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.

    Open-plan dining space with copper units and dining table and chairs.

    “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.”

    Open-plan dining space with copper units and dining table and chairs.

    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.

    A large floor-to-ceiling window seat styled with a cushion and sheepskin rug.

    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...

    A black kitchen worktop with white walls styled with a vase of flowers, saucepans and artwork on the walls.

    A light, bright kitchen with white walls, black surfaces and statement geometric tiles on the central island.

    A light, bright open-plan living space with white walls, pink floor-length curtains and a green velvet sofa.

    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.”

    Close-up of green velvet sofa with geometric cushions next to a round coffee table with a board game on top.

    Shelving unit in the alcove of a white-walled living space, shelves filled with trinkets.

    Black side table against white wall, styled with objects.

    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.”

    Emma Gurner with her pet dog.

    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.

    Dark wall in an open plan kitchen-dining space.

    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.”

    Wooden desk, pink velvet stool and gallery wall in a white-walled bedroom.

    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.”

    Highly patterned, contrasting wallpaper against a small pink-tiled sink.

    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."

    Bedroom with dark walls, pink and blue bed linen and a dark wooden wardrobe.

    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."

    Table lamp next to abed dressed in dusky pink bed linen.

    Pink and patterned cushions styled on mixed bed linen.

    A pink and blue bedroom.

    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."

    A wooden desk with stationery and games on top.

    A pink and blue bedroom with a hanging chair.

    Pink patterned wallpaper in a bedroom with a rattan wardrobe and Victorian fireplace.

    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.”

    Board game on pink and blue round wool rugs.

    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.”

    White mini schnauzer sitting on a door mat outside a blue front door.

    Exterior shot of a North London Victorian townhouse with white walls and a blur front door.

    “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
    Imagery by: Veerle Evens

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