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Inviting to look at and still room to sit comfortably. Chair, cushion and delectable fabrics all from Vanessa Arbuthnott.

There is a battle raging in our households and it concerns the quite intense emotions elicited by the humble cushion. Many sane, sensible and fair minded couples that I visit in my capacity as their interior designer can quickly lapse into not only passionate opinions but also surprisingly petty bickering when the subject of cushions is mentioned. I am going to horribly generalise now so please forgive me if you don’t fit into my unsubstantiated gender stereotyping, but seems to me that it tends to be us girls that love cushions and it’s the boys who really don’t.

My investigations into anti-cushion behaviour have found some recurrent themes. The first and most virulent relates mainly to cushions on the bed. “Where do they go at night?” the boys cry “we have to throw them on the floor”. Ok, I understand, they need a place to go when they are taken off the bed and the floor is not it. A simple solution would be a chair, window seat or ottoman at the end of the bed that they could reside on over-night.

The second complaint is normally about the number of cushions on the sofa. “We can’t even sit down without taking some of them off and throwing them on the floor” (are you seeing the ‘throwing them on the floor’ pattern emerging?). It’s a valid point, you need to be able to sit on your sofa, but this very rarely means you can’t have any cushions on it at all. Really, have you felt the comfort a cushion offers?!

Even I have to admit (and on a personal level you may have guessed that I am an extreme cushion lover) that the purpose of cushions in adornment. Some comfort for sure but primarily adornment and is there anything wrong with that? The key really, as with all things interior related, is the balance of style and functionality. A contemporary muted minimalist space will be spoilt by brightly coloured highly patterned cushions but will be enhanced by a limited number of plain cushions adding a layer of texture and comfort. Similarly a room that is verging on the bland can be hugely improved with a burst of colour, pattern, texture and a visual hit of inviting comfort.

Cushions do have an advantage that they are easier and cheaper to purchase than larger items such as a sofa or carpet. However, this does not mean that you should not take the time and effort in choosing your cushions, or that you should opt for cheap if you are not sure. A ‘make-do’ cushion is a waste of money as it is highly likely that you will want to replace it almost as soon as you get it home. If you buy a cushion you really love you may well have it for life so it represents much better value for money whatever it costs.

Contemporary cushions from Andrew Martin bring colour and comfort to a grey scheme.

Fortunately, there is now a very good selection of ready-made cushions available on the market. One tip I would give you when looking for off the shelf cushions is to find a fabric or accessories company that you really like and see what cushions they have on offer. I find that high street store cushions are often incredibly middle of the road and quite depressing because of it, whereas a company that isn’t trying to offer all styles to all people can be a lot more inventive. For example, Chelsea Textiles (www.chelseatextiles.com) have a wonderful range of cushions for those of a more traditional bent and Andrew Martin (www.andrewmartin.co.uk) have lush designs on offer for those of a more contemporary sensitivity.

If you do go down the route of having cushions made (and I warn you now, it is an additive business), you have a world of opportunity at your fingertips. Key decisions include size and shape, fabric obviously but you might want to use a couple of different fabrics, say one on the back and a different one on the front, or a different fabric as a side or decorative panel, and then of course there are trimmings. Trimmings are the interior addicts’ sweeties and are a joyful business to pick and often are what makes the cushion special. The key with having cushions made (and actually any bespoke item) is to find the right craftsperson and make good friends with them. As with many needlework tasks, cushion making sounds very simple but to get it right is always more complicated that you think. You need to find a soft furnishings maker who knows what they are doing, will listen to what you want and has a good level of patience. Thinking through the design before starting is vital and no detail should be overlooked, as cushion disappointment is not pretty.

As I write, I suspect that those amongst us who have yet to realise the true worth of the cushion may be feeling slightly light-headed, if not enraged, by my encouragement for spending hard earned cash on the decorative end of the soft furnishings palette. I would say sorry but I wouldn’t mean it so what I will do is to send a grovelling apology to any man who really does appreciate a cushion. That said, I do believe it is thanks to the female of the species that the cushion thrives. Without us the boys would all be sitting slightly uncomfortably on their sofas wondering why their rooms look just a tiny bit bland.

This article first appeared in Cambridge Magazine, April 2017

Lighting is an integral part of any design scheme, it’s not only about getting the right form of lighting for a room (ambient, task, accent) but also choosing a fitting that will work perfectly with the look and style of your chosen scheme. There are so many options available when it comes to light fittings, from small and minimal to big and dramatic, that it can all seem a little overwhelming at times. But you don’t have to settle for the ordinary or the expected, instead choose to make your lighting the talking point of your home, no matter what your style. I’ve pulled together some ideas in six different styles to inspire you and your lighting needs.

