Are you looking for help with colour? Try Designer in a Box

A little bit of escapism

8 min read

Published 28 Jun 2020


A photo of the finished pool area, with four sunloungers lined up ready to relax on.

I think we might all be in need of a little escapism right now, and whilst actually going on an actual summer holiday might seem a distant dream, I thought I’d share something which makes me almost feel like I could be on that longed for holiday.

Almost exactly two years ago, I was contacted by some absolutely lovely clients who I’d worked with before. They said they had ‘a couple of things you might be able to help us with’ so I popped along to their house to see what it might be - thinking it might be choosing a wall colour or a new sofa.

When I arrived, I discovered they had decided to extend their house to include an indoor swimming pool and gym, and wanted my input! What a dream - to be able to help some lovely people with something as exciting as this! By my first visit, they'd had some plans drawn up had and started work already. Here’s the floorplan of the new extension, showing you the pool and the gym area. From the double doors which are the entrance from the house (on the right of the plan), there’s a changing room with WC, steam room, open shower, sauna, then the pool, with a gym leading off it.

The proposed floor plan showing the pool and gym areas.
The proposed floor plan showing the pool and gym areas

Here's what the site looked like on my first visit:

A photo of the pool area being dug up, with the build underway. A photo of the back and side of the house, where the pool will join it.

A photo of the structure which will hold up the pool roof.

A photo of the walls being built for the gym area.

My role wasn’t what is traditionally thought of as an interior designer’s job - not so much choosing decorative items like cushions, but choosing the almost hidden finishes for things like ventilation grilles for the air conditioning. Getting the small details right in this build was key, so that the finished spaces look effortless, and work seamlessly with each other.

We started by discussing inspirational ideas and colour palettes - and a colour palette of greens, blues and greys was quickly chosen. This might seem obvious for a pool because of the connection with water, but we actually started by choosing the main wall colour for the pool because the clients loved it, and it created a harmonious backdrop to show off the greenery outside. This is the paint colour we chose - Paint & Paper Library's Sea Nor Sky, which is exactly what the name suggests, a beautiful blend of sea/sky green/blue:

A colour chip of Paint & Paper Library's Sea Nor Sky
From there, the rest of the colour scheme flowed. The grey colours came from a decision we made to match the guttering and soffit (the bit underneath where the guttering is attached) to the guttering in the existing part of the house, so that it would blend better with the whole exterior.

Then the tiles for the bottom and side walls of the pool were chosen - mosaics in a combination of blues and greens, with some brown based greys thrown in. The deeper browns and golds would go on the stunning open shower walls. 

A photo of the tiles on the open shower walls.

Here’s a sample of the mosaics chosen for the pool, with a sample of the floor tile which would go around the outside of the pool:

A photo of the mosaics with the floor tile for the edge of the pool.

The clients chose a dramatic laying pattern for the pool tiles, going in offset stripes which would look great when the pool was filled with water. We had to choose the tiles knowing that the colours would intensify when the pool was full, so we did actually spend time pouring water on the samples until we were happy! Here’s the pattern in place on the pool walls:

A photo of the mosaics on the pool walls.

This pattern caused some head scratching when we got to planning the steps, as there was no way to continue the stripe up the steps because of the shape of them. In the end, I thought it would be best to stick to one colour of tile per step, and decided that the riser of each step should continue the colour up to the next step, so that your eye wouldn’t notice the change in the colour too much. Here’s what I mean:

A photo of the pool with the sides, floor and steps tiled.

Continuing with the tile drama, the tiles which had originally been chosen for the rest of the flooring around the pool had been ordered, but when they arrived, they were a completely different tile! After the clients did a bit of digging, it turned out that the tiles they had originally chosen had been discontinued, so they faced having to choose all over again and delay the build. After an emergency phone call and visit from me (yes, a tile emergency can be a real emergency) we decided we preferred the new tiles. They were a better match in tone to those in the pool, and had a subtle ribbed effect on them which we all liked. I suggested that we lay these with the rib lines pointing lengthways towards the glazing, to draw your eye out towards the view. The differences in the tiles are subtle, but you can see them:

The floor tiles we originally chose for around the pool. The replacement floor tiles we chose for around the pool.

The tile on the left is the original tile we chose, which has a bumpy surface, the new tile on the right has a ribbed surface

The final tile decision was for the wall which had the doors to the gym in it. The clients wanted something which would be more interesting than a flat wall, and would show off the concealed lighting they were having installed. They chose a gorgeous Splitface tile as the pink and beige colours in it were a nice contrast to the blues and greens used elsewhere. The uneven and interesting surface texture of the tiles would look great washed in both sunlight and the LED lighting coming from above.

A photo showing the split face tile on the wall, with the pool and floor tiles with it.

