Did we get the interior trends right in 2013?

In the spirit of shameless self-promotion that I indulge in from time to time, I bring you a video post I took part in with Rated People – a live Google Hangout chatting about interior trends in 2013 – if we got it right, what trends we loved and those that were best tucked away in the back of a cupboard.

I’d love to hear if you agree with me – just leave me a comment below and tell me which trends you embraced and why?

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Interior colour trends for 2014

Never underestimate the transformative powers of paint. However, you can drive yourself mad trying to pick a shade. I love colour yet find it hard to choose, especially when I decide to use a few different ones.

It’s at that point I turn to paint experts. As well as being great at mixing and matching colours, they’re experienced in putting together inspirational palettes that will have you seriously debating the merits of inky blues over tangerine.

Crown’s colour predictions for Spring / Summer 2014 are a perfect example. Drawing on global trends, it’s come up with some gorgeous new looks. Here are a few I love.

Ombre

Fading stripes of colour have been popular in 2013 but softly graded with a gentle blur. Instead, this trend uses clear bands of fresh, crisp shades, such as zesty Summer Season green and tranquil Laguna Bay blue.

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A collection of pared-back natural colours, this includes the sultry petrol blue of New York, simple stone shade Faithful and delicate green Wind Chime.

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Unexpected

I’ve left my favourite til last – this trend is a riot of feminine pastels, such as Honey Fever, against versatile Cloud Burst grey. Infinitely practical while being infinitely interesting and just right for statement lounges and hallways.

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Need to brush up on your brush skills? Check out Crown’s handy videos.

Testing: Make your own lampshade at Copper and Silk

While big statement pieces can define a room, when it comes to making the whole thing work, the devil is in the detail. Finishing touches, such as cushions, candles, accessories and so on, make a good design great. And sometimes, I’m just as guilty at overlooking them.

Take lamps for example. If they come with a shade, fab. But a while ago I bought one from Laura Ashley without, figuring I would pick up a shade that suited. In the meantime, I popped one on from a light upstairs… and that was more than a year ago. It’s never looked quite right – a little too short and with the energy-saving bulb poking out the top, it looks like it’s wearing a hand-me-down it’s already outgrown.

Badly dressed lamp

Badly dressed lamp

What it needed was something with rich colour – striking without overpowering. I couldn’t overlook it any longer.

I came across handcrafted lampshade company Copper & Silk and knew that bespoke was probably the way forward, given that I had something specific in mind. Its ‘shade builder’ allows you to specify exactly what you want. Pick a shape, size and fabric, plus a fitting and just click buy. It’s that easy. All the shades are shown as simple line drawings, too, so it’s easier to picture what you’re purchasing.

Time to give it a go. First, I chose a shape, opting for the Byron after asking a little advice from one of the experts at Copper & Silk. It’s taller than my current shade, so should hide that lightbulb nicely.

LampshadesNext, the choice between pleated and not. I chose without, the lamp being quite ornate to start with. Size was easy – anything bigger than the dinky one I already had! I picked 12 inches and for the fabric to be a delicious-looking Claret Douppion silk with gold PVC inside.

Finally, a base gimbal fitting and I was done! What surprised me is that adding luxurious materials such as silk didn’t really add that much to my order when often extras push the price up hugely.

Now all I needed to do was wait…

A couple of weeks later, my postman showed up with this beauty:

The fab finished lamp!

The stylish finished lamp!

Quite a difference I think you’ll agree. Just right for cosy winter evenings…

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Inside the new Laura Ashley hotel

If you’ve ever stayed in a hotel and fallen in love with the furniture (I once relentlessly quizzed a poor receptionist on where I could buy a pair of bedside tables to no avail), I guarantee that you’ll adore The Manor Hotel in Elstree. Because practically everything – from the furniture and door handles to the wallpaper, carpet and curtains, is by iconic homewares brand, Laura Ashley and available to buy. And, as you can imagine, seductively tasteful.

Surrounded by leafy gardens, the hotel’s official unveiling was earlier this week and I was lucky enough to take a tour. A destination in itself (a spa is just one plan in the offing), the exterior is incredibly striking.

The 16th-century Manor Hotel

The 16th-century Manor Hotel

A front door with its own history

A front door with an intriguing history

Entering through a door that was once part of the dungeons at Lewes Castle, a giant fireplace dominates the reception, yet it’s complemented by a pair of plush sofas.

