Nicola Holden Designs – Contemporary Interior Designer, London.

How things all around the world have changed in the last couple of weeks!  These days, most of us are confined to our homes, taking our work home with us if we’re lucky enough to still have a job!

Home means something different to all of us, and it’s by no means a safe place for everyone. The idea of home as a sanctuary is one that many of us take for granted, but if you’re struggling to adjust to working from home, then here are a few things you can do to create a work space that will help you to feel nurtured, safe and secure.

Create A Work Routine and Structure Your Day

It’s important to keep your work and home lives separate to enable you to switch off at the end of your working day.  The easiest way to do this is to stick to a routine for your days.  Wake up at the same time each morning, make your bed, and get dressed in work clothes to help your brain understand that it should be in work mode.  Try to keep office hours if at all possible and, when you shut down your computer at the end of the working day, let that be the end of it. Don’t continually check you emails on your phone in the evenings.

Plan regular breaks into your working day.  Take a proper lunch break.  Rather than congregating round the water cooler try and take ten minutes in the garden or put the laundry on.  Schedule in time to check your social media, for example what would have been your commuting time.  Make time for exercise too, as exercise endorphins have a positive effect on our mood.  Take advantage of the many trainers out there who are putting classes online.

Image: Plush Design Studio from Pexels

Set Up A Dedicated Work Space

As tempting as it may be, don’t do your work slouched on your sofa or your bed as this can cause back problems.  Instead set up a distinct office space in your home, even if that’s the corner of your bedroom.  Try to create a clear space where you can put the laptop, a notebook and pen, and a coaster for a drink.  If you don’t have lots of space, or your ‘home office’ doubles as the kitchen table, then make sure you put away your ‘office’ each evening, to create a separation between work and play.  This real life switch between the two spaces helps with the switch in your head from work to home in the same way that those who commute have physical distance between the two.

Your choice of space will also depend on what sort of work you do.  If your work involves a lot of analytical and logical thinking then you’ll work better in a cosy space with a dropped ceiling.  If however, your work involves a lot of creative thinking, then you’ll work best in a space with a high ceiling.  And if you don’t have high ceilings then you can decorate your space to give the illusion of higher ceilings – adding vertical stripes, tall bookshelves, full-length curtains all help to amplify visual height. 

Maintain A Connection To Nature

We might not be allowed outside much at the moment, but this shouldn’t stop us maintaining a connection to nature.  Try to choose a work space with a window so that you have a view to the outside.  Being able to see out of window restores cognitive capacity, reduces stress and mental fatigue, and promotes a sense of freedom and openness.  Seeing the slow but certain progress of plants as they grow and open up is a daily joy!  Gazing out of a window into the distance also helps us to exercise our eyes and reduce eye strain.  Opening a window and letting in fresh air also improves the air quality in our environment which aids focus and concentration. 

If your work space doesn’t have a direct line of sight to the outside then you can employ alternative tactics such as colour, pot plants or flowers, natural materials and artwork (all of which have proven benefits).  Using a swivel chair will allow periodic views through any openings that might be visible behind you.

If your view of the outside is not great, then hang plants, install sheer curtains, or apply translucent window films decorated with floral patterns to retain the semblance of an outside view and filter incoming light while sparing yourself the downsides.

Image: Colin King

Sound Matters

Music / background noise or silence is often cited as having an impact on productivity; however, what works for you is often down to personal preference.  White noise is generally considered to be better otherwise the brain will start to tune in and it can become distracting.  I sometimes prefer foreign language songs that are harder to ‘sing along to’ in my mind.  Background coffee shop noise has also been attributed with increasing productivity, so if you’re missing working in your local coffee shop you can try Coffitivity.  Nature sounds can also help to boost our well-being. 

Get The Lighting Right

Lighting is a whole subject in itself, and I have blogged about this before.  Working in a room with bad lighting can cause fatigue, eye strain, headaches and even depression.  Our primary source of light should be natural light, so ensure that your windows are letting in as much light as possible.  Move furniture out of the way of exterior openings.  Open your curtains properly to ensure they are not blocking out too much light.  Use tie-backs if necessary.  Use mirrors to bounce light around a room, and paint your ceilings out with gloss paint with a light reflectance value (LRV) of 60-90!

The most important form of lighting for a work environment is task lighting, and a directional desk light is the best way to achieve this – to light your keyboard and your notes. 

