Thursday, 24 June 2010

A room with everything in its right place


Is your wardrobe bursting at the seams?  Interior Designer Jamie Hempsall looks at some cool storage solutions

If your house is like the majority that I encounter (including my own) then clothing storage is likely to be a bit of an issue. Garment hoarding appears a national obsession and frankly that is no wonder given the Seasons change from minute to minute requiring instant access to both full Summer regalia and Artic Winter wear.

Obviously, we can have a wardrobe clear out ensuring we only keep things worn in the last year, but there is still usually plenty to cram into our wardrobes, so what are the options?

Before you start, the interior is vital to consider. Review how much full and half height hanging space you really need. Interior flexibility is often the preserve of fitted wardrobes, but Ikea sells the Komplement range that features everything from trouser hangers to sock boxes which fit inside some of its wardrobe ranges to give you ultimate choice (

If you want a piece of furniture to keep wherever you move a free standing wardrobe is your only option. Consider build quality and bear in mind that there is usually a financial price to be paid for longevity. Be aware that even a lot of the solid looking pieces come flat packed – the ruin of many a good marriage! Many retailers and some enterprising locals offer handy man make-up services, it is unlikely to cost a fortune and if put together properly your wardrobe will last a lot longer.

These days antique furniture represents a very good buy having generally plummeted in value in recent years. Check for quality and woodworm, but good pieces were built to last and speckled mirrors can usually be replaced. Look at the interior depth as some older wardrobes are not full width so give you less storage as clothes have to hang at a slight angle (my tip: take a coat hanger with you and hang it on the rail to confirm if this will be an issue).

If your home will not suit darker wood, customise a period piece by painting in a colour that suits your room scheme using a satinwood or eggshell finish (either oil or acrylic based). For those who are really adventurous add panel detail with inserts of fabric or wallpaper for a look that is absolutely on trend. If you like this idea, but lack the practical skills check out vintage revival companies such as The Old Cinema, who feature pieces such as the wonderful Union Jack wardrobe for £775 ( – 0208 995 4166).

Before signing on the dotted line for a free-standing wardrobe take vital measurements of the access route (including staircase ceiling heights & widths) and ensure you can navigate your piece comfortably throughout the house, before it reaches its resting place. Also, if usable space around your wardrobe is tight, then consider a design incorporating sliding doors to minimise inconvenience.

If you want to maximise storage then a fitted or bespoke option is likely to be your best choice. Again you can find solutions in the High St which can be tailor made to your requirements. However, I would also advise making enquiries with local carpenters and craftsman who frequently love the chance to shine and can create beautiful one off pieces that reflect your individual requirements. Leather panel inlays and bespoke handles add wonderful finish touches which raise the game of even a standard piece. The price point may be a little more, but mixing in painted MDF with wood should help with that and the pleasure you get each time you use it is likely to be intense.

Jamie Hempsall is a member of the British Institute of Interior Design. If you have any queries contact him on 01777 248463 or at

Monday, 14 June 2010

Curtain call for the tie-back

Curtains frame your window, but how do you make the most of your view?  Interior designer Jamie Hempsall takes a look at using tie-backs.

When it comes to dressing windows the best solution is often a pair of curtains, preferably full length if room will allow. They frame your view beautifully and help to create a feeling of opulence. However, with the exception of eyelet designs which tend to stack back at the sides of a window, most curtains have fairly wide headings even when open which can mean they take up valuable window space and reduce light. So how do you solve this problem and create an extra element of drama?

The simple answer is a tieback and I have included images of some of my favourite designs currently on the market. Whilst this is a very traditional solution, tie-back designs continue to evolve meaning that you can find something appropriate for the majority of interior schemes from traditional to ultra-contemporary.

A myth has arisen over how difficult it is to dress curtains using a tieback and, whilst it does take a bit of effort initially, I have rarely found a client who does not pick up the knack pretty quickly thereby enjoying wonderful results.

The trick is to take time initially to dress your curtains with the appropriate folds – you do need a little patience, but it is worth it. Once you are happy with the effect tie them in position with three or four lengths of soft cloth (such as left over lining fabric) evenly spaced down the length of your curtains and leave hung in position for around 72 hours. This will help give new curtains “memory” as to where a fold should be. After that you should find that as you draw them back to gather up in a tieback your curtains will naturally follow the folds you have decided upon.

Using a tieback to draw curtains back not only increases light, but when draped correctly your curtain will have a soft curve that falls gracefully at the side of your window.

To achieve the optimum effect attach your tieback either one third down from the top of the curtain or one third up from the bottom of the panel. Hanging a tieback near the top of the curtain will provide the most light, with a short curve which leaves the majority of the fabric hanging at the side of the window. Whilst using a tieback near the bottom of the window is less about light and more about creating a dramatic, long curve.

One of the simplest options for a tieback is to produce a collar or twist made from the main fabric. As a general guide a standard width curtain of about 137cm wide requires a tieback of 60cm, whilst a double with curtain (about 274cm) needs a 92cm tieback.

However, I like to make more of a statement with tiebacks. They are an important tool in your interior scheme arsenal. The world is your oyster when it comes to design, but it is essential that you opt for colours that are included in the fabric of your curtains. Do not feel you have to go with the obvious choice as carefully matching a colour contained in a small detail of the design is a clever reference point and allows you to use it elsewhere in your room scheme.

Price points vary wildly from around £10 in High Street Stores to upwards of £318 for the statement piece Twiggy tie-back from Wemyss Houles – a true joy to behold. Take time to enjoy these wonderfully tactile additions to your window treatment which you should consider as important a decision as your fabric.

Jamie Hempsall is a member of the British Institute of Interior Design. For more details visit Jamie at or why not follow him on twitter (JamieHempsall)

Examples shown:
1) Lead Crystal Tie-Back from Zoffany
2) Briati Tie-Back from Designers Guild
3) Taisho Tie-Back from Osborne & Little
4) Orio Tie-Back from Designers Guild
5) Twiggy Tie-Back from Wemyss Houles