If you’re a mere mortal in the interior design department, you probably feel like I do on my scrolls through Insta and Pinterest – completely at a loss at to why I can’t nail that cohesive, put-together living rooms without being too matchy-matchy. To save us all from greige hell, I drafted in the expertise of Taline Findlater of fabulous Oxfordshire interiors company Olivine Design to find out where I was going wrong – and boy, did she deliver. Take it away, Taline…
First off, you haven’t sorted the layout
You need to nail the layout before you do anything else. Play around if you need to – you might move the sofa somewhere and then realise the artwork doesn’t work behind it, or realise that your lighting set-up is all wrong because your electrics aren’t in the right place. You can always create drawings or moodboards ahead of time, but really nothing works as well as physically moving the furniture around.
You’re scared of colour
Victoria and I absolutely love colour and pattern – often we go a bit overboard! But many people struggle with deciding what colours will work together in a space, so they end up defaulting to neutrals, or painting one room or wall a bold colour and then finding it looks out of place.
If you have a lot of white in your house and then you suddenly paint a room dark blue, it’s going to stand out more. The more colour you put into a house, the less you notice it – so for example, if the room next to the room you’ve painted dark blue is a lighter blue, or a grey with blue tones, it’s going to be less of a contrast and feel more natural. So when you use colours on the walls, we always advise using them in one or two other places so the whole house feels more pulled together.
Every room has a starting point that you can draw colours from. It could be a piece of artwork that you love, an antique rug you’ve inherited, or a patterned lampshade, or you might have lovely curtains already that you don’t want to change – because they’re always a pain to change!
You don’t have to go for primary brights, either. There are so many beautiful colours to choose from these days that look fantastic in living rooms. Setting Plaster from Farrow & Ball is a lovely neutral pink that works well with greys and whites, and Oval Room Blue offsets white wonderfully and is a great choice for a living room.
Your furniture is the wrong size
We often find that people have the wrong size of furniture in a room because they’ve moved to a bigger house and have simply brought their old pieces with them without sizing up accordingly. That isn’t to say that bigger is always better. If you’re in a low-ceilinged room, like in a cottage, you won’t need an enormous deep sofa – you’ll need something a bit more elegant. Large pieces might end up feeling cumbersome, and they’ll be in the way, more than anything!
Your patterns are all the same scale
As well as furniture sizes, scale of pattern is very important to creating a decor scheme that works. The rule of thumb is that you should have different scales of pattern. So if you have a large floral pattern on your curtains, for example, you would want small florals on the sofa, or the lampshades. It doesn’t matter what kind of pattern you choose – they’re so personal! – as long as you follow that rule.
Considering this at the early planning stages can be really helpful. If you’re creating a moodboard, make sure your fabric samples and paint colours are to scale, too! For example, if you’re designing a room with a grey sofa and a patterned cushion, the fabrics sample for the cushion should be much smaller than the grey fabric, to give you a more accurate idea of how it’ll look in the space.
Your rugs are too small
Furniture size doesn’t have any set rules, but one area that I do feel strongly about is rug size. A rug is a really great way to pull a room scheme together, but the golden rule is that you should go as big as you can. It should always run underneath pieces of furniture, rather than floating like a magic carpet in the middle of the room. It needs to go underneath the sofa or under the chairs. Without being right up against the skirting board, it should really be as big as you can get it, because that will make the room feel bigger. If your rug is too small, it brings everything in and makes the room feel smaller.
Your lighting is too bright
There are two types of lighting: aesthetic lighting and task lighting. In a kitchen, you’re going to be more focused on bright task lighting, so something like spotlights would work here, whereas in the living room you want softer, aesthetic lighting.
I’m a big fan of creating a cosy feeling with lamps. Standard lamps are extremely useful if you don’t have space for a side table, but they should be anchored to a piece of furniture, rather than floating aimlessly. If you have a large room, consider floor sockets, so you’re not limited to lighting just around the walls – although you have to be very sure of your layout before installing them!
Make sure your lamps have different heights, too, and that they’re the right size for the space – you don’t want a huge lamp on a tiny table! Also consider going larger with your lampshades. I often find that people default to small lampshades for some reason! If you’re unsure, ask an assistant in the shop where you’re buying the lamp, as they’re always happy to help.
You haven’t got enough seating
There’s no need to fill a room with a massive sofa to ensure you have enough seating for guests – particularly if you’re tight for space. We quite often use occasional chairs dotted around the room in a scheme, which sit up against the wall or next to a desk or console table, which can be pulled into the room for extra seating. If you have a fireplace, you can have a fender or a stool that you can pull up too, so that if you’re having conversations, everyone’s facing each other you’re not all staring into in the fireplace!
Floating rugs, too much restraint with colour and undersized lampshades… you’ve hit the nail on the head Taline! For more of her genius advice or to enlist her services (and buy some gorgeous finishing touches including cushions, lamps and throws) check out the Olivine Design website.
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