7 COMMON STYLING MISTAKES AND HOW TO AVOID THEM

7 COMMON STYLING MISTAKES AND HOW TO AVOID THEM

Have you ever looked at those homes in the magazines, where everything is just so effortlessly stylish, where there is a place for everything, and everything looks... well, just so darned good?

The reason that they catch your eye is that good styling has a massive impact on how a space looks.  Good styling makes a space feel simultaneously relaxed yet interesting. Good styling elevates a home from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Good styling makes a space feel simultaneously relaxed, yet interesting.
— Kate Hatherell, The Home Design School

But how do those rooms come together?

You see, those rooms you see in magazines aren’t just a happy coincidence of good taste. They are the result of careful planning, careful shopping and a well-executed plan. A professional stylist will have overseen the process, and been in to play around with the home owner’s accessories and ornaments, to make it look magazine-worthy before it is photographed.

Now, there are some of us who can just throw a few ornaments together and it all looks effortlessly stylish, and that’s fab! But for most of us, achieving these ‘effortless’ looks takes... well... effort... (ahem).

What to do if you don't have an in-house stylist (!)

So if you don’t have a professional stylist on hand (anyone?), and you are lacking in natural styling talent, what is one to do?

Well, the first thing to do is to learn a few styling tips. Styling can be a little overwhelming. There's so much more to it than just throwing a few vases together (as you've discovered already).

And so we start to learn a few styling tricks in a very small way. 

Like shelf-sized small. 

So before we dive into the 'What Not To Dos', I want to share with you the opportunity to join my completely FREE, utterly awesome 5 day shelf styling challenge, which is going to show you how not to make the mistakes I'm about to tell you about! 

You don’t need to spend any money, you can just use items in your own home, and you don’t need to be a styling Goddess in order to make your shelf look awesome.

It's going to be a lot of fun! And the best thing is, it starts on Monday (25th September!)

Just click the image below to find out more.

So, (did you join us?) let's dive into the mistakes that people make when styling tricky places like, hmm bookcases. Here goes...

Mistake #1: Having too many books

Yes, I know that bookcases are built in order to house books. However, if your bookcase is part of a living room scheme for example (as opposed to an office or library) then putting too many books on your bookcase will just look cluttered and disorganised. Less really is more when it comes to creating good-looking displays.

Edit your books down and make space for ornaments, art and accessories.

Mistake #2: Not having enough books!

Conversely, not having enough books on your bookshelf can be a problem too! A book case needs to have a balance of vertical and horizontal lines as well as ornaments, and books are a key way of adding those straight lines to your display. Books help the eye to make sense of the other (more interesting shapes) displayed. Consider them a backdrop to show off your more fancy stuff.

Mistake #3: Having an Inconsistent Colour Palette

A bookcase within a room becomes part of the colour scheme. So although you may have books and ornaments of every colour, you need to consider how your accessories fit into the wider colour scheme of your room.

To get a cohesive look across your bookcase, edit your items to create a consistent colour palette.

Bookcase

Mistake #4: Using too many small things

When it comes to filling up a bookcase, there is a temptation to cram it full of small ornaments and trinkets. However, if you have too many small things on a shelf you will create a fussy and cluttered look.

A good variety of smaller and larger items, in a variety of shapes and finishes will make your bookcase look balanced, and ordered. 

Mistake #5: Not Grouping Items in Vignettes

Vignettes is a fancy styling term, which really just means ‘objects placed together in a group’. Placing items as part of a vignette creates visual balance in a décor scheme.

You can’t just place objects randomly around your bookshelf. There is a real skill to creating good looking vignettes, and you can learn helpful design tips (such as proximity and alignment) that can help you to get it right. (Yep, we cover all this in the free #shelfie styling challenge too).

Mistake #6: Visual Weight is wrong

Visual Weight is another one of those terms which is banded about by designers, and doesn’t make much sense to the layperson. At its most basic, visual weight is about how much impact a piece has, or how weighty it looks.

So a big black box will look weightier than a delicate lace covered vase, for example. The black box has greater visual weight. There are several things that add to an item’s visual weight, such as colour, shape, scale and texture. Knowing how to place your objects so that the visual weight is right will make your styled space look balanced.  

Mistake #7: Not enough white space

Having too many things on your shelves (whether small or not) will make your space look cluttered. When styling, don't forget that you need to leave blank visual space, between your accessories. Allow the ornament to be the star of the shelf. As Coco Chanel allegedly once said “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory”. And much the same advice works well for your styling too. Sometimes simplicity is key.

So who knew that styling a surface in your home has so many different elements to it?!

But really, once you know a few styling rules and apply them in your styling, it all becomes clearer and easier to follow.

In next week’s free styling challenge, we’re going to learn 5 different styling rules (one each day) and apply them to a shelf in our home, and you can take those rules and apply them virtually anywhere else in your home.  It’s a low-risk, easy way to make a small part of your home look as though you've had a professional designer in.

Just click below to read all about it, and to sign up.

I can't wait to see you there :)

Until next time x

TOP TIPS FOR USING A POCKET COLOUR WHEEL

TOP TIPS FOR USING A POCKET COLOUR WHEEL

A couple of weeks ago, I shared with you some basic ways to use a colour wheel to get you started with combining colours. I hope you downloaded the colour wheels and have had the chance to practise, but if not, you can download them again here:

So this week, we're going to take a look at a professional colour wheel, which really is a nifty little tool for helping you to throw together colour combinations without having to worry about all that theory. Essentially, you twist the wheel, look at the instructions and the work is done for you!

But of course, you need to know what you are looking at....

Introducing The Pocket Colour Wheel

A pocket colour wheel has the 12 primary, secondary and tertiary colours around the outside of the wheel, and a rotating disc in the middle.

The front of the wheel gives an explanation of key terms used in colour, such as tertiary colours, advancing and receding colours, hue, value and intensity. It also gives a handy reminder of what tints (colour + white), tones (colour + grey) and shades (colour + black) are.

This colour wheel is from The Color Wheel Company, and is available on Amazon.

This colour wheel is from The Color Wheel Company, and is available on Amazon.

When you rotate the inner wheel to point to one of the colours around the outside, the cut-out windows on the inner wheel show you what happens to the main colour, when you mix it with others.

So in the images below, you can see what happens to blue when you add red (image 1), when you add yellow (image 2), and when you add blue (image 3).

The wheel also shows you what happens when you add white or black to a colour (known as tints and shades).

On the edge of the inner disc, there are grey scales, showing how the colour varies from 100% pure black to 100% pure white, through various shades of grey in 10% increments. This helps you when you are out and about to compare different intensities of colour.

The Reverse Side: Combining Colours

But it's when you flip the colour wheel over that the fun begins, because this is where you begin to create colour combinations, and learn about colour relationships. 

The back of a pocket colour wheel.

The back of a pocket colour wheel.

Tints, Tones and Shades

Tint Tone Shade

Each of the 12 main colours from the front get split into tints, tones and shades on the back.

This is really helpful, because it is very rare that we use colours in their full intensity and saturation.

If we are creating a complementary colour scheme, for example, we are much more likely to choose a tint or tone of green (perhaps something like a soft sage green) to go with a tint or tone of red (perhaps cranberry), than we are to pair a fully saturated green with a primary red. Unless you're an elf, of course...

Colour Combinations

Now, the really clever bit of the wheel happens in the middle. You start by pointing the 'pure colour' arrow to one of the colours you want to use in the room (see in the image above, the pure colour arrow is pointed to blue?). Then, you look at the diagram in the middle of the wheel, and simply follow the arrows for your chosen scheme. 

If you are looking for the colour's complement, you just follow the arrow across the wheel to the other side. 

If you are looking for a three-colour scheme, follow the arrows along the edges of the triad or split complementary shapes.

And if you want a four-colour scheme, you need to twist the wheel slightly so that one corner of the tetrad box lines up with blue, and then simply follow the edges of the tetrad shapes.  

Colour wheel methods of combining colours
Back of colour wheel

So, with the pure colour arrow pointing to blue, you get the following colour combinations:

Complementary Colour Scheme: Blue with orange.

Split-Complementary Scheme: Blue with Yellow-Orange and Red-Orange

Triad Scheme: Blue with Yellow and Red

Tetrad Scheme: Blue with Orange, Violet and Yellow.

And it's that simple!

If you'd like to see how each of these colour schemes plays out in real rooms, why not head on over to my Pinterest boards to see examples of real colour schemes which use these combinations. Click the buttons below to see examples of each colour scheme.

And don't forget, if you want your own colour wheels to print and take out in your handbag, grab my free colour wheel cheatsheet below:

Until next time x

12 WAYS TO DISPLAY PLANTS IN YOUR HOME

12 WAYS TO DISPLAY PLANTS IN YOUR HOME

Plants are great for the home. Not only are they great for air quality, but they bring in a natural element too, which can soften a design scheme, and introduces a pop of colour. 

When it comes to bringing house plants into our homes, we can often get stuck in a rut with the same-old terracotta pots or plain ceramic containers from the garden centre. In today's post, we break out of those boring old options, and share with you 12 alternative ways that you can display plants in your home. 

Table top

Table top planters are a great way to display plants and flowers. Of course, you don't have to restrict yourself to a table, you can use windowsills, sideboards, shelves or any flat surface. 

1. Repurpose everyday objects

Catch Me If You Can mug by Sophie Allport

Catch Me If You Can mug by Sophie Allport

Think a little bit 'outside of the box' and repurpose other containers to house your plants. Unused mugs, teapots, watering cans and wellington boots are everyday options. Be sure to create drainage at the bottom, either by using a smaller pot inside the container, drilling holes into the base, or by adding rubble at the bottom.

2. A Quirky Pot

Don't just stick to boring, run of the mill vases and pots. Look for something a little quirky, like this unusual planter of the Greek Godess Hygeia. 

I love the way this plant looks as though it is just sprouting out of her head, like nature's best coiffure!

Blush Hygeia vase from MiaFleur

Blush Hygeia vase from MiaFleur

3. Amaze your friends!

Lyfe Levitating Planter, Noxu Home

Lyfe Levitating Planter, Noxu Home

If you want something a bit out of the ordinary, try this levitating (yes, you did read that right) plant pot.

The electromagnetic field in the base floats the pot, which has a magnet embedded in its base. How funky is that?!

It creates a hypnotic effect as it rotates in the air! Stunning!

This pot is planted up with an air plant, which requires no soil, and lives happily with little human intervention. Perfect for the less green-fingered amongst us (ahem, that would be me). 

4. A Brass Terrarium

Terrariums have been really popular items in home decor for quite a while now. Add a handful of gravel at the bottom and a couple of succulents or cacti, and you're good to go. And if you tire of the display, they make beautiful candle holders too. 

5. Glass Jars

Similar to the glass terrarium, a simple glass jar displays smaller plants like succulents and cacti, but without the framed surround. This glass jar comes ready-planted with artificial succulents. Talk about maintenance free plant care!

