Posts

Space Saving Ideas For Homes

Having lived in shared accommodation for most of my life and having travelled and moved way too many times, I have so many space saving ideas that I have used and also thought about using! Here are some of the ideas that you may be able to implement in your own home to save space and make better use of it too.

Use a narrow dressing table or hall table as a desk.

I spent many a sleepless week wedged between a stool and a (very nice cherry wood) futon whilst living in Perth (some great idea I had once to move to one of the most remote parts of the world). During that semester at university, whilst I worked endlessly on my design projects and competitions, I realised that I not only gave myself RSI, but also ruined my lower back, by staying in a random position working from the floor for literally weeks on end. So, I wouldn’t be doing that anymore, but how do you fit a desk in a room smaller than a tin can? I remember when I found the solution for all of my problems! I was living in a pretty big (2.7 x 3.5m2) room in Reading, and one of my flatmates was moving out, when I noticed his desk was much thinner than mine.. it was a dressing table.  It was beautifully narrow, albeit awfully ugly. When I tactfully swapped my clunker for his narrow commode, I had made enough space not only for a desk, but there was also just enough space to do yoga in front of my desk!  In our Battersea apartment, I bought a wonderfully narrow dressing table and used it as my desk and it worked perfectly and it still does today in my home office. This idea can be transferred to breakfast tables, sofas, hallway tables. Think what piece of furniture in a tight or multi-use space could be a different shape but still function as it needs to, which allows either more space around it or another function (and double bonus if you don’t have to fork out money for it!)

Make your rooms work hard for you.

When space was really tight, I made sure almost every single room had at least 2 functions. For example, my bathroom was also a storage room with a hidden utility, my kitchen was also the dining, guest room and living space and my bedroom was my yoga space, home office, walk-in wardrobe and sleep space. If your rooms are thought out properly, you can make them work harder than just a whole room designed to be an office… that is unless of course, you have the opposite problem where you have too much space and coming up with how to fill the space seems impossible without leaving large patches of emptiness and miniature looking seating arrangements.

Be Tidy.

If you do just one thing – designate a space for certain things. Thats it. You won’t have to think about where something goes ever again and you are more likely to put it where it belongs. I also don’t mean the floor in front of the cupboard (I know people like this). I mean office stuff is always in the top drawer, glasses are always in the cupboard above the sink, bags all belong on the rack and shoes by the front door or in their boxes. Create a system that works for you and makes it easy to put things away. If for example the box for your shoes is the last one behind three others under the bed and you know it takes at least 4 minutes to access it, the likelihood of you putting it away at 1am when you are falling into bed is zero.

INTERIOR DESIGNER’S BUSINESS SCHOOL

Build Anything you can ‘in’.

Yes, I mean built-in wardrobes, built-in shelving, built-in kitchen cupboards build it in! I can hear the naysayers already, yes ok it saves inches, but … it saves inches. When you live in a small space, you need all the space you can get. Building it in, means that when you undoubtedly start over filling everything, it also has more chance of surviving, that’s because if its built-in, its usually more sturdy and intended to last longer. For example, book shelves. We’ve all had one, over stuffed and more crooked than Pisa. Ive never seen a built-in one fail… and in fact I’ve had to rip a few out on building projects, surprised to see that they were still going strong 50 years from the day they were installed.

Use air space and use solid space.

By air I mean ‘in the air’ and by solid I mean use the space under your existing furniture. Obvious examples are using the space above and below your bed. I designed a storage wall for my apartment because my partner has loads of cds and dvds and these fit perfectly into narrow cupboards, which when mixed with deeper cupboards can look a bit more modern. Yes I struggle with the fact that storing things under my bed is bad Feng Shui and I know most of you will think argh, its so 60’s to build cupboards around my bed, but it ultimately is how you design it. Yes it can look crap, or you can make it work for you and it can look great!

Use practical furniture.

Yes unfortunately the word practical must feature here. Lounges with built in storage that convert to beds (seriously ugly, but man how practical is that?) I decided on a bar table in our dining area and bought two stools without backs, so that when they aren’t being used we can keep them under the table. There are some really ugly practical pieces of furniture, but these days with access to the internet and online designers, there really is no excuse, well, unless its a gift, or a hand-me-down, or an heir loom… but there is usually a solution for those too.

I hope that gave you a few ideas to try.

