10 Reasons your Room isn’t Coming together

In my online interior design business, I  often see myself repeating a few reasons why things haven’t been looking coherent or actually finally feeling “right”.  The biggest thing you will notice is that many of these things could have saved you time and money if you had thought about them before actually starting any decorating project or room revamp.  

Below is my list of the most common mistakes that are stopping you from achieving a coherent, gorgeous looking room.  I hope this can help you rescue that room that bothers you or helps you embark on a decorating journey with confidence and ease.

1.  You didn’t “design” it

Non-designers usually forget that having a clear design intention usually makes for a pretty successful project.  Decide on a style, idea and focal point in the room and make design decisions based on that idea, before you start any work.  If you have already started, step back and think of one.  This means you might end up removing certain things you have already bought for the room – hopefully you held on to the receipt.

2.  The function isn’t clear

Most people don’t have the luxury of space, therefore they use one room for multiple functions.  That’s ok, as long as the function has been thought about and designed for.  Usually a desk is blocked in a corner and that desk is used for everything.  The danger of that is, that the junk pile starts to grow as that’s the best location in the room to put things.  Getting clear on the function, means that you allocate enough or as much space you can to complete the task properly or comfortably.  If it doesn’t fit, its not really practical.

3.  Not using or collecting examples

Many people will usually have a good idea of the things they like or don’t like, but they don’t usually find specific images that represent their intention.  Without this, (or the ability to draw very well) they can’t communicate their idea to anyone, well unless they are exceptionally good at charades.. Pinterest usually has fantastic images that can help you describe your idea.  It is really important to have a clear image that is a representation of your finished room.  Use this as your inspiration and a tool to pick things in your current room that aren’t working.

4.  Buying on emotion

Most people buy on emotion.  This means they walk into a store that has been very well designed and purchase all of the matching items hoping they will all fit just as beautifully in their own home.  Sometimes, luck will have it and it works.  Most of the time, this isn’t the case and you will waste lots of money buying trendy items that you don’t use at all, or use for a short time before you get bored of them.  I have to admit, even I have been weak and bought on emotion.  I have had some shockers!

5.  Not considering storage

I will usually question all of the potential uses of a space and wonder where things will go before I start any work on the room.  I also question the items that are going to be stored and gather information about your behaviour and and personality.   Well designed or thought out storage in any home means the difference between mess and no mess – and we all want no mess.  That’s why storage is critical.  

6.  Not considering timescales and future growth

 Every time you start a new decorating or design project at home, ask yourself “How long do I expect to want this room to be pink?”  Long lasting designs will require long lasting materials and furnishings, short-term ones will usually make do with cheaper alternatives.

7.  Believing everything needs to be brand new

This is huge!  So many of my clients believe they have to spend  lot of money or falsely believe their project will cost a lot of money in order for it to look right.  An experienced and / or good designer should be able to help with any project, big or small.  If you aren’t experienced in this area, try and get some help from a pro.  Houzz have a free Q&A section where you can ask a designer ANYTHING and I also answer questions on my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/InventDesignCreative/ 

8.  Not researching options

Yes, most people want the industrial style loft apartment or the rustic shabby chic look, but are they really going to work in your suburban home?  I’ll always do the research on a style, to ensure what I am doing is right on target and pick elements that can work with the architecture you already have.  Don’t forget to look past or through the first image you see, and imagine how this will look at home.

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9.  Test, play and have fun

One of the most fun things I can think of is designing a room.  But that room has been to China and back (figuratively speaking) by the time you see it.  Get it wrong, play around, this is how you get experience.  The best advice I ever got was to go see places for real, or the next best thing is to go into shops and check out their displays.  Shop displays have good budgets and great design tips, so go get some ideas but stand back and look at the bigger picture.  What things have worked together there?  (This is not a chance to buy on emotion – see step 4) Analyse what you can, learn from the step up and why it works.

10.  Ask for help

Most non designers believe that they cannot afford an interior or architectural designer.  Not getting help from a professional can sometimes cost more money or waste time in the long run.  I have found that people who don’t get any help usually never finish their project, which is really sad.  You can get free advice as mentioned above or look around for some 1:1 attention. Often an expert will be able to tell straight away what is missing or lacking or “not right” with a room and having it finished and feeling perfect, might just be worth that £250.

How to style your shelves like a pro

Here is the big secret. It’s harder to get a coherent, beautiful looking unit if you start with the unit itself. To get a really gorgeous, beautiful outcome, you will need to take a few steps back and start by looking at your whole space.

What room will your shelving live in and what will its function be in this particular room? If you need help defining the function, you can choose one of the following:

  1. Will this shelving act as my focal point?
  2. Is the shelving just pure storage?
  3. Is it going to be my artwork?
  4. Is it going to add texture or colour to this room?
  5. Is it only functioning as a screen or room divider?
  6. Is it the backdrop of the space?
  7. Is it the main defining feature?

