Friday, March 26, 2010

Don't move, improve

If you're the type of person who likes to attend the Ideal Home Show and daydream, you'll enjoy this. From today's Property Plus in the Irish Independent.

WITH a perceptible shift in the weather, minds turn to spring cleaning and airing out our living spaces. A complete home makeover might be out of the question but it’s amazing the transformation that can be achieved by a good paint job.

This fresh direction in interior design is not simply a case of lashing a tin of magnolia onto the walls. Denise O’Connor and Catherine Crowe of Optimise Design have created some stunning effects with paint in the showhouse they designed for the upcoming Spring Ideal Home Show in the RDS.

“Unusual finishes can give a huge injection of character to a room,” says O’Connor.
“In the family bathroom of the showroom, we have painted stripes up the wall which carry on across the ceilings. People normally don’t know what to do with ceilings and leave them blank, but we are trying to have fun with them.”

To this end, O’Connor and Crowe have also painted the floorboards of the children’s room in different stripes of colour with a hardwearing and easy-to-wash paint from the Crown collection. “The are launching a new colour palette at the show and they also have a lovely range of stencils. We have a gentleman’s room with stenciled antlers on the wall – a humourous take on the old trophy room – and the great thing is, you can paint over everything if you hate it!”

The new-style paint effects – no naff spongewashing here, thank you – can also lend sophistication to a room. The showhouse features some rooms which have been painted out in all one colour, walls, ceiling and skirting boards included.

“It can make a small space seem bigger,” says O’Connor. “We would often use this technique in a very small bathroom under the stairs. We have completely painted the showhouse cloakroom in a wonderful burgundy colour and there are burgundy high-gloss fitted closets from Sliderobes to match. It has a real wow factor.”

Both O’Connor and Crowe are trained architects and offer an indepth consultation service in people’s homes which uses their complementary fields of expertise in architecture and interior design. After a four-hour consultation, they come up with a series of 3D drawings of how a client can ring the changes in their living space.

That same combination of disciplines is evidenced in the Ideal Home showhouse, a timber-framed structure assembled especially for the event. They have added architectural touches like a bridge extending between the bedrooms over the double-height entrance hall. A standalone dividing wall separates the living and dining spaces, but a tunnel fireplace in the wall also connects the two areas.

“It is a basic two-storey dormer,” says Crowe, “But the architectural features and use of lighting, colour, feature walls and finishes give it individuality.”

O’Connor points out that just as she and Crowe have had to rethink their business, “homeowners are also having to be inventive”. She says: “During the boom, people decorated with an eye to selling up. Now they are staying put and thinking about what design they want, rather than doing it for a prospective buyer.”

The result is a much more homely approach to interior design, and a bolder use of colour. The neutrals palette was designed to appeal to the masses. “Now people want to put their own stamp on their homes,” says Crowe, “They want to do something special with the place they spend so much time in.”

Austere luxe, taupes and beiges are replaced by bold statements like the customised rugs from Irish company Rug Art which she and O’Connor chose for the showhouse.

“That craft look has become important,” says O’Connor, “Some people are getting into making their own curtains or using what they already have, getting old pieces of furniture resprayed. It’s about giving what you have a new lease of life.”

Sonia Harris, PR for the Ideal Home Show, says that home and hearth approach reflects the overall theme of next month’s showcase. “We are building on the theme, ‘Improve, Don’t Move’,” she says.

“One of our major features, along with the showhouse, will be the Dulux free advice centre. People are invited to bring along a picture of a room they would like some help with and our experts might be able to assess how they can reinvigorate the space.”
• The Spring Ideal Home Show takes place from April 16 to 18, 2010 at the RDS – see for more information.
• Optimise Design can be contacted at 01 260 8788 or see

Optimise Design’s top cost-effective design solutions for your home:
• For narrow hallways try covering one area of wall with floor to ceiling mirrors for a dramatic but inexpensive finish. Mirrors also make an inexpensive splashback in a kitchen.
• Need a new sofa or chair on a tight budget? Try reupholstering your existing suite - upholsters will also replace cushions and filling. If your budget is next to nonexistent why not have a go yourself, using stretchy fabric and a staple gun.
• For a complete transformation think about painting your woodwork in a colour other than traditional white or cream. Warm greys and stony shades work particularly well.
• If you have a piece of furniture that you love but isn’t quite working in your room don’t rush to get rid of it. Instead consider spray painting it for a complete transformation.
• Customise a room by using stencils – Crown has teamed up with the Stencil Library to offer a wonderful range of contemporary stencils that create impact in any room.

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