Work in Progress - The Law Centre
8 min read
Published 6 Sep 2019
I was recently contacted by a local law centre who provide free and impartial legal advice to vulnerable members of our society. They asked if I could help them with some design ideas for their building, as in their words 'they had just painted it white when they moved in 8 years ago and done nothing to it since' so it was looking a bit tired. The brief was that they wanted the space to be more welcoming to the people using it, including the staff, and to make everyone who walked through the door to feel valued.
I agreed to give my time to have a look and to see what I could do. I thought they might like some advice on paint colours to liven it up, and maybe some new bits of furniture. When I got there and saw the layout of the rooms and we discussed how the building and spaces were used, it became clear that some nice paint colours weren't going to do it!
|a before picture of the long corridor leading to the waiting room|
|a before picture of the waiting area, with a sofa that had seen better days|
|a before picture of the main reception area. Note the very 'officey' type carpet, complete with stains!|
Now don't get me wrong, the team working there had done the best they could with a limited (okay non-existent) budget, but they felt it was now time to improve the look of the place. There were also some practical issues to solve. The two smaller rooms are also home to a counselling service in the evenings, and they were looking a bit unloved, with only a small table lamp to create a softer atmosphere. The small tub chairs aren't very comfortable and have low seats making it hard for some people to get in and out of. The ceiling lighting in the rooms is the fluorescent tube type, and even with the plastic diffusers on them, they are enough to give anyone a headache. All those chairs along the corridor leading to the waiting area (see the first before pic above) mean that when people are waiting they are sitting directly outside the rooms and can see and hear what is going on inside (the soundproofing isn't great and the doors are fire doors so have to have glass panels in them). Not very helpful when you're discussing confidential matters.
|the terrible fluorescent lighting|
Some of the other problems were to do with the layout of the main reception area. When clients walk into the building, the first thing they see is the reception desk. Sounds perfect right? The only problem is that if they are speaking to the receptionist about something confidential and someone else walks into the building behind them, they are stood just behind and can hear everything that's said. Now I don't know about you but I wouldn't want anyone one who walked in to be able to hear all about my financial or other difficulties. So I said to the team that I'd have a think and see what I could do about that.
The problems didn't end there - the staff who work here often have to move desks depending upon which rooms are being used to see clients. This means that they either end up working in the waiting area at the end of the long corridor, or on the desk by the front door and in effect become a second receptionist. It's not easy to concentrate when you are being interrupted, however much you want to help people. So clearly this needed looking at too.
Finally, when the building is being used by the counselling service in the evenings and there are no other staff there, the counsellor's desk is too far away from the front door to hear the doorbell, so clients often end up waiting to be let in. Not ideal.
the counsellor's desk at the end of that looooong corridor
|So, I had some work to do! I was determined to solve all of the problems, and make the space look nice and welcoming too. The first thing I did was look at the layout to see if I could make better use of the reception area space, and encourage clients to wait until the receptionist is free before going over to the desk. After a bit of thinking, I decided to move the reception desk and create some seating just as you come in the front door. I also thought that adding a vinyl sign on the wall asking people to 'take a seat' and making the area look inviting would help them to get the right idea. I took the quite bright colours of the charity's logo and chose muted versions of them, and used these colours throughout the building to brighten it up and to banish the current 'doctor's surgery waiting area' feel. Here I also created a focal point and some wall art at the same time by colour blocking the paints.|
|my design for the new waiting area in reception with its comfy chairs and colour blocked walls|
Next, I moved the counsellor's desk from the waiting area at the end of the corridor to the main reception area, by moving some things around and making room for two desks here. There should be no problem hearing the doorbell now.
Here's the floorplan with the new layout so you can see what I mean:
|I then designed a screen made of wooden batons to partially 'hide' the desks and the people working at them, so they could still interact with their colleagues but would have some privacy. The team had also mentioned that they had lots of old photos of the building being used for different purposes over the years and that they'd like to display them. Behind the reception desk seemed the perfect place for this.|
|the new place for the reception desk and the baton screen to give some privacy|
I then tackled the waiting area. As I mentioned, it's location wasn't ideal as it is at the end of a very long corridor around a corner and out of sight. It would be far too expensive to rearrange all the rooms at this point, so I thought I'd use colour to help lead people along the corridor and down to the waiting area. The idea was that there would be a lovely warm welcoming blue in the waiting area, which would wrap around on to the long wall slightly, and then two other colours would be gradually added in. The stripes are narrower at the reception desk, and then gradually get wider towards the waiting area. This not only breaks up the really long wall it also draws the eye (and hopefully the person) to the waiting area. It might be easier to explain if you can see it, so here it is.
my design for the stripes on the long wall - do you see what I mean now?
