Interior Lighting Design 101

100% of my clients request guidance with lighting when we start on their project. It hadn’t occurred to me before I started working for myself that this was something people didn’t really know about.

Lighting is one of those things you definitely need to consider at the earliest stages of your design, this is because how you visualise the end result plays a vital role in what elements you actually see, and the ambience you create, but also because lighting control and automation and the technical requirements to fit specific types of lighting, need a lot of thought and design, “behind the scenes”.

So if you love DIY or want to give your home a lighting makeover here is the information you need to start:

Detail & Continuity

Think of each room separately but the whole house as a whole idea. For example, you know that you want a lit up wall behind the TV as a feature in the evening to create a mood in the living room, but if you walk out of the living room to the hall or into another room, how does that idea carry through? Perhaps just having the option of dimmers in the other rooms means that during the times where you like to have some mood, you have the choice to dim some of the other lights around the create an ambience in the entertaining areas of your home.

Wired Or Wireless Control

Most of the lighting you see is invisible, so consider how your lighting will function. I wish I could say that every electrician my clients have used got the lighting design right 100% of the time (first time). Currently, my stats are way below that. LED technology has changed a lot in the last few years and things like the specific type of drivers and or loadings can confuse the average sparky if they aren’t used to doing more than old-school wiring. Even the best electricians that I have worked with have gotten things terribly wrong and have had to come back to fix up the lighting on a job. This doesn’t really come down to complexity or your design either, it comes down to specific products and the availability of information to install the products correctly. If your electrician has priced your job on supply and installation, remind your electrician that it is his responsibility to purchase the correct drivers and pay for any work associated with re-doing parts of the project (including removing a whole ceiling and re-plastering once he has re-wired) and make sure you have that in your contract (especially for larger jobs). I’m talking 100% get something wrong…

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Luminosity & Brightness

Understandably this is a little harder (only for now) as we change over from WATTS to Lumens. My rule of thumb, for now, is to stick with the WATTAGE for the old school Tungsten bulbs, mainly because we all understood the language of a 25 WATT and a 100 WATT bulb. So my rule of thumb with LED is that anything under 500 will be relatively dark and anything over 500 will give you the amount of light you were used to with anything above a 60WATT bulb and aim for over 1000 Lumens if you want something as bright as a 100WATT. (That is just my rule of thumb if that doesn’t make sense to you the helpful chart below from thelightbulb.co.uk might be better for you):

And this helpful chart from https://www.thelightbulb.co.uk/resources/lumens_watts/

Size & Scale of Your Light Fitting & Lighting Direction / Effect

This is where newbies get it really wrong. Usually, the complexities of associating or imagining the scale and or space mean that things look wrong when they are installed or don’t look or work the way you had hoped. This is where good old-fashioned facts come in and they help you get it right every time. Just measure the space, measure the light fitting and understand how the light emits from a chosen fitting. A lampshade has different shapes and diffusers to soften and adjust the light, so play around with the specific effects and variations.

Bulb Type & Colour

There are lots of different light fittings and bulbs and the type you choose will depend not only on the application but also on the mood you wanted to create when you designed the space.

The height of your ceilings will affect how much light you see at the human level and different light types have different colours of light. I have had lighting manufacturers and even lighting designers change the lighting specification behind my back (or throw in another colour because they ran out of the one we needed on an order). Get your builder to check every single bulb and light fitting that you buy (especially if they are LED) and ensure they match your specification. You WILL notice that one light or two lights are different, if not straight away, further down the line when its too late to ask about it.

My rule of thumb for now is use a 3000Kelvin colour bulb for the most natural looking LED light. Its whiter than the yellow bulbs we were used to, but the colour rendering (the correctness of the colour you are seeing under the artificial light, is more accurate and less yellow) and we are starting to get used to the light not being so yellow these days (and even though I was hatin’ at first, I have smoothly transitioned into the less yellow world myself).

