Warning, reading this will cause severe house envy….

Its back to life in the slow lane again after my recent London jaunt. I do love my new life but a city fix is needed occasionally or there’s a strong chance I will become very unkempt and a bit dotty from spending to much time with chickens. This trip also delivered evidence that dispels two myths about London that I have enjoyed sharing with my fellow Cumbrians.

Myth One – Eating out in London is expensive: Two of the best meals I had that weekend cost less than a fiver. The first was a homemade, warm from the oven scotch egg. Orangey yolk, wonderfully seasoned pork with a touch of black pudding. Absolutely delicious. If you ever find yourself in N1 and hungry, find The Marquess and you will not be disappointed. The second was a portion of chips and curry sauce from a chippy in Blackheath Royal Standard, which would have knocked the socks of any triple cooked, gastro-pub efforts. Classy no, delicious, hell yes.

Myth two – Londoners are unfriendly: In preparation for my triathalon next month I went for a run in Greenwich park and five minutes from the house tripped over my own clumsy feet and took the skin off both knees and palms like a 6 year old. Half a dozen people offered assistance, including a lovely couple that administered first aid and two passing drivers who offered to take me to A&E. Thankfully my pride was the biggest injury sustained but it was heart warming to encounter so many good Samaritans.

But the highlight of my trip was without a doubt the North London House Tour organized by Livingetc. A chance to nosy around seven amazing private homes with a bunch of like-minded interiors enthusiasts, with all proceeds going to Crisis the national charity for single homeless people. We had been asked not to take photographs inside the houses but the staff and homeowners gave me permission to take a few which I can share with you now – apologies for the image quality, they really don’t do these properties justice.

I started at house #4 on the tour, a 5-storey Victorian property that despite being filled to the rafters with artwork and curiosities didn’t feel cluttered. I stood for 10 minutes in the living room alone just soaking it all in. I didn’t even ask if I could take a photo I was so in awe so this is the one from the tour guide. Favourite thing about this house – the vintage lights.

Green and white room with vintage lights


Next stop was house #3, a stained back cedar cube nestled between brick Georgian properties. Overall I found this house a little too stark. However, there were two things that took my breath away. The first was the view of their neighbours tree from the living room window, a huge expanse of glass that stretched the length of the room, which made you feel like you were in the treetops. On the opposite side of the room was a wall of floor to ceiling cupboards, and if I can offer my interiors two-penneth, personally I would have given them mirrored glass doors to reflect this vista, which would have been stunning all year round. The second was the view of the Japanese maple (Acer) in a private courtyard outside one of the bedrooms.

Stunning tree view from living room window View of Japanese maple (acer) from bedroom window


On to house #2, a 3-storey Victorian villa with the most amazing kitchen overlooking the garden. What made the interior of this house so eye catching was the neutral colour scheme with the pops of bright primary colours in window blinds, bathroom vanity units and other items.



Thankfully house #1 was just around the corner as I was starting to flag at this point. The house was beautifully decorated and furnished but the thing that caught my eye was the paint effects, particularly this one below which really framed the eves of the house.

Paint effect that frames the room


On route to house #5 I popped into The Marquess for sustenance and was treated to another interiors surprise which I hope my fellow enthusiasts discovered. The lighting is what stood out, but I also loved the exotic ceiling fans in the main dining room.

Cluster of black vintage ceiling pendants in The Marquess in N1 image


The trek to house #5 was a little long, but worth it. Another multi-storey Victorian villa, but this time a minimalists dream, all pale greys and very little furniture. I’m actually convinced this house isn’t lived in yet, as there was little evidence of occupancy . But it was here I suffered a severe case of bathroom envy.

White, grey and marble bathroom in Victorian property with gold fixtures


I nearly didn’t make it to house #6 which was entirely my own fault for getting lost, taking the wrong bus and missing my stop when I found the right bus. This Edwardian terrace is owned by an artist who has turned it into an oasis of light and calm. I had another bout of bathroom envy when I saw the pebbled floors, and I loved her use of pale pink, which is a colour I have never liked and now want to plagiarise. And yet another beautiful garden….

