Sunday, 6 December 2015

deck the halls

It's 19 days until Christmas! Don't panic if you haven't put up a tree yet though, or decided not to it because you don't have the room. Us Londoners especially are often pushed for space, you might live in a studio flat, or house share and only have one room to call your own, but that doesn't mean you can't get into the Christmas spirit and put up a little decoration. Here's a selection of small decorations and alternatives to the traditional six foot tree with all the trimmings.

1. Nordic Christmas Wreath £42, Waitrose
Get the fresh Christmassy scent of pine without the tree. Hang on the wall or on an internal door (using a Command Hook) for just a touch of Christmas.
2. Living Blue Spruce £20, Homebase
If you have even a bit of room, this diminutive tree (1.5-2 ft) is perfect. It could even perch on a table or spare stool to give a bit of extra height. If you have a garden or balcony, plant it outside and bring back in next year!
3. Christmas Tree Wall Sticker £35, Next
For super small or awkward spaces this removable wall sticker is a great alternative to a big tree. Put in the hallway, or in the living room and pop your presents underneath.
4. Glass Pine Cone Lights £18, Rockett St George
A clever no-tree alternative, just frame a window or door, or run along the top of a book case to give a festive glow.
5. Christmas Tree Shelves £45, Cox & Cox
Great for kids and adults alike, fill with little presents or toys for the little ones, candles or Christmas drinks for the adults.
6. Natale Flat Copper Tree £28, Habitat
A flat tree that can be placed on the top of a mantle, or  in a window sill, perfect for narrow spaces and a minimal look!
7. 6 Pinwheel Decorations £14 Rockett St George
Large decorations can really help a space look festive. Hang these from your ceiling or in a window and they will be still look great for your New Years party.
8. Pre-lit Paper Birch Tree £50, John Lewis
You can keep this minimal up well into the New Year (minus any decorations) as it just makes a good general winter decoration. The slim base means it's easy to tuck in between your furniture too.
9. Winter Pillar Botanical Candle £25, The White Company
Make this generously sized candle the centre of your coffee or dining table, not only does it look good, it will fill the air with a lovley woody winter scent for hours.
10. Winter Azaelea Standard £25, Interflora
Tress don't have to be the usual pine or spruce. This Winter Azaelea will carry on looking pretty right into 2016. 

I've decorated our flat for the first time this year, there's a real tree in the bay window, some large paper decorations over the dining table, and lots of candles. It really makes a difference and makes the long winter evenings feel cosy and less bleak. I think it's especially important when you rent to lavish a bit of attention on your home in the winter, after all, it's likely you'll be spending more time in side.

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Sunday, 22 November 2015

northern lights

Where has this year gone? More specifically, the last five (five!) months since my last blog post? Aside form a guest post I did recently for the excellent FrontlistBacklist site, I haven't published a word. I have however, traveled a fair bit (Rhodes, Paris, Berlin a few times & Copenhagen) gardened quite a lot and I've really got stuck in to sorting out all the bits of our flat that weren't quite right. I'm now much happier with the flat (more on that in a later post) and this afternoon I finished up the last big garden job of the year by wrapping the less hardy plants in horticultural fleece for the winter. There are no more trips this year so now it's back to blogging!

My trip to Copenhagen (more details on FrontlistBacklist in the link above) was really inspirational. It was one of the reason I was finally spurred into action sorting out the flat. The Danes live beautifully. They just seem to have everything nailed, from gorgeous interiors to their work/life balance. I recommend reading 'Year Of Living Danishly' & 'How to Be Danish' for more details.

One Danish custom I was particularly taken with, were the candles that burned everywhere. It seemed that every apartment window and every cafe had simple pillar candles burning from early in the day. Apparently the Danes burn more candles than any other nation. On the shortest days in winter in Copenhagen, sunrise is at 8.38 in the morning and there are a mere 7 hours and one minute of daylight until it sets again at 3.39 in the afternoon. Even in the height of summer the sun sets at 9 so light is a big deal in Denmark and anyway, candle light is especially lovely, very flattering and has the ability to completely transform even the most modest of rooms. I'm sat here typing in a room lit with a small lamp and some flickering candles, it's cold and dark outside but the light in here is comforting and the air is lightly scented.

