When it's time to hire a professional
9 min read
Published 28 Apr 2021
Lockdown was stressful for all sorts of reasons, and many of them were unexpected, but the one thing that I wasn’t expecting at all was that I would finally crack and hire a cleaner. After years of ‘discussions’ with my husband with him telling me why having a cleaner is a bad idea, I got to the end of my tether and put my foot down. I had been doing the cleaning for years (my husband did his fair share too) and I actually quite like cleaning. But after a year of having everyone at home and homeschooling, and trying to run my business whilst doing all the things, it was time for something to change. I tried paying the teenagers to do it, which worked well for a couple of weeks until they got bored. Despite very clear written instructions from me, the house was no cleaner after they’d ‘cleaned’, so I decided to get a professional in. And boy, what a great idea that was! After the first visit and with very little instruction, my home was much more sparkly and cleaner than it ever was before, and I didn’t have to lift a finger. I truly hadn’t realised the benefit of getting someone in who actually knows what they’re doing and does it every day. They could do a great job in half the time and get much better results than I ever could.
This got me thinking about my own job, and our approach to hiring people who have more knowledge and experience than us. There are some things we wouldn’t dream of doing ourselves (performing your own dentistry anyone?), but there are others that we think we should be good at despite not having any training or little experience. I’ve lost count of the number of clients who tell me in an embarrassed tone that they really aren’t very good with interior design. I wouldn’t expect them to be, and I’m glad that I am able to help them navigate the very confusing world of colour, shape, scale, proportion and practical use to get to a finished working home. I know that we all have our priorities, and when doing renovations, budgets are always tighter than we would like them to be. But, I would encourage us all to think about why we could choose to hire someone who can do the job better than we can, and what the benefits of doing that might be. Here’s the story of one renovation project to illustrate my point.
the main bedroom when I first saw it
the living room definitely needed some work
the kitchen was in a bit of a sorry state too
I have been working with a wonderful client on her home for over a year now, and have seen her go through the many ups and downs of a home renovation. When I met her, I was hired on a consultancy only basis, so no design plans or project management work were needed from me, as that’s how she wanted to run her project. At our first meeting she excitedly showed me the house (which had so much potential) and asked for help with choosing paint colours for each room. We agreed a plan and started work, and she got in touch whenever she needed help with some decision making. As she realised that she liked my ideas and that our visions for the house aligned, she then began asking me for help with choosing furniture, lighting and finishes such as tiles and worktops etc.
The whole house needed a lot of work, so she had it rewired, and installed new bathrooms and a new kitchen extension with wet room. She has been working with wonderful builders who have supported her and worked tirelessly to make sure everything was just right, but still the experience was very stressful for her, resulting in lots of panicked phone calls to me. As I hadn’t been asked to design each room, there were no plans to work from. Each item which needed to be sourced was found as and when it was needed, resulting in lots of choices the client wasn’t happy with and a lot of rushing to source alternatives at the last minute.
When the client asked me to choose items, I thought about the overall design of the house and what would work best, and those choices worked well. But the client didn’t involve me in every decision - she understandably relied on her plumber to source fixtures and fittings for the bathrooms, and was unhappy when they didn’t fit in with the look she wanted. This is something that I see a lot of homeowners do - they think that the plumber would of course know where to get the best fixtures and for the best prices, so they ask them to find everything. Plumbers are wonderfully skilled at the work they do, but they aren’t interior designers, and often aren’t aware of the range of products available and how they can be chosen together to achieve the right look. The client had to ask me to help re-source fittings and ask the builders to change items as the build went along, which is not the most efficient way to complete a project. These pics show that we’d chosen funky tiles and black finishes for the lighting in the main bathroom, but unfortunately the client hadn’t discussed this with the plumber, and he fitted chrome taps, shower and a towel rail.
