Now this is one of my favourite journeys to make, starting with a complete blank canvas and filling every room and corner with pieces that you love and I think it’s a journey you need to do a couple of times to really learn what works best for you so here I’ve combined a few of my tips.
I have to admit I absolutely love interior styling and finding that ideal piece can sometimes be a challenge, but one I’ll happily accept. In all honesty, the key to getting it exactly right in my opinion is to be relentless in your search for those perfect items. The minute you go for what’s easier to find, you’re taking a shortcut, one that really may not be worth it in the long run. That said, we all lead busy lives so I’ve tried to put as many hints and tips in here as I can possibly think of, in the hope they help and/or inspire along the way!
Practicality: This seems obvious but it’s so important, never compromise the function of a space for aesthetic reasons. I know some of you may be reading this and thinking nobody does that surely, but it happens A LOT and I promise in the long run, it’s just not worth it. For example, we’ve recently moved to a new build home and one of the show homes has sofas facing each other, now this is something I love and I’m not adverse to it, but if your living room is the place you’re going to watch TV or have a film night, do you really want to be sat ninety degrees to the TV? Now I know what you’re thinking: our sofas in these pictures are ninety degrees to the TV, good spot! Well, we never sit on those sofas to watch TV, they’re there for drinking tea/coffee, reading magazines and having catch-ups, whilst sitting soft. The TV’s function in this space is usually to have say football or something on in the background whilst we’re making pizzas.
Another thing I’d say is a big no-no, is wood or laminates in a wet-room or kitchen, trust me, when your washing machine leaks and you can’t quite replace just an area, it becomes more expensive than you ever intended… even if it does look super nice! I’d highly recommend wood plank tile flooring, which we have in our kitchen. It is so wood-like that people honestly don’t believe me when I say it’s a tile, the only tell-tale sign is the temperature with it being colder than wood.
Don’t rush it: I was once told your home should tell your personal story, and being a bit of a story teller myself I really love this idea, that every little thing in your home should be something you love and if it ties back to a part of your story, even better. But as they say, Rome was never built in a day, and you can’t put your story in to something in a day too – whilst we’ve been decorating room by room, there have been rooms that we’ve left because we couldn’t find the right light, and whilst it can be frustrating because it’s all that’s left to finish the room, it will be oh-so-worth-it when you strike gold with the right lighting, a light that works well in the room, but reminds you of a holiday or a special place, then BINGO.
Lighting: Now that brings me on to the next step, never underestimate the power of a lamp or light in a room, in addition to the main centre light – turn that light on and look for dark pockets in the room – usually there is one or two and that’s the perfect place to position that lamp, lighting up the room in all the right places – it’s not just about where the lamp looks good during the day – the function is key too!
Where to start: Ok before I get too ahead of myself, where do I start when it comes to decorating? Well of course I use Instagram and Pinterest, and I love a good home magazine, particularly if I’m visiting Spain, France or Italy – I just love getting a good variety of inspiration. I will even look to my wardrobe for colours – which do I never get bored of? It’s a good indication of what colours work for you on a day-to-day basis.
I also love websites like OKA with an inspiration section – the Parisian one is just dreamy! But honestly there isn’t a “must” in this area in my opinion. I was once told you start with fabrics for blinds / curtains… I have to disagree: fall in love with one thing, be it a bed, a desk, a fabric, and shape everything around it. Usually for me it’s a fabric, or a paint that leads the way, unless of course you have something that you’ve brought with you from a previous home, such as a bed, and our bedroom for this reason has been moulded around our bed but that’s all good because, well, we have always loved that bed! It is different per room, for example, in our kitchen, this beautiful kitchen table from Woodpecker Interiors was something we instantly fell in love with. It’s warm, but with rustic finish, and it dictated our kitchen cabinet colour, and the entire room. Reason being, I grew up in an Italian family and the table was always the centrefold of our home so I think getting the right table, one that’s sociable, and you’ll want to cherish forever, is really important.
