As I showed you this week I’m getting very close to finishing our bedroom. There are still a few finishing touches that I want: a lamp with any one of these lampshades (a birthday gift, I hope!) to go on the chest of drawers as this lamp really lives on the landing, a full length mirror to go on the left hand wall as you walk into the room, maybe some extra storage on that wall and I’d like to frame some family photographs for this room. Ultimately we want built-in wardrobes in the alcoves but that is way down on our list of priorities as we are now focusing our time and money on the outside of the house. Also, if we extend into the loft any time soon we would make that our bedroom and therefore wouldn’t necessarily need built in wardrobes in here. We shall see.
Anyhoo, I thought it would be nice to show you the room in its almost finished state as I know a few of you have been following along on Instagram with the change of wall colour drama so I’m pleased to say I feel really happy with how it looks and feels now. You can see how it used to look here and just a few words as to why I changed the wall colour as I get asked about it A LOT! I originally had this room painted Light Blue by Farrow & Ball, which is the colour I have used on all the woodwork in the other rooms (except the bathroom and hallway). I absolutely adore the colour in the others rooms but in our bedroom, which is small and north west facing, as winter approached it just made the room feel darker and more drab by the day and the furniture I had in here didn’t look right with the colour either. When the sun hit the room in the late afternoon the colour looked quite green, which was lovely, but didn’t make up for the rest of the day. Therefore, I made the decision to change the wall colour to School House White by Farrow & Ball, which is a great neutral; neither too cold nor too warm. It works perfectly with my linen bed (you can see more about my ottoman storage bed from Button & Sprung in this post), the old pine drawers and the new chair as well as allowing the fireplace to stand out.
I have actually changed the pendants in here to these bone china ones from Original BTC. I have these lights throughout the house because they emit such a beautiful soft and even light and I love the natural flex that works so well in here.
I hope to have a new lamp that will be a bit more of a statement on these drawers. I think something larger with a bit more colour and pattern will work well. I also want to reframe this portrait using a black frame to add a bit more contrast.
I spoke a lot on my Instagram about finding it difficult to choose bedside tables and I’m pretty happy with these oak ones from La Redoute (although quite wobbly legs and the price has gone up!). They are very practical with a drawers and the cane shelf and I like how simple they are.
As soon as I’d changed the wall colour everything just fell into place. I was able to commit to other decisions that I’d been struggling with such as curtains, bedside tables, bedlinen, a rug and art work. I have chosen to blend lots of neutrals with natural materials to create a very calm and soft vibe with lots of texture. There are a few dashes of muted pink and cinnamon in the cushions and art work and a bit of contrast with black accents like the curtain pole, fireplace and I’m going to reframe one of my pictures with a black frame as black really helps to ground the whole scheme.
I love the addition of my New Lark Tub chair that I wrote about yesterday. The framed piece of vintage wallpaper ties in perfectly with the colours in the room.
The frame above the bed is from an old painting that used to hang in my parents’ bedroom. It works perfectly in here to add a bit of ‘old’.
The different textures of the linen on the bed and the curtains combined with the jute rug, the plants, the cane on the bedside tables, the ceramic pendants and all the wood around the room add interest even though the colours are so muted. They stop the room feeling ‘flat’.
I can not tell you how much I love these cushions that I bought from By Molle. They are very expensive but worth every penny in this case as they totally brought the colour scheme in this room together. I chose the cinnamon and pink salt cushions.
I’m still debating as to whether I will paint the woodwork and door in Shadow White to replace the brilliant white.
This jute rug has been a great addition (even if it does look like a placemat!) as I love the texture and softness it brings to the room. I did find this much cheaper version but went for this one as it is so much thicker and so soft under foot so I hope it will last longer.
It sounds really silly but this room has been weighing heavy on my mind as I had this weird block of just not being able to ‘get it right’ and I’ve never really experienced that with a room before as I always have quite a clear vision of what I want. My advice if you’re experiencing the same issue is to not rush into buying anything until you are sure it’s right. I held off for a long time before committing to anything for this room and I’m so glad about it as otherwise I could have wasted so much money. I hope you like the way it looks now and I’ll be sure to keep you updated on any additions (Jules, if you’re reading this you’re going to buy me that lamp, yes?!).
