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9 Stylish Interior IDEAS from the Living Etc. House Tours!

9 Stylish Interior IDEAS from the Living Etc. House Tours!

I wasn’t sure if I was going to write this post or not. The reason being that I was genuinely struggling to put into words my thoughts and responses to the epic experience that was the Living Etc. House Tours. I know, not great for a blogger that relies on the power of their words to communicate their ideas! The six period homes in Hackney that the public were kindly given access to (for a small fee of course) was a truly inspiring experience and to be honest I said WOW so many times on entering a room full of new delights that I sort of blew a WOW fuse!


The ingenuity and creativity that characterised each of these homes in such a unique way left quite an impression on me and it’s taken quite a few days of mulling over of what I saw to be able to gather my thoughts and find a way of wordifying what to be honest is hard to describe. Some rooms where impressive, others were quietly emotional and even touched my spirit (yes a room can do that!) and therefore I knew I had to find a way to write this post.

First off it must be addressed that it truly is a  privilege to be invited into someone’s home and private space and what made this an even more unique experience was that we got to speak to some of the homeowners behind the designs to get a little insight into the process and who they are. When the homeowners were absent, I felt that I was in Through the Keyhole (anyone else remember that fun 80s TV series with Lloyd Grossman?) where I desperately wanted to uncover the type of person that would live in a house like this! As you know for me, interiors can’t be detached from the person that they were created for - a room that doesn't have anyone living there is a room without soul in my eyes.


So before I get to the things that I learnt that can influence and inspire our own humble abodes, I wanted to say that that although the themes and styles throughout each home were vastly unique and strikingly different, there were design concepts and ideas that were often repeated across the houses. All the homes were period homes, either Georgian or Victorian (I’m a sucker for all the beautiful materials, design and detailing of both periods) and had limited land and space to build upon as you would expect from urban properties. So without further ado, here are some ideas of how to breathe some great design ideas into our homes...

1. Art Covered Walls

Art works so get some artwork! Every single home had a lot of art on the walls. There were some awesome gallery walls, some lone frames and there was a range of photography, prints, maps and original pieces (and even little bit of neon). I would say one of the most important aspects is that all the art was on the larger scale (it appears that size does matter here) covering a lot of the wall and interesting this was the case in rooms that weren't that huge. This is something that I noticed recently in Barcelona (you can read about my short trip here) and making me think that we need to go a bit larger with our own art purchases. Not so kind on the purse strings but definitely adds impact.

Walls painted in  Card Room Green  by Farrow and Ball

Walls painted in Card Room Green by Farrow and Ball

Loving this black and white street photography in  Casa Botelho

Loving this black and white street photography in Casa Botelho

Don't forget art in the kitchen!

Don't forget art in the kitchen!

Or in the bathroom

Or in the bathroom

2. Animal covered walls!

Following on from the previous point, there was quite a considerable amount of taxidermy in all the homes. Personally I quite liked it but I totally realise that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The biggest WOW for me was that two of the homes had unicorn heads on the wall. Yes! You did hear me right, real-life unicorn heads! It was such a statement and I really wish I had been a fly on the wall when someone came up with the crazy idea that this is what they wanted on their walls! However, if you don’t want to be quite as flamboyant as this you could for some antlers instead or even those soft cuddly animal heads that work really well for kids bedrooms.

In the home of  Pure White Lines  where most things were for sale!

In the home of Pure White Lines where most things were for sale!

Livingetchousetours-DonnaFord2018 zebra on wall
Check out those House of Hackney cushions

Check out those House of Hackney cushions

3. Go to the Dark Side

You know that I am a massive fan of dark walls and although there weren’t loads of these on the house tours, there were in fact quite a few dark grey and blue hallways. Personally for my I resisted doing this in my own home and know that clients I work with feel similarly, but I’m a convert after the Living Etc. tours. One home had Downpipe which is one of my favourite Farrow and Ball colours in the hallway and was truly inviting along with statement lighting drawing the eye. Not sure why I was hesitant to go dark in a hall but it defnieetly works.

Walls painted  Railings  by Farrow and Ball

Walls painted Railings by Farrow and Ball

Livingetchousetours-DonnaFord2018 casa botelho
One of the more grander entrances, but check out the dark hallway...

One of the more grander entrances, but check out the dark hallway...

4. Colour your home

There are literally thousands of colours to choose from when it comes to decorating, so there is definitely something for everyone ranging from bright hues, to subtle pastel shades and dark moody tones. All the homes were full of colour even though they didn't necessarily have big rooms. Small rooms don't need to be boring or minimal (unless of course you want them to be)! The unique combination of colour on the walls or in the artwork or even in the furnishings and fabrics is what creates an individual look and although we all aren’t fans of bold shades, a little colour works well to create your own narrative. Sometimes we are frightened to really go for our style in small spaces but these rooms proved to me that that’s a load of old codswallop!