Since getting back from Copenhagen I've become a bit candle obsessed. I was never one for the scented variety but I've learned that you get what you pay for, and if you spend a bit more there are some amazing scents out there and they really make a difference to a room. If you have the cash to treat yourself (or someone else!) to a nice candle, it's money well spent. If your budget is more modest, go with a classic pillar candle for a pound or two, and pop it on a saucer.  

Here's my pick of scented and non scented candles and some of my favourite holders.

1. Scent London Candle by Tom Dixon, £55 from Heals
Capturing the scent of London red bricks, parks and the Thames this isn't just a candle, this is a design icon. When the candle is finished, you're also left with agorgeous copper container, with a marble lid. Worth the money for that and the 60 hours burn time.
2. Le Labo Figue 15 Candle, £47 from Liberty London
A more zesty scent, this one is a perennial blogger favourite and you can even have the label personalized, so it makes for a great gift. If you can bear to give it away that is. Burn time up to 60 hours.
3. Skog candle by Skaninavist, £25 from John Lewis
With notes of spruce, pine and birch this candle evokes the scent of the Boreal forests of Scandinavia. It doesn't overwhelm and smells really natural. Burn time up to 45 hours.
4. Charcoal Pillar Candle, £12 French Connection
A dramatic and unusual on the traditional pillar candle. Use a plain candle base or saucer to make the candle the star of the show.
5. Short Pillar Birch Candle, £15 French Connection
A slice of Scandinavian forest right on your table.
6. L:A Brucket Lavender Mini Candle, £16 from The Conran Shop
A dinky little candle in a cute glass jar, perfect for bathrooms or bedrooms and completely natural, using essential oils for scent. burn time up to 16 hours.
7. Nocto candle holder by Normann Copenhagen, £17.50 from Skandium
A modern, minimal take on the traditional chamber candlestick holder from the iconic Danish design company.
8. Wooden Base Hurricane Lamp, £10.49 from Homebase
I love a good hurricane lamp. They can be very inexpensive and paired with a basic white pillar candle they throw out a lot of light and are protected form draughts.
9. Feu De Bois mini candle by Diptyque, £20 from Liberty London
My personal favourite. This  candle has the wintry scent of wood smoke. I'm completely addicted after a friend bought me one for my birthday this year and we have in in our bedroom. Burn time up to 30 hours.
10. Ersätta candle holder, £5 from Ikea
Simple and inexpensive enough to make a grouping [it comes in 3 sizes priced at 5, 6 & 7 pounds and in black or white] it makes the perfect base for plain or coloured candles.

What better to light your candles with than these smart matched by Hay? £5 from Future & Found.

Although almost every candle I saw in Copenhagen had an open flame and was completely unattended, please do remember to follow basic candle safety:
  • Never leave burning candles unattended.
  •  Always make sure the candle is completely extinguished before you leave the room and use a candle snuffer rather than blowing them out.
  • Keep wicks trimmed quite short.
  • Place on a heat resistant surface, away from sources of ignition like soft furnishings.
  • Keep away from pets and children.
  • Don't move candles while they are burning.
There's really nothing like staying home in the warm and getting hygge with some candles.

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Sunday, 5 July 2015

10 ways to improve your rented home that cost nothing, or next to nothing

Feeling disheartened with your rented home? It can get to us all at some point. The lack of permanence, the boring walls we can't paint, the landlord who won't even answer the phone let alone sort out the dodgy boiler... No matter how desperate you're feeling though, there are some easy and inexpensive ways to get the best out of your place.

1. Declutter
The nemesis of a calm home is clutter. Think about what you really need and what you really love. Discard or recycle anything broken. Take good quality but unwanted items to your local charity shop. Get rid of any duplicates or anything you're holding on to 'just in case'. You're not going to need it. Really. Donate any clothes that don't fit you right now and anything you don't wear any more (be honest now!)

