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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

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 Choose The Perfect Grey

I had a message from my dear friend the past week and it said: “Just painted a wall grey only to notice it is baby blue…” To be honest this happens more often than the average DIYer likes to admit. Colours are complex, then you have the complexities of light, direction, window numbers and sizes and then add large pieces of furniture into a room and watch the colours change again!

Our 21st Century love of neutrals doesn’t help either, especially as spaces get smaller and walls get lighter. (Ok you won’t understand this if you live in a suburb in the US or Australia or like my friend in a gorgeous, huge mansion retreat in Finland) but believe me its “typically” true for the rest of us.  I actually wrote about the Greige Rage earlier this year.  You can read that blog post here.

So unless you like painting your walls a few times to get the right colour, here are a few things to think about before painting your wall the wrong shade of grey:

Every Grey Has A “Colour”

The amazing Maria Killam has a system that is called “understanding undertones”. From all of my years in the design and building industries, this is the clearest way I have seen neutrals explained. Because Maria does it so well, with her trademarked understanding undertones” so if you want to learn more, that is definitely the person I would go to for that colour theory lesson.

Growing up, I thought that grey was made by adding white paint to black paint or visa-versa. It is, but most of the greys we pick up from the shops isn’t actually created that way. Most greys are made from a base colour to make it a “warm” or “cool” grey and can also be just a “shade” of a colour on a chart. Unless you know your colour charts very well, I would definitely not recommend picking a colour for your walls from a colour chart. Always buy a sample pot and paint a large piece of white card (so your existing wall colour doesn’t come through underneath).

So when choosing a grey, the first thing you need to think of is what is the base colour in this grey? The easiest way to do this is to think right down to a primary colour. Is it red, blue or yellow? If you can’t see it yet, try a secondary colour, (green, purple, orange – just in case you forgot) which you will usually be able to tell if you put the colour against a brilliant bright white (if you have a piece of melamine at home, like in your kitchen or bathroom cabinets try it against that for now).

If you cant be bothered finding the colour by thinking, you can use an app to do it for you… There is an app called ColorSnap which tells you which colours are in the photo you just took.

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Natural & artificial light

It is important to consider what kind of light you will see your grey with. During the day, ask yourself which direction does your window in the room face and during the night, ask what kind of bulbs am I using or want to use?

So this is equally important because you cant see colour without light… Artificial light has a colour, so this will change the colour of your walls too (and those of you who buy 4500K LED with a colour rendering of over 85 to have it “as close to natural daylight as possible”, good for you, but unless you have SAD or want your home to look like an office, the intention and cost more often than not is not to replicate natural daylight).

Natural daylight also has colours. The evening sun is more red, orange (sometimes a warm purple) and the morning sun is more gold (but also blue) and during the day daylight is white. Also depending on which hemisphere you are in and which direction your windows face, your colour will also be affected by natural daylight. So during the day, if you are in the Northern Hemisphere with one window in your room facing North (this would be similar to a South facing Window in the Southern Hemisphere), there is no direct sunlight into the room, so the room will have more of a greyish light coming through the window. This changes the colour fo your grey again (because as we now know that without light we can’t see colour)…

So the trick is to know your light in the room where you are painting your grey. You don’t want it to be a depressing jail!

I love lighting, I wrote about it recently if you didn’t get a chance to read it here.

Context

Here I just wanted to point out that your room doesn’t stand alone and often it will be viewed from another room! You may fall in love with the grey colour and you might have thought about it from every angle and then once its al complete you sit down in another room and look at your walls through the door and find that your gorgeous taupe/grey looks pink or green, from a distance making the room you are sitting in look off..
Don’t forget to view your grey from other rooms and see how it flows between the spaces.

Furniture & Large Items

This is a great one and not many people actually realize that your walls will be affected by other items in your room. Your grey wall might look pink if you have a red kitchen or a bright red sofa in the room. All items have a presence and especially larger items in your room. So don’t forget to consider the colour of your furniture when choosing your greys too!

I hope this gave you a head start and a better chance of getting it right the first time.

A Few Things You Should Know About Paint:

This week we have been testing paint for our new kitchen and it hasn’t been easy! Of course, I wanted to use luxury paint like Farrow and Ball, Benjamin Moore, and Little Green because that is what I specify for my clients.

