styling secrets – dining table

The dining room table is a bit of an odd one when it comes to styling. If you are styling for the photographs of a glossy mag, then it’s easy. You can go all out, or keep it simple. Or even for sales purposes, you know that the table should be the focus, not what’s on it. But for your home, day to day? It’s a bit different. The table always serves the same primary purpose, but it changes depending on the meal you eat at it or how many people use it at any one time. So what’s the best way of keeping it looking nice all day long?

During the day, you wouldn’t have place settings made up, or food perfectly placed to look fab in a photo. You would have a table. In its raw form. But you can add to this without it looking too staged, just so you have something breaking up that vast flat surface.

Similarly to coffee table stylingflowers or other natural objects always look great at the centre of your dining table. As well as candles in hurricane lamps, or on candelabras. It really depends on the size of your space and the location of your table. If you happen to have a chandelier or other light fitting hanging low over your table, that adds to the overall styling of it, without it even touching the surface.
Sometimes, the simpler the better. A dining table needs to look clean and fresh, as well as inviting. So if it is clutter free, and allows you to quickly and easily set the table for dinner, it’s a winner. You just need a couple of small items grouped together, or one big one in the centre to add enough interest to an otherwise blank table top.

There are countless examples online, but here’s an interesting festive twist to an average vase. This was from a photo shoot I assisted on for Mel at Country Knole Interiors.

Photo by James Billett for Country Knole Interiors
Photo by James Billett for Country Knole Interiors
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styling secrets – coffee table

A coffee table is an essential element in the main living area of your home. When you think of this space, immediately the mind goes to ‘something to sit on’, and ‘something to centre those seats around’. Cue your coffee table.

It’s a practical piece, and something you can splurge on, pick up at a thrift store and up-cycle yourself, purchase flat pack from a store – whatever. But once you’ve found the right one for you, and set it in its place, it tends to become a sort of dumping ground – a home for your remote controls and paperwork. But it has so much more potential than this.

It can be styled and beautifully executed. After all, it is going to be in the centre of a seating space – and it can even become a focal point for the entire room. A way to draw everything around it in so that the room feels as though it is all connected and spatially thought out.

Everyone obviously has their own personal tastes, but I do think there are some fundamentals in coffee table styling. For example, flowers, or at least something natural. Pot pourri, natural vase fillers, a pot plant, pine cones.. just something natural. My personal preference is flowers. It adds life and colour to the room as well as creating texture and height on the flat surface of the coffee table.

Other examples include candles, books, decorative objects and trays to arrange these on.
Candles add softness and warmth to the arrangement. They create a homely feel and a coffee table is the perfect place to house these whether they are lit or not. Books must be what are known as “coffee table books”. Not novels. Books that are interesting, and usually based on a theme. Books that you would like to flick through to look at pictures, or ones that inspire conversation between you and your guests. They are usually large and hardback, can be about fashion, interiors, gardening, specific decades – anything really! But make sure you are interested in them. They have to be useful for you too.
Decorative objects are the ‘fluffy’ parts of the whole arrangement. They can be anything from ornaments to mini sculptures. They are another way of adding colour or texture or general aesthetic interest. And finally, trays. This one is quite new to me. But having worked in home retail now for over 2 years, I have come across a LOT of decorative trays. And they are gorgeous. The perfect way to house little objects on the top of your table – or even a new home for those remote controls!

Photo from allurehouseinteriors
Photo from allurehouseinteriors
Photo from decohubs
Photo from decohubs
Photo from maureenstevens
Photo from maureenstevens
Photo from sparklemeetspop
Photo from sparklemeetspop
Photo from caribbeanlivingblog
Photo from caribbeanlivingblog

#newyearnewhome

Many people jump-start their January with a new health and fitness regime, a hair makeover or with a newly-booked holiday to a faraway destination, giving them something exciting to look forward to as the next few dull, grey months edge ever-closer. The hashtag “newyearnewme” has dotted my Twitter feed the past week (often ironically) – but the New Year is the perfect time to start afresh in your home and get it ready for the big Spring Clean.

I have quite a few bits of advice to dish out from organising spaces in your home with handy storage solutions to giving rooms a mini-makeover on a budget (it has just been Christmas after all). So stay with me, the next post will be up shortly.

New Year 2015 formed from sparking digits over black background

Photo by Health Fitness Revolution

styling secrets – bookshelves

It’s been a while since I wrote a piece on styling. After my Styling Room by Room series, I didn’t really know where else I could go with it. But I thought I could look in more depth at the details of each room. How to style individual pieces of furniture or  areas of the rooms, as well as the importance of styling window dressings for photos.

