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Eco friendly interior design – going shopping

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

shopping for sustainable interior designAs we started discussing last week, as a designer I prefer to create designs that are lighter on the environment, eco friendly, sustainable… there are many ways to describe it.  However, I am not a fan of very rustic-looking, eco-style, crafty style.  So, how do I get eco friendly interior design without it looking that way?  There are several things to think about and there is no right answer – it’s a matter of considering everything in balance, focusing on what’s most important to you and thinking about the big picture.  Then you can make an informed decision.

This week we’ll look at eco considerations when shopping for individual items.  Check last week’s post for thoughts on the bigger picture.

Once you’re happy with your overall plans for the space, you can consider three things about each potential item you want in the space – What, How and Where:

What?

What is it made from?  Look out for the following:

  • Sustainably produced materials, particularly for items made from wood and paper
  • Recycled, reclaimed, reused materials remade into your item, could be plastic, ceramics, glass, wood, etc
  • Recycled, reused, reconditioned items themselves, such as antique/vintage/second-hand furniture, fabric, vases etc
  • Non-toxic materials, especially paints, dyes, varnishes and glues
  • Natural pigments
  • Durable materials – will it last?  Is it fit for purpose?

How?

If it’s a new item, how was it made?  Things to consider:

  • Factory-made or individually crafted?
  • Fairly paid adult labour or barely paid child labour?
  • Does the factory / workshop use renewable energy, does it dispose of its waste responsibly?
  • What chemicals has it (or the raw materials) been treated with during its life?
  • Is it made to last (e.g. dovetail joints) or for the short term (e.g. glue)?

Whether new or not, how does it work?

  • How energy efficient is it?  (for electrical items, appliances etc)
  • How efficiently does it use water? (for taps, toilets, appliances etc)
  • How does it help save energy / materials etc, if at all?  E.g. you could line curtains with thermal lining instead of standard, to keep the heat in during winter, and keep it cooler for summer.

Where?

  • Where were the raw materials sourced?
  • Where was it produced?
  • Where is it now?
  • How far away are the above from where it will end up?

In my opinion, tiles made from recycled glass in an energy and water efficient factory may sound great, but they’re not that eco-friendly if they’ve been produced in Australia or the USA and then shipped over to the UK.  Try looking for tiles made from recycled glass sourced locally.

Informed decisions

I’ll be amazed if you find something that ticks all these boxes, particularly if it’s affordable and doesn’t look crafty / rustic – this is just a list of things to consider when making your purchases, so you can make an informed decision.  There is no perfect solution.

As an example, something that I find tricky myself is chipboard & veneers versus solid wood.  Imagine you’ve found a dining table that you like the look of.  It’s available in either chipboard & veneers or solid wood, made in the UK from wood grown sustainably in Europe.

  • Chipboard & veneer is essentially waste wood (good) glued together (bad unless non-toxic glue), with a veneer on top (good as uses less raw materials, bad as less durable).  Light to transport (good).  Probably won’t last so long (bad).
  • Solid wood uses more raw materials (bad) but if it gets scratched you can sand it down and refinish (good).  It’s heavy to transport (bad) but is likely to last a long time (good) and be in better condition if you want to sell it on in the future (good).

So as you can see, eco friendly interior design is a matter of considering all angles and making an informed decision.

Was this useful?  Do you have any eco-dilemmas of your own?  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!

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Eco friendly interior design – the bigger picture

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

what is sustainable interior designAs you may know, as a designer I prefer to create designs that are lighter on the environment, eco friendly, sustainable… there are many ways to describe it.  However, I am not a fan of very rustic-looking, eco-style, crafty style.  So, how do I get eco friendly interior design without it looking that way?  There are several things to think about and there is no right answer – it’s a matter of considering everything in balance, focusing on what’s most important to you and thinking about the big picture.  Then you can make an informed decision.

This week we’ll look at the bigger picture.  Check back next week for eco considerations for individual items.

Get it right first time

The number one thing you can do to minimise the impact on the environment when you are improving your space is to get it right first time.  If you take the time to plan your project carefully, whether you’re working with a designer or doing it yourself, getting it right means that you won’t be redoing it as soon as you can, to get it how you want it.  It’s much less wasteful to do it right, once.

Buy quality

Cutting too many corners results in poor quality materials and workmanship that won’t stand the test of time, which means you’ll be doing it again sooner than you think (or living with the shabby results).  Save your time and money (and the planet) and buy quality that lasts.

Plan for the future

Think about future plans.  Is your family growing or will the kids be leaving home soon?  Future proof your plans by designing for the future.  Also don’t be too swayed by fashion – put in what you really love and you won’t be dying to change it in a year or two.  Less work, less waste.

Consider the building

Even if your interior design project isn’t part of a larger building project, could you take the opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of your home with insulation, double glazing, low energy lighting, water saving measures and the like?

Dispose of the old responsibly

If what you are replacing can be reused or recycled, this will have a large effect on the overall environmental impact of your plans. If you haven’t got the time or patience to sell things (e.g. on eBay) there are companies who will do it for you, or you could use Freecycle, or take it to charity or the tip (our local one has a reuse area where people leave things for others to take if they want to).  Anything’s better than putting a perfectly usable kitchen, sofa or wardrobe in landfill!

In the end…

You may be thinking, isn’t doing nothing the most eco friendly interior design option?  Sometimes it is, particularly if the plan is to rip out a brand new kitchen just because you don’t like the style.  If this is your situation, how about just changing the doors or worktop, or reusing the carcasses in a new layout, for example?  Or selling the kitchen on to someone else to reuse it, rather than putting it in landfill?

However, you can be better off getting rid of the old, and then putting in something thoughtful that suits the needs of you and your family for the foreseeable future.  This is particularly true for lighting, plumbing and electrical appliances, which have become significantly more efficient over the years.

Of course, any renovation or redecoration will have an impact on the environment.  I prefer to consider this impact and minimise it, whilst still creating a space that the client loves.  If you plan carefully, and dispose of the old responsibly, you too can have a brand new space with less impact on the environment.

Check back next week for my thoughts on purchasing individual items for your eco friendly interior design.

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!

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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…

...to 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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

PROJECT 2

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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

Practicalities

…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)?

Aesthetics

…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!

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