A few years ago, I was lucky enough to have the services of a professional decorator to paint through my house. He was coming over to work on a regular heritage commission but this had been postponed at last minute so he was at a costly loose end for exactly 2 weeks. When my chum told me this, I laughingly said ‘oh send him over here, my place needs a makeover’. Well, she did just that – one skype walkaround showing him my house and suddenly he was here to do the work! To watch a true professional at work was such an eye opener. The meticulous attention to detail, organised route round the jobs and so tidy at the end of each working day. To save us both time and money, he stayed over in my guest room and it worked out very well. Not everyone can be this lucky – getting an interior decorator at any time can be challenging but to get a real craftsman, staying on the spot is a miracle I’ve appreciated every single day since.
There’s nothing lovelier for the young newly house owning couple, than to be needing to utilise a bedroom for nursery purposes – this is such a special and exciting time. Apart from the colour scheme, thoughts should be put to the sort of furnishings and linens. As many modern families realise, buying lots of everything up front can be a bit of a waste – so many gifts come from the now essential baby shower. They won’t be matching the chosen colour scheme anyway so for the first few months, just concentrating on being warm, clean and ultra safe will be the order of the day. Curtains that can be easily washed will soften the rather hard look of a roller blind – shutters and venetions are all very good but you can’t clean and dust them as quickly and easily and you cannot attach blackout backings as you can with curtains & rollers. The right choice of chests are important too – one that can accommodate a full baby changing mat on top, is excellent. Not every helper will welcome kneeling on the floor to change nappy no. 12 of the day.
Sometimes when we’re facing some very dark days, such as the pandemic affecting every country in the world for example, it can be very easy to get carried away in a mist of doom and gloom. The newspapers and tv reports are whipping up a fear of movement and generally causing mayhem. It’s in difficult ties like this that we need to brighten up our lives. If we have self isolation imposed on us in a big way, we can perhaps start the cheering up process by redesigning the layout of our furniture and furnishings – our interior design can e altered by a simple move about of the big stuff – maybe moving cabinets into a different position and whilst delivery from online suppliers is still viable, maybe there’s an opportunity to get new acessories and a change of colour palette. Changing curtains, window blinds and soft furnishing designs and colours for our interiors never fails to bring a real sense of achievement. As they say, a change is as good as a rest!
I do love watching old spy and family comedy programmes on my streaming subscription. The programmes I’ve bought were first broadcast in 1964 and 1965 and it is fascinating, from a an interior design and decorating point of view, how advanced the Americans were back then. I hadn’t intended to carry out a comparison between the two but in the US show, the hostess lives in a brand new detached house and has such modern things in her kitchen – a dishwasher for starters! We didn’t get them over here for another 20 years. All the units are bulky, as is her massive electric range style cooker with top oven and separate rotisserie . . . The rest of the set was designed to include the latest trend in garish wallpaper and toning drapes at the windows. The sofa is a long sleek number that actually looks incredibly uncomfortable. In the UK programmes, the two ‘stars’ live in what we’re supposed to assume are top of the range apartments in London. They are so rediculously old fashioned yet the producers had them kitted out with the ‘latest thing’. We are much on a par with the States now and much of the modern home is designed here, not there.
Keeping the house warm and safe is one of the main responsibilities of a house dweller, be they a tenant or owner. It’s all very fine having the latest design of sofa or dining suite or a wonderful outlook over a fancy garden if somewhere else in the house, there’s a misuse of something else that causes a threat to other occupants. Take electricity safety for example. It is very tempting to try plugging in lots of different gadgets into one power socket – I’ve seen it lots of times where the tv, video player, phone chargers, gaming consoles etc. are all being run at the same time from one electrical socket via an extension lead. Lots of youngsters do this in their bedrooms too and in one tragic incident in the west midlands last year, there was a case of a seriously overloaded light socket. Yes, you read correctly, the young father wanted to impress his wife’s ‘school gate’ pals and not having enough wall sockets, he adapted the cable down from the ceiling and used that to power a plug in fire. Obviously it was dangerous – it overloaded, wasn’t fused and so the whole lot caught fire with devastating results. This was all so that the family could boast they’d got this latest gadget and that. I see some horrors in the home refurbishment programme on tv – the one where folk buy seriously run down dumps at auction and try to turn them into rentable spaces without actually doing a lot to them. It is eye opening how dense some of these ‘property developers’ are!
