Patterned carpet revival

If you thought patterned carpet belonged in hotel lobbies, your grand-parents' living room and JD Wetherspoons, then it might be time to think again.  I've been pleasantly surprised by the range of sophisticated designs now available, and frankly, I can't resist a bit of an interiors revival (I am the girl currently obsessed with brown 1970s Guzzini rise and fall lamps!) I mean plain carpet is safe and easy, but you've seen one plain griege carpet, you've seen them all, right?

I know there's been a flurry of striped stair carpets over the past few years, which can look really lovely, but for the purposes of this post I'm excluding stripes from the 'patterned carpet' moniker. It's not that I'm anti-stripe (far from it, I'd be ruling out half my wardrobe) it's just that we're not really challenged by a striped carpet anymore and I wanted to give a shout out to other, lesser-loved patterns.

The following 24 patterned carpets would look fabulous on stairs, in bedrooms, playrooms or even living rooms. There are several added bonuses too... if you put down a fabulously patterned bedroom carpet, then you can add neutral walls, some muted linen sheets et voila – instant style!  And of course for the time-pressed (or plain vacuum-phobic), then pattern does hide a multitude of sins. Then think kids' rooms...camoflaging the lego amid a sea of pattern has got to be a good thing, no? (Unless you're in bare feet, maybe I need to rethink that one actually).

1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8 // 9 // 10 // 11 // 12 // 13 // 14 // 15 // 16 // 17 // 18 // 19 // 20 // 21 // 22 // 23 // 24 //

So what do you think? Could you take a risk on a patterned carpet? Apparently we're all striving to make our homes a bit more comforting and more luxe at the moment. So a cosy patterned carpet in your living room? It could be the next big thing.  I'd love to put a patterned carpet in my boys' bedroom. If I can just find something the same colour as Match Attax football cards I'll be laughing!*

*If you don't own any small boys then you are probably blissfully unaware that Match Attax cards are effectively crack for 8 year olds. These collectable, highly addictive football cards are apparently all-consuming to any boy under the age of 11. At least I hope it ends around 11. I can't bear too many more years of random, unpronounceable footballers gazing up at me from various floors around the house – where  the manically coveted cards all seem to end up. (Yep, I know, my fault for buying them...but that's the power of working mother's guilt).


The 7 biggest lighting mistakes and how to avoid them

The correct lighting can make a huge difference to how a house looks and feels. But if you've put in the latest LED spotlights, added some table lamps and even upped the ante with some picture lights, why doesn't your room look like those moody interior-design books? You could be making one of these key lighting design mistakes. As a nation, we're really buying into the transformative powers of light. You only have to look at the number of professional lighting designers now in business to see what I mean (go on, google lighting designers...told you)!

We interior designers need to stay ahead of the game too, so on the hunt for inspiration and expertise, I went along to a John Cullen lighting masterclass earlier this week. Held at their showrooms on the Kings Road, the masterclass was a truly enlightening (ahem) experience and a great way to catch up on the latest developments and ideas. I joined about 30 other designers, property developers and design-obsessives, to see the impact that lighting can make on living rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, gardens and even wine cellars! Their showroom is a must-see destination if you want to be wowed by the power of light (and I’ve included much of their photography to highlight the point!)

The John Cullen team walked us through all manner of lighting schemes with plenty of dos and don’ts. They have worked on some amazing projects – designing and supplying lighting schemes for city pads, country residences and ski chalets. They’ll even make sure that your indoor and outdoor pools are appropriately lit. If your requirements are a little more pedestrian (ok, budget) then there is still plenty to learn from. By knowing the biggest lighting mistakes (and how to avoid them) you can make a real different to your interior design projects.

Lighting mistake No. 1 – lighting the floor, not the walls. 

