When it comes to interior design the rules are always changing, but there are a handful of stock guidelines that will help you to err on the side of gorgeous. At a time when styles and choices can sometimes be overwhelming, House and Home, Ireland’s best loved interiors magazine has some infallible words of wisdom that should be learned by heart to keep your home looking beautiful.
- Educate Yourself
- Appreciate Art
- Love your lighting
- Be sentimental
- Look to the catwalk
- Beware of blandness
- Dine with elegance
- Create your own sanctuary
- Be dramatic
- Make your books earn their keep
Funny how our European-ness manifested itself in a proliferation of coffee shops with outdoor seating, rather than the elegant style and taste of our European neighbours. If you become more knowledgeable about furniture designs your home will be all the more gorgeous for it. Not only is learning about classic furniture design an interesting and enjoyable pursuit, it will also inspire you to dress your home with pieces that are imbued with unmistakeable class. An Arne Jacobson chair in shocking pink, for example, is a classic that will always have a place in modern homes. As an occasional chair in a living room or around a dining table, it’s versatile and will work for every occasion. As for original versus reproduction – at the end of the day it’s up to you and your budget.
Forget the Manolo Blahniks and the Jimmy Choos; buy a piece of art that draws you in every time you pass by. When your expensive shoes have long lost their lustre, not only will your personal art collection be worth more than it was when you originally bought it, it will give you increasing pleasure every day for the rest of your life. Ditch the excuse about not having enough money; there is always a way around that old chestnut. Either reallocate your budget and sacrifice something that you had planned to buy, or do some old fashioned saving. Try graduate shows at any of the art colleges, such as Crawford, Limerick or NCAD for interesting pieces by students who are about to embark on a full time career as artists. If you have a good eye and keen instincts you may also happen across a real find on the railings of St Stephens Green or Merrion Square in Dublin of a weekend. Try Habitat for limited edition prints, and also explore their Deomcratic Art wall for some decently priced work. Our strongest recommendation, however, is to take time out some weekend and do a little trip around the art galleries in your area. Visit each one and have a good look around, exploring the artists who are sold there and sussing out how friendly and helpful the staff are. Once you have a feel for them, you’ll soon figure out which one will be best for you. Alternatively, if you come into a bit of money you could try Whyte’s (www.whytes.ie) or Adam’s (www.adams.ie) and bid for something pricey but fabulous in one of their auctions.
Love your lighting
Lighting is the new paint. If you put thought into the lighting in your rooms you can create just the ambience that you’re after. And if it’s done particularly cleverly then you can chop and change the lighting that you use to suit the time of day or the occasion for which the room is being used. Like paint, it need not be expensive or high-end designer pieces that you use to create an impact in your home. Recessed lighting for example, which serves to draw the eye up along the stairs; you’ll get these types of lights for a snip in B&Q or Woodies DIY, and placed in a row going up the stairs gives quite a cosy, sultry ambience for evening times. You can achieve a similar effect along a corridor or hallway by fitting uplighting in the floor. Fit dimmer switches in the lights in your rooms so that you can adjust to suit your mood seasonally and for day or night. Whatever you do, don’t even consider doing any DIY jobs on electrical work. Get a good electrician who will do a neat and thorough job. A gorgeous pendant light can function almost as a piece of art in any room, and is particularly great for making a style statement in a room where you’re stuck for space. Focus on particular features using spotlights – for example, if you place a row of framed pictures along a shelf have a row of recessed lighting shining either down or up on the pictures, depending on the level at which they are placed. Gorgeous table lamps will help to map out your rooms in terms of what you do where – reading lamps on side tables and on a study desk and statuesque floor lamps beside sofas, for example.
Be sentimentalThere is such a thing as being too organised; nobody likes a neat freak. After all, what would our homes be without the bits and pieces that remind us of the ones we love and the times that made us happy? Photos and trinkets have their own place in every home, giving it personality and filling it with the presence of those who live there. If you have a designated spot for putting these odds and ends then they will come to take their own place in the fabric of your home rather than looking like a mess. Take this perfectly elegant room, for example; a cork board fixed to a wall is handy for pinning up family snapshots, and since they have one distinct place to go then they don’t disturb the overall make-up of the room. An idea like this is great for random leftover pics or silly shots that are lots of fun but not necessarily the kind that you would take the time and wallspace to frame. We recently spotted a delightful coffee table in Ikea that consists of a wooden base that has a number of partitioned ‘boxes’ with a sheet of glass on top, so that you can pop little mementoes into each one to personalise it. Another idea is to take a table with a removable glass top and layer photographs between the table and the glass to create an extremely unique and personal coffee or side table. If you find that you have a lot of little odds and ends after a holiday – tickets to museums, funny little souvenirs – get a frame and arrange them all inside so that they make a unique visual momento of your trip.
Look to the catwalk
Take your inspiration from fashion and dress your home using everyone from Stella McCartney to Paul Smith for inspiration. A wetroom, incorporated oh-so-trendily into a bedroom, painted in a metallic shade that is a failsafe colour right now when it comes to being cool and current. Pattern and colour are the predominant areas in which fashion translates itself for the home, and it usually takes about a season for interiors to take the lead from fashion, so keep an eye on what’s happening in fashion week now and you’ll be a few steps ahead when it comes to dressing your home next spring. Paint, wallpaper and fabric are your most practical methods of adapting catwalk styles to your home, so raid Hickeys on a regular basis, and keep an eye on what’s new from Dulux, Colourtrend and Crown.
