Sourcing the right things – how to choose items for your new room

This post is part of a series of tips on interior design and working with an interior designer.

how to choose everythingSo, if you’ve followed the tips in this series on how to get started, how to come up with a design concept and general inspiration, how to look at the space planning of your room, you should now have:

  • a list of jobs to be done on the room
  • a shopping list of things to get for the room
  • some key images to shape the colour scheme and general aesthetics (the concept)
  • some inspirational images of other rooms
  • a planned layout for the room

Now, let’s go shopping!

The key now is to start looking for the things on your shopping list, using the concept and inspirational images to guide you.

The concept

This gives you guidance as to the colours and shapes to use in the room.  The idea is that if the concept ‘works’, the room will work if you stick closely to the concept.  Rooms that are strongly linked to their concepts will be immediately obvious if you see an image of the finished room next to the concept.  If you squint, they will look similar in the balance of colour and the key shapes.

So, in its most simplistic form, if your inspirational images show a bed with an upholstered headboard, and your concept has quite neutral colours with a red splash of colour, you might consider a red upholstered headboard in a neutral room.  Or perhaps the curtains could be red and the headboard neutral.  In a large room, both could be red with the rest neutral and the red would still be a similar proportion of the room.

From this...

From this – painful looking security fencing… this - Remix in Blue by Ferm Living

…to this – Remix in Blue by Ferm Living

If your concept has an image of a strong triangular shape, you might find some fabric for cushions with high contrast triangles and work from there.

Blossom may translate quite literally into a floral print, or it may become mosaic tiles, a print of dots, textured fabric or a rug.

Once you start finding items that you love, they will shape the rest of the room.

The inspirational images

These will translate into one of two things: either the specific features you want in the room – or as close as you can – (e.g. the curtains, the sofa, the lamp); or a general look / style.  Use them to guide you in the right direction, and the concept to put your own personal spin on it.

Consider the details

As you find items, consider how they’d work in your layout.

How does the height of the coffee table compare to the sofa?  How about the side tables with the sofa arms?  The bedside tables with the mattress height?

Is the sofa wider than the typical one you used for your plan?  Is there space for it?  What if you found a smaller side table?

Record your ideas

If you are shopping in person, take photos of each item you think might work, then you can compare them at home.  Online, it’s easy to take a screenshot and save it.

Some items you may want to buy/order there and then, if you’re sure you want them and there’s a risk they may go out of stock before you’re ready for them.  Some can wait until the room is ready.  Don’t forget to ask about lead times (how long you’ll need to wait for the item to be delivered).

Finalise the schedule of works

As the room starts to come together on paper you can finalise your list of jobs to be done and start looking for a contractor to carry out the work (or start doing it yourself, of course!).

You’ll also need to consider the lighting – if there’s any rewiring to be done, you’ll want to know the final layout of the room before you can start installing this.  We’ll look at this later.

Good luck!


Was this useful?  Let me know in the comments!

Coming soon – specific tips for individual rooms, lighting, tips on how to use colour, choose floorings, wall coverings, paint…

If you have any questions you’d like me to answer in this series, leave a comment or send a message via the website – I’d be delighted to help!

Tags: ,

Space planning and layout for your home – how to do it

This post is part of a series of tips on interior design and working with an interior designer.

So, if you’ve followed the tips in this series on how to get started and how to come up with a design concept and general inspiration, you should have:

  • a list of jobs to be done on the room
  • a shopping list of things to get for the room
  • some key images to shape the colour scheme and general aesthetics
  • some inspirational images of other rooms

Let’s put that all together to look at the space planning and layout of the room.

It would be impossible to cover in one little blog post all the aspects that should be taken into consideration when planning the general layout of the room, so let’s focus on the key points.  Here, we are considering rooms without plumbing – living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, playrooms, studies etc.  We’ll look at kitchens and bathrooms later.  We’ll also look at some more specific points for each of the room types in later posts.

