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20 things ONLY an Interior Designer will tell you...

You'll have a multitude of important choices to make throughout the course of a design project. Knowing how each single choice is affecting the others is often the trickiest part! Pattern mixing, visual balance, continuity throughout the spaces and the nuts and bolts of buying furniture and furniture placement can be a challenge to say the least! If you get it wrong, you may not realise until its too late! Fixing it may cost a bomb not to mention the stress.

You shouldn't rely on various sales people and trades to put it all together because they don't have big picture insight for your project and they don't have design qualifications either! Its all up to you to pull the elements together for a stunning end result. Don't ask you painter for colour advice, he doesn't have design or colour selection skills, he just knows how to apply the paint right? The guy in the tile shop, doesn't know how this tile will look with the paint colour that you chose and so on. You are in the drivers seat and your suppliers and trades don't always have the skills to help you.

Every decorating decision you make impacts every subsequent decision and shuts the door on some options. Don't overthink it but if you are scared or worried about getting it right, you should engage an interior designer and work closely with them - capitalize on their vast experience and get it right the first time.

Here's a few insider tips to keep you under control throughout your project and...hey, if you get stuck, you know where to find me right?


Measure your furniture BEFORE you go out to shop for coffee tables

"Okay, so you're going out the door to the shop to buy new occasional furniture..., STOP RIGHT THERE! Get out a notebook and measuring tape, measure the height of the sofa arm or chair arm you want a tables beside, you will need this measurement to find an end table.

Measure the width of the seating area of your sofa (between the arms) and measure the height to the seat, you will need these measurements to purchase the right width of coffee table and height.

Follow these guidelines:

End tables should be 1 to 2 inches lower than sofa or chair arm.

Width of coffee table is no more than 3/5 th 's between the arms of sofa.

Height of coffee table is not lower than 3 inch difference to height of seat (if not the ergonomics of the pieces will be off and feel and look wrong) If you find that you have end tables that are too high, move them at least 5 inches away from the sofa.

"Most clients come into our store with no idea of what they need. I think more buy the wrong size and height and have to live 15 years with their mistake, no one and I mean no salesperson will tell you to go home and measure and come back so we can find you the right piece, because you might not come back!" - Furniture salesperson

So you'll just buy something that day and might never know what's wrong, you'll just know that somethings not right with your room.


Use sentimental and found items as Art work

Vintage magazines and old books often have neat drawings that when framed in a grouping provide instant character and originality. . . and it won't break the bank! Collections and sentimental bits and pieces can create great interest and fun in your home. Art doesn't have to be expensive, it just has to be meaningful or appealing to you.

Montages have become very popular and I have one on my staircase that I LOVE! Memories of past adventures and family members, sketches and other memorabilia...It looks amazing. Just plan the placement of the elements on the floor, photograph them and then hang them referring back to your image for placement and spacing. It's not as hard as it looks. See the 'best tip for hanging art work' below for other ideas...


Paint your low ceilings black

Painting a low, exposed ceiling black helps it to recede, think night sky. This black hole background will provide emphasis on all other light coloured elements in the space. You want people to notice your furnishings, art, statement light fixtures–NOT your ceiling height (or lack there of). This method is perfect for theater rooms or rooms primarily used at night.


Love or just Like?

You don’t have to love every element in your room on its own. The wall colour might look drab on the chip; the area rug may not seem interesting enough; the pattern for the accent chair might feel too bold. Remember that none of these items has to carry the space on their own.

It’s important to pull back and look at the big picture and see how they will work together to make your room look fantastic. It is a common problem, people can hesitate and overthink each purchase which can often leave them in a kind of limbo land. Trust your designer to help you to overcome your fear because all that you want is on the other side.


Create a plan and stick to it.

The number one secret I tell my clients is to have a plan and don't deviate from it. Whether they want to renovate a room or simply spruce up , I suggest they gather their inspiration room and tap into what they really love.

Refer to this image as each decision is made whether it is choosing a finish or purchasing a lamp. If it doesn't provide the same look and feel as the inspiration room, then make a choice that does. Its so easy to be sidetracked when you are designing your space....focus.


Light switches and other functional stuff.

I have seen so many examples of light switches placed incorrectly. Think carefully about where art might hang so that switches and thermostat controls don't hinder the placement. Choose switch covers that are unobtrusive, don't go for the brightly chromed switches - they should blend away on your wall and not in the middle of any wall for best results.


Best tip for coffee table styling

Here's my secret for styling a coffee table. Just divide it into equally-sized sections first.

A rectangular table is three sections, a round or square table is divided into four.

What to fill the sections with? A stack of books, a plant or a vase of flowers, a piece of sculpture or a unique basket, a tray with a collection of related items, a pretty bowl with or without fruit, or a great box (that can also hold your TV remotes). This is a great place to inject colour into your room.

An oversize square table can often fit a fifth section in the center. Put the tallest item there to form a triangle shape grouping. Top your stack of books with a pretty decorative object and you're done!