Investing In Your Home & Ending Up Lonely

From the day my brother brought home his first Asterix comic, I was absolutely hooked on them. Although I loved the stories and humour, what stopped me in my tracks (every time) and would make me dream for days were the little pictures of everyone’s houses!

A picture like the one above would have me dreaming about how the cottage or home was made, where it was situated, what it would look like inside and how I would have furnished it myself! I would put the book down cover my eyes so it would be dark and dream for hours!

For as long as I can remember my heart sung when I saw cottages, quaint houses, historical buildings and even building sites. I was just fascinated with buildings, towns, villages and also maps of cities.

It hurt, therefore when the other day I was listening to an interview with Danielle La Porte (Facebook Live with Emily Williams) and she slammed “someone she knew” for saving for a timber floor rather than going on a holiday. She went on to say that, that person would end up lonely! I struggled a lot with the morality of my industry and it started long ago when I remember being stranded on a boat on the Hawkesbury River with a grassroots lobbyist telling me how architecture is only for the rich!

To this day, I search for meaning in what I do and I wonder every day how bringing so much joy to the people that I work with could be wrong, especially when my heart sings when I’m in the midst of creation.

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Something popped into my head this week when I was on my way to see a client. I thought to myself how could it be wrong if the spaces I create help other miracles happen or bring even one person joy? Not simply because it is a possession, but because of the idea and the ability to see or appreciate art (even if that art is the sunlight streaming through your favourite window).  Not everyone sees that kind of beauty or appreciates it, that is true, but to poo poo it as though it was not only the wrong thing to do but also it would leave you lonely cut me deep in my heart.

Picasso and many other artists moved to stunning little towns and villages along the French Riviera such as Juan-Les-Pins (you can still find lots of amazing, high quality and well-priced art in these towns) because they found these places inspiring. It was the mix of nature, the cobbled streets, the hills and mountains and the sea which created beautiful colours all year round.

I definitely have come across some shallow and thoughtless people in the art, interiors, architecture and the building industry, but I cannot see how creativity and self-expression, mixed with a sincere desire to create beauty (even if just in your home) can leave you lonely!

If you would like to read my post about a free way of travelling to inspiring places, you can read that post here.

Your Home. What’s It All About?

I found myself designing a large space the other day. I didn’t have control over the architecture, only the interiors and it had very little in terms of architecture to work with. Large flat square open spaces that had to be filled with life fit for a family to create their lives in and to call their dream home. What I found myself asking is “What is it all about?”

What I meant by that was “What is this space going to be about”? We can create gorgeous spaces for any reason, but this will be a family home. I had to think about how people will live in it, how they will use the spaces, imagine a family gathering on the weekend for lunch or on a weekday morning for breakfast. Where would I want to be? Where would be my favourite place if it was me?

I have also recently started demolishing my kitchen (YAY!) and I found myself thinking the same thing, what’s it all about? Where do I start with my dream kitchen in this home? (I believe that pretty much everything is site specific – that’s my second-year archi lecturer right there Elizabeth Musgrave, I’m still in love with her!) I find designing for myself the hardest because I seem to always break all of my own rules and things end up taking longer and there’s too much trial and error! But I realized that the kitchen is the brightest part of the house and that is why I want to love it so much. I can’t wait to knock down that badly installed partition with the door that doesn’t close and get new windows that have thinner frames so that as much light can come into our relatively dark English home.

Some houses have a view that is so spectacular its pretty obvious what idea you are going to run with when designing the spaces, but what if there really isn’t that much that is truly special about a space? Its up to you to create the something special. And that is true creation.

Working with a site’s existing qualities such as the sun, view, or orientation is how I was taught to start the design process for any new building. It was called site analysis. (It’s a pity the developer who built our 16-year-old home here in Berkshire hadn’t been taught the same). That means, most buildings are at least sited properly to take advantage of the natural environmental qualities. In the two situations above, I didn’t have control over that, so I had to create an idea or maximize the effect of a failed one. So we know in my home I am going to try and get the most out of the little bit of direct sunlight we get in that room, but what about the new build where I was working on the interior?

