Ok, so you’ve moved into a new home and you’ve unpacked all but a few boxes (those destined to remain untouched in your garage until your next move). Now you’re ready to crack on with putting your stamp on the place. Or…. a phenomenon that happens to me all too regularly: your friend’s new place has just provoked some serious house envy, leading you to the conclusion that your home is decidedly lacking in the style stakes. It’s time for a revamp NOW. Some furious browsing of homes websites and interiors blogs later, and your head is positively bursting with design inspiration. You’ve seen TONS you like in lots of the features you’ve poured over. So it should be a simple matter of picking a scheme, and running with it, right? Wrong!
When it comes to the crunch, my experience is that committing to a specific scheme is actually anything but easy. The vast array of design styles and reams of often competing advice which proliferates the design channels of the interweb is quite simply overwhelming. Decision making becomes impossible in the face of choice overload. Even if it were possible narrow your preference down to just one scheme which you could then seek to replicate in your own home, there’s a couple of serious obstacles in your way. The first is that your own home is extremely unlikely to be an identical twin, or frankly even a second cousin twice removed, of the glossy set featured in the cool style blog which got you so excited . While a distressed plaster finish might work in an auditorium sized bedroom with floor to ceiling, exquisitely filigreed, iron framed windows, there’s a good chance it will fail to wow in a suburban new build semi’s guest room.
An additional obstacle is that we rarely start the process of decorating or revamping a room with an entirely clean sheet. Most often limited budgets mean that existing items of furniture will have to form part of the new scheme of necessity. Or perhaps there’s a cherished item which you couldn’t bear to part with. It can be very difficult to assess whether a particular item you already own will work in a new scheme. So at this point, if you’re anything like me, your brain goes into a kind of melt down and after mulling it over for some time (translation: many lost hours aimlessly surfing the web) your ideas crystalise into design paralysis.
If you share my generally positive approach to life, you’ll probably manage to convince yourself that there’s nothing wrong with your current decor at all. It’s not dated. It timeless. Or if you’re in a new home……perhaps it really does make sense to live in it for a while – see how you’re going to use the space before you commit to anything. So how do you get past this sometimes apparently insurmountable stumbling block to getting a design project underway?
Break it down
Well my advice is to break the design process down into bite sized chunks. Start with a non-negotiable item – your existing sofa, dining table, carpet, or whatever. Then as a launch point for the new design, pick a single decorative item which you love, and which works with that one item. The trick is not to think about the overall scheme more widely at this stage. Keep the focus. You only need these two items to work together. Even the most entrenched designphobe should be able to achieve this relatively painlessly. Then, without any stress, you will have a solid design foundation on which to build.
The next stage is to build up the scheme up one item at a time, over time if necessary. I’ll cover this process in detail in future blogs. Meantime, I’d like to share one of my design starting points with you to give you an idea what I mean.
In our old place, the non negotiable item in the master bedroom was the solid oak bed. Everything else – from carpet to wall coverings to accessories – was up for grabs. The bed was a contemporary style though plain enough to work with a variety of different designs. I didn’t know where to start! So I spent an hour in John Lewis, one of my favourite places to find “where to start” inspiration. I found a cushion I loved which I knew would work fine with my bed. I took the cushion over to the wallpaper section and flicked through the sample books until I found a wallpaper I liked which worked with the cushion. (I discounted matching wallpaper. That might seem like an gift for an indecisive designer but actually the matchy matchy thing is just too contrived to be stylish.)
The wallpaper is Cole and Sons (though the pattern has since been discontinued.) The rest of the cushions are John Lewis too. The satin bedspread I had already and though I hadn’t planned to keep it, I found it worked great. (It’s always brilliant to be able to reinvent existing stuff – it really stretches the budget.) Once I’d committed to the “where to start” cushion and the wallpaper, I had a colour scheme and a style (I think I would call this “contemporary oriental”?!). The rest just fell into place.
Do you have a favourite place to find “where to start” inspiration? What advice would you give fellow designphobes about getting a new design off the ground?