How to… style a mantlepiece or sideboard


I often get asked for styling tips so I thought I would share some ideas for styling surfaces such as mantlepieces and sideboards today. Most of us have a surface like this at home and it’s all too easy for them to become a dumping ground for piles of post, empty coffee cups and bunches of keys. Style them in the right way, though, and they can become a fabulous focal point.

My first tip is to think about how you group objects. Never place things in uniform rows and try to arrange them by using items of different heights. This will give your display energy and interest. Vary the heights of objects and try placing the tallest object close to the middle.  Also, by using objects of differing heights, it will look artfully styled rather than things looking as though they have been left there accidentally.

Try to keep the number of objects you use odd. For some reason, odd numbers of things are always more interesting and it is an age old stylist’s trick to always place objects in groups of three or five and never two or four. It just looks so much better.

Try to place things together and in front of each other, without leaving big gaps. Play around with them until they feel right. We all have objects at home that can be transformed into really cool displays once they are placed next to the right thing. For example, place a vase next to a photo frame, a candle, a picture and a small pile of books. Use something random and unexpected! This will add cool factor. Place photos or artworks leaning against the wall, slightly overlapping. You get the idea.

Here are some images from the homes of stylists Marianne Cotterill and Sarah Fry, artist Annie Morris and stylist Claire Durbridge from my book Creative Living London (photographs by Ingrid Rasmussen), which I hope will inspire you:

MARIANNE  060SARAHFRY  201MORRIS  119SAKOUI  013

Cool rooms for kids


I had a baby boy a few weeks ago and while he is sleeping with me at the moment, my thoughts have turned to decorating the nursery where he will join his big brother in a few months (hopefully he will be sleeping through!). I’ve been really lucky to have styled some homes where there are super cool kids rooms, so I thought I would share some of them with you here. I hope you find them inspirational and fun. If you’d like to see more of the lovely homes featured here, you can read about them in my new book Creative Living London. (Photographs by Ingrid Rasmussen)

LONDONFIELDS  904This room is filled with bright colours and plenty of spaces for the kids to hang out, such as this tipi. What I loved about this kids’ room though is that it is also home to some very grown up art, which the owners were not afraid to hang in the children’s space. On the contrary, they chose some great art specifically for the room and the kids loved it.

SAKOUI  191SAKOUI  200This adorable room belongs to fashion stylist Claire Durbridge’s two young children. Claire has used lots of clever styling tricks to personalise the room, making it super cool without being too cutesy or obvious. The gorgeous animals on the walls were cut out of some gift wrap and glued to the walls, while Claire took an old vintage lamp and added a black pompom trim. The black and white monochrome theme gives it a sophisticated finish, while Claire’s little flourishes and plenty of vintage keep it quirky and fun.

GOODHOOD  034GOODHOOD  045How cool is this for a nursery?! This super stylish space belongs to Jo and Kyle’s adorable little boy. Jo and Kyle own the lifestyle and design store Goodhood and they have decorated their nursery with the same eye for detail and design as the rest of their fabulous home. Jo found the Burger King sign at a flea market, while the other artworks are part of the couple’s own collection. Filled with colour and a mix of modern and vintage, this is a very stylish space indeed.

MARCNEWSON  107Last up, designer Marc Newson and stylist Charlotte Stockdale’s nursery, which has its own bathroom. The vivid red is vibrant and fun while the wall sticker keeps the space child friendly.

My top tips for kids rooms:

1. Think long term. You don’t want to be redecorating in a year’s time, so try to choose a scheme that can grow with your child. Consider using wallpapers or furnishings that would work equally well in 1,3 or 5 years’ time or even using grown up styles that can work for kids. Cole and Son have several great wallpapers that will grow with your child, for example.

2. Think practical. Kids’ rooms get a real bashing, so don’t put anything fragile or precious in there! It seems obvious, but it’s tempting to splash out on those beautiful items, only to be horrified when your little angels take a pair of scissors or a felt tip pen to them.

3. Try adding some vintage. Vintage furniture is often cheaper and better made than new and will withstand the most boisterous toddler as well as adding a timeless and personal element, more popular with older children. Online auctions, car boot fairs and antique markets are all good places to look.

4. Encourage their creativity. Children love to get creative and they will love their room even more if they are allowed to be creative in it. While you might not want them splashing paint around, consider painting out a wall, piece of furniture or even a small design on the wall in blackboard paint so that they can scribble away to their heart’s content.

5. Create a den or hiding place. Children love to hide themselves away sometimes and adding a canopy over the bed, a tipi or a den will give them a special place to hang out, read and make believe.

My favourite stores:

1. Kidsen: Clothing, shoes and nursery decor from the coolest Scandinavian brands. Really worth checking out.

2. Cole and Son: Fabulous wallpapers that suit all ages and styles.

3. The Modern Baby: A treasure trove of decorative accessories and ideas with a contemporary feel.

4. IKEA: IKEA offers great design at great prices. Think outside the box – for example in our nursery I have repurposed their £3 spice racks as bookshelves and they look fantastic (more on this and other ideas another time…)

5. Auctions, antique fairs and car boots: Absolutely the best places to buy pre-loved nursery items, quirky artwork and unique pieces of furniture.

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