This weekend is Open House when just anyone gets the chance to see inside the best residential and commercial buildings across London, even 10 Downing Street and it’s free of charge.
It’s a brilliant excuse to see what cutting edge interior designers and architects are up to and an opportunity to see innovation, ingenuity and cutting edge materials in practice as well as having a good old nose around your neighbours house.
Here’s my rundown on the most interesting homes in North London all of which I’ll be attempting to see.
Kyverdale house – For its kooky yet minimal interior Design with use of 'pop' colours
13 Kingsley Place
For the amazing courtyard where the walls completely fold away making a perfect indoor/outdoor room
For a house with a unique zig-zag roof that looks folded paper and it’s tasteful interiors
The Green Rooms
For it’s concept as an arts hotel, which rents out stylish, contemporary rooms at very reasonable prices to the artistic community.
For being a gorgeous example of 1960s architecture with suitably matched new interiors = Modern!
(Again) For being kooky but this time in the workplace with lots of fun, laidback interior design ideas which inevitably leads to new ways of working – I wonder how much work they get done – I’ll have to wait and see…
So maybe I'll see you there and if you fancy making your own shortlist take a look for yourself on the website
And for an even more useful offline version for your smartphone the Open House app shows you nearby buildings to visit all over the city so your sure to get into at least one property.
A restaurant for me has to look good as well as taste good, it would have to be a Michelin 5* meal for me to not worry about the interior design although I did have a Michelin chef cooked steak in a corporate meeting once which was amazing, but we were still sat in a glass box with laminated cupboards and a projector above my head so.....
.....if you’re as hard to please as I am or indeed a restaurant owner you’ll probably appreciate my list of approval and scorn below:
Interior design your toilets!
The tiles are falling off, the grout is mouldy, the floor is torn and dirty, the doors and locks are faulty, the mirrors are not ample or non-existant, there’s water pooling on the surfaces the toilet roll holder is broken, there are hand towels on the floor, the 99p anti-bac soap sits there in it’s bright blue glory (classy), the lighting is ugly I could go on – and on – and on.
Clearly, my number one pet hate in restaurant design is shabby bathroom facilities. If I go out for a meal where the food is great, the ambience is right, the décor is attractive and well thought through but then I go to powder my nose and YET AGAIN the toilets are a mess, it just ruins my perception of the place.
The number one fail of restaurant owners is forgetting to budget for the smallest room which, inevitably every customer sees and is then a poor reflection on the restaurant’s attention to detail.
Get your toilet interiors sorted!
Do the Industrial look.
Please, there are plenty of good Industrial looking bars and restaurants out there already – too many. Also tables made from scaffolding look cheap not charming. Instead look at future or classic trends along with clever space planning to ensure that the place feels fresh, beautiful and relevant. Look around at design shows, blogs and magazines or get us in to help.
Make it a feast for the eyes.
I recently dined at a North London Gastropub. Perfectly good food but god it was boring to sit in. Apart from a poorly executed attempt to hang second-hand portraits’ on the wall the place was bare, the lighting too bright and the white walls were incongruous in the typically Victorian space.
When it comes to bar and restaurant interior design it takes a little more than a white-wash and "how many mis-matched tables can I squeeze in here?". Attention to detail and an individual personality that’ll set your business apart from others, whose food may be as good or better than yours, is paramount in ensuring success over the competition.
You need a comprehensive design, you need props, you need to be unique and exciting and you need beautiful materials (which needn’t be expensive with the right application).
Go plastic on your seating.
Budget permitting and assuming you’re not a Chicken Shop, it pays to go for natural materials such as leather, wood and commercial-grade upholstery fabric. The customer does not appreciate a sweaty backside and thighs especially if they’re on a dinner date. Customers with a discerning eye can tell if it’s PVC and I can guarantee that your dining area will look all the more special and characterful for this small exchange.
For the most recent restaurant interior design project we completed, we opted for leather banquettes and chairs instead of plastic. Yes it was more expensive but it looks fantastic and they tell the diner that this is a sophisticated dining experience. They also had brilliantly designed toilets *brag
Make sure that your restaurant looks open – when it is.