And here is the new and improved waiting area, with two comfy sofas and two chairs. I added some metal stools which can be put together to make a coffee table, or can be sat on when more seating is needed. Best of all they stack so can be tidied away easily. Finally, I added a low side table which has a removable lid, so some toys could be stored in there for clients bringing their children with them.
Here's the design for the larger meeting room. The folding doors in the middle are often opened up to make one large room and the two end walls needed to stay white as the team use them as a screen for a projector. So I added colour on the opposite two walls and wrapped it around slightly to create a feeling of cosiness and security. The fabric on the wall is one I suggested to cover some sound-absorbing panels which the team wanted to help keep those client meetings confidential. As the ceiling is quite low in here, options for improving the lighting were limited, but I found these lights from Ikea and suggested that they swap the single fluorescent tubes for two sets of these either side of the folding doors.
And last but not least is the two smaller rooms which are used for counselling in the evenings. There needed to be a desk and office chair in each, but also two comfy chairs with a side table and some better lighting. The floor and table lamp offer flexibility, so the room can be brightly lit during the day for working, and more softly lit when being used by the counselling service.
I suggested that they get rid of the depressing blue carpet and go for some walnut coloured laminate from Quickstep throughout the space. Adding in large plants softens the hard edges of the rooms and will help people to feel calm.
The charity is now looking at applying for funding to implement my design. I really hope that they can raise enough to make these changes, as I think they will make a huge difference to all the people who use this building. If you would like to know more or can help then please get in touch using my contact form or email address.
Welcome to my design blog, where you'll see posts about anything from the projects we are working on, to the latest fabric and wallpaper collections, and 'how to' guides for all things interiors related. I love colour and pattern, architecture and old buildings, and I especially love the moment when you see something so beautiful it makes you take a sharp intake of breath.
28 Apr 2022
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Morris & Co. X Ben Pentreath
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Little Greene and Bert & May join forces
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Little Greene has announced a collaboration with tile brand Bert & May. The collection sees eight gorgeous Little Greene shades translated onto tiles, giving you even more opportunity to add colour, texture, and a mix of materials to every area of your home. I love this bathroom combination above, with the perfectly matched tiles and paint offset with touches of terracotta, mustard and oak. You can see the full collection here.
Dulux colour of the year - Bright Skies
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It's all about soft yellows
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The cushion that gives back
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|Introducing the cushion that gives back, from homewares company Oka. They have produced this cushion in partnership with The Trussell Trust who support two thirds of the UK's food banks, and 100% of the proceeds from sales of this lovely green velvet cushion will be donated by Oka to The Trussell Trust. It comes in a range of other colours too, and you can buy the cushion here.|
A beautiful new tile collection inspired by the National Trust
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|Just launched, Ca Pietra a new tile collection in collaboration with the National Trust. Every tile has been inspired by one of the historic properties, gardens or coastlines looked after by the Trust, and a minimum of £10,000 from sales of the tiles will be given to the National Trust to help them continue their important work. You can see the collection here.|
Yummy new switch & socket colours
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|Did you ever think that your light switches were good enough to eat? I'm guessing the answer is no, until now. You can now buy switches and sockets in these gorgeous colours from the new Dowsing & Reynolds Cafe Culture collection. They come in luscious shades like Cinnamon, Caramel Latte and Whipped Cream, so you can tone, coordinate or contrast with your wall colours and make every part of your interior scheme look delicious. You can buy the gorgeousness from here.|
A sustainable fabric choice
29 Mar 2021
|A beautiful new sustainable fabric range from Clarke and Clarke has just been launched. It's made entirely from recycled materials so you can refresh your home with a clear conscience. You can have a look at the fabric here. Get in touch with me if you'd like to buy any of this fabric.|
Sought & Styled - Preloved items given new life
28 Feb 2021
|This month I want to highlight a business run by a very talented lady I met a few years ago (remember when we could meet people?) Not only is she a creative interior designer, she also runs an online shop where she reuses and repurposes anything from soft furnishings to larger furniture items. Everything sold is bespoke and unique, and is effortlessly waste conscious because it's being used again. You can visit her shop here.|
Do kitchen worktops bore you?
