Enamel, Cloisonne and gold can still look very ‘now’ Monday, Apr 11 2011 

Enamel and Cloisonné were very popular (and expensive) a couple of decades ago, and are currently out of fashion.  What I’m saying is they are an absolute steal at auctions and sales.  Give it another decade and they will be right back ‘in’.

jade on tibetan incense burner

Even though shelves of them will look very dated, the odd piece can add lustre and interest to a room.  So dig out what you’ve got, or go bargain hunting….

This pair of Tibetan Incense Burners enliven a wall of books.  The colours are kept to a single palette, enhancing the workmanship (close-up above).

Tibetan Incense burners with books

(I confess that these shelves are on my ‘to do’ list.  I hate the white formica.  I want to mirror the wall behind, just as I did here, and the use recycled wood for the shelves.) 

Cloisonne vase

Vintage frames in gilt, gold or silver add character and depth to even the most modern room.  In fact – they really look stunning when they contrast with other decor.

Antique gold frame

Cloisonne vases usually have a base colour with accents.  This is the ideal way to emphasise a colour scheme in a room, or to add some life with the depiction of birds and flowers.

Antique Cloisonne vase

Heavy antique frames add that sense of history to an interior that makes you feel as though it has been lived in for centuries (or at least decades).  This is an easy fix for new houses with new furniture.

Antique gold framed oil painting

Small enamelled boxes are a lovely way to store trinkets – and can be picked up for a little as you’d pay for a small box at IKEA.  Really!

Russian enamel painting

Look out for interesting lamp bases at garage sales and auctions.  The wistful cupid in the image below adds subtle interest.

Gold lamp base

Keep in mind – whatever is out of favour this decade, will assuredly be in for the next.  If you love it – keep it.  If you don’t – it’ll never work for you!


New uses for old silver Tuesday, Apr 5 2011 

Silver (whether plate or solid) was treasured a generation back.

It was a sign of wealth and success.  Significant moments were marked with a gift of silver: a silver photo frame at a wedding, a silver vase for a birthday, a silver napkin ring for a christening.  Displayed proudly on sideboards and dressers, it was polished assiduously.

And now all this lies oxidising and black, at the back of people’s cupboards, or in boxes at deceased estate auctions.

Which means it doesn’t cost the earth.

I’m not suggesting a return to silver-laden tables.  I’m suggesting a rethink.  I’m suggesting thinking about silver as you would IKEA’s home organisation department.

old silver new use interior make-up brushes organisation

Rather than buying boxes and tubs in which to store items – you can have silver for a fraction of the price.

I  use an old silver vase for make-up brushes and mascara.  But you could just as easily use it for pencils and pens, paintbrushes or cotton-wool balls.

Why buy a toothbrush holder when an unusual silver vase looks so much more elegant?

Make-up and toiletries sit prettily in a silver tray, adding a touch of glamour to a morning ritual.

old silver new use interior make up organisation

Definitely avoid large displays of silver (this really does hark back to days past) – but including items in a practical manner adds a touch of character and imagination to a room.

old silver new use interior pens organisation

Use them for fruit, walnuts (as seen below), flowers, pens.  Fill items with keys and clutter from the front door.  But use them – don’t chuck them.  You won’t need to buy more ‘stuff’.  And you may even find a use for that old thing from great aunt Beryl.

recycled interiors chair parisian art

Leather: scuffed and sexy Sunday, Apr 3 2011 

Just as biker jackets are enjoying enormous popularity in fashion, so leather is returning to interiors.  And just as the jackets are masculine, scuffed and cool, so leather for interiors is masculine, scuffed and cool.  Smooth black and white leather is going to look dated very soon.

The leather look that is going to be around for a while is largely brown, and very worn.  Leather looks better as you use it – the patina of use is what makes biker jackets cool.  And it’s the same deal for furniture.

Think club chairs in a gentleman’s study.  Imagine the worn leather of an explorer’s tent.

And then pair the leather either with the details associated with smoking lounges, clubs and adventure: leather bounds books, specimens, fossils and interesting finds, maps.  Add some tartan, paisley or flannel and you’ll have a fabulously atmospheric room.

Alternatively, the addition of worn leather to a clean and modern room will immediately add warmth and personality.  It can take the edge off overly feminine rooms, and balance out chintz and frills.