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My thoughts rested on the kitchen/dining space which was actually too large with too many doorways to be truly gorgeous and functional at the same time. What if there weren’t 40 doors into this kitchen? What if the space was slightly smaller to accommodate a feeling of togetherness rather than a large empty hallway?

You see this was a 5 bedroom home for a family. Families have “stuff”, useful and annoying but they need space to put it. I have worked with the most amazing large families with literally no stuff. They are a very rare breed of human. The family who will live in this house will most probably need to put their “stuff” somewhere and that comes down to me and what I decide at this very early stage. So I used the opportunity in providing storage to define the spaces a little more. This made some spaces smaller, but also more functional, (no one needs to walk 25 steps from the oven to the fridge, seriously). By the end, I managed to create a happy balance between the empty large hall (kitchen) and functional, habitable rooms, but it needed an idea to close up the space, which isn’t something I would have naturally considered. So stay true to your idea as it is a clue to how to improve or create a great space.  In the large family home the spaces were too large and impractical, so my idea was to use something practical to define the space and make it useful as well as beautiful and in my home I thought about why I liked that space (even though its all peach pastiche) and I realised it was the light.  “Get your idea and run with it”  That’s Elizabeth once again (circa 2002).

3 Free Ways To Create A Beautiful Home

My husband asked me what I was writing this morning and I bet you thought the same thing when you read the title of today’s blog! “Yeah Right!” But when I told him what the three things were, his eyebrows raised and then he left without saying anything! So here are my 3 free ways to create a beautiful home!

Have A Big Clean

I know this is a running theme through my work but clearing clutter (regularly) and cleaning, dusting, refreshing, soaking things that get used will really get them back to life and is the easiest way to create a beautiful home. For example. I am living with this horrible white plastic kitchen sink that is around 16 years old. For its age, it should look much better than it does, but the whole kitchen is in a sad state, which reminds me what it was like to rent and I couldn’t change things I disliked in the house. Saving for my kitchen renovation really feels like I’m renting again, but nothing makes it spiffy like a serious clean. I try to use natural cleaning products, but I have to admit on the sink I need to pour bleach and let it sit for a few hours. It does come up all sparkly eventually, which really does make a huge difference. If you aren’t loving an area of your home or if you want to make a big change at home, start with a huge clean and clear out. It’s free and you could even make some money by selling some old items you don’t need anymore.

Make A Natural Perfume

The way your home smells can change everything and for me, this creates an emotional trigger and defines a beautiful home for me. I recently made a vanilla natural home perfume spray and I absolutely love it. My mum has a lavender one she made that inspired me and I still remember that beautiful smell in her home (it was different to dried lavender, I could hardly recognise it as lavender, it was so fresh and aromatherapy like!)

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Creating a chosen smell at home could come from picking some of your garden plants and arranging them stylishly in key areas such as the front door, hallway, living room and kitchen. When I lived in a tower block in London, I used to trim the lavender from the communal garden and I would have drying lavender for a week smelling so pretty, that I knew it was coming to Autumn. In spring I love Daffodils, and now that I have my own garden I have them for free! I also found that planting fragrant plants near my window and front door (such as Jasmine) really wafts inside and just makes me feel so good when I smell it!

Create A Fun vignette

A vignette is really just a creative way of displaying a few objects and this extra effort you put into making little areas look nice definitely help create a beautiful home. You can do this on your bookshelf, coffee table, kitchen table/bar, entrance hall, bedside table, kitchen or bathroom window, dining room – you get the picture! You can just choose one place in every room where you can create something fun or special that brings you joy by jogging your memory (photographs) or by motivating you (inspirational quotes) or by creating nice smells (arranging flowers). The whole point with vignettes is that it should make you feel something when you see it. My favourite person to look to for vignette ideas is Kelly Hoppen (I know, I have an obvious lady crush), but hers always refer back to nature somehow, so I feel subconsciously drawn to them.

