All posts by simon

Storage Design  

Well-planned storage adds aesthetically to your scheme and allows you to keep your beautiful space free of clutter. Without adequate and suitable storage, a room becomes disorganised chaos. But there’s more to storage design than you might first imagine, and the process begins at the very start of your design journey.  

The difference between storage and display 

Everything in your home has its rightful place. You will have prized possessions and visually pleasing objects that you want to display. Other items may be essential but not in themselves attractive. Storage is the space that you create to house the essential goods. Display, on the other hand, draws attention to objects that contribute to design.  

Where to begin with storage design 

As part of the initial interior design process, you will identify exactly how you use a space and what you need from its design. You should build storage into this conversation. Write a list of every activity that happens in a room and all the associated items that you need to house. Where will you keep your sheet music and the children’s art materials? What about those beautiful champagne flutes and your treasured vinyl collection? How do you want to organise and access items? What do you want to have on display?  

Consider storage alongside your lighting scheme 

If your budget allows, install integral lighting into your storage. It will help you to find things, and it adds a layer of atmospheric lighting into the room. If your storage combines display, add accent lighting to highlight the features of your showpieces.  Fit architectural tubes to the tops of freestanding storage to illuminate an area. Make these decisions alongside your lighting plan so that you can identify your wiring requirements. 

Built-in or freestanding? 

Should you choose bespoke built-in cabinetry or freestanding pieces? Built-in options will form part of your integral architecture and should be factored into your initial design plan. Built-in storage is generally more costly than freestanding pieces or customised ready-made systems, but if you can accommodate bespoke into your budget, it’s worth every penny.  

The joys of built-in cabinetry  

The advantages of built-in storage include: 

  1. It is designed specifically for your storage needs

Whatever storage and display requirements you have, you can satisfy them with bespoke cabinetry. Use your space and needs to determine your options. Think about how you can create flexible storage and use every inch of space effectively. Where possible, opt for shelves that can move up and down and drawers with dividers.  

  1. It can improve the proportions of a room

If a room lacks the symmetry that you crave, there’s an opportunity to create it with cabinetry. When designing your space, consider how you would like to improve the room’s proportions and what your storage needs are. You can build cabinetry to streamline a room and add balance in line with the grid. Entire walls can house concealed cupboards, drawers and shelving. With a little imagination, there’s usually a practical storage solution that will enhance the room’s architectural aesthetic.  

  1. It contributes to your overall design scheme

When you have free rein with your cabinetry you can have storage that compliments your design scheme precisely. Take the opportunity to add colour, texture and juxtaposition with special touches such as: 

  • Leather, vellum or fabric door panels 
  • Horn handles 
  • Dark stained wood with mother-of-pearl inlay 

Remember that the material you choose for your storage will dictate the tone of the room. Pale ash will render a quite different mood to heavy oak, for example.  

  1. It can combine storage with display

Cabinetry can both show and conceal, so think about your display needs as well as your storage requirements when commissioning the work. You might want integral shelving or alcoves with integrated lighting. Think about the things you would like to hide too. Built-in furniture can camouflage ugly wiring and AV equipment.  

The case for free-standing storage 

If you don’t have the budget for bespoke, there are plenty of good free-standing designs on the high street. Also, consider the look that you want to achieve. Built-in cabinetry offers a minimalist style while freestanding pieces have a more bohemian and laid-back feel.  

Although you can have freestanding storage commissioned, there’s often no need. You can customise ready-made items by painting or staining them, replacing handles and adding lighting. You may even be able to alter door panels and introduce additional materials.  

Function and form 

Whether you choose built-in or freestanding storage, it should fit with your overall scheme. There’s no place for a purely functional item in design. It will compromise your entire look. Equally, storage that puts form before function will be a constant source of frustration. Identify the functional needs of your storage design first. You can then incorporate materials, colours and textures that build on your scheme. 

Door Design —Making an Entrance 

Doors are so much more than an architectural necessity, yet their potential is often overlooked. They are a place to play with textural contrast and scale. In a house or flat with few architectural features, doors present an opportunity to add character and make statements.  

The role of the front door 

Your front door gives visitors and passers-by the first impression of your home. It’s a critical fixture both in terms of its style and the level of security that it offers. If your budget allows, hire a designer or architect to create a concept door. Buying off-the-shelf will limit you to conventional sizes. It’s hard to make a statement with a standard sized door. The more you can scale the dimensions up, the greater the impact.  

Ditch convention 

Doors don’t have to be hung on hinges or made of wood. Think of doors as decorative panels that break up the large expanse of a wall. They are integral to your scheme. Every room needs an element of surprise and doors are the perfect canvas for playful design. There are endless ways to create a bespoke look.  

Here are some ideas: 

Replace traditional hinges with a door that slides, pivots, revolves or concertinas 

Cover the surface with leather or a specialist plaster finish 

Add panels of vellum, fabric or marquetry inlays 

Let light in with glass or go industrial with metal 

Create textural contrast  

Doors have more appeal and impact when they are a balance of contrasts. Imagine leather panels within a wrought iron frame or patinated metal door furniture with contemporary dark-stained oak. Pair matt with glossy, smooth with textured and light with dark.  

Treat door furniture like jewellery 

Handles, knobs and knockers add another layer of texture and visual contrast. They are the finishing touches that speak your style — the jewellery of the door.  

generally choose custom-made door furniture but there are endless off-the-shelf options in a range of materials, such as: 

Metals —bronze, brushed steel, nickel, wrought iron and brass 

Natural — rope, leather, wood and horn 

Perspex and faceted glass.  

For maximum impact, choose door furniture that emphasises, shape, textural contrast and proportion.  

