Confessions of an interior designer

Inspiration from expert tips

Looking for a way to redecorate your home? A professional interior designer shares her tricks of the trade.

Bought an armchair that looks out of place? Having second thoughts about that hot pink bathroom wall? Decorating mistakes cost time and money, but how can you make sure they don’t happen?

We asked interior designer Eris Koutsoudakis of Meraki Design1, a member of the British institute of Interior Design (BIID), to share a little inside info to get you thinking like a pro.


I’ve got a very limited budget; what is it really worth spending money on? 

“It’s really worth buying that one statement piece, whether it’s a feature light or a designer sofa. These are the elements of a home that can always move with you and may even increase in value. Another clever way to use your budget is to buy inexpensive cabinets and cupboards, but treat yourself to some nice knobs and handles.”

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I want to add some colour to my home, but I’m worried about getting it wrong. What can I do?

Adding colours to your home

“Look in books, magazines or online to find interiors that inspire you, and work out which colours draw you in. Then, buy sample pots in the shades you like and paint colour swatches in different spots around the house. Remember, colours look different in shadow and light so, once you have narrowed down your selection, try your preferred colours in different areas.”

When you’re testing sample colours on the wall, one top tip is to paint rough-edged rather than clean-lined swatches, as these are easier to paint over when you’ve chosen your final colour.

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My bedroom needs a revamp; where do I start?

“First, experiment with the layout, as simply by moving the furniture you can create a fresh look. If you want to go further, make a mood board of things you like (you could use a pinboard or an online platform). Gathering together examples of your favourite finishes, furniture, colours and fabric makes it easier to decide on a look and a colour scheme that will work for you.

“If your budget is extremely tight, have a go at creating a new headboard for your bed (online tutorials can be very helpful). You’ll be amazed at what you can create with a piece of chipboard, fabric, foam padding and a staple gun!”

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My bathroom is small and dark; how can I make it look more spacious?

“Use reflective surfaces wherever you can. Consider creating a mirrored wall or using mirrored tiles to increase the space visually. Add some wall lights if possible or install hidden lighting beneath the basin unit or under the bath. This makes the furniture ‘float’ and helps to create the illusion of space.”

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How can anyone live in a designer home? Where do you put the clutter?

“The practical elements come first in any good interior design scheme. Well-considered space and good storage is paramount if you’re to keep a space neat and clean. If you’re renovating a room from scratch, make sure to include as much in-built storage as possible. If not, invest in some inexpensive storage boxes or drawers so there is a place for everything. Another good rule of thumb is to give away anything you don’t use.”

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Is it really worth spending money on proper curtains when there are lots of cheap alternatives available?

It depends on the room. Bedrooms benefit greatly from full blackout curtains and, if you have single glazed windows, insulated curtains can really help with heat efficiency. Another option is to use blackout roller blinds in the same colour as your wall, so they disappear when they are rolled up, and then to use cheaper curtains to dress the window. The combination of the two can give a visual result similar to expensive bespoke curtains.

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We have trailing cables from TVs and gadgets all over the house. What can we do about it?

“If you’re getting an electrician in to rewire, then proper planning is paramount. Think about what you will be putting into a room and if you will need extra sockets for lamps, laptops or phone chargers. If your budget doesn’t allow for complete rewiring, try to run cables along the periphery of the room, so they won’t be visible. Use cable covers or trunking, readily available from DIY stores, to make sure any cables are safely tucked way.”

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I’m confused by all the lighting options available. How can I get it right?

“Use light that works with the different activities in a room – so bright ‘task’ lighting for a kitchen worktop and softer ‘ambient’ lights for a living room. Remember, shadows are just as important as light to create atmosphere in a home. Install dimmer switches so you can control the light at different times of the day and focus on highlighting individual areas versus lighting up the whole space.”

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What’s your one best piece of advice?

“Proper planning is the most important thing with any interior design job, especially with a renovation. Plan everything way in advance, use a spreadsheet to calculate all your costs and add a 10% contingency fund on top for any extras you might have forgotten.”

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Is it worth employing an interior designer? Won’t it break the bank?

“When hiring any professional, you’re going to spend a bit more initially but investing in a specialist can save you time and money in the long run. Some interior designers work on fixed fees and can sometimes pass on some of their trade discounts. An interior designer can also help you work out a scheme and avoid mistakes that could cost you a lot down the line.”

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Funding your design project

One way to finance larger home improvements is by borrowing against your home2. Find out about our mortgage options – or, if you already have a mortgage with us, you can apply to borrow more. Alternatively, consider a home improvement loan.

Before any work begins, make sure you have the right cover in place. You can protect your home and what’s in it with buildings and contents insurance.

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