Bedroom Before & After – With tips & Ideas to create beautiful and functional spaces

We all love a good before and after. Many big transformations can take time and are most often unbelievable or difficult to imagine. What could you imagine when looking at the above picture? What would you have created if you were asked to provide a bedroom with lots of storage, a study/home office space with book shelving and a brighten up a long room? (P.S. A wide angle lens for the after photo helps too).

Many see this room as too small, messy or dark and feel they could never make it perfect. Below are descriptions of what I did to the room to make it brighter and more functional. Keep in mind that pretty much everything inside the room went back in there except I changed the desk for a different desk and hid a lot of it in the storage (the bike got stolen within a day of locking it outside … good old London).

1. Built-in storage concealed behind large sliding doors can make a room feel bigger than it really is and save space as the doors don’t open out. Here the high gloss white doors reflect the light from the window, bouncing light around the room.

2. Framing a room can make it feel smaller, so in small spaces its best to keep open shelves to a minimum if you want to make the area feel neat. Instead I created a vertical line with the book shelving, so the room feels taller and more open, especially as previously this end of the room had a tunnel effect.

3. A designer tip is to match your sheets with one of the base or highlight colours of your room. This will make it all look as though its been thought out.

4. Track lights can be really versatile for rooms with multiple uses as you can direct them in different ways. These were the cheapest we could find and they were from IKEA (but still cost over £200!

5. Thinking ahead is really important if you plan on concealing power cables and positioning switches in convenient locations. We reconfigured the lighting in the room by removing the ill placed pendant at the end of the room and positioned the track lights along one wall. We also added lighting above the artworks which doubled as bedside / reading lights.

6. Try integrating minor colours into adjacent rooms to give a natural sense of flow between spaces.


7. Open bookshelves can look really messy, but if you have a lot of books, try containing it to one area and play with organizing them in interesting ways. The open shelving here was set back to make the darker / heavier area with the bookshelves appear less heavy. Looking back now, I could have styled the books better before I took the photo – but you can see it here, fully loaded and very used!

8. Reflective surfaces close to windows can act like mirrors. Light colours help to reflect and make a room feel larger – (but don’t be fooled – high gloss dark colours can also make a room feel larger – just not brighter).

9. Ensure there is enough room for your spaces to function properly. A room can be beautiful to look at, but success comes from getting it practical as well as beautiful.

INTERIOR DESIGNER’S BUSINESS SCHOOL

10.  If you aren’t confident with colour but want to use it, keep the base pallet simple and use colour in accents or decorative items.

Just because you want a room to be beautiful AND functional doesn’t mean you have to compromise. As long as you have a clear direction and a good design to work with, your design project will almost certainly be a success. Many people think that a room project must be complete with all of the decorative items in place or else it wont feel “complete”. As long as you hold onto your vision, even if on a budget, you will be able to keep working towards your goal, working on each item at a time.

And just a few not so great photos of the completed room to prove that it is the same room!

I would love to know what you would have done differently.  Everyone’s personality, requirements and tastes are different, so if I designed the space for you, how would it have ended up?  Email me and let me know.

How to Make a Small Room Feel Huge – Part 1

Having lived in small, shared, inner-city spaces for much of my 20’s, I found lots of ways of making my tiny rooms appear much bigger than they were and more importantly store all of my guitars and sporting equipment like snowboards, climbing gear and bikes out of the way for daily life.

I remember my first room in London was less than 4m2 (13 square feet) and I loved living there so much. It was cosy, with a big window and I even had one of my super tall besties stay with me in that room. I remember he had to sleep diagonally across with his feet in the storage part of my undersized bed. I think I paid £60 a week to live there (ahh memories).

It wasn’t until recently, when I was working with a client who loves large open spaces that I found he wasn’t convinced about something I had proposed, which led me having to make a digital 3D model to explain it. That is when I realised that this stuff can be quite hard to visualise, unless you have experimented with it or seen the results yourself.

So here I am going to share some of my secrets and experience with you. I hope this is useful and helps you to live better in your small space and enjoy your time there so that you too can look back in years to come with fond memories and a few good stories to tell

INTERIOR DESIGNER’S BUSINESS SCHOOL

Top ways to living in a small space and make it feel bigger than it is:

  1. Use reflective surfaces (high gloss) and mirrors. When the surface is super reflective you can even use black as it reflects just like a mirror.
  2. Keep furniture low so that your eye casts over it and doesn’t obscure the room when looking around.
  3. Use sliding doors and pocket sliding doors. These will free up the space in front of cupboards, bathrooms and allow you to use the surface of the wall that the hinged door usually hides.
  4. Keep vertical and horizontal lines going full length or height and use built-in furniture to accentuate vertical or horizontal lines. Our eye naturally follows the lines and when the line stops with an obstruction, our eyes rest on it. In a smaller space, you want your eye to be able to move at least a little bit before it stops dead, so stand back and see what is stopping your eyes from flowing.
  5. Put a reflective surface or mirror on the wall opposite the window. This will bounce light around the room and acts like another light source.

