Here’s What Designers Were Discussing at the Decorex Virtual Fair
From colour tips to sustainability, the panel discussions at this year’s show provided some valuable insights
Read on to find out what was on the minds of designers during these panel discussions to gain some tips and insights for future projects.
A theme that popped up frequently in the discussions was that of cutting waste. The panellists agreed on the importance of retaining as much as possible before you start a renovation project.
During a talk entitled Are Luxury and Sustainability Compatible?, Charu Gandhi of Elicyon explained how she focuses most on what can be preserved in a home. “We think of this as the framework,” she said, and explained that only then can you start thinking about bringing in new, sustainable materials.
Designer Olivia Outred told the panel at the Slow Interiors: Understanding the Importance of Heritage seminar that she likes to start a project by imagining tipping the house upside down and seeing what’s stuck. This would be things such as architraves, panelling and plasterwork, and after this you can then start the fun part of decorating.
To illustrate the point, Charu highlighted a recent project where a client was hoping to replace the warm oak timber that covered the apartment’s floors, doors and skirting boards with a paler material. She convinced them to let her try to whitewash it instead of ripping it out. “It affected the lead time by four weeks,” she said, as it took three attempts to get it right. “But in the end it worked.”
Simone Suss of Studio Suss reiterated the point to the Addressing Waste in Design Via Sustainability panel and explained that, ideally, her team doesn’t have any skips on their projects. She recommends using avenues such as Freecycle to ensure as little as possible goes into landfill.
On a similar note, vintage and antique items were a hot topic during the sessions as a way to cut wastage. Not only is it sustainable to add or retain used items in interiors, they also add more depth and character to a home.
“We love it when clients bring pieces with them,” said Sara Cosgrove during the Slow Interiors: Understanding the Importance of Heritage discussion. “So our first question is often, ‘Are there any pieces of furniture or art you really love?’”
The panellists all agreed that vintage pieces are often very special and bring a story or emotion into a home.
If you want to buy antique furniture and still be current, Olivia Outred’s tip is to buy the best-quality items you can afford. “It will last years and years and you can add the current fabric you really love as your upholstery,” she says.
Ensuring the things in a home have longevity was another waste-saving tip from the panellists, who had some ideas of how to do this.
Henry Prideaux told the Slow Interiors: Understanding the Importance of Heritage panel that it’s crucial to create spaces that can evolve. “If a client has children, I know they’re going to grow up, so I plan ahead,” he says.
He recommends choosing hard-wearing materials that can stand up to wear and tear from kids, but also to think about how the interior needs to adapt as they grow.
“It comes back to what you bought in the first place and how that can evolve over time,” said Sara, who pointed to the example of buying a good-quality headboard to cover with a fun fabric for kids and a more grown-up material later.
And it’s not all about children, as Jay Blades pointed out to the panel. “The clients I get are normally retirees, so it’s designing something they love and making it more supportive for them,” he said. For example, he will raise the legs of an armchair to make it easier for clients to get in and out of it, or add arm covers for extra grip.
The panellists were illuminating when it came to working with awkward spaces, too. “I lean into the features of a space,” interior designer Rachel Chudley said during a talk on The Importance of Colour in Interior Design. “A problem space takes a bit more thought, but I find my favourite spaces are ones that have been challenging.”
She pointed out the example of a project with a north-facing hallway, where the instinct might have been to paint it a light colour. An all-white space with no warm light might have ended up looking too clinical, though, so she went with the dark feel and painted it warm grey.
“If it feels dramatic, it signals you’re in off the street, and, by contrasting the hallway with the south-facing rooms at the back, you feel, ‘Oh wow, I’m in this big open space!’,” Rachel explained. “I try to reflect nature; the comparison you can make is that of walking through a dark wood and coming out to a clearing and feeling really uplifted.”
Rachel also provided some insights into how best to highlight features in a room. She advocated the use of colour blocking to show off architectural details. By painting a whole room or area the same colour, you’ll make a bigger impact, she says, and the architectural features will stand out more.
She also pointed out that using bold colour on a large scale is a great way to connect disparate elements. For example, if a room is full of an eclectic mix of furniture, patterned objects and artwork, a strong colour can work better than a neutral to bring it all together.
One more useful tip from Rachel was her advice on choosing colours to show off an artwork. “We try not to pick out the exact colours – it’s more interesting to find colours that accentuate it,” she said. “We’re secondary to this artwork the client loves, so we ask, ‘What do we do to pull it out and celebrate it?’”
Items and materials with more green credentials often come with a higher price tag, which prompted an audience member to ask the Are Luxury and Sustainability Compatible? panellists how those with a smaller budget could introduce sustainability into a project.
“Don’t assume it can’t be done,” said Charu Ghandi, who advised drawing up two detailed list of items, one with sustainable products and the other with the non-sustainable alternative. Her advice is to go through the list line by line and compare the costs, working out where you could spend on something such as sustainable paint, for instance, while saving money further down the list.
Another issue covered was that of greenwashing and how to make sure apparently eco-friendly products are genuinely sustainable. Kate Watson-Smyth highlighted to the Addressing Waste in Design panel an example of a business that was producing plastic bottles purely to recycle them in their products.
“Certification is everything,” Kate said. “If it doesn’t have that, you’d have to ask the question as to where it actually comes from.”
Chris also sees luxury brands as having a responsibility to lead the way in sustainability, as they have the resources to research and develop new ideas. Rug designer Jennifer
Manners agreed and added, “People do tend to lead from the top. It’s our job to present it as a premium and as something that will trickle down.”
Have you found these ideas useful? Share your thoughts – and anything that stood out for you at Decorex Virtual – in the Comments.