Someone left a comment on my recent house tour for the US site Apartment Therapy saying that my house wasn’t dramatic or bold or avant-garde enough. They wanted to see darker colours, brighter colours and more statement pieces. But the thing is, that’s just not me and I definitely won’t apologise for that. And you know what makes the best design? Not following trends or what other people think looks good or what you’ve seen in a magazine but what makes you feel happy. I would dread coming home to a house filled with dark colours and pattern and loads of stuff even though I can totally appreciate how all of those things can be absolutely beautiful in someone else’s house. And that is why my bedroom is the calmest, most neutral and most clutter free room in the house – I need peaceful and tranquil decor in order to feel those things myself.
A beautiful new bedroom chair from DFS to make my room somewhere I can relax as well as sleep.
Last month I was lucky enough to be invited up to Derbyshire to visit the DFS‘ Bridge Mills design studio in Long Eaton and celebrate their 50th anniversary as well as having a go at upholstering my own chair. I have decided to move the clothes rail in my bedroom (a temporary clothes storage measure until we can afford built in cupboards) into our spare room as it looks ugly (I do not have a beautifully curated selection of clothes!) and it makes the room look cluttered and unfinished. Therefore, we have a bare alcove and the perfect place to put a new chair, which will make the whole room feel even more tranquil. And I have to say I am so pleased with the result and how well my beautiful New Lark Tub chair turned out. I mean, look at those crisp pleats! Ok, I may have got some – or a lot – of help from one of the wonderful upholsterers who has worked at DFS for thirty odd years (thank you, Russ!) but still, I’m going to claim some of the glory.
I worked with one of DFS’ upholsterers to make the chair. Many of the employees in the DFS British factories have worked there for decades.
Look at those crisp pleats! I only needed a little help with this 😉
The Cream Brushed Plain fabric works perfectly with my School House White walls and all the different neutrals combine perfectly to give this room such a relaxed feel.
And that is the thing about DFS, it truly is a British company from the roots up and employs families who have worked there for decades. They have a huge amount to celebrate in their 50th year including being the market leader by a country mile (fun fact – 1 in 4 of us have a DFS sofa in our homes!), maintaining three upholstery factories and two woodmills across the UK, providing a large amount of work to the communities in those areas as well as investing in the future generations with upholstery apprenticeships every year. Until my visit, I had no idea that every DFS sofa is hand-made to order, many here in the UK; the only part of the process that has been mechanised is the pattern cutting. It was amazing on the day to watch the seamstresses and upholsters at work and to give it a go myself. It was great to meet the DFS design team And not only do they do all the making but DFS has a team and chat to them about the design process and the amazing variety of sofas that they create, based on trends and fabrics they source from all over the world and at international design shows. We even got a sneak peek at some future designs including my favourite, the Joules Patterdale, which is brand new and can be bought online and in store now!
The design team at DFS who we spent the day with identify new trends at international design shows. They than design new sofas based on these trends and offer a huge variety of styles and fabrics. 1 in 4 of all homes across the UK have a DFS sofa!
The New Lark Tub chair is perfect for a bedroom as it is compact and low so it doesn’t dominate the space and it’s perfect for putting on shoes and socks (or for drinking tea in the morning).
My New Lark Tub chair is absolutely perfect for my bedroom as it’s very comfortable but small enough for this room as well as being low enough to put socks and shoes on easily. I chose the Cream Brushed Plain fabric that is so incredibly soft and it works perfectly with my School House White walls. As I said, I’m not interested in anything dramatic or contrasting in this room as all these neutrals (I’ll show you more of the bedroom tomorrow in another blog post) make me feel so calm and relaxed and they work together so well. When the late afternoon sun hits this room and comes in through the linen curtains I can not tell you how lovely it is especially now I have somewhere so nice to sit. I didn’t replace a chair in here, so I don’t have one to get rid of, but if you do, another amazing thing I learnt about DFS is that they have established a sofa recycling partnership with The British Heart Foundation. They offer DFS customers the option to have their old sofa removed and if suitable, to be sold in one of BHF’s Furniture and Electrical stores up and down the UK, with the proceeds going to BHF. The scheme began in 2012 and has raised £20m so far. Can you believe that? So many more companies need to start establishing schemes like this one.
