“You wouldn’t want to wear something on your body that you didn’t like and I think the same should apply to your home,” explains Suzi Searle, a Hammersmith-based interior designer “it is much nicer when you can walk into someone’s house and you can feel instantly that it is like them, and make that connection.”
Suzi has been living in Hammersmith for 13 years and is proud to champion her neighbourhood: “in the road where I live, there is a wonderful atmosphere and sense of community, we always say hello to each other and in the summer months, I really appreciate the river being so close. I love going to Riverside Studios and sitting on the terrace there, and The Lyric too, I’d recommend that for a drink and a bite to eat even if you’re not seeing a show.”
Although Suzi is often popping into the local shops and cafes, her travels to locations including the British Virgin Islands remain a vital inspiration, leading her to pick up all manner of quirky objects to display in her home.
“A few friends who are also interior designers came over to supper last night and it made me a little apprehensive because my home is the one place that gets the least attention! But all the items within my home have so many memories, and are part of who I am – taking me back to some exciting places where, if I close my eyes I can picture the person I bought it from.”
We all know what it is like to come back from a holiday feeling inspired, whether it be by stunning coastal views captured in a photograph, fluffy cocooning towels or sometimes even, as Suzi explains, unusual wallpaper:
“I’ve had clients who have visited the most beautiful hotels and have really liked the wallpaper wanting to recreate the look at home. Some clients will investigate and find out the name of the paper from the hotel but mostly, they will come to me and I can just recognise and source it for them – this saves a lot of time – over the years, I’ve come to know the patterns and styles.”
However, Suzi wouldn’t advise styling your home like a hotel, “it can be sterile, not lived in. I think people will be moving away from that look in 2011 and opting for more character with plenty of texture; tactility is important. You’ll find much more in the way of recycled fabrics too as people look for new, greener alternatives.”
Has Suzi also noticed a rise in customers seeking a more vintage feel for their homes too?
“Yes, definitely and fabric and wall coverings company Sanderson recently launched a bold collection inspired by their prints of the 1950s. In days gone by, many rooms were pattern overkill but today, it’s great to have bold accents of colour among the more simple shades of taupe and grey.”
When she’s on the hunt for a new statement piece of furniture, Suzi heads to Chiswick’s Old Cinema antiques centre where you can find “all manner of styles”, and since taking on her first client in 1992 has built up a hefty contacts book, always able to find the right person for the right job.
“I have ‘pet people’ that I work with: builders; electricians and those with other specialist skills, and know that though they might not be the cheapest, they will be the best. I always make sure the job finishes on time, and above all, on budget.”
And if you’re thinking of selling your house, where would Suzi say, was the best place to start?
“Estate agents all agree that improving your kitchen and bathroom will really help to sell your home and can create the wow factor. When a potential buyer walks in and sees a new kitchen with fantastic appliances or a beautiful bathroom, it can really make them think they’d like to live there. This is especially true if all the other rooms are empty.”
But while an empty room may fill some of us with dread, for Suzi, it’s just the opportunity to start afresh and turn your house into something you can really live in, not just inhabit.
Bedroom blues? Follow Suzi’s tips to liven up your sleeping quarters
- Treat yourself to some new bed linen in the sales – an easy way to a simple facelift
- Lighting can improve any room – why not use a lamp to highlight a structural feature you particularly like?
- De-clutter – Look around you and ask yourself ‘why do I have this?’ If you don’t know, sell it on eBay or recycle it.