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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.

The Easiest Way To Save Money On Your Renovation or Building Project

So you have decided to make some changes to your home or have decided to build a new one. How exciting! You are probably reading everything you can to find about renovating projects or watching loads of TV shows or reading lots of magazines to get ideas. That’s actually a pretty good idea. Getting clear on what you actually want is the easiest way to save money on your renovation or building project!

If you didn’t hire a designer or opted for the cheaper alternative at the beginning (DIY or technician) or even worse, letting your builder deal with the design and detailing, you might be up for some nasty surprises when you fit your final bill at the end of your building project (if you get that far).

As you can imagine builders have their own agenda (nothing against builders here) they just aren’t designers and they just want to get on with the job and finish it to the best of their ability and make a pretty decent profit on the job and have a happy customer. There is nothing wrong with that. Where many innocent renovators come into problems is when they start asking their builder to do something different than what was agreed at the beginning (all that time ago when you showed him that picture).

Not everyone can visualize what your project will look like. Visualization is like a muscle and many clients are only just starting to use that muscle when they embark on their first building or renovation project. What you want to avoid happening is to start making decisions and rearranging things when the builder is on site. (“oh just move that wall by 10cm to the left and we could fit a bigger shower”).

Testing ideas with a designer and playing around on a drawing, might cost you a couple of hundred pounds before the project gets on site. Testing ideas in reality when your project is on site can cost you thousands.

This is because the builder has a program that he is working to. He also worked this out, before he started setting up his men or started digging those holes. He knew how much your project would cost based on the information you, your designer, architect or technician gave him when you agreed a price. His men or subcontractors are being paid either per hour or per job depending on what was agreed. There is a contingency sum allowed for in your contract (there should be!) but don’t be fooled, this isn’t for you to make changes. There are so many unknown site conditions and so many things can affect your building project (like the cost of metal or oil), that you will want to keep this sum for just that – the unknown. Any design changes (even “little ones”) might push back other jobs (electricians have to wait for the plaster to dry which should have been completed according to the schedule and now you are paying them to just stand around).

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Most builders are also pretty booked up, so your changes could quite possibly be causing them delays on other projects.

So as nice a guy as your builder is, he will charge you for the work and rightfully so. Moving walls or adding drainage in the wrong order on a building site is a right faff! So taking the time to get the design right, before you get on site is worth its weight in gold.

A good designer or architect should go out of their way to ensure that their client knows exactly what they are getting. Often this will require 3D drawings, detailed explanations, to-ing and frow-ing with design ideas and options and working out details to get them just right. A technician isn’t trained in design, so don’t forget if you hire a technician, don’t expect them to go out of their way to present ideas in a way a designer would. That isn’t what you hired them to do. A technician is a great choice to save money at building regulations stage if you have a very clear design already worked out or you are experienced and knowledgeable about building projects. But don’t expect a “beautifully considered and thoughtful design, because (98% of the time) you will get a bog standard extension.

There is no guarantee that working everything out before you get on site will avoid any problems or mean that things won’t need changing on site. Although a good, experienced designer or architect will ensure that many common and foreseeable issues have been dealt with and they should also ensure their client knows exactly what they are getting.

And don’t let an architect or builder treats you like an idiot. A good designer will ensure his client is informed and knows exactly what is going on. This can also help catch mistakes early or avoid mistakes altogether (the more eyes the better!) as things just can and do go wrong on building sites… like building your house back to front or in the wrong spot… oh yes, I have seen it happen.

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

3 Things You Should Tackle Around The Home in 1 Day

I recently visited one of my favourite local places when out and about– a beautiful, abandoned Manor House called Aldermaston Court. It made me feel sad to see that the beautiful building is falling into disrepair, but it also made me think about how important maintenance is to our buildings. Within a few years, a building can really start to degrade.

At Aldermaston Court, just being close to any window, I could feel the odour of the internal spaces rotting away. So my visit to that wonderful old grand building that I dream of working on one day inspired me to write today’s post about house maintenance.

The reality is that some of these things will need the help of a strong person, a registered plumber gas safe person or electrician or even someone with a harness and possibly a ladder. If you have lived in a property for 10 years and you have never looked at any of the external House Maintenance issues it is time to do a visual inspection and then set aside a day or book in that handyman to help. Keeping a house maintained is important but it can also be dangerous so don’t forget to hire help when jobs are too dangerous or you don’t know what you are doing especially at height or when it comes to gas and electrics.

External House Maintenance

Don’t underestimate the importance of external maintenance. The reason why houses go into disrepair is because they aren’t looked after. It can cost you much much, more in the long run to leave a problem unattended to and the structure of your home is pretty important and also there is the argument for street appeal. If you have a home, why wouldn’t you want it to look nice? The main areas to focus are:
– your roof (clearing gutters, fixing loose tiles, flashing and making sure there are no areas where water is getting in).
– Windows, doors and penetrations (checking the seals are intact, clearing any vents and making sure they are working properly, washing the windows and doors is included here).
– Drainage. This includes opening up manhole covers, gullies and rainwater pipes and checking to see their condition. Just a hint, there shouldn’t be any debris or plants growing down there, they should be clear and empty.

