Perhaps it’s how empty the house looks without the Christmas decorations, or lack of space thanks to all the goodie that Santa brought, but there’s something about January that makes us want to tackle the neglected nooks, unloved rooms and cluttered spaces. Here are six fresh ideas to get your house in order for 2015.
Clear out clutter
The quickest, cheapest and easiest thing you can do to improve your home is to get rid of the clutter. Jo Cooke, owner of Tapioca Tidy and co-director of Hoarding Disorders UK, has helped clear many a home and she accepts that clearing out, while cathartic, can be daunting.
“Start with a small area like a drawer and be methodical. If you are feeling nervous start with the bathroom as a warm up. Then tackle the least intimate areas of the home, but the most visible; hallways full of junk post, stray gloves, broken brollies and muddy wellies.
Kitchens are next. If you haven’t looked at a cookbook or used that melon-baller, chicken brick or fish kettle in the last 2-3 years, the reality is you never will. If in doubt, throw it out.”
When you’re clearing out clutter, ask yourself “Does this enhance my life in anyway? When did I last use it? Would I miss it? Would I replace it?”
Paperwork is the biggest source of clutter and research reveals that 80% of what we file is never looked at again. Switch to paperless billing and you’ll dramatically reduce the amount of paper entering your home.
Make an entrance
Messy hallway? Is there any other kind? Your entrance is the most high-traffic area of the home, with muddy boots, dogs, children and bicycles all passing through it. Is it any wonder that it can quickly become a dumping ground for gloves, post, keys and shoes, and a magnet for dirt on the walls and mud on the floor.
“Hallways can be one of the most difficult areas of the home to keep clear and clutter-free, often being small, narrow spaces, so it’s important to use the space carefully to make the best of every available nook and cranny,” explains Clotilde Passalacqua, Interior Design Leader for IKEA UK.
Her advice? “Instead of an open shoe rack, use a shoe cabinet (try Ikea’s Hemnes, £80, www.ikea.com) to tidy away shoes, the space will look tidier – and often bigger.” Bench seats that you can hide shoes inside are also handy in hallways.
For small spaces, Habitat’s Jux coatstand (on offer at £120 until 31 January, www.habitat.co.uk) combines coat hooks, a vanity mirror and a key shelf, while Garden Trading’s Chedworth wall unit (£100, www.gardentrading.co.uk) with hooks is a compact way to store hats, gloves and coats, in one.
If you want a smart look, a console table with a drawer to hideaway gloves and post such as Furniture Village’s Nexus console (£399, www.furniturevillage.co.uk) or Habitat’s Maconie table (£395) are modern and compact.
To create a welcoming ambience, paint the walls with a hard-wearing, wipe-clean paint, such as Dulux’s washable Endurance+ Matt range which is 20 times tougher than regular paint, add pictures to give some personality, and use a scented candle to mask any unwanted wet dog or muddy boot odours.
No one has enough storage, no matter how big your space. But there are ways of storing things more smartly – is there space under the bed for roll-out drawers? Room above your wardrobe for stacking boxes? Could you create built in shelves that use the full height of your room, even potentially using the dead-space above the door? Or try the divide and conquer approach – use shelving like a wall to split a room or create a screen, you double the number of living areas and get more storage.
Empatika specialise in creating contemporary fitted storage furniture to make the most of your space and have recently partnered with interior designer and personal organiser Helen Sanderson to help you de-clutter and re-organise your space. Hammonds furniture (www.hammonds-uk.com) also specialise in bespoke storage and cupboards – something that most new homes are greatly lacking in.
The website aplaceforeverything.com has every manner of storage you could want. If your children’s toys are taking over your house, the Great Little Trading Company does brilliant storage for children (www.gltc.co.uk).
“For home-offices, where space is tight, consider transforming a built-in double cupboard into a mini study-area with an integral desk, drawer below and book shelving above, all of which can be closed away at the end of the day,” advises interior designer Julia Kendall. Sharps can also create fitted office spaces under stairs, or in small alcoves, from £1,500 (www.sharps.co.uk).
