Work in Progress - My living room
9 min read
Published 28 Jul 2022
This month I’m sharing a personal work in progress with you - the transformation of my living room, which has been planned for a good while now, and dreamt about even longer. When we moved in to our house 17 years ago, the walls were painted cream and there were ill-fitting cream curtains on an even more ill-fitting pole (you can read about how I solved that problem in this blog post). Not having the budget to redo everything in the house immediately, we concentrated on the kitchen and bathroom. I gave the living room a quick makeover by painting the walls in a colour I liked (Farrow & Ball Oval Room Blue) and made new curtains to go on the existing poles.
When it came to furniture for this room, the budget was limited, so we bought an inexpensive corner sofa and used an existing rattan chair. When the kids were little the corner sofa was great for curling up together and watching movies. And it got jumped on and spilt on A LOT. As they got older we needed more seating - if two people stretched out on the sofa that meant it was full, and the old rattan chair in the corner fell over if you didn’t sit on it just right, so it was a bit of a death trap and no one really used it. Because we’d bought an inexpensive sofa, it didn’t wear well and became lumpy and uncomfortable fairly quickly, so good quality seating was on the top of the wish list.
We had also bought an Ikea bookcase to go in one of the alcoves when we moved in, because it was within the budget we had at the time, and it did the job but had always bothered me. It was too short and looked out of proportion with our tall ceilings, and didn’t fill up the alcove properly, so wasn’t a great use of space. For the other alcove, we bought one of those ubiquitous glass shelving units to house the TV and the boxes that go with it, which was functional but not great to look at. It was also too low (has anyone else noticed that purpose-built TV units are usually too low, making you tilt your head down to watch?) Here’s what the room looked like before:
It was an okay space, but not really ‘me’. And the one thing that really annoyed me about this room was the state of the electrics. There were two plug sockets in total! How is that enough for a modern family living room? One of them was a ‘spur’ taken from the other so not really ideal, and they had both been plonked either side of the fireplace above the skirting board, sticking out into the room and looking ugly. We plugged in some extension cables to power the TV, a floor lamp and a small lamp on the mantlepiece, but other than that we couldn’t have any more lamps or electrical goods in the room. The ceiling light was operated by a standard on/off switch, so the lighting options in the evening were either glaring overhead light or a small amount from the TV and the one lamp. Not very relaxing. I promised myself that when we got this room redecorated I would get the lighting and electrics sorted and add more sockets to give us some flexibility.
|the ugly face fixed plug socket by the fireplace|
So that was the scene before the big redesign. I sat down over Christmas 2020 (yes, that long ago!) and thought about how to improve the room, and how I wanted it to feel. I knew I wanted it to be cosy, luxurious, a grown up space to relax in, and a little haven away from the kitchen and ‘working’ part of the house. I started by looking at colours to define the feel I wanted to create in this room. I sat with all my paint charts around me and didn’t really think about the colours, I felt my way through them. I came up with a scheme based on rich reds, greens, browns and blues. Once I had the colours chosen, I found the perfect wallpaper to go with them - Cole and Son’s Chiavi Segrete (which means secret keys in Italian). I didn’t want to wallpaper the walls as I didn’t want the room to feel too busy, but had fallen in love with this wallpaper, so I decided to put it on the ceiling. It’s a great design for a ceiling, as the secret keys are highlighted in gold, and can only be seen when the light from the window or a lamp hits them, making it fascinating to look at.
Next, I designed the built in cabinetry which would go either side of the chimney breast. I knew that filling up the alcoves could potentially make the room feel smaller and that I didn’t want these cabinets to overpower the room, but we needed more storage and a better way to house the TV. I decided to make the height of the cabinets stop just below the picture rail. This meant they wouldn’t dominate the room and we would still be able to see the beautiful original cornicing on the ceiling.
