Can I become an Interior designer in 3 months?

The interior design world is full of people who will say no to the above question. But the biggest criticism the workplace world gives design schools is that they send out graduates with little practical knowledge, which means that many graduates still need work experience before they are truly employable.

Having been one of those graduates many years ago and now being on the hiring end of the line, I can tell you that I have never hired a design graduate. Instead, I have been hiring people who are transferring from other fields, who have a passion for interiors, have experience in something else but really want to be doing this. I found out quite early on that passion, drive, commitment, loyalty and maturity are far more important qualities to me as an employer and someone who wants to learn is much more of a pleasure to work with.

You might be surprised to know that in most countries, including Australia, New Zealand, The United Kingdom and some states in the USA, you don’t need a formal education, qualification, experience or license to call yourself or work as a domestic interior designer. (Commercial interiors are a little different, I will write about that another time).

Although without some kind of education or experience you really wouldn’t know what you were doing because there are certain things that you do as an interior designer that you just wouldn’t know about unless you had been taught or had some experience.

But the reality is that being an interior designer isn’t actually that difficult, but many snobby designers will tell you differently! Sometimes, I can’t believe that I get paid to do what I do, I love it so much, and I’m not the only one.

Most interior designers are absolutely obsessed with interior design. They do it for work; they do it as a hobby, they read about it in their spare time, they dream about it, talk about it, live it, breath it, eat it, smell it (you get my point).

So could you become an interior designer in 3 months? In my opinion with the right knowledge, you could start working in the domestic market, yes!

INTERIOR DESIGNER’S BUSINESS SCHOOL

So what would you be doing as a domestic interior designer? Some of the typical things that I do for clients include; drawing and providing layout options for rooms, designing and presenting how spaces will look, sourcing, choosing and purchasing furniture, finishes and fittings, designing lighting, joinery, furniture, wardrobes, coordinating audiovisual & TV walls, coordinating with builders, carpenters and electricians, choosing soft furnishings for curtain makers, drawing and presenting designs, running a project on site and lots, lots more.

Not every project requires all of the above and to be honest, the majority of smaller projects, just need colour, mood boards, well-designed furniture layouts, some creativity and a plan of execution (procurement method).

What I’m finding these days is that the average person buying a property is ready to hire an interior designer to help create their dream home and they just want someone that they connect with and understands what it is they need.

Having worked with over 30 happy (and paying) clients in my first year of business, I can tell you that you can become an interior designer in 3 months. You just need the right information, and it just depends on where you want to practice, how dedicated you are to your career and what kind of work you want to do.

You Don’t Need Talent To Be An Interior Designer

The idea of natural talent has resurfaced often throughout my career and I think it is an interesting topic. I was having a chat this week with an amazing woman who wanted to know more about my interior designer’s business school (my mentorship program that is starting at the end of February). She was actually already successful in another industry and in my opinion naturally talented, driven, hardworking and really pleasant and personable.

She astounded me when she asked “what if no-one likes my designs or what if I’m just not talented or I don’t have any talent? “

More often than not, I find that really talented individuals are actually afraid that they aren’t very good at design. Ironically, they are usually the ones that are naturally talented but lack the self-esteem or confidence. For those people who don’t know they are naturally talented, a great teacher will help reveal those qualities in you and help you nurture and balance the right skills that will help you succeed.

Yes there are many, many people with natural talent (I would say one of my best friends Matthew Anderson who I studied architecture with in Brisbane Australia – he is totally just a natural – find him at arkitekturkollektivet ) I used to just be in awe of him and I wondered how does he do it?

The truth is, when it comes to design, it IS something that can be learned. I wouldn’t say that I was a natural (no modesty here), but I definitely was creative, passionate and dared to try new things. I worked hard to get good grades at uni or beautiful results for my clients, but so do the naturally talented ones.

INTERIOR DESIGNER’S BUSINESS SCHOOL

Design is a process, cutting corners doesn’t work. It can be sped up with experience, but that’s it (in my opinion). Talent helps you to see things in a particular way, but you can learn to see things in that way even if you aren’t naturally talented.

The thing is, that natural talent gives you an edge to design in a way that being confident about your style gives you the look of having natural talent.

