One thing that I’ve just loved about The Great Interior Design Challenge has been the opportunity to traipse up and down the country having a jolly good nose into other people’s houses. While we have been to some lovely locations and met the most charming people, but I’ve also seen a fair quota of design disasters. Here are my observations on the most common mistakes and how to easily turn them around.
1. Bright white isn’t a bright idea
Bright white is a really poor colour choice for most houses in the UK. With skies that are mostly grey, that bright white will look bleak and dismal. Instead choose an off white with some warmth. Or better still embrace the darkness and daub a deep and mysterious colour on the walls. Contrary to popular opinion dark colours can actually visually push the walls out making a room appear bigger.
2. Supersized furniture
The fight of the elephant-like sofa is a battle that living rooms up and down the country are losing. When a room is of petite proportions, you’re better off buying a sofa that can pirouette on legs. The gap below helps to create the illusion of space (as well as the perfect storage spot for odd socks, biros and Lego bricks, but I digress). Then add comfort with a bevy of feather filled scatter cushions. And while I’m on this rant the TV is almost always too big too, along with those awful trunk style coffee tables. All this super sized furniture is choking up the room. Opt instead for furniture raised on legs, a glass coffee table and a TV that is in proportion to the size of the room. And breath.
3. Use it or lose it
You’ve done a stellar job picking out a rocking colour scheme. Tick. You’ve maxed the credit card out on serious home candy. Tick. You might have even got the builders in to help you realise your pent house aspirations. Tick. But then the big fail comes when its time to move all the ‘stuff’ back in. The collection of Bruce Lee films, the plethora paperback travel books, every CD you’ve ever owned will collectively kill off any stylish room design. Adequate storage (shallow shelves and cupboards so things don’t lurk at the back) needs to be allotted. Next have a very strict de-clutter. Utilise the digital age to its full advantage and ditch DVDs, CDs and paperbacks altogether. Then use your bookcases and display areas to show off your best bits.
4. Keeping up appearances
People have forgotten on how to make an entrance. We have such great housing stock in this country, the legacy of the Victorians and Edwardians are streets with the most amazing facades. Encaustic tiles, stained glassed door panels and stone pediments. This was because our forebears knew the importance of appearance. But all too often you’ve got to have a scrap with the recycling bins before you can get to the front door. Hallways are unloved, with a dangling light bulb and an assault course of trainers, scooter helmets and kit bags. All this can be rectified by gentrifying with a little box hedging, encasing the bins out of site, slap a coat of gloss paint on the front door and buff up your knockers. A fancy dangly chandelier hung in full view and you’re ready to party.
When it comes to accessories, think big to create impact. A titchy rug floating in the middle of the room just looks stingey. Instead go large-scale, big enough so the feet of the sofa can sit on it. This helps to ground the space. Next, that tiny pendant over the dining table, upscale it and hang it nice and low. Grab a supersized piece of artwork and hang it low over the sofa or console. Next the headboard in the bedroom could be oversized to hotel proportions for a luxurious look.
6. Dare to be different
Astonishingly most people redecorate to impress their friends rather than tap into how they want to feel in the space they live in. The result is an anodyne interior, which is always a big Design Fail. I call it the ‘Footballers House effect’. They all look the same and lack personality. I say if you want leopard print wallpaper on all your walls then Go For It! Homes should be personal spaces, where we can be creative and as a result a true expression of the people who live there.
The Great Interior Design Challenge is on BBC2 at 7pm on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, starting from the 1st February.Follow the chatter on twitter using the hashtag #GIDC