My first project – redesigning our living room

Transforming our own home is my first interior design project, it has been a steep learning curve, but the result is something I’m really proud of. However much you learn in theory, it’s obviously only in practice where you really put yourself to the test and see if what is in your head works as a livable, lovely space to live in.

The living room was one of the rooms which sold this flat to us, and was then the first one to be tackled in the transformation of the place. When you enter the room, you’re instantly drawn to the shape of the lovely big Victorian sash windows with an arched top, giving the space so much character and flooding the room with light in the morning.

This room needed to serve multiple functions: a space to relax with the TV, a space to entertain and a space to play music and read. It had to be functional and make the most of the space, and with this being our first home it was really exciting to create a something which reflected us and housed the things we’ve collected over the years. Concept wise, we wanted a space which was inviting and homely, but also sophisticated and modern while embracing the features and proportion of the Victorian space.

As you can see from the ‘before’ pictures, when we moved in the wood flooring was stained a deep, glossy orange/brown varnish which hid any of the texture or natural grain of the wood. This wood flooring runs through the living room, hallway and bedroom, and was the first thing to be changed. It was slightly terrifying to set about getting the floorboards stripped, as you never quite know what condition you’ll be facing underneath the thick varnish. Thankfully, it revealed boards in very good condition. These were stained in a very light grey wax to keep the space natural, light, modern and to better bounce the light around.

The ‘before’ –

With the space being East facing, it gets plenty of lovely sunlight in the morning, and is then darker in the afternoon. To make the most of this, the colour of the space is zoned: two of the walls painted in Ammonite, a subtle and understated grey from Farrow & Ball, with the other two in the the deep, rich Stiffkey Blue from the same company.

The blue is continued from the walls onto the woodwork and newly built in alcove shelving to give the space a modern edge and make it feel more expansive by avoiding drawing the eye to where the space breaks up. Painting the shelving in this dramatic, contemporary blue creates a lovely backdrop to the colours of all of our books and belongings and helps blend the TV into the background when we’re not using it.

Balancing the blue, and used in the sunniest spot of the room, is the soft, subtle grey. Painted in an eggshell texture, it reflects the light and is the backdrop to a corner created for reading, playing music and a perfect spot for a morning coffee. On these walls, the woodwork is painted in white eggshell to help move the light around and tie into the new shutters we had installed. The colour combination plays really well as the light changes, in morning sunlight the blue is bright and energising while in the evening it becomes darker, cosy and more dramatic while the grey walls are lit nicely by evening lighting to give it warmth when the sun has passed.

It was really important to create a space where the shape of the windows were really visible, but also retaining some privacy, so choosing shutters meant we could see the shape, and manage the light in the different ways we used the space.

In any room, lighting is one of the most important things to get right. With the main ceiling light, it took a while to find the right fitting without totally blowing the budget, but we found it in this architectural six-lamp ceiling light from West Elm. The size of it works brilliantly to create a feature and also bring in the height of the ceiling to make the space feel less lofty, putting it on a dimmer switch then meant we could helps set the right mood for the room.

One of my favourite pieces is the standard lamp, inherited from family but updated to bridge the lighter corner of the room into the blue, and treated to a beautiful lampshade by A Rum Fellow – their fabrics and accessories are beautifully textured and have so much character. It gives soft mood lighting, but also extra task light to use the armchair as an evening reading spot. Further mood lighting in the opposite corner means the room can be set for the evening without needing the full ceiling light. Dressing this corner with the guitar is a practical consideration, but utilities it as feature and styles the spot really well. Above the fireplace, the large mirror bounces the light around, whether morning sun or evening candlelight.

Our living room is dressed with a real mix of things we’ve collected and some new additions to bring extra texture, richness and depth. Trips to Africa have brought back some treasured pieces like the giraffe who has joined the dark side with a lick of Stiffkey Blue paint, and the Bao board which sits on the coffee table. Newer editions like the rug from Heals are hard wearing and practical for a space like this, and add a nice texture to the room against the solid colour of the walls. This mix of texture continues across the seating; the leather armchair matched up with a velvet cushion and soft wool throw, while the sofa has a mix of deep yellow velvet from Rockett St George and some more West Elm with the wool cushions.

Our flat may be small, but by creating a scheme which unites the different spaces but gives each its own personality, I’ve looked to create a fun, but functional home. Hope you enjoy reading about it.


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