If you're embarking on a room remodel at home, these interior design tips from the world's top interior designers will put you a step ahead of the crowd.
See: Interior design trends – the top looks for year ahead
1. Source upscaled furniture
Brand new furniture is wonderful, of course, but refurbished antiques will create an atmosphere that new pieces just can't. And the beauty of working with older furniture is that you can easily create an eclectic mix that is united, perhaps, by just a finish, a paint color or a handle style.
‘We often source and collaborate with Studio27, One Brick Lane and The Restoration in London. All three specialise in upscaling mid-century pieces to add warmth, color and individuality while respecting the design and watching the budget. ’
Caz Myers, cazmyers.com
2. Add layers to create comfort
Layering in a room is hugely important for adding both comfort and extra color and pattern.
‘A simple trick is a cloth-covered table – be it a console, center or side table. This can be a traditional treatment with a generous bullion fringe around the bottom or more modern, with a pleated or graphic fabric. A long cover is also really useful for hiding things behind.'
Nicole Salvesen, salvesengraham.com
3. Invest in the best fabrics you can find
High quality fabrics will create a high quality finish – but more than just offering the luxe look, they're likely to be more hardwearing than less expensive textiles.
‘For affordable yet inspiring fabrics, I recommend The Cloth Shop (used here) and Warris Vianni, both in west london. ’
Georgina Cave, caveinteriors.com
4. Hide away utilities
‘In an open-plan kitchen and living area, hide away as many utilities as possible. I have a wall of built-in cupboards and behind the doors are the fridge freezer, washing machine, tumble dryer and all the cleaning products. I’ve decorated the fronts with framed botanical prints, which add a sweet focal point to the small kitchen space.'
Martin Brudnizki, mbds.com
5. Dress windows to let in light
Light-filled rooms are so much more refreshing to spend time in than dark ones, but well-dressed windows do look better than those that are neglected.
‘Be canny with window treatments. It’s not always necessary to have hefty lined and interlined fabrics – a simple unlined blind can be very effective and much less expensive.'
Emily Todhunter, todhunterearle.com
6. Replace kitchen wall cupboards with a pantry
‘Being creative with storage can make a room to feel larger and let the finishes come to life. Carve out a small walk-in pantry or laundry room: this creates a task-driven area and keeps the kitchen walls free of cupboards. An unexpected benefit is it’s less expensive too.'
Philippa Thorp, thorp.co.uk
See: Pantry ideas – versatile storage that’s equally suited to modern life
7. Be bold with color – selectively
‘A bold color choice can really elevate a scheme, especially in a small guest room. Focus it on one area – a headboard or a bedcover – to pack a statement punch.'
Tiffany Duggan, studioduggan.com
8. Swap out accessories to reflect the season
‘Small changes can have instant impact. Follow the seasons: add cushions and throws and layer rugs as winter takes hold; in summer, hang vibrant silk and crisp linen at the windows.'
Tricia Guild, designersguild.com
9. Use paint effects for a unique look
‘Decorate walls with a stencil. It is an inexpensive but effective way to create a beautiful backdrop, as shown with this neat diamond design in a children’s room.'
Katie Glaister and Henry Miller-Robinson, kandhdesign.co.uk
10. Buy one statement piece
‘A mix of high-street and statement pieces can be particularly effective to get the most out of your budget – just make sure the investment item is truly a one-off.
'Edition94 in South Kensington, London, is a treasure trove of vintage furniture and handcrafted homeware. Its founder, India Whalley, has a great eye for individual designs, which she sources from hidden corners around the world. I love the vintage side tables that she hand lacquers in bold colours – each piece is unique and can be made in whatever color you like.'
Beata Heuman, beataheuman.com
11. Make art part of your interior design scheme
At planning stage, put artwork into your design scheme – it may even be that a piece of art can inspire a room's new look.
‘For well-priced art, we turn to British Art Portfolio. It’s run by two women who scour the country for work by young and established artists. They have an unbelievable selection of paintings and sculpture.'
Emma Deterding, kellingdesigns.com
See: How to choose art – an expert guide to making the best choices
12. Put accessories high on your list
‘Focus on accessories. For instance, dress a bedroom with inexpensive plain fabrics but add a colorful bedspread and some tasselled cushions. They’re so adaptable and will instantly create a strong look.;
Penny Morrison, pennymorrison.com
13. Mix high end with low end
‘Remember the rule to mix high end with low end. A woven wicker basket will look better on an 18th-century chest than on a precious porcelain jardinière. Also, one place we recommend never to save on is the floors. This will be the most difficult thing to change in the future.'
Paolo Moschino and Philip Vergeylen, nicholashaslam.com
14. Find aged finishes to add character
‘Aged brass as a finish is big news in the world of interiors, but you don’t need to buy new fittings. We work with craftsmen and artisans, including Masterfix Solutions, who transform the surface appearance of existing light fittings to an exquisite finish.'
Roselind Wilson, roselindwilsondesign.com
15. Use house plants
‘Use house plants wherever you can. For London-based clients, we go to Patch, which also offers advice on what will survive where. Collect unusual and reclaimed planters: zinc buckets are great for a rustic touch, but you can use anything.'
