eDesign: I design a Cali-cool master bedroom in...California! (Yes, really)

If you've followed this blog for any time, then you'll already know that I have a bit of a thing for Cali-cool interiors. Show me a vintage rug, a rattan pouffe and a fiddle-leaf fig tree and I'm pretty much sold. So can you imagine how chuffed I was when a lovely Californian family contacted me asking whether I could eDesign their master bedroom? I mean a real, bona-fide Californian family, actually living in California! I had to think very long and hard about that one (for all of 3 seconds).

I'd like to thank the universe (and google) for delivering one large dose of serendipity to this corner of East London. The client found my Hide & Seek shop when googling for leather stools, and loved the whole aesthetic. She emailed to ask if I offered interior design services and so it was that a few weeks later I got started on this gem of a project. In case you're wondering how I could possibly design a space 5,000 miles away, you can read more about how the eDesign service works here.

The clients (a husband and wife with a young toddler) had recently bought a ranch style home in need of some serious styling help. The property was a great buy – plenty of space, a fantastic layout and on a lovely road in Sacramento. It had been overlooked by other buyers due to its somewhat 'interesting' decorative state (interesting being a euphemism for dated, bizarre and in some parts downright scary!) Luckily these clients could see beyond that and weren't afraid to take on the project. They wanted to put their own well-travelled, relaxed, boho stamp on the place, starting with the master bedroom. To give you some idea of what they were up against, here's what the room looked like to start with:

I know, I know! Like an outlandish cross between an Austrian ski-chalet, an English country manor and Laura Ashley circa 1983! Definitely NOT what these cool clients were after. As usual, the process began with a design questionnaire... they answered 10 questions about function, mood, colours, features, likes and dislikes etc. They told me they wanted a relaxed, global, boho room with colour and texture (I loved them already!)  They wanted to incorporate their large canopy bed (a four-poster to us Brits), some navy and white Josh Henshaw bedding and a pair of brass wall sconces (OK, lights – I haven't totally defected just yet, don't get me started on closets and drapes...).

The clients took photographs of the room and measured up, emailing me a hand-drawn floorpan with dimensions that I could work from. They then got to work stripping the room out, painting (in Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray) and replacing the carpet with a contemporary wooden floor.

In the meantime, we shared lots of images via Pinterest, narrowing down the style and features they were drawn to. I filtered this down into an inspiration board and colour scheme, capturing the general mood, textures and feel we were aiming for, which looked like this:

The colour scheme was broadly reds, blues and natural tones (they love saturated colours) to contrast with that dark Chelsea Gray backdrop:

Clearly we were all on the same page and they signed off very quickly, meaning we could move onto the sourcing stage. With eDesign, the idea is that everything is available for the client to simply 'click and buy' at the end of the process, so I used a variety of different sources in the US (for larger pieces) as well as specifying some key pieces from the Hide & Seek eBoutique to be shipped (at the client's request – I don't always include items from my own range).

This was the initial design scheme for the main sleeping area:-

1. Basket for fiddle leaf fig // 2. Dip-dyed linen curtains // 3. Cowhide rug (Persian rug sold) // 4. Vintage cinema seats (sold, find similar on eBay) // 5. Joshua tree photographic print // 6. Nightstands // 7. Selection of vintage textile cushions // Vintage indigo mossi throw //

I used a mix of global textiles (vintage indigo mossi cloth, kantha quilt and mud cloth cushions) to satisfy the client's love of travel. A Persian rug under the bed adds colour and grounds the scheme. Natural textures: linen, cowhide, sheepskin and rattan add texture and interest.  (The numbers on the image correlate directly with the 'shopping list' received at the end of the process, so that the clients could click and purchase each item quickly and easily).

Next up was the other side of the room – a large gap between 2 closets and a larger window made the perfect spots to display some art and add a reading nook.