Here are some combinations that I have used in my clients’ homes: 

  • The striking silver of Xavier Lebée’s Versailles Bagatelle handles against dark black stained double doors. The oversized semi-circular handles unite as a piece of art when closed.  
  • Custom-made purple faceted glass handles that add the perfect element of surprise and playfulness. 
  • Texturally-rich silver-plated pull plates set in silken-smooth black oak doors. The oblong plates reflect my banners and echo the vertical grid of a room.  


I love to replace stand sized doors with the tallest doors possible. It adds impact to a room of any size. If the space lacks height, take the door right up to the ceiling. It will give the illusion of a taller room.  

Slide a glimpse 

Hallways can look quite utilitarian. Their multiple nondescript doors hide the delights of the rooms beyond. Giving some thought to your door design can switch things up and turn the mundane into the inviting. Oversizing is, of course, an option but you can take it further. Sliding screens make an elegant backdrop for hall furniture and wall art. Imagine the lure of rich red leather panels set within dark wooden frames that hint at the rooms behind them.  


A door can be dressed in any way that you desire. It can scream your style or meld into the background. Whatever design you choose, make sure that it adds to the overall look of your room. It could be the icing on the cake. 



How to Approach Your Lighting Design 

There’s no escaping it — lighting matters. Getting it wrong can drastically impact on the look and function of a space. To get the most from your lighting design, you need to understand the planning process and the different types of lighting.  

Where to begin with your lighting design 

It’s important to shape your lighting scheme in the initial stages of your design plan. Rewiring and moving power points is a messy and disruptive business that needs to happen before you decorate and dress your room.  

Here’s a step-by-step approach to making those critical lighting plan decisions: 

Decide on your furniture layout first. The location of your sofas, tables, display cabinets and kitchen fixtures will determine where you need sources of light. 

Know where you want to display artwork and other focal features. Draw up elevations of each wall to determine where to place lighting to complement and highlight these pieces.  

If you are drawing the scheme up yourself, photocopy floor plans and elevations. You can then use highlighter pens to show the location of beams of light, their direction and breadth. Use different colour pens for each type of lighting. It will help you to keep track of your intentions.  

Work out where you need washes of light and where sharper, more directional beams are appropriate. Mark it all on the plan.  

Remember that your lighting scheme is part of your entire design. Consider it in relation to the textures, layers, look and feel of the space.  

Types of lighting 

We use our homes for a range of purposes throughout the day. Each activity brings its own mood and functional needs in terms of light. It’s essential to understand types of light and what they can achieve before settling on your scheme. Knowing how to harness both light and shadow will open up a myriad of ideas and opportunities to make your space shine.  

General lighting 

People tend to gravitate towards positioning the main source of light in the centre of the room. This will actually throw you into shadow. The trick is to use indirect light to create comfortable light where it is needed. Direct, downward light is unflattering and hard on the eyes, so try to avoid it.  

You can harness indirect light in so many ways, but here are a few ideas: 

Strategically place wall and floor washers around the room. Aim for arcs of light, softened with sand-blasted diffusers.  

Add LED shadow-gap lighting to the skirting on stairs to gently lead the way.  

Use hidden architectural tubes to softly light the space between tall pieces of furniture, such as bookcases and armoires. Not being able to see where the light is coming from adds an air of intrigue.  

Task lighting 

A well-designed home is lit so that each room is as functional as it is beautiful. You might want to work at the dining table, read cookbooks in the kitchen or apply make-up in your bedroom. Whatever the task, you will want to put light on the situation. Position spotlights where you need them. When you’re not using the light for a task, you can dim it to add drama to the room. 

Mood lighting 

Layering is as important in your lighting scheme as it is in the physical design of your room. It’s impossible to relax and unwind under the glare of harsh, bright unchangeable light. Building layers of mood lighting invites relaxation. A conversation around the dinner table is so much easier in soft light. It’s the gentle glow of the lamps in your living room that help you to sink into your sofa and indulge in a film.  

One of the easiest ways to achieve mood lighting is to incorporate a 5-amp circuit within your room. This gives you control of your lamps from one switch, allowing you to dim them to suit the occasion. Choose soft lines and tactile or natural linen shades for a warm, cosy feel. Add structural elements with traditional, tall standing table lamps or floor lamps.  

Don’t forget that you can add non-electrical sources of light to enhance mood too. Think candles, oil lamps and the dancing light of a fire.  

Accent lighting 

Your carefully juxtaposed surfaces will take on a new dimension when accented with light. LED uplighters will turn black matt floorboards into a bottomless chasm against textured metallic gold plaster walls. Cabinet spotlights will enhance the textures of your display objects. The best lighting will highlight every detail and enliven the senses. Cast tight beams onto small objects and artwork. Bathe walls and large pictures in wide swathes of light.  

The shining star 

Every room needs a bit of ‘wow’, and that applies to lighting as well as that star piece of furniture or artwork. The focus of decorative lighting is its beauty as an object, not the lighting itself.  

Imagine the glory of: 

  • A chandelier above your spiral staircase 
  • An installation of hand-blown glass baubles above your dining table 
  • A sculptural white bronze standing lamp with a sumptuous silk shade 

The light may not come from the piece itself, but from other sources of light washing over its form.  

Pulling it all together 

Incorporating multiple circuits into your lighting scheme will give you flexibility and controllability.  

You might want to have separate circuits for: 

  • Lamps 
  • Task lights 
  • Wall and pendant lights 
  • Low-level lighting 
  • Highlighting artwork and other star pieces 

A space is so much more dynamic when you can use light in different combinations and at varying intensities. Consider budgeting for a pre-set system that fades circuits in and out to suit various moods and times of the day. 