I was out in a village on a group walk recently and after a couple of hard hours tramping up hill and down dale, we visited the most wonderful tea rooms. These were situated in a very old barn on the edge of a mill complex. The building itself was tall and being near the mill, the sounds of the water wheel were quite atmospheric. The design inside the barn was fantastic with a hayloft all lit up with a firm stair case up. It had a display of old farm and mill equipment together with a display of historical costumes. Downstairs the interior design had been very carefully thought out. There were patterned tiles hanging in displays over the cold stone walls – just a few brightly coloured motifs. Amongst these were photos and racks of cards for purchase. The cooking area itself was very mod con behind a big glass counter and display unit. A great deal of thought had gone ito how to set the chairs and tables. These were all pretty sturdy – just right when hoardes of muddy walkers descend on the place and all need to fit around the tables with their gear still in situ!
Making your first home purchase really yours takes a bit of work and practice. The first few years are spent just trying to ensure the mortgage is paid and all the legals too. There usually isn’t a lot of funding left for trendy things like interior design concepts. However, it is possible to take a good look at each room in turn. Starting in the doorway, take a long careful look from the farthest left hand corner, right round to the farthest right hand. By really looking at all the features, the furniture and soft furnishings, it is possible to get an idea of how to improve the current model without spending too much. Charity shops often have larger furniture departments and you would be astounded at how you can get hold of decent pieces to replace the old stuff you were given when you moved in. Or if the thought of more second hand doesn’t cut it for you, how about visiting the massive scandinavian outlets updating your existing scheme by changing the colours of all the soft furnishings and window dressings. Amazing how effective this simple idea can be.
I have the unfortunate reputation for being slightly clumsy. I admit that I do have a tendency to trip over matchsticks or fall wobble sideways when my legs and brain are too tired to keep me on the pavement. These are co-ordination issues that are easily sorted with a sit down and decent cup of tea. Things that are not so easily fixed however are the domestic ones where you suddenly realise that the lounge furniture is drab and dated and you don’t have the funds or wherewithall to get it all replaced. Designing the interior of a house is not always the easiest thing to look at. You end up with masses of confusing ideas and usually, like me, decide to shelve it and have another look next year! This year however it’s different and I have taken the bull by the horns. I engaged the services of a wonderful young team of designers who came and suggested two schemes to breathe life into my existing household effects by way of a fresh coat of paint and some very different but co-ordinating accessories. It looks so different was worth every penny of their fee.
Flowers are a wonderful addition to the designers palette. I have never been very arty and I struggle to make my home look more than just acceptably modern and tidy. By magazine standards, the interior is rather basic, not a lot has been done to update the decor – one new lick of paint all round in March five years ago and that was the first from moving in 8 years before that! So I’m not known for being overly creative. However, I have discovered the joy of buying flowers at my local market and arranging them in large colourful displays. I ave been much inspire in my design from helping out at a local heritage house. They’re well known for their English country garden setting and every duty day is improved greatly upon seeing the fantastic bouquets on display in the great hall. Whenever they host weddings at the Hall, the flowers are part of the service supplied in the hire fee. Each bride has several colourways to choose from and I have learned much from hovering near the massive vases . .. . Easily an aid to the iterior design of our houses and this is one way to bring life to a room without vast expense.
I have been getting into watching a particular north american property programme – over here it’s just called buying and selling but over there it refers to the two host as they are twin brothers. Like so many of their very successful series, this one does rely very heavily on a standard formula and it never varies. The hapless families needing the home refurbishment or ‘reno’ are different every show, but the ideas are exactly the same and you can set your watch on various segments of the hour long show. However, it does show us some really good ideas for updating houses and making a worn and tired out family home come alive with just a few changes – ripping out the old fashioned cooker and replacing with a shiny range with classy looking splash back behind that and the sink – if there’s room, putting a well designed island unit in the kitchen and replacing the counter tops and cabinet doors and drawers seems to do the trick. It makes me feel uncomfortable now watching the funny little property shows we have over here. Guess it reflects the funny little properties we live in!