study vignette

So, last week I promised to start sharing with you the beginnings of my schemes for our home. I keep ensuring I say the word ‘beginnings’ so as not to get your hopes up, as I literally just have the starting point for some of the rooms. What I’d really love is not only to show you the entire scheme of a room, but also to present it in a really fancy-schmancy digital Photoshop-swizzy moodboard so you can see exactly where I’m going. But alas, I am neither the sort of designer who has the entire room planned out at the start, nor a blogger who can do fancy Photoshop tricks yet. I can barely take a photo with my camera off Auto for Gods sakes, gimme a break. But I will try my best to explain the concept for each room, and explain my train of thought, so you can understand the little design journey I’m going on.

COMPLETE RANDOM ASIDE: are you watching The Great Interior Design Challenge on BBC2??! And if not, why not? You absolutely need to if you want your life to be complete. It’s my favouritist programme ever and I’ve been waiting on tenterhooks all winter for series 3 to start. And it did. On Monday night. For the last two nights I’ve been in heaven for an hour watching novice interior designers battle it out with only a £1000 to completely transform a room. You simply must join in if you haven’t already. Expect to be amused, frustrated, flabbergasted, impressed and completely entertained, while you slowly become addicted to the point where you’re devastated when it’s over. It’s true! Despite how much you shout at the telly.

Anyway, enough of all that. Onto the scheme for our little study-cum-snug front room.

main photo of room

I’m starting out with the study-cum-snug room, as it’s the room that we wanted to decorate first when we initially moved. Not only did I need somewhere to work from at home, but my husband had just started a university course in the evenings, and really wanted a nice environment in which to study. Even though the front small room of the house had previously been used as a dining room by the previous tenants, we felt we’d get much more use out of it as a study-cum-second living room, and I set-to on designing a scheme as soon as possible. Fast forward a year, and we’re still no further on with decorating it, and my husband will have finished his course this summer! But nonetheless I’m sticking with the original scheme that I designed around “my husband’s study”.

from window

I had two ‘starting points’. As you may already know from other articles, I desperately need a starting point for a scheme, and then everything else flows from there. My two for this room were:
1. the actual concept I had for the style of room that “my husband’s study” should be
2. a rug we already owned but had been in storage for ages

For the concept of this room, a rather unusual thing happened. I actually consulted my husband on what he wanted! Now, I don’t want you, or particularly him, getting any funny ideas that this is ordinary practice in our house. Good God no. For a while now we’ve been perfectly happy with our roles. I decorate the house. He leaves me to it. He likes what I do. Perfect. But on this particular room, he actually wanted an input for a change, so very magnanimously I allowed it (I just hope beyond hope it’s a one-off!). When I asked him what he wanted, his words were “I don’t want it all ridiculously feminine like you normally do” and then in a rather incohesive, slightly incomprehensible waffle it emerged that he “might like the Ralph Lauren style” of decorating.

Their photography's not a patch on mine!!

Their photography’s not a patch on mine!!

At that point my concept emerged very easily. I was going to create a gentlemen’s study for my husband, but he was no longer my normal husband, he was a Victorian gentleman! A Victorian gentleman who has travelled the world, perhaps on his Grand Tour, and has experienced every exotic far-flung land available to man. He will be worldly and inquisitive, and will have brought back all sorts of curiosities and artefacts to remind him of his travels. I suggested this to my husband. He looked a bit bemused to be honest, but readily agreed because quite obviously it wasn’t going to be “ridiculously feminine” as usual.

Unadulterated 'before' photo, including bare walls, horrible rental lights and baby gate to prevent the new rescue dog piddling on the rug!

Unadulterated ‘before’ photo, including bare walls, horrible rental lights and baby gate to prevent the new rescue dog piddling on the rug!

