Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Drama After Dark

Decorating in dark colours can seem daunting. Walking down the paint aisles in shops, it's so easy to head towards neutrals and whites. They're familiar, safe, you know what you're getting. Magazines reinforce this and show a 'blank canvas' where we use accessories to inject colour or interest. It's hard to embrace a dark colour you may love if there are naysayers who put you off with calls of 'oppressive' and 'gloomy'.

But don't let them stop you from heading to the dark side! They'll soon be converted. We're missing something if we ignore a whole colour spectrum.  Dark colours inject personality, they create a warm atmosphere and are the perfect backdrop for furnishings and accessories. Dark colours are beautiful. Take a look below to see why.

Painting a room in a dark colour will make it feel bigger. This is especially true if you embrace it not just on the walls, but also the floors. The dark paint seems to eradicate boundaries, making the whole space feel much larger:

Using a dark hue on your walls means you can pick out architectural features and key pieces of furniture in white or a lighter colour:

If you have a dark, windowless room, play to it's strengths and paint the walls in a dark colour to enhance its snug and relaxing feel:

Dark colours create the perfect back drop to display prints, art, photos, mirrors. They make everything on the wall 'pop':

If you want glamour or opulence, dark is the way to go:

By going dark, you will sit in the room and realise that the walls recede, you end up noticing more what's actually in the room:

Around Christmas time and through the winter, you'll often find dark colours making a resurgence in stores and magazines as a way of making your home feel 'cozy' and 'snug'. But dark is not just for one season! Dark colours look equally amazing in the summer months with the lush greens of plants and flowers against them and the full sunlight making all the pigments in the paint shine:

One tip though, you really do get what you pay for in terms of quality. If you buy a very cheap paint, there is very little pigment variation, you'll end up with something that looks very flat. If you're going to do dark, do it properly and buy a good quality paint. Yes, they are more expensive, but buy from companies such as Farrow & Ball, Little Greene and Zoffany and you'll see why they are so great.

Don't be afraid of the dark...

Monday, 15 February 2016

Home staging anyone?

Is now the best time to move up the housing ladder? This has been a common theme in the papers recently as interest rates are at a record low. If this fact is making you want to buy somewhere or perhaps move to a new place, you might want to know more about the latest import from across the pond. 

Home staging is a practice which has been popular in the States since the late 1990s and has been filtering its way over here ever since. It is defined as the act of preparing a property for sale with the aim of making it appeal to the maximum number of people so that it sells more quickly and for more money. 

One American woman would bake bread and make coffee every time she had a viewing as she thought buyers would like those smells. Another couple whose house had been languishing on the market paid their children to keep their bedrooms clean and tidy and the house sold within a month. According to the National Association of Realtors in the US, styling up your property can slash a home's time on the market by between 25% and 50% and fetch a premium of 5%-20%.

A few small additions can make a big difference to the overall look and feel:

For those wanting more impact, professional stagers, such as Rokstone, a boutique estate agency in central London, offer makeovers costing between £1,000-£150,000. They use Hermes throws, Bulgari soaps, plush towels, Missoni cushions, Thomas Goode plates, coffee table books and glossy magazines; "we don't sell property, we sell lifestyle," says the firm's managing director. She then went on to say that they also borrow art from galleries because "if buyers walk in and spot a Picasso, they think everything in the house must be tiptop".

Other professional stagers try to create a whole narrative to the house they're re-doing. This can include baby shoes at the end of a child's bedroom to pull on the heart strings of parents. It could be a beautiful dressing table with crystal perfume bottles and fine jewellery or a man cave with cuban cigars. One stager even went so far as to lay a Tiffany box on the bed with pearls thrown over the bedsheets and clothes, wanting it to look as though the couple had been passionately embracing only moments before!

Putting aside thoughts about the ethical nature of this kind of story telling, for top-end house sales, these kind of tricks make a big difference to how quickly the home is sold.

For more modest house house sales, however, what kind of ideas can we borrow from the professionals to make our home look the best it can?

