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Decorating? Tips from interior designers & stylists


“Fail to plan, plan to fail” said somebody patronising once. Annoyingly, they were right – certainly where decorating is concerned.  Outlining your scheme of work will save you time and possibly money in the long run. Decorating, updating and styling your home can be overwhelming but follow a few top tips from interior pro’s and you’ll be magazine-shoot worthy in no time…

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Definitely NOT shoot-worthy..


*PLAN  Take time and consider the features of the room – are they architecturally interesting or is there an abomination of a gas fire / textured ceiling / avocado suite that needs to get gone pronto? Renovating is the step before decorating and should always be sanctioned by a professional. Any demolition and extraction should be scheduled for the start of your project so you don’t end up ruining new plaster or fresh flooring. Make sure you factor in enough time to complete the project.  Electrical wiring, heating and definitely anything regarding fireplaces or chimneys should be your priority.  They are sooooooo messy when you’re taking them out you’ll kick yourself if the grit and dust wrecks your sheepskins and cream sofa.   #notveryhygge.

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Ahhhhh it was worth all the hassle….

*CONSIDER what do you want to play up and feature in the room. Have you a gorgeous window? Consider a window seat. High ceilings? Go for a statement pendant light. Original floors? Lucky you…go for a rug not carpet.  What are the drawbacks you’d rather disguise? Radiators too ugly but work ok? Get them covered and painted. Less ceiling height than you’d like? Decorating the woodwork (skirtings, mouldings, cornicing etc) in the same paint colour as the wall or using a vertical stripe wallpaper should draw the eye upwards.

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High ceilings accommodate a vintage statement light: Jakobsson from The

*THINK how you will actually use your rooms. Zero point in having a spare room when you could really benefit from a playroom or home office for example. Be honest about your lifestyle and how you live day to day. Auntie Marge can stay on a fold out bed in the office if she only visits once a year….

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Locating the office in the cupboard leaves space for a guest or sofa bed on another wall

*CHOOSE What is staying and what is going and what needs changing. Decorating budgets aren’t usually limitless so work any new scheme around the existing or larger pieces such as a sofa or anything built-in. Furniture can be recovered, woodwork painted (or stripped) and windows covered with blinds, specialist film or ceiling to floor curtaining. (I have seen this done all the way round a bedroom in a grim tower block and the result was amazing – like a 5* hotel room).  Cabinets or bookcases can be re-painted and used in a kitchen for open shelving. Get creative.

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Inherited furniture from well-meaning relatives can be repurposed into useful pieces


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Opaque window film was used to cover this window and retain light but obscure the hellish view..

*DON’T Fall into the trap of ‘white is right’ if a room is smaller or that ‘everything goes with cream’. You’ll be left disappointed and with a backdrop to your lovely furnishings that’s a bit..meh. One word: Pinterest. If you haven’t already, get into it and start a board, hell start two – a fantasy board and one that has rooms which look a similar dimension to yours.Pin all the looks, colours and images that fit with your ideas and aspirations for the end result. It’ll save you a fortune on interiors magazines and help you hone your decorating ideas down into a more cohesive and transferable design plan.

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Pink – not what you imagine when you think ‘neutral’ perhaps? (Calamine : Farrow & Ball )
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Be bold with colour choices – dark doesn’t have to be dingy in a smaller space

*AVOID Purchasing everything from one store just to keep with your idea/theme. It will look a bit contrived and show-roomy. Homes should reflect our characters and personalities as well as any looks and trends we like. Combine personal treasures and prints (reframe if necessary) with vintage finds from online sites and your new on-trend purchases.

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Drinks trolley : Mia Fleur – style with your own treasures old & new

Items like patterned bedlinen, bold cushions, lighting and coloured rugs can change the entire feel of a room even when the wall colour stays the same (which is great if you’re in a rental and limited on what you can change).

Investigate supermarket bargains for up to date homewares  (Sainsburys, Asda Tesco etc), homeware on the high street (H&M, Next, M&S, Hema) as well as the odd high end or uber-cool treats (Trouva, Amara, Rockett St George). Even better, find a local or independent ‘Homie’ selling upcycled furniture, soft furnishings, sheepskins or art (or whatever…)

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H&M homeware has awesome budget-friendly homewares from glasses to rugs

*DO use tricks and tips to make the most of what you’ve got. Increase width and light in a room by hanging a large mirror on a wall opposite or adjacent to a window. Most homes come with a single pendant fitting in the middle of a room (WHHHYYYYYYY?) so use lamps on furniture, lit typography-style decorations, clip on lamps on shelves or wall lights to beat those dark corners and highlight your decorating brilliance.

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Abigail Aherne suggests a minimum of 8 light sources in a room…


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Reflect light wherever possible

Other top tips to think about are; wall-mounting storage or some custom-built cupboards in odd shaped spaces to keep all the coats, shoes and umbrellas etc off the floor and out of sight when you first come in the door.  Use larger floor tiles in a smaller room to maximise the feeling of space. Try horizontal stripes in a narrow space – it can actually invoke a feeling of width when used on the walls or floors. Curtains on ceiling tracks can be used to mask less than swoonsome views or separate spaces in kids rooms.

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Large floor tiles were used to increase feeling of space in this small bathroom

*RESEARCH the experts opinion. If you feel you really need some help (perhaps its your first home or a bigger project than you’ve attempted before) then consult the pros. Books like Domino – the book of decorating, The Great Interior Design Challenge Sourcebook and Decorate all have practical, amazing advice, room layouts and tips you can implement in your space (not just glossy pictures of aspirational homes).

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Definitely worth a read if you are tackling your first major decorating project

*ASK for help or hacks from people who have done what you’re about to attempt. The community on interior design & renovation platform is great at sharing pictures, hacks and epic fails to look out for. If you prefer the personal touch, try Decology – an online virtual interior design service for homes and businesses. They connect you with a professional interior designers and for an affordable flat fee per room, work with your style and budget to transform your space. Genius.

What are you waiting for …?

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