‘Brompton Size 3 Anthracite Glass Pendant’ from Original BTC

If you have a minimal scheme running through your house, it’s unlikely that you’ll want to interrupt this look by adding in some flamboyant lighting pieces. Going for simple pendants doesn’t mean you need to settle for plain. This pendant like from Original BTC is just stunning, it’s a simple design but the use of the black instead of a typical glass pendant gives it an edge over other similar pieces. Featured against a crisp white wall will create a strong, but low-key statement in your home.

‘Atto Pendant’ from Benchmark

These pendants from Benchmark have a modern Scandinavian feel about them. The slits in the shade give the wooden structure a light feel, making it ideal for a minimally dressed room, and depending on the colour scheme, you can use the natural, white or black finish. They’ll make a great addition to a light, airy, modern space.

The industrial trend has been a popular choice in the interior design world over the past few years, with the style showing up in furniture, accessories and lighting. It’s a strong look and with the right building and attitude, can be pulled off to perfection, but it’s important to make sure the trend doesn’t engulf you. To add hints of the style into your lighting, opting for designs that are less obviously industrial will make any future transitions easier to accommodate, you can also apply subtle industrial features to a scheme without completely changing it. I really like this Anglepoise original lamp that’s been given a cosmetic lift with some industrial style additions. The brass accents and the black shade gives the contemporary lamp an industrial undertone.

‘Original 1227 Brass Desk Lamp’ from Anglepoise

For an industrial style pendant that will stay in style for years to come, blending it with some contemporary elements is a failsafe option. This Edison bulb is caged by some modern wiring and along with the addition of some coppery tones, it gives the pendant a well-rounded contemporary look, which would give an industrial scheme a breath of fresh air and a contemporary scheme a hint of that vintage vibe.

‘Juba Caged Pendant Light’ from Clippings

When opting for a contemporary style of lighting, it’s your chance to get a bit creative and turn traditional ideas on their head. A chandelier for example might be considered a traditional style, but today there are many modern designs that adopt its look. This cluster chandelier from Fritz Fryer gives the term a whole new meaning, the translucent shades and the bright red cables name together wonderfully to create a sharp, sophisticated look. It’s a design that would look amazing in a high-ceilinged hallway, making a strong feature to any house.

‘Upton Ceramic Multi Pendant Cluster Chandelier’ from Fritz Fryer

’90° Home’ from Artemide

A floor lamp is not only a great way to light up a dark corner, but can also make its own style statement. It contemporary piece from Artemide oozes with confidence, with a futuristic element to finish off the look. The streamline design could be paired with a sharp, masculine interior to really show it off.

Lighting in a traditionally styled space can be utilised to give the area a clean, fresh and punchy impact. Table lamps in a traditional setting can be the perfect way to add some detailing to a room, the patterned vase from the Abbeywood design from Vaughan has a lovely traditional feel to it, and it kept fresh with a crisp white shade. The elegant piece would look great as a pair on two end tables in a living room.

‘Abbeywood Vase Table Lamp’ from Vaughan

If you have a period property, or want to add some traditional glamour, a dramatic ceiling light can add character and really cement a room’s style. This chandelier from Bella Figura has a classic style and refined nature to it, giving a room a sense of understated grandness. A hallway could be an ideal spot for this piece, making sure you have something eye-catching when you first walk in to the house.

‘Leonardo Ball Chandelier’ from Bella Figura

With a bohemian, eclectic style there is always the challenge of making sure a room isn’t so overloaded with patterns, styles and things that it loses its stylish essence. Incorporating a vibrant lamp into the mix can be a good way to incorporate colour and pattern in a small way instead of large pieces everywhere. Pooky is a fantastic lighting company that has some lovely, bohemian style lamps to hand. They’re the perfect colourful finishing touches to really make a room pop. I love this hand-blown Iris base with a fun shade to go with it, creating a great blend of sophisticated colours in a playful nature.

‘Iris Table Lamp in Turquoise’ from Pooky

‘Decofabulous Pedant Shade’ from Rockett St George

A tasselled lampshade might have once been something you found in your grandma’s house, the shade an unsightly floral pattern and the tassels old and frayed. But these pendants are reinventing the style and giving something fun and wacky back. The luxurious gold tassels contrasted against the abstract shade design gives you a perfect Boho chic shade to add into your home.

