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How To Solve A Zoning Issue At Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a fun exercise for you:

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

 

Zoning and why you need it in your home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 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

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.

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).

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.

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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!)

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.

Milan Design Week & Lake Como Italy

When my friend said that Milan design week is definitely a show I shouldn’t miss, (and I have been to many, many shows) she was right! Wow. Just Wow! I have to admit Milan Design week, furniture fair or Salone Del Mobile Milano was not only well organised for foreigners but it was pretty easy to navigate on my minuscule knowledge of Italian (Pitta, Pizza, Ciabatta, eh).

The show itself, this year had the most amazing lighting I have ever seen. I have to admit, I expected the furniture to be amazing (it IS Italy after all), but I didn’t expect the lighting to be THAT inventive, artistic, groundbreaking and original. It really did blow me away and I probably research new lighting at least once a week whilst sourcing for projects or researching an idea.


The artistic nature of the lighting was unexpected and I captured a few of my favourites here for you to experience. The most mesmerising and beautiful pieces were by a designer called Arturo Alvarez and the paper lights by Ingo Maurer.

The furniture was amazing, of course, but I didn’t see anything that was truly groundbreaking or innovative, except for Max Lamb’s recycled textile furniture. Textiles are highly polluting (they emit methane gas when decomposing and can poison groundwater from chemical dyes) so if the large amount of textiles around the world can be beautifully, usefully, economically recycled or upcycled in a healthy way, that makes me a happy chappet.

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Seeing this kind of innovation is really rewarding for me and is important in order to get to know the latest designers from around the world and make new connections in all the different related design industries.

Even if you aren’t a designer, one of these fairs is worth the visit. I would definitely recommend not going alone however, especially if you are an introvert or female! I definitely felt pushed around and my naturally polite nature was just seen as annoying (Italians are confident and seem to be talking passionately 100% of the time so they genuinely don’t notice you especially if you are a quiet little flower ) … or just man-up a bit while in Italy.

 

And so to Lake Como…

There is no doubt that this place is magical. Every time I looked at the mountains they were different. I can’t believe it, but now I realise that I didn’t take that many photos, I just found myself staring at those gorgeous mountains and that amazing lake. I would love to give a little plug to two amazing places here – Bed & Breakfast Storico who had the friendliest and most welcoming owners (after a day with uptight, bossy designers this felt like heaven) in Como and the most amazing restaurant for salad La Vita è Bella. I know that sounds a little underwhelming, but when you just want a salad and you expect everyone to say “go home” and instead they say “I know just the place” – you know you are in for a treat and I was.

I got to experience the most amazing spa at The Grand Hotel Tremezzo. If you do one thing on this planet before you die, go there, be treated like royalty and experience the good life. Like everyone stress can wear me down. It usually takes me at least a few days to “unwind” when I go on holidays, but here, it was a few hours. That was unbelievable for me! If you need a pamper, don’t think twice, go there.

How To Furnish A New Home – Where To Start Step By Step Guide

Buying a new house is a beautiful fresh new start and is a really great time to consider starting fresh with your furniture, especially if you have been renting for years up to the point of your purchase.

But where do you start? You probably have a few pieces of furniture, a bed, lots of small bits and pieces, books, dining set perhaps and if you are in the UK, probably even less than that!

If you have a lot of furniture from another home or if you have lots of hand-me-downs that you love (this is key, why keep it if you don’t want to?), then you will need to consider these pieces and work around them, especially if they are quite large, like a sofa, chairs etc. If you plan on getting rid of them eventually, just ignore them when designing your interior and start replacing it as and when you can afford to.

So, let’s go shopping! Not quite. There is actually quite a lot to think about before you open your wallet.

Start with your site

Locate your house in the world and know some key things about where the sun rises, sets and how this impacts your home. Knowing that the sun rises in your bedroom and sets in the living area or that the living room is dark all day, is really important and although seems irrelevant to buying furniture, is actually key to how you end up using your house.

I would also include major disturbances in my little study, such as a busy road, train line, neighbours with a different lifestyle to your own (night or early morning people) – also include the best views, which time of the day your garden is the most enjoyable to you, and anything else you can think of. Imagine a weekday and a weekend of living in the home and mark where you will be in the house and what you will be doing there.

Knowing about external factors and environment will inform how you live in your home. Furnishing your home is expensive and should not be approached with the attitude of just choosing a cushion that suits a wall colour… Think about making intelligent decisions with one of your most expensive purchases to date, and making it perfect as a tool for enhancing your life.

