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Article by Cate Burren, of Angel + Blume, for Velvet Magazine (August 2018)

Cate looks at the thorny question of whether big is beautiful when it comes to the house you choose to live in.

Velvet Magazine (August 2018)

When choosing a house to live in, it is tempting to default to the premise that bigger is better. Those forays into the estate agents windows when on holiday or a sneaky glance at Rightmove when you have no intention of buying, tend to end up at a castle with its own fishing rights, or an extensive double fronted Georgian townhouse, imaging how idyllic life would be if one where the master or mistress of such a property. But I think it doesn’t take much of a reality check to imagine the headache of assuming responsibility for such an undertaking. Some years ago, Channel 4 followed Sarah Beeny as she wrestled with owning the crumbling 97 room stately home Rise Hall. The series started with the dream of paying £435k for an (admittedly crumbling) palatial estate where children and friends frolicked in the extensive grounds but quickly moved into revealing just some of the headaches of restoring and maintaining such a home. Beeny was brutally honest and managed to achieve an astonishing restoration, although the property is now used as a wedding venue in order to make it viable. The compulsivity of the viewing was about putting yourself in her shoes, with faint jealousy turning quickly to admiration then private horror at what was entailed, which included time away from family, legal battles, relentless hard graff and the requirement for a bottomless pit of money. This is obviously an extreme case but owning a large (even moderately large) home comes with cost consideration, and not all of them are monetary.

Christ Pieces from Cambridge Council via Pinterest

At the other end of the scale smaller homes and apartments, which make up so much of city centre housing, requires a different approach to living. You don’t have nearly so much maintenance, repairs, cleaning, general outgoings and responsibility for a property. You do however, rely on good public facilities which are vital if you are live in a compact space. A well maintained park nearby can become a fantastic alternative to a small or non-existent garden. My experience of close proximity to Christ’s Pieces is that it is better than any garden I have ever owned, or will ever own, but I had no idea of the investment required by local government to keep it that way. The Lido is a brilliant alternative to having your own outdoor swimming pool – admittedly you would never have to queue to get into your own pool but at the same time, you also don’t have to maintain it throughout the year. The same can be said for going to the cinema versus that fabulous media room you are just dying to build in the basement – and so on.

Jesus Green Lido from Pinterest

There is no right or wrong to how much space you want (I am not talking about the space we need which is an entirely different debate) but I think the ‘bigger is better’ assumption can be naïve and could lead you to a home that is too big and therefore not what you really want at all. So how do you decide how much space you do want to live in?

 

1.First of all, as with designing the functionality of any interior space, the question of what you are going to use the space for is crucial. Many of us have, for example, built wonderful extensions to our property only to find that parts of the old space become somewhat redundant as we gravitate towards the wonderful new parts of the building.

 

2. We all like to think we love the people we live with but how much time you want to spend with each other in the same room is worth considering. My experience is that we all live very differently – some people love being in close proximity at home and others much less so. It’s a personal choice but needs to be recognised.

 

3. How much space are you going to use for storage? Being honest about what ‘stuff’ you have, and want, in life is vital. The honest truth is that if you are a bit of a hoarder, you are going to need more storage and therefore more space.

 

4. I am always interested in how spaces can be used flexibly because I think we often end up with too many rooms (not necessarily too much space which is different) because we assume that rooms can’t be used for different things or by different members of the household. For example, you may well have lots of guests to stay sometimes but you don’t need to have endless guest rooms that are unused when a guest isn’t in residence. If planned well, a guest room can double up well as dressing room, a study, an additional sitting room/TV room and so on.

 

5. What public facilities are nearby and the quality of them makes a huge difference. This is not just true of urban spaces. Recently some friends of mine moved into a similarly sized house to the one they were leaving but with a much smaller garden. They are now in the middle of the countryside rather than the town which they enjoy and use regularly the surrounding rural space rather than a garden they would have to maintain.

A Guest Room/ Study Combo from Terry’s Fabrics via Pinterest

Owning any property takes some level of time, money and headspace, however small. If you are the homeowner, you can’t ring a landlord when something goes wrong. And it is a sliding scale – bigger may or may not be better, but there will certainly be more for you to do. You may well want the responsibility that comes with owning a huge house but it is worth taking the decision that it is what you want before committing to giving up the level of resource required for the ownership of a property without realising what is really involved.

