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….

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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….

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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

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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
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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……

All the best parties end up in the kitchen

So my personal interior design challenge continues and after 11 weeks my kitchen is finished. Being such an old house a lot of decisions could only be made as went along. We didn’t know what we’d find behind the chimney breast. We didn’t know what would be under the floor that had to be dug up for the underfloor heating. We uncovered original features we didn’t know we had and we had to alter multiple units to make them fit my misshapen, wonky walls. Consequently my plan always had multiple options for certain features so not even I knew exactly what it would look like when it was finished. It’s been frustrating, filthy and sometimes freezing but it has all been worth it. I LOVE my new kitchen. It’s where I eat all my meals, it’s become my new favourite spot to work and it’s where we always end up if we have visitors. It’s like having a brand new room in the house.

The feedback I’ve had has also been very rewarding. Every single contractor that has been involved (and there has been a lot) has commented that they had been unsure about my colour choices, the size of the island and some elements of the layout but once they saw it completed they were sold. So as promised here are some photo’s.

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The kitchen is from a shaker style range called 1909, and I had it painted in Farrow & Ball Rectory Red and Ringwold Ground. The mantelpiece is oak as is the 10cm thick custom made butchers block top on the island. This butchers block is like a magnet when people come into the room, you just can’t stop yourself from running your hands over it because it’s such a piece of craftsmanship. It’s had 5 coats of Osmo oil so far and will probably need a few more yet. We finally have a dishwasher and an in cupboard bin, and I love the pull out wooden trays under the sink. For years I’ve been exasperated by having to store trays on top of cupboards or down the side of a unit. Why has it taken until now for kitchen companies to introduce these into their ranges!

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We made room for the island by digging a hole in the chimney breast to fit a 90cm wide SMEG oven. It was a tight fit and getting an extractor small enough to fit above it and remain hidden was a challenge but the builders came through for me. We even had to quickly source a steel plate one afternoon from a local scrap merchants to ensure there was enough support in it for the wall above. The space above the mantelpiece was perfect for another localised timezone clock (see my post on Murray’s man cave), some vintage ginger beer bottles a good friend of mine bought me when she came to stay, some antique pewter tankards and an hour glass I picked up in Heals years ago and love.

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The island itself houses an 18 bottle wine chiller and a 2 drawer fridge which is fantastically spacious and means you’re not always bending down to peer into the back of the fridge. On the wall behind the island next to the back door is a unit which houses a custom made wine glass rack – no more cramming wine glasses into cupboards or having to store them in the garage!

I bought two pewter finished adjustable height stools from a company called Steel Magnolias for seating, although we have brought another 4 stools in from the summer house a couple of times when we’ve had visitors so we can all sit around the island. It’s also great to finally have enough lighting. The old kitchen was so dingy and now I have multiple options. The pewter lights above the island and the sink are from Industville and are one of my favourite features. It looks so cosy when all the other lights are off.

So with the kitchen complete I am now finishing off the bedrooms and have started the plan for the upstairs bathroom. Another two months and I might actually be finished here…..

So now we have a habitable house we can have visitors again and this weekend Mr W’s entire family descended on us, so many of them that additional accommodation had to be booked in Cockermouth. They normally come in December but as the house was a bomb site we postponed until January which also meant we could celebrate Burns night together. The Trout Hotel in Cockermouth held a fantastic dinner on Friday night, with six courses, a piper and of course the traditional “address to a haggis”. The kilts were out, a few wee drams of whisky were consumed and the minibus home was very rowdy…..

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The host reciting the “address to a haggis” by the famous Robert Burns

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On Saturday night the party was back at Holly Cottage. We’d bought a Serrano ham at Christmas but had been too sick to eat it so we brought it out for the party and created our own alternative to Burns night with the “address to a ham” skilfully delivered by Chris my step-daughters boyfriend. My sister-in-law plays a mean air bagpipe….

And where did all this occur? But in the kitchen of course – where the best parties always end up and this interior designer is happiest.

