Nicola Holden Designs – Contemporary Interior Designer, London.

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


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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