Design For Life: How to find your own style

Design For Life: How to find your own style

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 Story

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.

Practical Tips

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!).

Design Edit: Garden Lighting

Design Edit: Garden Lighting

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 (

#2 Hang these squirrel festoon lights in a tree for a magical effect all year round, £45 from Garden Trading  (

#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 (

#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 (

#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 (

#6 Add some architectural definition to your patio area with these luminous orbs, £50-100 from Cox and Cox (






I wrote a blog post a while ago for Nrth Lass which started “Working from home is such a joy”. I wonder how many people will say the same right now?! I’ve run my business from home for the past 4 years and I love working from home. Admittedly though, the current working-from-home-during-lockdown situation has its challenges, and isn’t quite what I had in mind when I wrote my original post.

But the sentiment of making sure you don’t neglect your home office space is probably even more relevant today than it was then. Obviously we’re all having to make-do at the moment. Especially with schools closed, more people are working in each house than was ever envisaged, and it’s impossible to think that every working space will be perfect. I’m sure dining tables around the country are groaning at the constant multi-functioning demanded of them (as well as under the weight of all the school books, laptops, crafts and coffee cups piled onto them!).

But with our family, working and social lives all merged under one roof, it’s probably more important than ever that we carve out a space for the working part of our life right now. So, how can you make your working space work harder for you whilst you’re slogging it out at home?

This sounds obvious, and it’s not always easy when there are numerous demands for office space, but try and have a space assigned for working. A space that is yours. This is probably even more important if you aren’t able to dedicate a separate room to it. So whether its a little nook, a space on the landing or a spare table set up somewhere, make sure you claim it for your own. It ensures you have a proper space to focus in, and is at least an attempt to prevent the work/home blur!

I like to be optimistic, but the reality is that many of us will be working from home, in some capacity, for some time to come. It’s likely that this pandemic will change working patterns forever, and that many people will work from home even for part of the week going forwards. So, if you can, it might be worth thinking about investing in the important pieces. A comfy office chair is essential. Your back will thank you for it. But don’t feel that you have to compromise on style and restrict yourself to conventional office furniture. There’s some great options around and as long as it offers the comfort and support you need to sit there for long periods, be as creative as you like.

No-one works well surrounded by stuff. If your working space was an impromptu set-up doing lockdown its likely storage wasn’t planned as part of the design! Now’s the time to take a look, be realistic about what you need, and get those papers filed into a drawer. Good storage doesn’t need to be expensive, or boring. Be creative; add some wooden shelving, buy some colourful drawers. You’re not in the corporate office now, so you can make it as personal and interesting as  you like!

Good ambient and task lighting is essential for work spaces, and this can be tricky if you’re working in a temporary set-up, or can’t make electrical changes right now. But a good plug-in desk light will go a long way to improving the situation. If you have very limited desk space, think about a floor standing lamp next to it. Just make sure you think about the height and direction of the light.

It’s no secret that I love sheepskins but there’s no easier way to add softness, warmth and texture to a space. And even if you’re using a spare dining chair, add a throw and it’ll make it that little bit more inviting. I can’t promise you’ll never want to leave your desk, but it’ll help make it a little more cosy!

No one does their best work in a sterile space (well, unless you’re a surgeon I guess). Make it personal; style it up. Add a photo gallery wall or frame a couple of those pictures your little one brought back from school (remember those days?!). Or, if lockdown means you’ve seen far too much of your immediate family, perhaps add some photos of your former office buddies!! Buy that cool stationary and add some plants. It’ll brighten up your office, and your day. And if it helps to justify it, remember it’s for work!

Happy working!