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).

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.

How To Choose Paint Colours For Your Home By Starting From Scratch

So last week I wrote about the first way to choose paint colours for your home, which was by starting with something you already have. I gave you important advice about colours and just enough colour theory for it to be useful for your home decorating project. If you haven’t had a chance to read that yet you can read it here.

Its funny, some people find this way harder and some find it easier. That is because they feel that starting with something means that they don’t have to come up with something new. This way of choosing paint colours for a room is perhaps more creative rather than technical!
I love starting from scratch because you can test new ideas and get super creative.

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But where do you start when choosing wall colours for a room from scratch? Well, the wonderful news is that the options really are endless, so it is up to you to create and define your own boundaries. This is where you can break rules but also use them to stay in control. Here are some useful guidelines to help create successful colour pallets and choose colours for a room that you just adore:

  1. One option is to create an interior designer’s mood board. There is a reason they do this and it is one of the most successful ways to ensure a winning scheme every time! (If you don’t know how to make one, you can read my blog post with guidelines here).
  2. Choose 3 or 4 colours that you absolutely love and test them together. Create a hierarchy, because the changes are that your scheme might need some altering by adding a neutral to quieten it down or perhaps adding something a bit more exciting to liven it up.
  3. Pure functionality. This sounds a little boring to some, but actually, a super practical colour pallet might be the way to move forward and then gives you the opportunity to play with your furnishings in a more creative way (if that’s your thing).
  4. Choose one colour that sets a real mood, then work the rest of the scheme around that by choosing 2 more colours (you can do this by choosing three different or complementary shades.
  5. Find a digital colour board. When I first started seeing these, I definitely fell in love and spent hours just looking at pretty pictures of colours! It made me realise there were others out there who loved colour and prettiness just as much as me (rare girl squeal). Check out one of my favourites called Design Seeds
  6. Get inspired by something. This could be the colour of an autumnal leaf that you couldn’t resist picking up when on your way home (does anyone else do this?) the colour of your favourite clothing item, something you saw somewhere that made your heart flutter or even just an image you found of your dream space. Find your inspiration and go from there! (There are some of you who will absolutely fear this! The others will think anything else but this option is just too boring! Aren’t we all so wonderfully different?)
  7. Choose one colour that you like and then work with different shades and tones of that colour to create a monotone colour palette.  Equally, you can do this with just shades of black and white to create a monochrome colour pallet!te
  8. Create a natural/eco palette. Natural colours are often quite different to artificial or man-made colours. This could be a challenge to set for yourself or a healthier way to start decorating your home.

You might still need to go to last weeks post in order to follow the decorating steps that may apply here too though.

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

3 Things You Should Tackle Around The Home in 1 Day

I recently visited one of my favourite local places when out and about– a beautiful, abandoned Manor House called Aldermaston Court. It made me feel sad to see that the beautiful building is falling into disrepair, but it also made me think about how important maintenance is to our buildings. Within a few years, a building can really start to degrade.

At Aldermaston Court, just being close to any window, I could feel the odour of the internal spaces rotting away. So my visit to that wonderful old grand building that I dream of working on one day inspired me to write today’s post about house maintenance.

The reality is that some of these things will need the help of a strong person, a registered plumber gas safe person or electrician or even someone with a harness and possibly a ladder. If you have lived in a property for 10 years and you have never looked at any of the external House Maintenance issues it is time to do a visual inspection and then set aside a day or book in that handyman to help. Keeping a house maintained is important but it can also be dangerous so don’t forget to hire help when jobs are too dangerous or you don’t know what you are doing especially at height or when it comes to gas and electrics.

External House Maintenance

Don’t underestimate the importance of external maintenance. The reason why houses go into disrepair is because they aren’t looked after. It can cost you much much, more in the long run to leave a problem unattended to and the structure of your home is pretty important and also there is the argument for street appeal. If you have a home, why wouldn’t you want it to look nice? The main areas to focus are:
– your roof (clearing gutters, fixing loose tiles, flashing and making sure there are no areas where water is getting in).
– Windows, doors and penetrations (checking the seals are intact, clearing any vents and making sure they are working properly, washing the windows and doors is included here).
– Drainage. This includes opening up manhole covers, gullies and rainwater pipes and checking to see their condition. Just a hint, there shouldn’t be any debris or plants growing down there, they should be clear and empty.

