Navigating a new home build can be daunting at the very least, I mean deciding where walls, doors and windows are going to go for well...forever is no mean feat. So turning this new shell into your perfect character filled, welcoming home can be quite far down the list of priorities.
I find myself in the midst of this conundrum currently and I thought it might be an idea to share some of my thoughts on how to bring warmth and character into those newly plastered surfaces.
Lighting can be one of the most daunting things to plan. A good place to start is thinking about and defining what the purpose of each room will be. There are 3 categories of lighting to consider, the first being task lighting.
It's really important to get your task lighting correct. Eeeer ok...how? Well, think about each room and which tasks will require good light ie. kitchen bench tops, bathroom vanities (we don't want squiffy eye liner) and your desk area just to name a few. These areas will need good bright light (this can still be a nice warm light).
Once you have this covered, move your thoughts to ambient light. This is the general light which fills a room. Don't get me wrong, I know it's cheaper and easier to fill your ceilings with downlights, but if you can find a little more in the budget (maybe take a child out of school for the year!) it's worth considering other methods to light your rooms. Up lighters can create a lovely glow which bounces off your ceiling and fills the room, table lamps and sconces can create focal areas and draw the eyes to different items and objects of interest. These are also your opportunity to bring in some extra textures and colours with fabric covered lampshades and beautiful lamps made from an array of different surfaces and colours. You can really bring a dead space in a room to life by adding a warm glow of light.
If you have any energy left after achieving your perfect task and ambient lighting, you might consider some accent lights. Bring your favorite painting to life with a picture light to illuminate it, you'll find it adds depth and layers to the room, drawing you in. (Beware, guests may not want to leave!) Another trick that I adore is lighting up features in your garden, bringing the beauty of the outside in on those long winter evenings by illuminating some trees or a feature in your garden, this will also make your rooms feel bigger.
Fabrics are a fabulous way to express your personal style in your home and set it apart from others. You can also differentiate between rooms and how they feel with the fabrics you choose. Bring your children's playroom to life with colourful, fun prints to evoke their imagination, whilst in your sitting room you might want to keep a calm and sophisticated feel for those relaxed evenings with family and friends. Fabrics bring a warmth to your home, layering different patterns and colours creates a welcoming environment. You can make a brand new room feel lived in and homely by mixing fabrics and textures to create layers and depth. Throw a blanket over the back of your sofa, add some scatter cushions and all of a sudden you have a comfortable space that feels like home.
Whoever came up with the idea of paneling is a genius. Obviously it's been around for a little while, but it really never gets old! Panelling can be used literally anywhere - there are fiber cement options suitable for a fully waterproofed bathroom and an array of options for elsewhere in your house. You can keep it super simple by adding a dado rail around your room or go full decadence with floor to ceiling mahogany in your library - the world is your oyster. My point is though that it adds oodles of character and can transform your rooms and hallways into areas of great beauty.
Pictures and paintings
Well admittedly I am far from being a minimalist, and being a lover of art, from antique oils to simple, beautiful watercolours, paintings are another way to express your personality through your interiors. Consider carefully where you will hang your pictures, try to avoid hanging a tiny painting on a huge wall (the postage stamp effect), think about areas you can bring to life with a series of pictures, your stairway or hall for example. Maybe you'd like to design your paneling so that your favorite painting fits perfectly into it?! Artwork doesn't have to cost you the earth, collages of family holidays or maybe silhouettes of your children framed can make really fun and interesting art.
A real pet peeve of mine is art hung at the wrong height (I don't want neck strain trying to have a good nosey at that dress you wore to your birthday party) As a rule of thumb, if you're hanging a single picture aim for the middle point of the painting to be at eye height (or roughly 1.5m) and if you're hanging a group of pictures aim for the central point of them all to be at eye height.
Remember that your art can evolve with you, I love to occasionally change the position of paintings or when you buy a new one and it takes the place of something else. Sometimes it makes you realise that the painting really sings in its new spot. Interior design is never complete, it should move and grow and change to suit you and the people around you.
Mix old and new furniture
Your furniture can tell a thousand stories. If you have been lucky enough to inherit a few pieces of furniture from ancestors past or you have collected some antique pieces over the years, it mixes so well with contemporary pieces and painted furniture. It can be given a lift next to a beautifully upholstered arm chair or as a home for your beloved family photos. I actually find that having some dark pieces really grounds a room, it gives it depth and character. An old dresser filled with cook books in your kitchen can be the perfect juxtaposition to your painted dining chairs.
In conclusion, there are many ways that you can bring interest into your home. We are all different and have different style which is what keeps life interesting. Think about what is important to you and how you can achieve this in your home. For me I think I'd like to find a balance between functional, comfortable and sophisticated. Beautiful fabrics that can withstand my toddlers sticky fingers, rugs that bring a warmth without showing up those muddy paw prints and bedrooms which evoke relaxation and calm. I'd like to create a home which is beautiful but not precious and is always ready for the next influx of family and friends.
Photography by @birch_and_ballota_collection