Make Your Interior Unique with Artisan Surface Design
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This year you might have noticed the resurgence of terrazzo in magazines, on tiles and even printed pattern versions on the high street. One local artisan is quite the expert at this  five hundred year old technique, applying it to table tops, kitchen work-surfaces, tiles, cladding, wall art and sculptures, but it is terrazzo with a twist.

 

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Not wanting to be restricted to fabrics and yarns while studying Textiles at Central Saint Martins, Stephanie Tudor began experimenting with “any material she could get her hands on”. Now a specialist in bespoke surface design working predominately on a commission basis, typical clients can include “friends buying a bespoke tile or an architecture firm commissioning public sculptures”. Using jesmonite, a water-based gypsum composite resin that can be mixed with coloured pigments and metal powders, Stephanie produces fire-proof, hard wearing and ultimately unique pieces from pots and trays to splash-backs. I had to ask what the interiors trend this year has meant for her, if anything. “Terrazzo is big right now, and trends never last for long! I have definitely caught a wave of work from it which has been great, but also am reassured that my work is developing away from terrazzo effect surfaces which I am excited about.” 

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I’m looking forward to seeing how Stephanie’s new work turns out and am avidly following her adventures on her current artist residency in Finland - casting, moulding and firing interesting things in the woods! It is a privilege to see some of the processes involved. You can see too on instagram or browse more of her work and make an enquiry at www.stephanietudor.co.uk

If you have enjoyed this or any of the other posts on the blog please help Stylemongers Of Bristol to make to the shortlist at the Amara Interior Blog Awards this year! Someone kindly nominated the blog in the Best Interior Designer Blog category. All voters are entered into prize draw to win a pic camera too so you could be the lucky winner! CLICK HERE TO VOTE! Thank you xx

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Happy By Design: How to create a happy healthy home
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I read this book in a single sitting recently on a day when I was good for nothing but lying on the sofa with a stinking summer cold. It was quite a tonic with it’s gentle optimism and suggestions of how to make your home a happier place. That’s something surely everyone aspires to, especially with our busy lives full of work.

Encompassing lifestyle choices as well as design and decorating advice, Victoria Harrison takes the reader on a meander through mindfulness in the home, from tending houseplants to engaging in conversation and the simple pleasure of looking after a pet. There is some good old fashioned advice that greenery, the presence of light and the absence of clutter make for favourable living conditions. What makes this more compelling than opinion or anecdote alone though is the inclusion of easy to digest research - from NASA scientists, no less! There is also sage colour advice from Farrow & Ball’s international colour consultant Joe Studholme on how best to introduce that most joyful of colours, yellow.

All senses have been considered in writing this lovely little book with ideas on using scent, music, art and the optimal ways to consistently achieve nourishing sleep. The overall tone is informative and avoids being instructive which makes it a lovely gift for anyone setting up their first home or in need of cheering up with a few easy tweaks to their interiors. I’ll certainly be referring back to my copy now and then, like a manual for good living. 

Order a copy from your local independent bookshop or online here!

How To Stay Sane When The Builders Are In

If you have ever had renovation work carried out on your house, particularly whilst still living in it, you will probably already know just how difficult it can be. After a disastrous and still unresolved experience in my own home I felt compelled to put together some top tips to help you survive the merry mayhem of home improvements.

With my tried, tested and trusted builders of choice already booked in to create a new kitchen extension I designed for valued clients of mine I could hardly jump the queue. Not wanting to wait for their next window of availability or project manage it myself due to spinning several other plates already, I arranged for an alternative company to do it all. Believing I was in safe hands I foolishly didn't dot all the Is and cross the Ts quite as I would for a client job and also chose the wrong guys. These two mistakes caused untold stress, delay and regret, so read on to find out how you can maintain your mental health during a refurb. Grab a cuppa, its a long one!

Most of us are pretty familiar with tales of builders not turning up on time, at a completely different time to what was arranged or indeed not at all. Then there are sagas about delayed projects that go on seemingly forever, and mistakes that don’t get rectified because in the end people just want tradesmen out of the house. Construction work is by its very nature prone to being at least a little unpredictable. Every project will encounter problems, especially in older or neglected properties where discovering clandestine complications is more likely. Some delays and upward revisions of the anticipated expense are inevitable and cannot always be helped. 

Although we know to expect a level of disruption, even when everything goes to plan, we still find it stressful, but why?

Finances and Feelings

The reasons for instructing construction work in the first place may be emotionally charged; such as preparing for the arrival of a new baby, adaptations for a disabled family member, creating a granny annexe for an ageing parent. In these situations it is critical that the work is completed on time which adds an extra layer of pressure. Inheriting, saving up or remortgaging to borrow a large sum of money to pay for the work can also mean the stakes are already high. There will likely be emotion attached to that money and even going through the remortgaging process can be stressful before you have even begun the project. 

 

Physical Disruption

Even if you can stay in a hotel or with family during the build there is no escaping the tangible displacement of things. Having furniture and possessions in disarray can be deeply unsettling for some. Being without a working kitchen or bathroom for any length of time, especially beyond the expected finish date, is enough to bring out the princess in even the hardiest of campers.

Time Consumption

Whether you opt to co-ordinate your own tradesmen or instruct a project manager or company to oversee all the labour it will still require your time and energy.

 

Mental Exhaustion

There are a huge amount of decisions to be made from layouts to power socket locations and details like handles which can be fatiguing and overwhelming. This is one reason why so many people run out of steam once their extensions are completed, fall out of love with the whole project, then don't get around to decorating for years afterwards.

 

Marital Problems

Any kind of stress or endless joint decision making will test a relationship. Renovation is no exception!

 

 Project Timeline by Stylemongers Of Bristol

Project Timeline by Stylemongers Of Bristol

Feeling out of control

When there is a lack of communication about what is happening when, or if progress stalls, it becomes very difficult to organise your everyday life. Naturally this is incendiary for most people and leads to a feeling of uncertainty which can create waves of chaos in all areas of life.

