Monday, 22 August 2011

Setting up your first home


UNDER STARTER'S ORDERS:  Kitting out your first home can be a daunting prospect.  Interior Designer Jamie Hempsall offers advice on getting it right and making the best use of your budget.

The chances are that anyone furnishing their first home is likely to be on a tight budget, but wants to make the place special.  The trick when money is limited is to be resourceful and interpretive.

There are two key trends in interior fashion which work well for those facing this dilemma and can turn it into a fun pursuit, rather than an impossible challenge.  The first is retro chic - it might be old, but it need not be out of style.  Embrace this with confidence and you should save a packet.  

Mid 20th Century is currently enjoying a real resurgence, so Ercol and G-Plan are currently appreciating in value, but good quality Edwardian and Victorian furniture is probably at an all-time low so picking from this era will make your budget go considerably further. Do not be put off by worn fabric or the odd scratch.  They add character and can be a good DIY restoration project if undertaken carefully and sympathetically.

The second “friendly trend” is eclectic, literally combining a variety of styles and ideas.  Adopted in the right way, this means that you positively avoid a matched interior and go instead for a melting pot of design.  The important thing to ensure is a link between pieces so the effect is designed, rather than dumped.  Colour is probably the easiest connection (even if it is one cushion on a piece).

My advice when starting out is to make second hand, junk and antique shops your friends.  Take your time, find what is available and get a feel for prices.  You have got time to come back, but remember it is not like shopping on the High St as there may well only be one of what you want – so if you really love something bite the bullet and get it.

In the second hand market no price should be set in stone and it is well worth haggling to see what you can get off.  You might be surprised that even a cheeky offer might be considered if the vendor has had the stock a long time and wants to get rid of it.  Cash is king, so at least have enough for a deposit with you to hold an item once you have secured your price.

So where to start?

Floors and walls are the essentials for making your first home a blank canvas.  If you are inheriting carpets, hire a professional carpet cleaning device (usually available from your local dry cleaners).  A deep clean in this fashion will revive most carpets and provide you with a cheap and quick method to a hygienic base.  If you find the carpet difficult to live with you can dress it with cheap rugs, which can also be used to hide stubborn stains or burns.

Paint is definitely the most cost effective way to cheer up any room (even if it was previously wallpapered, provided the surface is still in good condition).  Paint all rooms in one light colour (walls, ceiling and woodwork) to avoid tying you to any particularly scheme.  Off-white will give a light and clean feel.  Avoid plain white as this tends to look stark and cream can often just look dirty.  Remember to dust sheet everything to save your flooring and if you are a novice now is a great time to ask your parents or experienced friends for tips.  Take your time as a rushed job will be with you for a long period.

Seek out decorators merchants and opt for trade paints as these are often better quality.  When it comes to paint a cheap tin is not necessarily the most cost effective as it can be low on pigment and, therefore, require more coats.  Even one extra coat is 50% more paint, so the cost can soon add up.

Privacy and warmth are the next staples you require.  Your key to this are your window dressings.  At night and in the winter uncovered windows might just as well be open.  A heavy curtain which is lined (and ideally interlined) will make an incredible difference – keeping important warmth in and helping light sleepers by shutting out early morning sun. 

Interlined curtains can be expensive, but second hand options can be a bargain.  One of the best websites I have seen is which is easy to navigate and well laid out with style and colour guides.  Alternatively, specialist shops like The Curtain Exchange at Boston Spa (01937 849 755) keep a range of good quality curtains and can give advice on whether they will fit your window. 

Choose your curtain designs and colours carefully and make these the basis for any additional decorating scheme.  Once you have the established your base, you can move onto the main details – starting downstairs.

A sofa or a couple of comfy chairs are a must for any starter home.  Do not feel the need to have any more as visitors will be happy to perch on a dining chair or sit on a cushion on the floor.   You really just need enough for you to sit on to relax in the evening.

