Firstly I should begin my explaining my till now unexplained absence for the past couple of weeks, which was down to very nearly loosing my dream house. The good news is that at 4.49pm on Monday 9 February we finally exchanged. I won’t go into all the boring details, or emotional turmoil, other than to say my buyer turned out to be more than a bit of a headache, but needless to say whilst that was going on the last thing I wanted to do was blog.
But now I’m back! We’re scheduled to complete in just under two weeks, on Friday 27 February. I cannot wait to get in and get my hands on the place. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I spent some of my holiday thinking about things I wanted to do. Sewing was one of them, as was learning about interior design. So just like with cushion making, I scoured Google to find a short course on home interior design for beginners. It was actually harder than it looked. There’s a lot of online only classes, but I have always preferred to learn in a classroom, and many of the classroom based ones were more intensive/longer than I was after. But then I found The Interior Design School in Queens Park, London, which offered a one day ‘Inspiration Day’ course. To be honest, unlike with Saturday Sewing Session I didn’t jump right in and book straight away. Firstly, you can’t avoid the fact that its on the pricey side at £145. Secondly, there isn’t a great deal of information about what exactly it is you’ll do on the day. That said, the overall reviews were good, I liked the look of it, and besides I’d just ordered a slightly obscene number of interiors books on Amazon and was feeling a bit trigger happy.
Taught by professional interior designers, this is a stimulating and practical day that introduces the process of creating a design for an interior – whether you’re interested in designing your own home or thinking about a future career as an interior designer.
So off I went up to Queens Park on Saturday 31 January and found tucked away down an 18th century mews, a fabulously light, airy and modern interior design school.
There were 10 of us on the day and it was a mixture of people like me who were planning to decorate their own homes, and a number who were contemplating a career change. Oh, and with the exception of one man, and to be horribly cliched it was all women!
It was a really pleasant surprise that the main tutor for the day was actually the director and founder, Iris Dunbar, who was just fabulous. Hugely knowledgeable, very interesting and a real pleasure to listen to. Broadly the day was split into 3 sections: we began we a talk from Iris on how Design is Everywhere, then went into the main bulk of the day which was around The Brief – taking and producing a mood board, and finally finished up with a brief introduction to creating a Sample Palette.
Because of where my interest has come from, I went into the day thinking only about residential design but of course its so much broader than that. During the introduction Iris took us from alarm clock, to the Apple store on Regent Street to the Guggenheim. The key concept we were introduced to was ‘The Red Thread’, a Swedish concept in the Arts where there is a single idea that you can see continuing right the way through, be that colour, shape or a chord in a piece of music. There is an Asian belief that two lovers who are destined to be together are tied together with a red thread that will never break – connecting them, no matter the distance.
Scene set, we then went into our brief, which was going to be for a living room. Immediately my mind started racing with ideas for my new living room. But I was quickly shot down! Instead we played that great game where you fold a piece of paper over and pass it on to the next person to create a character. Once we each had our characters, we then worked up what we wanted our living space to be like. The difficult thing here was to avoid jumping right in to solving with specific furniture but to think about things like how the room will be used, what’s the view and how might that influence the space, is there a particular piece of art in there, and most importantly what five adjectives describe your desired atmosphere.
But cleverly just as we finished that bit and our minds were inevitably racing ahead to solve the brief, it was all change again! We were partnered off and told to take the brief from each other. Its a really smart idea as it means you are really forced to get your thoughts out of your head and articulate what you see in your mind’s eye. I went from having a single 28 year old gardener called Louise who liked yellow (a bit too familiar to be honest!) to a married 47 year old engineer who has a thing for neon pink!
Brief gathered, it was then on to the image board. Studying Design Technology at school instilled an early love of mood boards in me and there were SO many lovely magazines to search through. It was really interesting to learn about them from an interior design perspective. Sticking to images that convey the mood or atmosphere is probably the most important thing, not images of specifci things you’d put in the room, and I’d never thought about how you lay the images out contributes to this. For example, leaving white background can suggest spaciousness, whilst vibrant or exciting would have closely-packed contrasting images. It was great fun to look at ‘here’s one I made earlier’ mood boards and guessing what adjectives they’d been created from.
Doing it properly also takes a lot longer than you might expect. Breaking in the middle is also a very good idea because you return with fresh eyes and really evaluate what each picture is saying. In mine for example, I wanted neon pink light and originally had two images (see left). As one of the tutors pointed out, they were both saying the same thing so I discarded the one on top which felt darker and less in keeping with the rest of the room. Presenting back at the end was also great fun, watching people describe their client and the briefing adjectives and seeing how they’d interpreted it. Perhaps it was politeness but everyone said their partner’s interpretation was spot on. You can see mine for my ‘client’ below.
Finally to finish off the day we looked at sample palette. This is effectively the stage after an image board where you look to turn your inspiration into a selection of materials. I have to say the school has a ridiculously large range of different materials so its probably a lot easier to do it there, but I would say that one of the best parts was learning about how important it is to first ascertain the existing fabric of the building because the interior needs to speak to the outside of the building. Iris suggested photographing the outside and existing finishes and analyze it all, because it is rare that you can chance everything so your design and the features will need to work together. She also mentioned that the front door is one of the first things you see when you arrive at a property and so it should start the palette. We didn’t end up doing a sample palette for our own mood boards individually but did one collectively which you can see in the photo to the right. If you look at the mood board towards the top you should just about be able to see how the colours are being pulled out into carpets, tiles, flooring, paint and so on.
I think the one main message that Iris wanted to instill was when decorating the most important thing is to step back and take time to get the brief absolutely right, and down on paper, rather than racing ahead with just a vision in your mind. Its a lesson I know I will need to heed! I don’t have time to commit to an evening course currently but it definitely got me thinking about potentially doing one in future. So overall yes its on the more expensive side but the tuition is excellent and I got a huge amount out of it, over and above just a really enjoyable, interesting day, so it was a worthwhile investment. Check out all The Interior Design School’s courses on their website here.
PS As a complete aside to what was actually covered on the day, one of the most incredible moments was when I randomly picked up one of about 10 boxes of old interiors magazines, was half way through and discovered the Matthew Williamson Elle edition from 2009. I’m not sure if I’ve said it on here before but MW is my ultimate design inspiration and I have lusted over the pictures for years and years. You may have even spotted that the image on the homepage banner is one of his Osborne & Little wallpaper designs. If that’s not meant to be, I don’t know what is.