So as long as you really truly believe in what it is you are doing and find a way to express it so that others understand it, you will start to grow your tribe of followers. The thing with talent is that you can find your own and the thing with design is, that it CAN be learned, yes there are design rules and in my opinion you need to know the rules before you can break them intelligently, but once you grasp those rules, creativity gives you equally as many (if not more possibilities) and answers to solve a problem than natural talent does. So either way, there is a way to success, you just have to find your path.

The Skills You Need To Be A Freelance Interior Designer

A couple of years ago I was invited to a local school to talk to students about their careers. I was astounded at the reasons why people wanted to go into a certain career and I couldn’t believe the misconceptions and preconceptions some had about what skills were required and the ways to qualification for interior designers, building technicians and architecture students.

For clarity, here in the UK you do not need a formal education in interior design to become an interior designer.  There are many skills that are required and lots of experience, but these are not things that should hold you back from pursuing a career if it is something that you want to do.  My advice is to find the right teacher and start getting as much experience as possible.

Across my career, I have mentored and taught interior design, architecture and construction detailing to colleagues, workmates, students and assistants.  In my opinion, the only other important thing required other than a great teacher and experience are the following personality traits:

Problem Solving Skills & Creativity

These are probably the most important skills because they not only relate to every project (there is always a point on a project where you need to be creative and sort out a way to provide a solution to a problem), but creative expression has to be a passion for you, or else it will exhaust you.

Good Design Knowledge & Intelligent Flexibility

Knowing when to give up on an idea but still being able to make something intrinsic to a design work, is a key skill to anyone in a creative field.

Your initial ideas need to withstand physical alterations or value engineering by a builder or client. This is where I see many a designer turn to blaming others for the failure of a “great idea”.

You need to be able to see the opportunity to better your design when something gets in the way, not just give up and blame someone because they inhibited your project from succeeding. Being flexible but also having the skill base to support your decision is really important to success as a freelance interior designer.

INTERIOR DESIGNER’S BUSINESS SCHOOL

Excellent Communicator & A People Person

This relates to anyone running a business but is even more important in a service based industry where you are translating peoples desires into reality. Your clients will be revealing many of their lifestyle choices to you and you need to be mature and intelligent enough to deal with all situations that arise either with your clients, suppliers and other consultants including builders.

Communicating ideas and speaking clearly about your project are absolutely critical to your success as a freelance interior designer.

Organization and Management Skills

You are your own boss, so it makes sense that you need to run your own business. You will need to organize your invoices, client communication, taxes, furniture and fitting suppliers, builders etc. You will be in contact with lots of people on a daily basis on any one project, so it will be important that your digital and hard filing are completely in order.

Losing information or misplacing things is simply not an option.

Tenacity and Motivation

There is a reason why some interior designers become successful and others don’t and I do believe it has more to do with tenacity and motivation than any other skill. You don’t have to be the best to be the best. You just have to put your hand up and be ready to take an opportunity when it is presented to you and don’t give up when things get hard and don’t be afraid to take on a project that seems a bit of a push. Get help if you need it, don’t give up.

Want to know what it is like to be an interior designer?  You might like my blog post called My Life As An Online Interior Designer

How To Get Your First Client

How to get your first client and specifically How To Get Your First Interior Design Client – Without a portfolio of work and without a long list of contacts.

When I started my business as an online architectural and interior designer, I had been living in the UK for about 10 years. Anyone who moves away from home, even to another city, knows that meeting new people and creating a network isn’t quite so easy.  I had no idea where to start to get my first client.

By my age, people have families and they don’t go out as often as they used to, their sports have taken a back seat and their priority are their children. Most of the women I know who are architects or designers get most of their work at the “school gate”. Its like an abundant place where friendly people speak to you knowing who you are and seem to trust you straight away.

But what if you don’t have kids, family, friends and a great network of supportive, like-minded people who are willing to help you out?  How do you get your first client?

Getting clients doesn’t have to be hard. I slowed my progress to having a successful business because I didn’t do these things to get clients and once I did… they started rolling in (literally).

Tell Them All About It

You can’t be the world’s best-kept secret. You have to talk to literally everyone you know about what you are doing – repeatedly. You have to keep reminding people that you are around and that this is what you do now. It may take some time, but someone you ultimately know or know through someone else will think of you when someone needs you as a designer.

