Making a home is a big project. It’s a complex work, covering many disciplines, and the results are important. For you, for your family and for those that visit.

We often help out with dedicated client managed projects; here are some quick tips that help to retain focus on what really matters – to make your own home wonderfully comfortable and relaxed and to enjoy the process.

The photograph above shows something of the possible collaborations- in this particular space my client designed and commissioned the staircase and the doors, we helped with the flooring and lighting as part of the general overall reconstruction design.

There is no real order to these – it’s more of an aide memoire, a bit of a pick and mix – you’ll be attracted to whatever it is you need right now.

  1. You’re in the business of transformation. It’s a wonderful process to be worked through and thoroughly enjoyed. But, every decision matters, even the smallest and seemingly most insignificant – it doesn’t just happen suddenly at the end.
  1. The watchword is integrity – integrity of design and craftsmanship. Firm principles, cohesiveness, honesty, depth, continuity, constancy, authenticity, consistency, solidity, reliability, and truthfulness.
  1. The process is joining. Interlinking and interlocking people, material, things.
  1. No matter how ugly your space it, there is always a way to make it beautiful. Sometimes we need to look at things another way, ask different questions, come at it from a different angle –  to see it afresh.
  1. Don’t lose sight of the vision. It’s easy to get sidetracked into a lesser alternative when the first ideal seems too difficult – there’s almost always a way through.
  1. Your ambition and ideals are yours – keep them high, at the forefront of your thoughts. Other people’s ideas and mind-sets aren’t yours.
  1. Great architects and interior designers weren’t born able to answer all the questions. They have grafted, watched and learned, by their successes and their mistakes and by those of others. Most don’t begin to do their best work until the second half of their life- if that’s how long it takes someone who’s chosen this as their life’s work and is immersed in it full time, don’t expect to be able to do your project completely by yourself.
  1. Most brilliant solutions have filled at least one wastebin with screwed up earlier versions.
  1. Failure is highly unlikely if enough thought and research has gone into it first.
  1. Mistakes happen. Nothing is ever wholly irretrievable.
  1. Learning is always a curve, the process rigorous – some places steeper than others, but the trajectory is always upwards and onwards.
  1. Success is a ladder – each new project builds on the experience of the last.
  1. Nothing is lost then, some rungs register mistakes and some register successes – but they have equal merit.
  1. A simple version of any layout or furniture arrangement will always be better than an ill-conceived, wrongly delivered, more complex plan.
  1. It’s better to make one great space first, from which you can learn the lessons well, than to do many spaces half-heartedly.
  1. Once you’ve achieved your first success your confidence will build and you’ll approach the next project with that little bit more assurance.
  1. An over stressed mind kills creativity, it blocks the channels and slows down the thinking process.
  1. ‘Sleep on it‘ – old advice but true. Solutions often present themselves when they think you’ve forgotten them.
  1. Don’t be afraid to go away to think – ‘somewhere else’ often supplies the inspiration. It could be a walk in the woods, around cloisters or labyrinth, a swim, or the corner table at the local coffee shop. Walking is good, so is connecting with nature, but sometimes it’s other people that provide the right environment. (I know of a vicar who always writes his weekly sermon in a coffee shop) Hubbub as a wall of sound can be as solitary as open space – as comforting and as inspiring.
  1. A culture boost is just as effective – a concert, or a good film, a great building,or visiting a maker in their workshop. Something that takes your mind off this particular problem. An obvious one, but very easy to overlook and dismiss when you’re too involved and not thinking clearly.
  1. Get to know what you really like and keep with this core look. As this is the one that will come most easily to you, you’ll build up good contacts and relationships within this field – your field – that will help you all the way ….
  1. Interiors magazines effectively showcase either someone else’s look, or the current fashion. Neither of which is really that helpful when you’re making your own home.
  1. Think about who and what your influencers are. Then make up a mood board of random things from each of these disciplines – colours, styles, forms, eras, places, spaces, cultures, textiles, materials, fashion designers etc.