I also designed the top half of the cabinets to be glass fronted so they would break up the space visually, instead of being a solid wall of wood, and made the lower portion open to house the TV on one side, and a glass shelf for a bar area on the other. I used fluted glass for the top cabinet doors as I love the way it looks and how it refracts the light hitting it, creating echoes of the objects behind it. The bottoms of the cabinets would be solid doors to hide away all those bits you have near the TV (DVDs, media boxes and remotes etc), that everyone has but no one wants to see.
|It’s great to hide your DVD player and smart boxes etc behind doors if you can, but it can also create a problem. When you want to use the remote controls, you have to open the doors and keep them open to be able to control what you are watching. I don’t know about you, but it’s not something I find very relaxing - staring at the cables and boxes under the TV all evening. So, I came up with a plan. I have always loved the look of thin slats or batons of wood used in interiors and on surfaces such as walls, and I wanted to use them here. My idea was that the gaps between the slats would be cut through the wood, allowing the infra red of the remote controls to get through to the boxes inside, and they would echo the lines of the fluted glass above. I also decided to add LED strip lighting in the back of the cabinets which would illuminate the fluted glass and add an extra layer to the lighting scheme for the room.|
Next, I chose seating in luxurious but stain resistant velvets and found a glorious chaise longue, which would go perfectly in front of the bay window. A large sofa in a stunning cocoa velvet would go along one wall, and a little chair with matching footstool by the bar area would complete the new seating layout. I kept the existing slate blue curtains as I’d had these new ones made just a couple of years ago, but I integrated them into the scheme by using touches of blue throughout. I also kept the ceiling light we’d put in around 5 years ago, as the burnished copper tones of the fixture created exactly the vibe I was looking for. You can see from these photos of the light before and after the room was redecorated how well it works with the new scheme, and comes to life with the wallpaper around it.
The one change I did make to the ceiling light was to swap the bulbs so they were dimmable, and I bought a brushed brass dimmer switch for this fitting. No more glaring overhead lighting in this room, which gave us the flexibility we wanted.
Then I had to hunt for a coffee table. We previously had three small tables that nested into each other, which were quite useful as they could easily be separated and moved around the room. I didn’t want a solid lump of wood in the centre of the room, and wanted something that flowed with the lines of the new sofa and chaise. After a lot of searching, I sourced these two tables which are separate but can be positioned together:
I love that they are glass on the tops, as this reflects the light from the large windows and bounces it back into the room, and I love the oval shapes of them - making them easy to walk around. The final bits I needed to add to the design were the rug and a floor lamp. Now that we would be having more plug sockets and IN THE RIGHT PLACES, I could actually have a floor lamp by the sofa. I sourced a dark wooden lamp with a little table in the middle of it, which is very handy next to a sofa, as you can put your cup of tea on it. I needed to find a shade for it, and as I knew exactly what I wanted, this was easy. The Gaia printed velvet shade from House of Hackney was just made for this room, picking up all the colours in the palette and bringing them together in this one beautiful piece. The dark gold fringing on it just highlights the brown tones I’ve used in the room perfectly.
The final piece of the jigsaw was the rug. It pulls all the colours in the room together and the busyness of the pattern echoes the wallpapered ceiling above, like two bookends with the room in between. Once I had sourced everything, I created computer renderings of the room so that I could check it would all work well together before I bought any items. I find this a really helpful design tool, as there is no guesswork when it comes to visualising the room, and it really helps my clients to see my vision too. Here are a couple of my computer renders:
The process of getting the room out of my head and into a finished space took a long time because I had to wait for the carpenter to be available, but once work started it all came together pretty quickly. We’re not quite there yet as we’re waiting for a glass shelf for the bar area, and I need to hang my artwork and do the all important finishing touches and styling, but here is the almost finished room:
I hope you like it - I’d love to know what you think!
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.
A responsibly made lamp
28 Jul 2022
|New from lighting brand HouseOf, a responsibly made eco table lamp. Made from recyclable and waste materials, and designed and made in London, they will even take it back within the next ten years in exchange for 20% off another one of their products. You can learn more here.|
Corduroy is cool again
28 Jun 2022
|A new fabric from Kirkby Design called Sculpt includes these deep pile cotton velvets which look just like large versions of corduroy. The look takes me right back to my childhood, and is very comforting. You can see the collection here.|
Colourful, wonderful boucle fabric
28 May 2022
|The trend for super soft Boucle fabric is still going strong, but up until now we've mostly seen it in creams and whites. One of my favourite fabric suppliers, Linwood, has produced a new colourful collection of 48 shades. It's a durable and soft fabric, and works particularly well on sofas and cushions.|
28 Apr 2022
|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
|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.|
28 Feb 2022
|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 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
|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
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
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
|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
|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.