Now that I had the concept, I knew I had the perfect starting point product without even having to go searching. Well, I had to go searching a bit, but only through our garage where I keep my huge stash of furniture I can’t bear to let go of. Years and years ago, when my husband and I were just setting up home, and I was working at Fired Earth, I fell in love with one of their Kazak rugs because of its colours, all jade greens, blues and pinks. We couldn’t afford it, so my bosses kindly let me pay in instalments for it over many months. It was one of the first lovely things we ever owned and it has huge sentimental value; but over the years it’s just not fitted into my schemes. Hence the storage. But for this room, for the gentlemanly global feel I’d decided to go for, it would be perfect. Surely every Ralph Lauren room has a Persian rug ensconced in it?!

Kazak rug

So, I was ready to tackle this room and plan my scheme with gusto; time to establish with my landlady what I can and can’t do to the decor.

Things we have to live with, for obvious reasons:

• The brick fireplace
• The faux beam across the ceiling
• The beige carpet
• The position of the lighting

Things we’re allowed to do:

• Paint the brick fireplace
• Paint the faux beam
• Paint all the orangey-brown woodwork
• Replace the actual light fittings, as long as we replace them when we vacate
• Paint or wallpaper the walls, as long as we paint them in a neutral colour when we vacate
• Remove the pole and cream curtains, as long as….well, I think you’ve got that bit!

The first thing I did was purchase a desk, and then over the past year, a few more things have been acquired with the knowledge that they will fit in with the scheme. That’s the good thing about having your concept very clear in your mind…even if you can’t afford to decorate your room now, you will always have a clear vision of what you want to create in the future, which will allow you to start adding to your collection of products slowly and within budget, knowing they will be right for the overall scheme.

Here’s what we’ve bought over the year:

1. A desk. This was the first thing we bought as my husband desperately needed somewhere to study; and we decided to place it on the wall opposite the fireplace so we could use the rest of the room as a bit of a sitting room. I went for the cheapest desk on eBay I could find that would give me the old-school gentlemanly look I was after. It’s a traditional wood pedestal desk with a lovely old dark green leather top. Cheap as chips and not my favourite desk in the world but it will do for now. Ideally I’d like a campaign style desk but these are far more expensive, so we’ll have to save our pennies if we want one of those. But at the moment, our desk is perfect for the look and our budget.


A campaign desk off 1stdibs...not for the likes of us!

A campaign desk off 1stdibs…not for the likes of us!

2. A narrow daybed. I wanted a sofa to sit to the side of the fireplace but most normal sofas were far too deep and would have dominated the room and made it look overfull. So I found this lovely daybed on eBay which had the perfect dimensions but I also liked the tropical global feel of the canework, and made me think that my Victorian Gentleman had obviously travelled to France! I’m not sure yet whether to keep the pink velvet cushion, what do you think?

daybed3. A stunning chinoiserie panel. OMG! I completely fell in love with this in a local antique shop and because it was so well priced for what it was, we went for it. I hadn’t imagined anything like this in the room at all, but sometimes you just happen across something that you just love so much, you have to have. It makes for a nice dramatic focal point, the colours are exquisite and it brings a bit of the Orient in!

panel4. An antique palm tree lamp with a handsome chap underneath playing some sort of instrument. We found this in a stunning antique shop in Turkey and knew he’d fit in perfectly with our scheme. Another global piece to fit in with my imaginary husband’s travels!

The wonderful antique shop in Turkey, full of gorgeous Persian things

The wonderful antique shop in Turkey, full of gorgeous Persian things

5. A piece of meteorite mounted on a stand. This was my anniversary present to my husband, and is the first of many curiosities that we hope to fill this room with.


Stuff we already had but will work perfectly in here:

1. An antique French chair, which got lugged out of storage. My husband firmly considers this chair to be ‘his’ as it’s one he picked out and chose himself when we were shopping in London. It’s only fitting that it should be in his study. It’s a bit plain looking but opens out into a reclining chaise longue, so is really comfortable. At the moment it’s covered in an awful, dated Designers Guild velvet from its previous life in our first house, so needs to be reupholstered pronto. I think Dotty agrees as she’s constantly trying to rip off the DG velvet!

armchair2. A vintage chalkware bust of an African lady. Right colours, right global feel. And I love her.

3. A vintage print of leopards. This worked wonderfully in my retro, tropical living room but it will also look awesome in here.


