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Not just a cushion plumper

8 min read

Published 28 Dec 2020


A close up of some colourful cushions on a sofa.

Well, 2020, what can I say? It’s certainly been eventful. Many things have happened to make us shift our focus, but one thing to come out of this year is that we are trying to make our homes work for us, to get them to function in the way we need them to now, and to make us feel better. It’s definitely been a year for home improvements, with tradespeople and home professionals busier than ever. As more and more of us make changes to our homes, it seems that many of us are looking for professional help to make those changes.

When a potential client gets in touch, I always ask them if they have worked with an interior designer before, and I often find that they haven’t. Some say that they didn’t think they could afford an interior designer, some have made expensive mistakes in the past and want to avoid making more, and some just know that they need help with their homes but don’t know what kind of help that might be. When I have those initial chats with clients, part of my job is to explain what a designer does and what I can do to help. It’s understandable that people aren’t sure what I do - there are literally thousands of interior designers across the country and they all offer different services or describe their skills in different ways. So what does an interior designer do, and how can you choose the right one for you?

A computer generated image of a recent design for a boys room.
A recent design I produced for a little boy's bedroom, with bespoke storage

In the UK there is no accepted definition of an interior designer, and there is no standard route to becoming one. Some designers study interior design as a degree, others take shorter but accredited courses, and others still have no formal qualifications in the field. Many talented and experienced designers in this country have never had any formal training and are excellent, producing fabulous (and safe) results, but they have had to learn through experience.

There are also many ways to specialise too. Is the person who makes beautiful curtains and cushions offering the same service as one who can help you plan and project manage an extension? Can a designer who offers a paint colour selection service design your new bathroom?

A computer generated image of a recent bathroom design I produced.A visual for a recent bathroom design of mine

In the US, they use two terms - interior designer and interior decorator. There is a very clear distinction between an interior designer and an interior decorator, and what they can do for you. To be an interior designer in the states you have to be qualified to at least degree standard (most have more professional qualifications on top of their degrees). If you don’t have an interior design degree, then you can’t call yourself an interior designer, and can work as an interior decorator only. This seems pretty clear cut, and in the states you can get into big trouble if you are a decorator and stray into designer territory.

So what about here in the UK? Is it the same? You actually don’t need official qualifications to be an interior designer here. We don’t really use the term ‘interior decorator’ in Britain (it quite rightly sounds too American for us), so there are no distinctions between types of interior designers. This can be confusing when you’re looking for the right person to help you, but the main difference between a designer and a decorator is whether or not they touch the structure of the building. The Society of British Interior Design says that an interior designer will work on

The outcome and impact on the wellbeing, safety and function of the interior performance of a building. An interior designer is responsible for the design of the internal space of a building or structure. It relates to the layout and configuration of interior space and includes the skills of first fix installation to buildings such as kitchens, bathrooms, path-finding and surfaces. It also incorporates the responsibilities of what is often referred to as a space designer in other countires

Although we don’t really use the term interior decorator in the UK, the SBID has attempted to make the distinction between types of designer by also defining an interior decorator’s role -

Interior decorators do not provide advice on space, structural reconfiguration or fittings. An architect and interior designer may also provide the service of a decorator but a decorator cannot provide the service of an interior designer or architect

But what does that mean in reality? If you are a qualified designer, you can deal with things like knocking walls down and altering the structure of buildings and will need to be up to speed with all building codes and safety regulations. If you are a decorator, you don’t touch anything that alters the fabric of the building, and will deal with finishes and furniture only. Anything like curtains, sofas, wall coverings, choosing tiles and paint colours is what you can do for a client - the decorative elements in a home. I guess this is where the term ‘cushion plumper’ comes from, and the idea that a designer just flounces in with fabric and wallpaper swatches whilst the builders do the real work.

A selection of paints, fabrics and a paint chart arranged together.

Then there are designers who like to shop for a room, and not add anything original to it. I was watching reruns of Interior Design Masters on Netflix recently (as any self respecting interiors obsessed person does) and the head judge, Michelle Ogundehin, described one of the contestants as an ‘interiors shopper, rather than a designer’. When Michelle called the contestant a ‘shopper’ what did she mean? Speaking about the bedroom he had designed, she said ‘has this room been interior designed? It feels like a shopping list of items, it feels a bit flat’. I think there’s a big difference between being able to add new furniture and accessories to a room and really thinking about what will enhance the way the client uses the room, and then coming up with a practical way to make that happen. For example, you might remember my recent kitchen project where I told the client that in order to make the best use of her space and to give her the kitchen she needed, we would have to remove the huge stone fireplace and build seating there. 

A photo of the kitchen project before we started work.

The kitchen project before we started work

A photo of the same kitchen  when the work was complete.
The completed kitchen - fireplace gone and banquette seating installed

Does all of this matter to the client? I think it does, as you might need a designer to help with very different parts of your project, and you need to be able to pick the best person for the job. If you are looking for a designer and type ‘interior designer’ into google, then you will see everyone in your area that is listed as an interior designer. As a client, you need to be able to look at each designer and see the range of skills they have before deciding if they are the right one for you. If you want someone who can help you plan that kitchen knock through you’ve been dreaming of, then you’ll need them to know how to plan all the electrics, lighting and heating you’ll need. It would be great if they could also advise on all the finishing touches like worktops and wall colours too. What if you would love some new curtains and blinds for your whole house? You’d want an experienced curtain maker who knows how all the types of fabric will hang, what styles will work best for your windows and can help you choose the right fabrics for your project.

I am asked by my clients to work on a variety of projects which need a wide range of skills from me - sometimes I’m planning structural changes alongside an architect or structural engineer, sometimes I’m designing bespoke elements such as built in seating or bookcases, and sometimes I am planning a lighting scheme. Some clients need help with choosing furniture and furnishings, and some need advice on colour schemes.

I do enjoy working on a range of projects, but I have to say that I personally get more satisfaction from projects that call for me to be an interior designer more than a shopper. I can of course choose and plump cushions, and enjoy that styling part at the end of a project, but you will get better results and a more cohesive home if you bring me in at the start of a project to help you plan the way you are going to use your home. I have had a few clients that have called me towards the end of their project, when the building work has been done and they need to know which colours to paint the walls. Through working with me, they have then realised what else I have to offer, and have said that they wished they had contacted me earlier on in their project, as they would have got a well designed and well functioning space which sits well with the rest of their home.

When choosing the right designer for you, I’d ask you to not focus on their cost alone, but look at the range of skills they have and the value that they can bring to your project - if they can improve the layout, flow and the way you use your home, and make it look the way you’d like it to, then I think they will have done their job properly.

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, and if you have any questions, or would like to chat about anything interiors related, please use the contact form to get in touch. Thank you, Louise

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

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?