Pebbled bathroom floor image image


Last stop was at the top of an almighty hill but worth the climb as they had saved the best till last. The owner is an interior designer (Mad Cow Interiors) who has a bold and eclectic style which might not be for everyone but I loved it. The corrugated metal effect wallpaper, the hanging basket chair in the living room, the customised furniture, the album cover floor in the games room, the first floor sun deck, her amazing walk in wardrobe and boudoir bedroom. Even the downstairs loo was cool. I wanted to move in.

image  Customised sideboardimage image


Funky pop art decorated toilet Hanging basket chair


So a huge thank you to the organisers, volunteers and home owners for delivering such an amazing event, I will definitely be back next year, by which time I should have recovered from the severe case of house envy. But for now I’d better go and feed those chickens….in the rain….and wind….

The definition of house porn

The term house porn has been in my vocabulary for years and one I use frequently but it only struck me this week that I might need to explain myself in case I’m branded a pervert. Surprisingly Wikipedia my favourite online encyclopaedia describes food porn but not house porn, which presents me with a golden opportunity to define it myself, I’ve even created my own Wikipedia account in order to start the process! In the meantime this is my draft, which admittedly plagiarises heavily Wikipedias definition of food porn…..

House porn – a glamourised spectacular visual presentation of homes, interiors or home furnishings in advertisements, print and digital media, blogs, television shows, events or other visual media intended to arouse a desire to own the objects displayed or re-create the effects shown.

What do you think, do I have the makings of a Wikipedia article?

In the meantime here’s some house porn from Grand Designs Live this weekend!

Pendant cocoon lights from Mac Master Design

Stunning cocoon pendant lights from Mac Master Design


Wide plank wood flooring from Siberian FloorsWide plank wood flooring from Siberian FloorsWide plank wood flooring from Siberian FloorsScreen Shot 2015-05-10 at 22.48.23Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 22.48.39

Gorgeous wide plank wooden flooring from Siberian Flooring



Stylish kitchen from Prentice Furniture




Walls, crawl and all that jazz – my hunt for the perfect wallpaper

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……

Brooklyn tins wallpaper by Merci Brooklyn tins wallpaper by Merci Brooklyn tins wallpaper by Merci


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.

Vienna wallpaper by Zoffany Vienna wallpaper by Zoffany Vienna wallpaper by Zoffany Vienna wallpaper by Zoffany


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

Komodo, Cobra wallpaper by Osborne & Little Komodo, Cobra wallpaper by Osborne & Little Komodo, Cobra wallpaper by Osborne & Little


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

In the picture, Issue wallpaper in Parchment


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

Anaglypta Wallpapers, Herringbone Anaglypta Wallpapers, Herringbone


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.

Tree Bark wallpaper in Birch by Clarke & Clarke Tree Bark wallpaper in Birch by Clarke & Clarke


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?

Mey Fern wallpaper by Nina Campbell Mey Fern wallpaper by Nina Campbell


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…..


Partying, porn and Jessica Zoob

Not much interior designing this week but I’m still exhausted. It started with a hen night, which transitioned into a few days at Holly Cottage with the bride to be and the girls, and ended with a wedding. I’ve realised I’m now too old for that much partying. Normally Mr W has to spend his weekends coping with my ADD. This weekend he was starting to wonder whether I had narcolepsy. Too tired to cook, I even ate salad, which to me is the equivalent of offering a vegan a fry up. It was a fun week though and it did provide plenty of interior design porn.

First stop Artisan in Manchester, the venue for the hen night. Somewhere between a very cool loft apartment and a warehouse, it managed to be uber cool without being pretentious. The vintage plaster effect wallpaper on the ladies bathroom ceiling really caught my eye.

