Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Living room refresh – small changes, big impact

This is one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written. Why’s that you’re thinking? Ugly living room? Difficult brief? Client confidentiality? Far more mundane I’m afraid. A tree branch poked me in the eye when I was out walking the dog and I had to go to the hospital when the chemist refused to sell me eye drops without getting it checked out. Admittedly I did look like a wino with my weeping bloodshot eye. Anyway, its just a minor scratch which should heal in a few days but in the meantime I am partially sighted which makes typing tricky, driving a no no, and chopping garlic equally hazardous as I learnt earlier (almost another trip to A&E…). But it’s been a few weeks since my last post and I really wanted to show you a project I just finished so here I am typing away, just ignore any typos and blurry photos and the earlier version that was posted in error. I’m working with a real handicap here people!

Now admit it, when you hear someone has used an interior designer you probably assume they’ve got plenty of money and are undertaking some big remodeling or redecoration project. And if I told you this customer didn’t want to change the carpet, furniture or lighting or paint the walls you’d be wondering how on earth I was going to make a difference. Well be prepared to be impressed. I’m about to show you that you can still make a big difference without any major changes.

So this project started out as a cry for help. OK I’m dramatising. The homeowner has a huge bay window and asked me to come round and give her some ideas as she didn’t know what to do with it. That led on to a bit of a living room refresh. So lets start with a few before images:

Living room - Large bay window

The huge bay window. Perfect for the Xmas tree but a little empty and uninspiring for the other 344 days of the year.

Living room before images for Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

Magnolia walls, chocolate brown carpet and leather sofas with purple accent cushions and artwork – all a little dark

Living room before images from Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

A classic simple fireplace but a mish mash of accessories and bare walls

Shall we start with that bay window?

Window Dressing

You should NEVER block the flow of natural light into a room. Window treatments should frame the window not cover it. This bay is very deep and there is no gap above the window panes so Roman blinds running round the edge were the best way to add colour and texture without hiding too much of the window. We could have used roller blinds but I felt they would have been too minimal. The blinds needed to be made to measure and it’s a big bay so it wasn’t going to be cheap but I use a very talented and reasonably priced lady called Di (Di’s Soft Furnishings). She also came to measure up as I was worried about allowing for protruding handles and the corners. Windows can give me sleepless nights worrying whether I’ve measured accurately….

The homeowner had seen some fabric in Next that she quite liked which had a floral pattern in yellow, ochre, grey and light brown. The brown tied it to the sofas and carpet which meant I could carry the ochre around the room to bring warmth, with some grey accents to add definition.

Mood board for living room refresh by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

So we had the central blind made up in the patterned fabric and used a light grey fabric from Laura Ashley for the four other blinds.

Roman blinds using Watercolour Bloom fabric from Next and Dove Grey fabric from Laura Ashley

Furniture

We decided that seating was the way to go in that big space, but not permanent so there would still be a home for the Christmas tree. One of my objectives in any project is to achieve savings that as a minimum cover my fees. I’d already saved the homeowner £30 by using a 30% discount voucher I had for the fabric from Laura Ashley, but the furniture was where I made the big saving.  The other furniture in the room is solid pine and from Next. They do a matching bench seat for £250 but no table. I found a solid oak Julian Bowen table with matching benches online for £205 including delivery. We got Di to make seat pads in an ochre fabric and used the left over blind fabric for a table runner. It fits perfectly, and the seat pads and runner carry the colours into the room. Immediately the space has a purpose.

Living room - Julian Bowen table and chairs bought online

Cushion scattering

This homeowner loves cushions but like most people tends to buy in pairs. Now thats ok when you only have two cushions in the room but not when you’ve got two big couches to fill.

Before image in living room refresh project by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

The existing cushions……

The art to cushion scattering (and it is an art) is to keep the same colour palette but buy a mix of sizes and patterns. Remember to leave enough space to sit down though….

Living room - The art of cushion scattering by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

The living room rug

What this room needed more than anything was a rug to break up all that dark brown. And it needed to be big enough to fill the space between the couches. Nothing worse than a tiny rug in a big room, it just looks like you can’t afford the size you really wanted. I found this bargain in Dunelm. Perfect size, perfect colour and floral pattern and even better reduced from £120 to £60 – a billy bargain.

