Living with colour and pattern is not for the faint hearted, I get it. I certainly have had my own doubts from time to time, and I would be lying if I didn't say that too much colour and pattern sometimes tires me out. But when used in moderation, this combo can be powerful and breathe life and energy in a room. I love a good wallpaper, a colourful carpet and a good looking velvet sofa and I have wanted to bring these elements together for some time in my living room, the forgotten room in my home.
I wanted to. And I should have done so earlier. But never had enough time. And then there was Pinterest. Beware of it I'd say, because as much as it will inspire you, it will also make you change your mind twice every 10 minutes. Which is what happened to me. I had a scheme in my head and while researching it on Pinterest I'd go away with something completely different altogether.
So last year I still had the oriental rugs on the floor, Mole's Breath and Cornforth White (both Farrow and Ball) on the walls, some of my grandma's furniture and a DFS Gower sofa, as well as IKEA coffee tables, and a gallery wall. Somehow, that scheme even made it on Made.com's house of the month shoot (complete with video, crazy, I know).
The problem is that this is a long living room with a gas fireplace bang in the middle, in which, for the life of me, I could not create two separate zones. I felt the colours didn't do justice to the oriental rugs (wedding gifts), the art didn't work and the antique pieces felt out of place next to IKEA coffee tables.
The online design service phase
So last year I set out to give my living room a makeover. I initially kicked things off with an online room design service thinking I could outsource the design to them and get something that I hadn't thought of back. After a promising start, I felt really disappointed that their designer didn't seem to grasp my personality and what I wanted to achieve.
I had a set budget of course (around 5k) of which I wanted to spend around 2-3k on our sofa (a Baxter Italia lookalike) and the rest in art/rug/coffee tables and table lights. But my designer would add things like 'pendant lights' in the design whereas my living room does not even have central lights, only spot lights on the ceiling (which she knew), and finally went for a look that looked like it came out of a Safavieh catalogue.
Nothing wrong with Safavieh (and I do have a few things from them to be fair) but this wasn't a look for me. The gallery wall with typography etc looked really cheap to start with; those tables had been done to death. The coffee table was not practical (glass top and no storage underneath).
I was also advised to recover some of our antique furniture. Again, the designer was not taking in consideration the fact I don't have time to wash my hair sometimes, let alone manage the process of recovering furniture... which also costs A LOT by the way.
So between upholstering the antique furniture I had in the room (2 armchairs and a settee) and buying a new sofa, that would probably blow 3/4 of my budget. Here's what my designer came up with. I was not feeling it (maybe you do? Do let me know in a comment below).
Online design services can be great, but when your client is someone who already knows a few things about interiors, fabrics etc then you need to put them out of their comfort zone, right? You can't be playing safe. So with that in mind, I decided to go it alone.
At the time I also wrote a piece on Hermes inspired interiors. I do love their scarves, own a few and have always thought that framed Hermes scarves can work so well in a room, instead of art (well they are art in themselves).
I think that 'Hermes' inspired interiors are luxurious and all tell a story about their globetrotting owners, feature little collections around the house, lush fabrics and have a focus on art. So whatever happened, my design would have a framed scarf in it.
Time went by and between then and now my living room started transforming. My beloved Gower sofa found a new home as I picked another one from a collaboration with DFS. I went for a green Eden sofa (Sofa Workshop but available through DFS).
We also let go of the IKEA media storage unit replacing it with the HUGO from Swoon. Then over Easter this year, the Swoon Editions one was changed with a bigger/better media unit in rattan. The gallery wall was taken down too. You can see more of these recent changes in my April diary entry.
The last stretch
I feel like an imposter. I tweeted about this Farrow & Ball wallpaper but did not use it in the end. I wanted something that would make a lasting impression and thought the stripes would help (I do believe that we will be seeing more of stripes, they will have their moment soon, but grasscloth and strie effect wallpaper comes first for now).
Instead I went for warm colours, colours that felt familiar... Terracotta and copper coloured tones are everywhere around Greece. From the roof tiles in my grandmother's village to the mines of bauxite in the south of Greece near my home; and all the way to Crete, where my husband is from, terracotta is the colour of earthenware, of homes.
