Work in Progress - The room that glows
10 min read
Published 28 Jan 2022
Back in July last year, I started a new project to transform a living room. The couple I was working with had recently moved into a new home, and were keen to make it feel right for them. The previous owners had done a lot of work to the house including building a kitchen extension, which the new owners loved, so there wasn’t a lot for me to do there. The separate living room was the main problem, and needed some work. The room is in the original part of the house (so not in the extension) and had previously been two rooms which were knocked into one, creating one long room. This room didn’t really have a purpose - in fact, when the couple viewed the house, it felt a bit sad and neglected, as it only had a pool table at one end and nothing else in it.
The kitchen extension was large enough to have a living area with a sofa and TV in it, so this would become the more formal lounge. However, a proper formal reception room was the last thing the clients wanted - it needed to feel comfortable and livable, and the brief was for ‘nothing stuffy, starchy or too formal’.
Here are some photos of the room when I first went to see it:
The clients wanted this room to feel more like a snug, somewhere to curl up in over the Autumn/Winter months, and somewhere to read and relax with the fire on. A reading corner or area was definitely on the wish list, but the clients weren’t sure how to create one with a long room like this, as there isn’t a natural space for one.
As you can see from the before pics, there was an off centre hole for a fireplace (this would have been roughly in the centre of the first of the two rooms originally), so we decided to keep this and add a new fire to it. I suggested a wood burning or bioethanol stove, but the clients liked the look and practicality of a more contemporary shaped gas fire. The off centre oblong of the new gas fire would create a challenge with balancing shapes in the room, so I knew I’d have to tackle that during the design process. There were also two narrow alcoves at opposite ends of the room, and the clients and I agreed that we wanted to add something here too, again to make them feel like an intentional part of the room and to give them a purpose.
So, we knew we needed to look at the layout (where to put the reading area, where to put the TV and the sofa?), but as I’ve mentioned before, one of the main starting points for my designs is the way the clients want the rooms to feel. When I was taking the brief, the key word that came up was ‘glow’. The clients wanted the room to glow, and to feel like it was emanating warmth and sparkle, but without being blingy (or resorting to painting the walls with glitter paint). We spoke a lot about colours and which ones would add warmth, and how we could use colour to achieve the cosy feeling and the ‘glow’ the clients wanted. They liked a whole host of colours (which made my heart sing!) including coral, navy, terracotta, teal, green, lime and other yellows. This gave me a lot of scope, and I felt we should incorporate many of these colours to make the room truly interesting.
The right colours would help create the ‘glow’, but I also wanted to add lots of lighting (three wall lights, two pendant lights, a floor lamp and a table lamp), all with brass accents, and some ribbed glass to achieve a soft light coming from each fitting. I planned the lighting so that each light could be operated separately, and would also be on dimmer switches, so the light levels could be adjusted according to the client’s use of the room (reading or watching TV). The lighting would of course add an extra level of glow.
Sourcing furniture was also an opportunity to add to the overall feeling the clients wanted to create in this room. I chose to introduce some softer metal finishes in some pieces, like a hammered metal coffee table and large metal detailed statement mirror. The side table I found is made from burnished copper and it complements all the other brass tones in the room, such as the soft brass of the new curtain pole.
Of course the new fire would add its own shimmer from the flames, but the real glowing feeling comes from the amazing wallpaper we found almost by accident. The clients and I were looking for ideas and searching through images online during the consultation, when we came across a fabulous wallpaper from Paloma Home - a homeware collection from singer Paloma Faith. It was just perfect. It is in the rich colour palette my clients’ love, and some of the lighter colours in it reflect the light back into the room, almost making it glimmer.
This kind of find almost never happens, as usually I leaf through my wallpaper books, search through the collections of my suppliers, and order many samples before settling on what’s just right for the project. But this time, I just googled and found the wallpaper that had all the elements we were looking for - teals and rich colours, and some florals that weren’t completely figurative (so were a little bit abstract). There was a slight sheen to the lighter areas of the pattern, which would shimmer when the lights were on and shining on it. More glow - it was perfect. I decided to use this wallpaper along one wall only, as I felt that placing it along the long wall opposite the door would bring the two rooms together, making a real statement, and making the most out of this long room created from two.
