Imagine being a happy freelancer, doing what you love, and then from one day to the next, all contracts stop and you have no idea when work will pick up again. Yep, it happened to many this year, as we all know. Ryan Godwin was one of them, a theatre set builder from London, now living in Valencia. Like everywhere in the cultural sector, all work suddenly disappeared when Covid arrived, and not just in the UK but across Europe. How does a theatre set builder reinvent himself in times of a crisis?
From flipping burgers to West End shows
“I always liked making things, being creative,” Ryan says, as we sit down in his big rough and ready workshop in the area of Cabanyal, near the beach. “I actually ended up as a set builder in the theatre world totally by accident. I was flipping burgers at an event, and got annoyed by stuff strewn on the floor of the van. So I just built some shelving to tidy it up. Turned out the owners of the burger place were West End actors. They were impressed by my carpentry and introduced me into the theatre world in London. That was the start of a 10-year career. I since worked as a set builder for many West End shows, major TV/film productions and events, including the London Fashion Week and the X Factor. It’s been a fascinating job.”
“In 2019 I fancied a change though, and with set builders from the UK having a good reputation across Europe, I managed to secure some big jobs in Spain and Italy for 2020. So I was looking forward to continuing my trade, but now based in Valencia. Unfortunately the pandemic threw a spanner in the way.”
“I was faced with a sudden harsh reality of sitting at home, in Spain, with no work, a loss of identity and feeling quite depressed as a result, to be honest. I didn’t know what to do with myself. There was no work for any of us in the industry. I heard of colleagues back in London being contracted to build coffins instead. It was grim. It’s only been a few weeks or so that I am beginning to pick up the pieces.”
Spice racks and bedside tables
This Autumn, Ryan decided to go back to his trusted carpentry skills and start making things for fun. Usable stuff for the home, made from scrap wood, which he finds in the street. First just some shelves, but people like his work, and he has already been commissioned to make a set of bedside tables. He is now making coffee tables, spice and wine racks, bookshelves and other unique pieces of furniture, from his Cabanyal workshop. In a corner of the large brick, industrial looking space, stand a number of cool looking pieces of furniture, made out of recycled wood. One of them a coffee table made from slats, on top of an old metal single bed frame.
Upcycling old wood and telling its story
“It feels good repurposing old wood, it balances things out for me.”, he explains. “You wouldn’t believe how wasteful the set building industry is. I once worked as a set builder at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and remember being horrified by the sight of four articulated lorries stuffed full of wood that had been used for the food stalls. None of the material could be reused, and was taken straight to the dump, only because it was covered in some food or oil. There are companies who take stuff away for recycling, but half the time it just ends up in the incinerator.”
Ryan finds usable wood and other materials left next to bins and in skips in Valencia, on the streets, anywhere, and keeps it from going to landfill. He takes stuff apart, cleans it, cuts it to size, sands it down, finishes it, and turns it into beautiful designs. “It’s fun creating things. I am a big fan of history and love the fact that something has a past. I try and leave the patina, so you still see some of that history in the wood.” He is slowly expanding his collection, trying to find out what people need and like, and then making it. An online shop is in the making too.
Ryan decided to name his new venture Made in Valencia. But perhaps it should be called re-Made in Valencia. After all, it’s not just the wood that’s been given a second chance.
You can find Ryan’s upcycling business in Valencia currently on Facebook. His set building work can be found on his website.
Are you affected as a creative by the covid crisis? Want to get inspired and connect with other creative businesses? Join my free community on Facebook, for marketing tips and business advice.
Mid-century modern furniture is often so beautiful and timeless, that it needs very little more than a clean and a polish. Sleek lines, minimalist looks and striking features, even after so many decades, those Scandinavian style sideboards, coffee tables and armchairs from the 1950s and 60s still look gorgeous. But some pieces become even better when someone with a good eye gets their hands on them. Caroline George of Roc Studio in Edinburgh, is one of those people. Her signature style includes strong geometric patterns to enhance the shape of the furniture. Today I am interviewing Caroline to find out more about her creative business.
Caroline, tell us more about yourself! What is your business and what do you offer?
I am the founder of Roc Studio and I bring unloved pieces of furniture back to life with my surface pattern designs. I source furniture myself, often mid-century classics like G-plan or Ercol, or customers can bring in their own pieces for a contemporary update. My business is in Edinburgh, which is also my home, where I live with my husband and two children.
What made you want to start this type of business?
I started my own business upcycling furniture already 11 years ago. First it was called Trash furniture, but it has since evolved into Roc. My degree is originally in fashion and textiles, but after working fashion for a bit I fell into interiors. I worked as a visual merchandiser at Habitat which fuelled my love for all things decor. After that I worked in property, staging and designing show homes for an upmarket developer. In 2009, I decided to turn my passion for vintage furniture into a business and I still love it. I am passionate about using what we have, being sustainable and creating an eclectic home and this is very much in the spirit of Roc as well.