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Glorious Colour

Article by Cate Burren, of Angel + Blume, for Velvet Magazine (June 2018)

This article first appear in Velvet magazine in it’s June 2018 issue

What colours do you like? It should be such a simple question really, shouldn’t it? But when it comes to decorating, even the biggest brained of the population can feel some considerable distance outside of their comfort zones when faced with a paint chart. Of course I know that it is not the most vexatious of situations in the world, but there is a very certain disappointment in discovering that you hate the colour scheme of your freshly decorated room.

My firm belief with most aspects of creating a beautiful interior space is that no one element should be dominant – the overall effect should be what you and others see, with components revealing themselves as the eye examines what it is in front of it. Paint colours may or may not be noticed as part of what makes a space work, but if they shout louder than anything else, they are probably wrong, and certainly the room is out of balance. Therefore the paint selection must be made with the main elements such as flooring, furnishings, fabrics, artwork and so on, in mind.

The quantity of colour that you want is also something to be aware of. Some of us love colour and lust after layers and depths of colour that others couldn’t live with. Some of us want very little at all and there is nothing wrong with either but once you know what you want, it is important to keep an eye on the amount of colour in a scheme and therefore the combinations and contrasts of colour that you feel happy with.

So how on earth do you create the right paint scheme for you? Well, there are some easy tricks that I would strongly recommend as a basis for getting started.

  1. Firstly, forget trends. It’s good design advice generally – why be dictated to by those who don’t know your personal taste? If you don’t like grey but you do like yellow right at the moment, good for you – yellow isn’t currently fashionable but it is used to perfection in some of the smartest houses I know and it is my firm belief that all colours can look current if used properly.
  2. Use decent paint. There is a reason that some paints are twice the price of others and it is to do with the quality of the ingredients and the time and effort that has gone into producing a beautiful range of colours. Finding a range of paints that you like will save you time in selecting your preferred colours and will also help you to find hues that work well together. Don’t even consider having a colour of paint mixed up in a cheaper range – the cost saving that you make (which is small because most of the cost involved in decorating is labour – either paying someone or doing it yourself which is time you could have spent in other ways) is small compared to having to redecorate when you realise that the mix is just wrong enough to not work.
  3. Invest in sample pots. The colour of paint on a chart is deceptively different to what the actual paint will look like in your room as colours next to each other alter what you see, so don’t ever decide on a paint colour until you have purchased a small sample pot and viewed the actual paint on the actual surface it is intended for. I would start with putting the paint on a piece of paper as lots of splodges of paint on the wall will not only be annoying to paint over but the colours will also affect each other as they do on the colour chart. Only paint on the intended surface when you are pretty sure you have got the right colour.
  4. Consider the light. Both changes to the light during the day and the difference between daylight and artificial light will have an impact on the colour of the paint. If you have put your sample of paint on very sunny wall, you may find you feel differently about it when you see it on a poorly lit wall or at night. An added benefit of starting off with your sample paint on a piece of paper is that you can move it around the room to see how it alters.
  5. It’s not just about the walls. A wall colour will look very different depending on what colour you put on the woodwork (skirting boards, door frame etc.) and the ceiling. So for example, if you choose a darker wall colour and you have a darker wooden floor, a white skirting board will create a strong stripe effect between the two that you may not want. Do not simply assume that ceilings and woodwork will be in white. That approach can work but often a blend of colours works better. The eye tends to go to where colours change so if you want to draw attention to say, a beautiful cornicing at the top of the wall, you may well want to put it in a contrasting colour. If a ceiling feels low in a room, painting it in an obviously contrasting colour will draw attention to this where a blend or even painting the walls and ceiling the same colour would help to disguise this. Remember also that there may be a host of other areas in the room that you might want to consider paint colours for – the outside of bath, the inside of a cupboard, a fireplace, furniture – all the colours will make an impact on each other and are best considered as a whole.

 I know that it all sounds like very hard work and it is, at the outset, but a well decorated room makes such a huge difference that I think all the initial effort pays off, and will hopefully avoid having to repaint anything, which is a depressing job at the best of times.

A strong paint colour on the wall blends with the rich furnishing fabrics and dark wood floor and provides a strong contrast with the crisp white woodwork of the door and frame. The wall colour is Teal and the woodwork is Glacier Grey. Both by Zoffany.

 

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A few weeks ago, Kettle’s Yard reopened after years of renovation. On opening day the queue wrapped around the street corner, proving just how much Cambridge had missed the gallery and house. I choose to visit a few weeks later and it was great to see the new gallery space and interesting pieces being featured, but my heart still belongs to the house and it was a real treat to go back there again.

