By Charlotte and Angus Buchanan
Interiors specialists are often asked simple questions that don’t have simple answers. It’s one of the things that keeps us interested as designers. There are, however, two questions in particular that are asked repeatedly: “Where do we start?” and “What are the most important things to concentrate on?” Every project is different, and every problem will require a different solution, but there are a few tips and tricks that are always useful and areas that, if you put energy into, will pay dividends come the result.
We have decided to share our essential design elements for a fantastic living room using this seven-bedroom house in London, on the market for £11mn, as an example. There are some things it does well but there are also some general details that have been overlooked and that would lend themselves to most styles and tastes.
Focus on the fireplace
A fireplace does many wonderful things to the aesthetic of a room and acts as a focal point. The practical function of a fire should not be overlooked either — even if you’re not sitting close enough to feel the heat, just the sight of a fire does something deeply primal to us and evokes a sense of home. Choosing the right fire surround for the room is important and this wonderful marble one from Jamb would certainly be something worth staring at.
Take a moment for reflection
An overmantel mirror is a powerful tool to reflect a view from a window or catch a glimpse of artwork on a different wall. It will bounce light back into the room and give an illusion of increased depth. There are lots of beautiful new mirrors available but for us, antique will always be preferable. Foxed glass and signs of age add character and charm to a room and — as with this late 19th-century mirror from Vinterior — would be the more sustainable option too.
Not all sofas are created equal. Whether your room will be a more formal place to receive guests or a relaxed space to watch television, the type of sofa is going to be crucial. This dog bed settee from Howe would be perfect for a few people to sit together happily (and even better for one person to lie down). The benefit of a sofa like this is that it could be dressed up with endless cushions or left simple and elegant. It could also be paired with some antique cane-backed chairs or a couple of leather club chairs — it’s extremely versatile and would be a great life investment.
Find a magic carpet
We often find clients overlook rugs, as is the case in this living room. Rugs can elevate a room with colour and pattern of course, but they can also help hugely with acoustics and increase a sense of warmth and homeliness. We always insist on the best underlay possible — at least 8mm with an anti-slip backing. The extra thickness is not only a delight to walk on but will extend the life of the rug.
While we love new rugs from retailers such as Nordic Knots, we always come back to antique Persian rugs. The London Persian Rug Company has an incredible knowledge of their history and techniques. They can also adapt colours by hand painting and change the size of the rugs in a way that is almost invisible to the naked eye.
Pull yourself together
Curtains are another element we feel are missing from this Bayswater home. A good pair will focus the view through a window and allow you to introduce another texture or colour to a room. Where it gets really exciting is when you can commission your own curtains. Nest’s hand-embroidered curtains are a work of art and being bespoke, would be unique. They often combine light and heavyweight materials to play with the way daylight passes through them, which creates exquisite results.
Let there be light
This property shows exactly how powerful a chandelier can be, even when it’s switched off — it balances well with the huge mirror while also bringing the ceiling height down in the seating area, which will make that space feel more comfortable. It is still imperative to have table lamps and perimeter lighting in a room to create a flattering and comfortable ambience, but the pendant light will give a fantastic ambient glow if fitted with dim, warm bulbs. We would never use a bulb with a colour temperature greater than 2700 kelvin (the higher the number, the colder the light). This stunning vintage Murano chandelier from Vinterior would be the perfect statement and the pink glass would give a lovely warm glow.
Photography: Sophia Spring; Knight Frank