More Ideas To Change Up A Room

Last week I gave you some ideas on how to revamp a tired room and I had lots of feedback saying that you liked the simplicity of the ideas and wanted more! So here are a few more ideas to pimp up space on a budget and without spending too much time on it either!

Create Storage or a display

I often find myself telling clients that all that is really missing in a particular room is storage. Be creative about how you store items. People do this easily with children’s rooms, but then forget about it when it comes to other rooms. If you love having a display of something you own, create a collection of something, books, pictures, photographs, shoes. Anything can be displayed in a creative and fun way and these days with the internet, try googling “Objet d’art” or “interesting ways to stack books”.

Organise your spaces to function properly

This is actually really rewarding and can save you time searching for items later. I always say, when clutter goes, creativity flows…

Update your light bulbs and lighting

Can you swap your lighting for a home system on an Ipad or RAKO style keypad, or a dimmer switch? You usually don’t have to really rewire with some systems either, you just need the system and some dimmable bulbs. This can completely up level a living or kitchen space, especially if you want to entertain or sell up.



Create a mood for the daytime and a mood for the night time

I do this in my living room by turning on different lights during the day to make the space feel really bright, but at night I love only turning on the mood lights with candles and I even close the shutters early (while its still bright outside) so that I feel cosy when the weather is cold!

Replace something that you dislike

There is nothing more tormenting than a stained bed sheet or an ugly old set of chairs (I’m not talking shabby chic here, I’m talking broken, you get angry when you look at it and you waste your energy on hating it) –I rotate colours every season, but I usually go for yellow or green in spring, Blue and white in summer, red in autumn and white and black in winter. For some reason, these colours brighten my mood and compliment the weather for me. So find a colour theme that you can work with year round if you aren’t prepared to rotate and start replacing certain things with a vision in mind of the grand picture… you have one right?

A Few Ideas For A Tired Room

I usually get 3 types of requests from clients.  I get asked to:

  1. Completely overhaul a room
  2. Bring a room into this century (make it more modern) or
  3. Give some ideas for a tired room.

I actually think the third is quite easy and I think anyone can do it.  So here are a couple of ideas to spruce up a room.

Clean it up

Never underestimate the power of a clean space.  It not only changes your mood but also helps you purge unwanted items too. While you are at it, read about the Kon Mari method and the magic of tidying up (it’s a lovely read).

Tickle your senses

Freshen the air with a candle or flowers, put an inspiring quote or picture or put some nice music on to suit your mood.  If you haven’t noticed already, I always have a fresh bunch of flowers at home. I use these to highlight colours, change the mood but also to freshen the air. For me, flowers are the least expensive way to create a gorgeous view and freshen the air.

Create a vignette

A vignette is like a little artistic display.  It gives somewhere for your eyes to focus, especially when you have a room that doesn’t have much architectural merit.  I do this often with food on my chopping board in the kitchen or in the bathroom with luxury pamper items.



Paint the walls

This is usually avoided at all costs until the room is emptied somehow, but you could paint one wall at a time. If you live in rented accommodation, ask your landlord, they will usually allow this, especially if you supply the paint and labour. If you can’t paint the walls why not try covering large parts of walls with a screens, artworks, curtains, or tapestry. This is also a good idea if you move regularly and want a familiar place to come home to.

Revamp the flooring

If the flooring is hard or the carpet is old and you cannot replace it. Try covering it with one or more rugs.  Hessian, sisal and seas grass rugs are really fantastic for this because they are usually neutral in colour and they come in lots of different sizes and are usually made in a really hard weave which is quite firm underfoot. They are usually pretty cheap in comparison to other rugs too.

As you can see these aren’t mind-blowing things to do!  But try doing 3 of these things in any one room and I bet it feels less tired.


10 Reasons your Room isn’t Coming together

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

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

1.  You didn’t “design” it

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

2.  The function isn’t clear

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

3.  Not using or collecting examples

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

4.  Buying on emotion

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

5.  Not considering storage

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

6.  Not considering timescales and future growth

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

7.  Believing everything needs to be brand new

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

8.  Not researching options

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



9.  Test, play and have fun

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

10.  Ask for help

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

How to style your shelves like a pro

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

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

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

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

For example:

Shelving as a focal point

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Home Office Interior Design – Step 4

Yesterday’s challenge was about deciding what items in your home office you are going to display or hide away. Today, we get to focus on furniture! I want to be clear and say, in an architectural design office, we would really get a mood board together before making this decisions and decide on the exact pieces we would use to furnish a room (mainly because the furniture takes months to arrive!)