Add Colour and Personality

Colour is an incredibly powerful tool to use in our homes.  As Karen Haller, author of The Little Book of Colour says, colour “… communicates feeling, creates a mood, affects our energy, our appetites, our sleep, and has a profound effect on our emotional wellbeing and on the behaviours of everyone we live with.” 

Colour has the power to positively support us emotionally, yet so often we chose to decorate with so called ‘neutral’ colours on behalf of the future buyer of our home, or because of what our friends and family will think if we don’t.  This results in us living in places we don’t really like, in the hope that others will.

It is so important that we stamp our own mark on our space as this restores our equilibrium in this world, reminds us of our journey through life, and inspires us.  So layer in pattern and texture, add in sparkle with metallic objects, and display art, decorative items and collections.  It is about choosing furnishings that play with scale or proportion, and adding in items with quirky, offbeat designs.  It’s the little things that make you smile.

Image: Pinterest (source unknown)

Keep Your Working Space Clutter Free

Clutter in your environment provides a distraction and if it builds up can also start to have a negative impact on your mood.  In fact, I have heard it said that being surrounded by clutter is as stressful to us as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder!  A clean and clear environment enables you to come in and focus on what you want to get on with.

Image: Pinterest (Source unknown)

Turn Up The Thermostat

Don’t try and work in an environment which is too cold because if you’re cold you’re using a substantial amount of energy to keep warm and that’s energy that can’t be used to focus on the task in hand.  In colder working environments people have been shown to make 44% more mistakes.  The optimum temperature for a productive working environment is 21-22 degrees Celcius.  A warmer environment also makes people happier.  So turn up the thermostat without feeling guilty about it.

Add Fragrance

Our sense of smell is the strongest of our senses and is able to influence brain activity.  Using reed diffusers, incense burners or essential oils in your environment can boost your productivity.  Try these fragrances for different benefits:

  • Lemon promotes concentration and has calming and clarifying properties that are helpful when you’re feeling angry, anxious or run down. 
  • Rosemary is the perfect pick-me-up. In addition to improving memory retention, rosemary has stimulating properties that fight physical exhaustion, headaches and mental fatigue.
  • The stimulating properties in cinnamon can help fight mental fatigue and improve concentration and focus.
  • Try peppermint when brainstorming. An energy booster, this scent invigorates the mind, promotes concentration and stimulates clear thinking.

Your own work space is personal and unique to you so find places that inspire you to be productive and incorporate elements of those spaces in whatever ways you can.  Notice not just the layout of the office and the furniture, but the sounds and smells as well as other design and storage features. 

However long the night, the dawn will break”
African Proverb

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Before I get started on pattern I thought I’d say a quick word on the virus. I am not a doctor or a scientist, and it’s hard to know who is right and who is wrong at a time like this when things seem to be changing on a daily basis. As an interior designer, it is my job to help people to create beautiful spaces to live in, and spaces that encourage our health and wellness. And so I hope, as we all start to spend a lot more time at home, that together we can create spaces that nurture us. So please keep safe, and let’s look out for each other.

To me, pattern is the stuff of life.  We are surrounded by patterns.  “We wear them and we walk over them, we eat them and drink them, we even learn, think and speak in patterns.  As well as being part of the basic structure of the human body and mind, patterns speak a powerful universal language.”  Anna Murray & Grace Winteringham, Patternity

The layering of colour, texture and pattern provides a sensorial richness, and a sense of abundance that is not only pleasurable, but vital to healthy neural development.  An environment that is too minimalistic acts as an anaesthetic, numbing our senses and emotions.  Pattern also brings with it the structured repetition of elements.  It enables us to feel abundance without it feeling overwhelming.

I am always on the lookout for patterns, especially when I am travelling and exploring different cultures.  Like a magpie drawn to shiny objects, I am drawn to interiors where layers of patterns are mixed seemingly effortlessly together.

But pattern in an Indian palace is one thing.  The question is, how do we go about adding pattern into our homes.  Here are my top tips:

1. Think Scale, Proportion and Balance

Pattern is often my starting point when working on a new interiors scheme.  As Peti Lau says, “I make sure that the patterns have a scale of small, medium and large.  Like music, I think of patterns like a chord.  A base note, a medium note and a high note to tie it all together to give a beautiful sound.”  Using a mix of geometric prints with florals also helps to create balance and harmony.  Large scale patterns can be less elaborate than smaller prints and can make a real impact, as you can see from this wallpaper in this small hallway.   

In this bedroom I used a large scale printed velvet for the headboard, a medium scale wallpaper, and then cushions with a small delicate print.

