Joanna Plant’s dos and don’ts of decorating

Interior designer Joanna Plant offers her essential principles of decorating

The hallway of a house in Ibiza by Joanna Plant

Elsa Young
Do it once and do it properly

The notion of completing a house in one go means your budget can be stretched too thin. Houses are never really finished so better to concentrate on the major purchases first and save up for the rest. Simple roller blinds on the windows whilst you wait for proper curtains mean you aren’t wasting money in the meantime and sparing landfill at the same time.

Do use your best things every day

After all, which life are you saving them for? The best decorating is about enhancing your everyday life so make an effort to elevate even the simplest moments. Make beds beautifully, get the best linens out, drink from the good glasses and use a silver tray even when it’s just for a jug of water.

Do buy the best upholstery you can afford

A well-made sofa will last a lifetime and beyond, so save up or buy vintage and recover.

Do scale up

There is nothing worse than mimsy furniture. If it goes through the door, it’s the right size. And think about verticality – a tall bookcase or a mirror which reaches up towards the ceiling will help to increase the feeling of height in a room. In a room with a low ceiling try to stretch the proportions upwards and avoid anything letterbox in shape.

Do go mad for pattern

If it makes you feel nervous it means you’re pushing yourself. And try switching your scheme around and put the pattern on the sofa rather than the curtains or vice versa.

Do think about stripes

If you are pattern-averse, they will help break up an otherwise plain scheme and introduce rhythm and texture.

Do go to markets and junk shops

It’s incredible what you can pick up for very little money. Silver plated cutlery for instance is often cheaper than buying new, French heavy linen sheets which can be dyed and used as unlined curtains on clip-rings so that no sewing is required!

Do mix old and new

Antique or vintage pieces will help ground a room, knocking the edges off a newly decorated room helping it feel settled and easy to be in. Good things get better with age so don’t worry about marks and scuffs too much.

Do really analyse why a room works and why

If you are at someone’s house and it feels marvellous, think about why that is… is it the lighting, or the depth of the sofa, or the weight of the curtains at the windows? Take note of these details and you will have a better sense of direction when doing your own.

Do enjoy decorating your house

Remember that your home is meant to please you and reflect your own personality not impress your friends so have fun with it and don’t worry about anything too much.

The sitting room at Joanna's own house in London

Owen Gale
Don’t overthink buying artwork 

If you like it and can afford it on the day – buy it.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

When embarking on a building project, think carefully about how much time you have to attend site meetings and if you have the many, many hours needed to look for all the switches, handles, taps, tiles etc that you are going to have to find and order.

Don’t let your builder design your house…

…unless you are absolutely certain his taste is aligned with your own. Either take the time to source things yourself or hire a professional.

Don’t forget trims, linings, bindings and borders

These are so often overlooked and yet they bring a level of detail to a scheme which makes things look nicely finished.

Don’t paint your ceiling brilliant white

In a neutral scheme it will make the off whites appear dirty and will cheapen stronger colours, rather use a chalky white or a diluted version of the colour itself which will sit softly against its neighbour.

Don’t use recessed ceiling lights unless absolutely necessary

No one needs a house that looks like an airport landing strip – mid-level lighting from wall lights and lamps is much more flattering and flexible in that you can place a lamp where you need the light most and a 5amp circuit so that they all turn on with one switch feels very grown up.

Don’t place furniture and pictures in isolation

What you want is a degree of overlap, a visual trick linking everything so that the eye travels around the room.

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