Getting started

Space planningYou need to find some way to sketch out the different layout possibilities, ideally approximately to scale.  This could be literally by sketching, with a pencil and paper.  It could be by cutting out typically sized furniture in paper or card, and moving it around in a scale plan of the room.  Or it could be digital, with a program such as Sketchup (Sketchup Made is the free version), where you model everything yourself from scratch, or room planner software such as Floorplanner, Roomstyler or Homestyler, where you specify dimensions etc and it models the room for you.  There are free versions of each of these; some have more advanced versions for a fee.

I’d suggest picking one of these methods, and sketching out a layout as a sort of first draft, based on the basic list of things you decided you need in the room.  You’ll also want to record each of your options, whether that’s by doing individual sketches, taking a quick photo of a layout, or saving separate files if you’re using software.

Refining the layout

Once you’ve got a basic first draft, consider each of the following questions and refine it where necessary.

Activities – what will be done in this room and by how many people?

Radlett Family Home

Image by Sims Hilditch, seen on Houzz

Consider each of the activities that you identified in your initial planning.  You’ll want to make sure each of these activities can be carried out in one area of the room.  This is called zoning.  For example, in a bedroom, you might have listed sleeping, dressing, grooming.  Make sure that the clothes storage is all accessible in the dressing ‘zone’, and that you don’t have to traipse across to the other side of the room and round the bed to get your underwear every day, whilst everything else is in one defined area.  For grooming, make sure the supplies (hair products, make up, hairdryer etc) are near the mirror.

Right: A separate dressing area has been created behind the headboard of the bed.  This is a great example of zoning.


Flow – how will people move around the room?

Clarendon Road

Image by Sigmar, seen on Houzz

Make sure you’ve left enough space for people to move around, pass through, pull dining chairs out etc.  Consider the entrances and exits, and typical paths through the space.  Sometimes you may want to make someone take a more circuitous route, rather than leaving the straight line option open, but just make sure this is a conscious decision.


Focal points – what will the eye be drawn to in the room?

Oxshott 2, Surrey

Image by Designer Touches Ltd, seen on Houzz

What is the focal point in your current draft plan?  Do you want to change it?  Do you want more than one focal point?  Do you want a different one at night, when the room is lit artificially?

Right: The fireplace and mirror are the focal point, whether the fire is lit or not.


Problems to solve – does this layout solve the problems identified when we started the planning?

Is there something that wasn’t working in the room before – and is it better now?  Does the room maintain what was working before?  Does the layout address what you liked and didn’t like about how it looked before?

Aspect – how much light does the room get, and at what time of day?


Image by Ingrid Rasmussen Photography, seen on Houzz

If you tend to read the papers on a Sunday afternoon, would it be nice if you could sit in the sunlight?  Or do you tend to read at night, by artificial light, and thus don’t need to be near a window?  Will the room be in direct sunlight for a lot of the day, and thus silk would not be a good idea for curtains, cushions or carpet (silk rots in sunlight)?

Above: If your room faces north and doesn’t get much light, consider a dark colour scheme to create a cosy room.


Furniture / storage requirements – what is essential, what would be nice to have?

We started this process with the essential pieces of furniture – what was on your nice-to-have list?  Can you fit any of that in?

Services – lighting and electrical circuits, heating and cooling

If this is all being created to fit the new room, once you have settled on a layout you can look at where you’re likely to need sockets, radiators, underfloor heating etc.  We will be covering lighting in more detail later.  If you’re redesigning an existing room and not altering the electrics and other services, do you need to jig things around to make sure sockets are in the right place for lamps, hairdryers, TV, speakers, laptops etc?  Is there a huge radiator in the way of your sofa, which might cause a problem in the winter?

Keep running through these questions and altering your layout until you’re satisfied you’ve got the best solution for the space.  Then make sure you record it!

What to do next

Use the final layout to add to your shopping list and task list for the room.  You may be able to add things like lamps, accessories, nice-to-have items to your shopping list, and you should have a clearer idea of the work that needs to be done on the room.

Next we will consider how to use all the information you’ve gleaned so far to actually start choosing the items to go in the room.

Was this useful?  Let me know in the comments!

Coming soon – sourcing, specific tips for individual rooms, tips on how to use colour, choose floorings, wall coverings, paint…

If you have any questions you’d like me to answer in this series, leave a comment or send a message via the website – I’d be delighted to help!

