It has been a while since I took some time out. To be creative, to gather inspiration. Design Week was well timed this year. After a busy start to the year, designing for clients and growing the business, I needed some time to stop and look around. It’s this reflective time; time to take in new inspiration, that nourishes creativity and keeps designs fresh.
Design week and trade shows are a great source of interior inspiration. A chance to explore new materials, finishes and colours. A chance to meet new suppliers and consider new design solutions. But there’s more to creativity than design shows, and my time out this week has started me thinking about where I get my inspiration for work (and home).
I don’t think there’s anything more inspirational than exploring new places. Or even revisiting places you’ve been to, and loved, before. There’s something special about travelling, when we don’t have the pressures of day-to-day life, that means we respond to, and absorb our surroundings in a completely different way.
For me, it’s about the different light, the smells, the colours. Enjoying different architecture and soaking up details which, even though they might be relatively mundane at home, seem almost magical in their new surroundings. We have time to reflect, to stop and observe. We can take things back to basics; appreciating things for their colour, their texture and the way they make you feel.
There’s something very special about visiting a beautiful hotel. It can feel like a complete escape from real life, and it’s a great opportunity to see, and enjoy, different interior styles. What tiles are used in the bathrooms? What do you love about the seating, or the way a lounge is laid out? You’ll get a real sense of how you respond to an interior style. Take it back to basics; how does the interior make you feel? That should, in my view, be the starting point for any interior project.
But remember, hotel interiors can be more daring in their design. Guest are only there for a night or two; they are not designed for long-term family life. So, whilst they can be a great source of inspiration, make sure that you properly translate any design ideas so that they work for your space and your life.
And remember, you don’t have to splash out on an overnight stay. Choose a favourite and book in for afternoon tea or just a drink in the bar.
Inspiration and creativity doesn’t need to be big, or expensive or glamorous. A quiet afternoon at an art gallery can be enough to transport you elsewhere. And sometimes, just the space for quiet reflection is what’s needed to enable you to absorb different colour, texture and pattern. Take a look at art you wouldn’t normally gravitate to, ask yourself why you like or don’t like it. Or just spend time looking at it. Often there’s a need to try and critique artwork but actually sitting, quietly and enjoying something is all that’s needed to spark some creativity.
Let’s be realistic though, sometime we can’t always escape on holiday or even to a beautiful hotel. Inspiration for interiors is all around us though and even an hour on the high street can be enough to get a boost of inspiration for your project. It’s still really easy to turn to online shopping – it’s so convenient and we’ve got so used to doing it during recent Covid years. But I don’t think anything beats hitting the shops for an explore. You’ll see things you weren’t looking for. Things you didn’t expect to love. Colour combinations in the window displays you never thought of putting together.
And don’t just think you’ve got to scour the interior shops. Wandering around fashion stores can be just as inspiring. Look at the colours, the fabrics, the style of the displays. What do you love? What do you hate? Again, it’s all about learning to identify how you respond to things; how they make you feel.
Last but by no means least. Mother Nature does really do it best! Take yourself into nature. A wood, a field, a walk by the river. It doesn’t need to be far. Just being away from the pressures of consumerism, away from the trends and fashions can be a really inspiring and liberating feeling. Time in nature gives you the ability to go back to basics – to explore colours, shapes and textures in a really simple, but beautiful form.
Everyone wants a beautiful home. A home where function and form are perfectly balanced. In an age where our homes are often our workspace and our retreat from the world, good design isn’t optional; it’s essential. Everyone deserves to live and work in spaces that make them smile, tell their story, and elevate their everyday.
Yes, for many, engaging an interior designer is still not an obvious choice. Perhaps it’s still perceived as a preserve of the rich? Maybe there remains an air of mystery around what an interior designer does? Or perhaps people just don’t think they need one.
What ever the reason, here are the reasons why we think you should consider engaging an interior designer for your project…
1/ An expert design process
If you’re contemplating an extension you wouldn’t hesitate to hire an architect. If you need your home rewiring you’d call in an electrician. To create your perfect interior space, which is both beautiful and functional, it’s an interior designer you need. An interior designer knows exactly where to start, what to ask, what works and what doesn’t. An interior designer is qualified, experienced and has a design process which has been honed over the years. Once you find the right designer for you, you can trust the process, confident that you’ll love the finished result.
2/ It’ll save you money
Interior Design is becoming more accessible and there are lots of affordable design packages on the market. Interior design professionals do charge for their work though and there’s probably some truth around the saying “you get what you pay for”. So how, when you’re paying design fees on top of your other project costs, does hiring a designer save you money? A few ways, actually:
You usually gain access to trade discounts. These will vary, but you’re likely to be able better rates when using an interior designer.