Lighter and brighter furniture can make a big difference, 
as can removing curtains and exposing windows

Take out personal objects, such as the piano, and arrange furniture so that 
buyers are able to see how they could use the space if they lived there.

Remove blinds and drapes to enhance light and space. Arranging a table and chairs,
simplifying the wall colour and updating bedlinen can accentuate the sense of space.

Bright accessories and light furniture make this room feel fresh and open.

Changing light fittings, covering chairs and exposing the floor 
give this dining room more light and a contemporary look.

Other handy tips for 'dressing' the interior of your house for a successful sale include:

 - Price: First and foremost, get the asking price right. Don't be tempted with a high price as this could just mean months and months on the market. Look to see what other similar houses in your area are selling for and adjust your price accordingly.

 - Storage: Buyers always want more storage, so make sure you have visible space to store items. Take unnecessary things out of closets and neatly organise what's left. Buyers will then see that there is space to spare.

 - Light: Maximise the light coming into your home. Take down heavy drapes, clear away clutter from the windows and trim plants and bushes in the garden that block out light coming into the house. Consider also changing lightbulbs and fittings to brighter ones in order to eliminate dark spaces.

 - Kitchen: This is the most important room in the house and can make or break a sale. Make sure it is tidy with clear surfaces. You may also need to spruce up the cabinets with a lick of paint or update cupboard handles. It might be worth also buying one shiny new appliance and have it on display. If there is one expensive item on show, buyers will think the rest of it is also similarly expensive.

 - Mini makeover: There's no point spending a lot of money on a house if you're going to sell it, but simple changes can make a big difference. If there is one room painted in a bright colour, consider re-painting it neutral. Make sure your house looks clean and tidy and touch up the paint on walls that are looking tired. Other things to re-do could be new door handles, cleaning the curtains, buying some fresh new cushions.

 - Pets: Not everyone is a pet lover, so if buyers smell the dog or see a cat litter they might think the house is not clean. It could be worth giving the pets to the neighbour or a relative if you're having an open day.

 -  First impressions: These are the only impressions and really count. Walk up your driveway and into your home as though you were looking at it for the first time. Notice plants in the front which could be tidied up or coats and shoes which could be put away in the entrance hall. Make your home warm and inviting. Never underestimate the power of fresh flowers and a few stylish magazines. This can take your home from bland to beautiful.

If you're selling your house at the moment or contemplating a move, good luck! 

Monday, 8 February 2016

Is it a table? Is it a chair? No, it's both!

A big trend for the coming year is multi-functional furniture. Why? Boundaries in our lives are becoming more and more blurred. Homes have to function as places to both live and work. People are also adapting to living in smaller houses in big cities. There is a growing need for compact, multifunctional furniture: modular sofas that become beds, or can accommodate tables, as well as surfaces with rechargeable technology.

As a society, we are used to change. We no longer have jobs for life, we move companies, change our work, often having to move to new cities or different environments in order to advance our career. Moreover our personal lives don't stand still either; we marry, have children, retire, downsize. Events such as these, changing how and where we live means our furniture needs to be able to adapt to our varying requirements. We need flexibility. We need to make sure that something we buy as a young couple will also work with a family. Alternatively, if we live in a small space, but want to entertain for larger numbers or have a need for storage, our furniture too needs to be able to expand and accommodate this.

Furniture designers are responding to this need for adaptability.

One such designer, James Howlett has created an ingenious piece of furniture. It is described as a "cluster of multifunctional modular forms. Each form is individually designed to serve many purposes and to be of use in almost any room in the house, but when needed the group comes together to build one compact coffee table."

This one modular piece can be: A compact coffee table cluster; two tables and two chairs; storage unit; a desk, a seat, and a book-shelf; a child’s dining table; a TV and games unit and a playground for children.

An item such as this will not only be able to change according to your life circumstances, but also adapt quickly depending on what function you might need your furniture to perform on a particular day.

