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Features: Living

Trend Watch: Tribal

furnish
Tribal catwalk looks in Paul Smith’s Spring/Summer 2010 Collection. Image via Elleuk.com.

Out of Africa and into our homes, the tribal look is a hot trend for summer 2010.

Interior designers are using Arabic, Asian and African inspired pieces to add depth and interest to interior schemes. The exotic trappings of nomadic tradition are used to create evocative interiors, celebrating the material culture of distant lands. Think Raj tents swathed in exotic rugs and wall hangings, dark wood and leather; the high-energy prints and jewel-bright colours of tribal dress; and striking animal skins seen on the African plains.

The key to making the tribal look work in your home is to use these pieces as contrasting accents: an animal print cushion on a plain sofa; an embroidered wall hanging in a whitewashed room; or a Persian rug on a simple wood floor. Clashing prints, as seen on the fashion catwalks, can really work in a predominantly white room, but take care with colour and pattern if your interior scheme is already defined by a particular colourway. Tribal pieces and especially animal prints are best used to create bold focal points, lifting a scheme with highlights rather than veering towards a pastiche.

With so many vibrant cultures inspiring the tribal look in interior design, there are many ways to interpret the trend according to your personal style. Known for its Asian inspired pieces, OKA is channelling the nomadic vibe with fabulous rugs, http://furnish.co.uk/items/51151-petra-runner-92-x-275cm">runners and wall hangings featuring exotic patterns, beautifully woven in vivid hues. Trunks with carrying handles, folding occasional tables, and Isphahan plates hand-painted with Persian designs, continue the opulent nomadic theme. The intricate carved wood room screens at Lombok and the low Oriental coffee table with ball feet at Puji create a similar nomadic feel.

rug
Zebra print cowhide rug, £449, Graham & Green

For jewel-bright tribal colours, check out Margo Selby’s hand-knotted banana fibre rug and geometric hand-woven cushion covers. The multi-coloured Summer Estella rug at Heal’s evokes sunrise over the Serengeti, while Rockett St George’s jute storage baskets in sunshine yellow, deep blue and hot pink have fair trade credentials. Moroccan leather footstools are perfect accent pieces for laidback living spaces, available in a range of vibrant hues from Graham & Green and Rockett St George. A fantastic statement piece, the Waldorf Hex sofa from Lockwood design is upholstered in silk fabric with a vivid multi-coloured print.

pendant light
Filigrain Sky Drop pendant lamp by Zenza, £185, Liberty

For a safari feel, try the Bone Inlay furniture collection and Zebra Print cowhide rug from Graham & Green. The intricate detailing on the black resin and camel bone furniture brings an air of luxury to the bedroom, while the striking zebra print rug makes a stunning statement against a stripped wood floor. For a demure approach to animal print, try the dark brown textured Zebra cushion at Occa Home, or go for glamour with the Aura Sequin cushion range at Heal’s. In a pared down colour palette - grey and silver zebra print or gold and silver leopard print - the Aura cushions add some sparkle without being over-the-top. For a natural look, go for the real thing with Rockett St George’s fair trade cowhide cushions.

Tom Dixon’s Beat Vessel vases and Beat Shade pendant lamps in brass are the perfect finishing touches for a tribal-inspired interior. And Zenza’s pierced brass pendant shades diffuse light beautifully for a sultry nomadic feel.

Spice up your interior this summer with a vibrant tribal-inspired look.

How to….create a stunning hallway

baskets and container
Six basket console unit, £345, The Holding Company.

Give your guests a welcoming feel as soon as they step into your home with our guide on how to create a stunning hallway.

First impressions are just as important and influential in your home as when you meet new people. Whilst your hallway is not a place that you will spend a lot of our time in, it should not be overlooked when decorating. Make the first glimpse your guests get of your home something to remember with a glamorous chandelier or a luxurious rug to give your hallway a touch of style.

Flooring

From the first step into your hallway to the last step out, your hallway flooring will make a big impression and it will need to withstand more traffic than any other room as it is a throughway. For hardwearing carpet, heuga.com offer unique carpets in various textures and colours for comfort and practical wear. However, bear in mind that carpet is high-maintenance and will not be forgiving of dirt and dust. Hard wood flooring such as oak, if laid well, will give a warm and welcoming impression; it is easy to maintain and clean and available from The Natural Wood Floor Company. For a little warmth and a softer touch underfoot, try the Designers Guild Amalienborg Natural Rouge Rug from Heal’s. Also, don’t forget a door mat; the Black Baroque Door Mat from The Orchard will prevent any unwanted stones and dirt being trodden in to your home.

Lighting

From top to toe, your stunning hallway would not be complete without the right lighting which has practical uses but can also be stylish too. You can create an inviting ambience with wall or ceiling lights because of the lack of floor space in a hallway. In a large hallway and a high ceiling, a decorative and glamorous chandelier such as the Crystal Pendant by Sweet Pea and Willow or the Clearly Now Chandelier by The French Bedroom Company is a striking feature to catch the eye. For eye level lighting, try the Ball brass lamp base from Lombok, which is ideal for giving a welcoming glow. Wall sconces are popular because they provide indirect lighting; for a large selection of energy efficient light fixtures try eco-lights.com.

chandelier
Crystal Pendant chandelier, £276, Sweetpea & Willow.

Furniture

Key furniture pieces for your hallway will make those last minute dashes out the door a lot less stress. Hallways are commonly small and narrow with little floor space so furniture should be kept to a minimum but it should provide you with necessary storage space. Try the Clarissa Silver Console Table and Mirror by Sweet Pea and Willow for a stunning feature piece or the Marie Antoinette Console Table by The French Bedroom Company for a modest but stylish look. If you are fortunate to have a lavishly large hallway with a high ceiling, then you could add some interest with the Narrow Bromo teak bookcase from Lombok. Bring a contemporary, fresh style to your hall with the six basket console unit from The Holding Company which provides plenty of storage that will help you maintain a tidy hall area.

Storage

Keeping your hallway clear and clutter-free with some simple storage solutions will enhance the space and make your home feel more organised in a stylish way. For those cold or rainy days, have your coats and scarves close to the front door on the Cherry Blossom Coat Hooks or the Seletti Desdomona Hanging Coat Hooks, both by Rockett St George. Or if you have more floor space, the beech Tree coat stand from The Holding Company has warm wooden tones that will suit any interior. The Wall Mounted Shoe Rack from Utility will keep your shoes off the floor and help keep your floor space free.

vases and bowl
Nyla vase, small £18, large £38, ALSO Home.

Accessories

Accessorising your hallway will give it a personal touch; placing family photos around your home is one way to make it more inviting, and you can frame your happy memories in your hallway in style with the Mati design photo frame from Lombok. Or choose the Muir carved wooden trinket box, also from Lombok, to put on a console table or shelf by your front door either as a private place to keep your keys or simply for decorative purposes.

Mirrors are perfect for hallways because they reflect light and create a feeling of depth in smaller, narrower hallway. Go for a contemporary style with the Rectangular Venetian mirror from Sweetpea & Willow which has eye-catching intricate detailing.

Vases are a great way to add colour and fresh flowers will bring an inviting, natural scent. The Gold dust vase or the Nyla vase from ALSO Home are unique feature pieces that will add to the beautiful, harmonious and minimal decor of your hallway.

Paint and Wallpaper

As hallways don’t often have windows they are darker than other rooms, so use a light or neutral shade to decorate with. The exception is if you have a large, traditional hallway, in which case red and greens will work well with dark wood furnishings to create a stunning entrance. For those with smaller halls, use earthy or pastel hues such as Mushroom paint from The Little Greene Collection or try dulux.co.uk to choose anything from gentle lavender to pale citrus to bring a warm and natural feel. Avoid using white for your walls because it will show up unwanted dirty fingerprints and marks; washable paints are an excellent choice because you can wash your walls without taking the paint off.

Furnish lists a great selection of patterned wallpaper which will work well in long, narrow hallways as it creates width by drawing the eye away from the length. The sophisticated Berry white wallpaper from 95% Danish will give the illusion of a higher ceiling because of its vertical design. Or for a dramatic and glamorous entrance, try the Wilderness White/Gold Wallpaper from 95% Danish with its delicious gold tones that will reflect the light and ignite life into your hall.

Buyers Guide: Window Treatments

curtain
Vintage Coloured Lace Curtains, £130, Rockett St George

Give your windows a fresh new look and make the most of the summer sun

Windows are natural focal points, inevitably drawing the eye as the source of natural light in our homes. Window treatments are key to setting the mood of your room in terms of style certainly, but also because your choice will determine how far you can manipulate the effects of natural light. With the capacity to completely transform a room, choosing window treatments can be a daunting process. So we’ve put together a buyers guide to help you choose with confidence.

Curtains

Curtains are available in all manner of fabrics and styles. Heavy silks, velvets, cottons and linens are all great choices. A patterned fabric will make a feature of your window, but if you don’t want your curtains to fight for attention with another focal point, go for a plainer fabric. The higher the thread count of the fabric, the better your curtains will hang. Lined curtains keep the heat in better than unlined curtains and will block out more light when closed. Lighter, breezy fabrics are great diffusers of light, making them attractive for the summer. Pleated headings give an elegant, classic look, while eyelets and tab-tops are more casual, making them great for kids’ rooms and relaxed living spaces.

