Posts tagged interiors
Why Expensive Paint Is Worth It
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Decorators have often been known to complain about and even refuse to use the likes of Fired Earth and Farrow & Ball paints. Some complain about the aroma, some about the particular way it performs during application, others because they didn’t make any margin because they didn't supply it.  At the very least they might enjoy balking at the price and cheekily joking about how you were robbed in broad daylight, but are these designery paints just premium brands with high price tags to make people feel a cut above? Or are there valid reasons why these paints cost so much more than say Wickes’ own? 

The main reason these paints are more expensive is simply the quality. The quantity of natural pigment (as opposed to dye) is much higher than in most paints and it is this generous pigmentation that provides superior depth of colour, creating walls of colour you could almost dive into. However, although many customers can perceive and appreciate this richer experience of colour, others just don’t see it and need more convincing.

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We are hearing a lot about the climate emergency we are all facing at the moment, but it is not only the air quality outside the home that we need to address but also the emissions within the home. It may surprise some readers to learn that many modern home furnishing products are made from materials that can emit carcinogens, a process sometimes called ‘off-gassing’. Oil-based paints and mainstream water-based paints contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which are essentially solvents emitted as vapours that are harmful to the environment as well as your health.

Thankfully certain designer paints contain little to no VOCs. As my local stockist of two of my favourite paint brands, Little Greene and Earthborn, I asked Finola of Nola Interiors (Gloucester Road Central in Bristol) to explain what makes these paint formulations special. 

“Both Little Greene and Earthborn paints are environmentally friendly, odourless, virtually VOC free and certified child safe. Little Greene's water based paint and Earthborn paint are certified as child safe under BS EN 71-3: 1995, also known as Toy Paint Regulations, making them stand out from the rest. It gives parents peace of mind knowing that these paints are safer for their children within their home environment. I receive lots of comments from customers who are impressed that these paints have no smell or unpleasantness, contributing to a safe, cleaner atmosphere within their home surroundings.”

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Applied correctly (preferably in a colour you truly love and won’t even want to change for many years) higher quality paint will last longer than an inferior product. The less often a room is repainted the better, not only for your purse and avoiding the disruption, but also because that’s fewer occasions that a fresh lick of paint makes everything else look tired enough to be replaced making it easier to buy well and buy less.

Certain naturally pigmented paint also allows your house to breathe which, in combination with keeping it well ventilated, will help prevent damp problems saving money in the longer term. Finola adds “Earthborn clay paint is breathable and is recommended for lime plaster and damp walls”.

Using eco-friendly paint is the logical next step. “It's easy to switch to eco household cleaning products, replacing regular cleaners that contain allergens. Buying environmentally friendly paints that are free from nasty chemicals, will hopefully also become second nature.”  says Finola. Defaulting to eco products in all areas of life is going to require research and mindful shopping at first but it will soon become any and every small change you can make will help, and change our habits we must.

I hope you will agree these are compelling environmental reasons for investing in expensive ‘designer’ paint and that the planet is worth paying for. 

For more advice on eco paint visit Nola Interiors online or in the bricks and mortar store where you can also browse a fabulous selection of rugs, baskets and textiles made from 100% recycled plastic bottles that look and feel like just like soft wool.

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Make Yours a Rebel Home With A Street Art Mural
Graft Workshop Bristol.jpg

Bristol is well known for celebrating art on the city’s walls, but local business Graft Workshop are increasingly bringing street style murals to the great indoors. Run by husband and wife team Rob and Sophie Wheeler since 2012, Graft have been commissioned to spray numerous homes and business walls around town and they also teach graffiti skills to those who fancy giving it a go themselves. Interior design and street art may not at first be obvious bedfellows but of course this is Bristol, where anything goes. 

Just like designing an interior scheme, putting a mural together requires more skill and careful thought than you might at first think. From taking a brief and researching sources of inspiration like local history, pattern design, architecture and other cultures to planning the composition, scaling up designs from preliminary sketches and perhaps preparing stencils, there is a lot that goes into a finished piece of work. I’ve always admired graffiti artists and rebellious interior designs, so I caught up with Rob to find out more about Graft Workshop.

How did you get into graffiti? 

I was always drawing, from comics, from 80s colour saturated adverts, from life, and eventually from the early graffiti pieces I was seeing in magazines. My first attempts with a spraycan weren't too successful though - a can of car paint on a porous board in my parents' back garden somehow didn't turn out quite like the New York train pieces I'd seen!

Do you always use spray cans or do you use brushes or markers as well?