The house, was the former home of art curator and collector Jim Ede and his wife Helen Ede. The pair lived in the house from 1958 to 1973 and during this time the house was filled with some truly beautiful pieces of art, artefacts and furniture. The house has been kept as a time capsule and an insight into the couple’s life; filled with art from renowned names, such as Ben Nicholson and Alfred Wallis, who were also the couple’s friends, Jim and Helen Ede would open their home to Cambridge students making it the most intimate of art galleries. The home’s aesthetic is a cool, contemporary, almost minimalist style with the perfect dose of bohemian touches.

Dining nook in the Ground Floor of the cottage

This dining nook area is beautifully simplistic. The solid wood table and benches are rustic and strong, while the gold candlesticks and decorative plates add an understated air of glamour.

View of the fireplace in the Ground Floor of the Cottage

Close up of the ornaments displayed on the fireplace

The main fireplace as you walk into the house is unfussy and perfectly decorated with soot build up along with trinkets and ceramics. Jim and Helen Ede would hang some of their artwork at a lower level than expected so that they could be look at comfortably from an armchair.

Sitting area in the Ground Floor of the Cottage

The room is filled with interesting and meticulously placed artefacts and objects. A single lemon placed on a metal dish, a display of pebbles in an ombre effect and a handful of wispy feathers are just a few of the unusual items you’ll find.

An artistic display of a single lemon of a metal plate

An ombré pebble collection

An assortment of feather on display

A sculpture, a painting and a single book makes up this satisfying display next to Jim Ede’s bed. The exclusiveness of the display speaks for Ede’s admiration of the artists; his faith and love for these three simple objects, expresses more to an audience about the items and the feeling of the home than a whole row of items could ever, creating a strong and commanding statement.

A minimal display shelf featuring a sculpture, a painting and a single book

As you move through the house, up to the first floor of the cottage there is a lovely run through the house into the extension. The length of the house creates an interesting feel, delicate sections and areas are carved out of the main body, making sweet, intimate spots. My favourite is known as the “dancer’s room”, due to the beautiful sculpture that sits on the table, and when hit with sunlight creates a silhouette on the wall. The area is filled with gorgeous rugs and painting, giving you a never ending supply of things to look at.

A traditional rug laid over stairs

A look at the “Dancer’s Room”

A selection of paintings from the “Dancer’s Room”

Once in the extension of the house, there is a gallery up top and below a more open space, for hosting guests. This area feel much more contemporary then the previous space, with seventies characteristic. I love the proportions of this section of the lower floor. From the all-white plates to the black and white abstract art, to the beautifully made slate top and wood leg console table, it all works together to create a serene view, with everything in its place.

A side area in the Lower Level of the House

Whether you’re looking for something to do in Cambridge, or interior inspiration, or fancy a little vintage walk back through time, the house at Kettle’s Yard is truly a lovely way to spend an hour or two.

 

For more information: http://www.kettlesyard.co.uk/

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Whenever I used to leave my old home, I would cycle or drive down Huntingdon Road into town, and on my way I would pass a warm, Tuscan yellow house which would always catch my eye. So when I saw a for sale sign up next to it, I knew I needed to find the property and take an ever-so nosy peek inside thanks to the help of online listings; and it’s fair to say that I wasn’t the least bit disappointed in what I found.

The Front Exterior

The house is owned by John Sutcliffe, a decorative painter who was once the curator of the National Trust, and it’s clear that this home is one of his great masterpieces. The interior is filled with rooms that have had the utmost consideration and care taken over them, with intricate murals, paintings and decoration all over the walls.

The Library

Here we see the library at the rear of the house, the room is furnished with fine antiques, fit for a king; by the window sit two curule stools, an ode to the Ancient Romans. The house almost feels like a time capsule of style, with treats and treasures from every era.

The Sitting Room

The adjoining sitting room to the library is another wild collection of ornaments and artefacts; rugs overlaying other rugs, wall lights situated above table lamps, paintings and room dividers, and just a peek of a ceiling mural, it all really shows a certainty of style and over the top madness that makes this home so magnificent.

The dusty red of the hallway and landing shows off the gold ornate picture frames and the blue and white china hung elegantly on the wall. The graceful chaotic-ness of the hallway makes it feel like a film set, or a grand National Trust property with rope everywhere to stop a priceless plate being knocked and smashed. It’s an extremely brave interior that receives much admiration from me as I hardly go a day without crashing into furniture or accidentally flinging something across a room.

The Hallway

The Landing

The kitchen is full of delicate and charming original features as well as a few modern essentials. Pretty tiles and plates have a inviting effect; as does the fact that it’s wallpapered, which is rare these days. Located in the basement of the home, the low ceiling gives it a cottage feeling rather than a townhouse.