The Best Instigator For An All-Out House Clean

Yes, the start or end of a season will do it to me and so will an event like Christmas or Easter, but there’s nothing like having my mum and in-laws over to stay for a week that has gotten my husband and me to transform our home across the last fortnight and put in the hours required for an all-out house clean.

In the past week, we moved our bedroom, relocated and re-built my husbands studio, cleaned the garage, cleared the gardens and removed lots of rubbish that had accumulated around the house (I didn’t think I was the person who would live with a 1970s dishwasher in my backyard for a year – but supposedly I’m that guy after all).

We did this whilst still working full time and whilst still attending meetings (with just a little more dust on my shoes that I’d like to admit). But, I tell ya, there is nothing like a functioning home and a good ol’ house clean. Those light switches with missing screws (they just happened to have the perfect screw that fit my husband’s amplifier) are now back to normal.  We thought about and decided (within milliseconds) about a new location for a studio and Ta-Dah, I have a dining room for the first time in my life! Now my guests can sit together during their visit AND can actually enjoy a meal whilst sitting down (bonus).

This whole whirlwind fortnight made me think about how much we need an “instigator” to get our butts into gear. My husband has been working from our dining room for over a year and a half now. It was never the best idea and it never worked well for either of us, so why have we waited this long to make a decision to change it?

In one way we were forced to change our living conditions before our visitors arrived as they were slightly embarrassing. Two entrepreneurs working from home that was bought as a renovation project that never really kicked off… Nothing like some overseas visitors to kick us into action.

Fast forward two weeks and I have a dining room. OK, it still has sound deadening, black carpet tiles on one wall and the other wall has black cheap Lino tiles, but apart from the black curtains and goth look (against my peach,16 year old, cheap, developer, falling apart kitchen in the background with the broken door), its practical, layout heaven. It works.

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Yesterday, for the first time, I sat in my dining room at my outdoor dining table (baby steps) and enjoyed a new view from my home that I have lived in for well over a year now.  Why didn’t we do this earlier?  The results are so worth it, but we couldn’t find the time.

And guess what? Now it totally makes sense to go ahead and start our kitchen renovation, which I have been pining for, for like every second since we moved in (and also every second since I can remember as I have never actually had a nice kitchen) and that is a sore spot for me because I associate kitchens with health! The moral of this story? If you just can’t stand living in a certain way and just can’t find the time to make those changes around the house that you really genuinely want to make, why not try the visitor technique and force change in your surroundings for the better!

So, watch this space! My interiors blog might just have a kitchen reveal coming soon! (OMG another girl squeal – I think that’s two weeks in a row!)

Two Ways To Choose Paint Colours For Your Home

Some people find choosing paint colours easy and others can change their minds a million times before finally deciding on an option.

There really are are an unlimited number of ways to choose paint colours for your home. But sometimes you just want to narrow down the choice and make it a bit easier for yourself. You have enough stress with builders or decorators on site (heaven forbid you are living amongst your renovations) add children, noise and dust into the mix and one day of this is enough to throw every colour chart out the window and leave it to the builder to decide! (NB – as a rule don’t do that!)

Hopefully, this will break it down for you enough so that you can make a confident choice about what colours to paint your walls.

Work with something you already have in the room. This is a great option if you already have a stand-out piece of furniture, had previously invested in expensive window furnishings or have a dominant floor or fireplace. Even if you don’t like the colour of the main item in the room, if it is staying, it is worthwhile taking it into consideration, and sometimes it narrows down the options so as to make choosing colours for your room quite easy!

Don’t forget that a large floor covering will impact your wall colours and vice versa. So you should really know what colour you are working with if using an existing large surface. So what to do?

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Once you have chosen your item that you are working around (floor, a piece of furniture, natural timber wall panelling or even a view through large windows)!