Take inspiration from the places that you visit. Bars, hotels and restaurants all manipulate light to enhance your sense of calm, relaxation and wellbeing. Notice what makes you feel good in these spaces and apply the concepts to your home lighting design. 





How to Plan Furniture Placement in a Room  

Furniture serves several purposes in a home. Most of it will be functional on some level — a sofa to sit on, a bed to sleep in, a cabinet to store things in — but some pieces may be more about their form. As with every other aspect of design, furniture contributes to the whole scheme. Where you place it in a room will impact on the overall symmetry, balance, juxtaposition and sense of scale. We’ve all walked into a room that feels simply perfect. Everything is in its rightful place. But what is it that makes a room layout work?  

Let’s take a look. 

Where to begin 

Most people naturally want to position the largest items in a room first and work out from there. This can certainly result in a functional arrangement, but you will gain more impact if you begin with your star pieces.  

Where will your great grandfather’s beautiful desk go? Or that vintage star parquet cabinet? What about the pair of antique chairs upholstered in textured velvet? Consider where they are best placed for maximum impact. Can you get a glimpse of them from nearby rooms or windows? 

Using the grid 

The grid should always be at the centre of your furniture placement. Position key pieces to reinforce the horizontal and vertical planes. Tall cabinets and high-backed chairs will emphasise height (the vertical). Extra-long dining tables, sofas, cabinets and coffee tables will add width (the horizontal).  


As part of your initial design plan, you will have divided your space into zones for the different activities that happen in a room. Your furniture will play a large part in marking and creating those zones. In an open plan living, dining, kitchen area, for example, the position of furniture can subtly mark out invisible boundaries. Allow enough space between pieces to create flow within and between each zone.  

Spatial planning 

You absolutely must plan your furniture layout using a scaled plan to achieve the best results. It’s easy to stifle your imagination with visions of how things used to be laid out. Empty both the room and your mind and begin with a new canvas. Cut out scaled representations of your furniture and play with them on the plan. It will really help you to visualise space and how things fit together.  

A spatial plan will help you to establish if your inventory of furniture will fit into the room and contribute to the scheme. As you look at the plan, think about all the activities that you do in the room and how you will live your life around the furniture. If there’s that one awkward piece that only fits in a certain spot, why not send it off to auction? Replace it with something that fits in terms of dimensions, function and style.   

If you struggle to picture a room in 3D when working with a 2D plan, consider having elevations drawn up. They will help you to judge the proportions of different furniture in relation to each other as well as the room. You can also use them to plan your lighting scheme. Elevations are costly but they will save you the price of making mistakes.  

Measuring up 

It may sound like an obvious statement, but make sure that each piece of furniture will fit into the room. Guestimates result in disaster. Dimensions aren’t only about placing the object in the room. Can you fit it through the front door, take it round that tight bend in the hallway or get it up the stairs? If you’re making physical alterations to a space, will that have an impact?  

Look and feel 

The perfect room contains an eclectic mix of furniture from a variety of sources and they will all be strategically placed. High-street staples are juxtaposed against iconic design pieces; flea-market bargains against treasured heirlooms. Like your wardrobe, a room in your home should tell the story of who you are. Each piece of furniture has its own place and its own role to play.  

Always refrain from buying all your furniture from one favourite store or designer. Your home will become a sterile showroom. It’s the mix of inexpensive, vintage and investment pieces that make a home feel real.  

When putting pieces together, consider their individual character. We tend to think of furniture as either masculine or feminine, introvert or extrovert. Are the lines minimalist and structural or shapely and alluring? Is the form bold and dramatic or understated and subtle? Study every piece. What mood does it bring to the room?  

The big picture 

There are a lot of elements to think about when it comes to furniture placement. Zoning, the grid, spatial planning and mood are all critical considerations that should be explored in relation to each other.  They are pieces of the same jigsaw puzzle, working together to create balance and harmony. 




Walls and Ceilings

I love to create visual surprise in my design. Walls lend themselves brilliantly to this. You can let your imagination loose on their vast planes, making them a quiet backdrop or a fascinating focal point. Ceilings, on the other hand, aren’t for showing off unless you have a historic house with fabulous architectural detailing.

Let’s look at the things to consider when choosing a finish for walls and ceilings, and explore some of my favourite treatment options.

Background or Foreground?

Before you commit to a wall finish, it’s essential that you know what role you want the walls to play in the overall scheme. Will they be the backdrop or the foreground? Have a clear idea from the outset about what you plan to hang on the walls or display in front of them.

You don’t want a star piece of artwork to compete with its backdrop, or to lose your taupe linen sofa against walls of a similar colour.


Your budget should guide your choices in all aspects of design. Don’t overspend on wall treatments at the expense of the rest of your scheme. If you covet a stunning gold wax finish but the cost is prohibitive, consider using it on just one wall. It will create drama when set against a room of otherwise understated walls.

Choosing a Finish

Once you have set your budget and know what role you want your walls to perform, you can explore different finishes.


If you want to keep costs down, painted plaster walls or brick can be a wonderful backdrop. Choose your colour carefully — remember your walls are just one element of your scheme.

They should be the same tone as your dominant texture. Test colour samples against every wall in the room, and at various times of the day. It’s amazing how a colour can change when viewed in different lights.

It’s also important to consider the quality of the surfaces that you intend to paint. Light directed at walls will highlight scars and imperfections, so either plan to have the walls skimmed first or choose soft lighting that diminishes flaws. Lined paper or fabric might be a better alternative to painted walls if the plaster is in very poor condition.

