Down with dull offices!
6 min read
Published 28 Jun 2022
This month, I have a special guest writer - my husband! He recently moved into a new office, and asked me for help with choosing paint colours for it. He decided to share the experience with you, as painting the new office has transformed it from a frankly boring room, into somewhere he feels comfortable and energised to work in. It also looks good on Zoom, which is essential these days. Over to him…
The pandemic and the lockdown did some strange things to us. I got off very lightly compared to many: all I had to do was move offices. For ten or more years I’d been renting a nice space in a big old converted house in central Cardiff. My office was what I think used to be the master bedroom – a big, wide room with a bay window, a marble fireplace and a huge ornate ceiling rose. It always seemed a very grand setting to work in, and I noticed that many visitors had a bit of ‘office envy’ when they saw it.
But it wasn’t to last. Landlords need tenants, and as more and more people worked from home over the last two years, I was eventually the only tenant left in the building. Seeing the writing on the wall, our landlord sold up (I’m told the place is now an Air BnB), which meant I had to find somewhere else to work. I looked at co-working spaces but decided I couldn’t cope with all that coming and going, nor with the lack of storage space. I wanted somewhere I could set up my desk with my computer and my printer, maybe few family photos, and get on with my work largely undisturbed. Not that I wanted to become a hermit. I’d had enough of that during lockdown. I did also want somewhere with some communal space: a shared kitchen for some human contact over a cup of tea.
I eventually settled on another old building – a converted shipping company office in Cardiff’s historic docks. The outside of the building is still impressive and hints at its past, with carved stone cornices above the windows. The inside has been divided up into rectangular offices, and has obviously been done with an eye on practicality rather than beauty. That said, the room I picked still had one or two original features – most obviously two nice alcoves on either side of the chimney breast.
What it really needed was a new colour scheme. The walls were largely white, with half of one wall covered with blackboard paint. (It had apparently been used as an ideas board by a previous tenant). Various slapdash repairs to the walls had been made over the years. There were lots of drips in the paintwork and lumps in the plaster. I knew how to fix those, but what I didn’t know anything about was colour.Well, I did know something - I knew that shabby white walls with half a wall in matt black would make me feel like I was working in a temporary space: somewhere that was good enough for the moment. What I wanted was somewhere that felt clean, cared for, and permanent. I was fairly sure that what went on the walls was the key to that. I’d already selected and framed posters from past successful projects and campaigns my organisation had run. The last piece of the jigsaw puzzle was the paint, which is what I asked Louise to help with.
First of all, she advised me not to skimp on quality. Cheap paint can end up costing more in the end. It doesn’t cover as well, the colours aren’t as deep, and it isn’t very hardwearing once it’s up. So, we went for Little Greene, and I have always liked green as a colour, so this was our starting point. We looked through all their greens, and I chose Sage and Onions. Louise suggested pairing it with a blue, and I liked Royal Navy with it, and bought both in intelligent matt emulsion. It’s a water-based paint that’s hard-wearing and washable. Another big advantage is that it can go on walls, woodwork, and radiators. If you’re looking for a consistent finish across the whole room, it’s a good choice. On Louise’s advice, I departed from the traditional approach of painting the walls in one colour and the woodwork in another. Instead, I painted most of the walls and the skirting in Sage and Onions, then the two alcoves, including the skirting boards there, and the two doors in Royal Navy. Here's what the finished room looks like:
Seeing as much of my work is still happening via Zoom and Teams, various friends and colleagues were able to get glimpses of the painting process as we met online. At first, there was quite a lot of surprise and scepticism about my colour choices. Most offices are pale and neutral in colour, which is often broken up with the odd bit of corporate text or imagery. I wanted something more uplifting than that, and adding colour is a great way to achieve this. What I was doing looked a bit different, and what I’ve noticed since I’ve finished painting is that my office really is very different to most others. It’s got character. It’s not a boring space. It’s a great space to work in, to think in, and to create in. It’s also somewhere I’m proud to bring visitors. So, if you’ve got the choice, I would definitely recommend adding some colour to your workplace. My colleagues in London now love the colour scheme, and are quite jealous that I get to work in an office which brings me joy, and is interesting to look at.
As an aside, I will say that I did all the prep and painting myself. That was immensely satisfying, but if you can afford it, and if you want a really good finish, pay a professional decorator. It will save you a lot of sweat and tears. The prep – filling and sanding the walls and doors – is exhausting, dusty and dirty. And however good you think you are at painting, you’ll never get the smooth finish of someone who knows what they’re doing.
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.
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28 Apr 2022
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Morris & Co. X Ben Pentreath
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Little Greene and Bert & May join forces
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Dulux colour of the year - Bright Skies
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A new home collection from Paloma Faith
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It's all about soft yellows
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|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
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A beautiful new tile collection inspired by the National Trust
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Yummy new switch & socket colours
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A sustainable fabric choice
29 Mar 2021
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Sought & Styled - Preloved items given new life
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Do kitchen worktops bore you?