If you place a pendant light in the middle of a room, a row of spotlights down the centre of a corridor or (worst of all) a grid of downlights across the ceiling then you are guilty of lighting the floor. Although this layout looks neat and symmetrical on paper (e.g. on the architect’s drawings of your new extension) it is NOT the best way to light your space. What you're doing is lighting the floor (rarely THAT exciting in design terms) and creating a space that can feel pretty uncomfortable. In reality, no one likes standing or sitting under an overhead light. Not only do these types of light glare irritatingly, but they also highlight thinning hair and cast unflattering shadows over faces.

The solution is to instead light the walls. Place spotlights close to the perimeter of your rooms (about 15cm from the edge is good) and angle them towards the walls to provide a wash of light that is reflected back into the room. In kitchens, angle these lights at the cupboards. If you have any texture, such as an exposed brick wall, or grass-cloth wallpaper, then this wall-washing is particularly effective. The John Cullen team recommend adding one or 2 down lights to highlight features like a vase on a coffee table, or a dining table. The overall result is much softer and more flattering.  And if you need any more convincing, then lighting the walls draws your eye to the edges creating the illusion of more space. Don’t worry if it looks wrong on paper, it’s how it feels in reality that matters.

Lighting mistake No 2 – lighting everything evenly.

Another common mistake, particularly when building an extension or new house, is to over-light everything. Rather than creating bright rooms, this tendency to add rows and rows of lights in fact creates flat spaces that lack depth and interest. You need to have some shadows for contrast and interest – and so that your table lamps can create that lovely cosy glow. And you don’t need light across every square centimeter of the room (unless you want it to feel like an airport lounge).

Lighting mistake No. 3 – no low-level lighting 

You probably know that a few lamps and wall lights soften an overall scheme, but have you considered low-level lighting? If you haven’t then you’re missing a trick. Uplights at floor level can cast beautiful patterns and shadows onto walls and are ideal for creating a lovely evening lighting scheme. Think about adding floor uplighters to highlight features such as a fireplace or free-standing bath. This is definitely easier to do if you are at the planning stage, but there are things you can add retrospectively too, for example placing uplights at the base of large indoor plants, or small eyelid LEDs in kitchen and island kickboards. At night you can turn off your overhead light sources and have a lovely atmospheric glow.

Lighting mistake No. 4 – no dimmers 

Having lights that you can’t dim is a huge lighting mistake. It used to be that LEDs were hard to dim, but technology has come a long way in the past few years (just make sure your switches are good quality and compatible with your lights so that they dim sufficiently and the bulbs don’t blow). Everything should be dimmable – lamps, wall lights, spots and pendants. If you feel like skimping on the investment in all those dimmer switches then Sally Storey, Design Director at John Cullen, advises spending your budget on your main living areas and saving money upstairs if you really need to. Dimming is essential to control the mood of a room.

Lighting mistake No. 5 – having a single lighting circuit

Ideally you want to create different lighting circuits that allow you to have different “scenes” at different times of day. This basically means that you can control certain groups of lights from different switches. If you’re starting from scratch, then your electrician can plan this in, providing different circuits (and switches) for different combinations of lights, but it is possible to add an extra lamp circuit without too much disruption. Failing this, there are plug-in timers and wireless solutions you can use to control all of your lamps remotely for example.

Lighting mistake No. 6 – no outside lighting

If you have a room that looks onto a garden or balcony, or large glass folding doors (hands up anyone who's done a kitchen extension in the last 10 years) then you should really consider lighting the view outside. This prevents your windows turning into huge black mirrors at night. Lights beyond the windows (e.g. in plants, on the patio, dotted through the flower beds) extend the perceived size of the room and create a totally different night-time view. Simple, but so effective!

Lighting mistake No. 7 – using cool rather than warm bulbs

With LED lighting there is a lot of talk about 2400s and 2700s. This refers to Kelvins, a measure of bulb temperature, but what it essentially means is cool versus warm light. In 99% of residential installations, you want to go for warm light (2700) which more closely resembles the warm, yellowish glow of incandescent bulbs. The exception might be utility rooms (and ocassionally, inside shelving units). But beware, bulbs from different manufacturers can look very different, even if they are both apparently 2700.

