styling room by room: living room

When you think about styling each room, you first have to consider the purpose of the space, the furniture within the space and what the room is saying.

So a living room. It’s purpose is to be lived in. It’s usually a family room. A space of comfort and relaxation as well as somewhere to socialise and bring guests to.

It will have some kind of seating in it – usually a sofa and armchair or two. A coffee table perhaps. A mantelpiece. Shelving. Maybe some nesting tables. A fire surround…
While all of the things listed here aren’t necessarily furniture items, they are all surfaces ready to style.

So what do you do next?

Well, you have to look at the space. What is the style of the room? What is the positioning of the furniture saying? Is the seating arranged in such a way that it is easy to socialise and it looks like an inviting, family space? If not, that’s the first thing that needs changing. Place sofas facing into each other if possible, with a coffee table in the middle. Make the seating area the focus of the room, framing things like fireplaces as well to make it look more inviting, so that people can picture a family sat around together. Think about how the furniture arrangement looks and also how it would be used. If you can picture people using this room like it should be used, job number one is complete.

This is where the real fun begins. Accessorize your surfaces. Style the room.

If you have a fire place with a surround… put something on it. Log baskets full of logs, candles, ornaments, fire implements. Whatever the style of your house is – let it spill into this space. At Christmas? Fill it with greenery and baubles. Hang stockings. The same with mantelpieces.

Coffee tables… arrange books on it. Books that say something about you. Sometimes cookery books can be great additions to a space, or in my house, craft and interior books. Something that sparks an interest. A vase of flowers never goes amiss.

Sofas… fill them with texture. Make them inviting. Use these vast spaces to link in colours elsewhere in the room. Do this by adding cushions and throws and arranging these in appropriate ways depending again on the style of the décor.

Shelving… this is where you can be really creative. While the average bookshelf might be bursting with books and DVDs and recipes, it’s important to remember that when styling your home, you have to declutter. You can no longer have these shelves jam-packed, and instead, only half of a shelf should be full of books – maybe with a bookend next to it.
Jars used as simple storage solutions can also be placed here as well as perhaps some decorative boxes, candles and photo frames.

When it comes to styling, the world is your oyster. Use it as a time to express yourself and give your home a bit of TLC.

Just remember my five ‘rules’ on what to consider when styling for a photoshoot… you won’t go wrong!


what to consider when styling a room for a photo shoot

You might just think that styling a room to be ready to shoot just means adding some fresh flowers here and there, piling the books neatly on the coffee table and plumping up the sofa cushions.

But there is SO much more to consider than that. For one thing, the camera picks up on a variety of sins the naked eye can sometimes miss. That smudge on the glass vase? That dark bit of fluff on the pale carpet from the sofa throw? These things need to be seen to.. and that’s part of what a stylist does too (who said it was glamorous?!)

So that’s no.1 on the ‘what to consider’ list. Clean clean clean! No.2? De-clutter. Sometimes you can walk into a room and it looks great as it is. But through a lens. There’s too much on the mantle-piece and you can’t actually see what each item is. It doesn’t add to the room, it’s just a distraction. You want everything in there to look beautiful and be the focus – don’t shoot through the clutter.

As much as I said there is MORE to styling than adding flowers and books, this is actually very important. You want to have certain props that you will always use, and these are some of them. ANY room looks great with the addition of flowers and books (in the right places of course) – so this is a simple way to add to the look without adding clutter or taking away any focus from key pieces of furniture or room details. No. 3.

Break up big spaces. No. 4. What does this mean? Well.. it seems rather obvious when you say it but, big king sized beds or large sofas can look bland and boring if their size isn’t split up into sections. Pillows and cushions at the head of the bed, and a throw or runner at the bottom to add interest and break up vast, plain areas. Likewise with sofas – add texture with throws and cushions and place them so that they ‘break up big spaces’. You wouldn’t leave a large floor space without placing a rug or coffee table in the middle of it, so don’t do it with a bed. Big spaces cry out to be used. It’s an opportunity to add interest.

And finally, when you’re looking so closely to find things to clean and spaces to de-clutter, don’t actually forget to look at how things are displayed. Are there wires hanging out of anywhere? Are the books on the bookshelf actually aligned? Are the pictures on the wall straight? Attention to detail. No.5.

These tips are probably five of the most important ones – are there any surprises amongst them?

I am actually going to do another series of posts (and no, I haven’t forgotten about ‘the illusion challenge’ – it’s still continuing!) on styling room by room, implementing these tips in each space with a before and after styling picture. Watch this space for that.. It’s coming soon..



The photo above is an example of how NOT to do it. Back in my interning days I took photos of the workshop I was in..

Notice the smudge on the glass and the (not so) delightful background of light switches? I obviously didn’t at the time…


be inspired

Blog writer’s block exists. It’s different to writer’s block though. With writer’s block, you know what you’re writing about but you just reach an obstacle. With blog writer’s block, you don’t even know what you’re writing about in the first place.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I go months without a post sometimes. I hate that. It happens because for some reason or another I am uninspired. And then I become a bit defeated and stop looking for inspiration in places.