Beware of blandness
We know that a neutral colour scheme in a room is a most sensible and clever way to decorate, but sometimes it can just look incredibly dull. It can be hard to have confidence when it comes to planning your colours and choosing your furnishings, but there is such a thing as playing it too safe. Better to have gone out on a limb and maybe gotten it a little wrong on occasion than to yawn everytime you enter a particular room. Be brave, we say, follow your instincts and go with what you really love. You need to make your home look as though it really is your own, the type of house that your friends and family will step into and see your personality stamped all over it. So, while the nice cream walls won’t offend anyone, a little bit of controversy never goes astray. A shocking pink chair and an oriental screen covered in pretty cherry blossoms says a lot more about you than a discreet beige corner unit ever will.
Dine with eleganceMake mealtimes a true ceremony, an occasion to share food and conversation or just a part of the day when you take time out to enjoy something really tasty. It’s time to revert to the days when we sat down around a table to appreciate what we eat, rather than plonking down in front of the telly or grabbing a sandwich on the run. What better way to do this than with beautiful tableware? There’s no end to the fabulous crockery designs that are available these days, and there is a great deal of charm in mixing up styles and patterns. Matchy-matchy sets are offputtingly effortful looking, whereas a mismatched selection tells a tale of a collection lovingly built up over time. You can go high end with designs by Jasper Conran for Wedgewood, which can be found in Brown Thomas, or you could just nick a couple of plates from your parents’ house that remind you of your childhood. Cute tea-sets and glasses are always a great buy when you’re abroad, and make a very functional and un-tacky sounvenir.
Create your own sanctuary
The modern bedroom is more than just a place to lay your head; it’s where we do a lot of our living these days, and functions as a retreat akin to your own personal boutique hotel at home. From breakfast in bed with the newspapers and vegging in on rainy nights with a good book and a glass of wine, to pulling out the laptop to do some bits and pieces and writing ‘to do’ lists, it’s the ultimate spot to escape to for a little ‘me time’. It should be decorated appropriately as an inviting lair that has been tailored to suit your tastes and needs. It goes without saying that layers of bedclothes are a must; so choose soft and fluffy duvets and pillows in goose down, as well as cotton sheets with a high thread count for maximum comfort and a cocoon effect. There’s no end to the options when it comes to buying lovely bedwear; Dunnes Stores, as ever, have excellent value; Top Drawer in Dublin, Cork and Galway is an old favourite with a comprehensive selection; try Arnotts for a variety of lovely bedlinen designs; if you’re thinking about treating yourself, get a deliciously fashionable woollen throw by Missoni in Brown Thomas. Your mattress is extremely important and is something that really needs to be invested in; enhance the quality of your mattress with a mattress topper, and consider a memory foam mattress for a real treat. The colours that you choose for your walls will have a major effect on the feel of the room, so we recommend going for soft and tranquil shades; Simply Pebble 3 from the Dulux Simply Cololur is a soothing light grey that will create a serene atmosphere. Lighting is another mood-influencing decorating factor; you’ll need a good mix, and a dimmer switch will give you lots of options. Bedside lighting is the most crucial, as you’ll need it to be bright and clear, and don’t forget soft bedside lamps with beautiful shades. While floorboards are modern and sophisticated, bare boards aren’t particularly luxurious so they need to be warmed up with a soft and fluffy rug. If you’re laying a carpet, it’s safe to go for a light and luxurious wool carpet since this is a low traffic room. Finally, lots of books and magazines, good music, candles and a ‘do not disturb’ sign will all add the essential touches to your very own private home sanctuary.
Your home is a place that should reflect your personality; so, do you want it to say ‘I am a rational and practical individual’ in a calm and collected tone, or would you rather it bursts out with a chatty ‘I have buckets of style and I know what I like’? It pays to be adventurous and it’s a lot of fun to experiment; yes there will be mistakes and you will cringe at some of your choices, but if you learn to laugh at your own lapses in visual judgement then you’re on the right road to creating a home that not only makes you want to spend all of your time there, pottering around and chilling out, but also one that invites your friends and family to come and stay a while in the comfort of your hospitality and great taste. Look at this rich brown wall, and the opulent additions to the sofa. A stunning black coffee table and some weighty books finish off the dramatic look and create an air of sophistication. Indulge yourself and act on impulse; after all, playing it safe is just plain dull.
Make your books earn their keep
A potentially delicious design feature, books are more than merely something to read, but rather something to be respected and enjoyed. Hang on to your books and treat them with care; don’t just fling them into any old corner, take care with your shelving and display them proudly. How your arrange them will largely depend on your own collection, but you could opt to organise them according to the colour of the spine, the height or the width. If you have books with unattractive covers that you love and are loathe to throw out, splash out on some lovely wallpaper and give them a chic makeover by covering them in up to the minute prints. Old fashioned brown paper can also look rather cool. Recessed shelving works best for showing off your books, and if you have the necessary wall space then build your shelves right up to the ceiling for added impact. Stacks of books by your bed, an appropriate collection in bathrooms and some image-driven tomes on your coffee table will all enrich the physical, cultural and intellectual fabric of your home.