Brass Terrarium via Decorator's Notebook

Brass Terrarium via Decorator's Notebook

Artificial Succulent Jar, The Contemporary Home

Artificial Succulent Jar, The Contemporary Home

Floor Standing Planters

If you have a larger plant, or want something more impactful in your space, floor-standing planters can be a great option. Because of their size, they become more than just mere accessories, but objects of display in their own right.

6. Short Leg Brass Planters

Brass Planter with stand from MiaFleur

Brass Planter with stand from MiaFleur

7. Stilted Zinc Planters

Zinc effect planters by MiaFleur

Zinc effect planters by MiaFleur

8. Long Leg Planters

Floor Standing Planters by Black by Design

Floor Standing Planters by Black by Design

9. Bag Planters

Orla Kiely Flower Print Bags from Wild & Wolf

Orla Kiely Flower Print Bags from Wild & Wolf

Floor based planters don't have to have stands, of course, as these bag planters by Orla Kiely show. Although these are displayed outside, they would add a great touch of colour to a 70s inspired living room, placed as a display in an empty corner of the room.

10. Display Stand

OK, so I'm cheating a little bit here. Not strictly a floor planter, but a shelving unit can add real impact to a green display, making your plants the focal point of the space. Match the smaller plant pots to the colour of the frame for a cohesive, and well thought out display. 

Milano Shelving Unit by MiaFleur

Milano Shelving Unit by MiaFleur

Hanging Planters

If floor space is at a premium, consider suspending a planter from the ceiling, or a pole. Just be careful when watering, as you don't want the water to drip all over the furniture beneath!

11. Ceramic Plant Pots

Ceramic, hanging plant pots allow you to bring in a colour to match your scheme.

Orla Kiely Hanging Planters via Wild & Wolf

Orla Kiely Hanging Planters via Wild & Wolf

12. Suspended Terrariums

Hanging glass terrariums give a rustic, almost industrial look to a space.

Aculo Hanging Planter from Noxu Home

Aculo Hanging Planter from Noxu Home

If you are green fingered and like to bring houseplants into your home, which planters do you like best? Come and tell us in the Facebook group.  

Until next time x

HOW TO USE A COLOUR WHEEL TO CREATE A COLOUR PALETTE

HOW TO USE A COLOUR WHEEL TO CREATE A COLOUR PALETTE FOR YOUR HOME

Colour causes people so many headaches. What if I get it wrong? What if the colours clash? What if something looks "off".

Colour can be a tricky beast indeed, but it doesn't have to cause so much trouble. Today we're going to go back to basics and look at how colour wheels can help you to create a colour palette. 

Grab yourself my free colour wheel download below to help you follow along. 

1. Primary Colours

PRIMARY COLOURS COLOUR WHEEL

You'll remember from your art classes at infant school that there are three primary colours: red. yellow and blue. The unique thing about primary colours is that they cannot be formed by mixing other colours together, yet all of the colours in the world can be created by mixing just these three colours together. How awesome is that?

Primary colours are often used in spaces frequented by children- think schools, nurseries and playbarns, but they are rarely used together at full strength in interior design otherwise. 

2. Secondary Colours

The secondary colours are formed by mixing two primary colours together. Let's remember how we mix them: blue and red make purple, blue and yellow make green, while yellow and red make orange. The secondary colours therefore are purple, green and orange.

3. Tertiary Colours

Tertiary Colour Wheel.png

Tertiary colours make up all of the colours that we can see. They are made by mixing a primary and a secondary colour together. The official names for these colours are red-orange, orange-yellow, yellow-green, green-blue, blue-violet and red-violet, but we are more familiar with them as having names like 'teal' and 'mauve'. 

This colour wheel is the one that interiors' folk use when they talk about colour. So when they say things like 'opposite each other on the colour wheel', this is the one they mean.

What about black and white?

Officially, black and white aren't colours because they are either pure light, or the absence of light. However, black and white is added to the tertiary colours to make them lighter, darker, 'murkier' or 'milkier'. Think pastels and muted colours. 

How to use the colour wheel to create colour palettes

So, let's get onto the good stuff then. Once we have our colour wheels in our hands, what next? (You do have one in your hand, right? If not, grab the download below).

The first thing to consider when creating a colour palette is whether you want a vibrant, busy colour scheme, or a calm and relaxing scheme, because you will use colour differently in each situation.

Creating a Harmonious Colour Scheme

Analogous colour wheel

If you are looking to create a colour scheme which is relaxed and laid back, you'll want to choose colours that sit next to each other on the colour wheel. These are known as harmonious, or analagous colours. 

Examples include blue-green with blue, or yellow with yellow-orange. 

You can use two or three analogous colours in an harmonious scheme, as in this image below where they have used jade, teal and soft faded blue. The overall effect is sophisticated and calm, yet still colourful. 

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

Creating a Vibrant Colour Scheme

Complementary colour scheme

If you want to create a more vibrant scheme, you start with one base colour, and add in another accent colour which sits opposite to it on the colour wheel - in this example, green and red. 

Examples of complementary colour schemes are burnt orange with teal, or bright orange with navy blue, moss green with cranberry, mint green with baby pink, vibrant purple with shock yellow, lilac and pastel yellow. The stronger and more saturated a colour, the more vibrant the scheme becomes. 

Image via Decoist

Image via Decoist

There are many ways that you can combine colours to create a pleasing palette in your home. 

Of course, choosing your colour scheme is only the beginning of the journey. People often come into trouble again when it comes to choosing paint colours for their home. If you have chosen a pale blue and orange scheme (for example) and you come to buy your paint, you're then faced with a multitude of paints to choose from. 

Lucky for you, I've put together this free 30 minute training video, which covers every aspect of choosing paints for your home. Check it out- it's free!

Until next time x

THE TOP 10 INTERIOR DESIGN INFLUENCERS I FOLLOW

THE TOP 10 INTERIOR DESIGN INFLUENCERS I FOLLOW

There are so many talented individuals within the interior design industry. Sometimes it can be a bit of a quagmire, trying to wade through and know who to follow. I enjoy following a variety of influencers; some are people who have a similar style and taste to my own, as well as others that have a completely different design style to my own, which gives me fresh perspectives.

Here are my top 10 of interior design influencers I love to follow.

1. Sarah Akwisombe [Website here]

I first discovered Sarah when I was researching how to set up a blog; Sarah runs an awesome introductory course for wannabe bloggers called Blueprint to Blogging, which is how I came to set up my blog. That aside, Sarah is an interior stylist and blogger based in London. She describes her style as being bold and rebellious, "kinda like Betty Draper wearing Nike Air Max"! Sarah's style is so deliciously different to mine, and I love following influencers outside of my own style. If you want something a little quirky, very individual and über cool, she's one to check out.

2. Melanie Lissack [Website here]

melanie lissack interiors

Melanie Lissack is an award winning blogger, based in London. Melanie set up her blog to help people like herself, who see gorgeous interiors in magazines, but don't necessarily have the budget to recreate the look. She teaches people how to source, copy or recreate those looks, on a budget. There are loads of DIY tutorials and inspirational images, as well as product reviews too.

3. Sophie Robinson [Website here]

Most famous for her stint as one of the presenters on the BBC's The Great Interior Design Challenge, Sophie is a London based stylist too. One of Sophie's strengths is her awesome knowledge and boldness with colour. She is not afraid to experiment and mix cohesive and clashing colours together. I attended one of Sophie's in-person design workshops last year, and I can confirm that she is as nice in person, as she is on the telly. Awww...

4. Kate Watson-Smyth [Website here]

Kate is an interiors journalist and writer, who pens the blog, Mad About the House. She also runs a design consultancy called Mad About Your House. Kate's style is quirky and eclectic, yet her backdrop colour palette is almost uniquely monotone. If you like the current trend for grey (and if you know me, you know I do!), her fab book 'Shades of Grey' is a must-read. 

5. Kristie Barnett [Website here]

Better known as 'The Decorologist', Kristie is a US design and colour expert, and home staging teacher. She creates sophisticated, and beautifully styled homes. I love the way that her blog teaches you different home decor lessons, often through projects she is completing herself. 

6. Maria Killam [Website here]

Maria Killam Colour Consultant

There is nothing that Maria Killam doesn't know about colour. She really is the Queen of Colour! Maria provides colour consultancy services across North America, and she also runs colour workshops, teaching others her systems. 

7. Stacey Sheppard [Website here]

Better known as, 'The Design Sheppard' Stacey's blog is a great read because of the variety of information that she shares.  From product reviews and designer interviews to makeovers to sneak peeks inside her own home decorating plans. 

8. Kate McPhee [Website here]

Kate McPhee is an interior stylist who creates the beautiful Good Homes Magazine room sets that you see each year at The Ideal Home Show. What I love about Kate's work is that her creations are real, liveable designs. You feel as though you could really live in the spaces that she creates, rather than them just being "swoon worthy" spaces (which they are too of course!)

9. Emily Henderson [Website here]

Most famous for her New York Times Bestselling book, "Styled", Emily Henderson runs an LA based interior design company. Her blog is a mix of how to's and inspiration, and she gives away golden nuggets of style advice.

10. Emma Sims-Hilditch [Website here]

Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 12.48.33.png

Out of all of the inspirational people mentioned here today, Emma Sims-Hilditch is the designer whose style most closely matches my own. Emma is the person behind the design company, Sims-Hilditch and she is also the Creative Director of Neptune. Her style is pared back English country. Sims-Hildich publish a journal on their website, with gorgeous images of the most beautiful country home interiors.

So those are my top 10 interior design influencers. Who do you like to follow and why? Come and join the conversation in our facebook group.

Facebook group

5 WAYS TO BRING TEXTURE INTO YOUR HOME

5 WAYS TO BRING TEXTURE INTO YOUR HOME

When we think about texture, we are thinking about the experience of snuggling under blankets, or the softness of a sofa, or the coolness of a marble worktop or the sturdy weight of a rustic table. It's a tactile experience. It's about touch

But although texture is about how surfaces feel, we firstly experience texture in a room by what we see. We 'feel' the texture with our eyes, way before the hands-on, tactile experience happens. It's a bit like salivating over a delicious looking meal that we've never even tasted before.

Successful texture in a room comes from having a mixture of different textures together, and layering them in a contrasting way. Think smooth with rough, soft with hard, polished against rustic.

Bringing texture into your home has so many benefits: It stops your room from being bland, it adds another dimension, it cushions unwanted sound, and stops echoes, and it brings a feeling of warmth and cosiness.

Texture within monotone or neutral rooms is an absolute must. It stops plainer rooms from being one-dimensional.
— Kate Hatherell- The Home Design School

So let's take a look at the different ways you can bring texture into your home.

1. Wall coverings

Herringbone patterned walls bring a strong textural element to the largest space in the room. Keep the rest of the decor simple to avoid overwhelm.  Image via B&Q

Herringbone patterned walls bring a strong textural element to the largest space in the room. Keep the rest of the decor simple to avoid overwhelm. 

Image via B&Q

The biggest surface area in any room is the walls, and there are so many ways to introduce texture into the room. 

If you are lucky enough to have internal stone or exposed brick walls (see main blog image above) , then you already have all the texture you need. But if you have a plainer interior, you can create similar effects with stone cladding, or even brick effect wallpaper. 