Go with the natural elements / design: If you have beautiful natural pieces in your home, such as a marble fireplace, built-in wooden wardrobes, draw on those colours for inspiration. If, for example, the key thing you’ve fallen in love with is a marble piece with grey in it, it’ll work better with cooler tones, blacks and whites. If you find a kitchen table like this one, with warm tones, use that to guide you. But never lose track of your home’s colour palette (see the next point).
Colour Palettes: This is so key for me. If you play it safe and go for one colour throughout it makes it easier, but it is also something you may get bored with over time. My preference is to get the right balance, neutrals from a similar colour palette is evident in most rooms, which adds variety but nothing too crazy. This is another lesson I learned the hard way, I grew up in a minimalist house so when I moved out I was desperate to paint something with a complete contrast, but once I did, I felt the place didn’t really flow, and almost felt disjointed. I’ve since learned that you should pick one colour and make sure it’s present in every room in your house (even if it’s just a few scattered cushions) as it allows the house to flow and feel harmonious from room to room so that’s what we’ve done. Our house is now, in one way or another, 50 shades of grey!! Mainly Farrow and Ball’s warm, soft greys (inspired by my lovely best friend’s bedroom painted in the gorgeous Elephant’s Breath and before I knew it, I was hooked on Skimming Stone), the latter is the paint colour featured in the photo. Plus, I love the chalky texture of Farrow and Ball’s paints, but will always stick to their Modern Emulsion for high traffic areas (hallways and bathrooms).
The heart of the room: Every room should have a focal point, this could be the TV, a mirror, a painting, a table, but it should be there, and it’s ok to have two focal points too, but everything should play off of this! This leads me nicely on to my next point…
Balance, symmetry, heights and angles: Now I haven’t quite mastered this yet, but I recognise when it’s wrong very quickly! This is a common mistake, so you’ve found what seems to be the perfect lamp from a colour and shape perspective, but put it in the room and it looks so wrong, it’s taller than it needs to be, but it’s like that’s ignored because it ticks every other box. Do not keep that lamp, it will tip the balance of the room. It’s like a good pair of brows, the angles need to be in all of the right places.
As for balance and symmetry, there needs to be an element of it in any room, even for someone that loves eclecticism like me. Whether it’s a pair of side tables, armchairs that are twinning, sofas, or console tables (more will be revealed when we finish our living room!). Basically, when you buy your large, key pieces of furniture or prints, where possible (and in keeping with the room dimensions), buy it in pairs.
Now symmetry, in most rooms, isn’t naturally a given so you need to create that balance yourself, play to the room’s strengths, say it has a fireplace dead centre – great, work with it!
Then, once everything has created the right balance and structure, throw in a few carefully selected accessories, say a plant that stops it looking so matchy-matchy and to throw the balance off slightly.
Interior design tips, the power of three: If I’m introducing wood or marble in to a room, I like to have something that compliments it to appear three times in a room. So, for example, say you pick a chair with a gold accent, it will work best if there’s a side table, and a frame or vase in a similar material so that no matter where you cast your eyes in a room, there’s that balance with gold features.
Modern vs. traditional: I think it’s really important to get this right, if you want to go all-out modern, great, and if you want to go all-out traditional that’s great too, but if you have all modern, with one traditional looking piece, you tip the balance, it needs to be a complete mix of modern and traditional if you go along that route.
Measure up and out, be sure before you buy: Measure everything, consider how doors will open, how you’ll utilise the space, where will your Christmas tree go, and whenever you’re going furniture shopping take dimensions with you. You could have the most amazing sofa in the world but if it overhangs a door frame, it’s a no-go.
Textures: Vary them and mix it up – it can really add depth to a room. A textured weave curtain, combined with a velvet sofa and faux fur throw draped over the arm – just dreamy!
Items I’d splurge on: Feather-filled cushions (they even do great hypoallergenic ones now) – they really pack a punch and look much more expensive than foam-filled cushions. Underlay if you go for carpet – it sure is noticeable. Coasters and tableware – it’s sometimes the small things that make a big difference.
Items I’d save on: Duvet covers (you can get really good quality duvet at Dunelm Mill for example), picture frames – I love the selections available at TK Maxx/TJ Maxx and Home Sense.
Last, but by no means least: never ever forget the bigger picture – create mood boards if you have to – it does help!