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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 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.

Interior Lighting Design 101

100% of my clients request guidance with lighting when we start on their project. It hadn’t occurred to me before I started working for myself that this was something people didn’t really know about.

Lighting is one of those things you definitely need to consider at the earliest stages of your design, this is because how you visualise the end result plays a vital role in what elements you actually see, and the ambience you create, but also because lighting control and automation and the technical requirements to fit specific types of lighting, need a lot of thought and design, “behind the scenes”.

So if you love DIY or want to give your home a lighting makeover here is the information you need to start:

Detail & Continuity

Think of each room separately but the whole house as a whole idea. For example, you know that you want a lit up wall behind the TV as a feature in the evening to create a mood in the living room, but if you walk out of the living room to the hall or into another room, how does that idea carry through? Perhaps just having the option of dimmers in the other rooms means that during the times where you like to have some mood, you have the choice to dim some of the other lights around the create an ambience in the entertaining areas of your home.

Wired Or Wireless Control

Most of the lighting you see is invisible, so consider how your lighting will function. I wish I could say that every electrician my clients have used got the lighting design right 100% of the time (first time). Currently, my stats are way below that. LED technology has changed a lot in the last few years and things like the specific type of drivers and or loadings can confuse the average sparky if they aren’t used to doing more than old-school wiring. Even the best electricians that I have worked with have gotten things terribly wrong and have had to come back to fix up the lighting on a job. This doesn’t really come down to complexity or your design either, it comes down to specific products and the availability of information to install the products correctly. If your electrician has priced your job on supply and installation, remind your electrician that it is his responsibility to purchase the correct drivers and pay for any work associated with re-doing parts of the project (including removing a whole ceiling and re-plastering once he has re-wired) and make sure you have that in your contract (especially for larger jobs). I’m talking 100% get something wrong…

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Luminosity & Brightness

Understandably this is a little harder (only for now) as we change over from WATTS to Lumens. My rule of thumb, for now, is to stick with the WATTAGE for the old school Tungsten bulbs, mainly because we all understood the language of a 25 WATT and a 100 WATT bulb. So my rule of thumb with LED is that anything under 500 will be relatively dark and anything over 500 will give you the amount of light you were used to with anything above a 60WATT bulb and aim for over 1000 Lumens if you want something as bright as a 100WATT. (That is just my rule of thumb if that doesn’t make sense to you the helpful chart below from thelightbulb.co.uk might be better for you):

And this helpful chart from https://www.thelightbulb.co.uk/resources/lumens_watts/

Size & Scale of Your Light Fitting & Lighting Direction / Effect

This is where newbies get it really wrong. Usually, the complexities of associating or imagining the scale and or space mean that things look wrong when they are installed or don’t look or work the way you had hoped. This is where good old-fashioned facts come in and they help you get it right every time. Just measure the space, measure the light fitting and understand how the light emits from a chosen fitting. A lampshade has different shapes and diffusers to soften and adjust the light, so play around with the specific effects and variations.

Bulb Type & Colour

There are lots of different light fittings and bulbs and the type you choose will depend not only on the application but also on the mood you wanted to create when you designed the space.

The height of your ceilings will affect how much light you see at the human level and different light types have different colours of light. I have had lighting manufacturers and even lighting designers change the lighting specification behind my back (or throw in another colour because they ran out of the one we needed on an order). Get your builder to check every single bulb and light fitting that you buy (especially if they are LED) and ensure they match your specification. You WILL notice that one light or two lights are different, if not straight away, further down the line when its too late to ask about it.

My rule of thumb for now is use a 3000Kelvin colour bulb for the most natural looking LED light. Its whiter than the yellow bulbs we were used to, but the colour rendering (the correctness of the colour you are seeing under the artificial light, is more accurate and less yellow) and we are starting to get used to the light not being so yellow these days (and even though I was hatin’ at first, I have smoothly transitioned into the less yellow world myself).

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).

How To Choose Paint Colours For Your Home By Starting From Scratch

So last week I wrote about the first way to choose paint colours for your home, which was by starting with something you already have. I gave you important advice about colours and just enough colour theory for it to be useful for your home decorating project. If you haven’t had a chance to read that yet you can read it here.

