Thursday, 24 September 2009

Jamie Hempsall Interiors transfer formal to fabulous

Yorkshire Post - Mid Week Life & Style Section - 23rd September 2009
It can be a wrench when you are considering re-decorating a room, particularly if you have spent considerable money on it in the past and it is wearing well.

I always advise clients to “leave well alone” if they have a room that they are regularly using and that is in good repair. However, I often find people are not making the best use of the space available in their homes by keeping entertaining space, such as a formal sitting room, when it would be better employed as an everyday area.

The idea of formal space is ingrained into many of us, but in this day and age is it really practical or pleasurable to dedicate rooms to your occasional guests at the expense of your everyday life?

With some of the amazingly resilient fabrics now on offer, you can ensure that a switch from formal, can still be fashionable and cope with even the hardest use by toddlers and young children – not to mention the odd careless adult!

I was recently invited to a home which had an attractive formal sitting room that the owners only really used at Christmas and the odd family gathering. It was still in excellent condition so the decision to change it was an important one and needed to have extra impact at the end.

The house had been extended in the 1970's which added extra length to the room, but meant the fireplace now appeared off-centre.My remit was to create a comfy sitting room for everyday use, with bomb proof fabric to accommodate heavy use by grown up children and grand-children. It had to be a room that everyone really wanted to go in everyday to relax; snug and cosy for winter was a must!

Firstly, I designed a warm colour palette - banishing the previous creams and yellows to make the room less intimidating (and more stain resistant!).

The room needed additional natural light, which was introduced by using Roman Blinds, rather than curtains and adding a large mirror at the furthest end of the room and behind the shelving in the library unit; reflecting light from windows directly opposite them back into the room.

New coving was used to disguise a difference in room height between the old and new house, as well as providing a channel for hi-fi wiring.

To avoid major re-development work the real fire was replaced with a remote control “living flame” unit: ending trips outside for logs and providing more interactive entertainment as the flames lit up at the touch of a button. The fire was housed in a bespoke library & storage unit, designed with a mixture of fake and real storage that allowed us to visually re-align the fire and re-position it back into the centre of the room.

More theatre was added by incorporating a flat screen TV hidden behind the fire and revealed by a remote control rise & fall system. Perfect for hiding the TV away when not in use.

Comfy and spacious sofas and chairs are critical to the success of any family sitting room. These were designed to specifically accommodate our clients’ leg and lounging requirements and were covered in soft, crushed velvet that is unbelievably hard-wearing!

Finishing touches included a tactile cushioned carpet, wall lights with silk shades to tone with the sofas and a console underneath the mirror.

The end result was a 30% increase in everyday living space and the transformation of a rarely used formal showpiece into a room that is now the heart of the home. Not to mention a very happy family.
Jamie Hempsall is a member of BIDA and one of the region’s leading interior designers. Visit him at or check him out on Twitter!

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