Who are you at home?
Filming in Edinburgh recently we got chatting to our old friend Steve, a camera man, and, between takes, he vented his spleen. Not at us, you understand - we’re one take wonders - but at the state of the inner city pad he’s been ‘fixing’ for years. By his accounts the, ahem, ‘humble’ two bedroom conversion is pretty desperate although, being in Edinburgh, it has astonishingly high value. Somewhere in the region of a million bucks, to be precise. For that princely sum, our friend with the lens boasts around 1200 square feet of tall rooms, as well as views to Edinburgh Castle and the preened splendour of Princes Street Gardens. Quite the address, certainly, but, having witnessed the damning evidence on his iPhone, we can attest to it’s dismal condition.
Our shooter described buying the flat in 1997 for a fraction of its current value, and, while he admitted to bags of inclination, he also admitted to none of the required style awareness to fashion a beautiful home. And his biggest problem? Simple: he’d never taken the time to analyze that which actually inspires him. Jealous of friends with cooler abodes he’d tried - vainly - to follow their lead and copy all manner of looks from antique French to benign minimalism, and from pop art to retro chic. Hmm. Quite the combo of attempts, we mused as Steve’s face crumpled in defeat. And which, if any, had been successful? Agonising, he volunteered that none had yielded good results. And, what’s more, he’d spent a small fortune along the way. Via various snatch and grab shopping trips, he’d flown in the face of his home’s Georgian architecture. He’d fought unsuccessfully with space, light, form and function. Our prescription was simple - he needed to take a breath before flexing the plastic. In short, he needed to work out ‘who’ he is at home.
When bad décor happens to good people
Consider this scenario - you’re at the mall shopping for home accessories but can’t decide what you need. You wander aimlessly searching for things. Any things. Every now and then something catches your eye and, though it mightn’t be exactly what you’re looking for, you think ‘what the hell’ - I’m tired, I’m bored and I have to buy something. What happens next is classic; you get the item home, it does nothing for your room and you either put up with it or take it back to the store. As far as we’re concerned, bad design comes from bad shopping. It makes better sense to accurately plan what you hope to achieve so ‘your lifestyle can dictate your home style’. Base your buying decisions on how you use each space. Consider architectural period and analyse the relevant styles to which you’re genuinely drawn. Forget those impulse buys and dispatch your lily livered attempts at copy cat décor inspired by more stylish friends. While their spaces may be beautiful, their homes are theirs… and not necessarily ‘you’.
To properly discover ‘who’ you are - and what you like - it helps to do ‘the flick’ so start pouring through home interest magazines and assemble a mountain of ‘tear-outs‘. Acquire an interest (if you don’t already have one) in design TV and jot down everything that excites you. Visit Chapters (or your local library) and pour over glossy design tomes, many of which are property porn to self respecting style aficionado’s like us. This done, appraise the period of your home and assemble a mental identikit of elements you’d like to include, drawing, as you do, upon your ‘research‘. With any luck you should start to see an identity emerging.
The next step to discovering who you are chez vous is to analyse typical ‘looks’. Becoming clued up on basic principals will give you a better grasp of how you should go about defining your own style: in doing so you’ll begin to understand the rules of design. Feel free to mix and match and, wherever possible, avoid being overly thematic.
- those who appreciate this direction enjoy decorated furnishings with rich, lavish fabrics and atmospheric timbers such as cherry or mahogany. Think Regency striped paper, deep buttoned sofa’s and ornate chandeliers.
- ah, gorgeous! A simple, friendly look that features lots of naïve painted wood (even ex knotty pine) mixed with ’junktiques’ and collectibles. Imagine a hazy scene with tapestry fabrics, mismatched crockery and all manner of family heirloom pieces. This assembly evokes a cosy, warm vibe and is one of our favourite directions.
- devotees are inspired by the sea and things beachy. This look is traditionally clean and cool, mixing a myriad of blue, turquoise and aquamarine shades with stone, yellow and sand. Twisty driftwood artworks are key, as are wicker and raffia detailing and white, loose cover upholstery.
