Bucking the trends: how to be a free interior spirit

We like to keep up with the interior trends and to reflect those in our pages, but who of us actually follow the fashions slavishly? Emma Clegg asks some local experts what they think about the idea of being a free interior spirit.

John Law
Woodhouse & Law

We are forever being told by those around us how we should live our lives. Eat your greens, don’t put non-sticks in the dishwasher, always go for a firm handshake. Some rules are necessary and never more so than at present, for our own safety. With such a prevalence of impositions, perhaps we have the perfect excuse to not feel quite so beholden to those thrown at us from an ever-growing wealth of sources. Rules for example on what can and can’t be done in the home, helpfully offered by family, friends and our social media of choice. Some rules are made to be broken. Perhaps we should be more forgiving to ourselves and start our own design rebellions from home; imagine the world of inspiration that might fall before us?

The rebellion has definitely started. We have recently seen a real enthusiasm from clients to be bolder and more open to schemes that reflect their own personality, rather than the latest design must-dos. We all seem to be worrying less about second-guessing what the next buyer might want from our homes, and instead thinking more about the here-and-now; what appeals to us personally, what best reflects our own character and style.

That’s not to say that clients aren’t looking to the future. We are finding, however, that people are turning their backs on throw-away culture, keen to create an aesthetic that is more timeless and lived-in. Antiques and mid-century pieces therefore are falling back in favour; not only will they stand the test of time, but they effortlessly hold their own within any design scheme.

Recent lockdowns seem to have reinforced this further; if we are spending more time at home, we should be embracing and enjoying every part of it. It’s our home, after all; if we want to make an old family armchair the centrepiece of a space, then who is to stop us?

At Woodhouse and Law we are enjoying the move away from a more pared-down, simple look to that of strong combinations of pattern, colour and texture. It makes our job even more exciting as we have so many new-found opportunities to use individual trims or unusual finishes in our projects. With such a glamorous vibe on the interiors scene of late, it’s nice to see accessories coming through that are more artisanal in style too. These pieces can add real depth and personality to interior schemes, not to mention an interesting talking point!


Catriona Archer
Catriona Archer Interiors

Our home tells a story. A story of who we are, what we enjoy and how we want to live. It is often an eclectic mix of finds that celebrate our past experiences and treasured memories… Something old, something new, something stowed and something ‘you’, one could say.

If you invest in items that spark real joy, it will stand the test of time and be the glue that makes up your own, unique, personal style. Purchases are often influenced by current trends and new ideas, but if we stay true to this ethos at the heart of it all (and at the heart of our home) it will prove to be the steady, underlying style: personal and unique to us.

It is only natural that, every now and again, we look to reassess our interiors to better reflect our ever-evolving lifestyle needs and the world around us. All too often we get so used to our possessions being in a certain place that we end up not noticing or valuing them as much.

Above: design by Catriona Archer

Updating and refreshing a space by reimagining and reinvigorating our existing furniture and accessories is a wonderfully quick and inexpensive way to strengthen the home’s overall style and functionality. It is a core element of my design service as it also clearly pinpoints if/where further investment should be focused, thereby minimising unnecessary future purchases.

As a rule of thumb, we create a strong, harmonious style by referencing certain elements throughout the home; be this through a certain colour, material or style reference. This then gives a backdrop for individual pockets of interest and moods to be created. What areas in the space are most important? Where in the room do you wish the eye to focus? What objects would you like to accentuate? The colours and the level of contrast we feel comfortable with is based on our own individual personality and should therefore be used to set the tone of the space.

Mismatching objects creates a more playful, informal feel and brings an element of surprise to a space. Alternatively, grouping objects as a unified collection will generally feel calmer – be this through an underlying theme of colour, shape, texture, mood, style or function. What stands out and appears brighter and bolder is directly related to the tones and shapes that surround it.


Louisa Morgan
Mandarin Stone

While we love being inspired by the latest interior design trends, our tile collection offers such a wide array of designs, that they can be used to create the perfect backdrop to your own unique style.

