Get real: embrace interior imperfection with the help of a new book
- Credit: PA Photo/Debi Treloar
You can transform your ‘imperfect’ (otherwise known as normal) interior, as a new book, Life Unstyled, by interiors stylist Emily Henson shows.
Let’s face it, our homes, just like our bodies, often leave a lot to be desired, and it’s easy to get dispirited about those lumps and bumps or spaces that don’t match our decor dreams.
So what a relief to find ‘imperfect’ interiors – the ones most of us have – can be improved if not transformed, and all it really takes is a shake-up in our attitude.
“Most people I know have a long list of reasons why their home isn’t perfect,” says interiors stylist Emily Henson, author of Life Unstyled: How To Embrace Imperfection And Create A Home You Love.
“There can be all sorts of reasons for that. Perhaps they’re renting and can’t make their own mark, there isn’t a lot of cash to spare for decorating, the space is too small or there isn’t enough storage. Actually, few of us feel our home fulfils every need – and let’s be honest, that’s a pretty tall order anyway.”
Instead of whingeing, Henson advises rebelling, by viewing “those spotless, clutter-free interiors” we envy in magazines and blogs as “a bit of a fiction and an unreal fantasy”, and instead revelling in our own style – flaws and all.
“It’s time to celebrate the beauty of imperfect interiors and overhaul your approach, so you see the opportunities rather than the problems. Instead of lamenting the fact you can’t warm yourself by your defunct fireplace, why not fill it with flowers and candles and congratulate yourself on your creativity?” declares Henson, who literally fizzes with energy and positivity.
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“It’s all about breaking the rules and finding your own way in the world of interiors. I’ve always liked doing things my own way when it comes to my home, and not concerning myself too much with predictions for next year’s trend, or the right way to hang curtains,” she adds. “Many of the home owners I met while writing the book had the guts to dismiss the traditional way of doing things. One couple painted only half a wall, to expose the patina and beauty of the raw plaster above, while another used old museum archive units for storage. They defied convention, and the result was stand-out spaces.”
Most of us have those bugbears - an unsightly tangle of wires under a desk, a fridge plastered with bills and letters from school, a messy pile of books by the bed - but Henson promises “making the most of what you’ve got, a little re-arrangement, including distracting splashes of colour, and upcycling existing items will all help the visual story of your home to be pleasing and interesting”.
“Also, in reality, a home’s never ‘done’ because our needs and tastes are always changing,” Henson notes, “so let it evolve, take pleasure in that and you could suddenly realise it’s perfectly suited to you.”
Here are Henson’s top tips for transforming how you see your ‘imperfect’ home:
n Keep a collection of small decorative pots and tins for all the clutter which clogs up surfaces – from coins, batteries and rubber bands, to pens, paper clips and buttons. Once in a while, empty, sort and put away. In the meantime, let it go.
n Decoupage is an interesting alternative to painting for bookshelves. Choose pages from books or magazines which you find appeal, wrap the shelves in them, then secure them with PVA glue and varnish for a clean, smooth finish.
n It’s so easy to accumulate ‘stuff’ which can be displayed on open shelves or glass-fronted cabinets, but don’t feel you have to have everything on display at once. “I rotate collections as my mood changes and as I acquire new bits, and stash the rest in storage bins.”
n Give over one wall to a colourful collection of art. Ensure the display is cohesive by grouping them by theme, colour or material. Display boxes of crayons, spools of cotton thread, anything which fits your theme, because variety will add life to a collection.
n A room with an interesting paint treatment can get away with a multitude of sins – the eye is distracted from the clutter and drawn to whatever inspired paint job you can think up. Make a feature of stairs, which often tend to be overlooked but are generally the first thing you see when you enter a home. Paint in a rainbow of colours and, for extra embellishment, decorate with stickers, from numerals to words. Alternatively, spray paint the legs of a stool or chair, or create an intricate design on a blank wall.
n Refresh jaded furniture by taking it to a local car body shop, which can give it a spray in a jiffy. This will cover chips or damage and give an up-lift to an old piece that might have been destined for the junk yard.
n If you’re in a rented home where decorating’s not allowed, give a lift to a dull wall by suspending a single length of wallpaper with an eye-catching design or pattern. Alternatively, wallpaper a large piece of plywood and lean up against a wall, perhaps behind a sofa or bed, for an appealing focal point.
n Every home – including children’s rooms – should have an area to tack up anything and everything which inspires, from photos and postcards, to cuttings from magazines or fabric swatches. They’ll offer a snapshot glimpse of your likes. Use a white board or cork board, or paint a square on a wall to designate an area – simply measure an area, mark the outline in masking tape and then paint within.
n Wooden crates can be turned into super storage solutions, if given a light sanding and sprayed with paint. Choose bright primary colours for impact, and ramp up the colour by painting the floor, a cheap and easy way to conceal scuffed wood or outdated tiles.
n In this disposable age, where the lifespan of furniture is getting shorter and shorter, anything we can save from landfill is a bonus. “Creativity before consumption – the pleasure of making something new from something old – gives me huge satisfaction and personalises my home, as I have genuinely unique pieces. In homes I’ve visited, I’ve seen brilliant chunky shelves made from old wooden planks, pendants created by layering decorative papier mache over old metal pendants, which have been left to dry and removed to reveal a distinctive new shade.”
Life Unstyled: How To Embrace Imperfection And Create A Home You Love by Emily Henson, photography by Debi Treloar, is published by Ryland Peters & Small, priced £19.99. Available now