When choosing the length of your curtains you have three options: finishing at the windowsill, allowing the curtains to just about graze the sill; finishing below the windowsill and above the radiator (if you have one), adding between 8cm and 15cm; or dropping to the floor, adding between 1.5cm and 2cm. There’s a fashion for allowing your curtains to fall in pools of fabric on the floor because it looks more ‘expensive’. I have to say I think this not only looks ridiculous, but it collects dust and makes cleaning your floor more difficult. Whichever drop you go for, use a metal measuring tape and make sure that the curtain pole or track is in place, taking headings into account to avoid miscalculations. Try Designers Guild for fabulous curtain fabrics.

Pros: good insulation against heat loss; great choice of fabrics and styles

Cons: when drawn back, curtains allow less light in than blinds; thick fabrics, such as velvet, can be a bit oppressive in the summer months.

blind
'Bottles' roller blind, £65, BODIE and FOU

Blinds

Roman blinds fold back on themselves when raised, creating a feeling of quality and elegance, which makes them a great choice for period homes. Suitable for any room in the house, they’re particularly good for living rooms and bedrooms, creating softness at the window. Roman blinds are available in a range of fabrics, which can be blackout lined, and in woven bands of wood, bamboo and jute, which gently diffuse light.

Pros: great choice of patterns and materials; elegant appearance

Cons: more expensive than roller blinds; less sleek than Venetians

Venetian slatted blinds give you sharp, clean finish making them especially good for modern homes. Being easy to clean, they’re also a great option for bathrooms and kitchens. Enabling you to filter light or cut out it out completely, Venetian blinds are a versatile choice. And if you’re concerned about privacy, they’ll allow light in while obscuring the view from the street. They’re great for awkward windows such as skylights, and they can be fitted to tilt and turn. Venetians come in a range of slat widths and are available in wood or powder-coated aluminium.

Pros: more versatile than Roman or roller; sharp modern look

Cons: metal slats may not suit period homes; less choice in terms of material and pattern

Roller blinds are a popular choice, offering simplicity and practicality. Like Roman blinds they’re available in a huge choice of fabrics as well as bamboo, wood and other natural fibres. Rollers are easy to use, making them great for kids’ rooms, while Teflon coated rollers are perfect for bathrooms and kitchens. Rollers can also be fitted for skylights. Sheer rollers that allow light through are a stylish alternative to net curtains in street level rooms.

Pros: simple, smooth appearance; a cheaper alternative to Romans

Cons: rollers stand further from the window than other styles; they don’t lend the same softness to the room as Romans

Try Tuiss for great quality made-to-measure Venetian, Roman and roller blinds.

Sliding Panels

Sliding fabric panels are a stylish and contemporary way to dress floor-to-ceiling windows, perfect for modern homes with large expanses of glass. In feather-light fabrics, use them against glass walls and sliding patio doors to maximise on light while retaining privacy. Double-sided and weighted at the bottom to allow them to hang cleanly, sliding panels are also great to use as room dividers. Each panel moves on a separate channel of track, stacking neatly at either side of the window when open. Each panel picks up the next, and when fully closed the panels overlap to provide a screen against sunlight and nosy neighbours. The separate channels allow you to create a layered look by combining different colours, patterns and fabrics. Sliding panels are available in woven woods, and fabrics ranging from sheer voile to opaque canvas. Easy to remove and replace, the panels can be changed for winter and summer. Try Blindtrack Services for a good quality selection.

Pros: elegant, contemporary look; great for large windows, patio doors and as room dividers

Cons: panels won’t give the cosy feeling of curtains; while curtains can be flung open, and blinds can be raised with a quick pull, panels can be annoying for the impatient

furnish
Tier on tier shutters, installed from £250 per sqm, Shutterly Fabulous [www.shutterlyfabulous.com]

Window Film

Window film is available with a range of properties for a variety of applications. Heat control films are great for conservatories, while glare reduction films take the edge off blinding sunlight. Films with UV protection prevent fading of carpets, wood floors, curtains and artwork. Frosted and reflective films provide privacy, while anti-shatter varieties enhance safety and security. The Window Film Company offers products to meet each of these requirements as well as a professional installation service. Professional installation is recommended, especially if you have a large expanse to cover, because applying the film can be fiddly and it’s easy to get irritating bubbles in the surface. The relatively small investment involved in fitting a film with UV protection is really worthwhile for the fade resistance it offers for expensive wood floors and cherished art. Frosted films are available in a range of tasteful designs and look much sleeker than traditional frosted glass. If you have boisterous kids or you’re worried about break-ins, anti-shatter films are a great way to enhance security and safety without forking out for new windows.

Pros: get a range of effects without changing the windows; maximise light while retaining privacy

Cons: professional installation recommended; films can be difficult to remove

Shutters

Shutters are an elegant and classic way to dress your windows, making them particularly appropriate in period homes. Used alone, they give the window a clean, neat finish, and they can be combined with curtains to add softness. Shutters offer fantastic flexibility in terms of light filtration and privacy; slats can be tilted to the desired position, and shutters can be made either full length, in independent upper and lower sections, or café-style, covering just the bottom half of the window. When closed, shutters completely block out light, making them a practical choice for nurseries and kids’ rooms. They’ll make an elegant statement in the living room, and they’re great for bathrooms and kitchens. Made bespoke they can be designed to fit awkward windows. Shutters are an expensive option, but a worthwhile investment because they'll last for years. Shutterly Fabulous offers a complete design and installation service, with shutters in stained or painted wood as well as a range designed by Kelly Hoppen. Shutter World also has a great range, including both slatted and solid shutters.

Pros: long-lasting and versatile; classic, elegant and airy feel

Cons: an expensive option; not the sort of window treatment you can change on a whim

Whether you want to maximise light or thwart a nosy neighbour, there’s a stylish window treatment to suit your needs.

Trend Watch: Monochrome Furnishings

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PPQ Spring-Summer 2010 collection. Image via elleuk.com

Interior designers go back to black for a sophisticated monochrome aesthetic that oozes style

Monochrome is a perennial favourite on the catwalks, epitomising pared down chic, and it’s long been a key element of the interior designer’s repertoire. A sleek and stylish combination for clothing, monochrome in the home is often used to highlight architectural qualities as well as the contrasts of light and shade. Graphic monochrome patterns, including animal print and geometric designs, add visual drama to a room without being loud. And colour experts will tell you that adding monochrome touches to a fusion of vibrant colours in a room not only moderates the look, but also creates a foil against which individual colours become more expressive. Try adding white and black to a pile of colourful scarves or swatches and you’ll instantly see what they mean.

A common misconception about monochrome is that it’s a boring, cop-out combination, associated with work clothes and office drones. But this couldn’t be further from the truth in terms of interior design (or fashion for that matter). Think about the Art Deco period, in which sharp angular shapes and a graphic monochrome palette created a sophisticated and high-energy aesthetic, expressive of modernity. Monochrome style is more than just black and white. Think about marble and mirrored furniture, silvery grey hues and the combination of glass, steel and chrome. Create a spectacle of surface with tactile animal skins, luminous glass and metallic finishes. Dressed up or down - a crystal chandelier with mirrored furniture, or a simple cowhide rug on a stripped wood floor - monochrome works to enhance feelings of light and space, with graphic prints creating a sense of movement and energy.

console table
Roman Console, £1811, Benchmark

There’s a huge choice of products on Furnish to dress your home in the monochrome mode. The Roman Console from Benchmark is a beautiful example of elegant simplicity, with it’s black lacquered oak frame, zinc wrapped plinth and limestone top. Florence Knoll’s iconic coffee and dining tables feature black and white or grey and white veined marble tops with polished chrome bases for a pared down yet luxurious modern aesthetic. Graham & Green has a fabulous range of mirrored furniture including the bevelled Art Deco Console with gracefully tapered back legs, and the Manhattan Console with an angular multi-faceted facia, which dramatises the contrasts of light and shade. The Carlton furniture range at The White Company is clad in beautifully glossy milk white glass, perfect paired with a monochrome cowhide rug. Try London Cows and The French Bedroom Company. The latter’s Glitz and Glamour cowhides have mottled silver and gold metallic finishes for a truly opulent look.

chair
White studded Loft armchair, £367, Sweetpea & Willow

Sweetpea & Willow has a Corbusier-Perriand inspired black and white Hide Armchair, while the Anton cherry wood chair demonstrates just how well monochrome complements wood tones, with its calico upholstered seat and black lacquered backrest. Also at Sweetpea & Willow, the studded Loft armchair upholstered in black or white velvet offers perfect comfort and supreme style. The indulgent high-backed Vista sofa from Lover’s Lounge takes glamour one step further: upholstered in sumptuous black velvet it’s adored with crystal buttons. Occa Home’s De Le Cuona cashmere cushion with silver embroidery is similarly striking, while the black Rockerfeller cushion is highly textured to engage the senses. In lighting go for Peter Bowles’ classic Circle Line drop pendant, table lamp, and wall light in monochrome stripes, or for an opulent Art Deco look, try the Globe and Round Crystal chandeliers at Sweetpea & Willow. Complete your monochrome scheme with the humbug-like Omaggio Brush Strokes vase from 95% Danish.