If your seat is genuinely old, and the seat has worn through (old leather can sometimes crack – keep it moist in the same way you do your shoes with a regular polish with oils or wax) – you don’t have to pay a fortune for a new one.  You can recover the cushion in a contrasting fabric – as seen in the photos above.

You can find leather armchairs and sofas.  There are also desks and tables covered in leather, or, for a smaller accent, cushions.

Old leather trunks, complete with studs and straps look very handsome in any room.

And if you’re going all out – cover the walls in leather.  The room below, at Kingston Lacy, is covered in Spanish leather, embossed with gold.  This room was created hundreds of years ago, by a chap who was later exiled from England for various crimes.  Reading between the lines it becomes abundantly apparent that he was gay.

Of course!  Who else could have created a room like that?

Look for pieces like the one below – seen at an auction.  For tips on how to bid to win – check out this link.

Dine like a king: set your table for a feast (even if you’re dining alone) Wednesday, Mar 23 2011 


When they say dine like a king – do they mean literally?  Do they mean eat from a silver plate, surrounded by ancient tapestries, and piles of exotic fruits while liveried footmen serve endless rich courses?

Of course, far too many of us are dining like kings and have waistlines that answer to it.  But how about dining like a king in terms of the setting.  Maybe I’d enjoy my salad more if I ate it in sumptuous surroundings.

A generation or two ago, families had ‘best’ china, or “Sunday” dinner services.  These were too precious to be used every day and were saved for special occasions or for guests that were to be impressed.

We don’t have such occasions any more.  Although many of us still have ‘best’ things that we don’t use. 

I find that special occasions usually have so much going for them anyway, that you don’t need fancy crockery.  But a stressful and dull Tuesday evening can be livened up no end, with candelabra, silver cutlery and a table laid for a feast.  Even if you’re only having beans on toast.  It makes it FUN!

The table above is only dressed with a sheet – but the room is gorgeous.  Why not try a centrepiece of fruit?  It uses things you already have, so you don’t need to buy flowers.  And you can eat it afterwards.

If you’re eating in a room like this, your wine is probably stored in a cellar much like that below:

If not – a bit of dust will make your wine feel ancient.

The secret to great table decor is height – piles of marzipan (or real) fruit and candles need to start well above table level in little dishes on elegant stems.  It makes it all look so much more bacchanalian!

How are you dining tonight?

Does your home smell nice? Are you sure? Friday, Mar 18 2011 

As sensory beings – the only way we engage with our world is through our five senses – we tend to focus strongly on the visual, particularly in design, for obvious reasons.

But often it is the other senses that create the feeling (or sense!) of home.

rose flower scent interior home

I’ve posted before on auditory cues – and how echoing spaces are not welcoming or even comfortable.

But what about olfactory?

How does your home smell?

Most of us don’t even notice the smell of our own home as we become accustomed to it.    A return from holiday can be a shock – of delight or horror – as your nose re-enters familiar territory.

Fragrance can be a lovely way to spice up your home.  Sometimes literally.

Firstly, ensure that BAD odours are eliminated.  These may emanate from:

Mould and mildew

Cooking smells: fish, curry, cabbage are a few of the less pleasant of these

Sweaty sportswear and gear

Pets with dirt trays, doggy hair and so on

These can be removed by either cleaning up the mess promptly, or ensuring that offending items (such as sports gear, dirt trays) are placed in low traffic areas that are well ventilated.

Adding new fragrance to your home can be fun.  And I’m not talking about those chemical plug-in devices, or air-fresheners.  To my nose, they can be as offensive as the odours they are attempting to conceal.

Perfumed flowers can fill a house with fragrance.  Lilies are a wonderful example.  You open your front door and it smells like a florist!

lilies fragrant perfume home interior

Some fruits can do this too: quinces have an irresistible exotic perfume that permeates a house – for this reason they are best not kept in your fridge – or even your eggs will taste of quince.

Nice cooking smells are lovely to walk in to: fresh bread, spiced gingerbread, rich stews.  It’s a great reason (not that you need another) to cook these from scratch.

Essential oils add different moods to a room: sultry sandalwood, or bright bergamot and citrus oils for energy, peppermint for clarity of thought and lavender for a lovely restful sleep.

Try changing the scents that greet you as you walk into your home.  It can have a surprising and subconscious effect on mood and wellbeing.  And it’s very easy to change and play with.

rose flower scent interior home

What scent would you most like to be welcomed by?