There was going to be a large ventilation grille in this wall, which we wanted to disguise as much as possible, so I chose a colour from the RAL standard colours which can be mixed to be applied to any surface (it’s no. 9018 if you’re interested):

A photo of the newly tiled wall with the painted ventilation grille.

I also chose a RAL colour to paint the ceiling, which meant that the ventilation grilles and the spotlights in the ceiling could all be painted the same colour, to try to get them to blend into the ceiling. After all, you don’t want to be lying on a sunlounger or floating on your back in the pool and staring at the ceiling lights because they stick out like a sore thumb.

These little details matter so much, especially when you’re trying to create a relaxing haven like this pool. Another small detail, but one which has a huge impact on the overall feel of the space, was the decision not to add any skirting boards in the pool. We were discussing which colour to paint them, and I suggested removing them all together for a cleaner, more streamlined look. My feeling was that the less you have to look at in the space, the more relaxing it will be.

We then moved onto kitting out the gym area. The flooring had to be a specialist flooring made for gyms by Gerfloor, so we opted for a practical dark grey, which would also tie in with the dark greys of the guttering outside. The paint is an off white with a blue undertone, to link it to the other spaces, whilst the rest of the gym equipment is dark grey or black. We chose a bright red punch bag for a shot of colour, which would be picked up by the concealed LED lighting, and a mid jade green for the blinds.

A photo of the gym whilst work was in progress - the walls are painted and the board to hold the mirror is in.

A photo of the finished gym with red LED lighting around the mirror.

The clients wanted something simple at the gym windows, as fabric wouldn’t be practical, but they also wanted the blinds to provide privacy and to block strong sunlight from reflecting off the TV going on the wall. I suggested these Louvolite blinds, as they can be either all the way up or down, and the clever stripes of sheer and opaque fabrics mean that they can be adjusted to let light in but give privacy (like a net curtain) or can block out most of the light. I chose the Jade colour to tie in with the colours in the pool.

A photo of the new blinds fully closed. A photo of the new blinds partially open, giving privacy.

Once the gym was kitted out, we had to decide on the pool furniture. The clients had a great idea that there should be a low bench at the end of the pool, positioned between two of the support pillars - the perfect place to enjoy the view. It would be best if the bench had no back, so that the view wasn’t obscured by it when you were swimming in the pool, and it needed to be rustproof. Finding a stylish bench which fit the brief exactly took some searching, but we got there! I then decided on a layout for the rest of the furniture, and spent time getting samples of everything, including the rattan and the seat cushions to make sure that all the different shades of grey worked perfectly together.

A photo of all the furniture samples together.

So here’s the finished result - it took nearly 18 months of hard work from the clients to get it finished, but boy is it worth it. The whole area is stunning, and it really does make the most of the views. The clients have deliberately kept the spaces clutter and accessory free to promote a feeling of calm and relaxation, and I think it really works. I’ll leave you with some photos I took on my last visit. Every time I look at them it makes me feel calm, and I can almost imagine that I’m staying at a luxury hotel in some far distant land. Enjoy!

A photo of the furniture in place around the pool.
A photo of the sunloungers in the pool area.
A photo of the view from the pool to the landscape beyond.

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.

Happy reading!

We won!

28 Apr 2022

The Cardiff Life Awards 2022 winners badge
This month, we were pleased as punch to receive the Best Homes & Interiors award from the prestigious Cardiff Life Awards. Cardiff Life Magazine are well-known champions of our city, and the annual awards celebrate the best of Cardiff talent, so we are over the moon to be named 2022 winners!

Morris & Co. X Ben Pentreath

28 Mar 2022

A room styled with items for the new collection of fabrics and wallpapers.
The designs of William Morris have made a comeback over recent years, and now they have been given a striking makeover by interior designer Ben Pentreath. The Queen Square Collection has reimagined some of Morris's most famous fabrics and wallpapers in rich tones and vibrant colourways. You can see the collection here.

Matchy Matchy

28 Feb 2022

A photo of Woodchip & Magnolia's wallpaper matching the fabric on the sofa.
One of my favourite design houses, Woodchip & Magnolia, have gone all out for the all over pattern trend and produced wallpapers and fabrics in the same prints, which I love. You can see the whole stunning collection here.

New fabric collection from Prestigious Textiles

28 Jan 2022

A photo of fabrics and cushions from the new collection from Prestigious Textiles.
A new collection of sumptuous fabrics has just been released from Prestigious Textiles, called Monsoon. The collection includes tactile velvets, animal motifs, embroideries and beautiful sheers, so it's versatile enough to use anywhere in your home. If you'd like to know more about these fabrics, please get in touch.

New reeded glass pendants from Mullan Lighitng

28 Nov 2021

A photo of the Nahla glass reeded pendant
Lighting designers and manufacturers Mullan Lighting have a new range of reeded glass pendant lights available. These Mid Century inspired lights come in three shapes and four finishes, but the Nahla (the one pictured above) is my favourite. You can see the range here.