I know that I want the furniture, finishes and accessories I've spent hours choosing to look as good as possible, which is why I love being able to design the lighting early on in a project. In my own home there's still a bit of work to be done too – #3 and #6 in particular are being added to the to-do-list! How many of these lighting mistakes have you made? Which ones?

How to pull off eclectic global style: á la Malene Birger

I'm a firm believer that your home should be full of the things you love and collect along your way through this life. If you like to travel, or have connections with other cultures, then a few global treasures can evoke fond memories and add personality to your home. I've always liked a bit of eclectic global style, but it is a very tricky look to get right – one Indian mirror-embroidery cushion too far and you risk ending up with something that looks less like a spread in Elle Decoration and more like student digs circa 1993!

So if you're wondering how to make that Day of the Dead skull work with your shisha pipe, Moroccan wedding blanket and didgeridoo, then you'd be well advised to take a look at the homes of Malene Birger (Danish fashion designer and, more recently, founder of her own interiors line).  I have a serious design-crush on this very chic lady. Her take on eclectic global style is jaw-dropping – she pulls together amazing rooms that mix global artefacts with classic Danish furniture, vintage lights, natural textures and a hint of the1970s, without looking totally crazy (well, maybe a bit crazy, but definitely in a good way!)

Because I'm a design-nerd (and I'm taking inspiration for my new office) I thought I'd break down why this seriously cool and stylish take on boho works.  (Plus I have a few choice finds to help you shop the look at the end)...

The monochrome colour palette 

Black and white is a classic interior choice, but the key here is that there is plenty of black, to stand up to all those white walls. It's simple but strong, which means it can handle plenty of 'stuff' whilst still feeling structured. Birger also warms it up with some brown and tan neutrals to keep things from feeling too stark. 

Great rugs

I bang on all the time about rugs – I'm definitely a bit obsessed. Birger's penchant for a classic, monochrome Moroccan Beni Ourain rug is clear to see. A Beni Ourain grounds almost every room – providing both structure and softness. And when she's not using a Beni Ourain, she's using that other monochrome staple, a zebra-print rug. Love it!


Strong graphic motifs are repeated throughout the rooms – classic black and white stripes, checks and diamonds abound, adding interest and keeping your eye moving. She uses pattern on textiles, pattern on furniture and patterned accessories – but all within that very simple, monochrome colour palette.

A touch of 1970s chic

Chrome coffee tables and retro accessories add contrast in both form and texture. There's something about putting a primitive African sculpture next to a curvy chrome arc lamp that just makes both look even cooler! Maybe it's because I'm a child of the 70's that these styles feel very nostalgic, but whatever...I love it. (Just don't get me started on the amazing brown glass Guzzini table-lamp I missed out on last weekend on ebay. Sob.)

Utilising every surface

This is certainly not a look for the minimalist decorator – every coffee table, console, sideboard and shelf is used as a display surface. The walls are filled with art, either propped up on shelves or conventionally hung. This gives plenty of vertical interest, and even the tops of tall cupboards and shelves are not ignored (so many people stop decorating somewhere around shoulder height, but these images go to show how fabulous a room looks when decorated vertically as well as horizontally).

Shiny accents

This is key to avoiding the aforementioned student-digs look. With so many textiles and ethnic artefacts going on, you have to add some hard edges to keep things interesting. The metal tables/lamps/shelves add some shine and polish to offset the patina of the wooden objects. Shiny plastic chairs and reflective surfaces (like that great black lacquer desk) do the same job.