 

Stress and Frustration

Even the smoothest running of jobs can cause some discomfort, so when things go wrong or are delayed it can be affecting in a very big way. A healthy dose of perspective about the world’s problems is always important, but don’t be surprised or hard on yourself if you find you’re getting in as much of a state about your comparatively trivial living room as worrying about a relative in hospital. The human body doesn’t distinguish one kind of stress from another. 

 

So how can you reduce the negative impact of construction chaos?

As with most things in life, preparation is everything.

 

Do your homework

Plan as much of the interior decor in advance as you can. Allow for long lead times on special items. You don’t want to be making rash decisions about tiles or taps once the builders are on site. At that late-in-the-day stage some interior designers may politely decline to come to your rescue. They will be loyal to their current clients’ projects and may not want to be involved in a panic situation because correctly specifying details takes time and careful thought.

Another advantage of planning ahead is that you can feel resolute about your design decisions and won’t be swayed by opinionated tradesmen or pushed into purchasing products that the company may have a vested interest in supplying.

 

Choose the right builders

Allow as much time as possible to find your preferred builders as you will may have to wait months for the best teams to be available. People buy from people its true, but this is not about making friends. Although you want to feel comfortable with who you deal with and invite in to your home, it is almost more important that they are competent and prepared to go the extra mile to do a good job with pride. Trust your instinctive gut feeling but do not rely on that alone. Check qualifications, credentials and experience, and read the reviews on google or checkatrade etc not just the testimonials on the company website. 

If you have whittled it down to two but are struggling to choose between them invite another to quote. Be nosy. You are spending thousands of pounds so it is not rude to want to feel secure in your choice. Ask questions about how they work. How many projects will they run concurrently? Do they have sufficient staff or subcontractors in their pool to fulfil that workload? Will they promise to remain on site until your job is complete? Can they guarantee an estimated finish date and what is the procedure if they need to extend the deadline? What about their aftercare policy? Can they put you in touch with past clients for a review? If they are confident in their level of service and client satisfaction they will.

 

Get Organised

If you can, take some time off work particularly if you are project managing tradespeople yourself. Thinking about the million and one decisions and troubleshooting problems can really cloud your mind and slow you down. Make a list of questions or anything you are unsure about write down in a project folder or notebook, or even on the wall so you can add to it as the job progresses and tick things off when resolved. There’s no hiding form a big list in plain sight writ large on the wall. Having a tangible list will help prevent you forgetting things or having to search through emails. If spreadsheets are more your thing, go for it. t’s always good to have a paper trail of your correspondence but beware the email that “went astray”. Ensure you have a proper sit down planning meeting to work through the project and action plan before any physical work starts so that everyone’s expectations are clear.

Drawings

On smaller projects it can be tempting to skip floorplans and elevations but they are absolutely invaluable essentials. Even the most rudimentary of hand sketches is better than nothing. You might have agreed something with one person but can you be sure they have communicated it correctly to the trades on site? If it is all being stored inside someone’s head, your project is in trouble. Insist on drawings before any work begins. With the best plan in the world there will almost always be some changes that arise on site, but these can always be added to the drawings (and dated) so that everybody knows what is going on.

 

Look after your trades

Being a tradesman is hard graft. Everyone likes to feel appreciated in the workplace and a little goodwill goes a long way. Having the builders in can start to feel like you are running a cafe after a while though, especially if there’s a big team. If you are busy, automate the tea and coffee with a designated tray of goodies by the kettle and invite them all to feel welcome using it.

 

 Photo by  jesse orrico  on  Unsplash

Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

Look After Yourself

All the standard self-care advice for elevating mood applies here. Be kind to yourself and your partner for the duration and put tension down to the challenging circumstances construction can create. The symptoms of stress can be anything from a low mood or energy, short temper, muddy thoughts, overwhelm and nightmares to a heavy chest, shortness of breath, insomnia, teeth grinding and anxiety to name just a few. Practice mindfulness, do your favourite exercise, read a book, socialise with friends and get out in to nature to keep up your resilience to stress, reduce its impact and better cope with the strain. 

 

Set Boundaries

If you work from home you will already know how enjoyable a good old chat is whenever you see another adult. However; it is important to be explicit that you are ‘going to work now’, particularly if you don't have a separate office or shed to work in, or you may end up in a longwinded discussions or be frequently interrupted. Consider renting a space for the short term or hot-desking so you can escape and remain productive.

 

Leave Early

If you need to go out ensure you start saying your goodbyes half an hour earlier than you actually need to leave, otherwise you can guarantee that the moment the plumber or spark has your attention you will suddenly be needed to make thirteen decisions about details which will take at least twenty more minutes. Often this might be due to minute details not being arranged in advance. It can be tempting to simply sneak off without fanfare to avoid this, but then you risk delaying the project or being unnecessarily interrupted on the phone while you are out. If possible check in with the team at the start of each day so that you can iron out any queries then. If you have a project manager then a weekly inspection and update meeting may be sufficient, assuming progress is steady and everything in hand.

 

Children and SEND

Noise, strangers in the house, change, disrupted routine and not knowing when it will end can all be very difficult for young children to understand and cope with, particularly those with additional needs. Prepare them as best as you can with picture cards or visual timetables. Anticipate that the chaos may cause flare ups in challenging behaviour so that you can feel understanding and tolerant of and prepared for any tantrums.

 Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Disputes

You the customer are always right (even when you’re not) and when you are spending thousands of pounds with a company or individual you can expect to be treated as such. If you’re unhappy or unsure about the quality of any of the work don’t wait until the end to raise concerns. Remember everybody is human and makes mistakes, as long as they are actively and genuinely trying to solve problems there is no need to be obnoxious. Act promptly as soon as you spot anything that troubles you, because waiting can mean having to undo work in order fix a mistake. Say it with a smile before it gets to the stage where you can only say it through gritted teeth, and hopefully it won't reach the point where you have to cry and stamp your feet in order to be heard.

