Slip out of neutral to gear up for character in a home
Escaping from bland interiors is a challenge but expert Sally Coulthard has all the advice you will need. Sharon Dale reports.
All the best, most memorable interiors have character and reveal something of the owner’s personality.
Sadly, the housing boom and a trend for minimalism helped strip individuality out of our homes. Neutral was the buzz word and the result was bland interiors designed not to scare prospective buyers.
Now that we’re in a slower but more stable market, we’re staying put for longer and thinking of our houses as homes rather than investments, we can afford to inject some individuality.
New builds with no architectural features and almost anything built from the 1960s onwards are a challenge, which is why Yorkshire writer and successful property renovator Sally Coulthard has come up with her latest book. A Home of Your Own – Creating Interiors with Character.
There are chapters on everything from antique and vintage furnishings and embracing craftsmanship to create spaces that remind us of loved ones.
“When we describe a house as being characterful, what we mean is that it is individual, exceptional in some way; that the space has a special mix of features that, when put together, create a wonderfully idiosyncratic, interesting home,” says Sally. “What’s more, we are not referring simply to the building itself. The contents, colour scheme, layout and personal effects have just as much influence as the structure in creating a unique home.”
It is all about marking your territory.
“We want our homes to reflect who we are as well as fulfil our basic need for shelter. Every time we choose a paint colour, hang a picture or pick out a fabric, we are communicating something to ourselves and to others. When we display a collection of teacups or trophies, we are letting people know our interests, values, ideals, tastes and preoccupations. A characterful home should therefore speak to us about the people who live in it.”
Here are some of Sally’s tips:
There are a number of reasons why a home lacks character. It may be too perfect and feel as if no-one lives there. Minimalist homes sometimes suffer from this. A home may also feel too bland because it is too uniform: all the furniture and contents match but in a way that leaves the space looking like a showroom where everything is over-co-ordinated. More importantly a home will lack character because it contains nothing unique to the person who lives in it: no photographs or personal treasures, no signs of pastimes or passions. Homes with character are visually appealing places that exude warmth, laughter and love.
Use salvage, antiques, vintage or retro pieces, heirlooms or objects that mean something to you. Surrounding ourselves with nostalgia helps us plug into the past, making us feel grounded in the present.
Mix old and new. Disparate objects can relate to one another if they share a colour, style or shape. A 1960s tripod floor lamp beautifully echoes the tapered shapes of both Shaker and late 18th century furniture.
Photographs, mementoes and heirlooms aren’t just decorations they have the power to lift our mood. Homes that are filled with reminders of relationships, whether through children’s artwork or family portraits make the most welcoming spaces.
Let your home express your creative side. A sketch, child’s painting or pretty piece of needlework will add a touch of originality.
Be original. Few of us can afford Old Masters but there is a difference in tone and atmosphere between a home filled with one-offs and originals and one decorated with generic pictures or prints of famous works. You don’t have to spend a fortune.
Collect objects that you admire or give you enjoyment. An old country dresser can hold favourite crockery. An exquisite collection of old hand mirrors interspersed with antique prints makes an attractive display.
Fabric is important in creating a characterful home. It adds colour, visual warmth and texture. Vintage textiles can contribute that essential extra dimension of historical interest and appeal. The tried and tested way of incorporating fabric is through use of soft furnishings but antique and retro lengths of fabric make excellent wall art.
Bring craftsmanship and quality into your home with well-made, lovingly crafted pieces of furniture and decoration. These not only make your home individual but imbue it with sophisticated but homely character.
Add some humour. This can come from paintings, photos, furniture, quirky salvage, retro advertising signs, charming typography or unusual ornaments. Designers often say “Have something ugly in a room and by this they mean have something tattered, humorous or just plain weird. A stag’s head with a hat on it, a marble bust wearing sunglasses or a battered old armchair all work in this way.
Put expertise on your bookshelf
Sally Coulthard is a writer and property restorer with a passion for salvage and a flair for creating fabulous interiors.
Sally, who lives in North Yorkshire, has put her expertise to good use writing and advising others through her best-selling books. Her previous publications include Shed Chic, Gardenalia and The Restorers.
A Home of Your Own: Creating Interiors With Character is published by Merrell and costs £24.95.
Yorkshire Post readers can buy it for the special price of £21.95 including free postage and packing in the UK. To order the book, contact Marston Book Services, tel: 01235 465 500 and quote the reference MPMERHYP.
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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