Compact with an impact / Clever furniture
British homes are the smallest in Europe at 76 square metres on average – and they are shrinking, new homes are now half the size that they were in the 1920s. But small spaces don’t need to feel busy and crowded.
One of the best ways to make a space appear bigger is to expose as much of the floor space as possible – look for cabinets or drawers on legs (such as the Nornas cabinet from Ikea, £110) and look for hidden storage under the sofa.
Compact, dual purpose furniture is on the rise as we adapt to smaller living spaces. Drop down desks and tables, slim-line consoles with added storage, sofas and beds with secret built-in storage (Sofa.com’s Fleetwood three-seat sofabed with storage, £630, is a brilliant example), even stacking chairs and extendable tables make a huge difference to the amount of living space you’ll have.
Tidy shelf, tidy mind
Have you ever noticed that shelves in magazines are usually empty, except for the odd artfully placed vase or picture frame? Burgeoning bookshelves look unsightly, but for most of us, they are the higgledy-piggledy reality.
“There is something very comforting and homely about a book collection. It not only says a great deal about the homeowners, but is both inviting and has an aesthetic depth difficult to achieve with any other ornamentation,” says interior designer Julia Kendall.
“But books can often look untidy and investing in a bespoke-built solution, taking into account the quantity and sizes of the books (with a little extra space for future additions) is a sensible approach. For a really minimal, smart finish, consider a sliding door to disguise any clutter.”
Try Hammonds Furniture for a bespoke solution from £2,500.
Display your books or objects to best effect by grouping collections of objects, such as vases or pictures, or arrange your books in visually interesting ways – try organising them by the colour of spine, or shape and size, or try stacking some books to create different shapes.
“Shelving is ideal for utilising otherwise redundant wall space close to the ceiling and above doorways and can help to make a room feel taller as a result,” adds Kendall.
You needn’t despair at dark spaces and gloomy rooms. Start by using some of the latest light-reflecting paints to “bounce” more light around the room – try the Dulux Light and Space range, which contains light-reflective particles and comes in a palette of airy, bright shades. To lighten a dark room choose bright colours, not – as you might instinctively think – light shades that will not get enough natural light and will appear cold and drab. Think warm yellows, blush pinks, corals and terracotta shades.
Miranda Knight, colour consultant for Valspar paint (www.valsparpaint.co.uk) shares her top tips for enhancing a dark space, “the lighter the ceiling colour, the brighter and bigger the whole room will feel, so opt for white. Similarly a white or neutral shade nearest the floor (skirting boards or even floor paint) will extend the floor space as much as possible. Choose a mid-sheen or silk paint to reflect the most light around the room. Likewise pale and shiny floor and furnishings will increase the overall sense of light and space.”
Use lighting too – overhead lighting is rarely sufficient to light a space effectively so consider a combination of accent lights that cast light onto one area of the room, such as a table light, spot light or picture light, and floor and desk lights, known as task lighting, as well as, potentially using wall lights.
“The perfect lighting scheme can make all the difference in creating a welcoming atmosphere,” says Chris Jordan of lighting specialist Christopher Wray (www.christopherwray.com). “Choose a wall-mounted uplighter to cast a soft diffused light against the wall and ceiling. A floor lamp will brighten up dark corners – consider investing in a light with a statement shade or detailing so that it doubles up as a piece of decorative art as well as being functional.”
The Lex floor lamp from BHS (£52 in the sale, www.bhs.co.uk) is great high street example of a decorative and architectural floor light, while a Decanter glass table lamp makes a chic addition to any sideboard.
To brighten in an instant, Ikea’s Ribba picture light (£17) simply clip onto picture frames, while the Janso Clamp spotlight (£10) clips onto anything you want to attach it to, even the stem of a house plant.
This article appeared in the Daily Mail on 16 January 2015.