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February 17, 2021

Here at Melissa Penfold, many of our most-read stories over the past year sprang from the pandemic. As we’ve quarantined at home, our needs for privacy, security, flexibility, floppability, and beauty have changed the way we want to live. Read more, ‘Top 10 Design Trends For 2021: Meet Your New Home.’

This month we are all about creating home confidence and happiness. Many of us have things we wish were different about where we live, we want more space, more light, more bedrooms, a better flow, but with the right ideas, products, and a little expertise it’s possible to maximise the potential of any space. Read more, ‘The Biggest Residential Directions for This Year.’

It’s about reconfiguring your property to better accommodate your new habits.

We also look at how people have found themselves buying things that never would have darkened their doors before the pandemic hit: air purifiers, screens, even gloss paint (it’s almost Terminator-proof!).  The trials of lockdown have led us to crave decorating solutions from easily hauled seats to lush wallpaper murals that transport us to inaccessible locales. As homeowners and interior designers have come up with intrepid fixes for current conundrums, the ingenuity has given rise to micro-trends and ways to make isolation a little less…isolating. Read more, ‘The Biggest Lesson’s We Learnt From The Year of Covid-19.’

Here are 21 ways to uplift your home in small but meaningful ways that have struck us as the most clever and doable.

Glass sliding internal doors create a stylish solution to creating purposeful private spaces with a more thoughtful balance between rooms. Design: Andrea Fisk and Jess Thomas of Shapeless Studio. Image via

1. Paint

Paint is the first line of defense. Like many people, you’ve had plenty of time to look around and notice what is, and isn’t, working. You might find lighter wall colours that brighten the space, with furnishings or accents in autumnal colours such as rusts, greens, ochres, and blues. Bright walls don’t mean stark white. Ivory or bone or muted greys can be a softer way to elevate the mood of a room, and trick your mind into thinking it’s not too hot, or too cold outside. Read more, ‘Paint Colours With Cult Followings: 10 Picks.’

This is a good time to reevaluate how you’re living.

2. Tucked-away TVs

The big, dark rectangle has always been a décor crasher, but with all the ever-present computers we need to work and learn remotely, the television is one more black hole. People just don’t want to see televisions all the time anymore. Designers are increasingly being asked to conceal them since the pandemic started, hiding and camouflaging them behind everything from chinoiserie screens to fantastic French fabric—to serenely seamless effect. Read more, ‘Putting The TV In Its Place.’

London designer Rose Uniacke hid a television with matching textile and wall treatment to fabulous effect. Photo by Simon Upton.

3. Lights That Travel

Rechargeable lamps offer maximum flexibility for limited space and can be toted from bedside to bathtub; to create a completely life-changing experience at home. Most have several settings, from ambient to task, and last up to 30 hours before needing a boost.  

Philippe Malouin’s gracefully arched Arca Portable lamp has four settings, from ambient to task, and lasts up to 30 hours before needing a boost. $275 USD,

4. Barely-There Hardware

People are so, so sick of being in their house, they’re looking to refresh almost anything. Something as small as ripping off ugly doorknobs  – from kitchen and bathroom cabinets to the front door, and replacing light switches can set the entire tone of the space.

If the hardware is right you won’t notice it. If it’s wrong your eye will go straight to it.

Use your imagination to spruce up light switches – think of Deco-inspired brass light switches with transparent acrylic plates so they won’t block a hand-painted wallpaper.  A dimmer function will allow you to change your environment even though you’re in the same room all day. Read more, ‘An Evolution: Trend Report Exploring What’s Next For Design.’

The invisible ‘Dolly Switch’ from Forbes and Lomax UK,

5. Air Scrubbers

The latest air purifiers are mercifully handsome. The kind of sleek, simple piece you can place in your entry hall which will suck up viruses, VOCs, mould and more in spaces up to 1,000 square feet. It’s been helping a lot with anxiety and stress and refreshing the environment.”

A concealment trick: buffer it with a fig tree, maidenhair fern, or cyclamen. 

7. Stolen Scenes

You might not be able to visit Provence or Asia anytime soon, but you can unfurl their panoramas on your walls. A scenic wallcovering can be transporting and make us feel as if we’re surrounded by nature. Designers are increasingly wrapping rooms in soft-toned riverside landscapes and hanging hand-painted murals in lieu of art in dining rooms.

