Mad About The House - Monday Inspiration: Pushing your creative boundaries

Posted on 29 March, 2021

Written by Kate Watson-Smyth for Mad About The House

Right we’re really going for it this week. We’ve had lots of pale neutrals and calming colours making sure you choose the shades that are really right for you but this week we’re going to push some envelopes. Starting off with this new wallpaper…


catitude wallpaper by divine savages

Now, this is as much about working out what you might like to take from an image and understanding that you don’t have to take on board the full design lock stock and barrel – hold that thought you’re going to need it in a minute.

But sticking with this wallpaper – a new launch from the talented pair behind Divine Savages. The thing about wallpaper is that it can look great in detail and close up and when you move back it can lose definition or the pretty pattern you liked so much becomes blurry or makes your eyes wobble. That’s why it’s so hard to chose the right one as it has to work from near and far and that’s hard to pull off.

cat-titude green envy the new wallpaper from divine savages

This however, while close up reveals a slightly malevolent cat, works from a distance thanks to the metallic gold martini glasses which catch the light and provide structure to the pattern. It’s a big bold choice but, as these images show, it could look really stunning. If you’re afraid of a big space think about the downstairs loo or perhaps the wall behind the bed – as shown where so you won’t see it when you’re lying down. As long as the skirting boards and woodwork round the rest of the room match a feature wall won’t look out of place.

This means, of course, you could go either black or gold for the woodwork and ceiling and leave the other walls paler if you fancied. So, for example, if you wanted a neutral pink on the other walls – by which I mean barely blush/mushroom rather than actual pink – you could have a black and white striped headboard or a pink one to match the other walls and you are still bringing the drama but knocking it back a little. Would you?

Gubi beetle chair image by Hanna Sanglar

Next up, hold on because this is going to get wild before it gets calmer again. A bit like the world atm…. Above you just get a hint of the dining room in this publicity shot for Gubi chairs (shot by Hanna Sanglar). Firstly you can see how the dark hallway, with the walls, wood and ceiling all painted in green, serve to draw the eye to the room beyond. And then it’s all about the papered ceiling and the contrasting red and pink woodwork. And it’s easy to see how you could tone this down for your own spaces: lose the red or lighten the pink, or replace both with the green of the room next door.

It’s about properly taking inspiration from a space, which doesn’t just mean reproducing it, but looking at what you think might work in your own home and taking the parts that please you and ignoring the rest.

Pattern inspiration by the house of hackney

Now remember I said it was going to get wild… worrabout this by, of course, The House of Hackney. Yes it’s a lot, but break it down a little. It’s all the same pattern just in different colours. And suddenly I quite like the idea of matching the ceiling wallpaper to the carpet below. And, in my case, I might strip out all the rest of the pattern and have plain walls and woodwork – one colour only – and a matching canopy (or, let’s be realistic – assuming you don’t all sleep in a four poster than needs a canopy – we can’t all be Anne Boleyn.

I know some of these will be controversial but it’s good to look at things we think we will hate and decide if, actually, there are parts we quite like. That’s probably a metaphor for life right there.

wallpaper Quatrefoil Desk: Very Well Red All Paint and Paper Library image by @paulraeside; styling @claudbry

Anyway, we’re coming down the other side of the rollercoaster now. This office by Paint and Paper Library is dark (already quite difficult for some) but just look how that red desk makes it sing. The picture rail is Plimsoll, the wall is papered in Quatrefoil also Plimsoll, with Blue Blood above while the desk is Very Well Red. And again, you don’t have to paint your desk but consider a fabulous lamp base or shade and also image how much less fabulous this would be with white woodwork and ceiling.

painted orla kiely floor by Emma Colclough from @ahouseonashbank

And finally, I love this painted floor by graphic designer Emma Colclough. I’m showing you the empty room above as she said she was so proud of it she didn’t want to put the bed back in but her husband objected! And this is a perfect example of taking one element as the walls are plain and pale, the skirting board acts as a sort of picture frame to the floor and the ceiling links to the same colour in the flowers.

Below is her first attempt, a slightly simpler version which is also very pretty and more subtle. Although don’t forget the aforementioned bed in the room above, which will hide a lot of the pattern. If your boards are in reasonable nick (flat and even) and you don’t want to have a rug then this works really well. I’m in the process of doing up my office and pondering commissioning Emma to paint my floor although clearly it will have to wait until we are post-pandemic.

painted orla kiely floor by Emma Cooper from @ahouseonashbank

In case you wanted to try something similar I asked Emma how she did it. She said she plays around with colour and scale so it’s a not a direct copy. She also shared her tips: “Start with as smooth a surface as possible. We use bare wood floorboards, mid-range quality (Valspar) matt emulsion and then finish with 3 coats of Ronseal Diamond Hard floor varnish in satin finish. Obviously, we’re mindful of not doing anything that might damage them, so no shoes or dragging furniture around them, but the durability seems to be amazing.”

So what do you think? Boundaries pushed or have you retreated to the back of the room with an all white colour card and a Valium?

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