My Style Secrets

(that work in any room!)


Imagine that your house is a theatre and each room is a scene in the play. You are the director trying to drive the narrative and make the audience feel different emotions with every scene. But what is the narrative? It’s your life! Remember the 80s TV programme, Through the Keyhole when Lloyd Grossman would ask "Who would live in a house like this?" If someone was to journey through your home what would they say about you?

My passion is helping you create rooms in your home that show your unique style and personality so I have come up with TEN things that are common factors in rooms with great design (in my opinion). Think of them as little 'hacks' that will help style a room completely from scratch or add the finishing touches to a room that is lacking something but you can't put your finger on what. I think there it's a myth that there is a certain mystery or some kind of magic needed when pulling a room together when actually it’s really just the sum of many parts. And the beauty of these style tips is that they work in a modern room, a mid-century scheme and a period property, right across the style spectrum. Are you ready?

1. Go to the dark side

Ok so I love dark rooms, you know the ones where EVERYTHING is painted a dark colour - walls, skirting boards, ceilings etc. but I would never advocate that this would be appropriate for everyone as I want you to find you own style. BUT you need something dark in a room to ground it and give it depth. It might be some black legs on a chair or maybe you are lucky to have gorgeous Crittal windows with their dark grey lines. In the image below a beautiful cast iron fireplace grounds this light and airy bedroom. 

Light and airy bedroom with dark fireplace and wedding dressing

2. Long curtains

Ok I give it to you, this is an annoying one. Why pay the extra money for full length curtains if you have got shorter windows? The reason is that it just works and will always make a room look better. Curtains that hang right to the floor makes the ceiling appear higher and the room grander. I can’t think of a single room which this is not the case. Period. (Bathrooms might be the exception)!

Black and white cat floor length curtains

3. Warm lighting

Lighting is so integral to creating atmosphere in a room and it's so important in interiors that it's in the title of my blog! You should NEVER only have a ceiling light in your room. Unless it’s a hospital! You want to create a space with warm, inviting lighting with various light sources around the room and then brighter lighting if you need it for certain tasks. Think of the warmth and romanticism of having a conversation by candlelight and how the naked flame creates flattering light on the skin rather than harsh lighting from below or above which will make someone look like an axe-murderer! By all means every room should have central pendants or spotlights for certain activities but why not have dimmer switches to control the brightness as well as table lamps, free-standing lights and even walls lights dotted around the room.


4. Personalise your wall with artwork

I adore gallery walls as I really believe they are a curated display of who you are. No two homes in the world will choose the same things, and they are great if you rent your property so you can add personality to your walls. A year ago I had no idea what art I liked. Then since launching the blog there are so many print makers and artists that I discovered. Local arts trails are a great place to source art but here are some of my favourites that you can get online - Hazel Nicholls, Wonder and Rah, Tin Design, Nickie Kelly, Sophie Ward Studio, Dianella Fox, We are Moxi, Print Club London and the V & A museum shop. They don't need to be expensive pieces of art (some prints start from a tenner) and then you can get cheap frames from Dunelm, Ikea or B & Q.

Gallery wall

5. Consider your skirting boards!

I couldn’t have a post like this and not mention my favourite subject. Skirting Boards! THEY DON"T HAVE TO BE WHITE. They can be the same colour as the walls (though use the eggshell version on wood) or you can paint them a darker contrast colour to the walls. This really makes it look like you’ve made considered decisions about the design of the whole room and can really give it that WOW factor. It's mostly subliminal though, I'm not sure that your guests will comment on them! Remember though, white isn’t always wrong, particularly in a mid-century properties when white woodwork seemed to start making an appearance. 

Donna Ford with Skirting Board

6. Can I Be too 'matchy-matchy'?

The answer is YES! I think the thing is to avoid just going for matching bedding and curtains before exploring other ideas. Often the same colour but in a lighter hue will make a much better accompaniment to the room and give it layers of colour and depth. However, House of Hackney and their sumptuous maximalist wallpaper, fabric and lampshades do this really well and their matchy-matchy rooms look so fantastic. 

Image credit -  House of Hackney

Image credit - House of Hackney

This bedroom also works well with its matching wall paper and curtains.

This bedroom also works well with its matching wall paper and curtains.

7. Cosy up with layers of texture

In most cases we want our rooms to be comfortable and cosy. This is one of the biggest thing I’ve learnt recently - layer your textures! This stops a room looking bland and that it's from a catalogue (read not unique or showing your personality). Depending on the room think of how throws, cushions and other soft furnishings could add some depth. A rug works a treat on hard floor surfaces. Think of textures and patterns that will enhance the room and remember the last point, they don't need to be too matchy-matchy.

8. Search your wardrobe for inspiration

You're magic print by Hazel Nicholls

This is a great place to start if you’re not sure of your style and realising this this has been a revelation to me. I find colour inspiration everywhere from art galleries or even the play of colours in nature but have you considered your wardrobe? The reason that this makes sense is that in there you will find colours and patterns that you love so much that you are comfortable enough in them to wear them! In my wardrobe there are lots of black, dark grey and navy along with vintage floral and geometric shirts and dresses. This is exactly my interior style - dark moody rooms and antique items and furniture. But sticking out like a sore thumb is a bright pink (my husband would call it fluorescent) vintage dress that I bought for a wedding and you've guessed it, I recently bought a bright pink print for my hallway. The wardrobe never lies....

9. What’s you accessorising philosophy?

Decide on your accessory mantra and stick it! I think most of us fall into 3 camps when it comes to styling our rooms. Maximalist (stuff everywhere but in an organised way), curated (a few things perfectly placed) or minimalist (very little sitting around). Once you’ve decided what you are commit to it. This will give the room a cohesive look. I am probably somewhere in the middle and like my shelves to be nicely curated but I wish I could be more brave to be maximalsit.

Pile of antiques

10. Add something unique and personal

I think this is one of the most important things you can do for a room - have something that you love in there. It could be an antique or a photo or an inherited piece of furniture or fossil found on a beach. These really makes a space special and unique but even more importantly will speak so loudly to you everyday and will make you feel good, helping you cherish those special moments in life.

Skull and stones on a piano

Well what do you think? Food for thought? I hope you enjoyed the read but now the hard work begins of creating that room! I hope these hacks are helpful but the most important aspect of interior design is that your style shines through. I go into more depth on most of these subjects on the blog and the great news is that now you've signed up to my newsletter you won't miss a post! Find me on Instagram for renovation and upcycling video updates and daily style ideas or on Facebook if that's more your bag. Or have a look at my Pinterest Boards for tons of image inspiration and where to source my favourite items!

Yours in colour and creativity,

Donna Ford Skirting Boards and Chandeliers