When done well, a glamorous style home can look breath-taking, but it’s a theme that needs the right confidence to pull off. Lighting is a great way to add in some beautiful finishing touches for a glamorous setting. A glamorous interior usually consists of dark hues and metallics, so add in a hint of luxurious colours with something like this Amelia table lamp from Heathfield. The wonderful glass base is framed with gold accents giving it a rich, elegant feel.

‘Amelia Table Lamp’ from Heathfield

‘Manor Wall Sconce’ from Graham & Green

I love this beaded wall sconce from Graham & Green, it’s a really original way to use wall lights as a strong design feature, making a smart, elegant and glamorous light fixtures for your scheme.

Finding the right lighting that suits your home, style and yourself can not only create a beautiful atmosphere in your home, but give your style a little lift, making everything just that little bit brighter.

The downstairs loo is often the smallest room in any given house; tucked away by the front door or under the stairs, it’s all too often a space that goes a little neglected. Due to the general size of downstairs bathrooms, there is sometimes a hesitancy when it comes to decorating, with people believing that a small space cannot take on a heavy design scheme. However, I believe that the downstairs loo is the perfect place get a little creative when decorating it. Since you don’t tend to spend an excessive amount of time in the area, it can afford to be designed in a dramatic and exciting way. Once you have your basics, a toilet and sink, you can really begin to play around with the scheme, creating your own little paradise that you get to visit a few times a day.

To make a big statement in a small space you must first be decisive about which direction you want to take. Big features can look amazing but include too many and the space may become a little claustrophobic; here are a few ideas to get your thinking about how you could best design your downstairs loo.

When you have guests over for an evening, often the cloakroom will be the only bathroom they see, so creating a show stopping space will really make a strong design statement. Adding a patterned wallpaper to your loo can be a great way to give the space its own sense of character. On a recent project we decorated a client’s downstairs bathroom with this fun Manuel Canovas wallpaper, L’envol, which really gave a bland space a bit of impact.

‘Manuel Canovas L’envol Wallpaper’

There are so many styles you can opt for when it comes to choosing a wallpaper with flare for your loo. I’m head over heels for this flamingo print from 17 Patterns in pink. It’s a fantastically designed pattern that will look amazing in a downstairs loo, really giving the space a strong, bold look without being overbearing.

‘Flamingo in Pink Wallpaper’ from 17 Patterns

If you’re general aesthetic is more traditional, but still vibrant and colourful, a charming design like this Secret Garden pattern from Juliet Travers in midnight blue will help create a sweet but dramatic effect in the small space. The enchanting pattern teamed with the perfect lighting will create a fairy-tale like space.

‘Secret Garden Wallpaper’ from Juliet Travers

If you have the advantage of additional floor space on your side, a few plants strategically placed will really transform the place. If you have a few different surface heights, for example the floor a countertop and maybe some shelving, building your own small jungle of plants in different varieties and sizes will give a depth to your space, making a strong statement. When it comes to plants, of course it depends on your preference, but I believe more is more, and an overflow of bohemian style succulents, cacti’s and tropical pieces will really create an impact as opposed to one, lonely plant. If you’re short on sunlight, a quality faux plant can look just a good as the real thing, plus if you’re opting for a plant of the spikey variety there’s no chance of a painful accident! Abigail Ahern does some of the best artificial plants and flowers around, I love this array of cactus; they’ll really help to build up your plant portfolio.

‘Artificial Plant Selection’ from Abigail Ahern

A lack of floor or surface space shouldn’t deter you from adding some foliage to your bathroom. This wall garden from Rockett St George is a great example of how you can really get creative with plants in your home, and in your loo. Vertical gardens are a fantastic and innovative way of using your space selectively but still keeping a fresh and current aesthetic. You can buy a readymade one, real or faux, or if you want a project, creating you own one is the perfect way to include everything you want to and design with you own vision.

‘Faux Vertical Garden’ from Rockett St George

Sometime the downstairs loos is fitted into a rather tight space in the home, which might make you think that there is only room for the bare necessities, but you can always create more space with the use of carefully planned shelving. The trick is, in a small space making sure you put up your shelves somewhere where you won’t be knocking into. Once you have this figured out you can pick a shelf that matches your style and begin to fill it with a mix of ornamental and usual items, creating the perfect design balance. These industrial style shelves from Cox & Cox are sweet; their light design means that they won’t feel like they take up more room than they actually do, and the open nature of them makes them ideal for carrying objects of various heights and sizes.