What do you love most about your work?
The freedom of working for yourself is great, I kind of make it up as I go along, but it means I can pick my kids up from school and be there for them. It is not always easy juggling everything, but I wouldn’t change it.
How do you choose pieces and what is your creative process with them?
Most of the pieces I work on are a bit battered and in need of some TLC. A client might come to me with a piece of furniture or sometimes I already have a piece in my workshop, which needs an update. I don’t like to overdo the furniture and am quite minimalist in a way. I tend to work with the lines of the furniture, so if it has round handles for instance, then the design might feature circles. I always try and use colours for my designs that really bring out the beautiful warm tones in the Mid-century teak wood. Often, the client will also have an idea of the designs they like, a colour scheme in the room it sits in, or sometimes it’s just a piece of art work that they like that I can take some inspiration from.
It is quite a process from start to finish and can take many weeks. It’s not just a lick of paint and a few new drawer knobs. Usually I strip the piece of all the old varnish and if anything needs fixed then that gets done too. The doors might come off for painting, or the drawers stripped for new felt. There is always more work than you think, but the end result always makes me happy and my customers, which is the most important thing.
How has the 2020 lockdown affected your business?
At first, it was all such a shock for everyone. But I tried to keep going and then suspected I had the virus, which put me out of action for a couple of months, as I was very ill. I recovered though and still had a couple of commissions to do, so I have just continued working. Luckily my clients keep asking for furniture, so I am still surviving! I just need to keep my fingers crossed that it continues into 2021, but I stay positive.
How do customers find you, and what are your business challenges?
During lockdown, I built my new website, and I was really proud of myself that I got it done. I have an online shop on there now too, which is a new thing for me, and something I would like to build on next year. I am on all the usual social media channels, and I am trying to get better at PR and putting myself out there! Time is also always an issue. There’s never enough of it to fit everything in, so that is definitely an ongoing challenge for me. And knowing my value. Creatives are notorious for undercharging and over delivering!
What is the next step for Roc?
My goal is a bigger workshop next year with space to make my life easier. I would also like to take a holiday, haha! And I have been saying it for a long time now, but I would love to design some new products that are not quite as big as the furniture. And although most of my clients are in the UK, and especially in Edinburgh and London, I recently shipped furniture to the Netherlands, and I am now looking into shipping to Italy.
You may spot some Roc pieces where you are soon. If you are interested in seeing more of Caroline’s designs, have a look at the Roc website.
As a big fan of sustainable design, reducing landfill and creative upcycling, I was excited to recently speak to Michelle from Rockin Cushions, in Los Angeles. Michelle contacted me to collaborate, and I was very keen to feature her on my blog. Her creative buzz, amazing ideas and energy are contagious. I asked her about her business and plans for the future. Slip cover vending machines at Ikea, being one of them! Let’s hear more about her work.
Beautiful solutions for ‘disposable’ furniture
Michelle, tell us about your business. What is it you make?
I design and manufacture slip covers for IKEA furniture. The fabrics I choose focus on current decor trends, such as Scandinavian, Farmhouse, Boho Chic, etc. We fill the gap between buying a new upholstered piece of furniture and the current IKEA cover offerings. We hope that a new slip cover will save your “disposable” piece of furniture ending up in landfill. I feel strongly about reducing waste and with my covers I aim to offer people a very easy and affordable way to stay current without a big financial commitment.
What is your background? Have you always been creative?
My parents immigrated to Australia from South Africa when I was a year old. My dad was a self-taught leather craftsman. I was taught to sew as a child and worked in our family business, which grew into a small manufacturing company in Australia. I studied graphic design and fine arts at University, but was also acting in commercials on the side, and pretty soon the acting became much more interesting. I decided to move to LA to pursue my acting career shortly thereafter.
The old rocking chair that sparked my business
What made you start your Ikea slip cover business?
After moving to LA, I encountered the Fashion District in downtown, and my passion for creating was reignited. There are so many people creating, making, sewing and producing there. It is really inspiring. At one point I was given a traditional rocking chair as a gift and decided to make a cushion for it, because I couldn’t find anything I liked. I put my design on Etsy and people really responded positively. The seed was planted. I then started getting a lot of requests for IKEA slip covers, and slowly things grew from there. Eventually about 5 years ago, I decided to ditch the acting and run my business full time.
What do you love most about your work?
I really love to source new fabrics and I definitely have a need to spend a few hours a week creating something. I just started my craft channel on Youtube, which I’m really enjoying. I also love receiving photos from my customers who are really happy with their purchase. That just makes my day.
How do you choose pieces and what is your creative process?