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I also loved the herb planters outside the kitchen, the metal framed doors, windows and mirrors, and the slightly bonkers wall art (PS thats my beautiful sister below centre)

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Add some funky industrial lighting, and a couple of Mona Lisa’s and you have one very stylish bar and restaurant, and the food was pretty good too.

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My next interior design fix came the day after when we stopped at The Plough in Lupton for some much needed carbohydrate and fluids. The minute we stepped into the dining room I fell in love with the wallpaper. At first it reminded me of the deserted houses you see in 80’s American horror movies when the plaster is crumbling and the paper has peeled off, then you look closer and its like looking into a lake on a Monet painting, all blues, pinks and greens. A little research and its from a new range of wallpapers and fabrics designed by the contemporary impressionist artist Jessica Zoob. It is stunning, but at £495 for a 2 roll pack (gulp) it could be some time before I get to hang it anywhere.

I’d assumed the decor was the work of a professional interior designer, but turns out it was just a friend of the owner called Amanda Delaney. Hats off to her for an amazing job. I loved everything from the copper coloured radiators to the rugs on the chairs by the stove.

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If you ever find yourself somewhere between Yorkshire and Cumbria you have to visit The Plough. They served up possibly the best Sunday Roast I have ever tasted, and when I expressed an interest in their decor a very nice young lady showed us around all 6 of their bedrooms which were as beautifully decorated as the dining room and bar area.

Top tip – if you want to treat your loved one to a romantic night away book the Torsin room – absolutely stunning.

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Last stop was the aptly named Nutters Restaurant in Rochdale (if you’ve met the bride you’ll understand why so apt….), the venue for the wedding. This fed my love of architecture and restoration. Built in 1850 as a private gothic-style manor house, it has since been a hospital, a night club and a Brewsters steak house. It was bought in 2003 by Rodney Nutter, father of celebrity chef Andrew Nutter, and is now a restaurant and wedding venue. It’s the grounds and exterior that make this place a great venue for weddings. It was another great dining experience too, and the straw that broke the camels back. I am now on a diet…..

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So normal service resumes this week – work, study, exercise. But a huge thank you to the  bride and the ladies that made last week so much fun. I’m still giggling at the facelift selfies….


And finally, congratulations to Matt and Karen the bride and groom. It was a fantastic wedding.




Bag yourself a bargain

As an interior designer I appreciate space, particularly my own. Which is why it’s a good thing Mr W has finally returned to London. I love my husband, I wouldn’t be without him, but our 5/2 relationship suits us both. Divorce or death (of one of us) would have been the only outcome if he’d stayed much longer. So now he can get back to his routine, and I can get back to the non-routine I just realised I prefer. This involves only shopping or cooking when I feel like it, working until midnight if I’m in the grip of something, and spending a few hours gardening if the sun is out and I need thinking time. The opposite of my previous life, which was bound by routine and schedules. Perfect.

The other personal change I’ve noticed, is that I have replaced my handbag snobbery with car snobbery. Posh handbags don’t really cut it in Cumbria or my new life. It isn’t practical to carry tape measures, notebooks, paint/tile/fabric/flooring samples in soft leather, silk lined pouches. They don’t really work on building sites either when I need to put them on the floor while I measure up and take photos. So I’ve happily made the transition to cheaper and more practical shoulder-wear. However, I recently dropped my fabulous ‘takes me anywhere, fits anything in it’, automatic 4WD off for a service and was given a tiny, tinny, manual, skodia fabia for the day. I actually had to get someone to show me how to start it, and you should have seen my attempt at parallel parking without a camera and sensors, it looked like it had been abandoned by bank robbers. If by some strange cruel twist of fate this becomes the car of the future with all other models becoming obsolete I will revert to taxi’s everywhere. A challenge in my line of work and rural location but a necessity I’m afraid.

Bizarrely I am the complete opposite of a snob, (what is this, egalitarian? modest? humble?) when it comes to interior design. I love nothing more than a cheap replica of something that costs an arm and a leg elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong I love the expensive stuff too, but most people can’t afford it. So as interior designers it is often our job to create the same look for a lot less. I’ve recently been looking for items to spruce up my summer house so behold my current favourite spring themed bargain replicas!

