The shape and architectural structure of a room is obviously important in interior design. But often, what really makes a room come to life are the details. We can’t always change the architecture, but we can always improve the objects that we put in a room.
Too few details and a room may feel barren and too minimalist, but a collection of random details won’t work either, no matter how luxurious. Details – from cushions to lamps and artworks to coasters – need to be in harmony with each other. But too harmonious and it can feel bland; there’s always a happy balance to be found.
Here are seven interior design detail starting points for making a room interesting and successful.
1 Where is the focus of my room?
A room needs a focus, otherwise it can feel jumbled. Creating a feature wall with an interesting wallpaper or accent colour can really change the focus of a room. When I enter a new room, I tend to know straight away where the focus should be. If a feature wall isn’t the right solution, the focus can be directed with the carefully orchestrated use of a standout mirror. Alternatively, a large signature artwork could be the focus, or a statement item of furniture. I try to avoid the classic sitting room layout where a big TV becomes the focus.
2 Does the lighting create a pleasing ambience?
Lighting is critical in every single space in a house from hallway nooks to kitchen work areas. Simply adding lights and lamps in the right places, and placing furniture in situations where they gain from natural light will drastically alter the feel of any space. I often use subtle accent lighting around artworks or within the cubby holes of shelving, to add drama and draw the eye.
3 Does my kitchen kit feel and look good?
It’s surprisingly easy to forget detail in a kitchen. We all want luxury cabinets and sleek worktops. But many people just stick with the same old crockery, cutlery, glasses and tableware they’ve always had. These are the items we use all the time and ones most seen by our guests, so, arguably they should require the most careful consideration.
I like the use of statement large bowls or glassware to add interest in a kitchen or dining room. I’m not a fan of spaces where absolutely everything must be hidden away.
This was part of the reason I set up the Posh Trading Company, which specialises in luxury tablemats and coasters. I was travelling in Vietnam and feeling inspired by the deep oriental reds, rich golds and silvers, and had a flash of inspiration to incorporate this colouring into high-end tableware. A little research revealed a gap in the market. The sets are in shades of gold, silver, rose gold, dark stormy sky, taupe, or bespoke finishes. I’ve also deliberately designed them to come in matboxes – attractive storage boxes in the same material as the tablemats and coasters. These look good sitting on a dining table or sideboard and become a feature of a dining room or dining kitchen as they don’t need to be put away in a cupboard.
4 Do the colours work together?
A palette of colours for your room doesn’t mean an insipid collection of beiges. There are levels of interest in different areas of colour – from the walls to the floor and furnishings. Then, of course areas of stronger colour and pattern can be picked up in the interior design detailing of luxury cushions, a rug, a vase and ornaments placed carefully around the room.
5 What do my knick-knacks add to the space?
One of my favourite things is putting together interesting knick-knacks for a room. These are the things that reveal our personality. In our holiday home in Aldeburgh, I have a collection of clocks that I love adding to when I visit antique or interior shops. Coffee table books are a great addition to any room, too. Everyone loves to flick through a collection of photography or art. A room should always reflect its owner in some way.
Even hotel interior design will reflect the ethos of the hotel owner or company with its art, colours and choice of what’s in a room. For one hotel this may mean hipster books and photography, for a traditional country house hotel, the style of detail may mean historic books of maps perhaps, or antiques.
6 Why plan before adding interior design detail to a room?
I’ve occasionally come across down-sizers who have commissioned a wonderful new home for themselves, but then want to bring in all their current furniture – usually from a much larger house. This never works, sadly. Interior design detail really has to match the style of the home. In more modern houses, there tends to be less need for bulky furniture, and bringing it in distorts the scale. I find in these cases that a selection of things can work – art and ornaments, perhaps. Sitting down with the client and planning which interior design details will work makes the end result more successful, in terms of the harmony of each room and the flow of the whole house.
7 Don’t forget about smell!
Finally, don’t forget your fifth sense. It’s important to consider all the senses with interior design. Sight is an obvious one, touch involves thinking about how fabrics and objects feel, sound means testing whether or not the room suffers from distracting noise from anywhere – for example from a washing machine, TV or gaming device, as well as the careful placement of speakers. Taste is less relevant but is closely linked to smell. Aroma can deeply affect how we feel in a space, so do add a diffuser or scented candle. But don’t go for anything too overpowering. Like overly brash colour schemes, too strong a scent can upset the senses rather than soothe them!
Interiors by Sarah Ward
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Brazil – Iguazu Falls
This last month, one of our team was fortunate enough to get away to beautiful South America and on her travels, she visited Brazil and Argentina. However, one place that stood out beyond the beach lined shores and cocktails of colourful Rio was the stunning Iguazu Falls. Situated on the border of both Argentina and Brazil, this tropical paradise was her favourite view. There are regular boat trips that can be taken along the river right up to the falls, where the boat goes underneath the falls themselves (raincoat required). Our designer says “it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and a very refreshing in the tropical heat” Recommend it to anyone that like fast boats and great views. Warning: You will get quite wet!