The IKEA pieces I choose to work with are simply the most popular ones. It’s a little tricky taking a chance on something new because you don’t know if it will stay in the catalogue for very long. And it costs a lot of money to create the covers in all the different fabrics, so that’s why I stay safe with the furniture that has been around for decades, such as the Poang and Ektorp sofas. The process is pretty simple – I either copy the original slip cover, or create a new design. My Poang covers for instance has been modified from the original so that it fits all the different Poang cushions universally. After we design the covers, it’s just a matter of getting it into production with all the fabrics we offer.
2020 has been a crazy, but incredible year for business
How has the 2020 lockdown affected your business? Did you have to adapt or work differently?
This year has actually been the most incredible year for me. In April, I made some face masks for healthcare workers and set up a FB donation page. I was interviewed on a local morning show and not only did we raise our donation target, we sold over 30,000 masks in a month. It was the most crazy experience! I was also able to get business funding and some grants, which had been impossible before.
And even though sales have been slower than normal for the slip covers, I’ve been able to focus on my Youtube channel and start a subscription box service, with six (gift) products that have been 100% upcycled from our waste materials, such as table / kitchenware, home decor items, fashion accessories and bags. I really believe there is more opportunity than ever right now for an entrepreneur.
How do you reach your audience, what do you do to promote yourself?
I have a Shopify store and we do email marketing. We’re also on the socials – Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Youtube and we’re about to start live streaming tutorials on Twitch. Content creating is a lot of work, but it’s the new normal for every business right now.
What is your biggest challenge in your business?
Right now I’m targeting the commercial market, such as “IKEA for Business” customers, so finding the right sales people is difficult. I’m not technically in the furniture industry, so I’m working on making those connections. Also cash flow is always a huge challenge. Staying on top of bills etc when times are slow is tough.
What is your next step in your business? Are you looking for world domination?
Lol, yes and no! I would love my brand to live alongside IKEA, I dream of being able to make a significant difference in reducing landfill. I have a crazy idea of having Rockin Cushions vending machines in the IKEA checkout /warehouse section! Designing covers for furniture rental companies to help keep their products in use for longer, is also something I’d love to be doing. And then I have another dream of hosting a DIY/ home makeover show because it would be so fun! But, at the end of the day, I really just want to have a financially secure future and time to do things I love.
Rockin Cushions is based in LA, United States. They also ship internationally, mostly to the UK, Europe, Australia. They support the non-profit DAYS FOR GIRLS by donating fabric and participating in sewing workshops in LA to produce menstrual kits to girls in developing countries, many of whom would otherwise not be able to attend school.
With the crazy times we live in right now comes a little perk for many: working from home is now widely accepted and often required. Most people would prefer to not be in the office five days a week anyway and find themselves being much more efficient working from home. An office at home also means that you can design it yourself, to your needs and taste, which makes it even more pleasant and relaxed. If working from home is something you’ll be doing in the long run, it’s a good idea to invest in some durable, useful items to make your life easier and work space more professional. No more working on the sofa!
For this post I have done some browsing for you on Etsy and made a selection of beautiful and useful accessories for your desk, to create the perfect home office space.
All products listed are made from sustainable materials, including wood, paper and metal.
Prevent RSI with an ergonomic laptop stand
Many of us work on laptops, which makes working flexible. But having to work from home on a laptop can make those hands and wrists pretty sore after a while. Let’s prevent RSI and invest in a good ergonomic laptop stand, at the correct height.
Combine it with a keyboard and turn your laptop into a desktop when working from home. This beautiful minimalist design in oak and steel is from Etsy seller Oakywood gets very good reviews and costs £123. It reduces your eye and neck strain, rises your laptop about 6 inches (16 cm) to an ergonomic position at an eye level.
No one likes starting their working day at a desk full of loose stuff. Stationary, iPads, notebooks, paper clips, they all need a home! Invest in a good-looking desk organizer and you get rid of that problem.
This stationary organizer below is not only beautiful, minimalist and made of beech wood, it also features slots for your tablet and phone. Handy for watching tutorials or videos or having a quick hands-free call on screen. Above all, it keeps your pencils, pens, keys, business cards and desk accessories from going astray.
This organizer below is another nice wooden item, which even has a cup holder built in. Because we’ve all had that coffee spilled over the keyboard…
Hands up, who likes a good list? I enjoy a bullet journal too. Combine the two and you’ll get a daily desk planner pad. With this handy A5 daily planner from the Etsy seller InkyIntheWild you can really start sorting your life out.
The motivational desk pad comes with 100 easy-tear pages and a cardboard backing. Fill out the planner, organize your thoughts and then simply tear off the pages and stick them on your wall, memo board, fridge or fold and pop in your bag. You can order the daily work planner on its own, but you may be tempted to go for the mega pack (gosh, I need that), which includes a daily, a weekly and a handy meal planner. I am already feeling organized just looking at it!
