There's no shortage of gorgeous eye candy out there to inspire interior-design projects, but before being carried away by a colour or a look, the best thing to do is stop and think. Well, obviously, right? Not so fast.
Many of us aren't thinking as clearly and carefully as we should be to make rooms great, says London-based interiors writer and stylist Judith Wilson. In her latest book, Think Home: Easy Thought Processes for a Streamlined Home, the former decorating editor of Homes & Gardens sets out all the things to ponder to make spaces beautiful, practical and suited to you. We spoke to Wilson about the book, her design hang-ups and what really makes a room stand out.
With all the design resources out there, it seems as if people think about interior design now more than ever. Why did you want to write this book?
There's so much visual information out there now. There's books, there's magazines, there's blogs. People are bombarded with images of beautiful homes. There's so much pressure on people now to come up with great looks and do it quickly and dive in without really thinking about it. And we're all bombarded with advice all the time. I think we all know that interior designers would say to you, 'If you're going to plan a room you've got to do a floor plan and then you've got to come up with a colour scheme,' and it's all sort of done to a set formula. And I just wanted to say to people, although that's a perfectly valid way of designing a room, you can approach it in different ways just by starting off thinking about lifestyle or what the architecture is saying to you. It's trying to give people different ways into the whole process of design.
People who aren't interior designers may be wowed by a room because of colour or great furniture. As a pro, what do you see in a room that makes it stand out?
The room on the cover of the book sums it up for me. It was very easy and simple to sit in. Every time you sat down in a chair there was a table right next to you wherever you sat. There was a light right next to you, so it had been well-planned. But also visually, there were lots of links and echoes. The painting above the fireplace had green and turquoise in it and a round contour and a straight line. And those colours and the straight line and the round contour were then repeated in the shape of the lamp, in the design on the cushion, in the colour of the armchair. They didn't all match but they were echoed.
What are your pet peeves?
Ugly modern radiators. Radiators are as visible in a room as a piece of furniture, so it makes sense to choose nice ones! And by that I mean classic, school-style cast-iron radiators. The investment is always worthwhile. And I always notice if bookshelves haven't been artfully arranged. If you're going to plan a wall of built-in shelves, then ensure that there are sufficient books and decorative objects to fill the shelves, and also that they are beautifully aligned.
How do you make a space feel like it reflects you best?
It's vital to choose a colour, a bold fabric or a painting that has personal significance and that you absolutely love.
Not only will you appreciate it every day, but you will also use it with confidence. Adding pieces – whether furniture or decorative objects – that you've used in previous homes, even if you have reupholstered a favourite chair or repainted a kitchen table, adds depth and intricacy to the story that your space tells.
What's your advice for sentimentalists who like to hang on to things?
This can be tackled on a room-by-room basis. It sounds drastic, but if you know your room is too full of stuff but you don't know what to give/take away, empty out the entire room, or certainly empty shelves and surfaces and walls of accessories. Then put them back, one by one.
You will automatically put back your favourites first. The pieces that get left behind can then be sorted into things for the charity shop, and the rest can be put away. Look at them again in a year – do you still really want them?
There are so many interior-design principles, such as how many feet wide passageways should be, how high chandeliers should be from the top of the dining table and such. Are you a proponent of that approach?
I'm not particularly interested in getting out tape measures, to be honest.
If you stand in a room and look at it very closely, you can tune in to what's going to work and what isn't.
This interview has been condensed and edited.