Heraldry rocks: ancient emblems for funky femmes Wednesday, Mar 16 2011 

I’ve written before about my urgent desire for a coat of arms….

Sadly, my obsession shows no sign of abating.  Happily, the interior world is catching on and there are increasingly wonderful ideas for how to incorporate heraldry into a modern interior.  We’re all so familiar with design these days, that these ancient designs hold thrall – they are still beautiful, still powerful, still heart-stopping.

This chair is a reproduction – brought to life with a fabulous coat of arms.  What an easy addition to an existing piece of furniture….

Even easier – add a cushion or two.  I love the combination of union jack flag and coat of arms here.  A mixture of two ancient and powerful crests.

This modern take on it is a great alternative to these more traditional cushions – which are stunning, but more conservative.  Plus – you could make the one above in a flash: just strips of linen in two colours, and any emblem – even the badge off an old school blazer!

Glass can feature all kinds of designs – but the combination of smooth glass and  a coat of arms looks amazing:

You could just paint the design on your wall, you could print it and frame it, paint it onto blinds… It’s such a simple and strong element that it would work in almost any room.

There are hundreds of designs you can use and translate into interiors.  The ones above can be stencilled onto walls, fabric or furniture.

I’m inspired…  are you?

Mood boards: what is your interior decor style? Wednesday, Feb 9 2011 

Much of a home’s impact comes from the mood it creates – in the same way that a theatre backdrop sets the scene for the play.  Our minds are built around associations so that beach themes are attractive because they remind us of holidays, relaxation and escapism.  Large loft-style living with industrial accessories make us think of cool, edgy and hip.

Different styles and looks appeal to different people.  I drew up some mood boards to help friends and clients decide on what they were really trying to create in their homes. 

Which one are you?

tropical caribbean decor interior style mood board

Tropical Caribbean Mood Board

The Tropical look is based around colour – bright and vibrant colour and lots of it.  Mango, emerald, Indigo, Fuchsia, turquoise and Acid yellow all zing in this style.  This is about pattern, and multiple combined patterns.  Flowers, fruit and birds proliferate.  Plants feature inside and out and accents in raffia, natural woods and woven furniture.

This is about being over the top.  And if you like this, it’s unlikely that you’re the shy and retiring type.  You’re probably as loud, cheerful and sociable as the picture above.

This look is not compatible with urban living or very citified environments.  It works best with open spaces that lead onto gardens.

Gilt-edged glamour decor interior style mood board

Gilt-edged Glamour Mood Board

Full blown glamour is a luxurious style  with lots of gold and gilt.  Colours are deeper: amber, oyster, forest green, midnight blue and violet.  This is about lots of sparkle – mirrors and glass, marble and travertine. The baroque, rococo and empire styles of history have strong influence here.

Furniture is likely to be antique or carved.  Fabrics will be rich: silk velvet, satins and brocades. 

This looks is not compatible with chrome and modern finishes.

Masculine club decor interior style mood board

Masculine Club Mood Board

The Masculine Club style relies on a sombre colour palate of charcoal, navy and grey.  There is lots of leather (sofas and even floors), wool and flannel.  Wood is dark and usually polished – this is a formal aesthetic, with occasional lapses into a collector’s study.

Include a car with drinks, bottles, and mirrors.  Throw in some leather-bound books.  Keep the lines straight, trims to a minimum and you’ll have the musky, hushed cigar-smoke atmosphere of a gentleman’s club or library.

This looks doesn’t go with frills and flounces, pastel colours or pinks!

Industrial loft decor interior style mood board

Industrial Loft Mood Board

The Industrial Loft is a rough-edged look with structure and pipes showing.  This is no time to hide the plumbing.  Rust, iron, brickwork and concrete form a key part of the style.

Flags, banners and repurposed objects feature heavily.  It works best in lofts and warehouse conversions.

This is not compatible with three pieces suites or matching sets of furniture. 

Eclectic rustic decor interior style mood board french provincial

Rustic Provencal Mood Board

This is an eclectic look – part rustic, part french provincial, part Tuscan.  Colours are faded or neutral shades of aqua, sage, lavender, pearl and oatmeal.

Textures are rich and layered with wood, coral, rustic stone, worn leather and fossils.  Linens and silks cover furniture and if patterned will be very faded and worn.