‘Industrial Wood and Metal Shelves’ from Cox & Cox

Another shelving design I love is from Anthropologie, although these are slightly less functional then your conventional pieces, they are so pretty they’d make the perfect design feature. Often you find downstairs loos located under the stairs, these shelves would look lovely ascending in size order up a sloping wall.

‘Bloomland Shelving’ from Anthropologie

Whenever I think about inspirational bathrooms, I always think back to the beautiful image of the bathroom in Malpalquet House in East London, which I wrote a blog on some time ago. The bathroom wall was covered in pictures, frames and crucifixes, which overall created a beautiful effect.

‘Bathroom in Malpalquet House’

While you may not be able to squeeze all of this into you downstairs loo, you can certainly create something that’ll make an impact. If you have a generous amount of clear wall space, you can start to make you own mural of photo frames, prints, painting, mirrors and anything else you can think of. You may want to go down the nostalgia route and use family photos, or pick out arty prints, or even just create a miscellaneous haven. I love these Kiko frames from Nkuku, they come in a range of sizes so you can mix and match and find the perfect fit for your chosen display pieces. Unlike conventional frames, you can change what you want to go in the Kiko frame with ease and swap out or add in items as you find them. A downstairs loo wall covered in the frames will make a beautiful, comforting statement.

‘Kiko Frame’ from Nkuku

Using mirrors, in varying sizes and styles is also a good way to create an impact, and also provide a functional aspect to your bathroom. These hanging portrait mirrors from Nkuku are great to add to a collection of mirrors; with some being flatter, some more elaborate and some smaller or larger. A wall covered in mirrors or frames will automatically create an eye-catching feature in a small space.

‘Vintage Portrait Mirror’ from Nkuku

The downstairs loo is often a forgotten about space, or somewhere thought as only a functional room, but there are so many ways to great creative in a small space. It’s an area that you can confidently show off your style and really begin to design an area that’s a fun space.

In light of Mother’s Day coming up, and any other occasion where you need a thoughtful gift, opting for something from the homeware department can go a lot further than just a scented candle. Buying gifts for the home can be a great way to give something that’s long lasting, sentimental and unique. Whether it’s a house warming present, a birthday or holiday, or just something to show someone you care, a thoughtful home accessory can be the perfect gesture.

There are two ways you can look at it when it comes to gifting home accessories to a close friend or family member; adding to their already existing theme of pieces and ornaments, or giving them something a little outside their comfort zone, something they wouldn’t ever get themselves. When giving homewares there is a chance to get creative, have a little fun and give a touching present.

Typically, when it comes to the big touches in a home, the owner will want to make that call on their own, so when giving homeware as a gift it’s all about the small, but special touches. This sweet blackbird tea towel from Angel & Boho is an ideal gift; the adorable print takes away the functionality aspect of the gift, making it a great addition to a kitchen, to be displayed as a bohemian design feature.

‘Blackbird Tea Towel’ from Angel & Boho

Sticking to the bird theme, a simple way to add some life to a garden is with a bird feeder. This rustic piece from Catesby’s is the perfect way to decorate a garden and entice from real birds as well. The piece is great for adding a little charm to an individual tree or a small garden or balcony area.

‘Hanging Bird Feeder’ from Catesby’s

The great thing about giving or receiving homeware as presents is that it’s an opportunity to get an item that you might not be able to justify getting for yourself. Buying something fun, with perhaps just a hint of kitsch that makes a fabulous finishing touch to a home. I love these pin-up candlestick holders from Ark, ideal for putting a smile on someone’s face and lighting up an area of the home, perhaps a table or dresser, giving the space a bit of humour and life.

‘Show Girl Candlesticks’ from Ark

As with many people my age, I’m just being to start a collection of homeware pieces that I’ll (hopefully) treasure forever, so receiving items that I can add to this assembly of ornaments is a great way to give the collection some diversity and give myself new ideas about what I like. Pieces like these multi-coloured candle holders from Habitat are quite a particular style, but if you have someone you know will love them, or someone you think can take on the challenge then they’re a great, creative gift that goes a step further than the typical candle themed gift.

‘Odela Multi-Coloured Ceramic Candleholder’ from Habitat

My mother has always had a love for flowers and nature, whether it’s in the garden or in the home, so giving her pots and vases has always been a sure-fire way of getting her something she likes (and will use), whilst still being able to get her something with an unexpected design or style. This speckled jug from Catesby’s is a versatile piece that can be used as its primary function, or as a vase. It would make a great accompaniment for some fresh spring Daffodils, with the electric blue and yellow contrasting perfectly.