Should the worst happen and work is not carried out to the required standard and nothing is being done about it, particularly if you have a concern about safety, the Building Control department at your local council can advise. In certain circumstances they should be informed of the works at your property either by you or the people working for you anyway, so do check. If you also feel your consumer rights are not being respected then you can always consult Citizens Advice Bureau, seek legal advice or if things get really ugly use a professional mediator.

 

 

Don’t be put off!

For all the horror stories there are plenty of fantastically skilled, caring, competent and civilised Women’s-Hour-listening, Earl-Grey-drinking builders who will be a pleasure to have in your home and even sign for your parcels. You might even miss them when they are gone! But to avoid feeling like you cant wait for them to leave or put Watchdog/Rogue Traders on speed dial, take a look on the Federation of Master Builders directory and see who you can find in your area. That extension or new kitchen will be worth it in the end.

If you want help with planning your interior design in advance of renovating then you can book a design consultation in your home or learn how to do it yourself at one of my regular Interior Design Masterclasses in Bristol.

If you have already been through the process is there any advice you would give yourself, with the glorious benefit of hindsight, before going through a house build or renovation? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

 

 

 

How to have fun with your fifth wall
 Photo by  Maros Fecik  on  Unsplash

Photo by Maros Fecik on Unsplash

Leaving the ceiling white is absolutely the status quo when it comes to decorating. Occasionally my advice to paint ceilings even a pale off-white, is met with shock and surprise, but to a designer’s mind leaving the ceiling white is just that: leaving it.

Increasingly known as ‘the fifth wall’, ceilings are all too often forgotten about despite being just as large a surface as the floor. The convention is to use the lightest paint on the upper reaches of rooms which makes sense when you think of the sky being above us. A white ceiling presiding over a scheme that does not include a significant amount of pure white however can make for a very stark contrast, so my usual advice would be to opt instead for a pale neutral or off-white with undertones that match the rest of the scheme. Little Greene even categorise their paints as warm whites and cool whites, none of which look very ‘white’. This is where we enter the territory of wedding-dress-white paint names like Oyster, Ivory, Platinum, Alabaster, Pearl, even Dover Cliffs and Bone White. Viewed against white paper or card even the palest of these will look strong or even dark, but in the context of a decorative scheme and placed up high on a ceiling, these paints will read as white, and with careful choosing, The Right White. There’s nothing so much fun as ripping up the rule book of course. Painting a ceiling the same colour as the walls, particularly when they are dark, is a great way to erase the ‘horizon’ line between the two planes, tricking the eye into perceiving the space as larger or taller than it really is. Rich colours, patterns, wallpapers, textures and high gloss finishes are all valid choices for ceilings, and if you don’t believe me take a look at my Pinterest board called Fifth Wall Fun to see if you change your mind, and possibly your ceiling!

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/zoehewettdesign/fifth-wall-fun/

 Photo by  Yiran Ding  on  Unsplash

Photo by Yiran Ding on Unsplash

Terrazzo: Interior Trend of The Year 2018

It may horrify some readers to know that the 1970s has been hotly tipped to make a comeback this year.  Personally I am quite excited as there is really lots to love about the decade that style forgot. With dubious colour combinations that you know you shouldn’t really like but secretly do abit, curvy graphic wallpapers, macrame, bamboo and rattan, there’s lots of scope for reimagining the style in new ways. My favourite decorative element has to be Terrazzo though. 

 Photo by  Tj Kolesnik  on  Unsplash

Photo by Tj Kolesnik on Unsplash

If you are not too sure what I am talking about just check out this delightful pup who has somehow managed to style himself and his bed perfectly on top of this yellow ochre example. Used on floors and sometimes walls, terrazzo is the artful arranging and setting of marble or stone chips into cement, followed by laborious grinding and polishing to create a quality finish. It pre-dates the 1970s by about half a century of course, but when the technique of using resin instead of cement was developed in the 70s, it became easier to produce and has been associated with the period ever since. Granite, glass, metals and quartz offcuts and chips can all be used, giving it reasonable environmental credentials with this possibility for waste recycling. It is not easy to achieve at home as a DIY project, and bespoke poured terrazzo does not come cheap, but there are tiles and slabs ‘in the style of‘ available. If you don't mind your soft furnishings resembling hard, cold floors, you can now even find terrazzo patterns printed on to cushions and duvet covers (I told you it was trendy)! Take a look at some of my favourite examples below (all from Pinterest).

Terrazzo Moodboard

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How To Become an Interior Designer
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Every month I am inundated with CVs and requests for work experience placements so I thought it worth sharing some top tips for any aspiring designers.

Interior Design looks like a jolly and glamorous vocation; faffing around with fabrics and plumping cushions all day. But making places beautiful is such a popular past time that competition is tough when it comes to turning that passion into a job.

Often, people expect to be able to just decide to become interior designers overnight despite having no prior experience or qualifications, probably because it looks like an easy and enjoyable job. But the truth is that in interior design, like all design professions,  there is a proper process to follow that requires certain skills and its not all just instinct. It has to meet a specific design brief, it has to work practically, it has to be within the client’s budget and it has to happen on time.

Interior design attracts a lot of career changers, usually women, who have achieved a certain level of professional experience in another field and perhaps already renovated a property of their own. Anyone switching to interior design from another creative area such as textile design will of course be at a huge advantage. Having ‘taste’ and enthusiasm isn’t enough, as it is a skilled profession that also requires excellent people and communication skills, empathy, sensitivity, diplomacy and discretion. Then there is the management of money, orders, deliveries, schedule of works, last minute changes and problem solving to deal with, so an organised and practical mind and compulsive list making is a must.