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Internal House Maintenance

Is there a part of the house that needs repainting? If you can do it in a day, just do make the effort, it is worth loving that space again. It might even motivate you to get some new bed sheets and spruce up a spare room that has been collecting junk for longer than you like to admit…

Internal maintenance can include but is not limited to:

  • Unclogging sinks and drains and fixing dripping taps
  • Doing a thorough clean, removing stains on tiles or metal appliances
  • Cleaning large appliances including the trays and shelves in the ovens.
  • Repairing the newel posts on stairs
  • Sticking down the lino where it has come loose
  • Replacing light bulbs (with energy efficient LED ones – try 3000K warm white with a 65-degree angle for an average height room).
  • Checking the radiators and boiler.
  • Fixing fuses, wires and broken sockets.
Washing, Ironing and Linen

This includes pairing socks, hand washing the growing pile of delicate items, repairing broken items, hemming, cutting fixing, ironing, folding, sorting and purging. Imagine if all of the clothes in the house were in their right place, folded or hanging beautifully, clean and dry and looking dapper. It’s a big day tackling the laundry and I know that more often than not it can be a 2 day affair to get the above list totally completed, but I have managed to complete everything but it is true you will probably need the help of a sunny, dry day (so make the most of it anyone here in the UK… and probably Seattle, I heard you weather is on parr).  I added this because clothing and linen can take up so much space in a home, its heavy and can be quite toxic (if you haven’t read my post about how your home can harm you for Empowered Wellness and Living Magazine, you can read it here).

We all have better things to do on the weekends than spend a full day cleaning, especially when we work so hard during the week, but don’t underestimate how important taking just one day to tackle one of these is for the health and normal function of your home.  If you have done your maintenance and just love that feeling of getting things done, why not opt for a spring clean as well!  You can read my blog post about how A Spring Clean Can Change Your Life.

If you are ever in Berkshire, go and visit Aldermaston Court.  The grounds are really beautiful and it’s still wild and wonderful.  The building has just been abandoned almost like a scary movie, items all left in place when looking through the windows…

How To Furnish A New Home – Where To Start Step By Step Guide

Buying a new house is a beautiful fresh new start and is a really great time to consider starting fresh with your furniture, especially if you have been renting for years up to the point of your purchase.

But where do you start? You probably have a few pieces of furniture, a bed, lots of small bits and pieces, books, dining set perhaps and if you are in the UK, probably even less than that!

If you have a lot of furniture from another home or if you have lots of hand-me-downs that you love (this is key, why keep it if you don’t want to?), then you will need to consider these pieces and work around them, especially if they are quite large, like a sofa, chairs etc. If you plan on getting rid of them eventually, just ignore them when designing your interior and start replacing it as and when you can afford to.

So, let’s go shopping! Not quite. There is actually quite a lot to think about before you open your wallet.

Start with your site

Locate your house in the world and know some key things about where the sun rises, sets and how this impacts your home. Knowing that the sun rises in your bedroom and sets in the living area or that the living room is dark all day, is really important and although seems irrelevant to buying furniture, is actually key to how you end up using your house.

I would also include major disturbances in my little study, such as a busy road, train line, neighbours with a different lifestyle to your own (night or early morning people) – also include the best views, which time of the day your garden is the most enjoyable to you, and anything else you can think of. Imagine a weekday and a weekend of living in the home and mark where you will be in the house and what you will be doing there.

Knowing about external factors and environment will inform how you live in your home. Furnishing your home is expensive and should not be approached with the attitude of just choosing a cushion that suits a wall colour… Think about making intelligent decisions with one of your most expensive purchases to date, and making it perfect as a tool for enhancing your life.

Know Your Dimensions

Next, you must know the boundaries in your spaces. This is pretty obvious, but you can’t imagine how many time I hear someone say to me – “once I bought the sofas I realized I could have gone bigger, or smaller”. Imagine if you had just gone out and bought a super large table for entertaining in the kitchen and found out that it was too large for the space, then had to move it to another part of the house where it wasn’t really intended (assuming you didn’t return it because you “loved it so much.”