2. Clean
Wash the windows, the woodwork and the floors. Vacuum under the bed, behind the sofa and all the other dust traps you don't do every week. Wash the curtains, shake out the rugs, shampoo the carpet, clean the oven, scrub the tiles and deal with any limescale. Basically, make everything as clean as it  possibly can be. Even if your contract doesn't allow you to make a single alteration to your home, having a clean one will make a huge difference, both to your house and your state of mind. Once everything is sparkling it's then easier to keep on top of the housework.

3. Tidy
Once one and two are taken care of, put things away. Make sure everything has a home, because if it doesn't, it will just end up drifting around your flat and becoming more clutter. Utilize every bit of space you can, if wardrobe space is tight, store shoes under your bed or consider a top-of-wardrobe storage box for out of season clothes. It's been well documented that living in very untidy environments causes stress and aren't we all stressed enough already?

4. Make your bed
Honestly, it makes a huge difference to the way your bedroom looks and coming home/getting into a made bed is much more pleasurable than facing a heap of bedlinen and dirty clothes all over the bed. Make sure you throw back the covers and air your bed while you get ready, then make it just before you leave the house. It takes two minutes.

7. Add some cushions
Even you guys, yes you cushionphobes. You might think they are frippery but they are essential. They make a sofa both comfortable and inviting, they make a bed. These ones form H&M Home start from just £2.99 for a cover and come in plain, patterned and almost every colour and fabric.

5. Swap out your ceiling shade
Even having no shade is marginally better than something old, dusty or ugly. For a mere £2.25 though you can have the most basic REGOLIT paper shade from Ikea and still have something stylish. This shade works in every room, with every scheme. There's no excuse not to!

6. Bring the outdoors in
Get a plant or buy some flowers, having living things in your home completely transforms it. I recently picked up a little ficus at my local supermarket for £1.50 so it really doesn't have to be an expensive undertaking. Not good with plants? buy a succulent or a cactus, which need minimal care.

8. Move your furniture around
If you feel like one of your rooms is just not right, try looking at how else you might arrange the furniture, either to enable you to move around the space easier or to give you more room. This is especially true if you rent somewhere furnished, you can bet your landlord hasn't given the first thought about the best furniture placement.

9. Hang some art
There are so many great options for low priced wall art now. For super thrifty options, head to Ikea. This BILD poster is just £6. For £10 you can have something more street art inspired from the ART EVENT range. If you're concerned about how to hang them, they don't need framing and you can carefully affix with black washi tape which comes away from walls nicely if you peel slowly.

10. Make it yours
Personalize your space as much as you can. Surround yourself with the things you love, be that family photos, your record collection or your musical instruments. If you have a prized collection of something, celebrate it, display it. Have a thing about purple? Go for it, on everything you can get away with. It's your home after all, even though you rent it.

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Sunday, 21 June 2015

bedtime reading - The Monochrome Home

Just in case you thought I'd lost my monochrome mind with that last post a few weeks ago, let me redress the balance by talking about the most exquisite book by Hilary Robertson which celebrates the joy and art of living without colour. 

Robertson describes the monochrome home as being like a capsule wardrobe:

"...restful timeless and practical. By restricting the colour palette, and number of eclectic elements can exist happily together..." 

She begins by exploring the monochrome palette of black, white, grey and every nuanced shade of each. Each palette is illustrated with gorgeously styled shots of a console table and tabletop vignettes that will have you wanted to run to your nearest paint supplier.

The majority of the book is made up of case studies of thirteen stunning homes, all using different approaches to monochrome schemes. So while the book makes for a cohesive look, there's something for everyone here, from quite stark and minimal, to rustic and full of treasured possessions.

Throughout the book, Robertson gives helpful tips on how to make a monochrome scheme interesting, highlighting the need for contrast and texture She rightly urges you to use black accessories against white walls and vice versa as well as textural textural elements like wood and metal.

