Styling with the experts

Styling with the experts

Styling your home is so personal and each of us will have our own taste and style, so how can we possibly be ‘taught’?

Well, I have outlined some good, practical tips I picked up from a recent styling event by The Secret Styling Club.  These may be common sense pointers and things we think we might know or even do already, but in reality these can so easily be overlooked and dismissed before we even begin.  But I can’t stress highly enough just how effective they are to a successful project.

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Spring Decor and London Shopping

As Spring is almost upon us and days are getting longer (thank goodness!), it’s that time of year we start thinking about all kinds of lovely things to do as we emerge from the depths of winter! I know that I, for one, am already looking for great holiday destinations; I’m also deciding about planting in the garden, looking at new garden furniture and searching for accessories such as lovely cushions and lanterns etc. Many of us will even be looking at the possibility of redecorating our homes or updating some furniture.

When it comes to interiors, I have noticed over the last few months how colour is playing a huge part in our decor – both inside and out. Although plain neutrals have not disappeared, they are not as easily spotted in furniture stores, decor magazines or home styling ads.

Colour started to adorn the world of interior design and styling, last Summer/Autumn, when mustards, greens and pinks became a popular choice of decor. Now, the same colour palettes are seeing us through to the summer, but in addition, there are a wealth of other vibrant colours, textures with very ethnic and Boho design concepts.

But don’t let that put you off getting that a new look to your home. Colour does not have to be either scary or something that will slip out of fashion as easily as it appeared. You can dip in as much or as little as you like with colour and you don’t have to spend a fortune to make a difference. What I love at the moment, is the great variety, and eclectic mix of beautiful accessories. So I would say, there is most definitely something for everyone.

Depending upon taste, style and budget, we can all find a superb selection of interiors accessories and furniture design almost everywhere we look; and we don’t have to try that hard, as we can achieve some colour from a gorgeous bouquet of flowers to dress a table, or, if we want to be a little more courageous, there are bright, ethically produced paint colours to decorate our walls. We don’t all have to think about changing furniture in order to add that touch of zest to our homes. Some great splodges of colour and texture can also be found in a rugs, cushions or throws; Even a pretty tray or set of wine glasses can add a va-va-voom to your kitchen or living space without spending a lot or changing your whole design.


Just look at the array of colour in this display at Antropologie on the Kings Road in London. Great 4-poster bed showing off the very ‘in’ colours of cushions, throws and bedspreads to adorn your bedroom. Or even this one small selection of crockery showing some really pretty summery colours:


If you do get a chance to go shopping on the Kings Road in Chelsea, there is a super selection of interiors shops to whet your appetite. I’ll be writing more on this subject as the months roll on and will be keep you updated on more around London.

But for starters, I thought I would show you just 3 stores within a 50 meter stretch on the Kings Road. So convenient for an exciting afternoon of shopping, followed by a glass of wine at The Ivy Chelsea Garden. Be prepared to be excited by just how different the styles and designs are.

A little more from Anthropologie:

India Jane:

As you can see, the mustard/yellows feature heavily at the moment and look good in this stunning dining table setting; and believe me, there is so much more to see on this Aladdin’s cave, split level showroom.

Spring decor and London shopping Feb 2018_html_e1284d8.jpg

Only a stones’ throw away, is French Connection Home. This is a very small showroom attached to their fashion store, but gosh, they pack the goodies in here!


This is more ethnic in the styles and textures on show, but blending exceeding well with a very contemporary selection of furniture and lighting.

I hope that offers a little snippet of what’s here, and I hope you are looking forward to reading more next month as we take our journey forward to the amazing Andrew Martin Showroom:


A Trip Abroad with Houzz and Andrew Martin

A delightful Houzz event and evening, hosted at the Andrew Martin International showroom in Walton Street, London.

A large turnout of around 150 people, who had been invited by the Houzz team, and who were predominantly interior designers, keenly interested in hearing about the delights and pitfalls of taking your design services outside of the UK. A daunting prospect for many of us!


The panel of experts was made up of the Founder of Andrew Martin International, Martin Waller, with designers, Brian Woulfe, Sophie Paterson and Laura Hammett and chaired by the very brave Melissa from HouzzUK.

It was so interesting to hear about the projects these designers have completed in far flung destinations and how they approach the work and operate with their clients.

There was so much of interest discussed throughout the evening, but one of the main snippets of the night that was quite a common thread of advise when working overseas; which was, before contemplating working with a client in another country, investigate the project thoroughly. Attention to detail at the initial stages is vital when discussing any potential work with the client, and set expectations from the start.