Specialist plaster

Walls are a playground for adding texture, depth and colour, and plaster is the perfect medium for creating it. You can choose so many finishes and each one is bespoke.

Here are some of the many possibilities:
• White-waxed plaster — creates a scrumptious, soft finish with a look of fresh cream.
• Floor-to-ceiling vertical ribbed plaster — adds height to any room.
• Pigmented plaster — for soft, blended tones of colour.
• Large-scale textural pattern — a more subtle and softer alternative to patterned
paper, offering great depth.
• Stone-like textural effect — a perfect matt backdrop for the warm glow of brass or
the shine of chrome.
• Highly-polished or lacquered — adds an element of surprise with its reflective finish.
• Smooth plaster with a gold-plaster wax — silky, precious and glamorous.

Mix contrasting plaster finishes for an added layer of juxtaposition. Take a matt-black stone effect wall alongside a lacquered oriental red wall, for example. Each enhances the other’s qualities.

Plaster finishes have grown in popularity, so there are many specialists to choose from and prices have dropped in recent years. Make sure you choose a contractor that understands your commission requirements and has the skills to achieve your desired look. If in doubt, the Italians are still the best in the trade.


Tiles come in all shapes, sizes, textures, colours, materials and price ranges. In smaller spaces, such as bathrooms, steam rooms and cloakrooms, they’re an ideal choice for adding detail. By their nature, tiles work well for emphasising the grid. Use differently textured tiles together for bands or stripes of contrast. One of my favourite combinations is reflective mosaic tiles paired with roughly-textured stone tiles. Follow the horizontal plane to make a room appear bigger and the vertical plane to add height.

If you want to create drama in a bathroom or hallway, stone and composite tiles are great contenders. Classic, luxurious marble provides a wonderful contrast against contemporary bathroom furniture or sculptures. Chiselled stone offers depth, texture and a modern twist to a traditional finish.

Tiles can be used as creatively as your imagination allows. I’ve had great success creating
feature walls using mother-of-pearl tiles and wood, and also mirrored glass and stone tiles.
Grids or strips of contrasting metallic and matt tiles work beautifully too.


Probably the most versatile material of all, wood is stunning in its natural planed state, lacquered, painted, gilded or waxed. Fully clad walls and ceilings add an organic, warm and relaxed feel to a space that will accommodate modern or vintage furniture. Painting the wood can soften the scheme. Use whitewashed softwood for a contemporary rustic look.

Aside from cocooning a room in warmth and richness, panelling offers a brilliant camouflage for doors, allowing the space to read as one. In a home with no original features, detailing on panelled walls can create interesting interior architecture.


Charming, genteel and masculine. Leather can look stunning in libraries, home cinemas and studies. It’s a unique material that develops beauty and character with age. The ruggedly handsome patina of distressed leather walls behind an aged oak desk exudes warmth and sophistication. For an added layer of detail, choose light-coloured stitching on dark, rich leather panels.

Ceiling Considerations

Many people automatically assume that a ceiling should be a solid shade of white. In many cases, this can let a room down. The contrast of a white ceiling against bold coloured or textured walls can be jarring. Instead, the ceilings should blend in tone with the wall finish. For example, if you have textured plaster walls, the ceiling will look more harmonious and modern if you paint it in a tone that matches the walls. If you want to create more light in a room, choose shades of white for both the walls and ceilings.

Flooring Ideas and Considerations

The floor is one of the largest planes of a room and the foundation of the whole scheme. It
can be tempting to make decisions about flooring before anything else, but I always advise
against it. You want to know the colours and textures of your furniture, walls and soft
furnishings first, and then tie it all together with a floor treatment that fits.

Choose something that has lasting appeal. The latest trend will date quickly and replacing any kind of flooring is costly and disruptive. Your floor should be functional and practical. Its job is to support the space, not dominate it.

I love to create an extra layer of textural contrast and interest with juxtaposed floor
treatments, but I never make them the star of the show.

Here are some flooring ideas and things to consider:

Hard Floors

Stone, wood, concrete, brick and even glass offer a plethora of colour, pattern and texture
choices. Your options will depend on the mood and look that you want to create and the
maintenance requirements. You wouldn’t choose a cream deep pile carpet for a high-traffic
area, for example. Also, think about how you want your flooring to feel under bare feet.
Brick looks wonderfully rich, warm and rustic but feels rough. A silk carpet, on the other
hand, will indulgently caress your feet with every step.


A stone floor is both durable and luxurious. It’s the perfect partner for a minimalist interior.
Stone is cold underfoot but with underfloor heating installed it offers a sumptuous warmth that radiates trapped heat. Be mindful that stone is absorbent and can stain easily. It must
be sealed well, especially in rooms where spillages are likely.


A natural wood floor is practical, warm, versatile and provides a more laid-back alternative
to stone. It’s different to many other treatment options in that renovation is easy. You can
change its look more than once by:

• Sanding and oiling or varnishing it to enhance its natural beauty
• Staining it to change its tone and character
• Painting it to compliment your scheme

Soft Floors
Soft flooring can completely transform the look of a room and it’s often less expensive than
hard flooring. There are so many piles, textures, weaves and materials to have fun with.

Natural fibres

Natural fibre matting, such as coir and seagrass provide a beautifully textured backdrop to
almost any room or style. Jute and sisal can achieve a similar feel to wood with a smaller
price tag.


Carpet went out of fashion for a while, but it is enjoying a renaissance. Bedrooms, in
particular, benefit from its sensuality and cosiness. A luxurious silk or velvet carpet, for
example, exudes glamour and feels scrumptious underfoot. If you want to ground a space
with comfort and deaden noise, opt for a deep woollen shag pile. For a more architectural
look that’s Art Deco in style, go for something smooth.


