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When it comes to making a house feel like a home there’s more than meets the eye. Pulling a room together and transforming the features to make it functional and stylish yet homely is not often an easy task.
From working out what paint works best in different rooms and lighting options to where to place furniture – there are so many elements to consider. That’s where an interior designer’s help and expertise becomes invaluable.
Whether you’re renovating an entire house, sprucing up the kitchen or adding a splash of colour to freshen up a living room – these helpful DIY and decorating pointers are not to be missed. Leading interior designer Vanessa Arbuthnott shares her designer tips and secrets to gain insider knowledge for transforming homes like a professional.
12 of the best interior design tips
1. Make it your own
Remember it’s your home. ‘There are no rights nor wrongs in interior design, everyone has the potential to design their own home,’ says Vanessa Arbuthnott. ‘It’s just a matter of getting an eye for it. Remember that you are in control, taking the latest trends into account is worthwhile but always put your own personal spin on something to make it special. Your home is where you spend most of your time, so the space needs to reflect you.’
2. Seek design inspiration for a mood board
‘Transform your interiors from tired to revitalised by gathering inspirational images from magazines, Instagram, Pinterest etc’ Vanessa advises. ‘Once you have a strong collection you will begin to see the look you would like to achieve. Creating a mood board is a great way to use your creativity to unleash any hidden design inspiration you may have subconsciously seen.’
Vanessa goes on to explain how she does this, ‘Buy a large foam board and pins from your local art or stationary shop and collate samples, images, samples of the fabrics, wallpapers, furniture and flooring that you might want to use. This way you can see how they would all sit together within the room.’ Stressing, ‘ it is important to add textures through flooring, rugs and fabrics such as velvet, wool, and tweed. Place the mood board in the room and live with it for a while.’
3. Consider colours and fabrics
‘Start to hone in on the colours you want to use – for the painted walls or wallpaper, furniture, blinds and curtains. The third colour could be a highlight for cushions, lampshades, bed quilts and accessories such as a tablecloth or even a painting.’
Vanessa offers this brilliant top tip: three colours are always better than two – use these colours throughout the room.
4. Try before you buy paint and paper
‘Remember that colours can change depending on lighting so buy sample pots and paint’ Vanessa warns. ‘Paint at least A2 sized paint patches, on the lightest and the darkest walls in the same room – to see how the natural light affects the shade.’ This is especially effective for finding the best white paint, because it changes so much in the light.
Same goes for wallpaper, ‘Tape wallpaper samples to the walls and drape large returnable samples over existing furniture or pin them to existing curtains and blinds. Stand back and see what you think!’ she enthuses.
5. Transform old to new
‘If you have a blank canvas it’s easier, but more often we must work with existing sofas or rugs etc. Look closely at the rug and see if you can work with the colours within it. Maybe you can reupholster the old favourite sofa to give it a new lease of life? Decide if you are someone who likes pattern or plain; traditional or contemporary; and look at a colour wheel or nature itself to see what colours go with what. For instance, pinks and reds with greens, orange with duck egg, yellows with grey and blues.
6. Size up the furniture
‘Decide on the furniture you want in your room. Think about scale, in a large room you need a big sofa and footstool’ Vanessa advises. ‘Most designers recommend that even small rooms should have one large statement piece, even if it is a headboard in a bedroom. A balance of large and small pieces will create an appealing living space.’
7. Analyse the look and take your time
‘Collect pieces as you come across them, this way you will purchase things you’ve fallen in love with. Rather than settling for what’s available in certain stores or online at the time you need something’ are Vanessa’s wise words. ‘You can spend time analysing the look and colours of your room with accessories. The more time you take to add things into your house, your interior design knowledge will expand as you can understand what works best with certain features.’
8. Order returnable samples
‘Once you have narrowed your choice right down and have a good idea of what you might want, order some returnable samples’ Vanessa reveals. ‘These are half metres of fabric which works best draped over backs of chairs and pined to existing curtains and blinds. The test will see if you’re still happy with them after a few days. This is also a great way to see how fabrics look against the paint colours.’
9. Be bold with paint ideas
The days of strict paint rules are over, the key to interior design in modern times is to embrace the paint idea that works for you. There are no rules of painting doors frames, skirting boards and ceilings in a brilliant white anymore – in fact some top interior designers argue against it! Kelly Hoppen’ s advice for painting skirting boards is a game changer, she explains how painting the skirting the same same colour as the walls can help to make the room feel bigger.
10. Remember measuring is key
‘Decision time happens when you measure up your windows.’ Ensure you have the correct measurements before you even think about ordering blinds or curtains in particular rooms. Read more on that here: What not to do when choosing curtains – from measuring to styling all is revealed.
11. Add finishing touches
‘The finishing touches are the fun bit!’ Vanessa exclaims. ‘Lampshades, rugs, cushions, paintings and plants can all make a huge difference, but are sometimes hard to choose until you have the walls painted or papered and curtains hanging. Even the colours on the spines of books in a bookshelf, a throw on the back of the sofa, or in a kitchen ceramic, tablecloths, create opportunities for accents of colour.’
12. Fill a room with a signature fragrance
Take note from hotel-style and give your home a signature scent, it’s incredible how much this can transform your home. Luxury hotels with select a key scent to have throughout, which then becomes associated with that place – adopt this by choosing your own signature smell for home, to engage the scenes. There’s no place like home, so ensure all your senses are alerted to the feeling of home the minute you step through the door. Use the best home fragrance for your via scented candles, diffusers and essential oils.
Be sure to make use of this wisdom for your next decorating project.