Purchase a drop-leaf dining table as they take up less room and are incredibly versatile, being perfect as a desk, side-table or even a TV unit.  Early 20th Century versions are good value and stylish.  There is a trend to paint them, but they are also beautiful in their natural wood.
In a starter home four dining chairs means you can comfortably entertain (and save money by not going out).  They can also double up as desk chairs and bedroom chairs, so can be stored in other locations.  For a balanced eclectic look opt for two pairs of chairs which will be considerably cheaper than buying a matching set of four.

Lamp shades are the most cost effective way to dress an overhead light and there are usually plenty of good priced options at TK Maxx or BHS.  Also purchase at least one table lamp (two is preferable); this can make a good “task” light if you are working in the room, but also allows you to create a more intimate environment as overhead light is incredibly harsh.

Kitchen utensils are often available for pennies from second hand shops and some of the old designs are brilliant.  Build up a mix of crockery, glassware & cutlery, but make it feel like a proper collection by matching the design per setting (e.g. all side plates the same, but with contrasting dinner plates).  Mixed glassware is fine, but you should aim for two of each design to make it a feature.

Your bedroom is as important as your living area, because you spend a lot of time there and bad sleep causes a lot of problems.  Second hand bed bases can be attractive, but always purchase a new mattress.

Concentrate your spending on securing the best bedding possible (ideally a minimum of 140 thread count in 100% cotton).  Plain covers avoid limiting your design options later on and are easier to match into your second hand curtains.  You can dress the bed with a throw or cushions.

The minimum extra furniture you need is a wardrobe and a chest of drawers.  These provide the clothes storage you need and the chest can double as a bedside table-cum-dressing table.  The wardrobe is essential for hanging storage and they will often incorporate a full length mirror which no home should be without.

Keep lighting simple with an overhead shade that provides good light (essential for getting ready or doing make up).  Add a reading lamp for each sleeper to minimise night-time squabbles and create the perfect intimate environment.

Champagne tastes great even from an old chipped mug – so keep some budget back and crack open a bottle on your first night to toast your home in style.

Jamie Hempsall, BIID, is an award winning interior designer.  Visit him at or call him on 0800 032 1180.

This article was first published in the Yorkshire Post on Saturday 20th August 2011

Monday, 15 August 2011

Sitting pretty for summer sunshine

Homes & Interiors

Given the recent downpours I am not sure lounging about outside is foremost on people’s minds.  Hopefully there will be the odd hint of sun over the holiday season and, with that in mind, there really is little to compare to the joy of relaxing on a garden swing seat, gently rocking in a light breeze with a canopy shielding you from direct sun.

One of the nicest varieties I experienced was as a child when friends had an enormous old “swinging sofa”.  I was delighted to find this design has been resurrected by a fellow fanatic as “The Idler”, a product faithful to an original 1930s model.  It features comfy pocket sprung cushions created thanks to the specialist advice of a 94 year old upholsterer, George Marchant, who has worked in the London palaces.  At £1,695 this is definitely a luxury purchase, but one which should hopefully create a whole lifetime of experiences ( – 01843 603462).

If you want to indulge in cushiony comfort, without the price tag, you may want to consider the Bodo 3 Seat Swing Hammock.  The seat hangs on cadmium plated chains which adjust the vertical seat height and angle to allow maximum flexibility.  It is available in a variety of colours and finishes (£369.99; – 01738 248019).

For those who prefer a solo space, the Teardrop is an egg-shaped hanging chair.  You can sit comfortably cocooned whilst rocking gently in the Summer Sun.  Failing that is does have a galvanised frame designed to be resistant to cold and wet weather (£349; – 0116 269 5960).

Cushion storage can be a concern and if this is the case there are still plenty of differing options available.

The clean lines of the John Lewis Swing Seat are perfect for those wanting a little padding, without fuss.  It is made from FSC-certified teak, with stainless steel fittings for durability.  If left outside in all weathers the timber will fade to a beautiful silvery colour (£675;

In contrast, the Barmouth Swing Seat from B&Q looks as though it has been plucked straight from an English Country Cottage and would look perfect adorned with climbing roses.  It is available in kit form for £379 or with Assembly for £479 (

My final choice for a minimum maintenance swing would be the Three Seater Hammock (Black) from Littlewoods. The frame is steel and the seats are covered with textoline, a comfortable and hard wearing man-made fabric.  Just give it a quick wipe down now and again (£124; – 0844 822 8000).

