Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Maximising the tranquillity of your bedroom…

As part of the ‘work, rest and play’ theme, I am going to look at how the environment in which you sleep can have an impact on the quality of your rest. Here are my tips for maximizing the aesthetics of your bedroom and quality of your sleep:

  • Your bedroom should be a calm and relaxing place, hence the decoration should not be too stimulating. It is best to limit colour in bedrooms to a splash against a neutral background and not use distracting patterns on the walls. 
  • Given that we spend about a third of our life asleep, I believe that you should spend as much as you can afford on a good quality mattress, as it can make all the difference between having or not having a good nights sleep! 
  • The bed should also be the focal point of the room. The days of a mountain of scatter cushions have long since gone and have been replaced either with a statement bed or an upholstered headboard. I don’t think you can beat crisp white bed linen with a good-looking throw.
  • In addition to a good mattress and bed, blackout curtains and blinds are also crucial to ensuring a good nights sleep, especially in summer.
  • When designing your bedroom it is also important to think about all the things that you like to do in this space; from sleeping, to reading, to chilling to love making. Lighting is a critical element in assisting in the changing of mood for these different activities. 
  • From an aesthetic point of view curtains and lighting need careful consideration as they are the things you immediately see when you are in bed…
  • Also, clothes storage should be one of the key things you consider. If possible, locate cupboards in an adjacent bedroom - however not all of us are blessed with being able to have a separate room for our clothes. If this is the case, try, where possible, to ensure that all storage is behind closed doors. Fitted storage tends to look sleeker and uses the space most effectively. Consider opting for an entire wall of seamless cupboards or if your bedroom is large enough consider hiding them neatly behind a bed head wall. 
  • In order to maximize the tranquility of your bedroom, make sure that you eliminate all objects that have nothing to do with sleep or relaxation. For me this includes; TV’s, PC’s, office furniture and exercise bikes (yes – I have seen them in bedrooms!)
  • No matter how beautifully decorated your room is to create a relaxing environment, this is all pointless if your bedroom is full of junk and dirty clothes. In my opinion clutter should be banned from the bedroom…

Here are a few bedrooms that I love…

(Image from Living Etc)
(Image from Elle Decor)

Monday, 23 May 2011

Effective working environments...

I thought it might be an idea to look at different ways in which our surroundings can support us in being more focused. In particular, how they can enable us to achieve that work-life balance that we all strive for. I believe that fundamental to achieving a good work-life balance is getting the balance between ‘work, rest and play’ correct.

Let’s take work first. One way in which lifestyles have changed over the last decade is the trend towards working from home. Advances in technology mean more of us are deciding to work from home all or part of the time.

I think that it is important that your workspace is somewhere you want to spend time. It should be a place where you can concentrate and be inspired. No one is going to perform at their best if piles of papers and clutter surround their desk.

Working from home has its challenges especially in making the distinction between work and home life, and the two can all too easily become intertwined. Here are my key tips for an effective working environment:

  • If you are trying to achieve a work-life balance, it is also important that you are able to relax and unwind away from the pressures of work. One of the key challenges when working from home is being able to switch off from work. If you find this an issue, your workspace should be positioned where you can close a door behind you or where it can be screened off. In addition, if you are the sort of person that needs to be shut away from the bustle of family life in order to concentrate, a spare room, converted attic or any room that is under-utilised can make an ideal workspace 
  • Good natural light is a positive asset for most work areas, this makes converted attics with roof windows particularly good choices as they are self contained with lots of overhead natural light 
  • Everyone will have his or her own opinion as to where a desk should be positioned, but my preference is for it to be near a window with a nice view. Views may seem like distractions, but I believe they are in fact very beneficial for concentration, particularly for creative work, where staring into “space” can actually form part of the process for shaping ideas 
  • Desks also don’t need to be enormous monstrosities, but can be any sort of table, large or small, don’t just think office furniture think domestic furniture… 
  • Fundamental to effective home working is having a comfortable chair and a good lamp! 
  • Consider brightening up your workspace with an inspiration board, artwork or shelves with beautiful objects… 
  • Finally, as a last resort, if you find that your work is spilling out all over the house and your garden is big enough, it may be time to follow the example of Charles Dickens and invest in a garden shed… 

Here are some examples of workspaces I love…

(Image from Style Files)

(Image from Ruby Gatta)

(Image from Patric Johansson)

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Making a significant mark on the art world

Art is a fundamental component of an interior and hence I spend a lot of time researching both established and up and coming artists…

Over the course of the next few weeks my evenings are cram packed with previews of art exhibitions all over London. While drinking a glass of champagne I am out to discover who are already or are going to be making a significant mark on the art world over the next decade… so, I thought I would share the most recent one with you.

On Wednesday evening I went to the preview of the Jane Hamlyn ‘Special Reserve’ – she is exhibiting her ‘Empty Vessels’, which I love individually, in pairs or in groups - they are stunning pieces of ceramics, which when displayed on a plinth are both simple and sophisticated and bring a wow factor to a room…

The key to displaying pieces of art like these is to ensure they have space to breath so they can be fully appreciated.

(Image from contemporaryceramics)
For those of you who are fortunate enough to live in London, a city full of culture, make the most of it. Get out there and see some of the hundreds of art exhibitions all over London every day of the year and you may find a piece that you love and will bring you pleasure every day…

Jane Hamlyn ‘Special Reserve’ is on at the Contemporary Ceramic Centre, 63 Great Russell Street from the 12th of May till 4th of June 2011.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Enhancing everyday living...

