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Curating spaces: when you're a minimalist who loves things

Curating spaces: when you're a minimalist who loves things

There’s a real sense of calm in Emma Gurner’s North London townhouse. Living with her husband, two daughters and their mini schnauzer, it’s a typically buzzy family home, but somehow serene. True, Emma’s an interiors stylist by trade, with her own design consultancy, but she has an innate knack for carefully curating objects. As a self-confessed minimalist who loves “things”, we find out how she’s given her home character without the clutter.

“My home feels like me because everything I own is connected with a memory—whether it’s an heirloom like the oil painting in my bedroom which belonged to my grandparents, or the copper units in my dining area which I patinated myself in my back garden! You make a house become a home by filling it with things you love, that are special to you.”

A real treasure trove of trinkets, Emma’s home could easily be overwhelming. There’s eye-candy everywhere, from candlestick holders and ceramics, to sheepskin throws, marble busts and plenty of houseplants. Feature walls are painted in deep, rich colours and adorned with artwork.

Somehow the space is calm, not chaotic. So how does she do it? Emma’s sense of style is (annoyingly) innate: she doesn’t overthink it, simply surrounding herself with things she loves. But there is a formula to follow for achieving interior yin-yang...

1. Use colour carefully

The serene, spiritual feel stems from a sense of balance. White walls in the dining space create a blank canvas for statement copper units. “I used white walls with natural wood flooring to provide a neutral backdrop for the colourful furniture and accessories,” explains Emma. “The deep dark green wall in the dining area adds depth and contrast to the space, highlighting the bamboo through the window.”

2. Display trinkets in trios

Look closely at Emma’s shelves and you’ll notice there’s a sort of science to her artful arrangements: “Think about the different heights of things. Cluster them in groups of threes,” advises Emma. This works to create visual harmony, especially if there’s a cohesive colour, or theme.  “And add plants, always. The more the better. If in doubt, put a plant there.”

3. Respect the negative space

The surfaces in Emma’s space are clutter-free. No magazines, books, keys, remote controls or general mess. While there are clusters of artwork, the walls are largely bare, giving your eyes some empty space to chill. Clever.

4. Streamline your stuff

“You have to factor in some sort of storage somewhere. I’m quite ruthless with clearing out clutter regularly. Because you can hold onto stuff and it just ends up in the back of a cupboard forever. Question whether you really need it.”

5. Only add things you love

Emma adores each and every item in her home, and they all have a backstory. “The portrait [above] has a special place in my heart as growing up it was in my grandparents’ home. My Grandma used to tell me it was her! It now belongs to me and is a constant reminder of them.”

6. Small spaces can carry pattern

Being short on space doesn't mean waving your decadent dreams goodbye. You can clash highly patterned wallpaper, as long as the palette is similar. "Make every piece in your home count. The downstairs cloakroom shows how maximalism can work in a small area."

7. Bold doesn't always mean bright

"I don’t think people should be scared of using dark colours. They don’t always make a room gloomy, especially if there’s natural light. If you use a dark wall, the other colours that sit against it always pop out."

8. Factor in your family

"I think I’ve successfully managed to reflect everyone’s personalities within my home! We wanted to keep Darcey's room bright, jovial and teenager-y. I think the peachy-pink looks really fresh with the turquoise."

9. Mix your styles

“I like mixing and matching. I’ll put the odd vintage piece in to add to the personality and character. There are certain things that just catch my eye and it just feels right.”

10. Be practical, not precious

“I have to consider that I’ve got kids and pets. And I entertain. You’ve got to be practical. I’m not too precious, you have to live in it. It’s not a show home.”

“My home just works really well for us all. It’s not huge but it's well laid out, meaning we use the entire space to the maximum. It's light, bright and filled with things that I love—most importantly my family.”

Article written by: Natalie Wall
Photography by: Veerle Evens

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