27 Jan 2021
|Thanks to a genius idea from kings of pattern Blackpop, you can now have one of their colourful designs on your kitchen worktop. They will put any of their funky fabric or wallpaper designs onto waterproof MDF to make you a unique worktop, or they can even make a design just for you. Chopping will never look the same again! You can buy the worktops from their website here.|
A Fresh Take - Cardiff Life feature
18 Dec 2020
|This month's issue of Cardiff Life Magazine is out today, and features an interiors special, because one thing this past year has made us do is take a new look at our homes and how we'd like to live in them. To see what I and other local interiors experts have to say on the subject, including a round up of the trends for 2021, have a flick through the digital mag here.|
An enchanting inaugural wallpaper collection from Tom Baker
26 Nov 2020
|This opulent and atmospheric wallpaper from Tom Baker immerses you in a world of tropical flora, fauna and exotic animals. With soft cool tones and hints of pink floral detailing, this is the perfect wallpaper to add a relaxing and exciting edge to your home. Find this enchanting collection here.|
A new shady collaboration between Matthew Williamson and Pooky
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Felt covered curtain poles
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Now you can add some texture to your window dressing with these Walcot House felt covered poles. The pure wool coverings come with a option for bronze or steel fittings and wide spans up to six metres. The curtain track is cleverly hidden within the wooden curtain pole and there's a choice of nearly 50 colours and textures. You can find out more here.
Please vote for my blog
11 Aug 2020
|I'm really thrilled to have been nominated for an Amara Interiors Blog Award this year! If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to vote for me, I'm nominated in the Best Interior Designer Blog category, and you can vote for me here.|
Upcoming interiors trends from Love Rugs
10 Jul 2020
|Love Rugs, the people who know about all things rugs have just published a feature on the upcoming interiors trends for 2020. They asked six of the UK's top interior designers (including me!) to tell them what the upcoming trends are, and in particular the changes we will be making to their homes. The article can be read here, and if you'd like to have a look at the huge range of rugs they offer, click here.|
A new fabric collection from Linwood Fabrics
15 Jun 2020
|I love Linwood fabrics - they have a fab way of mixing colour and pattern into something really special, producing fabrics and wallpapers that make me want to coo. This new collection, available at the end of June, is just as gorgeous. It's called Kami, with the pattern inspired by a 19th Century document. The collection is a range of printed velvets, so perfect for upholstery and accessories like cushions.|
An easy way to update your kitchen
16 Apr 2020
|If you are looking to update your existing Ikea kitchen rather than replace it, Stockholm based company Superfront are here to help. They sell a range of fronts, handles, legs and tops to fit not just the Faktum kitchen range but also the Besta, Metod and Pax ranges - so you can customise anything from your sideboard to your wardrobe. These super cute round handles are part of their new birch collection, and the whole range can be found here|
Move over boring taps - colour is the new black
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Who knew a door stop could look this good?
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|Door stops are one of those little annoying things that we all need, but are not the prettiest to look at. Now London based Buster & Punch have turned their attention to the problem and transformed the humble door stop into something cool and covetable. They might cost more than your average one from a DIY store, but as you're going to see it every day, why not look at something beautiful? here.|
Wallpaper made of cork?
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|Sustainability and concern for our environment are key in the interiors world right now (as they should be). So when I saw that Monkey Puzzle Tree (a brand I admire for their sense of style and creativity) had produced this wallpaper made of cork, I was blown away. Cork is great for so many reasons - it can be harvested every nine years without harming the tree, is grown without the need for pesticides or fertilisers, has excellent sound and heat insulation properties, and is naturally antimicrobial and antifungal. This wallpaper has an A+ rating for emissions so it creates a healthy environment wherever it is hung. Add to this that the design was produced in collaboration with the talented Drew Millward who lives in my home county of West Yorkshire, and that it's called 'Hit The North', I was bound to fall in love with it. You can buy the wallpaper here.|
I'm in Cardiff Life magazine - again!