Fingers crossed for a drier spell!

Jamie Hempsall, BIID, is an award-winning interior designer.  Visit him at or call 0800 032 1180.

This article was first published in the Yorkshire Post on 10th August 2011

Monday, 1 August 2011

Get the kids loving the outside with a bit of junior glamping!

Interiors and Homes

Want to create the perfect Junior Glamping experience for the Summer Holidays?  Interior Designer Jamie Hempsall has some helpful hints.

The summer holidays are upon us and if you want to keep children entertained outside the house then creating a junior glamping experience in your garden could be the answer. 
Your starting point has to be a terrific tent and things have moved on from the musty canvas variety that I remember as a child. 

The perfect Summer palace can be found in the form of the Rose & Mint Child’s Pavilion from Shop on Your Doorstep.  The pavilions have a multi-stripe fabric roof decorated with tassels and mini-gingham covered poles.  It has curtains which are embroidered with colourful dragonflies and comes with a padded floor quilt which is appliqued with a central lotus flower.  The octagonal shape is 160cm in diameter which gives plenty of room for entertaining, so do not be surprised if you have a plethora of requests for slumber parties or your own mini-glastonbury (£240; – 01843 808061).

Alternatively, I am sure that everyone will enjoy making the Union Flag Tent from Idyll Home the perfect base for holiday shenanigans with plenty of space at a 183cm diameter and 137cm high (£95; -  01630 695779).

There is nothing quite like the adventure of sleeping out under canvas, but you can make the experience more comfortable by including plenty of duvets, blankets and cushions to create the perfect Bedouin environment.  Alternatively, the Smooff Kidzz Lounge cushion (available in apple green or pink) provides a great cushion matt for playing and resting.  The covering is durable, washable and water-resistant which makes it perfect for use outside: a detachable pillow also makes it ideal for a bed base (£89.95; – 01462 349060).

The trick with outside camping has to be the chance to let your children have some independence whilst making them feel perfectly safe and appropriate light at night has to be a real consideration if you are going to make this the perfect summer solution.
Add some gentle exterior lights in the form of battery operated Light Up Plant Pots, available in a variety of colours to provide gentle comfort and an interesting feature to boot. (£7.99; – 0871 472 4250). 

To ease your little ones’ night-time journey back into the house, should they need to make late night visits to the bathroom (or a warm bed) you can create an “Alice in Wonderland” experience by installing “Glow in the Dark Stones”.  The crafted stones store daylight and shine in the dark, making them the perfect way for marking paths and borders to guide your little ones in.  Available in a pack of 40 for £12.99 ( – 08714 724250).

Reading light is also important and old style torches can be a faff.  Opt for a rechargeable camping lantern available from camping stores or the stylish Fatboy Edison the Petit (which will glow for six hours when fully charged - £55 from allupandon details as before).  Lanterns are generally easy for small fingers to use and provide the perfect background for midnight feasts – you just have to provide the snacks!

Jamie Hempsall, BIID is an award-winning interior designer.  Visit him at or contact him on 0800 032 1180.

Monday, 25 July 2011

William Yeoward's Waves of Inspiration


If you are looking for a truly individual English designer, then you really do not need look any further than William Yeoward.  Interior designer Jamie Hempsall gives you an insight into this iconic style-maker.

We adore working with William, a fantastically generous and enthusiastic man who is passionate about everything he gets involved in.  We have been delighted to involve him on a number of projects, including a rather wonderful luncheon we hosted in a private country house for Macmillan Cancer Support with William as guest speaker.

Susan Crewe, editor of British House and Garden, describes him as “a man of passion, humour and an endearing power of persuasion”.  Anyone who has met him at a launch of one of his brilliant fabric collections will definitely echo that sentiment.

He embarked on a career in interior design and retail opening his first store in the King’s Road, Chelsea in 1985.  He undertook numerous interior design projects (his last being decorating for Lady Thatcher at the time she left government), but decided that he really wanted to concentrate on designing products and so ended his decorating career. 