First on the list these wood effect drum shades. Yes the John Lewis one is beautiful but for a tenner the one from Wilko is a stylish bargain

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Woodland nightshade from John Lewis, £35-45
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Wood effect nightshade from Wilko, £10


There’s a definite bee theme in the shops at the moment, and these are two of my favourite clocks.

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Progetti Time2bee wall clock, £145 by Red Candy
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Honeycomb clock from George Home, £12


There is no denying that this Juneberry & Bird cushion by young British designer Lorna Syson is georgous. But if you can’t afford the £32 price tag, Wilko has a pretty bird cushion for only £6.50.

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Juneberry & Bird cushion, £32 from Howkapow


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Bird cushion, £6.50 from Wilko


Sticking with the bird theme, both of these rugs are beautiful and the one from Next isn’t expensive at £160, but I actually prefer the cheaper one from Kaleidoscope.

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120cm x 170cm Hummingbird rug from Next, £160
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120cm x 180cm Hummingbird rug, £115 from Kaleidoscope


Finally, my summer house is littered with tea light holders, my excuse being that many are presents from visitors (honest guv), but there’s always room for a few more…..

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Set of 4 LSA green glass tea light holders, £18 from Heals


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Glass butterfly motif tea light holders, £3 each from John Lewis.

So Mr W is home again this weekend, and despite my earlier comments I have missed him, but if he misses his train home on Sunday I might have to move into the summer house to save our marriage….




The first rule of interior design – there are no rules.

This is what attracts me most to interior design, there are literally no rules. Yes, there are guiding principles and building regulations but much of this is just good common sense. One of the things that drove me crazy in my old life was the adherence to pure theory in some areas of the company (project managers you know what I’m talking about), and the way in which management theories were regurgitated, re-branded and slavishly adopted in a way David Koresh would have been envied. I once worked for a guy that would embrace anything that came in a 2×2 matrix, and another that liked anything with 7 steps. I became very skilful in shoe-horning plans into grids and developing acronyms to illustrate my vision and ensure support for my ideas. I am much happier now I don’t need to find a theory to back up my ideas, just using mood boards to illustrate my vision.

Stakeholder management is still important though. You can’t take a customer completely out of their comfort zone without a presentation strategy. I had a situation like this last week when I presented my proposals to a client for her children’s bedrooms. FYI – this is a client who told me she invested a significant amount of time and money in decorating a former home in a range of neutral Farrow & Ball tones, only to have a friend admire her for painting her whole house the same colour…..When I presented the teal feature wall and brick effect wall paper I was suggesting for her sons bedroom, alongside the dark wood and metal furniture she could see how cool it looked but was completely out of her comfort zone. Her husband and son loved it – I’m still waiting to here if she adopts the plan in its entirety….

Mood board for her sons bedroom. A little bit geek, a little bit rock and a whole lot of cool

My latest bathroom project challenges traditional views that oppose combining styles. I started out with a clear plan for a Victorian style bathroom. But removing the plaster exposed the most beautiful red sandstone, which resulted in a new plan that combined rustic and Victorian styles. All the pipework was diverted to the utility room below to avoid any boxing at skirting level. The lighting plan had to change as the wall lights needed a flat surface and the cables had to be hidden between the stones so new positions had to be found. We had planned a bathroom cabinet but this was no longer practical with such uneven walls so this was replaced with a vintage mirror. The contractors did an excellent job of using pieces of sandstone from the garden to plug any gaps in the walls, and we hid the concrete and brick lintels above the window and door behind some fake aged oak lintels. My favourite feature is the spotlight hidden behind the beam above the cast iron bath which lights it up. I think the end result is striking but you can judge for yourself.