In one of my apartments, I built–in high gloss floor to ceiling cupboards with sliding doors on the wall opposite the window. It made the room feel huge and gave me a practical way of hiding all of my clothes.

Want 5 more tips and some good habits for living in a small space too?

To Walk-in Wardrobe or Not To Walk-in Wardrobe

Since moving into our cute, albeit average, three-bed house in Berkshire I have dreamed of finally having a walk-in wardrobe. The reality is, there are two of us in a three-bedroom house, so it is a possibility and it could potentially suit our lifestyle.

When is it ok to remove a bedroom to use it as a walk-in wardrobe? I always ask myself the following things when deciding this for a client:

  1.   What are my daily habits and will a walk-in wardrobe transform my life and really make a difference?
  2.  Is there any other place or space to fit a semi walk-in wardrobe, rather than taking up a whole room for this necessary and hugely practical life changer?
  3.  What kind of property is it, and what affect on the property price, functionality and overall practicality will taking a bedroom away have?
  4. What do the market and location suggest about this decision?
  5. Who is using this house and how? Who will want to use this house in the future and how?
  6. Am I lowering the property function and value by customising the house to my own needs?

I have transformed bedrooms into walk-in wardrobes for clients in super luxurious properties in Sloane Avenue and other places in London, although I would definitely think twice about doing the same thing in our three bed Berkshire home.

Why? The area we live in is a family area. It is domestic, and people want and need three bedrooms. If my husband and I were considering selling and we had created a home with 2 bedrooms in a house that would have sold for 3 we would have cut ourselves short by a bedroom and might also find it difficult to sell the property.  Our home isn’t in an area where houses are large enough to command a more luxurious lifestyle either.  If our 3 bedder was an apartment in a dense city environment where a 3 bedroom property is usually difficult to lease out and the area was in high demand for young, corporate couples, then I think the choice would have been a lot easier.

INTERIOR DESIGNER’S BUSINESS SCHOOL

I don’t like making long-term or expensive decisions that would lower the functionality of a perfectly good home, even if that functionality is adding to my own life. However, if it transforms my life in a way that nothing else would (ehem, yes we are talking about a wardrobe) then I would look deeper into it.

Currently, I am not at that place where a walk-in wardrobe is going to completely change the way I live, mainly because my clothing and shoe collection is very manageable. To those of you who laugh in the face of house prices based on how many rooms it has (rather than m2), I envy the simplicity.

For now, it looks like I might end up with a brand new wardrobe, about the same size as I currently have, just a bit nicer, more practical and with a few more drawer packs. That is until we build the master suite in the loft, of course…

How To Design A House on A Tight Budget Part 2

To be honest, I could write a book about this topic because there really is so much to consider and so many different ways that you can approach your project that can save you money.

The main thing I do believe though is that you need to have an end goal in mind and that is why the first 4 steps really help get you clear on what it is you want your end result to be. Unless you are clear on this, you will waver, and wavering WILL cost you money and you most probably won’t get the result you were aiming for (except by luck).

Step 5

Plan and layout your rooms. This is so easy these days! Just google kitchen layout or living room layout and get loads of ideas for your own space. Make a decision based on how you live and how you want to live in your newly designed space.

Step 6

This is a little harder unless you have some experience, but you will find out soon enough how much things cost in a home and where to source things. So the next step is to figure out where you are going to spend your money. This is usually where you will get disheartened. Seeing how much things ACTUALLY cost (seriously? £60 for 1 cushion!) – So now is the time to really know where you will spend your money.

If your lifestyle commands that your kitchen is the heart of your home, then that might be a no-brainer, the kitchen is where you spend the money. In a living room, it could be the lounge or the built-in tv wall. If you want to ration it around the house, then that’s ok too, just remember when you see that gorgeous rug that is completely out of budget… Be strong, there will be another rug, just as soft (almost), with a beautiful weave (almost), for a much better price…

Step 7

Spend time sourcing. One of the hardest things you will probably come across is where to find that amazing lamp you just need to complete your room and you can’t find it anywhere. The cool thing about being a designer is that people approach me to show me their products; so I don’t usually have to search for too long as I have good connections with the industry.

