I have been in seventh heaven over the past three months. Not because I have been staying with my daughter’s family, although that has been lovely, but because I have been indulging in my passion for interior design.
The bug for this bit me when, as a newly wed in 1970, I was able to decorate and furnish our small new-build three-bed semi in Basingstoke from scratch. Fortunately for me, Terence Conran had opened his first Habitat store in London in 1964 and I can remember the excitement I felt the first time I visited their large showroom in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, in the year before I got married.
If Vidal Sassoon invented modern hairdressing in the 1960s, and Mary Quant radically changed our clothes and makeup, then Terence Conran totally revolutionised the way that we lived.
It’s hard to overstate how uninspiring interiors were before Conran burst onto the scene. In my parents’ house all the cumbersome furniture was brown and walls and floors were kept to muted shades of beige and cream. There was a strongly utilitarian feel to everything that we used because little or no thought had gone into the design of something as mundane as a teaspoon. Terence Conran believed that everything in the home should both delight the eye and be a pleasure to use, so that form and function went hand-in-hand, and, best of all, everything they sold should also be affordable for young couples who were starting out on their married life.
As a result practically every stick of furniture and every glass, plate and saucepan in our first home came from Habitat. The house we bought was oblong with a large L shaped living room and small kitchen downstairs, and two bedrooms with a box room and bathroom on the second floor. I wanted the main room to be the piece de resistance, so my colour scheme was red and white with touches of black. We had two sofas at right angles to each other with red cushions on a wooden frame, two square white coffee tables topped with lamps with red shades, a white shelving unit and a round white dining table with four matching dining chairs. The walls were painted white and the flooring was a white shag-pile carpet in the sitting area and a black and white chequer-board tiled floor in the dining area. For the long back wall which was mostly window, I made 6 floor to ceiling curtains in a fabulous red and white flowered pattern from John Lewis. I loved that room so much! It felt modern and grown-up and promised a whole new and exciting life.
And that’s what I am hoping to achieve in my latest foray into creating pleasing, attractive and liveable spaces in my remodelled flat. Fifty years may have passed but my passion remains undimmed. The only difference is that decorating choices have multiplied exponentially. First time around it was Conran who made my design decisions easy and relatively foolproof. This time around there are paint colours called things like Nancy’s Blushes and Elephant’s Breath, thousands of fabrics to choose between and don’t get me started on sofas! Then there are pendant lights, table lamps, rugs and goodness knows what else to research, compare, consider and finally choose and buy.
The best thing for me is that I have no-one else to consult and no-one else to consider. I have made some fairly bold (some might say foolhardy) decisions, but the buck stops with me, and as long as I love the way it all looks when it's eventually finished, then that’s the only criterion that matters. So, how did I set about designing my newly enlarged bedroom adjoined by double doors to a new bathroom and a kitchen which has doubled in size (from tiny to small)? And how have I also decided on the changes to my long thin entrance hallway and the sitting room at the back of the flat which opens onto the garden via bi-fold doors?
My starting point was to buy lots of interiors’ magazines. For me, this is a quick and easy way to ‘get my designer’s eye in’ and to find some inspiration. If I saw anything at all in the magazines that I instantly loved, I’d tear it out and shove it into a folder. When I’d amassed maybe 30-40 images I spread them all out to see if a thematic colour scheme emerged. It was immediately apparent that I am drawn exclusively to cool colours and that I love strong dark pink (Magenta) and soft sage green with splashes of white. From this I created a ‘mood board’ by sellotaping my favourites to a square white painting canvas (literally my blank canvas). My jumping off point then became a Designer’s Guild wallpaper called ‘Impasto’ which I’d torn from a magazine image. I absolutely loved the slightly distressed look with a soft grey/green background with splodges of pale and deep pink. I decided that this wallpaper would form the basis for my colour scheme for the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.
