Bristol is known for its green credentials, so we don't want our Christmas interiors to let us down. Christmas and sustainability are not likely bedfellows but there are plenty of ways to decorate without costing the earth. Paper remains my favourite material for festive folderol. It is so versatile, available in every colour, texture, pattern and finish imaginable, and the sculptural possibilities are endless. From the simplest paper chain to the most complex origami stars and filigree-like cutouts, there are a million and one ways with paper in both DIY and off-the-shelf options. Vintage decorations that can be reused for as long as they are carefully handled and stowed win maximum green Christmas points, as do homemade dough doodahs and even the metal shape cutters for a bit of shine. Nature’s trimmings, literally, provide the best trimmings swagging over mantles and bannisters. For the traditionalists only a Christmas tree will do, but bear in mind that artificial trees are a no-no unless they are old and getting a lot of repeat use. The oldest of these can be made from questionable and toxic materials though. If the idea of chopping down living trees every year seems daft, you might like to hire a potted one. The Bristol Bike Project and Cotswold Fir are offering a selection of live trees for pedal powered delivery or collection from Hamilton House on Stokes Croft, daily between 1st and 23rd December. Simply log on to www.rentalclaus.com to book. Merry Christmas!
House plants are having quite a moment in the interiors world. From the jungalicious, bohemian style of The Jungalow, from Los Angeles based blogger Justina Blakeney, to the tropical designs of 2016 Great Interior Design Challenge winner Black Parrots Studio, houseplants are now so popular they even have their own Instagram hashtag, #plantsofinstagram.
When the Affordable Art Fair invited me recently to style the Talks Lounge at their Bristol exhibition, providing me with a green sofa as the starting point, I could not resist going with a tropical, botanical story (with a touch of ‘canyon’ on the cushions).
As the event was held at the enormous Passenger Shed at Temple Meads Station, there was an opportunity to play with scale in a way that doesn't ordinarily happen in residential interiors, so I hand-painted a large fabric wall-hanging with oversized monstera leaves and dangling vines.
Nothing quite beats the real thing of course, so Gloucester Road’s newest store, Wild Leaf, kindly loaned an absolutely fantastic selection of tropical and arid plants, which really brought this fun little project to life. If you’d like a feeling of warmer climes all year round, pay Wild Leaf a visit to see what would best suit you and your home.
If you would like to commission a hand painted wall hanging or canvas for your home please email to arrange a chat!
Crating a balanced interior scheme that uses strong colour can be challenging and daunting, especially if you remember some of the lurid hues of Changing Rooms back in the 1990s. Many of my clients want a colourful home but lack the confidence to go really for it so I thought I’d share one way to guarantee success.
Very few interior designers will use a colour wheel to devise their schemes, as they should have either an innate sense of colour or enough experience to know what works well, but there is no shame in using the wheel and a little colour theory to help give you confidence. Complimentary colours sit opposite each other on the colour wheel, which you can easily look up online or buy from an art or craft shop (your local independent one of course).
The secret to success is to vary the intensity of the colours, so that they are not all shouting at the same ‘volume’, as that can be fatiguing. If using yellow, you might prefer a quiet, pale yellow on the larger surfaces, and to confine the louder yellows, or pops of purple to smaller accessories, for example. Or you might want blue to dominate in which case you can use a variety of different blues of varying strengths, textures, patterns and finishes, with a few punches of orange dotted around the space. Whichever colour pair you choose, a complimentary scheme will always be balanced because there will be a colour from the ‘warm’ half of the wheel and one from the ‘cool’ side, every time. Of course you can bend the rules a little by picking a shade so close to its neighbouring colour that it is almost on the dividing line between the two, for example a bluey-purple (instead of a straight up purple) with a yellow that could have either a tint of green or a tint of orange.
Despite the trend for using grey in interiors in recent years, it may not be the most obvious choice for a children’s bedroom, and yet it can work. Children’s colourful toys and furniture really pop out against darker hues in an unexpectedly delightful way, but often we shy away from anything more interesting than off-white. It is wise to be wary of creating an over-stimulating environment, particularly when sleep habits during early-years are less than desirable, but there is definitely a case for using rich, deep colours. They are ideal for creating cosseting, cosy spaces. It may seem counter-intuitive to use such a dark grey in a child’s room, but it is anything but depressing when livened up with it’s natural colour-partner, yellow, along with a zingy blue and purple. The dark walls, ceiling and blackout-lined curtains here aid daytime napping, and also make for a fantastic sensory room when all the colour changing lights are switched on. Using pattern only sparingly, this room aims not to be too bedazzling, and pointedly avoids any cartoon characters on the furnishings. Decorating can be disruptive, and no one wants to be making big or expensive changes every time a growing child acquires a new passion. Parents are also allowed to enjoy the surroundings too, so there is no harm in choosing paints and papers that can be pleasurable for everyone to look at, and will grow with the child to some extent. Choosing a gender neutral colour scheme is also a good idea, as you never know, there might be a new sibling to share the same space later on.