I love the overall effect of having moved the clothes rail out of here and now having a chair, which softens the whole space.
The New Lark Tub chair is a lovely shape and the back wraps round you and the seat is so bouncy and soft.
I’m thrilled with my new bedroom chair and how much more tranquil it has made the room feel. I also had a really wonderful time with the DFS team learning a bit about upholstery and a huge amount about the proud history of this British company. I really hope that they continue to support so many families across Derbyshire for fifty more years to come at least and continue to make such brilliant quality (and such comfy) sofas. I hope you like this new corner of my bedroom even though it’s not very avant-garde – ha!
Two weekends ago I went and stayed in an Airbnb with my two sisters, one of whom lives in Manchester so we chose a place half way between there and London. We were four adults and two children and we managed to book a three bedroom cottage. We had such a lovely weekend catching up with my cute nephew and spending time together and although the cottage was fine it definitely didn’t add to our experience and we won’t be going back there. The decor made it feel unnecessarily drab and dark, there were random bits of furniture and piles of clutter and the linen was very far from fresh and crisp. To be fair it was a family home BUT they charged us £300 for one night! We would have returned in the future and paid that fee had they made just a few easy changes and did a proper clean (it was ‘sticky’ – if you know, you know). As it turns out we didn’t leave a great review and they won’t be getting £300 from us again.
Anyway, it got me thinking about trying to make our house pay for itself using Airbnb or HomeAway or the like when we go away (something we did do a few times in our old flat really successfully) but what puts me off is the hassle of preparing for guests as well as doing handovers etc. That’s where GuestReady comes in. GuestReady is a property management service who will look after everything from photographing the property, screening potential guests, greeting guests and doing key exchanges, professional house keeping to being on call throughout a guest’s stay to perform basic maintenance tasks. All of these things will help get excellent reviews, which keep guests coming back and help reach the optimum price for a property.
Of course, a home (or perhaps it is a second home to rent out on a short or medium let basis) needs to be appealing to guests to optimise how much one can make from it. So what can one do or what changes can one make to charge as much as possible? Here are a few tips that I think will help…
Add personality without it feeling too personal
Guests don’t want a home to feel sterile and soulless otherwise they’d book into a basic hotel. You shouldn’t feel the need to strip the house of character as guests want to feel at home. Art work on the walls, statement ornaments or wall hangings, books and plants all go to make the place feel relaxed, welcoming and lived in. However, try not to make it feel too personal as the hundredth picture of the couple’s wedding in the cottage we stayed in at the weekend was overkill and kind of made us feel like we were trespassing, if you know what I mean. Think about where you live and try to add local touches like a piece by a local artist or books about the local history. Small touches like that will give the place character and interest. A quick note about plants: do not rely on guests to water them – you may be better off with some of the amazing faux plants that you can buy these days.
Let the light in
A light bright property is not only going to photograph better – something that GuestReady can do for you and good photos on sites like Airbnb and HomeAway makes ALL the difference – but it will also make your guest’s stay so much more enjoyable. It’s very easy over time to clog up rooms with too much furniture or to place furniture too near windows so that the light is blocked out. Try to clear as much space in front of windows as possible and ensure all window coverings are pulled right back so that they don’t block out any light. If your home is generally quite dark and doesn’t get great light because of its position think about your lighting. Each room should have multiple light sources including the ceiling and walls as well as table and floor lamps. I can not emphasise enough how much lighting affects the ambiance of a home and whether or not people feel comfortable in a space.
A great way of making a space feel relaxed and lived in, as well as adding style, is to combine old with new by adding vintage and antique pieces. Layering vintage textures and colours through furniture, textiles or ornaments will look great but it is also a very cost effective way of improving your home if you need to do so before you list it. Vintage pieces can be so much cheaper than new so rummage around local markets, antique shops or online for some great bargains.