Whether you choose striking monochrome accent pieces to set off your room or go for a coordinated monochrome scheme, this is a classically stylish trend that never loses its edge.

Trend Watch: Naturals

sofa
Vintage Leather Chesterfield, £795, Rose & Grey

Create a harmonious home with naturals.

With growing enthusiasm, since Modernist tropes of ‘bringing the outside in’ and ‘truth to materials’ formed a watershed in thinking about humane design, architects and interior decorators have introduced natural materials to bring warmth, harmony and sensuality into the home. Couple that with current environmental concerns and you have the makings of a major trend.

Central to the vogue for naturals in interior design is a desire to celebrate and elevate the inherent qualities of organic materials. But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on style. The natural trend is as much about an appreciation of craftsmanship and the beauty of good design, as it is with getting back in touch with nature. It’s through the intervention of design that the inherent beauty of organic materials is expressed and enhanced: a faceted glass bowl that refracts natural light, a sisal carpet with a textured weave, or a wooden table polished to bring out the grain.

The key to creating a harmonious environment is engaging the senses; the effects of natural light, the aroma, texture and aesthetics of natural materials all come into play. And while part of this engagement might be to embrace the rawness of organic materials, it’s also about enhancing the sensual appeal of those materials through design. The principle of simplicity unites these two approaches, and underpins the greatest attractions of natural materials: quality, practicality and longevity. Enhanced by the patina of age, natural materials not only wear well, but they have timeless human appeal. So although we’re talking about a hot trend for 2010, it’s sustainable in the long term.

Natural light is your essential tool when creating an organic interior scheme. Window dressings should enable light to filter through, such as linen curtains, bamboo matchstick roller blinds, or wooden slatted Venetian blinds. Accessories should work to enhance and manipulate available light; mirrors and glass will refract light and bounce it around, while anything highly textured dramatises the contrasts of light and shade. The form, tone and texture of natural wall-coverings, flooring, furniture and fabrics, should all play a part in enhancing feelings of light and space. But none of this means that you can’t introduce colour into your scheme. Just take a look outside. Nor does it mean that you can’t combine naturals with contemporary design and innovative materials. After all, Modernism was as much about the machine made - chrome, steel and concrete - as about the benefits of light and airy homes or the promotion of inherent beauty over applied decoration.

stool
Solid Walnut Stools by Charles and Ray Eames for Vitra, £681-802, Utility

Looking around Furnish, there are plenty of different ways to interpret the naturals trend and suit your individual style. The Teak Chinese Stool and Modular bookcase from Puji recall the lightness and openness of Chinese architecture, whereby paper screens and open-framed wood allowed sunlight to filter through the home. OKA, Lombok and Orchid are also renowned for classic, Asian-inspired, natural furnishings.

Reissued by Vitra, Charles and Ray Eames’ solid Walnut Stools are beautifully turned and polished to bring out the rich grain. Another hero of 20th century design, Eero Saarinen’s Tulip dining table features an opulent marble top and aluminium base, while the similarly shaped Maiden table from Benchmark is turned from a single piece of solid oak. Drying out as it ages, the Maiden table develops splits and fissures, giving it a unique character. If you’re after that beaten-up, weathered look, Rose & Grey has a number of vintage leather sofas and vintage chairs. And the Arthur Chair at Graham & Green features a weathered oak frame with natural linen upholstery.

pendant light
Bright Pendant, bone china extruded clay, £85-90, Ulrika Jarl

At the Lollipop Shoppe, Tom Rossau’s sculptural wood-veneer pendant shades and floor lamps come in a range of curvaceous organic forms and diffuse light beautifully. Orchid’s elegant Ripple glass lamp base has a hint of sea-blue and comes with a Hessian textured shade. And for dramatic atmosphere, try the cocoon-shaped Filigrain Sky Drop pendant by Zenza, in lustrous silver-plated brass. Engage the senses further with a striking hide rug from London Cows or Puji’s super-shaggy Everest rug, in hand-knotted wool.

There’s a naturals style to suit your natural style. So go with your instincts to create a harmonious home.

Buyers guide: Surfaces

furnish
Brazilian black slate strips, price per m², Brazili Stone

Be inspired by stylish surfaces and elegant exterior appearances for your home with our buyers guide to surfaces.

Surfaces make a huge impression on a room, and their texture and appearance can determine the style and practicality of your interior. So, whether you are going for grandeur in your hallway or a clean and sophisticated kitchen, there are plenty of ways to decorate your home with the right surface to suit your needs. This guide will consider the pros and cons and what qualities different types of surfaces have to offer in terms of practical and aesthetic features, as well as texture and tangibility.

Corian

DuPont Corian is sold worldwide and there are lots of options available with this type of surface. Have a look at www.corian.co.uk for many designs in a vast range of colours including this year’s new eight metallic shades. It’s a non-porous surface making it ideal for worktops, splash backs, and integral sinks in a kitchen; try this versatile surface in your bathroom for vanity tops or shower trays. Bear in mind that darker, heavier pigmented shades will show scratches and general wear and tear more easily than lighter, textured colours.

Pros: easy to clean; nonporous; resists the growth of mould, mildew and bacteria.

Cons: Not as durable as stone e.g granite.

Stone

Stone surfaces are a popular choice because of their aesthetic qualities. Traditional fireplaces are often made from stone as it adds to the grandeur and charm of the feature. Hand crafted stone has an attractive look and feel, and you can find a vast selection of natural stone fireplaces, including marble and limestone, from Heritage Stoneworks. The Single sink unit with Flemish stone from Brissi is a superb storage and decorative piece for displaying your bathroom linen and beauty products. The dark stone top and the white porcelain sink are beautifully contrasted to create a dramatic and classic look. For a good selection of natural stone tiles try Mandarin Stone who supply limestone, marble, slate and terracotta tiles.

Pros: Beautiful surface; practical and durable.

Cons: Expensive; cold underfoot.

Slate

Slate is an extremely versatile stone that gives a rustic and natural appearance to any room; it has a dramatic texture but a less formal look than marble or limestone. Slate is an excellent choice for kitchen or dining room floors because it is anti-stain and slip resistant. Ceramica & Stone have a great selection of colourful slate flooring that would work well in any modern or country house kitchen. Stone Works Ltd supply metallic, honed and riven slate; the Riven slate oyster offers depth and colourful tones ranging from yellows to greens. For a different look, try the Brazilian black slate wall cladding from Brazili Stone for a striking contemporary effect.

Pros: Good abrasion resistance and high durability; comes in a variety of natural stone colours.

Cons: Some types have to be sealed to prevent staining; needs professional installation.

bath
Circular stainless steel Japanese bath, price on request, HomePortfolio

Polished concrete

Polished concrete floors have a beautiful bespoke finish because the polishing process exposes the unique grain patterns beneath the surface. Poured concrete can give you a seamless and glossy surface. The Stone Carpet Company supplies flooring that will enhance your interior and add to the grandeur and value of your home. Choose polished concrete flooring if you have a grand entrance hall or kitchen area for a polished and elegant look. Concrete countertops are also a good option for your kitchen; try White+Reid for a wide selection of shapes and sizes of worktops tailored to your room.

Pros: Energy efficient; durable; aesthetically pleasing.

Cons: Costly; can get stained, chipped or scratched.

Wood

Wood flooring is one of the most common surfaces in contemporary interiors due to its practical qualities and low maintenance. Justwoodflooring.com and urbaneliving offer naturally beautiful hardwood flooring.

Wooden work surfaces will give a warm appearance and bring a natural look to your décor. At justwoodworktops.com you can find natural wood breakfast bar tops and hardwood chopping boards in all different types of wood such as beech, oak, and walnut. The Oak Beam Table from Indigo Furniture is solidly built with a chunky and rustic appearance, and it will provide you with a surface and furniture piece that will retain its natural look for many years.

Wall panels work particularly well to bring dimension to your walls, and they look striking against a bold backdrop. The Ana carved wood wall panel in dark teak from Lombok has a beautiful geometric design. Decorative wall panels are available in a range of finishes, designs and wood grains; the Hand carved wood wall panels from Kan Thai Decor create a stunning look.

Pros: Natural beauty and character; practical, durable and stylish in a modern or traditional home.

Cons: Natural wood takes a lot of care to maintain its look.

furnish
Bird wall panels, price on request, Kan Thai Decor.

Ceramic tiles

The Ceramic Tile Company supply practical yet stylish ceramic bathroom, kitchen and floor tiles. Ceramic tiles are a popular choice for bathrooms as they will keep your walls and floors free from moisture damage. Mosaic patterns work well for detail on a bathroom or kitchen wall; in your bathroom you will need unglazed tiles for slip-resistance, and if you want your tiles to be stain-proof choose glazed tiles. Ceramic mosaic tiles from mosaictileshop.co.uk are versatile; their glazes come in a range of colours to suit your interior, and you can add pattern or floor accents by using custom tiles. The Ceramic tiles from Armstrong would suit a country house inspired kitchen, and bring a warm and welcoming feel.

Pros: Heat and stain resistant, easy to clean.

Cons: Chips easily; all tiles have grout lines so they require regular cleaning.

