TO be a successful interior designer you need many attributes: an eye for colour, a sound knowledge of techniques and a feel for current trends.
A contacts book stuffed full of the best tradesmen out there also helps. But, above all else you need to be a good listener, because without an understanding of what the client wants and the way they live, a project is doomed to failure.
So, what do you do when you move into your own home and the only voice you need to listen to is your own? “You’d think it would be easy, but in my profession I see so many wonderful things and new collections each season, it made decorating my own home harder. I’m so indecisive when it comes to selecting items for myself,” says 28-year-old Joelle Reid.
Together with her boyfriend, Reid bought a two-bedroomed flat in Morningside last December and set herself the challenge of doing it up in just eight weeks. However, while the outlook on to the Braid Hills and over to Arthur’s Seat is idyllic, the interior was anything but.
“The previous owner had lived here for more than 30 years, and while I am sure it looked very fashionable in the seventies, it had not been touched since,” she says. The pair decided to start again by stripping everything back to the plaster (a process which removed layers of gloss paint, wood chip and even a brick-effect wall in the main lounge). Suspended ceilings were also done away with and all the floors were sanded. A rewire, replumb and four skips of rubbish later they were ready to layer up anew.
But how did she start? Doing away with the perhaps expected mood board – “I don’t tend to make mood boards for myself as I have a clear idea of what I want to create and how I see it coming together” – Reid was, instead, led by favourite fabrics and pieces of furniture.
“I have eclectic taste and, being sentimental, I like to surround myself with things that have a story and meaning to me,” she explains. In the bedroom, a chest of drawers picked up in an antique shop thus dictated the theme. “The rest of the scheme was worked around the Nina Campbell fabric on the Roman blind which I’ve been desperate to use since the collection was launched.”
Once stripped back to its bare bones, the living room was a blank canvas just waiting to be transformed into the property’s stand-out space.
“It would look wonderful with nothing in it,” she says. “The sun beats in the corner bay window all afternoon so I wanted to keep this room light and bright. We also installed a new limestone solid fuel fire which gave it another focal point – and an opportunity to hang my overmantel mirror, which is one of my favourite pieces.”
As someone whose stamp can be quite high voltage (she’s the design hand behind Edinburgh hotspots Tigerlily and Hamilton’s), the finished look is refreshingly modern and low-key.
That’s not to say the place is devoid of her trademark flashes of funky fabric. “The wallpaper in the bedroom is a large paisley from Zoffany. As you will see, I am not afraid of layering pattern on pattern, it creates depth to a scheme,” she says.
Coming from a textile background (Reid used to work at luxury textile brand Holland & Sherry) she also indulged her passion for fabrics. Touch-me textures and cool colour combinations can thus be found in every corner. The sofa in the living room is upholstered in a classic grey herringbone from Harlequin and piped in a fabric from Zoffany’s “Lanark” collection. The little Bergere chairs in the bay window, meanwhile, are upholstered in different fabrics, one in a Designers Guild-cut velvet (“my little piece of Tigerlily”) and the other in paisley wool from Zoffany.
There’s also a rather daring stripy carpet in the hallway. “Although this is a very bright flat, the hall has no windows and daylight is borrowed through other rooms so I felt that it needed a feature,” she says of her choice. “It is extremely practical, and with the use of a flat colour on the wall (Farrow & Ball’s Pavilion Gray), it was key that the carpet made a statement.”
Out of all of this, it’s telling that her must-have item in her new home is her cashmere blanket from Holland & Sherry, for cosy nights in. “I do feel under pressure to have a show home, but it’s certainly not what I have,” says Reid. “After all, it’s not a showcase of my work – my work often reflects my clients’ briefs which may be very different to what I like.
“I believe that you have to feel comfortable and relaxed in your own home so I try not to overstyle to ensure my home does not turn into a show house. My flat might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is our home and we like it.”
Reid’s new e-boutique, Maison Joelle (www.maisonjoelle.co.uk) features images of interior-designed rooms, with the key elements sourced by Reid so shoppers can create the look in their own home; email firstname.lastname@example.org