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Insider Tips From an Interior Designer

The home is an intrinsic part of what makes us who we are. It can be a window into our likes and dislikes, our personalities, and an opportunity to let our individuality shine.

There are so many beautiful pieces of furniture available to buy these days, but even the most wonderful items could look out of place if put in the incorrect room environment. Whilst room décor ultimately comes down to personal taste, we thought a little guidance would always be a welcome addition to anyone thinking of a room revamp.

We had a sit down with experienced interior designer Claire Mallinson to get some insider tips and advice:

So, Claire, how long have you been working as an interior designer?

I have been involved in the world of interior design for nearly 35 years. I started doing a Surface Pattern qualification at Art school. This was an absolutely fantastic base to start from. After all, pattern covers everything! From gift cards to furniture and so much more in between.

I had a couple of different roles after Art school – always within the design field, and then 21 years ago I joined the team at CR Interiors. My job involved going to a customer’s house and doing home consultations. This would then lead to doing a full measuring service, advice, and helped them along the whole home decoration journey. Our tagline was that we would be there from “consultation to installation”. 

I have recently moved on from CR Interiors and am excited to see what life has in store for me next. 

Let’s start with if you could give 5 essential tips for decorating a home, what would they be?
  1. Have a starting point and build from that. Look at what you are keeping – it can inspire everything. This could be an antique rug, piece of artwork, favourite furniture etc.
  2. Research! See what’s out there – Pinterest, magazines, shops, social media etc. This helps you get a good idea of what you want and what you don’t want. Sometimes mood boards are a good thing to try.
  3. What is the main feature? Is there furniture you want to have as the main focus? Generally, it is the biggest investment, and so you can work from that.
  4. Feature papers are often a good starting point – and everything else can follow. If you have a bold feature wallpaper, everything else can be kept simple with distinct accents and accessories bringing it all together.
  5. Don’t forget your finishing touches – fantastic accessories bring a room to life.
Glenmore Solway Check Fireside Chair Moon Designer Fabric
Hsl 590x400 Burrows Classic 3 Seater Sofa Blake Blush
What colours do your clients tend to favour?

If I could be given £1 for every time I was asked for a neutral colour (cream, beige, taupe, greys), I would hang up my interior design hat and be living in the Bahamas! But there’s a reason they’re popular – they stand the test of time and are a great base for building on.

What you want to remember though is that after those colours are used in a room, you then want to add the colours and patterns to bring the room to life.

What is wonderful with interior design is that it tends to follow fashion in its trends and so there are lots of fabulous colours making a real comeback.

To name just a few:

Floral fabrics are everywhere – especially on furniture

Gold and brass for accessories/accents

Blush pink is popping up all over the place. A wonderful colour combination with blush pink is greens (emerald/leafy/forest) 

Lilac is back!


Mustard colours – ochre mustard is very popular.

Also, one that a lot of the big design companies are doing is a clever mix of patterns – if you are bold and brave with the combinations, they can be an absolute knockout. 

Where do you find inspiration when looking to decorate a home?

Fashion is always a good place to start looking for inspiration. Fashion in the clothes sphere and the interior design sphere are intrinsically linked, and one will often follow the other.

Have a browse through magazines, and have a wander around the high street – they’re the traditionally reliable sources, and have always worked. A more recent one is Pinterest; what an absolute gem of a website that is – it opens up the whole globe to you and gives you a wealth of different possibilities. 

Make sure you have a thorough look through everything so that you get a good idea of what you want – you might see a hundred pictures of a room setting before one resonates with you. It’s worth the time and effort. 

Remember you don’t have to go with the “trendy” look – make sure it’s something that you personally like and you are happy with. You’ve got plenty of years to enjoy it!

Fireside Chair Ochre Mustard Glenmore
Hsl 590x400 Carnaby Chair Serrin Silver
What is the first part of a room that you focus on?

A good rule of thumb would be to ask a customer what was staying put and then build around that. Generally, you’d find it would be whatever was the most expensive part of the room, and that would often mean the furniture!

Sometimes customers wanted a clean slate with the room contents, but they might have a special painting or rug they were keeping for sentimental reasons and you could work from that. 

Personally, one of my favourite aspects to consider is the lighting in a room. This is especially important when dealing with natural lighting from windows. Look at where the light comes in – it can really make the space come to life.

A window can be a feature all by itself – it doesn’t necessarily need a lot of dressing, and you don’t want to clutter it up too much and take away from its natural beauty. 

What is your favourite style trend?

Firstly, in my home, I love the Scandinavian, more simplistic and minimalistic look. It suits my personality and way of decorating my own space.

Another absolute favourite of mine is playing with the retro style – especially mixing old and new. They might be things that you wouldn’t expect to work, but with the correct approach, you find a way to make it just right.

However, the wonderful thing about my job is that I don’t have to limit myself with liking just one style – there are so many that I love to explore and bring to life for others. It might not necessarily be one I’d have in my own home, but I can certainly appreciate them, and help guide others to make them work in their spaces. 

Do you welcome client involvement or do you prefer clients to be hands-off?

I want the client to be involved as much as humanly possible! They are the ones who live in the home! We would always listen to them and find solutions for what they want. I prided myself on the fact that I would listen to the customer throughout the entire journey so that when we got to the end, they could say it was their own vision.

What do you find most challenging about designing a home?

Sometimes a client can be a bit of a challenge. We’ve got the experience now, we’ve got the accessibility of all the things we need, but we just want to be sure the client is happy, and so we need to keep listening to them, and making sure that they are kept up to date all the way.

Working to budgets can sometimes be a challenge too – some items that people want could be more expensive than their purses can stretch. There can be some amazing big ideas, but then the cost sadly isn’t something they can afford. 

Room Setting Aysgarth Blue Suite
How do you decide which projects are a good fit for you?

There have, very rarely, been times where something has become such a big job that it turns into an architectural job. These instances are very far and few between though, because when I was at CR Interiors, we evolved as a company and moved forwards onto so many more things than our original “soft furnishings” company and so we could offer a pretty varied service package. 

If I think back over my 33-year career, there has only been 2 customers I can think of where I decided we just weren’t a good match.

Morris Designer Fabric Strawberry Thief Fireside Chair
How long do your projects usually take?

How long’s a piece of string? It really can vary – occasionally some people can take over a year. To be honest, this is usually if the client doesn’t really know what they want, and so it’s an ongoing process of going back and forth with ideas until they decide on what’s right for them. The customers are the ones living in the space, and so we want it to be a home they’ll love.

For the most part though, our structure usually would be at around 2 months from start to finish wherever possible.

Which project have you been most proud of and why?

 That’s a very tricky question, I’ve done so many different projects along the way. There isn’t just one client I can think of, as they were all special. 

I just loved having someone come in with no idea of what they wanted, and then staying with them through to the finish where they were thrilled with their new look homes. The satisfaction that journey brings is unlike anything else. I love it. 

Claire was recently heavily involved in styling our beautiful new photo shoot, including chairs and sofas available in our new designer fabrics. To read more about these, please click here.

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