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March 25, 2020 – Published in Design & Decor Spring 2017 issue

My 6 do’s and don’t of interior design

​​Words Justine Bartolo

Having a beautiful home doesn’t necessarily mean starting from scratch or spending a fortune on renovating your home. I truly believe that with a little guidance, (and a lot of will!) everyone is more than capable of creating a harmonious and personalised home that they feel happy in, without breaking the bank or making drastic transformations.

For big changes I would always recommend getting the help of a professional, but there are those times when you just feel like your home could do with a little ‘pick-me-up’, in which case I would strongly suggest working on it yourself and taking it up as a project, experimenting with colour, texture and pattern, and through a process, learning more about your own personal style and educating yourself in the field of interior design.

To help you on your way, here are my 6 do’s and don’t of interior design. By applying these principles your home could become an extension of who you are, whilst still keeping up-to-date and looking fresh!

1. Do care about lighting

Some people seem to bypass lighting as a priority in their homes, either thinking it’s not that important and doesn’t really affect the interior design aspect of things, or maybe because the topic simply daunts them.

But here’s the thing.

Lighting is an essential part of your interiors. With bad lighting, your home could seem uninviting and dull, no matter how wonderful everything else may be. So the trick is, make sure your lighting is adequate. Think about the tasks of each room, will you be cooking, reading, sleeping or relaxing? Each activity requires a different kind of light. Also think about how to layer your lighting. Your light sources should come from different directions and heights, keeping it interesting and creating lighting spots in different areas, so think ceiling lights, floor lamps and table lamps. Consider ambient light using dimmers and shades, or up and down lighting to focus on wall art or passageways. Do a little research on the subject, you will be amazed at what you can learn by simply googling, and once you’ve got it, your home can be transformed with minimal effort.

Remember, you don’t need to learn everything about lighting, in fact, it is such a complex subject, that we have lighting experts who focus on this part of design alone, so don’t worry too much, just keep the basics in mind and apply them to your home. Your eyes and your interiors will be thanking you!

2. Don’t be afraid to mix styles!

In the world of interiors, there are no set rules to what works with what. Some find this incredibly liberating, whilst others find it daunting as interior design doesn’t come with an instruction manual.

So here is what you need to do. Have fun with your home, mix things up, make mistakes and take risks. Trust your gut and if you feel that two pieces work well together, try it out, if they don’t, remember, it’s not permanent and can be changed. I would suggest starting off with low budget items, maybe lampshades and ornaments, and as you go along, you will start seeing what works and what doesn’t for you. This is a perfect way to get to know your own style. Interior design is very subjective and more importantly it is about the emotions that you feel when you are in the space.

Mixing styles can work really well as contrasting items can create drama and bring character to the space. Mixing a vintage wall clock in a contemporary setting can look unique and whimsical, so go ahead and don’t hold back. No one wants a home that is identical to their neighbours!

3. Do bring on the texture

Texture is unfortunately another aspect of interior design that some seem to forget about, but the importance of it can make all the difference to your space.

Have you ever walked into a home and wondered why it felt so cold and bare? Well the answer to that could very well be that it didn’t have enough texture.

By texture I mean different materials and fabrics, mainly cottons, wools and other warm soft furnishings that help make the space more inviting and cosy. So the next time you’re giving your home a facelift, think to yourself ‘Do I have enough throw cushions, blankets and rugs?’

Soft furnishings, thick drapery and layers of throws and pillows are enticing and make the home more liveable, opposed to a space that feels clinical and museum like.

4. Don’t be afraid to use colour

Colour transforms spaces, it can lift your kitchen up, bring relaxation to a bedroom and even create an area for focus and concentration.

White is always beautiful and safe, but if you are feeling a little adventurous why not try to add colour to your home, maybe starting with the living area. I would recommend not going straight to painting walls, but maybe purchasing a few decorative items to bring in an accent colour. This could be anything from vases, candle holders, throw cushions or even something as simple as fresh flowers. This will allow you to test the waters and get a better idea of the colours you would like to incorporate.

Small doses of colour in your home can really liven things up, but it is important to go for the right colours before you start painting your walls red! For calming areas, think about pastels and greens, to create a mood and character, teal and deep blues work really well and for concentration and focus, try incorporating a little orange here and there. When done correctly, you will even notice your mood being reflected in the ambience you wished to create, so this is definitely something worth looking into and trying out.

5. Do add wooden elements

Wood is such a great material to use in your home. It’s benefits range from its soft texture to the warm natural tones of each type of wood.

It can also be used for so many different things from flooring, to worktops, furniture pieces to ornaments. It also comes in so many different shapes so you can really choose the perfect pieces for the design style of your home.

The greatest benefit of incorporating wood is that it warms the space from an aesthetic point of view. Being a natural material it brings nature into the home, which also adds to the serene feeling everyone wants to feel when walking into their home.

If you are unsure of how to go about using wood in your home, test it out slowly by decorating your open shelving with some wooden ornaments and see how you go. Once you feel confident in the shade and type of wood you would like to go for, the possibilities are endless. Keep in mind that not every piece of furniture needs to have the exact shade of wood, all you need to do is try to keep the concept similar by not contrasting shades too drastically.

It is very difficult to get it wrong with wood as it’s such a beautiful material in its own right, so bring some warmth into your home, you’ll feel the difference!

6. Don’t forget about scale

In interior design, scale means how large the pieces in the room are, compared to the room’s size, therefore having a large room with high ceilings, would usually mean that one will purchase large furniture, and keep this consistent throughout.

It may seem obvious but it’s very easy to forget about scale when you are shopping for furniture. Finding that beautiful armchair you’ve been looking for might just make you forget about whether the size of it actually makes sense for your space.

I tend to like to go for larger scaled items, as I feel it makes the space less cluttered and more impactful. This is also true when decorating open shelving. Fewer larger pieces (of different sizes nonetheless) feel less confusing to the eye then many small decorative items.

Yet, whatever you choose, just make sure that every piece of furniture in your space is consistent in size and of the same scale, as if not, it can create something ‘off’, which generates a feeling of discomfort or imbalance.

Keep these principles in mind and you are well on your way to having a home with a smooth, harmonious design style.

Being an interior designer, I always like to keep in mind that the home is something personal to those living in it, and therefore guidance from my end will always help, yet at the end of the day, it is the homeowners feeling that count, so whilst it is good to look for inspiration in magazines and website, always keep in mind your own identity, likes and dislikes, and trust your gut. At the end of the day it is you who wakes up to your interiors, so make sure your home’s design style works for you!

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