8. Original painting // 9. Vintage indigo bolster cushion & monochrome pom pom throw // 10. Cowhide bench // 11. Ombre linen curtains // 12. Monochrome print (sold), find similar here // 13. Red floor lamp // 14. Moroccan tan leather pouff // 15. Embellished indigo cushion (sold) find similar here // 16. Organic British sheepskin //

I presented the final scheme to Mrs Client via a Skype video call. She loved it, but was worried that the vintage cinema seats might be a little impractical with a 2 year old (way too tempting to bounce on and potentially end up falling off/through). Therefore I came up with a plan B for the end of the bed and designed a bespoke bench upholstered in a vintage red and navy Indian kantha quilt (to match one of the bed cushions).

The following day I received an email saying "the design and shopping list were a huge hit with my husband! He loves the cowhide textures and art and accessories you selected. We would like to buy everything on this list." Yay! It's always such a pleasure (not to mention a relief) when a client is delighted. It makes all the hours spent agonising over the perfect layout, art and furniture worthwhile. I collated everything into a detailed shopping list with pricing, details and links to purchase. A floor plan helped them to visualise and implement the scheme:

We went on to discuss various rug options at differing price points (as Persian rugs are beautiful, but definitely not at the budget end of the spectrum). I suggested options from Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel which would have worked very well, but then the clients were offered an unbelievable bargain, a slightly smaller, darker rug but one that was such a good deal that it seemed crazy not to make it work. With the red bench adding more colour at the end of the bed, the darker rug worked out fine. They went on to purchase the rest of the items on the list and sent me this photograph part way through install:

It really is looking sooooo much better already I hope you'll agree! A Cali-cool master bedroom fit for a cool, Californian couple! I've just completed a second room for this stylish family and look forward to working with them again next year, so, watch this space!

If you're struggling to revamp a room (or rooms) and fancy taking advantage of this fun and affordable eDesign service, then please ping me a message here, via social media or email. You can visit the interior design section of the website to find out more about the options here or simply email me. I have one more slot available before the end of the year so, if you're quick, you could have a newly designed room by Christmas! Happy hump day everyone...

Disguising the television: should you hide or display with pride?

What's your view on televisions? They seem to be universally sneered at in the world of interiors. I mean clearly they're not the most attractive of items (particularly when showing Sponge Bob Square Pants at maximum volume) but they are a fact of modern life. I don't really get the obsession with trying to elaborately 'design them out'. I mean, who doesn't like to flop down in front of a box set on a Saturday night? Or let the kids veg out in front of a DVD on a Sunday morning (particularly if aforementioned Saturday night was of the more exciting and alcoholic variety)?

At the same time I don't want the TV to be the centre-point of my living room either. I feel a bit torn writing a post on hiding the TV, when what I'm really into is interiors that are laid-back, liveable and real. Trying to hide the telly seems just a teensy bit dishonest. What I'm after is some healthy middle-ground here – a way to make the TV blend in, without trying to pretend that I don't own one.

So, in my humble opinion, here are some of the best options:

1. The vignette. 
Here the outline of the television has been cleverly blurred with lots of books, candles, vases and accessories (arranged beautifully asymmetrically). The fantastic cabinet steals the show, so that the TV is almost the last thing you look at, rather than the first.

2. The gallery wall. 
When well-executed (as above), hanging lots of art around the TV is an effective ploy (but it's tricky to pull off). There are 3 key tricks to making this technique work: 
a) Consider scale. Ensure that at least one piece of art is significantly larger than the TV. If you have a wall full of teeny tiny pieces, it will just look messy.
b) Layer it. Make sure that some of the artwork is layered behind your TV. You could consider propping something smaller in front too.
c) Add some dark tones – either in the artwork itself, or in the frames and mounts. If you put a big black rectangle (your TV) in the middle of lots of smaller, white rectangles  (your art) then it'll stick out like a sore thumb.

3. The dark background. 
Painting (or wallpapering) the wall behind your TV in a dark colour automatically makes your TV stand out less. It is the option I've gone with in my own den/open-plan kitchen area. The idea of physically hiding this TV was just a no-go, as we use the room all the time. The log store was already there, so I opted for this great Andrew Martin lumberjack wallpaper to blend the TV and logs into the alcove next to our woodburner. (The rest of the room is painted off-white as hubby absolutely wouldn't let me paint it navy blue, which was my original plan!) 