To summarise, here is a list of some top tips that came from the discussions and I think offer a very useful reminder and tick list when looking at a project abroad, although I will go in to more detail below.


Key tips and highlights for working abroad:

  1. Be transparent with your offering and costs

  2. Be clear about budgets and look in to hidden costs such as:

    1. travel expenses

    2. importation and delivery costs

    3. other limiting administrative pitfalls such as permits, legal constraints, building regulations etc

  3. check flight times and co-ordinate your trip to make maximum use of your time with the client or on the project

  4. research the quality of the tradesmen – check their work thoroughly

  5. research the quality of products and materials and do not be scared to tell the client that they are not good enough and you would need to source and purchase from the UK or from your usual suppliers, who you know and can trust.

  6. have a good English speaking project manager on site at all times

  7. source good English speaking legal council to advise on contracts, permits and licences as well as a good accountant to ensure you are paying the correct taxes and duties, or claiming any taxes back.

  8. Always as for photos of the site or of the property, in full details before visiting. This saves a lot of time and cost. Tread carefully when looking at a project oversees.

As already mentioned, detail is key. Planning, costings, site visits prior to the project starting and detailed drawings with full specifications and elevations are so important. Even ensuring that the client knows how many site visits are included in your pricing, is something that has to be discussed. Losses and disappointment can be quick to hit you if you miss these vital elements before you start work.

Be transparent with your client over your requirements – as Laura mentioned, she will only travel business class, so tell the client, and don’t leave it until you have already started work to mention it or let them see it in your billing, as by then it may cause an issue.

Have honest conversations – a good example was provided during the discussion where the client wanted to use local trades people who were actually not up to the standards the designer wanted. In this situation, explain your reservations to the client and if they insist, have them take ownership of this part of the design project. Once they take the responsibility, they cannot lay any blame at your door. Not ideal, but necessary if you move forward with this scenario.

Sophie was adamant that a good site manager was your window in to the project when you can’t be there all the time. So, they have to be excellent. You need to know you can speak with them (or at least email) daily if needed and that they are always responsive and can handle the project in your absence.

Here are some of the challenges of working abroad, mentioned by the panel:

  1. Not being on site whenever you need to be – distance and timing is always problematic and must be planned carefully. Excellent site management, locally, is your saviour here.

  2. External factors such as language issues can become overwhelmingly problematic. Be aware and plan well for this.

  3. Local standards of work may vary widely to your home grown team. Ensure you know the new team and vet them carefully. Visit their previous projects if they are a contractor, or view their products and manufacturing capabilities if a supplier. Without doing this, you can so easily create unnecessary problems for yourself. Ensure the contractors and suppliers know what you expect of them and what standards you require.

  4. Prepare for every eventuality, because if you don’t, the worst may happen. Insure your project and yourself fully and don’t leave anything to chance.

  5. Learn to say no if your gut feeling for the work is telling you something is not right. Don’t just look at the potential cash as that can lead to disaster.

  6. You are very likely to have to think on your feet when working abroad and out of your comfort zone. So be prepared.

Brian had a great story about not setting out a good contract. In this project, he used resin floors throughout a large house and decided to import the resin from the UK. After sorting out the nightmarish logistics in getting chemical licences for importation, finding out about local issues with drying times (due to humidity etc) and then finally getting the work carried out, an internal flood, damaged all the wooden flooring, buckling the boards and cracking the resin. Even though this was nothing to do with Brian, he was on a fixed fee with no mention of issues such as this, and was not insured for these eventualities, so had to pay for the total repair costs. A lesson that no-one would want to learn from!

Brian’s mantra is, ‘if you don’t know something, ask. No-one is super human and cannot be expected to be, so look for advice locally and ask for help from those who can help and have expert knowledge’. Never feel stupid for asking. It’s sometimes critical to do so.

Martin’s experiences are that clients can so often expect you to do extraordinary things in far flung places. So, ensure you know what is expected of you and do your very best to achieve it.

The joy of business in another country:

It also came across in the panels experiences that working oversees can be beneficial, exciting and rewarding. Laura felt that her main gain is getting to know and work with different cultures. Learning about traditions and being able to incorporate them in to you work is something that has inspired her and her team.

Brian loved finding new suppliers oversees and making new and long lasting contacts with artists, artisans, furniture makers and others.

Sophie felt that designers can change the whole aesthetic of how they design by working in a different culture and environment. This gives another dimension to her work and great satisfaction to her and her clients.

Martin loves meeting new people and cultures and finds this part of his work hugely rewarding.

