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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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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.

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

Home Renovation Survival Guide

So this is now the second house we have lived in and are in the process of a full renovation. The first time it was hell, this time it’s a little better. I gave myself carpal tunnel from repeatedly cleaning the last project (yes, my wrists are so weak I can barely turn them over to this day!) and this time, I have no choice but to be smarter with how we work.

My best advice is if you can completely separate yourself from the renovation work then do it! Cleaning up at the end of every workday is hard and tiring and living in that kind of unhealthy and dusty environment can also be extremely toxic.

The reason why we did it was because we were just able to scrape together to buy our first property. We were living on the edge the whole time, it was stressful and unhealthy, but we worked out booties off and were able to “up-level” after that. We were able to buy a bigger property and now we have started working our way through this renovation.

I always had this vision of me and my husband flicking paint on each other and laughing whilst eating pizza and sleeping on the ground (like a movie scene) and renovating properties has not been anything like that. It was more often than not, hell. We argued, we were tired working day jobs and then coming home to start another physical job, we lived like hobos, we were sick (because the air quality inside was so, so terrible), everything took longer than we expected and on top of that everything was difficult to find.

So if you have thought about staying “in” whilst either you or a builder is going to undertake some building work, here are a few tips for your sanity from the other side:

Be Religious about Where You Place Things

Whether it’s the work itself (like sharing a drill bit) or the actual act of living (like trying to find your keys once the dust has settled), have a place for important items. Because your home is constantly changing and as you are probably quite tired, you will put things in places where you won’t be able to find them. This cause so much unnecessary stress. If they are house keys, hammers, bills or even clean underwear, just put things back their place (I know they probably don’t have a permanent one yet – but piles work well).

Try To Keep One Area “Clean”

So when you are using your bathroom as your kitchen as well as your laundry and storage, this can be hard, especially in absolutely tiny English or inner city properties. If this isn’t really possible, IKEA styled storage boxes or bags will help to move your stuff around the room, whilst keeping stuff relatively clean. The key is to have dust sheets on top of the boxes and then if possible another barrier in the form of plastic if possible before the dust sheet. If you have the idea of working on wet as well as dry trades together, then you really are in for a treat! If you can keep one area separate from the building work for the majority of the build then do yourself a favour and ignore it.

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Do What You Can To Reduce The Timeline

Ok for us, this usually meant having more money, which we didn’t, so we waited for another paycheck and the work progressed as we could afford it. The other thing was labour. It was just me and my husband, so it was slowwwwww… If you can get help, use it!

Be Kind To Each Other

Make an extra effort to be polite, more patient and calm with anyone who has to endure this experience with you! It’s tough.

Think About Storage

Whether your personal items or your work equipment. In a small place, this can take up a whole room (or more)! Don’t forget that materials and equipment need somewhere to get stored and they also need to be easily accessible to avoid delays. We didn’t hire a shed or find somewhere to store our things, but we should have, it would have caused many less bruises from walking into things and way less arguments when trying to move things out of the way to get to something at the back of a room filled with sheets of plasterboard (which were too heavy for me to lift).

Protect Your Good Clothes & Electrical Items

I think when we finally moved, the only item in my and my husband’s wardrobes that weren’t ripped or covered in paint or stained somehow were our wedding clothes (and that because we got married after we finished!) No matter how careful you are, if you don’t want it ruined don’t risk it being anywhere near any building work.

Think About Your Neighbours

It doesn’t matter who your neighbours are, no one appreciates drilling and hammering (or loud music for that matter) at 1 am.

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…

Lifestyle Habits To Help Reduce Mould At Home

Pretty much every home that I have lived in, here in the UK and in Australia wasn’t insulated. That freaks me out these days, but actually, only houses built in the last 30 years would have been insulated in the UK and in Australia.  I know, I know, I hear the Canadians, Americans, Scandinavians and Europeans all shaking their heads… I am not going to get into why this is, but I am going to try to help you.  So many people struggle with mould in their homes, caused by damp environments, buildings and actually, their own living habits.

If you struggle with a mouldy home and have had an expert say there is nothing really wrong with the building, then the forming mould growth could be from the condensation caused by you.

Buildings are funny like that, can’t live with us, can’t live without us…  Even if you just know it isn’t you that is causing condensation or mould  and even if your building was designed badly or doesn’t get much natural day light, is cold and a long list of items such as no central or intermittent heating  – do try a few of these tips and ensure you include them into your daily routine.  Moisture and mould is not good for buildings and believe it or not, not so great for our human lungs in mould spore form either. Once your home is damp, it can literally take months for it to “dry out”. So this is not an overnight fix and just imagine what you are doing to the building fabric, let alone your poor lungs if you don’t leave the house too often.  (If you want to read more about the effects a dirty home can have on you, check out my post “A Simple spring Clean Can Change Your Life“).

This applies generally to the UK and Australia and are just some lifestyle tips, and are good housekeeping tips anyway.

Annual Maintenance
  • When its time to replace things like carpets or upgrade walls, bathrooms, ventilation systems, cookers etc. always try to get the best you can afford and mention that you would like a long lasting, hard wearing option that may not cause extra moisture in the air.  Even furniture, walls and paint can be mould proof these days, so definitely ask the manufacturer.
  • If you have double glazing, clean out your window and door vents and make sure they are working properly.  If you have single glazing and have wall vents, make sure they are open and working properly.
    Monthly.
  • Clean excess mould from walls, doors, ceilings and carpets.  Take note of any changes.
Weekly
  • Put a dehumidifier on for a few hours each week in the worst room.
  • Whenever cooking, doing laundry or drying clothes, ensure at least 1 window is open (the whole time).
  • Dry clothes outside if possible.  If not try putting up a clothes line in your bathroom and leave the ventilation running occasionally and an open window!  Or wash and try your clothes in a laundry for a few months to help the walls dry out.
  • If using a tumble dryer – even if it is a condensing one or a vented one, I would still always open a window in the same room and close the door to the room if possible.
  • There are many short-term solutions such as moisture bombs and clothes hook water collectors to boost a particularly wet area, but don’t forget these are not long term solutions, especially if they are always full.