4. Create a built in media/shelving unit.
This is another strategy that needs to be really well-executed to look at all stylish. Avoid the common mistakes:
a) do NOT build a huge, doored cabinet to house your TV. It will just look like you have a wardrobe in your living room.
b) do not position the TV too high (e.g. more than half way up the wall, or even above the fireplace! Televisions, a bit like art, are frequently positioned too high. They should be level with your line of sight from the sofa, otherwise you're guaranteed neck ache.

 In this example above from a recent client project, the TV has been fixed to a wall bracket within made-to-measure industrial style alcove shelves. It blends in thanks to the surrounding accessories, but can be easily pulled-out for optimal viewing.

Style up your telly by all means, but there's no need to pretend it's not there! Do you disguise your television or display it with pride? I'd love to hear.

Happy Friday everyone!

Animals in the bedroom?

It's not been a brilliant week so far – I'm being plagued by a nasty start-of-term cold/cough/sickness thingy which is hampering progress in the back bedroom. I'm currently sitting on the floor of said bedroom, surrounded by piles of lovely things (cushions, rugs, blankets, sheepskins) and some not so lovely things (paint roller that needs washing up, heap of junk from recently emptied cupboard, mug of cold tea).

So I thought I'd put off sorting any of that out by sharing some inspiration from my recent meet up with Andrew Martin (I like to think that technically it's not procrastination if it's productive.) Andrew Martin has long been one of my favourite sources for high end textiles and wall coverings – their gorgeous fabrics, masculine furniture and iconic trompe l'oeil wallpapers are fantastic. Seriously, if you haven't already then check them out.

Their recent collaboration with artist Holly Frean has resulted in this new collection of fabrics, wallpaper and cushions with a definite zoological vibe. From monkeys to polar bears, elephants to penguins it's just really fun and quirky. I'm in the midst of decorating my daughter's room right now, so this was right up my street (although I think it would look pretty fabulous in plenty of other rooms too).

First up is this gorgeous Cheeky Monkey print. I'm a sucker for a silhouette and you can't go wrong with monochrome. What you can't tell from this picture is that these little guys are actually flocked – just imagine, little velvety monkeys climbing your walls – you could even stroke them! I love this design, it's also available in a subtle white on white (white flocked monkeys on a chalky, off-white background). I love a bit of texture and if you can add some on the walls, then why not? If budget weren't an issue these little guys would be pretty near the top of my wish list for the youngest DesignSeeker's bedroom.

However, this parade of elephants on a cloud grey background would come a close second. They'd look pretty majestic sweeping across your walls – although somehow orderly and dignified too (perhaps I need them in my office).

Or perhaps a waddle of proud penguins (yes, I had to google that particular collective noun, great isn't it)? I currently have Abigail Edwards' fabulous Owls wallpaper in my downstairs loo, but I could definitely see these guys taking over one day.

There are several more designs to check out at Andrew Martin, all cheeky and playful, without being too childish. I would definitely use these in a grown up bedroom/den/bathroom/office. This may be as close as I get for now – we don't actually own any real live animals at home (unless you count cowhide tables and sheepskin rugs)...our two small boys can be beastly enough!

So what do you think? Would you put animals in the bedroom? Or anywhere else for that matter? (No smut, please)...

Right, best get on with cleaning that paint roller. Oooh, hang on, a cold tea! Think I'll just drink that first...

Coming back from the dark side (or how many coats of paint does it take to cover Downpipe?)

It's been a busy few weeks at mine, a lovely couple of weeks off with friends in the South of France, where the children ran a little wild and the grown-ups weren't much better (plenty of sun, sea, beer, bread and cheese – not necessarily in that order). Then there was the 'significant' birthday (i.e. I turned 40 – which bothered me surprisingly little and was a great excuse for some partying). And then I decided to dye my hair peroxide blonde. When I say decided, what I really mean is I got coaxed into it by my hairdresser, who felt that a landmark birthday should be marked by a landmark hair-do! I think I like it – it certainly feels like a bit of a change (or is that a mid-life crisis?)

