Starting a new interiors project? Begin at the beginning…

Starting a design project from scratch is tough. You can scroll through Pinterest and Instagram and flip the pages of interiors magazines until you’re dizzy, but getting a handle on where to begin is always the hardest thing.

My brother, who helps me on the marketing side of things at Balmain & Balmain, is a case in point. He and his wife and their two boys have recently moved. They’ve been doing a lot of work on their Georgian cottage over the past few months. Now the builders have done their bit brilliantly, have packed up their tools and left them with some serious decorating decisions to make and a largely blank canvas. Where to begin?

They’ve already made their first mistake. In a panic to get paint — any paint — on bare walls, Al and Georgie rushed into a colour they thought would work in the master bedroom. Sadly Egyptian sand is more French mustard, and not the calming environment they’d envisaged. So now they have to repaint. We all make mistakes. Fortunately it’s just one room — the rest are looking great. They’re pretty philosophical about it and pretty practical. It won’t take long to fix.

So, where should you start? We always ask people what they envisage their room looking like — do they have a particular picture, or a rug, even a cushion to use as a starting point? That can often act as a springboard; it can help you to determine if what you are after is a room with plenty of cosy colours, or something altogether paler and less busy. Are you driven by pattern, plain colours or texture? It helps to frame these ideas first. Once you have a starting point, it is then a natural flow to start pulling out the fabric pattern books, paint and wallpaper samples to draw together a scheme.

Never be afraid to introduce colour or pattern to walls and do try and remember that when the wallpaper or paint goes on the walls it will often be the first thing to arrive. You can’t walk into a newly painted Portland grey sitting room and state that you hate it. Wait until you’ve put other elements into the room to pull it together, such as curtains, blinds, sofas, antiques, pictures and important pieces of furniture like chest of drawers and tables. A room evolves — you can keep adding to it and change it as time goes by. Little changes make a big difference, scatter cushions, flowers, throws on sofas or chairs, or even books on the bookshelf can all have an impact on a room.

And do remember, if you’re putting up paint samples, always use a white background or, better still, put your samples separately on individual sheets of white paper. Move them around in the room, test them in different lights and at different times of the day. It might just save you the hassle of repainting further on down the line.

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