Lots of people think about art when they're decorating a room, but not so many about sculpture. Admittedly we don't all own a Henry Moore figure to pop on our coffee tables, but you can use candlesticks, interesting-shaped lamps, even oversize shells or stones to add a sculptural element. Although a warning to anyone else with small boys in their household – anything you might see as 'sculpture' they will see as 'weapon.' Beware of anything a). heavy – potential shot-put  b). tall –potential sword or c). fragile – potentially smashed to smithereens.  Using those high shelves is probably your best bet for combining sculpture with little darlings, although I do find that a briefing along the lines of "touch this object and the iPad will be removed for 3 months" is semi-effective too.

Authentic and handmade 

If you're going for the eclectic, global look then in my book, it works best when the items you display are authentic and mean something to you. Maybe you have a carving that reminds you of a holiday; a basket that was handmade by a women's collective or paintings that support a local artist? Of course you can buy knock-off moroccan rugs and look-alike boho cushions on the high street, but you can't build an eclectic, global interior like Ms Birger's entirely from mass-produced items – it's the craftspeople, stories and memories behind your objects that make it feel special (and yours!)  I'm not saying you can't add in the odd high street find (we can't all travel as much as Ms Birger) just keep it meaningful.

So, when work gets a bit less crazy, I'll be putting my own tips into action in my new home office. I think I've decided that a simple, monochrome scheme will work best (without distracting me too much for whichever projects I'm currently working on). Unfortunately, working on several interior design projects, delivering a few bespoke pieces of furniture and trying to make time for marketing/social-media and networking too mean that, as ever, my own project is a bit of a slow-burn. In the meantime, here are some cool picks to create that eclectic global style...

Grape light  //  2 Brass Bowl  //  Stool  //  4 Chrome table lamp  //  5 Vase  //  6 Tassle cushion  //  7 Arc lamp  //  8 Beni Ourain rug  //  9 Sculpture  //  10 Chair  //  11 Antique lassi cups  //  12 Zebra print cowhide  //  13 Mud cloth cushion  //


How to be a successful Mumpreneur – with Kura Perkins, CEO of Art Hide

Starting your own business is like being plunged into an entirely different world. You have so much to learn and so many plates to spin that you wonder how anyone ever manages to do it successfully! Which is why I’ve become fascinated by other entrepreneur’s stories, and particularly stories of other working mums. So I am delighted to be sharing today my conversation with a brilliant entrepreneur (and mum) – Kura Perkins, CEO of Art Hide.  I just wanted to add that this post is in no way sponsored, it's just one entrepreneur giving a 'digital high-five' to another. (And picking up a few tips along the way!)

Kura started Art Hide with her sister, Bree, to produce beautiful and incredibly stylish interior accessories made from cowhide. Their cowhide rugs come in a rainbow of classic and contemporary designs and colours, and they also produce beautiful (and practical) cowhide cushions, pouffes, bags and a range of accessories. Not only are the products to die for, but the brand itself is fabulous too: committed to natural, unique and sustainable products, whilst at the same time having a great eye for trends. If cowhide conjures up images of old-school 'mid-western cowboy' style, then I can assure you that Art Hide's laser-cut and patchwork cowhide rugs are about as far from that as it is possible to get, with amazing and innovative designs, colourways and patterns. (You know I love a good cowhide!)

So how did they do it? 

As someone said to me yesterday, running your own business is a bit like having children. You can’t talk to your child-free friends about the reality of life with kids, because however genuinely interested and caring they are, they are just not in that boat (and frankly, you might not want to put them off!) Well, it’s the same with having your own business. It’s only other entrepreneurs that really understand the stresses, motivations, anxieties and complexities that go with giving birth to, and feeding, your business ‘baby'! So it is with great pleasure that I share this real-life start-up story with you...

I first met Kura at a trade show 3 years ago, when I was just setting out on my own journey as an entrepreneur. She is Co-director of Art Hide & Amigos de Hoy, a businesswoman, PR person, designer, innovator and mum, who has built up a phenomenally stylish business (well, she is from Australia, which seems to be having something of a design moment).  I was lucky enough to catch up with Kura about her journey so far – the good, the bad and the ugly! 

