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* 

How to hang a Gallery Wall at home

Child's bedroom designed by Zoe Hewett Interiors 

Child's bedroom designed by Zoe Hewett Interiors 

Gallery walls have been gaining popularity for some time and Pinterest is now full of templates and tutorials for achieving aesthetically pleasing arrangements. The beauty of hanging artwork salon-style (making full use of the space available on a given wall, like the French Salon) is that there is really no need to be precious. When displaying a single picture, we have a tendency to hang too high to properly enjoy, and unless it is of large proportions, can often look lost on a big blank wall. Using the whole wall as a canvas for canvasses, and frames, it is possible to combine both valuable and thrifty pieces together, and in a variety of sizes and shapes to create a high impact statement. The sum is greater than the parts. The pieces may be thematically linked, maybe not. There are no hard and fast rules, although there are a few pointers worth bearing in mind. The less space around and between pictures the better, for fewer gaps and a more clustered effect. It is also worth taking guidance from architectural features such as architraves, window frames, sills, shelves or items of furniture placed against walls, to help identify a good starting point and for logical alignment. Position bolder, graphic images higher up so that more detailed works can be more easily appreciated lower down. Consider changing up the contents of the frames now and again, with children’s artwork, scraps of old wallpaper or textiles, postcards, photographs, charity shop finds, heirloom oils - anything goes. If at first you don't have enough pictures to hang a large selection, even better. Just place what you have so far clustered cosily together, then enjoy gradually growing your collection organically over time, joyfully sprawling outwards to fill the space with meaningful pieces you truly love.

Gallery Wall in a child's bedroom designed by Zoe Hewett Interiors

Gallery Wall in a child's bedroom designed by Zoe Hewett Interiors

 

 

5 Instant upgrades for your VM that cost under £10

1. Here Comes The Sun

Some stores will be more affected than others by the damage caused by strong sunlight, depending on which side of the street they are located, the direction of the road and the surrounding buildings. But it is worth being alert to this easily avoided problem, especially as it costs nothing. Faded posters and notices quickly make stores look old and neglected. This is no good in the fast paced retail industry where everything needs to constantly look up to date and fresh. Any product displayed in the windows will also be vulnerable to sun damage, so be sure to keep an eye, and rotate displays more frequently if necessary. Even if you markdown ex-display products it will be difficult to sell them at all if they have been baking in the sunlight for too long. Avoid cladding the windows in yellow cellophane at all costs, as it is incredibly dated and obscures the view in to your treasures. Instead, consider delegating to shop assistants a weekly check for any items that need removing or replacing.

2. Don’t get personal

People buy from people, it’s true, but personal clutter on and around the service counter of a shop diminishes professionalism, and can detract from the brand image. The charm of independent stores is that they are unique, so of course it is very important to inject plenty of character into retail premises. However; the place where transactions are carried out should be free from family photos, novelty pens, toys or other personal knick-knacks. It can be difficult to get the balance right between personality and the personal, but generally speaking it is best to avoid resembling cluttered desk booths that have been made cosy by open plan office staff. It can seem over-familiar. The emphasis should be not on you, but on your customer.

3. Quit using blue tack

Although blu tack is a quick and easy way to fix important notices to glass door panes and windows, it is by no means the most attractive option. It can very easily look messy, amateurish and as though no effort has been made to keep a presentable front. Professionally produced window stickers may seem hard to justify when cashflow is slow, or if only a temporary message is required, so a better solution to blu-tack or sellotape is transparent sticky glue dots. Available in permanent or repositionable strength, they are made by Bostik, Pritt and Scotch among others so inexpensive and easy to source. Being clear they won’t clash with any brand colours, and will create a more sophisticated finish than your neighbours still using those ugly blue blobs.