We are strong believers that interiors should be spaces you feel most at ease in and a true reflection of your own unique style and personality. Mix old with new and bold with subtle, paint the wall that colour you love and hang the painting that makes you smile. Bring the outdoors in, with plenty of indoor greenery and see the dog sleeping in front of the fire. These are the things we feel make interiors a unique place to you.


Jackie Hoyte
Interior designer with Decorbuddi

We all follow trends, whether we’re aware of it or not. It’s not always a case of seeing rattan everywhere or embroidered shells appearing on every cushion in the shops, but more about changes in lifestyle that we make; and that can be defined as a trend because lots of us will embrace it. These can filter into our interior choices, such as biophilia, but they often start out on a larger scale.

When working with clients on a scheme, as well as discussing trends and styles they like, I always ask them about their wardrobe and what they wear. You can find a rainbow of colours, textures, even sequins in their clothing choices but often these haven’t filtered into their homes. It just takes that spark of inspiration for some people. It’s not all about trends, or a designer pushing their own style, but working closely to help people discover what makes their house feel fabulous for them.

Often people come to me because their interiors are underwhelming. It’s exciting to help get people inspired and to move their home on from white walls and grey sofas; to help them unleash their own sense of style. This of course can include trends past and present that they love but, remember, trends are optional. I often quote the words of the design legend Billy Baldwin to clients who need to feel a little more confident in their own style: “Be faithful to your own taste, because nothing you really like is ever out of style.”


Clair Strong
Clair Strong Interior Design

If there is one thing the last year of numerous lockdowns has made many of us see is that our homes are our sanctuaries – the space where we feel calm and happy.

Having a perfectly coordinated home that follows every design rule and is bang on trend might be the Instagram dream but most of us have homes full of furniture and finds we have picked up over the years. I always tell my clients not to worry about design trends and that more than anything their home should be a reflection of their personality and a place to display favourite objects collected over a lifetime.

A home full of the things you love will always bring joy! Our homes should encompass things that create happy memories and spark interesting conversations. Shelves full of your favourite books, family photographs, a bargain table bought on eBay, something in your favourite colour even if it is ‘unfashionable’, an antique chest passed down through the family, a moth-eaten throw that was a birthday present from a special friend – these are the things that will make you feel happy. A home that is a carbon-copy of everyone else’s will never do that.
Having a home full of maximalist character doesn’t have to be chaotic. Keep the bones of your house clean and simple. Beautifully painted walls, clean woodwork, pristine flooring and sympathetically renovated period features will help anchor an eclectic mix of much-loved possessions and ensure they look considered rather than scruffy.

If you invest in items that spark real joy this will be the glue that makes up your unique, personal style

Use colour confidentially. A room full of colourful finds can look wonderfully bohemian but it can be migraine-inducingly busy. Choose one or two key colours to tie your scheme together. It helps to choose an overall colour theme that runs through your home; it will create a harmonious effect which pulls your collections together.

A house full of old furniture and family heirloom pieces can look like the back room of an antiques shop if you are not careful. Mix contemporary pieces with your treasures to pull the look together and keep it looking up to date.

A collection of treasures can look artfully curated or just plain messy. Think carefully about how you display your pieces, so it looks considered. Give each piece a bit of breathing space around it so it can be properly enjoyed. If your pieces are colourful, make the backdrop neutral. I like to create witty little tableaux or to group similar items together to tell a story.

Keep things tidy to impose order on your scheme – arrange your books neatly on bookshelves, your pictures on a gallery wall and edit your collections of treasures – not everything has to be on display.

I am firm believer in freeing yourself from design rules. I always suggest to my clients that they create a mood board of things they love before they start any interior design project. I ask if they have a certain shade or colour that sparks joy. A country they love to visit. A favourite film or painting. Those are the things should be the inspiration for your home, not what’s in the latest homes magazine or a trending hashtag on Instagram. Once you have a sense of what you love, you can design a home that reflects your personality and that makes you feel comfortable.


Featured image: design by Woodhouse & Law