Invest in some fancy book ends
Working from home undoubtedly means more files, notebooks and documents that need a shelf. Don’t shove them in a pile in the corner of your desk, or worse, on the floor. Give these files a proper home. Some fancy book stands or document holders will make your home office look a lot more professional and organized. I love these metal honeycomb book ends, made by seller Geomodus.
Make your office look neat with a desktop cable organizer
Laptop cables, USB cables, keyboard cables, headphone cables; it’s like bloomin’ spaghetti junction on your desk these days! Time to sort that mess out. To stick with the wood theme: I discovered this beautiful desk organizer made in walnut, which will make any desk look like an executive’s.
Are you looking to give your living room or bedroom a makeover? You are probably thinking of the usual decorating methods of painting or wallpapering. But have you thought of trying something else instead? Self-adhesive wallpaper for example, is a great way to change the look of a room, without the permanence of traditional wallpaper. When you rent, this is especially interesting, as it will not damage your walls. Other ideas to update your boring walls is by ordering a photo mural or creating a photo gallery wall. Or what to think of a vertical plant wall? Here is some inspiration.
Self-adhesive wallpaper ideas
Do you think wallpaper is too permanent and tedious to remove again when the time comes? Are you worried that you will soon tire of the pattern? Then self-adhesive wallpaper is a solution. Wild jungle patterns, moody dark colours, animal prints, you can go to town with this stuff. It’s far easier to install and to remove compared to traditional wallpaper or paint. As you apply it just like a big sticker, it is very easy to install without the mess of wallpaper paste, and easy to remove when you want to change it again in the future. Self-adhesive wallpaper is widely available now online via Etsy or in your local DIY and hardware store. If you like to give your bedroom, kitchen or living room a new look, sticky wallpaper is a perfect option. It is also great for children’s rooms and nurseries.
Photo Mural ideas
Do you want to prolong that wonderful holiday feeling? Choose to print that tropical beach photo on self-adhesive wallpaper and cover your wall with it! You can do the same with beautiful black and white photos of your children, wedding or other memorable event. If you don’t have suitable photos yourself, search online for ready-made self-adhesive photo wallpapers on sites such as Etsy.
Vertical Plant Wall
Plants always make a room look lovely. If you want to add some greenery, consider installing a vertical plant wall. This is a frame, mounted to the wall, in which you either plant small plants, or hang pots from. In the example below, they suspended one plant from a bracket on the wall and guided the branches along the wall through a frame to eventually create a nice living, green wall. With a vertical plant wall you fill the entire wall with plants or part of it. If you have a green thumb, use real plants, but artificial plants also give a great effect and of course do not require any maintenance.
An original painted mural
Not as temporary as the other suggestions, and a little more time-consuming, but at least as cool: a painted mural! You will probably have to repaint this when you cancel the rent, but until then you have something unique to look at. And hey, it’s only paint! No screws, holes or other damage. If you are creative and artistic yourself, you can probably tackle this project yourself; alternatively ask someone in your network who can do this for you for a fee (or in exchange for something you can offer in return).
A photo gallery wall
Pick the best photos from your travels, friends and family and create a “cloud” of framed pictures on your wall. Want to add some lovely art prints? Have a look at these, on Etsy. You get the best effect if you choose different formats of frames and use them interchangeably. Would you rather not have nails and screws in the wall? Then buy self-adhesive brackets that you can easily remove from the wall. Also read our post on gallery walls and how to design them.
I am not a coffee expert, but I love drinking it. Frugal as I am, I once bought a secondhand £20 Krups espresso machine on Gumtree in Scotland and it lasted us for a good six years. And that machine saw some heavy traffic in our house. Unfortunately, during the 2020 lock-down this Spring, it gave up the ghost. Great timing, right? I almost lost the will to live. I mean, not being allowed out for a proper cafe con leche, home schooling two small children, not sleeping well AND no working coffee machine at home? You get the picture. The dragon was unleashed.
Rediscovering what you already own
But there was hope. My husband, clearly having had enough of my moaning, but too stubborn to just order a new machine online, did an emergency search through the cupboards looking for an alternative. He dug out an old stove top coffee maker. Not quite producing your creamy machine coffee, but it had to do. I still grumbled. But then my man stumbled upon a Youtube video that made all the difference. If you own a cafetiere or French press, read on.
The basics: selecting the right coffee bean
First up: a crash course in coffee beans. They make all the difference if you start making cappuccinos at home! There are two types of beans, namely the Robusta and the Arabica. The Robusta is also known as the “average supermarket coffee”. The Arabica bean is more highly regarded and has different qualities. It has a more refined smell, a soft, full taste and low caffeine content. Also, the acidity is higher in the Arabica bean, which is a good sign when it comes to coffee. You can make nice coffee with ground coffee from a package, but if you want to go all barista, you can of course grind the beans yourself.
