I don’t normally write about trends. Don’t get me wrong, trends are fun, and they can bring unexpected inspiration. And as a designer, it’s part of my job to be aware of emerging trends. It’s just I don’t think people should be led by trends, and I think too many new-year-new-trend posts can perpetuate this. So this post isn’t one of those. I won’t be telling you what colour I think will be hot this year, or what material you should be sourcing for your kitchen island unit. Instead, I’ll be talking about how I think 2021 is an important one for interior design. After 2020, the year we stayed at home, our relationship with our homes has changed dramatically, and even when (hopefully) covid is a distant memory, I’m sure lockdown living will have a lasting impact on our homes.
So here’s how I think the pandemic has changed how we design our homes, and the general trends we might see as a result in 2021…
More Multifunctional Spaces
Staying at home means working from home, learning from home and teaching from home. And most of us have compromised with our space in some way, at some point. The kitchen table has seen it all. It has been a craft table, school table, office and breakfast spot. Many a spare room has become a make-shift office. But even after the pandemic eases, the reality will be more working-from-home, and more learning-from-home than before. So it makes sense that we’ll be looking to create stylish work and learning zones within our homes, and often they’ll be within rooms or spaces that already have a function. Homes will need hard-working, multifunctional spaces and in the long-term these have every right to be as beautiful as the rest of the home.
There’s nothing like a global pandemic to focus our mind on health and wellbeing. There’s also nothing quite like lockdown restrictions to make us crave the great outdoors. Biophilic design has becoming increasingly popular but expect to see more in the coming year. It’s all about connecting with the natural world through design, and is aimed at promoting wellbeing. Adding plants is a good start but there’s also so much more. Think natural patterns, organic shapes and designs that work with, and maximise natural light and space.
Online shopping has been a saviour throughout lockdowns. But let’s be honest, it’s not the same as browsing the shops in person, and I’m sure most people at some point have found it hard to get hold of exactly what they want or need. Many people have also found themselves with more time (although with 4 children at home all day during lockdown I can confirm I am not one of those people!) so it’s not surprising that people are becoming more creative, and more resourceful. With more time to craft, knit, draw, paint and generally DIY, 2021 could see a much more imaginative and inventive approach to making a home. And that’s before we discuss the increasing financial hardship faced by many which means that being resourceful and reworking your home with what you have already got will be here to stay for a while.
The shopping that we are doing has become more considered. It’s not as easy to pop into a showroom, fall in love with a piece and hand over our credit card. Instead, there’s a greater need (and opportunity) to research, to think, to consider. Its been a thought-provoking year in other ways too; diversity, sustainability and environmental issues have all been under the spotlight. I suspect (or hope) as a result there’ll be a shift in shopping patterns; that there’ll be a move towards sustainable materials, support for local and independent brands, and a move to promote and support a more diverse range of artists, designers and brands.
Keep it personal
Having spent so much time at home, having really lived in our homes, my hope is that people start designing for themselves. Not for visitors, not for trends and not for resale. People have spent more time than ever within their homes and I’m sure, as a result, now really get what works, and what doesn’t. We’ve all realised the impact out home has on our mood and our wellbeing; we’ve experienced the impact our surroundings have on us. It may be as simple as changing a layout, or decluttering and improving storage. Or it may be taking your maximalist styling to the next level, or embracing a few more minimalist clean lines. I think we’re moving away from needing a perfect home to wanting a home that reflects our family life, that lets us tell our story.
And don’t forget the children
I’ve had so many new enquiries about childrens’ bedrooms, and in the main it’s prompted by a feeling that kids are spending so much more time at home, in their rooms, learning, playing and sleeping that they need (and deserve) and functional happy space to do this. Interior design can have such an impact on mental wellbeing and we shouldn’t forget that this applies to children too. Making sure they have a safe, creative space to play, work and sleep is so important. I think there’ll be some fun childrens’ room designs this year!
New Year. New Trends. New You?
Or should this be the year to discover your true interior style?
The one with a little more substance than trend following. The one you’re happy to grow old with through New Years to come.
But designing for life, not just following a trend can feel tricky. It’s far easier to try and replicate a look you’ve seen a hundred times before. Once you start to discover your style though, you’ll find that design decisions command an authenticity and you can begin to create a space that really feels like you. Like Home.
So where do you start?
Mad About the House’s Kate Watson-Smyth would suggest your wardrobe and I have to agree (unless, of course, it’s mine which is currently jam-packed with maternity leggings and big woolly jumpers). Look at the colours, the style, the patterns you like to wear. If it feels good wearing certain colours, you’re likely to respond well to them in your home too. If you like lots of pattern, chances are you’ll want at least a pop of pattern somewhere in your home.