Although expensive to install, leather ages beautifully and is wonderfully tactile. It scratches and marks easily but that’s also part of its charm. There’s nothing more unique than the natural patina of leather as it matures and wears.

Mixing It Up

If you want to build character and interest, introduce both hard and soft elements into your
flooring scheme. With such a large plane to play with, there is room to create drama with
juxtaposing colours and textures. A word of caution though, put practicality ahead of
making grand statements. The wrong statement can destroy your scheme

Borders, runners and panels

You can add accents of pattern or colour and striking textural contrast to a scheme with
borders, runners and panels. They also help with zoning a room and place emphasis on the
grid. Runners draw your eye to follow a path while panels, like a rug, can create a focal

There’s no end to the possible mix of materials, textures and colours that you can combine
to create panels and runners. Here are a few combinations that I have used with clients over the years:

To create a focal space:
• A cream-ribbed silk and linen carpet bordered with red embossed leather floating on
stone tiles or masculine black wooden boards.
• A pebble resin panel inlayed within dense polished basalt tiles.
• White-lacquered timber set in a natural wooden floor.

To pave the way:
• A runner of black reclaimed boards set within polished limestone or old stone tiles.
• A bathroom with white marble tiles and a Villi-glass inlay that draws you to a deep
and luxurious bath.

The Perfect Finish

One critical thing to factor in when installing a new floor, especially when mixing materials,
is the skills and experience of your installation team. Always ask to see a portfolio of similar
work before entering into a contract. The cuts and finish must be perfect, or your eye will be drawn to the poor craftsmanship rather than the beauty of your intended flooring scheme.

Architectural Features and the Design Process

Unless you’re having a house built to your specification, you will inherit the architectural
features of your home — its core structure. In a period property, you are likely to adopt
fireplaces, ceiling roses, doors and windows that juxtapose beautifully with even the most
contemporary design scheme. Other existing features can be less desirable. Built-in
cabinetry that has been ‘modernised’, radiators, light switches and sockets are common
offenders. In a listed property, some features will be protected by law, so you have to work
with them. Others might appear immovable but are not.

Whatever the core structure of your home, it’s important to assess:
• What should stay
• What should go
• How to work sympathetically with existing structures.

The boring essentials

Before diving into your decoration scheme, examine the invisible ‘underwear’ of the house
— the heating, plumbing and electrics. This is also the time for addressing any underlying
structural problems identified by the surveyor. While it can be frustrating to pile money into these unseen features of a house, it’s a crucial process. You want to make sure the bones of your property can support the flesh and clothing that will adorn it later.


If you’re installing a home security system or an integrated audio-visual system, do it at the
start of the project. The last thing you want is to be chasing channels in walls and burying
cables in the floor after you have wallpapered and laid your flooring.

The same goes for lighting. This element of design can’t be an afterthought. The most
beautifully decorated room will look flat and dull in poor lighting. The more circuits you
have, the greater your options for creating mood and ambience with different sources of
light. If you can afford it, hiring a lighting consultant is a great investment. The knowledge
that they impart to you will serve you for years to come, on this project and the next.

Switches and power points

Establish your basic furniture layout before deciding on the location of your switches and
sockets. This will allow you to identify where you are likely to want:

• Electrical equipment such as televisions, AV systems and lamps
• Dimmer switches — the more you have, the more control you have with lighting
• Floor sockets – very handy but once installed, there’s no going back

Heating systems, plumbing and radiators

Assess whether your heating system needs updating. Does the plumbing need re-routing?
Do you want to reposition radiators or replace them? Existing heating features may limit
your design choices further down the line. Weigh your design needs against the practical
and financial implications of making significant changes.


Doors are the most dominant joinery feature of any room. I’m a big fan of up-scaling them
at every opportunity. It breaks up wall space with a great statement. Trying to lose the
features of a door within a wall takes away the strength of the interior architecture. Tall,
imposing doors create impact in any size room. A huge floor-to-ceiling door can make low
ceilings appear taller. Consider how you want to hang the door — it could slide, concertina,
revolve or pivot.

Think about the materials that you use within the door and frame. If you have original
period doors, you will probably want to restore them to their full potential. If, however,
your home lacks original features there’s no limit to the materials that you can use in your
door. Every door is an opportunity to bring texture and layering into a room. You could clad
glass or metal in leather or add fabric, paper or marquetry inlays. Contrasting materials
really bring a door to life. They excite and surprise. A single door handle can change the
whole feel of a room and can offer a tactile element to your design.


Adding or replacing windows is a costly affair, so explore your window-dressing options first. You can often improve window proportions with a clever choice of curtains or blinds.

In period properties, the windows are key architectural features. Modern replacements will
likely detract from the historic beauty of the house. Sympathetic repair and restoration is
always a better choice. Insulate old windows by installing secondary glazing or hang thick,
interlined blinds or curtains.

Skirting board

Nobody likes a skinny skirting board. They’re neither functional or attractive. I always
choose the deepest board I can find, provided it’s in keeping with the age and architecture
of the property. When it comes to colour, I never paint skirting a contrasting colour to make it a feature. I always paint it the same shade as the walls. This opens the space by creating a borderless room. It brings calm instead of harsh edges. Allowing the skirting to be part of the background of the wall will enhance other aspects of design. The eye is drawn to contrasting decorative features rather than the contrasting colours of walls and skirting.