 

My 2015 interior design predictions

Forgive me readers and fellow interior design enthusiasts but it has been 3 weeks since my last post. Holly Cottage was converted into a Hospice for the sick and dying just before Christmas and has only just re-opened as a residence. 3 weeks with Mr W, both sick and no visitors to mediate, you can imagine the sniping and bickering that went on. Even the chickens got more visitors than we did..

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To make matters worse we were without a phone line or wifi for most of that period as BT have decided to upgrade the cabling in our area, which does mean we will have faster broadband but in the process they damaged my existing connections. Ironically we don’t know when we lost the service as we were too sick to notice until the 29th….

All that lying in bed did give me plenty of opportunity to think about what we might see in the interior design world in 2015. To me there were three standout additions to 2014 interiors; geometric prints, copper accessories and an explosion of industrial lighting. So here are my predictions for 2015. These are probably as reliable as mystic meg on the basis that my <100 twitter following is too small to have any influence on trends, and I am still an unknown designer that has yet to formally launch her business. But humour me,

1. Geometric prints will disappear by summer. I think they are the pinstriped jeans of interior design (this will probably mean nothing if you were born after 1975). They are bold, can look great if the rest of the styling is good, but I think they will go out of fashion very quickly. If we’re lucky all we’ll be left with will be a handful of monochrome arabic motif cushions. But if the population truly embraced this trend as I suspect we may see a surge in wallpaper and bedding sales by September.

2. I predict bold geometric will be replaced by subtle colour layering. Think Jennifer Anniston heading out for coffee on Sunday with her latest beau. Dark grey jeans, a white long sleeved T, a couple of layers of jersey in different shades of grey, maybe a charcoal beanie and/or jacket. The walking equivalent of 50 shades of grey. Nobody does colour layering quite like Jen, and with the enormous array of paint colours available to us and interiors shows on TV showing us how to use colour to create visual effects I predict a greater use of shades of the same colour versus the 70% primary colour. 20% secondary colour, 10% accent colour palette that is traditionally used.

3. Copper will remain a stylish alternative to chrome and brass. I like to think of myself as an early adopter when it comes to copper. Check out below the copper tube vases I bought for a London flat in 2008, and the copper plate framed maps and copper coal bucket I have in Holly Cottage. I was delighted to see this trend in 2014. I just hope this extends to light switches, plug sockets, bathroom and kitchen fittings etc. and we start seeing them in retailers like B&Q, Wickes at affordable prices, even if they’re copper effect as opposed to actual copper.

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3. The industrial style revolution will continue. The range and diversity of products is already huge but much needed. I predict we will see more innovation and greater use in traditional settings. I myself have added industrial items to Holly Cottage (which was built in 1756), sourcing products from companies like Industville and Steel Magnolias.

So thats enough predictions as I want to show you Murray’s man cave now its finished. Murray aka Mr W still spends 4 days a week in London or overseas so we needed to downsize the place we rented together after selling our last flat to a more practical 1 bed place. I found him a place walking distance from Blackheath village and the style brief was more manly and homely. He particularly wanted to use some of the mirrors and pictures we’d had to store because our last landlord wouldn’t let us hang anything on the walls.

First the lounge; it has this cool portal into the kitchen which I knew would look fab with a large circular mirror and low circular coffee table I had in storage. Our tan couches fitted perfectly and there was a spare wall for the painting of St Pauls we bought after a drunken Christmas lunch which he loves. I then complimented this with union jack and black soft furnishings and accessories including a couple of British bulldogs. The result – a London look man pad.

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Next the bedroom; we have a suite of dark mahogany bedroom furniture and there is great shelving in the bedroom so I went for a sort of gentleman’s club/library look. I got the landlord to re-paint the walls in Dulux Shadow Chic (pale grey) and dyed our existing bedding grey, then added gold and grey accessories. TKMaxx had some beautiful dark grey glass vases and I was able to bring out some of the knick knacks from our travels. We had a grey, gold and red persian style rug which used to be in Holly Cottage which just finished it off.

