Why did you decide to use an interior designer

Although I have lots of ideas in my head, I have found that having an interior designer lending a guiding hand makes a big difference in many ways. Firstly, when you’re spending a lot of money you want to be sure none of it’s wasted. Secondly, an interior designer has an eye for detail that is often the difference between an ordinary room and one that stands out, or spots where there is one small element that would spoil the whole if it was left.

Nor is it the case that you have to start with an empty room! A good interior designer will work with what you want to keep and suggest ways of building the new scheme around it.

How did you find and choose an interior designer

I’ve always been a fan of the Laura Ashley, in fact I’ve shopped there for 25 years, before they came to Belfast. Having a local branch makes a big difference and it was there that I met Cher when she started, fresh out of University. I did look at other companies and interior design services but I liked the Laura Ashley colours and combinations which allow you to be an individual, even though it’s a large company.

Describe which rooms you have done

We’ve been in this circa1934 double bay villa for 19 years and have worked on it at various times. It had been student accommodation before we bought it and there were a lot of early structural repairs needed, as well as new wiring, heating and hot water systems. We also built a rear extension to give a better kitchen, sun room, dining room and utility and we re-modelled upstairs. We then became busy with family and now that they are mostly independent, felt we wanted to do some updating. Four years ago we did our bedroom and en suite and the dining room and then tackled the drawing room two years later.

After the initial consultation with Cher we received a beautifully packaged mood board with examples of everything we had chosen, together with the individual prices. This enabled us to choose what to do where and when, which is very helpful when you are working to a budget.

Starting with the main bedroom, I found that Cher’s ideas, like matching the trimmings on the blinds in the en suite with the bedroom and noticing that the height of the existing headboard would be out of place, are the difference between a professional and an amateur – and right and wrong!

The dining room curtains I saw in Laura Ashley and fell in love with! They’re quite dramatic but ideal for this room, and because it is open plan through to the kitchen, we carried the red colour through to there to link the two.

The drawing room was quite a challenge because of the big bay window. The previous curtain arrangement cut out quite a lot of light and the change in the whole room as a result of the increase in daylight is very marked. For this room I was particularly grateful to be able to use the resources of a large company, which enabled us to have a cream pole with finials to match especially made and expertly fitted. Given the difficulty of the job, yes, there were hitches, but these were put right immediately and I really appreciated someone else taking responsibility for taking accurate measurements and hanging them correctly; the curtain service is wonderful!

Now it’s finished

It all works together and nothing stands out because it is either out of place or not linked to the rest in terms of colour, design, shape and arrangement.

Cher is very good at understanding what people want and like, interpreting ideas rather than dictating. She sourced lots of things and generally gave me confidence. I also found that it wasn’t a case of clearing everything out of the room and starting with a blank sheet, she accepted and worked with items we wanted to keep, such as chairs, but at the same time made minor alterations to them so that they blend with the rest of the room.

We’re now working on the family bathroom and next up is the living room – rugs, curtains, walls, but once again keeping the furniture which came from Laura Ashley originally. This room has a bay window like the drawing room and the transformation there is so good I’d like to repeat it here.

Advice to others

Although Laura Ashley have a catalogue which is very comprehensive, Cher sourced items that weren’t in it but which were perfect for the scheme. That I think is another misapprehension, you don’t have to have everything from the Company, the most important feature is that the scheme works and you are happy with it.

Always remember that you can say if you don’t like something. An interior designer should advise and above all guide, not lay down rules about what you should or shouldn’t have and that is an aspect of Cher’s approach I particularly appreciated. She is very good at working existing fixtures and fittings in.

Another mistake is to think such a service is bound to be expensive, on the contrary! I was able to take advantage of sales and discounts, yet get exactly what I wanted.

I think it’s very true to say that the proof of the pudding is in the eating which is why, with Cher’s guidance, I’m slowly working my way through the house!

Many thanks to Paula, the homeowner, who lives in County Antrim.

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