Is it possible to find affordable interior design? And is it worthwhile hiring an interior designer? I am not blessed with a natural ability to pull together cohesive looks for my home, I love scrolling Instagram and Pinterest and I dream of the most amazing magazine inspired interiors. But reality is a bit different, interior design looks easy but it really isn't, for me anyway! Plus there is the little matter of getting my husband to agree - forever practical. he doesn't quite understand my need for all the extra 'faffy' bits!
I have a beautiful home, my cottage in the woods, we have lived here for coming up 30 years now! It was a renovation project and we originally intended to move on but we fell in love with it and have stayed. I think my cottage deserves some extra TLC now that the children have grown up and flown the nest. And it was very much on my radar especially over lockdowns with a new emphasis on DIY projects in the UK. My husband built a wood store and painted the outside of the house, not my idea of fun!
Then Charlotte got in touch with me. Charlotte has recently set up her own interior design business Minshell Designs and works alongside her husband who is a property developer. Charlotte asked if I might consider writing a blog post about interior design, we got chatting and I said well why not help me and I can document the process on my blog!
Minshell Designs is based in Buckinghamshire and works across Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, the Home Counties and Greater London. They offer a complete design service from property development, design and build, project management, interior design and full interior fit out.
Below. 'before' my conservatory and dining area and initial design ideas from Minshell Designs
Can I afford an interior designer?
This was my first question to Charlotte. But good interior design shouldn't just be reserved for the wealthy. And it isn't, with the right interior designer and a clear budget, good interior design can be accessible to everyone.
Charlotte explained that I don't have to change my interiors completely, that small tweaks do make a big difference! My expectation was that interior designers only use the most expensive suppliers and wouldn't be seen dead in Next or Dunelm. How wrong I was! Charlotte loves H&M and Zara as well as Next and Dunelm alongside Neptune Home and John Lewis. Just like fashion and style it is perfectly possible to mix and match interior items - high end designer with high street budget pieces.
The benefit of asking for help from an interior designer is they know where to look, they have already done the research and can pull together a design concept without all the leg work that we'd have to do when starting from scratch.
Below: 'before' my kitchen area and entrance hall.
Do I have to redecorate?
My cottage already has a very neutral colour palette, it was freshly painted not that long ago and I knew my husband wouldn't be keen on doing it again so I needed Charlotte to work with the basics we already had. Not a problem at all! Apart from my study we will not be redecorating, Charlotte is working within my brief and requirements.
Will I have to buy new furniture?
Nope! I'd like to change some items but again, being realistic, we have a good foundation in terms of furniture already. Neither of our sofas are particularly old or worn but I'd like to upgrade the general look of our home. I feel I am moving from a family home, created on a bit of a tight budget to a home for a newly empty nest, where I'd like it to be a bit tidier and grown up!
We have collected furniture over the years, but not a lot was bought to match or together so I am keen to try create a more uniform look.
My interior design brief to Charlotte at Minshell Designs
Charlotte came to see me for an initial chat and consultation. I gave her a tour of the house and explained what I'd like to achieve. Charlotte was encouraging and reassuring. I didn't need to worry that she was going to want to change everything and blow any budget completely out the window! She took photos and made notes.
Charlotte is quiet, calm, friendly and knowledgeable. She was really kind and didn't completely rubbish my attempts at my own interior design, she made me feel at ease, and worthy of help even though I don't own a massive mansion with a limitless budget.
My interior design brief:
I'd like to upgrade the conservatory and kitchen area by buying new accessories and pictures. I'd like to keep the existing sofa, table and chairs but I'd like some ideas to upgrade the accent chairs in the entrance hall. Ideally I'd like a new coffee table in the conservatory as it is badly marked but I can't find what I want!
I am desperate to resolve the storage problem in the utility room, I had a good declutter a while back but I'd love one of those super stylish Pinterest / Instagram worthy laundry rooms where everything has a place!
I want to replace the carpet in the entire house. This is where my husband and I do agree! I think that a new lighter colour, devoid of puppy toilet training stains and bare patches that the cat liked to claw, will be an instant upgrade. I'd also like to choose something less practical (family life) and more design worthy (adults with an empty nest).
I would like new curtains in the lounge. I will keep the existing corner sofa and armchair but change the cushions and possibly the artwork, I'd like a new coffee table, I fancy an ottoman footstool with a tray. And I'd love new frames and new accessories on the shelves plus make the fireplace look a bit prettier.
Finally I'd like to decorate and organise my study! That is a bigger job that I keep putting off!
I would also love to choose some new posters and artwork for the walls, possibly adding a gallery wall and I need some prints for the main bedroom and en-suite bathroom.
Oh and in all this I need to consider that despite having no children living at home full time I do have two dogs who can be messy! They love sitting on the back of the conservatory sofa and squashing my cushions.
