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Wednesday
Sep112013

An eye for detail

One of the silver linings to losing the vision in my left eye has undoubtedly been getting to work with London based charity The Thomas Pocklington Trust.  They are a leading provider of care and housing support services for people with sight loss in the UK.  They also fund a programme of social and public health research and development projects in conjunction with centres such as the Dementia Services Development Centre at Stirling University and research teams at Kingston University. 

I met their Research Director, Sarah back in March when I delivered a talk at the Bournemouth Care Show on the importance of good interior design in care homes.  Despite repeatedly bashing the microphone with my nose when I leaned in to speak, which I felt took the polish off my presentation (the one eye thing means that I only see in 2D so have poor depth perception), Sarah introduced herself after the seminar.  At this point she was unaware of my own experience but we got chatting about the importance of good interior design for the blind and partially sighted. To say that losing half my sight has opened my eyes to the importance of good design for the elderly may sound like a poor attempt at a pun, but it has.  Up until last November I had paid due consideration to proper lighting and use of contrast when designing care home interiors for the elderly, but only since becoming monocular can I really understand the profound impact overlooking this can have for the visually challenged. 

The prevalence of sight loss increases with age.  Recent research suggests that serious sight loss affects one in eight people over the age of 70 and one in three over the age of 90.  However less serous visual impairments can also seriously affect day to day living and the large majority of those over the age of sixty could benefit from better lighting in the home.  Few people with sight loss are totally blind.  Most have some residual vision and appropriate design can help to maximise their functional vision.  If you are caring for an elderly relative or know someone who has suffered with vision loss, here are a few considerations that could make a huge difference to their day to day living:

  • Improve lighting: Maximise natural light wherever possible; low sills and unfussy window treatments.  Good lighting is key; under cabinet lighting in kitchens and well lit stairs so that the treads can be easily seen.  Cupboards and wardrobes should be internally lit and all light sources should be shaded to avoid glare.  Dimmable lighting will allow light levels to be adjusted to suit the user’s needs.
  • Use colour and contrast: Paint door surrounds in a clear contrasting colour from the adjacent wall to clearly define the doorway.  Contrast should be used on handles, knobs and appliances; pale coloured light switches on a dark wall will be easier to find.  Garden decking steps can prove hazardous since those without the ability to see in 3D cannot distinguish between the steps; the horizontal lines just blend into each other.  I know this!  When considering flooring, a change in colour between two types, even if it's the same material, can give the impression that there is a step and pattern can be confusing.
  • Avoid clutter: Ensure that there is plenty of space and a logical layout for routes both in the home and in the garden.  Shelves overloaded at head height and plants overhanging in the garden can be disorientating.

Those bright yellow paint lines on the nosings of the steps at train stations may not look that pretty but they certainly have a role to play. 

 

Written by Jacqui

Thursday
May232013

Budding interior design talent in Sussex

You know that feeling when you agree to take something on, plan it as much as possible, look forward it...........yet still don’t really know what to expect?  Well this year at the Lindfield Arts Festival we ran some workshops for children where they got the chance to plan their ideal bedroom and create their own mood board.  Our young designers ranged in age from 5 to 13 yet what they all had in common was an unbridled confidence in what they did and did not like.  Unbound by concerns about what is and is not “in” they designed from their hearts, quickly finding lights they loved, rummaging through fabrics for inspiration and going mad with bold colours.  I have said before that interior design to me is about creating environments that make you smile, spaces you want to spend time in and that make your day to day use of them a joy.  Without exception all the designs reflected the personalities of the child and made them smile!  I absolutely loved the day and was knocked sideways by the amount of talent I saw – as were some of the parents!

Thursday
Mar212013

Be faithful to your intuitive sense

I often get asked how I come up with designs or what the latest trends are.  I have never been a slave to trends. Interior design to me is more about designing spaces for people to love and enjoy living in.  Surely a home that works for you is so much more important than one that reflects the latest trends. I have always wondered whether my answer to this question has been inadequate; people expect me to impart some magic formula but honestly, I design with first and foremost the needs of the client in mind and when it comes to creativity, I go with my gut as to what I feel works best within the realms of the brief.