‘Speckle Ware Jug’ from Catesby’s

For more of a rustic feel, these antique French pots from Baileys would make amazing gifts, for vases, planters or just ornaments. The individual nature of them means that you can give a few in an array of shapes, styles and colours.

‘Old French Poitiers Pottery’ from Baileys

If you have a friend, or maybe a son or daughter who has recently bought their first home, or renting their first grown up flat, they may need a few things to help get them started. Whilst a lot of necessities can be bought from places like Ikea, buying some pieces that can give the home a few special touches can make great presents, especially if it’s for someone who can’t justify getting it for themselves. A simple bowl like this one from French Connection is a great starter piece for those finding their style footing. It’ll look great against some simple chinaware sets and begin to add some character to a home.

‘Green Stone Bowl’ from French Connection

On the contrary, if you know this person has quite an experimental kind of style, and is always keen to try new things and be surprised, an item like this flamboyant tray from Porcupine Rocks is not only a fantastic gift, but also full of flair, making it a real statement piece.

‘Shine Shine Tiger Tray’ from Porcupine Rocks

Finally, if you’re searching for a gift for someone that already has it all, then something frivolous and fun may be just the ticket. This lollipop holder from Jonathan Adler ticks all the boxes if you’re looking for a present with a sense of humour, individuality and a hint of madness. It makes the perfect addition to an already fruitful collection of eclectic ornaments.

‘Mohawk Lollipop Holder’ from Jonathan Adler

Buying gifts for loved ones is a great way to express your appreciation from them, and give them something they’ll love. Deciding to give them homeware means choosing something that they can treasure forever, giving sentiment to their home and help add to the collection of wonderful items. Whether it’s an antique item, something a little outside of their comfort zone, something sweet or an item that encourages them to walk on the wild side of interior design, there is so much fun to be had with picking out gifts, you’ll just have to refrain from keeping them all yourself!

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In this contemporary scheme, a comfortable statement sofa worked well to bring a relaxed feel to the room. Photography by Simon Whitmore

It’s weird thing that sofas are so hard to get right, but they really are. Furniture is generally easier to select than say redesigning a bathroom or commissioning joinery but over the years I have heard many sorry stories of profound disappointment on receipt of an eagerly awaited sofa. With this in mind, I often find myself using the 3am worry slot to agonise over an impending sofa delivery. However much I know that we have done exhaustive investigation, double-checking and confirming on behalf of, and involving, our clients in the run up to placing a sofa order, it is always a few hours prior to delivery that I decide that we have definitely overlooked something.

There are a lot of things to consider before buying (or commissioning, more on this later) a sofa. Firstly, you need to think about what style of sofa is going to work in your room – do you lean towards a contemporary or traditional feel, mid-century modern or shabby chic? You don’t need to put a name to the style you want but if you are unsure of what look you prefer then you are not ready to enter a sofa shop yet. Fabric choice is important too and hard to consider in isolation. Building up a picture of the final scheme including wall colour, flooring, other items of furniture, curtains or blinds and so on will help you to avoid a fabric choice that you find hard to match to or that is a bland disappointment. There is a raft of other decisions to also be considered and these crucially include size – a measure of the room with consideration to other items of furniture is vital – and comfort levels of which height of back, depth of seat, filling and how the sofa is constructed all play a role. There are lots more decisions that are important but I won’t go into all of these for fear that you may decide that your hand-me-down, battered sofa that you hated when you started reading is perfectly all right. However, I will say that it is better to consider a lot of these decisions prior to spending that nightmare Saturday morning trailing around high street furniture shops and ending up feeling overwhelmed by information, underwhelmed with what you have seen and temporarily less keen on the loved one that you left the house with that morning.

Can I also at this point, strongly steer you away from the idea that buying a cheap Ikea sofa with the plan to bin it in future and get the one you actually want is a sensible decision. This thought has been shared with me in my professional capacity more times than I care to remember and it is a notion that is riddled with flaws, the primary one being that all you are doing is delaying doing the work to get the right sofa and in the meantime putting up with a piece of furniture that isn’t right because you haven’t given proper consideration to what you do want (whether it ends up coming from our fine Swedish friends or not.)