However, if you'd prefer something more permanent, but still need a multi-functional item for a small space, then take a look at this creative solution for small bedrooms from Studybed. By day it's a desk to work from, with a shelf above for storage. By night, pull the desk down to reveal a bed. And the best bit? There's no need to even tidy your desk at the end of the day, it stays perfectly upright when the bed flips down, ready for you to pick up from where you left off in the morning:

The innovative Italian company clei has a whole range of different items which do more than that just one job. Their multi-functional furniture can be customised according to colour and style. This sofa is perfect for unexpected guests as it quickly converts into a bunk bed.

But it's not just specialist companies creating multi-functional furniture. High street shops have responded too and Ikea has produced a range of furniture with wireless charging units for your phone. This lamp is one item from their range:

Buying one piece of furniture that serves 2 functions, if not more, means every item we own is working harder for us. We'll be able to fit more into a smaller space, it's easier to move house and we're hopefully doing more for the planet too. If we can buy one item instead of two or three, we'll be using up less of the world's resources.

So, next time you're out shopping for a chair, see if it can also become a table...or better still, a storage unit as well!

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Pantone's Colours of 2016

Every year, Pantone declares a colour of the year. This is the result of 2 days of secret talks, presentations and debate held twice yearly in a European capital with representatives from various nations' colour standards groups. At the end of this they choose their colour of the year.

The colour they choose is meant to tap into the consciousness of the time; it's the spirit of the year, represented in colour.

Pantone themselves describe it as: "A symbolic color selection; a color snapshot of what we see taking place in our culture that serves as an expression of a mood and an attitude."

Previous years colour choices have been varied, though blues and greens feature heavily:

2016 was clearly as difficult year to define as they've taken the unusual step of choosing two colours: Rose Quartz & Serenity:
Pantone also insist that they shouldn't be viewed as two separate colours, but a blending of two shades:

Confusing! A reflection on the blurring of gender roles in our society perhaps, but what does this all mean for us and our homes? How will it affect our design choices?

Before the colour of the year goes public, Pantone releases the colours to marketing companies to start including the chosen colours in design products and make up packaging. Fashion and interior designers are also given the heads up so they can include these colours in their new collections and homeware ranges. 

This means that we're going to be seeing a lot of baby blue and baby pink all over the high street, influencing our choice of what we wear, how we accessorise and what we put in our homes. 

In terms of decorating colours, pink, blush and nude tones are proving the most popular. They are warmer than white, but can still be light and airy. They also provide a great back drop for other pieces of furniture and other colours to stand out. Combined with pops of blue they create a bright, warm palette for Spring and Summer. 

Copper metallics (especially in lighting), tan leathers and other pastel colours such as yellow also work well within the scheme. As does more of a monochrome look with white, black and geometric prints.

Although these interiors are beautiful, it is all too easy to get swept along with a particular look because it is popular and prevalent in the shops. When choosing colours, whether the paint for your walls, or the accessories and soft furnishings in your home, always choose according to what you like and, most importantly, what you can live with day in and day out. 

Here are some top tips for choosing colours:

  • Light is the single major factor when choosing colour, they will all look different in different spaces. Use a tester pot to paint a big square of cardboard with the colour you had in mind and stick it to the wall in the room. You'll soon see if it works or not.
  • Colour should be used like a thread, running through a space in a way that knits the room together. For example, if you have a beautiful painting which you love, look at the colours within it and use these as the basis for decorations. Pick out one or two and you can use these colours (or light/darker shades of them) in soft furnishings within the room.
  • If a space is dark, try going with it, rather than fighting it. Make the darkness a feature and embrace a similar tone for the walls. You can add a bright statement piece of furniture or funky artwork or pictures, which will really pop against the background. Equally, you can create a cozy retreat with warmer fabrics such as wool and velvet, tartan prints and a fur rug.
  • When decorating a particular room, it can be helpful to divide the colours into percentages: 60% of a dominant colour, 30% of a secondary colour, 10% of an accent colour. Translated to a room setting, it typically means: 60% of the room's colour is the walls, 30% of the room's colour is the upholstery, 10% of the room's colour is, say, an accent piece or a floral arrangement.
However you decide to decorate or whatever colour you choose, most of all love it and enjoy it!