Mary Middleton of Hello Pea Green says about terracotta:
Terracotta is an unashamedly autumn tone at first glance, but there is more to it than that. A slightly burnt, muddier shade of orange, bright-but-not and essentially the colour of the earth. It’s rich tone can transform easily depending on the colours it is pared with and hint at the retro opulence of the 1970s or a quiet sophistication when pared with the new neutrals.
In Milan this year I saw it pared with berry tones and at Stockholm Furniture Fair it popped up alongside blush. Spaces using terracotta are inherently warm and comforting which is incredibly appealing.
Ok, so I kept you waiting long enough - here it is, my living room. Would love to know what you think and if you would have preferred the cooler blue/teal colours instead!
Living room - the reveal
Important: A typical Hermes scarf is 90x90 cm big. If you add the mount and frame you are looking at a total width/height of around 100-105 cm. Remember that when measuring your available space.
Also, if you plan to frame two scarves like I did below, you need to ensure they are the same size. Vintage Hermes scarves are not always a pure 90 square. If two scarves are not exactly the same size but you want them next to each other, be sure to let your framer know so that they adjust the mount size on the smaller scarf to make the frames exactly the same dimensions.
Don't ask why I am giving you this last tip, but let's just say I found out the hard way! Thankfully I had an amazing framer who worked with me to fix this (and in a very short turnaround as I had a shoot planned with a magazine in this room).
I asked Melinda Kiss of Keyhole Interiors (who is also helping me with my bathroom makeover, more of that to come next week!) to give me her thoughts on the look. Here is what she had to say:
No one loves cool tones and minimal interiors more than I do, but I often find myself falling in love with warm, inviting, sunshine-inspired design schemes. I’ve noticed that my clients are more willing to experiment with hues like terracotta and mustard yellow as they want to bring the colours of autumn and the golden hour into their homes. I think warm colours are here to stay.
What do you like about this room?
It’s the perfect balancing act! A lot of people stick to neutrals these days because they are worried that a more colour infused space would be overwhelming or even disastrous. This is a perfect example of why you should definitely be brave and embrace colours. It’s happy, it’s a bit cheeky and it’s just beautiful.
There is so much to look at, so many carefully chosen details to appreciate. The entire room is the life-sized reproduction of the framed scarves and I love it!
Which product in this setting do you like the most and why?
This is a difficult one! There is so much I love about this room, but if I really have to choose a favourite, it’s got to be the rug. It’s a constant focal point that binds every component of the room into one perfectly balanced design scheme.
It creates a visual tunnel by instantly drawing the eye and then leading it onto other important elements of the room: the sofa, the grasscloth wallpaper and the framed vintage scarves.
The design is nothing if not a careful selection of products brought together. There are three colours that work harmoniously in this look: The terracotta/copper on the wall, the green on the sofa and the purple on the floor.
This is the Jane Churchill Astral wallpaper (J158W-08) available on Colefax and Fowler. The paper is embossed and printed to resemble a beautiful hand woven silk. Printed in soft undulating shades of metallics and embossed with a silk slub like texture.
The subtle tonal banding adds to the depth of this luxurious plain paper. Available in various tones including soft neutrals, blues, teal, copper and gold. It is vinyl on non woven. It has a generous width of 70cm and costs £82/roll.
You have seen this sofa in all magazines, it's the Eden by Sofa Workshop. This one was produced by DFS who also produce a number of sofas by other companies (like French Connection) alongside their own designs.
I got so many questions for this one on Instagram, everyone thought it was a Jonathan Adler but no. Most of Adler's are soft woven rugs which I dislike. This one is by Plantation Rug, it is called Geometric Purple, it is very thick and luxurious and it is an absolute steal at £274 for a 150x230 size available on The Rug Seller, a company I have worked with many times before (you will have seen George's block colour rug or my cowhide rug in the office?).
The cream chairs are another recent addition and they are from West Elm (Model: Phoebe). They are very comfy, I love their brass feet and they are short enough so they do not hide the second area in the living room behind them.
So that's it, my living room makeover! Now, please, tell me, what did you think?!!
Certain products in this makeover were a gift. All opinions as always mine!