4. Handwriting is an art

Unless you happen to be a keen calligrapher, avoid hand writing notices, as all-too-often they look horribly unprofessional. When you have a quick message write or one-day special offer to promote it can seem like a chore to print out a half-decent sign from the computer. It would be a waste of money to have these professionally printed, and of course hand written signs do have character and charm. However; unless written by someone with truly beautiful handwriting and using a good choice of pen and paper, it is a wasted effort. Scratchy biros and nearly-dead marker pens are not a good look, but if embracing the handwritten would suit your brand then here are some tips to help you succeed. Chalk written messages on blackboards are currently very in vogue, but are also classic so will always look stylish. Available in any size, chalkboards have a place inside and out. The right typography can change the tone of the message to match your brand image. Even the least artistic person can make a beautiful sign by printing out the words needed in the right size to make a template. Cover the back of the paper in chalk, then tape it in position on the board. Draw over the words with a soft tipped pencil to make a transfer of the letters, then remove the paper and fill in the text on the board with map chalk or a chalk pen. If that’s too much bother, delegate it to one of the team, and if chalk doesn’t fit the store image, download and install some suitable free stock fonts from the web to use in making your own DIY printed paper signs. Use the same typefaces to unify your logo, storefront signage, POS graphics and pricing to create a professional, cohesive look. It will be worth the effort.

5. Spring Clean Regime

Spring is great time for maintenance around the home, and shops are no exception. Even if your regular cleaner is committed and conscientious, your shop will love you back after a really deep clean and a thorough maintenance inspection. Go over every square inch with a fine tooth comb looking for wear and tear, and make a list of any dirty, dusty corners, grubby shelves or cabinets, broken light bulbs, out of date info notices, prices, offers, ads etc. Delegate this task if you are too busy, and ensure everything on the list is actioned. It is amazing what grime you can notice when browsing a store as a shopper; details that people who spend everyday in-store would easily miss.  Residue from sticky pads, double sided tape and sky hooks is ugly and always makes stores look particularly unloved, so invest in a bottle of Sticky Stuff Remover, and get rid of all trace as part of your Spring Clean regime. 

 

Cradle to Cradle Lighting Design

It’s no secret that Bristol is an absolute hotbed of creativity and forward thinking, and increasingly we can add design excellence to that list. Bishopston resident Laura Pendlebury is a product designer specialising in unique lights made from old golf clubs, also known as Baffy Nook. With a background in spatial planning and teaching art, Laura has wholeheartedly embraced the ‘cradle to cradle’ approach to design by sourcing her raw materials ethically and sustainably (initially from Bristol homelessness charity Emmaus), and upcycling them into something new. Golf clubs cannot easily be recycled or reprocessed due to the mixed metal content, so repurposing is the best way to rescue them from an eternity in landfill.

Laura’s designs incorporate the entire club, not just parts, which apart from improving the green credentials, also preserves and celebrates the craftsmanship that went in to making the clubs originally. Impressively she personally manufactures each one by hand from the sanding to the welding. Using paints to add punches of colour to some of the clubs, different woods, flexes and shades, no two are the same. These witty and stylish lights have appeal beyond just those in golfing circles. To find out more and brighten up any dark corners in your home, you can browse and buy online at www.baffynook.com 

How To Hygge at Home

Hygge Interior Zoe Hewett

If you are a fan of interiors, you have probably seen the unpronounceable word ‘hygge' or ‘hyggelig' mentioned everywhere over the last year, from instagram to magazines and coffee table tomes. A Danish term for a concept we don’t quite have an equivalent of, it means approximately ‘cosy’. Normally, it is used to describe the warm fuzzy feeling you get when intimately spending quality time with friends, for example. Like any industry fickle enough to succumb to and be influenced by trends, the interiors world has wholeheartedly embraced this delightful image of stylish Scandinavians cosying up under beautiful blankets. The more cynical among us might say this is just another marketing bandwagon aimed at separating consumers from their disposable income, with hygge branded throws, sheepskins, vases and so on. A candle with the word hyggelig printed on it makes a room no more snug than a nameless night-lite, tallow or taper, after all! 

But, to get in the spirit of things, the best way to inject an authentic hygge atmosphere to your home, is to invite close friends around to pass the time together on the last long dark evenings before Spring comes. By all means light the fire if you have one, add plenty of candlelight, textured throws, and a schnapps, bitters or hot chocolate. Or if you find solace in solitude, there is no better way to savour a few quiet moments than curling up with a good read. Transform a quiet corner of your home into an inviting book nook, with a comfortable chair, good reading light, nice warming drink, and a cosy cushion or throw. Use items you already own and cherish with each use, and simply imagine our pre-television Scandinavian counterparts enjoying the Sagas or some other opus, at the cosiest of firesides during seemingly endless winters. You surely can’t get more hygge than that. 