Picture 171

A traditional sofa in a plain fabric looks very happy in this country drawing room. Photography by Simon Whitmore

Once you have done your homework deciding which sofa is perfect for you, there is the possibility that you won’t be able to find what you want on the high street. Retailers are undoubtedly getting better at offering flexibility on size, fillings, legs, fabric and so on but I do find that we often have to commission a completely bespoke sofa in order to get what we want and this route is available to everyone. A good sofa maker is able to make or commission a frame to an agreed size, shape and style and then upholster it to your requirements which means that the world is your oyster. It also means that you are speaking directly to the expert, the person who is going to actually make it, so you should receive excellent advice. I know that you will be thinking that this all sounds very expensive and although it is not a bargain basement option, I always think it is less expensive than one would imagine, which is a reflection of not paying for a middle man and normally not paying for a swanky showroom and a glossy brochure. Although there are many excellent sofa makers all over the country, for historical reasons many are located in and around Nottingham which is where our ace upholsterer is based. There isn’t a chance that I will reveal his name but if you find a workshop with stressed looking craftsmen looking at an order and muttering ‘what on earth are they asking for now’, you may be in the right place.

What I will share with you are a few of my sofa related tips drawn from many years of professional sofa buying, some more painfully learnt than others, that I hope will help you in your quest to avoid sofa disaster:

  1. I’ve mentioned checking the size of the room but the other key measurement is the size of the doorway/staircase/sharp turn from corridor to room etc. A beautiful new sofa that won’t go into the room is not a pretty sight and if you think your proposed sofa won’t fit you may be able to have it delivered in pieces (removable legs or arms etc.) but you need to check that carefully.
  2. Don’t rule out the idea of an antique sofa that may or may not (if you are really lucky) need recovering. Often the frames (and sometimes the fillings) are well made and antique sofas can offer something a bit different. As an example, there is a company called Pelikan in Haverhill that buy original mid-century sofas from Denmark and restore and recover them. If your style leans in this direction, and you are in the market for a sofa, you should visit them immediately.
  3. Sofabeds are much better now than they used to be when neither the sofa nor the bed were all that comfortable. They are a good option if you are short of guest sleeping space but remember to consider how the room will function when it is transformed into a bedroom – do you have to move furniture in order to unfold the bed, where does bedding live, where do guests put their things? – often sofabeds are not used as beds because the room doesn’t really work as a bedroom, so it may be better to concentrate on sofa comfort rather than incorporating the bed facility.
  4. I hate hard and fast rules from interior designers because there is normally an exception but I am going to stick my neck out on scatter cushions made from the same fabric as the sofa. I genuinely can’t think of a situation where they are a good idea. The purpose of a scatter cushion (not back cushions or any cushion that is part of the sofa) is primarily decorative and small square cushions that blend into the sofa are apologetic at best.
  5. Lastly sales. Panic buying leads to mistakes. It is great to get a bargain but it is not a money saver if you immediately want to change it. There are many sales throughout the year and I guarantee that if you miss a sale bargain, there will be another tasty offer available sooner than you think.

Finally to anyone who has made a mistake with a sofa purchase, and my heart goes out to you if you have, don’t add to the problem by matching to the mistake. I have had customers say to me that they have a sofa they hate but for whatever reason it has to stay so we need to build a scheme round it. This is not a good plan. My approach would be to design a scheme that we love without considering the offending sofa, and implement it, which will hopefully dilute the impact of the mistake. We may add a few accessories that tie it into the scheme and then we wait for the day the right sofa can be put into the room and the sofa mistake can be found a new home somewhere that it is welcome.

This article first appeared the February edition of Cambridge Magazine 

Whenever Lizzie Ibbotson, our Osborne & Little rep comes in to show us the new collections it’s always a wonderful trip to a world of fantasy and magic. Osborne & Little have completely nailed their latest collection, Enchanted Gardens, with beautiful patterns, designs and some fantastic colourways, it’s a collection to covet. So take a look at some truly enchanting designs.

‘Meadow’

Meadow is a vibrant pattern is a modern take on the typical floral themed fabrics. The array of wild flowers, including some lively poppies, really stand out of against the navy background. It’s a strong look that must be met with some hefty confidence, but it’s a great choice for making an impact in a room.

‘Aviary’

The Aviary pattern gives you a geometric feel, these colourful birds on a structural web are a great way to add some colour and fun to a contemporary room. If typical florals and natural motifs aren’t really your thing, adding a contemporary element can help to eliminate the factors that you’re not so keen on.

‘Woodland Sheer’

When it comes to sheers, you’ll typically find some beautiful white or off-white colours that’ll look elegant whilst giving your room some substance, but at the same time maintaining the light. Osborne & Little have taken this one step further, keeping the cool and sophisticated sheer qualities but adding a dash of colour into the mix with some fun leafy shapes.