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The final touch will be pictures for the one plastered wall. I’m currently sourcing a painting to match the one below. If I can’t find the right match we’ll stick with the one painting which I fell in love with the moment I saw it – what can I say its my love of chickens….



Suppliers and contractors:

Milbrook petite cast iron bath from the cast iron bath company, painted in F&B Pavilion Grey. Marble top vanity unit from Bathstore. Toilet from Heritage range. Radiator from Castrads, painted in F&B Cornforth White. Tiles from Walls & Floors Victorian unglazed range. Lighting from Fritz Fryer. Gold taps and accessories from Victorian Plumbing. Plastered wall painted in Dulux Pebble Shore. 

All stonework, plumbing and tiling by J D Osborn Plumbing & Heating Engineers. Joinery by Curwen. Electrics by Cockton Electrical. Decorating by Michael Fulton.

The worlds most challenging interior design jobs?

Things have been a little hectic of late (hence the overdue blog) and now Mr W and I are co-habiting again. A novelty which I am sure will soon wear off for us both. Long story short he’s been diagnosed with diabetes and is under hospital supervision until his glucose levels can be stabilised with insulin. So all his business travel has been cancelled and I’m playing nurse. I did manage a couple of trips before his diagnosis though which provided some interesting sight seeing for an interior designer.

First stop Rotterdam to see an old school friend who took us to see the cube houses designed by architect Piet Blom. There are 39 in Rotterdam, each tilted 45 degrees and resting on a hexagon shaped pylon. They were built in 1977 and his design is supposed to represent a village within a city, where each house represents a tree, and all the houses together, a forest. One has been maintained as a museum and getting inside is a challenge in itself as the stairs are steep, narrow and windy. Once you’re in the views from the windows almost induce vertigo as you feel like you’re facing the ground below. But the biggest challenge with these houses must be furnishing them, your only real options being flat packed or custom made. My verdict? Interesting and worth a visit but I’m a bit of a space utilisation freak so they left this interior designer twitching…

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Next stop Norway. Hurtiguten run a fleet of cargo/passenger ferry/cruise ships along the coast from Bergen to Kirkenes. They sail non-stop and dock everywhere to load and unload passengers and goods. Its a great way to see the coastline, and at this time of year also the Northern lights. We boarded halfway in Tromso and sailed to Kirkenes and back. At Kirkenes we visited the snow hotel as an add on to a husky dog sledding excursion. Now I’ve seen a snow hotel all romantic notions of staying in one have disappeared. The rooms are freezing, the air is damp, there’s little privacy and the bathrooms are down an icy corridor. I don’t know what I was expecting but perhaps a little more decor, and the only signs of any interior design are the ice carvings on the walls. My verdict? Worth a nosy if you’re in the vicinity but unless your Bear Grylls I’d avoid an overnighter….

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So these places left me pondering about other challenging interior design jobs. Here’s some I’d like to get my teeth into….

1. Possibly the smallest house in London. Only 188 sq ft which is one fifth the size of an average new build. Only one bedroom and unsurprisingly open plan living space. It sold recently for £275k which will  prompt much sucking in of breath from my northern friends…You’d need a sparse wardrobe and be a fan of eBooks, digital music and movie streaming to live here. And check out the bathroom – I’ve seen bigger on boats.

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2. Most definitely the least private house in the world. This 914 sq ft house built by Sou Fujimoto Architects is definitely only a home for exhibitionists as it’s completely transparent. Apparently it was inspired by our ancient predecessors who inhabited trees. Once I’d got past the bathroom issue my next thought was how have they hidden all the plumbing and electrics?

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3. A very eco-friendly house. Located in France is a bio-climatic solar house that has been designed as a three-dimensional sundial which keeps the temperature cool in summer and warm the rest of the year. I’m not sure I could live in a temperature controlled glass box though. I’d get very little sleep in the summer as there don’t appear to be any window dressings and I’d definitely want to get a window cleaner.