You’ll avoid costly mistakes. You won’t end up with a sofa that isn’t quite the right scale for your space, or the expensive wallpaper that just doesn’t quite look right. They know what they’re doing; they know what works (and, importantly, what doesn’t).
Interior Designers know how best to work with a budget. It’s what they do, and part of their advice should be helping you decide how best to spend your budget to achieve the space you want.
3/ It’ll save you time
Life is busy and time is precious. Yet, good interior design takes time, and sometimes quite a lot of it. An interior designer knows how to work through the design process efficiently, making it easy for you to make confident decisions about the design of your space. By hiring an interior designer you can take the stress out of the process (both the design and project co-ordination) and actually enjoy creating your dream space.
4/ Access to trusted trades
Finding experienced, reliable trades who are able to do the work you want, when you want can be tricky. An interior designer works with a trusted team of contractors and sub-contractors on projects all the time. No more worrying about whether they’ll do a good job, or whether they are properly insured – your designer has done all the hard work for you.
A good interior designer should empower you. Not only to have confidence in the design decisions you make throughout the design process, but to live with confidence in the space you’ve created. Interior design should be about creating a space that tells your story and, importantly, creates a space for you to continue that story. Interiors aren’t static; they evolve and grow. Having a space expertly created for you allows you to engage with, and enjoy, the space with confidence.
So, whether you’re sprucing up the spare room or contemplating a major renovation, working with an interior designer can help achieve a better design, but also a more enjoyable process (as well as a few savings a long the way!).
Have you worked with an interior designer before? Or are you contemplating one for your project?
It might not be the fashionable thing to say but, I really dislike the new year obsession with interior trends. Almost everywhere you look in December and January there’s an article telling you what will be on-trend in the next year. Of course, we’ll always see trends emerging through interior design retailers and suppliers: there’ll be sought after styles and popular patterns, as well as forecast colours of the year. It can be fun to see what is predicated BUT it can also distract from the real heart of interior design: how you want a space to feel.
Trends are great for inspiration, for gathering ideas, for pushing you out of your comfort zone. But simply incorporating design ideas because they are popular or on-trend can lead to a design which feels disconnected from you and your lifestyle. Take Instagram and Pinterest, for example – an image of a trending interior may look fabulous but simply replicating a “look” does not take into account your space, how you use it, and how it connects to the rest of your home. Of course design is about the aesthetic, but it’s also about finding an aesthetic that works for you and your space.
So how should you be approaching your interior design in 2023? You should absolutely be designing for YOU: not to create something on-trend (something else will be “on-trend” next year anyway!), not to create something for Instagram or Pinterest. I’m not saying ignore trends, I’m just saying don’t follow them. If you love it and it works for you, whether it’s forecast on-trend or not, then great.
So here are my three tips to make sure you’re designing for YOU this year:
1/ Think about how you want a space to feel.
I ask clients to choose three words which set the tone for any design I create. Keep your three words in mind and then, when you’re making choices along the way, ask yourself whether they help create that feeling. It helps create consistency with your design and can stop you getting carried away with discreet items or trends which take your fancy along the way!
2/ Choose colours and patterns that make you happy.
A good place to start is your wardrobe: what colours are you naturally drawn to and like to surround yourself with? What patterns make you smile? It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use forecast colours-of-the-year, or on-trend colour combinations – it just means you do the work first and make sure they create the feeling you want for your space. But don’t be tempted to play it safe; if you love something bold and beautiful, use it. Don’t be afraid. But similarly, if softer neutrals are your thing, then use them to create a space that works for you – regardless of what is set to be on-trend.
3/ Think about well-being and sustainability.
Well-being and sustainability may still be mentioned as being “on-trend” but I think they go way beyond this now. They are far more integral to any design process – or at least they should be. Well-being is at the heart of what we’re trying to create as designers; a space, a home that supports and enhances your lifestyle and well-being. It doesn’t mean your bathroom needs to resemble a spa but it does mean you should approach your design by thinking about how you live and what you can do to enhance your sense of well-being (both physical and mental). It’s the same with sustainability; we have a responsibility to consider any purchase we make (for our homes or otherwise) and to source sustainably wherever we can. That’s not a trend – it should be integral to how we live.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on interior trends for this year? Do you enjoy reading about them? How do you make sure you decorate for you?
Nothing makes my heart sing quite as much as getting the opportunity to design a nursery. The joy, the expectation; the start of a new chapter in someone’s story.