Walls can also be clad in rustic style shiplap, or dressed with more formal wainscoting or beadboard

Feather wall hanging texture home

If you don't want such a permanent change, clever use of wall decor can bring much needed texture in. A gallery wall, or clever wall displays may be all you need. (Click >>here<< for more ideas) 

These beautiful feather wall hangings from Mia Fleur bring warmth, texture and contrast to this dark wall.

2. Floor Coverings

Painted hard wood floorboards contrast with the texture of the deep pile rug. Beni rug from Loaf.com

Painted hard wood floorboards contrast with the texture of the deep pile rug. Beni rug from Loaf.com

The second largest space in your room will be the floor. If you already have carpeted floors then you already have a soft texture, but consider layering longer pile rugs over shorter pile carpet for an even more sumptuous look and feel. Be sure to use carpet tape to stop the rug slipping. 

Hard flooring such as wood can have a beautiful texture of its own, such as herringbone for example, and this can be enhanced by putting a rug with a contrasting texture on top. Consider harder fabrics such as sisal, jute and hessian for a more industrial feel, but softer rugs such as faux animal skin or sheepskin provide real contrast of texture and 'cosy up' the space.  

3. Furniture

Aurelie drawers by Loaf.com

Aurelie drawers by Loaf.com

When choosing furniture for your space, consider the finishes that you already have in your room, and think about the contrast you can bring in.

The rustic finish on these wooden drawers for example, contrasts with the well painted wainscoting behind. It is this juxtaposition of textures which keeps the interior looking interesting. 

Consider rustic or limewashed wood against painted wood, plastic against antique, industrial against pretty. 

4. Textiles

Layering textiles is a quick and easy way to bring a huge variety of texture into your home. Bed textiles from Next.

Layering textiles is a quick and easy way to bring a huge variety of texture into your home. Bed textiles from Next.

One of the quickest ways to introduce texture into your room is through soft furnishings. Not only are cushions, curtains and throws very tactile, but they also bring acoustic cushioning to your room too. 

The options here really are endless; choose fabrics in cotton, wool, silk, chenille, velvet and sheepskin. The key is to mix the different fabrics together. Put a silk banner around a linen cushion for example, or place a felt cushion next to knitted. Throw a sheepskin rug over a velvet sofa.

5. Accessories:

A variety of different shaped accessories with contrasting finishes adds texture to a scheme. Accessories via Harvey Norman.

A variety of different shaped accessories with contrasting finishes adds texture to a scheme. Accessories via Harvey Norman.

The most inexpensive way of bringing texture to a room is through the accessories you scatter throughout the space. There is a whole variety of objects you can put into your decor, from shop bought to foraged! Think woven baskets, smooth glass, shells, faux coral, metallic objects, felt or knitted baskets. Again, the secret to getting the texture right is to mix it up, layer it in. 

Of course, how you bring texture into a room will also depend upon the look and feel of the room you are trying to create. If you are looking for a laid back and cosy room, you'll be including copious soft furnishings with knitted and woollen finishes, whereas if you are creating a glam vibe, you'll be including lots of glass and metallics, with perhaps faux animal skin or silk fabrics. Whatever your look, there's a way to bring texture and dimension into your home. 

And if you're not sure what your personal home décor style is, why not try out my fun FREE quiz below?

Until next time x

Main Image Source: featuring Armadillo Rugs Collection by Hunting for George

LETTING GO OF POSSESSIONS

LETTING GO OF POSSESSIONS

When it comes to creating our ideal home décor, we start with a vision of how we want our home to look. For some of us this is a feeling, or a mood we want to create, and for others, it is a clear design board, containing ALL of the details of the room (go you!). 

But sometimes, in the execution of those plans, something goes wrong. We fail to create the look we want, the plan doesn't come together as we had envisaged.

Why is this?

Often it is because we hold onto items that we already have in our homes, and we don't replace them when we come to create our new decor.

Even though they don't fit in with our design plans.

Even though we might not actually like them! 

So what's going on here?

Perhaps it's an item from your past, perhaps something that you had around you in childhood, and so you feel nostalgic about it.

Perhaps it's an item that was gifted to you, and so you feel guilt if you were to get rid of it. Or you're worried you're being ungrateful. Or you worry that the person who gave it to you will notice it's missing and be angry with you.

Perhaps it's an item that is in perfectly good working order and it is wasteful for you to get rid of it.

Or perhaps- most strongly- it's an item that was inherited from a close relative, and you feel as though by holding onto it, you hold onto a piece of them in some way.

I totally get all of these things. I understand. 

Possessions come with powerful associations, and we (wrongly) assign greater importance to ‘things’ than we should. 
— Kate Hatherell, The Home Design School

Possessions can hold so much power that we try to make them fit into our room schemes, even though they really don't go. It's like a little blind spot that we have; human beings are remarkably good at seeing what they want to see, rather than seeing what is in front of them. We 'make it fit' even though it really doesn't. 

In order to move past this, in order to get the home you really want, you have to accept that these items don't fit in with your design plan. Not only this, but they are stopping you from having the home you want. 

Like Disney's Queen Elsa, we need to learn to "Let It Go!" when it comes to our possessions, if they are stopping us from having the home we want.

So, what's the solution?

It's all very well to say, "Let It Go!" but how do we do that?

Firstly, recognise that it's not about the stuff itself; we are all perfectly capable of heading to the tip or the charity shop.

It's the stuff in our heads, the stuff in our hearts. The emotional stuff. The (dare I say it) baggage that we carry around.

How do we move past those mental blockers we hold to rid ourselves of the possessions that are getting in our way?

Let's see if we can get practical with some solutions...

1. Get clear on your vision

Start with the end in mind. Be super clear about how you want your home to look. Although a 'feeling' or a 'mood' is a great place to start, the more you firm up and crystallise the look you are going for, the easier it is for you to see where your current possessions fit, and where they do not.

Create Pinterest boards, scrap books or concept and mood boards of the exact look you are trying to achieve.

Write a description of how you want the space to feel, and what you need to include (and exclude) to get that look, and become super focused on how you want the end product to be.

At this point, remember that you don't have to get rid of anything, you are just dreaming. So this is a safe step. Be honest about your dream, and don't focus on what you currently have.

2. Future Cast your Dream

Future what? Future casting is about envisaging how you want the future to look in all it's glorious detail. Creating a vision of the future is a really powerful tool to help get your mind in the right place for change.

Write a description of how your space will look, and how you will feel, once you achieve the vision you created in the previous step. How will life be different once you have achieved the home you want?

So now onto the actual possessions themselves...

3. How to Let Go of an Unwanted Gift

Someone has generously given you something for your home, which they clearly love, and they love you enough to give it to you. The trouble is? Their taste is different to yours, and now you are stuck with an item you dislike, forever adorning your shelves, or you risk offending them if you get rid of it. What a dilemma.

(Tip for everyone: never EVER buy someone something for their home. Buy something disposable- cut flowers for example- but never EVER something they then have to display. Do you want to give someone else the dilemma I've mentioned above?)

The best way to handle this is of course is to make those expectations clear up front. Please could I have <INSERT: voucher/ flowers/ chocolates/ a meal/ an experience/some babysitting/ a donation to charity> for my birthday.

Set expectations beforehand if you can!

Set expectations beforehand if you can!

But if you haven't done this, and you're already lumbered with said gift, you need to get your mindset in the right place so that you can get rid of it. 

Firstly, know that most people won't even notice if something is missing. We are so focused on ourselves, that we think other people are as wrapped up in the minutiae of our lives as we are. They're not. They may not even notice.

Secondly, if the person knew that you disliked it, they would be mortified to know that are displaying something you dislike. Stop being so awkward and get rid. And if they do question you? Be honest! I really appreciated the gesture but it's not quite to my taste. 

Thirdly. Own your space. You all tell me how important your home is. You tell me it is your sanctuary. Your safe space. So in this space, it is your choice to have what you want in there. Are you really going to let someone else dictate how your home looks? Really?

And finally. Stop worrying about what others think. Going to offend Great Aunt Maud if you jettison her floral china vase? Well okay. That's a shame. But she'll get over it. Or she won't. Either way, it's your home. Have what you want in it.

4. How to Let Go of Stuff that's Not Broken

For many of us, we were brought up with a 'waste not want not' approach to life. We were told to eat up everything on our plates, to 'make do and mend'.

Throwing out all of our unwanted stuff was just wasteful.

Whether you are a post war baby, conditioned not to waste, or you are simply worried about the environmental impact of the disposable mentality we have, getting rid of unwanted possessions doesn't have to be a bad thing.

Whatever it is that you have in your home that you don't like, you can still get rid. There will always be someone who wants what no longer works for you.

The success of auction sites like Ebay, and local recycling sites like Freecycle show that there is a roaring trade in 'preloved' items. Charity shops are always looking out for unwanted furniture. It really is true that one man's trash is another man's treasure.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure
— Anon

Why hang onto something that is cluttering up your life, that you don't really like or no longer have a use for? You are denying somebody else the pleasure of having your preloved possessions. Get rid, and get yourself something you love.

5. How to Let Go of Sentimental Stuff

Without question, the hardest thing to let go of is the sentimental stuff. The stuff you inherited from a relative no longer with us, the memorabilia from childhood. This is tough.

We confuse our sentimentality about the person or time in our lives with the possessions that were there at the same time. It's almost as though holding on to the item will keep the person or the time closer to you.

But of course, the truth is, that it's the memory you need to hold on to, not the item itself. I love this quotation from the Minimalists

I am not my stuff; we are more than our possessions.
Our memories are within us, not within our things.
Holding on to stuff imprisons us; letting go is freeing.
— The Minimalists

It's not that holding onto sentimental items is wrong. It's only wrong if it gets in the way of the lifestyle and home that we want to have. 

Keeping 4500 CDs or VHS tapes in a rack because you have fond memories of the films and music is not going to help you achieve the clean-lined scandi look you're after. Keeping granny's vintage embroidered napkins isn't going to work in the glam luxe pad you're trying to create. Let it go.

Go back to step one, and check the sentimental item against your vision board for your home. Does it fit? Does it go with your design scheme? 

If it doesn't, then check your future cast from step two. This item is now stopping you from realising that dream. Surely, that's not what your relative would have wanted? Surely your younger self would not want you trapped in this way?

Marie Kondo (the queen of decluttering), tells you to thank the item for it's usefulness and then choose to let it go. Let it go and be thankful that the item will now serve someone else, bring someone else pleasure, or simply thank it for giving you pleasure in the past. 

Whatever items you have in your home, which are stopping you from creating the home of your dreams, take stock, and see whether you can overcome some of these blockers for yourself. 

Declutter. Live lighter. 

Until next time x

 

HOW TO CHOOSE ARTWORK FOR YOUR HOME

HOW TO CHOOSE ARTWORK FOR YOUR HOME

A few weeks ago, I published an article about what to do when faced with blank walls. One of the solutions we talked about was hanging artwork; it is quick and easy to install, it can bring a splash of colour and it can inject a little personality into a space.