By candlelight, you feel like you are living in the painting.

Choose from an infinitely rich repertoire: earthly paradises, magnificent horizons, fantastical bestiaries, luxurious flora, breathtaking landscapes. They’re an unbeatable Zoom background.

De Gournay handpainted scenic wallpaper at The Colony, Palm Beach, inspired by the original mid-century mural when the hotel first opened in 1947.

7. Pretty Pinboards 

The garage/workshop essential has been reinterpreted for inside use. Pinboards in every kind of material (cork, metal, timber, wicker), equipped with hooks, including IKEA options can help regiment school sundries, bills, quotes, notes, reports, newsletters, invitations, inspiration, fabric swatches, samples, and so on. Others might span an entire wall to become a catchall for masks, keys, and mail. Or hang miniature baskets for dirty masks.

8. Clutter Patrol

The biggest single thing you can do to improve the look of your home is to take things out of it. If you don’t use something, remove it from your life. Bin, bin, bin. Get all that stuff out, clutter slows you down, and when you’re done, keep things in their place. Read more, ‘Conquer Clutter in 10 Pain-Free Steps.’

Tidying provides you with a strong foundation to ask questions of yourself: ‘What’s important to me right now? How do I want to live?”

9. Colourful Accessories

Dashes of bright colours make you feel less depressed to be locked down. Adding some bright yellow patterned cushions to your living room/home office/daycare space might not erase the fact that you’re at home more than ever, but it might trick your brain into thinking your home is a cosy, romantic oasis, instead of the same walls you’ve been staring at for more than a year.

Dashes of bright colours make you feel less depressed to be locked down such as the green lamp bases with ochre shades, pictured. Teamed with a bas relief burnished wallpaper by De Gournay of swirling waves, rolling clouds and beams of light that sets a scene of Art Deco seafaring brilliance.  Image courtesy of De Gournay. 

10.  The Secret to Deep Cleaning 

If you’ve been cooped up at home for months on end, it’s time to clean house — and not in a superficial way. There’s no way around it: When you rarely leave home, things get dirty faster. Windows are left open longer, kitchens and bathrooms are used more frequently, and bread crumbs somehow cover everything. Start by focusing on the room that needs the most attention, whether it’s a bedroom, bathroom or kitchen.

Begin at the top. Clean the ceiling first and work your way down.

Clean high-touch surfaces – doorknobs, light switches, cabinet, and appliance pulls, faucet handles. Address picture frames and windows. Give bathrooms extra attention. Degrease the kitchen. Finish with floors. Try to maintain the feeling with daily quick cleans. 

11. Peacekeeping Screens

Folding, portable, and as useful as they can be beautiful, screens are on the rise in our homes to define space within rooms and provide privacy. They also create instant office spaces, plus add warmth to interiors. They can hide clutter, and when the children’s mess is a heaving pile of unsorted toys and clothes, a well-placed screen can make things look respectable. And they are fun for children’s homemade theatrics. Today’s screens come with as many or as few panels as you want, in ravishing finishes that range from translucent to solid. If you want a room to be truly versatile and portable, choose a screen that is light enough for one person to fold and carry. Don’t however use a screen as an enormous photo album. Remember it’s a screen, not a screen test. 

12. Curtain Call 

Open plan living has become challenging in the past year. Busier homes can sometimes leave us craving privacy or a moment of peace and quiet. The simplest way to split up space is with curtains. Quick and affordable to install, they can still add serious wow factory; go for chic but understated plain linen, or take the opportunity to add a powerful print you love. Read more, ‘Why Open Plan Homes Are Actually A Terrible Idea.’

Putting up walls isn’t always the answer.

Putting up walls isn’t always the answer. The simplest way to split up space is with curtains which are quick and affordable to install. Many companies sell readymade soundproof room divider curtain kits such as

13. Canopy Beds

Promising a crib’s cosseting comforts, canopy beds are trending. They’ve come back in the biggest, most feverish way. We understand the allure; they’re a space in a space that give you that snug feeling with curtains you can tug shut to block out an en-suite office or a bustling spouse.

Remember, ceilings should be 9 feet or taller to handle the visual bulk. 