The background

Art Hide was born out of a spirit of adventure, a love of people and a vision for what brings beauty to an environment. The company was formed by Australian sisters, Kura Perkins and Bree Hay-Hendry in 2009. Entrepreneur and former PR executive Kura’s travels in South America inspired the Art Hide vision and Bree’s skills as a textile and fashion designer brought the concept to life.

Kura, how would you describe your business brand?

Kura: Classic yet original; traditional yet progressive. We create originally designed and ethically sourced leather products of an heirloom quality. Our extensive range includes floor rugs, cushions, furniture and accessories.

Where did your entrepreneurial journey begin?

Kura: Since University, I have always worked for myself. I had a fantastic PR career in both Australia and the UK and in 2009 I left London on a high after heading up communications for the Olympic Village for several years. We travelled around the world, first stop Argentina, and there I fell in love with the natural beauty of cowhide. I saw great design potential in the product and from there, Art Hide was born!

The duo’s expertise, combined with the traditional skills of their meticulous leather-craft team and an array of cutting edge technologies, have created timeless everyday masterpieces for hundreds of clients. Over time, Art Hide has grown tremendously, and in terms of project portfolio, about 50% of Art Hide's portfolio globally is custom work that spans over residential, hospitality and commercial projects.

Who are Art Hide’s customers? 

Kura: People come to Art Hide because they're looking for something long lasting, natural, and tactile that always looks great. The remainder is made up of a growing and loyal following of customers that love the wow factor and beauty of Art Hide.” I understand that some people are skeptical abou the ethics behind cowhide. But Art Hide’s premium quality cowhide is sourced as a by-product of the meat industry – from regulated, non-pollutant tanneries, where methods involved in tanning and dyeing are always safe for workers.

We're (Bree and I) proud to work with the most talented leather craftspeople and the most reputable suppliers. Everything we do is vetted for quality, safety and sustainability. It was especially important to us to source a material that was sustainable, but also of the highest quality in both aesthetic and longevity. Art Hide also employs Indonesian Artists, to create some of the signature styles, such as the hand-etched designs on the Antika Cascara goat hides. Such opportunities provide these artisans with a platform to showcase their skills while enabling them to support their families by providing employment.

Where do you find the inspiration to create your unique designs? 

Kura: My very talented sister Bree is our designer. She and I work together closely on our collections and, coming from a beautiful country like Australia, we love nature and are constantly inspired by the natural colours! It is hugely important to us and we're always developing new tones; many are showcased in our recent designs – like the luscious Emerald Green Trilogia rug – which received a phenomenal response. Apart from this, we are constantly travelling, which is also a huge source of inspiration for us.

How have your past experiences influenced your current pursuits? 

Kura: I am a firm believer that no time is ever wasted in one's career and that every experience, no matter large or small, always serves as helpful in one's future career. I have always worked with people, be it media, design professionals or local communities and this experience still benefits me today. 

Which 3 things do you wish you’d known when you started?

Kura: The 3 things are pretty basic, but these are things you need to keep in mind at all times,  not just when you start off,  to ensure smooth functioning on a work and personal level.

1). It is extremely important to set a clear vision and strong values for the company, as these form a firm foundation for everything else.
2). You need to work out what works for you and your business – the road is long and varied, full of many opportunities and also pitfalls!
3). And as Al Pacino says, 'never underestimate another man's greed'...when you find great people to work with, enjoy it, as not everyone is like that, sadly.

How do  you maintain a balance between business and personal life? Is it harder for women? 

Kura: It is always harder for women, right? Perseverance is key. Don’t give up! Sometimes business is just about keeping on doing what you’re doing, even when things get tough. I’ve learned to work smarter, not harder – it helps free up more time in the business, which in turn will give you more time with your families. Also, you can’t expect too much from the business in the early years, so no matter what, try to enjoy the ride! (Noted Kura, I’m trying!!) 

What do you always make time for? 