This may just sound like weird jargon but the fact is that the way you use a full time home is very different to the way you use a holiday home. In our daily lives our focus isn’t always on ‘relaxing’ but more about doing and getting through our daily routines and chores. When you invite guests into your home they will want to be able to relaxed in each room so you may need to move things about a bit or add certain pieces of furniture that enable them to feel as comfortable as possible – something that may not be a priority on a daily basis for you. For example, adding a couple of chairs with a small table to the bedroom, if possible, as when you stay away from home you generally have more time to spend relaxing in the bedroom or the need to spend extra time in there as you may be with friends or family and need somewhere to escape to. Another example is adding a chair in the bathroom so that guests can enjoy the extra time they may have or a reading nook in the living room. This was a trick that the cottage we stayed in really missed as they had a huge bathroom and there was nowhere to sit, which was such a shame. Try to put yourselves in the minds of guests and what they may want out of your home.
Don’t be afraid to use colour and pattern
Yes, neutral homes will appeal to a wider audience but if you have the confidence to use colour and pattern effectively go for it! A stand out wallpaper, paint colour or a mix of textiles can help to make your listing more memorable than others – don’t forget that GuestReady will help you make your listing as effective as possible, including brilliant copy writing, but a stand out decor will also help a lot.
Washable sofa covers make life so much easier. You can keep your sofas looking fresh and you don’t have to panic that a spill will ruin your beautiful velvet fitted cover! Also, sofas are a great way to maximise beds as sofa beds or daybeds can be used to house extra guests, which means more money. Daybeds are a great way of adding extra seating to a room and look really lovely and welcoming as you can pile them with cushions and interesting textiles.
If you have hard floors adding rugs can make the space feel so much cosier and more like home. They also serve to bring a sense of cohesion to a room. Don’t forget underlay to stop rugs slipping and if you expect children and pets as guests I suggest jute rugs as they are brilliantly hard wearing and don’t show up dirt in the same way as wool rugs. Make sure the rug is as big as you can make it – this will always make a room feel bigger and pull furniture together if they will all sitting on the rug.
I think we need to sort out the exterior of our house before we can list it but when we do I would be so much happier passing over the management to GuestReady as life is so busy and I just can’t imagine how we would squeeze it in otherwise. I think I would also feel much happier and more confident about inviting guests in knowing that they had been screened properly (I remember we narrowly swerved a bride to be that planned to use our roof garden for a hen party booking into our flat!) and that issues during a stay could be resolved by the GuestReady team. When we had or flat on Airbnb a few years ago the phone calls about how to turn on the hob or where the local supermarket was was such a pain when we were on holiday ourselves so turning that all over to someone else would be amazing. Also, not having to rush in myself and clean the whole place before another set of guests arrived would not be something I’d miss!
What do you think? Have you ever listed your home or perhaps you have a holiday home you let out? I’d love to know what your experiences are and what tips you may have to make homes guest ready.
I was so pleased recently to be asked to be part of Apartment Therapy‘s The World At Home series, which takes readers on mini tours of houses around the globe focusing on the influence the location has on the design of each house. The decor of our little London home, tucked away in a south east suburb, is very much influenced by the inter-war era it was built in when house building exploded. Houses were purpose built in the 1930s for one family and the rooms were square, the windows large. When we bought our house the original features had been covered up over the years and I really wanted to bring it back to life by using the great design to make it feel as spacious and as light as possible.
I am happy that we have achieved our aim here: it is light, the space flows well, the decor is simple with the original features highlighted using colour against white walls and most importantly it feels like home. We still have more to do, especially on the outside of the house, and I am so enjoying bringing this tired little house back to life on a very small budget.
A big thank you to Katharine Peachey who photographed the house for Apartment Therapy and has captured it at its best. The World At Home tours are based on only about ten photos of each house, unlike the regular home tours on the site, so I wanted to show you some of the other photographs Katharine took that day…
Thanks again to Apartment Therapy for a lovely piece and to Katharine for the beautiful photos. I hope to be able to show you more and give you more detailed info about particular rooms soon!
I think there are two issues that make it so hard for us all to get art work up on our walls; figuring out what we like and then having the confidence to show everyone else what we like. A couple of months ago I was very lucky to be invited down to the south coast for the day to visit the headquarters of King & McGaw who produce a huge range of affordable art work and rare and limited prints that they sell online as well as being the leading supplier of many of the greatest galleries and museums across the world. They also collaborate with artists and even host a local artist in their studio space – these guys really love and know good art. When we met the founder of the company, Gyr King, he said something that really stuck with me, which was that if people go out and buy a piece of art it’s quite likely that they will walk away with it under their arm facing in so that no one else passing them on the street can see it. Choosing art work can feel so very personal and there’s almost a sense of embarrassment about sharing those choices with others and therefore I think it puts people off altogether. I want to try and give some advice today to help you choose art work that will work best in your home and hopefully if you feel more confident in your choices you will be more willing to actually getting it up on the walls for all to see!