But people often come unstuck when buying artwork. What type of art to buy? Where to source it? How many items to buy? It can be a whole minefield of its own! 

So how do you choose art? Let me share with you some basics...

1. Proportion & Scale

First off, look at the size of the space you are hoping to fill. The scale of the wall you are covering should dictate the scale of the artwork you choose. If you have a large blank wall, then your artwork should be large too. A small piece of artwork in a big space will just look lost. Smaller spaces generally look better with small scale art, although sometimes an oversized piece can be used for effect. 

You can create an illusion of large scale art by hanging several smaller pieces together, either in a grid layout, or a more organic gallery wall style. 

When buying prints, remember that the mount board and frame can add several inches to the dimensions of the print, so allow for this in your measurements.

2. Proximity

Image: Rhapsody by Twist of Lime

Image: Rhapsody by Twist of Lime

If you are hanging several pieces of art together, make sure that you hang them close to one other. One of the biggest mistakes people make with art is hanging one small piece on its own, or spreading a collection out on different walls within a room. Pictures should be hung in reasonably close proximity to each other, so that it is clear that the individual pictures belong together. 

When hanging several different pieces, make sure that the gaps between their frames is equidistant. There is nothing worse than a wall of pictures where the gap sizes are all different. 

If the pictures in the image above were more spread out, they would look disjointed. Grouped together as they are, they look as though they belong together, and form one coherent display.

3. Repetition

For art to look cohesive in your scheme, it should echo, or repeat something else in your room. This can often be a colour, but it can also be a shape or a pattern. Stick to the 'three places' rule: make sure that the colour or pattern in the artwork is repeated in at least three different places throughout the room, in perhaps cushions, vases or lamps for example. 

The tan, blue, green, black and white in the prints and frames are repeated in the artwork and across the room in cushions, vases, plants and the footstool.  Image: Prints by Hunting for George

The tan, blue, green, black and white in the prints and frames are repeated in the artwork and across the room in cushions, vases, plants and the footstool. 

Image: Prints by Hunting for George

If you are using a collection of pictures, make sure that either the mount boards, or the frames are similar, or repeated in other frames in the collection. Again, this brings cohesion to the display. 

4. Subject

Think about the overall style you are aiming to create in your room, and choose the subject of your artwork accordingly. Floral prints and landscapes can work well in a country scheme, whereas graphic prints work better in a mid-century or modern design. 

That said, sometimes designers choose a piece of artwork that is at odds with the style of the room, to create contrast and impact.

For example, a dramatic modern print can look stunning against a backdrop of a traditional Victorian room, as in this image on the left. The modern print is a great foil to the heavy traditional elements elsewhere in the room.

Don't be afraid to have a play around and experiment with different styles.

5. Where to shop?

If you fancy investing some money in artwork, then heading to your local gallery is a good starting point. Auction houses also sell original artwork, and it's worth finding out about your local auction dates and times.

But if you want something on a smaller budget, then look for online stores that sell prints, rather than original works. Companies like art.co.uk (art.com in the US) bring a wide variety of prints to the market for really reasonable prices, and shops like Etsy and Not On The High Street sell quirky and unique products if you are looking for something a little different.

What are your challenges when it comes to choosing art? Come and head on over to join our Facebook community, and share your blank walls. Let us help you bring them to life!

Until next time x

The Home Design School Facebook Group

Main Image Source: Melodic & Lola, Urban Road

15 PLACES TO SHOP FOR CUSHIONS

15 BEST PLACES TO SHOP FOR CUSHIONS (UK)

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the best fillings to choose for your cushion inserts. Making sure that the innards of your cushions are of good quality is paramount to getting that plump and long-lasting look, but of course, the thing we swoon over in magazines, is how the cushion looks from the outside. But where should we shop for them?

Shopping for cushions can be tricky. There are so many retailers to choose from, yet we often get stuck in a rut, shopping in the same places and never adventuring outside of those safe retailers. 

So in today's post, I'm giving you a list of some familiar shops, as well as some more niche, or quirky retailers that you might want to check out. Move yourself out of your comfort zone, and try some different shops! 

1. Next Home

A staple high street retailer, Next stock a range of home furnishings which are swapped out for a fresh range twice a year. Next tend to sell whole rooms sets, so if you are looking for a co-ordinated look, this is the place to go. Just be careful to mix in pieces from other retailers so that it's not all too "matchy-matchy".

2. Debenhams Home

Another high street retailer, Debenhams department stores sell a range of designer and own-brand cushions. They stock a really wide range to suit all sorts of different tastes, and they often run regular sales too.

3. Dunelm Mill

Dunelm Mill is more of a specialist retailer, in so far as they specialise in home goods. They have a wide range of styles and colours, although they stock far more on their website than they do in store. You can order from the website to be delivered in store. 

4. House of Fraser

Another department store, House of Fraser stocks a reasonable amount of cushions, although not as extensive a range as the other department stores. They group their cushions by 'patterned, plain, floral and geometric', which is kind of handy, if you're using my guide to mixing and matching cushion fabrics

5. Marks & Spencer

M&S have a funny reputation which has wavered over the years from being a good, dependable brand, to a bit 'old-lady'. Their homeware section, though, has generally remained true to those ethics of quality and classic design. They have a modest amount of cushions, but they range from the classic to the new and quirky! If you haven't checked them out for a while, they are worth a browse.

6. John Lewis

'Never knowingly undersold', John Lewis has a reputation for good quality and good design at the best possible price. They stock a really great range of cushions, from the classic florals and stripes through to downright fun, modern fabrics and prints. 

7. Zara Home

Zara Home is a good place to shop if you are looking for something a little different. Frilled, tassled, feathered and striped, there is something here to suit more adventurous tastes, as well as a few basic staples too. 

8. Not On the High Street

As the name suggests, NotOnTheHighStreet.com sells the most delightful range of hand crafted and individual cushions that you won't find... well... on the high street. Ahem. Acting as a marketplace for arty and crafty types, if you are looking for something unique, or bespoke, then this is the place for you. 

9. HomeSense

HomeSense do not have an online store, but they stock a unique range of products in their physical shops. They are unique in that they stock individual items for sale as one-offs, so once their items are gone, they're gone. If you see a cushion you like in the shop, you'd better buy it there and then!

10. Loaf

Loaf sell cushions in their online store under the title: 'squishy things'. I love that. They have a really small range, but they are quite quirky and for the fun at heart. 

11. OKA

If you like a grown up classic and country style, then OKA cushions are for you. They have 150 different styles in various colourways, which coordinate with their other home accessories. They even have a cushion visualiser tool on their website too, which is pretty handy! 

12. Graham & Green

Stockists of cushions for the sofa and floor, Graham and Green has a small collection of quirky cushions; perfect for vintage or tribal inspired and contemporary spaces. 

13. Cox & Cox

For those that love unique or eclectic design with a Scandinavian feel, Cox & Cox stock a small range of understated cushions in soft greys and blues, with a few subtle patterns. 

14. Rowen & Wren

A more artisanal approach, Rowen & Wren handpick their items. They do not have an extensive range by any means, but if you're looking for some good quality linen in muted colours, then this is the place to go. 

15. Abode Living

Looking for hot lips or eye print cushions? The more wacky of you will be drawn to Abode Living's small range of cushions. What they lack in range, they make up for in eccentricity! 

So get yourself out of that rut, and check out some new stores. Where else do you like to shop for cushions? Drop your favourite stores in the comments box below.

Source Image: Next

Coastal or Country? Why choosing a theme for your home is a bad idea...

WHY CHOOSING A THEME FOR YOUR HOME IS A BAD IDEA

If you're a home décor enthusiast, and you're anything like me, you will glue yourself to the TV whenever there is a home decorating programme on. Not only do I soak up the UK programmes like the Great Interior Design Challenge, but I also delve into some of the shows from across the pond, like Fixer Upper and Property Brothers. Now I know these programmes can be pretty corny, but I just can't help myself!

For those of you too young to remember, back in the late 1990s to early 2000s, there was a programme in the UK called Changing Rooms.  The programme's structure was always the same: two homeowners swapped houses with their neighbour, and allowed a decorating team, led by an aspiring interior designer, into their homes to completely makeover a room from top to bottom. 

At the end of the programme there was a "grand reveal" and the homeowners would be allowed in to see the transformation. Pretty formulaic so far, right?

However, the room designs were often crazy, off the wall designs that no right-minded person would choose for themselves. The designers chose a set "theme" for the room, and decorated it with wild abandon in line with the theme. 

The Grand Themes

We had rooms with an Arabian nights theme, rooms with a Greek temple theme, and one room, which- memorably for the poor homeowner who burst into tears on the reveal- resembled a tart's boudoir!

Via bbc.co.uk

Changing Rooms earned itself a reputation for naff design and over-the-top decoration, like this Queen Anne themed dining room, complete with mock flagstones.

It may have been good for ratings, but it certainly wasn't good for tasteful design.

One of the downsides of all this "inspiration" was that people started decorating their homes around a theme. So we started seeing coastal themes, where every possible seaside paraphernalia from life-saving rings to knot pictures to messages- in- a- bottle and miniature sailboats were stuffed into every available space. We had Indian themed rooms with rich embroidery, floor cushions, silk paintings and incense everywhere, in a 1930s semi in Birmingham. And don't get me started on the paint effects. Rag rolling anyone? *shudder*

Things Have Moved On...

Luckily, popular design has moved on since then, and the more modern shows generally produce competent and cohesive designs. The likes of the Property brothers and DIY SOS actually create functional and aesthetically pleasing rooms that any of us would be happy to live in. 

Now whilst few of us would decorate our rooms according to a theme like this, many of us get stuck in a rut of decorating our rooms according to a pre-determined style. Most of us are drawn to one type of design style or another. Whether that is classic, or industrial, mid-century modern or country, shabby chic or minimalist, most of us have a natural inclination towards one style or another. 

Not sure what your preferred style is? Take the Quiz!

Not sure what your preferred style is? Take the Quiz!

Now, there is nothing wrong with having style likes and dislikes (in fact, I actively encourage people to get to know their preferred style), but the problem comes when this is taken too far. Any style taken to its extreme will look at best twee, and at worst downright naff. Not only that, but putting a line in the sand and adhering religiously to one design style is very restrictive and leaves you little room for changes in taste. 

So how do we incorporate our chosen style without going over the top?

The key to incorporating your chosen style without going over the top, is to identify what is at the heart of the design style.
— Kate Hatherell- The Home Design School

The key to this is to identify what is at the heart of the design style you like, and to include a 'nod' to the look, rather than an in-your-face replica of it. Let's take a look at a few examples...

If you like country style..

Image via Vanessa Arbuthnott

At the heart of country style is laid back, cosy living. Built for practicality in the country, this style often has stone or wooden floors which can cope with muddy boots from the field, large farmhouse tables and a cosy log fire. Country homes often have traditional framed kitchens and lots of painted wood. It should be a little tired, a little rustic. In the image above, the country style furniture is balanced with a more modern floor light and an on-trend colour scheme.

How to get it wrong: go over the top with lots of stag heads, hunting paraphernalia and too much tartan fabric.

