Interior designer tips to refresh your home....the eco-friendly way

If your home is looking lacklustre, and you don't have the budget for a major revamp, take heart. Interior designers have tips that are easy to follow, don't cost much and which definitely do make a difference, whether you live in a bedsit or a large house.

Faux bougainvillea from

Silk flowers, such as this lovely faux bougainvillea centrepiece from Oka, are increasingly considered an eco-friendly alternative to imported fresh flowers. The company says: 'When you compare the environmental impact of fresh flowers compared with a faux arrangement over a year - including the greenhousing, watering, transportation, and packaging, the latter has a much smaller carbon footprint than fresh flowers. And that is only the first year. Silk flowers will stay fresh looking for many years. We use local materials and support skilled local craftspeople who make the flowers.'


Everyone's home will look better if they de-clutter, says Somerset-based interior designer Diana Blanchard. 'We designers say it until we are blue in the face, and long before Marie Kondo hit our consciousness, but just get rid of stuff. People are always reluctant to throw things out, by which we mean them to the recycling centre or charity shop.
'Half of the stuff we have in our homes, we won't miss. Yet we hang on to those piles of magazines and newspapers in the mistaken belief that we'll find time to read them one day. We leave our kitchen counters covered with bits of paper, pointless jars, cups, bottles... doodles done by the kids. For heaven's sake, if you want a more appealing home, the first thing to do is to clear your surfaces and your rooms will look a million times better immediately.'  
Every couple of years, paint your walls - and there is no shortage of eco paints to choose from (Earthborn Paints, Nutshell, Auro, Eico Paints, Little Greene, Harris & Thompson, New Life Paints, Dulux Low VOC). London contemporary interior designer Paul Warren says walls get dirty with fingerprints so need to be repainted at fairly regular intervals. 
And he urges that woodwork is painted the same colour as walls. Many people think window frames and skirting boards should be painted white, but most interior designers will shudder at the thought unless the walls are white too. 'If you walls are painted taupe, your window frames and skirting boards and bookshelves should be in the same shade but in gloss or eggshell paint. That way they do not stand out like a sore thumb,' says Warren.
Painting a room is an relatively easy way to update a tired space. Just do the preparation work
dark paint can be used to achieve cosiness or atmosphere
Messy rooms are depressing
Keep worktops clear. Worktop is made from Richlite

Silk flowers

Contrary to popular belief, good quality silk flowers can be an excellent answer to injecting some colour and prettiness into a room, if there isn't the budget to keep buying fresh flowers, says interior designer and Dragon's Den's Kelly Hoppen. She says there are some very authentic looking silk floral displays on the market and it is worth investing in some because over time they will work out much better value than buying cut flowers every week. But be advised that you get what you pay for and it is better to go to the higher end manufacturers because the colours are more subtle and the product better made.

Never put cushions on an angle

Kelly Hoppen says her number one rule when it comes to cushions (which should have organic cotton or linen covers of course...) is: do not arrange them in a diamond shape, ie on one of their points. Instead have them square on, and ideally have a large square cushion at the back with a smaller square cushion in front of it. Try it. You will be amazed how much classier cushions look square on.

Paul Warren adds 'do not drown a sofa or a bed in cushions. Four cushions for a sofa, two for a chair and four for a bed. No more.'


Try to avoid too much pattern in a room because chances are you will get fed up with it. It is much easier to live with neutral walls and to have inject a bit of colour and pattern via accessories, such as curtains or lampshades. The trend for having a 'feature' wall, one that is covered in a wallpaper, is over, according to Paul Warren ('and about time too') but he suggests having a patterned fabric for Roman blinds or for cushion covers for those wanting elements that stand out. 'I urge clients to have all the walls in a room painted in the same colour.'

Green glass mosaic bathroom
Red square cushions

Symmetry...two's company, three's a crowd

Symmetry is fundamental to good design. So if you're buying a three piece suite, buy two identical armchairs. If buying decorative pieces for a mantelpiece, buy two of them and have one on each side. If considering bookshelves for a sitting room, have the same number of shelves on each side of the chimney breast and have the shelves at the same height. 'Don't think in odd numbers. Have two or four cushions on a sofa, not three,' says Diana Blanchard.

Symmetry in design is important

Picture Heights

Paul Warren says picture heights are a common mistake. 'People hang their pictures way too high.

'I'm often amused to see pictures closer to the ceiling than the floor. In fact, the centre of a picture should be at eye level, so find the median height between and tallest and shortest adult in the house and hang pictures using that rule. My clients are amazed at the difference it makes. They start off saying 'Oh no, that's way too low,' but soon realize how nice it is not to have to crane their neck up to look at their artwork. It also makes a room look more pleasing because artworks are more clearly visible.'

Inexpensive art for your walls - photographs in black frames

Warren says walls do need pictures. Obviously original paintings are wonderful but if you can't afford them, choose photographs and have them framed with a thin black wooden frame. The black frames then work as a cohesive theme throughout the home. 'For photographs, I might look at images of plants or wildlife on say the Natural History Museum's website. There are some stunning images which cost under £15. A few of them, in a thin black frame, look really stylish in a sitting room. Build up a collection slowly.. you don't have to buy everything in one go.'

Warren and his colleagues all agree that when it comes to posters of famous paintings, their advice is 'don't go there'. To have a print of Van Gogh's Sunflowers or Vermeer's Girl With the Pearl Earring is simply naff and shows a lack of imagination.

So the interior designer's rule is if a painting is world famous, leave it in the gallery and make do with a postcard of it on your dressing table.

To sum up..

Be ruthless in clearing out clutter, keep your home clean and tidy, and be subtle when it comes to pattern. Also, have a colour theme and stick to it. That means don't have a taupe sitting room, a bright red kitchen and a lime green hallway. 'Have a main colour and then go up or down a few shades in different rooms,' says Paul Warren.

To find out more about eco friendly paints see our article on the subject here