Kura: Exercise, my friends and my kids. In fact, my resolution this year is to prioritise my health and fitness and spend time relaxing with my family and friends.

And finally, what do you have planned for the year ahead?

Like I mentioned, we will be focusing on colours this year by releasing new shades in some of our best-selling rug and cushion collections. Accessories-wise we will be looking at using our laser burnt hide technique on new key shapes for the season. That’s all I can give away right now, stay tuned for more!

Thanks so much to Kura for her time. I hope some of you find it inspiring! Whether you have just the seed of an idea for a business, or have been working for yourself for many years, it is always fascinating to hear how others have made it work for them. And whether you like the term ‘mumpreneur’ or not, the rise of the self-employed mum is a growing phenomenon – and one I think should be celebrated. Kura and Bree are proof that you can create something truly unique, rewarding and successful from a simple idea (plus a lot of hard-work and dedication!)

I, for one, am inspired. I'd love to hear from any other 'mumpreneurs' out there. I'm also thinking of turning this into a regular slot, speaking to entrepreneurs about their business journeys. Do let me know in the comments who you'd like to hear from and about what. Oh, and happy Friday everyone!

3 simple tips for mixing metals

Via My domaine

I get asked for my opinion on design dilemmas relatively often, and there's one question that has cropped up several times recently – can you mix metals in your interiors? For years people tended to choose just one metallic finish (and for years that finish was silver, at least here in the UK) but increasingly we've fallen in love with metallics of every hue – silver, brass, bronze, copper...

Metals are an essential finishing touch to any room – the texture and shine they add is like jewellery to an outfit. But what if you have stainless steel sockets and want to install fabulous brass wall lights? What if your fire surround is edged in brass and you want to put a silver mirror over the mantelpiece?

It's something I used to worry about too, but I firmly believe that you CAN mix your metals, IF you follow a few simple rules.

1. If you're going to mix, then share your metals around. If everything in a room is silver and you plonk in one brass item, chances are that it won't look balanced. If you dot a few different metallic accents around then it will look intentional.

2. Make a display of your mixed metals by grouping some pieces together – a collection of mixed metal vases or a display of mirrors as shown above. Or try a cluster of copper tea lights and gold objet d'art on a contrasting silver tray for example. It's like saying, "See? I did that on purpose," without actually having to say it.

dimmer switch // lamp // pull handle // cushion //

3. Find something that combines more than one metallic finish in single piece. It could be a painting with gold and silver leaf, or a cushion that combines metallic embroideries. Or choose hardware that features more than one metal (thus reducing anxiety over what colour sockets/switches to install!) Buster & Punch do some fabulous hardware in mixed metal finishes – dimmer switches with bronze and silver; beautiful and tactile cupboard pulls and furniture knobs (I'm seriously lusting after them all).

Don't painstakingly match everything (too try-hard); don't stick to a single metal (too bland); just follow these 3 simple tips for mixing metals and it will all work together. You'll be far less susceptible to the next metallic fad too (burnished bronze is my bet by the way)!


10 things I've learned from my first year in business

I was emailing someone I haven't spoken to for a while yesterday, telling him about my business and all that's changed for me over the past couple of years. And it got me to thinking that I really have learnt so much. It might have been years in the dreaming, but I only actually launched my business just over a year ago. So, I thought I'd share 10 things I've learnt from my first full year in business.

1. People are really supportive. 
I have been amazed by the amount of support I've had. There have been bloggers who have shared their tips and supported me early on (thank you StylemeSunday, Swoonworthy and many more); other mums sharing their business contacts; fellow-entrepreneurs giving up their time to help me with marketing, business planning and to talk me through the nuts and bolts of starting up on your own. Friends have even given up their weekends to man a stand for me at my first trade fair. It's amazing how much people want to see a start-up succeed and I can't thank you all enough!!

