01458 252551

My Golden Rules For Interior Design

October 1, 2023

I am often asked for interior design tips and where to start. While there are so many styles, products and colours available, there are many different ‘golden rules’ available, and every interior designer has their own guidelines, which we use in our work.


I often hear the mention of ‘seven rules of interior design’:  balance, unity, rhythm, emphasis, contrast, scale and proportion, and details.

While these will always play their part, there are some other basic foundations which I prefer to apply, to avoid mistakes which can be very costly in the long term.

It can be difficult to know where to start when you are faced with an array of colours, patterns, fabrics, decisions, with so many possibilities available at your finger tips, so these are my own personal guidelines for you to consider.

Start With Something You Love

Simply start with something you are drawn to, whether a piece of furniture, a certain colour, a beautiful wallpaper you absolutely love, a piece of furniture that is a keepsake from a family member, or a lampshade you simply cannot bear to change. The list is endless, however you will always know that piece which simply has to remain in the room.

I am working on a project at the moment where there is a lovely armchair which has been re-upholstered, and it is absolutely perfect in a new guest bedroom. One of a pair, which belonged to the grandfather, and is now a precious part of family memories, hence the importance of this armchair in the new bedroom scheme. Now re-upholstered in a lovely grey wool, it sits perfectly against the deep blue walls. Add in to the mix, some lovely bedroom furniture from another family member, and this has dictated the choice of fabrics and curtain poles.

Do Not Rush Decisions

Often in large renovations, there is pressure to make snap decisions which may not feel right, but have to be made at the time. So I always recommend taking time to make your decisions. Renovations are costly to undertake so making the right decisions are important, and taking the time allows you to notice elements you may have previously missed.

When you are living in the house, you may decide to change the layout as it is important to consider how the family flows through the house at this stage. Light will also always play a very important part in any interior design decision. The light always changes throughout the day and this can affect colour quite dramatically, so I always recommend leaving fabric, wallpaper and paint samples around the room or pinned to walls, watching how the light changes them and taking time to remove the ones that don’t work, leaving you with those which will be part of your final decisions.  

Future Proof Your Decisions

Try to consider choices that will stay with you for many years, and consider longevity in the choice of colour and fabrics. It is human nature to be drawn towards the latest trends or colours but these become out-dated more often than not.

Children’s rooms can be the most difficult to future proof so focus on neutrals where you can or simple designs, and perhaps introduce traditional colours in the form of stripes or checks, or small prints, essentially something as timeless as possible.

Pinks and blues are often the considered choice, and these can still be used, but introduced in the form of cushions and accessories rather than the more expensive design items, such as wallpapers, and curtains or blinds. This makes them much easier to replace and upgrade as the family grows.

I always recommend stepping back and considering the room in five years’ time, for instance, rather than the ‘here and now’ decisions. This will allow you some time to reflect on the decisions you make.

Ignore Trends & Focus On Your Own Style

As I have already briefly touched on, it is human nature to be drawn towards the latest trends or colours, which are discussed in all the interior design magazines. However, they can become outdated and more importantly, they do not your personal touch or style, which is by far the most important element to consider when designing your home.

A home is part of us, so why would we not design it to reflect the family? It is important to remember that our homes give us our sense of place and your home’s interior design should be something that emotionally moves you and which you absolutely would love to come home to.

PS Hip Hop Roman Blind

Using Pattern & Texture To Add Contrast

This is the area where you can most experiment with touches of designs and colour within your chosen colour scheme. Introducing different combinations of pattern and texture can really work in interior design schemes, adding layers and depth to a room. I often work with combinations of wool and linen as the natural fibres already have their own texture, but adding wool such as Harris Tweed can add lots of texture, in the form of cushions for instance. Combined these with layers of wool throws in co-ordinating colours, which can also work really well.

Try to avoid lots of large scale patterns, and instead, mix large scale with some smaller scale patterns, and add plain linens or wools to give texture and depth. You can pick out colours in the curtains and add these in cushions, mixing different colours and sizes.  If you are unsure of using large patterns or they do not work in a smaller room, you can use them as ascents in the room, perhaps lampshades or cushions or large patterned throws.

Trimmings are also a great way of adding both colour and texture, whether along the leading edges of curtains, or at the bottom of a roman blind. Choose a lovely timeless style of trimming for longevity.

Roman blinds often look timeless and elegant sitting in a window recess behind a pair if curtains. This is a great opportunity to add layers and different patterns together, a patterned roman blind and a pair of plain linen curtains for instance.

Experiment With Colour & Design

Every room will have a sense of purpose and this will help guide your creative thoughts and colour choices. For instance, master bedrooms should exude a place of calm and sanctuary, whereas the living room should exude cosy and warm feelings when we enter, somewhere to snuggle down with a good book or catch up with friends and family.  Kitchens should be social areas too, but more practical and spacious so often we can experiment in this area with darker colours for a chic country home.

Choose a room to experiment with and explore design and colour which is outside your usual ‘go to’ choices, and you may surprise yourself with colours you are not naturally drawn to. However, if this feels uncomfortable, you can always change your mind. It is much wiser to reconsider at this stage rather than when the room is completed.

I have often seen decisions change, particularly when family members influence the choices that sit naturally and comfortably, it can pull the eye to a completely different direction, whether colour or pattern. This is when I can feel the hesitation creep in and this is also the point where I like to give the client time to reflect and ponder, as I can see it simply does not feel ‘right’ with them, despite trying to please their family members. More often than not, we return to the initial thoughts and to the decision that ‘just feels right’. And that is the most important emotion to listen to.

And Finally, Listen To The Room!

My final thought may sound slightly strange but please bear with me for a moment!

When I arrive at a new clients home, often the first thing I do is to spend time walking through the rooms and observing, while chatting to the client about their thoughts and ideas. Part of my observation is what is presented to me outside the window, as well as the internal room. The choice of colour can easily be guided by the view outside.

As a designer, I am there to guide and bring together combined thoughts and design ideas, not to simply create a room that is my signature style.  My initial observation of space, light and colour will be the key to understanding how to bring together your thoughts and what the rooms are presenting to me, in both style and light.

The architecture and the history of the building will often dictate to us. Sometimes, fabric samples or colours simply don’t work, despite our best hopes that they would, and sometimes, we should listen to the room and listen to its guidance. A few years ago, I was working on a project that had been ongoing, and there had been many conversations about colour and style. When I finally arrived between various lockdowns, I placed the samples we had discussed in the room. We both stood back and neither said anything, I knew instantly they were just not right. It was a small room with beautiful wood panelling, and wonderful light coming in through the doors.  So I popped another sample book against the window and we both stood and smiled. Although it was nothing like the colours we had been discussing, and which the client would like, it was incredible how the complete change of colour changed the light in the room and the ambience, and we could feel the room smiling back at us. From that point, the other decisions simply flowed.

If you would like to help in designing your home or are looking for interior design services in Somerset and the surrounding areas, please do contact me here.