Tags: ,

Create an interior design concept for your home and get inspired!

This post is part of a series of tips on interior design and working with an interior designer.

So, if you followed the first post in this series, you’ve had a think about what you need in your space, what you want, and what is possible and impossible.  You’ve thought through the practicalities, and had some ideas about what you want the room to look and feel like – what next?

For me, this is the most fun, creative part of the design process.  We’re going to come up with an interior design concept and seek out some inspiration for your room.

interior design concept

Collect inspiration

Get flicking through magazines (interiors, fashion, lifestyle…), on Pinterest, Houzz, design blogs, books, anywhere really.  Go out and take photos of things that catch your eye.  Collate items that you like too – perhaps a vase, button or item of clothing might be a great starting point.  Do all this while keeping half a mind on the room you want to create, and the answers to the questions you’ve just considered.

There are two types of inspiration you’re looking for: abstract images with nothing to do with interiors that just feel like the room you want to create, and images of rooms that have elements that you like.  Images of rooms that you really dislike are useful too.

Whenever you come across something that you like, rip it out, take a photo, bookmark it, draw it, scan it into your computer… just keep a record of it somehow.  Separate the abstract images from the room interiors.

Edit the images

Now let’s look at what to do next with each type of image.

Abstract images not related to interiors

Look through your pile of images here.  Can you see themes or colours emerging?  Pick two to four images that look good together.  These will form the basis of your design for colour, shape and texture, and is referred to as the concept.  See the image above for an example of an interior design concept.

Inspirational room shots

Edit these out to leave you with several that you absolutely love, and some that you strongly dislike.  For each of them, note what it is that you like/dislike.  Is it the colours, a particular item of furniture, the layout, how minimalist / cluttered the room is, the general style, the windows…?

Now, you should have a few key abstract images to guide the aesthetics of your design, and a catalogue of likes and dislikes based on actual roomshots.

What to do with your collection of images

If you’re doing your own interior design, these images can now be used to shape your whole design.  Keep them safe as you will refer back to them time and time again!

If you’re working with a designer, they’d be over the moon if you presented them with a pile of images that you like, and some that you dislike too.  In fact, if you hire me to do a design consultation for you, this is part of the preparation I’ll ask you to do before we meet.

Was this useful?  Let me know in the comments!

Pin this post for later

Coming soon – space planning and the layout of the room, sourcing, specific tips for individual rooms, tips on how to use colour, choose floorings, wall coverings, paint…

If you have any questions you’d like me to answer in this series, leave a comment or send a message via the website – I’d be delighted to help!

Tags: ,

How to… get started with planning the interior design of your home

This post is part of a series of tips on interior design and working with an interior designer.

Planning the interior design of your home

Start with the questions… not with the drawings!

Interior design planning

So, you’ve decided to make some changes to your home, or you’ve bought a new place, or you’re planning an extension. It’s tempting to dive in there with ideas and enthusiasm, but you may save yourself some headaches later if you slow down and ask yourself some key questions first.

While most spaces evolve organically, and are never finished, it makes sense to make sure things that are expensive or difficult to change are right from the beginning.  Create a solid base, and then let it evolve, if that’s the way you like to do it.

The first thing I would suggest to do, when planning changes
to your home, is to think about
what you need, what you want, and what is possible (and impossible).
You will need to do this, whether you are planning the interior design of your home yourself, or employing a designer to help you.

Obviously, an interior designer can help you with much more than just interior design planning – from accessing trade discounts to co-ordinating sourcing, deliveries and the whole project – but the planning stage when working with a designer would typically start with some thinking along these lines.

Below are some questions taken from the questionnaire we use when obtaining the brief for a new design project, or carrying out a design consultation.


…what are the limits of the room and how does it need to function?

