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Patricia Bright sitting on her blue Wes sofa in a white living room next to large french doors

A fresh start in a new home

When YouTube star Patricia Bright moved into her shiny new South East London home with her husband and one-year-old daughter, it was a blank canvas - quite literally, thanks to the seriously minimal style of the previous owners. Having befriended interiors expert Sarah Akwisombe at their co-working space, a collaboration was on the cards. The task? To add some pizazz to Patricia’s neutral place.

From white box to colour pops

“Patricia had just moved in and had no furniture or anything. All the painting was done so we didn’t have to decorate, but it was a case of ‘how do we make this space look like yours?’” Patricia agrees. “I was like, ‘I need chandeliers and gold and plants!’ It was just looking a bit too sterile. That’s why colour was necessary.” Sarah begins by finding out what her clients like “and more importantly what they don’t like. I often find that’s more helpful.”

Scrap that

“I always advise keeping a style journal - not necessarily just interiors stuff. Do it physically rather than a Pinterest board because it’s tempting to pin absolutely everything. A scrapbook of your style, kept over a period of time makes it very easy to see the common thread, rather than passing trends you’re drawn to. Try and analyse the part of the trend you’re liking. It’s your home so you need to take the long-term approach.”

Easy does it

It’s important not to rush the planning process when you’ve just moved in. “Don’t feel like you have to reveal everything on Instagram straight away. Take a picture of a cute nook you’ve created instead and remove the pressure,” Sarah advises. “You need to see where you and your family naturally hang out within the space, whether that’s the kitchen or bedroom. There’s no harm in spending 2-3 months with it looking terrible, working out how you use it.”

Mood boards matter

“Mood boards allow someone to see what you’re planning and discuss it. I don’t use lots of Pinterest pictures of general room designs because you want to show specific items for each room.” Nothing is set in stone at this stage. “It’s still a concept because it’s going to change. Include furniture shapes, fabric swatches and colour options. You’ll refine it until it becomes more of a shopping list of what to buy.”

Picture this

There are several online options for creating your vision: “Roomle.com is free and easy to use; you just drag and drop. It’s good for seeing if things like sofas will fit in the space. Paint companies often have basic visual builders where you can take a picture of a room and change the wall colours. Canva.com is good for creating flat mood boards. It doesn’t need to look pretty, you just need to put pictures of things next to each other. It’s better to make mistakes on your mood board, rather than in your house!”

Concept to creation

Sarah made mood boards for each room in Patricia’s place. “There were certain key pieces and we tried different colours. There was a lot of back and forth. In the dining room I suggested orange chairs - a bit more ‘mid-century modern’ - but the more I got to know Patricia I realised it wasn’t right for her. She likes a more glam, polished look but nothing too overstimulating. So I think we got to a really good middle ground.”

Colour of sofa

“The colour is obviously important, as it’s such a big piece in your room, but also dependent on how you’re going to use it; if you have pets or kids." Aside from the practicalities of having a darker shade for a household with a small child, Sarah chose MADE’s Wes sofa in petrol teal for Patricia’s living area. “It adds a nice pop of colour to the space without being crazy. I really like the thin legs and piping detail - I’m quite particular about things like that.”

Sofa, so good

Thinking about size versus usage is a good starting point for sofas. “How many people in are there in your family? Do you have people round often? Will you have enough space for guests to sit? I love to slouch in sofas and the Wes has got a really nice, wide seat.” When it comes to fabric, think practically. “Is it going to wear well? Looking online, you often can’t tell what the fabric actually looks like so it’s really important to get a swatch - MADE are so good for this! - and then you can get paint colours with the same undertones.”

Go with the flow

Sarah riffed off recurring themes throughout the living area. “A certain style of furniture flows through. The circles on the Alana table and on the mirrors. Very thin legs on everything - on the sofa, the frame armchair and nesting tables. Then I thought it was quite nice to have the contrast of a dining table with thick chunky legs. Because the space all felt so new, it was important to have the wood to warm up the space and avoid looking too show-home.”

In the frame

The gallery wall in the studio upstairs was Patricia’s handiwork. “You can end up picking a ton of pictures that don’t actually work together, “ she explains. “So I had drawn out the kind of thing I might be looking for.” She stuck to a colour scheme of pink, green, black and white. Sarah recommends Canva for planning: “You can drag all the pictures you like in there and see if they work well.” Or, if you’re buying prints from the same place? “Just see what they look like in the shopping cart together and check they actually go before you hit buy!”

Change is easy

“People are more restrictive when it comes to their homes because they don’t want to get it wrong. Everything feels permanent and scary - but it’s not! You can just change the cushion! I treat it more like fashion: don’t feel like the decor has to stay there for ten years. Paint colours, soft furnishings and accessories quickly change up a room. Light fittings make a big difference. And here we have Sarah’s USP. “I’m like a consultant who helps point people in the right direction; to give styling suggestions for people to implement in their own way.”

Article written by: Natalie Wall
Photography by: Veerle Evens

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