Let’s do it properly
Have you noticed how the nights are beginning to draw in? Soon the heating will be going back on, and before you know it we’ll be putting up the Christmas tree – sorry, I know I’ve always said that the “C” word should be banned until at least November.
Anyway, this is traditionally the time of year when we’re back from our hols, we’ve pretty much finished in the garden, and thoughts turn to the interior of our homes. Is it time for a new look in the living room? Could the bedroom be cosier and more romantic? Are we finally going to re-invent the dining room ready for a Christmas feast (there, I’ve said it again)?
And if the answer to any or all of the above is yes, how do we go about it? A trip to the local DIY shed that now sells everything from wallcoverings to widgets? Rooting through 40,000 copies of every magazine from Elle Decoration to 105 Beautiful Dog Kennels? Endless hours in front of a computer screen trawling various websites for inspiration? All are possibilities of course, but you may well end up totally confused, or with a room exactly like your friend’s, neighbours or the house down the road !
What about using an interior designer? Oh no, you may say, that’s far too expensive! Well, in reality, not only does it not need to cost the earth, but it could be a very expensive mistake not to use one. Some interior designers work on a fee basis, and will charge you for all the time they spend on your project, while other designers will be happy to make their living on purely what they supply to you.
So what does make a good interior designer, and what can you expect of them should you choose to make use of their services?
A good designer will have a natural sense of balance, and will know not only what works with what, but what they can throw into the mix to inject that “Wow” factor, to make a good room into a great room. Of course that comes not only with experience, but with having a comprehensive knowledge of the almost endless sea of product that’s out there. And that’s one major reason that yes, if you’re serious about creating a fabulous home you really need to get yourself a good designer. Time and again, when we’re presenting a scheme to a client in the showroom they’ll say something like “That’s stunning and I love it, but I’d never have chosen it myself”.
A good and experienced interior designer will help you achieve (and hopefully surpass) the results you are looking for. They will spend time with you, get on your wavelength, ask the right questions, and most importantly listen to you and value your input. I’ve always said that the role of a good designer is not to impose their tastes on you, or to turn your home into a sterile fashion statement, but to extract your own vision from your mind, tweak it a bit, and turn it into a reality.
It’s YOUR home. Not only should it exude style by the bucket load, but it must also reflect your character.
So, what else can you expect from a good interior designer? Well, they will most certainly have access to a wide range of beautiful fabrics, papers, rugs and accessories that are simply not available on the high street. They will have an extensive library of pattern books, probably displayed in a well-appointed showroom, so that rather than just looking at a one dimensional picture on a website, you can see the beauty and lustre of an actual sample of wallpaper, feel the sumptuous texture and drape of a good quality fabric, dig your fingers into the pile of a plush carpet . . . sorry, I know I go on a bit sometimes – but it’s just something I’m passionate about.
Personally I’m not crazy about mood boards or computer generated designs. So much so that we don’t do them at John Charles Interiors. Let me elucidate. When you look at a mood board, although you see each element of what a designer is suggesting for your room, there is no sense of scale, proportion or balance. For instance the sample of your neutral coloured carpet is probably smaller than the sample of a rich mustard cushion that has been thrown in as an accent. And even if the designer thinks you’re brave enough to embrace colour and pattern in your curtains, unless your mood board is a couple of metres square you’ll inevitably only get a small section of the overall pattern, which probably won’t even include all it’s colours.
As for computer aided design, it certainly has its place. You wouldn’t want to be without it for designing kitchens, bathrooms or office interiors, but for me it’s far too sterile to be of much use in living areas. Yes, you’ll see a room layout. You might even get a pretty good idea of the colours involved (assuming of course you’re not looking for pattern and texture). But what you most certainly won’t get is the feel of the room – the atmosphere that is being created, the Va Va Voom as Thierry Henry used to say.
The final, and possibly the most important part of the jigsaw is service – the very first product an interior designer will (or should) sell you. They will have an army of skilled craftsmen and women at their disposal, and will supervise and co-ordinate all work undertaken at your house. From builders, electricians and decorators through to specialist joiners, curtain makers and fitters, they will ensure that all work undertaken is of the highest quality.
From the moment you first make contact, the role of a good interior designer is to ensure that the experience of transforming your home – whether it’s one room or more – is not only a successful, but an enjoyable one.
That’s what the team here at John Charles Interiors focus on. And, as I sometimes joke with clients – after 36 years I’m just getting the hang of it.
John Biddell, John Charles Interiors
Live 24 7 magazine editorial - September 2019