2. Balance Pattern with Plain Colours

Using colour is a great way to ground pattern in a room.  If you have a multi-coloured pattern it is easy to pick out some individual colours to use elsewhere in the scheme thereby creating a cohesive and balanced interior.  In this drawing room the curtains are a large scale floral pattern, and then I have picked out two bright pops of colour for cushions.  These colours also work well with the colours in the Keith Haring art.  The neutral colours in the remainder of the scheme prevent the bright colours from feeling too overwhelming.

3. Add Pattern Through Accessories

If you are nervous of adding pattern into your interiors, then look to add pattern through cushions, rugs, accessories and art.  Here, repetition of shape and colour help to pull a scheme together. In this scheme the cushion fabric came first. I then picked out some of the colours in the cushions for the bespoke rug which is made up of large triangles, thereby repeating the shapes in the cushions.

4. Make the Most of Trims

Trims, tapes and borders are excellent ways to add pattern without overwhelming the senses.  In this bathroom I added a trim to the Roman blind to bring some pattern into this space. 

5. Add Vintage Elements

Vintage textiles and rugs add interest and pattern into a scheme.  Think Suzanis, silk Ikats, kelims and Persian rugs which work beautifully in a contemporary setting and can be mixed and matched for a global look.  In this bedroom, the monochrome patterned rug grounds the scheme and adds a subtle element of pattern.

6. Be Bold with Patterned Tiles

Patterned tiles are a great way to bring pattern into those rooms which are so often devoid of personality.  In this London bathroom, I used four different tiles, working in patterned floor tiles, with plain wall tiles laid out to create an interesting pattern in themselves.

7. Even Those that Love Simplicity Can Introduce Pattern

Not all patterns have to be colourful and bold.  Think of patterns that exist in nature – marble, ripples, bubbles, the speckles on an egg, or the cracks in baked earth.  These are all patterns that add richness to our spaces, and stir our senses and emotions.  The Corian worktop in this kitchen adds a very subtle speckled pattern to this space.

And the veining in the marble in this bathroom brings life and movement to these hard surfaces

I hope I have been able to give you some confidence to introducing pattern into your own schemes.  I’d love to hear how you get on!

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.”
William Morris

Last week, the BBC published an article discussing how we are all missing out on a daily dose of nature.  The writer referred to a study published by the National Trust with the University of Derby, which suggested “that being connected with nature – noticing natural phenomenon every day – is linked to higher well-being.”

This understanding of the importance of our connection to nature is not new thinking.  Back in 1865, Frederick Law Olmsted argued that “… the enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it, tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus through the influence of the mind over the body, gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to the whole system”.  Studies have also proven that in hospitals, patients with a view to nature exhibit faster recovery rates than patients without a view to nature.  And even as little as 5 to 20 minutes of immersion in nature can lead to positive emotions, mental restoration and other health benefits.

The furniture is positioned to make the most of views through the window, and the cushions add the colours of nature.

So, for those of us living in urban environments, what can we do to improve our connection with nature?  Of course, it’s important to try and increase the amount of time that we do actually spend outdoors, but by incorporating what is termed biophilic design into our homes, we can increase our exposure to nature without actually leaving the house.

One of the strongest aspects of biophilic design is to have a visual connection with nature.  The best way to achieve this is with a view of something natural through the window.  So make sure you’re your furniture layouts and window treatments don’t impede your views.  However, if views of nature are not the strong point of your home design, then bring this visual connection into your home by adding pot plants, a green wall, a water feature / aquarium, or even artwork depicting nature scenes.

Nature scenes in art, and on the lampshade bring a connection to nature into this landing

We don’t only respond to nature through our sight, but also through touch, smell and sounds too.  So make sure you chose natural textures such as wood, fur, stone, and textured fabrics, etc, as well as scents and sounds.  Whenever you can, throw your windows open to let in natural breezes.  Pets are also a great way to increase our connection with nature!

Marble tiles, pot plants, shells and the colours of the sea all work together to bring nature into this bathroom

Natural shapes are also good sub-conscious connectors – circles, hexagons, and other fractal geometrics.  These are easy to incorporate in wallpaper designs, rugs and tile shapes to name a few.  And don’t forget to add colour – nature is full of colour!  Think flowers, birds, sunsets, etc.

Fresh flowers, natural scents and even the organic shape of the dresser handles help to connect us to nature.

