Psychology of the Home Design

I am often asked what is the most important aspect of my interior design work. For me it has to be that we are happy in our own home. This may sound simple, but people often tell me that they are unable to relax at home. On closer analysis, this is usually because of their surroundings, such as the color of a room, or how the furnishings are arranged.

Start by playing the truth game with yourself. If you are someone who loves walks in the country and the outdoor life, you are unlikely to be happy in an environment decorated in a stark, minimal, contemporary style. Visualize a scene where you are totally relaxed, and work out what creates this atmosphere. Does your home reflect any of this? If not, try incorporating some of these images in your decorating scheme.

Interior design is not just about choosing paint, fabrics and curtain styles. Open your eyes to the deeper meaning of the home, and how your surroundings affect you. Analyze your response to color and the effect certain colors have on the way you feel. Take the time to learn about Feng Shui, and you will be amazed the difference just moving furniture around a room can have.

Be honest and have the courage to make changes. Express yourself and don’t be slave to the latest fashion just for the sake of having something new. Never begin a job with preconceptions. Although you need to establish a broad framework, a room evolves and develops as time progresses.

What you have

Before you start to plan a decorating scheme, it is important to assess what you already have that will need to be incorporated into your plans. It is rarely possible to start with a blank canvas.

Whether you are moving house or just redecorating, walk around your home taking a good look at all your possessions. Sometimes we are so used to seeing something in the same place; we can forget it actually exists. Make notes, take pictures and consider whether you can move any furniture or pictures to another room. Here again, have the courage to get rid of anything you don’t like.

Look at how many rooms you have in your home and what they are used for. Are you making the best use of all the space? For example, rarely used spare rooms can become home offices, and, if you have a dining room, consider whether it could be used to extend your living room. This foundation work is essential, as once decorating starts it can be costly to make major changes.

What you want

Think about why you are making changes to your home and what you want to achieve from them. It could be that you are changing your lifestyle, or that you are just renovating tired paintwork.

Think about how you use your home. Are you there during the day or just in the evening? Does the decoration have to be practical because you have small children? Do you like entertaining? All factors such as these have to be taken into account.

As your plans progress, your confidence will increase, and you will discover skills you never knew you had. If there are others in your household, listen to their ideas. With gentle guidance children blossom if allowed to express themselves. Talk to friends too: someone who knows you and your home may well be able to look at your ideas from a more objective viewpoint, though ask someone who you feel has similar tastes.

Arguments with partners are very common when decorating, and I have witnessed many near-divorces resulting from differences of opinion. Experience has taught me how to compromise when there is a clash of ideas. Everyone has a room they spend the most time in. It can be any room in the house. For my husband Francis, it is the living room, where he loves to read and listen to music. For me, it is the bathroom, where I can escape, shut the door and forget the world outside.

Each of you should be able to use your own scheme in ‘your’ room. In this way it will be much easier to agree on the other rooms in the house, as each partner will have a room they are totally happy with. A fatal error is for both partners to have contrasting input into the same room – the result is inevitably disastrous!

Another consideration is individual reaction to color. My research into color analysis has resulted in some interesting conclusions. Color can be divided into ‘cool’ and ‘warm’ shades: cool shades have a blue base, while warm shades have a yellow base. Our natural skin, eye and hair color determine which base we tend to prefer. Put simply, if our coloring is cool we tend to respond better to cool-based colors, and likewise for warm coloring. Applying these theories to the colors we choose for our home can result in a more harmonious living environment.

Setting your plans in motion
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of good and careful planning before you start. Just as an interior designer takes time to talk to a client and take a brief, so you must learn to take your own brief.

Think about timescales, budgets, planning and setting realistic goals, and if you need to call in any experts. It is essential to get everything right before you start. Economies on time at this stage usually result in time lost, to say nothing of the expense, at a later stage.

When planning your decorating schemes, take the time to visit as many shops as possible, and read every book and magazine you can find. In shops ask for samples, and cut pictures from magazines to start piecing the jigsaw puzzle together.

Individual style
Many interior designers are recognized for their individual style. My own work tends to be a bit more eclectic and less defined. I like to work with and develop each client’s own individual style, and then, when I have completed a job, I would like to think that no-one knows I have been there!

A house should always have humor, so don’t worry if something looks a bit out of place. Quite often it is these little quirky touches which give a home its individuality. I am not a fan of decorating by numbers. It is virtually impossible to create a true particular ‘style’ and the end result can look very contrived.

A true home follows the progression and evolution of the lives of the people who live there. Successful interior design should be a reflection of who you and your family are.