10 Expert Interior Design Hacks

27/05/2016 15:57 | Updated 01 June 2016

We asked you to let our interior design expert Anna Tobin help solve your decorating dilemmas. She’s picked out ten of the most challenging and come up with some thought-provoking solutions...

Q. Do you think that sliding mirror doors would be okay for a tiny hallway?Claire Grossman 

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A. Mirrored doors, either used as internal doors between rooms or on a coat or broom cupboard are perfect for a small hallway as they will make the space feel much deeper than it actually is and help to bounce light around, making it appear brighter too.

As you want to avoid having a door open into someone’s face in such a small space, sliding doors do seem like the most sensible option and they can be very effective. Just make sure that you invest in a good quality sliding system. The cheapest models have a tendency to stick and jam easily or to come off their runners. To avoid these pitfalls buy from a reputable company and have them installed by a professional.


Q. How can I have a bright and modern bedroom that is still cosy? Emily Ashton

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A. People often assume that contemporary styling can’t feel cosy, but it’s actually very easy to warm up a modern bedroom, even if it’s filled with the most avant-garde, minimalist furniture and decorated using a stark, light palette. The simplest and most effective way to do this is by adding texture. Opt for a timeless, fluffy sheepskin pelt on the floor where you step into and out of bed. Dress the bed symmetrically with oversized knitted or Mongolian lambswool cushions and place a soft mohair or cashmere throw across the foot. If there is space, add an egg-shaped armchair that just asks to be curled up in with a good book. Providing your room is suitably ventilated, you may even be able to fit in one of the new bioethanol fireplaces, which can be installed in the middle of a room and don’t require a flue. There is nothing cosier than a real flame fire!


Q. What small, cost effective things can I do to inject some character into a new build flat? Grace Meltzer

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A. A new build property can feel a little clinical when you first move in, but you don’t need to spend a fortune to make it feel like home. Try to find one piece of furniture for each room that is a little bit different and not from a chain store. Little independent homeware boutiques are good for finding pieces that you wouldn’t see elsewhere. Or, perhaps invest in an antique coffee table, up-cycle a sideboard or have a sofa from a charity furniture store reupholstered in a funky fabric. You could even make bedside tables out of a pile of books. Next, choose a few lovely prints for the walls; or, if you’re artistic, buy some blank canvases and make your own. Then set about choosing a mix of accessories - throws, scatter cushions, rugs, crockery and table linen. Just make sure you purchase them from a variety of different places so that you build up your very own individual look.


How can you make sure you have a home for everything, and no clutter? Cynthia Bors

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First of all, you have to work out what items you don’t have a place for and then try and find a place for them. Walk around your home and note the places where the clutter is building up. The area just inside the front door often attracts mess. You may never be able to train the owners to put their shoes away in their wardrobes every day, but if you place an attractive basket with a lid by the front door, you should find that they can be taught to deposit them here at least. A trunk could be placed here too for tennis rackets, footballs and school bags.

Paperwork is something else that tends to build up in messy piles on kitchen tables or desks. So that it can’t be seen, buy an attractive box to store it all in, until you get around to filing it away.

If you have children, you’ll probably find that there are toys all over your home. Baskets are again great for the large toys such as dolls and cars. Then invest in lots of smaller stacking boxes for the little items such as Lego and arts and crafts materials. Once you know which items lack a home, it’s much easier to find one for them.


Q. How can I tart my house up to put it on the market without spending too much money or making too much mess? Alix Johnson

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A. You really don’t need to go for a full refurb. You do need to tidy up and clean your house from top to bottom. Get rid of the stains in the toilet bowl, the grimy finger prints on the banisters and take the kids’ stickers off the windows. Paint over any marks on the walls and fill in any obvious cracks. These little tasks won’t take long or cost you much, but they will make the house feel well cared for.

If you don't have a place for everything consider putting stuff that you don't use very often into storage. You don’t want potential buyers to feel that they wouldn't have enough room for their possessions either.

