I can’t decide what’s better as an interior designer being given the blank canvas of a show home or new build, or transforming something that has become tired and dated. I suppose if I enjoy them both it doesn’t really matter. Similarly, I’ve loved the freedom I’ve been given to design this latest show home, (the brief was literally here’s the budget, make it look good, quickly). But then you can’t beat the feeling you get when you show a client your designs for their home and they love them, because you’ve managed to capture everything they told you they liked, plus a bunch of things they would never have thought of but love as well. I guess I’m just saying my job rocks.
Never before has a room been so inappropriately named as this snug which my customers use as a TV room. At over 25 square metres it’s bigger than somewhere a London estate agent once tried to flog me as a one bedroom flat.
It’s the second room I’ve decorated for my customers. Our first project was their Ginormous Living Room – click the link if you want to pop back and take a look. It was a major transformation and they loved the final result which set high expectations for round two. I needed to come up with something at least as fabulous, preferably better and I think I rose to the challenge but I’ll let you be the judge. Ready for some before pics?
The Snug – Before
Their TV room was originally the garage but the previous owners who built the house later decided they needed an extra living space and converted it. God knows what they were using the ginormous living room for. Tennis court? Ballroom? Seriously pop back and take a look it’s big enough.
And if you did take a look you’ll know that the previous owners were also fans of a fake beam or two. They managed to squeeze three more in here, along with a staircase that we think came out of a church. It also had a strange laminate floor and carpet combo going on.
Those stairs lead up to the loft space where there is another fabulous fake beam and some badly designed storage. Lets not discuss the carpet, wallpaper and curtains – all the previous owners doing.
The previous owners also liked to cut corners and didn’t bother moving the electricity meter, they just hid it behind an oddly shaped cupboard….. and a darts board.
The Big TV Challenge
When I design living rooms I usually try to hide the TV, or at least make it blend into the background. But if you have a room that’s main purpose is for watching TV in you’re allowed to give it a little more stage presence. However, a lot of TV stands are ugly, even the expensive ones, and they don’t always hide all the wires. The other issue is size. You need to fill the wall that the TV sits against with ‘stuff’ so it doesn’t look lost. Here’s some approaches I’ve taken.
1. Incorporate the TV into a wall of storage and/or artwork
Image from AVSO.ORG
Image via Pinterest
2. Make the wall behind the TV the feature
I recently tiled a wall like the image below and used concealed lighting to pick out the contours. I’ll show you some pics of my own project just as soon as their new TV stand arrives. The current one is not pretty enough for pics…..
Image via Pinterest
3. Use a false wall
Image via Pinterest
Or the false wall can look like a chimney breast or run the length of the room with the TV and media equipment buried in it. This approach works well when you want a more minimalistic look so that the emphasis is on other elements in the room. I love the image below but I’m not convinced you should have a TV above a fire.
Image via Pinterest
So back to the snug.
I wanted to carry some of that modern country look through from the living room for continuity but add a touch more luxury. This translated to a scheme that includes a plush velvet sofa and grey plaid wallpaper (I can’t call it tartan without thinking of the Krankies).
So are you ready?
The Snug – Final Reveal
When my customer told me she quite fancied a velvet sofa my heart practically skipped a beat. Many of my customers have dogs and/or small children so velvet (especially deep buttoned) is a big no no. And although my customers have both a dog and a small child they also have the aforementioned ginormous living room, which they can use when everyone isn’t as clean as they should be. So we could make this room a bit more grown up and sophisticated. Bring it on!
The focal point is obviously the new media wall. The gas fire has gone and a new stud wall has been built to resemble a chimney breast so that we could wallpaper the alcoves either side. This gives the whole wall interest so it’s not just about the TV. The shelves below the TV are big enough to accommodate the current media equipment and any future equipment the customers might want, and there is concealed lighting along the top to give just the right amount of light for late night movie watching.
The wallpaper adds a posh country hotel vibe doesn’t it, and it was only £10 a roll……
The side table tops come off and can be used as trays so you have somewhere for your wine and popcorn when you’re watching a movie.
My customers are a VERY photogenic family and had loads of lovely pics I could use as artwork. The black and white prints and simple white frames look lovely against the wallpaper, and we hung the pictures high to make the walls seem longer.