Something else I noticed is that colours from one room would reappear in another in a different  guise, linking each room around the house for a cohesive feel. This is a great way to unify your home and is easier than you think. If you discover a palette of colours that you truly love, they can be a base in one room and a highlight in another. There is literally no limit to the combinations!

5. Don’t forget the fifth wall!

What the heck is that? I'm talking about the ceiling! I had such a revelation that I can and should paint some of the ceilings dark colours in my own home. The boy's bedrooms have coloured ceilings which really make them feel cosy but I've avoided dark colours up above in other rooms because of the1930s ceiling height i.e. not that high. However quite a few of the rooms on the tour had similar sized rooms and ceiling heights to mine so I'm feeling daring that I should go dark on one of my ceilings. If you can experience an idea you have for your home, that’s a sure fire way to know that it’s going to work and how you are going to feel in that kind of room.

This gorgeous green bedroom is painted in Steam Engine by  Crown Paints

This gorgeous green bedroom is painted in Steam Engine by Crown Paints

If you’re not keen on painting the ceiling then think about how ceiling roses or coving can make an impact and make an interesting feature. Or for something truly daring, why not open up the roof space on a room to create space and even allow more light in. Two of the homes achieved this and blew me away with the vision and creativity to make this happen. More about this below...

Look at this coving! Mirror by  Abigail Ahern

Look at this coving! Mirror by Abigail Ahern

6. Vintage it up!

I’m sure many of you share my love for antiques and vintage items and I was delighted that most of the homes included these in their decor. It struck me that one of the reasons why these work so well is that items that are a little worn and even tired looking can really add a relaxed feel to a space. This works regardless of whether it’s a period or a modern home. Remember Miranda and Julian's 70's property brimming with antiques? If not have a read here for some truly inspiring ideas of how to mix the old with the new.

Love the array of patterns and colour here

Love the array of patterns and colour here

7. Small spaces can sing!

All the homes which were walking distance from Dalston Junction had one thing in common - they weren’t huge! Now don’t get me wrong, there were many basement, exterior and roof extensions and clever uses of the space so some of the open plan spaces were grander than you could realise from the outside, but they all proved that you can achieve a lot with small-medium rooms and an inner city plot of land. It just takes a little creativity. We shouldn’t limit our imagination because the spaces are small. I’m sure most of us don’t live in country mansions so this is one aspect of the house tours that I found really relatable - that achieving interesting and colourful design is achievable in our own homes.

mint green tiles

8. Statement lighting

It just works. The images below prove it!

Livingetchousetours-DonnaFord2018 statement lighting

9. What about the roof space?

Okay so I'll admit that this isn't an easy idea to implement in your home straight away BUT if you are doing a renovation and are a limited for space, then an amazing idea is to consider taking the ceiling of a room right up to the roof so that you increase the volume of the room and also let in some much needed light if natural light is limited. Granted you will lose that attic storage but I'm sure you can see from this beautiful example below that the effects are worth it. De Beauvoir cottage, is the home of Steve Nash who is the founder of the design studio All & Nxthing and I have a soft spot for this home. I loved chatting with Steve about some of the specifics of the designs and his personal process and instantly felt an emotional connection to the spaces. In part I think that some of the rooms reflect my own personal decorating style quite closely but also I think there was such a perfect balance to all the design elements of the rooms in such a considered and relaxed way that it was hard not to feel at home here. Maybe the late Victorian elements and floor plan also contributed to the intimate feel as well.

Needless to say that the photos really don’t do any of the homes justice and sadly I didn't have permission to photograph two of them. When I looked at photos of these homes in the Living Etc. magazine afterwards, the images didn’t come close to how being in that space felt and the way the colours and the decor affected my emotions. The problem with magazines is that you can’t inhabit the space and you are restricted to a 2D experience of something that should be in 3D or even 4D - a true being in the space. That doesn't take away from the fact that we shouldn’t photograph rooms or read about them in magazines or online on blogs (I've recently written about why I still love interiors magazines). Flat images still inspire us but is a good reminder that a photo is just scratching the surface of the impact of the spaces around us. When I close my eyes I’m still stepping around the rooms and imagining how the design enhances the lives of the people that live there...

I want to say a massive thank you to the homeowners for their kind invitation to into their beautiful homes and to Living etc. for organising a fabulous event. And also my buddy Charlie who I shared all this with and who I had stimulating conversations with on the day. One final thought - I really do love the East London vibe (a sort of a larger version of Deptford in my eyes which is where I first lived when I moved to London) and I'm already looking forward to the tours next year!

Yours in colour and creativity,

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P.S. This isn’t a sponsored post. I just had to share this inspiring experience! All photos by me unless otherwise stated.

Mirror selfie in the garden of Casa Botelho

Mirror selfie in the garden of Casa Botelho



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