Best tip for hanging art work

1. Off-centre the small piece of art on a wall and connect it (group it) with a small piece of furniture such as a reading chair or a console (instead of plunking it in the middle of the wall)

2. Off-centre the small piece of art in relationship to a sofa. Balance is then created by carefully placing decorating elements such as pillows and throws on the sofa, together with the empty space on the wall on the other side of the art. The empty space then becomes part of the entire grouping (sofa/ art/ empty space/ decorative items on the sofa)

3. Group small pieces of art together in a montage on one wall instead of spreading them around the room. In this way, they become one bigger piece, creating impact. The empty walls or negative space is now a place to rest the eyes, which is important to create balance.


Hooks instead of towel rails.

Adding character to any room is worth its weight in gold.

Don't overthink the design of your bathroom, keep it simple and try to add some character if you can - even if you have modern sleek lines, there are modern towel hook systems than the ones pictured here which can do the same for very modern spaces. Rails take up lots of space and usually only hold one or two towels anyway. If you're worried about your towels drying fast enough especially in the winter months,

I recently bought a thermostat heater for my bathroom and throughout winter it has been amazing, keeping my room at a constant comfortable temperature, drying out the shower.... my towels are dry and warm too.

Money well spent.


Remember, you're the boss!

I’m always amazed that clients feel that their color decisions need to be made on a painters timeline. I advise clients that if they are not sure about the color or have not taken the time to sample, do NOT feel rushed to make a choice because of a painter pressuring you! Nicely, ask the painter to push your job back a bit. He may not be happy but not as unhappy as you will be when the wrong color goes up on your walls.

I usually book out about one week in advance but if your time lines are flexible, I can often make an appointment sooner. The average professional colour selection consultation takes between one and two hours. All the colours are clearly documented including colour name and code, colour location, type of paint and large A4 samples are provided of each colour so that you can use them to decorate and check colour accuracy. Always use the brand of paint that the selection was done in for the best accuracy of colour and of course I'll always recommend Dulux for increased longevity. Make sure that your painter uses Dulux paint before he comes to quote and if necessary seek a Dulux accredited painter for the job - here's a link:


Make sure that furniture will fit through door ways before you purchase.


Keep plumbing in the same place when renovating

Its expensive to move the plumbing and if you don't need to, its going to reduce the cost of your renovation substantially. If the room works, maybe


Feather verses synthetic pillow inserts.

To be honest, I have both feather down and synthetic inners in my cushions at home...

You can find great fabric at budget prices, but don't skimp on cushion inserts. A down/feather mix or synthetic version of down will elevate any pillow - plus you'll be able to do the karate chop if you so desire!

Feather down tends to need plumping bu they look amazing and last for eternity. Synthetic ones need replacing, there's nothing worse than a skinny cushion! if you choose synthetic inners, make sure they are plump and gorgeous, you'll need to replace them regularly.


The real scoop in lighting

Please do not rely on recessed or your general lighting to light up your room! They cast unflattering shadows on people's faces (and are even rumored to accentuate the look of cellulite!) A mix of sconces and lamps is best, but at the very least invest in a pair of large scaled lamps (around 70cm high or more).


Inspiration and YOUR personal style

Are you lacking inspiration for your space? Feeling as though you don’t have direction? Start in your own wardrobe. After some analysis of the things you wear you will gain some insight into your design aesthetic. For instance, is your closet full of color or neutrals, prints or solids, modern or or classic, tailored or laid back?

Analyzing your closet will bring you clarity on where to begin in designing your space. The things you choose to wear are a good indication of what surroundings will feel the most comfortable, that is unless you are a nudist! If you would like to get to know yourself and your own decorating style, I'm conducting a presentation in Port Macquarie on the 20th August which may be helpful for just that, it's called "Home Decor Bootcamp"

Here's a link to the event on my Facebook page:


Create an area for conversation

When staging a home, one of the things that always makes a quick, huge impact is to move the living room furniture away from the walls to create a conversation area. Move two chairs opposite a sofa, for instance, with about 30cm between them. Put the coffee table in the center. I like to center this grouping in front of a focal point like a fireplace, or windows with a view. Instant coziness for the room whether you are selling or staying!

Furniture placement is a very important part of decorating your home...get it right or ask your designer for help.


Use mirrors to extend a room, increase light or emphasize a view

Mirrors are a great way to bring light in and make a room seem larger, but don't forget to take into account "the view" that's reflected in it. I think they are a missed opportunity if you hang the mirror in front of a blah tableau (blank wall, boring door etc) Think of it as an opportunity to multiply light, color and interest in a room!


Whats wrong with my room?

Have you ever known that there's something wrong with your room but cant quite put your finger on it? When a room isn't working, many people make the mistake of bringing in something new, when really they should be doing the very opposite — taking things away. Best to start by stripping the room completely, then add back one piece at a time (starting with the largest pieces) getting the room in balance and working with the architecture.If all else fails, a designer can trouble shoot your rooms and tell you exactly whats up.


Samples are king!

I personally shop for clients frequently and one thing I have found to be very helpful is to “measure” color with samples. This works in a few ways. If I am consulting at the home of a new client and know that I will need the exact color of their sofa but they have no swatch to give me, I open up my box of paint samples and find the closest possible match. I make a note of it and put the actual sample directly in to the file. Although I do also take a photo of it, I prefer not to rely on the photo for actual color representation.

This way I can make sure I have a perfect representation of the colour in the file while I am shopping for cushions, accents, etc. This is so much more convenient than trying to haul around large bulky items while you shop - and its more accurate too.


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