Since then he has flourished developing fabrics, rugs, furniture, lighting and dinner services, along with antique furniture and truly jaw-droppingly beautiful crystal.  William says, “I realised very early on in my creative life that if I could not find what I wanted the best thing to do was to find someone to make it.”

William believes that a home should be lived in – no matter how fine your furniture – a sentiment that I echo whole-heartedly in all my designs.  William commented, “I think it is very important to work out what you are about and how you want to live before even contemplating a house or the things that you need to live in it comfortably”.

You are most likely to come across his work at many of the companies in Yorkshire who stock Designers Guild fabric and wallpaper for whom he designs exclusive ranges.  William explained, “Tricia Guild and I have been good friends for years and when she called me to discuss working together on a William Yeoward brand of Fabrics and Wallpaper my initial reaction was “Yes please” and so the William Yeoward collections were suddenly a reality”.

This year has seen the introduction of his Polperro range which I think is one of the most exciting new additions that I have seen for some time.  William Yeoward has dipped into his past to create three new collections within this range.

He was raised with the ocean on his doorstep.  Boating, sailing and fishing are in his blood and when he revisited the haunts of his youth he became aware of his need to use these inspirations in his work.  “There is something about the English coastline that is so unique.  There is a quality of light and a sense of freedom for me found here.  I love the colours of the landscape, the boats, the sailcloth’s, rolling pastures and the ocean spray”.

The first collection is Polperro which features a delicious selection of blue, marine, navy and sky blue stripes.  These are all woven in a traditional fashion (inspired by William’s collection of vintage pieces from 19th century European and British sources).  They have a very nautical feel to them with some terrific stripes and ticking such as Bodmin (£47 per m), as well as some distressed florals that will create an instant heritage piece if used for upholstery (look at Antony £42 per m).  There is also a wonderful ready sewn patchwork which is crying out to be made into a bedspread (£100 per m).

This second collection is St Mawes which includes combinations of red, saffron, olive and sage.  There are still plenty of beautiful stripes and a wonderful array of colours such as Boscastle a heavy cotton fabric which cleverly combines red, petrol blue and saffron to dramatic effect (£51 per m).  The range features a great deal more pattern than Polperro, such as the glorious Millbrook in Poppy (£42 per m).

The collection also includes St Just a fine, almost pinstripe design, made of heavy jute and cotton mix, which was originally a sackcloth from Lithuania.  This fine weave is smart, yet rustic and would look well used on sofas and chairs (£68 per m).  As with the other collection, there is a beautiful patchwork – also called Polperro, but in a brighter range of colours (£100 per m).

The final instalment is the St Ives wallpaper collection a stripe devotees dream come true.  These papers have a real feeling of what simplicity should be.  Devoran is beautifully textured and the detailed stripes of Whitstone and Trewen are delicate and considered.  In contrast, Boyton and St Ives are the classic stripe, revisited, re-coloured and reused.  The wallpapers mentioned are all £42 per roll.

So what is the secret behind William Yeoward’s design success? “It’s simple” he says, “I just design what I would like to have in my home and fortunately there are other people who seem to like it too!  Buying my work should bring long term pleasure not instant gratification and then years of disappointment”.

That is a sentiment I truly believe in and one which makes using William’s products such a pleasure.

Jamie Hempsall, BIID, is an award winning interior designer.  Visit him at or call on 0800 032 1180.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A hard act to follow

Portugese Barreme
Homes and Interiors

WEARING WELL: Stone is back in vogue. Interior designer Jamie Hempsall talks you through the best options.

There was a time when carpet and natural floorboards were the only realistic options when it came to domestic flooring. However, in recent years, the trend to re-introduce stone flooring into the home has grown considerably.

Stone is an incredibly flexible material that can be a solution for virtually any area in the home. While the initial outlay can be considerable, stone is one of those materials that ages with grace, getting more beautiful as it absorbs the years and builds on it character.

The appeal has been further heightened with the development of modern under-floor heating systems which ensure areas finished in stone need no longer be cold to the touch.

As with any flooring, there are differing qualities and types.