Feel a connection
The first thing I would say about choosing art work is you need to feel a connection to a piece. Maybe it reminds you of something, someone, somewhere. Maybe it makes you think about a certain time or event. Maybe it transports you back to a special holiday. It could be that the artist is local to you or even the name of the painting has special meaning to you. Whatever it is, try to find a connection with a piece of art work and it will mean so much more to you and you will be much happier to give it pride of place at home. When people come round and ask you about it you can give the back story as to why you chose it rather than having nothing to say when they ask you about it. I chose Irises in the Garden by Van Gogh as it reminds me of a garden where we used to stay for holidays when I was a child. I would really love to add this Van Gogh print (that used to hang in our family friend’s kitchen and so reminds me of happy times we spent there) as well as a couple of others to make this big blank wall on our first floor landing a real feature.
A really good way to start figuring out what type of art work you like is to look at images of interiors that you like either in magazines, on Pinterest, Instagram or on blogs. Hone in on the art work they have on the walls and try to pick out which pieces you prefer – are they abstract, modern, vintage, impressionistic, landscapes, florals etc? Maybe they have something in common like the colour or theme? Keep a record of the pieces you like so you can refer back to it and it will help you search for art work in the future using the key terms you have come up with. I have realised that I absolutely love portraits and seem to have built up quite a collection of them. The Portrait of Ann by L.S. Lowry is one of my favourite portraits as I have seen it so often in my friend’s home and my mum’s home so it almost feels like Ann is a friend too! Therefore, I always use the key term ‘portraits’ whenever I search for art work. I love this portrait and want to add it to my collection next.
Try something new
Don’t be afraid to experiment when choosing art work and try something new. Whilst at King & McGaw, Gyr King spoke about his love of abstract art and how he never gets bored of looking at it and exploring what is going on in the painting. I’ve never owned any abstract art work and I’m not really sure it is my style, which is fine, even though I can really appreciate it in other people’s homes, but I came across this Vogue photograph by Cecil Beaton and I really love it and see it as an abstract piece. Yes, I love the colours and composition but I also love the fact that I look at it and every time I do I try to figure out what is going on just like I would for an abstract painting or print. It has already stopped quite a few of my friends in their tracks who have asked about it (Mimi also loves it because she thinks the woman is Elsa from Frozen because of her dress – lols).
The one ‘rule’ as it were that I use to try to help people choose art work if they’re really stuck is to think about colour. If you are trying to choose a piece for a certain room or spot in your home and you are really struggling pick out a colour from your interior and choose a piece of art that ties in with that colour scheme. I just love how my Irises print picks out the Inchyra Blue of my hallway woodwork – it’s just perfect. A landing is a great place to display art as it gets seen so much more than you think it would both when you are on the landing going between rooms as well as the view from the room. I can see this print both from my bedroom and Mimi’s room and the bathroom so actually I think it is one of the most looked at prints in our home.
I really believe it is worth investing in pieces of art for your home just as you would a piece of furniture or rug; it makes just as much difference to the overall feel of a room. King & McGaw specialise in producing affordable art and for less than £100 you can get a beautifully framed by hand high quality print that will last in your home forever. I took a tour of the headquarters and saw the art being printed and cut and the frames being hand painted. It was such a treat to see all the hard work, care and preservation that goes in to making a beautiful framed print and when my choices arrived at my home I was so impressed with the final result. The colours are vibrant and the frames strong and everything is finished beautifully. If you would like a print for your home do take a look at the King & McGaw site and here are a few of my favourites:
I hope this has been helpful as I know so many of us never finish off rooms in the way we would want to for lack of art work. One of my favourite games these days is playing musical chairs with my prints – I’m constantly moving them around and trying them out in new places. It’s quite amazing to see how much impact they can have on a space.