It is also important to consider how we lay out our spaces, as we are trying to incorporate elements of prospect and refuge.  Prospect ensures that we have an unimpeded view over a distance, for surveillance and planning, while Refuge gives us a place for withdrawal from the environmental conditions and offers us protection.  Think of a cave man standing at the entrance to his cave, or refuge, and surveying the surrounding countryside, or prospect.  Our homes should include open plan layouts, balconies and landings where we can stand and survey or using transparent materials so as not to close off our views.  But these should also be balanced with intimate refuge spaces – a snug, or a window seat – where we go to relax or meditate, to read or to think.

The bubble chair gives the user a sense of refuge whilst retaining a view of the overall space

Basically, what we are trying to avoid with biophilic design is a white / beige / grey minimalistic box that seems to be what so many of us end up with because we get overwhelmed with making decisions on colours, and what works with what, that we default to something that slowly, sub-consciously wears us down.

To flourish, we need a combination of complexity and order in our surroundings.  Spaces that are engaging and information-rich – a balance between boring and overwhelming.  Does your home deliver this, or does it need some help?

I’m sure that, like most things in life, there is more than one way to plan your room scheme, but today I am going to share with you the approach that I have honed through many years of experience.  I’m going to be using the living room as an example in this case.

Once you’ve decided which room you’d like to design, the first thing to work out is what that room will be used for, i.e. what tasks will be carried out within the space. If it’s a living room, will it be used for entertaining, watching TV, playing board games, or curling up somewhere to read a book or listen to music?  Does it double up as a play space for the kids?

Before – this space was a blank canvas

Then you need to know who will be using the space? What ages, are there any health issues to consider? And what time of day will the room be used the most? Is it a space used mostly during the day or in the evenings, or all the time?

Once you know what and who you are designing for, then you can decide on what items of furniture will be required. How many people will you require seating for? Do you need to create a quiet reading corner? Do you need lots of storage for toys? Or books? Or a spectacular record collection?

Planning the layout

Once you’ve decided on what furniture you need, then you can start thinking about the layout of the furniture. What is the focal point in the space? Is it the TV, an ornate fireplace or a window with a spectacular view?  Think about how you move around the space. Imagine walking in through every door, crossing the room and sitting down on the sofa. Does it feel easy in your mind, or do you keep bashing your ankles on that coffee table that’s in the way?

Only once you’ve sorted out the practicalities of how the space fits together should you start to think about colours. And more importantly how you want the space to feel and what kind of behaviours you want to encourage. I have blogged before about how our colour choices can influence this.  Once I’ve decided on this I then usually create a mood board which I use as a reference point for the scheme going forward.

After – the same view as before

Gather together all your samples and ideas for items of furniture in one place to see how they all sit together, referring back to your layouts to double check that they will fit the space available and work together from a scale perspective.  If you have existing items of furniture, photograph it and double check your measurements and then plot them into your layout.

At this point you can also plan your lighting. Remember to layer your lighting for added interest, thinking about the tasks that you will be doing in the space. If you’re reading, you’ll need light for this. And playing board games you’ll need a light above the table. And if you’re watching TV you might only want the odd subtle pool of light that won’t distract from the screen. I have also written in detail how to plan your lighting.

The reading corner

Once you have finalised all of your plans, it’s time to talk to any builders or decorators. Before they start work, get a schedule from them that specifies what items they will need on site and by when?  Then look at all of the lead times of all of the items you have chosen for your room, and enter everything into a plan.

Only once everything has been planned and scheduled should you give the go ahead for work to start. This way you’re not paying builders to be on site, waiting for items to arrive, and you’re also not facing the stress of having to make decisions yesterday so that you’re not holding up the project.

Happy planning, and do drop me a line if you feel this is too overwhelming and you’d like some help.

  • Posted in Interior Design | Comments Off on How to Design your Home like a Pro

Prior to the Industrial Revolution the majority of the population worked in agriculture, or as crafts people producing things by hand.  Then in the late 1700s and into the early 1800s, with the use of use of water and steam power, production methods moved to using machines, beginning with the textile industry in the UK.  And with this mechanisation, people moved to working in factories rather than outside, in the fields.

The Industrial Revolution also resulted in an increase in global trade and the growth of commerce, drawing people into office jobs.  Almost every aspect of daily life was influenced by this revolution.   As average incomes grew, so the standard of living for the general population began to increase.  By the mid-18th century Britain was the world’s leading commercial nation, with a modern capitalist economy.