Jason Cherrington, CEO and founder of Lapicida, agrees, saying, “Stone is natural, and careful selection and fastidious attention to detail is essential to achieve consistency. It is available in a wide spectrum of grades, not simply the variety name.”.

Jason relies on Lapicida’s family of stone experts to hand-pick grade “A” natural stone, with quality as their watchword, which is why this Knaresborough-based firm are now arguably the UK’s leading importer ( – 01423 400 100).

One of the other beauties of stone is that its appearance can be drastically altered by the finish. I have found clients who abhor high-gloss granite work-surfaces, but melt when they see it in a leather finish, which provides a sensual and visual treat wherever it is used.

Varieties of stone differ wildly, so here is an elementary guide to the key types:

Limestone is an organic sedimentary rock formed over millions of years from tiny shells and micro-skeletons. It has subtle tones, is hard-wearing and, historically, has been used to pave English cathedrals and, French and Italian palaces.

Grey Jerusalem Tumble Limestone
Pure limestone is white or almost white, and impurities create colours. Limestone tiles can be extremely hard-wearing, but qualities vary so you need to check carefully.

Suggested uses: Primarily internal – high-traffic areas; kitchens; bathrooms; swimming pools; conservatories.

Paonazza marble
Marble is a metamorphism of limestone. Extreme temperatures and pressures create marble, destroying any fossils and sedimentary textures present in original limestone rock.

It is renowned for its high gloss finish and colour array. It hints at luxury wherever it is laid.

Suggested uses: Primarily internal – bathrooms and showers; formal entrance halls and foyers; kitchen worktops/floors; wet rooms; hallways; living areas; conservatories.

Travertine is also a metamorphism of limestone. It is a unique, versatile and cost-effective stone. No two tiles are the same, which means there is no need to match them. Good quality Travertine can be hard-wearing in low-footfall areas such as bathrooms.

Over the past five years, there has been an increase in the use of Travertine which has meant an influx of inferior imports, so buy the best quality you can afford.

Suggested uses – internal, medium to low traffic areas such as bathrooms walls and floors; some living areas; swimming pools; conservatories.

Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed of quartz or feldspar, or both.

Incredibly versatile, it can be used indoors and out to create formal and informal rustic effects. Some sandstone is suitable for outdoor paving.

Stunning in its reclaimed state, it can be seen in stately homes throughout Britain.

Suggested uses – both external and internal – wall tiles; floor tiles; paving.

Granite is a course grained igneous rock formed from magma and is revered for its strength and hardness. It is a practical choice for high-wear-and-tear surfaces. It varies greatly in colour, from shades of pink to dark grey and black. Amazingly, the Great Pyramids of Giza are made from granite.

Suggested uses: Primarily internal – kitchens; floor tiles; wall tiles; work-surfaces.

Slate is a fine-grained metamorphic rock composed mainly of quartz and muscovite. Slate is split into slabs and split again into thin sheets.

One of its major characteristics is a very flat or riven surface and it is naturally durable and heat-resistant.

Suggested uses: Both internal and external, high-traffic areas – walls; floors; bathrooms; kitchens and utilities; conservatories; swimming pools.

Terracotta is a clay-based unglazed ceramic. Specially prepared clay is partially dried and cast, moulded, or hand-worked into the desired shape. After further drying, it is fired in a kiln covered with sand, then cooled slowly.

Terracotta tiles provide a perfect warm and hard-wearing yet inviting floor finish.

Suggested uses: Primarily internal, high-traffic areas – walls; floors; bathrooms; kitchens and utilities; conservatories.   

There are three key elements to a successful stone project. Firstly, use a reputable stone merchant who will take pride in advising you. Secondly, choose the most appropriate stone for your project. Finally, have it fitted by an appropriately experienced tiler who will know how to make the stone work brilliantly for you.

When you are investing in a product such as this, you are really laying down a finish to hand on to the next generation.

Jamie Hempsall BIID is an award-winning interior designer. Visit him at or contact him on 0800 032 1180.