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Internal House Maintenance

Is there a part of the house that needs repainting? If you can do it in a day, just do make the effort, it is worth loving that space again. It might even motivate you to get some new bed sheets and spruce up a spare room that has been collecting junk for longer than you like to admit…

Internal maintenance can include but is not limited to:

  • Unclogging sinks and drains and fixing dripping taps
  • Doing a thorough clean, removing stains on tiles or metal appliances
  • Cleaning large appliances including the trays and shelves in the ovens.
  • Repairing the newel posts on stairs
  • Sticking down the lino where it has come loose
  • Replacing light bulbs (with energy efficient LED ones – try 3000K warm white with a 65-degree angle for an average height room).
  • Checking the radiators and boiler.
  • Fixing fuses, wires and broken sockets.
Washing, Ironing and Linen

This includes pairing socks, hand washing the growing pile of delicate items, repairing broken items, hemming, cutting fixing, ironing, folding, sorting and purging. Imagine if all of the clothes in the house were in their right place, folded or hanging beautifully, clean and dry and looking dapper. It’s a big day tackling the laundry and I know that more often than not it can be a 2 day affair to get the above list totally completed, but I have managed to complete everything but it is true you will probably need the help of a sunny, dry day (so make the most of it anyone here in the UK… and probably Seattle, I heard you weather is on parr).  I added this because clothing and linen can take up so much space in a home, its heavy and can be quite toxic (if you haven’t read my post about how your home can harm you for Empowered Wellness and Living Magazine, you can read it here).

We all have better things to do on the weekends than spend a full day cleaning, especially when we work so hard during the week, but don’t underestimate how important taking just one day to tackle one of these is for the health and normal function of your home.  If you have done your maintenance and just love that feeling of getting things done, why not opt for a spring clean as well!  You can read my blog post about how A Spring Clean Can Change Your Life.

If you are ever in Berkshire, go and visit Aldermaston Court.  The grounds are really beautiful and it’s still wild and wonderful.  The building has just been abandoned almost like a scary movie, items all left in place when looking through the windows…

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!

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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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Why Black Can Sometimes Feel Light and Make A Space Feel Larger

Yes, in design we usually use black to make things stand out, bring them closer visually, to create a luxury feel or to create contrast. But black should be treated differently to other dark colours, especially in an interior.

So how can you use black in an interior to make a space feel larger?

Black actually gives you the impression or feeling of more space or infinite space, but don’t be fooled other dark colours don’t do this. Having a husband who is a an online guitar teacher and full time musician, I have many a random black painted wall in my home (and have done, ever since we moved in together). So I have had a long lasting relationship with black! (I sit here writing this morning’s blog post from my bed in my unfinished / un-renovated bedroom with random black walls set up for recordings).

Lets use the combined living / dining / kitchen from the Battersea Flat as an example. In this room, if we had used any other colour, light or dark, we might have accentuated the tunnel like effect of the room. Notice that the black units of the kitchen are there, but instead of feeling overpowering, they just fade away.

It was difficult to photograph a small space, so we used a wide angle lens when taking the photos, which helps explain what I mean a little, because it gives you the feeling of the black “surface”, which kind of disappears when you are in the room.

In this instance I used high gloss black cabinets to bounce the light deeper into the space too, as it was a long narrow room that had lots of functions! The high gloss black also looked white during most of the day (say what?) Yes! The high gloss black works like a mirror, especially with direct light on it. In the area where it was close to the window, the whole window ended up being reflected again, deeper into the room, which created an even brighter space, especially during the day.

The depth that black can add is amazing. It tricks our eyes into feeling the space goes on forever and subconsciously helps you feel as though there is more space than there really is. I also find black to be really warming and calming. It is a really special “colour” to use in the home, but more than any other “colour” you will need to really consider the following when using black at home:

Texture (rough or smooth) – this will be extremely visible with black.

Finish (high gloss or matt) – this will make the end result look as though it is absorbing the space or reflecting it.

Quantity (focal point / accent or surface) – The black will fade away or draw your eye to something specific.

I have found many people feel really confident to use white at home, but I want to give you another very useful tool to add to your repertoire as I know you are interested in interiors and design. So start to test black with natural timbers, monochrome or muted colour schemes to start building your confidence to get to know black, rather than to avoid it. You really are missing out on a lot!

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The photo on the right is one of the “work-in-progress” photos that you rarely get to see as most designers won’t share them (and I have to admit I was reluctant to as well!)  But this photo really shows how black reacts in different ways.  Look at the black TV (a high gloss black) and how different it reacts to the black textured mat on the wall behind or the soft sheen, texted black on the floor.

If you want to see some black interiors that I think have been created successfully, check out my Pinterest board called “Nice dark interiors”

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.

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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.

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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.