The next step is to understand what basic colour that item is. I mean basic as in what primary colour does it stem from is it red, blue or yellow? If you genuinely can’t tell then try a secondary colour, green, purple or orange. If you have beige floor tiles, try to figure out if they are pinky or yellowy? Try to trace every item colour back to a primary colour and then at least you can understand what colour you are working with and what has been added to it to make it the colour it is.

Then you will need to know if the colour is dirty (aka muted, shaded, muddy) or clean. All colours that have had black added to them will be a muddier or dirtier colour. This is important to know because clean colours and muddy colours rarely look good together! So once you decipher whether the existing colour you are working with is dirty or clean, you will now be able to disregard a whole batch of colours (phew!) *There are exceptions, but I won’t go into them here!*

Now you have to look into the future a little and imagine how you want the room to look or feel. You probably have a few ideas and have an inspiration image to guide you. Once you have chosen one or two adjectives to describe your space use these to help decide on your colour scheme. For example, I want my room to feel bright, warm, cosy, comforting, serene etc…

Now you can choose up to 3 colours. You can choose one light, one mid-tone and one darker shade of different colours or of the same colour or choose 3 light, mid-tone or dark shades, that help you achieve your desired mood. The key is to test them with large samples in each room (yes they will look different in every room). I have to admit, I will usually choose more colours than I end up using, but I always like having the flexibility of choice! I also like the complexity of colour, so I will push some ideas to the limit.

Now you have some easy steps:

1. Find out what basic colours you are working with.
2. Know whether your colour scheme is muted or clean.
3. Know your end result and how you want your room to look and or feel.
4. Have 3 shades to work with that look great with your existing item.
5. Test them in every room with large samples on the surface you are planning on painting with that exact colour (and visit them during different times of the day).
6. Make a decision. Yes, you have to make one!
7. Use your furniture, soft furnishings in the room to balance the colours by either toning up or down.

Once your furniture goes back in, you will have a chance to really have some fun by enhancing certain areas with your colour palette. Putting furniture in and styling a room is a whole new topic too, so that is for a different day!

Next week I will share another way to choose paint colours for your home by starting from scratch! If in the meantime you want to know what to do before choosing paint colours, you can read that blog post here.

If in the meantime you want to know what to do before choosing paint colours, you can read that blog post here.

The Easiest Way To Save Money On Your Renovation or Building Project

So you have decided to make some changes to your home or have decided to build a new one. How exciting! You are probably reading everything you can to find about renovating projects or watching loads of TV shows or reading lots of magazines to get ideas. That’s actually a pretty good idea. Getting clear on what you actually want is the easiest way to save money on your renovation or building project!

If you didn’t hire a designer or opted for the cheaper alternative at the beginning (DIY or technician) or even worse, letting your builder deal with the design and detailing, you might be up for some nasty surprises when you fit your final bill at the end of your building project (if you get that far).

As you can imagine builders have their own agenda (nothing against builders here) they just aren’t designers and they just want to get on with the job and finish it to the best of their ability and make a pretty decent profit on the job and have a happy customer. There is nothing wrong with that. Where many innocent renovators come into problems is when they start asking their builder to do something different than what was agreed at the beginning (all that time ago when you showed him that picture).

Not everyone can visualize what your project will look like. Visualization is like a muscle and many clients are only just starting to use that muscle when they embark on their first building or renovation project. What you want to avoid happening is to start making decisions and rearranging things when the builder is on site. (“oh just move that wall by 10cm to the left and we could fit a bigger shower”).

Testing ideas with a designer and playing around on a drawing, might cost you a couple of hundred pounds before the project gets on site. Testing ideas in reality when your project is on site can cost you thousands.

This is because the builder has a program that he is working to. He also worked this out, before he started setting up his men or started digging those holes. He knew how much your project would cost based on the information you, your designer, architect or technician gave him when you agreed a price. His men or subcontractors are being paid either per hour or per job depending on what was agreed. There is a contingency sum allowed for in your contract (there should be!) but don’t be fooled, this isn’t for you to make changes. There are so many unknown site conditions and so many things can affect your building project (like the cost of metal or oil), that you will want to keep this sum for just that – the unknown. Any design changes (even “little ones”) might push back other jobs (electricians have to wait for the plaster to dry which should have been completed according to the schedule and now you are paying them to just stand around).