Design service - Stage 1 and 2
The first stage of the design process was our initial meeting to discuss my requirements , Charlotte then went away to come up with Stage 2, a first draft of the interior design ideas to present to me. Charlotte emailed me a PowerPoint Presentation with all her ideas on. I then went back to her with questions, comments and any changes to her suggestions and colour schemes. At this point I found it useful to chat to Charlotte over the phone and I asked her to talk me through her ideas.
Once we had agreed that the design was in essence right, we arranged a face to face meeting, where Charlotte came back to my house and presented her full design concept to me. She bought fabric and carpet samples and we looked at specific links for furniture etc. I loved Charlotte's ideas and she had thought of colours and accessories that I would never have imagined. For example, I want to tone down the bright red accents and add a more subtle country feel - without changing the sofa, and Charlotte was able to offer some really beautiful solutions. I loved the colour scheme for the lounge as well, and hadn't considered the blue tones, I am confident it will bring a modern uplift to my home.
Design service - Stage 3
Charlotte then went away to put together a shopping list. I was still a bit vague on budget and I think I should have been clearer to help Charlotte. But until I knew what it might cost, I wasn't sure I knew what my budget would be. Instead, I asked that she choose affordable suppliers. That I didn't need hard wearing, high quality items and I was more interested in the overall look and being able to actually make it happen.
A couple of weeks later, my shopping list arrived by email. It was all clearly laid out in a spreadsheet with links to every items that could be purchased online. Charlotte is also able to share her trade discounts to make some of the more expensive items more accessible.
Below: photos from Neptune Home Instagram
Design service - Stage 3 (cont.) - shopping list
I have spent some time working my way through the shopping list, I have asked a few questions and I have looked at all the items recommended online. I have an editable version of the shopping list and I am writing my comments on, I am considering where I need to cut costs and where I would like to invest.
I have had a carpet supplier visit to measure the house for new carpet and when his quote arrives, I can then pull the entire budget together.
At this stage I will get my husband involved! My plan will be to go shopping and look at the furniture items we might buy, and look at things like a new kitchen clock. Items that are fun to choose in person rather than just choose online! And in the hope that he will approve it all!
Currently I am focused on the conservatory, kitchen and utility, then I will do the lounge and finally the study.
Design service - stage 4 - interior fit out
Obviously not here yet! But the exciting bit is that Charlotte will come back and help me place all my lovely new interior items in the most aesthetically pleasing location and make my house look like a magazine spread! Really excited for that bit!
How often do you look at all the lovely home accessories in the shops and want to buy something, or actually buy something, get it home and then it just looks, well kinda sad, all by itself - it never looks as amazing as it does in the immaculately designed room set ups in John Lewis? I asked once how they made their beds looks so stunning, I buy all the lovely bed linen but after one night it looks crushed despite my effort at making the bed properly every day - they steam iron it in situ - well I am not doing that every day!
I think there has to be some reality, we can't live in a show home! When we first moved to our house, it was in a very bad state of repair, it had been empty for several years, had been repossessed, the garden was growing up to the windows and local children had broken in and started fires in the rooms. We spent a few years getting it all sorted, it was a fairly major renovation, while we lived in it. Then I got pregnant with our son and we had 6 months to get it straight. I enlisted the help of the Laura Ashley Design Service and for a while my home did look like a show home! But of course after our baby arrived and especially once he was a toddler, reality set in. My sister in law visited from Wales and said thank goodness your home looks like a real lived-in home again! Bless, but she had a point! We see the perfect homes on Instagram and Pinterest but they are not real every day life.
I will be back with some photos of the process and eventually the 'after' photos! It might take some time, the furniture I am considering has some very long lead times!
And back to my original question - is it affordable? I honestly think that engaging an interior designer is exactly the same as having a personal fashion stylist. They take the legwork out of it for you, they know what they are looking for and that saves time and money. Rather than muddling through you get to the final result more efficiently and that can only mean more cost effectively!
Just like our wardrobes, buy less, but buy smarter. Get it right first time and you will save money!
You can get in touch with Charlotte and see their portfolio at Minshell Designs and on Instagram.
What do you think, have you used an interior designer for your home?
You might be interested in my other posts - Personalised wall art to celebrate the unique history of my home and My cottage in the woods.
Disclaimer: Minshell Designs did not charge me for the initial consultations in exchange for writing a blog post, I have paid for the Stage 3 - Shopping List and will pay for the Stage 4 - Interior Fit Out.
Click here to read other blogs I link up with:
Is This Mutton
Welcome to Fifty & Fab, a lifestyle blog to inspire you. I am a blogger with a passion for writing about style, beauty, health and fitness with a focus on the over 50's. I am based in Marlow but work across London and the South East.
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Hi, I’m Michelle and my blog Fifty & Fab is all about my journey into and through my fifties. I share style tips, health and fitness inspiration, I talk about my holidays and days out and I tell you about my beauty regime and my lifestyle. I hope you might pick up a tip or two and get some inspiration!
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