Monthly Archives: July 2016

Mirror mirror on the wall

The life of an interior designer is sometimes a little schizophrenic. Right now I’m flitting between period elegance, simple scandinavian, cool contemporary and boutique chic. Different customers, (or that would be one crazy looking house), different styles and different briefs. But the common denominator is the simple mirror. It doesn’t matter what your style or budget I’m always going to throw in a mirror or two. And I’m not just talking about the obvious places, i.e. over the fireplace or above the bathroom sink. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to decorating with mirrors. I’ve also got a list of places where you should not hang a mirror. Interested?

Decorating with mirrors

Art is very personal and it might take years to find something you like enough to hang on your walls that you can afford. It might sound dramatic but you may never find anything you like. Retailers like Next know that, which is why they produce shelf loads of bland canvases in the same colours as that seasons soft furnishings to save you even looking for artwork. But instead of settling for a bland canvas or a stock poster from IKEA why not hang a mirror.

Feature gold sunburst mirror

Feature sunburst mirror – image via Pinterest

If you can’t find or afford a huge feature mirror like this gorgeous sunburst one then use a set. This lovely set of three is £159 from Furniture in Fashion but you don’t need to spend a fortune. You can pick up great mirrors in places like Argos or Wilko for under £20. Like cushions, they don’t need to be the same size or style, just stick with the same colour palette and hang them in  rows or clusters.

Set of three decorative gold mirrors

Trio of gold mirrors from Furniture in Fashion

Or create a feature using frameless mirror tiles. Homebase and IKEA sell packs of 30cm square mirror tiles for under a tenner. If you do have a few quid more to spend Notonthehighstreet.com have packs of 20cm hexagonal tiles for (gulp) £185.00. Very on trend tho.

Hexagonal mirror tiles

Collection of hexagonal mirror tiles – image via Pinterest

I like to mix mirrors in with pictures (and sometime other random oddities) to expand and add more interest to the arrangement.

Gallery wall including pictures and mirrors

Collection of pictures and mirrors – image via Houzz

And if you can’t find any pictures or family photos you like but still want a gallery wall then just use mirrors.

Gallery wall of mirrors

Gallery wall of mirrors – image via Houzz

This is also a great way of breaking up a wall if you want to paint it a really bold colour but don’t have the balls are worried it might be too much.

Gallery wall of metallic mirrors

Collection of metallic mirrors – image via Houzz

Mirror Image

Mirrors are obviously great for bouncing light around a room but if you hang them facing a window or side on they will also reflect the view. So it doesn’t matter if you were last to the dining table or you have to sit with your back to the window to watch the telly you can still see the view.

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 22.07.49

Mirrors reflect light and the view – image via Houzz

Mirrors either side of the bed increase the glam factor of even the most glamorous bed, and will reflect the light from your bedside lights – double whammy.

Glamorous bedroom with large mirrors either side of the bed

Uber glam bedroom – image via Houzz

And just when you thought they’d done enough, mirrors can also create the illusion of space, elongating a room or adding height.

God I love this room….the reflection of that pitched roof creates amazing symmetry and you get twice as much chandelier.

Mirrored wall and doors visually double the size of this room

Mirrored walls and doors visually double the size of this room – image via Houzz

So where should you not put mirrors?

  1. On the back of the bathroom door if your toilet faces the door. Enough said.
  2. On your wardrobe doors if you’ll be able to see your reflection when you open your eyes in the morning.
  3. Above the bath, unless its high enough that you can only see your head and shoulders.
  4. Facing the shower, again unless its at head height. Never have a long mirror facing the shower. I bet not even Heidi Klum wants to see herself showering.
  5. Above the bed. It’s not the 70’s and you’re not a porn star.

So the answer is basically anywhere you might catch your reflection when you’re naked and/or not looking your best. Mirrors should be used to decorate and illuminate not kill our self esteem.

Vintage mirrors in bathroom

Vintage mirror hung above the bath in one of my recent projects

So time to chuck out that IKEA poster?

Behold the Boutique-Victorian Mashup Bathroom

That’s quite a title isn’t it? But a grand bathroom like the one I’m about to show you deserves a grand title, and oh lordy what a transformation. Shall we jump right in with a few fabulous before pics?

Bathroom design before images

Dated cramped shower and my biggest pet hate, no alcoves for shampoo and conditioner

Bathroom design before images

More pet hates, free standing storage and cluttered sinks

Bathroom design before pictures

Just two words. Orange bath….