Ochre floral rug from Dunelm

Sorry about the dark image but can you see how it fills that space and breaks up the brown? Now we’re talking.

Living room refresh by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

Artwork

Big spaces require either big pictures or collections. I was lucky to find a winner for above the sofa very quickly, but it was in the must unlikely of places at a ridiculously bargain price so I showed it to the customer first to get her reaction before I told her where it was from…..

Living room - Floral print for £10 from B&M Bargains

Could that print match the room any better? Right pattern, same colour palette and some black to add definition. It was such a find we’re pretending she doesn’t know where it’s from so she can say (in a posh voice) “isn’t it fabulous, my interior designer picked it up somewhere”. If you want to know where it’s from message me…..

We added this one from Next (£25) above the telly. Normally hiding the telly is my goal but moving it wasn’t a option and there was a big empty space above it so we needed a picture.

Living room - Foil floral canvas from Next

Continuing the floral theme, we added these two from Etsy to the other side of the fireplace, using black frames from Wilko to give them more definition.

Living room refresh - Art prints from Etsy, frames from Wilko

Accessories

So nearly done people. I didn’t go mad with the accessories as I wanted to keep it simple but elegant. So I focused on glass using a mixture of clear, ochre and smoked grey.

Yellow glass vase from Oxfam with artificial flower

Glass vase £1.25 from Oxfam with yellow artificial flowers and pussy willow stems

Smoked grey glass vases, £10 each from Homesense

Smoked grey glass vases, £10 each from Homesense. The Jo Malone candle was a Christmas present.

Simple hurricane lanterns on the hearth and smoked grey glass tealights on the mantelpiece, all from Dunelm

Simple hurricane lanterns on the hearth and smoked grey glass tealights on the mantelpiece, all from Dunelm

Living room - Another candle on the side table to sit with the existing lantern and Jo Malone candle

Another candle on the side table to sit with the existing lantern and Jo Malone candle

Lighting

Lighting wasn’t in the brief, but I wouldn’t have been doing my job if I didn’t suggest something optional. And these smoked grey glass table lamps and matching ceiling pendant would look perfect. I suspect they may find their way into the room at some point….

Living room - Smoked grey glass ceiling pendant from Dunelm

Smoked grey glass ceiling pendant from Dunelm

Living room - Smoked grey glass table lamps from Dunelm

Smoked grey glass table lamps from Dunelm

So what do you think?

Living room refresh by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

Living room refresh by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

Living room refresh by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

 

My main objective in any project is to make the customer happy and judging by the review she gave me on Houzz I think I ticked that box too.

“Amelia helped to transform our living room – its now a completely different room!! She has made such a difference. I had a big bay window with which I simply did not know what to do. She came up with some great ideas, was totally open to discussion, was helpful, reliable and a pleasure to work with. I am so pleased I made contact with her – I would happily recommend her to anyone looking for fresh eyes, opinions and ideas. She kept to budge (in fact came in below budget) – even found us a few bargains. Will definitely ask her back to work on other rooms within my home. I am really happy with everything she has done for us. Thanks so much”

Customer review on Houzz.

Happy Easter everyone.

Come dine with me

One interior design trend predicted for 2016 is the return of the formal dining room. Now I’m not sure if that means rebuilding the walls in your ‘so new the paint has only just dried’ open spaces, or if you’ll be adding extensions so that you can be greedy uber fashionable and have an additional formal dining room. Or maybe it just means that all of us with unfashionable walls between our rooms have a chance to become fashionable again.

Contemporary dining room in Paris by ALFA

Glass could be an option if you want to make the transition back from open to enclosed – contemporary dining room in Paris by ALFA, image via Houzz

I have a dining room but it’s far from formal. It’s not even room shaped as one wall is external and bends round the house making it sort of trapezium shaped. Technically it seats seven, which might seem an odd number but you’d be surprised how many parties of seven we have. This seating miracle is only achieved by having a church pew that I carried on my back across a French market on one side, and narrow church chairs on two sides. There isn’t a fourth side, there isn’t room and it really is trapezium shaped.

