Inside Design – Real Life Interior Design

Inside Design – Real Life Interior Design

There is a feeling that can come over us, a feeling of calm – and possibly envy – when we look at those beautifully styled homes in magazines.  And often, we wonder, how can we get a home that looks like that, when we have to deal with children or laundry, or our bibliophile selves (or partners), or a lifetime of travel memorabilia, or precious images of loved ones – you know, all those things reflect a real life being lived!  Is there a way to incorporate ‘real life’ in interior design?  Yes there is.

I deal with this a lot as a designer, and it is important.  You may think you want a home that is modern, minimal and clutter free, without the personal items that we often think of as clutter, but it is hard to live like that, and really, it isn’t what I would recommend, even if you could maintain your home like that.  To me a home should feel like a home, and it is those personal touches, those intimate pieces, photos, memories, etc., that make a home feel like a home – and make a home feel stylish – rather than like a set for a magazine shoot or a display home. That being said, there are ways to bring order and flair to a home and to strike a happy balance between style and life! So I have, over the years, collected a lot of random ideas that can work, depending on the client and their needs.


A hallway photo gallery and an artwork that doubles as a key holder: clever design helps you incorporate your personal items stylishly


For me, the key when designing with ‘real life’ in mind, is to understand my client; how they live, what is important to them, and what they need for life to run smoothly.  These things can vary dramatically from client to client, and they can vary from room to room   Do coats, keys and so on need to stay in arms reach because they are always in a hurry? Then we use gorgeous coat hooks and key racks in the entrance hall (and we only keep there what is necessary). Do they want a room to be multi-functional? Then we use dimmers, which completely change the mood of a room as needed.  Do they have heirlooms they love to be surrounded by? We agree on a few, and use them in a vignette.  Do they want family photos in clear sight? Then we make a ‘gallery’ in the hallway (or a vignette on a hall table) using beautiful, complementary frames. Do they have children with toys? We use shelving and cabinets in the children’s room/s that make a design feature out of the some of the toys and we then create storage for the rest.  Do they want their bathroom to be streamlined or even sanctuary like? Then we use cabinets rather than open shelving.  There is a solution for everything!

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Well planned storage is key to keeping a home streamlined and sophisticated


I think to make this work, three things are key – having systems in place, applying careful thought, and applying moderation. Of course a living room won’t feel pleasant – or even comfortable – if it is always cluttered with cables, toys, discarded shoes, or other ‘debris’ of life, or over cluttered with multiple knick-knacks, hundreds of photos, piles of books, and old magazines, etc.  Getting systems in place to remove the unnecessary items from view, via storage, discarding, or even just a ritual of returning things to where they came from at the end of each day, will bring calm to chaos. Choosing a select few of your favourite pieces, photos and books to display (and safely storing the others) will also bring back some balance.  You can rotate if you wish, or you can display them elsewhere or in a different way (for example a hallway gallery or under-stair bookshelf).


‘Real life’ items don’t have to be hidden away to have a beautiful home


In my own home, I have carefully considered what is important to me and my family and what I want to have around me on daily basis, not only to function well, but to appeal to my own sense of beauty. I display select photos, objet, ceramics and the wonderful, at times quirky, pieces collected over a lifetime of travel. I have shelves in my kitchen full of recipe books  . . . always a bit topsy-turvy . . . because cooking is at the heart of my family and my home.  I love books and magazines, so I have plenty – but I rotate them; they don’t just pile up endlessly.  My ‘living’ rooms (and I include my bedroom in this) feature candles in antique candlesticks, urns, vases, throws rugs on the back of sofas to wrap us in when cold – all real life items; not too much, but just enough.

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Things I love . . .


Finally, to me, fresh flowers add a touch of personality to any room without ever feeling cluttered, especially when the flowers are chosen carefully – to suit the room and its inhabitants. For example, personally I prefer roses, gardenias, lilacs, lavender, tulips, and hydrangeas in my home, and rarely choose bolder flowers like gerberas; when a room has the flowers I love in it, it feels like my room; and that is better than any magazine shoot!

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