Then look at your home (or previous homes). How have your past design decisions made you feel? Do you love that dark inky paint on the wall or does it leave you feeling a little out-of-sorts? In wanting a new start, a new design, it is all too easy to focus on something new without considering what we already have. But you may already have elements that work. And if nothing works, then at least you know what to avoid next time!
Inspiration not imitation
Then it’s time to look for some inspiration. Whereas a few years ago, we’d have flicked through the pages of a few magazines, now Pinterest and Instagram provide us with endless images of beautifully curated interiors. Colourful. Minimalist. Industrial. Maximalist. Granny Chic. We’re spoilt for choice with images to influence our design choices.
So how do you navigate your way through the plethora of perfectly styled interiors to find your own style and create a space you love?
By all means start online. Create Pinterest boards; it’s the modern equivalent of tearing out magazine pages (which, by the way, I still love to do). Feel free to get lost down the rabbit holes of Instagram; follow accounts whose interiors you love.
But the key to inspirational images is to use them as just that; inspiration. You want to identify looks and styles that you like and respond well to. You’re not looking to copy, but to create something new. You’re building up the layers of your style – not just finding an image to copy.
So, save all the images you love (and I wouldn’t limit the images to the specific room you’re decorating – I’d keep it general if you want to help identify your style). Then take a break. When you come back to the images, look at them critically. Try and identify what it is you like about the images you’ve chosen. Is it the colours, the patterns, the textures you like? And be ruthless, delete any you don’t really, really love. You should then start to see strands of consistency as you build up your style library of images.
Your home should reflect your personality. You’re looking to discover your decorating style; a way to tell your story. Don’t get me wrong, Pinterest and Instagram provide a wonderful forum for creativity and inspiration. But you can have too much of a good thing. Either it just becomes overwhelming or, worse, you loose sight of what will actually make you happy in your own home. Styled shots are beautiful to look at but they are often just that; styled shots. Not real life.
And just because something’s nice to look at, doesn’t mean you’d want to live with it!
So think about how you want your interior space to make to you feel. I try and ask clients to choose 3 words to help them focus. Do you want your home to to feel vibrant, bright and alive? Or do you want it to feel calm, cool and airy? Identifying early on words to represent your style will really help you make specific design decisions later on.
The Design Process
When I’m working with clients, it’s at this stage that I ask them to walk away from Pinterest and Instagram. Once we’ve been through all their images and started to build up the layers of their style, we leave the Pinterest boards and focus on a specific brief for the space we are designing.
And when you’re designing a room for yourself, I’d really recommend you do the same. It can actually be quite liberating. Create a brief, work out how you want the room to feel, the colours you like, the style of furniture you want to work with, and then stop pinning. It starts to get confusing, contradictory and that’s when you end up with a space that isn’t cohesive.
So what about the rest of the design process? Here are a few tips to help you pull your design together.
Get practical: It might not be as exciting as the pinning part, but it’s just as important. List your practical requirements for the space. Identify where you can compromise and where you cannot.
Lay it out: Next think spatial flow. If you’re replacing large pieces of furniture it’s worth drawing a floorpan; either electronically or just with pencil and paper. Measure the room to see what space you have to play with. It’ll give you a much better sense of scale and proportion. If you need more help visualising, then mark out the outline of new furniture pieces with newspaper. And especially if you’re tight for space, make sure your measurements include skirting boards, rather than just wall-to-wall; those few centimetres can make all the difference as to whether a piece fits.
Store it: It may not be glamorous and it isn’t always apparent when you look at beautifully styled interior shots, but storage is key to the success of most rooms. Have a good declutter by all means to reduce the amount you need. But make sure you’re honest and realistic and your needs and your lifestyle. Neatly curated open shelves don’t look quite so fabulous when they have piles of everyday clutter stacked up next to them!
Photo: P.Westwall @ 100% Design, London
Above all, have fun. Whether it’s just a room, or your whole house, it should most definitely be fun. Take your time if you can, and enjoy the process. You’re designing your home after all! So, get out from behind your screen and experience some design in real life. Have lunch in a fabulous restaurant (it’s research, honestly!), visit showrooms (nothing beats seeing and feeling products) or head to a design show (you’ll find products and brands you’d never heard of before).
And a final tip, once you’ve pulled your design together? Add in something a little unexpected. It keeps things fresh, adding a truly personal touch to your design and helping gently nudge you out of your comfort zone (go on, try it!).
