Making elegance look effortless, design superstar Thomas Hamel’s former Sydney residence, pictured, is a great lesson in advanced design. And a reminder to make everything you put on show speak to you. Here we break down the basics: how to hit the mark everytime you pull a room together.
1. When using colour, use it in planes
Paint entire walls from architrave to skirtings. Don’t pick out the detailing in contrasting colours. It looks (and feels) old-fashioned.
2. Make at least one spectacular change
We think the biggest bang for the buck is to open up a ceiling. If you have an attic or a pitched roof, it’s likely that you can open it up. It’s not cheap, but it’s life changing.
3. Spend as much as you can afford on your floor
You can sit on a box on a beautiful floor and be happy, but nothing will ever improve a cheap floor. Flooring underpins everything, and is not easy to change. It has the biggest impact on aesthetics, practicality and budget. What does your house need?
4. Invest on door hardware, light fixtures, and faucets
Details that get used daily need to be not only good-looking, but durable. And you should never skimp on things you notice or touch every day.
5. When to Spend
Never buy a faddish design and never buy a cheapie.
6. Tables of all sizes
Big enough, high enough, charming enough.
7. Lamps say more about you than anything else
Cheap lamps, cheap interior. Your eyes goes straight to the light.
Everyone can feel them – and feel if you’ve skimped. You’ve got to spend money on good fabrics with attractive textures.
9. Choose the best you can afford
Quality pays long term dividends, and will give a lifetime of enjoyment.
10. Only buy things you love
Everything that surrounds you affects you, so only have pieces that resonate.
11. Look for good lines
Perfect proportions and great finishes.
12. Creating Depth
By using individual uplighters to bounce lots of light across walls and ceilings. This way, you get dynamic lighting with the ability to change the mood of the room, as required
13. Follow the 70 Percent Rule
Once you’ve got your interior structure (walls and floors) right, interiors are built with staples and personality accessories. About 70 percent of an interior should be filled with classic staple pieces – sofas, tables, chairs, commodes, bookcases, mirrors – that don’t date. The other 30 per cent can be filler accessories (think home jewellery).
14. Choose the right sofa
A great living room starts with a great sofa. Invest in a no-nonsense, simple sofa in a colour that will outlast fashion the way you’d buy a tailored, timeless suit. Choose something simple, subtle and well-built. So often people keep sofas that are not comfortable, or are too big, or too small for the room. In living rooms, a good sofa is key to comfort, but it’s also central to how a room feels and looks.
15. Scale it Up
Give a room guts with a pair of bookcases or a big piece of art. An oversized painting or huge mirror will style up any space. One hero piece per room adds architectural weight.
16. Don’t forget the entry
It sets the stage and vocabulary for the whole residence.
Build your interior around collections – don’t build an interior around a fabric.
18. Unity in colour is important
The idea is to pick a palette and work within it, using different textures in the same colour family to create interest and give the room a complete feeling.
19. Define your materials and stick with them
You can always extend them, but do so consistently. In other words, if you decide that you’re going to use both brass and chrome in your home, don’t then suddenly throw in copper, unless you do it in more than one room.
20. When lighting a room, use layers
Most houses usually get lighting wrong. As soon as night falls, lighting is the most decorative element. Be sure to have lots of different sources of light – and use layers when lighting a room. Don’t light up your house a football stadium. For ambient light, try a chandelier or pendant for a beautiful, warm glow, and table lamps for intimacy. You need practical lights for reading and to keep you from falling down the stairs. Finally, add art lighting to illuminate paintings or plants.
21. Think Comfort
Your home has to be a sanctuary; as soon as you walk through the door your spirits should lift. If it feels that way to you, everyone who enteres will be impressed. Style endures because it works. Quality’s ultimate value is the serenity thtat comes with style.
22. You Need A Few Quality Classics
Treat each room as a blank canvas. Suitability is everything. Like your wardrobe your interiors should be based on a few timeless staples that you can mix and match: like a classic sofa, a couple of decent chairs, pretty tables, a good mirror and elegant lamps.
23. Don’t be Timid
Even in interiors, where you have no one to please but yourself, many people worry about what others will think. This leads to bland, hopelessly dull rooms. Be individual.
24. Time Warps
People get stuck in the era when they grew up. Update your eye by flicking through instagram, blogs and magazines or visiting the best display homes and showrooms in town to see how things are being done
25. Not Making Your Bed
Decorating starts as soon as you put your two feet on the floor every morning. Making your bed everyday will make your entire place feel more pulled together. People often forget to fluff the cushions – the cushions are functional, yes, but once you’ve curled up into them, bring them back to life with a good thump. A well-plumped cushion is a wonderful thing.
26. Big Stuff Good, Small Stuff Bad
Many people have good staples, (sofas and beds) and bad details (cushions, lamps) This is because they choose small stuff on the run, with no real sense of how they will fit in to the scheme of a home. Or they’ve spent so much buying or renting your home that you have no money left over, and have to live with the stuff from your old digs. Factor in the cost of decorating to bring it up to standard, and keep enough aside for quality basics that make a home and affirm your sense of self worth: good down-filled cushions, china, glassware.