Ceiling roses, cornices and dados

An original ceiling rose and intricate cornice in a period property will look stunning with any style. It will be in keeping with other interior architectural features and will juxtapose
wonderfully with contemporary design to create balance. Don’t though add faux-style
ceiling roses and cornices to a modern home. They will always look out of place — as though you are trying to make your house something that it is not. Instead, accent your home with period pieces of furniture, antique accessories or a period pattern on fabric.


A fireplace is a natural focal point in a home. They are inviting and welcoming. There’s
nothing like gathering around a fire on a cold winter’s day. They also add another dimension to a space. Chimney breasts can create symmetry in asymmetric rooms and provide textural contrast. Exposed brick, for example, is a stunning organic material that oozes pattern, texture and colour.

If you inherit a fireplace that is mediocre or not harmonious with the architectural style of
the property, rip it out. You can find a new fireplace that will reflect the age of the house at
a reclamation yard. They are brimming with stunning period options of all shapes and sizes. You won’t be short on choice. Alternatively, you could opt for a striking contemporary
fireplace. To emphasise the horizontal plane in a room, choose a long-low rectangular

Built-in cabinetry

The more storage you have in your home, the better. It helps you to maintain a beautiful,
calm and uncluttered space. Everything should have its rightful place. But, before you rip
out a built-in piece that you find ugly, assess whether you can change its look. Having a
bespoke piece build from scratch is costly. Can you paint, stain or install new doors and
choose handles that make a statement instead?

Consider what the storage will house. Can you replace the internal shelving to make the unit more functional? Moveable shelves offer great flexibility. Do you want to change a
cupboard into a display case with glass panels? If so, you will probably want to install
integral lighting. Have you factored that into your electrics plan?


Everything in your home pivots around the staircase. Far from simply being a functional
feature that takes you from one level to another, the stairs can be an architectural wonder.
Replacing your existing staircase with something custom-made is a huge expense. You might want to explore other ways of improving the existing structure and nearby features that affect it.

You can transform a tired staircase to new heights just by redecorating. Replace the
bannister, string, spindles and newel posts to alter its style. Lighting can change the feel of
your stairwell too. Choose low-level spots at tread level to bathe your stairs in atmospheric
pools of light. If you have a spiral staircase, an oversized pendant that drops down every
level will bring drama and tie spaces together. What about the flooring? Swap stair carpet
for boards and a striking runner to add visual impact.

Final note…

Conducting a thorough assessment of your existing internal architecture will save you time
and money in the long-term. Think of it as laying the foundations from which to build your
project. It gives you the opportunity to see the potential in what you have already. You can
then make informed decisions about what must go. It can be hugely satisfying to redress,
adapt or restore the integral features of your home. Equally, there is great catharsis in giving yourself permission to replace old with new.

The 4 Elements of Good Design

Interior design isn’t purely about letting your creativity run free, it’s also about the layering
and interplay between elements of the room. Good design comes from creating an overall
effect, not from any one item, colour, texture or material. To achieve this, your design
should pay equal consideration to symmetry and balance; scale and proportion; impact; and juxtaposition.


The human brain craves symmetry. It creates a sense of order in our chaotic world and
soothes us with tranquillity and calm.

Very few of us have the luxury of starting with a symmetrical canvas in our homes. We have
to find ways to bring balance into asymmetrical spaces. This is where my grid system comes into its own. Emphasising the vertical and horizontal planes of a room adds order.


Begin by creating a central focal point and work your grid out from there. In a dining room,
it could be the table, or in a bedroom, it’s most likely to be the bed. Follow the strong lines
of your central piece and echo them throughout the room.

There are so many ways to accentuate the vertical and horizontal planes, so be creative.

For the vertical, consider:

• Tall vases, standing lamps and sculptures
• Artwork or mirrors in long portrait frames
• High-backed chairs
• Floor-to-ceiling wall runners

Create horizontal lines with:

• Low, long tables
• Shelving
• Runners
• Wide pendant lights
• Artwork or mirrors in landscape frames


Use the grid system to draw attention to matching items, such as a pair of chairs, lamps or
shelves either side of a fireplace. This draws attention to the symmetrical aspects of a space and detracts from structural disproportion.

Stick to just one or two key pairs. A room that takes pairing too far looks predictable and
unimaginative. Too much of anything creates imbalance, even symmetry.


Every room needs a star piece of some sort, whether that’s a stunning vintage chair, an
elaborate headboard on a bed or a piece of industrial furniture. This one item adds interest
against the calm of symmetry and pairing. It creates balance. Make sure your focal piece
echoes other aspects of the room. It needs to link to colours, forms or textures to make it
belong in the space.

The boldness of over-scaling and the subtlety of under-scaling can transform the mood of a room and enhance its architecture.


If you want to create drama or a sense of space, consider adding one or two over-sized
items. To give height to a room, choose a piece that exaggerates the vertical plane. Try a
gargantuan floor-standing mirror, a double-height headboard over a bed or a big, central
pendant light over a dining table. To give width or length, go for a large, long table or sofa.
Over-scaling only works against a backdrop of proportion. It’s the contrast of one or two
large pieces against other smaller, similarly scaled objects that creates the impact and
theatrical mood.


Miniature objects that reflect the form, texture or colour of nearby items add a little wit.
The object itself doesn’t crave attention but instead brings balance that you feel first and
see later. Imagine a dining table with three single white roses in low vases, each below a
white, over-scaled pendant light. It’s the referencing that adds dimension to the design and brings pleasure to those that notice it.


Aside from being functional places where we live, eat, sleep and relax, our homes are where we can freely express who we are. Every room needs an impacting piece that screams our style and delivers a surprise. Impact offers a very public display in a private space, for the enjoyment or amusement of all that enter it.

