Design Notebook


  1. Take photographs of all the pieces you have to work with already and make up a board for the room. For example, you may have a pair of lamps you would love to keep and a new sofa that won’t be changing.
  2. Sketch up a plan of the room (to scale if you can) and draw in the pieces you have already and where you think they would fit best.
  3. You can now see what is missing, including both the bigger pieces like for example seating, and side tables, and the smaller accessories that could soften and personalise the room, such as throws, cushions and pictures.
  4. Don’t forget about lighting – especially task lighting if there are any reading or working areas, and mood lighting if the room will mainly be used to entertain in the evenings.
  5. Your window treatments give you the opportunity to create impact in the room so consider the design – curtains for example require a lot of fabric and you can either choose a bold patterned fabric as a statement or a softer plain for a quieter effect. Blinds take less fabric and are a neater finish for small rooms or windows but don’t forget, they can block a lot of light coming in the tops of windows so be careful in darker rooms.
  6. Think about any wall finishes and the colour schemes you want to focus on, taking into account any architectural features, for example fireplaces or mouldings.
  7. Draw up a budget of what you have to work with – and stick to it. Remember to stay with the new pieces you love, prioritise the larger pieces that you need to make the room work if you cannot do it all at once.
  8. Accessories are easier and less expensive to swap out when you are looking for a quick change.
  9. Flooring is important although it’s not always as easy to change – rugs are the simplest way to add texture and pattern to wooden or tiled floors, and will warm up concrete or stone floors.


  1. Make up a shopping or wish list of fabrics, furniture and accessories and begin collecting swatches of any wallpapers, fabrics or trims until you have a working scheme you love.
  2. Use Olivine Life boards to save different schemes and add furniture and accessories to test your options until it works. You can create different boards for the same room to test out colour combinations and finishes.
  3. Once you have checked the fabric cuttings, colours and textures, you can begin ordering.
  4. Take a look at curtain or blind styles to find what you like – take these along to your curtain maker along with your chosen fabric (and trims) in order to correctly work out how much you will need.
  5. Don’t forget to order paint samples of all the paint colour options you like and stick them on the wall. The colours will work differently at different times of day so don’t forget to look at them in the daytime as well as during the evening.


  1. Always consider how you live and who will be using the room.
  2. Remember that if you are designing a sitting room for entertaining, how many people would you like to sit making sure people can chat easily – people rarely chat next to each other on a sofa so mixing up sofas and chairs is always a good idea, adding useful flexibility. However, if you are designing your sitting room for your family and children, you may need more floor space for playing and flow of movement, or more practical deeper seating for watching tv or reading (don’t forget lighting for this).
  3. Consider where the doors and windows are – but don’t restrict yourself to placing all the furniture against walls, instead bring in chairs at an angle to the sofa for a more dynamic design.
  4. Play with furniture height and scale in the room – it’s important to mix the furniture in the room to add scale, and avoid all pieces being the same size. A wingback chair for example, will add height as a larger piece, or a standard lamp will draw the eye up a level from the lower pieces.
  5. Don’t be afraid to mix different styles for example antique and contemporary, and stick with what you love, you will enjoy the room for longer this way, trends pass quickly.
  6. Accessories will bring a room together, soften the finishes and easily add texture or pattern to a scheme if you don’t have it already. It is also the easiest and quickest way to transform the look of a room.
  7. With accessories, collections of anything have more impact and if you are grouping anything, we always find odd numbers sit better visually, for example three photo frames.
  8. Books are a fantastic way to bring colour and interest to any room – use them to add personality, they are a fun way to show who you are and what you are interested in. Display them on tables or on shelves, if you don’t already have built in shelving, bring in free standing units (which will fit into the recesses of trickier rooms).
  9. Art – this really does finish a room for us. It doesn’t have to be expensive oil paintings so unless you are lucky enough to have these, use posters in frames, blown up photographs, second hand finds or maps. Remember grouping pictures, especially smaller ones, will look better overall. Don’t sit them too high on the wall, you want to be able to look directly at them.



  1. Dark vs Light – dark colours tend to make a room appear wider and paler shades will reflect the light back onto walls and will make the space appear brighter.
  2. If you are looking to add height to a room, paint the skirting and walls (and even the cornice) the same colour and hide features you would prefer not to notice, for example a radiators, in this same colour.
  3. Paints with a matt finish will hide imperfections best as they don’t reflect light as well.
  4. Oil based eggshell paints are great for scuff marks and little people’s fingers – easier to clean off and maintain.
  5. When it comes to shelving and display – you can paint them in with the walls, or skirting or add a dark colour on the inside or back of the units to set off glassware, china and books beautifully.
  6. When it comes to testing the colours – test on card and not on the walls. Painting onto the walls can cause trouble as the colours will react to the colour that is already there. If you test onto a thick card (as large as possible) then you can move it around the room, put it next to the natural light and then the artificial light. You can see how it reacts in adjoining rooms, and even better, place it next to the fabrics, furniture and accessory pieces you are considering.
  7. Don’t panic halfway through the colour going up, all colours settle when the furniture, curtains, pictures and flooring are in.
  8. Don’t forget what else you are putting in the room – if you have a dark rug or a heavy pieces of furniture, it will change the colours in the room. Light reflects from one colour to the next.
  9. Consider which direction your room faces – south or north, it makes a difference to the natural light in the room. South facing rooms have sunlight for most of the day (weather dependent) and the opposite for that of a North facing room. With this in mind, ‘warmer colours’ will brighten a room.


  1. It is important to remember you will not be able to change out wallpaper as easily as paint – so make sure you love it and are sure you can live with it.
  2. Wallpaper is a wonderful way to introduce lots of colour to a room compared with paint where you will usually just have the one.
  3. If you are adding pattern to the walls with wallpaper, be prepared to add pattern elsewhere in the room – think of it as layering!
  4. Be braver in rooms that you are not in all the time, for example bathrooms (make sure the ventilation is good), cloakrooms and hallways. You can create fun visual surprises in these spaces.
  5. A dado rail will break up the wallpaper in a room and is a practical solution to a high traffic areas that may cause marks to the bottom section of the wall.
  6. Striped wallpaper which is hung vertically will make the room feel higher, and stripes used horizontally will make the room feel wider.
  7. As with paints, test them out – get a cutting, move it around in the room and with the different lights, see how it sits with the colours in the adjoining rooms before deciding.

Stay in the Know!

Sign up now for design inspiration, ideas and special offers in your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are now signed up to receive our email newsletter but can unsubscribe at any time.