Sophie is a British interior stylist, designer and journalist and is a guest judge on BBC 2’s The Great Interior Design Challenge. She’s the undisputed colour queen and a tour de force in the interior design industry. Currently renovating her Sussex farmhouse with her husband, Tom, there’s not much about design and decorating she doesn’t know!
We are thrilled that she’s taken time out of her insanely busy schedule to share some of her wisdom with us – thank you Sophie! x
You’ve done a renovation on your own home – what’s been the biggest success and what was the most challenging unforeseen issue?
The most challenging unforeseen issue was when we discovered rising damp, shortly after we moved in. Even though the house came with a damp proof course certificate, we later discovered that it had been installed incorrectly – with the course set around a foot high, so all the skirting boards were rotten, and the damp was being drawn up the plaster, creating the tell-tale mould behind furniture. It was only when we pulled a huge cupboard away from the wall to decorate that we discovered it. I was up for pushing the cupboard back and ignoring it as I was just so desperate to paint some colour on all the beige walls. But my husband Tom, who is a builder, just couldn’t…so in came the Kangol drills to chisel off all the plaster back to brick. We took all the radiators off and flooring up. On the upside it meant that we used this opportunity to put in retro fit underfloor heating which I’d say is among the biggest successes of our renovation project. So every cloud has a silver lining!
What advice would you give someone decorating their home for the first time?
Don’t default to beige, grey or worse still pure brilliant white. I think it’s important to get your eye in early and begin to discover the colours and styles you like from the get-go. Decorating your home and making it beautiful is a slow process but too many people go all white and then lose their nerve around adding any colour later. It’s a devastating missed opportunity in my view. So do the work early on, create some mood boards, follow those Instagram accounts, and buy a pile of interior magazines to get inspired.
What’s your top decorating tip for someone on a limited budget?
There is a well-known phrase within the interior design community, “when money is tight go hard on colour”. You can add richness, impact, and personality to a space with the price of a tin of paint. Neutrals can be lovely but take a lot more effort and expense to look elegant and inviting, rather than bland and boring.
What do you think is the most important room in a home to be done up/start with?
I’ve always said the bathroom, because when you are renovating and surrounded by dust and dirt, or getting caked in paint and filth yourself, nothing beats retiring to a beautiful bathroom for a well-earned soak.
What’s your top go-to website for decorating products and inspiration?
Wallapersdirect.com is my go-to for pattern inspiration as the choice is amazing and they have a good search engine- always something new to inspire. Pinterest and Instagram are obvious go-to’s for design inspiration. But looking outside interiors I love the edit of collagerie.com for an eye on trends, colour and design detail inspiration.
Can you paint shiny pvc cupboards/windows with good & lasting results?
YES! We have Upvc windows and a Upvc conservatory and when we moved in, I wanted them all gone. My husband, who is a bit of an environmentalist, put his foot down. He couldn’t rip out perfectly functional windows based on aesthetics. It was a quite a tense few months as neither of us would budge on our fixed opinions. I went ahead and got a quote to replace them all for wood, and it was over £16,000 (excluding the conservatory) so that quickly settled the argument. We have painted them all out using an All Surface Primer. I used Little Green and their topcoat in Lamp black acrylic eggshell and I have to say, they still look as good as they day we painted them. So well in fact we were inspired to paint the entire plastic conservatory before Christmas, and it looks amazing. You can no longer tell it’s made of UVPC. Its saved us tens of thousands of pounds, not to mention landfill.
Tell us why you believe in the Power of paint?
Because it’s the most affordable and transformation al thing you can use. From rolling it out on all four walls to painting a piece of furniture in a bold new hue. You can be experimental with paint to, as its easily changed. My advice it pick a paint in your favourite colour and introduce it into your home. I painted my entire hallway, stairs, and landing in my favourite cobalt blue, and it gives me a jolt of the feel-good vibes every day.
If that inspires you as much as it does us then pop over to our website and book onto our painting & decorating course and transform your home yourself for a fraction of the cost!