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Most builders are also pretty booked up, so your changes could quite possibly be causing them delays on other projects.

So as nice a guy as your builder is, he will charge you for the work and rightfully so. Moving walls or adding drainage in the wrong order on a building site is a right faff! So taking the time to get the design right, before you get on site is worth its weight in gold.

A good designer or architect should go out of their way to ensure that their client knows exactly what they are getting. Often this will require 3D drawings, detailed explanations, to-ing and frow-ing with design ideas and options and working out details to get them just right. A technician isn’t trained in design, so don’t forget if you hire a technician, don’t expect them to go out of their way to present ideas in a way a designer would. That isn’t what you hired them to do. A technician is a great choice to save money at building regulations stage if you have a very clear design already worked out or you are experienced and knowledgeable about building projects. But don’t expect a “beautifully considered and thoughtful design, because (98% of the time) you will get a bog standard extension.

There is no guarantee that working everything out before you get on site will avoid any problems or mean that things won’t need changing on site. Although a good, experienced designer or architect will ensure that many common and foreseeable issues have been dealt with and they should also ensure their client knows exactly what they are getting.

And don’t let an architect or builder treats you like an idiot. A good designer will ensure his client is informed and knows exactly what is going on. This can also help catch mistakes early or avoid mistakes altogether (the more eyes the better!) as things just can and do go wrong on building sites… like building your house back to front or in the wrong spot… oh yes, I have seen it happen.

How To Marry A Couples Interior Design Styles (Even if they are complete opposites)

I always get the best clients and I count my lucky stars every day because I am pretty sure that I only ever get the coolest people contacting me. Recently, I have met with a lot of couples and more often than not, they say to me “our styles are completely opposite”! I have to admit, at first when I heard that I used to get a little worried. I thought to myself, “oh no, you just can’t mix futuristic retro and country cottage styles”!

These days I am much wiser and I know, not to worry at all. This is actually pretty normal, I think it is pretty rare to come across a couple whose styles and personalities are super close that they meld into one. I actually like the “opposites attract” saying as I think it works in homes too. So let’s look at an example so that you can bring some peace into your own home like a pro.

Let’s just say we had a couple and one person was a self-proclaimed hoarder and the other was a minimalist. Is this even possible you ask? (Yes) and what if just to add some spice to it our minimalist only liked neutrals and our hoarder only liked bright colours?

Investigation

I think everything starts with delving a little deeper and inquiring from where these “styles” come from. I do think it is helpful that I am genuinely interested in people, their lives and their personalities (my husband has a word for this… he calls it nosy). But I will always find out a beautiful story behind why someone doesn’t like clutter (my mum never threw anything away, or I never had my own space) and why someone likes to keep things (I like arts and crafts & have lots of ideas for how to use it one day, or I want my children to have it, or it’s so useful or beautiful and it is a waste to throw it away).

Finding out the specifics helps because then I know whether I am dealing with a plane collection or a “model plane” collection. It also means I start to see how people live. Then it just comes down to practicality:

Practical Use of Space

How and where am I going to store all this stuff and make the house look and feel like there is still lots of space and feel empty? So this is what I narrow it down to in this particular example. But what if you had someone who just loved natural timber and someone who just abhorred it! One person says they love the natural beauty and the other says it just looks like cheap junk. Then that isn’t a spatial issue really, it will require a solution that focuses more on the “finishes”:

Look And Feel

Finding the middle ground between two opposites like this takes a little more time because it will usually arise when searching for furniture and the right furniture for any project can take AGGGES to find on a good day anyway! Finding the right pieces is imperative in this instance. What I have found is that the reason some people don’t like “up-cycled” items in their home is because they haven’t been up-cycled “well”. So find better quality items or spend a little extra time doing the job whilst taking the other persons tastes into consideration. If one of you just loves glossy, sparkly, reflective items and the other has an aversion to metal and mirrors, there are ways of intertwining these things (especially because a good scheme will be balanced between reflective, dark, light, matt, gloss and textural elements – just like in nature).

