Design tips

Top Interior Design Tips for Reducing “The Fear”

27 March 2019

We have all been there. That stomach lurching feeling when the delivery driver arrives and you start to question your choice. Or when the decorator does the first coat of paint and you think you don’t like it, despite the hours you spent looking at samples. Here are my simple tips for building confidence and avoiding “The Fear” when decorating your home.


Decorating a room in a piecemeal way is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. If you just do a couple of elements, for instance just the painting and a couple of pieces of furniture you probably won’t like it. It’s all the elements coming together that create a successful end result. Layering is one of the hidden secrets of interior design, particularly in one colour or neutral schemes. It’s all the layers and textures that create impact, rather than one individual “hero” piece.

I also think you can run out of steam if you just do a couple of items and never quite get round to finishing a room. “Decision fatigue” is a common issue particularly when you are renovating a whole home. Of course we can’t all afford to do a room at once and need to phase the investment. This is when a concept comes in. Even if you phase buying items for a room you will know what you are working towards. A concept sums up the look, feel and style of a room. It helps you create an end vision in your mind of what a room will look like. I like to think of it as an anchor to which you can keep referencing. It will keep you aligned with your end vision and provide a visual tool to help you decide whether items of furniture, lighting or accessories will work.


The interior design industry is full of trends and campaigns for and against certain looks. “Ban the beige” for instance! I don’t believe in these campaigns, as ultimately if you are drawn to certain colours then it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks! We are constantly being told to be braver in our choices. Ultimately you still need to feel comfortable and happy in your own home. So to me being brave is about making small steps to push yourself but without totally taking yourself out of your comfort zone.


For those that want to be braver with colour or pattern I advise to start with pattern on items that you can easily change if you get bored of it. Or start with rooms that you don’t sit or sleep in for long periods. Downstairs toilets or guest bedrooms are great places to start. My downstairs toilet is the bravest room in my house and I absolutely love it. But I would never choose this wallpaper in another room in my house. When I started to get “The Fear” about the wallpaper I decided to half panel the room and just have the wallpaper above it. For me that was a great compromise and means the whole room isn’t overtaken by it. Clever tricks like this can make you feel excited about the end result rather than fearful.

The other place I like to experiment is in guest bedrooms. A statement fabric on the headboard can be used as the basis for the colour palette for the room. Just make sure you love the fabric and that’s the best place to start. What you may find in time is from taking small steps into pattern and colour you’ll come to really embrace pattern and colour and want to apply it elsewhere.


I keep track of trends but I’m not lead by them. My clients will often say that they don’t want a certain look as it’s on trend and may go out of fashion. My view is that if you love something it doesn’t matter if it’s a trend or not. If you love it you will always like it. Grey kitchens for instance are a key trend right now but they are also very classic so unlikely to date. They have a calm feel and aren’t a “shouty” trend that may annoy you in a few years. Colours you are drawn to or evoke a calm feeling are safe choices, particularly in kitchens or bedrooms where you spend so much time. So neutrals, greys and calm blues will always work. The best way to add interest and a stamp of your own personality is include a warmer accent colour such as the yellow below. That is one of my favourite ways of bringing interest to a neutral scheme. You can always change the accent colour down the line but the neutral backdrop will remain timeless.


If you get stuck one of the best places to start is with an item you’ve had on your wish list for a while. So a rug, piece of art or patterned piece of fabric for instance. If you use that as a basis for a scheme you already know you will like the colours that the rest of the scheme will be built around. Just make sure the colours and style fit with the overall feel you want to create for your room.

Starting with fabric makes picking paint colours a hundred times easier than randomly picking paint from a sample chart! I never start with paint as the basis of a scheme. I find it impossible to choose and as a sweeping generation most people don’t fall in love with paint! They fall in love with other things and the paint compliments it. Some interior designers would disagree with me and of course there are exceptions. Wonderful paint colours like Livid by Little Greene or Inchyra Blue by Farrow and Ball can be the absolute stars of a room.


And here are a few other simple pointers:

• When sourcing fabric always ask for the returnable sample so you can see how it looks on a bigger piece. If possible visit the showroom and see on an even larger sample
• Never choose paints simply from paint sample charts. You have to paint them onto large pieces of cards and plant around the room. Then look at them at different times of day
• Always do layouts right at the beginning. An interior designer can help you with these and also make sure you don’t make expensive mistakes with furniture that doesn’t fit in a room! You can also invest in having realistic 3D drawings prepared which will show you exactly how a room will look. The ultimate tool to avoid “The Fear”!
• Budget right at the beginning and prioritise your choices. Make sure you prioritise a few pieces you really love and then reduce the budget elsewhere. Impulse purchases are never a good idea
• Appoint an interior designer! An interior designer can help you navigate through the overwhelming process of designing your home and help you create a vision to work towards. They also have experience of the typical areas where people go wrong and help you avoid them

I hope you’ve found this article useful. If you would like help designing your home or are interested in Interior Design in Sussex do get in touch.