The large admiral blue deep buttoned velvet sofa and matching ottoman with storage is from Next. There was room for two sofas or a sofa and armchair combo but frankly the homeowners sit in here to watch TV so one large sofa means everyone is facing in the right direction.
You remember the rule about area rugs right? Buy the biggest you can afford, preferably one that is wider than the sofa so it doesn’t look lost. This plush deep pile one is from IKEA, because it’s multiple shades of blue it contrasts with the carpet but doesn’t clash with the sofa. Perfect.
We papered the wall behind the sofa so that side of the room didn’t look bare. The dark wood doors were replaced with white 6 panel ones to match the rest of the house and all the woodwork was painted white, including the new under-stairs storage (with push to open fittings so it doesn’t look like cupboards), and the new cupboard that houses the electricity meter.
Replacing the staircase wasn’t an option, or necessary to be honest so we just replaced the newel post with a more contemporary square one, and the new grey carpet carries up the stairs into the space which will become an office, right now it’s just a nicely decorated box with lots more new storage space – see.
Most of the budget had to go on things you probably can’t appreciate like getting all the radiator pipes chased in, sorting out the lighting and plug sockets and boarding and plastering the ceiling. But there was enough for a simple console table behind the sofa and a few more framed family photos.
I toyed with the idea of floor to ceiling curtains to make the ceiling seem higher but because of the position of the radiators roman blinds made more sense (curtains would block heat from the room in winter), and to be honest blinds look more contemporary. They are a pale grey felt like material and couple of shades darker than the walls. They just add a little more texture to the room without competing with the sofa.
I live in an old house with uneven walls. Consequently I only have one wall that could take wallpaper. So I get very excited when I get the opportunity to wallpaper a customers house. But I also brace myself for a challenge because I’m VERY picky about wallpaper. There are fine lines between bold and gaudy, and striking or gives you a headache. And then there are the quirky ones which can be kinda cool, but can also look like they belong in the childrens ward of a hospital. And I get very twitchy around faux effect wallpapers. I’m not ruling them out in houses but I think they work best in pubs and restaurants and other commercial premises where you want unusual, eye catching features. But I can even take issue with subtle wallpapers. I look at some and think thats so subtle why are you bothering?
Murusbiblusphobia – the fear of wallpaper
OK I just made this up using the latin words for wall and paper, but to stop you all from thinking I suffer from an aversion to wallpaper I thought I would show you five that have drawn my eye lately. And I’m pleased to report, at least for my own sake, that sitings of favourable wallpapers are on the increase.
1. Pheasant by Barneby Gates
I’m going to start with the one I am considering for the single wallpaperable (another made up word from me) wall in my house. This Pheasant wallpaper by Barneby Gates is quirky but not mad and has the right amount of ‘traditional’ for my house without it being boring. I’m waiting for the sample to arrive so it might not make a formal appearance at Holly Cottage. But I hope it does as I rather like the idea of pheasants roaming across my dining room wall.
2. Pindorama by Arthouse
There are lots of bold tropical and botanical wallpapers around at the moment, perfect to go with the must have for 2017 if you want to be bang on trend – a velvet sofa. I love the orchids and fuchsia in this wallpaper but if I’m honest what probably drew me in was the way the stylist had it working with the fuchsia pink border and ceiling. They should have used a huge navy or fuchsia sofa though, that little grey one looks positively out of place in this setting.
3. House Plants by Miss Print
I’ve been looking for wallpaper for one wall in a large contemporary kitchen/living/dining space and instantly fell in love with this retro style wallpaper from MissPrint. MissPrint was created in 2005 by mother-daughter co-founders Yvonne and Rebecca Drury and every MissPrint pattern is hand-illustrated by Rebecca which is what makes their designs so unique. What I really like about this wallpaper (and any of their designs for that matter) is that although they have a midcentury feel you could make them work in a traditional or contemporary setting.
4. Kumo by Albany
This cloud wallpaper is going in an office/study/reading room I’ve just designed for a customer. I suggested it because I thought the pattern was so relaxing. Maybe not great for an office but definitely right for a reading room. For me this is one of those subtle designs that is subtle but is still noticeable. My customer hasn’t been able to use this room since they bought the house as it was being used for storage so she’s very excited about having her own space. So much so she jokingly referred to this room as her lady cave…. so wrong.