Stainless steel

The physical appearance of stainless steel brings a sleek and finished look which would suit any modern home. Stainless Steel wall tiles are ideal for kitchen splashbacks, and their smooth finish makes them a perfect choice for matching them with other kitchen appliances. The tiles are available in a variety of different patterns and they come in a satin or matt finish. Bring a modern and unique statement to your bathroom with the Circular Stainless Steel Japanese bath from HomePortfolio.

Pros: Hygienic; very easy to clean; high resistance to corrosion.

Cons: Cold to touch; will scratch and show fingerprints easier than other types of tiles.

Our weekly pick of fave interiors blogs...

bed
A beautiful 19th century bed, pictured on Topsy Turvy [www.topsyturvystyle.com]

It’s that time again, and we’ve found three more thought-provoking blogs, dazzling with interiors inspiration.

First up this week is Florida-based design blog, Topsy Turvy. The Home Tours section is a dream if you’re a bit of a nosy parker, full of fabulous photographs of the insides of stylish abodes. And, never mind the weather, the Shop Tours alone will make you want to live in Florida. Interviews with industry big wigs are consistently engaging, offering an insider’s perspective on the world of design. With envy-inducing photography, an eclectic approach and a great sense of humour, Topsy Turvy has lightness of touch that makes it both fun and inspiring.

ornament
A white plaster sculpture by Dutch artist Jan Schoonhoven (1914-1994), in the home of interior designer Steven Volpe, pictured on The Style Saloniste [www. thestylesaloniste.com]

Just down the road in California, doyenne of design, Diane Dorrans Saeks, holds court as The Style Saloniste. Having authored twenty books on style and design, Saek’s foray into blogging doesn’t disappoint. Intelligent and enchanting in equal measure, her elegant and evocative writing style combined with breathtaking photography, makes for a thoroughly enjoyable read. Informed on all aspects of design and architecture The Style Saloniste is a beautiful guide. This post on a new resort in Arizona had me totally floored. And there’s a wonderful piece on the fabulously flamboyant Dodie Rosekrans, San Francisco museum and arts patron.

And last but certainly not least is NYC interior decorator Jenny Komenda’s Little Green Notebook. Full of design ideas, covetable objects and thrift store finds this is a fantastic online scrapbook, all beautifully put together. I can’t get over the amazing chair Jenny found at auction. And the blog’s now been sponsored by Plexi-Craft, makers of high-design Lucite furniture. What’s so inspiring is the spontaneous nature of it all and the fact that blogging about a hobby has led Jenny to set up her own design company, Pearl Street Interiors. So, there’s another reason to get in touch if you write a blog of your own. Let us know and we’ll feature it next time…

Buyer's guide to sofas

sofa
B&B Italia Andy Sofa, £4465, Utility

Comfort comes in all shapes and sizes so read our buyers guide to find the right sofa for you.

Your sofa will be one of the biggest investments you make for your home, but there’s no need to worry because there’s a wide variety of versatile designs to accommodate your needs. You don’t have to sacrifice style to find something that’s both comfortable and cosy. Whatever design you choose it can enhance your space whether it’s a versatile modular sofa or a simple yet idyllic loveseat. This guide aims to help you make the right choices for your room as well as for your own personal comfort.

Large sofas

If you have a spacious living space then you have the perfect opportunity to indulge in a large sofa. Measuring your space is a good idea before you buy, and make sure that your sofa isn’t going to dwarf your other furnishings. Large sofas are great as corner units, for example The Flexform from the Long Island Corner Sofa Group. This has removable upholstery in either fabric or leather, which makes it easier to clean and more durable. The Ligne Roset Togo is an iconic design made from foam to provide a classic, cosy look and feel.

Pros: Good for families and they work well as a feature piece in a larger living area.

Cons: Difficult to move around and can take up a lot of space.

Small sofas

Small sofas will accommodate 2 people; and if you want to give your room a more spacious feel then consider a sofa that has narrower arms. The Heal’s House sofa range includes sofas with a slim arm profile and natural oak feet to give an understated elegance. For the cosiest of seats try a loveseat or ‘snuggler’ which is slightly smaller than a two seater sofa. For a wide selection try loveseats.co.uk, or the Loveseat or Showtime Poltrona Sofa from Leigh Harmer. This design of sofa is perfect for awkward corners and has an aesthetically pleasing shape.

Pros: They can make you room feel more spacious and they are ideal for a couple wanting to snuggle up in front of the TV.

Cons: Less seating space if you have guests; not ideal for lying down on.

sofa
Love seat by IPE Cavalli, £3184.95, Leigh Harmer

Sofa beds

Sofa beds are great for lounges, spare rooms or bedrooms, and they’re superb space savers. For a fabulous variety, Go Modern supply sofa beds suitable for children’s bedrooms, like the playful Fata sofa bed, or sophisticated styles like the Fusion Glam sofa bed for a glamorous living room. These foam beds are suitable for occasional use, and prove that style and comfort don’t need to be sacrificed for convenience and practicality. The Milano bedding collection from Bonbon Trading is great for sofas that are simply transformed into beds without any fuss.

Pros: Ideal for convenience; comfortable for either sitting or sleeping. They are functional and great space-savers.

Cons: Depending on how much you spend, they can be quite heavy and some with hard metal bases can be uncomfortable.

Fabric sofas

Choose fabric that will suit your lifestyle; textured fabric can give a warmer feel and can be more practical because it will show less wear than smooth fabric in the long term. Popular textured fabrics include chenille, velvet, micro-fibre and boucle. The Manhattan sofa from Black Orchid Interiors is upholstered in sumptuous black velvet and features contrasting black faux suede seat cushions. Choose the colour of your sofa carefully; neutral or pastel shades are a good choice. If you go for pattern, make sure you’ll love it in the long term, because styles of pattern can go out of date quickly. With a plainer sofa you can easily update the look and use bolder colour with decorative cushions and throws.

Pros: There are a wide range of colours available, and they have washable covers which makes them are a great choice for a family with young children and pets.

Cons: Stains will show up on plain fabrics.

sofa
Jaco sofa, price on request, Bonbon Trading Ltd

Leather sofas

Leather sofas are available in traditional or contemporary designs, and they have become an increasingly popular choice because they age well and they are easier to clean than fabric. If you have light coloured walls then darker leather, like the Lola three seat sofa from sofa.com, will make a statement, as brighter walls can often overpower furniture. Denelli Living also offers a collection of contemporary leather sofas in different styles and colours. Brown or light coloured leather will suit most rooms, and you can introduce colour with a scattering of cushions.

Pros: It is easy to clean, and although it can be expensive it is very durable. Leather is soft and it will keep you warm in the winter and cool in summer.

Cons: It needs to be treated, and they aren’t ideal for families with children or pets.

Modular sofas

This type of furniture is fashionable and impressive in large rooms. You can effectively choose your sofa to be tailor-made for your own living area, but you do need a big space to accommodate them. For a grand selection of modular furniture, Utility supply sophisticated styles that can be combined in different ways to furnish your room. Our practical advice would be to try before you buy because although modern low back styles look nice they may not provide you with the best back support. The B&B Italia Andy Sofa is designed to meet a host of comfort and posture requirements with a range of features that allow you to turn this sofa into an adaptable chaise longue or even a bed. Ligne Roset’s collection of upholstery includes modular designs from established and emerging designers, giving you a stylish and modern look combined with the luxurious comfort of a large sofa.

Pros: Flexible and multi-functional because it can be used in large or smaller configurations.

Cons: You need a large space to fit it in and they can cost a lot.

With such a wide range on the market, you are literally spoilt for choice when it comes to finding the perfect sofa for your home. From modular sofas to loveseats, leather to fabric there really are so many options to suit your style, and ultimately to enhance your way of living in the most comforting way possible.

How to create... a retro living room

wallpaper
Trippy wallpaper, £25 a roll, Graham and Brown

Create your own retro living room with our suggestions ranging from bold wallpaper to quirky furniture pieces and accessories.

If you often find yourself reminiscing and wishing that you could travel back to the 1950’s or 60’s, then a retro interior may be exactly what you’re looking for. Interior design during this period was very kitsch, and in interior design today, this style is reproduced but with a unique and quirky twist. Why not take inspiration and go all-out with the great range of retro products, available on Furnish and from other suppliers, to bring a retro feel to your own living room.

You don’t need travel back in time in order to give your living room a groovy, retro makeover. With a bit of imagination and the great freedom of choice there is with a vast array of products to help bring a burst of bold colour and dizzy patterns to your home. Bring an outdated but fresh and modern look to your lounge with Trippy wallpaper from Graham & Brown. The psychedelic pattern is symbolic of the post-war 50’s and 60’s when there was a transition in design to brighter and bolder colours. Or decorate your walls with Illuminate wallpaper, made by Harlequin at wallpaper direct which features a selection of stylised lampshades including the 50’s iconic Artichoke light.