Making great coffee in a machine or a stove top coffee maker
If you have a proper espresso machine at home, spread the ground coffee evenly over the filter holder. This ensures optimal extraction. Then press the coffee firmly and place the filter holder back in the machine. Then immediately brew the coffee, don’t let it sit there, to avoid a bitter, burnt taste. If you are using an Italian espresso pot for on the stove, you basically do the same: spread the coffee grounds evenly, press it down well and put it on the stove until ready.
Make the best cappuccinos at home with a French press
If you want to make the best cappuccinos at home on a budget, read on for the trick that totally improved our morning routine! Frothing milk is quite a job to make a cappuccino that tastes the same as in your favorite coffee bar. There are all kinds of machines and milk frothers for sale, but did you know that you can also use a cafetiere for this? Heat a little milk in a pan, until just short of boiling, and pour it into your cafetiere. Then go up and down with the plunger / whisk of the cafetiere and beat the milk for about a minute until it foams. Carefully pour the milk foam over the coffee, slowly reducing the distance between them. For the last layer, keep the cup straight so that the top layer on the inside is beautifully white and surrounded by a brown edge. Voilà, barista!
The pet industry is booming and you can buy an enormous variety of accessories for your furry friends. Most pets spend a lot of time in the home and their beds will most likely sit on the floor in the living room or kitchen. They can take up quite a bit of space too. We choose our own furniture and accessories to match, so why not get a dog bed that blends in with your decor too? Here is my selection of gorgeous dog beds from makers and sellers on Etsy.
Why does your dog need a dog bed?
Does your pup even need a dog bed? Should you spend a lot of money when your dog is just as happy lying with you in your human bed or on the sofa? The answer is: yes. Even if you love having your dog sleeping with you in your human bed, every dog should also have a bed of their own, to snuggle up in during the day for a nap and as his own little safe space.
Health, hygiene and a place of safety
Unlike the floor, a bed will keep your dog cosy and will support arthritic joints and prevent calluses. Dog beds are usually washable, which is useful if your dog has accidents, has fleas or mites, or has walked in covered in dirt! Dog beds are also useful when traveling. Some dogs can get a bit anxious on a journey and it often calms them down to sleep in a familiar bed. They’ll rest easier and feel less anxiety.
Select a dog bed that suits your pet, your style and your budget
Dog beds are available in any style, shape, fabric and size. From fluffy and velvet cushions to sleek, minimalist dog beds. There are cheap ones and expensive one, and many people make a pet bed themselves. Choosing the right bed depends on your taste, budget, and decor, Of course, dogs being dogs, they may decide not to sleep in it at all, so there never a guarantee…! If you know where your dog feels most comfortable to rest, you may find it easier to pick the right dog bed. Also, make sure the bed is big enough for your dog to sleep in comfortably, without his legs spilling out over the edge.
Best dog bed for rescue dogs and other pets with anxiety
I fell in love with this design dog bed, which not only looks gorgeous, but looks like a bed I would like to snuggle in myself! Handmade in the Netherlands by designer-maker Rose from Floofculture, this high-end faux fur and gorgeous cotton canvas bed & sleeping bag combo is pretty and extremely comfortable. This bed is great for all animals, but especially the ones that need a bit of extra safety, such as rescue dogs. Also great for traveling; it doesn’t take up too much space. Everything is handsewn with very strong thread, in this case Brazilian waxcord. Price: £58.49 / 76.50 USD / €64.59 Check out this one and many other colours at Floofculture on Etsy
Choosing art for your home can be quite a challenge. How do you buy art online? Where do you find affordable art in your local area? Here are the best tips for buying art for your home.
Art: an essential ingredient in interior design
Architecture forms the bones of a house, art is the soul of the interior.
I absolutely love art and have always been interested in it, from when I was very little. Art needs to be around me, whether it is paintings, photographs, sculpture or ceramics. I yearn for the handmade, original qualities of a piece of art. Even though I have long run out of wall and shelf space to display anything, I just can’t help myself. You can take away my furniture, don’t touch my art. So what do I look out for when buying art for my home?
Expert tips for buying art for your home:
Don’t care about what others may think about your choice or whether the work is by someone famous. If you love it, it is meaningful and worth buying.
Pick something that ‘speaks’ to you. Does the work make you happy or emotional? Do you adore the colours? Does the subject have significance? You’re onto a winner.
Set yourself a budget if you don’t want to be swept away by crazy impulse buying tendencies. Yup – I am speaking from experience.
Sleep on it. Do you still want that artwork the next morning? Get it.