These days, we humans are increasingly spending up to 90% of our lives indoors.  Today’s urban landscape and our growing dependency on technology are increasingly disconnecting us from the nature that used to be part of our everyday lives.  Stress, anxiety and depression are very real, modern day afflictions.

But how does all of this relate to biophilic design?

Biophilia refers to our innate biological connection with nature. It helps explain why crackling fires and crashing waves captivate us; why a garden view can enhance our creativity; why shadows instil fascination and fear; and why animal companionship has restorative, healing effects.

There is now a growing body of scientific evidence showing that how we design our spaces has a direct impact on us psychologically and physically, and therefore on our overall health, happiness and well-being.  Biophilic design has been scientifically proven to:

  • reduce stress,
  • lower blood pressure and heart rates
  • increase productivity, alertness and clarity of thought
  • enhance concentration and creativity,
  • reduce boredom, irritation and fatigue
  • positively impact circadian rhythms, leading to improved sleep
  • elicit positive emotional responses and feelings of tranquillity
  • speed up healing. 

Therefore, it is an essential element in providing people with healthy places in which to live and work.

As part of biophilic design, we look at bringing nature into our spaces with plants, water, breezes, sounds and scents, or through objects, materials, colours, shapes and patterns found in nature. We also look at the spatial configurations of interiors, creating prospect views balanced with intimate refuges, and a sense of mystery that entices people into our spaces.

This allows us to create spaces that are inspirational, restorative and healthy, nurturing a love of place and improving our overall well-being .

“I think that the ideal space must contain elements of magic, serenity, sorcery and mystery.”
Louis Barragán

I have talked quite a bit recently about how using colour in our homes can affect the way we feel, and how we behave.  But there is one vital element that needs to exist in order for us even to see colour, and that is light.  Without light, everything is just black.  It is light reflecting off the surfaces that enables us to see colour in the first place.  As Ingrid Fetell Lee puts it so succinctly, “Light is colour’s power supply”.

Except in very hot climates, people naturally gravitate to sunny spaces.  Sunlight brings us joy, and helps to keep our circadian rhythms regulated.  The blue colours found in morning sunlight stimulate the production of serotonin (the ‘happy’ hormone), and the red light that we get at sunset stimulates the production of melatonin (the ‘sleepy’ hormone).  Getting the right balance of serotonin and melatonin is linked to sleep quality, mood, alertness and depression to name a few things, and so it’s vital that we light our homes correctly so that they support our circadian rhythm, rather than working against it.

Our first priority for light is, of course, natural light, and so it is important that we design our interiors around our windows to ensure we can take full advantage of them.  Make sure your curtain tracks are long enough that your curtains don’t overhang the window glass when they are open.  And mirrors are great for bounding light around our spaces.  And if the light streaming through your windows is too bright, then consider ways of diffusing the light to create a more dappled effect.

Sunlight streams through this window

However, in the absence of sunlight, we need to have alternative lighting options available – to provide lighting that stimulates us, and produces a positive psychological or physiological response.  And to achieve this, we need control over our lighting so that we can vary its intensity at different times of the day.

The design of lighting schemes is one of the most common aspects of an interior design projects that I get asked to help with.  So, when it comes to lighting we need to think of it terms of the four ways that lighting is used:

1. Ambient Lighting

This is the essential basis of lighting for any room, and is there to produce general illumination.  Ambient lighting should fill the room with a glow of light and soften the shadows, and is best achieved by reflecting the light off walls and ceilings to soften and diffuse the light.  Think about uplighters, and an LED strip around a coffer ceiling.

2. Accent Lighting

This is where you are lighting a specific object, for example a piece of art, a textured wall or some beautiful drapery.  The focus becomes the art, the wall or the curtains, rather than the source of the light itself.  Accent lighting can also be used to great effect in bathroom niches, or within shelf displays.

The lighting of this niche puts the focus on the patterned tiles

3. Task Lighting

Task lighting provides light for carrying out specific tasks, such a reading, cooking, desk work, and putting on your make up / shaving, etc.  The positioning of the lighting here is important to get right, as the light should ideally be between your head and the book / work surface in order to illuminate the task at hand.  For reading and desk work, choose a light with a solid shade that will give out a focused beam of light.  In the bathroom, position lights either side of the mirror to give you a shadow-free reflection.