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There wasn’t a lot I could do in the bathroom but he always liked a ‘keep calm’ poster we used to have in a bathroom so I took this down to London and bought teal accessories and towels to give the room some colour.

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There was also little I could do with the kitchen, but I did manage to find space for a range of aubergine accessories.

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Same situation in the hall, but there was space for some pictures we bought in Cuba a few years ago and a New York, Cockermouth, Paris time zone clock to remind him of home

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The good news is he is delighted with his new place which is a relief for me. He used to hate going back to London on Sunday night as the last place was cold and uninviting but his new place feels like a second home. So with that taken care of and Holly Cottage close to completion I can now focus on my new business. I predict a spring launch of Amelia Wilson Interiors!

 

Insomnia and Murrays man cave

It is just after 6am and I am blogging and thinking about interior design ideas because I can’t sleep. I’ve actually been awake most of the night but finally realised that staying in bed was futile. My mind was racing, Mr W was making bodily noises that were irritating me and there’s always something to be done around here so I decided I might as well make use of my insomnia. Actually it isn’t insomnia, it’s all the caffeine in the flu medication I’ve been on for the last 5 days, which to someone who hasn’t consumed caffeine in any form for 10+ years other than by accident, is like taking cocaine. Not that I’ve ever had cocaine, but I’ve seen enough movies to know I’m probably doing a great impression right now. On reflection, probably not the best time to be blogging but in the words of Magus Magnusson “I’ve started so I’ll finish”.

FYI I cut out caffeine because I already have significantly higher energy levels than the average person, and talk at a million miles an hour so you can imagine how unbearable I must have been when I was drinking 1-2 litres of diet coke a day, plus the odd coffee….and I was getting palpitations….

So if you read my last post I’m sure you’re wondering if the kitchen was finished for Christmas. Short answer, no. I’m missing 2 cupboard doors, a wine rack, a bin, a cutlery drawer, and most importantly the 100mm thick butchers block top for my island – the focal point of my dream kitchen. So no photos just yet I’m afraid. The kitchen fitters bless them hung around as long as they could on the 23rd just in case the butchers block turned up but in the end they had to leave me with a sheet of plywood to tide me over until it escapes Christmas courier limbo (that place where nobody is reachable and even if they were they wouldn’t know where your goods were).

We weren’t destined to have the perfect Christmas day anyway. Unfinished kitchen aside, me and Mr W both have hacking coughs and flu symptoms, and 20 minutes into cooking the chicken neither of us were that hungry for the new oven packed up. Well it didn’t actually pack up but there seems to be a fault with the electrics somewhere in the kitchen which means all the sockets now go off when I turn on the main oven. Thankfully 87 year old neighbour Nora let me finish the chicken in her oven, and the hob and side oven still worked so I could manage everything else. I wouldn’t have asked her but she did have a vested interest as I had promised her ‘meals on wheels’ on boxing day and she wouldn’t be getting anything if the chicken didn’t get cooked.

So anyway back to my insomnia/caffeine high. I made good use of the last 2-3 hours designing Mr W’s new London pad (now known as Murray’s man cave) in my head. Ever since I moved to Cumbria he has been unhappy in the place we were renting in London. We sold our flat in Greenwich a year ago and had struggled to find another flat big enough to take all our stuff so we’d ended up renting a 3 bed house. The commute to the city was excellent, but as we soon found out that was all it really had going for it. It was cold, the transition from open plan living to traditional rooms didn’t work for us or our furniture, the landlord wasn’t happy about us hanging pictures, and once me and the cat were gone it couldn’t have felt less like home for him. So earlier this month I found him a new 1 bed place which is smaller but better proportioned so all our furniture fits, it’s a short walk from Blackheath village and all the sky sports and beer he could ask for mid week, and I’ve promised to turn it into a homely man pad.

