct.com we have a specialist range of children’s blinds. These wonderful fabrics not only have some fantastic playful designs, but also some of your favourite superheroes!

For the young artists we have the wonderful Prestigious Destination Graphite. This black and white blind is as stylish as it is playful, and will give the junior Van Gogh’s plenty of inspiration.

destination-graphite

If your child is a budding naturalist then the Prestigious Nature Trail Paintbox is perfect! Not only is it fun, and a pleasure to look at, but with the names of all the animals next to them then it is a fantastic way to learn!

Forest Friends 1

The nautical themed Prestigious Regatta Marine will send your child off to sleep with dreams of adventures on the ocean.

pt_boats_regatta_marine

Prestigious Heart Fuchsia keeps it simple and classic with a repeating heart pattern. This definitely more of a girly design, but it also comes in a charming powder blue for any young men who want a softer touch.

heart-fushia

Superheroes! We’ve got Spiderman, Batman and Superman blinds! And not necessarily superheroes, but we’ve got more Disney princesses than you can shake a stick at. Perfect for your own little princess and hero!

arena-princess

spiderman-curtain-room

Of course, all our blinds come with the necessary equipment to make them child safe.