5. Veranda Trellis by Zoffany
Last up is a wallpaper I’m thinking of for a living room I’m in the process of designing. I want something contemporary but elegant, and like the idea of a geometric pattern but so many of them make my head hurt when I look at them for too long. This one doesn’t and I think that’s because it’s just simple green on white. My eyes can’t seem to cope with geometrics in more than two colours. Print size helps too – too small and I feel like I’m being hypnotised.
So that’s my fab five. I’ll let you know if the pheasants make it onto the walls of Holly Cottage.
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?
Cumbrians are hardy people, fond of extreme outdoor activity. The county is known as the adventure capital of the UK with a full calendar of swimming, cycling and running events, often combining all three, and almost all involving steep hills. If you don’t get involved then you’re not really Cumbrian. So today was my initiation ceremony and my first ever triathlon. Its clearly the secret to a long life as a rather large percentage of the competitors were pensioners. I was mortified when one geriatric overtook me on the run…. but I finished in an acceptable time and now feel officially Cumbrian.
I have also been making the most of the sunshine (Cumbria was warmer than the Algarve and Ibiza this week I’ll have you know), and doing a spot of gardening, or more specifically chicken proofing it. If you’re not familiar with the term then this involves placing stones on every bare patch of soil to prevent them having soil baths and digging up all your plants in the process. It also means planting a 4 inch high trim along the edges of borders to stop them kicking all your bark chippings and soil into the path when they’re digging for grubs. I even had to cover one raised bed entirely with netting as this was their last stop before Cluckingham Palace at night, and had become their equivalent of your local kebab shop. It looked like a plague of locust had visited it. Although I may not need to bother if the dramas continue. Agata met her end 2 weeks ago after an encounter with the farmers dog, and next doors spaniel tried to fetch Beate for his owner earlier in the week. It’s made them all a little jumpy as you can imagine.
Anyway, when I haven’t been achieving a wondrous work life balance I have actually been doing some interiors work, and while researching for a couple of commercial projects have become fascinated by fakes. Historically our interiors choices have been significantly more limited. It used to be the case that if you wanted a wood floor you had to buy wood floor and hope it didn’t get damaged by damp or children. If you wanted bare brick you had to chip the plaster off your walls. Gas fires looked like gas fires. TV’s looked like TV’s and bookshelves were made of… well, actual books. But the world of interiors has now become a world of clever special effects thanks to technology and innovation and I love it.
I recently discovered a Swedish company called Happywall which offers a wide range of wall murals including a collection of extremely realistic and highly touchable backgrounds. They can be made to whatever size you need, which adds to the reality. I love this one below with the chipped red paint. Perhaps this isn’t the greatest advert but it sort of reminds me of the deserted cabin in the woods in a serial killer movie…..
They also have some great metal finishes like these rusted corrugated and sheet steel murals. I might even like these more than the Brooklyn Tins wallpaper by Merci….
If you have a dining room, wine cellar or bar that needs a bit of decoration how about their wine bottle mural?
And what about this grungy mustard coloured mural. In a smart room it would look like crushed velvet, but in an industrial setting or dark bar it would make the walls look aged and damp.
But this is my favourite. The mural is as clear as the photographic image which was clearly used to create it, and look how it appears on a living room wall. It’s as if you’re sat in a derelict building. Not everyones idea of style, but imagine if you lived in a cool loft apartment with steel beams and a concrete floor….
All of this got me wondering where this will lead. Will we eventually live in a world of interiors virtual reality, where all our walls and floors are white and we project images on to them to match the latest trends, our mood, the time of day or the seasons? You could have that loft apartment with the concrete floor and exposed brick walls, then when you’re fed up with it download a new scheme. Wake up to a grassy meadow in the sunshine, go to sleep to the sun setting over the desert. It might mean our furniture needs to be cheaper and more disposable (in an environmentally friendly way), or maybe renting your furniture becomes the trend. Whatever happens it can only mean more choice which is a good thing. Bring on the fakes I say.