Word of mouth (or even word of social media) is so strong, but you have to remind people ALL THE TIME. No room for being shy or thinking “oh they know”. I didn’t get any clients for years… yes I was trying to start a business for years… and I didn’t tell anyone… because I thought they all knew…

As soon as I announced that I as finally working full time for myself, I got 4 referrals straight away. All of which ended up being my clients.  Job done and I got my first client.

INTERIOR DESIGNER’S BUSINESS SCHOOL

Share Your Knowledge

I used to believe that without a gorgeous portfolio of projects to show your clients there was no hope of ever getting a client. To me it was like this chicken and egg scenario, but I need a client first before I can get some photos of my work!

I know that isn’t true now… at all. If you check my website, I still don’t have a vast portfolio and I have worked with well over 30 clients this year! (My projects are only just now coming to completion and we will be photographing them soon, so stay tuned), but this isn’t an excuse either.

The way I started to get respect for my expertise is by giving by knowledge freely. I helped people out on any forum I could find. Interior design and architecture historically are not those kinds of professions where people share their knowledge too freely, so getting real help (for free) was my way of getting some street cred.

Speak To Someone New Every Day

This was the hardest for me. When I was low and all poor me about my work and life situation, the last thing I wanted to do was to speak to anyone about my loser life. But I put in my diary that I had to speak to someone new every day. Whether it’s the post man, tell him what you do. If it’s the local shop, put a flyer up and speak to them and tell them what you do. You this on social media too, but don’t just type, set up a meeting or a call, because you cant click with a person as well (in my opinion) with just typing, especially if you feel a bit weird at the beginning just trying to meet people.

Oh and this is a bonus one…

Leave Your Dignity At The Door

Oh man, yyou can’t imagine how many bruised ego’s I had. Again, it took me a super, duper, really long, long time to get that you have to toughen up and be confident about what your skills are and what you can do. People will say no.. that’s ok and sometimes that’s actually a blessing!

Don’t get upset if people ignore you, (because they will), don’t worry if people think you are a freako (because they will), if you are passionate about what you do, even those people who were non believers will come back, so never give up, keep going and every time someone knocks you down, you can find ingenuitive ways to keep getting back up (with some or no class.. your choice).

And if you want to know what its like to be an online freelance designer, you can read my blog post here

My Life As An Online Interior Designer

It took me what felt like forever to finally be able to live this lifestyle as an online interior designer, working from wherever I want, at whatever time I want, wear whatever I want, work in the way that I want, have dream clients who appreciate me and love working with me (and who are so happy to pay me!)

When I think back to all my mates back in Australia, I am definitely a late bloomer. As I was heading towards my thirties, all my friends seemed to be having babies and getting married, whilst I was just finishing up my 7-year architecture degree and heading back over to England to work for a large international hotel design company.

Besides snowboarding, I only have one other passion in my life and that is buildings. Big, small, old, new, inside, outside – doesn’t matter. I am o.b.s.e.s.s.e.d with buildings. When I work, rest, play, travel, eat, doesn’t matter I’m thinking about or looking at buildings.

My secret obsession is perving at houses on Rightmove and Air B&B. I love seeing how people live, I’m totally fascinated by it. One thing that I have noticed over the years is that architects, designers and councils have less input into housing these days and developers and one time landlords (aka non-professional landlords) are the new decision makers in my industry – which has been hugely reflected in the very low standards seen today in the current housing stock.*

I set up an online interior design business about 5 years ago called “designmyroom” where I did the interior designs for individual rooms for a very low cost. That progressed me to start my company in 2016 called Invent Design Create Ltd and I was working as a freelance interior designer on the side whilst I still worked as an architectural designer for an architectural firm during the day.

In March 2017, I finally started working for myself full time! I started with 4 clients in March and by the end of 2017, l have worked with over 30 happy, paying clients and now, I have so many clients, I can’t take them all on. When I started, I didn’t have any previous projects or a beautiful portfolio of work, I had nothing but my passion and personality and I had to figure out a way of getting regular income and making sure I was doing everything legally as well as making sure my clients got everything they needed and I always tried to exceed their expectations.

Now, my life as an online interior designer is pretty amazing! I get to work with the most amazing clients. I am not sure how it happened, but every single one of my clients is totally rad. They are cool, interesting, kind, pleasant and they all treat me with respect. I get to design beautiful spaces for them, I get to surprise them with the most amazing designs that they never knew they could afford or even comprehend were possible. I get to completely transform their homes and show them the potential in the spaces that they hadn’t seen,, I get to see their excitement and their happiness when their dreams come true.