So we’ll start with one of my favourites: bookshelves.

They come in all shapes and sizes, widths and heights, with a variety of usable and empty spaces.. so is there just one set of rules that can be followed? Not really. It is dependent on which room the bookshelves are in and what their function is. Some people have feature bookshelves, built into alcoves or custom made to fill a whole wall where they want to display not only books, but decorative objects too. While others have practical bookshelves, that tend to be smaller and serve the primary purpose of encasing books. So there are rules, but you can pick and choose which ones apply to you depending on the kind of shelving you have and what you use it for.

Bookshelves and cases used to be used solely for giving a home to those battered, much-loved spines, but those days are gone. Lots of people want to make even their practical bookcases look a little more special, while others prefer to use the space to display decorative items as opposed to reading material.

1. Colour block your books/objects. This one is self-explanatory.. I have seen great examples of this in a variety of shelves. From grouping the same coloured books together along the lengths of the shelves, to having a pile of books in one colour next to a display of trinkets of that same colour. It doesn’t work for everyone, but if it’s to your taste, it can look fab.

2. Checker-board your books/items. This is slightly more difficult to explain, but if you imagine a checker-board then my description should be of some use. This would work well for those of you wanting to house your books as well as display a few items. Imagine the top shelf split into three sections: on the left hand side, you’d have some books (stacked, standing, however you want them) in the centre, you’d have a cluster of decorative items (a vase, a glass bottle, and an ornament) and then on the right hand side, you’d have books again – the same way you’d displayed them on the opposite side.
Then on the shelf below, imagine it being split into three again. Only this time, from left to right, you’d have decorative objects, books, decorative objects. That’s your basic checker-board. It works well for open kitchen shelving too – mixing up bowls and plates and mugs.

3. Combine books and objects. On each shelf you could have a small pile of books with an object placed on top. Then on another shelf you could have a small selection of books standing up to one side with an object placed next to it. This is very open to your own creativity, but works better for lighter displays (ie. not for shelves that are jam-packed with books!)

4. Alternate. You can alternate shelves of books and objects. Quite similar to the checker-board, but you keep one type per shelf. So a whole shelf of books. Then a whole shelf of objects.

5. Random placement. This is the most creative, it has no limits except that again, this works best on lighter shelving. You can place books and objects in any way you want, remembering to keep a balance of colour and weight across the whole case. Adding eye-catching objects at the edges and corners to draw the eye across the entire display. You can use the rule of thirds here as it works well for aesthetics.

6. Be creative. You won’t get the perfect bookcase on your first try. So attempt a few different things, stand back and really look at what you’ve created. Look at the bits you aren’t happy with and think about what would make it better. Experiment!

Here are a few varying examples of what others have done on Pinterest, so see what you like and remember, it can be different depending on which room it is in.

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what’s trending?

It’s a bit late in the year to be forecasting trends for 2014, but just the other day I was thinking about things I’ve either seen a lot of in interiors, or things that I have expected to see and have not.

Interior trends tend to follow fashion trends, so when you look to the catwalks for next seasons clothing, you can be sure to see the trends featured there seeping into interiors in the following months.

Tribal and ethnic prints have been everywhere. All year. And this is pretty evident in any high street retailer now. The trend has gone from the designers, to the catwalks, and eventually filtered into the homes of everyone. As have florals. Floral prints have been around for a number of years now, and each year they take a different twist. Small, ditsy prints one year, to large, bold, almost Hawaiian next.. then faded and pastels. You get the gist.

The trend I was thinking about the other day is ombre. It’s been around for a year or two so it’s not exactly this year’s newest thing and I am by no means forecasting it. But I just couldn’t think if I’d seen it in interiors at all. And I wanted to know if it had made it into our homes. So I did a little research.

For those of you that don’t know, ombre is a French word meaning shaded. In fashion, it seems to apply to any garment that starts out one colour and gradually changes to another. It didn’t start in fashion though. I first heard about it in relation to the hair colour. I saw it on a celebrity once and thought, ‘I MUST have that, I wonder what it’s called?’

Since then it has appeared as a nail varnish trend, cake decorating (the actual cake batter and the frosting), clothing, floral arrangements.. everything. And I just hadn’t seen it crop up in interiors with the exception of a couple of cushion covers.

What my research showed me is that some people have taken this trend into their interiors; with mixed results.