However, a tin of Farrow & Ball is almost triple the price of standard off-the-shelf paint from Colours, Dulux or Valspar, so my standard go-to is to colour match my more expensive paint so that at least it looks pretty close to that perfect dream look I am aiming for…

The only problem is that colour matching works pretty well, its around 98% accurate, but in my experience, not with lighter colours!  I would only colour match with mid-tone to darker colours as lighter colours (especially with expensive paint) are made up of complex pigments, which are what give the paint its subtle but beautiful colour.

A matching machine will pick up the strongest colour it can read and then create a similar tone from the collection of colours it has and then mixes the colour for you. In my kitchen, initially, I wanted everything brilliant bright white, as you may know from following my blog, that my house is quite dark, but the kitchen is naturally the brightest room in the house and so I wanted to accentuate the feeling of brightness as this is going to be my haven! Once we painted the undercoat, the white felt bright, but a bit too stark in this situation, so I went to my trusty sources and chose a few of my well known “light grey” colours that I am confident using (aka have used more than a few times now).

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I colour matched the lighter colours hoping they would just “work”, but I realized that the colour matching on the Farrow and Ball Strong White was completely off (as in, un-useable off) because the colour match picked up a red undertone making the paint look pink, but it actually has more of a yellowy brown to it, so I couldn’t colour match to the colours I was hoping to use!

I went and bought the super expensive, luxurious and gorgeous Farrow and Ball tester pot to see how it would look in my kitchen.  The other problem I had though, now that I had at least the right colour on the wall, is that it wasn’t as subtle in this room as I had hoped! It was too dark. I just want the “lightest warmth” added to my walls. I want it to feel cosy but be super light at the same time.

We still had the 25 Litre bucket of Leyland Brilliant Bright White sitting around and so we started testing how much colour we wanted. In the end, we came up with our colour and it was so subtle that we were pleased with it!

So we decided to create our own subtle, custom colour by throwing a tester pot amount of our chosen colour (Colours light rain actually) into our mega bucket of cheap brilliant bright white, saving us hundreds and giving this designer her desired “subtle but bright” result!

A Few Things You Should Know About Paint:
  1. Expensive paint is not only VOC free or super low in VOC’s (usually), the colour pigments and mixes are really superior. They give you a depth and complexity that cheaper paints, just cannot mimic or create.
  2. Colour matching works well on mid-tone to darker colours. Trying to colour match lighter colours, isn’t accurate (at all in my opinion).
  3. Light and location of your wall and any windows have a huge effect on the way you experience the colour, so always test your colour on multiple walls (if you m=plan on using it everywhere), and view it during different times of the day to see if it needs altering (ie, I think its too light in the mornings or too dark in the evenings…)
  4. Mixing your own paint can be a really cost-effective way of getting a custom paint colour, especially if you mix it yourself and use a cheaper base for the mix. (We saved over £500 using our own mix over the Farrow & Ball tins… and got a perfect colour – one that was customised and perfect for the look and feel we wanted in our room).
  5. The amount of reflection and (I also think darkness) vary with the sheen.  The truest colour (I find) is the most matt 2% sheen finish).
  6. The same colour in wood paint, metal paint or wall paint will always be a slightly different colour (usually the gloss will add the darkness to it – just my observation).

Kitchen Countertops Pros and Cons

So how do you choose a kitchen countertop? Price is a huge factor for most, but look comes a close second, third practicality pops in and out (how easily does it stain?) and then if it is a man-made material whether it is “healthy” or ethical.

For my own kitchen we have decided to go for concrete again (I know, I haven’t learned my lesson yet…) After all the trouble I had with my black concrete countertop that my husband and I made ourselves, in the end, I fell in love with that ol’ dawg and I miss it like crazy. So let’s start with the not so popular concrete countertop:

Concrete Kitchen Countertops

Pros:
Original, beautiful, flexible design, ¼ of the cost of quartz or stone countertops, can be built in any form or shape, changes over time, can be created in any colour, “easy to repair” (technically, done well you shouldn’t have any problems repairing concrete and it can be done artistically to hide the problem area completely), totally bespoke in every way with loads of flexibility in design, doesn’t have to be high maintenance (if you like to see it change over time), bloody strong mate (I wanted to write indestructible, but it isn’t quite, although I miss your strength blacky….)