INTERIOR DESIGNER’S BUSINESS SCHOOL

The majority of the time, I am surrounded by positivity and happiness. It’s not all glam (although it’s not that bad!). The majority of issues I face are with suppliers – online websites that state that they have something in stock and then you get a phone call or email saying “oh – not sure why that is still coming up, we don’t stock that anymore” or delayed deliveries when my client has taken a day off work to collect something that doesn’t show up, or when delivery guys who can’t lift the thing they have been paid to deliver so take it back to the store and try to charge my client for redilivery!

As long as I am organised and have internet access, I can work from anywhere in the world. I have had clients from Australia, England, Egypt, The UAE, Turkey, Norway, New Zealand, Belgium, Finland and sunny California USA.

You do need to know a bit about the climate, local tastes, availability of furniture and a bit about the housing stock in the places you are designing as houses and the way people live really do vary from country to country, although the biggest issues I have come across are simply finding items of furniture that can ship to certain places, especially if we can’t source items locally within my client’s own country (this happens in Egypt, Norway and some rural areas of many large countries).

As an online interior designer, I spend a lot of time shopping for furniture and interior décor items. It is usually my choice what ends up in my client’s house and I am forever grateful that they trust me and are willing to buy things that I tell them they should buy!

It really is my dream job and I am grateful every day for my clients and also to myself for never giving up on my dream, because after what seems like forever, I finally get to do this for a living.

This year I am starting a mentorship program for women who want to follow their dreams of becoming a freelance interior designer.  If you or someone you know, want to fast track your route to becoming a freelance interior designer or just don’t want to follow the usual route of going back to uni or undertaking a low paid internship, get in touch (on m contact page) and I can send you the course breakdown and start dates or my freelance interior designer mentorship program.

*Nothing against developers, I actually worked for some excellent developers (and still do) and have also studied to become a developer myself. But in my opinion this is what happens when there is a lack of building science knowledge or little care for the life of the person having to living in a dwelling which has to meet a certain ROI. It’s just what happens when profit without care drives the standard rather than thought and passion for each project – BUT there is no reason why you can’t have a higher quality result – it just needs thought and creativity (thats what I do!)

5 Ways To Update Your bathroom

Bathrooms can be rooms that get overlooked in a house and they shouldn’t. These spaces are nearly always the first place we go to when we wake up and the last room we leave before we go to sleep, so they should make us feel great.

I’m one of those “bath lovers” so I can really spend hours in my bathroom as its the place I actually go to to try to relax.  Below are a few ways you can update your bathroom to give it a fresh finish.

1. Add plants

There isn’t a single room in your house which won’t benefit from housing a plant. Not only are they so varied and beautiful, they are also proven to help reduce stress and create a sense of well-being. Plants can also help to reduce noise and improve air quality! Ok I’ll stop singing plants’ praises, but now you know, you have no reason not to add some greenery to your bathroom!  This is one of the fastest, most fun and easiest ways to update your bathroom.

Bathrooms aren’t always filled with lots of natural light so choose plants which require low lighting to thrive. Humidity and temperate levels are also important as hot running water and lots of steam can cause these levels to increase, and some plants are not happy about this.

Most bathrooms aren’t huge in size either, so opt for plants which can sit on a shelves and windowsills, trail down walls and hang from the ceiling. My favourites are aloe vera, ivy and the cast iron plant, which lives up to its name. Not even I can kill this one!

Image source http://www.housemixblog.com/2017/03/28/plant-wall-in-the-bathroom/

2. Add art

Art work is another way to update your bathroom. If you think your bathroom or downstairs toilet is too small for art work, it isn’t! Artwork comes in every form and size these days and you may be surprised at what works in this space.

Seascapes and beaches are a great go to for bathroom art work but really anything can work. Nature is another art subject which sits well in a bathroom as it will help to bring the feeling of the outdoors in to your space. If you want a cosmopolitan feel printed typography and graphics are a fun way to freshen up the room.

3. Updating shower curtains and screens

Refreshing your bathroom can be as easy as changing your shower curtain. Long gone are the days of plain white shower curtains which stick to your wet body whenever you try to move!