Art is personal, buy what you love
Art has the ability to ‘grab’ you and you feel you need to own it, probably because it is such a one-off, unique piece and you feel you may never come across it again. That has happened to me on more than one occasion. Even though buying art was the last thing on my mind when leaving the house. Choosing art for your home often happens by chance, rather than through research.
One time I was working at the Glasgow Art Fair for a previous employer and during a little wander around this big orange Rothko-like painting drew me closer. I couldn’t walk away. It was as if the devil had taken over my sanity and before I knew it I spent every last penny of my hard earned savings. Utter madness. Do I regret it? No. It is still my favourite painting and I will love it forever.
There is always space: create a gallery wall
If you spot something you like – or even more than one piece, don’t be put off buying it because of lack of wall space. Group pictures together to create an interesting gallery wall. And don’t be scared to buy something large either. Nothing worse than a tiny picture frame on a massive wall.
If you are not too familiar with art buying, you might feel a bit at a loss when buying something for your walls. You may choose to be safe, going for a picture that matches the colour of the curtains rather than that it evokes any emotion at all. This is a missed opportunity, because why not make your home a place that inspires you? Fill it with things that are meaningful, not mass-produced. You will likely get bored of that department store print very soon.
If you feel you know very little about art, then where do you look for something that ticks those boxes?
Visit the degree show of the local Art School
Those fresh graduates are dying to make it big and have their art out there. You are bound to discover some pretty cool pieces. The artist will also be incredibly grateful if you go home with one of their works.
Go to local art fairs and markets
There must be some in your city or area. Stroll around, speak to the artists. These events are usually very lively and informal and feel less daunting than shopping for art in a quiet gallery.
Buy art online
There are a growing number of online galleries selling original artworks at various prices. An easy way to familiarise yourself with different styles and see what you like. Artfinder for example is a good place to start. They have some more great tips on what to look out for when buying art. Etsy is also a popular site to browse for some unique and often affordable prints and artworks.
Galleries may look scary for someone who doesn’t usually go to these kind of places, but trust me, gallery owners want to sell art and you are customer just like anyone else. You’ll probably find there are pieces of art at different price levels. You may not be a regular, but you have every right to go in and have a look around. Many galleries in the UK now have a scheme called Own Art, which let you buy an artwork with a 0% loan, so worth popping in for.
Finding vintage treasures and making art yourself
The local auction house
Your local auction house will have plenty of artworks too. Have a look in their online catalogue of items to see if it is worth bidding. You’d be surprised how often you could pick up a framed original for less than £50. Of course, as with markets and charity shops: it is hit or miss, but certainly a good way of buying quirky art on a budget.
Browse the second-hand shops
Charity shops, car-boot sales or flea markets for original paintings, etchings and vintage posters.
Make something yourself. Paint, draw, sew, print or take photos. Frame a piece of fabric or wallpaper you love. Get the kids involved and let them go crazy with their felt pens and finger paint. It is amazing how good things look in a frame.
You want to throw all the toys out of the window you say? I hear you. I remember the days, before having kids, when my husband and I would look at each other in horror after visiting a bomb site at a friend’s house. “I can’t believe the state of their house. Honestly, the amount of plastic toys…surely they could tidy up, right? If we ever have a family, I will never have so much junk.” *laughs hysterically*
Yeah. Scroll down a few years. I have two little boys who make a mess on a daily basis. They have a lot of stuff: toys, clothes, sticks. Every birthday and Christmas more stuff arrives. They also leave their pants and socks everywhere. Who wants to use all their time and energy to tidy up all day? You get the picture. Things get messy sometimes. Oh sure, I do try. I buy nice storage boxes (which subsequently get turned into mini bath tubs for toy cars – or used as helmets in superhero dress-up games) and sometimes it stays tidy for a while. A day maybe. Sounds like your life?
One day, when I am old and the boys have flown the nest, my house shall be clutter-free. Until then, I turn a blind eye, breathe deeply and browse Pinterest.
Hold on, I live here too
Childhood may be short, but 18 years of living in a dump is not a nice thought. So despite having to accept the messy years of parenthood, we can still try and make it pleasant for ourselves and hide some of that junk. Right?
Let’s start by showing you some lovely rooms
Here are some examples of kids rooms that just look great and probably are more stylish than your own bedroom. (Obviously no kid was allowed in them before the photo shoot was over and done with. I would love to see what they look like on a daily basis – ha!). What’s wrong though in the next two pictures? Right, impractical storage tables (let me just place my tambourine here, mum) and fragile ornaments. I mean, who would place a ceramic Bambi behind a swinging chair? Or a pretty swan planter on a children’s bedside table? OK, let’s move on.
Storage solutions for kids rooms: open or closed?