You wouldn’t want to eat dinner at my house at the moment though Unless of course you’re a huge fan of kale, as we’re on the Sirtfood diet. Now I’ve never been one for fad diets, I’m of the ‘eat less, exercise more’ school of thought. But this has been harder to practice of late and it guaranteed a loss of 7lb in the first seven days and positively encouraged red wine and chocolate so I thought what the hell I’m in. Five days and £200 later (cost of juicer and lots of ingredients I didn’t have) and I’m actually quite enjoying it. I’ve lost 6lbs, I’m not hungry or fantasising about food 24/7 and I’m feeling pretty good. This might stick.

Cosy dining room with vintage church furniture by Amelia Wilson Interiors

My trapezium shaped exceptionally bijou dining room

Anyway back to dining rooms…..I love a formal dining room, particularly one with bold colour. Dining rooms don’t need calming colour schemes, unless the only diners you’re entertaining are under 5’s. In which case something neutral, and wipeable, might be a good idea. But if you want lively dinner parties then go for something dramatic to get your dinner guests talking.

Dramatic red dining room by Contemporary Gem

Dramatic red dining room by Contemporary Gem, image via Houzz

OK, perhaps all that red is a bit much for the average household but hopefully you get my point.

If you’ve been lusting after all the lovely dark greys people are putting on their walls but haven’t been brave enough to take the plunge yourself why not try it in your dining room. You probably won’t be in there every day so you can gradually get used to it. And chances are you only use your dining room at night, and dark painted rooms look great in the evening with soft lighting. Perfect way to wean yourself in.

Dark grey dining room by Heather Garrett Design

Dining room by Heather Garrett Design, image via Houzz

I’ve been reading The Kinfolk Home recently (a fabulous gift from recent house guests). It’s all about slow living, which the author describes as ‘cultivating community, simplifying our lives and reclaiming time for what matters most’. It includes photographs from 35 homes which reflect this concept. Unsurprisingly many of them are Danish. Anyway, it included a phrase which I instantly    connected to and love, ‘longer tables for longer evenings’. Nothing keeps a party together like a long dining table which comfortably seats everyone. And I love it when people move around during the evening, and not just because the people to their left and right are boring. I know I know, not everybody has the space but wouldn’t it be nice if we did.

Contemporary dining room with 16 seater glass table

Contemporary dining room with table for 16 – lucky buggers

Which brings me neatly to a personal bug bear – comfy chairs. I’m a midget with a damaged coccyx (caused by an accident during my one and only attempt at windsurfing). So I’m like a pensioner with piles if you give me a hard chair to sit on. You gotta give me a little cushioning if you want me to stay seated. Again, I know fabric isn’t practical if you’ve got little’uns but seat pads and removable covers are always an option. I’d be putting armchairs at my dining table if I had room.

I love these blue velvet chairs . I’ve got a new customer who is lucky enough to have room for a breakfast table and chairs in her bedroom (I know – total luxury), and I’m thinking of suggesting navy blue velvet to bring some colour to her currently very neutral scheme.

Dark grey living room with navy blue velvet chairs

Blue velvet dining chairs in dining room by Atmosphere Interior Design Inc, image via Houzz

If you’re got room round your table give your guests somewhere to rest their arms. Armrests encourage people to sit back. Makes them better for your posture, and it easier for chatting with the hot guy two seats down if your neighbours are boring…..

Scandinavian style dining room

Moulded plastic carver chairs in Scandinavian style living/dining room, image via Houzz

One of the best things about a dining room is it doesn’t matter how low your ceiling is you can still have a pendant ceiling light, or even better pendant lights. The dining table will conveniently stop people from banging their head. Hurrah, potentially no need for recessed spotlights. But don’t forget the other lighting rules:

  1. Aim for three sources of light – in a dining room this is probably ceiling and wall lights, and a couple of lamps if you have room for a sideboard
  2. Always have your lights on separate switches
  3. Use dimmers

One of my customers has a Georgian farm house with a huge dining room like the one below. We’ve got lots of practical stuff to do first like fixing the roof, restoring the sash windows and re-plastering walls, but I’m itching to start the interior designs. I’m liking this olive green but I would throw in some deep red accents to warm it up a bit. She already has a huge table so the hunt is on for comfy chairs.

Traditional Georgian dining room with green walls, ceiling and wall lights

Traditional dining room by CRISP Architects, image via Houzz

So those green walls just reminded me I’m due another delicious and nutritious sirt juice so I’m off to pulp kale. But I’d love to see what you’ve done with your dining rooms, send me pics if you’ve got a minute.