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4. A house with a view. Not a penthouse or a mobile home but a rotating house. It took the 73yr old builder more than 20 years to complete this house in the Czech Republic but what an invention. He said he built it because he got bored building ordinary houses. The lower level is a swimming pool, the house moves up and down by flipping a switch, and it can rotate 180 degrees, albeit manually. When the house is submerged it maintains a stable temperature year round making it energy efficient too. The round walls would present a bit of an interior design challenge furniture wise but I love it – imagine being able to change your view when you wanted to.

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Much as I like the rotating house my dream home is still one that overlooks water, but Holly Cottage fits the bill for now


Interior design or child’s play?

I should have realised a long time ago that I wanted to be an interior designer, just based on the number of times I would re-arrange my bedroom furniture and beg my mum to redecorate. Money was tight and we were a single parent family so my mum handled all home improvements herself. She could do anything, and I mean anything. She even owned her own set of drain rods. Best not to ask why. She once embarked on a project to convert our cellars into a granny flat and undertook all the work herself, by which I mean her plus her personal child labour force. My friends still laugh now at the memory of staying over at my house during school holidays and my mum’s parting shot (shouted up the stairs as I was still in bed) as she went off to work being “Amy! I want three wheel barrows of soil off you before you go out”. When I look back I admire her ‘can do’ attitude and work ethic (which I inherited) but I wish she hadn’t been quite as…..inclusive. The motorbike, cigar smoking, naturism and accordion playing also made for an interesting childhood but that’s a whole book not a blog post….

My accordion playing mum (centre) and my musical aunties
My accordion playing mum (centre) and my musical aunties

So back to children’s bedrooms. I have a new customer and my first deliverable is designs for her 7yr old daughter and her 8yr old sons bedrooms. For the daughter, mum would like simple and tasteful, with a splash of Laura Ashley. Something that will see her into her teen years. Daughter wants pink hearts, princesses and diamonds. The kind of bedroom I would have loved but never been allowed. The son is actually trickier. He is interested but not passionate about a range of things including football, rugby, drumming and getting a dog, and likes just about every primary colour. Our conversations yesterday just showed me that kids are not that different to a lot of adults when it comes to decorating their bedrooms. They don’t really know what they want. They’ve seen a few accessories or a bed they like, but can’t visualize or create a coherent scheme which incorporates them. But that’s great news, because that’s my job as an interior designer.

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Things the daughter would love: from left, tutu table cover from Etsy, carriage bed found on babble.com and princess bedroom from decorative bedroom.com.


So I’ve got some ideas and as the research has been so much fun I thought I would share some of my findings. Stop reading now if a) you are bitter about the boring bedroom you had as a kid, b) you’re reading this with a small child and don’t want them to see stuff you won’t want to buy them, or c) you hate pink.

Great storage idea for dolls. If you're not handy with a dewing machine just use one of those over door hangers for shoes Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 08.49.30 Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 08.50.13

Great storage idea for dolls or action figures. If you’re not a seamstress just use one of those over door hangers for shoes. (Sources from left: lovechicliving.co.uk, Buzzfeed and Babble.com)


I like this bedroom as its girly but has a little funk to it, not to twee

I love this girls bedroom as it’s girly but a little whimsical (hello unicorn) with a vintage edge. (Source: Pinterest)


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Eerio Aarnio is a Finnish interior designer and furniture designer and has created this ball chair in a variety of colours. This pink one would look cool in a retro teenagers bedroom, but look away if you can’t afford the £500 price tag….


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This bedroom has been designed for a teenage girl but with different coloured seating could work just as well for a boy. It’s got that cool ‘Manhattan loft’ vibe without being too grown up. (Source: Pinterest)


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Definitely one for the boys now. I love the attention to detail around this amazing plane bed; the  world map wallpaper, the luggage clothes storage, the cloud ceiling. Truly fantastic interior design. (Source: hgtv.com)


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High beds for small children make me a little nervous. But you have to admit, who wouldn’t want a slide in their bedroom? (all from Pinterest)

How white made this interior designer see red

Last week Alana MacInnes became famous overnight when she posted online a picture of a dress that to some people (me) looked white and gold and to others looked blue and black. Check out #TheDress on Twitter if you missed it. While this was going viral I was dealing with other optical illusions in the world of interior design.