  1. Who will use the room regularly? Occasionally? Will this change in the future (e.g. children planned, extended family moving in?) How many adults, children, pets?
  2. How often is the room used? Is it the main family home, a pied a terre, weekend home? What happens in the room in a typical week/month?
  3. What is your lifestyle like? Do you spend most of your time at home, do you entertain a lot, or do you eat out most nights and rarely cook?
  4. What activities will you do in the room? Sleeping, eating, watching movies, reading, working, yoga, workouts, entertaining, bathing etc…??
  5. Which way does the room face? How much daylight will it get? Will it be in direct sunlight for any of the day?
  6. Are there any planning restrictions?
  7. Is the wiring, plumbing, heating system etc in good condition, or do these need to be addressed as part of the project?
  8. What is the access like? Is there a limit in size for large items?
  9. How is the room constructed? Walls, ceiling, floor, windows, doors…?
  10. What do you need in the room, from a practical point of view? Furniture, storage, equipment etc
  11. What is or isn’t working about the way the room functions currently (if it exists already)?


…what do you want the room to look like?

  1. What styles, seasons, colours etc do you like?
  2. What feeling would you like to evoke when you or your family and friends walk into the room? Welcoming, warm, energised, excited, calm, impressed?
  3. Are there any particular finishes or materials that you love or hate? E.g. wallpaper, wood flooring, carpets, rugs, curtains, blinds, shutters, pattern, metal, textured fabrics…
  4. What do you currently like or dislike about the room (if it exists already)?
  5. What will you be keeping and what can go?

Once you have considered these questions, you should be able to create a shopping list for the key items that need to be sourced for the room, and a basic list of jobs to be done (e.g. sort wiring etc).  Don’t forget to distinguish between essentials and nice-to-haves.

Whether you are answering these questions for yourself or your designer, your answers will shape the design of the room. If you follow this checklist, you are much more likely to end up with your home the way you want it.

Was this useful? Do you feel you now know how to get started with interior design planning?  Let me know in the comments!

Coming soon – coming up with a design concept and colour scheme, space planning and the layout of the room, specific tips for individual rooms, tips on how to use colour, choose floorings, wall coverings, paint…

If you have any questions you’d like me to answer in this series, leave a comment or send a message via the website – I’d be delighted to help!

Tags: ,

LED lighting – what to look for, how to choose

LED lighting has improved immeasurably in the last few years.  Gone are the days of blue light at a high price – LED lighting is now warmer, softer and much more affordable.

Part L, the Building Regulation that covers energy efficiency, states that 75% of fixed lighting within a new build or refurbishment must provide at least 48 lumens per Watt, and 400 lumens per fitting.  Lumens measure brightness.  So it is effectively saying that, for the lighting that’s fixed in your home, you must get a decent amount of brightness for the amount of electricity you are using.  Using LED lighting is a very effective way to achieve this.  But what to consider when choosing a brand for your spotlights?

Colour consistency

I’m sure you’ve all been in a shop, restaurant or someone’s home and noticed one pink spotlight amongst the others.  Or perhaps one that’s slightly green?  Maybe you have one yourself at home.  Good quality brands of LED lighting do not vary in colour in this way.

You probably know that lights in general tend to be available in warm white and cool white.  The colour temperature of light is measured in Kelvins.  Warm white is 2700 Kelvins; cool white is 3000 Kelvins.  While these measurements sound quite precise, in fact a 2700K light could have a pronounced pink or green tinge to it, and still be correctly categorised as 2700K warm white.

So, what we are looking for is manufacturers that have a more limited definition of what measures as 2700K (or 2400K, or 3000K, etc). In other words, manufacturers that categorise(‘bin’) their LEDs based on a more limited criteria.  This variation can be measured as MacAdams ellipses.  If the light is classified (‘binned’) as 2700K, to an accuracy of 3 MacAdams ellipses or less, you can be confident that all the lights from that manufacturer classified (‘binned’) as 2700K will look the same colour to the naked eye.

Colour rendering

Colour rendering measures how accurately colours appear under a certain light compared to daylight. Many cheaper LED light fittings have terrible colour rendering, particularly for reds.  Your reds may look brown, your blues may look grey.  So what we are looking for here is brands that have good colour rendering.

This is measured on the Colour Rendering Index, which compares the performance of the light against daylight.  It is marked out of 100. Above 90 is excellent.  80+ is good.  Anything below 80 is not going to reproduce colours accurately and is best avoided in your home.