If you like Scandi...

The essence of scandi design is clean, functional and uncluttered. Think light and bright. Keep your walls white and soft grey, and use pale or lightly distressed wood throughout. Bring in sheepskin for softness.

How to get it wrong: Deer antlers everywhere and animal skins on every surface. 

If you like coastal...

Image via Ideal Home

Image via Ideal Home

Coastal schemes reflect the openness of the ocean and the sea breeze. Stick to a colour palette of whites, aqua and blue, reflecting the landscape. Use fabrics in ticking stripes and use plenty of cushions. You can get away with a nod to the seaside with some coastal elements, for example a jute rug, a knotted door stop or a coastal painting.

How to get it wrong: cram your decor with seaside paraphernalia such as anchors, lifesaving rings, sailboats, faux fish and lobster pots. 

If you're not sure what the main elements of your style are, then check out this fun quiz below, which will point you in the right direction.

Until next time x

8 WAYS TO COMBAT THE FEAR OF BLANK WALLS

8 WAYS TO COMBAT THE FEAR OF BLANK WALLS

I remember when we had our extension built (about 5 years ago now). We had invested heavily in a large add-on to the side of our house, that was going to be the ultimate in open plan family living. We had a large kitchen including an island, with stools for the children to sit on to work or colour whilst we cooked, a large dining table for big family gatherings, and a living area with squishy sofas for lounging and watching TV. 

Once the building work was done, we were delighted with the space. We had opted for plain white walls (more to do with our fear of colour than a positive choice- read about that here). The only problem was what to do with all of those blank walls. With metre upon metre of plain white space, I was pretty intimidated and I just didn't know how to fill it. 

Fast forward a few years and I have learned a thing or two about how to deal with this issue, but I remember well that feeling of overwhelm and paralysis. Today I share with you some top ways of making your blank walls more attractive.

1. Wallpaper

Nothing gives an instantaneous injection of colour and pattern to a room like wallpaper. Although a bit of a faff to install, a few rolls of wallpaper can completely transform a space. Wallpaper can be a tricky skill to get right, so if you're not very handy, consider getting a professional in to help. Wallpapering is not a job I take on lightly!

2. Wall stickers or decals

Images via Koko Kids and Babatude

A fantastic (and relatively inexpensive) way of adding some interest to blank walls, peelable wall stickers- or decals- are a great option. Not as permanent as wallpaper, this makes a safer choice than committing to a more permanent option. Wall stickers now come in all sorts of patterns and pictures, from the comical to the pretty. They are particularly good for the walls in children's rooms as you can change the stickers as the children grow and their developing tastes change.

3. Large artwork

Image and artwork via Atelier Lane

Image and artwork via Atelier Lane

A large piece of artwork acts as a focal point in a room, and can also give you inspiration for the start of a colour scheme too. This large piece of artwork above is grounded by the sofa underneath. On its own, it would look look lost, as though it were floating in mid air. You can achieve a similar grounded look by placing your artwork over a mantlepiece, console table or unit. 

4. Grid of pictures

Image and Art via Urban Road

Image and Art via Urban Road

A collection of artwork can look stunning when displayed well. In this example above, the art has been carefully selected to tell a consistent colour story across the whole display, which is echoed in the furniture and finishes in the room. This brings cohesion to the whole room, and makes it feel calm.

This asymmetrical display achieves balance because the large picture on the left is balanced by the collection of smaller pictures on the right. The visual balance is equal across the two vertical halves of the display. A staggered display like this works well, but a more uniform, symmetrical grid layout is also impactful too. 

5. Gallery Wall

Image via Norsu Interiors

Image via Norsu Interiors

Although very popular at the moment, gallery walls can be quite tricky to pull off. The key to getting it right is to use a consistent theme or colour palette throughout. Too many disparate elements and your walls starts to look like a crazy mess!

Either keep all of your frames and mount boards the same (or restricted to a small palette), or ensure that your pictures and accessories have something visually in common. In the example above, there is a consistent theme of matching wood tones, grey, white and a few splashes of red. This unifies the disparate items.

6. Mirrors

Image via Smithers of Stamford

Image via Smithers of Stamford

Mirrors are a fantastic addition to most spaces. As well as being an attractive feature in themselves, they also bounce light around the room, making your room feel lighter and more spacious. Make of feature of them by choosing decorative frames, or quirky designs like these lollipop mirrors above. 

7. Shelving

Farringdon Wall Shelf by Garden Trading

Farringdon Wall Shelf by Garden Trading

A well placed shelf can add interest to a blank wall. If you want to make a feature of the shelf itself, then choose brightly coloured shelving, or shelves in a contrasting colour to your walls. If you want the items you display on the shelves to be the star of the display, then paint your shelves the same colour as the walls so that they blend in. 

You can get shelving to match your style. Natural wood is good for country schemes, black or metallic work well in glam rooms, and metal shelves look great in an industrial or scandi room. 

8. Clocks

Image via Amorini Home

Image via Amorini Home

Having a clock in your room is a practical choice, but make a feature of a blank wall by creating a collection of clocks. Just like with a gallery wall, make sure that your clocks have something visually in common so that there is cohesion in the display. In the example above, black, white and grey are repeated across the display so that the individual clocks look as though they belong to the display. 

Although blank walls can be intimidating, with a little thought and preparation, you can create a stunning display, and give your room that 'finished' look. 

Want some help with your blank walls? Join our Facebook group below and share your pictures of your blank walls. Let us help you with some suggestions.

Until next time x

GETTING THAT PLUMP PILLOW LOOK

GETTING THAT PLUMP PILLOW LOOK

Recently I have been putting together a mood board for my living room/ family room, and I'm at the stage of sourcing the throw cushions for my sofas. As I look at the sorry state of our current cushions, I am so glad that I have learned a thing or two since I last decorated this room. 

You see, no matter how attractive your cushion covers are, and how well they coordinate with your scheme, if your cushion filling isn't right, then you will end up with cushions as flat as pancakes in no time. As with most things in life, it's not what's on the outside, but what's on the inside that matters!

I've been in touch with the experts at The Cushion Warehouse to bring you a guide on how to choose the right cushion inserts for your home. Let's take a look:

Synthetic Vs Natural

Cushions can be filled with either natural materials, or synthetic man-made materials. In my experience, natural fillings produce the plumpest results, and the most even coverage of filling. However, if you have a family member who suffers from allergies, there are some pretty decent synthetic options available too. 

Feather and Down Fillings

When we think about natural fillings, we usually think about feather or down. Essentially, feather refers to the outer feathers of a bird, which are waterproof and therefore more coarse, and down refers to the softer feathers which sit underneath. These down feathers are light and fluffy, providing insulation for the bird, and soft and warmth for your cushions.

Unlike a foam pad, feather and down cushions can be plumped back into shape whenever they get a little flat, and the natural curve of the feathers acts as a spring to help with this.

Most natural cushion inserts contain a mixture of both feather and down in different quantities. Generally, the greater the proportion of down, the more luxurious your insert, with pure down being the softest and most sumptuous. Makes sense, right?

Goose feathers are even larger, lighter and softer than duck feathers, and so goose down is the most luxurious of the lot, although it is not quite as firm and supportive. 

Wool Fillings

Another natural alternative is wool. Wool gives a firmer filling than feather and down, but it can still be plumped back into shape.

Although a natural product, wool is also suitable for allergy sufferers because it is resistant to dust mites and bacteria. If sustainability is high on your agenda, wool is a really eco-friendly option. Wool filings are not widely stocked, but you can find a range of woolen inserts at The Cushion Warehouse. 

Synthetic Fibre

Hollowfibre cushion filling

Synthetic fibre is the most common cushion filling that you see on the high street. Fibre cushion pads have several advantages, in that they are usually inexpensive, and you don't get annoying feathers poking out through the cover. However they tend to have a short life span because they go flat very quickly. They can also go lumpy and out of shape, and once this happens, there is no going back!

Synthetic fillings generally come in two types: hollow fibre and microfibre.

As the name suggests, hollowfibre filling is made up of hollow strands of polyester, which means that it is more breathable and appears plumper than some other synthetic fillings. 

Microfibre fillings have strands which are closely packed together. This makes it soft and very fluffy, but it also lacks support and so is better used for occasional cushions, rather than every day. 

Whether you are buying cushions from the high street, or having them bespoke made, make sure that you check out the inserts in your cushions to get that sumptuous look. 

If you've got any questions, come and pop on over to the facebook group where we can help you (click the image to join).

Until next time x

Images Courtesy of The Cushion Warehouse

Main Image Source: Next.co.uk

STYLING A SOFA THROW: 5 WAYS

STYLING A SOFA THROW: 5 WAYS

One of the keys to creating a cosy and welcoming home is to include plenty of soft furnishings into your space. Without soft furnishings a room can feel cold, hard and unwelcoming. Soft furnishings deaden unwanted noise and soften the look that too many hard surfaces create, bringing warmth into the space.

A quick and simple way to bring this soft element into your home is through throws or blankets on the sofa, and they are a relatively inexpensive way to refresh your space. But it's too often the story that people buy themselves a throw for their sofa and then realise they don't know how to style it.

My advice, as always, when it comes to styling, is to play around and experiment. People worry about making mistakes and having a room which looks silly (yes, perfectionista, I'm talking to you!) but even the most experienced stylists play around until they find what looks 'right'.

So, here are a few ideas to get you started:

THE SIDE FOLD

Image Courtesy of Ideal Home

Image Courtesy of Ideal Home

One of the simplest and easiest ways to style a throw is simply to fold it up and drape it over the arm of the chair. This softens the edges of the sofa without making a dramatic statement. Great for beginners!

The neater you fold your throw blanket, the more formal a look you will create. 

Neatly folded side throw gives a formal look (image via Ideal Home)

Neatly folded side throw gives a formal look (image via Ideal Home)

THE SIDE DRAPE

Image Source, Ideal Home

Image Source, Ideal Home

For a slightly less formal look, unfold your throw and tuck one end into the corner, behind a cushion, and allow the rest of the fabric to cascade towards the floor. 

THE UP AND OVER

Image and Design via Inspired by Charm

Image and Design via Inspired by Charm

In this beautiful scheme, the throw has been folded, and then draped up and over the back of the sofa, and down onto the seat. This creates a 'runner' effect and brings a larger block of your accent colour into the space. It also acts as a 'relief' between the colours of the sofa and the colours of the cushions. Try to keep the throw a little relaxed (allow a few crinkles), otherwise you'll put people off sitting down, because they won't want to disturb the display. 

THE OH-SO-CASUAL

Image via Sofa.com

Image via Sofa.com

For that laid back 'here's where we lounge on a Saturday morning' look, drape your throw over the back of the sofa, down across the seat and allow it to pool onto the floor. Although this looks as though the throw has been tossed casually onto the sofa, if you don't get it right, it can look a little contrived. Don't be put off by this though, keep experimenting until you get it right. 