As my final article in the ‘Home and Happiness’ series I thought I would focus on everyday items that make you smile and how even the smallest things can enhance everyday life…

What better way to start the day than with a mug that makes you giggle every time you use it! I love these mugs by Peter Ibruegger, which allow you to effortlessly masquerade behind a character moustache while drinking your favourite tea or coffee.

(Image from www.peteribruegger.com)
And how about pouring your milk from one of these porcelain takeaway milk carton jugs from Seletti

(Image from www.heals.co.uk)

Or storing your eggs in what look like the throwaway egg trays made of porcelain again by Seletti.

(Image from notonthehighstreet)
Another everyday item that has just had a revamp is the light blub by Plumen, not only is this bulb beautifully designed it is also environmentally friendly using 80% less energy and lasts 8 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Giving us two reasons to smile as it saves the environment and replaces the ghastly looking energy saving bulbs we have all had to use to date.

(Image from www.plumen.com)

So it is possible to add an element of design to your home in the simplest of ways and at the same time to make yourself smile on a daily basis!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Personalising your space

A friend recently mentioned how she might start making things for her home. This got me thinking she might want to consider different ways of displaying her little boys' artwork…

(Image from Style-File blog)
Or if you have a teenage daughter you might want to consider suggesting she spends a relaxing, creative lazy afternoon making a collage of pictures, favourite postcards and inspiring magazine tear-outs into a heart for above her bed…

(Image by Warren Heath from Style-File blog)
Or alternatively you could make a collage of plates in the kitchen for an inexpensive way of creating a great wall display…

(Image from red.co.uk/ via Style-File Blog)
Go on have a go and personalise your home...

Colour trends for spring/summer 2011

As part of the ‘Home and Happiness’ series, I thought I would continue to think about the things that make for a “Happy Home”, rejuvenate a space and lift your spirits. Typically at this time of year we look to add an injection of colour into our rooms and according to Mix Trends the interior colour of choice in Spring/Summer 2011 is Pale Sky Blue.

Pale Blue NCS S1020-R80B       
This particular blue would look stunning with browns, reds and most importantly PINKS! It is also hugely versatile, as it can be used in many different rooms, from bedrooms to sitting rooms to living rooms to kitchens!

This year this colour has leapt from smaller accessories and fabrics, for instance Sophie Allport designs who sell great tea towels and oven gloves…

(Image from www.sophieallport.com)
…to larger items like sofas and chairs, for instance Hans Wegner Wishbone Chair in Light Blue, a sure sign that industry insiders believe this is a colour, like grey, with great potential for longevity.

 (Image from www.stardust.com)

So why not add an injection of colour to your kitchen whether it be a tea towel or a dining chair! Or to any other room for that matter…

‘Home and Happiness’

It struck me how related the two were, as it is difficult to feel your best when your life and home feel cluttered. Also mess in the home is the third most common cause of domestic arguments – after sex and money. Hence it seemed the perfect reason for us all to consider de-cluttering our homes!

As much as most of us want to keep our home in order it can be tough. Over time our homes have a tendency to accumulate and collect all kinds of things. We deceive ourselves into thinking that everything in our home is essential, but it’s not! We are all guilty of holding onto too much stuff that we don’t really care for but are afraid to get rid of, just in case. Most of us hoard things and stash them away, whether it is old clothes, letters, magazines or even plastic bags! Or we are attached to items for sentimental reasons, such as gifts, souvenirs from holidays and heirlooms. Given spring is here, it’s time to let go of unnecessary possessions to make way for the new.

Now I could preach about the best ways to go about de-cluttering your home, but to be honest that isn’t my area of expertise, but storage is, so here are my recommendations:
  • It is tempting to splash out on attractive storage boxes before you start de-cluttering – Don’t! Only once you have de-cluttered and decided what to keep is it time to look at storage items.
  • To maintain a clutter free home it is essential that everything has its place so it is easy to find. Keep belongings in the room where they are going to be used.
  • We use 20% of our possessions 80% of the time, so put this 20% in the most accessible places. 
  • Think vertically as most unused space is either above or below existing furniture. Think floor to ceiling bookcases or shelving and under bed storage.
  • Empty spaces such as alcoves, bay windows and under the stairs all provide storage opportunities, whether it be window seats in bays with storage underneath or shelving in alcoves for books and treasured items.
  • Consider sub-dividing existing storage units so that all space is utilized – it is amazing how much more you can squeeze into the same wardrobe by simply incorporating sub-dividers and shoe racks.
  • Treat yourself to new storage items such as new bookcases/ shelves, shoe racks, filing cabinets and boxes for sentimental items. I love these shelving units by Kay and Stemmer called ‘Edith’ and ‘Agnes’, available in solid oak or solid walnut.

(Image from www.scp.co.uk)
In the long-run, clearing out your home will provide clarity of mind, make life easier, increase your levels of energy, help create a more relaxing home and make way for the new! This may even tempt you to re-design a room or re-decorate as you reclaim extra space by de-cluttering. Maybe you will even find room for that home office you have always wanted!

All this talk about de-cluttering is making me feel distinctly guilty about the state of my studio, so I am going to take some of my own medicine and start on it now…

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