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Balancing

So obviously a big fuchsia or fire-engine red wall is not going to help our minimalist feel calm at home. So in this instance, we will need to balance a little. What if we included colour in the artwork, or the decorative furnishings, some furniture items, or what if the colour was actually outside? There is a way to make everyone happy, you will just need to try a little harder and test a few more options. Beware, this will need some creativity.  I actually feel that personalities are needed to balance the style anyway.  Imagine if one person was obsessed with tigers and this included everything from bedspreads to figurines and even door handles!  The other person balances this tiger obsession, (although I have to admit I am hoping that it isn’t someone who has a Lady Beatle obsession – not sure where I would start with that).

Prioritise

In order for everyone to be happy in the home, I believe that everyone should get that one thing that is the most important to them, including children. Sometimes I feel like the mediator (in a fun way) and I will find a way to fit that glamorous mirror (that the husband says we definitely can do without but the wife just loves) and fit it into the scheme in a way that marries the two together.

Playing With Styles

It is really important to know styles well enough in order to break “the rules”. I never was one for rules, but I am also a super fussy designer who is obsessed with superior quality, and so yes, the best usually has followed some “beauty rules”. Knowing that I can still achieve an overall Scandi look and feel with some country cottage furniture is actually pretty fun. The key to success is to test your ideas. If you have one piece of furniture that absolutely cannot be changed (ie painted, thrown away or up-cycled) then it will become either a feature or guide the rest of the scheme depending on how “intense” its presence is. Oh and sometimes you can just ignore it! This rule applies because we can’t take the design all so seriously – except if you wear black turtle-necks at home on weekends…

How To Layout A Large Room

In the UK, I don’t get asked this question too often! The spaces here are much, much smaller than I have come across anywhere else in the world. Often times I hear my clients saying “back home the spaces are so big, my family laugh at our expensive little house here in the UK.”

I have to admit; growing up in Australia the spaces were also much larger so I had to perfect my skill of designing in super small spaces (starting with my own). But I surprisingly get a good mix of tiny, medium and large house designs to work with these days and my clients come to me usually because they find the largest spaces by far the hardest to furnish and I know why!

I approach the design of large rooms differently than I do smaller ones and the order of operations usually looks a lot like this:

Function

Get to know my clients function of this room. An answer like “a living room” won’t cut it either, I need to know their habits, how they live in the space, what time of day it is used most, any existing furniture they have (and the exact dimensions of it), how they want to feel in the space and any relevant information about my client and their lifestyle.

Location & Geography

What has this got to do with a room? Pretty much everything! I need to know what hemisphere and location the room is in because I like to know the type of light that I am dealing with. The light in a northern facing room in Norway is very different to the light in a southern facing room in this example I have shown in Dubai.

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Dimensions and Characteristics

Every room is different! Ironically the biggest reason I hear people not wanting to hire a designer is because (at least here in the UK) they say that “all the houses are the same, I can’t do anything different with mine!” This makes me so sad to hear, because I know how to find the unique potential in every space! This one is pretty obvious, because you will obviously need to know the size of the room to get started, but don’t forget things like the ceiling height, how windows and doors open within the room and distances away from objects such a fireplaces and TVs, as these will all have an impact on the layout of the room!

Get An Idea

Sometimes Il swap this around with the next step, depending on how difficult the space is, but I will always have a “design idea” at the back of my mind. This could come from clues about my client’s style or just a creative idea based around something my client desires.