My London Design Week itinerary included a seminar at Chelsea Harbour. Part of the Conversations in Design series, the title of the seminar was New Directions in Interior Design with a panel comprising Tricia Guild, Robin Levien and Neisha Crosland. The session kicked off with the question, "Are trends important?” Whilst I would say that all three of these people are in themselves key influencers of trends in the industry, their down to earth and quite humble responses really struck a chord with me. The theme was very much, be aware of trends but plough your own furrow and work from your heart. Yes, I get that! They all agreed that themes are “globally in the air” and cited examples of designers opposite sides of the world coming up with spookily similar ideas. Source of inspiration was the focus of the next question. Tricia Guild felt that this was hard to pinpoint as creative people are always collecting. She cited a visit to Darjeeling where she was struck by the coolness of a soft jade green, the inspiration behind the pale jade colourway in the new collections. The trip was a few years ago so that seed of an idea was not translated into a scheme until recently. It "just feels right for now", she explained.  Expanding on this Tricia Guild explained that designers need to “be faithful to their intuitive sense, be porous to influences but defend and fight for what you believe in”. Neisha Crosland and Robin Levien agreed that creativity is a journey, a meandering process where you are never quite sure where you will end up. I have heard a number of designers talk on various subjects but this seminar really struck a chord with me and made me even more determined to be faithful to my intuitive sense.

 

Written by Jacqui

Thursday
Dec202012

A year (and a night!) to remember!

So here we are, nearly at the end of the years work – and what a year it’s been! As I write this I am currently surrounded (but not quite buried) by furniture, soft furnishings and various other things ready to be shipped out on Friday for the final ‘flourish’, marking the end of several projects we’ve had the pleasure of working on over the last few months.

This year has seen our workload increase and the HomeSmiths team increase – not only by hiring me, but having to enlist the work of some brilliant people, friends of the business who we now could not do without. Next year will hopefully see us continue to grow, hiring another Junior Designer to solely take on the residential work, while I concentrate on our work in the show home and care home markets.

Above is a photograph taken from our Christmas party last night – before we got rowdy!! It was the first year we had a big enough gathering to do a Secret Santa and there were some hilarious and ‘spot-on’ presents.  A great time was had by all along Lindfield high street and it was further evidence that the team dynamic in and out of the office is perfect.

We wish you a very merry, restful Christmas from all of us at team HomeSmiths.

Picture above: Team HomeSmiths L-R - David, Jacqui, Katie, Belinda, Nikki, Katy

 

Written by Katy

Friday
Nov232012

Dress to sell

There’s nothing more rewarding and flattering than when your hard works pays off quicker than usual. As a former visual merchandiser (have I mentioned this before?!), on numerous occasions I’ve dressed a group of mannequin’s and a customer has come along and wanted to buy the whole outfit (usually resulting in me being flattered, but internally cursing my talent as I undress said mannequin!). This week we had an incredible phone call from Barratt Homes telling us that the penthouse apartment we had installed merely two weeks previously had sold. The buyer was exactly the demographic we had targeted and he wanted everything in the apartment, down to the things that were hung in the wardrobe!

It’s so satisfying when you pull out all the stops for a project and the end result is more than you could have hoped for. This was also a project that we weren’t initially expecting, that had a very short lead time and that the whole team worked really hard to pull together in time, so I speak for everyone involved when I say that we were dancing around the room when we got the phone call.

This install also brought together the best of the people that we work with, in particular solidifying the relationship between HomeSmiths and local art curator and friend of the business, Belinda Holden, who was the shining star of this project, finding some truly incredible art for the apartment, including an image printed on aluminium (pictured above).

So what now? Well we’ve been asked to design and install the neighbouring penthouse, which we’re all really excited about. Time to think of a new amazing scheme!

 

Written by Katy