You also have to be careful that the manufacturer has included all 14 colours when they state their CRI score for a particular light. It is possible to score only on the first 8 colours and state that the light is a certain CRI score, when if the last 6 colours, which are more challenging, were included, it would be much lower.

Which LED lighting brands?

You can use the above criteria to consider any make of LED bulbs or spotlights. Brands I have personally come across that meet these criteria include EcoLED, Orluna and John Cullen. Of course, good quality costs more, but you get what you pay for – better technology, a better result, a better home. Along with all LEDs, the extremely long life of the bulb (up to a decade!) means you can buy once, and save many times over with the energy savings and replacement savings compared to halogen spotlights.

With the above information, you can make an informed choice, rather than kitting yourself out with cheap LED fittings and then being disappointed with the result and paying more in the long run.

Plug-in lighting

Note that plug-in lamps are not covered by Part L.  Most plug-in lamps, and some ceiling and wall fittings, take traditional bulb sizes.  While standard incandescents are no longer available, the next best solution – aesthetically – for fittings that take E27, E14 (screw-in) or B22 (bayonet) bulbs at the moment is reduced wattage Halogen, such as these from Phillips.

Whether it’s LED lighting or not, always put your lights on dimmers if you can, make your spotlights directional (usually aimed at the walls) rather than pointing directly down, and please don’t put them in a grid on the ceiling!  More about this in a future post.

Tags: , , ,

How to choose art for your home – and how to arrange what you already have

Great art is always part of great interior design.  But how can we arrange the art we already have, and what should we look for when choosing more art for our home?  I recently attended a lecture by Stephanie Newell-Price, who took us through what she considers when choosing and arranging art.

What is art?

Let’s start by getting something important out of the way.  ‘Art’ does not have to mean expensive pieces of original work by established artists.  Art can be photographs, prints, your own work.  Art is a collection of postcards framed together, text, a sketch.  It can be created by a child, a professional, an amateur.  The definition of art could even be stretched to include a collection of vases on a shelf, an arrangement of books, rocks, anything that adds colour, texture and interest to a room.

Here, however, we’re going to concentrate on 2D art, the kind you can put into a frame and hang on, or lean against, the wall.


London Transport Zoo postcards

London Transport Zoo postcards

When we lived near London Zoo, I bought a pack of London Transport Zoo postcards.  Had a mount made to fit an Ikea frame, and there you go: original art, unique, very inexpensive.

How to organise and position what you have

The first thing to do is analyse what kind of art you like.  Even if you think you already know, try this.  Get everything you have (that you like!) into one room and look at it all at once.  Do you have any collections of anything that you love, but that aren’t framed?  You’re looking for themes, but forget the obvious.  We’re not interested in genre, period, artist, location.  You need to look through those categories and just consider what it looks like.  Is the dominant theme mark-making, i.e. lines, blobs, dashes?  Or form, shapes?  Perhaps it’s light, or colour, or texture?  Can you pick one of these themes that’s present in the majority of the pieces that you like?

Then consider, do any of the pieces speak to each other, i.e. go well together.  Perhaps a particularly dark piece is balanced well with a light one.  Perhaps one piece picks out the colours of another.  If you have any obvious sets, put them together.

Do you really want a particular piece in a particular room?  Then that’s your starting point for that room.

Pieces behind glass will reflect the light, so it’s good to position these in places where this will be beneficial.  Don’t hang dark, heavy, matt pieces in dark rooms.  Use glazed pieces to bounce the light around, and place the dark pieces in a light room to ground it.

As you start considering the above, a plan will start to come together, and you will start to position pieces where they will go.  Then look at the room as a whole.  Is there balance?  Of colour, of dark and light, of texture?

Once you have arranged what you have, consider the holes.  Do you have items to fill the gap?  Or is there room for some new pieces?  Which brings me to…

How to choose art for your home

First, if you haven’t gone through the exercise above to analyse what you like, and identify your favourite theme in art, do that first.  If you don’t yet own anything, start browsing online or in galleries, take a quick snapshot or screenshot of ones you like (do please ask permission in a gallery or museum!), and then you can pull the photos together to analyse.

