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.
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.
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.
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.