The High street and lots of online retailers offer various colours patterns and designs which can be suited to any style. I would suggest opting for something fun and patterned or colourful to really add some life to your bathroom. The best thing about shower curtains too is that they can be changed easily and as soon as you think it has had its day. They are also great if you like to change your style from time to time and can be a cheap way to update your bathroom.

Another option is to invest in updating your shower curtain to a glass screen. This option will help to modernise a bathroom space, possibly making it feel lighter and arguably even cleaner.

Image source – https://www.urbanoutfitters.com/shop/saskia-pomeroy-plants-shower-curtain-001?category=A_NEWARRIVALS&cm_mmc=social-_-pin-_-562016-_-plantsshowercurtain

4. Updating Towels

Updating your towels is also a really easy way to freshen up your bathroom. Adding luxurious towels in contrasting or complimentary colours will make the space look nicer, but importantly when you get out of the shower or dry your hands, they will feel nicer on your skin.

There’s nothing better than placing your towel over the radiator before washing and then stepping into a warm fluffy towel!

image source https://www.wayfair.co.uk/textiles-bedding/pdp/behrens-zen-hand-towel-brns1033.html

5. Window furnishings

Updating your window furnishings is another great way to bring your bathroom to life. Blinds don’t have to be extortionate and colourful prints or designs will help to instantly uplift the room. As with choosing art work and shower curtains, you can have lots of fun with choosing patterns and colours for blinds. The designs are endless and there is a design out there to suit everyone.

So I would suggest keeping in mind the other elements of the room. A patterned artwork, blind and shower curtain will probably be too much for one space so choose one element and make it work for you. As for me, I would be heading straight for a safari patterned blind, to give my bathroom a real tropical feel. (I’m still in the middle of my safari craze and am loving it!)

image source http://wadeweissmannarchitecture.com/

INTERIOR DESIGNER’S BUSINESS SCHOOL

Why You Need A Boot Room

I’m not sure when my obsession with boot rooms started, although it was probably around the same time as when the Plain English kitchens started to get advertised in Elle Decor, House Beautiful and The World Of Interiors!

Not only are these English inventions pretty cool, they are also super practical. Although I only ever saw these make an appearance win mansion houses or country houses, there is no reason why you can’t take this idea and use it in your home too.

Practical reasons (pro arguments) for getting one of these installed or made at either the front or back door to your home.

1. A separate boot room can reduce condensation in your home!

Not sure why, but here in the UK houses don’t get built with “airlocks” or foyers. This for me is an obvious reason for condensation and mould growth in many an English home. Understandably space is an issue over here, but the health benefits in my opinion outlay the need for more and more “space”. What is the point of space if it isn’t practical anyway?

2. Leaving Your shoes at the door is Hygienic.

I’m pretty sure I have written about this before. The ground outside is dirrrrty! People spitting, animals pooing, chemicals from cars and trucks remain on the streets and we step on these with our shoes. You may disagree, but it makes sense to me to take these off when getting home (preferably before trumping through the house in them) and change into something cleaner. Imagine if you have a baby crawling around…

3. A boot room can help keep your household organised.

It isn’t so much in Australia in terms of hanging jackets, scarves, gloves and hats but it can be a very useful place anywhere in the world that helps you organise your shoes in one place (ok depending on size) as well as helps items such as dog leads, umbrellas and gum boots have a permanent place!  Also, many everyday families with children or those that have pets or avid couples who cycle or are very sporty need a place to leave their equipment or sports gear so it is easy to find.  A boot room appropriately situated, could help keep everyone on time and always with their kit.

INTERIOR DESIGNER’S BUSINESS SCHOOL

4. Possibly adds privacy when working from home.

This may not apply to everyone, but many more couples have started working from home together and sometimes a boot room can be used as a separate one between public and private spaces. For example, one person may receive a lot of deliveries whilst another is teaching a meditation class in another room. This adds an extra layer between in inside, more private areas of the house.

5. It Can save you energy!

This is a spin-off to the airlock in number 1. If you have a staircase opposite your front door (like many traditional English homes) and the air just flows up like a draughty tunnel and escapes into the roof, putting an airlock (aka boot room) can help keep the rest of your home toasty and warm in winter and save you money on your heating bills. I know that some Scandinavians put up a curtain behind their front door – this has the same effect. This also works the other way round, many people in warmer countries air-condition their homes, so a boot room could save you money and energy on cooling…

So you know what I’m working on now.. yep my own one of these.. stay tuned to see the result!

