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How To Draw A Golden Rectangle (For interior designers and architects)

In my last blog post, we went through what the golden ratio (or as I’m using here Golden rectangle) is and why it is important to a designer. This week, I will show you how to draw one for yourself.

Firstly, you will need a few bits and pieces for drawing (or drafting):

  • Set square
  • Compass
  • Pencil
  • Drafting pen
  • Paper (& tracing paper if you prefer)
Step 1

The first step is to draw a square. It is really important to get the square to be perfectly square or else you will have problems later. If you don’t know how to do that, just try to measure from each edge of your page (assuming you are using a fresh, straight piece of paper!)

One thing I like to do is to extend the lines farther out so that I can use them as guidelines for the rest of the exercise, (see all of my working out liens underneath my tracing paper?)

STEP 1

Step 2

Once you have your square drawn, measure and mark the centre of the bottom line of the square. This gives you the point at which you will draw your arc from.

STEP 2

Step 3

Adjust your compass so that it meets the top right edge of your square from the centre-point line that we measured in step 2. Now draw an arc all the way down past 90 degrees so that you definitely cross the horizontal lines.

STEP 3

Step 4

Now you can see the relationship between your rectangle and square. Pretty right? So now all we do is draw the lines to extend your square into a rectangle using the extension we just worked out and voila!

STEP 4

Step 5

Here it is, your perfectly proportioned rectangle that is in harmony with nature and all things beautiful. I like to draw it on tracing paper so that it is more usable, although I also work heavily with Photoshop these days, so I just have a copy saved as a layer so that I can use it as a guide when I am designing.

STEP 5

Now you can create beautiful interiors, architecture, presentations, spaces, websites, logos and graphics that are in perfect harmony!

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5 Ways To Update Your bathroom

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

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

1. Add plants

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

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

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

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

2. Add art

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

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

3. Updating shower curtains and screens

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

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

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

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

4. Updating Towels

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

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

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

5. Window furnishings

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

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

image source http://wadeweissmannarchitecture.com/

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Why You Need A Boot Room

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

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

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

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

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

2. Leaving Your shoes at the door is Hygienic.

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

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

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

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4. Possibly adds privacy when working from home.

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

5. It Can save you energy!

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

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

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

How To Feel Warmer At Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why your White Walls & Furniture Don’t Look White At Home

If you have decorated a room recently or bought a piece of furniture for its colour, you may have been gravy disappointed when in the evenings you get home and it doesn’t look like the same colour it did when you either first saw it or it may look different to how it does in the daylight.

One of my favourite subjects is lighting and recently I found a new product that has excited me enough to actually write a blog post about it!

If you have been replacing your lights with LEDs recently and noted how dull your whites are in the evenings (or a completely different colour altogether), the reason why is because LED’s cannot render white.

A new LED on the market that was used to refurbish the Oxford Ashmolean has been developed to render white and can show the true colour (or daylight colour) of your fabrics and wall paints. The product is called Soraa and I have actually seen for myself how a lower “lumen” output actually creates a much brighter light bulb when directly compared to another market leading LED bulb manufacturer (it was a Phillips).

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As a designer, I really consider whether the end result is a success or not and the light used to illuminate the life within my client’s homes plays a big part in whether they are happy with what they see when they walk through the door.

If you are trying to hide non-matching whites, this isn’t for you, but if you are trying to see the brilliant and most true colour of an artwork, painting, fabric or anything else, then this is currently the only way with an LED bulb.

If you are interested in DIY or just love creating a beautiful home (or have a total nerd interest in lighting like myself) I wrote a blog post about lighting a while back which you can read again here:

To Style Or Not To Style – Interior Styling

Styling is definitely not something I learned in architecture school! For many an architect or designer, it would have been seen as a failure if you had to add a vase or mirror to the space to make it feel the way you wanted it to feel. The ultimate goal would have been to make the property feel right with my architectural language – structure, solid / void, light, shadow, material, texture, abstraction… rather than populating it with “stuff”.

Although the dictionary meaning suggests that styling is just arranging things in a particular way, I like to describe it as setting the mood for a space.

The reality is that styling is a very useful tool that helps us imagine how to use a room. I remember my brother saying to me that he wishes he was as creative as I was. I never really understood that he wasn’t creative and still don’t believe that he isn’t, I just think sometimes his imagination isn’t easily triggered. I use styling to help trigger that imagination in a space by using architectural language and styling to create a story or mood that inspires someone’s imagination to enjoy a space.

The main ways I use styling in my life and business are:

  • To help developers and builders sell newly built homes when they are empty.
  • I help buyers of newly built homes create their requested mood in their homes once the empty house is bought.
  • For real-estate agents and landlords, I style a space so that potential renters or home buyers imagine how to use a space.
  • For my clients, I style a 3D or sketch to help them feel how they can use a space I am creating for them.
  • At home for my husband, guests or just for myself, I style my rooms to make the space feel the way I want it to feel either for a party or just for us to accentuate how lovely the morning, space or evening is.

In one of the architectural offices I worked in, interior designers were looked down on and they were seen as “pillow puffers”. At the time I was working on high rise, new build apartments and the work was particularly technical, in that the common thought about the spaces was just units, figures, numbers, areas, not what I saw – spaces for living a life in.

In their minds the planning department and the developer decided how many windows there had to be in a room, it wasn’t guided by how the space was used.

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It shocked me that there was so little love for the thousands of homes being built for happy new homeowners trying to create a life and saving for what was most probably their first home. I have struggled to decorate some newly built properties as there often is no soul or connection from the structure to the interior. Even in architecture school, I was taught to explore the relationship between the inside and outside or even Mies Van der Rohe’s basics of “form follows function”… but I love what I do and I realise creating homes, houses, properties, buildings is my dream.