If you are serious about interior design, the most important skill that underpins all design work in any field is drawing. It is essential that you can visually communicate your ideas to both clients and tradespeople. This means drawing and sketching in both 2D and 3D perspective, and if you can do this on computer as well as by hand you will go far. Visualisation is also key, being able to imagine a finished room inside your mind’s eye, then committing this vision to presentation boards well before getting started on the walls. 

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Designers need spatial awareness and be able to think three-dimensionally too. Understanding how things are made is vital, in order to be able to correctly specify construction of bespoke wardrobes and shelving for example. So prior to studying interior design, spending a year doing an Art Foundation course would be absolutely invaluable - exploring and trying out a variety of different creative practices from painting and sculpture to graphics, product design, textiles, photography and printing. Gaining understanding of different periods in architecture and accompanying decorative styles and art history is also essential, as it will help you to be verse in visual language. For example, a bentwood chair will have very different associations from an upholstered armchair with ball and claw feet, as will purple velvet and hessian or burlap, and you have to know what each ‘means’ in order to know how / where to use it appropriately. You can use it inappropriately as well of course, but only once you know the rules; the styles, the conventions.

A passion for, or at least a genuine interest in art and design in general is essential. ‘Je ne sais quoi', or a certain originality or artistry that just cannot be taught would be advantageous too, so you will have to find and develop your own ‘flavour’. A specialism can be useful in making you stand out as different, passionate and interesting too, whether its lighting, or hand painting furniture, or something else!

The best way to get started is by simply having a good go, either in your own home or for imaginary people on paper. Creating a visual portfolio is the best way to demonstrate your abilities, as it will be a much more indicative companion to your CV.

I hope that helps! Unfortunately there are no vacancies or work experience opportunities with Stylemongers Of Bristol at present, but if ever any come up, they will be announced on social media. Thanks for reading xx

 Interior Design Studio: Stylemongers Of Bristol

Interior Design Studio: Stylemongers Of Bristol

Where to look for (unexpected) Interiors Inspiration
 Photo by Paul Morris -  Unsplash

Photo by Paul Morris - Unsplash

Looking at picture perfect interiors all day long sounds like fun, but even the nicest of jobs can become fatiguing in its own way. The painstakingly positioned furnishings and flowers, the contrived tastefulness, the obscene luxury. It can get a bit formulaic and dull. So being nutty about interiors of all kinds, and wanting to keep things fresh, I follow a variety of different instagram accounts, and some of my favourite are actually those of Urbex Photographers, where the interiors are very imperfect indeed.

For anyone unfamiliar with the term (also known as Ruin Porn), it is short for Urban Exploration; the hobby of brave souls possessed of a sometimes morbid fascination with empty and decaying spaces. They roam, usually in small groups, occasionally illegally, through deserted asylums, hospitals, factories, theatres, prisons, palaces and sewers the world over. When nature takes over forgotten architecture, the effect is mesmerising. There is something undeniably compelling, if not creepy, about places once populated by many people that now lie empty. Corridors are the worst, and rooms with chairs or medical equipment left behind. These rooms are like the Marie Rose of the built environment. An unfinished story, abruptly abandoned halfway through, leaving a sense of mystery. Browsing images of peeling paint, flapping wallpaper, flooded floors, dusty chandeliers, disarranged parquets, and creeping ivy throttling once-opulent staircases, is probably not the most common of pastimes, but if this curious habit has any appeal then try @violent_crumble @thireyephoto @the-decay-photographie @maria.urbex.photography @jamiebettsphoto @nik8photo and @richkern for a good old spooky scroll! 

 

Upholstery and Trains
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If you are not a regular user of Bristol’s Redland railway station, chances are you will have no idea that the old ticket building on the platform is the unexpected home of upholstery duo Hamilton & Hodson. Nicky and Erica, as they are also known, have created a delightful studio inside the old waiting room where they lay out rolls of material along the original bench seats. The long, narrow building lends itself very well to the different stages of upholstery work, as simply by closing the doors between each section of the space, sawdust and varnish are safely isolated from their beautiful selection of finishing-touch fabrics and trims. There is something appropriate about the train building that suits the hands-on activities going on inside, of making and repairing tangible things with a variety of tools. Upholstery is an old skill, and a great way to prolong the life of an item of furniture, so it is almost unsurprising that Nicky once reupholstered a Queen Anne wing arm chair from 1710. If you have an heirloom piece that needs reviving, or fancy giving upholstery a try, Hamilton & Hodson can help as alongside their services they run evening classes and one day workshops. Check out their site for more details:  http://hamiltonandhodson.co.uk

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Zoe HewettComment
Pantone Colour Of The Year 2018: Ultraviolet
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While the year is still young I thought I’d write about the Pantone Colour of The Year, as you are soon to be seeing a lot of it. Each year the Pantone Colour Institute chooses one colour from their repertoire of 5000 different shades that they feel encapsulates the prevailing current mood. The colour zeitgeist if you will. Pantone take into account current affairs, politics, trends in culture and the arts combined with colour psychology and history, before making their forecasting decision. ‘Ultra Violet’ follows 2017’s ‘Greenery’, a year in home interiors when plants were everywhere to be seen. So we can now expect instead to see blue toned purples creeping in to interior accessory ranges, and right across the spectrum of design; from fashion, products and technologies to branding and corporate identities. Purple or Ultraviolet have long been associated with counterculture, non-conformity and creative genius (Prince, Hendrix to name just two who flew the flag for purple), besides the mystical and spiritual. Leatrice Eiseman the Creative Director of Pantone says “We are living in a time that requires inventiveness and imagination. It is this kind of creative inspiration that is indigenous to Ultra Violet …. that takes our awareness and potential to a higher level. From exploring new technologies to a greater galaxy, to artistic expression and spiritual reflection intuitive Ultra Violet lights the way to what is yet to come.” Are you inspired to use the hue in your home? If so please do share your pics with us on instagram using the hashtag #mybristolhome!