Before I became an interior designer I worked for the same company for 20 years but in multiple roles. Every 2 years or so I would change jobs, and would joke that it was so they would never find out I was rubbish. But the reality was every 2 years they would offer me new challenges and I would accept them. When Human Resources or Management would ask me want I wanted to do next I always gave the same answer; anything, as long as it not internally focused, too narrow a role, or business as usual. Fortunately for me the company was big enough (and challenged enough) that they never struggled to meet these criteria. In the end though it became a case of different job same challenges and my motivation had gone so it was time for a complete change and the opportunity to follow my true passion, interior design. This need for customer interaction, diversity and a challenge is probably why I love being an interior designer. Even a small bathroom needs wallpaper or paint, flooring, lighting, furniture, heating and plumbing, which are all specialisms in their own right, but an interior designer has to be knowledgable about them all. And when a customer says she wants flooring that looks like the one she saw in Frankie & Benny’s you have to accept the challenge…. I kid you not this actually happened to me, and I found her the exact match. She recently told me she wanted kitchen stools like ones she’d seen in Nando’s. I told her husband he needed to start taking her to classier places….
So the last 7 days has been all about wallpaper, specifically the perfect, simple, but contemporary, and a little bit glamorous wallpaper for a clients bedroom. I think we have the winner but the search has uncovered some beauties I wanted to share with you, and in the process I uncovered the source of the fabulous paper that I saw in Artisan (the recent hen night venue).
1. Brooklyn tins by Merci – first up is the paper I spotted in Artisan. Designed to look like vintage painted tiles, you have to touch it to believe its not real. It looks amazing on walls and ceilings and comes in 8 different designs. Usually £219 per roll, (although Hut.com have it for £139.99), which means most of us could afford to do at least 1 wall or ceiling……
2. Vienna by Zoffany – when I got my hands on a sample of this in silver it looked like leather, and when I showed it to a client she thought it was like coral shells. It looks and feels gorgeous, most striking in the darker shades. 10 different colour ways, and £85 a roll so it won’t break the bank if you limit it to a feature wall.
3. Komodo, Cobra by Osborne & Little – this is so sexy it practically slithers off the walls and into bed with you. Comes in 5 colour ways, and at £56 per roll you could afford to do a few walls. Check out their other animal prints too, I also love Panthera and Boa
4. In the picture, Issue in Parchment – my customer has a white leather headboard on her bed which is what drew me to this wallpaper as it reminded me of the leather cushioning. It seems no one is brave enough to try it on their walls yet though as I couldn’t find any pics of it hung. Only £40 though so worth a gamble
5. Anaglypta Wallpapers, Herringbone – mention anaglypta and I automatically think about those awful 70’s patterned wallpapers and then I saw this. I admit I’m a little obsessed with herringbone pattern in any form but painted up this is divine and only £21 per roll. Perfect for halls and stairs I think
6. Tree Bark by Clarke & Clarke – another wallpaper that people view differently, I see silver birch and my customer thought it was distressed concrete. We both loved it though, but I agree with her its perhaps a little industrial looking for a bedroom. Around £40 per roll.
7. Mey Fern by Nina Campbell – and I think this might be the winner. It comes in 4 colour ways and is £56 per roll. I matched it with a paint called Oyster Shoal by Valspar and some very touchable crushed velvet by Clarke & Clarke. I also found some bedside wall lights that had up and down lighters to highlight the sweep of the ferns. With her white gloss bedroom furniture I think it will create the right amount of glamour – what do you think?
So in between wallpaper hunting and working on other client projects I have been feeling very young. Firstly, because I decided to enter my first ever triathlon. Long story short, work and illness has led to a decline in my exercise regime, which coupled with carb loading with Mr W after his diabetes diagnosis has caused me to gain more weight than I lost last year. The triathlon entry is to ensure I do not fall off the diet and exercise wagon. However, I have never been able to swim front crawl so I have also signed up for swimming lessons. Flailing around in cold water while being barked at by the rather formidable Elaine made me feel like I was 8 years old again. All that was missing was a brick at the bottom of the pool, a pair of pyjamas and veruca socks. Hats off to her though, within 30 minutes she had me doing a passable crawl which neither of us thought was possible at the start.
The second time I felt very young was on Monday night at the Theatre By The Lake in Keswick. It’s the jazz festival this week and we went to see Ray Gelato & The Giants. The last time I saw them play it was the late show at Ronnie Scotts and involved cocktails, dinner and plenty of wine. This time I had a coffee in the interval and was in bed by 10.30pm. Normally that would make me fell old but the average age of the audience was probably 72 so I still felt pretty sprightly.
Anyway, time to get my young self off to the swimming pool for lesson 3, only 5 weeks until the triathlon and I’m a long way off 20 continuous lengths…..