It’s pretty easy to make a room look good if you’ve got big bucks to spend. I’m not saying big spenders don’t make interior design mistakes, you only need to watch MTV cribs or Through The Keyhole to prove it. And I make no apologies for watching these shows, they are house porn in its purest form. But it takes a lot more creativity and resourcefulness to create the wow factor on a budget. Which is why the theme for my stand this week at the Lakes Hospitality show was boutique on a budget. The majority of attendees own small businesses – restaurants, hotels, B&B’s, guest houses and holiday lets, and although the lakes remains a popular destination for tourists they still have to work hard to make a profit, and that’s before the recent floods hit. So I wanted to show attendees that you can create impact without breaking the bank.
Now every designer likes a blank canvas, but exhibition stands bring a whole new meaning to the word drab.
If I wanted to wow I needed wallpaper but it needed to be high impact low cost. I um’ed and ah’ed for weeks over the right look, and was nearly seduced by three that I’d found on offer at wallpaper direct.com. All usually £35 a roll but reduced to £10.
My first love was this black and gold wallpaper with the back to back usherettes. Great colours for a luxe look and very striking from a distance. But maybe not right for the Lakes…..
Next I was strangely drawn to this Chorus Line wallpaper. I loved the idea of the black background with hot pink accessories. But again perhaps not right for the Lakes.
And then I spotted this blush pink and gold Geisha wallpaper. The colours are bang on trend, and its very pretty, but AGAIN perhaps not in the Lakes.
And then I found the perfect specimen. A natural looking motif that’s not ‘country cottage’, a striking design that isn’t garish, and a colourway that works with a boutique look. And £10.99 a roll – hurrah. I had sleepless nights over my plan to screw plywood sheets to the stand and wallpaper on site, particularly since its been 20 years since I wielded a wallpaper pasting brush. There were also a couple of attempts to foil my plan on the day that involved getting the electrician to move cables and borrowing a saw to cut two of the sheets to fit but we did it, and I managed a wallpapering job that would have my decorator in tears but looked perfect from a distance of 3ft. Result.
(A very frustrated Mr W after we realised we’d need to cut two of the board to fit)
I needed a way of displaying examples of my work without taking up too much room and decided a gallery wall would do the trick. It also fit with my ‘hotel lounge’ idea. A few old frames I found in my garage mixed with a few from my neighbours garage (everyone has picture frames in their garage…) and some recent charity shop purchases and voila! The lovely inky grey paint is called Evening Coat by Valspar and was supplied free courtesy of my lovely local rep Becky in return for a plug (here you go Becky – thank you)
In my mind no guesthouse or B&B lounge would be complete without a hostess trolley, and look at this beauty I found on eBay for £20. Straight out of my granny’s living room and perfect for my gold and grey colour scheme.
A few vintage decanters and tumblers, an empty whisky bottle filled with cold tea (clever eh), some old books from Oxfam and a magnifying glass from Homesense (£7.99) and it looks like its straight off the set of Fawlty Towers…
The centre piece of my stand was going to be an old console table that used to reside in my flat in London many moons ago. It was originally from Heals and is the Tina Turner of tables (great legs). I wouldn’t normally paint wooden furniture but the veneer was damaged in a few places and couldn’t be repaired so I took a big gulp and painted it Evening Coat grey to match the gallery wall and sealed it with a clear varnish to prevent chipping.
On top of the table I wanted two oversized table lamps. I’ve been scouring Homesense for a while for the perfect pair but to no avail, so in the end I opted for a couple of bases (£15 each) which I sprayed gold, and made shades using kits from Needcraft and some grey velvet and ostrich feather fringing I bought off eBay.
(Re-sprayed lamp bases and homemade lampshades. Total cost around £35 each)
I found the gold mirrored tray below on sale at Laura Ashley (reduced to £30) and added some more charity shop glassware, another Biba vase from House of Fraser (£8) and an old Hendricks bottle. The tray is going in my bathroom when I’ve unpacked….
And the finished effect? Check out the table legs – beautiful aren’t they…
Now you can’t have boutique without a velvet chair but space was limited. However, I am lucky enough to have a very talented upholsterer friend, who produced the perfect petite piece. A vintage French cocktail chair which she picked up for a few quid on one of her antique market jaunts.
Don’t believe what you see on the Great Interior Design Challenge. Upholstery is not easy. And it involves more than just a staple gun. Well it does if you want it to look good and last. I know this because I spent two evenings a week for 6 months trying to learn the skill. There is a reason we pay professionals and thats exactly what Ilona is. She upholstered it in beautiful Designers Guild velvet with contrasting gold buttons and piping. Unsurprisingly it had a few ladies swooning on the day. It’s for sale BTW so message me if you’re interested.
A tall frothy potted palm plant from Ikea and the stand was finished. What do you think? Could you imagine yourself transported to the Lake District on a cold November evening, in an old Victorian guesthouse, lounging on a velvet chair sipping whisky listening to the open fire crackling and the rain outside?
OK, maybe I have a very vivid imagination, but it certainly pulled the crowds at the show. Better than some boring grey felt eh?