Design Matters

PUBLISHED: 11:03 07 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:39 20 February 2013

from Marlbourough Interiors

from Marlbourough Interiors

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen shares his style ideas for 2011

One of the big trends this year is focused on colour combinations. For years we used one block colour against a neutral background, but now were getting much braver, and combinations are increasingly prevalent, which is wonderful. One of the best combinations is white, gold and grey very elegant, very Second Empire, with couture overtones. We are getting much more sophisticated, and the trend is not budget-related but based on inspiration. Were moving away from white metal, from aluminium and steel, which is now seen as far too industrial and rather irritating. Decorating is definitely moving towards a more elegant, feminine incarnation.

Were also turning our backs on the abrupt stop that, start this mentality and allowing styles to flow more easily and naturally. Pattern is more accessible, and the real trend here is for bigger and flatter patterns with a strong botanical feel. Were shifting our attention away from damasks, with their 17th- and 18th-century-inspired tonal ranges, into a look that feels much more vigorous, bigger and bolder. These influences obviously come via the 1970s, which is still big in fashion, but with reference to the country prints of 18th-century France. I foresee vegetables well all want big gourds on our walls.

Budgets are tight, of course, but with the market so dominated by the high street, its easy to keep your look contemporary without breaking the bank. Theres little reason to shop expensively when stores like Matalan, B&Q, and Homesense are working so hard to open up design to everyone. The internet is also a huge influence.

Some aspects are worth exploring and investing in, and print is definitely one of those things. Look to Nina Campbell, Zoffany, Designers Guild theres lovely stuff out there, and on a scale that you wont find on the high street. Theres no reason to spend a lot, but you can be braver and more committed to your style. I love the kinkiness of the grand look and it can be done very cheaply, in a very British, very democratic way.

Kitchens are an interesting barometer. In the houses we grew up in, which were built between the 1850s and 1930s, kitchens were small. Now theyre getting a lot bigger, with people extending and knocking through, sacrificing dining rooms along the way. The kitchen is now less a room just to cook in, and is one of the few rooms where the entire family get together. It can have colour, wallpaper, art andlamps; its a place to chat, to entertain, where the children do their homework, watch TV. Were losing living rooms and dining rooms in favour of multifunctional kitchen spaces. The space becomes a big sitting room in which you happen to also do the cooking.
People often ask about how to brighten up a north-facing room. I say, dont try. The principal room at my house is north-facing and Ive made it cosy and inviting, with chocolate browns and dark tones, and it feels so welcoming. Surprisingly, its not ugly or intimidating in summer, and it becomes a lovely cocoon in the winter. Dont try to make a dark room light; make it rich, indulgent, high fat. Create a giant fruit cake rather than a Scandinavian crispbread!
If theres one aspect not to skimp on, its flooring. Anyone whos laid cheap laminate flooring will know the problems: it looks ghastly, the dog slides all over it, there are tumbleweed balls of fluff skittering across it constantly. Spend money on this aspect of your home, whether that involves treating the existing floorboards or choosing a good carpet, one with a high wool content.
In the bedroom, its better to create a well-thought-out, convenient space, regardless of the decorating. Be more expressive of all rooms in the house, this one should have the most personality. Personally, for the room to function well as a room, like in a boutique hotel, I love to turn lights off from the bed. Incorporate a concealed TV, even a mini bar; pay attention to detail in how the room is used. The bedroom is where you regenerate, where you recharge, so give yourself little treats and gifts in terms of how its used; touches that make it work for you. Thats much more important in the long term.

Local experts offer their advice on restyling the home

Wendy Baker from Baker Interiors

Living room: If youhave wooden floors you will have rugs already, but even if you have wall-to-wall carpets you can still scatter rugs - buy fine ones like dhuries, not bigwoollen ones. Every room needs a focal point, especiallya living room, and not just the TV. Put in a fireplace oropen up an exisiting one and install a wood-burning stove. Add a floor lamp for reading by a comfortable armchair and prehapsa couple of floor spotlights to emphasise a favourite statue or ornament.

Kitchen: Steer clear of curtains - shutter or blinds are easier to clean. Soften their starkness with some hops over thetop of the blind, a garland of flowers or tiny tree lights. Halogen lighing can produce a bland, hard light, so try metal industrial spotlights and rise-and-fall ceiling lights over the central island and breakfast tabele, on a dimmer switch. Break up the kitchen units with an armoire as a china cupboard or an old chest of drawers for pots and pans. Break from tradition and don't have wall cabinets, have shelves on brackets instead!

Bedroom and bathroom: Keep the bedroom fairly free of furniture- a bed and two bedside tables/chests, and perhaps an ottoman at the end of the bed for linen. If you have the space to put your wardrobe in your bathroom, go for it. Have two basins and two big carved mirrors - a bit over the top, but fun! Make a small bathroom cosy with lots of pictures on the walls, lots of candles and plenty of extra-big bath towels - don't save on these, go for quality.

Wendy Baker Interiors, 01672 871600,

Marilyn Johnson from Marlborough interiors:

Kitchen: This is increasingly becoming an area that has a dual role, so select the correct light- fittings for your requirements - always target areas where light is needed most.

Bathroom: When re-designing your bathroom, whatever the size look at ways of creating storage. This can be achieved ny tall, narrow units or high level shelving. TYhe depth may be able to be concealed within the cavity of the stud wall.

Living room: If deciding on a colour scheme is proving so difficult that you just don't decorate, select a neutral base colour and build on it 'tone on tone'. The aim is to achieve depth and continuity - ass the strong accent colours with one contrast wall and accerssories, making it easy to change the look wihout re-decorating the whole room every time your mood or the fashion dictates

Bedroom: The bed is the focal point of any bedroom - 'dress' it so that it stays that way. You can then easily build around it with colour, lighting and furniture.

Marlborough Interiors, 01672 511415

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