Focus – Design Festival
Anyone who follows the world of design knows we’ve had London’s Design Festival recently and we seriously hope you’ve had the chance to check it out. What a year it’s been so far! It’s always a feast for the eyes. Of course, Sarah took the time to go down, and in between so many impressive and beautiful designs, noticed that Abbot and Boyd’s showroom was quite eye-catching – Hard not to be with bright yellow walls and glorious fabrics adorning every surface. Definitely one to take a look at.
Architecture of London
Currently showing at the guildhall Art Gallery is the Architecture of London Exhibition. This major new exhibition brings together works dating from the 17th century to the present day to illustrate how London’s ever-changing cityscape has inspired visiting and resident artists over four centuries. Architecture of London features 80 works by over 60 artists to examine the rich diversity of London’s buildings. This exhibition is open 7 days a week and is a good one for any aspiring artists or design fans! (which we hope you are)
As anyone who lives in London knows, space is at a premium in the UK capital. This means we often need to be creative with the small spaces we have. Our Senior Interior Designer, Rosie Ward, has first-hand knowledge of how to make a small living area work well. Her 1.5-bed flat in a premium
location in Clapham, benefits from her design knowledge and know-how about small apartment interiors in London.
‘Designing solutions for small spaces is always an enjoyable challenge,’ says Rosie. ‘I like what Kevin McCloud says in a House Beautiful article about small-space living: “A big house is not necessarily
spacious; a small house is not necessarily cramped. What matters is a sense of space and a sense of connection.”’
Read on for Rosie’s interior ideas for small spaces:
Getting an interior designer in before you move into a new small space is the best bet. We’ll come to see you in your current home and chat to you about how you live and how your home operates, before looking at the new space. Everyone has different priorities, and we’ll find out what’s most
important to you. Then, we can put in the best bespoke interior design solutions for your space, created around your lifestyle.
I’ve worked on a project where we put a utility room in under the stairs, which is always a good spot to work with when space is tight. There’s often more room under there than you realise, and maximising every inch is key.
I am currently designing a joinery unit for coat and shoe storage which will also be used as a central divider for a room. To make this work, I have mixed closed doors for the storage with open shelving to display the client’s art collection. One client we designed a home for needed a lot of clothes storage, so we added a stud wall in the room to place the bed against and created a dressing room behind to give us two layers of cupboards.
Sometimes, redesigning a small apartment to gain the most space we can – moving stairs and walls – creates the best longterm solutions.
I’m quite a tidy person; everything has a place but I do have a lot of stuff. Somehow, I give away bags of clothes to charity and yet end up with the same amount again. I am forever throwing things out – so I totally understand the need to limit clutter in a small living space.
Managing which items are in use and which should be in storage is a good start for decluttering. For example, with limited space it’s sensible to pack away winter clothes in a suitcase and place in storage under a bed, in a cupboard or in a loft (if you have one) during summer – and vice versa during winter.
I’d advise adding coat and shoe storage in the hallway. Coats can be cumbersome and take up a lot of space. They need a dedicated space.
We have a long corridor with low-level fitted storage under the window for suitcases, bags and large items which would make the apartment cluttered if left out. Individual furnishings can be attractive, but you’ll rarely find anything as useful as something that’s designed and purpose-built to fit your home.
Tricks and tips
I’d advise putting in a couple of large mirrors to create the illusion of extra space in a small apartment. They’re also great for reflecting natural light.
I also suggest clever use of lighting. This is where an interior designer can really help. For example, alcoves can be atmospherically lit and bookshelves added to create extra storage with feeling of more space and depth. Natural light and placement of furniture are also key. Don’t block natural light with large dark furnishings, or too-heavy curtains. Creating a sense of airiness and flow is very important when designing for a small space.
When we look at your home, we work out how each area is used then identify any ‘dead space’. These are then the ideal spots to build in clever storage to maximise space.
Colour and texture
Using colour and texture to create a feeling of additional space is a good idea. I suggest keeping the main furniture within a palette of light colours, and adding texture and richer colour as accents, such as in cushions, throws, ornaments and rugs.
In our 1.5-bed flat in Clapham, we have one double room – our bedroom, and a single. Instead of wasting this single room as a guest-room which only gets used around once a month, we use it for storage, washing and ironing.
When guests come, we pump up a good-quality double airbed which fits the room, but which can be stored away easily. It is always best to make your flat functional for the things you do most often.
Everything in your home should have a place – you don’t want too many things floating about in a small apartment or flat or it quickly feels messy.