Cons:

Will still require expansion joints in certain places (we didn’t listen to the rules and created a 6m run without a joint line and it was fine, no cracks and still a beauty), stains if not impregnated with the right sealant, changes over time, can be difficult to maintain, not to everyone’s taste (acquired taste), not “pretty” like marble (if you know what I mean), sealant is expensive and will require reapplication annually, high maintenance (or not, see above), some mixes and sealants can be toxic (not all concrete is made equal man).

Laminate Kitchen Countertops

Pros:
Cheap, new styles coming out continuously, cheap, last relatively long considering they are just a thin layer of stuff tacked onto some chipboard… Can be fixed pretty easily (with the right tools), cheap, new solid versions out now that don’t have the same problems as the chipboard ones, cheap.

Cons:
Can be fugly when not thought out, don’t last long if not installed perfectly (sealed along the edges), once damaged can deteriorate quickly, standard patterns give it away that its laminate straight away (more often than not), look… cheap.

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Timber Kitchen Countertops

Pros:
Pretty cheap! Look gorgeous, are warm, range of colours and stains can be painted, can be fixed “easily”,

Cons:
They always stain black around the sink (oh the humanity), need resealing, can stain.

Tiled Kitchen Countertops

Pros:
Can look great, solid, flexibility in design, can be cost-effective (for example you can still get marble tiles which will be a fraction of the price in comparison to a slab of marble or granite), technically easy to fix (just keep some spare tiles aside), can be very customisable and creative.

Cons:
I grew up with a 60’s style tile on our countertops, I hated it (can’t remember why so much now, but I do remember the grout discolouring and having to scrub it for ages. Can date easily, has a specific / acquired look, can be uneven if not fitted correctly, can fall apart (literally) and can be high maintenance if not maintained.

Natural Stone Countertops (AKA Marble & Granite)

Pros:
Undeniably gorgeous, natural stone has that feeling of…. well, erm.. nature… and Jo likes nature (except for cockroaches, aggressive birds and slugs).

Cons:
Totally a luxury item, (just get one priced up – seriously and then consider your home’s LTV against it), needs sealing, depending on the stone can be porous (as in absorbent to the max!), joints are hard to hide (well), like with any natural stone can vary in colour and pattern and not in a nice way.

Quartz, Corian & Silestone (& In Other Brand Names Zodiaq, Cambria Etc.) Kitchen Countertops

Oo, look at me throwing these into the “same pile”. Yes ok Quartz is made up of natural crushed rock mixed with resin (rocks & plastic), Corian is built from acrylic polymer and alumina trihydrate (rocks and plastic) and Silestone is made up of quartz and resin (you get my point…)

Pros:
Flexible in terms of design options, can choose pretty much any colour, any design within the proprietor’s range, cost-effective in comparison to granite and natural stone, very strong,

Cons:
Can look too modern for more traditional kitchens, still unattainable when you want it but you’re on a laminate budget, no matter what anyone says these still stain…

Resin Kitchen Countertops

Ah, joy. Did I mention that when we couldn’t import (times have changed) the concrete countertop sealant we needed from the US to the UK we tested resin? Oh dear… This is a tough material to work with (fun, but tough).

Pros:
Tres flexible in terms of design, colour, form, can be clear (pretty cool).

Cons:
Scratches, oh boy does it scratch horrifically to a point where it is unrecognisable, even the UV resistant one can change colour over time, yellowing (you’ll know what I mean), brittle, stains, toxic, why do we use this for kitchen countertops?

Stainless Steel Kitchen Countertops

Pros:

Clean, industrial looking.

Cons:

Constant cleaning required can stain, industrial looking,

So my conclusion:

Everything stains (and if it doesn’t, let me have a go), therefore get what you want (and can afford) and look after it the best you can.

Kitchen Design Basics

I have worked on over 400 kitchens, either alongside a kitchen designer or just designing them for client’s (or bosses) and I always stick to the design rules I was taught.  So, when it came to designing my own kitchen, I kept going around in circles, balancing my budget, style and functionality and getting no-where. My husband saved me from my own design rules and said: “we’re putting the fridge on the other wall and removing the kitchen table, period”.

