Opulent Interiors

The Christmas decorations have come down and the house is looking bare. It’s dark and cold outside. The news is all sad events and depressing politics, and worse still for some of us it’s a dry month. I think we all need a pick me up, and maybe a little sparkle in our lives, so the trend for opulent interiors couldn’t have come at a better time.

Opulent interiors luxurious living room and dining room

Image via Nathalie Priem Photography

Opulence in my own home is something I can only dream about. I have an old house in a very boggy part of the country, half way down what is only one notch up from a dirt track. And I have two dogs. Velvet has no place at Holly Cottage. But that doesn’t stop me from fantasising, and 2017 is about to supply me with a steady stream of luxurious loveliness to covet and force on present to my customers.

Opulent interiors - the Fendi boutique hotel in Rome

Palazzo Fendi in Rome – image via KOKET

The opulent or luxe look is heavily influenced by 1920’s Art Deco and the fashions of 18th century France,. It’s definitely not a subtle look but you do not want to overdo it and recreate the Palace of Versailles in your living room. Though if you do, please can I come round and take photo’s?

The key to getting it right is by having just one or two statement pieces in the room. Striking items that are well designed, and made with really good quality materials or fabrics.

Opulent interiors - Furia Odyssey blue velvet sofa and velvet ottoman

Furia Odyssey blue velvet sofa – image via John Lewis

Metallics

In the 1990’s everyone fell into one of two camps. If your taps, toilet roll holder and door knobs were gold you were old fashioned. If they were chrome you were fashionable. And choice wise that was it. But over the last couple of years polished, brushed and antiqued versions of gold, silver, bronze and copper (although apparently we call this rose gold now) have found their way into our furniture, lighting and accessories, although frustratingly not so many taps and bathroom fittings – why is that?. So metallics are not a new trend, but there are other elements which have pushed their way to the front pages and home pages of the interiors world, which when combined with existing trends like metallics tip us over from a little bit of luxe to pure opulence.

Opulent interiors - gold metallic finishes in a luxurious dining room

Image via John Lewis

Velvet

One of those new elements is velvet, and when it comes to fabric, velvet is the epitome of opulence (try saying that after a few). It’s soft dense pile screams luxury and is incredibly tactile. You literally cannot take your hands off it. I challenge you, try and walk past a velvet sofa without copping a feel. Bet you can’t.

It used to be made from silk and was expensive to produce, which is why it was associated with the rich. But thanks to the use of cotton and synthetics and new manufacturing techniques even us paupers can afford it. So if you want to be bang on trend in 2017 then buy a velvet sofa. If I could have velvet at Holly Cottage then I think I’d have the Crumpet sofa from Loaf in burnt orange. I love the shape and the name, and I wouldn’t need to change my curtains – bingo.

Opulent interiors - burnt orange velvet sofa from loaf

Crumpet sofa from Loaf – image via Real Homes

I’ve been trying to find a home for this emerald green IKEA sofa since I spotted it 2 years ago. Maybe now I’ll be able to find a place for it……It has removable covers and is only £1,000 which for a large velvet sofa is a bit of billy bargain.

Opulent interiors - emerald green velvet sofa from IKEA

Emerald green Stockholm sofa £1,000 from IKEA

But if you’re not ready to change your sofa then buy a velvet chair, or really make a statement with two in different colours.

Opulent interiors - Penelope velvet armchairs from sofa.com

Penelope velvet armchairs from sofa.com

Or take the opulence into the bedroom with a large velvet headboard (it must be large) or better still an upholstered bed.

Opulent interiors - plush plum velvet upholstered bed

Image via Houzz

Precious gems

Now you may have noticed a bit of a colour theme with all the images I’ve been showing you. If you really want to nail the 2017 opulent interiors look then make sure the colour of your statement piece is emerald, sapphire, ruby, amethyst, topaz, turquoise or any other colour associated with jewels. Or use these colours to accessorise.

