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 www.jamiehempsall.com 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 www.jamiehempsall.com or call 0800 032 1180.

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

Monday, 6 June 2011

Light entertainment

Interiors & Homes

ROOMS lacking natural light need not be cheerless. Interior Designer Jamie Hempsall explains how to turn them into a valued retreat.

Historically, houses in the UK have been designed to provide the maximum amount of rooms, rather than maximum space. Consequently, many properties include rooms that suffer from poor natural light.

If you are facing this challenge, the first thing to accept is that you are never going to be able to create a light, bright room and any attempt to do so will look washed out and a little false.

A dark room without sympathetic design will feel cold and unloved. However, by embracing the design challenge, you should be able to create a warm and welcoming room which you will probably use most in the evening or during periods when the weather is poorer.

To start with, you need to consider your colour palette carefully. Although my advice may initially appear counter-intuitive, you should concentrate on using warm and rich colours, rather than pale or light tones. Strong pigment is important as the colours need to work for themselves, without benefiting from being lifted by light.

Deep red, turquoise, orange, sage green and brown are all shades that work brilliantly in such spaces and are wonderful at creating an illusion of comfort and cosiness. Nature knows a thing or two – choose earth tones and you cannot go far wrong.

Think about your five senses and how they will work in this room. In darker rooms, your sight has to work a little harder, so help it along by making a feature of your lighting. Avoid harsh overhead light, as this will just make the room feel bleak; instead add various heights of light that you can use to alter the feel of the room.

Team wall lights that can be dimmed with a selection of table lamps; these will allow you to create pools of visual interest throughout your room. Choose lamp designs that are interesting and not just functional to give the eye something to alight upon. These visual treats help the eye work a little more efficiently in a dark environment.

We know that once one sense stops working the others take over. You can help another sense compensate for the lower impact of sight by focus on the provision of rich textured fabrics for your furnishings which will heighten the effect on touch. Tactile textures will also help to develop a sense of interest and security – adding to the reassuring feel of the design. For sofas and chairs, we would tend to opt for weaves or textured velvets which have a definite pleasing sensory appeal.

If you wish to opt for leather furniture then ideally make sure that it is aged or weathered so that the surface you are sitting upon still feels soft. To help counter the cool touch of leather and allow occupants to really relax dress sofas and chairs with plump cushions in soft fabrics (some of the new upholstery wools being offered by Prestigious, Zoffany and Ralph Lauren are perfect for this).

Although you are embracing the dark nature of your room, you want to avoid taking any action that makes the situation worse. When it comes to window treatments, ensure that they will draw back away from the window as much as possible. If you have enough wall space use a pole length that allows the curtains to draw back so that they are clear of the window – if you use full-length curtains (which we would always recommend) it will give the sensory illusion that the window extends further behind them.

Keep curtains unfussy – use eyelet or pinch pleat headings which provide clear lines that frame the external view. Ideally use a pole or ornamental track to avoid losing light from the top of your window behind a pelmet. of curtains means you do not need much free wall space) and then add a blackout blind for evening privacy.

Give your windows a further helping hand by enhancing the impact of any natural light with the use of mirrors throughout the room. These can be incorporated in your scheme in a variety of ways. Obviously, you can use mirrors with decorative frames in lieu of pictures, the effect of these can be further enhanced by using furniture with mirrored surfaces (potentially in cupboard doors or lamp tables). To ensure the effect is subtle, rather than glitzy choose verre eglomisé (a gilded glass that has a distressed finish), rather than plain mirror.

If you are feeling a little braver, opt for a mirror wall which will both reflect natural light and give the illusion of more space. A patchwork pattern made up of square and oblong pieces of mirror provides a more interesting architectural feature and is something that you can easily design with the help of your local glass merchant. To make this even more impactful, opt for an aged effect glass.

Think of your light challenged room as your “snug” and you are already on the way to taking the positive from a potential negative. Every home needs an area where family members can curl up in a ball and feel safe – this room will definitely be just the place.

* Jamie Hempsall is a member of the British Institute of Interior Design and The Society of British Interior Design.  He also won Best Interior Design - North East in the UK Property Awards 2010 in conjunction with Bloomberg Television.

 Visit him at www.jamiehempsall.com or call 0800 032 1180.

This article as first published in the Yorkshire Post on Saturday 28th May 2011

Friday, 3 June 2011

Marmite - Full of Yeast & Promise

Yorkshire Post Mid-Week Life & Style Section - 1st June 2011

Interiors & Homes

LOVE it or hate it, Marmite products are the latest must-have products in the home. Interior Designer Jamie Hempsall reports.

When it comes to that great British institution, Marmite, I am definitely in the “Love It” camp.

However, as many of you will no doubt be aware, it seems that the Danish government have definitely fallen into the “Loathe It” category following their recent ban on the sticky brown product.

Whether you enjoy eating it or not, the trend in all things retro has seen a plethora of Marmite-inspired interior products come on to the market in the last couple of years.

So why not show support for a great British brand and “fly the flag” by introducing a bit of yeast extract-inspired cheer into your home.

A lot of people have likened Andy Warhol to Marmite, but it is unclear if he was ever actually a fan. However, pop-art-style jars grace a wide variety of products, including coasters, mugs and egg cups, which should ensure that breakfast is a true homage to the product, with a matching set of three teatowels allowing you to complete the look while drying up. Prices from around £6.99 at Totally Funky (www.totallyfunky.com) - see main picture.

The same design also features on a selection of retro Marmite cake tins which come in sets of three in three vibrant colours – blue, teal and pink.

The set costs £21.99 and is available from Funky Olive (www.funkyolive.co.uk – 0118 988 7330).

For those of you with a penchant for the outdoors, there is also a wonderful enamel-coated tin plate and mug featuring a similar rendition of the Marmite jar. Lightweight and durable, this stylish pair have got to be perfect for picnics, festivals, camping and other outdoor pursuits at £6.99 each available from The Contemporary Home (www.tch.net – 02392 469400).

Pop art is all very well, but for those of you who like your representations more traditional, look no further than the Marmite Sandwich Box, to keep your lunch cool, yet contemporary. The yellow lid and black base look reminiscent of a traditional jar, albeit square and flat. (£4.95; www.prezzybox.com – 0844 2495 007).

For a perfect imitation, you could do worse than save your pennies in the oversize replica that is the Marmite Money Jar – ideal to have on the side in the kitchen for capturing your loose change (£14.99; www.gettingpersonal.co.uk – 0845 217 6382).

However, if you simply have to have the original thing, true lovers of the product (or their ardent admirers) may want to indulge their passion with a hall-marked sterling silver Marmite lid to smarten up a 250g jar.

For that extra special touch, it can be engraved with either a name or initials – now that really has to be brand devotion (£58.50 plain, £69.95 engraved; www.thepresentfinder.co.uk – 01935 815 195).


The strongly flavoured dark brown spread made from brewer’s yeast has joined Rice Crispies, Shreddies, Horlicks and Ovaltine as prohibited in Denmark under legislation forbidding the sale of food products with added vitamins as threat to public health.

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