Autumn is definitely in the air, but what a glorious weekend we had in Yorkshire. After such a long, sunny summer I’ve got rather used to spending time in the garden, so it was nice to be out there again. I’m certainly not ready to close the door on my outdoor space yet. Admittedly, I am excited about updating the interior for the seasonal changes, but this year I’m keen to incorporate the garden a little more, alive to the possibility that it too is a magical place to be enjoyed all year round. Garden lighting may not be the obvious choice for an Autumnal Design Edit, but when it’s cold and dark outside, what’s better than looking out into your very own enchanted forest?
And if you’re garden-ready, as soon as there’s another sunny day, you have the perfect excuse to get outside. Throws, lanterns and candles; perhaps even throw a log on the fire pit. Now’s the time to wrap up and enjoy some cosy, alfresco autumnal evenings. Who’s with me?
So here are my top picks for the optimists who refuse to make the garden redundant for the next half of the year …
#1 I love a floor lamp. And now there’s one to take outside. Make a sophisticated statement with this Elsa outdoor floor lamp, £120 from Cox and Cox (www.coxandcox.co.uk/elsa-outdoor-floor-lamp)
#2 Hang these squirrel festoon lights in a tree for a magical effect all year round, £45 from Garden Trading (www.gardentrading.co.uk/lighting/outdoor-lighting/festoon-lights-squirrel-10-bulbs.htm)
#3 Now’s a good time to update your hardwired outdoor lighting; welcome your guests in style with this contemporary carriage light, £95 from Garden Trading (www.gardentrading.co.uk/lighting/outdoor-lighting/wall-lighting/belgrave-carriage-light.htm)
#4 Giant lanterns are a great way of creating a bold look while making an outdoor snug cosy and inviting. I love the Mosi giant lantern, £140 – £190 from Nkuku (www.nkuku.com/product/mosi-giant-lantern)
#5 Admittedly alfresco dining opportunities may be few and far between until the Spring, but these pendants would look amazing hung from a tree over a cosy seating area. And then you’re ready for next year’s outdoor dinner parties! £75 from Amara (www.amara.com/products/sunlight-pendant)
#6 Add some architectural definition to your patio area with these luminous orbs, £50-100 from Cox and Cox (www.coxandcox.co.uk/stone-effect-boulder-lights)
Whether it’s for your bedtime reading or morning cuppa, a good bedside lamp is essential. Not only practical, but a pair of bedside lamps leaves your bedroom beautifully styled. And, if you’re feel confident, mix them up. No one ever said they had to match.
Take a look at the lamps I’m loving right now….
#1 Rose tinted glass makes everything better.
Glass shade lamp (£78) from www.oliverbonas.com
#2 Simple style. Beautiful combination of marble and glass; just add a vintage bulb.
Oracle domed £49.99 from www.dowsingandreynolds.com
#3 Easy and elegant. Choose the dark pleated shade for a touch of sophistication.
Bessy Table Lamp £145 from www.loaf.com
#4 Soft and dreamy. Perfect in light airy rooms as well as dark moody spaces.
Eos tripod lamp from www.vitacopenhagen
#5 Sleek and stylish. Brass finish adds a touch of elegance.
Octavia £39 from www.made.com
#6 Classic combination of blush pink and polished brass. A favourite of mine.
Ewer £59 from www.made.com
It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of dark, inky hues for creating spaces which envelope and cocoon. Dark, rich walls evoke a real sense of drama, which I love. But, whilst dark greys and navy have been recent go-to dark tones, here I want to explore some other options.
Source: The Design Chaser
So, in this blog post I’m looking at chocolate brown. Brown is not a colour often embraced in interiors and it can be met with a love/hate response. Yet, I’m keen to explore what this often overlooked, rich colour has to offer. Well suited for an Autumnal post, the earthier tones of deep brown can give a really warm and comforting feel.
Perfect for creating a modern elegance, dark browns work well with other deep, earthy colours such as greens and reds. Layering these rich tones gives a really sophisticated feel. Add in a pop of vibrant blue and you’ve got something really rather decadent.
Or keep things simple and dark for a smart, contemporary look. All you need is a little colour pop to finish off the look. As with all dark hues; creating depth in the backdrop really lets a touch of colour sing!
It’s a really effective colour for creating an eclectic look too. Mix up some vintage-style wooden frames for a quirky look or, if you prefer a sharper look use simple black frames and mix in some colourful, vibrant artwork.
Source: Unknown via Pinterst
For a more laid back look, soften it slightly and mix in some simple linens. The warmth of the brown walls here creates a relaxing, sensuous vibe. I really rather like it.
Whilst it might not be a look as easy to pull-off as a moody dark grey or a sultry navy, the earthy, rich qualities of dark brown are really quite endearing. If you want to give it a go, Abigail Ahern’s Bedford Brown is a really good starting point. It’s dark, rich and versatile, creating a really cosy space. Which all sounds perfect for the start of Autumn.
Source: Abigail Ahern