INTERIOR DESIGNER’S BUSINESS SCHOOL

For the rest of you, I have shared my Pinterest board, so that you can at least have somewhere to start as this is where I share all of my go-to places and it really is a great resource. Follow it here: https://uk.pinterest.com/jochrobak/interior-designers-resources/?etslf=6966&eq=interior%20designers%20re

If you have any great resources you want to share, please email me or ask to collaborate on my Pinterest board.

Step 8

Get it to a stage where you can live with it, then you can spend the rest of your days tweaking it, evolving it, testing other fun ideas or changing things up for the season.

It is an amaaaazing feeling when you have finished a room to perfection and it is just everything you had imaged it to be and more. Don’t stop until you get to this place. It IS worth it.

One of my followers said she saved loads by buying expensive furniture second hand and repainting it to look new. Let me know how you saved money on your own project?

How to Create a Sophisticated but inviting Living Room

Have you spent ages designing your living room, meticulously choosing pieces, mulling over colours, styles, Pinterest and Houzz photos, then stood back and instead of an “ahhhh” got a “hmmm”?

There is nothing more frustrating when you have an image in your mind when creating your dream space, for it to turn out different to the way it was in your mind. If this has happened to you, you are not alone. The hardest task for any home decorating project is finishing it to a point where you can sit down and enjoy it whilst in the space, rather than looking around and thinking, “something just isn’t right”.

If your brain won’t rest whilst in your space, here is a checklist of things to try which I hope will help you achieve your “ahhhh”.

Have your End Goal In Mind

Whether this is a style, feeling or theme, the first key is to keep every decision in line with your end goal. In the living room example here, my reader had set out to achieve an industrial look but ended up with something quite different. She has now decided on “sophisticated but inviting”. (Which I just fell in love with as a description!)

Be Confident With Your Story

Using this room as an example, you can see that all the pieces are telling a story individually, but they aren’t really communicating together to create one story.

So if we then take the brown leather Chesterfield sofa and the modern light grey sofa and use these as the main pieces to tell our story (I chose these because they are likely to be the most expensive investment pieces here) then they are definitely (in my opinion) speaking the same language of sophisticated. So what is missing?

Create A Focal Point

At the moment there isn’t a main focal point, it could be the artwork, or it could be the Chesterfield, or the gorgeous window, or it could be the fireplace. Ask yourself “where do I want my eyes to rest”? Because the sofas are already achieving my end goal, I would, in this instance for a cost-effective and quick fix, make the sitting space the focal point.

Balance The Colour

The colours already used in the main pieces that tell our story are brown leather, light grey, white and tan. So why did I introduce taupe? Taupe can be used as a neutral and here I used it as a backdrop to the focal point, which creates warmth and hopefully creates something inviting.

Taupe is also a very sophisticated colour, especially the regal undertone of purple, gives it a little bit of a luxurious feeling too. I also know that a “cold” taupe, will play off the existing grey, brown and tan and so I used the white and taupe as the backdrop (not the feature – the sofas and sitting space are the feature).

INTERIOR DESIGNER’S BUSINESS SCHOOL

Balance The Materials

I used the dimples of the Chesterfield to bring in a new item of furniture to replace the wicker chair. The leather in the Chesterfield has a reflective quality and the grey sofa is soft and light which means they are quite contrasting, even if they are telling the same story.

The imaginary piece of furniture I put in to replace the wicker chair was my idea for a piece that would tie these two pieces of furniture together whilst balancing the materials in the room. The dimples play off the Chesterfield, and the colour ties the grey and brown together (it’s a “cold” red undertone). I tried to stay consistent with the language of the style so it is still sophisticated and inviting.

I also added the metallic sisal rug for texture underfoot and the reflective high gloss table to bounce the light around the room. I also added sheer “cold” brown curtains for softness.

Balance The Furniture

The hardest thing to do, in my opinion, is to balance the furniture and house décor to tie it all together. I replaced the coffee table as it was still part of the urban industrial phase and brought in an inviting but sophisticated table instead. The finish as described above helped bounce the light and the white colour was to balance the white backdrop and bring its elements into the focal point.

I also added artwork with the same tones now in the room (cold purples, browns and reds), a white mother of pearl mirror and the Kelly Hoppen house jewellery on the coffee table to bounce the colours around.

What do you think? What would you have done differently? Do you think it is now sophisticated and inviting? Let’s wait and see what my reader will do (hopefully we will get an update soon!)

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.

INTERIOR DESIGNER’S BUSINESS SCHOOL

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.