Ten Tips For Creating A Productive Office Or Workspace At Home

INSPIRE yourself with an image of your dream holiday tropical island, or another goal you’re working towards, pinned to your noticeboard.

DECLUTTER your space. Ruthlessly recycle unnecessary pieces of paper. Put old files you don’t need to look at but need to keep just-in-case in the loft or in the cupboard under the stairs. Removing unnecessary ‘visual noise’ will help your focus too.

ORGANISE your work tools, particularly if you’re a creative. Avoid wasting time looking for equipment by making a display out of the tools of your trade with easy-accessible open shelving or peg-boards.

MOTIVATE yourself with a blank canvas. Tidying up yesterday’s work before you can start today’s is an energy drain. Get a smaller desk so you can’t use it as a dumping ground. 

DECREASE the size of your work space to avoid the feeling of work taking over the whole house. Transform a cupboard into a mini office, like a large bureau, and close the door on work both literally and metaphorically when you down tools for the day.

LIGHT your space well, working by the sunniest window in the house or using a daylight lamp, available from craft shops and lighting retailers. Help prevent your eyes becoming fatigued.

COMFORT yourself economically. Try the Dyson Hot heater or similar to avoid heating the entire house when you’re only using a small area. Sitting still for long periods sure gets chilly.

Zoe Hewett Interiors Writers Den

PROTECT your back by sitting actively on a large Pilates ball, air-cushion or wedge. Introduce a higher surface, so you can work standing up for some activities. 

TRAFFIC FLOW Position your workstation on the landing or under the stairs if you don’t need constant privacy. This would give a neglected corner real purpose, or could free up your spare bedroom (if you have one) for guests, rather than it always being half an office.

COLOUR the space to stimulate and provide interest. Green is the most restful colour for the eyes to gaze upon and so has traditionally been used in libraries, studies and backstage.

4 Ways to Revolutionise Your Visual Merchandising in 2017

Successful Visual Merchandising can be difficult for independent retailers to achieve on top of the day-to-day pressures of running a business.

Firstly there’s the need to constantly come up with new and exciting ideas, and then there’s the time required to actually implement them – as well as finding the cash to pay for the project, of course. It may seem like a real drag to come up with display after display but, in today’s environment of internet shopping and giant retail chains, it is has never been more important forindependents to invest in the appearance and customer experience of their stores. The good news is that although Visual Merchandising is a profession in its own right, you don’t have to be qualified or an expert to succeed in creating competent displays.

Window Display Calendar Zoe Hewett Interiors

Follow the four tips below to streamline and de-stress your Visual Merchandising operation:

 

DEVISE A VM STRATEGY

Once the January sales are over and all trace of the busy Christmas period gone, it is the perfect time to focus on creating a Visual Merchandising Strategy for the whole year ahead.

First you’ll need to decide which festivals and celebrations you intend to coincide your displays and promotions with. Window Displays are for life not just for Christmas! There are so many events throughout the year that it would be unrealistic to reference all of them, but to aim for a minimum of 8 wow-factor window displays per year is good practice.

The main celebrations (in addition to the four seasons) are New Year, Valentine’s Day, Shrove Tuesday / Mardi Gras, Mothering Sunday, Easter, May Day, Harvest, Halloween, Guy Fawkes Day, Remembrance Day and, of course, Advent and Christmas.

In addition, there may be sporting events, different religious observances, regional Saints’ Days or other occasions such as International Women’s Day, Yarn Bombing Day or even International Talk Like a Pirate Day, that chime with your brand and customers.  Film releases and news stories can also be a rich source of inspiration, and will speak to your audience. However it is wise to avoid referencing the more political aspects of current affairs – and always ensure that any stories or events you latch on to are relevant to your core business.

Once you have chosen your window display occasions, you can set about planning for them.

 

CREATE A VISUAL MERCHANDISING CALENDAR

All too often Christmas window displays are left unchanged until the middle of January, at least a week after most customers have already recycled their tree into wood chippings. The superstitious would say this is bad luck, but old wives’ tales aside, it is easy to see how this could harm a shop’s image. Retail is indeed a fast-paced industry, but with just a little forward planning it is possible to keep up.

Setting dates in the shop diary for window-display Change Days is an excellent way to ensure your shop is always current. Designating fixed dates for these overhauls signals to everyone working in the shop that this is an important activity that must be done on time. However; fixing dates just for new installations is not enough. Time forpreparation, planning and manufacture of displays must also be accounted for, as must the removal and disposal or storage of previous displays. So it is advisable to always be working around three months ahead so that things don’t get squeezed too close the deadline and either rushed at the last minute or dropped completely.