27 Jan 2021
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A Fresh Take - Cardiff Life feature
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|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
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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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|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
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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
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Move over boring taps - colour is the new black
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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?
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|Sustainability and concern for our environment are key in the interiors world right now (as they should be). So when I saw that Monkey Puzzle Tree (a brand I admire for their sense of style and creativity) had produced this wallpaper made of cork, I was blown away. Cork is great for so many reasons - it can be harvested every nine years without harming the tree, is grown without the need for pesticides or fertilisers, has excellent sound and heat insulation properties, and is naturally antimicrobial and antifungal. This wallpaper has an A+ rating for emissions so it creates a healthy environment wherever it is hung. Add to this that the design was produced in collaboration with the talented Drew Millward who lives in my home county of West Yorkshire, and that it's called 'Hit The North', I was bound to fall in love with it. You can buy the wallpaper here.|
I'm in Cardiff Life magazine - again!
17 Sep 2019
Now that the summer is officially over and our thoughts turn to cosying up our homes for winter, I'm here to help. If you're in need of some inspiration, you can read all about the interiors trends for Autumn and how to work them into your home in this month's Cardiff Life magazine. Hear what I and other interiors experts have to say on pages 18-22. You can read the digital version of the magazine here.
I've been nominated for an Amara Interiors blog award!
6 Sep 2019
|Exciting news! My little blog (Design Insider) has been nominated for an Amara Interiors Blog award! I'm so chuffed to be included at all, and not expecting to win, but if you enjoy reading my blog posts then please vote for me. I'm nominated for the Best Interior Designer blog category. Voting is open until the 11th of September and you can vote for me here.|
My kitchen project featured on the Artifact Lighting blog!
1 Aug 2019
When I designed the contemporary copper kitchen, I wanted to use some copper elements to add warmth and also to tone in with the pink walls and pale grey units. I found these pendant lights from a company called Artifact Lighting, and they are perfect because they add to the 'warm glow' I wanted to acheive. They also have a vintage look which contrasts nicely with the sleek look of the kitchen units. When the kitchen was finished I sent some pictures to Artifact Lighting, and they liked the kitchen so much they featured it on the blog page of their website.
You can read the blog page here
House of Hackney's first outdoor fabric
26 Jun 2019
One of my favourite interiors brands, House of Hackney, who are known for their daring and quirky prints, have just released a new fabric which is suitable for our door use. They took one of their designs, Palmeral, and reimagined it in a fresh colour palette of off white and green. This colour fast and water resistant fabric can be used for anything from outdoor cushions to furnishing yachts (if you are lucky enough to have one!)
My thoughts on the colour Living Coral in Cardiff Life Magazine
31 May 2019
|Hear what I and my fellow designers have got to say about Pantone's colour of the year, Living Coral, and how to use it, in this month's Cardiff Life magazine. The article is on pages 84-86, and you can read it here. Do you think you could use it in your home?|
Sustainability in furniture design
7 May 2019
|Sustainability is something that is becoming more and more important in interior design - not just where we buy items from and how far they've travelled to get to us, but also the materials that they are made from. Kartell, one of Italy's best known design brands, have just released the world's first piece of furniture made from a bioplastic called Bio-On. It's a fully sustainable version of one of their best selling items - the Componibili modular unit, and it comes in four delicious pastel shades. They may be 100% sustainable, but they are also super cute and bang on trend with this seasons colours. You can buy them here|
The latest trend in shutters
24 Feb 2019
Forget painted shutters - the new style direction for window shutters is bare wood. These full height shutters made from sustainably sourced ash are the newest product from California Shutters, and are set to be big this year.
My new favourite tile!
7 Feb 2019
I was searching for some tiles for a client's splashback recently and came across these beauties from Topps Tiles. There's long been a trend for patterned tiles, with lots of geometric shapes and bold colours going on, but I've begun to see more and more tiles with a pattern in the surface of the tile itself. These ones are a lovely example, and the deep blue colour is just stunning. To get a closer look at them, follow the link below.
Pantone announce their colour of the year 2019
11 Dec 2018
Leading colour experts Pantone have annouced the shade which they think will be the colour of the year for next year - Coral pink. It might look very bright and scary, but it's actually quite easy to use. I wouldn't suggest painting a whole room in it, as that might be a bit overwhelming, but I would use it in small doses, such as on cushions or in artwork, to liven up a shceme. Pantone say that the colour is meant to 'embrace us with warmth and nourishment and provide comfort and bouyancy in our continually shifting envirnoment', which basically means it's a happy, uplifting colour, and might just cheer us all up!
My work featured on Homify
8 Oct 2018
My work has been featured in an article on Homify - one of the leading online ideas platforms for all things interiors. My project is in an article on how to avoid common mistakes when designing a bedroom. The article mentions how important it is to block out light for a good nights sleep - something I addressed by adding blackout lining to the curtains and adding an extra layer of window dressing with the wooden Venetian blinds. To see the article, please use the link below.