My home stories: creating my biophilic palette - part 2, sitting room
Welcome back. In part 1 of this post I talked about how I put together the inspiration which was the start of my design process to bring my favorite natural spaces into my home. My favorite elements of the landscapes are ones I want to evoke through my choice of colours, patterns, textures, materials and which give me a connection to being amongst them when indoors.
The first room I wanted to tackle was the sitting room. This room was a big blank canvas when we moved in. The proportion and features are just what you might expect from a Victorian Rectory with high ceiling, original fireplace, cornice and stripped floorboards. The room benefits from great natural light from two windows and glazed doors to the side garden and one into the hall. At some point the wall that led to the hallway was removed and the original front door blocked up, leaving the architrave in place and shelves added.
The previous tenants had covered the original floorboards with a deep pile red carpet which just sucked the light out of the room. The original wooden shutters are still in place but sadly the internal secondary double glazing blocks them from being used. There are also huge double doors which open up to the dining room. Our first job was to take up the carpet, as this wouldn't be an easy job once all the furniture arrived we took it up while waiting for the removals truck to arrive.
Having ideas in your head is one thing but I would always advise putting together images so you can get an overall feel for how one element works with another. Pinterest is a great resource for finding inspiration but with so many beautiful images it can easily overwhelm and distract. There are many apps that help you create mood boards, you can go old school and cut images from magazines or even use Powerpoint. Whichever method you prefer, the important step is to put ideas together visually.
I used the mood board to put together pieces I already owned such as the sideboard, collection of vintage green glassware and an old dolly tub which I wanted to use as a log store. I already had a pair of vintage navy velvet curtains in my fabric stash so I picked up a new pair to match. There is plenty of blue in the rug I liked so these curtains accent the mainly green scheme nicely.
Once I was happy with how each element of the design looked together, and with the imminent arrival of the new sofa, it was time to get painting. DIY is not my natural skill, I planned to get a professional in to tackle the tall walls as I hate heights and am not confident up a ladder. After a no show from a decorator and lockdown still on progress, I did the painting myself. I have to say I was quite impressed with the result, even the cutting in wasn't too painful. I used a paint pad for the first time instead of a roller and I'm now a total convert. No more messy rollers, paint splattered hair and arms for me. Also the paint pad was super economical with the paint.
I wanted this room to feel like a sanctuary, a place to relax and feel restored. My aim was for the colour to cocoon the room, giving a feeling of being wrapped by woodland. I toyed with the idea of painting the ceiling green and woodwork out in the same colour too but as our home is rented I decided it didn’t feel right to take the colour that far. Whilst having our landlords permission to decorate I am always mindful of an how far I can go with a design idea.
Finding the right green wasn’t as easy I had first thought. I poured over paint charts and pinterest but couldn't quite find the shade I was looking for. Then Jo at Living Room (the designer of my sofa) introduced me to a small family run paint business called Fenwick & Tilbrook and there I found my perfect greens. I also had to consider the colour for the dining room so I was looking for two greens not just one. They had to work as individual rooms, creating their own moods, but also make sense as one space when the double doors were open.
The wall colour is called "Cley" by Fenwick & Tilbrook, it's a beautiful rich mid-tone green and I chose this specific shade of green based on how well it works with my vintage furniture.
I really hate how ugly and dominate televisions are in a room, especially as we only ever watch films or stream box sets. I wanted to use the sideboard as a stand so decided to create a gallery wall around the TV to disguise it. Our TV is a Samsung Frame which literally looks like a picture frame and can display artwork when not in use.
My husband Garry is a landscape photographer, so much of the work on the gallery wall is his work mixed in with prints from artists we love. I have used vintage marquetry wooden artworks which were a gift from my Aunt, family heirloom mirrors to bounce around the natural light and reflect internal views and not forgetting of course hanging plants.
The gallery wall features many nature inspired views. I like to see nature where every I look in my home. This is a great technique to use when your furniture can't face an open view, just create one with artwork, nature inspired patterns, textures and plants.
In our previous flat we had to always consider how we were going to get furniture in as everything had to come up two flights of awkward stairs. As soon as I knew we were moving, top of my wish list was the Model 1 green sofa from Living Room
I fell in love with this sofa when I met the designer Jo on Instagram. Jo has a green wool version in her own home and I would swoon every time I saw it . I'm a huge fan of Mid-Century and love everything about how Jo has designed a collection of beautifully crafted contemporary furniture inspired by her love of this enduring design period. The range of fabrics in Jo's collection are all gorgeous but I fell in love with this moss velvet from Designers Guild.