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How To Live With A Designer Without Killing Them - Book Review
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My sense of self preservation is strong. So for Christmas, I gave my partner a copy of ‘How To Live With a Designer Without Killing Them’. Written by Alan Long, creative director at a London design consultancy, after his wife kept telling their friends how awful he was to live with, I knew it was going to be essential reading for our household. As Long points out, we designers are not ordinary people. 

It has been useful to read the particular ways in which we are extraordinary (read: really quite annoying). I chuckled, chortled then cringed at every page, in recognition of my possessing almost all the classic 'designery' traits that apparently drive other people mad (back in my Scenic days my assistant would often roll her eyes and say "Oh Zo, you're so designery")!

I can’t say I’ll ever change my ways, but at least I now know which ways offend, and my partner knows that these ways are, frankly, innate. There are no scientifically proven, tried and tested methods suggested for coping with the stress of cohabiting with a designer in this book. Instead, our best and (mostly) worst qualities are clearly defined, and illustrated with lovely sketches. For example, perfectionism in arranging and organising things; cooking according to the most aesthetically pleasing colour palette rather than the actual recipe (especially frustrating for the scientist looking over my shoulder); obsessive use of pencils, an unnatural love of Apple products and extreme hatred for the font Comic Sans.

Identifying our idiosyncrasies in this way may help us reign in our pedantry from time to time and encourage acceptance and tolerance from others. Here’s hoping!

‘How To Live With a Designer Without Killing Them’ is available from Amazon priced £7.99

How To Decorate for Christmas without costing the Earth!
 Image: Zoe Hewett Interiors

Image: Zoe Hewett Interiors

Bristol is known for its green credentials, so we don't want our Christmas interiors to let us down. Christmas and sustainability are not likely bedfellows but there are plenty of ways to decorate without costing the earth. Paper remains my favourite material for festive folderol. It is so versatile, available in every colour, texture, pattern and finish imaginable, and the sculptural possibilities are endless. From the simplest paper chain to the most complex origami stars and filigree-like cutouts, there are a million and one ways with paper in both DIY and off-the-shelf options. Vintage decorations that can be reused for as long as they are carefully handled and stowed win maximum green Christmas points, as do homemade dough doodahs and even the metal shape cutters for a bit of shine. Nature’s trimmings, literally, provide the best trimmings swagging over mantles and bannisters. For the traditionalists only a Christmas tree will do, but bear in mind that artificial trees are a no-no unless they are old and getting a lot of repeat use. The oldest of these can be made from questionable and toxic materials though. If the idea of chopping down living trees every year seems daft, you might like to hire a potted one. The Bristol Bike Project and Cotswold Fir are offering a selection of live trees for pedal powered delivery or collection from Hamilton House on Stokes Croft, daily between 1st and 23rd December. Simply log on to www.rentalclaus.com to book. Merry Christmas!

Scandinavian Style, Bristol Style

Theres a new kid on the interiors block on Gloucester Road. Turning one this month, Stîl Homeware is bringing Scandinavian style to the high street, situated in in fashion boutique Fox & Feather as a concession. Scandinavian chic is a hugely popular decorative style with its natural materials, simple clean lines, muted colour palette and graphic monochrome accents. So I caught up with owners Clare and Lola to find out what inspired them to branch out into interiors.

What motivated you to open Stil?

Our backgrounds combine fashion, visual merchandising, and styling for film and T.V. We have always had a love of homeware and a passion for interior design, so it seemed like the right move!

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I love the little house, or should I say circumflex, on your logo. How did you come up with the name?

Stîl means style in Danish. We thought this fitted in well with our Scandinavian feel... 

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The selection of products in store is beautifully curated and there range is huge from kitchen ware to hanging planters and pictures. How do you decide what to buy in?

Our mission is to sell beautifully designed, quality products that will fit into any interior due to their timeless quality and style. We have a mix of brands from all over Europe and the U.K, with a strong emphasis on Scandinavian design. Selfishly, we basically buy what we love! But also what we feel can fit into many interiors due to it’s classic design, or neutral colour scheme. 

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What’s next for Stil? 

We have some gorgeous new brands coming into the store and we hope to expand our range of products, we now stock rugs! 

Any hints on forthcoming products to look out for? 

Watch this space.....! After all, with Christmas approaching fast the store will be have to be packed full of goodies! 

Shop in store or online at https://www.foxandfeather.co.uk/collections/stil-homeware 

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Get cracking for Christmas!
 Image credit: Irene Van Der Poel 

Image credit: Irene Van Der Poel 

How early is too early to start discussing Christmas? As most store owners will have ordered in their Christmas stock at the height of summer, hopefully the end of September won’t seem too offensive. The spirit of local High Street shopping is community focussed and often something of an antidote to the giants of retail that start the silly season before the last fireworks of Bonfire Night have fizzled out. As a result it isn't uncommon for indies to shun introducing Christmas to stores until as ‘late’ as 1st December. 

Whenever you choose to succumb to Christmas, if you haven’t yet started planning your festive windows and in-store displays then now is absolutely the time. Here’s a few ideas to get you started. 

Stand out with unusual colour schemes

Red and green is THE traditional Christmas combo, but there are a many more that signify the season just as effectively. Layers of whites, with perhaps a hint of sparkle, is perhaps the second most common sort of snowy Christmas colour scheme. Gold or silver are obvious contenders too. Orange would be an unusual choice that could work well, being evocative of clove stuffed orange pomanders, or indeed the real thing. Navy blue and white is a smart combination that is reminiscent of a clear, wintery, starry night sky. Luxurious purple with gold is decadent, slightly frivolous and richly festive. For a contemporary and fun feel, try a variation on the traditional red and green theme by using hot pink and turquoise with white.