This article was first published in the Yorkshire Post Saturday Magazine on 25th June 2011

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

A retreat for grown ups

Homes & Interiors

MANY master bedrooms are an afterthought. Interior designer Jamie Hempsall explains why they should be the focus of investment in making a relaxing hideaway.

It might not be the area of your home that most visitors see, but it is the one that you visit all the time – so why not lavish a little time and effort on yourself? Families often treat the young to a carefully designed bedroom-cum-playroom, but feel guilty about co-ordinating their own space.

However, by ensuring that you have a safe haven in your own home, you will be enhancing your feelings of ownership and security, which really does then filter into most other aspects of your life.The main priority for a restful night’s sleep is to create an uncluttered environment that reflects your personal taste. This is a place to be selfish – ignore thoughts of others, this is a room devoted entirely to you and your comfort.

The easiest way to create an instantly restful double bedroom is to make it relatively symmetrical – balancing either side of the bedroom so that it is visually comforting. This does not need to be slavish mirroring, but weighted so that furniture of comparable sizes is evenly distributed within your scheme.

Your bedside furniture is important. Matching cabinets on either side of the bed, with plenty of storage for books and all of the other paraphernalia we accumulate, are essential to create a clean and simple sleeping environment. These should be combined with identical (or co-ordinating) lamps of the same shape and height with shades that match. This direct balancing helps to instil a subconscious feeling of calm.

Ensure that you have plenty of cupboard space available to tidy clothes and make all occupants put everything away after use: a neat environment is also important to create a relaxing environment. A good laundry bin with a lid helps deal with discarded clothing at the end of the day and is an easy method of transport to the laundry.

I would strongly advise on keeping your pillowcases, sheets and duvet covers plain to avoid any limitations on future decorating schemes and dress with cushions and covers to add interest.When it comes to flooring, carpets really are king. The soft feel and warmth in the morning under bare foot is difficult to beat. If you already have natural floors then add rugs either side of the bed that are at least three feet wide to soften the look and feel.

Avoid using overly busy designs or really vibrant colours in your fabrics, wall-coverings and soft furnishings. Their impact may well work in the morning, but are unlikely to invoke the calming environment we all need when retiring for forty winks. Sometimes it is all about creating a get-away space and this is what we were asked to do in one of our award winning designs.

Our clients were a busy working couple with a young family who wanted to create a calm and comfortable haven away from the rest of the world once they retired to the bedroom. They loved travel and wanted a boutique hotel feel.

We started by knocking two large rooms together to create an intimate space for them to share together incorporating a flowing set of spaces for sleeping, dressing and bathing.The idea was that the space still gave privacy to each individual (with features such as the curved privacy screens in the bathroom) while allowing them to remain in contact and maximise their limited time together.

The oversized bed was designed to invoke the comfort and safety a child feels when getting into a warm, apparently massive bed and the hidden rise and fall TV in the base plate helped provide a necessary evil without upsetting the sight lines.

Velvets and silks in muted brown and duck egg blue tones provided a soft and sumptuous backs beyond.Natural wood and marble finishes with curved surfaces throughout enhanced the feeling of natural synergy.Sofas were included to allow conversation areas and ease of dressing.

The key to a room such as this is in the lighting. Antiqued mirrors were used throughout to help overcome the poor natural daylight and wallpaper with a subtle repeating fleck was used to invoke an all-day subtle up-light effect. 

Accent, sculptural lighting was used to provide strong visual images with subtle dimmable lighting – while wall wash and floor wash lighting was used in the bathroom to allow easy use throughout the night.Bedside remotes control everything electrical in the room for the ultimate feeling of pampered indulgence. It is just a pity we could not arrange room service.

Jamie Hempsall is a member of the British Institute of Interior Design and an award-winning interior designer. Visit him at or contact him on 0800 032 1180

This article was originally published in the Yorkshire Post Saturday Magazine on 19th June 2011

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Your magic carpet awaits

Homes and Interiors

Rugs really can solve a multitude of interior sins, interior designer Jamie Hempsall explains

It is no wonder that the Arabian Nights had tales of magic carpets, when you think what a rug can do in your home they really are an incredible interior incantation to have available to you. Whether your budget stretches to a Silk Persian rug or a more modest Ikea solution the result from including a rug in your scheme can be amazing – not to mention possibly solving some challenging interior problems.