Being organised takes the pressure off, and gives the chance to make things fun.

For example, Twelfth Night could be a good time for a staff do (particularly if the Christmas period was too intense to arrange a party), during which you collectively and therefore quickly strip out all trace of Christmas, before heading out for a reward meal.

Visual Merchandising Brainstorm Zoe Hewett Interiors

 

IDEAS & CONTENT PLAN

Knowing how many different display themes and ideas you will need to come up with is very useful, whether you plan to delegate displays to a freelance Visual Merchandiser or do it all yourself in-house. Keeping a spreadsheet or other type of ideas list means you can add new ideas as and when they come up, and track old or previously used ones so that annual displays don’t become repetitive. This also encourages and enables you to plan and prepare in advance, so you can be ready for an efficient installation, with minimal disruption to the shop floor.

Generating ideas comes easily to some people, but others find it difficult to be imaginative. If there is a budget available, bringing in a freelance Visual Merchandiser to help generate ideas would be ideal – and of course they would also be able to implement them on your behalf. However, if cashflow dictates a DIY solution, consider calling a staff meeting for a communal brainstorm. Design by committee is not usually a good idea, but it will certainly elicit some initial inspiration from which you can then develop the better suggestions. Perhaps running a competition for the best display idea among your staff would be worthwhile, and would have the added bonus of making them feel valued.

IN-STORE STRATEGY

An effective Visual Merchandising Strategy does not consider window displays in isolation, but relates them to the in-store experience. So, if there is a product showcase in a window, the in-store display of those products must bear resemblance to the window version. This sounds obvious, but it is a common mistake that in-store sign posting and way-finding are neglected. Tempting customers in to shops with something in the window is brilliant, but it is essential to then aid them in completing the journey first to the product and then to the till! Once a product has been elevated to window-worthy status, it should be prominently and beautifully presented inside too, as having to search for such an item in a cluttered store leads only to frustration and disappointment. Depending on your product lines and chosen celebrations and promotions, stock levels will likely vary throughout the year. This may well impact on available space on the shop floor, so the layout may need to change to accommodate additional stock, in line with your Visual Merchandising Calendar

Of course it isn’t possible to plan for every detail and the exact number of boxes that will be getting in the way at any one time. But a little advance anticipation will help you stay on top of the disruption, and make your Visual Merchandising duties a little more joyful.

Read more posts like this on www.modernretail.co.uk 

 

Bring boutique hotel glamour to your home with these mini bar tips!

There’s nothing like a hotel style minibar to bring a touch of boutique glamour and decadence to the home, or even help you pretend to be on holiday. Lingering over drinks, long or short, with good company is a lovely way to pass time at home, especially while the evenings are still dark and chilly. Some might even say it is hygge. So a home bar cart is a great way to brighten up an unassuming corner, and has the added convenience of making it easier to live the good life, being always ready for a spontaneous slosh of sauce. 

To make my bijou Gin Bar, I transformed a tired old tray from a charity shop and displayed it in front of my treasured vintage kitsch classic, a Tretchikoff Blue Lady print. Using a little leftover turquoise eggshell to paint for the tray handles and sides, the colour relates perfectly to the unusual skin tone in the portrait. Next I found a sheet of gin themed giftwrap to decoupage the central platform. It’s a simple technique to try at home. Simply cut out pieces of paper (the smaller the better to prevent air bubbles), glue on with PVA and cover with several layers of clear water based acrylic varnish.

One essential ingredient is lighting. Glass drinks bottles in different colours always look fabulous when lit from behind or underneath. This is relatively easy to achieve using a simple LED ribbon or strip, or a small string of fairy lights. 

If money is no object you can invest in brass and marble bar cart, or even a rotating globe . But if space is limited, you can confine your bar to a lowly shelf, and instantly elevate its status within the room. Dressing in a mini-bar is a great way to break up endless book spines, which can be visually dominating. Using a tray allows you to curate your collection of bottles and vessels, keep everything together and protect the surface underneath from any stray drips.

For those that take simple pleasure from using beautiful everyday objects, there is a plethora of paraphernalia available to accessorise with, from whale shape bottle openers to jiggers and spoons in glamorous gold or copper, all to help you turn a little tipple into an event.