The beautiful, warm, practical and inviting boot room in my blog image today is what inspired me to create my own boot room about a year ago! I’m obsessed with the joinery from this company and love just perving their website…  You can find that image and their work at http://www.thomasfordandsons.com/

Kitchen Waste & Sustainability

As I am a geek who is super passionate about sustainability, waste and energy consumption (yes I won a green grant a few years back to analysis and assess a whole area of Sydney’s waste and energy – nerd alert), I really question anything that claims to be sustainable or green or environmentally friendly! That is why when renovating our kitchen and my husband’s ONLY MUST HAVE item was an insinkerator; I felt I needed to undertake a little research.

When I think of insinkerators, I think of 80’s and 90s houses growing up. It seemed that all of the more well-off family’s seemed to have them. I have memories of brown and orange kitchens with lots of terracotta tiles, in my memory, they were flash (ha ha). I have to admit when we were renovating our kitchen, I never thought I would ever install one! My husband on the other hand, who used to be a site manager on building sites in London had his heart set on one ever since he saw his old boss install them in all his properties. He knew, that one day he would have one…

Not sure what happens to kitchen waste in the USA, but in Australia, Europe, Scandinavia and the UK, kitchen waste goes to the same place as your poo poo. It is considered foul water. Here in the UK, Thames water (who are in charge of my water supply and drainage) do two things with our “bio sludge” aka kitchen, toilet and trapped floor drainage. It gets turned into either biofuel to power the recycling and treatment plants or it gets used as fertiliser on agricultural land.

INTERIOR DESIGNER’S BUSINESS SCHOOL

So, after much research, I realized that actually, as ashamed as I am to say that I am not much of green thumb and really don’t have the time for composting (ok – in my defence I actually bought a composting book and my flatmates can vouch that I started a compost back in the day, so I have tried), I am aware of how much waste goes to landfill and it really does bother me. As someone who loves to cook and I also cook a lot from scratch being a vegetarian (98% of the time.. ok except when I eat Polish food at relatives houses..) I create A LOT of green waste. Potato peels, veggie waste, fruit cores, you name it!

We got around the wet, rotting bin scenario by always emptying our little bin daily, but with our new kitchen we wanted real bins and my husband insisted on the insinkerator! So environmental consciousness check! Smelly, wet, rotting bin solution Check! Dirty, constantly clogged up sink solution Check! It is slowly becoming one of my favourite pieces of kit in my kitchen…

How To Feel Warmer At Home

The dark nights are closing in and as the temperature drops, I wanted to share a couple of tips on how you can make your home feel warm and comforting this Winter.

Growing up in Australia and moving over to the UK has led me to being freezing cold and wearing lots of layers all the time (yes even in summer),  but it has given me the opportunity to live in lots of different types of houses and apartments. I’ve moved a lot and interestingly, some houses have felt warmer than others.

When we were renovating our first place, we didn’t have heating for probably about 2 years!  I used candles and computers to heat the room I was in (those good old clunky PCs!)

The amount of insulation, the age of the building, the amount and quality of light, and the size of the windows in the property, all affect how warm a house is, but there are other ways of making a space “feel” warmer or help make our home as cosy as possible?

Ok, so unless you are in the process of changing your windows, you’ll need to work with what light you’ve got (although that is probably one of the most long-term effective ways of feeling warmer in a damp UK house). Every house and space is different, so think about which rooms in your house get the most sunlight in the day and spend time in these rooms when you can. It might sound silly and obvious, but getting natural light is so important to our welfare and how we feel! Everyone needs a bit of Vitamin D, especially in the Winter, so if that means sending an email from the kitchen table instead of your living room, then why not?  So during the day, the key to feeling cosy and warm is to try and get as much warming sun as possible (HA – what if there is no sun Jo, like 75% of the days here in the UK?)

INTERIOR DESIGNER’S BUSINESS SCHOOL

The artificial light in your home will also really influence how warm your space feels. Warm toned, low wattage light bulbs are perfect for corner lights or table lamps. Being able to vary your light is also really important when trying to create a warm and cosy space. Curling up with your slippers and a hot drink might not feel particularly cosy and warm if you are sitting below a really bright white, artificial light! (Think about it, do you ever feel warm and cosy when walking around a large supermarket under all those huge bright white lights?!)