This bedroom shot of Norm architect Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen's home is a case in point. Crisp white walls contrast with grey, textural soft furnishings and warm woods. It's incredibly simple yet there is plenty of interest to stop the scheme becoming boring.

This bedroom looks so clean and calm and would actually be easy to replicate in a rented home with white walls. Ikea has a few similar items, Regolit paper shade, Malm or Tyssedal chests of drawers Tjena black boxes, Undredal bed frame, Hampen Rug, Godmorgen mirror and Fejka plant and replace the ceiling hung clothes hanger with a floor standing one like The Turbo, again from Ikea.

This is just one of my favourite kitchens of all time (yes, I have a mental top 10!) The dark wood cabinetry and the use of marble is another great way to add interest to the predominately grey palette and that distressed table leg is just enough to stop everything looking just too perfect. French minimal architect Joseph Dirands Parisien apartment is high end luxe and is one of those places that's great for drooling over but probably not the kind of place many of us will end up living in.

Marie Worsaae's house is a great example of something that's more achievable though. Full of homely touches, simple arrangements and squishy soft furnishings, while some rooms are full of things, others like this bedroom are refreshingly pared back.

Ingeborg Wolf's Copenhagen apartment offers some great inspiration for styling. You could style freestanding shelves in the same way. Note again that the addition of a some wood and metal pieces stops the look from becoming too clinical by adding texture.

Roberson believes there are two main tribes of monochomists, those who like  pure bright whites as a background, the type favoured by Scandinavians and those who like dark and dramatic inky hues as a base. Some like Ingeborg Wolf mix both (her bedroom is pictured above).

While bright and white is clearly easier for renters. Most of us are faced with four blank walls of white, off white or some warmer variation. If you're lucky and painting is an option though, consider going for something like Farrow & Ball's Downpipe, or the even darker Railings and contrasting it with crisp white sheets, black and white photos and a few choice objet.

I love that although the images are clearly the star of the show in this book, there's enough text to make it a good read before it graces your coffee table and even if monochome isn't your thing, this book is essential for any interior design library.

Monochrome Home by Hilary Robertson, photography by Pia Ulin, published by Ryland Peters & Small, £25 available from the RPS website here.

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Sunday, 31 May 2015

colour trend - think pink!

It started with a photo I saw of the Gallery Restaurant at Sketch, designed by India Mahdavi. I decided it was a one off. Then it was a photo of an apartment styled by Pella Hedeby that appeared in the latest issue (18) of Est Magazine. I was sure it was just the contrast I liked though. I started to feel uneasy when I saw the photos of Skye Gingells new restaurant, Spring, at Somerset House featuring Arne Jacobsen and Flemming Lassen's 'Mayor' sofa (which available from Occa Home if you have £5k to spare) but then maybe it was just the shape of it...

By the time I was on the Living Etc West London House Tour and standing in florist Nikki Tibble's living room I couldn't deny it any longer. My name is Anni, I'm a minimalist colour-phobe... and I LIKE PINK. Well, I love this particular shade of dusty-dusky-pale-plaster-pink. Not that it makes it any better. Pink has been my life-long nemesis and here I am lusting after a black and pink wall and that sofa. For so long the only acceptable colour palette to me has been black, white, grey and beige. That went for clothes, furniture and my car. No exceptions. Friends would tell me that one day I might change my mind and those kinds of comments were met with an eye roll and a dismissive wave, so no one is more shocked than me at this rather surprising turn of events.

I still can't see myself wearing pink, but a pink wall? A few pink accents, or if someone wants to buy me that sofa? I wouldn't say no. Pink is actually quite versatile, I've seen it in scandi-minimal spaces as well as more opulent and traditional rooms. It all depends on how you style it and what you put it with. Pink and beige will look soft and feminine, pink and white will look minimal but pair it with black, charcoal grey or navy and it will look edgier. Pink is everywhere right now and it's being touted as a 'new neutral'. Not convinced? Here are a few things currently on my wish list:

1. Knot knitted pouffe, £95 from Habitat
Equally at home in the bedroom or living room, as a spare seat or a place to put your feet up, this wonderfully textured pouffe ticks all the boxes.
2. Nesting Bowl in pink/white, HemmingwayDesign for Royal Doulton, £35 from John Lewis
Designed by Wayne and Geradine Hemmingway, this bowl is more than a nod to fifties style and would make for an cute sweetie bowl, or on a dresser as an accessory tray.
3. The pink Bird by Edward Lear from £17.50 for an extra small unframed print to £120 for an extra large canvas, V&A Print on demand
Lear's birds are adorable and none more so than this pink chap. Thanks to the V&As print on demand service there are a huge combination of size, finishes and framing options available.
4. Vintage wash dusty pink cotton sheets, £35-55 from Heals
If you can't paint your walls, textiles are the next best way to get large blocks of colour into a room. These sheets are good value, but being Heals, there's no compromise on quality.
5. Tea-towel, £2.99 H&M Home
Not sure about going full-on pink? Or maybe you live with someone who hates it, use small accents like this geometric tea-towel to add a hint of pink instead.
6. BouclĂ© cushion cover, £7.99 H&M Home
Cushions are another great way to add little pops of colour which work especially well if you have a dark sofa.
7. Rose pink dining chair £169 from Rocket St George
This would work really well as a dressing table or desk chair too.
8. Jonah sofa by James Harrison, £549 from Made
A sofa is a serious investment, so make sure you're serious about the colour before you opt for a non-neutral. Having said that, this one is so far near the beige-grey end of the pink spectrum that it almost counts as a neutral anyway. Made have two showrooms so you can test before you buy.
9. Glass bud vase £4.95 (on sale) from West Elm
The shade of this cute little vase is just right. Perfect on it's own or with a couple of stems.
10. Manna Ash matt emulsion paint £35.50 for 2.5l from Fired Earth
If you are allowed to paint your walls, this shade from Fired Earth is the most delicate and dusty of them all. It's available in different formulations, so if walls are out of the question, how about painting a large canvas or customizing some furniture?

Tickled pink yet?

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Thursday, 28 May 2015

house proud

A couple of weeks ago I tweeted a photo of our bedroom with the hashtag #STHouseProud. At the time I didn't know that this wasn't just a Twitter thing, it was effectively a call to be featured in the Home section of the Sunday Times! All the photos I'd seen with the hashtag were of country cottages and rather swish flats, so me being me, I got on my high horse and tweeted that us renters are house proud too. Two days and a couple of emails later and an editor at the Times confirmed that our flat was going to be featured. Given that one of my ambitions is to have a house featured in a magazine, you can imagine I was rather excited. So, last Sunday, our humble little flat was in print, on line, and on Twitter!

I've posted bits of our flat on Instagram and Twitter before, but as I had to take a new set of photos for the Sunday Times I thought I'd do a proper post on our flat. So here's a little tour of our place...

Living room
Living room

Blanket box: antique bought by my parents
Coffee table: vintage Ercol from Atomic Antiques in Shoreditch
Copper tray: antique from East of England fair
Skull: antique from Snoopers Paradise in Brighton
White pot: Sia
Metal pot: Ikea
Back sake jug: V&A shop
Plate: hand-painted by me
Swallow printed vase: Mike Moran ceramics in Brighton
Cushions: Liberty sample sale
Floor lamp: Ikea
Metal stool: picked up from a bar closing down
Framed print: Bill Brandt from the V&A exhibition shop years ago
Rug: Dunelm
Sofa: DFS
Frames and ledges: Ikea
Prints: from 'I Like It What Is It?' by Anthony Burrill
Paint: unknown... 'Landlord Neutral?' ha ha
Living room

Flying ducks: Inspitalfields
Desk: Ikea (temporary, bought five years ago, still here)
Chair: old church chair, one of a pair given by friends
Drawers and metal box: Ikea
Eames House Bird: Vitra from John Lewis