But if you’re designing your own nursery space, where do you start? Pinterest is full of gorgeous nursery images. Baby online boutiques style their products in beautiful nursery sets. But how do you create that perfect aesthetic whilst making it practical, safe and future-proof?
The reality is, a baby doesn’t stay a baby for long. But, that doesn’t mean you have to design for their teen years straight-away. If you want to indulge those baby months, then indulge away. But, having an eye to those short term future changes might help you design something with a little more longevity.
I start how I start any other room design. How do you want the room to feel? Do you want it to feel bold and bright? Do you want it to be a relaxing, calming space? If have a clear idea about the feeling you want to create, rather than using an image as a design-hook, then you’re more likely to end up with a room you love. Each time you make a design decision you can check back and ask, does that help create a room with the “feel” that I want?
Undeniably, designing a nursery should be fun. It should be full of excitement, optimism and anticipation. You absolutely should not feel constrained by a “baby theme”. This is the one space you can create for your child that reflects totally what you want, so do feel free to indulge yourself. That said, there are also a number of practicalities which I do think it is important to address to ensure that the room functions properly and safely.
So here are a few tips for creating that swoon-worthy nursery….
1/ What do you actually need?
First write a list of what YOU actually need. Of course, read all the lists of things that online forums (and retailers) tell you you need, but think about what you will actually need to use. This is especially hard if you’re a first time parent. So, my advice would be keep it simple; you usually need far less than you think you do! A cot, clothes storage, a change mat (although, I would suggest, not necessarily a changing table), somewhere to keep nappies, blankets etc and a few small toys. A chair is also a good investment if you have space – you spend a lot of time feeding in those early months. And when it comes to clothes storage, don’t just rush out and buy the nursery furniture set. Think about what you need. Do you need a wardrobe or would drawers work (especially if you have a small space); they also have the advantage of providing an extra surface, which is always useful (and perfect for styling-up).
And finally, on furniture, look beyond nursery retailer’s nursery sets. You don’t have to have something sold specifically for a baby’s room. Instead of a specific nursing chair, you may be able to find a super-comfy chair you’ll use somewhere else in the house later on. Perhaps a vintage chest of drawers could be painted to create a lovely, unique piece. Be creative, as you would in any room.
2/ Look at layout
Often the nursery is the smallest room in the house so you may be restricted with layout options, but it’s worth taking a moment at the start to figure out where things are going to do. Try and keep a little bit of floor space for tummy and play-time. Think about the positioning of windows and radiators for both safety and temperature. You don’t want a cot against either a window or a radiator.
Also have a think about where your electric sockets are positioned. You’re likely to have a baby-monitor, and room thermometer that need plugging in and positioning, so just make sure your layout works. It’s much easier to get additional sockets in at the start before you’ve decorated.
3/ Consider light
No one wants a baby waking as soon as the sun rises, or when you trip over the nappy basket as you creep in to check on them in the middle of the night! Decent window dressing is essential. You don’t need to buy special products, just make sure that your whole window is covered and get any blinds or curtains made with a blackout lining. If you’re using a roman blind check whether it lets light in around the sides. If so, consider adding a pair of curtains too (you don’t need to spend a fortune – a pair of ready-made linen curtains is probably enough to diffuse any surrounding light).
And make sure you add a dimmer switch. It allows you to have very soft lighting at bedtime, and also if you need a little light to change nappies the middle of the night. Night lights are also useful to have, and fairy lights (hung safely away from the cot or where baby can reach them) can create a really beautiful atmosphere.
4/ Have fun
A nursery doesn’t have to be light and neutral. It can be, of course, and it can look beautiful in being so. But don’t be afraid of using colour and pattern. Colourful eye-catching designs can be great for when your little one starts to look around and respond to things. Adding pattern can really help develop a sense of personality in the space. Find a balance that works for you. Perhaps it’s a subtle wallpaper that adds a hint of colour, or perhaps you want to add some vibrant accessories. Don’t play it down just because you think it needs to be pale. You can still create a peaceful space with some colour and pattern.
When you’re choosing paints, it’s worth looking for a really durable finish. Really flat, chalky finishes look fabulous but the walls of this room have to work hard. Help it out a little and choose something more durable. Most paint companies now have a more durable finish which doesn’t compromise completely on the matt finish.
5/ Keep it personal
A nursery is a really special space, so make it as personal as you can. Don’t just look for generic nursery-style prints, mix in artwork which means something to you, or reflects your family life. Make it quirky – make a little gallery wall that you can add to over the months and years as your baby grows. Look for interesting prints and combine them with felt animal heads and little mirrors. Have fun!
