Superior interiors

By at home

Kirstie Allsopp describes her favourite interior design features and gives her advice on creating enviable home style

You own a great house and want to make a big impression for visitors. As you know, the right interior design can have a dramatic effect on the wow factor of your property. But before you go wild with grandiose style statements, perhaps its best to start with a clean slate. Then, and only then, can quality interior design work to its full effect.

Blitz it

To start with, work through the house room by room – and be ruthless! Throw away or recycle anything that’s broken because – let’s face it – you’ll never get around to mending it. Weed out the stuff you no longer like or need. Paring down your possessions to a core collection of must-haves is a cleansing process and one that can transform your home.

Once your home is an uncluttered haven, it becomes far easier to sort out all those other little jobs you’ve been meaning to do: fixing the door knob; re-upholstering the sofa; and putting up those pictures that have been scattered all around the house for weeks – if not months or years!

Revamping your home costs little and can have an enormous impact: simply by sorting out and storing your possessions effectively, your living space can take on a new lease of life.

Once it’s done, add the odd finishing touch to bring it bang up to date: re-cover your chair seats in the latest fabric; give the walls or the furniture a fresh coat of paint; or add a few fashionable accessories such as cushions, throws or a different lampshade. To avoid slipping back into bad ways remember that if you buy anything new, see if there is something you can throw away, recycle or give to charity at the same time.

Cool kitchens

Of course, one of the main areas of the house is the kitchen – increasingly the focal point of the house. Money spent here can be a good investment, so long as you think about what you are doing. It is possible to spend too much money.

‘In the kitchen new doors and a new counter top and in the bathroom just retiling and replacing the suite, rather than shifting around bath or basin, is the cheapest and sometimes most effective option,’ explains Kirstie.

‘Don’t be afraid of so-called “cheap kitchens”. Yes, today’s families are so busy that mealtimes are often the only family time. My kitchen came from Ikea and initially cost £700. I’ve since added some additional units from the same range bringing the total to just over £1,000.

‘What I did do, however, was pay a proper fitter to put it in place. That was the key to making it work.

‘You can spend £5,000 on a kitchen and it might add £10,000 to the value of the house but it is also possible to splash out £10,000 and not recoup the money. There is a certain point at which interior designs don’t continue to add value to the property.

‘On the whole, it is the kitchen and bathroom that people are afraid of doing up themselves. It should be possible to do both kitchen and bathroom for £5,000,’ assures Kirstie.

And as for mixing styles between a more traditional look and fully-functioning modern gadgetry – well, Kirstie reckons you can mix and match to suit all of your needs.

‘There are a number of kitchen designs which happily combine both styles,’ she says. ‘I’ve seen Belfast Sinks with stainless steel dishwashers, glass splash backs with wooden surfaces. There is no need to be 100% one way or the other.’

So, what’s Kirstie’s top tip?
‘Compromise is the key! Again, cheap does not mean nasty. Calculate what you can afford and go out and find the kitchen that fits your budget.

There is one out there. ‘I’m also a great fan of putting as much as possible in the utility room – leaving the kitchen as a cooking and entertaining space, not a glorified laundry room.

‘Design your kitchen so that all you have to incorporate by way of appliances is a cooker, sink and small fridge. Put the deep freeze, washer, dryer and the majority of the storage for cleaning products in the laundry room cupboards – that’s if you’ve got this utility space.

‘That way you won’t lose the dream kitchen and the laundry room is really an area for keeping things clean Creating space

Now that reshaping of homes is commonplace, the same question often arises: do you knock through the kitchen into the underused dining room and make one big area or do you keep them separate?

If you’re selling the house, Kirstie advocates taking advice. ‘Talk to a number of local estate agents to find out if buyers in your area and at your price range set any store by separate dining areas.

‘I personally would always prefer a bigger family kitchen to two separate smaller rooms.’

Kirstie does suggest an alternative solution to the problem:

‘Perhaps you could put in double-doors that were open the majority of the time but that would ensure that a buyer could have separate eating space if he wanted?

‘When doing work to any property you must research properly in advance and not assume that all buyers will want what you want,’ advises Kirstie.

Traditional versus trendy
‘I tend to be a bit old-fashioned when it comes to interior design,’ says Kirstie. ‘In my own home I’ve got wallpaper and there are some fantastic designs available. I like wallpaper from Coles.

‘The thing about wallpaper is that it is so much more forgiving than paint. You can knock and bump into it without leaving marks and it wears well. I find it very comforting.’

Home decoration, like clothing, goes through fads and trends and if Kirstie is right, the days of stripped wooden floors might be numbered.

‘Recently I changed the wooden floor I had upstairs in the bedroom for a carpet and it is so much more comfortable,’ she reveals. ‘I think wood and tiles are fine downstairs but you want warmth and comfort in the sleeping quarters of the house.

‘My real bug bear is houses where a room has walls painted in different colours. The thing about paint is that if you like a colour you should go for the lightest shade available. That’s because the walls reflect off each other and even a light colour becomes richer.

‘I also like fabrics and when you see some of those being used 100 years ago you can only marvel. They are beautiful, rich textured fabrics and are quite magnificent. I really can’t see why anyone would want those wooden slated blinds on a window when they can have proper curtains.’

According to Kirstie, the art of interior decoration is putting your stamp on a house without cluttering it and going over the top. You can make a statement without going over the top – it’s all about having a light touch.

Kirstie’s style prediction
The next big trend is for built-in or banquette seating which means you get the maximum use out of every corner of your kitchen and could perhaps find a space for a small sofa or armchair. Kitchen sitting rooms are definitely the way forward. Cosy is a good watchword!

10 Tips for a tidy home

If you haven’t used or looked at anything for a year, get rid of it.
Chuck out or recycle anything that’s broken.
Don’t hang on to unwanted gifts – give them away to friends or charity shops.
For easier recycling, buy bins that allow you to separate your rubbish.
Go through your wardrobe regularly and give your clothes a sell-by date. If you still don’t wear something, give it away.
Look after your possessions by keeping them dust-free, prominently displayed or properly stored.
Invest in smart-looking storage so you can leave it on show.
Store like with like so you can find things easily.
In a small home, buy furniture that doubles up as storage.
If you buy something new, get rid of something old.

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