Living room

Shelving: Ikea
Lamp: Ikea
Print: promotional print for Street Art by V&A Publishing
Candlesticks: made from antique ship nails, gift
Large vase: V&A shop
Camera: my dads old Rollei TLR
Scented candle in silver votive: Ralph Lauren Home
Small vase: hand painted by me


Stool: Ikea
Plant pot: Ikea
Frame: Ikea
Print: Pigasus, Berlin

Print: screen-printed poster we bought at a gig
Frame: Nielsen from Best4Frames
Soap, hand lotion and tray: Scottish Soap Company
Diffuser: The Sanctuary from Boots


Lampshade: Homebase
Storage jars: Ikea
Utensil jar: charity shop

Chair: old church chair (see previous)
Teatowel: Hema
Fruit bowl & platter: Villeroy & Boch
Table & benches: Ikea
Fabric (over canvas): Ikea

Light: BHS
Fabric (over canvas): Ikea
Right lamp: Ikea
Left lamp: Anglepoise
Bedside units: Conponibili by Kartel from John Lewis
Bedding: Cologne & Cotton
Throw: Ikea

Garden/side return

Garden/main area

Picnic bench & parasol: Homebase
Ciminea: Homebase
Butler sinks: eBay
Pots & plants: Homebase, The Gardening Club, Ikea and some plants from family, most of whom are green fingered
Floor plan, not quite to scale

Just 24 hours after being House Proud though, our flat looked like this as the builders came in to re-plaster in every single room. I always wanted a bit of exposed brick, but this isn't quite what I had in mind!

Living room - agh!

Kitchen/diner - double agh!

Once they'd re-plastered though, I decided that bare plaster is rather gorgeous, although I don't fancy my chances of convincing our landlord to leave it like this...

After almost two weeks of chaos, it's still dusty, every piece of furniture is still out of place but at least there are no holes in the walls or hanging wires. The builders have gone for now while the plaster dries and will be back to redecorate soon. I hope. For a neat freak like me this is torture. (I didn't tidy for the ST photos, it really does always look like that... apart from moving a few bits around to stye the living room... I realize I must be a nightmare to live with!) I want to clean and I want to put all the furniture back. I know it will be worth it and I know I've been bugging them to do this for over a year, but I can't wait to be house proud again...

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Friday, 22 May 2015

20 ideas renters can steal from these amazing homes

Last week I attended the Living Etc West London House tour. I just missed out on tickets last time so I purchased in plenty of time this year! It's a brilliant concept, nosy interior nerds like me pay £32 (with proceeds going to Crisis) and some lovely homeowners, many of whom have been featured in the magazine, kindly open their doors for us to look around. There were 8 homes on the self guided West London tour and over the course of six hours I managed to get round them all. After purchasing a ticket, you get sent a map, with full addresses and clear directions on how to get between the properties and it was very manageable walking or using public transport, especially since it was a beautiful day.

Aside from the obvious attraction of looking at beautiful interiors all day and the added bonus of chatting with the knowledgeable Living Etc staff, very enthusiastic volunteers and fellow attendees, I was on the look out for inspiration for us renters. We may not own million pound houses (£6.9m in one case!) but we can still get some great ideas from them.

The properties are really varied and it gives you the chance to experience a range of styles of house types and decorating styles, so it's a great way to find out what your own style might be. In my case, I walked in the first house thinking it was my idea of perfection, being all white walls, glass and pristine minimalism. By the end of the day though I'd decided my favourite house was, in fact, the complete opposite. It was bold, dark, floral and colourful and with a lot of pink. Not something I ever thought I say!

Here's what I took away from the tour:

1. Make your bed.
Without exception, every bed on the tour looked inviting. Some were minimal, some were opulent, some had colour and pattern, some were plain. What they all had in common though, was that they brought a focal point to the room and even the addition of a simple throw and two small pillows could elevate a room from plain to stylish. Think about it, in most cases the bed is the largest piece of furniture in a bedroom so if it doesn't look good, neither does the room as a whole. A cozy throw and a couple of pillows is a very inexpensive way to dress your bed. Air your bed in the morning after you get up, throw back the covers and throw open the windows if possible and don't leave the house without making the bed! 