Here are a few photos of things I’ve seen. Personally, I absolutely LOVE the ombre paint effect on a wall. In certain colours it oozes glamour and sophistication while also adopting its own personality. I want one of these walls. What do you think?

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secrets of styling

I recently assisted the styling of a photo shoot at St David’s Hotel in Cardiff Bay, using one of the hotel suites as a stage to showcase the new fabric collection – Riviera – for Sunbury Design.

I wanted to share this sooner but couldn’t use the photos until the collection was out. So after much anticipation, I am finally able to post this blog. Below you’ll find a selection of the photos that are now featured one the website (www.sunburydesign.com)

I have mentioned before that styling is an illusion. Photos are staged and created for each individual shot. By checking out the hotel website and looking at the existing rooms first, you’ll get a better idea of what I mean. The decor in the suite we used was fairly neutral, with heavy dark brown curtains at the windows and brown throws/cushions on the bed.

I wanted to show on here a kind of ‘before and after’ of the room to give an insight into just how much of a transformation a space goes under when styling interiors. For this shoot, a false headboard was made in one of the Riviera fabrics which fit over the top of the existing one, we took down the curtains and hung others in their place showing three more of the fabrics from the collection, and also brought in different furniture and a selection of cushions and throws.

Take a look at the finished result..

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the rule of thirds

So far, I have failed to mention this thing called ‘the rule of thirds’. If you have ever done anything remotely creative, or studied film or photography in any way – you are likely to know what I am talking about. If not, then this concept might be completely alien to you.

It is, in its simplest form, a guideline that applies to the process of composing visual images. It can be broken down in two basic ways. Firstly, that each image works on an invisible grid. Imagine a photo, then divide it into three horizontally by drawing two lines across it at equal distances, and then do the same vertically. If you are taking a photo of a sunset, you are likely to have a horizon line. This is likely to sit across the bottom line on your grid – taking up the lower third of your image. A sunset photo will also have a sun in it. This is likely to sit in the central third vertically, but equally it could sit on one of the vertical lines if there is anything else of interest in the image. This grid assists the composition of the image in a way that is most visually pleasing. It is one of those unspoken rules – one that just kind of happens naturally, and it’s only when you analyse an image you realise you are conforming to the general idea that every photo is made up of three thirds.

The second way you can break down this rule of thirds is less common. You wouldn’t necessarily find that people talk about this as much – perhaps because it seems too obvious? Or maybe it is just lesser known? I don’t know.
But it is that things come in threes. Objects mainly. In interior photography you find this much more. It’s kind of a twist on the basic triangle used in things like shop window design and visual merchandising. Things work well in threes. They are aesthetically pleasing. You have three stools at at the kitchen counter. Three containers on the work surface. A group of three trinkets on the mantle piece. Three pops of colour spaced in a triangular formation in the frame of the image. Something about being a group of three works well with the eyes. It makes it a more exciting and dynamic image and it takes the viewers’ eyes across the entire photo.

I haven’t explained in the best way possible I know – so maybe head to google for a more well-rounded definition. I just suddenly realised it was something I do, and something I come across a lot in photos of interiors. It’s an important part of styling that so far, I haven’t mentioned.

So next time you’re flicking through a magazine or browsing on Pinterest, see how many threes you can point out. They aren’t always so obvious, but they’re there. Assorted-Velvet-Chair-Dining-Room-Homes-and-Gardens-Housetohome Blue-and-White-Hallway-25-Beautiful-Homes-Housetohome stools Tonal-Grey-and-Lime-Bedroom-Ideal-Home-Housetohome Walnut-and-Green-Bedroom-Livingetc-Housetohome White-and-Purple-Living-Room-Ideal-Home-Housetohome Yellow-and-Oak-Wood-Living-Room-Country-Homes-and-Interiors-Housetohome

 

 

how to decorate without decorating

‘What does that mean?’ I hear you say. Well, after having spent three years in university accommodation, with many friends still living in rented housing awaiting the opportunity to buy their own property, I am aware of those white/cream/magnolia walls and (usually) brown carpets adorning the circumferences of living spaces. In rented housing, you are sometimes allowed to decorate to your own taste. You can paint the walls and sometimes even hang wallpaper. But not always. And often, why would you want to invest the money when it’s not your own property?

So how can you make this blank, unexciting canvas your own without a lick of paint and a change of carpet?

Trust me, it is possible.

There are two things you can do.
1) Embrace the neutral
2) Add colour

Embracing the neutral can be great – so long as that’s your taste and you add your personality into it as well. This means that you go with the white/beige walls and often, using furniture made of natural materials is the preference. Also, the accessories tie in with the neutral palette all working together to create a clean and usually classy-looking space.