Retro art was a huge inspiration to what soon became known as pop art; one of the most popular art movements that revolutionalised design in the twentieth century. The quirky Fat owl cushion from Hunkydory Home is an example of how iconic designs from Andy Warhol can inspire you to experiment with pattern and colour in your lounge. This handmade funky owl print in blue and mustard, and combined with apples and pears, is a perfect accessory to add some fun to your new retro décor. Unikko fabric from Marimekko uses a bold floral pattern in bright and vibrant colours which would work well as cushion covers or for an even bolder statement use it to cover your sofa. There is also more in the selection of fabrics and textiles from Marimekko that would suit this look.

chair
Libby II Chair, contact for price, The Baobab Tree

Most retro furniture that you get today from markets are not authentic pieces from the past, however there are still some real vintage, classic pieces out there waiting to be found. The Old Cinema [http://www.theoldcinema.co.uk/] offers a collection of period antiques from around the world, and their 1970’s Retro G-Plan Sideboard, made from teak, is a must for anyone who loves one off pieces. This type of furniture doesn’t come cheap, but you get what you pay for and I certainly wouldn’t mind spending my precious pounds on the Libby II chair from thebaobabtree.co.uk. Abstract design, polished chrome and rounded corners all define retro furniture, so if you’d prefer to go retro with more of a modern twist, the Round art deco side table from Graham and Green could be for you. It is connected by four curvy, stylised mirror stems which modernise your room whilst also serving as a timeless glass furnishing, neutral enough for you to experiment with bolder colour elsewhere.

For a retro look with clean, finished modern lines for your living area then laminate surfaces and vinyl are great and practical materials to achieve just this. Why not try Amtico Linear Graphite effect vinyl tiles from flooringsupplies.co.uk, their warm palette and detailed stripes create a funky yet sleek retro feel making them the perfect choice for your living room. Add texture and dimension to your room with the Dahlia rug from BODIE and FOU. The design uses traditionally retro geometric patterns but gives it a modern revamp with vibrant colour and expression.

In my opinion, a retro living room would not be absolute without one of these; the 1950's Silver Dreyfuss telephone by Wild and Wolf from Heal’s which encompasses this iconic decade. It comes with an authentic heavyweight handset, and so as not to disappoint, it even has an original bell ring. If you like to be reminded of times gone by take a look at the Newgate Postmaster Architecture wall clock from Heal’s. This pop art inspired piece celebrates everyday objects and turns them into iconic symbols. It uses retro style numbers that aren’t fixed so you can choose any combination you would like, making it both a playful and kooky accessory for your home. These characteristics are typical of the retro style yet they emphasise how advanced modern technology has become. Products such as these illustrate how contemporary, retro design can be just as much about nostalgia and abstraction as they are about modernising your home in an inventive way. The Orla Kiely multi-stem rug from Heal’s is perfect for decorating your living room floor with a simple yet effective retro design. It has such a subtle yet intrepid colour palette which, with its mixed pattern design, creates a classic appearance for your living space. It is also made from luxurious soft New Zealand wool that feels incredibly comforting underfoot.

sideboards and display cabinet
1970’s Retro G-Plan Sideboard, £375, The Old Cinema

Light up your retro inspired lounge with Hunkydory Home’s Vintage flowers drum pendant lampshade. You can’t afford to be shy with pattern when it comes to being retro, and with this original 1970’s floral fabric in shades of vibrant yellow, orange and brown, your room will be transformed from dull and boring into something from ‘That ‘70’s Show’. If however, you’d prefer a more subtle approach, then you are bound to love the polished chrome used to produce the Floss chandelier 2097 from Utility, which is a common feature of retro designs. Its futuristic name is a reflection of its modern, sleek finish yet it also has a timeless appearance and its bold statement size gives it a real sense of belonging to a devoted 50’s retro living room.

Buyers guide to... Flooring

furnish
Wool Chicago carpet in Chocolate, £80 per sqm, Crucial Trading [www.crucial-trading.com]

Make the right choices with our buyers guide to flooring

As soon as you open a door and walk into a room, the floor is one of the first things you notice. Whichever flooring you choose, it’ll change the atmosphere of your space, whether it’s a bold statement in rubber or an understated carpet in natural seagrass. And because you’ll be walking on it everyday, it’s worth going for the best quality you can afford, whichever type you choose. Covering the most popular flooring types, this guide aims to help you make the right choices for your room as well as your personal style.

1. Wool

Wool carpet is especially good for bedrooms and living rooms, creating a feeling of homeliness and warmth. Stair runners are a great way to lead the eye and make a feature of your hallway, while carpeting only the upper floor creates a natural break from the hustle and bustle of your main living space and a more relaxed atmosphere upstairs. It may seem an unexciting choice, but there are some fantastic styles and colours on the market. Try Brintons Fine Carpet and Crucial Trading for excellent quality wool carpets, in a huge range of colours, patterns and weaves.

Pros: natural heat and noise insulation; soft underfoot; comforting and homely

Cons: spills and stains; collects dust and pet fur; requires regular vacuuming

2. Natural Plant Fibres

Carpets made from coir, sisal and seagrass are great for busy areas such as hallways and stairs, being tougher and more hardwearing than traditional tufted wool carpets. The exception is jute, which is softer, making it a good choice for bedrooms. Plant fibre carpets in their natural colours are subtle and understated, making it easy to furnish your room around them. The great thing about this type of flooring is the variation in texture and pattern produced by the different weaves. Crucial Trading has a fantastic selection of plant fibre carpets, including a herringbone weave in neutral seagrass with a green, blue or red weft, and a number of dyed sisal carpets, along with the usual natural colour palette.

Pros: hardwearing; understated; texturally interesting

Cons: limited colour range; less soft than wool pile; sensitive to moisture, making them unsuitable for use in bathrooms and kitchens

3. Rubber

Rubber flooring is so versatile it can be used almost anywhere in the home. Hardwearing and easily cleaned, it’s particularly good for busy areas such as hallways, and rooms where spillages are likely, such as kid’s bedrooms, studios, utility rooms, bathrooms and kitchens. A contemporary and stylish choice, rubber flooring goes really well with modern furnishings.

The Rubber Flooring Company has a fabulous range of vibrant, fade-resistant, colour options, available in smooth and soft sheets and tiles, round stud tiles with extra cushioning, and a fantastic new grid tile by Hemmingway Design. The vulcanised rubber is extremely durable, with a high level of impact absorbency. Another option is a resin floor with a cushioning rubber underlay. Puur’s [www.puur.uk.com] poured resin floors achieve a perfectly flat and slip-resistant surface, finished either matt or polished to a high lustre. For a natural alternative, try Marmoleum, which is made from linseed oil, wood flour, rosin, jute and limestone. Urbane Living has a great selection including brightly coloured chequerboard tiles.

Pros: huge range of colours; easily cleaned; extremely durable

Cons: ultra-modern - may not suit period homes

4. Luxury Vinyl

Vinyl is extremely practical, and can be great for kid’s rooms, bathrooms and kitchens. It has a bad reputation but if you go for a good quality supplier, such as Amtico or Karndean you can get great results. If, like me, you’ve got a problem with vinyl that mimics other materials, just stick to plain block colours. Amtico’s Abstract range is great and there are some really authentic plain tiles in the Stone range. Otherwise, there are plenty of effects that can be achieved in vinyl, from wood and ceramics to mosaic, marble and glass. These products combine the look of natural materials with the practicality and performance of vinyl.

Pros: durable; easy to clean; huge range of colours and styles

Cons: won’t add value to your home; doesn’t last like real wood or stone

furnish
Bubblegum Pink rubber stud tiles, £41.95 per sqm, The Rubber Flooring Company [www.therubberflooringcompany.co.uk]

5. Solid Wood

A solid wood floor is not only beautiful; it’s hardwearing and will add value to your home. It’ll improve with age and can be revived with re-sanding and refinishing to fit in with a new decorative scheme. Whether hard or softwood, parquet or plank, a solid wooden floor is the same material all the way through. It ages and evolves as you live with it and lasts for decades.

Solid wood flooring is available in a range of timbers offering a spectrum of natural colours, knots and grains. The most interesting timbers are Oak, Chestnut, Maple, Teak, Walnut and Merbau. A sensuous real wood floor brings natural warmth to a room. However, each timber has its own specific pros and cons. For example, Chestnut isn’t suitable for rooms entered directly from the outside, but is perfect for upstairs. Broadleaf Timber has a useful technical guide to choosing the right timber for your room.

Pros: long-lasting; improves with age; can be re-sanded and refinished

Cons: expensive; requires ongoing maintenance; light, temperature and moisture sensitive

6. Engineered Wood

Engineered wood flooring is a sandwich of plywood with a top layer of finish wood. The plywood is made up of several layers of Birch, laid at right angles with the grain running in opposite directions, giving dimensional strength to the sandwich. This also means that engineered wood stands up well in areas of moisture such as kitchens, bathrooms and basements. It won’t expand and contract like solid wood. Plywood makes up 80-90% of the board with a thinner layer of finish wood that you walk on. Engineered boards are available in the full range of solid wood timbers. The Natural Wood Floor Company has a great selection.

Pros: eco-friendly; won’t expand and contract; can be used in moisture prone areas

Cons: can be sanded only once or twice; prone to dents and scratches; light sensitive

7. Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed wood flooring has the distinctive patina of age, adding depth and character to a room. It’s also an environmentally friendly option. The same care should be taken as with solid wood, to ensure the timber is right for the room. Reclaimed wood is available in any number of styles, including parquet woodblocks. Often old growth timber, reclaimed wood has the advantage of being harder and more stable than younger wood. Urbane Living, Lassco and Retrouvius all have rotating stocks of reclaimed wood flooring.

