When designing, it’s important to consider the room’s purpose — whether it’s a drawing room, dining room or living room. A floor plan is crucial, because it tells you what furniture is needed in the room, and how it will be arranged. When I first meet a client, we talk about the room and the layout and discuss ideas.
People are often daunted at the prospect of painting white walls. Part of my expertise lies in finding out what colours a client likes, and presenting them with a colour scheme. They might say they like grey, so I’ll present them with a shade, but add another colour to make it more interesting.
I once had a client who insisted his living room would be beige. By the end of the project, he’d chosen to have it painted dark chocolate with elements of canary yellow. People don’t always know what they like.
For most people, the colour of a ceiling has to be white. But if a room has darker walls, I suggest opting for a light shade of grey, which looks white, but doesn’t contrast too sharply with the rest of the room.
Another trick is to use wallpaper on a ceiling, although it’s important that any design has no direction. It’s something most people have never considered doing. My job is to convince clients that it could look really interesting.
It’s incredibly important to know what’s going on in the industry, and what other designers are doing. But I never try to make a ‘trendy’ room. In fashion, you could buy the very latest designer handbag, only to be told it’s become ‘so last season’ a few months later. The rooms I’m doing reflect what’s current without dating.
I love antiques and strongly believe that a good piece doesn’t have to be expensive. I buy a lot at Christie’s: the Living with Art sales offer good-looking pieces at reasonable prices, while the Estate Sales and Opulence series are great for really special, unique finds. A beautiful antique piece will work in any room.
The catalogues for Estate Sales often feature archival shots that show how furnishings were arranged in the homes of their previous owners. These visuals inspire my work, along with my love of art and interior design history. I also travel a lot, and have visited many beautiful historical houses — everyone knows Versailles, but there are many other spectacular homes and châteaux worth visiting. One of my biggest inspirations is the Royal Pavilion in Brighton.
A well-styled room will look as if an interior designer had never been there. Mix furniture from different periods to give a room ‘layers’, creating the impression that the design was put together over several years. Rooms in old houses often have a mix of unusual pieces that nevertheless go together. If they’re beautiful, I believe objects from different periods can work together.
Practicality is incredibly important. As an interior designer, I want my work to be beautiful, but at the same time, I’m creating homes for people to live in. My job is to find a marriage between the practical and the good looking.
In a living room, for example, the coffee table shouldn’t be too far from the sofa — it’s a mistake a lot of hotels make, and it makes it uncomfortable to put a drink down. Another tip is to make sure lamps are at the same level; as soon as they’re turned on, any difference will become pronounced.
Another important consideration is the seating in your living room, which should accommodate the same number of people as your dining room. If your dining room has a table for 12 people, your living room should have capacity for 12, too.
When it comes to decorating, people are often afraid to go with what they like. They worry about how it will look, or what their friends will say. I think that’s totally wrong; it’s really important to create something for you, that you want to live in. Don’t be afraid to express your personality — remember, you come first!