Know Your Dimensions

Next, you must know the boundaries in your spaces. This is pretty obvious, but you can’t imagine how many time I hear someone say to me – “once I bought the sofas I realized I could have gone bigger, or smaller”. Imagine if you had just gone out and bought a super large table for entertaining in the kitchen and found out that it was too large for the space, then had to move it to another part of the house where it wasn’t really intended (assuming you didn’t return it because you “loved it so much.”

Just measure the rooms and take the plans or dimensions of the room and:

Decide on a layout

Before you find the furniture? Yes! It seems so absurd to me that you would do it the other way around, but I realise that this is actually the way most people buy furniture. Play around with ideas. In my experience, the people who test a few ideas have more chance of getting it right, than the ones that just go out an buy furniture based on what they were sold in a store!

The world of buying furniture can be very tricky, especially when your starting point is going shopping. If you have skipped the most important things you need to do before buying furniture, you are already on a path to failure… (unless you have subconsciously thought about the above things and or are super, super lucky..)

Know your style and personality

Are you super sleek and like clean lines or do you have a deep routed bohemian hidden inside? Just by acknowledging what you like, can filter out all of the unnecessary things you might spend your money on – like being subconsciously sold on a lounge suite that looks great in the showroom, but actually isn’t your style at all once you bring it home and put it in the space.

Know your style and stay confident and true to it. You can always add eclectic or complementary parts of your personality later. A pro will be able to intertwine these in a more complex way, but if you are doing it on your own, stay simple, there are loads of styles and they can be quite complex, but for now, filter the noise by figuring out if you are

  • Traditional (including vintage)
  • Modern (including mid-century, minimalist)
  • Classic
  • Industrial (including 60’s and retro)
  • Country (including coastal)
  • Contemporary (whatever is current)
  • International or cultural (Scandinavian, Japanese, Asian styles)

If you aren’t completely sure, just pick 2-3 that you are more likely to be able to live with and narrow it down once you start shopping!

Buy your large items first

If your walls are already painted and are going to stay that colour – Buy the main pieces first. This may seem obvious, but actually, many people don’t do this. That is because they aren’t ready to commit, or because they already have loads of smaller items from renting, so they keep buying little bits and filling up the space whilst not having the major items thought out.

If you haven’t painted yet, you may have to consider the room colours first, or else you may find your furniture looks brown at home, when it should look yellow! If you want to design your décor in order to help you buy furniture read my post 2 things you must do before buying furniture or choosing paint colours or this one on how to create an interior design mood board.

Get the main pieces first, and define your spaces with your furniture. Don’t be afraid to try putting a chair in a location that is unconventional – just because you want to sit there and look at the view or create boundaries to spaces with screens, tall lamps, plants or sculptures.

Look at your walls to help you define your spaces

This is important, as you can start to compliment or highlight colours, in soft furnishings, personality with art, brighten with mirrors and start to see the room coming together. Don’t forget you can contrast, highlight, light up, blend in – get creative and don’t forget this should be fun!

INTERIOR DESIGNER’S BUSINESS SCHOOL

The complimentary pieces

I put rugs, coffee tables, lamps, flowers, candles, decorative items, vignettes (small displays – if you have a large display this should be thought about in in your layout), cushions etc, into this pile. These should bring the room together and make it feel just right rather than cluttered or too bare.

The finishing touches

What could be the finishing touch? Your personality! I can believe that no one that I work with (except for the boldest and most confident people who would classify themselves as such) really allow their personality to speak around them.

Your personality is so intrinsic to how you feel inside your homes. I can’t believe how many people actually dismiss this important part. We connect with objects from our past, photographs and things give us meaning. This is not an excuse for the ultra clutterers of the world to say “hooray I can add all my things back in now because I like having them around” – this is a time to edit and filter out and really decide what things you want to see every day – have a reason for it – because it makes me smile when I see it – because the memory is so strong and beautiful it brings me so much joy remembering that time…

Don’t Be Afraid To Get Rid Of The White Elephant

Lastly – New homes can be hard to furnish, especially if you have existing furniture you are working with bought for another home with a different personality. If your old items don’t make sense in your new interior (and I know it is a very difficult decision to make especially when you spend so much money on it) – but if it really isn’t right, or if you bought an item and it just doesn’t fit, don’t fight with it. Sell it on ebay or give it to charity. Don’t think twice about it, it will waste your time and cost you more money trying to make it all right. If it is a family heirloom and you won’t get rid of it (I totally understand!) – why not highlight it and make in an artwork of some kind?

Edit

Your home will evolve with you and your life.  Add and remove pieces that make your life better, easier, more beautiful and more fun!

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