And remember, you don’t have to have everything finished before the baby arrives. Maybe leave some space to put up some photos. Spend the money on a newborn photo shoot and use the images on the wall. Or get footprints done and add them to a shelf.
Undoubtedly a nursery has to work hard. You need to address the practical elements otherwise it just won’t work. But ultimately it’s a space you want to enjoy being in. Your baby won’t remember what it looks like, but as a family you’ll remember how it made you feel.
In Part 1, I discussed WHAT an Interior Designer does and WHY you might want to use one. Now it’s time to look at WHEN you should engage a designer and WHO you should approach. And no, the answer to the last one isn’t always me!
SO WHEN DO YOU GET A DESIGNER INVOLVED?
The answer is pretty simple; as early as possible. This doesn’t mean you need to be having regular consultations straight-away but instructing a designer as soon as you know you are going to need one a) means you more likely to get who you want at a time that you want them, and b) means that they can offer assistance and advice during the early stages, perhaps even on things you hadn’t considered you’d need help with. They can talk you through the wider process, work with other professionals (e.g. architects), point out potential pitfalls, and generally help to ensure a seamless process with a beautifully designed space at the end. Basically, the earlier you make enquiries, the more likely you are to secure the right designer, with the right scope for you.
If you’re planning an extension you may already have appointed an architect, and you may have a preferred builder. It can be tempting to leave appointment of a designer until you have the rooms ready to decorate. However, if you get a designer involved from the start you may find you get more from the instruction. For example, when the Architect is drawing up the plans, a designer can have conversations with you about internal use and flow which may impact on the space you create. Starting room designs before the space exists has its advantages too. It means, for example, you have answers about electrical layout as soon as you need them. Rushing decisions about switches and lighting when your builder approaches you for answers is never ideal, and can leave you with compromises to deal with during the interior design stage.
The same applies to room design schemes; the sooner the better! Maybe you know you want a room redesigned for Christmas (it’s a common scenario, believe me!). If you leave it until late Autumn not only will you struggle to find time in a designer’s schedule, but you may also be more limited in your furniture selection given the inevitable lead-times (which are often much longer at busy, seasonal times).
Obviously it isn’t always possible to instruct a designer early doors, or perhaps it’s only midway through a project that you realise you need help. Don’t worry, all isn’t lost, a good designer will be able to support you in a project wherever you’re at. It’s just the earlier you get them involved, even just to have an initial conversation to get time booked in for later when you need it, the more you’re likely to get out of the process and the fewer compromises you’re likely to need to make.
SO, WHO SHOULD YOU INSTRUCT?
How do you decide which designer is for you? There are so many to choose from! My first advice would be to see the engagement of a designer as an investment in your home. There will be a cost attached, but it’s a service which really adds value, so try not to be driven wholly by getting the lowest quote. There’s much to be said for you-get-what-you-pay-for. This is an important decision; you’re hiring someone to help you create your perfect home.
Ask around. Word-of-mouth recommendations are great. If you know someone has worked with an interior designer ask them how they found the process, and, more importantly than whether you like the finished result, whether the finished space creates the feel they wanted to achieve. Finding someone local can be helpful, especially if you’re looking for project management work. It means your designer will have an even bigger network of trades and suppliers which you can tap into.
Speak to a couple of designers. By which, I don’t mean call round an endless number of designers. Time is precious and no-one likes a time waster. However, all good designers should be willing to have an initial chat, to tell you how they work and help determine whether they are the right person to work with you. You should get a sense of whether you’d be happy to work with a designer from this initial discovery call. It’s an important relationship so you need to be comfortable working with them. It should also be a fun process so working with someone you feel you can build a rapport with is really helpful.
Have a look on social media. Houzz is a great resource for this, especially if you’re looking for someone local. As are Instagram and Pinterest. When you’re looking at a designer, look at their style, and their way or working; is it a good fit for you? If you’re looking on social media though don’t be swayed by big followings and likes. The Instagram algorithm isn’t generated on whether or not someone is a good designer. Social media will however give you a behind-the-scenes, more personal insight into designers, which when you’re trying to establish a relationship can be invaluable.
Make sure you check out their services. Make sure they offer exactly what you need and don’t be pushed into having more work done than you want to. For example, if you just want a design service and want to do the work yourself, don’t approach designers who only do full implementation service. And if you do find someone via social media, check out their website directly and make sure you look at their actual projects. It’s very easy to post images created or curated by someone else; just make sure you do your homework and check out projects they have actually worked on.
Finally, make sure you check timescales and fee structure early on. You may have found a seemingly perfect designer but if they can’t deliver within your timeframe and budget then, unless you can wait, and/or reduce your scope, they probably aren’t the designer for you – this time! It’s also worth having a chat about the process. Just to make sure you’re getting the right level of support and/or involvement.