Grid & Layout

Once I have the above information, I will usually start by drawing a few grids on the page. I know that Kelly Hoppen talks about a grid, but I’m not sure if this is how she does it. (I would love to have the pleasure to ask her one day!) I will divide the spaces up into zones depending on my clients requirements and then play around with beautiful and fun layouts. I genuinely have so much fun doing this that I will usually give my client a few options so that they can also see the potential in their spaces. It is much cheaper (and less tiring) to play around on paper (or CAD in my case) than it is in real life! You can do this for free digitally these days with sketchup and many other free room builders – I think even IKEA has one now!

Connecting Spaces

The area you are trying to layout will almost always have a connection to another space that will need considering.  What are the views, relationships, obstructions, functions of the spaces around and how do they affect the idea and use of the house?  For example, in the living room layout I have provided in today’s blog, the view from the entrance hall is spectacular and I wouldn’t want to obscure that view with my furniture layout.

Furniture & Storage

There are millions of variations on any piece you can imagine!  So playing around with the shape and size of furniture will help you fit pretty much anything in any way that you want, you just have to get creative and know about what kind of furniture you want to use.  This also ties in with the last step:

Style

This is different for all of my projects as the approach I take is dependent on my client’s style. I will basically give them what they want, but I always have a bit of fun because for some reason my clients genuinely don’t know how awesome they are and they always play down things they like. So I will always give them a little gift in their designs, which reveals something special and unique about them and their personality, which they might or might not have known about.

 

How Your Personality Can Positively Influence Your Home

Back in Architecture school, I remember we were taught to look to our context when designing buildings. We were taught to really study the local area, the environment and then the site. After that, our educated and informed ideas would flow with physical evidence that backed up our arguments for why our designs had to be just so.

When I studied interior design (many years later) I was surprised that none of this was considered important to my teachers. It seemed more about fashions, styles and ensuring the date of my furniture was right with the age of the building. I couldn’t believe how different the approaches to design were from the outside to the inside of the building! Architecture searched to context, whilst interiors searched to fashion. Two things they both had in common though, were innovation (always on the search for new or old materials to be used in a creative or low-cost ways) and the influence of the client on the design.

There are many factors that can guide an architectural or an interior design, but the most powerful is the client’s personality.

Now having worked in the architectural industry for almost 20 years, I see how powerfully it expresses itself throughout a whole project. I see both architectural and interior design projects being influenced by:

The Client’s Values

One client might value family, another their homes simple function, whilst another will value their health. Designing with a large family in mind is very different to designing for an art collector or someone who likes to come home and simply relax after work. These values inform the spatial design and layout of a home as well as the size of spaces.

Client Ideas

I haven’t worked with a client that didn’t have fantastic ideas. More often than not client’s will say they aren’t creative or they will downplay how imaginative they really are. I will usually find that jewel in their words and run with it! I love showing my client how cool and creative they really are! Client’s ideas make a design truly original and unique. Their ideas always inform my designs in a creative and joyful way.

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Client Lifestyle

I find this one of the most rewarding things for me to design around. I truly love creating a home for a client, which improves their life somehow. This could be by enhancing the things they love to do in life such as designing around the lifestyle of an avid cyclist who needs a place to securely store his bikes in his small home to creating a future home for an inspirational little girl with a debilitating genetic disorder to ensure she can live her life to the full.

Client Style

Every client has style! Rather than looking to current fashions and trends I will look to my client and help them reveal their style. I genuinely have an interest in people. That is why I love reading autobiographies! The hardest combination of styles I have had to marry (excuse the pun) has been my husband’s and my own! I have always wanted a classic contemporary style at home (it feels luxurious to me as its something I never had growing up), but he is a guitarist and guitar teacher who works from home. I love his guitars, I always dreamed of coming home and hearing my partner playing an instrument… but I struggled with his coloured lights, huge equipment, mountains of cables and stacks of stuff everywhere! When I finally embraced his style and worked with him to organise it all, I realized how wonderful and unique our home really was.

How many interior designers are married to guitarists anyway? And how many have embraced their partner’s music into their home rather than hide it away in that man cave in the basement (as I was tempted to do so many times)?

You can check out my husband’s online guitar lessons at GuitarCouch