THE MULTIPLE THROW APPROACH

Image via Ideal Home

Image via Ideal Home

For a really snug look, use more than one throw on a sofa. In the image above, a sheepskin has been placed across the back and down onto the seat of the sofa, and a soft blanket has been casually draped over the arm on the opposite side. Notice again how the throw is draped more casually, rather than being folded neatly. This adds to the laid back, cosy look in this room. 

THE COVER UP

Patchwork Red Quilt by Pignut

Patchwork Red Quilt by Pignut

A throw blanket is a great way to bring an accent colour into your room. As with all accent colours, it needs to be repeated in a room in several places, in order to be effective. In the room above, the red quilt stands out against the very neutral backdrop and the colour is echoed in the cushions and accessories on the side table. Effective, huh?

Notice too, how this throw is placed central to the sofa and covers a lot of the seating area. Perfect if you need to hide any stains caused by little person spillages.

So, 5 ways to get you started. Remember, don't be afraid to play around and experiment. Mix up the colours and textures, and experiment until you get the look you want. 

Come and share photos of your throw styling in our facebook book. Click the image below to join.

Until next time x

5 SIMPLE WAYS TO BRING COLOUR INTO YOUR HOME

5 SIMPLE WAYS TO BRING COLOUR INTO YOUR HOME

The single biggest challenge that people face when choosing their home decor is colour. As someone who teaches home design for a living, I see (on a daily basis) the fear and overwhelm that people face when it comes to choosing colours for their home.

I've written in the past about my own cringe-worthy struggles with choosing colour before I learned the "insider secrets", and so I know from personal experience what this frustration and overwhelm feels like.

Colour is a complicated little beast. Firstly you have to consider the effect that you want to create in your home: do you want a loud, vibrant space, or a cool and calm space? Then there are the actual colours; which colours go together, and which colours clash? Then you need to know whether you want a pale colour or a strong, saturated colour... then where do you put the colour, and how much... And that's even before you get into considering how to test paint and how the light in your room affects the colour too!

Ugh.

The list goes on and on. It's no wonder that so many houses are painted magnolia!

Now, you could actually fill a whole library on the subject of colour, and I'm not going to pretend that today's blog post is going to solve every colour woe. But there are a few steps that you can take to begin to bring colour in, in a small way, which feels safe and doesn't cost the earth. If you try some of these ideas below and you don't like the effect you create, you haven't committed yourself to a dramatic change you're stuck with.

Before I share with you these 5 ideas, there is one important thing to know:

The key to making colour work in your home is to repeat your chosen accent colours in at least three places in the room.
— Kate Hatherell, The Home Design School

Let's make a start. Choose three of the suggestions below and have a go at colouring your home.

1. Artwork

Blue Room with Canvas

Artwork is a great way to fill a blank wall, and to add a splash of colour to your room. Remember that you are just experimenting here; so don't go overboard with an expensive print which eventually may not work in your scheme. You can pick up a canvas for a few pounds in most home stores in a whole range of colours, and this will allow you to experiment. Use the colours from your print and repeat them elsewhere in the room.

2. Soft Furnishings

Image Courtesy of English Blinds Notice how the colours in the blind are repeated in the colours of the chairs, cushions, books and radio. 

Image Courtesy of English Blinds

Notice how the colours in the blind are repeated in the colours of the chairs, cushions, books and radio. 

Soft Furnishings are a great way to introduce new colours into your home: curtains are usually more on the expensive side, but throws for sofas, runners for coffee and dining tables, and towels in the bathroom are all relatively inexpensive ways to bring a splash of colour. Cushions and throw pillows come in every colour imaginable, and whilst they may not be the cheapest way to update a colour scheme (I always prefer to buy good quality cushions) but they can make a really striking impact without much effort or risk. Keep cushion costs down by re-using your inserts, and just replacing the covers.

3. Lamps, lampshades and ceiling pendants 

Selecting a lampshade in your chosen colour helps you to repeat the colour in several places in the room. A ceiling pendant will draw your eye upwards, and lamps dotted around the room will keep your eye moving between the accent colours you have chosen. 

4. Decorative Accessories

From tubs, baskets and pots, to china ornaments, picture frames, clocks and globes, there is a myriad of decorative accessories that you can use to bring colour into your home. The trick is to spread the colour throughout your space: don't bunch all of the colour in one place. Big department stores like John Lewis and online retailers like Wayfair stock a large selection of decorative accessories in different colours. 

5. Create an accent wall

Wallpaper by Woodchip & Magnolia

Wallpaper by Woodchip & Magnolia

Although an accent wall is a bit more of a commitment than just adding a few cushions, painting just one wall is a less scary option than painting or papering a whole room. The bolder you go with your colour, the more of a feature the wall will become, so if you want a more subtle look, choose a pale tint of your chosen accent colour so that it supports your colour scheme, rather than dominates the room.   

So you now have five fairly safe ways to bring colour into your home. Remember: the key to making colour work in your home is to make sure that you repeat the colour in your room in at least three places. It's no good just bringing in one pink cushion and hoping it will work. You need at least three items to create colour repetition. So think about adding in a pink cushion, a pink lamp and a piece of pink artwork to get the look to work.

And if you're ready to take the next step and bring some paint colour into your home, be sure to watch the free video tutorial below to make sure that you get the colour right for you and your home. 

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Until next time x

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO CHOOSING FABRICS FOR YOUR HOME

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO CHOOSING FABRICS FOR YOUR HOME

Having fabric in your home brings multiple benefits. Not only can carefully chosen fabrics transform the look of a room, but they also bring thermal insulation, help to dampen sounds and reduce echo. You can bring fabrics into a room in a variety of ways; through curtains, cushions and upholstered furniture.

Ideally, you want to aim for a variety of fabrics, which co-ordinate with one another well. Fabrics come in all different patterns and colours and, whilst it's great to have this choice, it can be really overwhelming when you set out to buy a selection of fabrics for your home.

High street retailers often display their soft furnishings in room sets, which mean that you can shop a whole 'look' all at one time. However, this can sometimes be a bit 'matchy matchy', which isn't ideal, and it's not great to have a whole room which looks as though it was pulled straight out of a catalogue either.

This leaves us with the option of choosing a set of fabrics ourselves from an enormous range. With so much choice out there, how do you know where to begin? Well, worry not. Follow these pointers to get started:

KNOW YOUR STYLE

When you begin designing a home, you should always start with the end in mind, and the same is true of your fabric choices. Knowing what style you want to create with your fabric selection narrows down the options. There are fabrics out there in all sorts of styles, from country florals to modern geometrics. If you're not sure what your style might be, then have a browse through some images of room sets on Pinterest and ask yourself whether you are drawn to florals, plains, geometrics, paisley, stripes, spots and so on. Pin to your own mood board to gather your ideas. Think also about the textures that will create the feeling you want to achieve: heavy silks and velvets create a sumptuous look, flowing linens and cotton are more relaxed. If you're not sure what your style is, try taking my style quiz below for a few pointers. 

COLOUR: BLEND OR POP?

The next consideration is your colour palette. If you want your fabrics to blend into the background, acting as "supporting cast" for your other colours, then choose curtains a shade or two darker than your main room colour, and keep your cushion fabrics a shade or two darker or lighter than the rest of the room. If, on the other hand, you want your fabrics to stand out from the rest of the room, think about choosing colours which sit opposite your main colour on the colour wheel. This brings a pop of colour and will make your fabrics the star of the show. 

Colour Wheel

PATTERN MATCHING

To a large extent, the pattern of your fabric will be influenced by the style of room that you are creating. Country style rooms lend themselves to florals and spots, coastal schemes to simple ticking stripes, and mid- century modern to geometric shapes. However, try not to stick to just one pattern in a room. A mix of different patterns gives your scheme interest and appeal.

Fabric Books show co-ordinating fabrics within a colour range.

Fabric Books show co-ordinating fabrics within a colour range.

The scale of the pattern should be matched to the scale of the room it's in, and the furniture it covers. Choose large scale patterns for larger rooms and vice versa for small rooms. 

Fabric specialists (and some larger high street retailers) stock fabric books, which contain several different fabrics within the same colour way. This gives you variety of patterns, but ensures that the colours work in harmony together. The hard work has been done for you!

If you're going it alone, mixing patterns takes a little practice, but check out this blog post for some tips on how to achieve the look successfully.

PURPOSE

Although you might fancy having a sumptuous silk covered couch, if you have a couple of energetic toddlers and a dog who likes to lounge, this isn't going to be a practical choice. For pet-friendly fabrics, more durable solutions are fabrics with a higher thread count (this means more threads per square inch) and tight weaves, so that there is less chance of your furry friends getting their claws in them. Man made fabrics like microfibre, and natural choices like leather work well for families with children as they are durable and easily spot-cleaned.

That said, I have to admit to owning a pair of cream fabric sofas, despite having two children and a lounging dog myself! I think life's too short not to have what you want, so if you really want a fabric that you love, then I say go for it. Train your children not to drink on the sofa, get machine washable slip covers, or hire a steam cleaner once in a while.

Another consideration is your local climate. In cooler climates you may be better choosing wool and felt fabrics, whereas in warmer climates sheer voiles at the windows and fade resistant fabrics will be more appropriate. Don't forget that as the sun shines through a pair of unlined curtains, the colour will also cast light on the room. Blue or green curtains will make the room feel cooler, yellow curtains will make the room feel warmer. Oh how I'd like to have the problem of too much sun!

LET'S SHOP!

Although there are some fabulous deals online, never buy a fabric until you have seen it for real. Not until you touch the fabric can you feel the true heft of it, the texture, the exact colour, and the way it moves. Most online retailers allow you to order a few samples for free, but just be aware that exact colours can change from roll to roll. Going to a high street shop can be overwhelming, but they often have access to the biggest range of fabrics. Specialist fabrics retailers are, in my experience, the best and, although they may not have the same range as a high street or online store, they often have very well trained specialists who can help you to make a selection of fabrics. 

If you're at the point of choosing fabrics for your home, come and pop into our Facebook group and show us some pictures of the choices you're considering. We'll give you a helping hand :) 

Until next time x

Main Image Source: Gold Fabrics 2 By Julia Brendel Lee

Blue Fabric Book by Clarke & Clarke

HOW TO CREATE AN OUTDOOR ROOM EVEN ON A BUDGET

HOW TO CREATE AN OUTDOOR ROOM- EVEN ON A BUDGET

If you've been lucky like us recently with some fair weather, you will be turning your attention to the outside spaces of your home.

Creating a distinct area outside gives the feeling of a room, outdoors, and makes a great space for socialising and relaxing. Even if you have a small garden or your budget is tight, there are plenty of things that you can do to create a defined area, which becomes an extension of your home's interior, outdoors.

Just like any room in your home, an outdoor room needs to be planned before you begin, so before you head off the DIY store to shop, let's have a look at what you need to consider when designing an outdoor room.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Where you create your outdoor room will affect how successful it will be. Firstly, grab yourself a compass and look at the direction your garden faces. As we all know, south facing gardens are ideal for capturing the best sunlight, but if you don't have a suitable south facing spot, you can still create a cosy nook elsewhere. Consider the focal point of your space too. If you have a fabulous view overlooking the countryside, position your outdoor space towards this view. If your view doesn't face south, you'll need to weigh up whether the view or the sun wins the day.