I’ve walked by too many London establishments where the window treatments are too effective or the lighting is so dim it looks like you’re not ready for business. Lighting is probably the most important element in interior design, yet is often an afterthought for the owner who knows a lot about how to run the place but not too much about interiors and how they work to attract customers.
At the very least have good lighting on the outside, keep those windows un or partially obscured and get input on the lighting design to make sure that the ambience is perfect.
Enlist help wherever the budget permits. I’ve seen it too many times where the owner, who’s skills lie in designing and preparing amazing food, then tries his/her hand at interior design by copying something he/she's seen. Then, settling for the first semi-interesting chair or light fixture because he/she doesn’t have the time to find the perfect one or know where to go to get something really special (we can spot IKEA and Made.com a mile off mate). So unless you’re extremely design-savvy it’s best to get the experts in. When trying to design your restaurant there are various levels of service, so if a full-design service is not for you, at least get a plan and design that you can show to your builders and confidently stamp your individuality and style on your exciting new venture. Plus wouldn’t you prefer to concentrate on the menu instead of the toilet roll holders?
Contact us for a free visit from one of our designers
You can’t always find what you need off-the-shelf when it comes to Home Interiors, especially if you have a “characterful” London house like mine, you know, uneven shaped alcoves, sloping ceilings, wonky floors and non-standard doorways. (I make my place sound like a clown’s house; it’s lovely really). I’m also guessing that you could do with more storage too (who doesn’t) and when this happens you going to need professional.
Here are my tips for getting a good supplier or tradesperson and the perfect answer to your Interior Design prayers.
If you’ve ever wondered what a mood-board is here’s your answer. Have you used Pinterest? Then you’ve made a moodboard AKA a collection of home interiors images you like for whatever reason. If you don’t use Pinterest, you should be looking online or in design magazines for examples of the piece of furniture or doors you like. Once you have at least 10 images you should see a recurring theme. This could be a colour, a style of cupboard, material, handles or a combination of different storage ideas in one piece. This is how you can narrow down what you like and need.
Measure Your Space
Get a decent tape measure and a friend to help. Start by looking at the shape of the room. Is it a perfect square? Probably not, so draw the basic shape of the space noting any windows, doors, alcoves, radiators, boilers, power meters and architectural anomalies like keystones and pillars.
First measure each wall and mark the dimension on your drawing. Then Measure where the sticky out and inny bits are and which way your doors and windows open. Then measure the ceiling height.
Draw the plan Again!
Undoubtedly, your first drawing will be a mess. So now that you’ve examined the space, take a little more time to re-draw the plan neatly with a ruler and re-apply your dimensions and notes as you’ll need this drawing to get your quotes in. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect as long as it’s legible and looks like the space. I draw mine on the computer, which you might prefer to do.
Finding A Tradesperson or Supplier
If you don’t have a friend or family member who’s a carpenter or builder this bit takes the longest and you’re going to have to do it. Get on the Internet and search Bespoke carpentry, doors, local builders and make a ‘longlist’ of the ones you like. It might be that you like the style of their portfolio, that they have a photos of their friendly (or good-looking team - Diet Coke break anyone?) or that they have lots of great reviews. Then narrow it down to at least three companies. There’s also a lot of rated tradespeople websites you can try such as Rated People, checkatrade or Which that you can try but of course, you can’t beat word-of-mouth so ask your friends and family for recommendations and don’t be afraid to knock on doors of houses you admire and ask them who they used. Most people don’t mind and are flattered that you’ve asked (I do this all the time).
Send it all Off
Now contact your shortlist of tradespeople or suppliers. Make sure to include your neat plan, example images and any other details that you feel are important to tell the person on the other end. Also if your drawing skills are OK do a little sketch of how you think your finished item should look – don’t worry about finalising the design as a good tradesperson will talk it through with you before they start. Then within a few days you will have some quotes.
Word of Advice
Don’t be tempted to always go with the cheapest quote. I will judge a company by their efficiency, manners, response to a brief and often with gut-feeling (which is based on the aforementioned anyway).
Or get an Interior Designer
Avoid all this and employ me to do it all for you
Kings Road isn't that close to the office so as I was down there I decided to make and afternoon of it to show you my favourite interior design in the area.