 

Less or More

Sometimes more is more, sometimes less is more, but half way in between will always look half-hearted. So whether you choose to go minimal with a graphic, simple design or maximal with a jam-packed window, make sure you really go for it to get the most impact from your visual statement.

 

Cheap and cheerful 

To keep on top of your VM budget, you could raid the loft for vintage decorations and toy collections, that might have been forgotten about, to make a unique and delightfully nostalgic display. Another advantage of reusing like this is avoiding buying new decorations, which are not always produced in the most long-lasting or environmentally friendly way.

If you already have a go-to stash of Christmas display goodies, you can certainly reuse them each year (or every other on rotation to avoid repetition) but by pairing with something different, borrowed or new you can make make fresh schemes each time.

 images from Pinterest - click to view my VM inspiration boards

images from Pinterest - click to view my VM inspiration boards

 

Trash the tinsel

Even with the most careful handling, tinsel doesn't often last well for repeated use. Made from plastic nowadays, unless it can be reused multiple times it is an environmental no-no. Every bit as bad as that, it is also the laziest most obvious way to say Christmas in a store. But life is too short to go without a little sparkle altogether, so consider other ways to introduce shimmer and shine. Biodegradable glitter, confetti and sequins all now exist to make the world a better place. Shiny metal cookie cutters in star or tree shapes and so on are also brilliant, inexpensive and reusable.

 

Go Trad

Real life greenery is utterly charming, authentically traditional and can be used in endless ways to make a display. Fill a window with fronds, use branches to make a dress for a mannequin, suspend branches and dangle decorations or products from it, hang a selection of leaves with different coloured ribbons, the choice is yours. Biodegradable to boot, you won’t have a guilty conscience, and you’ll certainly turn heads. 

 

Tropicalise your Home
Zoe Hewett Interiors Cheeseplant.JPG

House plants are having quite a moment in the interiors world. From the jungalicious, bohemian style of The Jungalow, from Los Angeles based blogger Justina Blakeney, to the tropical designs of 2016 Great Interior Design Challenge winner Black Parrots Studio, houseplants are now so popular they even have their own Instagram hashtag, #plantsofinstagram.

Zoe Hewett Interiors Monstera.JPG

 

When the Affordable Art Fair invited me recently to style the Talks Lounge at their Bristol exhibition, providing me with a green sofa as the starting point, I could not resist going with a tropical, botanical story (with a touch of ‘canyon’ on the cushions).

Zoe Hewett Interiors Monstera Painting.JPG

As the event was held at the enormous Passenger Shed at Temple Meads Station, there was an opportunity to play with scale in a way that doesn't ordinarily happen in residential interiors, so I hand-painted a large fabric wall-hanging with oversized monstera leaves and dangling vines.

Boho Canyon Cushions.JPG

Nothing quite beats the real thing of course, so Gloucester Road’s newest store, Wild Leaf, kindly loaned an absolutely fantastic selection of tropical and arid plants, which really brought this fun little project to life. If you’d like a feeling of warmer climes all year round, pay Wild Leaf a visit to see what would best suit you and your home. 

www.instagram.com/wildleafbristol

If you would like to commission a hand painted wall hanging or canvas for your home please email to arrange a chat!

Affordable Art Fair Talks Lounge.JPG
Create a Balanced Colour Scheme with Confidence
Zoe Hewett Interiors Blue Yellow Moodboard.JPG

Crating a balanced interior scheme that uses strong colour can be challenging and daunting, especially if you remember some of the lurid hues of Changing Rooms back in the 1990s. Many of my clients want a colourful home but lack the confidence to go really for it so I thought I’d share one way to guarantee success. 

Very few interior designers will use a colour wheel to devise their schemes, as they should have either an innate sense of colour or enough experience to know what works well, but there is no shame in using the wheel and a little colour theory to help give you confidence. Complimentary colours sit opposite each other on the colour wheel, which you can easily look up online or buy from an art or craft shop (your local independent one of course).

The secret to success is to vary the intensity of the colours, so that they are not all shouting at the same ‘volume’, as that can be fatiguing. If using yellow, you might prefer a quiet, pale yellow on the larger surfaces, and to confine the louder yellows, or pops of purple to smaller accessories, for example. Or you might want blue to dominate in which case you can use a variety of different blues of varying strengths, textures, patterns and finishes, with a few punches of orange dotted around the space. Whichever colour pair you choose, a complimentary scheme will always be balanced because there will be a colour from the ‘warm’ half of the wheel and one from the ‘cool’ side, every time. Of course you can bend the rules a little by picking a shade so close to its neighbouring colour that it is almost on the dividing line between the two, for example a bluey-purple (instead of a straight up purple) with a yellow that could have either a tint of green or a tint of orange.

Happy colouring!

Zoe Hewett Interiors Colour Choosing.JPG
Eye Level Is Buy Level

Making life easy for shoppers is one of the most effective ways to encourage sales. Shelves or hooks on walls are one of the easiest ways to display products, so take advantage of the verticals in your store with these pointers.

 

Stretch Level - 180cm and above

Most shoppers will not often bother to look up to the higher shelves, unless they are really searching hard for a product (although ideally you don't want them to have to do this, by making everything clear), or the items displayed up high are truly eye catching. As these shelves are difficult for many shoppers to reach, they will of course be shopped from less often. So the Visual Merchandising convention is to place premium products with higher margins up here. This way, when products do sell from the top, they earn and pay for space on the shelf, even if they sit there for a longer time.

Common sense dictates that heavy or breakable items should not be displayed up high, as they will be more likely to cause injury if an overstretched arm reaches up and knocks something off or loses grip. The last thing you want is bulky objects falling on to customers from height. From an aesthetic point of view, visually heavy or dark coloured items are less successfully displayed up high, because they can make shelves look top heavy. Shelves are more appealing to look at when dressed with dark and bulky items at the bottom, gradually getting lighter as the shelves go up. 