One of my favourites from the collection is Rain Forest; it’s the combination of vivid colours, intriguing patterns and the overall striped effect that really create a concise, contemporary and glamorous effect. The only problem you’ll have with this fabric is choosing between the two colourways; the first, a green leafed pattern with almost neon indigo flowers, and the second a beautiful combination of purple and yellow.

‘Rain Forest’

Hanging Gardens is an adorable fabric that’s perfect for a feminine, sweet interior. The pattern consists of all the wonderful planters, baskets and birdcages you might imagine in your dream conservatory. The painterly style gives the whole look a soft and charming feel, giving it some interesting character. It’ll look gorgeous framing a window or doorway to the outside, especially blowing gracefully in the breeze.

‘Hanging Garden’

One of my favourite flowers, the Rhododendron, is captured beautifully in one of the fabric patterns in this collection. The gentle trellis-like formation makes a sophisticated structural look without being too heavy. The pattern is perfect for giving a little life to a conservative setting. The flowers have a charming traditional feel, but the dabbled background gives a little touch of contemporariness to the look, making perfect for adding florals to a period home without it looking dated.

‘Rhodara’

For a chinoiserie style, but with a twist of modern colours, the Japanese Garden pattern is just the ticket. The busy yet delicate design will give a room a new lease of life, and is a design that can be introduced in to a multitude of interior themes; including contemporary, bohemian, retro or traditional. A great feature of a chinoiserie style pattern is that it integrates the old with the new, and the fun with the elegant.

‘Japanese Gardens’

A new lighter touch has been given to an old favourite from the Pasha collection, the Tulipan. The teal, blush pink and faded orange tones of the detailing, gives the intricate pattern a softer feel, making it a more diverse fabric. There is also a certain modern neon-ness to the pattern which gives it an unique, contemporary, floral look.

‘Tulipan’

Lastly, for something full of quirk, fun and just a hint of quaintness, the Curio pattern. From a distance, there’s a grid-like formation but upon closer inspection, you see a whole world of curiosities. Squirrels and owls that have found themselves bouncing around crockery and shells overall making a sweet, joyful pattern. It would make a perfect kitchen or bathroom blind, giving additional warmth.

‘Curio’

If you love adding a touch or romance, character, fantasy and charm into your interior, this collection is your new best friend. From contemporary to traditional, there’s something to suit everyone, and all sorts of ways to have fun and get creative with the Enchanted Gardens collection.

For this month’s Book Club, we’re looking at something a little different. It’s not your typical Interior Design book that’s full of examples and ideas to help improve your home. Instead, it brings you inspiration in a slightly different way. In The Secret Lives of Colour, author Kassia St Clair tells the story of seventy-five glorious colours, from Chalk to Kohl, and what you’re left with is an urge to get out there and immerse yourself in a world of colour. I’ve picked out a select few colours, and some snippets of their history, alongside some inspiring and creative ways to use them in your home.

St Clair begins Ivory’s journey by recounting the discovery of “treasure that had been hidden in a small stone chamber in a sandbank for 700 years”, a collection of chess and game pieces and a belt buckle. The origins of the pieces is unknown, and their journey to the Isle of Lewis, where they were discovered remains a mystery. The hunger for Ivory is exemplified by the account that as many icebergs and glaciers melt, the discovery of Woolly Mammoth skeletons begin to reveal themselves, causing a surge for the Ivory.

Bed Bath & Beyond via Pinterest

Using Ivory in the home can be a delicate and softer replacement of white. The subtle milky tones of the Ivory create a romantic and dreamy setting; and can easily be layered upon with varying shades and tones, to create a warm and tranquil space.

The Royal family of the Netherlands, The House of Orange “are proof that personal branding isn’t new. In portrait after portrait, its members are gilding in shades of orange”. St Clair writes about the flamboyant past of the vibrant colour orange, and how it came to represent a proud nation. Dutch Orange, is a bright, vivacious shade that lends itself to some of the happiest and positive emotions. Its role in Dutch history brings about some proud and humorous details, the story of the carrot for example; “prior to the seventeenth century it was, usually purple or yellow. Over the next 100 years, however, Dutch farmers selectively bred carrots to produce orange varieties”.

Bodie & Fou Designs via Pinterest

The addition of Dutch Orange can add a sophisticated pop of colour that a contemporary setting is looking for. The painted staircase in the home above is the perfect counterpart to the thick black railings, light wood floors and clean white walls. It’s this kind of additional colour that can give a home a new lease of life, and keep it from looking flat.