Opulent interiors - velvet upholstery fabric from Sanderson in jewel colours

Boho Velvet fabrics from Sanderson

Dark walls

Now for those of you that have only just moved from magnolia to pale grey and are a bit  “thats quite dark enough for me thank you very much” then this isn’t an essential component in opulent interiors. BUT metallics, velvets and jewel colours do look amazing against dark walls. So if you’re going for the look, why not go the whole hog.

Opulent interiors - plum and gold velvet against teal walls

Image via Houzz

I just love these emerald greens against these dark grey walls….just lush.

Opulent interiors - emerald green velvet furnishings in dark grey living room

Image via Houzz

So what do you think, is there room in your home for a little opulence?

 

 

 

 

Autumn – a look for life not just the season

Central heating alert – Autumn has arrived in Cumbria! I’m not complaining though. I’m actually one of the few Brits that doesn’t complain about our weather. I love our climate, our seasons and the unpredictability of our weather. Few places in the world offer this much variety without the extreme. We get sun, wind, rain and snow, but we don’t get forest fires, tornadoes, hurricanes and arctic blizzards. At least not yet; if we keep damaging the planet it might not be long before polar bears are eating my chickens.

And I love autumn. It’s when Cumbria is at its most beautiful. Our high rainfall makes for a lush county and when autumn comes the change from green to a thousand shades of red, orange, brown and gold is breathtaking. This blaze of colour was the inspiration for my living room, and this month it’s popping up in all the interiors shops and magazines.

When we viewed our house the living room had a cream carpet (ridiculous in a rural location), an ugly off centre ceiling pendant (the ceiling is only just above the average head height), wall lights in random locations, plug sockets half way up the walls, gloss painted beams and a hideous gas fire. And that was just the living room. Mr W was positively disinterested but I could see the potential and used my powers of persuasion (I pouted and sulked) to convince him we should buy it. So we did.

Since then we’ve changed the carpet to oak flooring. We’ve replaced the lighting with recessed spots, over picture lights and a table lamp and relocated the plug sockets. We had the beams restored and removed the gas fire to find the original sandstone fireplace and bread oven (flashback to me being delighted and outraged at the same time), which we also restored. The previous owners wouldn’t recognise it.

Rustic living room in autumn shades

My Autumn inspired living room

I spent months looking for fabric in the right shades of burnt orange, red and green, but once I had everything else just followed.

Burnt orange, green and plaid moon wool fabrics

Wool fabrics from Moon

Persian rug in rustic living room

Persian rug from Persis, Stockport. Leaf dishes from Bitter Beck Pottery. Bowling balls from Yew Tree Barn

Autumn accessories in rustic living room

More autumnal accessories – candle and stand from Lily & Co, fern vase from Bitter Beck Pottery

Glassware in autumn colours

Glassware in autumn shades from Tesco Home

Now if you’re sat there thinking “well I don’t live in a cottage or barn so the autumn look won’t work for me” then think again. This isn’t a purely rustic look, its all about warm autumnal colours and texture. Oak flooring and a wood burning stove are not mandatory. This green sofa from Loaf with the burnt orange cushions adds warmth to this otherwise neutral scheme and not a log basket in sight.

Pudding sofa in Willow from Loaf

Pudding sofa in Willow from Loaf, also available in burnt orange

And this isn’t a one season wonder which will need changing after you’ve taken your Christmas tree to the tip. Throw in some spring or summer blooms and you’ll see burnt orange in a whole new light, I mean how fab does it looks against dark walls……

Burnt orange sofa and walls painted in farrow and ball Railings No. 31

Burnt orange sofa against walls painted in F&B Railings No.31 Estate Emulsion

And autumn colours make great accent colours in a neutral room. I know this room looks like its just missing a halloween pumpkin but you’ve got to admit the orange and gold looks great against the cream.

Burnt orange accent colours in neutral living room

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Laura Ashley have clearly fall-en (I had to get that in somewhere…) for the autumn look with their range of copper and green velvet cushions. I also love this burnt orange leaf motif cushion from Dunelm.

Velvet cushions from Laura Ashley. Leaf motif boudoir cushion from Dunelm

Velvet cushions from Laura Ashley and leaf boudoir cushion from Dunelm

I love a good throw and there are umpteen around at the moment in shades of burnt orange, red and green but I really like this multicoloured one from Next.