If mass produced mid-Century art, upcycling or even alcohol aren’t for you, there’s no reason why you can’t make a delightful display of delicate vintage teacups and a teapot. Choose whatever colour scheme, design aesthetic and drinks selection you like. The only rule is it must please both palette and peeper.

Five tips for DIY Artwork

Zoe Hewett Interiors Wall Art

Artwork is often lacking from interiors, perceived as a luxury for the elite and generally expensive. Many bedrooms, living rooms and even kitchens (really!) look unfinished and feel incomplete without the joy that art can bring. Bristol is home to many fantastic artistsworking in a variety of mediums and styles. There is a huge array from cheap and cheerful prints to labour intensive original oil paintings with provenance. Such choice can be overwhelming, so if you can’t decide on a favourite artist, can’t afford to invest or simply like the idea of having a try, why not create your own? It doesn’t matter whether there is artistry in your genes or not, here are some ideas for getting creative even if you don’t have experience.

One of the easiest ways to create wall art is to find a large piece of curtain fabric that you simply love, then gently stretch and staple it on to the back of a piece of wood, ideally with a couple of layers of wadding sandwiched in between for a little padding. If you don't have a staple gun, webbing tacks and a hammer will do. Just one metre would be sufficient for a decent size artwork, so depending on the budget you could potentially buy a more expensive, intricate fabric design seeing as its not for a full set of curtains. It may be possible to buy a large remnant at a reduced price, and a wood panel may be sourced inexpensively from pallet boxes or off-cuts from a wood yard. Freecycle is a fantastic resource too.

Zoe Hewett Interiors Painted Flower Fabric

If you’re feeling really brave, why not try painting your own fabric, as I did with powder pigments. With a lovely colour palette there is no need to depict anything at all, it can be totally abstract and the colours can be enough. The bleeding of the paint adds to the effect, and is definitely worth embracing rather than trying to overcome. This process is not dissimilar to painting on paper with watercolours, which is another option to try out, particularly if you fancy trying out evening classes.

For fans of more 3D, sculptural wall art, why not play around with found objects such as wood offcuts, metal scraps, or assemble bits of broken treasures, toys or jewellery into a figure or upcycled display. As long as everything is secure with the right type of glue or screws, this could be a really interesting and unique adornment to the walls.

If the sophistication of monochrome black and white is more to your taste, using the largest canvas or paper and widest brush you can find with black acrylic paint, a simple circle or continuous brush stroke in any wiggly line makes a dramatic statement. Or paint and fill in a black square, then fluff up the edges by stroking a dry brush gently away from the paint. 

A real Jackson Pollock would set you back literally millions, and prints just don’t quite capture the real deal. Making your own would be huge fun and a great way to involve any budding young artists. Simply drip, drop, splish, splash, and spill paint over the largest paper or canvas you can in any colours you like. It would probably be best to do this in the comfort of your garden or yard, and for added authenticity, do like the man himself and ride a bike all over it too!

Zoe Hewett Interiors Flower Fabric.jpg

Images (c) Zoe Hewett Interiors

Decorate with blue, without getting the blues

Zoe Hewett Interiors Blue Room

Although blue is the people’s choice when it comes to favourite colours, it is a lesser spotted tone around the home. With its watery associations, blue tends to be confined to bathrooms and then usually only in polite, pale portions. Blue isn’t a common candidate for sitting rooms or bedrooms, as we tend to equate it with cool, cold or even sadness. 

Yet, navy and denim blues have already been trending for a while among the early adopters of the interiors world, so here are my pointers for trying out blue without getting the blues.

Go as dark as you dare! Smaller spaces that don’t receive much natural light are perfect for bolder colour choices. As counter-intuitive as that may sound, the convention of usingwhite or light shades to make a room seem larger is a popular misnomer. Pale hues caneasily look insipid and lifeless where deeper tones add drama and interest instead. So turn up the saturation and increase the energy in the space.

Choose a warm blue - they do exist! If you are worried about it all seeming cool, particularly at this chilly time of year, a slight hint of purple will read as warmer than a green-blue. 

Mix and match different shades. Powder blue can look juvenile, whereas navy is sophisticated, but with so many beautiful blues to choose from there is no reason why you can’t shake things up by using more than one to create something new.

