I know it sounds simple, but one thing we’ve really had to focus on is identifying what we want from each space and in particular, the kitchen and the living rooms. Two different experiences (working with someone else and desigining myself( have given me pause to consider how I think about space, its use and what will work best into the future.
Working with someone else: Kitchen
When we met with kitchen designers we were very specific about our needs. I told each one about our cooking habits, our preferences (I told every designer I wanted a gas hob and every designer still gave me convection instead), our vision, our dream. And after all of these conversations, I was left feeling disappointed by what was produced. Not because I didn’t like the overall layouts, which were all pretty great, but there were so many elements that were important to me that I’d asked for, that had been overlooked.
I don’t believe that of the five designers we spoke to all of them actively ignored our wishes, rather I think there was a breakdown in how we communicated what we wanted and what was fundamental to us as clients. With more clarity, I believe we would have got to what we wanted sooner, rather than having to deal with a lot of unhelpful back and forth.
In this situation, the big lesson is to really to stress the “must haves” over the “nice to haves” and clearly state what was non-negotiable. Given designers do this for a living there is a propensity to think they know better, but the good ones will pay attention to you.
Designing on our own: Living rooms
The living rooms were an entirely different kettle of fish, as we were in complete control of their eventual completion and while this is really exciting, it’s also daunting. What if we screw it all up?!
The biggest concern I had was ensuring each living room feels and looks like its own space but remains connected to the other. Given we took down a separating wall, we ran the risk of one room being used and the other becoming its slightly awkward cousin that sits alone at family functions. In fretting over this, I did plenty of research and the best advice I can give is the most obvious: to clearly define their use. We eventually decided to use one living room as the “comfortable television watching room” and the other as the “fancy reading and entertaining” space.
To ensure these spaces retain some sense of connection, while still being different to each other, we settled on painting the walls the colorolour, but differentiating with the style of furniture. We also have the same pendant light fixtures, to add some cohesion. In terms of furniture, the comfortable room houses the blue velvet sofa, with wood accents including a vintage apothecary, a wood and glass coffee table and some big comfy chairs. For the fancy room, we are looking for a leather “Barcelona” style day bed and some potentially mid-century furniture, a few mirrors and a marble-topped console table. (We’ve not bought anything at this rate, as we want things to settle first, so we can get a feel for our new home.) Through both of these rooms will flow the same wood laminate, however we have two rugs, both of which will compliment the style of decoration.
What helped me decide on this approach? A few tools and some sage advice from others (my mom) passed down along the way:
- Create moodboards: Both Olioboard and Houzz allow you to design a “moodboard” where you can add different items to your room, to see if your colour scheme and furniture works together. I used Olioboard as the Houzz version is new, and I found it incredibly helpful. I’ve included my first attempt on this post, but subsequent versions have developed in style and sophistication. It’s one thing to have a vision for how your room will work, but to at least see the pieces next to each other (virtually) I found really helpful.
- Make lists: I began to write down what I wanted and what I needed, similar to understanding the different lighting needs in each room, I took note of different pieces of furniture, cataloguing that against what we currently had and what we might need. I also tried to think strategically about storage (which in British homes is a nightmare to begin with) and where things like blankets and pillows could live. I will say that if, like me, you have a storage unit full of items, doing this list can be tricky.
What has helped you to navigate this fraught landscape?