Many buildings, large and small, old or new, fall far short of being great architecture, but each has an intrinsic character of its own, either because of the materials or techniques used in its construction, or because of some particular effect desired by the architect. It is much better to respect this special character and to make the most of the design, rather than to try and turn your home into something else. Traditional homes, with their particular use of space, proportion and detailing, respond well to the sort of furniture and furnishings which would have been used in them during their heyday, while modern ‘box’-like rooms can often respond better to an up-to-date approach with the use of contemporary materials, colours and textures.
Large eighteenth century homes, built in the Italian tradition with classical proportions, are asking for impressive-looking fireplaces and plaster mouldings; the more ponderous and rather grandiose styles of the nineteenth century look well with heavy, carved oak furniture and large Gothic motifs. In the tiny homes that were built in rows for labourers and factory workers, the spaces are much smaller in scale and a simpler treatment is required. Three million ‘between-the-wars’ semi-detached houses were built in Great Britain in the twenties and thirties, which have a clearly recognizable style and these will respond best to Arts and Crafts or Art Deco style; high rise blocks have uncompromising geometric and symmetrical forms which lend themselves well to a modernist look, while modern housing estates, which often seem to concentrate on small homes with very small rooms, call for order and simplicity, whatever the chosen style. You may not have in-depth knowledge of architectural styles, but you can still get a lot of pleasure from being aware of the type of building you are dealing with and a little of its history, you can then use this awareness to make the most of the good qualities of the interior and to conceal what is ugly.
Creating a Harmonious Environment
The inside of a home will depend very much on the tastes and lives of its inhabitants. Some people are happy to live with what seems like no order at all, surrounded by books and papers or the collected paraphernalia of a lifetime. Others are completely organized, with every chair and picture in its allotted place, every inch of space, every colour and fabric variation carefully planned. Somewhere in between is what most of us would like: an organized interior where things can be easily found, where decorative objects are shown off to their best advantage, where there is encouragement to entertain, to read or work, with pleasing colours and textures, and a generally comfortable ambiance.
Inspiration rarely comes immediately to mind. By carefully noting down ideas, cutting out pictures from magazines, taking photographs and sketching out interiors that you like, you will begin to get your eye in and a scheme will gradually take shape in your mind until you have a pretty good idea of exactly what you want. There are good sources of inspiration wherever you look, from innumerable glossy magazines to other people’s homes, museums and exhibitions. Up-market stores and fabric shops often have interesting room sets to show off their new collections, which can be an invaluable source of inspiration as they are full of ideas and flair and have been specially created by professionals. Your local library will have a whole section of books on interior design and everywhere you look there are exciting colour combinations and textural contrasts. Auction houses often have exhibitions of furniture, carpets and textiles, and sometimes of contemporary paintings of interiors, which can be rich sources of inspiration. Their catalogues can be helpful. Use your camera for photographing shapes and colours (for example, doorways, window treatments, colours of fishing boats in a harbor). They can all add to the file of ideas for the home. Build up your own library of information and keep it in box files, with one for each important room or function of the home, i.e. a file each devoted for Kitchen/ Bathroom/ Flooring Materials/ Fabrics/ Wall-coverings/ Paints. Always try and remember to include important addresses, contact names and telephone numbers of your chosen suppliers.