Maybe it's the new hair that got me to thinking about coming back from the dark side at home too. The world has gone a bit dark-paint crazy over the past few years, and whilst I do love a good inky room – like my current, chocolate brown office (shown here on a tidy day) – change is definitely in the air.

With the kids back at school and the business gaining momentum, my work has started to take over the entire house – every surface of every room seems to be covered in scale drawings, fabric samples, tape measures and catalogues, so it's all starting to feel a little too chaotic even for me! It's time for some serious reorganisation (and a MUCH bigger desk). After much debate, I've decided to swap rooms with my 2 year old daughter (she'll get my current office, I'll get her smaller box room to work from. It's a bit of a compromise, but I'm hoping that with some clever storage all will work out fine).

Much as I love dark interiors, I feel like the chocolate brown walls just aren't going to work for my daughter. I have my heart set on something much brighter (and whiter). I hope Abigail Ahern isn't reading this, I feel a bit like I'm committing style treason!

To be honest, I'm a little bit nervous too – in my opinion you have to work a whole lot harder to make a white room look cool. Without a dark, warm, luxurious backdrop everything else can look a little pedestrian and dull. But given that I've got to be thrifty (and I'm not particularly patient when it comes to decorating for myself) I've decided to press the 10 litres of white paint I found in the shed into service.

Which brings me neatly back to the title of this post... how many coats of paint does it take to cover Downpipe? (OK, so my office is not actually painted Downpipe, it's Little Greene's Felt, but Downpipe has to be the most universally recognised dark wall colour of the past 5 years, so you'll forgive my generalisation). I cleared the room and started slapping the paint on last week. I was thinking maybe three coats would do it. After the first coat, I was feeling pretty optimistic – it was patchy and there was plenty of brown showing through, but hey, I hadn't cut in yet and the second coat always covers sooooo much better. Doesn't it?

Two coats down and I thought maybe it might just need four. Four coats later and I was hoping one more would do the trick. Nope! SIX COATS PEOPLE!!!! Six coats of white paint and it now finally looks well, white! (I have since researched this and realise that what I should have done was use a latex undercoat to cover the original dark paint colour, but you know, hindsight is a wonderful thing. Did I mention I'm impatient when it comes to decorating?)

So now comes the challenge of how to make a white room look cool. I want it to be fun, happy, strong and warm (just like my youngest...awww). At the moment it just looks very, very white. (Whilst my inner Emily Henderson is gushing excitedly at all the pretty light my inner Ms Ahern is definitely yelling what have you done???)

Whilst I wait for my inner design alter-egos to stop fighting and figure out the finer details, I thought I'd share a few inspirational images of bright (and white) children’s rooms to spur me on – and maybe motivate any of you who are thinking of painting your dark walls light again!

 1 // I love the vintage textiles and boho feel of this simple room.

2 // I can't resist a Moroccan rug with a bit of wicker – classic Cali combo done here with a Scandi twist.

3 // I have no need of bunkbeds for my daughter's room, but how much would you have loved these as a kid?

4 // I'm a little bit in love with cacti at the moment (isn't everyone?) I've seen this wallpaper in a few places, but it looks great with all the white and black in this child's room.

So, what do you think? Have you gone over to the dark side in your home? Would you ever come back again (or has my 6 coats just put you off?) Let me know…

Behind the scenes: bespoke cowhide cushions for the Albion Clerkenwell

A few months ago I was absolutely delighted to be asked to contribute (in my own small way) to the creation of the newest Albion cafe, restaurant & bar in Clerkenwell, London. There are a small number of Albions dotted around East London (plus one on the South Bank) and I love everything about them, so being invited to work with them was amazing!

As a lover of food and drink, the Albion concept is right up my street – simple, seasonal, British food and drink, served all day, in relaxed yet stylish surroundings.  The locations combine a cafe with a grocery selling great fresh produce, baked goods and luxurious culinary treats. What's not to love?