Pros: characterful; eco-friendly; more stable than younger wood

Cons: often supplied unfinished; choice dependent on stock; supplied ‘as seen’ and not tailored to the size of your room

furnish
Navaho Collection by Neisha Crosland, £450 per sqm, De Ferranti {www.deferranti.com]

8. Stone

Stone is a hardwearing and practical flooring choice, particularly suited to hallways, bathrooms and kitchens, but equally attractive in living and dining rooms. Natural stone offers a broad spectrum of colours and surface details: from white to black, through beiges and greys, and from reasonably plain to extensively varied in tone and texture. Natural stones are given a range of finishes: a riven or antique finish will give a more rustic appearance while a polished or honed finish gives a classic yet modern feel to a room.

There’s little difference in durability between stones; the look you want from the stone is essentially more important than the type. Tile sizes range from the smallest mosaic to very large slabs. All natural stones are porous to varying degrees and must be sealed during the installation process to prevent staining and moisture absorption. Mandarin Stone has a fabulous range of natural stones, from limestone and marble, to granite, sandstone, travertine and slate.

Pros: beautiful natural material; will last decades; stain resistant when sealed

Cons: expensive, expert installation required; hard and cold underfoot; natural variation and ‘imperfections’ in the stones may not suit some tastes

9. Terracotta Tiles

From warm ochres, to rich reds and oranges, the inviting earthy tones of terracotta tiles make them ideal for hallways and kitchens as well as living and dining rooms. Low-maintenance and resilient, terracotta is another flooring type that improves and evolves with age. To ensure a long-lasting floor, the tiles must be sealed properly to prevent staining and moisture absorption. Fired Earth will professionally install a great range of terracotta tiles, including reclaimed, antiqued and handmade varieties. The square and rectangular tiles in the Romana range are used to create a geometric floor pattern.

Pros: hardwearing; rich earthy tones; warmer underfoot than ceramic tiles or stone

Cons: colour variation and rustic feel not to all tastes; hard underfoot; requires professional installation and sealing

10. Ceramic Tiles

Available in a huge variety of colours, patterns, textures and styles, ceramic floor tiles are a really versatile choice, suitable for any room. Ceramic tiles can be used to create breathtakingly beautiful floors and the design possibilities are almost limitless. Tough and easily cleaned, a ceramic floor is a great option for hallways, bathrooms and kitchens. Try Iris Ceramica for a fabulous selection of innovative textural tile designs. De Ferranti has a fantastic choice of patterned ceramic tiles, including a striking range by Neisha Crosland. De Ferranti’s ceramic tiles are handmade and hand-painted, many of them taking inspiration from historical sources.

Pros: huge variety in pattern, colour and texture; easy to clean; durable

Cons: cold and hard underfoot; requires professional installation; more expensive than terracotta

Trend watch: Polka Dots

furnish
House of Holland, Spring/Summer 09, London Fashion Week, from marieclaire.co.uk

Go dotty with design and use polka dots to add a touch of fun to your interior.

When it comes to looking our best, we want to be spot on with the latest fashion trends. That’s right; polka dots took the spotlight on the catwalks, bringing with them a retro and playful feel. As ever, interior design isn’t far behind, and it has been influenced greatly by this classic, bold print.

In a fresh new approach, designers have rejuvenated the conventional dots by combining them with floral prints. Floral cushions from Cabbages and Roses in monochrome offer the perfect accompaniment to the Blue and Brown dot cushion from Hunkydory Home. They will create a flamboyant contrast, and prove that dots work well on fabrics to bring texture and a vibrant, summery feel to a room.

Another great example of how polka dots and floral designs can work well together is with the Poppy Liberty Fabric Cushion Liberty from Liberty and the Deckchair Spot cushion from Hunkydory Home. With their pretty pink colours, they stand apart as two dramatically vibrant cushions; these would work perfectly in a kitchen, living room or dining area to give a feminine and homely touch.

If you prefer the traditional polka dot style, why not opt for black and white polka dots for a classic Minnie-mouse inspired look. The Marimekko mug from Lollipop Shoppe is part of a new line of Marimekko tableware and pays homage to the polka dot style in its own unique way. Using these would be a great way to invite attention to your table. Also, monochrome dots give you the opportunity to use colour in other aspects of your room.

cushion
Poppy liberty fabric cushion, £69, Liberty, and Deckchair spot cushion, £18, Hunkydory Home.

Oliver Bonas has a quaint collection of gifts for the home that are available to view on Furnish. The porcelain china pale blue Tea bag tidy is an example of how pastel colours work well with polka dots. Using calm, subtle shades gives a contrast to the bold dots and creates a modern feel to your interior. The Retro milk pan in pink and white (also available in red and white) is an exciting and playful accessory for your kitchen.

We know that the best things in life are better enjoyed in moderation, and this is certainly the case with polka dots. However, Walldots wallpaper from Sheerhome takes its inspiration from polka dot design by repeating a bubble-like pattern on your walls. It provides an interesting backdrop to any room and is a slightly more detailed take on a traditional polka dot design.

wallpaper
Retro circles wallpaper, £44.04, Oliver Bonas

The Turquoise and silver Retro circles wallpaper from Oliver Bonas are stylishly vibrant. This wallpaper will provide a refreshing balance to an interior that has harsh modern lines with its aesthetically pleasing motif.

Red and white polka dots are definitely a must for this trend; this combination gives a feminine and flirty feel. Try this out in your home with the sand-filled Heart doorstop from Lover’s Lounge which has a cute carry handle, and serves as a handy yet chic accessory for your home.

Also, your household chores will never be boring again if you wear the Polka dot apron in red from Hunkydory Home; who knew aprons could be so flirtatious and fun?

If you want to bring a splash of colour to a room then Dot stools from Lollipop Shoppe are just the thing for you. Their charm and contemporary style allows you to introduce the polka dot style into your interior in a functional and tantalising new way. Also, have some fun with this wall clock from Sonodesign, which is suitably named The clock I can't see. As the name suggests, you may have to look closely to see the numbers, but there’s no doubt it will have you feeling fantastically dotty in no time at all. Whatever your taste, Furnish have found designs that are top of the spots, so you can choose anything from tableware, cushions, accessories, and wallpaper.

Living with Colour

wallpaper
Giacosa teal wallpaper £43 per 10m roll and Festival sofa upholstered in Nabucco oyster velvet £97 per metre, Designers Guild [www.designersguild.com]

Lift your scheme as well as your spirits by experimenting with colour in the home. An injection of colour can transform a room’s atmosphere.

Lift your scheme as well as your spirits by experimenting with colour in the home. An injection of colour can transform a room’s atmosphere as well as your mood. Take advantage of colour cards, tester pots, fabric and wallpaper swatches, to create your perfect palette. Take your time but go with your instincts: if you fall in love with a colourful cushion or carpet, use it as inspiration for the rest of your scheme. Create a haven of subtle hues or make a statement with bold brights.

Living with Bold Colour

Consider how far you want to go to make bold colour work for you. Using it in small doses - on one wall, a statement sofa or for selected accessories - is a great way to create zingy accents, attracting the eye and lifting your scheme. If you choose to go for full colour on all four walls, make sure to use tester pots in the corners of your room to judge how the colour will look in light and shade. Choosing sofas and armchairs in subtler tones, with bold cushions or accessories in the wall colour, will draw your scheme together.

For a really dramatic and moody look, dark colours for both walls and furnishings can be fabulous. To avoid a severe finish, go for sumptuous fabrics such as silks and velvets. Combining bold and supposedly clashing colours can really work. Forget the old wives tales and create a striking look by combining colour opposites. Sto and Dulux have great tools for choosing colours with confidence. Designers Guild is fantastic for inspiration on contrasting fabric colours and wallcoverings. Sofas and armchairs in different block colours, or bold walls contrasted with accessories in a different accent colour, make for a stylish and contemporary look.

lounger
BD Barcelona Lounger by Jaime Hayon, launched recently in Milan - price to be confirmed, Exterior | Interior [http://www.exterior-interior.com/]

Living with Pastels

Pastel colours are no longer the saccharine shades of childhood. They’ve moved out of the nursery and away from the girly pinks and baby blues of past. Dove greys, chalky greens, duck egg blues and dusky pinks are the subtler, muted hues of now. Farrow and Ball and Fired Earth offer a great choice of sophisticated pastel paint colours. Try Rose Mallow at Fired Earth or Pale Powder at Farrow and Ball.

To make sure your room doesn’t look washed out, go for good-quality highly pigmented paint with a chalky texture. The Little Greene Paint Company’s Acrylic Matt Emulsion is perfect. For wood and metalwork choose a complementary off-white colour to bring out the walls, or go two shades lighter or darker to create depth. Paint colours at Farrow and Ball and Little Greene are linked to recommendations for complementary neutrals.

To choose the right shade for your room, always use tester pots, again in the corners so as to judge the colour in light and shade. Paint colours can look hugely different on the wall to how they look on a colour card (or on your computer screen). It’s also a good idea to see how the colour changes from day to evening.

Combine the new pastels to create a beautifully relaxed space. Colour cards and fabric samples will help you to draw together a complementary palette.

sofa
Festival sofa upholstered in Cascina ‘Essentials’ fabrics from £41 per metre, Designers Guild [www.designersguild.com]

Tones

On the natural spectrum of the colour wheel, tones work outwards from the centre, light to dark. Using different tones from the same colour segment or colour card will give depth to a room. Adjacent colours on the wheel are complementary, creating a subtle scheme, while those opposite one another make a dramatic contrast.