2. A little recognition goes a long way. 
When you work for a company, you are surrounded by people, feedback and support (OK, it's not always positive, but it is always there). Nowadays, when someone stops me to say they liked a blog post; emails me to say they love the website; gives me a beautiful book with a 'good luck you're brave' message written really does make my day. Actually my week!  You have to store it up as fuel to keep you going through all the boring/difficult/frustrating/scary bits of running your own business!

3. You need to find your tribe. 
I've probably been a bit slow on the uptake here, but it is important to find some likeminded people. I've found instagram great for connecting with other small designers and entrepreneurs – just knowing that others are doing this too and having similar ups and downs is worth so much. It's also totally inspiring seeing the work of other designers and celebrating their successes, which is really motivating!  I also joined Sarah Akwisombe's No Bull Blog School (well worth it if you are even thinking about starting a blog). It was not only amazing for all the advice and tips but also great for 'meeting' other newby bloggers. There are plenty of groups out there for entrepreneurs, from local networking meetings to groups like Mothers Meeting who organise useful talks and networking events. If you work for yourself, find others to connect with!

4. Don't be scared to evolve. 
My business has already changed a fair bit. I started out as on online boutique, offering interior design services. I'm now an interior designer with a sideline boutique (and blog, and fledgling Moroccan rug import business)! The fact that things have flipped actually works brilliantly for me. I love designing but had underestimated the demand out there for stylish, affordable interior design services and assumed that I couldn't make this my main business. I thought interior design was a 'West London' thing and I wanted to work closer to home. What I have found is that there are plenty of families who want a great home but just don't have the time (or inclination) to pull everything together themselves, and are looking for someone like me to help. I love it! In addition I offer eDesign services to clients all over the world. I run this blog (which is pretty time consuming in itself) and have started a Moroccan rug import business. These things all support each other (and my obsession with interiors) but it's certainly been an evolution!

5. Mistakes happen, move on. 
I haven't done everything perfectly when it comes to running my interiors business. There have been bad choices, duff investments and unsuccessful events. But that's just what happens when you run a business, the important thing is not to dwell on them but to learn from them. When you're doing something creative, you're always trying to push boundaries and do something different. It doesn't always work, but if you stop trying then you'll end up playing it safe and delivering bland, uninspiring results. And that's just no fun, so roll with the mistakes (and make up for them) I say!

6. Celebrate your successes. 
Sometimes you just need to stop and give yourself a pat on the back. I've had some lovely feedback from clients whose rooms and houses I've designed. I received a commission from the latest Albion restaurant (below). I've made bespoke furniture for other interior designers. I was featured on the blog of one of my favourite role models (Abigail Ahern). And I've had clients recommend me to their friends, and use me again. So I must be doing something right, right? If you work on your own, you have to celebrate your successes (and then repeat them, of course!)

7. Find your inner extrovert. 
If you aren't naturally given to shouting about yourself (and let's face it, that's often true for us women) then you have to find your inner extrovert.  I have made myself go to events, turn up at functions and generally learn to talk about what I do without feeling apologetic. For a born introvert like me this doesn't come naturally. That's not to say I'm not confident (I am) but I'm just not good at promoting myself. I cringe doing things like asking for readers to vote for my blog, but then I have friends who tell me to get over myself and just ask! Wallflowers don't win, do they? (So if you can spare 20 seconds to vote for my blog before Friday, please click here!!)

8. Know what you're good at – and outsource the rest!
I'm not the world's greatest photographer, but when there are amazing people out there (like Carole Poirot) I don't see the point in spending hours trying to compete! Likewise, it is perfectly possible to design your own website, but I know I would have spent months doing it, and then not liked the result, so I hired I Want Design to do it for me, and invested my (limited) time elsewhere. Using experts allows you to focus your energies on what you do best. Plus it makes the world go round!