The team behind the Albion is Peter Prescott, Sir Terence Conran & Vicki Conran (collectively Prescott & Conran) so it's no wonder that the concept has been thought out and executed so flawlessly.  It was Peter Prescott's team who first contacted me during the planning stages of the Clerkenwell destination. At our meeting Peter explained that for their newest venue he was planning a basement function room, Cheese & Charcuterie Corner and Pie Room in addition to the upstairs cafe, bakery, grocery and bar.  

My task was to provide bespoke cowhide cushions for the Cheese & Charcuterie corner (how could I refuse?) Accessed by a wooden staircase from the main bar, the lower floor has a very pared back aesthetic – stainless steel, exposed flues, breeze-block walls and concrete lighting.  There was definitely a need for a little softening, and what more fitting than some glossy, tactile cowhide cushions? 

The bespoke cowhide cushions we made are double sided in dark black/brown South American exotic hides, with flashes of white. (Originally they specified very little white, but once in situ decided to order several more cushions with more white on show to contrast with the grey block wall that forms the back of the bench seat). Selecting the perfect hides was paramount – and I probably agonised way too much about it. But working with a beautiful, natural product like hide does, of course, involve plenty of natural variance. Each hide has different markings, hair length, colour, texture and curl that needed to be taken into consideration to create a set of cushions that worked beautifully together.*

These cushions were fairly large, meaning that we could only get one 1 or 2 out of each hide – but the end result is large, glossy, single piece cushions that really show off the natural variations. The picture below was taken for the opening...

A few weeks ago, when the venue finally opened, I was invited to a Great British Design Evening at the Albion Clerkenwell – organised for all of us who contributed to this latest venture. I couldn't turn down a chance to sample the fabulous charcuterie and craft beer (I highly recommend the handmade scotch eggs too!) I have to commend Prescott & Conran for their support of small, local business – without people like Peter Prescott it would be pretty difficult for people like me to survive. It was lovely to be invited to a thank you evening and to see so many other local designers and small businesses there. 

Amongst the scoffing and chatting I just about remembered to take a picture of the cushions in situ, a few more were added, together with a wall of vintage mirrors to overlook them! 

Of course the design of the rest of the premises is immaculate – a simple yet welcoming mix of design-classics (angelpoise lamps and pendants; tolix stools with red leather cushions) and textures (concrete, oak, marble and white metro tiles). Even the bathrooms were great – cement tiles and brass basins (you've got to love a good loo!) 

So if you haven't been to an Albion, I suggest you make a beeline for one the next time you find yourself in East London. Oh, and for those fellow-parents out there, you should note that they're child friendly too – free meals for kids under six during weekends and school holidays, all day (until bedtime). That's my plan for Friday sorted anyway!

*I realise that hair-on-hide makes some people feel squeamish, more so than regular leather (although presumably not those sitting in the charcuterie section eating fabulous meats?!) Our hides are all sourced from Argentina and Brazil, where the cattle are reared for their meat, naturally grass fed and are free to roam over 1000s of acres. At the end of their lives they are transported minimal distances and their hides as well as their meat go to good use.

6 things to learn from a Swedish stylist's amazing home

I've become something of a master at squeezing work in around the edges, and never more so than during the summer holidays with 3 children at home for 7 weeks! Typically I am really busy with design projects, so there's no opportunity to just slack off (and I thought having a boss was bad...) I can't complain, this is what I wanted after all! I was picking through some of my favourite rooms of all time for a little inspiration last night and was reminded of the fabulous house of interior stylist, Marie Olsson Nylander. I thought I'd share these images with you for a little hump day inspiration. If you haven't come across her work before, then you're in for a treat. And if you have, well...it never hurts to oggle afresh!

Nylander is a Swedish stylist, decorator, antique collector (and mum) and I just love her hip, eclectic style. It's a little bit Scandi, a little bit industrial, a little-bit boho and VERY laid-back, collected and cool.

I like to analyse what works in my favourite rooms, so here is my run down of the elements that make Marie Olsson Nylander's home so perfect.