Luckily, the fab builder came up with a solution and had the fittings powder coated so that they were black, and much more in keeping with the overall look the client wanted. What a difference it made:
Another area of stress was the kitchen. The extension had been planned out by an architectural designer, who did a great job making the most of the natural light and maximising the footprint of the available area, but designing the kitchen itself wasn’t part of the brief. The client didn’t ask me to do it because the builder had recommended a kitchen supplier who would do it for free and you would assume that a kitchen specialist who does this every day would do a great job, wouldn't you?
The kitchen supplier worked from a basic layout which was given to them by the client, and everything was done over email. The kitchen supplier didn’t visit the site (which was understandable given the circumstances) and trusted the measurements they had been given by the client. Of course, when the kitchen was installed, some items didn’t quite fit and the client had to pay the builder to alter them on site. But the bigger issue was that the layout didn’t make the best use of the space - there wasn’t enough storage and there was a whole wall which could have been used for cabinets but was empty. The client also found that there were no internal ‘extras’ such as corner solutions or drawer dividers included in the design, and felt that the kitchen supplier wasn’t too interested in how the kitchen would actually be used by her. This is vitally important when designing a kitchen. For example, what would be the best place to store the items that you need everyday, so that you can get to them easily? Which items are rarely used and can be stored in harder to reach areas? The client quite rightly felt that she spent a lot of money on her kitchen and these things should have been considered at the beginning. So, I was asked to help solve the kitchen problems, and was happy to. We knew that more storage was needed, but we both felt that a long row of tall cupboards could dominate the kitchen and make it feel too crowded. Here’s the wall with no storage on it:
Here’s my design to add more storage on the empty wall:
And here’s what the finished dresser looks like now:
The client is really happy with the solution and now feels that it makes the whole room, and the dresser has turned it from a room she was very unhappy with to her favourite room in the house, which honestly makes me grin from ear to ear.
There were many other problems to overcome, from issues with the underfloor heating system which had knock on effects on the flooring installation, to the sink in the small WC being too large, to light switches and fittings not being in the correct places.
The issues in the main bedroom with wall light placement are another example of the value of hiring a designer to oversee things - the client had never done any work like this on a home before, so didn’t know that the sizes of furniture chosen would affect the light placements. The cabling for the lights was installed before the bed arrived, and the client hadn’t told the electrician that the bed was a super king size one. The wall lights were supposed to be either side of the headboard to light up the areas by the bedside tables, but instead were above the headboard, so the lights would have lit up the bed and left the bedside tables in shadow.
Here’s what it looked like when the cables were first fitted:
Thankfully the client was able to get the wall lights moved further out, but she had to pay the electrician to move the cables, then the plasterer to patch up the walls, then get the decorator back to repaint the patched up area. Which all adds up to more money spent on the project unnecessarily.
The client tells me that her planned spend tripled because of mistakes and the delays caused by them, but also because she hadn’t set a realistic budget for a project of this size (again, why do we expect that we should be able to do this without the necessary experience?). With hindsight, the client wishes she'd hired me to run the project. She was trying to save money on design fees but the whole process ended up costing her way more than my fees would have done. It’s been a learning experience for her, and she very humbly admits to making some mistakes. Here’s what she has to say:
Louise is clearly an expert in her field but I also found her to be flexible, personable, friendly and collaborative. At times all I needed was a little help in the right direction and at other times I needed her to take full control. She adapted to each challenge with ease, however large or small. I am convinced without her the whole process would have been so much harder and more costly. If I were to start this project over I would definitely ask Louise to be more involved, particularly in space planning and project management. I’ve learned the hard way but I now fully appreciate how much stress and financial cost can be saved when these areas are handled by an expert
|I think this client has got great taste and the project certainly wouldn’t have turned out as well as it did without her input and hard work, but I really am so pleased that she can see the value of hiring a designer. I’m also very grateful that she is happy to share her experiences with you so that hopefully others won’t make the same mistakes, and I’m excited to share more pictures of this project with you soon.|
Welcome to my design blog, where you'll see posts about anything from my current interiors obsession, 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
It's all about soft yellows
28 Jul 2021
|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
|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
|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
|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
20 Oct 2020
|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
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
13 Mar 2020
|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
|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
|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.