Because the bathroom and bedroom can be (almost fully) opened up to form one large space I decided that a paint colour to match the background of the wallpaper would be perfect for the bathroom walls (Little Greene Tracery), with tiling to match the pale pink splodges. I already had white painted floorboards in the bedroom and decided to have these laid in the bathroom to enhance the sense of continuity. I then made the rather bold decision to paint the chimney breast in the bedroom in a vivid deep pink (Annie Sloan ‘Capri Pink’) with fitted cupboards either side painted in a bright white to mute the effect. The bathroom is (almost) finished and so far, so good. This week the built-in wardrobes have been installed, so the bedroom will be the next to be decorated and I will finally get to see how the wallpaper looks (finger’s crossed!)
My starting point for the kitchen was to decide on a large 1950s-vibe pink Smeg fridge. I had one of these in France and absolutely loved it. What better reminder of the happiest of times in my life than having another one in my flat in Wimbledon? Howden’s sage green shaker style kitchen with a deep white Butler’s sink was my choice for kitchen units and the worksurface is pure white quartz. The paint I’d found for the bathroom was also a perfect match with the kitchen units, so that’s what I’ve gone with for the walls. The floor is, as everywhere else, white painted floorboards. I literally cannot wait to accessorise it and have already bought a pink Smeg kettle and some great artwork for the walls which will bring it all to life.
Having settled on all the colour choices for the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen I turned my attention to the hallway. This narrow space runs the whole length of the flat with a ‘dogleg’ in the middle down two stairs. It’s a bland, boring, cold and uninviting entrance, so what to do? My starting point for this was a gorgeous horizontal striped felted wool hall runner from Roger Oates which I saw online. Anna came with me to their showroom in Chelsea Harbour and with the help of the lovely assistant I designed my own rug in stripes of navy, denim, pale blue and (you’ve guessed it) pink. It’s 70 cm wide and will be just over 3m long.
I’ve decided to have a dado rail fitted to make the hall look wider and painted the lower half in Little Greene Hicks Blue and the top in Slaked Lime. I’ve also decided to paint the tired oak floorboards white and I have some plans to reframe and rehang some existing art works. And for my sitting room I am going with a mid-toned blue again (Farrow and Ball Stone Blue) for the walls and a four seater sofa covered in a Designers Guild Varese velvet in…wait for it… yes, you have guessed it…. Magenta! I’ve also ordered a button-topped ottoman/footstool covered in a jazzier fabric (see below).
Some of you will no doubt love my choices, some won’t be too sure and some will think that I am raving mad, but, fortunately, it’s only me that has to live with it, maybe for the rest of my life! At the moment it’s still impossible to appreciate the finished effect,, but, gradually over the next 4-6 weeks it should all come together. I am hoping to move back by the middle of March, and I promise to share lots of photos as soon as it is finally finished.
So, please wish me luck! I have taken a few risks with colours, but hopefully my heart will lift every time I put the key in my front door and know what visual delights await me on the other side!
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Dear Tricia You have inspired me as we are redoing our bathroom and the safe white/grey/beige tiles have been binned and we are going for heavenly green/ blue massive statement tiles. Think it will look stunning. Love all your ideas and colours x Diane
It sounds as if it’s all going to be gorgeous and can’t wait for the photos. I’m not as confident with wallpaper and just have painted walls everywhere. We got a new kitchen last year which is cornflower blue with white quartz worktops. We also bought a SMEG Retro fridge freezer as well as coffee maker and toaster. Love them all.
It sounds wonderful and I look forward to seeing the photos when it’s finished. We have just made the decision to list our house and downsize to a flat, so I am also now starting to resurrect my love of interior design. However, trying to suit two completely different sets of taste is not going to be easy!! Susan D
Your abode is going to look like something that would grace the pages of House Beautiful, just gorgeous, and love your choices of colour and textures, Enjoy your new home Tricia. xx
I am so excited for you and cannot wait to see it when it is complete!!! Kitchen cabinet color is fabulous!!! Everything else is great too but can't wait to see it with the pink fridge and white countertops. Fun fun fun!!!