2. A little bit of minimalism goes a long way.
Live in a beige box? Or maybe you just don't have the resources or inclination to put a lot into decorating your room? Instead of thinking of the beige box as something to fix, why not celebrate it instead? Invest in some really good quality linens (my favourite ones are from Cologne & Cotton) a couple of key pieces of furniture, and embrace simplicity. The slim legged table below gives the illusion of more space in the small room, and the small but careful grouping of toiletries just lifts the simple bathroom. The key here is to be very clean, uncluttered and concentrate on quality. It's the difference between minimal and barren.

3. But then so does a lot of maximalism.
This house was the one I surprisingly loved so much. A perfect example of maximalism it has a killer colour palette, clashing patterns, bold prints, large groupings of vases and a lot of florals. But it works. The patterns might clash but the colours don't. The vases are small, but the artwork is huge and that circle of blue in the right hand print just pulls the whole thing together. Cover that print with your hand and see how it changes the look of the room. The console behind the sofa is a great idea to steal. Pop a collection on there, prop up the artwork instead of hanging it, and you have a landlord friendly way to get a real wow factor into your room. I've been obsessing over that exact shade of pink on the walls ever since my visit...

4. You don't have to hang anything.
Floor standing furniture and decoration isn't just the reserve of renters. These three rooms employ clever placements to avoid damaging walls. The first room had simple frames clamped to the headboard, the middle home used black bamboo ladders in the bathroom for towels and a striking green one to hold scarves in the bedroom. The third house had a couple of floor standing gold mirrors in one bedroom, and a giant thick wood framed one in another. All of these ideas give height and interest to a room without the need for hammer and nails.

5. Make every room count, even the bathroom.
Even the smallest room can benefit from some attention to detail. The first room below contrasts an old wooden stool against the modern tiles and celebrates the ritual of bathing by elevating luxury bath products on tall candle pillars. Flowers and a tray do the same job in the more classic, marbled middle bathroom and the third uses a large sculpture to add texture and interest to an otherwise sleek and quite hard scheme.

6. Be bold.
This house isn't backward in coming forward. The owner loves flowers so they're everywhere. In vases, on the wallpaper, on the artwork and on the furniture. If you love a particular colour, pattern or motif, don't be afraid to really go for it in every room. The colour palette of blacks, inky blues, pinks and purples that run through this house is what keeps the whole scheme together.

7. Be clever with lighting.
If you're stuck with your fixed lighting in the wrong place, use freestanding floor lamps to direct light to where you need it. The leaning Manana lamp in the first photo has the same effect as wall mounted sconces and the wide, high arc of the one in the second is great for seating and dining areas. See John Lewis for similar or Ikea for a more budget friendly option.

8. Put flowers everywhere.
OK, so all the houses were somewhat staged for us visitors, but I couldn't help but notice what a huge difference fresh flowers made. Hydrangeas were a popular choice, and because of their size, just three stems made a lot of impact. Flowers weren't reserved just for living areas though, they were everywhere. In bedrooms, kitchens and especially bathrooms. Small bunches or a few choice stems don't cost a lot, or for longevity group several orchids in a large planter and enjoy the blooms for weeks at a time.

9. Use the rule of threes.
Things displayed in threes, or fives, or sevens, are more visually pleasing than displays in even numbers. Almost every house on the tour had groupings displayed in threes. Jugs, cacti, toiletries, pictures... once you try it, you'll never look back.

10. Celebrate your collection.
Whatever you love, show it off. From your prized designer handbags and purses to your ceramic collection, put them out on show instead of hiding in a cupboard. These Constance Spry vases have real impact when shown en-mass and if you've paid for a good bag why stick it in the cupboard when you're not using it? Likewise your favourite blankets or clothes could be stored in a basket instead of a drawer.

11. Mixing woods is good.
Don't make everything too matchy-matchy. Mix up your pale woods with painted and different shades of wood for contrast. These chairs all match but of course, they don't all have to be the same. I have some Ikea benches paired with some old church chairs, the juxtaposition is what makes it work.

