Refuse to Give

Accessorising a home to make it feel personal and loved takes time. Of course, your designer can help you make a really good start, but pieces you fall in love with often come along when you don’t expect them.

I recently met equine artist, Elizabeth Armstrong, at Windsor racecourse. She has opened my eyes to the possibilities for a working artist to become highly specialised in one area of interest. For Elizabeth, that interest is race horses. And with racing as her specialism, of course she produces art work full of movement. She captures the strength and beauty of the horse, and her vision is truly an artist’s.

We placed one of her works, a semi-abstract called “Refuse to Give”, in this hallway. It has breathtaking energy that would give anyone a boost as they head through the door and into the day ahead.

The Designer and Climate Change

News of another catastrophic weather event today gave me familiar twinges of guilt. Each and every tiny lifestyle and consumer choice we make is adding up to create the climate change we are witnessing.

As an interior designer serving clients to create their homes, I have long felt aware of the environmental impact of my work: The idea of encouraging over-indulgent or ego-driven consumerism goes right against my values and beliefs. On the flip-side, I love design! To me, creating uplifting and exciting spaces that pull together buildings, history, personality, and modern aspiration, is a complex and fulfilling art form. I want to help people satisfy their legitimate need for a cosy, well-appointed home.

Sometimes it can feel like a double bind. I don’t want to encourage rampant consumerism, but I don’t believe we are here on this earth to live in a state of demoralised denial either.

For a while, I thought about making sustainability my niche. Now, I have realised that sustainability cannot be niche; it has to be mainstream. When making our lifestyle and consumer choices, our environmental impact must be as important a factor as any other. This is where designers have the opportunity to be part of the solution, finding and encouraging the sustainable choices. Not just knowing how to buy locally and choose products that do the least harm, but helping clients invest in long term choices that are exactly right for them and for their home, rather than wasteful, short-term solutions and mistakes. The sofa in the image, for example, looks and feels so plush. Yet the fabric is made from 100% recycled plastic and is almost impossible to stain. As such, it promises a lovely long lifespan, in spite of playful children doing their best to ruin it.

I personally feel that the solution to our climate crisis does not just lie in the tangible but also in the spiritual. By strengthening our sense of awareness and gratitude at being part of the miracle of the natural world, and not separate from it, we will more naturally take care of it. Including nature-inspired art, naturally sustainable materials, and greenery in the home can go some way towards that.

Engaging a designer, particularly one who is tuned in to making sustainable choices, is an opportunity to ensure you are investing wisely on every level. And, if we are happy in our homes and at peace in ourselves, perhaps we won’t feel so desperate to escape on planes and will find more time to try some meat free recipes in the kitchen.

Through the Wardrobe

As a child of the eighties, a request to create a secret world through the back of a wardrobe brought back fond memories of the TV adaptation of the C.S. Lewis story we all loved. Now, I might not quite stretch to lions and witches, but a fanciful playroom-cum-boudoir, no problem!

My young client’s bedroom included an en suite space that had never been plumbed in as a bathroom. She wanted it to become a secret room where she could hide away from the world (and her little sister) and keep all her treasures safe. We translated her passion for history and royal styling into a secret little wonderland, a trip back in time.  

Wallpaper printed with royal motifs forms the backdrop to an antique-style dressing table, and we used a turquoise blue moiré to create the trimmed curtain with full swag and tail. Gilt finishes to the period light fittings and some painstaking gold detailing to the ornate cornice and ceiling rose work towards that regal feel (fit for Marie Antoinette, my French photographer said). A bespoke built-in display cabinet is the place to keep a cherished dolls house under lock and key right now. Then, in time, it can become dressing room storage. And what a superb little dressing room it will be.

Earth’s Treasures

One of the last jobs I was able to do on site last month, before the government lockdown came about, was to help my clients accessorise the tall shelving unit that forms the focal point of the living area in their family home.

We had taken inspiration for the scheme from the colours, textures, and patterns of the sea, and my client was keen to include organic accessories that held educational value too, given the age of her youngest children.  I set about sourcing suitable fossils and gemstones.

A large and heavy piece of labradorite makes a beautiful accessory, perfect in its natural imperfection.  Its deep grey-green iridescence holds such drama, changing its colour flashes with the light of the day.  

The ammonite, with its ribbed spiral-form shell, and the fish fossil bring museum-level interest and a great deal of life to the display:  life that began millions of years ago.

The Perfect Door Furniture

It’s the carefully chosen details that make a world of difference to a successful design scheme.  Finding – or even creating – the perfect door handles, for example, can really lift a design.  I recently worked with Strada London to create bespoke door knobs in a warm antique brass, complete with a tiny central flower motif.  

Read more about the collaboration here.

The Height of Elegance

Since the early days of my career in the interiors industry, I have been captivated by the wallpapers of Fromental for their exquisite detail and beauty.  Hand-painted designs embellished with the finest silk embroidery, this is couture for walls.

One of my clients is herself an accomplished needleworker and so she too fell quickly in love with the hand-stitched wallpapers when I introduced her to them.

We set to work with the Fromental team to create a design that would flow continuously across full height panels in the Master Bedroom of her period home, and now a light chinoiserie in a restrained palette of champagne and silver dances softly around the elegant, intimate room.