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Daily
  • In the morning and in the evening for at least  1 hour per day, open at least one window.  Preferably 2 on opposite sides of a room or building to get some cross ventilation. Yes, even in winter or get the dehumidifier on.
  • Turn the heating on and leave it on constantly at a lower setting.  If this option is going to cost you a fortune try putting it on for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening or until it warms up outside – this should be part of a drying out strategy if it is not winter or you live in a warm country.  In warm countries use AC instead of heating, especially if the air is super humid and everything just feels wet constantly!  Take note that this is a general note.  In some instances, turning the heating on and off can in fact cause moisture in the air, because the moist air cools down and turns back into water (usually on your walls and windows).  So I would again heat or cool as much as you can afford and try and reduce the amount of water you are creating at home in other ways.
  • When having showers or baths – ensure the ventilation fan is turned on and has a decent over-run timer on it.  This should have been sized when installed, but I find they are usually never good enough and have seen many simply not working. Always try to leave the window open for at least 15 minutes to half an hour after showering.
  • Try not to leave water sitting around, especially overnight.  If you do leave dishes in the sink soaking, try to put a lid on them.  I always make a habit to empty all my cups when I put them in the sink or if put them straight into the dishwasher and make sure the dishwasher is closed.  This may seem minor, but all these things really can stack up, especially if you have a really moist house!
  • Whenever boiling rice or cooking (pretty much anything) – if possible, use a lid to ensure the water stays in the pan rather than allowing it to evaporate into the atmosphere.

There are many other solutions you can try, but just by changing little personal habits you may be able to alleviate some of your condensation and mould issues at home.  No one wants to spend every weekend cleaning the mould off of the bathroom ceiling or from behind the furniture!  Hopefully, there are a few little things in this list, which can help improve the health of you and your home.

Things I Wish I Had Done Before I Bought My First Home

I Actually wrote this post a few years ago, under my old blog.  My friend who is in the process of buying his first home in London asked me where this blog post was as he wanted to read it.  So here it is revived a little and equally as relevant as it was back then!

Since buying my first (and now second) property in London, I realised that there were some things I wish I had done or would have known about before buying my first property. Because I grew up in Australia and had my family and all of their expertise in buying property across the other side of the world, I realised that I was alone in the UK and had no one to turn to when all these side balls hit me. So for anyone thinking of buying your first home, here are the 5 things I wish I had done before buying my first property.

1. I wish I hadn’t moved house so many times.

Unless you can help it and you are indeed planning on buying property, try not to move, or find somewhere to keep a regular address. The banks and anyone else you deal with for proof of identity as well as home insurance etc. will ask you for at least 3 years worth of addresses. I moved 4 times in 3 years and you can bet I didn’t remember every postcode every single time I was asked to provide it, which dragged out the whole process and made it more difficult than it needed to be.

2. I would have started building my credit score.

(I use check-my-file because you see your Experian and Call Credit Ratings instead of just one of them)
I had held a credit card in the UK since 2003 and I had always paid it off on time. I had a pretty average credit score and I didn’t know why it wasn’t better. After a few years of actively trying to better my score, I realised I needed to do certain things in a certain way to actually build my score! Some of these things were making sure that the credit agencies actually kept the right information about me (yes, they were wrong and it takes time to correct the information), I had to ensure I wasn’t getting loads of credit checks (beware getting hits from car insurance comparison sites and the like), I had changed my current bank account to get a better deal as I was preparing to get a mortgage and realised that this affected my credit score as well, because it meant I hadn’t held an account in the UK for longer than a year – which was untrue, but you can see how fickle it got.

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3.  I wish I had started saving regularly for my house deposit.

Now that the regulations have changed, the banks will need to do an affordability test before giving you a decision in principle. They will check basically the last 3 months of your spending and analyse whether THEY think you can afford paying a mortgage in the UK. I was saving for 15 years for my first home, but I was saving in an ad-hoc way, not regularly. I now save a small amount every week and intend on doing this for the rest of my life.  It has become a lifestyle habit that I wish I started earlier.

4.  I wish I had started collecting household items for my first home earlier.

Don’t forget that buying a home is very costly and I really was on the edge of my affordability, but I was so determined to own my home I went without in many ways to make sure I kept it. I wish I had started collecting things for my home earlier. I would have beautiful travel memories from my travels across Europe, Asia and the Middle East and I would have had meaningful items to surround my self with. I have now thrown away or down-cycled almost everything I moved into my first home with. I literally had a pile of junk to move with and it didn’t last the renovations and I didn’t care for it to either. Now after 2 years of living in my home, I wish I had carefully chosen or invested in a few good items that i could have taken with me on my new home journey.  I wouldn’t have wasted money on cheap items and I would be surrounded by a few meaningful things that make my place feel like a home.

5.  I would have started preparing earlier.

The whole process from me deciding to buy my first home and moving into it took 3 months. It was a very stressful three months for me. As a foreigner, many things can cause problems so try and sort these things out beforehand. One of my issues was that I was transferring savings from Australia. They had to do money laundering checks on me and my family and asking family members to hire solicitors can be really stressful and can take a long time if you don’t know someone who can help you from the other side of the world. Also getting all of your documents filed in order and in the right place is really essential. Never underestimate how important it is to be organised when buying a home!

Goodluck and make the most of it, buying a home can be really stressful, so try to prepare as much as possible.  I hope this helped you.