If you’re going for one colour across a whole room, varying the tones will add interest, preventing it from looking flat or becoming overwhelming. For example, taking a dark sofa as your base, layer cushions and throws in varying tones of the same colour, using a lighter shade for the walls and the rich shade of the sofa for other accessories.

If you take the time to choose, there’s no need to feel daunted. Have fun putting together your palette and live life in colour.

Buyers guide to... Storage

baskets and container
Four drawer rattan basket rack, £82, The Orchard

Don’t ignore that stack of magazines on your floor; de-clutter your home and your mind with some simple storage solutions from Furnish.

Use this opportunity to have a bit of a spring clean, and look at the potential your room has for storage space to fit a new elegant wardrobe, or a unique coffee table. Remember that storage isn’t simply for hiding those cluttered objects that lie around your house, it can also serve as a much more stylish and functional feature of your home.

Clothing storage

We are all guilty of getting our knickers in a twist when we can’t find something we want to wear. So, whether you have something stylish but small, or a walk-in wardrobe (we can all dream, right?), where we store our clothes should be a reflection of our lifestyle. Lombok’s stylish Keraton wardrobe has an alluring colonial look which brings a unique statement piece to your bedroom. Not only does it contain a full-width hanging rail, it also has two large drawers at the base of the wardrobe. Alternatively, for a charming furniture piece that would add a perfect feminine touch to your room, the Amelie two drawer chest from Brissi offers practical drawer space for folded garments. For long-term storage, the Kigoma trunk from Holding Company is a suitable place for keeping garments that you are putting away for the next winter.

Sideboards

Simple and effective, the sideboard is conventionally used in the dining room; however it also works well in hallways, living rooms, or bedrooms. Go for the vintage inspired look with the Miss Print sideboard; its chic finish will add a touch of intrigue. Choose the Shanxi sideboard from Puji in white to compliment a modern decor with its smooth linen white lacquer finish with wooden edging detail. It has distinctive brass handles giving it a hint of eastern exoticism, and with two cupboards and spacious draws it offers the potential for maximum storage space. The Tactile sideboard from Utility has a seamless finish, and purposely has no handles which would only add confusion to its understated appearance. This masculine look would work well in a bachelor’s pad as it provides a no-nonsense way for the male species to create a sleek look for their decor without damaging any manly pride.

Kitchen dressers/larders

For the perfect place for you to store your finest tableware, Lombok’s Traditional glass dresser in dark teak gives that idyllic country house feel. Install it in your kitchen or dining room and there’s no need to hideaway your favourite tableware. With a display with two glass shelves for your cookery books, and drawers for table linen, this dresser not only gives a sense of pride to any kitchen, it also offers a functional and timeless charm to your home. Zenith basket trolleys from Heal’s are made from sturdy chrome wire, and they are ideal for keeping fresh fruit and vegetables as well as kitchen utensils in order.

Multifunctional furniture

Making the most of your storage is essential. Many furniture pieces available on Furnish are multifunctional and offer you space-saving opportunities to use throughout your home. Take a look at the Multi-Purpose Play table with Trundle Drawers from Great Little Trading Company. This cleverly compact play table is exciting to look at, not only does it provide your child with great fun and entertainment that will keep them occupied for hours. It also offers convenient storage space for toys and game that might otherwise clutter the floor or simply get lost in the chaos. Also, the Military coffee table from Occa Home is attractive stained oak wood coffee table but is also provides an easy-to-reach resting place magazines, books or vases. Its discreet drawers make it simple for you to store other knick knacks like placemats or notebooks.

console table
Bone and Inlay console table, £745, Graham and Green

Console tables

Bring versatility to your home with a console table; coming in all shapes and sizes, they offer stylish storage and add interest. Unwelcome mess within your home can be solved with the Lloyd high-console from The White Company. This incredibly neat looking set of drawers would fit extremely well within a hallway, bathroom or a bedroom, and with its strong woven baskets it is ideal for storing all kinds of belongings from magazines to umbrellas, shoes or photos, or even the phone directory. If you like detail and character is your furniture then the very stylish Black & Bone Inlay Console Table from Graham & Green would be an asset to your home. This table is beautifully hand crafted and a unique one of a kind piece that is only worthy of your most personal and cared for belongings.

Wall hung storage

If you are short of floor space don’t despair because your walls can offer an extra storage space for you to play with. The Seletti Framed CD Notorious Shelf Gold from Heal's is a great example of how storage can be useful in an attractive way. This clever series of shelves looks like a work of art with its stunning gold frame and ultra-modern box shelves. It provides a perfect balance of practicality and style. Add intrigue and a conversation starter to your room with the unique Sticklebook invisible bookshelf from Utility, which works using a combed strip that grips the covers and pages. Its deceptive powers make your mind believe the illusion that your books are floating in thin air- guaranteed to give the wow factor.

Shoe racks

Shoes are a girl’s best friend (well, after diamonds that is) and if you love your shoes then you shouldn’t be without Utility’s Floor standing shoe rack. It is the perfect design for keeping shoes tucked away neatly in cupboards without them getting crushed. However, it does only hold up to seven pairs so you may want to consider the Expandable shoe racks from Holding Company. Take advantage of the two expandable and stackable shoe racks made from classic chrome for a practical and easily accessible home for your shoes- you never know, there may be room to fit a few new pairs in too.

Kids storage

Any parent will empathise with how easily a child’s bedroom can suddenly look like a hurricane has just hit it. Children’s furniture by Great Little Trading Company is designed specifically for the helping parent and their children to live a mess free but fun life. The Horizontal six drawer unit provides accessible storage for toys and books that get frequently used, and they also encourage your child to tidy up after themselves. Ideal for use either in a playroom or bedroom, the Dolls house bookcase has three shelves and six compartments making it easier to store books, games or toys. Also, under the bed is a great place to store frequently unused items out of sight without taking up any extra floor space.

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Shanxi white sideboard, £789, Puji

Kitchen utensil storage

Make preparing and cooking in your kitchen more enjoyable with suggestions of storage for your kitchen utensils from Furnish. Heal’s has a collection of items to help organise you utensils, and the modern style of the Simplehuman utensil holder with a removable spoon rest will give any kitchen a futuristic feel. However, if you would rather give your kitchen a retro feel than be rocketed into the future, then you should choose the Typhoon vintage kitchen utensil holder available in black, white and red. Typhoon has taken inspiration from kitchens from the early 1930’s to 50’s, and you can find their enamelled range of kitchenware on Furnish.

Bathroom storage

Let’s face it; we all spend a little longer pampering ourselves in the bathroom than we like to admit. With the right storage, life will be made easier in the mornings when the fight for the bathroom can get nasty! For an ideal way to save space and time, you can keep ‘his and hers’ toiletries separate with try the Four drawer Rattan basket rack from The Orchard. The Contemporary Home has come up with a practical solution to the problem of where to keep your toothbrush with the Suction toothbrush holder. This no fuss holder sticks to your bathroom tiles, with no drilling required, and the least mess made. Or in case of an emergency, no bathroom would be complete without a First aid box from wheredidyoubuythat.com. This cabinet is wall mountable or it can be used free-standing, but either way it’s just what the doctor ordered.

Trend watch: Metallics

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Chloe Spring/Summer 2009 collection on the catwalk, image from Vogue.co.uk

Give your interior a sharp and dramatic look with metallics.

When metallics hit the catwalk they brought bright, bold, inspiring colours to the forefront of fashion. A common misconception about trends is that they are only acceptable and in-fashion for short periods of time, but the great quality that metallics have is that they filter into different aspects of decor to give a timeless and opulent feel to your home.

Metallics can be applied to your interior in so many ways because they ooze modernity and have a classic appearance, making them effortlessly pleasing to the eye. Use black and gold to create a dramatic statement, or use silver with pastel colours to give a more serene and natural feel to your room. Either way, go ahead and add shimmering detail and grandeur that fashion designers use so well in their clothes to dress your home.

If the rush of rich golds, silvers and bronzes on the catwalk has done anything to inspire interior design, it has certainly encouraged us to liven up neutral colour schemes with a splash of sparkle and glamour. For an accent wall in a bedroom, the fantastic Wilderness white gold wallpaper from 95% Danish will bring both texture and interest. For bed linen, try the Mink satin bedspread from The Contemporary Home to add an understated elegance and luxurious feel to your bedroom.

Take a peek at Chloe’s Spring/Summer 09 catwalk collection featuring lamé harem pants; the ‘heavy metal’ trend showcased a natural and radiant look. This use of stunning metallic shades can be dressed up or down in order to give a room a bold daytime look or a shimmering night time vibe. The Bean bag in gold leather from Heal’s has a luxurious gold finish making it perfect for a comfortable evening in, and the Small sequin cushion in silver from Rockett St George, are both perfect for achieving this thriving and versatile trend.

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Gold loop candelabra, £70, Black+Blum

Why not use metallic shades to give your home a look that retains an authentic style but brings a modern, glamorous look to your interior. The Orchard’s Gold Gilt Collection is inspired by classical French themes, and the Gold gilt two drawer bedside cabinet is finished in genuine gold leaf. If you fancy giving your guests an afternoon tea to remember, then look no further than the Silver tea caddy and the Silver tea strainer from Brissi. This is a nostalgic piece that is fit for the Queen and should make us feel proud to be British.