Little Greene and Bert & May join forces

28 Oct 2021

A photo of some green Bert & May tiles from the new collection, in a bathroom painted green.

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

29 Sep 2021

A promotional photo from Dulux showing the paint colour Bright Skies in a room setting.

So, Dulux have announced their colour of the year for next year, and here it is! Bright Skies is described as the 'breath of fresh air' that we all need after being indoors for so long. What do you think? I'm reserving judgement at the moment. It looks a little cold in the picture, but I don't think the beige sofa and the styling are doing it any favours here. Maybe colour drenched (painted on walls, ceilings, trims and doors) and with some warmer burgundies and terracotta, it could be lovely. You can buy the colour here.

A new home collection from Paloma Faith

28 Aug 2021

A photo of the vintage botanical black wallpaper from Paloma Home.
British singer songwriter Paloma Faith has recently launched her first collection for the home. It includes wallpapers, fabrics, cushions and bedding, and she describes the look as 'faded grandeur and retro maximalism'. The prints are everything I love - dramatic, colourful and fun, and you can see more of the collection here.

It's all about soft yellows

28 Jul 2021

A photo for Little Greene with room inspiration for using Carys yellow paint.
I was watching an Instagram live post from The Little Greene Paint Company last week, and they were discussing a comeback for yellow. Now, as you know, I don't think you have to follow the trends but yellow hasn't been fashionable for a long time, so this sunny, uplifting shade is often overlooked. A warm yellow like Little Green's Carys (above) is perfect for cheering us all up, and you can buy it here.

The cushion that gives back

28 Jun 2021

A photo of the green velvet cushion on a chair.
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

28 May 2021

A photo of one of the new tiles in a kitchen roomset with pink walls and black bar stools.
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

28 Apr 2021

A photo of two of the new light switches from Dowsing & Reynolds
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 photo of the some of the new Eco range of fabrics.
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

The sought and styled logo on a green background
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

A photo of a Blackpop design on a kitchen worktop.
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

The cover of the December 2020 issue of Cardiff Life magazine.
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

A tropical teal wallpaper plasters the wall above a wainscoting panelling and a navy fabric covered bench. The wallpaper is adorned with tropical wildlife and atmospheric jungle scenery including parrots and  jaguars.
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

20 Oct 2020

A picture of designer Matthew Williamson, standing next to a blue dresser with a wide array of candles and candlesticks on the top. Behind him in a ornate floral wallpaper with a sunburst mirror
The humble lampshade is often overlooked, but with the new collaboration between Pooky and Matthew Williamson they won't be for much longer! Matthew Williamson has applied his talent to design a new range of Pooky lampshades. Whatever your taste, colour scheme or budget you will find the perfect lampshade for your home in this new collection which is now available. This spectacular new collection can be found here.

Felt covered curtain poles

17 Sep 2020

Walcot House felt cover curtain poles

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

A picture of the Amara Blog Awards vote for me sticker.
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

A photo of the Love Rugs website featuring the article.
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

A photo of the new Kami collection from Linwood fabrics.
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

A photo of the new birch handles from Superfront.
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

13 Mar 2020

A photo of the new coloured taps from the Dowsing & Reynolds Miami colour pop collection.
Colour has been taking over our kitchens and bathrooms for a while now (yay!), and has slowly been creeping into sanitaryware and fittings. These perfectly coloured mint green and pastel pink taps from the new Miami Colour Pop Collection from amazing homeware brand Dowsing & Reynolds are spot on and would look gorgeous in any kitchen or bathroom to add a shot of colour without overwhelming with sugary sweetness. You can learn more about this new collection here.

Who knew a door stop could look this good?

19 Feb 2020

a photo  of the new doorstop from Buster and Punch, with their logo and branding.
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?

29 Oct 2019

A photo of the wallpaper made from cork, By Monkey Puzzle Tree
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

The front cover of Cardiff Life Magazine issue no.208, Autumn 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

The Amara interiors blog awards voting banner 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

A view if the contemporary copper kitchen featuring the copper pendant lights from Artifact Lighting.

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

A photo of the new House of Hackney Palmeral print for outdoor use.

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

A photo which accompanies the Cardiff Life article about Living Coral
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

A photo of the new Componibili Bio.
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

A photo of California Shutters new range in ash wood.

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

A picture of the Lampas Marint pattern tile from Topps Tiles

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.

Lampas Pattern Marine tile

Pantone announce their colour of the year 2019

11 Dec 2018

a shot of a coral reef with the description Color of the Year 2019

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

a view of the dressed bed, pink walls and blackout lined curtainsMy 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.

Homfy article - Are you guilty of these 8 bedroom design mistakes?