1. Texture

First and foremost Nylander is a master of combining texture. Her home is heavily edited, but the pieces that remain are a wonderful combination of textures: she mixes worn wood with glass, vintage leather with french linen, shaggy rugs with concrete...the colour scheme is pared back but the texture gives you so much to look at.

2. Patina

Everything in Nylander's home is perfectly imperfect. From the scuffed dining table to the well worn fibreglass chairs, everything has some history and nothing is too pristine.

3. Art

Art equals personality, and Nylander demonstrates that you don't have to spend a fortune to add some. She mixes paintings with family photos and even torn out pages taped to the wall.  And she is a fan of sculptural elements too – from huge plaster cherubs to African busts. Even oversized planters and wooden spheres have the feel of an installation.

4. Metallics

A little dash of bling goes a long way in Nylander's home...and she's not afraid to mix her metals either. Whether it's this gorgeous little gold side table or the classic chrome arco lamp, the hints of shine contrast perfectly with all that wood and white.

5. Mirrors

Nylander has an amazing collection of mirrors in styles from every era. She is not afraid to make a statement with an ornate venetian mirror; prop a huge floor-standing one behind her dining table, or combine a simple, modernist style mirror with an over the top rococo console. Pure genius every time. This is one area where I need to seriously up the game in my house (I don't even own a full length mirror – aha they cry, that explains her sartorial choices!!)

6. Ethnic touches

Nylander's home is far from all-out boho, but does have a certain collected style. The odd tribal sculpture hangs out happily with some African fabric cushions whose earthy colours (combined with the largely black and white colour scheme) provide pattern and global flair. The strikingly dark hallway is complemented with a Moroccan boucherouite rug.

See? Beautiful, unique and understatedly amazing. Check out her instagram feed for more inspiration: @marieolssonnylander

(Oh, and check out mine @hideandseeklondon for your chance to win a fabulous frazada blanket!)

All photography Sara Svenningrud.

3 ways to style a leather sofa

Just thought I'd share a little design inspiration today – 3 different ways to style a leather sofa. I have a bit of a thing for leather sofas, particularly low, mid-century style ones. They are timeless, go with everything and are virtually indestructible (although that's not a challenge I'll be setting my 3 kids, who I'm sure could prove me wrong on that last point). Leather is pretty much a neutral in my book, so you may as well have fun accessorising and changing things up every now and again.

I am yet to own a fabulous vintage tan leather sofa, but luckily, my stylish friends let me 'borrow' theirs for an afternoon! So here are 3 different looks for one cool sofa.


You can never go wrong with a monochrome scheme, but this is lifted and kept fresh with the addition of some greenery. Real greenery is great (i.e. add some plants) but that large palm-leaf print cushion adds some real zing too.


This one is perfect for a summer room, if you like a little boho style! The vintage indigo cushions add texture and a good denim-blue base for the colour elsewhere. A vintage mossy-indigo throw over the sofa arm adds a nice bit of texture too. Tan leather and indigo is a no-brainer...it's like your favourite jeans and leather jacket/belt combo – laid-back and understated but always in style. The striped rug is actually a Peruvian frazada blanket – these are so thick and well woven that they work really well as rugs, provided you add an underlay.  Sometimes you really need a square rug, but they tend to be hard to find, so a frazada is a great alternative to consider.  Check out our instagram competition for your chance to win one of these frazada blankets later today: https://www.instagram.com/hideandseeklondon/


Finally, this darker styling maximises texture. The cowhide cushions and chunky knit merino wool throw add plenty of softness to the smooth leather. An odd number of cushions nearly always looks better than even – 3 or 5 depending on the size of your sofa. The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that the first 2 styles actually have 4 cushions each, gah! They still work as the styling is asymmetrical and there is a mix of sizes and shapes. What are rules for if not to be broken?)

All cushions and throws are available in our shop www.hideandseek.london.

I'd love to know which look you like best, and don't forget to check out the instagram competition for your chance to win that frazada!

All photography Carole Poirot for Hide & Seek London.