Thursday, 28 January 2010

Give nature a hand to bring Spring into your home

Yorkshire Post - 27th January 2010 - Mid-week Life & Style Section


Personally, I think that a home benefits from the introduction of a selection of flowers at any time of the year and I am not talking about a small bunch of garage forecourt carnations.

You want a display appropriate to the proportions for your room. Large, statement arrangements work in areas such as your sitting room or dining room where they can make maximum impact; whereas, a bedroom or kitchen is likely to benefit from an understated arrangement (maybe one or two blooms in a beautiful vase) which will not overpower the area.

However, at this time of year Mother Nature is not exactly providing us with masses of alternatives or the widest choice of colour. So what to do to overcome this dilemma? You may be surprised, but help is at hand in the shape of artificial alternatives which have come an awfully long way since the days of a hard plastic rose with nasty looking petals.

The modern equivalents are normally referred to as silk or faux flowers with very good cause. As with most things you get what you pay for, but the price points are not that dramatic (a couple of pounds can often buy you a very convincing single bloom); especially when your factor in their longevity. Visit your local florist who may well stock some carefully chosen pieces or check out quality offerings on the web such as Plants Enhance (; 01934 710088).

The products have developed to such an extent that some are so well designed that they really are indistinguishable from the real thing, until you touch or try to smell them. Some new ranges such as “Real Touch” now even claim that this test will not necessarily give the game away!

Getting a convincing look is all important, so it may well be worth seeking out a professional – especially if you are making a significant investment. Floral Designer Sylvia Hague has been creating the most amazing faux flower arrangements for 25 years. She goes to great lengths to ensure that her arrangements look natural and advises that “it is important to arrange your flowers so the stems and leaves curl and fall as they do in nature” (; 01483 776 190).

Your flowers should meld with your interior, to provide a complementary feature, rather than something that jars the eye. It may sound a little odd, but it can help to carry a swatch of fabric or sample of your wall colour so that you can ensure that you get a match that enhances your room.

Alternatively, consult a colour wheel for complementary colours to your main scheme that adds a startling contrast that is still pleasing to the eye. For example, it can take a leap of faith to opt for yellow petals in a violet room, but believe me the end result is dramatic and delightful.

When choosing flowers try to mix and match blooms of slightly different shades to replicate nature as a display with the exact same tone will look dead. Also, try gently heating petals and stems with a hair dryer to allow you to relax and mould them (be careful not to overdo it and melt your flower). Move them every now and again to avoid getting bored with them, or alternatively store them away when not in season and change for something else!

Of course, real flowers never really need cleaning, but you will need to wash or dust your faux alternatives to keep them looking fresh. Sylvia Hague says “I use my old hair dryer as it is easier and quicker and a quick zap does wonders!”

Send your interior design queries to Jamie Hempsall, BIDA at or call 01777 248463.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Banish the Winter Blues with Silver Shine

Yorkshire Post - 13th January 2010 - Life & Style Section : Homes


Now that your Christmas decorations are packed away again, it can often feel as if the house has lost a little of its sparkle. Couple that with dark winter nights and unusual snow reflected light and you can have a recipe for the doldrums.

The ultimate way to bring more light in to your home is to knock down a wall to the outside! However, you can achieve a similar effect by creating an entire mirror wall (using a mosaic of large mirror pieces to add interest). Visually extending your room not only adds light, but promotes a feeling of space and wellbeing.

Antiqued glass helps to soften the look to make this feature work well in period homes; not to mention easier to keep clean. Work on a design with your glass merchant for an individual finish and incorporate off-cuts to keep the cost down.

If considering DIY installation be aware of sharp edges and handle your mirror with gloves whilst fixing. Ensure you have well prepared flat walls and only use mirror adhesive. Take your time and let each piece set in place before adding more. It may take a while, but the end result will be worth it.

If this seems a little extreme why not pep up your home by introducing a few smaller features that will shine away the gloom. These hints of Spring will help add light to your interiors and are sure to bring a smile to your face each time you see them.

A silvered cabinet or cupboard can act as a tremendous boost to lift otherwise muted rooms and pic up on any light source available. The overall effect is gentle, rather than dazzling. Soft silver works well against most colour palettes from the most neutral Taupe to rich Royal Blue.

Historically, silver leaf was used in night time entertaining rooms to reflect the shimmer of candle light to add extra spectacle. A modern equivalent of these pieces is the Short Regency Wave Cabinet in antiqued silver leaf which exudes old world charm (£1,280; – 0207 622 2928).

 For those with a desire for the modern, consider the Madame Butterfly Tall Cabinet finished in a gentle silver gloss with a surprising lilac interior (£795; – 08456 448022).