So styling can help you when the other architectural elements aren’t working or it can help you adjust a mood in a space.  You can use styling to enhance particular features of a room or to help someone’s see what you can see in a space.  Sometimes you can use styling as a picture frame – to frame an idea, to tell a story or to show off a piece of art.

More and more often I see builders or developers altering properties or arranging spaces or positioning windows and doors without a care for the person’s life in it. With such a disconnect between the end user and the “designer” no wonder styling has become more and more a part of my work. I have to try really hard sometimes to make a space feel like a home, imagine someone like my brother who hasn’t trained that imagination muscle? Soon you’ll need more than two degrees just to furnish a home to function in the right way – or you could just start styling.

How To Solve A Zoning Issue At Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a fun exercise for you:

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

 

Zoning and why you need it in your home

It is strange, I have had a few clients recently with the same home/usage /functionality challenges, which makes living life in their current home feel either temporary or just makes them use a lot of energy to live.

The problem is public and private zoning within the home. It is something I remember learning at uni and I really loved the idea of diagramming a home to understand how it functions. By searching out the facts of where people spend time to undertake certain tasks, you can figure out how efficiently spaces are being used… or you could equally just ask the person living in the home and they will tell you…

However, it’s not until most people get a chance to stop and really focus or analyze the way they are living in a space that helps them see it isn’t really working or it is prohibiting them from living in the way they want to be living.

For example, how many people do you know that don’t invite visitors around because there isn’t a place for everyone to sit or they never have events at their house because it doesn’t function well with more than just them in the house?

The amount of effort that goes into hiding or moving personal items that haven’t got a place to live is so wasteful.

So what are zones in the home and why do we need them? There are in my mind an unlimited number of zones we could have in a home! But to make this actually useful for my wonderful readers I will narrow these down to two very important ones that will make a difference in your home life: public and private zoning

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Zones set up a set of boundaries that allow you to undertake a certain amount of activities. They are loose boundaries but they are there to give you peace of mind that if a visitor comes into your home you don’t have to run and hide the book you were just reading, or take down the notes you pinned up on the wall as reminders. Your public zone should pretty much be ready to receive visitors at any time (in a relaxed and ‘you’ kind of way) and your private zones in your home are just that, private, so you don’t have to stress when you have visitors that someone will question your religious or spiritual beliefs or see a bra hanging on the door handle.

What happens when you don’t have zones for public /private? To help you realize that you may be living this way, here are a couple of things that might be going on for you if you haven’t got some real zoning going on:

  1. Visitors see your daily stuff, even if you don’t want them to.
  2. You don’t have a place to relax because other activities or other family members are using the space for another activity that is contrary to the one you want to do at the same time (reading quietly or watching a really distracting TV show).
  3. Members of the house end up on top of each other and don’t have privacy.
  4. You end up avoiding having guests over because you feel embarrassed about your home.
  5. You waste energy clearing up, moving things around or changing things around for another activity to take place.

What is the solution? You’ll have to wait for next week’s blog to find out!

3 Ways To Create A Scandi Interior

The one thing many of my clients have been saying recently is that they are inspired by Scandinavian style interiors. So here are a few say guidelines for those of you who want to try this at home.

All of these rooms have a dark floor that really works, but most timber floors and most monochrome dark or light (as long as they aren’t too red) will work too.

Split the room in half

The easiest way to a Scandi interior design is to keep everything on the bottom half of the room dark and the upper half-light. It doesn’t matter if you mix timbers, fabrics and materials, just stick to light walls and dark floor and furniture, you’ll be able to pull this off easily.

All white

It does take massive control to pull this look off, but it really is a very cheap and simple pallet! To create this all-white Scandi Interior t isn’t hard but don’t forget to stick to similar whites (all warm or all cool) and don’t forget to mix up the textures as the hardest thing about making white on white look great is getting depth and variety in the objects to create interest.

Halfway

This is more difficult to create for a novice mainly because you will need to balance the room. But if you choose dark pieces like a sofa, then stay light for everything else.

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3 Home Decorating Cures (with a free, downloadable workbook)

If you have been working on redecorating a room and things just don’t seem to be right, especially right when you sit in that chair and look around! If you were expecting a “wow its exactly like I imagined”, but got more of a “there’s something just not right yet”, then try these home decorating cures.

1. The function may not be clear

Every room needs to be guided by a function, whether that is a multi-functioning space like a lounge that also acts like a walkway in a flat share or a relaxing space like a conservatory or reception room. If the function isn’t clear in a room, you may not be able to position furniture correctly and you might have even bought furniture that is the wrong size for the room to allow for other functions. Getting clarity on what you want to do in the room you are decorating is a really good way to judge whether it is a successful space, war least functionally!

2. Appropriate Storage

If your function in the room is clear, then you can easily decide what kind of storage you need. Bike hanging racks in a hallway could actually just be the ticket! I will usually question all of the potential uses of a space and wonder where things will go before I start any work on a room. I also question the items that are going to be stored and gather information about behaviour and personality as this helps to create imaginative possibilities (like using a low shelf as a desk). If your room doesn’t feel just right yet, check whether it is because you are missing something practical like somewhere to place your books whilst sitting in a chair under the window.

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3. A Mix Of Old And New

All homes develop over time, even ones that I decorate from scratch will have a few pieces from another home or personal items that have some history and personality. If your room feels a bit sterile, is it because you lifted it straight from John Lewis’s decorating department? Why not take away some items and swap them with some of your personal items and you will see life slowly creeping back into your room. This can be a little more difficult because you will need to edit and filter whilst also keeping your original intention in mind. Don’t steer away from your original goal, ensure your main ideas are still true in your decorating scheme for the room. 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 click HERE

If you have a room that needs some decor help, download my free workbook here: Decorating Cure Workbook