I'm normally of the mind that "the more cushions the merrier" on a sofa but I didn't want to cover the beautiful buttoned detail so I resolved to have only two. But two very special ones indeed, choosing the fern & pylon cushions designed exclusively for Living Room by textile designer/maker Sally Weatherill. Sally uses a 24 dobby loom and lambswool to create her luxurious fabrics which are a beautiful textural balance to the velvet sofa, and having a variety of natural colours and textures gives a material connection to nature.
I prefer the sofa with its back to the dining room doors so I can see out to the garden more clearly but Garry prefers it facing the television. The sofa position debate continues and I think the best compromise is to do both, having the position I like for summer and Garry's preference for winter when we watch the most TV. Marriage is all about compromise, right?
Flooring in any room is a key element of how a design works together. I knew the original boards were under the red carpet and however warming a fitted carpet can be, covering original floorboards completely is a design sin in my eyes. The boards are not the colour I would have chosen myself but do add a real warming tone to the room. Living with natural timber in your home has been proven to reduce both heart rate and blood pressure so there was no way the floor boards were staying completely covered. Timber flooring creates another material connection to nature, while a textural difference in flooring (with the addition of rugs) provides a sense of how we experience the undulating ground beneath us when outdoors.
I didn't want a flat, block colour rug but something that could really elevate the mainly green on green palette. I chose the Celestial Sealife rug from The Rug Seller because of it's abstract design with an almost painterly/watercolour appearance and for its variety of colours. Referring back to my inspiration board this rug has the blue of the skies and lakes, flashes of reds and lots of orange and yellows from autumn colours I love.
Adding decorative details is always the fun part of designing a room. Garry has been collecting vintage green glassware for me as gifts for a couple of years. I love how the light will catch these, the emerald jewel tone of the glass is one of my favourite shades of green.
I added them to the fireplace mantel so they would have pride of place. I love them grouped together with their mix of smooth and textures glass.
The old dolly tub was a gift from a previous employer when I worked at a country house estate. I always wanted to use it as a log store but in our old flat we didn't have a real fireplace so it was used as a plant pot . It holds a decent amount of logs and I love the aged patina of the galvanised metal.
I have run a design business creating fabrics & patterns from Garry's photography and inspired by nature for almost seven years now, so I am never short of a cushion or lampshade. From my collection I've used bird and botanical inspired designs across lampshades and cushions to reflect nature on as many surfaces as possible.
One of the first patterns we designed was the Bird of Paradise. Garry photographed these magnificent flowers at the Kirstenbosch botanical gardens near Cape Town. We took a single flower head, layered and repeated it to create a damask style pattern. It was this design that started our business after we made a wallpaper using this print for a previous home and received such great feedback, giving us the confidence to take our ideas into a business.
I chose the bird of paradise design to pick out the orange in the rug & artwork above the fireplace. I found a vintage orange and green vase on eBay to just add a further subtle flecks of orange in the room. Two more of my favorites from our collection are the Sparrow and Heron lampshades, both designs taken from photographs captured by Garry and which are very special to us.
There are still some lovely architectural details in the room original such as a little alcove in the wall, now a gin shelf. The original front door has at some point been blocked up and the inner hallway wall removed, leaving the door architrave on show. It's a shame to have lost this as an entrance as this door would have opened to a view of the glazed sitting room door, through to the stairs and on to an impressive arched picture window on the half landing. On the other hand it does give the sitting room a good deal of extra space, so we made the old door area into a home for the record deck.
No home of mine would be complete of course with out plants and lots of them. Sharing my living space with plants has become such a big part of my life. I find caring for and nurturing house plants incredibly therapeutic. Plants do of course bring a direct connection to nature into our homes, providing not only colour and texture but many are marvels at removing toxins from the air.
The sitting room windows face south and west and the room becomes bathed in late afternoon golden light which makes the plants thrive.
I put plants on every possible surface, varying the heights and hanging them from the walls - which gives a more natural sense of how you would experience greenery in nature, which of course is not all at one focal point.
When it comes to plants I always favour the real thing but using faux plants in tricky areas can help disguise unwanted focal points like big white radiators. If we owned this house I have the radiators replaced or at the very least paint them out in the same colours as the walls. I didn't want the radiator to be the first thing you see when you walk in the room, so to draw the eye away from it I placed a coffee table in front and covered it with books and faux plants. Most of mine came from Abigail Ahern, they can be quite pricey but they are the best quality and most realistic ones I have found.
There are 14 patterns to guide biophilic design and I've used many of them in this room. I will be exploring these patterns in more detail in a future post. If this is a design practice that intrigues you stay tuned.
The next room I redesigned was the dining room. This room had to work with the sitting room when the doors are opened up but I still wanted it to feel like a different space. I took my inspiration from the Victorian's love of exploration and what was considered exotic at the time. More about that in my next home story post.