Multicoloured throw from Next

Multicoloured throw from Next

There are also plenty of autumnal accessories in the shops too, like this glassware from Next.

Vase from Next     Vase from Next     Vase from Next

Glassware from Next

So don’t feel disheartened if you don’t have an open fire and a plaid wing back chair, autumn isn’t just for country folk, anyone can get the look whatever their pad or budget.

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Pudding sofa in burnt orange from Loaf

Numbers schmumbers

In my old life I managed, and was managed, by numbers. Targets, stretch targets, submission volumes, hit ratios, conversation rates, growth rates, retention rates and a million other metrics. I introduced a tool that measured the value of all our producers that went viral in my organisation, earning everyone involved the equivalent of celebrity status in our global corporate world, and my new business budget had more zeros than you’d find in a model agency waiting room. These days many of my business decisions are unashamedly driven by emotion. Of course I’ve used my business acumen to develop and follow a sound business plan, but when it comes to the customer interaction I follow my passion. When I fall in a love with a place, or when I view a property begging to be made over, or when I know me and the customer will have fun, I flex the pricing model. Because I want every job to be one that I can’t stop thinking about, one that keeps me up at night and one that I bore everyone senseless with. The only problem is I feel like that about almost every job I go to see….Thankfully my conversion rate has been good or my head would be full of ideas for jobs I didn’t get!

I love my job so much I’ve even brought my Macbook on holiday to Dubrovnik. In my old life colleagues were told to text me if a life or death situation arose as all emails would be ignored until I landed back in the UK. But every morning before my sister and niece get out of bed I’m on the internet looking for interiors stuff for customers or working on marketing ideas. There was a time when my old job had the same effect, but I think that was youth and ambition. This feels different – this feels like a calling for want of a better cliche.

When I remember I’m supposed to be on holiday I look at things for my summer house which I’m redecorating before our annual summer BBQ at the end of this month. This morning I ordered some fabulous Kiko frames from notonthehighstreet.com. I’m going to fill them with some of my favourite holiday snaps.

Kiko frames by Nkuku - www.notonthehighstreet.com
Kiko frames by Nkuku

I also spent some time slavering over these cow hide lampshades also on notonthehighstreet.com. In the end I decided I couldn’t justify the £75 price tag. It’s not actually their fault. The lampshades they’re replacing cost roughly the same and I’m feeling guilty about replacing them so as I haven’t found anything else I like I’m thinking about making my own. I’ve ordered some wallpaper samples to experiment with……photos to follow if they work out.

Grey cow hide lampshade by Begolden
Grey cow hide lampshade by Begolden

The fabrics for the soft furnishings have been ordered. Ada & Ina came up trumps and delivered three gorgeous linens.

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So now its just down to the finishing touches. The scouting trip is planned for next week and I’m very excited. Targets include vintage enamelware and a clock. I’d like something like this if you know where I can find one….

Nordic style sunburst clock
Nordic style sunburst clock

Before I go, a Trevor McDonald style ‘and finally’ chicken update. We’ve doubled the occupancy at Cluckingham Palace. Whitney, Britney, Christina, Shakira and Cilla (RIP) moved in at the beginning of the month. The pecking order is still being established. The existing tenants are not happy about sharing their perch or their morning treats and making it known. Shakira and Cilla have formed a tag team, protecting each other when Harriet or Phyllis (known trouble makers) go on the attack. Whitney, Britney and Christina have been temporarily located to a separate run until they’re big enough to stand up for themselves. I’m hoping things will have settled down when I get back but I’m not confident, I may have too many divas for one coop.

The interior design grenade

Looking forward to putting my feet up tonight as I’m been doing some old fashioned prospecting this week, getting out and introducing myself to local businesses. All businesses are built on relationships no matter what you do, and successful business owners and managers don’t have time to read all the junk mail that hits their inbox or doormat but I find they’re usually happy to chat for a few mins if you pick the right time of day and focus on asking and listening instead of talking. I’ve really enjoyed it, I’ve met some lovely people, made some new contacts and been shown round some lovely properties. From a sales perspective the great thing about being a designer is you can offer advice on the spot which can build immediate confidence. Obviously you need to talk sense and a portfolio of completed work and personal references helps, but it’s not like other trades where you have to physically deliver something before there is any evidence of your skill.

