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