This bedside wall light provides task lighting for reading

4. Decorative Lighting

Often referred to as ‘architectural jewellery’, decorative light comes in the forms of beautiful chandeliers, wall lights and table lamps.  These lights provide the glimmer and sparkle that bring us joy.  Chandeliers can also be offset, to add a sculptural element to the space.  Decorative lighting in itself doesn’t emit much light in a room, but is great for providing that low level glow of soft warm light in the evenings when you want your body to start getting ready for sleep.

An off centred decorative pendant adds a sculptural element to this living room

Good lighting requires more than just thinking about the different types of lighting.  It is also about how we control our lighting. Putting your lighting on different, dimmable circuits will give you maximum control, allowing you to set the mood for different occasions.  Lighting is also a great way to zone an open plan space

And don’t forget to think about layering, balance and proportion.  Small lights can look lost in a large space, so introduce oversized lights, or hang smaller lights in multiples.  Having different types of lighting will also help us to layer our lighting, using a combination of ceiling lights, wall lights and table lamps.  Also think about the colours and shaped in the room, and choose your lighting to work with these.

Layers and zoning work to complete this lighting scheme

So that is lighting in a nutshell.  Please do get in touch if I can help you with your lighting scheme.

“In nature, light creates the colour. In the picture, colour creates the light.”
Hans Hofmann   

  • Posted in Interior Design | Comments Off on How to Bring your Home to Life using Light

Happy 2020 to you all!  I hope that you’ve had a good and restorative holiday season, and are ready to tackle this new century head on!

Whilst 2020 is still shiny and new, I thought I’d share with you some design resolutions that you can adopt in 2020 to make a positive chance to your life, as well as to our planet, to make 2020 your best year yet.

Less is More
In a world where our seas are full of plastic, and our land is suffering from ravaging wild fires and devastating floods, it is time we all looked at what we are spending our money on, and to buy wisely.  We need to be considering quality rather than quantity.   We need to be choosing sustainability over depletion.  And we need to adopt an environmentally conscious mind set.

Upcycle and Reuse
Vintage pieces are imbued with nostalgia and memory, and help to create more interesting spaces. And of course they come with the added advantage of reusing something old, rather than just buying new.

A reupholstered chair, and a mix of new and old pieces create a homely feeling in this living room

Get Personal
Personal collections are one of the best ways to turn a house into a home. Moments that draw you in and add narrative to your space – telling your story. These are the little things that make you smile.

Objects collected over time are displayed on this mantle piece

Add Some Colour
Adding a splash of colour to a room can instantly liven up the space, giving it a new perspective and completely changing the way that we FEEL and BEHAVE in the space.

Play with Pattern
If you’re nervous of adding colour, or unsure what colours to together, then look to patterns instead. Mix up geometric prints with florals for balance and harmony.

Brightly patterned curtains bring this living room to life

Flower Power
Don’t underestimate the effect of flowers on our well-being.  Flowers signify renewal.  They add colour, shape and texture to our spaces.  They help us to connect with nature.

Fresh flowers add the finishing touch to this dining room

Choose Natural Materials
The air quality in our homes is generally 10x more polluted than the air on a busy high street, largely down to the invisible off-gassing of the products that we fill our homes with.  It’s time we started placing as much emphasis on what we put into our homes as what we put into our bodies.

Wooden floors and a wool rug bring natural materials into this space

Banish the Clutter
Clutter creates stress, filling our homes with negative energy.  There is something gently meditative about sorting through our excess stuff, while turning chaos in to order.

Invest in Relaxation
In the fast-paced world that we live in, it is so important to give as much weight to downtime as to action time.  We need to design spaces in our homes where we can unwind, relax and recharge our batteries

This bathroom provides the perfect relaxation space

Let’s make 2020 the year where we transform our homes into spaces that support our health, happiness and well-being!

“The home should be the treasure chest of living.”
Le Corbusier

  • Posted in Interior Design | Comments Off on Nine Designer New Year’s Resolutions You Need to Adopt

A couple of days ago the doorbell rang.  It was a delivery driver asking if I’d accept delivery of a parcel on behalf of my neighbour.  Before she left, she turned to me and said “Your house has such a happy feeling to it”. 

What colour, or combination of colours, we chose to use in each room directly affects how we feel, think and behave.  So, following on from last week’s post about using colour in our homes, today we work our way through the remaining colours, as we think about how we want our spaces to FEEL, what sort of behaviours we want to see in each room, and the different effects that each colour has on us? 

Purple has the shortest wavelength on the colour spectrum.  Being a mix of blue and red, purple is associated with spiritual awareness and reflection.  Purple hues include lavender, lilac, mauve, violet, magenta, plum and aubergine.

