Tag Archives: Advice

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.

5 Important Elements of Interior Design

Interior design is a little like baking a cake. You have to add several ingredients with the right tastes and consistencies, and in the correct amounts. The end result is a wonderful mix of layers that create the overall effect.

There are so many things to consider when designing a space. Here we take a quick look at five key elements and how to approach them.

1. Texture

It’s no secret that I’m all about texture. I adore the mood, depth and layers it creates. Materials like velvet and suede absorb light and create warmth. Silks and satins appear cool and alluring. Mix these materials together and you immediately bring interest and balance to a space. It becomes tactile. Imagine a cream linen sofa with a beige velvet back cushion and a grey satin front cushion. It looks and feels both luxurious and comforting.

As with colours [insert link to choosing paint colours blog], keep accent textures to a minimum. They are there to add interest and contrast, not to compete with your dominant texture. If you have polished stone tiles in your bathroom, you could accent them with a calico cushion on an antique chair, burlap storage baskets and a rough concrete sink.

Pattern can add texture too. I’ll sometimes use it on a star piece — perhaps a vintage chair or a cushion. Geometrics and ‘barely there’ stripes work well. Patterns don’t need to be over-sized and flashy. Even a statement piece of furniture needs to work in harmony with the other textures in the room. You don’t want to draw attention to a single fabric or finish but to enjoy the overall balance of layers.

2. Working with small spaces

There are two approaches that you can take with a small space: embrace it and make it cosy or use light and proportion to make it appear bigger.

Making it cosy

There are different sorts of cosy. You can have white walls and still feel warm and snug. It depends what you put in the room. The comfort comes from textures, fabrics and light. Add objects that will enable you to live how you want to live in the space. That might be a TV, a wood burner with a rustic oak fire surround, a plump sofa and big bean bag cushions.

If you want dark and cosy, then you need a dark colour on the walls, or put fabric on them. Choose thick carpets instead of wood floors. Introduce down lights and think about your choice of ceiling colour.

There are so many combinations that can change how a room feels, so make use of your board. Lay out your textures and play around until you find the scheme that makes you say ‘WOW’.

Making it ‘bigger’

There are lots of ways that you can make a small room feel larger. Lift the ceilings with light-coloured paint. Install uplighters. Use colours and textures that are light rather than dark.

People often put too many things into small room, closing it down further. The key is to be minimalist but bring in a few over-sized pieces of furniture. They actually create a sense of space.

So, in a small dining room you might have a circular table with deep armed chairs and a huge, striking pendant light overhead. Always keep the balance. If you have a big table then have smaller chairs. The contrasting textures and sizes create real drama, and that makes the room appear bigger.

3. Juxtaposition

Two objects with contrasting textures and colours will enhance each other’s characteristics and create impact. That’s juxtaposition at work. Antique and vintage pieces add depth and uniqueness against a contemporary scheme. A cut crystal glass looks even more dazzling when sat on a rustic driftwood shelf. Opposites look beautiful together.

When it comes to achieving juxtaposition, your board is so important. Never work from photos, no matter how glossy the magazine. You have to see, feel and breathe in the textures. Keep moving them around. Try new combinations. Excite your senses.

4. Lighting

Many an amazingly schemed room has been ruined with poorly considered lighting. Light is all about balance. There’s either too much, too little or it’s just right. There’s no in-between.

Always consider what the room will be used for and what mood you want to create before you research lighting options. A kitchen, for example, needs both ambient light for entertaining and functional light for day-to-day activities. Strike the balance between function and atmosphere in every room.

Never have one source of lighting. As soon as you throw light on one part of a room another part will become dark. Having two or three lamps will bring balance. Try creating triangles or squares of light.

Lighting is a huge subject, but it’s so important that you research and understand it. You can find a whole section on lighting schemes in my book, Design Masterclass — How to Achieve the Home of Your Dreams [insert hyperlink].

5. Quick wins

It’s incredibly easy to change the look and feel of a room. Rip up an old carpet and replace it with wood flooring. Paint old wood floors or sand them. Use uplighters behind furniture to enhance spaces. Put loose covers on tired furniture. Buy new cushions and throws. Change your accessories, or in a bedroom, simply buy different bedding and lamps.

If you rent, you might not be allowed to decorate. That doesn’t stop you creating a ‘pop-up’ feature wall. You can paint or wallpaper an MDF board and fix it to the wall. It’s important to feel comfortable in your home and it’s easier to achieve than it has ever been.

Everything is accessible on the high street today. You can create the look you want without huge mess and expense, but make sure you plan it. Use an app that allows you to move furniture around a room to find the best, most balanced use of space.