In my work I always use spray-cans. It's important to me that I'm making that connection with the original graffiti scene and techniques, especially while rendering a pattern inspired by a nineteenth century wallpaper! In workshops we teach people how to use markers as well as spray-cans, as they're great for the small name boards we get people creating.

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What do you teach in your workshops?

We usually start with a guided tour of some of Bristol's amazing pieces, sharing a bit of background to the scene and some lesser known stories. We then get them thinking about a graffiti name, and playing with lettering styles to create a name board with paint markers. Then it's on to spray-can techniques, and having a play with freehand spray-painting as well as stencils. It's all about building self-esteem - lots of people think they can't draw, but it's a level playing field, whether it's a team of lawyers on an away day or a group of young people with learning difficulties.

How / when did you start to bring your street art style to interiors?

I had a few commissions early on for different organisations, cafes etc, but it's only since we launched Graft as a business in 2012 that I've really started to explore the potential of graffiti murals as an interior design element. I take a lot of inspiration for the Arts and Crafts and Aesthetic movements, and I love referencing designers such as William Morris (and many more!), adapting elements to reflect the history, geography and cultural heritage of the site, mixing those influences with the art of the spray-can.

If someone was to commission you for their own home / biz, what would they need to consider first?

Above all I think it's important to make sure you like the style of the artist you're commissioning, and that it chimes with what you want for your space. We have had some unusual enquiries which don't really fit with what we do! I would then ask the client if there are any elements of my other murals they particularly like, before discussing concepts and colours.

Like me you are a fan of Bristol's answer to William Morris, E. W. Godwin. How did you first hear of his work and what do you most admire about it?

I first learned about Godwin through the PRSC (People's Republic of Stokes Croft) and their campaign to save the Carriageworks building which was designed by him, and have it developed in a community-centred way. Chris Chalkley of the PRSC is a huge Godwin fan and let me pore over his Godwin library! When Milk Teeth cafe was opening at the address Godwin once lived at on Portland Square, I approached the owner Josh and proposed to paint a Godwin-inspired mural in the cafe. He loved the idea, and I'm really pleased at how it turned out.

Graft Workshop Mural

Where else can people spot your work around Bristol?

I've recently painted commissions in Nutmeg restaurant on the Mall in Clifton, the downstairs bar of Zaza Bazaar, Easton Community Centre, St Werburghs City Farm, St Barnabas Primary School, and of course Milk Teeth. 

Anything else you would like to add?

Everyone's home has a wall which could benefit from an original mural - whether it's that big white wall in your garden, one wall of the dining room, or even in your bedroom. Arts and Crafts wallpaper is hugely popular at the moment - but how many people have a lavish damask design painted by hand in spray-paint, in colours they've chosen?!

That is indeed pretty awesome Rob! Bespoke murals really are a fantastic way to add a truly unique element to a Forever Home, and unlike famous street art pieces there is no danger of someone chipping it off the wall to nick it, tagging it, or chucking protest paint all over it! 

If you like the idea of owning an art wall you can commission one, or learn how to create your own smaller scale piece on a board. Just head to to find out more. To visit the E.W. Godwin mural at his former home in St Paul’s head to Milk Teeth cafe

Happy By Design: How to create a happy healthy home
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I read this book in a single sitting recently on a day when I was good for nothing but lying on the sofa with a stinking summer cold. It was quite a tonic with it’s gentle optimism and suggestions of how to make your home a happier place. That’s something surely everyone aspires to, especially with our busy lives full of work.

Encompassing lifestyle choices as well as design and decorating advice, Victoria Harrison takes the reader on a meander through mindfulness in the home, from tending houseplants to engaging in conversation and the simple pleasure of looking after a pet. There is some good old fashioned advice that greenery, the presence of light and the absence of clutter make for favourable living conditions. What makes this more compelling than opinion or anecdote alone though is the inclusion of easy to digest research - from NASA scientists, no less! There is also sage colour advice from Farrow & Ball’s international colour consultant Joe Studholme on how best to introduce that most joyful of colours, yellow.

All senses have been considered in writing this lovely little book with ideas on using scent, music, art and the optimal ways to consistently achieve nourishing sleep. The overall tone is informative and avoids being instructive which makes it a lovely gift for anyone setting up their first home or in need of cheering up with a few easy tweaks to their interiors. I’ll certainly be referring back to my copy now and then, like a manual for good living. 

Order a copy from your local independent bookshop or online here!

How To Become an Interior Designer
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Every month I am inundated with CVs and requests for work experience placements so I thought it worth sharing some top tips for any aspiring designers.