Once you know your theme, you can use it as a shortcut to narrow down work in galleries, at fairs, in museum shops etc, to hone in on the items that you are likely to like.  And then just buy what you love, safe in the knowledge that if it is part of the theme, it will look good with the rest.

Go to shows like The Affordable Art Fair, The Other Art Fair, London Original Print Fair and, if you have more to spend or are just looking for inspiration, Frieze, PAD and the London Art Fair (all London, some Bristol too).

Using a piece of art as a starting point for a room is a fun way to design if you have a blank slate of a room and a piece that you love.  Just don’t be too matchy-matchy: the picture will blend into the room and it may look too much like a bland hotel.  Consider contrasting the colours in the piece instead of matching.

Consider dark walls to make light art pop against the dark background.

Don’t let a piece being too small for your space put you off.  How about framing it with an extra large mount?  Or buying more than one and framing them together?

Protecting and framing art

Get your precious pieces framed properly.  They need to be protected from sunlight, moisture and even insects.

Don’t hang pieces where they may be bleached and irreversibly damaged by the sun.

Don’t position anything above a radiator without deflecting the heat as much as possible with a radiator cover.

I hope the above tips help, and have fun filling your homes with art!


Develop your creativity to get a home that you love

As part of the recent Design Week 2016, a spring event centred around the Design Centre in Chelsea Harbour, I attended a brief talk on Developing Creativity, given by KLC (where I myself went to Design School). I wasn’t taught by Rachael White, who delivered the talk, but found her very inspiring, a creative powerhouse!

While it was aimed at interior designers, I thought I’d translate some of the advice for those of you looking to create a home you love.


A key habit: keep a sketchbook.  You don’t have to be good at drawing! Stick things in (postcards, pictures torn out of magazines, something that you like the colours of…), sketch (even if you think it’s rubbish!), include photos, thoughts… but not too much writing.

File 31-03-2016, 16 58 57

A tip from Rachael that I loved was to keep the pages closed with a bulldog clip until a month has passed, then look through what you’ve done and identify the themes, see how you’ve progressed.  10 minutes each morning is a great start, if you can add to it throughout the day when you see something that inspires you, that would be amazing.  Even if you are doing it specifically to help you design your home, you don’t need to work on it with that in mind.  Just record what you love and you may find inspiration in the strangest place!

Be present

We’ve all been to concerts, weddings, on holidays where everyone is recording what’s happening on their mobile phones.  You might even do it yourself.  But we’d get more out of the experience if we immersed ourselves in that moment and enjoyed it – the sights, the sounds, the feelings.  How often do you look at all the photos and videos you took?

Take a couple of photos to jog your memory later and then be present in the moment and those moments will reward you with better memories and experiences – some of which could inspire your designs.

How to deal with all the photos you take

Phone full of photos? Take endless images that never see the light of day? Thought so. Try this:

Every so often, or after a long trip where you’ve taken a lot of photos, spend a few minutes – 30, tops – editing out the truly awful ones – when they’re blurred, no-one’s looking at the camera, someone’s finger’s in the way…  Then get them printed cheaply, 4×6 is big enough.

Put them in a box for a few months and then when you look through them again, you can do two things.  Firstly, look through the photos for themes, colours, shapes etc, and use them to provide inspiration for your home.  Secondly, look for specific photos to edit digitally, get blown up, printed on canvas etc if you wish, for everyone to enjoy.

This works because the time delay allows you to be more objective, and you can immediately pick out the themes and the good ones.

Choosing colours

A great tool I hadn’t heard of before is Adobe Color.  If you love the colours in an image, you can use it to create a colour scheme.  (Scroll to the bottom of the page at the link and the Create From Image option is under the Create menu).

Embrace new experiences

Something I would add, that they didn’t mention in the workshop, to boost creativity, is just to keep on trying new things.  Read new books, try new places to eat, new routes to work / school / friends and family’s homes, go to new places on holiday, visit your local attractions.  I don’t mean that everything has to be brand new to you all the time, but add variety rather than going to the same old places, the same old way, and you will be rewarded with more ideas, a more interesting life and a more creative brain.  Hopefully resulting in a home that you love!