  1. These will truly represent your character, the things you like and the story of your life. This board will show you much more clearly the direction to go in, what your look is, than anything else could.
  1. And then don’t forget the strong influence of your childhood home(s). The early experiences may be buried but they are there – the sound and weight of a door, the feel of its handle, the height of a window, how it opens, etc. If you went back to any previous house now, your brain would instantly adapt to the conditions – such as recalling the depth and width of any step to adjust your walk. So tang memories of  furniture, colours, lighting, comfort – or not, the overall feeling of the space(s) will have something important for you to add and consider.
  1. You’re making this board for the whole house, whether it’s an instant project or a long term one. The best mood board I had mad for me by a client  was a large piece of sheet board that stood in one corner of the room for the duration.
  1. Keep adding ideas and keep it visible, so that anything that jars or becomes tedious will show itself very quickly. Interestingly it’s almost always the latest, hot, idea that burns itself out first.
  1. Learn a bit about the basic principles – light, form, structure, proportion, mass, floors, walls, ceilings, windows- which is important for you, and why? Do the homework.
  1. Learn as much as you can about your building in particular, it’s architectural merit, the building materials and methods used. Make your decisions about what you like about it and what you don’t, what you need to do and what you don’t, based on a solid foundation.
  1. Thinking of yourself as a designer, putting yourself in their shoes, helps to clear the mind – what would I do if this was for x? How would I spend the money if I were making decisions for x?
  1. Focus on the really important things, the key items that you really want. These will set the scene and the standard and the rest will follow.
  1. The end of the budget is always only ever for essentials. You’ll always find money for the washing machine at the end but if you don’t get this fabulous cushion or that bedcover in the beginning, you’ll never have it.
  1. Each space needs one luxury item or material.
  1. Always buy the best you can – even if that means it has to take longer.
  1. If you choose from your heart you won’t get bored with it, and you’ll be sad if it wears out too soon.
  1. Each space needs one piece of good wood – with the patina of age.
  1. Old things seem to impart a similar sense of wisdom and assuredness to that which we see in a well-aged person. Each space needs one old piece of wood, textile, stone, marble. Things that have been used for something have a particularly good vibe – such as a carpenters bench, milking stool, nursing chair, bakers table, and so on.
  1. You don’t need gimmicks – the process is rigorous, and enough.
  1. The best work looks a though it hasn’t happened.
  1. Change in floor levels and ceiling heights provoke interest and mood change.
  1. Single level floors, same sized rooms, overuse of the same materials and finishes are for apartments and hotels, not homes.
  1. Notice how the sun moves around the house.
  1. Make the most of sunny corners.
  1. Remember that north light is clear and constant, perhaps anodyne. Perfect for the household, functioning areas.
  1. Other aspects enjoy movement and life, shadow and depth.
  1. Spaces need three levels of scale / height to be comfortable – furniture, ceiling and in between.
  1. Change the room proportions of you need to – use beams, screens, divisions, to redress the balance.
  1. Great colours can compensate for lack of imaginative planning
  1. Dark colours hide inferior work they take in the shadows created by the gaps of fitting.

51. Always use some blue – it brings the summer sky in.

52. Be careful with white – space needs to be warm – whether  by sunlight or by artificial means, but warm.

53. Always choose colours and textures in the room – not in the light, but where they will be.Add points of brightness. Small amounts of gold or silver, and in dark corners.

  1. The integrity of a piece is in what it does to, how it fits, your space.
  1. Monetary value is for collectors, what matters in homes is its value to the environment.
  1. Old and new together provide energy, depth and resilience.
  1. Tension between pieces and their space is essential for a forward- looking, positive space.
  1. Never underestimate the power of juxtaposition. Move things, or choose things, to be exciting.
  1. Unless it’s your career – your job to create for other people, stick to what you love best.
  1. The value of something is in its usefulness not its rarity.

Enjoy the project. This is your home – keep it positive, harmonious, biographical. When you start to flag, take a break.