There is plenty of room for collected items (the more the better) adding to the overall sense of history and faded grandeur.  Wood is limed or distressed.

This isn’t compatible with chrome, bright and clear colours or artificial fibres (such as polyester).

Minimalist modernist avant garde decor interior style mood board

Minimalist Modernist Avant Garde Mood Board

If your style is minimal and avant-garde, then really I have no idea why you are reading my blog!  This is incredibly expensive to create.  it relies on perfect finish, slick clean lines and strong linear shapes or sculptural pieces.

Colours are pure white or black, with bright clear flashes of colour.  Surfaces are glossy: chrome, steel, plastic.  Storage is hidden and furniture is spare.

This doesn’t really go with antiques, pattern, clutter mess or dirt.

This looks is made by its quality and its upkeep.  If you like this – you gotta be rich.

English manor house decor interior style mood board

English Manor House Mood Board

The English Country Manor: florals, chintzes and patterns are layered with luxurious fabrics.  There are abundant rugs, trims, tassels and fringes.  Colours are natural but bright: leaf green, coral, butter yellow.  Polished rosewood and mahogany hold photos in silver frames.

It’s elegant, it’s classic, it’s classy.

Smart contemporary decor interior style mood board

Smart Contemporary Mood Board

The Smart Contemporary style is reminiscent of a luxury city hotel: colour schemes are simple taupes, wines and chocolate.  It is tailored, clean and formal.  Fabrics are leather, chrome and chenille.

This is generally a style that doesn’t display a lot of personality.  It is not compatible with mess or clutter, or with many personal touches. 

Fresh Country decor interior style mood board

Fresh Country Mood Board

The fresh country style has lots of wood and white with a single colour such as azure blue, rose-pink or apple green.

Antiques and vintage furniture sit on wooden floorboards with toile-de-jouy, striped or checked cotton and linen fabrics.  Willow pattern china or old dinner services sit on a dresser, with bowls of flowers, samplers and family treasures.

Atlantic Style decor interior style mood board

Atlantic Style Mood Board

Atlantic style is about wood-boarded walls, canvas and linen.  Pale colours such as chalk, grey and duck-egg blue summon memories of the blustery atlantic coast.  Nautical references abound.  Furniture is distressed and fabrics are sunbleached, with driftwood, sisal rugs, storm lanterns.

Wool throws and blankets keep it cosy.

This isn’t compatible with lots of colour or pattern – it relies on a very pared back colour scheme.

So…. which one are you?  Or are you a combination of one or two?  More than three and you’re confused – and if you’re having trouble decorating your house this is why!

Should you display your heirlooms and family gifts? Friday, Jan 7 2011 

Most of us have stuff that has been passed on by family members – whether still living or long departed.  At this time of year, some of us also have gifts from family and friends.  Vases, books, pictures…  Many of these are not things we would have chosen – so the question is always – what to do with them?

Firstly – if you have an abundance of these things, sort them out.  Any that you don’t like and don’t feel attached to – don’t keep!  I’m sure even your relative or friend would agree….  (not keeping the item doesn’t mean that you love that person any less)

Secondly take those that have sentimental meaning, but not much aesthetic value and find a treasure box in which to store them.  I have a large antique trunk that holds all sentimental items (including the man’s old rugby socks – for reasons best known to him – but better in the trunk than on the bedroom floor, I say).

Then you can have fun creating vignettes with those items remaining….

An old embossed leather case, studded with gold is rich with texture, history and memories.  And…

leather embossed case

opens to reveal a gold watch, engraved with family initials, nestling in ancient tissue.

engraved gold watch

An antique game of Boston Whist still contains its markers in mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell.

vintage whist set

A fabulous antique painting of an ancestor (on the man’s side – and yes – there is a family resemblance, although (thankfully) no similar beard).

Even if you don’t have the luxury of paintings – old photos are lovely – like this evocative wartime shot.

wartime photo family heirloom interior recycled

A tiny tortoiseshell card case, with a stunning mother-of-pearl design is better displayed than hidden away in a drawer…

tortoiseshell card case mother of pearl interiors

Make sure you group items together rather than scattering them evenly throughout the house, as mentioned here.

styling antique pieces heirloom barometer

Get lost with maps: the newest look! Monday, Jan 3 2011 

It seems that either you’re a map-reader or you’re not.  I have friends who can turn a map upside down trying to work out where we are and which is the way out and still get lost.  Others throw it a cursory glance and have the position nailed and the route defined.  Whichever camp you sit in, a map can be a wonderful reminder of a holiday, a place once lived in or a beautiful visit.  They can even tempt you to destinations on your dream list.

framed antique map

The most common way to use maps inside is by framing the antique versions, as above. 