14. Seasonal Intervention Candles 

Splurging on some gorgeous scents is a solid way to bring cosiness and romance to a room without breaking the bank. A beautiful candle is cheaper than a complete overhaul.  You can mix scents to create complex smells that signal to your brain that you’re home. The scent becomes a marker of home. Adding scented candles might not change the world, but it might change the way you feel about being cooped up for the past year – and promote happiness, clarity, and calm any stress around the house.  There’s something comforting and somehow hopeful about candles; a little flickering heart of pure magic. Read more, ‘This Trick Will Help Your Candle Last Longer.’

Scented candles might change the way you feel about cooped up at home and calm any stress around the house. Find the biggest range of legendary French candlemaker, Cire Trudon at Palmer & Penn,

15. Lighting Every Room Feels Better with Warm Light

Instead of lighting up your house with too-blue bulbs, think warmth. Many people unknowingly buy LED lights without considering the temperature of the bulbs. White blue-hued LED lights not only create a cold feeling, they are often hard on the eyes. Lighting is key when it comes to mood, and using floor or table lamps instead of harsher overhead lights is a good move.

If you have any fluorescent lighting, get it the hell out of your space. It makes everything look ugly. Especially on Zoom. 

16. Glass Doors: Looking to maximise your home’s potential?

There’s a new demand for private spaces and glass doors are ideal when you want to create a sense of division without losing natural light. They can help you create order from chaos when our homes have to work harder than ever before. Glass sliding or hinged doors can make your space a multitasking success. In loft bedrooms, a smoked finish on glass doors will add a sophisticated and snug quality to a classic solution.

Glass doors are ideal when you want to create a sense of division without losing natural light and can make your space a multitasking success. Design by Andrea Fisk and Jess Thomas of Shapeless Studio. Image via

17. Flexible Perches

A seat with an undeniable nostalgia factor, the beanbag chair was introduced in 1969. Today the beanbag’s flexibility as a movable seat has brought it back as people struggle to improvise quiet spots in crowded homes. On Instagram, #beanbag counts 438,000 posts, and FatSak, a South African beanbag brand, reports a 200% spike in year-over-year sales this January. With entire families at home all the time, you’ll find everyone in your household besotted with the smushy, blob of a seat. It provides an extra place to relax that can be easily moved from room to room depending on where the rest of the family is, and how much peace and quiet you want.

18. Hidden Corners

You can throw appealing cushions on a sofa or chair next to a window with a lamp for reading, listening to music or just looking outside and taking a break. Look around your house, and transform the dead spaces into havens for yourself, your children, even your pets.  Smaller areas are where you can be really creative. An old utility room might become a pantry with the addition of tongue-and-groove walls, shelving and sliding vintage door.

A bay window invites a window seat. An alcove that’s difficult to reach doesn’t have to stand empty. Hang those beautiful old hats.

19. Artfully Done

Switch up the art on your walls to give your eyes and your brain something new to stare at while you’re waiting for the next Zoom to begin. Whether it’s a Picasso masterpiece, a print, or a pretty picture from a book, the right surroundings make a huge difference. The relationship you have with a piece should be central: the decoration around it secondary. Contemporary pieces can look great in traditionally decorated rooms and vice versa. As a rule of thumb, hanging pictures at eye level is a safe option. Let your most treasured paintings, sculptures and possessions influence the colours on your walls and floors for a seamless composition. Read more, ‘Affordable Art Exists- Here’s Where To Shop For It Online.’

Let your most treasured paintings influence the colours on your walls and floors for a seamless composition such as this traditional bathroom. Image via @mintpinkandchiliblue

20. Gloss Over It

Once relegated to just high water zones, (bathrooms and kitchens) gloss paint is having a moment as a style statement. Think of it in beauty terms as a highlighter over your foundation to draw attention to your best features. The difference now is it’s being used more imaginatively coming into its own on cabinetry, architectural details, and increasingly on full walls or ceilings to bounce light around a space, says UK Elle Decoration in its latest issue.

21. Same, Same, Same

Your home should have only the things you love and multiple layers of interest. The most interesting rooms have varied shapes, fabrics, and textures. Purchasing everything at one store is a no-no. You don’t want your living room to look like the showroom of your favorite retailer. Be sure to vary the leg styles on the seating. It’s much more interesting to pair a chair with exposed legs and a chunky sofa that is upholstered all the way to the floor than to have all of the same. 

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