Nicola Holden Designs – Contemporary Interior Designer, London.

As an interior designer, often when I first visit my client’s house, I find spaces completely devoid of personality.  Rooms full of furniture, but nothing that grounds the space to create a relaxing, cosy environment.  Things just feel a bit off key, lacking those final finishing touches.

Whether you’re a minimalist, a maximalist, or somewhere in between like me, our homes should be our personal sanctuaries – spaces that restore our equilibrium in this world and remind us of our journey through life.  They should be a reflection of your success and individual lifestyle, and represent your style and passions. So how do you ensure that your home tells your story?  Here are my top tips:

  1. Don’t Rush It

Think of your home as a giant cabinet of curiosities.  Allow your collection to evolve organically, so don’t rush out and just buy everything in one go.  Take your time to shop from different stores.  Pick up mementos from your travels.  Leave space to buy that item you’re going to fall in love with next month, or next year.

  1. Bring in Some Vintage

Balance newer items with some vintage pieces to ensure the space feels full of character but also fresh.  Vintage accessories and furniture seem to add a historic presence to a space that new objects cannot, giving your home warmth and complexity.  Vintage pieces also have the added advantage of being very sustainable, from an environmental perspective, and can be updated and painting if necessary. 

  1. Add Colour

Add some of your favourite colours to your rooms.  Don’t be scared to experiment – if you paint something and you don’t like the colour, you can always paint over it.  Or start small, with some colourful accessories.  However, be sure to keep everything within the same colour tonal family, otherwise the colours will jar, and the space won’t feel restful.  And think carefully about what colours you put in what room, depending on how you room to feel.

  1. Mix it up with Pattern

Pattern is a great way to add colours to a scheme, as it can be much more subtle than plain blocks of colour.  Try to mix in small scale, medium scale and large scale prints for the best effect.  If having a patterned sofa is too much for you, then have a plain sofa with patterned cushions, and a smaller patterned chair. 

  1. Layer in Texture

Layering in textures is an easy way to add a feel of luxury to your home.  Think a soft rug on a hard floor, glossy metallic accessories mixed with matt, a velvet sofa with silky cushions.  Adding in different textures to a space creates visual and tactile diversity.

  1. Create Interest at Different Levels

Think about how your eye will travel around your space.  You want it to move up and down and it moves around your room – from that beautiful rug on the floor, to the collection of cushions on your sofa, to the art above, to the statement decorative pendant, back down to that cute little chair in the corner, and so on. 

  1. Add your own Personal Touches

This is the final piece to the puzzle.  It’s time to add your art and family photographs, display your collections, and showcase your books and ornaments.  Group pieces in odd numbers and mix up materials and heights.  Display things symmetrically for a balanced feel, or play with scale and position to add an element of play and surprise.

Most importantly, remember that you are creating a home for you and your family to live in, not just a neutral space to resell at some point in the future.  Keep your choices personal to you, and use the language of design to tell your story!

“Serious is a word that must be entirely avoided when it comes to decoration.”
Kathryn Ireland



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Yesterday was World Mental Health Day, so I thought I would spend some time on today’s blog post looking at the affect that our homes can have on our mental health.  With humans increasingly spending up to 90% of their lives indoors, there is 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.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in awareness of how our well-being is inherently linked to many aspects of the world around us – what we eat, how much we exercise, how we factor relaxation into our daily routines, and how much sleep we get.  Yet, if you visit your GP / psychologist / therapist, how often do they talk to you about your home or work environment?

In my view, there are four main ways that we can change our homes to improve our state of wellbeing.

  1. Eliminate Clutter

Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up has climbed bestseller lists all over the world as people have embraced the awareness that clutter has a negative effect on our state of mind.  In fact, I have heard it said that being surrounded by clutter is as stressful to us as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder!  So, it goes without saying that the first thing we should do, when it comes to making improvements to our homes, is to de-clutter. 

One way to help achieve this is to have adequate storage for the possessions that we chose to hold on to.  Storage is the one thing that my clients consistently ask for as it is often distinctly lacking in homes, both new and old.  Storage ranges from having a stylish box on your coffee table to hide those ugly TV remotes, to a large bank of built-in cupboards, and everything in between!

  1. Introduce Elements of Nature

I have talked before about the importance of using biophilic design in our homes as a connection with nature has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, enhance creativity and clarity of thought, improve our well-being and speed up healing.

  1. Use Colour

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.

However, it’s important to note that when choosing our colours, we need to be mindful to choose the right colour for how we want the space to feel, as well as picking the right shade for our own personalities. 

For example, red invokes a physical response – energy, excitement and passion.  Therefore you might want to use it (sparingly) in an adult’s bedroom, but not so much in a child’s bedroom or in a meditation space.  Yellow stimulates an emotional response – happiness, optimism and confidence, however too much yellow, or using the wrong tone, will lead to us feeling irritable and anxious.  Yellow should be avoided in bedrooms, but is great for hallways where it will inject a burst of sunshine and warmth.  And the so called neutral beige and grey that so many of us surround ourselves with – well, it can become heavy and draining, and make you feel stuck, non-committal and sluggish!

  1. Add Personality

This is the final item that really turns a house into a home.  Stamping our own mark on our space restores our equilibrium in this world, reminds us of our journey through life, and inspires us.

Bringing personality into our homes involves layering in pattern and texture, adding in sparkle with metallic objects, and displaying 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.

Your home should always tell your unique story.

With these four tips, you can transform you space into one that nurtures you psychologically and physically, contributing to your overall health, happiness and well-being.

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
Maya Angelou

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