Just measure the rooms and take the plans or dimensions of the room and:

Decide on a layout

Before you find the furniture? Yes! It seems so absurd to me that you would do it the other way around, but I realise that this is actually the way most people buy furniture. Play around with ideas. In my experience, the people who test a few ideas have more chance of getting it right, than the ones that just go out an buy furniture based on what they were sold in a store!

The world of buying furniture can be very tricky, especially when your starting point is going shopping. If you have skipped the most important things you need to do before buying furniture, you are already on a path to failure… (unless you have subconsciously thought about the above things and or are super, super lucky..)

Know your style and personality

Are you super sleek and like clean lines or do you have a deep routed bohemian hidden inside? Just by acknowledging what you like, can filter out all of the unnecessary things you might spend your money on – like being subconsciously sold on a lounge suite that looks great in the showroom, but actually isn’t your style at all once you bring it home and put it in the space.

Know your style and stay confident and true to it. You can always add eclectic or complementary parts of your personality later. A pro will be able to intertwine these in a more complex way, but if you are doing it on your own, stay simple, there are loads of styles and they can be quite complex, but for now, filter the noise by figuring out if you are

  • Traditional (including vintage)
  • Modern (including mid-century, minimalist)
  • Classic
  • Industrial (including 60’s and retro)
  • Country (including coastal)
  • Contemporary (whatever is current)
  • International or cultural (Scandinavian, Japanese, Asian styles)

If you aren’t completely sure, just pick 2-3 that you are more likely to be able to live with and narrow it down once you start shopping!

Buy your large items first

If your walls are already painted and are going to stay that colour – Buy the main pieces first. This may seem obvious, but actually, many people don’t do this. That is because they aren’t ready to commit, or because they already have loads of smaller items from renting, so they keep buying little bits and filling up the space whilst not having the major items thought out.

If you haven’t painted yet, you may have to consider the room colours first, or else you may find your furniture looks brown at home, when it should look yellow! If you want to design your décor in order to help you buy furniture read my post 2 things you must do before buying furniture or choosing paint colours or this one on how to create an interior design mood board.

Get the main pieces first, and define your spaces with your furniture. Don’t be afraid to try putting a chair in a location that is unconventional – just because you want to sit there and look at the view or create boundaries to spaces with screens, tall lamps, plants or sculptures.

Look at your walls to help you define your spaces

This is important, as you can start to compliment or highlight colours, in soft furnishings, personality with art, brighten with mirrors and start to see the room coming together. Don’t forget you can contrast, highlight, light up, blend in – get creative and don’t forget this should be fun!

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The complimentary pieces

I put rugs, coffee tables, lamps, flowers, candles, decorative items, vignettes (small displays – if you have a large display this should be thought about in in your layout), cushions etc, into this pile. These should bring the room together and make it feel just right rather than cluttered or too bare.

The finishing touches

What could be the finishing touch? Your personality! I can believe that no one that I work with (except for the boldest and most confident people who would classify themselves as such) really allow their personality to speak around them.

Your personality is so intrinsic to how you feel inside your homes. I can’t believe how many people actually dismiss this important part. We connect with objects from our past, photographs and things give us meaning. This is not an excuse for the ultra clutterers of the world to say “hooray I can add all my things back in now because I like having them around” – this is a time to edit and filter out and really decide what things you want to see every day – have a reason for it – because it makes me smile when I see it – because the memory is so strong and beautiful it brings me so much joy remembering that time…

Don’t Be Afraid To Get Rid Of The White Elephant

Lastly – New homes can be hard to furnish, especially if you have existing furniture you are working with bought for another home with a different personality. If your old items don’t make sense in your new interior (and I know it is a very difficult decision to make especially when you spend so much money on it) – but if it really isn’t right, or if you bought an item and it just doesn’t fit, don’t fight with it. Sell it on ebay or give it to charity. Don’t think twice about it, it will waste your time and cost you more money trying to make it all right. If it is a family heirloom and you won’t get rid of it (I totally understand!) – why not highlight it and make in an artwork of some kind?

Edit

Your home will evolve with you and your life.  Add and remove pieces that make your life better, easier, more beautiful and more fun!

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