Belfast Telegraph

A sense of style

Bewildered by the vast range of colours and trends when it comes to decorating your home? Gabrielle Fagan gets the|interior design experts onto the case

Decorating can be a tricky task these days with a dazzling array of styles, designs and influences on offer: from shabby chic to crazy colour, gorgeous glamour or even full-on confusion.

But tailoring a space into somewhere that speaks volumes about your personality and taste doesn't just serve to impress visitors — more importantly it also turns it into a home.

“It's usually when people move away from home into their first property that they realise the potential of a place where they can truly express themselves and let their imagination run wild,” says Joanna Copestick, co-author of a brilliant new guide to designing a home, Decorate.

“Discovering your style sensibility and why you are attracted to certain things is one of the most joyful and emotionally freeing processes of decorating.

“But all too often people are nervous about experimenting, or feel so overwhelmed by the trends and looks that they struggle to find one to suit their identity.”

In reality, she points out, it only takes a little bit of time and research, and the essential ingredients for an individual home recipe will soon become apparent.

“Deciding on a personal style is so often about living with what you love, whether it's a collection of paintings, favourite furniture styles, colours that inspire you or objects that hold a special significance. Run with your instinct and you won't go wrong,” says Copestick.

STARTING OUT

Ideally, before starting any scheme, the experts suggest you turn detective by collecting cuttings from magazines of photos of rooms you're attracted to, as well as pieces of fabric, and working out what you're instantly drawn to on colour charts.

“Create a personal checklist of what matters to you. If you love light, make sure you place furniture close to windows to enjoy the view,” says Copestick.

“If you're always in the kitchen, ensure it's a place where friends can hang out too, and if you enjoy a sense of space, think about banishing some walls in favour of sliding screens or glass doors.”

Most of all, she urges: “Stay on the look-out for the ‘ah-ha!' moment when you walk into a space and instantly feel connected.”

Check out the designers' advice on creating three key looks.

COLOUR

Using colours is one of the most personal styles of decorating you can undertake.

“It's so individual but remember nothing's wrong — one person's favourite vivid turquoise or sugar-plum pink can be another's idea of excess in the taste department,” says Copestick.

“While a pale, neutral palette beloved of many professional decorators may seem like a bland compromise to those who love bolds and brights.”

Think outside of the box as well, she advises, as colour need not necessarily be painted on walls.

If a room is bland and box-like, incorporate an interesting focal point featuring colour, whether it's a mantel shelf for a display of colourful china, a large piece of free-standing, vibrantly painted furniture or a stunning piece of art to take up one wall.

In a large room, where you want to enhance a sense of enclosure and seclusion, opposing walls can be painted the same colour. Alternatively, a wall painted up to dado height in a vivid colour with white above is a good way to live with some colour without feeling overwhelmed by it.

“Jewel-bright sunlit rooms can stand big, bold shades of fuchsia or topaz, so go with the colourful vibe if light is not an issue,” says Copestick.

“In a room dominated by neutral colours, add in vivid contrast colour as accents on upholstery, cushions or artwork. Strong tones such as orange, citrus lime or red work well as vivid jolts of colour in this way.”

DESIGNER TIP Writer and designer Rita Konig believes that painting walls grey has a similar effect to dressing in black and white — it's versatile and always stylish, allowing you to embellish the overall effect with small dashes of other colours in accessories from paintings to colours.

“One of my favourite colours is a pale grey from the Paint Library, London, which is a great foil for many other colours. Combined with pink and green it can create a very soothing and warming scheme,” she says.

FLEA MARKET STYLE

Whether you call it junk, or simply ‘old stuff', there's no doubt that flea market chic's time is now.

“The idea of living with second-hand furniture and objects is as fashionable as the latest outfits from the latest Paris catwalk show,” says Copestick.

While foraging in charity shops and second-hand stores can be fun and productive, she advises having a list of eras that you'd like represented in your home.

To be on trend, retro Fifties and Sixties style is in vogue. But feel free to indulge your own passions — whether it's for items such as a 1930s clock or a 1970s tea service as well as that 1960s wood-framed sofa.

“Revel in mixing up the era and playing with colours and materials. If your eye immediately fixes on a battered cabinet across a crowded junk shop floor then you'll find it hard to go home without it,” she says.

“Trust your instinct and buy only items that you are really attracted to from the

start. Use smaller flea market finds to embellish existing items, perhaps antique handles to dress up a chest of drawers, vintage plates displayed on a shelf, or fabric from old curtains turned into striking cushion covers.”

DESIGNER TIP Interior stylist Sania Pell, the author of Homemade Home, says: “A home takes time to grow and become personal. I think this can only be done over years, collecting interesting bits and bobs from holidays, car boot sales and junk shops.

“Then your character starts to shine through and the house begins to reflect your personality. I've devoted our living room to old utility items which I display, including antique rulers, old cricket scoreboard numbers and shop signs.

“It can be enormously effective to take a piece of retro furniture and either paint or decorate it to make it unique. Change the handles, add tassels instead of drawer pulls, resurface a table with a mirror or marble or re-upholster a sofa with jute or retro fabric.”

GLAMOUR

Modern glamour's all about making a statement and preserving a sense of cool at the same time, says Copestick.

Mix dramatic furniture with pale neutral colours, using glamorous materials such as velvet or marble in rooms with simple furniture layouts, or place unexpected pieces of furniture alongside one another to create an interesting rhythm.

“For a modern glamour masterclass, gather together furniture that is a mix of glossy white, reflective steel, hard-edged but luxurious marble and in a range of decorative styles.”

Luxury, she says, goes hand in hand with glamour, which means deliciously tactile textiles.

“Think of rich velvet or chenille used in combination with damask or textured linens in bold colours, graphic patterns or stylised floral designs,” she says.

“Wallpaper always adds glamour and visual interest to a space. Keep it confined to one wall or one part of a room for the most impact. Bold patterns or motifs in muted colours provide a smart backdrop.”

DESIGNER TIP Niki Jones says: “Cushions enliven a room scheme and give it personality. Hand-embroidered and vintage pieces become cherished heirlooms, inspiring colour palettes and room themes, and adding originality to your home.”

Decorate by Holly Becker and Joanna Copestick, with photography by Debi|Treloar, is published by Jacqui Small, priced £30, now available

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