Its funny, some people find this way harder and some find it easier. That is because they feel that starting with something means that they don’t have to come up with something new. This way of choosing paint colours for a room is perhaps more creative rather than technical!
I love starting from scratch because you can test new ideas and get super creative.

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But where do you start when choosing wall colours for a room from scratch? Well, the wonderful news is that the options really are endless, so it is up to you to create and define your own boundaries. This is where you can break rules but also use them to stay in control. Here are some useful guidelines to help create successful colour pallets and choose colours for a room that you just adore:

  1. One option is to create an interior designer’s mood board. There is a reason they do this and it is one of the most successful ways to ensure a winning scheme every time! (If you don’t know how to make one, you can read my blog post with guidelines here).
  2. Choose 3 or 4 colours that you absolutely love and test them together. Create a hierarchy, because the changes are that your scheme might need some altering by adding a neutral to quieten it down or perhaps adding something a bit more exciting to liven it up.
  3. Pure functionality. This sounds a little boring to some, but actually, a super practical colour pallet might be the way to move forward and then gives you the opportunity to play with your furnishings in a more creative way (if that’s your thing).
  4. Choose one colour that sets a real mood, then work the rest of the scheme around that by choosing 2 more colours (you can do this by choosing three different or complementary shades.
  5. Find a digital colour board. When I first started seeing these, I definitely fell in love and spent hours just looking at pretty pictures of colours! It made me realise there were others out there who loved colour and prettiness just as much as me (rare girl squeal). Check out one of my favourites called Design Seeds
  6. Get inspired by something. This could be the colour of an autumnal leaf that you couldn’t resist picking up when on your way home (does anyone else do this?) the colour of your favourite clothing item, something you saw somewhere that made your heart flutter or even just an image you found of your dream space. Find your inspiration and go from there! (There are some of you who will absolutely fear this! The others will think anything else but this option is just too boring! Aren’t we all so wonderfully different?)
  7. Choose one colour that you like and then work with different shades and tones of that colour to create a monotone colour palette.  Equally, you can do this with just shades of black and white to create a monochrome colour pallet!te
  8. Create a natural/eco palette. Natural colours are often quite different to artificial or man-made colours. This could be a challenge to set for yourself or a healthier way to start decorating your home.

You might still need to go to last weeks post in order to follow the decorating steps that may apply here too though.

Two Ways To Choose Paint Colours For Your Home

Some people find choosing paint colours easy and others can change their minds a million times before finally deciding on an option.

There really are are an unlimited number of ways to choose paint colours for your home. But sometimes you just want to narrow down the choice and make it a bit easier for yourself. You have enough stress with builders or decorators on site (heaven forbid you are living amongst your renovations) add children, noise and dust into the mix and one day of this is enough to throw every colour chart out the window and leave it to the builder to decide! (NB – as a rule don’t do that!)

Hopefully, this will break it down for you enough so that you can make a confident choice about what colours to paint your walls.

Work with something you already have in the room. This is a great option if you already have a stand-out piece of furniture, had previously invested in expensive window furnishings or have a dominant floor or fireplace. Even if you don’t like the colour of the main item in the room, if it is staying, it is worthwhile taking it into consideration, and sometimes it narrows down the options so as to make choosing colours for your room quite easy!

Don’t forget that a large floor covering will impact your wall colours and vice versa. So you should really know what colour you are working with if using an existing large surface. So what to do?

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Once you have chosen your item that you are working around (floor, a piece of furniture, natural timber wall panelling or even a view through large windows)!

The next step is to understand what basic colour that item is. I mean basic as in what primary colour does it stem from is it red, blue or yellow? If you genuinely can’t tell then try a secondary colour, green, purple or orange. If you have beige floor tiles, try to figure out if they are pinky or yellowy? Try to trace every item colour back to a primary colour and then at least you can understand what colour you are working with and what has been added to it to make it the colour it is.