Storage is the main thing you need to keep your house clutter-free. And no matter how kid-friendly open shelving is (so they can see and reach their books and toys), it also means a lot of it will usually end up on the floor at the end of the day, especially with preschool children. We are sometimes winning but often failing at getting our kids to tidy up themselves, but most six-year olds will just lift the mess one level higher, albeit on the shelves. So unless you are a montessori purist and only offer your child a handful of toys to play with, toy storage with doors or drawers will be a tidier solution, with added large buckets for bigger stuff. Big chests or baskets with a lid are also great. Or buy some useful under bed storage.
Pimp your storage unit with decals
The Trofast bins from Ikea are a firm favourite among parents wanting rid of kids toys and for good reason, as they are sturdy, practical and inexpensive. To upgrade your Trofast system (or the Kallax shelving units), how about adding these City roads decal stickers to the top? Cars in the bottom drawers, easy access and also easy for the kids to tidy up afterwards.
Older kids need shelves for treasure display
Now my eldest son is eight, he is showing a keen interest in displaying his grand Lego creations, interesting found objects and other of his ‘valuable possessions’, away from the hands of his little brother. Shelves are therefore a good addition to a kids bedroom, for this reason. That way children can curate their own ‘changing exhibitions’ of the things they love and are proud of. A rock collection, trophies, delicate constructions they made. They will like having that bit of freedom and you’ll probably catch them showing their display to their friends.
Arts and Crafts storage for kids
Another thing that creates mess and untidy shelves and drawers: the countless stationary items, colouring books, hammer beads, jewellery making kits, paint tubs, playdoh pots and paper stacks. We have had two rolling drawer units in our house for a while now and they are great. Handy for organising stuff, easy to access, and even easier to roll out of the room and out of sight when your done. This metal one from Ikea is a popular one, but plastic ones work just as well.
Shelves that encourage kids to read
Books are normally stored only showing their backs, but for a small child this is not very attractive. To increase their interest in reading, it is better to show the front covers of books. That way they are much more like to become curious and take down a book to look at. Browse kid–friendly book shelving here.
For older children, ‘normal’ bookshelves are of course fine. I absolutely love the wallpaper in this bedroom below. They also included a shelf for displaying treasures and photographs and closed drawers in the storage unit to hide any small toys or other material.
Do you have kids rooms at home that you’d love to show off? How do you handle the clutter? Do let me know in the comments!
Got a room to do up and need some free interior design advice? During the time when I still had my furniture store and was buying and selling vintage, all I ever did was follow my intuition and try things out. Put things together to see how it looked. I still don’t follow a certain style, or even a trend, I just pick what I love and usually immediately see if it works well. You can’t help including things or colour schemes that are trendy sometimes because what is ‘in vogue’ can actually be very beautiful and you know you will still love it even when the trend has passed.
Go with your instinct. If it speaks to you, especially when you have thought about it for a few days, get it – or do it.
Today I am sharing some tips to help you in your own interior design projects. Next time you are redecorating your living room, or in fact any room, try and follow these steps. They may help you see things differently and choose a colour scheme, furniture and accessories with confidence.
Interior design tip #1: Start a Pinterest board
This is a no brainer really and I am sure most of you are doing this already. Create a dedicated board on Pinterest and gather images of rooms you like, furniture you like, colour schemes and images that inspire you and ‘fit’ within the look you are thinking of. While pinning your favourites, think about the function of the room too: are you going to spend time in it during the day or mainly in the evening? Which family members will be using it most? Does it need a play area, a library, a desk? Will it have a TV in it and where would it go?
Once you have built a bit of a collection, stand back and look at it as a whole to see if you can see a cohesive style. Is there a certain colour that is dominant? This might become your wall colour or accent colour in textiles or upholstery. Are there certain patterns or textures you pinned in more than one image? Then this is another element you can use, when choosing perhaps wallpaper or accessories.
Delete any images that you feel are just too different from the rest, as this helps you narrowing it down. You can always save the image in another board, for future projects and ideas. As you do this (fun!) exercise over the space of a few weeks, you will slowly see a cohesive style board emerging, which can serve as a very helpful guide when choosing colours, furniture and accessories for your redecoration project.
Interior design tip #2: Look at the features of the room
When it comes to styling living rooms, I always start by looking at the features of the space. I try and picture it without anything in it. What is the light like? Are there any focal points like fire places or alcoves? Are the ceilings high or is it a cosy room with small windows? It is a good idea to measure up the space and draw it out to scale on a sheet of paper with written dimensions of walls, windows and doors. This helps you choose the right size furniture later on.
Interior design tip #3: What to do with the flooring
Next you look another very important permanent element: the flooring. What is the flooring like? Is it staying? Depending on the ideas on your Pinterest board (and budget) you may choose to replace old carpet with wood flooring, paint your old floor boards or leave it as it is and work with rugslater on. Carpets can add a lot of warmth to a room, especially in old houses or if the floor boards on their own are just too draughty.