I cringed at the thought of my kitchen not functioning with a perfect work triangle and had to think about it (for a few weeks). I gave in because he was totally right. I had fallen into a trap with my kitchen designs that didn’t allow me to think freely first, practically second and I always led with practicality first.

I suppose that has come from my love of kitchens, but also my requirement to always provide the most “appropriate” solution for my clients that was not only functional but beautiful.

My husband just said “I want the fridge there”, that’s it, he didn’t consider that it was on the other side of the bar to the sink. When I questioned how I was going to cook, he said, it’s even better, you can lay stuff out on the bench rather than keeping the fridge door open with your foot…

So here are the kitchen design basics I work to 99% of the time:

Measure The Space (Exactly)

When it comes to joinery, work to millimetre precision (I remember learning that from a joiner I worked with and I had just been working on lots of old crooked buildings thinking “are you mad”? He was completely right. Even in an old crooked building, work to millimetre precision. That entails measuring the distances multiple times up the walls (to check if your walls are straight – lucky you if they are).

Dream A Bit

Installing a new kitchen is probably one of the most expensive alterations the average person does in their property, so definitely consider it as a special place, even if you don’t like to cook or eat out a lot. I love designing kitchen areas in my projects! I really love imagining myself using each kitchen and really consider the absolute best scenario for each occasion. Think about the things you always wanted and think about budget later (boo). Starting off your design with a practical hat on will give you an uninspiring kitchen (always), so at least in the beginning, go and have some fun and check some inspirational images to get some cool ideas and motivate you to love the space a little more.

Function & Socialising

I put these together because they are both equally important to my clients these days. Gone are the days where you cook on your own in a separate room. Yes there needs to be an option for closing the room off (or else consider noisy distractions and excellent extraction / ventilation), but ultimately, we want to monitor children, have the TV on in the background or be part of a conversation (at least once a week) while we cook in our kitchens and those times really matter.

Think about the location of the main items sink, stove, oven, fridge and preparation areas and how you move around them (I always work to the work triangle – except in my own kitchen!) I LOVE to cook, so I just imagine myself cooking the biggest meal possible in every kitchen and if it can handle that situation at a time when I’m also wanting to socialise, then I know that she’ll be right mate.

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Storage

I always seem to be battled on this one. You always NEED more storage than you expect in a kitchen. If you are building a kitchen that is for a family, or for someone who likes to cook (moi), you NEED storage space, pantry space, space to put things that can’t be stacked on top of each other because it will ruin the coating kind of space. As I get older (waaah) I also can’t lift really heavy pans as easily as I used to, so not having to faff about lifting other heavy pans off of the ones I need to use is not only practical, it keeps the pain out cooking. Always add more space than you think you need.

Style

Consider the flow of your house and style of your kitchen.  The one thing that makes me cringe every time with kitchens is getting the “style” wrong.  Know what date your home was built, putting a glossy Art Deco style kitchen into a country cottage (or visa versa) just looks as though you don’t know what you are doing (or you made a mistake).  Consider the context of your kitchen, in your home and as a whole.  If you have a modern home, you have more flexibility with style, but again, a cutsie country cottage style kitchen in your high-rise might be a bit kitsch, so look around at the materials such as your windows and walls to guide your decisions.

Budget & Extras

That gorgeous hot water tap and exceptional door style ARE going to cost more, so, more often than not, you will have to weigh up your options. If you just have to have that SubZero fridge, but its out of budget, why not try an alternative company that can also make up two separate fridge freezer columns or find a way of building in an American style fridge / freezer to give you the “same” (ok its not the same it’s kind of similar) feel.

Investing In Your Home & Ending Up Lonely

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Home. What’s It All About?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Free Ways To Create A Beautiful Home

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

Have A Big Clean

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

Make A Natural Perfume

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

INTERIOR DESIGNER’S BUSINESS SCHOOL

FAST TRACK YOUR CAREER & LEARN EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO START YOUR INTERIOR DESIGN BUSINESS

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

Create A Fun vignette

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

The Best Instigator For An All-Out House Clean

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

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

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

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

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

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

INTERIOR DESIGNER’S BUSINESS SCHOOL

FAST TRACK YOUR CAREER & LEARN EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO START YOUR INTERIOR DESIGN BUSINESS

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

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

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