Then you will need to know if the colour is dirty (aka muted, shaded, muddy) or clean. All colours that have had black added to them will be a muddier or dirtier colour. This is important to know because clean colours and muddy colours rarely look good together! So once you decipher whether the existing colour you are working with is dirty or clean, you will now be able to disregard a whole batch of colours (phew!) *There are exceptions, but I won’t go into them here!*

Now you have to look into the future a little and imagine how you want the room to look or feel. You probably have a few ideas and have an inspiration image to guide you. Once you have chosen one or two adjectives to describe your space use these to help decide on your colour scheme. For example, I want my room to feel bright, warm, cosy, comforting, serene etc…

Now you can choose up to 3 colours. You can choose one light, one mid-tone and one darker shade of different colours or of the same colour or choose 3 light, mid-tone or dark shades, that help you achieve your desired mood. The key is to test them with large samples in each room (yes they will look different in every room). I have to admit, I will usually choose more colours than I end up using, but I always like having the flexibility of choice! I also like the complexity of colour, so I will push some ideas to the limit.

Now you have some easy steps:

1. Find out what basic colours you are working with.
2. Know whether your colour scheme is muted or clean.
3. Know your end result and how you want your room to look and or feel.
4. Have 3 shades to work with that look great with your existing item.
5. Test them in every room with large samples on the surface you are planning on painting with that exact colour (and visit them during different times of the day).
6. Make a decision. Yes, you have to make one!
7. Use your furniture, soft furnishings in the room to balance the colours by either toning up or down.

Once your furniture goes back in, you will have a chance to really have some fun by enhancing certain areas with your colour palette. Putting furniture in and styling a room is a whole new topic too, so that is for a different day!

Next week I will share another way to choose paint colours for your home by starting from scratch! If in the meantime you want to know what to do before choosing paint colours, you can read that blog post here.

If in the meantime you want to know what to do before choosing paint colours, you can read that blog post here.

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…

How Your Personality Can Positively Influence Your Home

Back in Architecture school, I remember we were taught to look to our context when designing buildings. We were taught to really study the local area, the environment and then the site. After that, our educated and informed ideas would flow with physical evidence that backed up our arguments for why our designs had to be just so.

When I studied interior design (many years later) I was surprised that none of this was considered important to my teachers. It seemed more about fashions, styles and ensuring the date of my furniture was right with the age of the building. I couldn’t believe how different the approaches to design were from the outside to the inside of the building! Architecture searched to context, whilst interiors searched to fashion. Two things they both had in common though, were innovation (always on the search for new or old materials to be used in a creative or low-cost ways) and the influence of the client on the design.

There are many factors that can guide an architectural or an interior design, but the most powerful is the client’s personality.

Now having worked in the architectural industry for almost 20 years, I see how powerfully it expresses itself throughout a whole project. I see both architectural and interior design projects being influenced by:

The Client’s Values

One client might value family, another their homes simple function, whilst another will value their health. Designing with a large family in mind is very different to designing for an art collector or someone who likes to come home and simply relax after work. These values inform the spatial design and layout of a home as well as the size of spaces.

Client Ideas

I haven’t worked with a client that didn’t have fantastic ideas. More often than not client’s will say they aren’t creative or they will downplay how imaginative they really are. I will usually find that jewel in their words and run with it! I love showing my client how cool and creative they really are! Client’s ideas make a design truly original and unique. Their ideas always inform my designs in a creative and joyful way.

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Client Lifestyle

I find this one of the most rewarding things for me to design around. I truly love creating a home for a client, which improves their life somehow. This could be by enhancing the things they love to do in life such as designing around the lifestyle of an avid cyclist who needs a place to securely store his bikes in his small home to creating a future home for an inspirational little girl with a debilitating genetic disorder to ensure she can live her life to the full.

Client Style

Every client has style! Rather than looking to current fashions and trends I will look to my client and help them reveal their style. I genuinely have an interest in people. That is why I love reading autobiographies! The hardest combination of styles I have had to marry (excuse the pun) has been my husband’s and my own! I have always wanted a classic contemporary style at home (it feels luxurious to me as its something I never had growing up), but he is a guitarist and guitar teacher who works from home. I love his guitars, I always dreamed of coming home and hearing my partner playing an instrument… but I struggled with his coloured lights, huge equipment, mountains of cables and stacks of stuff everywhere! When I finally embraced his style and worked with him to organise it all, I realized how wonderful and unique our home really was.

How many interior designers are married to guitarists anyway? And how many have embraced their partner’s music into their home rather than hide it away in that man cave in the basement (as I was tempted to do so many times)?

You can check out my husband’s online guitar lessons at GuitarCouch