Oh, please. Beige. Why self impose delusions of blandeur when there exist wonderful options from which to draw inspiration. Cream carpets, cream sofa, cream ceramics, cream ad infinitum. Hello? At the very least sling in a slab of block colour to enliven proceedings. Even a brightly toned cushion, for goodness sake, or a dramatic floor rug would provide visual lift and a popping accent. If you don’t mind we’ll move on: our hackles are up.
- this style can best be described as spacious with clean lines, natural light, acres of glass and simple rectilinear furniture. Mood is generally dramatic in a pared, down technological way. Think dark floors, white walls, abstract artwork and enough shine to make a Magpie swoon.
- rich damask prints, soft linens and time worn furnishings all conspire to create direction that’s timeless and elegant. This look can be slightly girly if assembled with pink and lace or surprisingly masculine if deeper tones such as aubergine or grey are selected. Remember that a little Bo Ho goes a long, long way so take a tip; don’t overdo it or your home will end up looking like Helena Bonham Carter in a wind tunnel.
- mixing old and new (with the emphasis on old) is order of the day if you hope to achieve this casual mood. Worn around the edges is your holy grail which means finished results actually benefit from a battered and slightly ‘time travelled’ feel. But remember that ‘shabby chic’ is a two word composure: rush into things and you’ll only get it half right. And shabby, without chic is, well, just plain shabby.
- square cut, pared down Japanese minimalism played concurrently with, for example, adorned Chinoiserie, Balinese or Thai detailing. Furniture is generally sculptural with dark wood notes played against linen, limestone, bamboo and teak Add a little Indonesian wood and a spot of religious iconography and you’re almost there…
English Country House
- imagine Buck’ House in miniature to get the gist. Luxurious fabrics, chandeliers, patterned Axminster carpets and duck egg blue paintwork with cream and gold accents. Oh yes, and a smattering of antiques…
Still not sure what you’re all about? Here are some more pointers…
Do you gravitate towards chunky Pottery Barn kit or is low slung sexy Minotti more your thang? Does a rummage in the local flea market send you into high orbit? Where and how you source says much about you, so don’t ignore these signals and style your world appropriately.
What was your last ‘brave’ purchase?
Do you possess one item of furniture that’s COMPLETELY out of step with the rest of your home? And is this (if you’re honest) your favourite piece? Addressing this could be the first step towards creating a new overall style which you - as yet - don’t even realise you love. Appraise how other ‘connected’ pieces might look and if you’re excited then maybe it’s time to - budget permitting - start from scratch. Craig’s List and Ebay here you come?
Think about your favourite hotel or holiday destination
Are cosy, chintzy English B&B’s your thing or are Manhattan hotel suites and city escapes more relevant? Or maybe barefoot living in hot tropical climes is your idea of heaven? The ‘hotel at home’ vibe remains massively popular so you’ll have no trouble whatsoever tracking down inspirational books to guide you. If you listen closely to inner signals and remain, as you do, decoratively inspired by your travels you’ll soon find confidence. Let the stay-cation begin!
For the record, it transpires that Steve, our erstwhile Edinburgh camera man, is all about ‘contemporary’ home styling, though it’s fair to say he hadn’t quite realised this, accustomed as he’d become to living with his ex wife’s discard. Over lunch we delved deep into his life and harvested information about what makes him tick. He’s a sharp dresser. He likes modern cinema. He drinks in the city’s coolest bars. And, for the love of God, he works with us! Yet his home was utterly at odds with everything he stands for and it hadn’t seen an ounce of planning.
Cohesive, quite simply, didn‘t figure. So we’ve sent him off for ‘correction‘. He’s GOT to paint out the rag rolled walls, a legacy of his ex’, suffered graciously, we might add, by his current girlfriend. He’ll need a gorgeous new ebony floor to replace the threadbare Berber that currently travels wall to wall. A low slung sofa wouldn’t go amiss and nor would slick architectural lighting. We’re thinking flat screen TV’s and modular storage. He’s only in his late thirties yet he’s been living like Old Lady Mrs Brady on acid for more than a decade. Next time we film in Scotland’s Capital we’ll be examining his iPhone again. Aye, we have VERY high expectations, and we can be VERY unforgiving…