The second option – adding colour – is usually the better way to make a rented house your home. Most people do like to use colour (not everyone though) and so looking at the ways you can do this without paint touching the walls is the main theme of this post.

First you have to consider the main areas of the room: windows, walls and floor.
If you cannot touch the walls and the flooring is already decided for you, you need to work with that and around that.

So what can you do with the walls? Hanging artwork and photos is a great way to add your own touch to a room. A wall needs something on it, an added bit of interest, so choosing things to hang on it is an important step to consider.
But what about those of you who aren’t allowed to hang things up in your rented property?
Some landlords/ladies do not want excessive amounts of nails hammered into the walls of their property. So this makes being able to hang pictures impossible. There are some ways around it, but also other methods of livening up the walls without using frames or ‘damaging’ them in some way.
If you have any other surfaces, like a mantle piece or a dresser or a console table, you can use this to lean pictures or mirrors on. This way they are leaning against the wall as though they are hanging as a decorative item, but they aren’t.
Alternatively, you can forget that, and skip to Plan B. Finding other ways to break up the blank spaces.
In a bedroom, this can be done with a statement headboard. You can get headboards that rise to the height of the ceiling. They can be covered in any fabric of your choice and you instantly have a block of colour at the centre of your room to add interest, personality and individuality that the décor of a  rented property rarely offers.

Now, the flooring. There is not a lot you can do with flooring that is already there, so you have to work with it. Usually it is kept neutral for you, so adding a rug is an instant way to add colour and create a scheme for your room, tying everything together.
Don’t get a rug that is too small. They are supposed to fill the central space of say, the sitting area, and so technically the furniture should be on or touching the rug. It shouldn’t just be the size of a postage stamp under the coffee table. I don’t always agree with this rule 100%. I think it needs to be relative to the space. So no, don’t have one that is way too small, but equally, it doesn’t always have to cover virtually the entire carpet! In the instance of rentals however, if you are stuck with a terrible carpet, it might not be a bad idea to get the biggest rug you can to cover what’s underneath.

Windows. This are always a major part of a space, and the joy of windows is that you can use any window dressing you want. In rentals, this is entirely up to you. Some properties come with curtains or blinds already – but these are things you CAN change. You just need to remember to change them back when you move out.
Again, this is an excellent opportunity to tie a scheme together. If you have a rug in a certain colour, you’ll use the window dressings as an opportunity to echo that and work with it. This is where your personality comes into it. This is yours, and everything you put in the room from now on is yours. You can start to make this house your home. And the best part? You get to take it all with you when you move on.

Those are the three main aspects of any room. Now you get to think about furniture and accessories. The things that make this space yours.

Statement furniture is an excellent idea. Instead of a neutral coloured sofa – get one that stands out against the cream walls. Get an exciting lampshade. Add pops of colour through throws and cushions, bedside lamps, the utensils pot on your kitchen counter and the photo frames that sit on the surfaces. Put some things on display. Like cookery books in the kitchen. Colourful towels in the bathroom. Choose your bedding wisely. And your bed. It’s the feature of that room, so let it speak louder than the plain walls. Make sure you love everything you put in your home, and that it really shows who you are and what you’re about.

It’s so easy not to feel fully settled in a place you know isn’t truly yours. But this way, you can make it your own. And because you can take everything with you, it’s an investment for your future home too.

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my story

I recently had a request to write a bit more of a personal blog post, about me, my inspirations, my thought processes. My design story I suppose. It’s been a while since I did – probably since I came back from travelling, after a long time of neglecting this blog. In that post, I talked about my personal struggle in getting my dream job, which was a big thing for me. I am still on that journey, but so so so much further along on it.

So, about me:
My likes, loves and other little facts
My friends and family. I have the most amazing ones, and the cutest, most gorgeous little  6 month old niece. This includes my church family, one I am so blessed to be a part of.
I have a bit of a sweet tooth. Chocolate, cake, jelly beans, Haribo.. It’s terrible.
Love the outdoors. Beaches are my favourite. Putting on wellies and heading into the countryside comes a close second.
Cooking and baking – food in general. Dinner parties. Alfresco dining. I need more of this in my life.
Being creative and crafty. I’ve personalised a lot of furniture. Made gifts for people. I like to sketch too. And paint sometimes. Designing wallpaper is something I want to pick up again.
Reading. I love getting lost in a book. And a film. I do like watching films.
Wandering around markets is another past time of mine. I haven’t done this in a while.
And photography. I’ve got an old SLR coming my way. I cannot wait to have a play with that.
I secretly love lazy days. They are better with company. But sometimes, doing nothing is just what you need to be doing.
Holidays. Who doesn’t love a holiday? There aren’t many things that beat a bit of sunshine and sand.
Travelling. Getting immersed into a different culture. That moment when you realise you don’t speak a single word of the same language as a person, but you communicate anyway.
I fell in love with interior design when I was eight years old. Changing Rooms was the start of that. Looking back now, who would have thought it?!