Zoe Hewett Interiors Upcycled Vintage Chair.jpg

Ignore gender stereotypes about colour. In the 1920s blue was considered the most appropriate colour for baby girls to wear, not blue as is the convention today. It is true though that darker walls tend to be thought of as masculine, so to make it more gender neutral, balance things out with pretty or vintage touches. Dainty china and the vintage postcards of birds decoupaged onto the chair are unexpected, feminine and happy companions to the dark wall behind.

Bring pattern in to the scheme somewhere, be it on a rug, cushion, throw or art print to break up large expanses of blue, add interest and homeliness. Keeping to the same blue palette will give it a cohesive look and allow you to use more than one patterned surface without it becoming too chaotic. Accessorise with neutrally coloured elements (such as vases, lamps, cushions etc) to temper all the colour. Use creams and stones for warmth, or whites for crispness.

Flowers and plants always add life to any room, and many designers will say no space is complete without at least a little foliage. Yellow is blue’s complimentary colour, so pops of it will really sing in a flower arrangement, depending on the season and what is available.  Orange and pink would also be jolly, but avoid red as it tends to ‘fight’ with blue. 

Above all, if you’re going to go blue, be bold.

Zoe Hewett Interiors Upcycled Vintage Chair.jpg

 

Images (c) Zoe Hewett Interiors

Life Unstyled: book review

If you have any Christmas book vouchers burning a hole in your pocket you could do a lot worse than to treat yourself to a copy of Life Unstyled, written by interiors stylist Emily Henson. Focussing on real life homes with piles of books at the bedside, it is the perfectly imperfect antidote to the aspirational, sterile showhome gloss found in so many magazines and social media feeds. Of course, all the photographs are of exceptionally beautiful properties, many converted commercial spaces of desirable proportions, and mostly inhabited by creative individuals with superior taste and an enviable knack for artfully displaying their interesting collections, and invigorating old cabinets and crates with quick and thrifty paint jobs. But don't let that put you off. The book serves to inspire in the reader to fall back in love with their home, despite any unfinished decorating jobs, exposed plaster and distressed paintwork with its images of charmingly casual interiors. Placing emphasis on making the most of what you already have, Henson shows how to make a virtue of clutter, by making it characterful. It is true after all that real life involves a certain amount of messiness, whether stuck to the fridge, dangling from sockets or piling up by the front door. These refreshingly attainable interior shots are a great resource for the many homeowners that seek to put their house in order at the start of the new year; a reminder to create a home that you love, rather than what you think you should love.

Shine a light: the impact of lighting on your store

Lighting is one of the most important elements of retail store design and can have a substantial impact on sales. You can create beautiful product displays, but if they aren’t lit properly, all that work goes to waste. Balancing the practicalities of displaying your merchandise with atmosphere and dramatic impact can be a challenge, so here are some of the basics of retail lighting design.

 

Cost

Lighting is likely to be one of your biggest investments in terms of store design. It’s estimated that 43% of your energy costs are likely to go on lighting, and that’s after your initial investment in any kind of lighting rig. But scrimp on this design element and you could be compromising sales if merchandise isn’t displayed to best advantage.

 

Ambient lighting

Choosing the level of ambient light – the general light in the store – is crucial. Compare a brightly lit a pound shop or branch of Primark to the warm, welcoming low light of a luxury boutique and it’s clear how different light levels send different brand messages. Brighter isn’t always better, and low light can indicate a premium brand, but it’s crucial to balance this with merchandise display. If you have low ambient light levels, how will you light displays to keep the focus on your product?

 

Task lighting

Task lighting highlights areas of the shop that perform functions – cash desks, changing rooms, help desks. It helps customers orientate themselves in store and lights the area so that particular task can be performed effectively.

 

Decorative lighting

Decorative lighting is additional lighting that creates a particular atmosphere in store. It might add to the ambient light, but its main function is visual impact.

Accent lighting

Accent lighting is used in conjunction with ambient lighting to highlight displays. The fittings required will depend on your merchandise. Mannequin displays will require a wider beam to highlight than a display of jewellery.

In this Diesel store, low ambient light, accent lighting and decorative lighting are combined to create a treasure-trove feel to this display.

In this Diesel store, low ambient light, accent lighting and decorative lighting are combined to create a treasure-trove feel to this display.