Eye Level - 122cm - 152cm

Eye Level is Buy Level, or so the saying goes. This is one of the most basic principles of Visual Merchandising. As this area is easiest for adult shoppers to browse, it will receive significantly more attention from shoppers than product in the other zones. If you have an abundance of a product you want to shift, or a line or collection you want to showcase, this is the ideal spot for it. 

 

Touch Level - 90cm - 120cm

It isn’t rocket science to say that products placed in this area will be most easily seen and desired by children. If your business doesn't sell anything for little youngsters, then use these lower shelves for items in the next margin bracket down from this in the eye level zone. Products with detailed instructions or particulars on the packaging can be well placed here, as it is easy for customers to pick them up to scrutinise.

Stoop Level - 90cm and under

Bending down to pick up items placed near the floor can be a pain for some groups of shoppers, particularly the elderly or those with certain disabilities. Generally, products with lower margins are best placed on these lower shelves, so that bestsellers and merchandise with better margins are given the premium eye level position. It is also worth mentioning that less mobile customers and wheelchair users may often need a little extra help from store assistants, no matter how conveniently things are placed on shelves. So its always worth encouraging staff to be sensitive to their needs and quick to step in to offer good service. You can have the most beautiful shop display in the world but it is nothing without the support of staff to make it shoppable and accessible to all. 

Explore #mybristolhome with the new Instagram hashtag for Bristol homes

According to my partner, I have an addiction to Instagram. As a self-confessed passionate interiors enthusiast (obsessive) I fear it may be true. Slightly different from other social media platforms, the visual nature of Instagram has made it a happy place for fans of interior design. 

 Clockwise from top left: @kylamagrathinteriors @freelancemum01 @house_of_wards @zohewettinteriors

Clockwise from top left: @kylamagrathinteriors @freelancemum01 @house_of_wards @zohewettinteriors

The option to use hashtags to collect photos with particular themes together into searchable groups, and chain-like, pass-it-on style games, has made it a fun and friendly place to be online. Businesses are launched, collaborations made, competition prizes won, communities built and real life, offline friendships forged. Bristol is a game city full of interesting people, so I thought their interiors should have their fifteen minutes of insta-fame (and not only so that I can be nosey and snoop around them all from the comfort of my sofa, honest). A few months ago I launched the hashtag #mybristolhome as a way to collect together and celebrate the variety of home interiors across our beloved city. Gradually more people are playing along and sharing snaps of their homes, and as you might expect from such a vibrant place there isn’t a bland beige shot in sight. So have a scroll through #mybristolhome and please do feel welcome to join in and share your favourite corner with us all in the instafam! 

 www.instagram.com/kylamagrathinteriors

www.instagram.com/kylamagrathinteriors

This post was originally written for Bishopston Voice magazine. 

Zoe HewettComment
How to design a child's bedroom
Zoe Hewett Interiors Grey Nursery

Despite the trend for using grey in interiors in recent years, it may not be the most obvious choice for a children’s bedroom, and yet it can work. Children’s colourful toys and furniture really pop out against darker hues in an unexpectedly delightful way, but often we shy away from anything more interesting than off-white. It is wise to be wary of creating an over-stimulating environment, particularly when sleep habits during early-years are less than desirable, but there is definitely a case for using rich, deep colours. They are ideal for creating cosseting, cosy spaces. It may seem counter-intuitive to use such a dark grey in a child’s room, but it is anything but depressing when livened up with it’s natural colour-partner, yellow, along with a zingy blue and purple. The dark walls, ceiling and blackout-lined curtains here aid daytime napping, and also make for a fantastic sensory room when all the colour changing lights are switched on. Using pattern only sparingly, this room aims not to be too bedazzling, and pointedly avoids any cartoon characters on the furnishings. Decorating can be disruptive, and no one wants to be making big or expensive changes every time a growing child acquires a new passion. Parents are also allowed to enjoy the surroundings too, so there is no harm in choosing paints and papers that can be pleasurable for everyone to look at, and will grow with the child to some extent. Choosing a gender neutral colour scheme is also a good idea, as you never know, there might be a new sibling to share the same space later on.

Zoe Hewett Interiors Nursery Bed

Aside from colour, there are plenty of practical points to consider in order to create a successful children’s bedroom scheme. Although a futon atop a Japanese tatami mat for the bed means the room is missing out on an obvious storage opportunity, it suits the inhabitant of this space who has difficulty climbing and is prone to falling out of bed. Ordinarily though, cabin, bunk and trundle drawer beds are perfect for double-duty sleeping and storage, especially in smaller spaces.

Storage for toys and clothes is obviously essential. It can be useful to have shelving options high up out of reach, to house things that require adult supervision, such as paints and felt tips, keeping the lower, accessible shelves for less troublesome items. Anything that encourages easy tidying is a good idea, and in this instance there are simple trugg buckets, the contents of which will no doubt change every so often, in line with the evolving interests of the occupant. Wardrobe units can often be imposing so here they have been painted the same colour as the walls, and even look at first glance as though they have been built in to the alcove, keeping the ‘visual noise’ down. The household bedlinen and towels are also stowed here, making excellent use of the storage facility which would otherwise be overkill for most small people’s clothing collections.

Zoe Hewett Interiors Nursery Gallery

Customising furniture, whether an old vintage gem or new from Ikea, is always a lovely way to add a unique touch to any room. This interior is home to a few upcycled items including a chest of drawers given new handles and a vibrant lick of paint using leftovers from previous furniture projects, home-made upcycled headboards (using a duvet and leftover curtain fabric) to soften the bed corner, and a giant old picture frame covered in fabric scraps. Little ones are never too young to make or appreciate art, so the gallery wall is a combination of family photos, keepsakes and old charity shop finds, and is easy to change up by swapping kids’ art or postcards from grandparents in to the frames.