Engaging an interior designer doesn’t need to be daunting and the process should, most definitely, be enjoyable.
The majority of my clients have never worked with an Interior Designer before they hire me. So, if you’ve never used a designer before, and you aren’t familiar with the services they offer, how do you know if you need one? In this post I’ll shed light onto the process of working with an interior designer; WHAT they do and WHY you might need one. For the WHO and WHEN (i.e. who should you appoint, and when should you engage them) tune in next week!
The WHAT. So, what do Interior Designers do?
There’s often a preconception that Interior Designers spend their days plumping cushions and hanging pictures. And yes, designers do often get involved in the final styling stages but there’s so much that happens before the cushions are plumped and the pictures are hung. So let’s start at the beginning…
LAYOUT & FLOOR-PLANNING
Designers spend much of their time floor-planning; creating layouts that form the basis of a design. See it as the framework; without getting that right, nothing else will work as it should. A good layout takes into account your lifestyle, your space and how you plan to use it. It is the starting point of any great design and is an essential part of the design process. Without a floorplan that works for you, a room can look utterly stunning, but it won’t function properly. And if a space doesn’t function well, you won’t love it. Not for long anyway. A good designer will talk through who will use the space, when and what for. They will think about practicalities (sockets, switches, natural light etc), alongside the aesthetics.
Most designers offer a full room design service. This will combine a layout and design concept, resulting in a full design schedule to create a space that you love. All designers have a slightly different process, but they nearly always start by taking a brief from you, the client, considering what you want and need from a space as well as looking at your likes and dislikes in terms of interior style. Then it’s over to the designer to create a scheme that works for you. A good design needs to work for you and reflect your story, so I like to make sure there is a two-way process here; a conversation between client and designer throughout which ensures any tweaks are made to ensure the design is something you really love, rather than an on-trend design which is created and imposed.
Some designers offer design-only, others only take on jobs they can fully implement too. Others can offer both design-only and implementation, depending on what the client wants or needs. The project management part of the design process is the implementation; bringing the scheme to life. It consists of scheduling trades, monitoring works, places orders, taking deliveries, making sure everything is finished, on-time and on-budget. It is perfect for clients who don’t have the time (or the energy!) to get involved in the detail of the practicalities.
Some designers will offer stand-alone consultations, or a series of consultations to deal with specific design issues you may have. Perhaps you need help choosing colours for rooms, or perhaps you have a tricky spot and want some bespoke joinery designing. An interior designer can take a more objective approach, looking at that element as part of your wider living arrangements. They also have a wealth of experience and, in the case of colour consultations for example, is not tied to one particular paint brand.
Some designers and stylists will offer separate interior styling services. Often this is part of a full deign scheme; it’s the finishing touches, the cushions, the artwork, the accessories. But sometimes you may have a room that you don’t want to change much, but feel like the finishing touches are missing. That’s when the services of an interior stylist can help bring your scheme together, adding those important final elements to make your design sing.
The WHY? Why do you need an Interior Designer?
You may well not need one! But I am also conscious that lots of people are unsure whether the services of an Interior Designer are for them. Interior Design is no longer the preserve of the rich and famous. Interior Design is so much more accessible than it used to be and with people spending so much more time within their home than ever before, they are recognising the need to create something that truly works for them and which they truly love.
The reality is, people hire designers for many different reasons. You may well have a great eye for interiors but simply not have the time to focus on pulling a design together, let-alone the time to implement and project manage it all.
Or you may have a great eye for interiors and want to create the scheme yourself but working with a designer may help you think about the layout in a different way. Perhaps you’re drawing up plans with an architect for a new extension; a designer will bring a different perspective to the plans, considering your lifestyle and the internal flow to make sure that the space you create can be used how you need it to be used.
Alternatively you may just not know where to start when it comes to colour and pattern. You’ve read all the blogs out there, got lost down many a Pinterest rabbit-hole and now just feel completely overwhelmed. Perhaps you need an interior designer to get to help you define your style and create something that works for you.
Or maybe you’re a creative who loves design and interiors but wants to be challenged and pushed outside of your usual comfort-zone a little. Using a designer allows you to tap into their wealth of knowledge, suppliers, products and materials.
Whatever you want help with, whether it’s a lot or a little, a good designer will help you create a space you love and that works for you. As with any professional service, there’s obviously a financial investment but it results in an enjoyable process which helps you define your interior style and ultimately creates a home that tells your story.
Keep an eye out for Part 2 – Working with an Interior Designer – The WHO and the WHEN, out next week.