Using natural light

Retailers are increasingly incorporating natural light into their visual merchandising. Department stores like Macy’s that traditionally covered windows entirely with displays are opening them up again to bring in light from outside. Natural light makes shoppers feel good and displays merchandise colour accurately.

Consider how you moderate natural light to deal with very sunny or overcast days and how you’ll light the store at night. One option is to use a thin curtain material that lets through light but cuts out bright sunshine. You can also balance out natural light with lamps to even the overall effect and avoid silhouettes. Some lighting systems offer sensors that will adjust lamps as the light level outside changes.

Natural light is used to bring out the contrast of natural tones and bold colours in this display at the Revival store in Chattanooga, USA.

Natural light is used to bring out the contrast of natural tones and bold colours in this display at the Revival store in Chattanooga, USA.

Colour

Lamps have individual colour tones that give different effects in an overall lighting scheme. The Colour Rating Index (CRI) of a lamp measures its ability to display colours accurately compared to natural light; the lower the rating, the more accurately colours are displayed. A low CRI would be appropriate to changing rooms where customers want to view a garment as it will appear outside the store.

 

Flexible Systems

Ideally, your lighting system should be flexible so that you can redirect lights depending on your displays. A track system with adjustable lamps allows you to combine flood fittings that give an ambient light to the whole store with spot fittings for highlighting particular areas.

Track systems are a substantial investment, but at the very least you should ensure you have the ability to highlight key displays and attractive merchandise separately from the ambient light.

 

Alternatives to Lighting

We’ve covered using windows for natural light, but you can also bounce around more light with mirrors and reflective surfaces. Your colour scheme will also have an impact on how your lighting design works.

 

This is a guest post courtesy of Modern Retail.

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Image Credits:

“Fashion boutique decorative lighting”: Brobbel Interieur, https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/462322717973311348/

“Lighting installation at Diesel Denim Gallery, Tokyo”: Diesel, http://www.dezeen.com/2008/02/15/suspended-figure-by-ayako-murata-at-diesel-denim-gallery-aoyama/

“Petit Bateau store”: Zisla Tortello, http://www.dailyelle.fr/tout-dans-le-detail/le-faux-eclairage-de-petit-bateau-95683?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=tweet&utm_campaign=Le%2Bfaux%2B%C3%A9clairage%2Bde%2BPetit%2BBateau 

“Revival, Chattanooga”: Revival, https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/345088390174142455/

“A Frame lighting rig”: Dezeen, http://www.dezeen.com/2011/09/26/dezeen-space-at-54-rivington-street/

 

 

 

 

 

Moodboard Competition Win

Zoe Hewett InteriorsAddicted To Patterns .jpg

Last month saw the the interiors trade show season draw to a close after an intense few weeks of exhibitions, open studios, products launches and seminars. There was plenty of inspiration to be found, and I headed to London in my most sensible shoes to traipse around both Decorex and Focus 16 at the Chelsea Design Centre in one day. Taking it all in is exhausting and worthwhile. Although not looking out for trends per se, the pieces that caught my eye were almost all teal or turquoise in hue, with glamorous gilt finishing touches. For their appearance at the 100%  Design event, Bristol wallpaper designers Addicted To Patterns ran a moodboard competition for interior stylists to create a scheme based on a favourite of their paper prints*. I chose Coral, a detailed white on blue pattern with a lovely sense of the hand-illustrated to grace at least one wall in my virtual room design, and fleshed out the scheme with many of the fabulous items that had inspired me at the trade shows.

Combined with artwork by other Bristol based artisans (artist Beth Nicholas who painstakingly manipulates ink to create ethereal landscapes and Hannah Brown Interiors who frames sea fans against Farrow & Ball painted backgrounds) the overall effect is dramatic, with layers of intriguing moody blues and a dose of glamour. It is full of different patterns which might deter many, but my tip for successfully combing patterns of varying scales and styles is to keep them all in approximately the same colour palette. Happy pattern clashing!

For more on Addicted To Patterns visit www.addictedtopatterns.uk

For artwork visit www.beth-nicholas.com and www.hannahbrowninteriors.co.uk

For more on the furniture and lighting used in the moodboard visit www.pinterest.com/zoehewettdesign

* I’m thrilled to say I won and can’t wait to put the prize of hand screen printed Coral mural up on one of my walls!