So, essentially this was going to be a feature wall, and I’m not usually a fan of feature walls as they can look like you found a paint colour or wallpaper you love but were too scared to use it everywhere. But, if you use a feature wall intentionally, it can look stunning. The key to making it work is to design the rest of the room so that is speaking the same visual language as the wallpaper. I used a paint colour which matches the base colour of the wallpaper on the coving and skirting boards above and below the wallpaper, and made sure to use this colour in other items in the rest of the room, such as the armchair and footstool. The same colour is also picked up in the curtains and the rug, weaving the feature wall into the rest of the space in a balanced way. The remaining walls and ceiling were then painted in a much lighter tone of the same colour, meaning that the transition between the feature wall and the other walls wasn’t such a contrast.
Here are some of the images I created to show the clients how the design would look:
So, I had found ways to create the feeling the clients wanted, now I had to think about the practicalities and the layout. It made sense to me that the sofa would go in the part of the room where the new fire was to go, so that you could curl up in front of it. That meant the other half of the room would house the reading area. I deliberately chose a large armchair with a tall back for two reasons. One is that a high back is great for feeling supported when you are reading, and the other was because there wasn’t an obvious corner for the chair to go in, I decided a large chair, along with a large footstool, would look purposeful in this area of the room. Smaller pieces of furniture could easily look lost in this space, and the larger chair and stool give this area a purpose. The clients had an existing sideboard they wanted to keep, so we updated it with a new paint colour and new hardware. I placed this in the middle of the back wall, with the armchair and footstool in front, a new green marble lamp on the sideboard and the new mirror above, creating a little vignette or scene that could be viewed from the sofa in the other part of the room.
Speaking of the new sofa, the clients were pretty clear on what they wanted and the practicalities of it. They didn’t like the Mid Century style sofas with angled legs and boxy arms, but did want the new sofa to have visible legs (so no sofa skirts here). It needed to have a deep seat for curling up on (more than 60cm, this one is 69cm), and gently shaped arms which were comfortable enough to lay your head on. The sofa needed to be squishy but supportive, and not have a low back. I managed to find a sofa with all of these details, and it came in a beautiful coral velvet (which echoes one of the colours in the wallpaper and the curtain fabric):
So, with nearly all of the furniture details sorted, it was time to tackle the fireplace and alcoves. As I mentioned, the fireplace would be going in the off centre hole on the right as you look at the wallpapered wall. I decided to put the TV in the middle of this wall, higher up than the fireplace so it was comfortable to watch and it would balance the rectangle of the fire underneath it. Being in the centre and placed on a pivoting arm also meant that it could be seen from both the armchair and the sofa. I had to do some research and choose a fire that could be placed under or near a TV without the heat damaging it, and found a great one from Nu Flame. The fireplace was now balanced with the TV, but the whole wall also needed something on the left hand side to complete the visual balance trick.
|The clients had mentioned that they liked waney edge or living wood, so I decided to add some of this wood into the room in the form of shelving in the alcoves. It would look more interesting and less rigid than standard wooden shelving with straight edges, and would soften a lot of the straight lines coming from the walls, beams, coving and skirting boards. I also decided to add a large piece of this wood across a long stretch of the wall on the left, going slightly under the TV. It balanced out the TV and fireplace perfectly, and also looked like a large, off centre mantle, but done in a more contemporary way.|
Most of the room is completed now, but there are still some vital things to be done. The waney edge shelving and the mantle need to go in, the radiators need painting, artwork needs to go up, the coffee table hasn’t been bought yet, and the styling needs to be done, so this is very much a work in progress. As these photos the clients have kindly sent to me show, they’ve done a huge amount of work to get it this far (including taking up sections of the concrete floor to install new wiring and pipework - very messy) and I’m very proud of what we’ve all managed to achieve. The clients had a clear view of how they wanted the room to feel, but were unsure how to get there. They asked me to be creative and show them my vision for the room, as they didn’t want to hamper the process by being too prescriptive. I took them at their word and really enjoyed the process, and the clients did too - this is a message I received when the furniture arrived:
I have actually cried several times today! It’s just so beautiful! I’m sitting in my teal chair and the room really does glow! From outside it looks magical! Can never thank you enough
I'll leave you with a photo of the almost completed reading area:
Welcome to the design blog, where you'll see posts about anything from the projects we are working on, to the latest fabric and wallpaper collections, and all things interiors related. We love colour, pattern, architecture and old buildings, and we love to share our finds with you.
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More pattern joy!
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Corduroy is cool again
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Colourful, wonderful boucle fabric
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28 Apr 2022
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New fabric collection from Prestigious Textiles
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A Fresh Take - Cardiff Life feature
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An enchanting inaugural wallpaper collection from Tom Baker
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A new shady collaboration between Matthew Williamson and Pooky
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Felt covered curtain poles
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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
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A new fabric collection from Linwood Fabrics
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|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.