Interior design tip #4: Walls and woodwork: wallpaper or paint?
Next up are the walls and woodwork around the room including windows, skirtings and doors. If you are going for the ‘Scandinavian’ bright look, keep it simple and choose different shades of white as a calm background for your more colourful furniture. If you are thinking of a more traditional or ‘cottage/farmhouse’ style, you may want to look at darker, moodier colours such as deep blue, sage green or dark grey for the walls, creating a cosy sitting room for the evening. It may feel scary to go dark, but you’ll probably be surprised with how good it looks.
Whatever paint ideas you have collected on your Pinterest board, it is a good idea to get some tester pots first as you may change your mind when seeing colours in the actual light of your room. Woodwork can also look beautiful just stripped and waxed if you live in a period house, or go for a contrasting colour to make a modern statement. If you go for wallpaper, most people choose to use a bold pattern on just one wall as a feature, rather than plastering it on all four.
interior design tip #5: Lighting
Lighting is super important in interior design and needs proper attention. On your drawn outline of the room mark where you think you will need light. Where are you going to sit and read? What aspects need a spotlight (pictures, a bookcase)? Is a central ceiling pendant light necessary or can you just go for standard lamps, wall fitted lamps and table lamps to light the room in the evening? Perhaps consider putting in a dimmer for a ceiling light to change the mood of the room.
When choosing lighting, don’t buy lamps that are all very busy or different in style and pattern, but perhaps go for a standard and a table lamp with matching shades combined with some stylish wall mounted lamps. Or have one heavily patterned shade combined with more minimalist lighting. Also look at what type of bulb you are using in each lamp: white light creates a cool, contemporary atmosphere while yellow light gives off a warmer glow.
Interior design tip #6: Furniture
You may want to start from scratch if the budget allows or you just want to make a clean break. The likelihood is that you probably have some things you want to keep, so it is a good idea to photograph them to include them on your Pinterest board to see them in the mix. Then it is important to make a shopping list, not the least because you likely want to know what it is all going to cost.
Invest wisely and think long term. It may be better to spend a bit more on a quality sofa than splash out on that super stylish vintage drinks cabinet you have spotted but are unlikely to use on a daily basis – although, I know, sometimes you just gotta have something. Shop around and mix and match. Don’t be afraid to buy your brand new sofa at a high street store, then combine it with an upcycled vintage coffee table and compliment it all with a set of cheap plain bookcases from Ikea. Your house is not a show home, make sure it is you and that your style shines through.
How much furniture do I need in my living room?
How much furniture should you get? Less is more, you can always add something if you feel there is something missing. Just don’t cram a huge corner sofa into a small front room. Keep it airy, make sure there is still room to move. A 2-seater sofa and two matching midcentury modern armchairs on either side of a low table may be a good solution if you want to create a good ‘conversation space’ in a lounge. When it comes to upholstery, a safe bet is a quality lasting plain wool fabric or leather for the sofa. A grey herringbone is a timeless choice, and so is tan leather. Armchairs can add colour and contrast or even go for patterns to jazz it up.
Interior design tip #7: Soft furnishings
Curtains, blinds and rugs. What does the room need? Plain grey or off white full length linen curtains are always a lovely choice, and go with both modern and traditional styles. Combine it with painted wooden venetian blinds or a patterned linen roman blind for some sophisticated layering.
When it comes to a rug (if you have wood flooring), choose a bolder pattern if your furniture is muted and calm in colour and texture. If there is already a lot going on in your upholstery or colours and patterns on the wall perhaps, select a large natural wool rug in a light colour as a base.
Interior design tip #8: Accessories
Finally, accessories. Pictures, mirrors, cushions, vases, clocks, baskets, etc. Cushions are a good way to start. Combine contrasting colours, different patterns and textures. As long as they all fit in more or less with your image collection on the Pinterest board, they will add welcome interest.
>> General cushion pairing formula:
TEXTURE + LARGE SCALE PATTERN + SMALL SCALE PATTERN + LUMBAR
When it comes to choosing artwork, don’t be afraid to get a big frame. A large painting or photograph can make a great statement in a room. They also look good over a sofa or sideboard. Alternatively a gallery wall can add a lot of interest and a great opportunity to show off family photos. Maybe even show off your collection of fabrics.
Play around and learn what works
Play around with placing accessories like vases and other loose objects. Does it look good where you placed it? What composition have you created, is there a good balance? Use other things as well to create interest such as some of your favourite books, found objects like shells or a rock and don’t forget plants! Plants literally add live to a room (as long as you keep them alive of course).
I hope this list is helpful in guiding you, whatever room you may tackle. What do you find most difficult in your redecorating projects?