If you enjoy casual living why not introduce a Fatboy Beanbag in Silver to facilitate a little indulgent lounging now that the hard partying is over for another season? (£149.95; – 01280 814943).

Partner this up with the perfect funky storage and table solution in the shape of the Spitfire White Star Trunk from Halo. The steel cladding and rivets make this piece a sure talking point and centre piece (£949; - 0161 923 0541).

However, it is the little hints that can often raise your spirits the most; an amusing trifle that catches the eye or is a pleasure to use. Dot these within your room to surprise and delight the senses.

The Bosign Silver Branch Hanger hints at walks in the woods without embracing the cold. They are perfect for jewellery, keys or the odd dog lead (£21; – 0845 034 5050).

The Stainless Steel Zack Atacio Magazine Rack will help keep your rooms clutter free, whilst adding a splash of panache (£144.95; – 0844 357 9855).

Ultimately, Hollywood has always been the king of equipping interiors with plenty of sparkle and the Silver Lobby Phone from Leekes epitomises 1930’s glamour; why not raise your spirits further by enjoying a few more chats to close friends (£60; – 0845 050 8240).

Jamie Hempsall, BIDA, is one of the region’s leading interior designers. Pose your questions to him via or telephone 01777 248463.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Marrying Ancient and Modern to Create the Perfect Bedroom

Yorkshire Post - 30th December 2009 - Life & Style Section : Homes


ONE of our latest projects was for a client who had purchased a period home. They loved the dimensions of the master bedroom, but wanted a scheme both sympathetic to the architecture and reflecting their enjoyment of contemporary design.

Before we got to work

The trick in ensuring a modern design works well in a period environment is to play to the strengths of the building. In a property with high ceilings and large room dimensions go bold – big patterns and large, dramatic pieces with a slightly distressed appearance, rather than shiny finishes are the key to creating a look that does not feel over-engineered.

In a large room people often play safe keeping walls neutral, however that can lead to a vast bland look, emphasising the space, but not using it to best advantage. Period homes cry out for the use of wallpaper which softens and enriches the feel of the rooms.

We started by replacing beige paint with a feature wall of Villiers Blue wallpaper from the Zoffany Nureyev Collection (about £49 per roll). The tremendous combination of deep blue and gold with an antique faded look enhances the richness of the room and feels like it has always been there.

The rest of the walls were finished in contrasting Ham House Plain (from Zoffany's National Trust Collection, about £46 per roll). This paper has a slight sheen, softening the overall feel of the room. The woodwork was finished in Architect's White Eggshell and the ceiling was painted in Polar Bear emulsion (both from the Zoffany paint range). The fireplace was taken back to its original black to emphasis it as a feature.

The blue tones of the walls were reflected in the glass of the existing over mantle mirror and an antique chandelier was dressed in reclaimed aqua blue crystal droppers to add a dramatic feature light.

Luscious purple and light blue/green was introduced in the warm chenille used for part of the bedspread and the valance (the Prestigious Splendid range, about £23.50 per metre). Additional texture was introduced in the Astrakhan-inspired main fabric of the bed cover and cushions (Blomfield Opal by Andrew Martin, about £107 per metre).

Using an expensive accent fabric in a panel and combining it with a cheaper fabric for volume is a great interior design trick that allows you to get maximum visual impact without breaking the bank – it works well on bedspreads, curtains and cushions.

Thick velvet carpet in Rich Brown (Westend Prestige Velvet from Westex, about £54 per square metre) added warmth and comfort underfoot, as well as hiding some very average-looking stripped floorboards and quelling drafts and dust.

The addition of a bespoke oversized headboard covered in shimmering Teal Arkona Velvet Teal from Harlequin (about £39 per meter) brought the look right on trend.

The Temple Eglomise mirrored beside tables from Julian Chichester (£905) helped to take advantage of the large windows to bounce light into the room, without creating too many reflections. These were complemented by a pair of Burnt Gold Lerat Leaf Lamps with Prune Silk Shades (both from Porta Romana, about £770 each). A large Anna Cabinet in Dark Wood and Mirror from Julian Chichester (£2,675) added storage and impact.

Attention to detail is the key to period design and we completed the look by replacing white wall switches with retro-style toggle switches in brushed brass (about £19).

The end result was a room that the client said gave them joy to wake up in and made them want to stay in bed all day. The perfect response and an antidote to a chilly British winter.

Jamie Hempsall is a BIDA member and one of the region's leading interior designers. See more of his work at www.jamiehempsall. com or contact him on 01777 248463