Perhaps your second bedroom could become a dressing room with a large long mirror to declutter your bedroom. If your clothes are crammed into your wardrobe, you need to create more space, otherwise the daily task of simply getting dressed becomes a hassle.
Rosie Ward is Senior Designer at Interiors by Sarah Ward. Her role varies from day to day. When she’s not liaising with clients, she is running projects and designing functional, practical and beautiful spaces. To discuss interior design projects in the UK with a member of the Sarah Ward
design team, please call us on 44 (0)20 3667 7796 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
I love escaping to the country. When we saw our Grade-II listed Georgian house in Aldeburgh, we knew instantly that we wanted to buy it. In summer, sitting in the walled garden is blissful. In winter, we walk past the Aga and head straight to the cosy snug to feel cocooned in comfort.
I think the best country homes feel loved, neither too formal nor too scruffy. They should fit well in their location, reflecting if they’re by the sea, in a forest, or in rolling hills. Whether it’s your second-home, main residence, a holiday home that you rent out, a country estate, or even a country-house hotel, making your country house cosy and comfortable as well as stylish and appealing is what to aim for.
So how do you make the interior designing of a country home work? Here are my tips:
Think about useful spaces
Country homes are often bases for outdoor fun – muddy walks, boogie-boarding adventures, countryside picnics. This means kit: wellies, surf stuff, walking boots, beach bits, waterproof jackets, bikes and sometimes pets. These all need somewhere to live and somewhere to dry. When designing a country house of any sort, I’d factor in at least one spacious area – porch, hall, drying room, utility room, outdoor storage shed or garage – somewhere to easily hang everything so that it doesn’t clutter up the house. Hooks are imperative, lots of hooks. There are so many stylish hooks and pegs now, you can make them a design feature. A bench to sit on to pull wellies on and off is useful. And think about somewhere for a soggy dog to shake off and have a cosy bed in your country hideaway.
When I stay in a country home, I want to be in a social environment. A comfortable lounge and a large kitchen or dining room where everyone can gather are important. In our Aldeburgh house, we have a lovely long wooden dining table. I have various eclectic finds, such as the coloured siphon bottles, pictured, in the room, and retro leather and chrome dining chairs. I love a cosy country feel, but I also want chic city style thrown in, too.
We have an Aga, which is very country-feel. In other houses, the cosy focus might be a log-burner or open fire. I’d advise anyone interior designing a country home to acquire one of the elegant log burners available now. Sometimes fireside country weekends are even better than outdoorsy summer ones.
Comforting bedrooms and luxury bathrooms
Bedrooms are important in a country home. Don’t think ‘second home, second best’. Buy the best-quality beds and mattresses you can. Guests will love you for it, and you’ll appreciate the house even more. In my Aldeburgh bedrooms, the beds, linens and cushions are quite traditional, and touches such as antique wardrobes and bespoke lamps give the bedrooms character.
For me, one pleasure of a country house for weekends and holidays is long luxury baths. I opted for a roll top Victorian bath in a well-lit bathroom with lots of natural light, and oak flooring that’s warm underfoot.
Art, style and personality
All homes are a reflection of the owner’s personality to some extent. Getting the advice of an interior designer doesn’t mean handing over all creativity to them – I help you identify what you like: colour, style, furnishings, and the way you live; then I source and design accordingly.
I’m disappointed if I rent a country holiday home or stay in a country house hotel and the interior design is boring or feels corporate. Yes, fabrics need to be washable, and priceless breakable antiques may not have a place, but I want a sense of style. Our country home is full of art that I love. I also have a mix of antique clocks, and bits and pieces that are special to me. I want the place to feel interesting, not just a bare shell.
Even if you’re renting out your country home, invest in style. Elegant furniture finds, art and lamps, make all the difference. Investing also means you can charge more. Don’t skimp on the interior design features of a country home that give it personality.
Your country house should exude the feel-good factor and offer comfort. The furnishings shouldn’t feel too set, or be arranged too symmetrically. This designed informality allows more absorption of people and their belongings without looking messy.
People want to feel relaxed in a country home. Some can feel too formal, and although beautiful, aren’t relaxing enough to unwind in. Consider where you’d like to sink down and read a good book – the lighting must work there, too. I relish a collection of coffee-table books to flick through, too.
Garden and views
For any countryside home, bring the outside in, in terms of coordination. Timber often works well, and natural colours that reflect the colours outside, whether that’s seaside blues or countryside tones. Floors that are flush between the house and patio are ideal so that there’s a seamless divide in summer, when you’ll want to be outdoors. A good-quality outside table and chairs is essential. And think of children who may use the house. A dedicated kids’ space such as a games’ room or pool room will make everyone’s life easier – don’t forget board games, and install football goals or a treehouse or even a swimming pool to lure them into the fresh air.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have beautiful views from your country property. These can be maximised using clever lighting, appropriate curtains or blinds, arrangement of furniture and sometimes outdoor landscaping.