Aside from colour, there are plenty of practical points to consider in order to create a successful children’s bedroom scheme. Although a futon atop a Japanese tatami mat for the bed means the room is missing out on an obvious storage opportunity, it suits the inhabitant of this space who has difficulty climbing and is prone to falling out of bed. Ordinarily though, cabin, bunk and trundle drawer beds are perfect for double-duty sleeping and storage, especially in smaller spaces.
Storage for toys and clothes is obviously essential. It can be useful to have shelving options high up out of reach, to house things that require adult supervision, such as paints and felt tips, keeping the lower, accessible shelves for less troublesome items. Anything that encourages easy tidying is a good idea, and in this instance there are simple trugg buckets, the contents of which will no doubt change every so often, in line with the evolving interests of the occupant. Wardrobe units can often be imposing so here they have been painted the same colour as the walls, and even look at first glance as though they have been built in to the alcove, keeping the ‘visual noise’ down. The household bedlinen and towels are also stowed here, making excellent use of the storage facility which would otherwise be overkill for most small people’s clothing collections.
Customising furniture, whether an old vintage gem or new from Ikea, is always a lovely way to add a unique touch to any room. This interior is home to a few upcycled items including a chest of drawers given new handles and a vibrant lick of paint using leftovers from previous furniture projects, home-made upcycled headboards (using a duvet and leftover curtain fabric) to soften the bed corner, and a giant old picture frame covered in fabric scraps. Little ones are never too young to make or appreciate art, so the gallery wall is a combination of family photos, keepsakes and old charity shop finds, and is easy to change up by swapping kids’ art or postcards from grandparents in to the frames.
Gallery walls have been gaining popularity for some time and Pinterest is now full of templates and tutorials for achieving aesthetically pleasing arrangements. The beauty of hanging artwork salon-style (making full use of the space available on a given wall, like the French Salon) is that there is really no need to be precious. When displaying a single picture, we have a tendency to hang too high to properly enjoy, and unless it is of large proportions, can often look lost on a big blank wall. Using the whole wall as a canvas for canvasses, and frames, it is possible to combine both valuable and thrifty pieces together, and in a variety of sizes and shapes to create a high impact statement. The sum is greater than the parts. The pieces may be thematically linked, maybe not. There are no hard and fast rules, although there are a few pointers worth bearing in mind. The less space around and between pictures the better, for fewer gaps and a more clustered effect. It is also worth taking guidance from architectural features such as architraves, window frames, sills, shelves or items of furniture placed against walls, to help identify a good starting point and for logical alignment. Position bolder, graphic images higher up so that more detailed works can be more easily appreciated lower down. Consider changing up the contents of the frames now and again, with children’s artwork, scraps of old wallpaper or textiles, postcards, photographs, charity shop finds, heirloom oils - anything goes. If at first you don't have enough pictures to hang a large selection, even better. Just place what you have so far clustered cosily together, then enjoy gradually growing your collection organically over time, joyfully sprawling outwards to fill the space with meaningful pieces you truly love.
There is no better way to cosy up the home as the cold and dark sets in than to transform a quiet corner into an inviting book nook. Curling up with a good read is the most wholesome of pastimes for the bleaker months. It evokes images of our pre-television Scandinavian counterparts enjoying the Sagas, and other heavy tomes, at the cosiest of firesides during seemingly endless winters.
This book nook I put together has roots in warmer climes and more of a mid-Century modern feel, with the Brazilian design classic BFK butterfly chair and vintage Italian Iguzzini mushroom table lamp. Whether your taste is classic, country or contemporary, the essential ingredients for creating a good book nook are few but choice.
Firstly, a comfortable chair is a must, to enable at least a few chapters to be enjoyed in one sitting. The definition of a seriously comfy seat may vary from one person to another so make sure you are happy with your selection.
A side table of some kind is a practical must-have, to provide a place to put a cup of something warming or a glass of something more celebratory, and any other accessories such as page markers and reading glasses. Positioning a handy table next to a chair also creates a more complete scene, anchoring the chair, so it isn't lost and lonely in the space, and offers up more styling opportunities for placement of candles, plants and objets d’art.
Good light is necessary to prevent eye fatigue, and will also add a gentle warm glow (something interior designers love to add to corners of rooms). Consider investing in a warm white LED bulb with a lower lumen count, as standard bulbs can give a harsh cool light. If the bulb is on view at all, be sure to use an attractive one or cover it with a globe if the lamp-holder allows.
Textiles visually make spaces more cosy, even before you have snuggled down under them. A blanket, cushion or throw will finish off the book nook nicely. Texture is an underused tool in decorating, so embrace a variety of materials. Mine combines leather, wood, metal, glass, paper and wool and the way the low sunlight falls on the detail of the sheepskin texture is most pleasing. Try varying the scale too with chunky cable knits against finer fabrics, for example.
Placement of a book nook is important, but ideally a quiet, incidental spot that perhaps needs an injection of life would be the ideal choice. Under the stairs works well, a spot onthe landing if large enough, or a neglected corner. In open plan living rooms where the furniture is far away from the walls, behind the sofa is a great spot for a separate nook and to liven up the view of the sofa-back. Or simply in the most obvious location of all, the good old fashioned option of armchairs either side of the fireplace.