Interior Design looks like a jolly and glamorous vocation; faffing around with fabrics and plumping cushions all day. But making places beautiful is such a popular past time that competition is tough when it comes to turning that passion into a job.

Often, people expect to be able to just decide to become interior designers overnight despite having no prior experience or qualifications, probably because it looks like an easy and enjoyable job. But the truth is that in interior design, like all design professions,  there is a proper process to follow that requires certain skills and its not all just instinct. It has to meet a specific design brief, it has to work practically, it has to be within the client’s budget and it has to happen on time.

Interior design attracts a lot of career changers, usually women, who have achieved a certain level of professional experience in another field and perhaps already renovated a property of their own. Anyone switching to interior design from another creative area such as textile design will of course be at a huge advantage. Having ‘taste’ and enthusiasm isn’t enough, as it is a skilled profession that also requires excellent people and communication skills, empathy, sensitivity, diplomacy and discretion. Then there is the management of money, orders, deliveries, schedule of works, last minute changes and problem solving to deal with, so an organised and practical mind and compulsive list making is a must.

If you are serious about interior design, the most important skill that underpins all design work in any field is drawing. It is essential that you can visually communicate your ideas to both clients and tradespeople. This means drawing and sketching in both 2D and 3D perspective, and if you can do this on computer as well as by hand you will go far. Visualisation is also key, being able to imagine a finished room inside your mind’s eye, then committing this vision to presentation boards well before getting started on the walls. 

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Designers need spatial awareness and be able to think three-dimensionally too. Understanding how things are made is vital, in order to be able to correctly specify construction of bespoke wardrobes and shelving for example. So prior to studying interior design, spending a year doing an Art Foundation course would be absolutely invaluable - exploring and trying out a variety of different creative practices from painting and sculpture to graphics, product design, textiles, photography and printing. Gaining understanding of different periods in architecture and accompanying decorative styles and art history is also essential, as it will help you to be verse in visual language. For example, a bentwood chair will have very different associations from an upholstered armchair with ball and claw feet, as will purple velvet and hessian or burlap, and you have to know what each ‘means’ in order to know how / where to use it appropriately. You can use it inappropriately as well of course, but only once you know the rules; the styles, the conventions.

A passion for, or at least a genuine interest in art and design in general is essential. ‘Je ne sais quoi', or a certain originality or artistry that just cannot be taught would be advantageous too, so you will have to find and develop your own ‘flavour’. A specialism can be useful in making you stand out as different, passionate and interesting too, whether its lighting, or hand painting furniture, or something else!

The best way to get started is by simply having a good go, either in your own home or for imaginary people on paper. Creating a visual portfolio is the best way to demonstrate your abilities, as it will be a much more indicative companion to your CV.

I hope that helps! Unfortunately there are no vacancies or work experience opportunities with Stylemongers Of Bristol at present, but if ever any come up, they will be announced on social media. Thanks for reading xx

Interior Design Studio: Stylemongers Of Bristol

Interior Design Studio: Stylemongers Of Bristol

Where to look for (unexpected) Interiors Inspiration
Photo by Paul Morris -  Unsplash

Photo by Paul Morris - Unsplash

Looking at picture perfect interiors all day long sounds like fun, but even the nicest of jobs can become fatiguing in its own way. The painstakingly positioned furnishings and flowers, the contrived tastefulness, the obscene luxury. It can get a bit formulaic and dull. So being nutty about interiors of all kinds, and wanting to keep things fresh, I follow a variety of different instagram accounts, and some of my favourite are actually those of Urbex Photographers, where the interiors are very imperfect indeed.

For anyone unfamiliar with the term (also known as Ruin Porn), it is short for Urban Exploration; the hobby of brave souls possessed of a sometimes morbid fascination with empty and decaying spaces. They roam, usually in small groups, occasionally illegally, through deserted asylums, hospitals, factories, theatres, prisons, palaces and sewers the world over. When nature takes over forgotten architecture, the effect is mesmerising. There is something undeniably compelling, if not creepy, about places once populated by many people that now lie empty. Corridors are the worst, and rooms with chairs or medical equipment left behind. These rooms are like the Marie Rose of the built environment. An unfinished story, abruptly abandoned halfway through, leaving a sense of mystery. Browsing images of peeling paint, flapping wallpaper, flooded floors, dusty chandeliers, disarranged parquets, and creeping ivy throttling once-opulent staircases, is probably not the most common of pastimes, but if this curious habit has any appeal then try @violent_crumble @thireyephoto @the-decay-photographie @jamiebettsphoto @nik8photo and @richkern for a good old spooky scroll! 


Get your Hygge On!
Zoe Hewett Interiors Hygge

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.