In each instance, you should approach the whole shelving unit differently, but it will always relate to the rest of the room.

For example:

Shelving as a focal point

If this unit is or is going to be the main focal point of the room, it needs to be a star and treated like a star piece. How will it be lit? What is the theme going to be? What mood will it add to the room and will it compliment or contrast the overall scheme to give you that “wow” factor?

Look at the feature image I chose for this blog. This is a very functional bookshelf, but is also a star. The key here, is the heavier items are on the bottom and unified folders create a block rather than too much pattern or texture. Notice how all of the items on the shelves are one colour? The room is monochrome (black and white) and the shelving unit adds the colour and texture and focal point. It really is the star piece in this example. Another tip here, is that you could have used almost ANY colour in this example. It is a winning combination.

If your shelving is honestly just going to be storage and the items are going to get dusty easily and have a tendency to look messy quickly (like mine do), then consider covering the open shelves with doors, curtains or sliding walls, rather than “displaying” it. Make a conscious decision about what you want to live with. Practicality is one thing (cut me open I’m all practical inside), but there is something to be said for an organized, gorgeous space, that brings you joy and lights up your mood every time you see it.

The biggest mistake I see is working in the micro space of the bookshelf itself. This is the last piece and it is made a hundred times easier, once it has its purpose or design intention, because you always have your benchmark to go back to.

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Also remember that if you are working with a new piece of furniture, always invest in the best you can afford, or once you have a plan (design), compartmentalize and know you can add to it as and when you get the funds.

If you are working with an existing piece, give it some love and see if it needs any maintenance, a fresh coat of paint, maybe some lighting installed and start making provision for it. Also, do a big clear out, absolutely empty the existing shelves and actually redesign them using the steps below:

  1. Decide on the function in the room. (Eg. Focal point & storage).
  2. Confirm how you will achieve your function (E.g I am going to create a focal point by making the colour of the shelving different to the backdrop colours of my room)
  3. Decide whether to display or hide particular pieces.
  4. Choose a theme for your display? (E.g Colour could be your theme, as in this example)
  5. Add, take away and test. Take photos, ask other people’s opinion and get it to a point where you think you are 95% there.
  6. Finally, go back to your original function and ask yourself “have I achieved my goal”? Eg. Is it a successful storage piece and is it a successful focal point?

Share yours before and after’s with me. This recipe always brings dramatic and gorgeous results.

The secret ingredient to turn your house into a home

How do I make this house I have feel like home? This is one of the big questions I get asked as an architectural and interior designer and I can’t wait to let you in on some real trade secrets. Do you know what developers, merchandisers and designers all do to create a space that you are just drawn to? How they create a room that you just love and can really see yourself living there? Wait for it… They study you!

They create really homely feeling spaces by knowing how you live and how you intend to use the space. They even narrow it down to your age, hobbies, interests and habits. They study this and implement it into their show homes, shops and into high end properties too, and they are meticulous, to the last detail.

IKEA recently opened up in my town and I was really surprised how modern the new design was, how up to date with current finishes they were and how they had started including architectural features into their faux rooms and one “stage” set even included a pottery section. They have started making the spaces even more believable for you, so that you can imagine yourself living there. They do this by leaving little clues around, such as a table set for dinner, a bowl full of fruit in the kitchen, a utility/kitchen with an arts and crafts table or a living room with a view out onto the garden and a chair positioned in just the right place. This is a very good tool to spur your imagination, which many industries use to persuade you to buy things.

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Think about the last time you walked into a show home and it was set up, just perfectly. If it was a 3 or 4 bedroom home it might have been set up for a young couple with a young child or an older couple with at least a teenage child. Either way, there would have been clues of how they lived in that property. For example in the teenager’s room there might have been an iPad on the dresser, next to a pile of books, some sport equipment and a picture frame with a stock photo showing off good times with friends. Could you imagine yourself living in that home, if you had a teenager? So how do they do nail the “homely” feeling and how can you use this idea to turn your house into a home?.

I always tell my clients that the Secret Ingredient to any home is you, so if you are decorating a particular room, think about the things that you use on a daily basis and include them into a temporary “display” or as interior designers and artist’s like to call vignettes .