Your star piece can be anything you desire — a brave piece of art or furniture; a dazzling
chandelier that drops three floors down a spiral stairwell; an injection of colour; a
sumptuous fabric or a tactile texture. Whatever you choose, you must love the statement
you’re making and be delighted to live with it.

Maximise on the drama by making the star of the show visible from other parts of your
home. A sculpture in your living room might be framed in a grand entrance hall mirror when you open the door. A shadow casting light on a mezzanine floor might throw geometric patterns that are visible from the floor below.

Alternatively, you can use your star piece to shock and surprise. It might be an extravagant
bath behind a screen or an over-scaled vintage chair in the corner of a room.
Give your statement piece plenty of space to breathe. Think of it as the protagonist in the
story of your room. All other elements of design should add to the narrative, not compete
with it.

Juxtaposition is the key to bringing balance and interest to a room. It underpins everything
from your choice of colours and flooring, to accessories and lighting. Juxtaposition isn’t
simply placing two starkly different items next to each other to create contrast. It’s finding
objects, themes or materials that bring out the character of each other. Juxtaposed design is like yin and yang. Somewhere in-between the difference is an interconnectedness. Yin
needs yang to fulfil its potential and vice versa. Crystal vases sparkle brighter when sat on a
matt black fire surround as opposed to white polished marble. Satin cushions on a velvet
upholstered sofa make the velvet appear richer and satin silkier.

These essential elements of a room all work together to achieve a common aim — balance.
You can’t have good design without it

How to Approach Your Interior Design Project

Whether you’re tackling your home interior design project yourself or working with a designer, it’s crucial that you understand the process. If you don’t, you risk creating a space that doesn’t work for you — it won’t feel like home. It’s likely that you’ll run way over budget too. And that’s a pretty disastrous outcome.
I want to help you avoid all that. In this article, you’ll get a flavour of the ‘groundwork’ involved in interior design. It begins with understanding your home and your household.

We’re much more aware of the importance of how we live in our homes now compared to when I started out in the 70s. If you want to create a home that you love, you must understand what each room is about. Is it for show, for comfort or a combination of both? How does it need to work on a practical level?
Every project begins with understanding the mechanics of your life and how each member of your household uses the space. Professional designers call this process ‘zoning’. It’s about dividing a room up and making it work for you AND your family.
People often get this stage wrong. It can be easy for the person leading the project to design the space for themselves. They forget that a room needs to work for their partner, children and guests too. The zoning process presents an opportunity for discussion and debate. It allows families to reach a compromise about HOW to live in a room so that everyone can enjoy it.

Imagine you’re redesigning your dining area. It’s not just the place where you eat. If you have young children, they will have grubby fingers, throw food on the floor and stand in it when they get up from the table. Do they do their homework there too? If you’re self-employed, is your dining table your office once you’ve dropped the kids off at school? And what about entertaining? How does that space need to look and feel for you in the evenings? Take time to examine every aspect of your daily life in every room of your home.

Creating a Board
Once you know what you want from each room, you can start bringing your ideas to life. Lay out a board and add images, tear sheets, fabrics and textures. See what goes together and what doesn’t. How do different combinations make you and your household feel?
Creating a board takes ideas from the confines of your head and makes exploring them a physical process. It’s a focus points that you keep coming back to — moving and changing things as you gain a clearer understanding of what you want. Working with this scrapbook of inspiration gives you something tangible to discuss as a family. It’s the place where you discover your mutual likes and dislikes. Make you mistakes here and not in the end result.

The Brief
Having identified what you need from your home, it’s time to write a brief. Committing your requirements to paper helps you to focus on your priorities. In those moment when you’re surrounded by rubble and dust, or when that carpentry work feels like it’s taking forever, the brief brings your mind back to your vision and its rationale. It’s your blueprint for success. Even if you’re doing the interior design yourself, the brief is crucial for keeping you on track and on budget.

How to tackle it
Begin by listing the key aspects of the project:
The needs of the people using the space
The style, age and location of the property
What you want from each room
The look that you wish to create

Your budget
Arrive at clear aims for each point and then work out how you will achieve them. Which professionals need to come on-board? How much money can you release at each stage of the project? Think about timescales. Are you prepared to live with a 12-month project happening around you when you’re 6-months pregnant?
Ask yourself lots of questions to inform your brief, and then ask some more. You can’t understand your space too well. When I work with clients, I begin by showing them pictures of my work. I ask what they do and don’t like about the images in front of them. When someone says, “I love that”, it’s usually just one element of the image that they love. It might be the door handle, a piece of artwork or the fabric on the sofa. Nobody ever loves everything in an image when you break it down.
So, when you think you adore that kitchen you saw in Elle, really pick each element apart before replicating it. Dissect EXACTLY what it is that you like in the images that inspire you. When you’re confident that you know what you want, you can begin looking at furniture and considering fabrics and lighting. And then it’s back to your board to add to the story of each room.

The Plan
When it comes to planning the details of a room you will need to create a floor plan. It tells you the dimensions and shape, how the room connects to adjacent rooms, and the position of internal architectural features. It’s your blank canvas. When you try to visualise a room that has furniture in it, it can be hard to reimagine the space. A plan allows you to strip all of that away and start again. Work out how to use space effectively by creating scaled versions of furniture and moving them around the plan.
If you’re drawing the plan yourself, it’s essential that you know how to measure the room accurately. Plans of a whole house or large, complex rooms are best left to a specialist surveyor. When you’re choosing furniture or instructing a tradesperson and the dimensions are wrong, it can cause big delays and expense.

