Interior Design – The Basics
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Let’s get back to basics this month. What does an interior designer look for, think about when faced with a
blank (or not so blank canvas)? What should you consider if you’re going to tackle the job yourself?
I said, “blank canvas”, but in reality, it’s very rare that you’ll start with an empty room with 4 walls, a ceiling and a window. When designing a new scheme for someone or in your own home that room is usually already lived in and used, it already has a purpose, existing furniture and decoration, architectural features. There are endless decisions to make: should you keep the Chesterfield sofa and design the room around it or consign it to the pages of eBay and replace it with a modern statement piece?
Should you go minimalist and have a light open space with a Zen-like feel, or should you create a cosy, warm haven to escape to when the world gets a little too much?
Whatever the feel you want to achieve, firstly consider the purpose of the room. We use our homes for so many things and the way a room is designed will reflect its purpose whether it be sitting room, kitchen, office or bedroom. Or perhaps you have a large space that is destined for many purposes, for example a kitchen opening into a family room with a home office area. You should consider how you will subdivide each area to make the purpose of each apparent. A peninsular worktop could mark the delineation between kitchen and sitting area, while some fitted shelving with a desk, office chair and focal lighting shows where the office area is.
Then consider the space itself. If any structural changes are necessary, it’s best to speak to workmen as soon as possible as their advice might change your way of thinking about the design. Is there an existing focal point in the room? For example, a period fireplace might dictate placement of furniture and your design style, or alternatively you might decide to bite the bullet and have it removed rather than compromise your plan to accommodate it.
Perhaps you will be adding a focal point such as the aforementioned statement sofa, and if this is the case you will need to consider the positioning of the piece and how the eye will be drawn to it.
Very often a focal point will be opposite the entrance to a room so that the eye instantly goes to it, for example a fireplace, but it could just as easily be sumptuous sofa covered in plump cushions, a dreamy bed or a beautiful large window dressed with stunning fabric.A really good idea is to create a scale plan of the room(s) to be designed on a large sheet of paper and then cut out scale 2D models of all the moveable pieces of furniture and any rugs you want to use in the room, then really move them around to give you an idea of all the possible combinations and what would make the best use of space. If you really want to get serious about your pre-planning and if you are more tech-inclined there are several free interior design tools on the internet.
Consider the flow through the room: losing one or two pieces might mean it’s easier to navigate and won’t feel as cluttered. Partially blocking a doorway is not only irritating when you want to enter a room, but it will also interfere with the line of sight into the room and so will detract from the impact. It can be a very difficult decision to do away with a favourite piece, but it might be in the overall best interests of the design.
Natural light makes a room feel airy and welcoming, and will also add to a feeling of space, so try to maximise whatever natural light there already is. You might want to go so far as to increase the size of your windows or even install more, but there are some less drastic methods. Mirrors will increase the appearance of light in a room as will installing polished flooring rather than carpeting.
Sometimes swathes of opulent fabric at a window can reduce the light and so the use of it actually reduces the wow-factor you’re trying to achieve; consider using lighter fabrics or none at all. I hope I’ve given you some ideas of where to start when thinking of designing a room scheme. These are the
nuts and bolts of the job, but they really are vitally important. It’s more fun doing the sourcing and dressing part, (well I think so at least!) but by
following these steps first it will help prevent some expensive mistakes further down the line.