Things that inspire my design
I wrote about places you can find inspiration in another blog post here and a lot of the same things apply so have a read. But more personally, my journey of inspiration is probably more complex than it should be.
I am not one of those people who will see something as they’re walking around a market or through a park and instantly know that they have found the inspiration for their new collection of wallpaper. I have to know I need inspiring and seek it out. This then makes me go to the markets and wander my surroundings and visit the galleries and look at the shop windows.
Equally, I see friends of mine snapping the most gorgeous pictures and posting them on instagram, and they just happen to have been passing say, under a staircase and seen the perfect opportunity for a photo. I sometimes miss those moments. I get them occasionally, but not as much as I’d like.
I think with me, feeling inspired is something I have to switch on. Maybe it’s because I’m not designing full time. It’s not ‘what I do’ at the moment. When I need to be inspired, I can be… I just need a little awakening to do so. That’s why I want to make it part of my everyday life. It’s thing I most love doing, and I want what I love to be what I do.

My thought processes
So when I do get these moments of instant “I must get this down now while it’s on my mind”, I go through a notion of things.
Firstly, something inside clicks. I sometimes, subconsciously, do what I call The Goosebump Test. Certain things touch me in a way that makes the hairs on my arms stand. This doesn’t always apply. Sometimes, something simply makes me smile. It speaks to me in some way. That’s when I know I’ve got something to work with.
Next, depending on what it is, I’ll take a photo of it. Or I’ll get a pen and sketchbook and let the ink flow. Or I’ll write a list, jotting down ideas or what to do with this one idea I’ve just had.
Then, I’ll work with it. Whatever it is, a pattern design or an idea for styling a certain room or piece of furniture, I’ll play around with what I can do. Sometimes the ideas don’t come out how I intended, and so I leave it at that. Other times it develops into more than I thought it would and I am suddenly on a roll. And on occasion, I turn my idea into a reality and it’s done. I photograph it. I submit it to a competition. I blog about it. Or I keep it to myself until it’s the right time to reveal it or use it.

When I was asked to divulge a bit more about me, I didn’t really know where to go with it. I hope I’ve managed to reveal a bit more about myself and my work in a way that is either relevant to my blog or vaguely interesting. If not, I can only apologise.

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styling room by room: bathroom

Of all the rooms in the house, this one is by far the most difficult to style and probably to photograph too. It’s hard to make the space where your toilet lives look luxury and inviting..

As always, I have gathered together some images that I’ll post below. I always try to get a mix of design styles in there, and also different ways in which the same room has been styled for the photo. I don’t always like what I put up, but that’s part of the point. Analysing what someone else has done and deciding whether you would do it the same way and if not, what you’d do differently.

Of all of the bathroom ones, there are very few I would use as styling inspiration. I think in most, if not all of them, the towels need looking at again. They just don’t hang right – and my eye is drawn to them in a negative way. In saying that, I do think towels are a very important aspect of styling for a bathroom, and so I am glad they are featured. They just need folding a bit more neatly.

Other than towels, it’s difficult to know what to put in a bathroom. In some of the images below, I feel a lot of the items in there just don’t sit quite right – but I understand that sometimes you don’t want it to appear like nothing has been added or no effort has been made. This isn’t always such a negative thing. In kitchens the rule of ‘less is more’ applies, and I think the same goes for a bathroom.

Cleanliness is paramount, so clean that shower screen like you never have before! And break up the lines using height and texture. Texture can be added through towelling and other bathroom accessories, and height can be added with maybe a plant or some flowers. In my opinion, these things work in a bathroom – and sometimes candles and diffusers too – but too many trinkets and shampoo bottles don’t. Some things just need to be put out of sight so that the bathroom can really be looked at for it’s design rather than it’s purpose.

I’d love to style my own bathroom. It’s so easy to look at other people’s work and say what you wouldn’t do.. but knowing what you would do instead is another matter.

Have a look and see what you think..

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