Katie Cox, haminteriors.com
See: Top 10 house plants – that all interior design lovers should know about
16. Be clever with upholstery
‘Be clever when upholstering a sofa. If you find a fabric that you love but can’t afford, don’t go for a cheap alternative. Instead choose a plain for the sofa then use the fabric you adore on a single chair or a cushion. Having a sofa made up is expensive and if you think your fabric is second best, you’ll only regret it.'
Nina Campbell, ninacampbellinteriors.com
See: Inside Nina Campbell's house – take the tour of her London home
17. Reimagine what you already have
‘Reimagine the items you own. A tired piece of furniture can be transformed by being moved or used differently. Look at the colors next to it and embrace contrast.'
Nicola Harding, hardingandread.com
18. Boost plain fabrics for a luxe look
‘At an expansive window, maximise your budget without compromising on style by bordering less expensive, good-quality linen curtains with a more expensive, elaborately patterned fabric.'
Lucy Barlow, barlowandbarlow.com
19. Look for one-offs and unusual collaborations
‘We trawl flea markets and look to the high street for hidden gems, and keep an eye out for interesting collaborations. A recent favourite find was Sebastian Cox’s bedside table for Made.'
Sophie Coller, kitesgrove.com
20. Shop globally to get the best
‘When shopping for projects, consider buying internationally rather than limiting yourself to your own market. The US is great for furniture, while the Netherlands has for amazing tapware and Germany is wonderful for appliances.'
Irene Gunter, gunterandco.com
21. Put lighting in cabinetry
'Try fixed wall lights mounted on cabinetry or bookcases. Pretty decorative lampshades are a great way to create subtle yet pleasant atmosphere. Ensure lighting is decorative rather than task for the cabinetry in bedrooms and sitting rooms, where you might want to avoid harsh light.'
Emma Sims-Hilditch, Sims Hilditch
22. Give craft a role in your interior design
Featuring craftwork in your scheme, whether embroidery, framed textiles or artefacts is a wonderful way to add character.
'We love to create one of a kind pieces which make a room completely individual, from hand-painted murals to embellished cushions and headboards,' says Kit Kemp.
Kit Kemp, Kit Kemp
23. Consider the room's temperature
'Generally, cooler colors are more relaxing, while warmer colors excite. Think about the kind of space you want to create and how you'll use it.
'Do you want your living room to feel like a serene enclave or as electric as the city that surrounds it? Do you want your bedroom to feel romantic or to channel the charm of an English country home? Working out the function of a space will inspire the color combinations you might like.'
Matthew Williamson, Matthew Williamson Design
24. Use trimmings to add detailing
'Use trims to tie a scheme together – they’re perfect for adding an extra punch of color. Pick out a hue from artwork or other accessories in the room. You can also use them to enhance existing items such as headboards or lampshades. Trims can be added to make them more interesting and give them a new lease of life.'
Katharine Pooley, Katharine Pooley
25. Create a moodboard to build your scheme
'It’s a good idea to create a long-standing mood board. A good architectural or interior designer will be able to look beyond the obvious and analyze what it is you like about those images.' With practice, you can do this too.
Peter Sheehan, The London Resolution
26. Use antiques to create an authentic feel
'Antiques add gravitas and depth to an interior, says interior designer Emma Sims Hilditch. 'They embody a sense of history and heritage that help a home to tell a story. But where do these pieces fit into a modern home?'
'When considering a modern interior, sharp lines, smooth surfaces and open spaces spring to mind. While this is often the case, this doesn’t mean that everything in the home needs to be new. For instance, an antique commode can be converted into a smart vanity with a washbasin, bringing character to what might otherwise be a fairly stark bathroom. Additionally, reupholstering antique dining chairs or a sofa in a fresh or fun fabric is an excellent way to incorporate antiques into a contemporary space, balancing the old and the new.
'Whether it is family portraits, furniture or even board games that are steeped in family history, heirlooms can always be incorporated into a home. For instance, a dark wood grandfather clock passed down through the generations can work beautifully against the Cotswold stone of a converted barn, or against the fresh walls of a city townhouse that has been gutted and sensitively reconfigured.'
27. Create a unique looks with artworks
'Artwork is an incredibly personal addition to an interior, and as such we recommend selecting a piece that speaks to you,' says Emma Sims Hilditch. 'There are plenty of one-of-a-kind, beautiful pieces to choose from at antique dealerships and markets. Once you have found the piece for you, consider how it might be used to determine other design decisions, such as forming a palette based on the key colours used. If your chosen artwork is looking a little tired, it is possible to have it expertly restored, making it a striking and vibrant addition to a modern home.'
Lucy Searle has written about interiors, property and gardens since 1990, working her way around the interiors departments of women's magazines before switching to interiors-only titles in the mid-nineties. She was Associate Editor on Ideal Home, and Launch Editor of 4Homes magazine, before moving into digital in 2007, launching Channel 4's flagship website, Channel4.com/4homes. In 2018, Lucy took on the role of Global Editor in Chief for Realhomes.com, taking the site from a small magazine add-on to a global success. She was asked to repeat that success at Homes & Gardens, where she has also taken on the editorship of the magazine.
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