The Kitchen

The Downstairs Loo

This sink area is possibly my favourite part of the house; a wooden surrounding area to the sink, an impractical but beautiful touch, next to the swirly blue and white marbled basin and the Delftware-style tiled splashback, it makes for a gorgeous little corner of the home.

The master bedroom looks like something straight out of World of Interiors; the patterns, frills and embellishments are enough to make an insomniac go mad, but it is as equally elegant as it is excessive, giving it a thoughtfulness and style that either comes together naturally or not at all; replicating something like this and having it look as effortless is almost an impossible mission.

The Master Bedroom

There’s something about this charming home, that’s designed and finished to perfection in its own individual way, that makes it so magnificent. In a row of beautiful but simple homes, this time capsule of extravagance and luxuriousness that has almost no sign of 21st century life. The thought of it being bought and turned into an contemporary, regular home fills me was sadness, and I hope that whoever buys this charming abode keeps it just the way it is, allowing its grandeur to reign forever.

 

12 Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 0HH is available to buy from Savills, for more information visit www.savills.co.uk or call 01223 347000.

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A few years back, Angel + Blume had the wonderful illustrator Angela McKay draw the exterior of our office in her painterly style, which we still love and use today.

The Angel + Blume office by Angela McKay

Her style perfectly shows off the quirkiness of Cambridge, and she’s recently done some illustrations of some of Cambridge’s most iconic buildings, which we thought we’d share with you.

King’s College by Angela McKay

Cambridge is filled with some amazing architecture, like King’s College Chapel, which means every route tends to be the scenic route. Here, Angela depicts the grand stature of King’s chapel from a side alleyway, a great way to capture the essence of Cambridge.

I love the way Angela’s style tones down the neo-classical, imperial architecture and softens the buildings, giving them the inviting character that Cambridge most certainly has.

Entrance to King’s College by Angela McKay

Finally, a lovely illustration of St John’s College, with its medieval style and mighty towers; Angela has even included another famous part of Cambridge, with a little bicycle resting against one of the towers.

St John’s College by Angela McKay

For more information and to see some of Angela’s other work, visit www.bytherealmckay.com

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Art can be an intimidating business. It shouldn’t be because the purpose of art is primarily about pure delight for the eyes of the beholder but I do understand the home lovers’ dilemma when it comes to what to hang on your walls. In the back of most people’s minds, and I include in this even the most confident of us, is ‘what are other people going to make of the pictures on my walls?’. I’m not going to tackle the enormous subject of how to select your art here (although I am gearing up to this topic so watch this space) but what I am going to talk about now is the incredibly good news which is that, and I really mean this, how you present and hang your art is almost, indeed dare I say as important, as the art you choose.

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These lovely simple botanical drawings make a huge impact hung in a group and against the backdrop of Fired Earth’s delicious South Bank paint colour. The clever addition of the bench and cushions picks up the colours in the paintings and visually anchors the artwork.

 

When I hang art for clients, which is a task I love because it makes such a difference to how an interior looks, the first thing I ask them to do is to get all the art they have out (and this should incorporate everything – original paintings of worth or not, prints, framed posters, family pictures, sculpture, home-made craft projects and so on) so that we can look at it and discuss what they actually like and what they are less keen on but may have a good reason (or not) for keeping. In this exercise I am primarily interested in noting what their most loved pieces are which should be displayed in key areas (master bedroom, entrance hall, main living room – wherever a household spends time) and what is less loved but can find a home in a lesser used area of a house (cloakroom, guest bedroom, back entrance hall). Once we have had this frank conversation, which is not always easy, I then start to think about where to place artwork in the home.

It helps to bear in mind that artwork does not have to match an interior scheme, in fact I like a picture to bring something different and eye-catching to the look of a room, but it does have to look comfortable in the space, not overpowering everything else or being overwhelmed itself.

I often feel rather shame faced when I visit the fabulous Fitzwilliam Museum because I tend to head for the first floor galleries which I love and as I try hard to concentrate on the artwork I find my mind pondering exactly what colour the wall behind the great masterpiece is and examining the way the lighting has been achieved. I know I am supposed to be looking at the artwork, but actually it is the whole experience of those rooms that makes me love the galleries and whilst the rooms are certainly not pretending to be domestic interiors, I find the combination of the artwork with the rich background colours, the dark wood flooring, the lighting and the occasional pieces of furniture is what makes me very happy. The moral of the story is that an interior is a collage of many elements and if you get the balance right, the effect is glorious; out of balance and beautiful things suddenly can’t come to life in the way that you want them to.