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It started on Thursday with a late night email from a slightly rattled customer asking me whether the bathroom suite the builders had installed was supposed to be 3 different shades of white….By the time he called me in the morning explaining it was a false alarm and a trick of the light I was already on a white knuckle ride to the nearest showroom to check it out for myself, and had arranged for a replacement suite to be shipped out as soon as I gave the word. Thankfully no longer necessary.

Friday had me dealing with the white lies of furniture retailers. Call me old fashioned but the furniture in this photo below looks pure white to me. Well its not. I won’t shame the retailer as they’re not alone in marketing whiter than white images of goods that are ivory, cream or another shade of off white but as an interior designer it’s very frustrating. White should be the safe colour when it comes to internet shopping.

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Saturday morning brought more white noise. This time a call from one of the builders asking if the wardrobe doors he’d just picked up for me were supposed to be off-white. They weren’t. I was starting to regret leaving the white collar world when I hopped back in the car (which is white BTW) and headed to site to check it out for myself. Thankfully another false alarm. When we got them out of the van, lined up next to some white MDF and some white polystyrene the difference was negligible.

Now it might not sound like it, but I actually love the fact that we have more than fifty shades of white (I had to get that in somewhere). Two of my favourite colours right now are Cornforth White and Old White by Farrow & Ball. The first is a beautiful pale grey and the second looks grey in bright light and green in shadier rooms. My point is, manufacturers and retailers need to play the white man and provide accurate images and descriptions of their products.

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Hallway painted in Cornforth White by Farrow & Ball
Bedroom walls in Old White by Farrow & Ball

So thats enough (white) trash talk from me. But before the men in white coats come to take me away I leave you with a word of warning. If you want something that is as white as a sheet, don’t trust images, go and check it out to avoid being left with a white elephant.

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What’s your bum to cushion ratio?

No self-respecting interior designer wants to be branded a cushion scatterer but when major retailers are allocating significant percentages of valuable floor space to cushions, and more and more hobbyists appear on Etsy selling their handmade ones you can’t ignore their place in our hearts and homes. The number on our sofas has increased, and they now pop up anywhere else you might park your derriere; the bed, a window seat, a kitchen bench, in the garden. It’s a miracle we’ve not succumbed to softly furnished toilet seats.

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The number, size, shape and colour of cushions appears to be one of those gender specific obsessions. Why is it that football, beer and car shows tend to attract more male than female fans? And why do most men do their best to avoid shoe shopping, spa days and musical theatre? I often wonder if this unofficial segregation is the result of nature, nurture or just plain peer pressure. Mr W actually likes a bit of shoe shopping (see last weeks post on the number of pairs of brown shoes he owns…), a spa day (if there’s a gym) and a show (I swear). But I suspect he would deny all 3 if questioned by his friends. A picture I posted on Facebook of a newly decorated bedroom (not my personal page I hasten to add, it was on my decorators business page) prompted the post from a male friend “what is it with women and cushions” which supports my theory that cushions reside in the female camp. So at the risk of killing a career that has barely started, and in the interest of trying to engage more men in the topic of cushions I introduce to you my cushion playbook!

Playbooks are used by American football coaches to document their strategies and plays. In my old life we used to create sales playbooks to help brokers sell our products. The senior management team was literally obsessed with creating these things. They thought they were the holy grail that would deliver our new business budgets. So my old boss will be proud as hell if he reads this, and I’m hoping the sports metaphor will win me some male readers.

1. You can have too many cushions. In the living room I use the following bum to cushion ratio. Armchair = 1 cushion, two-seater = 2, three-seater = 4, four-seater = 5/6.

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 Pretty but where would you sit?