Purple can be used to great effect in bedrooms to create a quiet, reflective space, and in meditation rooms.  Avoid using purple in kitchens and dining rooms, as the blue elements of this colour will negatively affect the appetite.

Blue is the world’s favourite colour, and is the colour of the sky and the sea.  Blue includes powder blue, periwinkle, duck egg, teal, cerulean, turquoise, cobalt, indigo and ultramarine.

Light blue is mentally calming, and is a great colour to use in bedrooms, to help you relax before sleep, or in a home office to stimulate creative thinking.  Dark blue is mentally stimulating, and is a great colour to induce focus and concentration in a home office.  Blue is not the best choice of colour for a kitchen as it causes appetite suppression.  It’s also best avoided in any space that already feels cold, and too much blue can result in a space that feels depressing.

Image: Consort

Green is the colour of balance and harmony, and we find it a very reassuring colour on a very primitive level.   Green ranges in colour from lime, pistachio, mint, aqua, pea green, bottle green, olive, khaki, avocado, sage, emerald, jade, chartreuse and verdigris.

Green works well in a few different spaces in a home, but particularly in bedrooms, living rooms and home offices.  However, be aware of using too much green in a space as this can lead to feelings of stagnation and lack of motivation.

Brown is the colour of the earth and wood, and is dependable and reassuring; cosy and warm.  Brown ranges from beige, buff, tan, sepia and taupe, to rich umber, chocolate, coffee and chestnut browns.

Brown conveys a feeling of understated refinement, and is great for living rooms and home offices.  However, the adverse heaviness of this colour means that it’s not so good to use in nurseries, and too much brown in a space can leave you feeling stuck.

Black is glamorous, elegant and sophisticated on the one hand, but can feel aggressive, heavy and suffocating.  This is a colour to be used sparingly, and it can make small spaces feel smaller and more claustrophobic.  Shades of black include kohl, obsidian, charcoal, jet and pitch black.

Image: Splinter Society Architecture

The recent popularity of grey is on the wane, possibly due to the adverse, draining effect of using too much of this colour. 

In the home, grey works well as a backdrop colour, but it should be avoided in nurseries and bedrooms, where you are likely to wake up feeling tired, as well as any areas where creativity is needed.  Being surrounded by too much grey can leave you feeling depleted and drained.

I hope that these two posts have inspired you to think about how you use colour in your own home.  Do leave a comment with any questions you might have.

I’ll be back in 2020 with lots more posts to help you to create a home that encourages wellness.  In the meantime, happy Christmas!

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A large part of designing a home for well-being involves thinking about how we want our spaces to FEEL!  What sort of behaviours do you want to see in each room?  Do you want your living room to be a space where social conversations are held, or is it somewhere to watch TV?  In your home office, do you need somewhere that helps you to think creatively, or a space that nurtures focus and concentration?  And if it’s a space for children, should it calm them, or encourage noisy play? 

What colour, or combination of colours, we chose to use in each room directly affects how we feel, think and behave.   In this two part post, I’m going to look at the main colours in our world, and the different effects that they have on us.

White is the colour of purity, simplicity and peace.  It can clear a cluttered mind and provide emotional safety.  However, too much white and a space will begin to feel cold, sterile and isolating.  White includes ivory, chalk, cream, oyster lead white and pure white.

Image: Build by Design

Yellow is linked to our nervous system and is emotionally stimulating.  Yellow boosts our self-esteem, helping us to feel more confident and optimistic.  Popular yellows include buttermilk, daffodil, lemon, sunflower, saffron and mustard.

Yellow is a great colour to brighten dark spaces, such as hallways which don’t often get much natural light.  And a yellow front door creates a friendly welcome to your home.  However, avoid using yellow in a bedroom, especially a children’s bedroom, where it can result in you waking up feeling irritable and anxious.

Image: Elements at Home

Orange combines the physical properties of red and the emotional effects of yellow, resulting in a colour that feels fun and playful, warm and secure, and sensual and passionate.  Orange includes peach, apricot, salmon, pumpkin, terracotta, amber and burnt orange.

It is also a great colour for stimulating the appetite, so is perfect to use in kitchens and dining rooms.  The softer tones of orange are also good colours to use in a bedroom, but avoid using orange in a study or meditation room as it can be difficult to concentrate when surrounded by this colour.