I plan to restore the London look we had in our own flat in the living area (which he loved), and re-hang a beautiful painting we have of St Pauls Cathedral. The bedroom will get a boy makeover with darker soft furnishings and lots of pictures and accessories to remind him of me and Cumbria. There is room for his bike in the hallway but I’m working on some ideas for hanging it to make best use of the space, and I am on the look out for quirky cycling accessories that will make him smile. This will be my first male focused interior design work so I’m enjoying the brief – functional, homely, cool and stylish.

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These vintage Lake District railway posters make great wall art and will remind him of Cumbria. You can find them on ebay starting from £4.99. You can get posters of other areas around the UK

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We’ve been visiting Cumbria together for almost 20 years so I have lots to choose from when it comes to adding personal photos

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This hall solution is along the lines of what I’m thinking. I love this bathroom idea but I’m not sure our landlord would!

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I also like these vintage cycling posters and I know he’ll like these coasters which I could make myself

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Mr W is a walker not a rock climber and I’m not sure our landlord would appreciate me putting up wall stickers but I did think these were pretty cool

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So its pitch black outside and Mr W is still sleeping so I may as well carry on working. Perhaps I should reintroduce caffeine into my diet if it makes me this productive as an interior designer!

I’m an Interior Designer – don’t get me out of here!

Yesterday I completed my first project in my official capacity as an interior designer, and it felt really good. I’ve been styling and decorating my own homes for more than 20 years but this is the first time I’ve delivered a look in someone else’s home and the satisfaction far outweighed anything I felt after delivering projects in my former life. I think one of the reasons is that in the insurance industry you rarely deliver anything tangible, the closest I ever got was an app or marketing materials. To see your completed product and the smile on the customers face is amazing.

The customer (my step-daughter Kim) has a two bedroom house in Leeds, with a good size living room and kitchen but no dining room, just a breakfast bar in the kitchen. So the brief was to create a dining space in the practically unused conservatory. The room is only 2.4m x 2.6m and has doors from the kitchen and into the garden, so to coin a phrase that was vastly overused in the recent series of The Great Interior Design Challenge (which I loved BTW), spatial planning was key.

I’d given her 3 options in terms of a look and she went for my favourite, the relaxed coffee shop style. With this as the theme her conservatory now includes an L shaped bench seat to maximise space, with a table, 2 dining chairs and a carver so that she can comfortably seat 6, with room for more for the pizza parties she likes to hold since she installed her pizza oven in the garden.

When a room is half empty and rarely used it becomes a bit of a dumping ground for things that don’t have a place elsewhere. So I included storage in the bench seat (which my neighbour Harold made) to remove all the clutter, and a wine rack which holds glasses and bottles which frees up space in the kitchen.

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Lighting was also poor, with just two small wall lights high up on the back wall. So we added a floor lamp and two of these cool clip on LED lights from IKEA which have flexible stems so you can reposition the lights at any time.

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The key element of the coffee shop theme was the use of recycled coffee sacks to upholster the bench seat. Now, I can sew a little but when it comes to deep seat pads I need a little assistance unless you are prepared to compromise on quality….Luckily I know a very talented seamstress call Dianne Roffey who runs Di’s Soft Furnishings in Keswick. Talent aside I feel a bond to Di as she also escaped the rat race some years ago to move to Cumbria with her husband so they could be near to the fells which they love to climb. Di did an amazing job with the coffee sacks I bought from a company in Lancashire which runs a small chain of coffee shops. I then matched the rest of the soft furnishings to the orange and green print on many of the sacks, and used some of the spare sacks to cover a foot stool and the shade for the floor lamp, and make a rug for under the wine rack.

To keep with the coffee theme I picked up various canisters and teacups in T K Maxx and IKEA to use as candle holders (she loves candlelight). But my favourite accessory was probably the ‘selfie’ coasters I’ve shown in a previous post.