17 Sep 2019
Now that the summer is officially over and our thoughts turn to cosying up our homes for winter, I'm here to help. If you're in need of some inspiration, you can read all about the interiors trends for Autumn and how to work them into your home in this month's Cardiff Life magazine. Hear what I and other interiors experts have to say on pages 18-22. You can read the digital version of the magazine here.
I've been nominated for an Amara Interiors blog award!
6 Sep 2019
|Exciting news! My little blog (Design Insider) has been nominated for an Amara Interiors Blog award! I'm so chuffed to be included at all, and not expecting to win, but if you enjoy reading my blog posts then please vote for me. I'm nominated for the Best Interior Designer blog category. Voting is open until the 11th of September and you can vote for me here.|
My kitchen project featured on the Artifact Lighting blog!
1 Aug 2019
When I designed the contemporary copper kitchen, I wanted to use some copper elements to add warmth and also to tone in with the pink walls and pale grey units. I found these pendant lights from a company called Artifact Lighting, and they are perfect because they add to the 'warm glow' I wanted to acheive. They also have a vintage look which contrasts nicely with the sleek look of the kitchen units. When the kitchen was finished I sent some pictures to Artifact Lighting, and they liked the kitchen so much they featured it on the blog page of their website.
You can read the blog page here
House of Hackney's first outdoor fabric
26 Jun 2019
One of my favourite interiors brands, House of Hackney, who are known for their daring and quirky prints, have just released a new fabric which is suitable for our door use. They took one of their designs, Palmeral, and reimagined it in a fresh colour palette of off white and green. This colour fast and water resistant fabric can be used for anything from outdoor cushions to furnishing yachts (if you are lucky enough to have one!)
My thoughts on the colour Living Coral in Cardiff Life Magazine
31 May 2019
|Hear what I and my fellow designers have got to say about Pantone's colour of the year, Living Coral, and how to use it, in this month's Cardiff Life magazine. The article is on pages 84-86, and you can read it here. Do you think you could use it in your home?|
Sustainability in furniture design
7 May 2019
|Sustainability is something that is becoming more and more important in interior design - not just where we buy items from and how far they've travelled to get to us, but also the materials that they are made from. Kartell, one of Italy's best known design brands, have just released the world's first piece of furniture made from a bioplastic called Bio-On. It's a fully sustainable version of one of their best selling items - the Componibili modular unit, and it comes in four delicious pastel shades. They may be 100% sustainable, but they are also super cute and bang on trend with this seasons colours. You can buy them here|
The latest trend in shutters
24 Feb 2019
Forget painted shutters - the new style direction for window shutters is bare wood. These full height shutters made from sustainably sourced ash are the newest product from California Shutters, and are set to be big this year.
My new favourite tile!
7 Feb 2019
I was searching for some tiles for a client's splashback recently and came across these beauties from Topps Tiles. There's long been a trend for patterned tiles, with lots of geometric shapes and bold colours going on, but I've begun to see more and more tiles with a pattern in the surface of the tile itself. These ones are a lovely example, and the deep blue colour is just stunning. To get a closer look at them, follow the link below.
Pantone announce their colour of the year 2019
11 Dec 2018
Leading colour experts Pantone have annouced the shade which they think will be the colour of the year for next year - Coral pink. It might look very bright and scary, but it's actually quite easy to use. I wouldn't suggest painting a whole room in it, as that might be a bit overwhelming, but I would use it in small doses, such as on cushions or in artwork, to liven up a shceme. Pantone say that the colour is meant to 'embrace us with warmth and nourishment and provide comfort and bouyancy in our continually shifting envirnoment', which basically means it's a happy, uplifting colour, and might just cheer us all up!
My work featured on Homify
8 Oct 2018
My work has been featured in an article on Homify - one of the leading online ideas platforms for all things interiors. My project is in an article on how to avoid common mistakes when designing a bedroom. The article mentions how important it is to block out light for a good nights sleep - something I addressed by adding blackout lining to the curtains and adding an extra layer of window dressing with the wooden Venetian blinds. To see the article, please use the link below.