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Decorating can be a stand-alone project or the final part of a renovation or build. You may want to take on the decorating yourself or you could brief a professional painter and decorator to do the work for you. Here’s what to expect either way:


If your decorator walks in and picks up a paint brush straight away, I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong one. And if this is your starting point, then sadly you’re going to do a messy job. Prep work for painting or papering takes far longer than the actual painting or papering.

After several days of prep… the paint comes out!

What condition are your walls? If you know you’re going to be fussy about the finished job, you have to ensure your walls are straight, smooth, and clean. Same with ceilings, if you’re going to expect them to be perfect later, it’s important that the prep work is done to the highest standard. Paint cannot fix a wobbly wall. Lining paper can help however, so take that into consideration before you invest in someone to reskim the wall.

Prepare the room – cover what needs protecting (everything!) and make enough space for your materials and a table if you’re papering. Clean all woodwork, chip off old paint, take mouldings back to their original design, scrape off old paint drips, steam off the layers of wallpapers (laugh at or consider keeping the ones from the 70s), unscrew sockets and take off radiators so you can get behind them. None of this is particularly fun work, so turn on the radio and sing along or just get yourself into ‘the zone’. 


I generally choose the paint colour last but have had clients who fall in love with a colour first and the entire scheme is based around it. Paints can be so easily matched to a specific colour these days that I prefer to choose fabrics first, but each to their own.

Dark Colours

Do you love the dark wall trend – a stunning navy blue backdrop or a teal green, blue mix? Perhaps Farrow & Ball’s Railings is your thing? Or a rich emerald green? I enjoy dark walls as they make a fabulous contrast to lighter shapes – shiny brass furniture details, copper lights, or white ceramics.

Light Colours

 A neutral colour base throughout the house with splashes of bolder colour options here and there is a sure bet. Most of us like a light, welcoming entrance (though don’t get me wrong a dark space can be enticing too) and a light airy kitchen or bathroom. White backdrops are perfect for primary colours (think bold art) and light neutrals (creams, greys even blue or greens) are soothing choices for most rooms.


Wallpapers add colour, pattern and texture and a hint of drama or the unexpected. I like to use them in guest bedrooms where you won’t tire of them easily or the downstairs loo, or around a corner in a corridor. I have a niche opposite my front door that I’ve papered. It only took one roll and I’m happy to change it when I get bored of it. But I haven’t yet…

Repeat Patterns

Always check the pattern repeat on a wallpaper, especially if you are using it on a staircase. It’s easy to waste paper if you have a 60cm plus repeat pattern and end up using ten to 15 rolls for a staircase. This can be pricey if you’re not careful.

Coving, architraves and skirting

Celebrating the architectural details

Do you keep with brilliant white or do you like a strong contrasting dark edging? Painting woodwork complimentary colours can get confusing so make sure you make a careful note of what you’ve used where. Touch ups are required here and it’s important to get that right or you’ll have spoldges of the wrong colour – very annoying – and have to redo the lot.


I love my tradesmen (and the occasional lady). They get a hard time thanks to Cowboy Builder shows who misrepresent them. I find that treating them well goes a long way. Tell them what you need, agree a price for the finished job, ask them for a finish date and then let them do their work (with the odd cup of tea thrown in). Kindness goes a long way and you’ll see it in the end result.

If you need any help picking colours, coordinating schemes, measuring for wallpaper or encouraging trades, then please get in touch

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Niki Schafer Interior Design is a professional interior design agency for Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

07782 2656 444

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