 

The Power of Paper: Greener Visual Merchandising

Developing a Corporate Social Responsibility plan might seem like a tall order for many independent retailers. But CSR is not just for the big boys in business, and can help even the smallest of businesses become more environmentally and financially sustainable. Visual Merchandising is the perfect area of business for retailers of all sizes to start streamlining, because displays are rarely used twice. Creating new props, set pieces and baffles from plastic or foamex every season is becoming increasingly irresponsible, and is certainly not cost-effective for smaller stores.

Committing to reducing the use of disposable plastic is just one step that all businesses should now be taking to reduce their carbon footprint. Fortunately there are plenty of sustainable alternatives to plastic for making impressive window spectacles.

Paper is the single most virtuous of materials for making window displays. The ultimate renewable resource, paper is incredibly versatile and available in myriad different textures, patterns and finishes. You can paint it. You can punch holes in it. From the simplest bunting to complex origami, the possibilities for design with paper are literally endless. 

Paper can also be very cheap or even free to source. Reusing and repurposing old magazines, newspapers, maps, music sheets and so on will always win extra ‘green’ points, as will using recycled paper. These types of paper will not suit every brand or window story of course, so the next best place to find paper is your local scrap store. They may have larger scale off cuts or end of line rolls of different papers for you to fashion into decorative displays without leaving a big environmental footprint.

The easiest way to use paper to make a design statement is to cut out simple shapes from a template and suspend them in the windows, ideally using clear nylon thread. Inaccurately or roughly cut shapes will instantly look unprofessional of course, so take care or delegate to someone with patience. With this kind of display more is usually more, so make plenty. 

To tap into the sculptural potential of paper you can experiment with folding, fringing, curving and curling - simply run the edge or a ruler or scissor blade along a strip of paper like a florist curling ribbon. Secure shapes with staples, staple pliers, double sided tape, sticky pads, or glue. Play with light and shadow by punching or cutting holes or other shapes to the paper, adding a further layer or detail to your display.

Construct larger shapes or even set pieces using boxes or rolled-up wadges of corrugated card (sourced from your own empty delivery boxes of course). Cover with paper maché which is, in case it has been a long time since you did this at primary school, simply a mixture of paper and glue that applied to cardboard shapes to make a hard surface. You can texture it too by adding sand, rice, lentils or textiles depending on what you are trying to achieve. For a smoother finish, layer it up neatly, and lacquer it with water-based acrylic varnish for a glossy effect. 

If you still need convincing that paper is better for your windows than plastic there is plenty of inspiration to be found on my Pinterest Board.

 

How to VM (and actually sell) ugly products

Showcasing your actual product stock in your shop windows is the most cost-effective way to create a window display. It signals unambiguously and efficiently to customers exactly what can be found in store, but not all retailers are blessed with selling pretty products that easily make great window displays. This makes visual merchandising much more tricky for purveyors of the more humdrum, everyday essentials that are unremarkable, or even ugly, to look at. The last thing you want to do as a small business is go to the trouble of making a banal window display that is easily overlooked or, conversely, spend a lot of money on specially made props and set pieces to compensate for the unattractiveness of the products. Luckily, with a little creativity and imagination there are several ways to make a resourceful and striking display, even with using the most dull items.

It can be tempting to show off everything you sell in the window, particularly if you stock many and varied product lines, but this usually leads to a messy melange. Less is usually more when selecting product varieties for a display, to keep the message clear, concise and give it a curated look. If you think of a window display as a theatre stage, ordinarily there would be one star of the show, and a supporting cast. So use this metaphor to help you choose one product to be the focal point of your shop’s show. Give this one pride of place, centre stage. The leading role is nothing without the help of his or her supporting actors, so pick another two products (maximum) to make up the rest of the cast. Display these around the main character, making sure the emphasis is on the star. 

Another visual merchandising technique that has great impact is repetition. Although an under used device in window displays, repetition can be very effective at attracting attention. Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup Tins are a great Pop Art example of this. It is worth emulating and very easy to achieve whether you sell soup, scissors, spanners or shoes. Simply choose one product and display duplicates of it, adding nothing else to avoid diluting the potency of the image. If the same product is available in different colour variations then creating a kaleidoscopic rainbow effect is just as good as using one colour throughout. Another variation on this technique is to use all one colour except for just one box or item in a different colour. There are multiple ways to install the products from suspending on string or clear thread, or stacking up to placing on shelves or plinths. The best and easiest display method may depend on the type of product you choose, and whether you keep it boxed or unboxed. Every month or 6 weeks you can simply choose another item to repeat throughout the window, and hopefully get people wondering about what you will choose to show next time.

The third way to make a virtue of ugly product displays is to set a scene and tell a story, because this is what really gets people talking. If you can make people laugh, you are definitely on to a winner. For example, a store selling household products could stack up packets of toilet paper rolls, and unwrap and unroll a quantity of the rolls to make a deliberate, carefully placed mess - as if the dog or kids have created chaos then disappeared. A witty caption could be written on to the window, or a series of doggy footprints on the floor. This would be enough to help explain the scene and hint at the story, as opposed to just leaving a pile of unexplained loo roll everywhere.

This sort of humorous ‘whodunnit’ style tableaux can also work with a pyramid stack of tins or boxes that has been partially knocked over by a mystery pet / child / elf / etc that has disappeared leaving just a clue to their guilt. Simply change the stacked items and the clumsy character to change the story. Pyramid stacks are not overly practical in small shops for obvious safety reasons, and have long been the source of calamity jokes on TV adverts.  However, there is no harm in referencing this in window displays, particularly where customers can’t reach them to get hurt or damage your stock.

You may well think of better stories and ideas that are more appropriate to your particular brand. If cashflow does not permit getting a freelance Visual Merchandiser onboard, you can always get your staff involved with brainstorming and installing the ideas, which will have the added bonus of making them feel valued provided you reward their contributions. 

*This article written by Zoe Hewett first appeared on www.modernretail.co.uk*