So here are a few of the ways that I use rugs to help in the home:

Adding instant warmth into a scheme – natural floor coverings such as wood or stone can be incredibly effective, long lasting and easy to maintain. However, they sometimes make a room look a little cold and clinical. The addition of a textured or patterned rug in a bright colour that contrasts with the main shades of your scheme will help overcome this, adding instant appeal and a shot of visual heat – not to mention physical warmth underneath your foot. 

Making noise disappear – Walking on wood flooring can be quite noisy, a particular problem with upstairs rooms or some apartments. You can help overcome this by introducing a good size runner or area rug so that your footsteps are cushioned.

• Alter the size of a room Well obviously not literally, but certainly optically. The perceived size of a room is directly affected by the colours used within in it. You will find that if you introduce a light coloured rug you can make small enclosed spaces feel larger, whilst the addition of a darker colour notes will help to make large, impersonal rooms feel much cosier.

Make gaps disappear – If you have a large room and want to keep it fairly open plan and uncluttered you can often be faced with wide expanses to cross. Introduce a rug to close the gap without losing any space or adding furniture. It will also help to link areas together and cheat the visual perspective.

Help to define a furniture group or delineate a room – This is also a particularly good trick to use in larger rooms where you can create an “island” of furniture based around a rug. Ensure that it has an interesting texture or picks up on key tones within the furniture fabric. The size of rug you choose is important for this to work effectively. There are two basic options either opt for a large rug that will easily accommodate the entire furniture group upon it or a rug small enough so that all the furniture (with the possible exception of a central table) can be arranged around the edge without need to impose on the rug.

This trick can also help delineate a large multi-purpose room, such as a lounge-diner, into specific areas and allow you to introduce differing colour schemes within an area without dividing walls.

Enhance or change a colour scheme – Including a rug which heavily features the accent colour in your scheme will help enhance the feel of this throughout the scheme. Alternatively, you can use a rug which picks up on some of the sub-notes contained within patterns on your wall-covering or curtains to help subtly raise it to the fore. 
However, if you are a dedicated follower of fashion and are likely to alter your colour scheme regularly, then use a neutral tone for the base flooring (be it carpet, tiles or wood) and then introduce your colour with a series of medium priced rugs. When you want to change your scheme, simply change the rugs.

Get rid of an unwanted patterned carpet – This can frequently be a problem for people who are moving home and inheriting the heavily patterned fitted carpet left by the previous occupants. If you are faced with this issue and cannot face the expense of a new carpet, then inject a calming influence by adding a large plain rug. To ensure that this works to best advantage, rather than looking like you have just popped a rug down willy-nilly, match the rug to one of the key colours in the base carpet.

Make stains, spots and burns disappear – This may not be the most amazing use, but it can be a vital one. Stick to the guidelines of matching your rug to key colours in the base carpet to ensure that this looks an integral part of your scheme, rather than a first-aid fiddle. 

Draw attention to a room feature – You can help emphasise the impact of a given feature in your room by effectively framing it with a carpet. Draw the beholders gaze to a fireplace by ensuring a eye-catching hearth rug is placed in front and emphasise the impact of any tiles in the fire surround, by ensuring your rug is matched to the main colour they contain.

Give your flooring ever-lasting life - Use rugs to help protect the flooring underneath in high traffic areas. This will preserve the surface of your main floor and ensure you do not have to replace everything because of a small patch of wear.

To keep your rug in top condition I would always recommend using a rug pad underneath. They are terrific for reducing slippage (and for that read reducing wear and tear on your rug which means they also add to the longevity). The thin pads can also enhance the sound absorption qualities of any rug and will make them feel softer when used on a hard surface. Always opt for the best pad you can afford to maximise the enchanting effect of your rug.

Jamie Hempsall, BIID is an award winning interior designer. Visit him at or call 0800 032 1180.

This article originally appeared in the Yorkshire Post Saturday Magazine on 11th June 2011