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My design journey
As an interior designer there is a certain amount of pressure (self inflicted perhaps…) to have a home that looks fabulous. As a result, the fact that my pink bathroom suite has green carpet going up the side is like watching a doctor smoke.
We bought our ‘project’ house last December and have done what I advise to clients – we’ve lived a year here, and have watched all four seasons, the change in light, the change in use and the change in temperature over the twelve months.
And now we’ve had enough. The kitchen is falling to pieces, the carpet in the dining room is driving me insane, the wallpaper in my bedroom is ghastly and the lighting throughout is dull, literally. It’s time to move on with the plans.
Obviously, the interior plans were done before we’d even put an offer on the house, and while they’ve remained in principle, they have been tweaked to appreciate sunlight and cater to our access needs. Working out what you do with day-to-day rubbish is a key activity to cater for, for example. We’ve also learnt to appreciate drainage requirements – something I’d not considered fully – for the patio and front of the house.
LESSON: Understanding the oddities of a house is key to designing it well.
Hiring the right people
I am not an architect despite thinking I’m capable of doing the work of those who share the same industry (surely I’m not alone here?). It wasn’t until I tried to design the façade of my home that I realized this is NOT my field. It looks like my business – elevations, windows, doors, light, space, and materials. But it’s not. How annoying.
But hiring someone else to do the work felt like a costly expense (like everyone, we are keen to save money…) so I bartered with a colleague to draw up my ideas in return for some ideas for their interiors. And while a perfectly good idea, it didn’t work and the house plans ground to a halt.
LESSON: Bite the bullet, invest in the right people for the job from the off.
Designers are not mind readers. They will have ideas of their own, obviously, but it is important to share your thoughts and ideas before they start on the work. This is such a basic principle that I’m embarrassed to realize just how little I briefed the first architect. So second time round, I used Pinterest board images, gave very clear ideas of desired material effects, but also left them enough scope to inject their own creativity (as opposed to prescribing, as I did first time round).
The designer worked his magic and came back with interesting solutions, features I hadn’t thought of and exciting choices for us to make together. I was delighted. It was worth the several thousand pounds.
LESSON: Brief with clarity and boundaries.
We moved from having a front door centrally placed in the front, to one on the side, this allowed for a large piece of glazing to allow light to flood into the hall way. Genius.
The creation of this twist also meant an odd layout for the bedrooms above meaning a slim window for above my daughter’s desk. Interesting.
And he designed a balcony. Do we need a balcony? Of course not, but drama can be instrumental in the success of design.
So is simplicity of course, which is why we kept the materials palette to a minimum – ivory render and grey slate. And painted brick. It’s not everyone’s favourite choice but I love painted brick. It’s got texture and honesty.
LESSON: Choose one or two materials you really love and stick with them, no matter what.
The Next Steps
We loved the design and couldn’t wait to move ahead so we submitted our plans and waited.
It transpires the rest of the street had a few words to say on the matter…
Read all about that rather stressful and somewhat embarrassing escapade next time.