The homeowner has a lovely Victorian townhouse and wanted a mixture of new and traditional in the new bathroom. I actually quite liked the existing sink and toilet and the taps, and they wouldn’t have been out of place in a new bathroom with some traditional features but the homeowner was adamant, she wanted a completely new bathroom, and who am I to argue…. (Cue rubbing of hands with glee at prospect of picking new stuff…)

I love a monochrome bathroom but they can look a little stark, and as I’d just turned the homeowner on to the idea of colour after painting her bedroom pink (see the pink bedroom project) I needed to inject a little colour into the bathroom. I plumped for bottle green after spotting some green glass bottles in a local homeware shop, which got me thinking about peacock feathers, and before you could say wowzers I had a plan with wow factor.

Bathroom design moodboard

The Boutique-Victorian mashup moodboard

The focal point in the new bathroom is without a shadow of a doubt the free standing double ended slipper bath. Now if you’re going to have a fabulous bath like this one it needs to stand out. When I told the homeowner I wanted to panel half the wall behind and paint it all black she was a little shocked but thankfully decided to trust me. So what do you think – was I right?

Bathroom - double ended slipper bath against a black panelled wall and lit from below

Free standing feature bath

The panelling is from an eBay seller who can make whatever style or size you want. It’s made of water resistant MDF so fine for a bathroom and only cost £110 including delivery.

Deck lights used in a bathroom to light a free standing bath from below

In floor spotlights light the bath from below and provide a useful night light

The bath was a real bargain too, only £400 from Bathandshower.com. Look how glam it looks lit from below. Just the right amount of light for those late night bathroom visits, or more importantly soaking in the bath with a glass of wine….We used outdoor deck lights so it wouldn’t matter if water sloshed over the edge of the bath. The guys at my local electrical wholesalers told me I could submerge them or stand on them and they’d still work. If you’re wondering what the lights are above the bath its just the reflection from a row of glass tealight holders sitting on a shelf I got the fitter to fit on top of the panelling. You gotta have candlelight when you take a bath.

Those fabulous Victorian style floor tiles were also a bargain at around £20 a square metre. They’re called Harrow Grafito and I bought them from Roccia (formerly Tile Mart) in Preston. If you’re up that way its worth popping into their enormous showroom for a nosy. (If you see Ben say hi from me).

I decided early on in the process, before I’d even picked a colour scheme, that this bathroom was going to have an antique marble topped washstand. A modern vanity unit just wasn’t going to cut it. And I found a beauty in one of my regular haunts, Old Mill Antiques in Manchester.

Antique marble topped washstand in a Victorian boutique style bathroom

Antique marble topped washstand

I intentionally picked an oval sink and mirror to match the shape of the bath and the sink looks beautiful sat on top of that grey marble. The cut glass accessories are also a great fit. They’re from Homesense (aka land of amazing finds). Oh and see that black leather cube bottom left? It’s an ottoman doubling as a laundry bin, or somewhere to sit your book when you’re climbing into the bath. Assuming of course you have time to read in the bath….It does three jobs and was only £10 (from Dunelm) – now that’s what I call a bargain.

Bathroom - Grey marble topped antique washstand with oval sink, traditional taps and cut glass accessories

Oval sink and traditional taps and cut glass accessories

If I could only give you one bathroom tip (which would make for a very short blog), it would be to always install the biggest shower you can and get your fitter to build a false wall so that you can have alcoves for shampoo bottles. I hate cramped shower cubicles, and I want to cry when I see those horrible metal baskets stuck to the walls, or worse still shampoo bottles sitting in the shower tray…..

Bathroom - Large rectangular shower enclosure with traditional shower and lighting in alcove

Large rectangular enclosure with traditional shower and lighting in alcove

The homeowner was worried the shower enclosure was going to be too big but again she trusted me and was glad she did. I have to give the fitter Ben Butler credit for the light in the alcove as it was his idea – nice touch eh?

Bathroom - lighting in shower enclosure

Lighting in alcove

I also wanted to mention the paintwork as I guess it’s not every day you see black woodwork. But it’s a great way to frame light coloured walls.  I love the black door. The wall colour is called Sleeping Inn by Valspar which is white with a touch of grey. The black paint colour is Downing Street by Valspar, very topical at the moment…..

Bathroom door and woodwork painted in Downing Street by Valspar

Door and new skirting boards painted in Downing Street by Valspar

As Charles Eames said, “The details are not the details. They make the design”. Which is why I hunted for the right toilet roll holder until I found this one on eBay. It might seem trivial to some but like the washstand a modern one would have looked out of place.

Bathroom - Reproduction Victorian style toilet roll holder

Reproduction Victorian style toilet roll holder

I bought both the vintage frameless mirrors on eBay for a total of £60. It amazes me that these mirrors can be picked up so cheaply as I think they’re beautiful. The peacock artwork is also from an eBay seller. I bought 4 for £22.50 and framed them in black frames from Wilko.