If one of the bedrooms is used for another purpose, such as a gym or study, think about buying a cheap bed to put in there so that potential buyers can visualise it as a bedroom.

Invest in some nice scented candles too, to give the place an inviting perfume; and, when showing someone around, make sure that there are vases of fresh flowers in all the main rooms to provide that welcoming, lived-in feel.


Q. What’s the best way to lighten a dark flat without painting everything white? Julian Norris

A. You don’t need to paint the whole place white, but there is no getting away from it though, the lighter the colour palette the lighter the whole place will feel. Instead of white, consider tones of baby blue, creamy yellow, light green or dusky rose. Keep all your furniture and soft furnishings to a light shade too.

A large mirror opposite the main window in each room will also help to bounce light around, as will all reflective surfaces. So, when choosing anything from taps to kitchen units think about going for a gloss as opposed to a matt finish. And, instead of solid wood internal doors, consider ones with glass panels to introduce light further in to the apartment.

Q. I can't afford to carpet my home at the moment but hate the vinyl tiles downstairs. How can I make them look 'warmer' and more stylish? Jenny Mace

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A. Rugs and runners are your solution. You’ll be surprised how cheap these can be too. A soft sheepskin pelt costs from £30 and the great thing about these on-trend accessories is that most can be hand washed; after letting them dry naturally in the sun you brush them with a pet-hair brush and they come up looking as good as new.

Unfurl a soft, flat-weave runner across your hallway, which can be found for just a few pounds in most homeware chainstores; and, invest in a slightly more expensive thick pile rug for your lounge and a hardwearing jute rug for your kitchen. Even large rugs can be found for under £100, they may only last a couple of years, but maybe by then you will be ready to buy carpet.

 Q. I'm just moving into a new home and it's totally covered in Anagylpta style wallpaper. I want it all ripping off but can't afford new yet. Any ideas on how to make it look better and more me? Lindsay Harris

A. Around since 1887, Anagylpta is one of the longest lived wallpaper brands. It’s iconic, raised, textured paper is designed to be painted over. In fact, its retro feel makes it quite fashionable right now. Whilst you thought you had to rip it off to bring your new home up to date, you probably just need to give it all a lick of paint to rock vintage chic. Check out the Anagylpta website for inspiration. For a very modern feel paint small areas, such as the hallway, in a deep inky blue and for contrast paint the woodwork white. Opt for soft rosey pinks or creamy whites in larger rooms.

Q. When decorating is it better to go neutral or not! If planning to move in a couple of years? Felicity Abbott


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A. If you’re planning on selling in a few years, it is best to stick to a neutral base for your flooring, walls and fixtures and fittings. You can go as bold and bright as you like, however, with everything that you’d take with you when you move. Your kitchen units might be white, for example, but your kitchen table, chairs, crockery and accessories can be a rainbow of colours. In your living room, there is nothing stopping you going for a fuchsia pink sofa draped with an orange throw and yellow pillows and an equally vibrant rug and curtains. Jazz up the bathroom with brightly patterned towels and fill your bedroom with colourful bedlinen and window dressings. Be as creative as you like with the furnishings and accessories, just stick to a plain background.


What are the best colours to feature in a dark, small kitchen?

Samantha Mann

A compact kitchen that is not blessed with a lot of natural light, needs to be made to feel as spacious and bright as possible. To do this you need to employ several optical illusions. Firstly, opt for white or cream units and for a similar hue for the walls and floor. Light colours will visually push the walls out and make the space feel instantly larger. Choose gloss over matt kitchen units and go for handleless unit fronts. Anything with a sheen will help to bounce what light there is further into the room and you want to avoid handles if you can because they stick out and take up space. Choose a mirrored splashback to give the room more depth and opt for reflective accessories such as a stainless steel kettle and saucepans. In this situation every little bit helps!

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