I replaced the flooring with engineered wood floor in a dark walnut colour and stained the bench seat and the table and chairs I got from IKEA to match it. The blinds are still to be installed (Hillarys if you pick this up please please install before Chistmas 🙂 ) and are a deep charcoal grey. This might sound like a lot of dark colour but remember the conservatory has a white frame, deep white window sills and lots of light so it looks anything but dingy.

I am delighted with the final result. It is practical, cosy but not cluttered, warm and inviting and a little edgy, just like Kim!

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Now onto my next project. I am officially an Interior Designer – how exciting!

The mucky business of interior design

I’ve never been as grubby and whatever the opposite of house proud is (slovenly?) this week. The only relatively clean room in the house is my bedroom and I’m not sure it would pass the test if Aggie and Kim from “How clean is your house” turned up. It’s my own fault. I decided we would get all the mess out of the way in one swoop. So the kitchen has been ripped out and the floor dug up to accommodate a wet underfloor heating system. The plaster has been bashed (literally) off the walls in 3 rooms to replace the ineffective tanking system needed to damp proof my house. The naff pine skirting boards and window sills have been torn out in every room so they can be replaced with oak ones. The electrician has drilled channels in the stone walls all over the house so we can hide the cables the previous owners were too lazy and/or cheapskate to fit properly. Oh and I’ve been sanding the beams and lintels that we discovered when we removed the plaster. The result is a bombsite. And did I mention there is scaffolding in the back yard and debris all over the place because the elusive roofers finally turned up to re-render the leaking chimneys…….The upside is the house should be beautiful by Christmas even if I do look like a troll. Mr W found me covered from head to toe in brown dust last weekend after the first bout of sanding and promptly suggested a spa day for his birthday on 1st December. I think he’s worried that the ‘glamorous, groomed’ wife he used to have is slowly disappearing so he staged an intervention. I’m not going to argue, I’ll go anywhere clean and warm right now, especially if they serve food without the ‘ding’ of a microwave preceding it.

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Dust selfie

Not content with all the work going on at home I’m also getting stuck into the project for the clients I met with last week. They really liked the new layout I proposed for upstairs so I spent the day at their house yesterday to meet with builders and window and door specialists to validate my plans and get estimates for the work. We also brought in Hillarys to price for plantation shutters throughout which the homeowners want. Before I left we went through the mood boards I’d prepared for each of the bedrooms and bathrooms. I was a little nervous as I knew the look she wanted and I know I can deliver it but there’s always a little doubt at the back of your mind that maybe you’ve misunderstood the brief or that you’ve been too bold or creative with something. Thankfully they loved my ideas and we just needed to make a few tweaks to some of the furniture and fittings. We’ve also agreed on the overall budget so I can now put together a plan to allocate this as soon as I get all the quotes in from the builders etc. It’s going to be a great project as it covers the whole house and the homeowners have great taste and want to do the job properly. An interior designers dream!

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Master bedroom and ensuite – New England with a touch of elegance

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Guest bedroom which will also serve as the homeowners dressing room and a place for them to sit and enjoy the view from the floor to ceiling window at the rear of their property. The idea here was to bring the outside in using a botanical theme alongside the crisp white New England look

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Glamorous second guest bedroom and the new juliette bathroom which will serve both guest bedrooms. The bathroom has a touch of Victorian styling complete with coal scuttle toilet roll caddy!

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It’s going to be manic in the run up to Christmas to complete the work on my house but I’m really looking forward to some time off with Mr W to enjoy our newly decorated home, and being an old cottage it always looks so festive when its decorated for Christmas. I’ll just need to keep the painter loaded up with caffeine as I’d like him done before the 18th so I can get the decorations up before Mr W comes home for the holidays. We had a visitor this morning that reminded me I should probably start thinking about food too. One of the local farms breeds pheasants on his land so that he can host shoots and one is hiding out in our garden. I caught him in the chicken coop this morning tucking into their feed. Maybe I should let him and fatten him up for Christmas dinner. Or maybe I should just stick to interior design, I’ve got enough on without working out how to shoot, pluck and prepare a pheasant….

Christmas dinner?
Christmas dinner?