I'd be justified in saying that Chelsea is the heart of interior design in London with it's high concentration of home interiors shops per square mile, not even including Chelsea Design Centre which I'll cover soon. Some shops are a little too bling (crystal studded sofas) or traditional (swags and tails) for my taste but of course there's plenty that I do like. Here are a few:
If I ever want to cheat an overview of popular interior design, I just pop into a branch of John Lewis. Their fabric and wallpaper departments are full of inspirational prints and the price per m is not horrific. They also have key trends pinned down in their furniture and lighting ranges and stock reliable brands such as Cole & Son, Ercol and Original BTC . I think that the buying team are very good at their jobs.
Sloane Square, London SW1W 8EL
A bit of a cheat as West Elm is based on Tottenham Court Road, but I discovered that they have a concession at Peter Jones. This American home interiors store has an impressive range of on-trend furniture, soft furnishings and accessories. I go there a lot for rugs, curtains and brilliant interior design gifts. Oh and they have fantastic reductions in the sale.
Sloane Square, London SW1W 8EL
Just off Kings Road this little showroom has a range of colours to rival Farrow and Ball (and last time I checked, have their paint made by the same factory too). The also have a selection of smart papers which are also designed by founder and MD David Oliver. If you love neutrals the architectural range of paint colours is worth noting as they have graduated shades of the many subtle colours and they'll even tell you to which part of the room to apply them - I know this because I was trained as a colour consultant here.
Paint & Paper Library, 3 Elystan Street, London SW3 3NT
Another on Elystan Street, is this adorable designer kids shop that sells the type of furniture that whilst looking at the price tag, you might wonder if you're kid will scribble on it and then buy it anyway because it's so cute. I want lots of their pieces in my bedroom let alone my little one's.
29 Elystan St, London SW3
A well-known tile shop to the local designers, they see a lot of famous (if you like interior designers) faces in here. It curates some of the latest trends from Europe and display a lot of statement tiles. However, they can also recommend cheaper alternatives, coloured field and basic tiles if you ask.
26 Cale St, London SW3 3QU
Yes a chain store and the bigger sister to Urban Outfitters, but they have fantastic pieces from armchairs to crockery witch are as decorative as they are practical. Brilliant for finishing touches and luxe-lite additions to your home interiors. Favouring the pretty and ethnic you'll pick up interior stylist worthy accessories here.
131-141 King's Rd, London SW3 4PW
Designers Guild Furniture, Fabrics & Wallpapers
Always the most colourful interiors shop, if you like your interior design to pop with colour you should shop here. Beautiful abstract prints and their sweet ombre fabrics are their signature and everything in-store is great quality. From fine voiles to sturdy upholstery I can always find something I need in here. It's adjoining shop sells a range of new and vintage furniture, special gifts and good quality scented candles. It's hard to leave here without spending money.
267-277 King's Rd, London SW3 5EN
Osborne & Little
A beautiful fabric and Wallpaper shop which shuns Chelsea Harbour Design Centre (fabric central) sits just across from DG (above). Their rich velvets and deep colours are their signatures. Take a look at my current favourite ranges Cubana, Fantasque and Amerindia.
304-308 King's Rd, London SW3 5UH
Specialising in 20th century design, this gorgeous little shop sells timeless, famous furniture from which a single piece could make a room and as much as your budget will allow would be fantastic. The Michael Anastassiades lighting is just perfect.
263 King's Rd, London SW3 5EL
Adore My Home
Part shop, part interior design showroom, they have some very fun ideas in here. What I can only describe as East London meets bling. They can create bespoke upholstered furniture or just sell you a roll of wallpaper so don't be intimidated by the showroom element as the staff are very friendly.
I really want a pair of their candy-striped lampshades.
366 King's Rd, London SW3 5UZ
For the real thing, this shop imports Indian furniture, soft furnishings, mirrors, clothing and jewellery. The block printed fabric and Dhurries especially the metallic weaves are both colonial and contemporary and the pretty carved shelves would look fab in your bathroom.
414 King's Rd, London SW10 0LJ
One of London's Best Interiors Bloggers (Ideal Home magazine), The Open Plan Interior Design, London produces contemporary interiors for homes and business' and this very useful home interiors blog