DECORATING can be a tricky task these days with a dazzling array of styles, designs and influences on offer: from shabby chic to crazy colour, gorgeous glamour or even full-on confusion! But tailoring a space into somewhere that speaks volumes about your personality and taste doesn’t just serve to impress visitors - more importantly it also turns it into a home.
“It’s usually when people move away from home into their first property that they realise the potential of a place where they can truly express themselves and let their imagination run wild,” says Joanna Copestick, co-author of a brilliant new guide to designing a home, Decorate.
“Discovering your style sensibility and why you are attracted to certain things is one of the most joyful and emotionally freeing processes of decorating. But all too often people are nervous about experimenting, or feel so
overwhelmed by the trends and looks that they struggle to find one to suit their identity.”
In reality, she points out, it only takes a little bit of time and research, and the essential ingredients for an individual home recipe will soon become apparent. “Deciding on a personal style is so often about living with what you love, whether it’s a collection of paintings, favourite furniture styles, colours that inspire you or objects that hold a special significance. Run with your instinct and you won’t go wrong,” says Copestick.
n Starting out
Ideally, before starting any scheme, the experts suggest you turn detective by collecting cuttings from magazines of photos of rooms you’re attracted to, as well as pieces of fabric, and working out what you’re instantly drawn to on colour charts. “Create a personal checklist of what matters to you. If you love light, make sure you place furniture close to windows to enjoy the view,” says Copestick.
“If you’re always in the kitchen, ensure it’s a place where friends can hang out too, and if you enjoy a sense of space, think about banishing some walls in favour of sliding screens or glass doors.” Most of all, she urges: “Stay on the look-out for the ‘ah-ha!’ moment when you walk into a space and instantly feel connected.” Check out the designers’ advice on creating three key looks.
Using colours is one of the most personal styles of decorating you can undertake. “It’s so individual but remember nothing’s wrong - one person’s favourite vivid turquoise or sugar plum pink can be another’s idea of excess in the taste department,” says Copestick.
“While a pale neutral palette beloved of many professional decorators may seem like a bland compromise to those who love bolds and brights.” Think outside of the box as well, she advises, as colour need not necessarily be painted on walls.
If a room is bland and box-like, incorporate an interesting focal point featuring colour, whether it’s a mantel shelf for a display of colourful china, a large piece of free-standing, vibrantly-painted furniture or a stunning piece of art to take up one wall.
In a large room, where you want to enhance a sense of enclosure and seclusion, opposing walls can be painted the same colour.
Alternatively, a wall painted up to dado height in a vivid colour with white above is a good way to live with some colour without feeling overwhelmed by it.
“Jewel-bright sunlit rooms can stand big, bold shades of fuchsia or topaz, so go with the colourful vibe if light is not an issue,” says Copestick.
“In a room dominated by neutral colours, add in vivid contrast colour as accents on upholstery, cushions or artwork. Strong tones such as orange, citrus lime or red work well as vivid jolts of colour in this way.”
n Flea market style
Whether you call it junk, or simply ‘old stuff’, there’s no doubt that flea market chic’s time is now. “The idea of living with second-hand furniture and objects is as fashionable as the latest outfits from the latest Paris catwalk show,” says Copestick.
While foraging in charity shops and second-hand stores can be fun and productive, she advises having a list of eras that you’d like represented in your home.
To be on trend, retro Fifties and Sixties style is in vogue. But feel free to indulge your own passions - whether it’s for items such as a 1930s clock or a 1970s tea service as well as that 1960s wood-framed sofa.
“Revel in mixing up the era and playing with colours and materials. If your eye immediately fixes on a battered cabinet across a crowded junk shop floor then you’ll find it hard to go home without it,” she says. “Trust your instinct and buy only items that you are really attracted to from the start. Use smaller flea market finds to embellish existing items, perhaps antique handles to dress up a chest of drawers, vintage plates displayed on a shelf, or fabric from old curtains turned into striking cushion covers.”