Question: when embarking on a fresh design for your home, where do you start? Are you the sort of person who breaks it down into chunks and designs each room – kitchen, bedrooms, and bathrooms – separately? Or are you a bigger thinker and find it easier to imagine a cohesive flowing scheme from the start?
Personally, I aspire to be in the latter category, but am probably in the former. I would love to say my home flows beautifully, but due to the nature of our particular build – an 1805 Georgian country house where every time you start on a new space and look for decorating inspiration you come across a multitude of costly hidden extras – I have decorated as and when my husband and I can afford it.
As a result, each space mostly stands for itself. We approached the build in two phases. First was making the house habitable, including underpinning the foundations and a new roof. Then we built an extension and annexe, which added a kitchen-diner, two bathrooms and three bedrooms. Over a five-year period, everything has been done piecemeal as we saved and spent as we progressed.
If Instagram interiors accounts were to be believed, you’d think most of us change each room weekly, never mind on a periodic 18 month schedule – with each idea more colourful and daring. In reality, this isn’t practical or even desirable. In fact, when I asked my interior designer friends about whether it’s better to go for a uniform design or dare to be different with every room, their responses were an unanimous “keep it coherent”. So where do you get decorating inspiration? Where do you start?
“It’s so important to think about the entirety of the house, but also for each room to have its own identity and feel,” Jojo Humes, a designer who works on everything from retail and residential to office refurbs, told me when I asked her about how she gets her decorating inspiration. “I always encourage clients to begin with a cohesive palette with a range of colours, some to be used in larger areas – so walls and ceilings – and some that flow through the design, such as skirting and architraves. You will then pick out accents to add drama and integrity to the design.”
Then, my friend and interior designer Lucia Poels, who specialises in homes on the Suffolk coast, agreed: “I love the flow from one space to another in houses, but also feel you’ve got to have fun with designing your home and aim to be true to yourself to reflect your personal style, rather than just following the trends. Some rooms cry out for an element of surprise or humour. I like to add an unexpected touch of something different to a downstairs loo, for obvious reasons – it’s the smallest, most affordable room to change and you don’t spend enough time in there to get bored of the décor.” Interesting. How many cool cloakrooms have you seen on the Gram?
You do you
London-based interior designer Emilie Fournet says you must do what feels right for the space and you. “Of course there should be a sense of flow, but this should happen organically and naturally as opposed to overthinking and agonising over options to get there. Every room has different functions and is used at different times of day. These things should lead you in the right direction when thinking about how a home should be decorated.” So, think about how you and your family use it and go from there.
Connect your spaces
North Essex-based designer Fenella Falconer advises steering clear of using each room as a blank canvas to try something new. “To me this would create more of a boutique hotel-vibe which would feel too experimental and disjointed,” she says “For a scheme to work, there needs to be a connection between rooms, whatever size the property. By all means use strong colours and patterns and implement new decorating inspiration, but I’d say level it by cleverly using neutrals to lead to and connect spaces.”
But what do you think? I feel that if you go with what you love and like what you are doing, it makes sense to decorate in whatever way works for you. The reality is that we can’t all be interior designers. In my house, for instance, we may have decorated in phases but anyone who visits always remarks on how there is a lovely look and feel that keeps it all together. I think this is down to the fact that while there was definitely no overarching theme, the one thing that does hold it together is that everything is put there or created that way because we like it and it’s personal to us as a family – and of course it does help to have interior designer friends to call on for advice too…
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Featured image: iStock