Metallic colours exude a finished look and are just the thing to bring a shiny, polished look to your home. Black and Blum’s Gold loop candelabra will provide your dining table with a stylish and stunning statement piece that will not fail to impress. Or, if you want to liven up your hallway or add a feminine touch to your living room, then choose the Flower loop for a minimal yet chic and individual piece that is inspired by the Fibonacci curve to create a balanced and aesthetically pleasing design.

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Wilderness gold wallpaper, £59, 95% Danish

These are just some examples of how you can introduce the metallic trend into your home. Don’t get too carried away by mixing too many metallic pieces in one room; use them to add visual impact and a touch of elegance as a statement piece for your room. Choose a furniture piece like the Brass stools from Lombok, made from solid brass and finished in antique silver, or use detailed fabric with metallic gold beading found in Sweet Pea and Willow’s Paris gold and lilac tie backs to give a contemporary and stylish touch that no home should be without.

Arched Window Mirror from Graham & Green

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Arched Window Mirror, £166, Graham & Green

Get some light on the scene with this Arched Window Mirror from Graham & Green, £166.

This fantastic Arched Window Mirror can be used inside to give the illusion of looking into another room, or outside to give the impression of a bigger garden. It’s a bit Alice in Wonderland, which is why I like it so much. And I’ve always wanted to live in a house with arched windows.

Fabulous in a hallway or above a fireplace it looks wonderful propped against the wall, reflecting light back into the room. And outside in the garden it’ll create a lovely courtyard feel. It’s got the look of architectural salvage about it, but with a metal frame and wood effect finish, it won’t degrade outside.

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Fabulous leaning against a wall, you get a lot of mirror for your money

Standing at over a metre tall and almost a metre wide, you get a lot of mirror for your money. The same thing from a reclamation yard would be more or less double the price.

Our weekly pick of interior blogs...

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Art Deco inspired interior by From the Desk of Lola, on Domicidal Maniac

We’ve been roaming the highways and byways of the internet for inspirational interiors blogs, and we haven’t come home empty-handed.

Top of the list of picturesque pit stops this week is the fabulously titled Domicidal Maniac. The maniac in question is Washington-based interior designer and window dresser, Scott Fanzzini. This is window-shopping in the virtual world, with inspiration at every turn: new designers, envy inducing interiors, style crushes and all manner of good-looking things (including Mr Fanzzini, I might add). He’s also got a penchant for old movies – check out his post celebrating the set designs on How To Marry a Millionaire.

Next stop on the scenic route is Diary of a Wandering Eye. Another American boy with eclectic tastes, this anonymous blogger will lead you on a wanton chase through a landscape of visual delights. The Covet section left me slack-jawed with desire, especially for Greg Kulharic’s ceramic vegetable pots. Whoever this wandering eye belongs to it knows where to look. And with a jaunty writing style, the hand’s not bad either. The boy’s got style in spades – just look at the fantasy musings and scrapbook photos in the My Future Home series.

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Beautiful tiles in Le Chandelier teashop, East Dulwich, on Tea for Joy

Back in Blighty, there’s time to stop off for a pot of Earl Grey and a cucumber sandwich with Lynne at Tea for Joy. Dedicated to two of my favourite things – tea and vintage - this one’s right up my street. And it really is a joy to behold – a reverie of teashops and teacups, patterns and prints, fifties furniture and beautiful British designs.

That’s it for this week, but remember, if you write your own interiors blog get in touch and we’ll flag it up next time.

Stamp Collection Mugs from Utility

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'Sent with Love' Stamp Collection Mug

Earl Grey’s in first class company with these Stamp Collection Mugs from Utility. £10.95

Featuring the iconic image of the Queen on UK stamps, these striking mugs have vindicated my pastime. Stamp collecting is officially cool.

I don’t mind admitting that I collected stamps as a child and I still save envelopes if I like the designs. So I felt just a little bit smug when I saw these Stamp Collection Mugs from Utility. Representing the best of graphic design in miniature, I don’t even know why stamp collecting is seen as such a turn off.

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'First Class' Stamp Collection Mug

But anyway, rather than go on a rant I’ll let the mugs speak for themselves. Choose from the ‘Sent with Love’ version featuring the classic red first class stamp in a repeat pattern, or go large with a single stamp on the front and back of the ‘First Class’ version. And if you still don’t believe in the inherent coolness of stamps, check out the fabulous original colours on the different denominations wrapping round the ‘Multi Stamp’ mug.

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'Multi Stamp' Stamp Collection Mug

Put the kettle on and have a first class cuppa.

Living with the colour white

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Eames RAR (rocking armchair rod base), £365, Vitra at Occa Home

Reflecting light, stretching space, and revealing architectural form, a judicious application of white can quietly make a room express its full potential.

Applied to the walls or floor, white provides a silent surface on which anything goes.

White is as much a friend to poky rooms and dark corners as to grand, sun-filled studios. And you don’t have to be an obsessive minimalist to enjoy it. Used in the right way, white will make space for the red wine drinker and the sticky fingered kid.

Living with White and Kids

While all vinyl matt paints are wipeable to an extent, Dulux Endurance is extra hardwearing and washable without loss of colour. Developed to deal with kids horsing around at home, Dulux also recommend the Endurance range ‘if you fancy yourself as a bit of party animal’.

With their arsenal of crayons, if you’ve got young children and you want to go in for white furnishings, it’s wise to choose sofas and armchairs with removable covers. The Sorrento range at John Lewis has removable and machine-washable covers, in a classic Jacquard stripe. At Ikea, the majority of fabric sofas and armchairs have removable, washable, and replaceable covers (just don’t take the kids with you). Bemz also create bespoke covers to fit Ikea’s most popular sofas and chairs.

White can be great for kids’ bedrooms, particularly if space is an issue. With white walls and furniture as a base, introduce colour through accessories. The Little White Company offers simple, good quality white furniture. For the design-conscious child, the iconic (and wipe-clean) Panton chair comes in a diminutive ‘junior’ size, while for toddlers the Eames Elephant makes a cheerful companion. And if you’re getting up for night feeds, an Eames rocker might just make it more bearable.

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Jonathan Adler Ceramic Turtle Box, £130, Heal’s

Making White Work

From walls and floors, to furnishing and accessories, the key to making white work is in your choice of materials. Whether you want to create an all-white house or use white sparingly as an accent, engaging the senses with variations in texture, natural materials, mirrors and lighting, will prevent white from becoming alienating and clinical. Sculptural plants cast dramatic shadows against white walls, for example, while mirrors enhance the capacity of white to highlight structural detailing.

Paintwork: For walls and ceilings, choose paint with a chalky, soft matt texture to avoid a glaring finish. The Little Greene Paint Company’s Acrylic Matt Emulsion is particularly good, while their ULTIMATT® formula is also washable. For wood and metalwork a high gloss finish makes a striking contrast, but if you want something softer, go for a lower sheen with silk or eggshell. Little Greene’s Acrylic Eggshell gives a subtle sheen to complement matt walls.

Flooring: White walls look fantastic against the rich tones of a real wood floor. The Natural Wood Floor Company has a beautiful selection, but if you want a white floor and you’re lucky enough to have floorboards in good condition, try Ecos Organic's hardwearing floor paint. Floor tiles are also a great way to achieve a white finish using natural materials. The Limestone Gallery will cut and finish their extensive range to your specifications. A rug in bleached cowhide or with variation in pile depth will add another layer of texture to the room.

Soft Furnishings: The White Company has layering pretty much sewn up, with a sumptuous range of cushions and throws in cashmere and chunky knits, hand-quilted cotton and silk, each with individual textural details. White leather can look stunning, but to avoid the Miami effect, go for a design classic like Robin Day’s Forum sofa. Reissued by Habitat, the wooden side panels in ash or walnut soften the bright white Italian leather.

Accessories: Anything geometric or highly textured will take advantage of the striking contrasts of light and shade achieved in white. JDS Architects’ crushed bowls are particularly impressive, while the quirky and tactile pottery animals in Jonathan Adler’s Menagerie add a sense of frivolity to a highly styled white home. A faceted Asteroid table lamp by Koray Ozgen will refract light across white walls, and the corrugated shades on George Nelson’s wall sconces, reissued by Modernica, invite interesting shadows.

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Crushed Bowl by JDS Architects, bone china, from £36

The Off-Whites

If you don’t want to go all in for brilliant white, the off-white palette is softer and more forgiving, particularly in period homes. Fired Earth and Farrow and Ball offer excellent choice in off-whites and subtle shades. Particularly lovely are Bone White at Fired Earth and Pale Powder at Farrow and Ball. For wood and metalwork go for a brilliant white gloss to create a contrast or for a complementary look, go two shades lighter or two shades darker than the walls. A brilliant white ceiling will make the room feel larger. Choose accessories and soft furnishings in varying tones in the off-white palette for a calm and relaxing space. The Rug Company has a particularly good collection of cushions, wallhangings and pale carpets.

Living with white can be liberating, stylish and practical. Have a go, and if the worst happens, it’s the easiest colour to paint over.