So much of the pleasure we get from our homes comes from the way they make us feel. Interior designer and colour queen, Lucy Barlow, shares her tips for creating a home that sparks joy
PINK AND GREEN IS A FAVOURITE COLOUR COMBINATION FOR BARLOW & BARLOW. IMAGE: BARLOW & BARLOW
Of all the emotions we want our homes to provoke in us, surely ‘happiness’ is the most essential. According to research carried out by Kingfisher and the Happiness Research Institute, 73 per cent of people who are happy with their home are also happy in their lives.
So how do we create a home which gives you a sense of happiness when we’re decorating? Step forward Lucy Barlow, co-founder of her eponymous design studio Barlow & Barlow, which she established with her brother, lighting designer Max, in 2013.
Known for her bold use of colour and print, Lucy’s interiors can’t fail to make you smile. Here, she shares her expert advice for designing a home which will always make you feel good.
LUCY BARLOW IN ONE OF HER DESIGN PROJECTS. IMAGE: BARLOW & BARLOW
When it comes to creating a happy home, how important is fearlessness in our design choices?
I always try to encourage clients to be braver than they probably would be if they were left to their own devices. I think that trying to be brave always ends up with a more successful, pleasing and exciting scheme. I don’t think one should do things for the sake of it – I don’t encourage gimmicky over the top things, but you can find a measured boldness that’s still very aesthetically pleasing. Not over-thinking things, not worrying about what other people think, being overly cautious or concerned about whether it will ‘go’ with other things, is something I really encourage. You want to go with your instincts.
Are there any cardinal sins when it comes to designing a vibrant home?
Not really. I think one doesn’t want to be too ‘matchy-matchy’ because it can look like a show home and a bit unnatural. For me, natural interiors often have something that’s perhaps a rogue choice or a conversation piece. I think charm is found in a very organic home with things that have been collected over time.
THINK ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY THROUGH YOUR HOME SO YOU HAVE SOMEWHERE IMMEDIATELY TO PUT YOUR DRINK AND HANG UP YOUR COAT, SAYS LUCY. IMAGES: BARLOW & BARLOW
Would you say that brighter colours always make for a brighter mood or is it more complicated than that?
I personally find happiness in colour – I find it very uplifting and it puts a smile on my face. Dark, grey, beige interiors make me feel a bit low. It’s very subjective though, and some people find happiness in serenity and in very white, bright, clean spaces. For me, colour sparks joy but I know that’s not true for everyone.
Are there any colours you gravitate towards to create a really joyful scheme?
We love sunny, ‘holiday’ colours – we use a lot of pink, green and blue. Green and pink is one of our favourite colour combinations and it can work on so many different levels because you can do a really emerald green with a bubble gum pink, but you can also do a plaster pink mixed with a sludgy olive green which is very sophisticated. You can make that combination fit in so many different schemes. If you add in a mustard yellow, you suddenly get a much more Farrow & Ball look. We love Farrow & Ball paint and we now also use a lot from Benjamin Moore, the American paint brand. There is no colour you couldn’t find in their collection.
WHEN IT COMES TO PRINT IT PAYS TO INVEST IN QUALITY DESIGNS, SAYS LUCY. IMAGES: BARLOW & BARLOW
You’re an expert in clashing prints. How do you create a harmonious grouping of pattern and avoid there being an uncomfortable visual overload?
Like all designers, we start with trays which each represent a room in a project. You start filling the tray with wallpapers, fabrics and paint samples and you can tell quickly if they’re going to sit nicely together even if they don’t necessarily match at first glance. We get a vibe from those initial scheming exercises, then you install it and hope for the best!
How can someone find the balance between playfulness and elegance so their decoration doesn’t feel childish or naïve?
We’re so lucky to be able to go to the best fabric designers for our schemes – Soane, Pierre Frey, Tissus d’Helene – and if you’re playing around with these fabrics which are chic from the start it instantly elevates it. You can still be whacky but if you’re using these unbelievably beautiful materials from the start you can’t go wrong.
Having said that, we do mix in a lot of high street, affordable stuff. Most of my clients are quite young so there isn’t an unlimited budget. We go to Pooky for lights and lampshades, or maybe OKA. As soon as you’ve got your big-ticket items you mix it in with high street stuff and it blends together. If you like plain fabrics and papers, you can find amazing people supplying linens and velvets really reasonably.
LAYERED LIGHTING CREATES A WELCOMING ATMOSPHERE. IMAGES: BARLOW & BARLOW
Lighting goes hand in hand with creating a mood – what are your main tricks for creating a happy lighting mood within a scheme?
Max’s thing which is now our house style is to always have layered lighting. You might have some architectural spots in the ceiling, then a chandelier or a pendant which is a foot below the top of the ceiling. Then you want wall lights which could be picture lights or decorative sconces for the middle of the room and finally your table lamps so you have this layering of light which creates a very soft and inviting scene. You need to have it on dimmers on a system that means you can have some on and some off, it’s all interchangeable – at different times of day, different times of years, you want to have different light scenes.
Is there anything else you think is important to consider when designing a happy home?
Pay great attention to how you want to live in your house and the journey you take through it. When you get through the door, do you have somewhere immediately to hang your coat, to put your keys, to put your shoes? Are you able to get into the kitchen and very easily sit down and have a drink or get your laptop out, or do you have a special study? In your bedroom, have you got somewhere to put your clothes if you don’t have the energy to hang them up? When you’ve really thought about everything then living in your house will be a joy.
Is there a particular room or corner of your home which always makes you feel happy?
My husband and I met when he came to design an internal courtyard garden in my little maisonette in Notting Hill. He trained as an architect but was working as a garden designer and has now joined the company. In the summer, you can open up the French doors and have it as a lovely indoor / outdoor space and it’s the place in our home which always has a happy place in our hearts.
Feeling inspired? You can share this article with friends and followers using the buttons at the top of the page.