A few months ago I met a homeowner who is now a customer. She potentially wanted help with her new build and we were stood in what would be her master bedroom talking about her planned layout. I could see immediately that she had nowhere near enough clothes storage so I threw in an interior design grenade and asked her how often she watched TV in bed. She looked at me blankly…. I was fairly confident that as a mother of three young children there would be little time for snuggling up with her partner to watch a movie, and I was right. She decided there and then the newly installed TV sockets would be obscured by an additional wardrobe. I think that was also the point she decided I could help her.

I’ve used the interior design grenade a few times and I’ve done some free work because it has built relationships and supported my long terms goals. Clearly we’d all like to be paid for every minute of our time, but referrals are the biggest source of new business in a trade like mine so build bridges, and never burn them.

I’ve also been project managing a new build at Holly Cottage this week. Cluckingham Palace has been demolished and the new chicken shed went in today. Very happy with the new colour. Cuprinol does a shade called Muted Clay which looks like naturally weathered wood so it matches my year old sleeper beds perfectly. . It looks so fancy I’m tempted to add a few hanging baskets. Check out the recycled living room window…. Chicken shopping tomorrow. The breeder I bought from last year has had his entire stock wiped out by foxes so I’m off to see a new man in the morning.

Chicken shed painted in Cuprinol Muted Clay
Cluckingham Palace

At the other end of the garden the summer house refurb is coming along too. The sparkies were here today fitting trunking for the pendant lights so that the decorator can paint. I think I may have found the fabrics for the sofa covers and other soft furnishings at Ada & Ina, an online company specialising in natural fabrics. Their Amaril range almost matches my planned colour scheme and has just the right amount of texture.

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So I’ve decided I’m celebrating tonight. I’ve been spam free for 5 days thanks to my new spam killing software. No more drivel about minecraft, no more incomprehensible comments in Chinese and most importantly no frankly disgusting comments with links to porn. I’ve also been wine free for a week (I have to wear a bikini in public in 7 days so desperate measures needed….) so I think I’ll celebrate with a glass or two of NZSB and the stack of house porn I haven’t had chance to read yet. Sounds like a perfect Friday night. Enjoy your weekends!

 

Is yellow the new mustard?

I’ve been a mustard fan for some time now. Not the English or whole grain varieties, but the kind that has been creeping into interiors for the past year or so. It was inevitable really what with all the beautiful grey paints and soft furnishings available, it’s a natural pairing. Like the grey it’s sophisticated and elegant, but it brightens up a scheme without being gaudy. However, it might be the sunshine going to my head but I’m beginning to think we can go a bit brighter……

It started when my friend Annie arrived yesterday for a short break. Annie is a bold decorator who loves a bit of glitz and glamour. Her master bathroom features a black bath with a sparkly floor and a glittery disco ball, her favourite colour is red, and she’s not shy when it comes to animal prints, in her wardrobe or home. So I wasn’t at all surprised when she told me she was on the look out for and struggling to find a canary yellow metal garden table to go with the red metal chairs she’d recently acquired. I love an interiors challenge, so while she flicked through a stack of my house porn I started surfing, and the more yellow I saw the more I liked it. By the time dinner was ready I’d already decided the replacement covers for the sofa in my summer house were going to be yellow. Here are just a few reasons why I think yellow might just be the new mustard.

Yellow chest of drawers in vintage bedroom

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It’s a good warm, sunny colour for a young girls bedroom, but not as a wall colour, just a piece of furniture with hints in the soft furnishings like here.

Yellow fireplace in a grey living room

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I can honestly say I would never have thought of painting a fireplace yellow but look how well this works against the pale grey walls.

Yellow sofa in living room

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I’m even considering it for the sofa in my summer house after seeing this but I think it needs to be surrounded by bold prints as shown in this room to avoid looking too twee.