Fluorescent colours burst onto the scene in the 1970s, St Clair notes that Crayola even produced a special edition set of fluorescent crayons, which including the zingy fluorescent pink. The colour is closely associated to the Punk era, having adorned Mohicans and featured on classic punk albums. It’s through this shade that pink, in a sense, found its relevance again, hitting a goldmine for the young and wild; no longer being limited to the confounds of the pale and baby pinks, fluorescent pink packed a punch. St Clair notes that fluorescent pink became so intertwined to pop culture that it even translated to the “humble highlighter pen”, with sale of the colour pink leaping well above the rest.

Freshome via Pinterest

In the distance a bold room is encompassed in fluorescent pink, but as we view it from through another room, the white borders the pink, giving a flash of life. Painting a room in a wild colour such as fluorescent pink is a brave choice, and not for the faint-hearted. But a gutsy choice like this one can do wonders for the overall scheme of your home.

“Mary carefully removed her sombre outer clothes to reveal a bright scarlet under gown… Scarlet was closely associated in the Catholic Church with martyrdom”. Here St Clair retells the story of the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots. This can be seen as just one of the reasons that the colour scarlet has a rather elusive and eventful history. Scarlet has mostly sinful, seducing or salacious connotations, which gives the colour a rather rebellious streak. Perhaps this is why a scarlet interior is considered full of drama and romance. In today’s modern world, and contemporary taste, scarlet red can be a little hard to pull off while still keep the functionality of a room intact; a room that is head-to-toe in dark red make come across a little too much like the setting of a romance novel.  An alternative option to an all red room, is accessorising in the fiery shade; these bright red chairs had a touch of drama to a modern interior, without any overkill.

Living at Home via Pinterest

Purple has always been a regal colour, for a long time the colour “still retained the imperial glamour of its ancient status”. Though its royal reputation powered alongside the colour for many years, the colour became more accessible among the rest of society towards the end of the nineteenth century. Heliotrope, a shade of purple found itself mixed into colour schemes of light green and apricot, “canary yellow, eucalyptus green, art bronze and peacock blue”. This combinations may seem a tad intense for a modern palette, but for the Victorian’s it fully played out their ‘more is more’ vibe that turned their homes into over embellished, highly adorned and decorated caves of treasures and trinkets. St Clair writes of one commentators thoughts, “no colour seemed too bright”, but “the combinations of them are sometimes starling”.

Ideal Home via Pinterest

Using purple in an interior these days, can create a feminine, welcoming feeling that will give your home a relaxed, approachable feel. Above, the purple walls are met with the perfect accents of dark brown picture frames, cushions in alternative shades of purple, and crisp blue velvets.

The story of cerulean features the world famous Pablo Picasso; the story goes that his good friend “Carlos Casagemas, a Spanish poet and artist was having drinks with friends in the smart new Parisian café l’Hippodrome… when he pulled out a gun and shot himself in the right temple”. This sad event effected Picasso so much, that he reduced his palette to only blue, “the one colour that could adequately express his grief and loss”. It’s through these series of events that we have some of Picasso’s most powerful and famous works of art.

Huffington Post via Pinterest

Just a touch of the deep, sparkling cerulean blue against this aged white door, gives a new and exciting element to a traditional setting. This stylisation of the door is the perfect way to accessorise and give some character to the feature without altering or changing too much.

Emerald has always been a wild and enigmatic colour, from Shakespearian times, when the green eyed monster was first created to the mysterious story of the Bahia Emerald. St Clair tells the event to the largest ever Emerald to be discovered in Basil, and go on to have a whirlwind of intrigue and deception.

Using a bold green like emerald in a home can make a confident and glamourous statement. The richness of the colour can either be played up or down, but just like the image below, playing up to the drama will always make for an intense and desirable look. The green is vividly contrasted against the pink, giving the whole room a contemporary and eye-catching feel.

Conde Nast Traveller via Pinterest

The Secret Lives of Colour is an exciting and inspiring book. So often people shy away from colour, especially in their homes, but this book teaches you a greater appreciation for a wide and diverse colour palette and can encourage you to bring it into your own interiors. Whether you’re in it for the bright and bold shades of oranges and purples, or you prefer the dramatic tones of blue and grey, this book gets you thinking about the endless possibilities that comes with colour; and hopefully gets you thinking about how you might put it in your home.

 

The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St Clair from John Murray Publishers