If you are purchasing furniture, make sure you are really clear on the delivery times, returns policies and any other cancellation policies for custom made items.  Even though the wall and floor colour go hand in hand with the furniture, the FFE (furniture, fittings & equipment) we put into the room usually live longer than the surroundings themselves.

My personal tips to furnishing your office space are:

  1. You may already have pieces of furniture that you want to use in your home office. If not, you could find something that you absolutely love and build your whole room around it. Usually, this would be the desk, shelving or storage unit or chair. Personally, if I didn’t have a piece that had been handed down to me or one of high quality, this is where I would invest.
  2. Your desk is probably the main space where you will work, but do you have another place where you can read comfortably, browse for ideas or work? You might not have room for a window seat or a gorgeous tub (or designer) chair, so think whether you can use a pouf or a dining room chair that may create a different space for you to undertake different activities. What could you use as a secondary space?
  3. Unfortunately it has to be said that, if you spend hours at your desk, you do have to take ergonomics into consideration. After years of working long hours in architectural offices, I am riddled with RSI after working in inappropriate work places for 16 hours or more a day. If you are going to be using your office space for really long periods of time, make sure you follow ergonomic rules. They don’t have to be geeky, although, currently, I have to admit, my ergo desk for 3D and drafting work are hidden behind a door…



I wonder how you are getting on with this minnie-course Have you made any changes or are you still thinking about what changes you are going to make? Even if you haven’t started physically changing anything, the thinking process you have started will spur you on to take action when the time is right.

Quick Links to the rest of the challenge:








You can’t treat your old building like a new one

Since living in the UK, I have had the pleasure of working on many historic or listed buildings in England, Europe and Scandinavia. I have even lived and stayed in some, which depending on the quality of the property was an absolute nightmare or an absolute pleasure.

The allure of these buildings is pretty obvious and I am not alone in my adoration of their pretty detailing, layers of history, rickety windows, super high or super low ceilings, creaking sounds and little surprises that spur our imagination. So its no secret that I love old buildings, it was, of course one of my main reasons for wanting to live in this part of the world.

The first thing that many people don’t know, is that in most Western & Commonwealth Countries, it is a criminal offense to make changes to a listed building without consent. That means you can incur huge fines and even go to jail. In the UK there is no cost to apply for listed building consent, but the cost of a specialist architect or designer is usually not cheap and depending on the changes you want to make and the listing level* your costs could escalate quickly, especially if the work requires specialist artisanal or building techniques.

To be honest I wasn’t intending this post to be about listed buildings, but mainly about the mass stock of older buildings, that many people live with daily and are abundant across the UK and inner city areas of Australian, Canadian, Scandinavian and European cities and my intention was mainly to raise awareness of modern materials.

I didn’t study material science, but this definitely comes up almost daily whilst working in an architectural practice, especially when designing something new or specifying materials, I always have to check whether different products or materials will work together. I’m not sure if it is my super paranoid or almost OCD personality, but I check everything, from whether the electric under floor heating mat is strong enough to work with the tiles I have specified and anything from what is behind my specialist plasterwork or whether the paint that goes on top is permeable or not.

This stuff can get pretty technical and I spend hours each day geeking over it, choosing the right material for each situation. However, for most people I would give you a real important tip and a little bit of a rule of thumb.

If your building was built in the last 60 years, more than likely it has been built with modern materials and you can usually use any products you want (although, I’d always check for asbestos in newer buildings).



If your building is any older than 60 years, I would always err on the safe side and whenever making changes to your building (including painting the walls), opt for more natural products. This is because in my opinion, the products that were originally used, were less harsh and abrasive and the building is used to “breathing”. More often than not, natural materials are more permeable and less harsh and so will not interfere with your building doing its natural thang.

Even high gloss paint creates a non-permeable barrier and can start to cause condensation on the internal walls, where previously the water vapour would have been able to penetrate the wall and naturally escape at its own pace.

So that is my tip for you, if your building was built more than 60 years ago, I would always opt for using more natural materials, such as lime mortar over cement mortar and natural paints over lacquers or paints high in VOC’s.

Oh and lucky you, if you live in a gorgeous historic building, that’s on my wishlist!

*The Historic England Site gives explanations of listing types & links to search every currently listed building

The secret ingredient to turn your house into a home

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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