Some practical tips for lighting your home

Last week I attended a panel discussion on Designing with Light, which featured luminaries (sorry!) of the design world Sally Storey (lighting designer), Juliette Byrne (interior designer), Shazeen Emambux (Porto Romana – lighting) and Nick Fichte (Crestron – lighting control and tech).

Some of my books on lighting

Here’s what I learnt.  I hope these tips help you get your home the way you want it.

Keep the controls simple

It’s possible these days to add endless circuits of light to your room, but how often will you use them? Crestron say that they’ve found clients may have several different circuits for various situations, but they tend to just use the default, and perhaps a dimmed down version for entertaining. So just work out what you want in these situations, and don’t complicate it further.

Consider the colours / finishes in the room

With 75% of fixed lighting in new builds and refurbishments having to be energy efficient, and the phasing out of halogens in 2018, the LED business is booming. And it should be, it is the way forward and I am a huge fan, for a number of reasons that I will go into in a separate post. However, be sure to look at what your chosen bulbs/fittings do to your carefully selected fabrics. Except at the high end, the colour rendering of LEDs (ie how the light makes the colours look, compared to daylight), is poor. In particular, warm colours such as reds and oranges do not show up well. So unless you can afford to shop at the high end for the best bulbs / fittings, consider choosing cool colours where they will be lit by LED light. They will look better.

With the advent of wireless controls, sophisticated lighting doesn’t have to break the bank

A simple wireless room control module from Crestron is less than £500. More expensive than a budget dimmer switch, that’s for sure, but certainly not running into the thousands that these kind of systems used to start at. Don’t write it off as something only for the ultra wealthy.

The progress in lighting control and home automation is rapid and attainable for many

Putting most or all of your house on a lighting system such as Crestron’s allows endless possibilities. Going on holiday? Tell the system and it will repeat the last two weeks’ worth of lighting patterns while you are away, so your home looks occupied. Motorised curtains? Add these to the system and it can draw them too. Turn the heating on and off remotely. Home automation is no longer for the privileged few and the tech-savvy.



What I learnt from Kit Kemp and how it can help you get your home the way you want it

I was lucky enough to hear Kit Kemp speak a few days ago at London Design Week 2016, held each Spring and centred around the Design Centre in Chelsea Harbour. I’m told she doesn’t do many talks; this one sold out in two days but I leapt at the chance to hear her speak and managed to get a ticket.

Kit Kemp speaking to Giles Kime at London Design Week 2016. Image from @DesignCentreCH on twitter

Kit Kemp has a wonderful way of putting together colourful, fascinating rooms, and I have long admired her work. She designs the interiors for Firmdale Hotels, the hotel group she co-owns with her husband.  The group includes several hotels in London (Covent Garden Hotel, Charlotte St Hotel, Ham Yard Hotel to name but three), and one in New York (Crosby Street Hotel) with another on the way. Read more about her here. Here’s some tips I learnt from Kit that I thought I’d share with you to help you get your home the way you want it.

Start with what you love

If you start here, you can’t go too far wrong. Let what you love and your core values be the foundation of everything in your home. If you’re not sure what your values are, or what you love, keep a scrapbook, put everything in it that you come across that you like. Images, sketch things, words, photos. Any subject, not just interiors. Look back over it from time to time and the themes will appear, these themes show you what you love/value/are attracted to.  Whenever you’re looking for new things for your home, bear these values and themes in mind.

Showcase fabric on headboards

A headboard provides an ideal opportunity to show off a beautiful fabric to full effect. All too often a fabric is gathered to make curtains, or wrapped around furniture in the form of upholstery. A headboard allows you to use the fabric flat, and as you need far less of it than for curtains, it can be an economical way to use it.

Frame unusual items

Why not frame plates, shoe collections, balls, anything that you like or means something to you… Kit is a big fan of collections of items. Framing collected items pulls a collection together and adds more weight to it. Framing 3D items with a black felt background really makes the item pop.