If you own a country home of any kind, from holiday apartment to country estate or hotel, and need interior design assistance, contact Sarah Ward Interiors by email email@example.com or call +44 (0)20 3667 7796. We’d love to talk to you.
Different travelers desire different hotel rooms. Some crave unique and boutique, with unusual design features – something Instagram-able and cool, others want total luxury – marble baths and butler service and every whim attended to. Then there are those who opt for budget – but budget needn’t be boring, think Citizen M over Travelodge. What every hotel should have in common is functionality. I’m talking lighting systems that don’t require a computing degree to operate, hooks in the right places, good quality coffee and tea with fresh milk in the room, and a large, clean, comfortable bed.
I’ve stayed in many hotel rooms over the years and interior designed a few. These are the things I think the perfect hotel room needs:
Lighting – As an interior designer, I know how important lighting is. It sets the mood – for most hotel rooms that should be calm and inviting. But, if you can’t find the switch, any calmness is immediately destroyed. And please don’t give me an iPad to work the lights. A multi-way switch at the bedside that turns everything off in one go is crucial. Also, use lighting effectively. Don’t put a tea-station in a dark corner on a low table. Put it somewhere well-lit, where the kettle or coffee machine can be switched on without the guest having to rearrange furniture.
Bathrooms – Enough hooks for towels and robes, please; so simple, so rare. Likewise, I’d like a dry space for a washbag. And, if it is a fancy hotel, I’d prefer taps and plugs that don’t need a manual to operate. Beautiful design is wonderful but should never override functionality. Sweet-smelling toiletries are always a pleasure – and in a five-star hotel they are expected, but in a budget hotel, something simple and pleasant is fine, though these days creative sourcing can find good things for little expense. Customers recognise when an effort has been made with the details.
Sockets – It’s amazing how poorly thought-out the position of sockets often is in hotel rooms. Most women want to be able to sit down in front of a well-lit mirror to use a hairdryer and put on makeup. And these days we all need at least a USB port beside the bed, if not an actual socket to charge phones overnight; free WiFi is essential, too.
Luggage – Unless I’m travelling solo, I’d prefer two luggage racks – and I definitely want one. If you’re staying just a night, so not fully unpacking, it’s easier and neater to open your case on a rack, than scrabble about at floor level.
Sleep – The primary purpose of your hotel room should be to aid sleep. A wonderful king-sized bed, with a good mattress (I like Hypnos and Glencraft), goose-down pillow, 1000-count cotton bed linen, blackout blinds or curtains, and no noise. I always ask for a quiet room, which includes no noisy heating or air con.
Décor & furnishings – An Independent Hotel Show Perfect Bedroom Report quizzed 2000 18 to 76-year-old frequent hotel guests about their preferences in hotel room decor. Floral art was a no-no. I’d agree with that – avoid chintz and go for timeless elegance when interior designing for hotels. I recently looked back at room designs in hotels, apartments and houses from earlier in my career, and was pleased to see that the styles still look fresh. Neutral tones balanced with some interest in design and fabric – a piece of furniture or a lamp – and careful use of colour is best. No-one likes boring, but few places get away with wild design. As for furnishings, chests of drawers were deemed unnecessary in the survey, but roomy wardrobes and plentiful mirrors were important, as was a chair or two.
Website – It’s disappointing to arrive somewhere expecting it to be lovely, but it’s not. This happens when the hotel is misrepresented online. If the one room shown is a vast well-lit presidential suite and I end up with a dark, pokey back room, I feel hard done by.
Service – Good service requires training and bad service can spoil a stay even in the loveliest room. In this age of Airbnb, hotels must compete on great service. At The Lanesborough, London’s most expensive hotel, you get a private butler, which is wonderful if you can afford it. Most of us are simply happy to be treated respectfully, and for requests to be dealt with promptly. The best hotels don’t treat guests with kid gloves, but with gentle informality and intelligent responses.
Favorites – I particularly admire The Rosewood in London for its inner and outer grand classical elegance. My favorite examples of great interior design in London hotels are all about classic style. But they also feature modern hotel interiors and inspiring interior decoration ideas. I love the beautiful homely Georgian interior of the Belmond Cadogan on Sloane Street, The Dorchester for its old-school style and great cocktails, and the Ritz for a gilt-edged ultimate five-star afternoon tea.
If you’re looking for luxury interior designers in London to help you create the perfect hotel room, or update or improve the interior design of your hotel, hotel chain, Airbnb or boutique guesthouse,
call Sarah Ward Interiors on +44 (0)20 3667 7796