PROVIDE SHELTER

Pop Up Gazebo by Wyevale Garden Centres

Pop Up Gazebo by Wyevale Garden Centres

Shelter is really important in an outside garden, either from the breeze in more northern climates, or from the sun if you are lucky enough to live somewhere warm. Shelter can be natural: if you have overhanging trees for example, this can create a canopy to shade you from the wind and sun, but if not, you can add artificial shelter through canopies, gazebos, privacy screens or simple windbreaks. 

ZONE THE SPACE

Zoning the space demarcates the area as a gathering place/ eating place/ whatever you want the space to be. You can zone the space in different ways: by creating a visible barrier such as fencing, gazebos, pergolas or even low-level hedges. Or you can simply demarcate the space by the use of flooring and furniture arrangement. Either way, think "courtyard" and treat your outdoor space just like you would an indoor space: with a clearly defined purpose and boundaries to match.

ADD FLOORING

Just like an indoor room, an outdoor room needs flooring. If you are working on a budget, use rush matting, or even beach mats to demarcate the area. If you have more to spend, create a hardstanding area like a patio or deck, but even a gravel area works well, and can be created in a weekend. 

BRING GREENERY IN

Image courtesy of Design 3000

Image courtesy of Design 3000

Even if you are surrounded by hedges and grass, bringing potted plants right up to your seating area really makes you feel like you are sitting in the heart of nature. Pot up some hardy outdoor plants, or even consider adding 'living walls' to your screens and walls. If you plant them up with herbs or hanging fruit you get double use out of your space.

FIREPLACE

Skagerak Helios Fire Bowl from Cloudberry Living

Skagerak Helios Fire Bowl from Cloudberry Living

Especially if you live in the more northern parts of the world, adding a fire bowl or fire pit allows you to stay outside for longer as the evenings get chilly. Fire bowls start from as little as £20, or if you're feeling brave, you can have a go at building your own!

LET THERE BE LIGHT!

Festoon Lights by Garden Trading

Festoon Lights by Garden Trading

As the warmer weather comes along, sitting outside into the small hours means that outdoor lighting becomes a must-have. Outdoor lighting has come on in leaps and bounds over the past few years, and there are lots of different options out there. Opt for strings of fairy lights and weave them through your pergola. Run storm lanterns down the centre of your table, and use solar powered stick lights dotted throughout your garden. 

If you fancy making over your garden and you're on a budget, try putting some of the ideas above into practice, and come and share with us your progress in our Facebook group. And if you really want to blow the budget, why not check out >> this post << of much pricier garden solutions for the summer. Well, I can dream, right?

Until next time x

Main Image: Coastal Living Range by Wyevale Garden Centres

7 EASY TRICKS TO GET FOCAL POINTS RIGHT IN YOUR HOME

7 EASY TRICKS TO GET FOCAL POINTS RIGHT IN YOUR HOME

If you are lucky enough to have an Inglenook fireplace or an ornate Victorian mantlepiece in your room, then you already have in place one of the key elements that makes a room feel finished: the focal point.

(If you prefer this in video format, please click the image below!)

I get lots of questions about focal points, and so today we're diving into your most common questions.

What is a focal point and why do I need one?

The dictionary defines the focal point as "the centre of activity or interest" in a room; it is the first thing that the eye is drawn to when you enter a room; the first thing you notice.

You see, the human brain doesn't cope well with all of the information it is sent by the eyes, and so it filters the information it receives. Having a focal point helps to guide the eye towards the most important part of the room, and this relaxes us and makes us feel calm.

A decent focal point is essential for your stress levels and well-being!

Common focal points are fireplaces, views from the window or pieces of artwork, although (as many of you write to ask me about) the focal point is often the TV.

How do I know what my focal point should be?

Some rooms have really obvious natural focal points, like a fireplace or a beautifully framed view for example. 

But sometimes the focal point isn't that obvious and you may need to go looking for it.

Do you remember that home design programme with the architect, George Clarke, where he used to spray paint the whole room white before designing a space? He sprayed the walls, the floor, the windows, the bannisters- everything- white. This enabled him to show the homeowner the bare bones of the room, and highlighted where the main focal point and architectural features were. 

Now I'm not suggesting that you go and spray your room white; but you can use your imagination instead to similar effect.

Visualise the space in your room, with all of the furniture removed or stripped back, and just the architectural features on show. What would immediately jump out at you? Where is your eye naturally drawn? This is often a good place to start.

How do I emphasise the focal point?

Once you have identified the natural focal point in your room, you need to bring attention to it. This can be done in several ways. If your focal point is a fireplace, dress the mantle with decorative objects, and place a mirror or artwork above it. Paint the chimney breast a contrasting colour to the rest of the room, making it clear where the eye should land.

This room clearly has a beautiful window as its focal point, but it's crying out to have attention drawn to it. At the moment, the eye just bounces around the room, not knowing where to rest. 

This room clearly has a beautiful window as its focal point, but it's crying out to have attention drawn to it. At the moment, the eye just bounces around the room, not knowing where to rest. 

Arranging furniture around a focal point is also a good way to emphasise where the star of the room is. People naturally navigate towards seating arrangements, and so placing your furniture facing your focal point emphasises this.

Photographers use the concept of 'leading lines' to compose their images, where elements within the image lead the eye towards the focal point of a composition. The same principle can be used in interior design, by arranging furniture to point towards a focal point.

What if I don't have a focal point?

Especially in modern homes, focal points can be lacking. But a focal point doesn't have to be an architectural feature, or a wonderful view, and if you find yourself without somewhere for the eye to rest, you can create your own focal point relatively easily.

Image via IdealHome.co.uk with permission.

Image via IdealHome.co.uk with permission.

A large piece of imposing wall art, a grid of photographs or a gallery wall with objets d'interest is a sure fire way of drawing attention to an otherwise blank wall. Creating a feature wall with wallpaper can also have the same effect. So if you don't have a focal point in your room- worry not! This is a fairly easy thing to fix.

Can I change the focal point if I don't like it?

If you have a focal point which you dislike, and you really can't remove it, there are some things you can do to make it look less "bossy" in your room.

Play down the existing focal point by keeping the colours around it the same colour as the focal point itself, so that it blends in rather than stands out. If possible, box the feature in, or place furniture, plants or a screen in front of it to lessen how obvious it is in the room. 

Once you've disguised your unwanted focal point, you need to create a new focal point in the room to draw the eye. Make the new focal point larger in scale, bolder in colour and more imposing than the original focal point. Direct all of the furniture towards the new focal point, and try to bring in some leading lines (see above) to draw the eye towards the new focal point.

What if there is more than one focal point?

This question comes up a lot, and to be honest, although having more than one focal point in a room is not the best idea, it also isn't disastrous either. Some rooms have a beautiful fireplace *and* a beautiful view. It's a tough problem to have, right? ;)

I always advise people to choose a primary focal point, and to direct attention to it in the ways we've discussed above. But it's okay to have a second beautiful area to look at too. Just don't draw attention to it in quite the same way.

What if the TV is the focal point?

Well we got there. The biggy. This is the question that I get asked the most about focal points, and there is no one right answer.

In many homes, the main purpose of a living room is to watch TV, and function has to be considered alongside the look of a room. After all, we are creating real homes for real people here!

TVs are often wall mounted, and they are getting bigger and bigger, meaning that they are hard to ignore.

To make matters worse, all of the furniture in the room is often positioned facing the TV, which further emphasises that as the star of the show. 

Now, you could put your TV inside a TV cabinet so that it is completely hidden from view when you are not watching it, but really, who can be bothered to be opening and closing doors all of the time? 

One great way to lessen the visual impact of a TV is to create a gallery wall around it, so that it doesn't stand out as a feature in its own right. This way, the whole wall becomes the feature, not just the TV

Via Pinterest

Creating a focal point above the TV also works well. In the image below, the wall has been painted the same colour as the TV, and an eye-catching piece of artwork is placed above to draw the eye upwards, and then up again to the light fixing above. Against the black wall, and with these other focal points in place, the TV is hardly noticeable.

Clever!

Via Pinterest

Getting a strong focal point right in your room brings a sense of calm and order to your home. Allow one focal point to shine, and let everything else sit back and take it easy. 

Have you used any of these tricks in your own home? What problems have you come across and how did you resolve them? Let us know in the comments below. 

Until next time x

Main Blog Image via IdealHome.co.uk with permission.

5 KEY INGREDIENTS FOR A WELL STYLED COFFEE TABLE

5 KEY INGREDIENTS FOR A WELL STYLED COFFEE TABLE

(Prefer this in video format? Click the image above)

Most people have a coffee table nestled between the furniture in their living space, and most of us would admit that this fairly functional piece of furniture doesn't get a lot of love and attention.

It's often the dumping ground for remote controls, and it bears the brunt of our coffee mug circles. But it doesn't have to be this way! 

So why bother to style this little space in your home? Well, styling your coffee table makes your home look finished. It's the difference between having a home which looks complete, and one which looks merely functional. They don't call them the finishing touches for nothing.

The great thing about styling different areas of your home is that it doesn't have to be expensive (you can use items you already have or even grab a few stems from the garden) and you can swap out your display as and when the mood takes you.

People get really caught up in worrying that their styling has to be perfect, but that's really not the case. There are a few key ingredients that you need to have in place to create a decent vignette, but beyond that, it's about experimenting and playing. Even the best stylists I know play around with different combinations of items until they are happy with what they achieve. Your coffee table gives you the perfect, low-risk place to practise a bit of styling.

So are you up for a challenge? Don't worry, it's low-risk.

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to take a photo of your coffee table right now. Just snap it on your phone. Done? Right, next have a read of the ingredients below, and then finally, I want you to play around with the objects you can find in your home and create a coffee table vignette.

I give you permission to play, to experiment and to not get it right first time! When you're done, come and share your 'after' photo in the Facebook group.

Are you up for it?

OK, let's read on! 

INGREDIENT NUMBER ONE:

A good table display (in fact any display) is made up of layers. We start with a foundation layer and then add in other items. This is what makes the decor look 'dressed'. The first layer that you can use on your coffee table is a table runner. This sets the foundation for the vignette and grounds the display, connecting your decor with the table it is sitting on. Now this doesn't have to be anything fancy; any piece of fabric that you have around, which matches your decor will be fine. Position along the middle of the table and leave enough to hang down about half way towards the floor. 

INGREDIENT NUMBER TWO:

The place to start when dressing your coffee table is to corral all of your accessories together. I highly recommend that you use a tray to gather your decor together. This has two purposes: firstly it makes all of your decor look intentional, and secondly it means that if you need more usable space on the coffee table, it is easy to just whip the tray off and place it elsewhere, without having to disturb your decor. 

Which tray to use? Consider the shape of the table. Coffee tables generally come in three shapes: Circular (or oval), rectangular or square, and your tray should match the shape of the table. Match either the room's colour scheme, or the wood or metallic finishes in your room.