This is all about to change.

Inspiration is everywhere. There is no excuse not to see it. So where can you get it?

There are so many great sources of inspiration: looking through magazines, at pinterest boards, other design or lifestyle blogs, shop window displays, photography, runways and fashion events, markets and antique shops, cafés, restaurants, tea rooms and artisan bakeries..

But how do these help with sparking an idea for a design blog?

You have to look deeper.

Someone I worked for once was hugely inspired by the artisan bakery, Cocomaya. She saw gold tea cups and tea pots being used there, and wanted them for her workshop events. So she bought some. And created a whole theme with the crockery that fed into the design of the rest of the workshop space.

For my blog, I could take this one step further. could have seen those, been inspired, and created a post on how gold is used in interiors (something I think I might just have to do. Typing that into google alone is enough to find something to talk about!)

People often say you can gain inspiration from nature. And it’s SO TRUE. A walk in the countryside can bring inspiration in many forms. The lines of the horizon or the close up of a leaf can be the basis of a pattern for wallpaper design. Or the natural colours of flowers can show you a new pairing you’d never have thought of for a colour scheme. Walking around towns and cities can be the same. The patterns on the old tiles at the entrance to a quaint shop or the shapes of the skyline or texture of the natural brick work. The contrast of old and new buildings juxtaposed. Eras. There are so many decades with a vast array of design styles. In both interiors and fashion. You might look to two completely different time periods and find a combination of things so unique (that works so well) that no one else has thought of yet.

Inspiration is literally everywhere you look. I know that when I am feeling uninspired, I am not looking closely enough. It’s not that my surroundings have suddenly become less exciting, or that there’s nothing new to look at in the markets. It’s just that I have stopped seeing things for what they can potentially be.

I want to encourage you (and myself) to see the potential design in everything that surrounds you. So next time you feel uninspired, sit on Pinterest until you find something that speaks to you, or grab your camera and head out for a walk until you get a couple of photographs. Don’t be blind to your surroundings. Be inspired. No excuses.

inspiration next exit

juxtaposition in design

The word “juxtaposition” gets used in design quite a lot. In fashion, in crafts, in photography, in interiors..

I was first introduced to the word when I studied Media. It was used in reference to the camera work in films and TV, and when analysing layouts of magazine front covers – the way each element was positioned on the page or in the frame. What I got from this was that juxtaposition isn’t an accident. It can seem that way, that it just ‘happened’. But it usually doesn’t. It is planned. It is deliberate. It is generally done on purpose.

So what does it really mean?

Juxtaposition is described in the dictionary as an act of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast.

Just reading that definition makes me picture a ‘spot the difference’. Two images on a piece of paper, side by side, that are there to be compared and contrasted. But that’s not really what it’s about. That doesn’t translate easily into design.. What has the definition missed??

I think there should be a separate definition of the word purely for the purposes of design. It should have the word ‘aesthetics’ in there somewhere. Or something about placing things side by side that blend or contrast to be visually pleasing. Juxtaposition isn’t a mistake in design. Items, colours, textures or light and dark opposites are thrown together and mixed up to create something pleasing to the eye. To create an effect. Even though the definition of the word says compare OR contrast… I think in design, things are juxtaposed to contrast more often than not. This creates that wow factor. That thing that stops you just for a split second to think and consider what’s before you. You didn’t think those contemporary industrial-looking chairs went with a rustic wooden dining table.. But they were put together deliberately. They made you stop. They made you think. And they made you reconsider. They gave you something to look at. Something different to a matching dining set.

This is not to say that in design, household items shouldn’t match. In reality, that looks better in the standard UK home. The houses can take it. It’s practical. But what I’m talking about is design on the pages of magazines. Designs that photograph incredibly. Give that added element of interest. For a photograph, your average sofa with a few scatter cushions just doesn’t cut it. It looks great in reality. In the room. But for photographs, I believe it needs more. It needs a textured throw at a jaunty angle. And more cushions than is practical. In different shades and fabrics. These things will be specifically arranged – juxtaposed – so that the stylist and photographer gets the best from the photo. And the reader/viewer gets to be inspired!

Next time you’re doing a place setting at the dining table, try considering where you place everything. Make each thing you put on the table relate to everything else on there, and everything else in the room. It sounds dramatic, but I think you might be surprised to find you did it before, without even realising..

Juxtaposition is everywhere; purposefully. Try consciously adding a bit of contrast into aspects of your home and you might find a style you didn’t know exists..


This photo by Paul Raeside shows juxtaposition in design perfectly. The contrast of the metallics and artwork against a rough, bare-plastered wall. Old and new, shiny and matt, finished and unfinished, light and dark. Beautiful.