These are becoming very popular with interior designers, and I notice even Ralph Lauren is using them in their advertisements:

Not content with this minimal approach, I have been known to cover entire walls with maps – as this little washroom shows.

For details on this project have a look here.  I just love this room!  It’s a lot more work – but hey – what else are you going to do over Christmas? – a map as a mural.

If you’re looking for more unconventional takes on maps, check out these cushions. 

silk aviator escape map cushion interior

They are covered in silk escape maps from World War Two. 

silk aviator escape map cushion interior3

Pilots were given maps printed on silk that they wore like scarves so that if they bailed out or crashed into the sea or a river, the map wouldn’t dissolve (as paper maps are wont to do).

world war two silk escape aviator map

Maps look great on books:

leather bound book map cover vintage interior

The worn leather contrasts so beautifully with the antique map cover.  I feel that Darwin or Livingstone might have held this (although I’m quite sure that their stationery was nowhere near so glamorous!)

leather bound book map cover vintage interior2

Maps can make gorgeous linings for cupboards, shelves and display cases.  I lined this one with a black and white town map.

cabinet lining map cover vintage interior

You can see how do this project here.

Maps are now appearing on everywhere.  Seletti have a range of plates and mugs featuring Europe’s grand old cities.

seletti plate map cover vintage interior

I’m not sure you’d want a whole dinner service – but one or two would be stunning.

You can easily recover your old lamp shade with your unwanted, or unused maps. 

Despite a personal dislike of shower curtains (somehow, when I’m having a shower, they get sucked into towards me, through some invisible vortex and I end up wrapped claustrophically in a clinging wet wall of fabric with a life of its own), I might be tempted by this one with the Tube on it.

And of course, my favourite, the map covered globe as a cocktail cabinet!  More of which here…

Open antique globe cocktail drinks

In a couple of days I’ll show you how to make the chicest coolest map accessory – with minimal effort.  Check back and see how it works out!

How to get the Industrial Rock’n’Roll look Monday, Dec 13 2010 

Are you the coolest person you know?  Then you’re probably already living with this style.

I love the edginess and vibrancy of rock’n’roll and industrial interiors.  They always seem to belong to the hip party girl (or dude).  There are some tricks to creating this look in your home.  It generally works best in a warehouse or loft conversion, but it can be translated into various interiors with a lot of punchy impact.  And the great thing is – recycled objects are the key to rocking this look.

Add bricks

Exposed brickwork really adds some grit (literally!) to this look.  The contrast between the rough brick and the smooth fabric is what makes it work.

Exposed pipework

You don’t want to look as though you tried too hard –  I mean you’re too busy to care whether or not you see the plumbing.  Let it all hang out.  Pipework, brickwork, airconditioning ducts and anything structural – if it’s usually hidden, this look has it all out on display.

I’m not sure whether this is the design equivalent of celebrities without underwear?

Unfinished surfaces

This look has wood and other surfaces that aren’t slick and finished.  Don’t worry if paint is peeling – it all adds character.

Contrasting Sleek

Despite all the rough and unkempt surfaces, remember you are a rock chick.  You’re rich, right?  So you need some very beautiful and sleek pieces for contrast.  The concrete prevents the pink chaise from look girly.  And the pink elegance makes the concrete look chosen (rather than unfinished and cheap).

Industrial accessories

Industrial accessories make you look cool because you recognise the beauty even in the rough.  And you recycle!

Add a flag (or two!)

Flags are an essential part of industrial and rock decor.  They can appear as rugs, hung on walls or covering sofas.  Just never on a flag pole.


Just to show you’re still a child at heart, make sure some really expensive toys are on show – whether it is a motorbike, a guitar or a recording studio.  You know how to play, and your tastes are expensive!

Unusual Accessories

A floating bed?  A door fit for a barn?  Throw it into the mix and you’ll have the kind of home that rock stars dream of.

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