A tray also gives you a place to hide the more unsightly objects such as remote controls. I use a small decorative box on my coffee table tray, which hides the TV remotes and those awful X-Box controls that the boys in my household insist on having. 

INGREDIENT NUMBER THREE:

Coffee table books- yes, they even have a name. A small stack of books gives you a horizontal element to layer on your tray, or next to it. The trick with coffee table books is to use hardback books only. Paperbacks just don't have the same luxe appeal. Be sure to take off the slip covers as these can look tatty. Stack two or three of them as a vignette in their own right, or use them as a plinth to raise up a smaller decorative object.

And yes, I do buy books just to match the colour scheme in my room, and I see nothing wrong with that! Charity shops are a great place to pick up books in the right colour, and you can often pick up a handful of books for just a few pounds. Just make sure to check the colour of the book underneath the slip cover before buying.

INGREDIENT NUMBER FOUR:

Now that you have your flat layers in place, you need to think about how to bring height into the display. A candlestick, finial, ornament or even a tall plant, like an orchid would fit the bill. Bring together a tall item at the peak of your display, include smaller items on the tray and then bridge the gap with some medium height items (like the smaller candle and the knitted holder in this image on the right). 

INGREDIENT NUMBER FIVE: 

Source: Image Left | Source: Image Middle | Source: Image Right

Remember that your display will be seen from all sides so it needs to have dimension from every angle. A decorative object is an easy way to bring in this 3D aspect, and if you can include objects which are rounded or look the same from all sides, then so much the better. There are endless items that you can use to bring depth and variety to your display. In the images above, an animal ornament, a zinc letter, rattan balls and a glass terrarium have been used very effectively to create both interest and dimension.

So now it's over to you. Go and collect a few objects from around your home, and have a little play around to see how many different vignettes you can create. I give you permission to play, permission to experiment, and permission to change as many times as you like. 

When you're done, come and share your best vignette with us in the Facebook group. I can't wait to see them. 

Until next time x

Main Image Source: via www.Ideal Home.co.uk, with permission

PREPARING YOUR HOME FOR A SPRING CLEAN AND DECLUTTER

PREPARING YOUR HOME FOR A SPRING CLEAN AND DECLUTTER

It's that time of year again when the daffodils are in full bloom, the weak sun is gaining strength and everything starts to feel well.. just better. At long last, winter is well and truly over!

I know that there will be people nodding along with me when I say that I always get an overwhelming urge to have a good old declutter and clean of my house at this time of the year. It's not called a 'Spring Clean' for nothing! 

There is something lovely about casting off the warmth and snug of the winter blankets and comforters, throwing open the windows and filling the house with vases of fresh spring flowers. 

If you've been hibernating all winter though, decluttering your home and preparing it for Spring can be a daunting task. But it doesn't need to be. Here are my top tips to help you get your home looking ship-shape and Spring-ready in no time.

1. Prepare Yourself.

Before you even pick up a duster, make sure that you have everything you need to get your home cleared. Get sufficient boxes for your needs; I suggest a box for items going to charity, one for recycling, and one for the tip. Make sure that the charity shops and recycling centres are open on the days that you are clearing out so that you can get the clutter right out of your home once you are done. 

2. Start in one area only.

Don't try to tackle the whole house at once. Choose just one room, and within that room just one cupboard or shelf and begin there. Commit to finishing that area in its entirety before moving onto anywhere else. 

3. Set the timer

We start off decluttering in a state of enthusiasm, imagining well folded clothes, clear floors and minimalist shelving but after working on an area for a few hours you can easily lose motivation and give up. Using the 'Pomodoro' technique can help you to get past these motivation blockers.

The what technique? The Podomoro technique is simply a way to block out period of time to keep you focussed on a task. Simply set an alarm for a small amount of time (between 19 and 25 minutes is about right) and commit to tidying and clearing until the alarm goes off. Once the timer goes off, you can decide to call it a day, or you can commit to doing another round of 19 minutes. This gives you clear, targeted periods of intense work, but also the option to stop once you've had enough. 

4. Remove everything

Yes, that's right: Everything. Take every item off of the shelf, remove everything from your closet. This ensures that you are making conscious decisions about what you are going to keep, and what you are going to rid yourself of. Anything that you put back has to be something that you are making an intentional decision about. Maria Kondo tells us that we should only keep objects which 'spark joy'. If it's not useful, and you don't love it, it's time for it to go. 

5. Pare down your Clothing

Look, I know that you loved those bright red hot pants and when you lose a stone, they will look great again. But the truth is that keeping old clothing like this is just clutter masquerading as something you think you need to keep. Weed out clothes that you haven't worn for 12 months, clothes that don't fit and clothes that just don't 'spark joy' (see above). And when you lose that stone? Wouldn't you rather treat yourself to something new? Get rid of those hot pants now!

Make extra room in your closet for seasonal Spring clothing by packaging up your chunky winter knits and vacuum packing them before storing them under a bed. 

6. Get on top of your paperwork

Ugh, we all know the clutter that is caused by piles of paperwork and magazines. Use one of your 19 minute slots to commit to removing one pile of papers. There are very few documents that need to be kept in hard copy format these days, so unless it's something like a birth certificate or the deeds of your house, photograph or scan the paperwork and store it in an electronic folder, and then shred and recycle the paper. 

7. Stop Hoarding

Seriously. You do not need 3 different phone chargers, 8 tins of chopped tomatoes and those cut off pieces of wood "just in case". Those "just in case" items are holding you back from having a home that you love. Purge, and stop hoarding once and for all. 

8. Source Sufficient Storage

A quick caveat here: getting sufficient storage isn't an excuse for you to keep the cr*p that you should have been purging in the steps above. As William Morris once said, have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful". Outside of that, chuck it!

However, once you've whittled everything down to just those things that you really do need and want to keep, it makes everything a lot tidier if you have somewhere specific to store it all. A place for everything and everything in its place is your mantra here. So firstly identify what causes your clutter: Clothing? Get another set of drawers. Batteries and Lightbulbs? Get a box specifically for that purpose. Paperwork? Get a filing cabinet and/or in-tray.

Don't forget to make use of the storage you already have. Wasted spaces like on top of wardrobes or under beds are great places to store items which are not needed on a daily basis. 

9. Get Cleaning!

And finally... get cleaning! Always start at the top of a room (so dust around the ceiling for cobwebs first) and then work your way down, finishing with the floors. 

With all of that done, time to reward yourself with a nice bunch of Spring flowers, or even polishing off the kids' leftover Easter eggs. Go on... I said you could ;)

Come and join us over in our Facebook group to let us know about your Spring cleaning and decluttering efforts.  

THE SECRET TO MANAGING A SUCCESSFUL HOME DÉCOR PROJECT

THE SECRET TO MANAGING A SUCCESSFUL HOME DECOR PROJECT

For some people, managing a home decor project can be exciting, but for others, the mention of a decorating project can fill you with dread. The myriad of things that can go wrong- costly mistakes, running out of money, cowboy tradespeople- can freeze you in your tracks and stop you from even starting.

But it doesn't have to be like this. Whether you are taking on a small decorating project, or a large-scale refurbishment, having a clear project plan sets you up for success right from the start.

Here are my top tips for planning a successful project:

1. Be clear about the scope of your project

Ever started to paint a bedroom and then it turns into buying new bedding... replacing the nightstands... getting new lighting... and oh, the curtains need to be changed too? Before you start a decorating project, make sure that you are clear about the extent of the project, and what you are trying to achieve. Changing the scope of the project part way through (known as scope creep) can get expensive very quickly!

2. Start with the end in mind

Most people decorate a room in stages. They choose a wall colour, paint it on, and then start to bring in furniture, soft furnishings and accessories. As they go along, they find items they like and include them in the scheme piece by piece, But after a while, they become stuck and unsure of which cushion patterns to choose, which accessories to bring in, and which artwork to choose. They're not sure how to style a space, or which colours go together well. Sound familiar? It should do because it's how 90% of us decorate our homes. 

The trouble with this approach is that you haven't started with the end scheme in mind. You have a rough idea of how the room will look, but you haven't really planned out the detail. Interior designers plan out a complete room scheme from start to finish, and this ensures that they end up with a complete and cohesive scheme. So before you pick up a paint brush, be sure to plan out all of the details. Bring them all together in a mood board so that you can check all your finishes before you begin. 

If you need help to plan out your home, come and join my course, Design Your Home Like A Pro, which teaches you to do just that. #shamelessplug

 

3. Create a Budget Plan

As you are creating your design scheme, you should also create a budget plan at the same time. Many people start a decorating project with their heads buried in the sand, not wanting to face up to how much it's going to cost. Instead of hiding from the costs, creating a budget plan actually liberates you because you can see all of your costs from the start, and you can make choices about where to spend, and where to save.

There are two ways that you can build a budget. Either decide how much you are going to spend, and then choose accessories and items which fit into this sum, or choose the things you want to have, cost them and that's how you arrive at you budget. 

Personally, I always recommend the second method, even if it means that you have to save to get what you want. After all, if you make too many compromises, you'll never end up with a home you love, and what's the point of that?

When putting your budget plan together, be sure to research every item you want to include so that there are no nasty pricing surprises once your project starts. Remember also to include the costs of items such as paint brushes, sandpaper and delivery costs, which don't immediately come to mind. Cost out not just the items you want to include, but get quotations for labour too. Make sure that you are getting 'quotations' and not 'estimates', as hidden costs can escalate quickly. Get fixed prices where possible.

And finally, always include a contingency within your budget in case anything goes wrong. 10% is a good rule of thumb to allow.

4. Create a Task Timeline

Once you are clear about your project and your design scheme, you need to break down each large task into smaller tasks so that you can see the full extent of the work that is needed. You can then begin to assign timescales to each of the tasks within the project to make sure that you are being realistic about how much time is needed. Simply writing each task on a post it note helps you to organise the tasks. Make sure that you include time for things like paint drying too. 

This also enables you to see interdependencies between tasks. It may be that you can't start one task until another has been completed, and this becomes particularly important if you are employing several different trades. 

5. Organise your workers

If you are employing workers to carry out some elements of your project, you need to manage them carefully. Before contracting a worker, get recommendations from friends and family, or ask for references and to see examples of their work.

If you are employing someone to do gas or electrical work, make sure that they have the necessary certifications. This also applies to window installations and wood burners too. Check with your local authority about any planning or other permissions you may need; this is YOUR responsibility as the home owner, and a tradesperson may not tell you what you need.

Share your timeline with your tradespeople and ask whether their tasks fit in with this schedule. Share the interdependencies with them so that they can see the 'big picture' and how they fit in with that. Confirm the timeline in writing with your contractors, so that they are clear about the implications of them falling behind with any work. Agree up front what will happen if any slippage occurs. 

Once the project starts, check in with your contractors regularly to make sure that everything is going to plan. Check with suppliers too that items you have ordered are going to be delivered when you expect. 

As my grandmother always used to say, "You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs" and she was right! You should prepare for some mess and disruption, and be ready for a few things to go wrong, but if you follow these tips, you should stand a good chance of managing a smooth decorating project. 

What are you planning to project manage next? Let us know in the comments below.