Image: Best Home Design

Pink is a much softer version of red, and is associated with empathetic love and nurturing care.  Pinks include bubble-gum pink, blush pink, nude, shell, rose and dusty pink, through to strong pinks such as puce, magenta, fuchsia and shocking pink.

Pink is a great colour to use in nurseries (due to its soothing properties), and bedrooms, however the adverse effect of too much pink will result in a space that is physically draining, leaving you feeling emotionally fragile.

Image: Tamara Magel Design

Red is the most visible colour on the spectrum (as it has the longest wavelength), and has a physical effect on us.  Red is a colour that wants to get noticed!  Reds range in colour from watermelon, strawberry, raspberry, and cherry, through to russet, burgundy, maroon, cochineal and scarlet red.

Red is a great colour to use in a bedroom to invoke feelings of passion, and in a dining room it will stimulate conversation, although be careful not to use too much red as this can cause conversations to become heated.

Image: Design by Martyn Lawrence-Bullard

I hope this has given you a few ideas of how to use colour in your spaces to create the desired mood and behaviours.  I will continue working though the colour spectrum in my next blog post in two weeks’ time.  Until then, have a colourful couple of weeks!

“The whole idea of certain colours conflicting violently with others was nonsense dreamed up by a lot of genteel women in the 1930s. Colours do not clash — they vibrate… So do not be afraid to use colour freely. Have courage. As with drawing, painting, acting or any creative activity, you must attack with strength.”
David Hicks

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Sustainability is another hot topic these days, and I think it’s probably fair to say that we are all choosing to be more sustainable in our day-to-day lives.  However, how do we extend that sustainable mind-set to an interior design project, where quite often we just want to get rid of the old, and bring in the new.    As designers, this is definitely something that we need to become more mindful of.  As Albert Einstein so rightly said, “The world will not evolve past its current state of crisis by using the same thinking that created the situation.”

Rapture and Wright hand print their fabrics using traditional methods, and a pond system filters, treats and disperses waste water from the printing process.

But, where did it all start?

To answer this question, we need to go back in time to the industrial revolution – a period of massive and rapid change, but also one of great optimism and faith in the progress of humankind.  Prior to this, agriculture had been the main occupation for centuries, and industry only consisted of craftspeople working individually as a side venture to farming.  But, with the invention of the spinning jenny, patented in 1770, this was all to change as industrialists, engineers and designers worked to make products as efficiently as possible and to get the greatest volume of goods to the largest number of people.  The result was huge economic growth and a more equitable standard of living to both rich and poor.

Benchmark’s solid timber furniture is free of  harmful chemicals and meets the standards for WELL certified buildings.

However, for all its good, the industrial revolution has also resulted in billions of tonnes of toxic material being put into the air, water, and soil, requiring thousands of complex regulations to keep people from being poisoned too quickly, as well as eroding the diversity of species and cultural practices.  Early industries relied on a seemingly endless supply of natural resources. 

Earthborn Paints were awarded the first UK licence of the EU Ecolabel for Indoor Paints and Varnishes.

Many of the raw materials used in modern manufactured products are actually harmful to humans, and the off-gassing from these products (appliances, carpets, wallpaper adhesives, paints, building materials, etc) results in the average indoor air quality being more contaminated than outdoor air, leading to a general decline in health.

Artisanne baskets are are made using traditional Senegalese weaving techniques, sustainable ndiorokh grasses and long strips of repurposed plastic.

Today our understanding of the natural environment has changed dramatically, and many companies are starting to implement processes that look after the environment – from resource management to the products they make and the way they make them.  Sustainability also considers the way companies manage their workshops and surroundings as well as how they look after their employees.

Skinflint find, salvage and restore vintage lights.

Artisans are producing unique pieces made using natural and reclaimed materials.  Sustainable materials are being introduced.  Upcycled and vintage pieces, imbued with nostalgia and memory, are being specified.  And under-privileged communities around the world are being supported by these collaborations.  Design is becoming environmentally conscious as the world embraces taking responsibility for the environment.  And our homes are becoming safer places for us to live in!

A Rum Fellow work with Maya weaving cooperatives in Guatemala to create works of art on cloth, supporting the female weavers and promoting their incredible textile art. 

And as a designer I try to make it my business to know which companies are striving to produce sustainably, and to work with those companies.  But I also work with clients to see which of their existing possessions can be reused in a new scheme, whilst still giving them the interior of their dreams.

“Glance at the sun.
See the moon and the stars.
Gaze at the beauty of earth’s greenings.
Now, think.”

Hildegard von Bingen

Image credits from respective companies.

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