2. Size matters. For slim armchairs a single boudoir cushion is often best (30cm x 40cm. For armchairs and two-seaters, stick to maximum of 40cm x 40cm. Once you get to a three-seater you can introduce larger cushions, say a 50cm x 50cm paired with a 40cm x 40cm at each end. On my four-seaters I also have a single 60cm x 40cm in the centre but a row of same size smaller cushions can look stylish, or a selection of random shapes and sizes, particularly if you mix and match fabrics, patterns and colours. Just remember you need to leave enough space for people to actually sit down.

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3. Remember cushions are meant to add comfort, so avoid scratchy wool, sequins and beads however pretty they are. I’d also favour natural versus man made fabrics to avoid static, and down filled versus man made fibres unless someone in the house is allergic. Cheap feather cushions can be a nuisance if the quills poke through so check the quality of the material used for the inner.

4. Cushions are a great way of getting accent colour into your room. If you’re mixing patterns I tend to use a big pattern with a small one if the patterns are very different, and the same size if they are similar. Think big floral with small spots, or similar size geometrics together.

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5. There are occasions when cushions should be avoided (cue gasps from the women readers). For example, when you have a particularly bulky cushioned leather sofa or armchair. Cushions would stop you from nestling into the leather cushions and they’d probably slide off anyway. A customer and friend recently showed me the sofa below that she was considering purchasing. I’m not sure what caused her to sit on it in the showroom as pretty it is not (remind you of flying?), but her bum has been driving the need to have it ever since. Apparently it’s the comfiest thing she has ever sat on, and unfortunately we can’t hide it behind cushions because of its bulk. I’m looking into throws instead…If she buys it she may feel the need to point out the nearest emergency exits when guests sit down.

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6. Apply a similar bum to cushion ratio in the bedroom. Assuming two pillows per sleeper, add 1 cushion to a single, 2 to a double, or 4 if two of them are small, and 4 to a king size bed. When stacked up they shouldn’t cover more than 50% of the bed. You also have to consider what you’ll do with them at night. If you don’t have room at the foot or sides of your bed for the decorative ones keep it simple.

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7. I have a kingsize bed and I’m a fan of the 2-4-2 formation. 2 large square pillows at the back in a bold print or a colour that compliments the bedding. Great for people that read or watch TV in bed. Plus 4 regular pillows in either housewife or oxford pillow cases. Finished with 2 medium sized cushions. If your bedding and curtains aren’t an exact match having cushions that match the curtains brings the room together.

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8. My friend Phil goes for comfort 100% over aesthetics and deploys the straight 8 formation. All the same size and fabrics but different levels of comfort. Apparently pillow cuddling is something we all do to relax ourselves before drifting off to sleep. I haven’t asked him but perhaps he favours different ones depending on how stressed he is.

9. I don’t need to tell you where to buy cushions as they’re literally everywhere these days, but I would say shop around. You don’t need to go to John Lewis for quality, you can pick up great cushions in Dunelm, Matalan and the supermarkets. If you don’t want the same as all your neighbours then Notonthehighstreet and Etsy are a great source. If you have something in mind Google the colour and type of print you want. These days many retailers have photos of most if not all their stock online. This is how I found the geometric print and the green fern printed cushions I needed for a customers bedrooms, and if you can’t find the right cushion find the fabric and get them made by a local seamstress. The wonderful Dianne Roffey of Di’s Soft Furnishings in Keswick has made 75% of the cushions in my house.

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10. Finally, if you see something unusual that really catches your eye, get it. You might not have the room for it yet but you might one day and will kick yourself if you didn’t. This is what drove me to buy these beauties in Spitalfields Market yesterday. They’re made by The Cushion Studio. Some of their cushions are available in John Lewis and on Etsy but Spitalfields is the only place you can get all of their designs. I love Frieda Kahlo, even if she does look a little bit like Lilly Allen. They’ll be going in summer house when the weather improves.

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Author: Amelia Wilson, Interior Designer and Cushion Scatterer……