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Putting a treasured painting in a master bedroom ensures it is regularly seen and enjoyed.

When you have got an idea of where you want your pictures to live, the art of hanging them well starts with checking the space around the piece – they need enough space to be seen and to shine on their own merit but also some reference to other furnishings or pictures. For example, a piece of furniture under a picture usually helps to visually anchor the artwork – you need to leave enough space between the furniture and the picture to allow some accessories on the surface, the picture should not hang so low that accessories obscure the picture and not so high that it is hanging in mid-air with no reference to the things below it at all. The best way to hang pictures is to get someone (one or more people depending on the size of the work) to hold the picture in place and then get them to go higher, lower, right a bit, left a bit until you find the place that the picture looks comfortable and hopefully before the holder’s arms start shaking and a row beings to brew. I generally find that pictures are hung too high – go as low as you dare and try to remember that being able to see the painting comfortably, even when you are sitting down, is also an important part of the exercise.

I cannot emphasise how important framing is and this decision includes whether to frame or not, as certainly not all artwork needs framing. Spend time, effort and money (as necessary) on making the absolute best of your artworks by considering how best to present them. A clever framer is a very good friend of the interior designer and I always make sure that I ask the advice of my framer as a starting point, who will generally consider the right approach to make the best of the picture, but then I may add an opinion on the look that we are creating in the interior. We tend to agree somewhere between the two which should ensure that the final approach adds to both the artwork and the interior.

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This very favourite painting is displayed in full view in a well used space

Moving pictures around is a surprisingly effective way of giving your home a bit of an update. I would like to say that I do this regularly but realistically it only really happens when I buy a new picture and move current ones around to accommodate it, but I am always surprised at the impact that a picture’s surroundings has on how the artwork itself is perceived. I recently acquired a lovely bright yellow velvet occasional chair which has found a very happy home in the corner of my bedroom. Interestingly three people who visit the house regularly asked, on completely separate occasions, whether the picture above it was new. In fact the picture has been there for quite a while and features quite a strong dash of yellow and I can only assume that the new chair combined with the painting draws the eye to the corner of the room more than before. Whatever it was, it is interesting that even a small change around can suddenly bring artwork, and it surroundings, to life.

Much as I love to see beautiful photography in an interior, which should be hung with the same consideration and principles as your other artwork, I also like to see personal photographs in a home as they so instantly individualise a space. These will probably not be the beautiful specimens that the great photographers produce and so need to be handled accordingly. Groups of photos (either in standing frames or wall hung) can be a good way to display images of family, holiday or a general hotchpotch of memories and should be thought of as an explosion of emotion, rather than a focus on one particular shot. A group of photos can also be added to and changed as life moves forward, which keeps your display up to date. Don’t feel you have to include every image, or record every event, or heaven forbid, have a photo of every family member (although you may have to swap pictures in on critical occasions so as not to cause a family dispute) – personal photos in your home are not an absolute record of your life, but an accessory that should lift your heart when you glance at them.

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This delightful tiny artwork is given a great presence by using a large mount with a simple frame and
being hung on a dark painted wall

Lighting is crucial for artwork (indeed for interiors generally and is a huge topic in itself). Think about what light you need for your artwork in daylight (which might still include artificial lighting) and what you need at night. You don’t have to only consider the traditional picture light – a light from the ceiling or a floor-standing uplighter can work really well too. Just as lighting art well is important for enjoying the work, shielding it from the sunlight is important for preservation purposes and should also be considered carefully.

Finally, I wish to joyfully dismiss the idea that you can’t hang pictures on wallpaper. You can and you should. Wallpaper is a splendid backdrop to your pictures, you will just need to be careful that the wallpaper doesn’t overpower the art either in terms of colour or pattern or both, it should be a backdrop so ensure that your art, not your wallpaper, is the star.

I have realised whilst I have been writing this piece that there really are a multitude of considerations when hanging artwork so what I say to you is don’t be overwhelmed by the task – get your picture hooks and hammer out and have a go. Unless you are wildly wrong, in which case you will have to get a pot of paint out, the new position for the picture will cover the first (and subsequent) hanging attempts and if you live with your efforts for a few days, you will soon know whether you got it right or not. I have rarely seen an interior that doesn’t benefit from having artwork on the walls so be brave and get those pictures hung.

This post appeared in the July edition of Cambridge Magazine

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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

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