When your room is clean and everything is put away and you still feel as though it just doesn’t “feel” like “home” just yet, think about how you use the space, in the morning, during the day or weekends and then in the evening. What kind of clues can you leave out? If you go a bit OTT here, that’s ok, you can always peel it back, you don’t want your home looking like a shop, but you do want your personality there and you do want to leave a clue about who you are. I love patterned blankets and since moving to the UK have always had a blanket in almost every room. I use these to play on some of the themes in the room too. I am not really a collector, but I do love sculptural vases and pot plants, so I use these to create little vignettes and stories about my life, (which I have to admit, I usually change weekly!) So if you are stuck on creating a homely feeling at home, ask yourself the following questions and see if this gives you any ideas on what you can add to make the space feel different for you:

  1. What time of the day do I use this space the most, how do I use it and what items do I use?
  2. Are any of these items particularly beautiful, represent me in any way or create a nice contrast against something in the room that plays on my eyes and creates joy when I see it?
  3. In what way can I display this in an informal way, so it looks natural, or as though it was meant to be there, ready for me to use.
  4. What other items can i display in a more permanent way to keep this homely feeling in the room for longer?

Did this give you some ideas? Do you still have questions? Email me your questions or post them on my facebook wall. I answer every question personally.

Pulling Apart A Bathroom

One of my readers asked if I could do another one of these gifs where I pull apart the room to help you learn how to create the room, and so here it is. Today’s bathroom pull-apart. The image is of the Karlavagen Residence from sharedesign.com.

I thought this bathroom would be a good example to use to help you understand what is going on here, and also I think the designer did such a beautiful job to create a gorgeous bathroom that it was a pleasure to work on and also write about.

So I took away everything that most people wouldn’t normally have in their bathroom and I whitened the tiles in the shower to resemble a more realistic and probable tile selection from a non designer, so that you can imagine your starting place in relation to this image.

I know my readers can get as far as space planning and if you are lucky enough to have a historic and gorgeous property with radiators that are that pretty, lucky, lucky you! Also that amount of room for a bathroom wouldn’t go astray in any property, although as you can see, in order to have such a large shower, the designer did rotate the bath and created different perspective than what most people would have done, which I also thought was pretty creative.

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I also know that my readers would probably be able to chose the traditional style shower head to match the age of the property and overall look. Here are the things that take this bathroom to the next level however and see if you can do the same when designing your own bathroom.

  1. The tiles. The undertone of the marble creates warmth and as you can see here, with different light, it looks a different colour. (brighter with natural day light on the left). Actually a quick tip, if you want marble and cant afford it, smaller sized marble tiles are how to achieve the same feel and I have to admit that that would be my choice too, considering the amount a slab of 20mm marble costs. Most people stay safe with tiles, but as you can see the pattern of the natural marble creates a modern, natural feel.  Also continuing the tiles into the bath area, created a continuum between spaces. I removed the tiles behind the bath so that you could see how the feel of the room was improved by having added them there.
  2. The window treatment. This really adds a luxurious, soft element to this bathroom and really sets it apart. Notice the curtains still allow light in, so they may not be lined.
  3. The black and timber additions. This is something you can do in any room! Just find your highlight colour and use it! They have been very refrained here and the timber on the right makes the rght feel so warm and the black on the left really contrasts against the white walls to give you a focal point. Notice, even the little curtain tie appears to be black. The timber really adds some warmth, or else the feel of the room would have been much more monochrome.

I hope this helped you see this room from a designer’s perspective and gave you a way to approach your own bathroom design. One more point here, it isn’t usually that difficult to make an architecturally gorgeous room beautiful, but there are ways of making any room pop, so don’t feel that just because this room started off beautiful because it had historic features, that you wouldn’t be able to create an equally stunning space without them. Yes its easier to work with a beautiful space, but if you don’t have architectural features to work with, either create them, or chose your focal point to be the dramatic statement piece and let everything else be the backdrop.

Pulling Apart A Living Room

Understanding what makes a room so nice can be easily simplified just by taking away elements.  I used this image from ecb architects to show you how the following pieces really make this room feel nice and complete.

I removed everything in the room that I thought you might not have when starting to decorate your room.  Most of my clients start with a sofa they love, some curtains they may or may not love, a rug and a coffee table.

  • The biggest component that adds to this room is the shelving unit.  It brings a sculptural element, focal point and allows the content to be played around with and changed.  This is definitely the key ingredient to this room as it brings colour, sculpture, texture, personality and individuality.  This room has not really got beautiful architectural features such as a gorgeous window (this one is pretty average), staircase or ceiling.
  • The second chair starts to enclose the space and makes it less dormitory and more homely.  When considering furniture for your room, think about how you will use it (in multiple different ways), and how you can make the room feel more appealing or inviting.
  • The last elements that really bring this room together are the ones that bring colour!  As you can see when we take away the flowers and cups (which were added for their colour), the room doesn’t pop as much.

White is an easy colour to work with and I used this example because it was clear and simple.  I hope it gave you a couple of things to focus on, whilst trying to create your gorgeous home.

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