Your budget should be at the fore of your mind from the outset. Be honest with yourself about what you can afford to spend. You don’t want to have to halt the project midway because you have misjudged your finances.
The key to sticking to a budget is sticking to your brief. Every change of mind comes at a cost. Refrain from buying on impulse too. Account for every penny that you spend and understand the REAL cost of things. Take a sofa for example, there’s the supplier’s cost, the cost of the fabric and the cost of having the piece upholstered.
Don’t forget hidden expenses — VAT, professional and specialist fees, planning submissions and delivery charges. There will always be unexpected costs, so raise your budget by 20% to allow for these.

When it comes to building work, put the work out to tender and get three quotes. Take time to find the right team for the job. Be sure that suppliers are quoting for the same work by giving them the same brief, with drawings and exact measurements. Remember, the cheapest quote isn’t always the best quote. Look at how each supplier plans to approach the work, ask to see past projects and get feedback from their clients.

There’s no cutting corners
Every step discussed in this article is integral to the interior design process. You must get all your ducks in a row before buying a thing or instructing any professionals. If you don’t, you can end up losing both money and direction.
Designing your home should be a joy, and it will be if you put in the groundwork. To get a more in-depth understanding of the process, read my book, Design Masterclass.

How to Choose Paint Colours for Your Home

The decorative paints industry is booming and there has never been more choice when it comes to colours. For the DIY designer, settling on the right colour for a room can be a daunting task.

In this article, I’ll answer some common questions, including where to begin with colour, how to use neutrals and accents, and how many colours to consider using in a room.

Let’s get started.

Where do you begin with choosing paint colours?

When people design a room, they often make the mistake of basing the scheme solely around a wall colour. In fact, you should choose your other textures first. So, for me, it’s always a linen. Whatever tone that linen is, is the tone that you base your paint colour on. It’s the foundation that you build out from.

How do you identify the tone of a colour?

When you look at a Dulux colour chart, whichever colour you’re looking at, there will be adeeper, darker colour at the bottom of that row. That’s the base tone. So, if you’re looking at a beige and it’s in the orange or brown section, you know it has an orange or brown base tone. A grey might have a purple, green or blue undertone, and so on. Always pay attention to that base colour because it’s what you’ll see when the paint is on the walls.

How do you choose the right colour?

Once you know what tone you need to base your paint on, it’s a case of trial and error. Don’t stop until you get the right colour because, like taste, if it’s off, it will throw every other piece in the room.

This point is crucial and it’s where people fall down. A wall is probably the biggest expanse in a room. Its colour will dominate the mood, so close your eyes and try to imagine how it should be. If you want brightness and space, choose the brightest of whites. If you want warmth, bring the shades right down, and if you want to make a space appear smaller, go for blacks or navy blues.

How does light affect the look of a colour?

A paint colour can take on a tremendous variety of tones and depths depending on the amount and type of light coming into the room. So, you should always see what a colour looks like on different walls and at different times of day before committing to it.

Make sure you look at the ACTUAL paint against a wall and not an image of the colour on a chart. Paint all your options onto a board that you can hold up against your textures and the walls of the room.

What are neutral tones?

Neutral tones are shades of cream, sand, beige, white, grey, black, and of course my favourite, taupe. There are thousands of options, ranging from true neutrals that also have a neutral undertone, to neutrals with a base tone of blue, brown, purple or green, for example.

If you want to really grasp just how varied neutral undertones can be, you can do a little test. Take the whitest of whites and lay other shades of white against it. You’ll notice how pink, blue, grey or yellow each shade will look against the ‘pure’ version of white.

How do you use neutral tones?

For me, neutrals provide the perfect backdrop against which to live your life. They are timeless, versatile, practical and harmonious. I base everything in a room on neutrals in different colours, textures and woods. The interest and mood of a space comes from layering and choosing fabrics that really enhance each other, or even shock each other. So, when it comes to wall colour, neutrals are my staple.

How do you use accent colours?

I add colour with plants, glass, art and possibly a cushion or a fabric — things that are moveable. Aside from looking beautiful, it means you can easily alter your style by changing the accessories.

The punch of an accent colour on a neutral palate can shift the entire look and feel of a room. You can create subtle, chic dimensions; warmth; or playfulness and drama, depending on your choice of treatment. So, it’s essential that you opt for a colour that you love and that you and your family can live with and enjoy.

How do you choose an accent colour?

Your wardroom is a great place to start when it comes to choosing an accent colour. Think about the colours that you and other members of your household gravitate towards. Find out which colours you have a mutual love for.

Don’t forget the base tone of your scheme will inform your accent colour. If you have a neutral with a back tone that is also neutral, you can use any colour as an accent. If, however, you have a neutral scheme that has a green tone to it, you might bring in a moss green, olive or black.

How many colours can you use in a room?

For my style, any more than two colours is too many. The balance becomes lost as the colours fight for attention.

Think of how you dress. Less is more when it comes to colour. If you wear a patterned top,you wear plain trousers. Take oriental clothing or design, for example.  You will have one dominant colour, perhaps two, and everything else is neutral. The result is balanced and sophisticated.

There is one exception, however. If you have an all-white room, you can bring in as many colours as you like. It creates a very modern look. If you imagine a Damian Hurst spot painting, it works because the colours aren’t competing with the white background.

What if I’m not sure?

The most difficult part of design is putting the schemes together, but your gut is never wrong. I’ve watched so many people lay colours out that simply don’t work. They return to the scheme day after day, questioning it and wondering if it’s right. If you can’t decide, it’s wrong. Take it away from the board. It may take four of five attempts to get the right scheme if you’re not a professional, but that’s OK. Keep trying new combinations. Always bring yourself back to what the space is about and what the colour needs to be to make it work.