Lighting a fire and lots of candles if you can is for me the best way to creating the feeling of warmth. Candles and candle holders come in the most amazing shapes, colour and sizes these days, and even just looking at flames can help us feel warmer. You can use mirrors to reflect the light of the flickering candles and your warm side lamps, which will help to make the room feel warmer almost instantly!

Another way to feel warmer in your house this Winter is to include lots of different textured materials. As the days get shorter and the nights get longer, blankets and lots of cosy textiles are essential for creating a warm space. Faux furs, sheepskins and plush velvets all add a visual element of warmth but are also really great textures to snuggle into. Soft rugs layered onto wooden floors and sumptuous velvet, either for cushions, upholstery or curtains, will create a really luxurious and comforting finish!

How To Solve A Zoning Issue At Home

Zoning issues arise from the way we use our homes. It could be that you bought a home that was in the right area but the house itself never really worked for your family. It can happen if your family grows and changes and your home cannot be altered to deal with those changes (I.e. you rent the property and can’t add or remove walls or extend).

Being limited by the layout of a home that doesn’t work for your family is where zoning issues really arise. One home could be a perfect fit for the lifestyle of one family but may be totally wrong for another family. It is also interesting in the way that more often than not, I see the families blaming lack of storage or the size of the house as the main issue.

The reality is that your lifestyle can be altered for better or worse by the layout of your house. Take a person who struggles to go upstairs and give him or her a large open plan, ground floor without many obstructions where they can easily go into each space. Now put that same person in a 5 story, narrow, terrace house with a limited or largely terraced garden and the same person becomes hugely limited in how much of the home he or she can experience freely, mixing up private and public zones by way of necessity.

Another example is if you work from home and have people in and out all day, but are limited by those people having to enter the house a particular way whilst also not being able to alter the property due to it being rented or shared with others. Arguments arise over items left in areas that are visible to guests (public zone) and tidiness becomes a much bigger issue.

The Victorians were masters at public/private zoning. They had sculleries, hidden hallways, secondary stairs, all for back of house duties that could be hidden from daily view. When we design hotels and commercial or stadium buildings, we also create back of house areas hidden from public view where other duties can be performed without the disruption of other tasks.

INTERIOR DESIGNER’S BUSINESS SCHOOL

Our desire for open plan living is influenced by the modernist movement, but those original layouts and homes were exceptionally well thought out and when analysed, still had very specific and clear public and private zones or separation by way of screens or circulation.

So how do you live happily in a zone-less house or a house where your public and private zones are all muddled up? It is more a creative and design process that is required, but if you want to give it a go on your own, here is a place to start:

  1. Think about the most important daily functions required of each space. For example, a living room may also be an entry hall, study space for children as well as a relaxation space in the evenings for parents as well as where guests are invited.
  2. Work out which functions aren’t working the best or which cause the most arguments. If we use the same space above work out if it’s the lack of a functional entry hall which is causing lots of items to be left in the living room or whether the location of a TV and the only comfortable chair for relaxing are in the same room and yet one person needs quiet and another likes to watch TV really loud.
  3. Once you identify some functions, habits and possibly practical issues about how you are using the space, think about how to relocate some of those functions to other areas (such as a quiet, comfortable reading space).
  4. The next step is to think about the practical requirements of each space. An entry hall is very important in a home and yet, at least here in England many homes are too small for an entrance hall or the walls have been removed to create an open plan living space, removing the separation between those zones. Try some creative storage ideas or separate with a screen or piece of furniture that can act as a “dumping” ground for when entering the house.
  5. Finally look again at the main problem space and try to filter out the final issues. Can you rearrange the furniture to create some privacy or perhaps make the space more social. Could you child’s desk also double as a lovely shelving unit for other display or personal items?

Give it a go. You might have to try the process a few times, but don’t give up, as your quality of life will change, you just have to have a good look at how you are using the space!

Here is a fun exercise for you:

Identify an item in your home that doesn’t have a specific place to be or live, it could be a hat, blanket, anything that you use but hasn’t got a real home. Watch it over 2 weeks to see where it moves to.  How much energy did it take to find it and how much energy did it take to think about where it was if it was in a different location each time?