Day 1 - Living Room Refurbishment


Thank you for subscribing to my 14 day training – a short introductory interior design course, where I walk you through our current renovation and give you practical tips and secrets that I use daily as an architectural and interior designer along the way. Today is your first training and I want to start by impressing upon you how important it is to have vision. The worst and most costly thing, you can do to a building is not have any vision before you make a start. When I studied architecture at university we were always told that the design intention leads every single decision. For example, in this living room project, my design intention was to make the spaces work really hard for us and for the materials we used to last a really long time, however the main design idea was to have two very separate spaces, which worked individually as well as looked complete and part of the same room. I have two different styles in the same room but have made them work, because I linked them together by using consistent colours, themes and materials.

This video shows you what the living room looked like right when we moved in. The house is 15 years old (just out of the defects liability period) and as you can see has already had a few people leave their mark on it. For example, the fireplace was added and the lovely curtain poles etc.

The first thing I always do is assess the relationship of the space to the spaces around it. For example, we have to walk through the living room in order to get from the entry hall to the kitchen and dining rooms. This means that this room must also act as a walkway and a threshold between other spaces, as well as a reading nook, living room and TV room.

The next thing I do is measure the space. You need to know the facts about your room. What is the shape, size, which way is north, how much light comes into the room and how big are the doors and windows. Assuming you don’t want to change any of these things, you now have the knowledge about the existing space, which is critical when making any design decisions – based in reality.

Then get clear on your design intention – I mentioned above, I wanted the room to be functional, but what about how it feels? I wanted it to feel really warm and be bright at the same time.

The room faces west, so I knew that in the mornings the room is cool and dark and in the evenings the light in the room is warm and dramatic. Because I wanted to use the room in the evenings, I knew that I would have warm light at that time, so I could use some cooler colours, if I wanted to. If I had wanted to use it in the mornings or during the day, I probably would have considered some warmer toned colours – like bright yellow. My preference was an elegant, cool blue, as I really needed the space to help me relax at the end of a busy work day and also look dramatic and elegant as the main visitor’s room in our house. Besides, blue colours relax me, so that is also a personal choice.

Before starting work you will also need to plan a furniture layout. Take a look at the layout I did prior to starting building. I built the tv into the wall to ensure the walkway and floor area from the hall to the dining room was clear. The position of the television was critical in this instance because it meant we had to hide lots of electrics, and make provisions for the weight of the tv in the wall. So making that very deliberate decision also meant that the furniture layout had to relate to the tv in some way or another. Also I wanted the window area to read as a pretty bay window, rather than an area where the wc eats into the plan. That again was a conscious decision and meant that we had to make allowances for lighting two separate spaces.

As you can see a lot of the decisions about where things are going to go need to be made early on. You need to keep a flexible approach when designing, but keep the overall idea clear, as making changes and moving stuff around later on will cost you lots of money, so its usually preferable to make your decision and stick with it, so make the effort to get it right.

What did you think of this lesson? I’d love to know your thoughts. Email me at