12. Put candles everywhere.
Like flowers, scented candles were everywhere on the house tour. From giant Jo Malone triple wicked ones, to this striking black Diptyque one. They were in every room too, the one below for example was in a teenage boys room. There are plenty of cheaper options on the market of course, they main thing is to find something you like to fill your home with a comforting scent. Just remember to never leave burning candles unattended.

13. Play with scale.
This house had large scale floral wallpaper, an oversize floor lamp and a lot of the artwork wasn't just big, it was HUGE. Most people might hand a gallery style arrangement up the stairs for example, but this homeowner had metre and a half portraits of her dogs hung there instead. Large artwork is actually better for renters, it's easy to prop on the floor or on a mantle. Sometimes bigger really is better. The wallpaper is Dark Floral by Ellie Cashman, The French Bedroom Company sell a similar lamp, try PhotoBox for a reasonably priced hardback poster print on a large scale.

14. You don't need dedicated garden furniture.
Don't have the budget or storage space for dedicated outdoor furniture? Just buy indoor pieces that can be taken outside when the weather is good. These polypropylene stacking chairs by Robin Day for Hille are both space saving and versatile. They are available from TwentyTwentyOne. Likewise, the Louis Ghost chair by Phillipe Stark for Kartell is at home in the garden as in the house. Again, Ikea is a good source for low priced options.

15. Colour isn't just for walls.
Love colour but can't paint? Use furniture, bright cushions and artwork to add pops of colour to an otherwise neutral room. These are Arne Jacobsen Series 7 chairs for Fritz Hansen available at Heals. Try John Lewis for a similar Marilyn Monroe print and Ikea for bright orange cushions.

16. But you can put colour on the walls if you want.
Don't let restrictions on decorating stop you from getting colour on your walls. Roughly paint a large canvas and prop on a piece of furniture or on the floor. You could also use a non permanent adhesive like 3M Command Strips if you really want to affix a light canvas to the wall.

17. Buy nice towels.
A bit of luxury goes a long way and a bale of good quality towels needn't break the bank. Cologne & Cotton have some well priced grey towels like this. Look after them well and they will stay fluffy and soft for years, as well as adding some hotel-chic to your smallest room.

18. Go large.
If you don't have a garden, take inspiration from the house in the first and third photos below and plant up some architectural specimens in oversize containers. These ones are from Vondom but try here for a budget version. If you do have a garden, group large terracotta containers together on a paved area to bring greenery in. Large trees or shrubs work equally as well as smaller flowering plants in this situation. Unglazed terracotta pots are a more budget friendly choice at this scale, but be sure they are frost proof. Try Homebase, or your local garden centre for large pots.


19. Never underestimate the power of a coffee table.
A well styled and practical coffee table really makes a living room. From large square ones, to groups in different materials, to a glass one which shows off the rug underneath, having somewhere to park your cup of tea, your favourite books or a bunch of flowers makes all the difference. It doesn't have to be a designer one, Ikea have an excellent selection or check your local FreeCycle group or charity shop for old or vintage ones.

20. Your furniture doesn't have to point at the TV.
It's all too easy to make your TV the focal point of your living room. In this  relaxed, but formally arranged room, the cocktail chairs face a sofa and the TV is tucked away in the corner. Of course, it's easy when you have a fireplace to have as the focal point instead, but you could just as easily use a sideboard or table and style it with some books, flowers and artwork instead. If your living room layout isn't working, try re-arranging without the need for the TV to be the centerpiece and see if it works any better.

If you're feeling inspired, there is one tour left this year's schedule in North West London on the 12th June, click here to buy tickets. If you can't make it, don't worry, the tours are an annual event and will be back in 2016, I'll certainly be going again! Alternatively, one of the houses is featured in this months issue of the magazine, which is also packed with more ideas for your home, as is the blog run by the magazine team, Life.Style.Etc.

Many thanks to Living Etc for permission to photograph on the tour and to the homeowners who were so generous in opening up their homes.

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