Yellow four poster bed frame

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I recently used mustard as an accent colour in a pale green room with botanical elements, but a brighter yellow would have worked just as well and I love this four poster bed frame.

Yellow kitchen units in grey kitchen

 

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I’m still not sure about yellow kitchen units though……it does remind me of the toy kitchens made for little girls.

Yellow front door

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But I do love it as a front door colour, very cheery and welcoming. This one looks great with the white walls and rosy pink rugs.

So are you sold or do you think it will be a summer fad replaced by mustard again in October? I’ll leave you to ponder while I go and hunt for yellow fabric for my sofa….but before I go, great news Agata has returned! AWOL for 36hrs then strolls nonchalantly up the drive as if she’s never been away. Where she was is a mystery but she still has that jaunty look about her which suggests she was having fun…..the dirty stop out.

 

Things are heating up at Holly Cottage

Swimming three times a week with the pensioners is starting to have a positive effect (11lbs to be precise), although sadly not on my social life, but I do have a new running buddy. He’s a little unfit from spending too much time in a cage, and takes an excessive number of bathroom breaks but he’s great company and loves getting out. His name is Teddy and he’s a local farm dog. Harold his owner hasn’t been able to walk him for health reasons so I’ve been taking him running. To be truthful he pulls me for the first 2 miles, then I drag him for the final 3, but we both end up tired so its mutually beneficial. I’ve also been getting a lot of exercise chasing Agata round the garden. She is the envy of the chicken coop as the only lady able to fly over the 6ft fence. She takes great delight in hanging around near the coop taunting the others with her freedom, until she spots me and legs it…..

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Agata the escapologist

As a result of 5 days without hot water or heating while Darren and his boys install my new cast iron radiators (and drink a lot of coffee) I’m also weight training with the daily trek to the wood store to fill up the log baskets for the wood burning stoves. I do love a real fire at this time of year, however, I am not cut out for the lifting and needed an emergency trip to the physio last week after I put my back out. It’s only when you can’t physically get out of bed and have run out of painkillers do you realise the downside of living alone. Thankfully the local Red Cross, aka neighbour Sharon checked in on me and swiftly delivered drugs and sympathy so I could get back to bossing the plumbers about.

My new radiators were worth the 5 days without a boiler and the bad back though. I appreciate that it was probably rising metal prices that resulted in all the ugly radiators of the 1980’s and 90’s but thankfully the victorian styles are now widely available again, although at a cost. If you’re lucky enough to salvage original ones from old buildings then you can save yourself a lot of money, and buying them from reclamation yards can save you a few bob too, even if you pay to have them cleaned and painted. But I’m always nervous about the internal condition of reclaimed radiators so forked out for reproductions. I used an online calculator to work out what size I should get for each room and ordered them from a company called Castrads who I’ve used once before. They have a large selection and can have them painted any F&B colour. They take roughly 10 days to arrive and their customer service is very good if anything does go wrong with the order or the delivery, or if you’ve miscalculated the number of brackets and valves you need as I did…. and look how beautiful they are!

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The change of season is influencing my design choices too. Everywhere I go I’m drawn to autumnal colours; rustic reds, oranges and greens. I popped into John Lewis last week on my way back from Grand Designs in Birmingham (FYI – a little disappointed with the lack of inspiration but I did save £200 on a new range cooker and 20% on stone flooring). I ordered about 20 different fabric samples most of which haven’t arrived yet but they were exclusively plaid, tweed and tartans like these gorgeous ones from Osborne & Little.

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These lampshades in Green & White and the range of Harris tweed cushions in T K Maxx also got my attention…

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But my only autumnal purchase so far has been this stunning picture by Jonathan Trotman which I found in a gallery in Ambleside. I didn’t really want to buy any art until all the messy jobs in the house are finished but I couldn’t leave it behind. The picture had so much colour and texture I thought it was a painting at first, but its actually a print on canvas.

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Anyway I must get back to work. The customer who wants her conservatory doing didn’t go for the 50’s diner but did like my coffee shop style design so I need to find the perfect table and draw up the plan for the L shaped bench for the carpenter to get started on. I’d better put another log on the fire…

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