A stunning mix of old and new in the reception

A stunning mix of old and new in the reception

What I especially liked about this comfy seating area was that it’s the perfect demonstration of how Laura Ashley’s Design Service have approached the redesign of the hotel – respecting its history, while bringing it up to date. The period features are enhanced, rather than hidden, the colours neutral but never bland. The bedrooms are equally enchanting, from some of the standard rooms…

Beautiful navy and grey bedroom

Beautiful navy and grey bedroom

to the bridal suite, which is breathtaking…

The Mayfair Bridal Suite

The Mayfair Bridal Suite

Besides the fab four-poster and a huge bathroom, one of my favourite things in this room is actually one of the original features – a windowsill that maps the view of London beyond…

A great way to know what you're looking at on a clear day

A great way to know what you’re looking at on a clear day

It’s not just the obvious decor that has been overhauled – to make the rooms lighter and brighter, some of the woodwork has been given a fresh coat of paint and even the lighting and door handles are by Laura Ashley…

The devil's in the detail - the hotel's glam handles

The devil’s in the detail – the hotel’s glam handles

And it extends outside – even the gardens had a makeover…

I could while away an afternoon in these luscious gardens

I could while away an afternoon in these luscious gardens

Anyone for giant chess?

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Inside Sebastian Conran’s house

I love looking around other people’s houses. I’m a bit of a nosy parker but in most cases, it’s a great way to learn more about the person behind the design. And it can often be surprising.

Sebastian's beautiful eclectic living room

Sebastian’s beautiful eclectic living room

Take Sebastian Conran. I was lucky enough to be invited to his house recently to see all the gorgeous new homewares he’s designed (more of which later). What I was expecting was cool, clean design. While there was some of that, there was far more besides. Check out this statement mirror.

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Love this shell-framed mirror

And his functional but beautiful painted kitchen, complete with open shelving, lots of pans and a huge range cooker.

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Snooping around Mr Conran’s kitchen

Sebastian's garden

Sebastian’s garden

As you can see, there’s a serious eclectic vibe besides the design classics. Rather than being showroom perfect, the feel is warm and welcoming. And I think a lot of that thinking translates to his new Universal Expert collection, below.

A spread of fab new dining crockery by Sebastian Conran

A spread of fab new crockery by Sebastian Conran

Smart recipe book stand that then folds up like a book

Smart recipe book stand that then folds up like a book

But all this sleek design doesn’t happen by accident. Sebastian spends months making prototypes and really thinking through the practicalities. And while he can now do some using a 3D printer, he still has some of the carved originals…

One prototype made using a 3D printer, the other carved

One prototype made using a 3D printer, the other carved

Protypes of kitchen gadgets

Protypes of kitchen gadgets

Simple, stylish and well made, I have a serious crush on some of these kitchen tools – even in their 3D printer form!

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Testing: AromaWorks candles and room scents

When I was asked to try out some room scents recently, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. How does one test a candle? My checklist didn’t get much further than does it burn well and does it smell nice? However, that was before a suitably gorgeous-smelling package arrived from AromaWorks.

AromaWorks products to test

AromaWorks products to test

Inside were three differently sized candles, a room spray and a reed diffuser. And I had something in mind for all of them. While I like to keep a clean house, with three cats and hygienically-challenged other half, nasty niffs can linger. And when guests come to stay, that can sometimes be more apparent.

In a rare example of domestic goddess-ry, I keep my guest room prepared for company at all times – not only does it come in handy if one of us is sick, it also means when family descend, it’s slightly less stressful to only have to blitz the rest of the house. So its door is always closed and stale air can be a problem. A reed diffuser is the ideal solution. I installed the Inspire-scented AromaWorks one immediately and only an hour later, was able to walk in to a room that smelled tantalisingly citrussy – fresh without being in the least overpowering.

AromaWorks Inspire reed diffuser

AromaWorks Inspire reed diffuser

Next, the bathroom. During the winter especially, when our extractor seems less than up the job, this room can often smell a little musty. And for obvious other reasons, a pleasant scent in there is a must. Air freshners make me sneeze, so the Nuture room spray was perfect. A couple of bursts and my bathroom felt more welcoming, scented with a blend of relaxing chamomile and sandalwood. And a few hours later, it still lingered.

AromaWorks Nuture room mist

AromaWorks Nuture room mist

Finally, the candles. I chose the Serenity one to start with and sited it in our bedroom – where the cats sleep during the day and we sleep at night, so it can be far from fragrant. While I find that many scented candles ‘lose’ their smell as you acclimatise, what I really liked about this one is that every time I moved around the room when it was lit, I caught a wave of aroma – sweet lemongrass that had me half in mind to nip downstairs and make a batch of lemon posset.