Laura felt that working abroad and the opportunities it can bring, may help your business when economic factors are hurting your company at home. It may sometimes be your lifeline to have alternative channels of income from outside the UK.


Finally the panel were asked about the end of the project and what can make it so special and what would be their dream property to design abroad:

Brian likes to add that finishing touch for a client, such as finding a wonderful collectors’ piece and placing it in to the design. A client is likely to really love it.

His preferred residence would be an ocean front villa - and who wouldn’t!

Martin uses very personal belongings that are meaningful and special to the client. He feels that this makes for a successful project.

Martin has already found his heaven – in Mexico with a village of weavers, who astounded him with their grace and talent – how lucky!

Sophie’s trick is to have a whole selection of stunning and elegant accessories in stock, for styling a finished home. She uses these at the end of the project to really dress each room beautifully.

Sophie fancied a ski chalet for a future design experience – and I can’t blame her!

Laura loves a scent and will finish off each room with a gorgeous scent to set the mood and create a wonderful feeling in the room.

Laura could not choose between a beach-house or ski chalet for her project wish list - but I think either would be a great coupe!


Is your home Airbnb ready? Styling tips for future hosts

As with all things in life these days, ‘first impressions count’. How we look, what the outside world sees, and our impressions of all that’s around us, are what ‘cuts the mustard’ with us. We have become visual beings, who like to indulge in all things beautiful, elegant and even prestigious.

So, impact in the first split second is crucial. That goes for purchasing a holiday, and especially when searching for a place to stay.

Airbnb has taken the world by storm since it’s inception in 2007.

Click here to read the full article:

New Child Safety Legistlation For Blinds

Probably of you are aware of the new child safety legislation that is coming in to effect over the next couple of months for all types of window blinds and their cords/tapes and fixings. It is paramount that when having any new blind fitted, your fitter knows what he is doing and knows the full and new legislation and has all the appropriate equipment for a legal installation.
We work with a company who has worked hard to ensure all their products are compliant and our customers can rest in the knowledge that they are ordering and fitting products that are child safe. We are dedicated to child safety and our team are happy to help you chose a viable and safe alternative.

If you would like us to send you more information on these safety requirements please email us at and we can send you an information pack.

How To Keep Your Furniture Prices Low

We have been working for a long-term client, furnishing letting properties in central London.   With very limited budgets we source much furniture through Auction Rooms.  Many of these items need some repair, so with the expert work of our furniture restorer and upholsterers, we re-vamp these items.  Together with the purchase of new furniture and soft furnishings, the whole package can be put together for a ridiculously low price.
Knowing how to provide an eclectic mix that works for the lettings market is key.  This is also important when realising the lettings market quality required as our clients need their furniture to last.  We also have to keep industry regulations up to standard, so there are some items we would not compromise on.

Landlord Alert - Air BnB!

As a business we are constantly moving with market requirements, and one area that has been doing well is the landlord letting market.  We have been upgrading letting properties where the owners are moving in to a new area of letting - through Air BnB.   A new concept in the letting market, taking the world by storm!.  From what we have seen, it offers landlords a way of potentially earning a lot more money and yet have far less wear and tear on their properties.  
It is harder work for landlords as you have to meet and greet guests upon arrival.  You should provide information packs, answer questions and generally help guests – very much like a concierge in a Hotel would do.   It can be worth the work for a much increased price in monthly/annual income.
This works well for smaller portfolio landlords.   We have found that it is important to upgrade the rentals for this new market as guests are looking for apartments/houses that will substitute for a Hotel.
It can work well, and advertising is cheap, efficient, well run and offers a huge audience of potential guests.  

The London Property Market

At Tristram Design, we have seen a huge increase in property prices and sales in the last year in and around London.  Throughout 2013, the price increase in property values spurred on many of our clients to invest in refurbishments and upgrades though purchase of new furniture and soft furnishings.
Currently, while borrowing is still low and reported to remain low for a least another two years, we feel that the property market will continue to do well, which means that all services around the building and housing trade will in see similar increases in trade.
With prices so strong, we have seen a marked increase in our show-home styling for our clients to offer a very appealing property when asking top prices.    This is not so easy for our clients who are living in their own home that they are trying to sell, although not impossible.  It is still important to show your home to it’s best potential and as we all know now, reducing clutter and re-arranging furniture and may be even buying a few new soft furnishings can change your home and how it ‘views’ to prospective buyers.
Although we all know what we should/could do, it is sometimes difficult to make these changes when not knowing where to start or how to de-clutter.  Outsource the effort – it is cheap to do and takes away the guilt and hard work.