27. Too Many Nick-Nacks
No need to be a total minimalist but curating your bits will keep you from looking like a hoarder. Be on constant patrol to keep stuff out of your house. When people give you something you hate or will never use, return it to the shop or throw it out. If you buy something that is plain wrong, donate it to a good cause, and learn from your mistake. When you inherit something that will never be your soulmate, ring an auction house. Oh yes, and keep surfaces clear.
28. Quick-fix syndrome
Too many people think they can solve design problems by buying something. That might be anything from an emergency bookcase or sofa bed (never buy anything on the run) to plastic storage boxes. They’ll end up annoying you for decades.
29. A Bad Furniture Lay-Out
Never push all your furniture out to the walls – think of a doctor’s waiting room with its hard-backed chairs lined against a wall, and you get the picture. You want your seating plan to be sociable. Your space will seem larger if you have atleast 5cm of space between your chairs and the walls.
30. A rug that’s too small
Don’t float little rugs in big spaces. Large rugs can be expensive but a rug that is too small for the space can make a room look wrong, disjointed and unfinished.
31. Keep It Clean Maintain everything
Your silver needs to be polished, your mirrors gleaming, your floors waxed, your sinks sparkling. Newspapers have a shelf life of one day – two at most. There is no excuse for disorder. You must keep your standards up. Keep it simple and regular. Create a system that works for you. It’s amazing how forgiving the eye is as long as the main surfaces are clean.
32. Hire a Window Cleaner
Invest in a window cleaner every month, to wash inside and out, particularly after wet weather. For a bargain price, your house will not only look well-groomed, it will feel it, too.
33. Top Tip
Change dirty water in flowers. It’s a small thing that can make a big difference. Sparkling water makes everything look fresh. Dirty water makes everything look grubby.
34. Puffed Cushions Are Vital
Keep your sofa pillows and cushions puffed to full effect. It is the fastest way to create a finished look.
35. Stay Clutter-Free
Five-star hotels are a great lesson in organisation. The biggest single thing you can do to create the same feeling of order, and to improve the look of your house is to streamline what you’ve got. If you don’t use something, remove it from your life. Now find a proper place for everything that’s left. Store items where they are used, based on frequency of use. It’s the quickest (and cheapest) way to get the look (and feel) of a top hotel at home
36.Table lamps, not switched on
Globes that have expired. Overhead lighting that throws light on your head, and not on your table, where you need it. If you have table lamps; for goodness sake, turn them on. Use layers when lighting a room – much more flattering.
37. Cold houses
Interiors are as much about ‘feel,’ as ‘looks’. Keep yours warm, and welcoming.
38. Buy Two Great Pieces A Year
Rather than renovating your home all at once, buy two quality pieces you love every year. Good things hold their value, and in ten years you will have a beautiful collection of twenty things.
39. Do Your Homework
Before antique or vintage shopping, research how similar items of interest are priced or have sold.
40. Invest Where It Matters
If you’re on a budget, invest in the pieces that anchor a room. It wouldn’t be a bedroom without a bed, it wouldn’t be a living room without a sofa, and it wouldn’t be a dining room without a dining table.
41. Add plants
Greenery is the quickest way to soften architecture, add focal points and make a room look lived-in.
42. Hang Art
Don’t leave unframed art leaning on walls for years. Frame the best and chuck the rest. If you can’t afford bespoke, stock to plain frames. Hang your art at the right height: the general rule is 150cm from the floor.
43. Keep it Real
Choose natural fabrics over synthetics, authentic old furniture over reproductions, a cane laundry basket over a plastic one. Not everyone can inherit or afford antique but cheap reporductions look second-rate, even to the untrained eye.
44. Beware of Patterns
Patterns draw your eye. They dominate, date, and can ruin everything. When people fall in love with pattern they tend to go overboard. Pull back. Pattens work best in isolation; a small touch beats a heavy hand. It’s more subtle to use textures to build a room’s character: cut velvets, linens, nubble weaves, sheer voiles, something that feels good.
45. Don’t try too hard
Ostentatious things – unnecessarily enormous houses, gold-plated taps – scream ‘I’ve arrived’. Simplicity and informality are much more stylish. Sometimes its more sophisticated to have slip-covered linen sofas, and oil-finished wax timber floors.
46. Change Your Coffee Table Decor Regularly
Start with something large in the middle, like a huge basket filled with a plant, flower arrangement or hurricane shade. Then, build out from that with stacks of books, candles, or bronze sculpture.
47. Mix it Up
If everything matches you home will look like a motel suite. Have a mix: something French, something Chinese, something American, because it makes it individual.
48. Install a Mirrored Wall
To lighten and enlarge a room and reflect views. They can make a cramped space feel grand, doubles the light and the impression of space. It’s an old trick that still works.
49. Mix and Match China
Instead of buying a formal tableware set, consider mixing and matching plates. It’s more interesting.
50. Maintain It
Poor housekeeping can undo thousands of dollars worth of decorating. Dusty windows, grimy sinks, dirty floors, shabby upholstery….things like that let down your whole look. Housekeeping – and keeping things in order – is the basis on which good decorating must be based.