AromaWorks Serenity candle

AromaWorks Serenity candle

So now, onto the science bit. Why do they all smell exceedingly luscious? And why do those aromas love to linger? It’s all down to the high concentration of essential oils – unlike some scented products, AromaWorks max out on this. Oils aside, everything that goes into its candles is also sourced and made in Britain, so there’s no need to feel guilty about unnecessary air miles.

Finally – and here’s the best reason for loving these candles – there’s no black smoke because they’re made with soy and beeswax, not paraffin wax. Which is brilliant. Cleaning sticky black soot off a ceiling is not my favourite way to relax, whereas I think AromaWorks candles most definitely could be.

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The hard work behind typographical art

It’s an idea so simple you wish you’d thought of it yourself. A book’s entire text as a beautiful artwork. Formed into a picture that conjures up the ethos of the book.

However, it’s not quite as straightforward as it seems. Speaking to Carl Pappenheim, founder of Spineless Classics at the launch of the new Roald Dahl pictures, it can be quite a challenge. Words have a mind of their own…

The trick is getting the text to line up in the shape you want. The harder the shape, the more adjustment is required. Poems are especially problematic as they’re preserved in their line by line format.

Nevertheless, the hard work pays off. You only have to look at the results to see that.

James giant peach

James and the Giant Peach, 70 x 100cm in colour, £44.99

Matilda, 70cm x 100cm, B&W, £44.99

Matilda, 70 x 100cm in B&W, £44.99

Charlie and the chocolate factory, 50cm x 70cm, colour, £39.99

Charlie and the chocolate factory, 50 x 70cm in colour, £39.99

If that weren’t enough, Carl proofreads every picture to check for manuscript mistakes and re-reads the books at the same time to get a feel for the story. I wish I could curl up and read Peter Pan for my job!

The new prints are available from Spineless Classics from today.

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Celebrity spotting and wooden floors from Russia

The house I grew up in was covered with carpet. Not quite to the point of being on the walls like chichi elevators but every single room. Even the kitchen. More of that another time.

I can’t help but wonder why hard floors didn’t feature when they’re simply glorious.

I have a particular soft spot for wood – easy to maintain with rich colours and grains that add an instant warmth to any room, from a bedroom to a dining area.

Bedroom flooring from Siberian floorsDining room flooring from Siberian floors

With that in mind, I headed off to the newly opened Siberian Floors showroom in Fulham. Its solid and engineered wooden floors are all made from beautiful Russian oak, stained to a variety of luscious shades and displayed as if works of art…

The new Siberian Floors showroom in Fulham

The new Siberian Floors showroom in Fulham

There’s even a fishtank clad in wooden flooring, which is apparently very popular with its younger clientele.

Besides being a great way to demonstrate the versatility of timber, what I really liked about the showroom is that it shows how wooden flooring can be used to temper a blank modern room, while still being minimalist.

It seems I’m not the only fan. A certain Downton Abbey actor was at the launch and equally appreciative of the fab flooring.

Hugh's that? Mr Bonneville and a shameless hanger-on

Hugh’s that? Mr Bonneville and a shameless hanger-on

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Chairs – comfort vs style

If there’s one item of furniture that designers gravitate to, it’s the chair. Over the years, I’ve seen huge variations and wondered why.

Are we obsessed with sitting (maybe), unsatisfied with the current choice on offer (unlikely) or does it just lend itself well to being constantly redesigned (bingo)?

Personally, there are few things that I ask of from my chair. Comfort is top of the list, closely followed by being able to sit gracefully and conversely, rise effortlessly.

But the world of design seems intent on making them works of art in themselves. Here’s a case in point from Aram Furniture:

Medici Chair, £810 from Aram

Medici Chair, £810 from Aram

This sexy little number won The Design Museum’s Furniture Design of the Year 2013 award (the Oscars of the design world) and the Icon Awards 2012 Furniture Design of the Year. It’s arguably stunning to look at, and possibly owes some of its charm to origami, but I don’t fancy my chances of managing to get up from it without some kind of wardrobe malfunction.

Over at Studiomama, its chairs are ‘Reimagined’. Gorgeous to look at but that dinky seat could be a challenge to hit without rear parking sensors.

Studiomama's Reimagined Chairs

Studiomama’s Reimagined Chairs

What I do really like though, is its instructions for making your own furniture – some are free, some a modest £10 – but I imagine all are quite good fun.

It could be that I’m too much of a traditionalist. However, I’ve found a halfway house that suits me – this Rockingham chair from The Chairmen:

Rockingham chairs, £465 each

Rockingham chairs, £465 each

A 21st century interpretation of a traditional Windsor chair, it comes in 120 paint options and combines a comfy dished seat with modern style. Perfect!