One room at a time

Even if your whole home needs an overhaul, work on one room at a time. Spend however long you’ve got, in a short space of time, trawling for inspiration for that room only. Include at least one trip out, if you can, wandering around design districts such as Chelsea Harbour, the Kings Road, Fulham Road, Tottenham Court Road etc (or if you’re not in London, try the Home and Fabric departments in your local department store, fabric shops, furniture shops, local restaurants and hotels, textile museums…). Flick through magazines (home, fashion, gardening, anything!), Pinterest, Houzz etc. Anything you like, get a sample, snap a quick picture, take a screenshot, rip it out… Don’t analyse too much while you’re collecting, just keep going. Then sit down at home and look for the themes. Your room will start to appear. You can then build on this foundation to search for the remaining things you need, and create a unique look that you’ll love.

Don’t be afraid of failure

This piece of advice applies to so much more than just interior design! Rarely is failure so catastrophic that recovery is impossible. If you don’t try daring things, you are unlikely to end up with a remarkable room or home… (Or a remarkable experience… holiday… life…). Try it, if it doesn’t work, learn from it and move on.

Some excellent tips here. Thank you, Kit, for an inspirational, entertaining and colourful talk, and for your generous advice from which we can all benefit.

Tags: , , , , ,

Living room ideas – how to plan a room you’ll love

This post is part of a series of tips on interior design and working with an interior designer.  Today: living room ideas.

One of the key spaces in anyone’s home, the living room – or living area in an open plan space – often has to work hard, particularly in a small house or a flat. It may have to give you space to relax, chat with your friends and family, read, watch films and TV, it may be where your kids play, where you do your yoga, where you use your computer. So how can one space accommodate all these and still make you happy when you walk in?

The key is in good planning, and the beginning of this series walks you through how to plan a space in detail – see Getting Started, Colours and Inspiration, Layout and Sourcing. So, work through those posts with your living room in mind and then come back here to see some more ideas about living rooms and how to make them work for you.


In a long skinny room, consider using a darker colour on the end walls to draw them in. This works even if the colour is only slightly darker than the other walls; it doesn’t have to be high contrast. It could also be your curtains or blinds, if that’s where your window is, or wallpaper. Also, you could put a long mirror on one or both of the side walls to widen the space – this will work particularly well opposite a window.

Love the colours used in this room in House & Garden June 2013

Love the colours used in this room in House & Garden June 2013


Try not to push everything against the walls, even in a small room. It will just draw your eye to the boundary and you’ll immediately see how small the space is.

Create different zones for the different activities you want to carry out in the room, and think through how each activity will work in the space, that you have a side table for your drink, a plug for your laptop, that kind of thing.

Think about creating more than one obvious seating space. Even in a small room, could you have a corner sofa and then a couple of small chairs and a side table near the window, perhaps?

In an open plan space, consider zoning with a large rug.

The bookcase behind the sofa adds depth, texture and interest

The bookcase behind the sofa adds depth, texture and interest.   Architectural Digest, Spain.


You’ll either want everything hidden, everything on display or somewhere between the two. If your living room is also where your kids play, I expect you’ll want hidden toy storage. But you might want your books on show.

Make sure the things you need are right next to where you’ll be for each activity, that there’s somewhere to store your DVDs near the TV, somewhere to store your yoga mat where you’ll practice, your laptop etc.


Think layers. Along with everyone else, I’m sure you have a pendant or spotlights in the ceiling. But as well as being a harsh light to relax in, it’s also not very flattering.

Add table lamps, floor lamps, wall lights, so that you can have pools of light rather than one flat light source. It’s the play of light and shadow that makes the room interesting, relaxing and flattering all at the same time.

If you are wiring from scratch, consider directional spotlights rather than downlights, so that you can aim them at walls, art, anywhere but straight down onto the floor.


Think about the TV rather than pretending it’s not there and planning around it. Do you want to hide it away? Camouflage it in full sight by putting it in front of a dark wall or positioning it amongst art? If you don’t want it to be the focal point, then think what you do want and work around that. A fireplace, a piece of art?

Was this useful?  Let me know in the comments!

If you have any questions you’d like me to answer in this series, leave a comment or send a message via the website – I’d be delighted to help!

Tags: ,