Bathroom - Vintage bevelled edge frameless mirror and peacock artwork

Vintage bevelled edge frameless mirror and peacock artwork

I always like to add personal touches to my designs that the customer will appreciate. In this case it’s these lights I made using battery operated fairly lights from IKEA and cut glass decanters from a charity shop. The homeowner loved them.

Bathroom - battery operated fairy lights in vintage cut glass decanters

Battery operated fairy lights in cut glass decanters

So what do you think of my Boutique-Victorian mashup, is this a bathroom with wow factor?

Come collaborate with me

Some might think its easy being an interior designer. I mean it’s just picking paint and furniture isn’t it? (Raises left eyebrow sarcastically). But I would challenge anyone who thinks it’s easy to design a room for someone they just met and get it right first time.

People rarely know exactly what they want. If they did they wouldn’t need an interior designer. And don’t be thinking their homes provide all the answers. Yes there are clues, but most peoples homes include (a) things they like, (b), things they once liked but don’t any more, (c) things they bought on a temporary basis and never replaced (I suspect this accounts for a large chunk of IKEA sales…), and (d) things they never liked but were either gifts, inherited or came with their partner when they moved in….You all know the conversation, “no no, I want you to feel like this is your home, so of course you can bring your (insert offending item)”. Be grateful if it’s only a novelty phone, and no I’m not telling you what Mr W has inflicted on me over the years.

Novelty Homer Simpson telephone

Novelty Homer Simpson telephone

So a big part of being an interior designer is figuring out what a customer will like and I’m proud to say that so far I have a 100% success rate. But as the title of this blog suggests, I do my homework. After I’ve snooped around their home looking for clues (with their permission of course), I interrogate them ask a whole bunch of questions. Depending on the customer I sometimes use images to draw out what they like, and encourage all my customers to send me pics of anything that catches their eye.

Houzz has a fabulous Ideabook tool which facilitates this process. I recently collaborated with one customer using this tool. Between us we uploaded 20+ images. She added things she liked and I added a range of rooms and colour schemes to test what she’d told me she liked and didn’t like.

Monochrome Scandi style bedroom in Ideabook on Houzz

This image helped me rule out purely monochrome schemes as the customers husband said this room was too grey

We don’t realise how much info we take in when we look at a picture, which we subconsciously judge, categorise and file for potentially future use. When you get someone to really look and pick out what they like or don’t like it and then summarise the findings for them it can often surprise them.

Blue and grey Scandi style living room added to an Ideabook in Houzz

A room my customer liked after telling me she didn’t like blue unless it was her jeans.

I use this tool for elements within a design too. I have one customer who has a split level bungalow and we want to replace the staircases. I know I know, you’re now thinking ‘bungalows don’t have stairs’. Well they do if they’re built on a hillside. The bungalow is all single-storey but you have to climb a few stairs to pass between some of the rooms. I used an ideabook to show the customer images of different contemporary staircases so we could agree on the design.

Lighting on staircase in Ideabook on Houzz

I used this image to show the customer how we could light up their new staircases

Many of my customers have no idea how much it might cost to update their home. When this is the case I help them by putting together an estimate based on what they want to do and the look they are aiming for. We then use this to establish a budget, which I make sure we stick to. This is why I’ll never be the next Kevin McCLoud or George Clarke – who wants to watch a homeowner achieve their budget, or heaven forbid underspend…..

I usually come up with a plan for a new customer quite quickly and will often run this by them to check I’m on the right track, and maybe show them the colour palette I’m thinking of using. If I get a positive response then I’ll start working on the designs.

Colour palette for Scandi style new build project

The colour palette I agreed with my customer for her Scandi inspired new build after collaborating on an Ideabook

Depending on the size or scope of the project it can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks to pull it all together. When I’m doing full houses I like to start with one or two rooms so the customer can get comfortable with my work. I find that gaining their trust early on speeds up the whole process – no need to keep checking back.

By the time I’ve finished designing a room I’ll have a presentation for the customer which includes a mood board, floor plan, samples of any flooring, fabric etc. and a list of everything to go in the room, where it’s from and how much it will all cost.

Mood board by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd for a kitchen project

Mood board for a recent kitchen project

And then the real work starts.

I book all the tradespeople, order everything we need and then watch it all like a paranoid control freak hawk until the work is done and they’re ready for me to come and add the finishing touches. This is where I  can relate to Mr McCloud and Mr Clarke. Things never go smoothly however organised and efficient you are. Things will break. Deliveries will not turn up. Tradespeople will get delayed. You just need to be ‘on it like a car bonnet’ which fortunately is my specialty.

Now most people would find this exceptionally stressful, but not me, I thrive on it. And the satisfaction when you’re finished and the customer is beaming makes it all worth while.

Customer review for Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

So if you were one of those people who thought my job was easy, do you still think so?