Space matters – guest post by Abigail Ahern

I probably say this a zillion times a day but I find the biggest barrier when it comes to decorating is confidence. Taking risks with paint colour, or pushing boundaries with accessories takes some bravado or confidence. A lot of time we stop decorating too soon, particularly if rooms are an awkward shape like too narrow, too long, too small, even believe it or not, too big.

bedroom

Image courtesy of Graham Atkin Hughes

The nature of your space will inevitably push your design in certain directions, but whether you live in a shoebox or a farmhouse the trick is to utilize it to the max. By which I mean embrace every single nook and cranny and layer it up. You may not be able to change the physical dimensions of your pad but you absolutely can change the perception of a room’s size.

Let’s first start with open plan rooms, extraordinary tricky to get right I find, as so often they can look and feel so sterile. I have a few tricks up my sleeve and it starts with imagining all the walls back in place. Firstly this helps when it comes to figuring out traffic flow and secondly it helps create zones giving each area a sense of purpose.

You will want the various zones to feel different but at the same time they will need to harmonize with the overall scheme otherwise you run the risk of the wall design looking to disjointed.

Terrific texture

Image courtesy of Gareth Atkins Hughes

So a great way of cozying up an open plan space is by texturizing. Think rugs, throws, different surfaces all hanging out together. The fab thing is that you can never overdo it with texture unlike pattern – it will never feel too much, so go a little crazy. When it comes to texture, as odd as it sounds we want to create as much friction as we possibly can. So on a velvet sofa, for example, we could place a slubby woolen cushion, or a silk or leather cushion. The trick is to steer away from similar surfaces and materials as we want to create tension. When it comes to rugs they are fabulous in linking open plan spaces together whilst at the same time making them feel different. One trick I use time and time again is to use lots of different rugs but then I reign in the colour palette, which means I can mix far more easily!  A decorative screen or a large plant can help zone off areas, creating stylish dual function rooms, full of those all-important layers I am forever banging on about.

Getting the furniture placement right is absolutely essential for happy decorating. If all your stuff happens to be up one end it can make a room feel unbalanced. If furniture is plonked too close to walls, your space will look uptight and dull, so whether your room happens to be small or large, consider bringing the furniture in slightly. Either by angling it or by placing something behind it like a super skinny console, and layer it up.

Dazzle with small spaces

Images courtesy of Graham Atkins Hughes

If you have small rooms or awkwardly shaped rooms, fear not. The key here is to not be put off by the physical dimensions. Decorate spaces that are slightly challenged exactly the same way you would decorate a large room! By this I mean ditch all that mumbo jumbo about painting them out in pale hues and selecting small-scale furniture in order to make them feel supposedly bigger. Nothing gets my blood pressure zooming into the stratosphere more than the misconception that pale colours make a room feel larger. If a room is small, it’s small; work with it, embrace it!  The single biggest most important thing you can do to small rooms (in fact) any room is paint the ceiling, trim and walls out all in the same hue. Not only will this make the space feel more cohesive, it takes away boundaries and what you’re left with is infinity – genius no?  Plus everything you place in the room will look amazing. PROMISE!

The thing with small spaces is it’s not about maintaining a sense of spaciousness, it’s actually about dazzling they eye so it doesn’t clock instantly how small the space is, instead it clocks how cool the space is!

So whether you rooms are large, or bijou kit them out with panache. It’ s called raising the bar! Happy Decorating.

All photography by Graham Atkins Hughes is taken from Abigail’s new book Decorating with Style. Published March 28th

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