The leopard picture in our last home, sat above our lovely leopard fluffy throw. I love leopard print!

The leopard picture in our last home, sat above our lovely leopard fluffy throw. I love leopard print!

As well as picking up bits and pieces over the last year, I have spent hours upon hours upon hours (I could go on) just STARING at various fabric books and samples, trying to decide what to use as curtains and upholstery covers, for scatter cushions and blinds. I have gone through endless permutations of different combinations until I feel dizzy with confusion. But somewhere through the fog, my favourites have emerged. I don’t know where all of them are going to go just yet, but I’m nearly there, and next time I update you on this room, I’ll have finalised the plan (I hope!).

The easy decision and one that came very early on, was the wallpaper. There are some people who will only go for the latest wallpaper, the newest design around town, something nobody else will have. And I get that completely. But I tend to fall in love, and stay in love, especially with wallpaper. I have so many favourites just stashed away in my imaginary wishlist, and most of them have been around for ages. But I don’t care. I love them and have wanted them for so long. And this paper is one of them.

And it’s perfect for 3 reasons (well, maybe 4. I don’t think the 4th one really counts though):
1. The main living room at the back of the house is so dark, that we will end up decorating it in dark colours. This room however, gets a bit more light, and especially in the evenings when you get to watch spectacular sunsets over the fields at the front. So I had already decided I wanted this room light and bright, so I have somewhere cheerful to retreat to. The pale background of the paper is therefore perfect.
2. The colours work extremely well with the rug.
3. The chinoiserie feel of the design ties in beautifully with the concept of the room
4. I love birds. Anything with birds on, and I’m there. Turquoise and birds are my two favourite things to decorate with. Fact.

wallpaper up close

After that, I went on to choose a Roman blind fabric out of all the fabrics I’d been looking at; a lovely blue plaid from GP&J Baker:

However, once it arrived and I could see it in one large piece, I realised I’d made a mistake. It just wasn’t ‘special’ enough for a Roman blind. It’s absolutely gorgeous fabric, don’t get me wrong, but I think it would work better as curtains or upholstery fabric, or even on a small Roman blind, where you just see a snippet. But for a large Roman blind like ours, where you’re going to see a large expanse of fabric when the blind is down, I decided I needed something more special. Now, I’m telling you I’ve made this gaff so that for any of you who are novice decorators, you’ll see that even when you do this day-in-day-out for a living, you still make mistakes! Luckily this was a personal one, not a client’s. And I’m very very lucky that GP&J Bakers will let me return the fabric. Phew! My husband won’t shout at me!

Dotty IslaySo, the fabric I’ve chose instead is this one from Zoffany, a beautiful embroidered Indian style paisley, which I think will look like a beautiful piece of art when the Roman blind is closed at night. And of course, do I even need to mention…it will tie in with the global feel wonderfully.

And the following fabrics are all ones I’m interested in using but I’m not sure yet if I will, and if I do, where they’ll go. One things for certain though, there will definitely be some leopard or other animal print in there, but whether it will be on the armchair (I have permission from my husband!) or whether I keep it smaller as a cushion or a lampshade, you’ll have to check back with me in a few months.

Various red Mulberry fabrics:

Mulberry 3 duo

Mulberry duo

Mulberry 2 duo

A lovely red floral from Andrew Martin:

Andrew Martin red floral


A gorgeous textured stripe from Nobilis:

Nobilis stripe

And the animal skins!:

So, that’s where I’m up to at the moment and having written about it, I’m surprisingly further along than I imagined, which is good to know. Over the next few months we will start actually implementing some changes, particularly getting the wallpaper up, so I will definitely keep you updated on our progress. Next time, I’ll be sharing some “beginnings” of a scheme for another room, maybe the living room or guest bedroom, I haven’t decided yet. But both of them, for sure, are far less fleshed out than the study. But I’ll share them anyway!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about this scheme, and even if you’re not too interested in the methodology, you’ve enjoyed the pictures! Are you in the middle of planning a scheme? Do you fancy sharing it with me? As always, I’d love to hear your comments x