9. Remember why you're doing this.
If you've set up your own business, it's probably because you wanted to make a change. For me, I wanted to do something I'm passionate about. I also wanted to work from home and see more of my young children. Sometimes, when you're working till 2 in the morning, you can forget those reasons, but I've been trying really hard over the past couple of months NOT to stay up really late and to be really 'present' when I'm with my kids (not constantly checking my phone/email). I'm not perfect, but I am much better than I was 6 months ago!

10. Enjoy yourself!
Running your own business is hard work, time consuming and frustrating. But it's also empowering, exciting and liberating. If you love what you do, you have to give it your best shot and remember to enjoy the process.

If you're an entrepreneur (or just thinking about it) what have you learnt this year? I'd love to hear what you think!


3 simple tips for styling a small hallway

Morning all, I'm feeling a bit behind the curve with the Christmas decorating. I keep seeing all these amazing images on instagram of beautifully dressed trees, banisters and branches draped in fairy lights (yes, branches are a big thing on instagram at the moment) but I haven't put anything up myself because I feel the need to have an almighty clear out first. I've started the chucking-out process in the hallway, (it turns out we didn't need all 57 of the coats that were bulging out of the coat rack – who'd have thought?) Now that I can see past my front door again, it's got me to thinking about how best to style a small hallway. If you live in a typical British house they you are probably familiar with the small scale of our entrances (and if you're blessed with a larger hallway, then these tips still apply, and lucky you!)

1. Add somewhere to sit.

Whether it's a funky chair or a nice bench, every hallway, however small, should have somewhere to perch. Seating in a hallway adds a sense of purpose and makes the area feel less transient. It also makes getting your winter boots on and off far easier (...showing my age now) and gives you somewhere to sit down while you scream at the kids to get their coat/bag/shoes/lunchbox for the 14th time.  This hallway by Charlotte Crosland perfectly demonstrates how you can squeeze a bench (or in this case, an old church pew) into the narrowest space:

If you have a little more room, then make like Amber Lewis and add a bench and a chair:

2. Shoe storage.

It doesn't matter how hard you try, there are always too many shoes in a hallway. Having some method of storing them will make your entrance feel way more organised and beautiful. I'm a big fan of a hallway bench, as you can line shoes up underneath in a stylish yet intentional-looking way (as opposed to a heap in the corner). Our leather hallway bench stores 3 rows of shoes underneath – which ought to be plenty of room but somehow there are always 2 pairs too many to fit.

You can always organise shoes using wicker baskets, trunks or even vintage school lockers. Anything that adds a semblance of order and, preferably, makes finding your shoes easier will work. If you're starting from scratch and have the budget for a decent cabinet-maker, I've seen some fabulous solutions that use under-stair cupboards and even the space under stair-treads for shoe storage:


3. Make a statement.

I love a wow factor in a hallway – something that makes you want to come in and see the rest! Whether it's a huge mirror, a colourful painting or a statement chandelier, the one thing I would advise is to GO LARGE. If you're house isn't quite Marie Kondo, then making a design statement will also detract attention from the random coats on the floor, carelessly-parked-scooters, school bags and shopping that just hasn't quite been put away.  (Please tell me that's not just my hallway? Oh...)

For a recent client project (top photo) I used 2 fish-eye mirrors, one above another, to accentuate the wonderfully high ceilings. We kept everything else calm and neutral, then added amazing vintage cinema seats (an eBay find) reupholstered and refurbished in Designer's Guild Zaragoza velvet. These double up as extra seating for the dining table when the client has extra guests too).

This hallway makes a statement with dark paint; a huge painting; vintage chandelier and a zebra. Why stop at one statement piece when you could have 4?


Or how about coming home to a unicorn? (From a fabulous Cotswolds home photographed for one of my fave blogs, The Pink House)

 (photographed by Susie Lowe for The Pink House!)

Finally, I'd say accessorise. Add the odd cushion, sheepskin and plant to soften the edges and make your hallway feel like a room, not just a through-way. Here are a few suggestions for a simply styled hallway: 

Clockwise from top:

Right, now to get onto those Christmas decorations....

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