Interiors: Creating the right mood to relax

The ideal domestic environment
The ideal domestic environment
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Are you using the rooms in your home correctly? Interior designer Jamie Hempsall shows how solutions are often easily at hand.

Objectively considering the way you live can flag up historical design flaws in room usage that, once addressed, give a whole new feel to a home.

The ideal domestic environment

The ideal domestic environment

These two rooms are case in point. At one end of our clients’ home was a kitchen with a sitting room directly adjacent and at the other a formal dining room. The location and feel of the latter meant it was rarely used and the client felt this was wasted space.

As part of our design process we looked at the available spaces on the ground floor (including location and light sources) and how the client was actually living. During our initial meetings the client highlighted the importance to them of hosting regular dinner parties. They preferred these to be informal occasions and so held them around the kitchen table – despite this meaning a complete tidy up before guests arrived.

They also discussed how the sitting room off the kitchen was perfectly serviceable, but somehow did not fulfil the role of a cosy nest within which to retreat. We asked why rooms were in these particular locations and received a familiar reply, “That is how the house was used when we bought it”. It is a common mistake. Room usage is not set in stone (even a kitchen can be moved with a little effort) so do not be afraid to challenge the historical layout of your home and adapt it to suit your needs.

We decided to review the location and feel of the infrequently used dining room. The room suffered from relatively poor light and the furniture was dark wood with leather upholstery. This led the room to have an air of formality, incongruous with our clients’ personalities.

The ideal domestic environment

The ideal domestic environment

An obvious solution to us was switching the locations of the dining and sitting rooms. By placing the dining room directly adjacent to the kitchen it immediately became an everyday part of the house. We wanted to make it a less formal environment, so our clients would use it for both casual entertaining and everyday dining. The new location benefitted from better natural light, so immediately felt less oppressive. We played to this strength by painting the walls in Zoffany Paris Grey and contrasted these with Architects’ White woodwork and Paperwhite cornice creating a warm, neutral background to frame the entire room. We then extended the tiled floor from the kitchen to provide a firm link between the two spaces and incorporated one of the client’s favourite rugs to add a central focal point. The furniture was good quality, but felt a little heavy. Our solution was to reupholster the large dining chairs; replacing full leather seating with contrasting Spice and Sable textured velvets. Window treatments were kept relatively simple with a gathered heading on an Alison Davies Bronze pole to further counter the formal furniture. We used London Skyline from Linwood in neutral grey with a simple ball tie back to add to the sleek look.

The rear of the fireplace was painted black to better frame the open fire in the evenings and to help make it a less dominant feature during the day. We used recess spots, rather than a pendant to ensure the ceiling felt high enough during the day, but included table lamps to allow an air of intimacy in the evening.