I’ve had a bit of a eureka moment with my house. After a year of dithering and not quite feeling confident about what I wanted to do with it, I feel as though I’ve finally found my furnishing and decorating groove. I’ve embraced the Georgian architecture with its ornate cornicing and big fireplaces and all of the stuff that was a bit out of my comfort zone, and I’ve started to make it work with my vintage furniture and my penchant for outré ceiling lights. In fact, it’s almost as though the elegant Georgian features are starting to form a sort of backdrop for my collection of modernist bits and bobs. A kind of gallery. And I really really like it.
But – as I say – I’ve had a year of painful dithering and I’ve made a few mistakes, so I thought I’d tell you about the five things I’ve realised about interiors. The most important being (and this should be my finale but I’m going to put helpfulness over suspense-building here):
1 – It’s only bloody interiors, none of it really matters that much on the scale of things, unless your job is actually styling interiors or renting your house out as a shoot location. If you do either of those things then you’ll probably spend quite a lot of time squinting at various rooms in your house and wondering what’s “not quite right”, but for the rest of us, those who are into interior styling and decorating because we just love houses or have a passion for design, it should be enjoyable. There’s no rush. Instagram has a lot to answer for with its Keeping Up With The Joneses effect! In reality nobody is closely monitoring your decorating progress; there’s time to collect, curate, change your mind, change your taste, mull it over, and if all else fails then close the door on it all and leave it until next year.
2 -Tip two comes from design king Martin Waller, who founded the Andrew Martin store many decades ago. (If you want to see a video interview with Martin then it’s here – he’s an absolute legend and a font of interiors knowledge.) Martin says “always buy the things you love“. Easy rule to remember. If you don’t love it, don’t buy it – tomorrow is another day. When we moved we had to buy a kitchen table and chairs, a new bed and some bathroom mirrors straight away and I regretted some of my purchases – bed and mirrors – because I rushed the decision. I bought stuff because I needed stuff and I should have just hung on. Mattress on the floor, boxes to sit on, iPhone as a mirror, that sort of thing.
Also related to this tip: if you buy stuff that you love – really love – then it will all fit together one way or another because you love it. It’ll be a big eclectic mix that hopefully shows a bit of personality. So, for example, in this picture of the formal end of my living room (wanky name for it, but I can’t think of another phrase for “it’s not the telly end”) I have a very traditional buttoned sofa sitting between two rosewood Archie Shine chests and then I’ve placed huge glass Doria Leuchten lamps on top of the chests. The carpet is crazy, but I love it, the sofa is classic, but I love it, the chests are my all-time favourite furniture purchase ever (probably) and the lamps make me go funny inside with design lust. There’s a lot going on, but I love it all so who the hell cares?
3 – Ooh, that was my next tip/learning curve: don’t care what other people think; you need to be comfortable in your home. And other people who live there – don’t forget them. You and your kids/pets/partner/all of the other people who live in your home and who aren’t interiors obsessed: they just want to bloody well live in a house. So you have to kind of temper your interiors passions and enthusiasms slightly and remember that kids will swing on curtains and dogs will lie on footrests and cats will knock expensive pottery things off shelves and you have to find a happy medium. (This was another wise lesson from Martin Waller.)
I mean if everyone tells you that plastering over your original Georgian panelling is a bad idea and that you might at some point go off neon pink ceilings throughout, then maybe stop to consider whether you’re being a bit hasty; but in general, do what pleases you. After a bit of light research. (Can highly recommend the book Mad About The House* if you don’t know where to start with interiors but prefer words to pictures.)
4 – Don’t swing wildly between styles you’ve seen in glossy images – live with things before you make rash decisions. Instagram and interiors magazines are actually the worst for making you think that you want one thing when in fact you should have stuck to another. There’s just so much gorgeous content out there, but you have to really try and blank it all out until you things that truly make your stomach flip. For me, stomach-flips tend to be over images of Soho House hotels – the sixties accents in White City House, the laid-back country house chic at Babington House. Don’t get me wrong; I adore real design statements, architectural wonders and interiors that are unfathomably cool, but do I really want a bedroom with mezzanine bathroom entirely moulded from one piece of clay? No. Stay on target.
5 – You Like To Move It Move It: it wasn’t until I started physically moving pictures, furniture and lamps around the house that I really got into the swing of things with knowing what I wanted. It’s easy to be dismissive or deflated about a possible change when you can’t properly envisage it so – within reason – moving the actual things to the actual places you’re considering really forces you to look at your spaces and work out not only how you want them to look but how you want to use them. Whether your bedroom feels cramped because your king-size is right next to the doorframe or you’ve got a sneaking suspicion that the end of your lounge could make a great little dining area, just bring on the muscle and get moving. (But be careful because beds are well heavy and I’ve pulled many a hamstring.) (I only have two hamstrings, actually; I suppose I mean that I’ve pulled those two hamstrings many a time.)
So, this was just a little pitstop to tell you about what I’d been mulling over – and an opportunity to show you the “bit of the living room that doesn’t have the telly”. A mix of vintage/mid century and the more traditional – some pattern, some plush fabric, some warm wood and some fancy glass. Pretty much the palette for the whole house, although here the lamps have chrome fittings whereas the rest of the lights in the house have brass. (Chrome is coming back in, apparently, not that I ever take much notice of trends.)
The sofa has a very traditional sort of shape with classic buttoning and turned wooden legs but the vintage chests are angular and modern-looking, despite their age – all quite elegant in its own way. I find this combination so very pleasing. You know when suddenly something feels right and you can’t stop looking at it? I feel like that. It’s like I’m home at last. And the best thing is that I don’t even care whether it looks like the magazine pictures or the Insta-inspo – I couldn’t really give two hoots whether or not anyone else likes it, because I love it. Which has to be the best litmus test when it comes to whether something is right.
On a sidenote, you can see my – quite marvellous – Timorous Beasties for Brintons carpet. There’s a post coming up on flooring and what I’ve learnt about pattern, but it’s worth noting that as I’ve added furniture and interest to the rest of the room, the pattern – which at first felt overwhelming – becomes quite welcoming and cosy. There’s something rather grounding about having a bold pattern on the floor – I love the contrast between plain, clean walls and busy, brave carpet.
More on that soon, but in the meantime do remember to follow my new interiors page on Instagram if you’re not already – it’s @casacrilly and you can find it here!
Sofa is the Real Charmer (size large, 190cm) – online here
Chests are vintage rosewood Archie Shine bought from a dealer in Hertford (I’ve bought a few bits from her, she’s excellent): Funky Junky
Table lamps are vintage Doria Leuchten bought at Vinterior – their lighting category is here
Wall lamp is FLOS at John Lewis here*
Carpet is Athol Gardens by Timorous Beasties for Brintons here