The long summer spent stuck indoors, staring at the same four walls has inspired us to rethink them. Beth Lowe, Managing Director of M Interior Design, shares practical ways to help you fall in love with your home all over again.
Over a career spanning two decades, renowned Yorkshire-based interior designer Beth Lowe has set her hand to everything from high end residential to multi-million-pound hospitality and leisure renovations. After spending four years earning a degree in Architectural Design at Manchester College of Arts and Technology, Beth began her working life as an architectural technician, quickly proving herself a precocious young talent. By the age of 20, she was managing her own six-figure projects at a large architectural firm, space planning for new residential homes and spearheading the interior design for the UK’s top bars and hotels, including Punch Taverns and De Vere Hotels.
Beth established M Interiors in the months before lockdown and despite an inevitable slowdown in projects, she’s continued to work with prestigious clients including Everyman Cinemas and the Ivy Collection. “Once you’ve done hospitality you can turn your hand to anything, as you’re working with such a wide variety of spaces.”
Since Beth has focused her efforts on high-end residential and second home improvement projects, she has found working in somebody’s home comes with its own distinct challenges: “You have to work around your clients, phasing the work to cause as minimal disruption as possible to their lives. I do feel for people that have to live with builders on site, because they can be a law unto themselves. I’m known for the fact that I’m a bit of a nightmare when it comes to detail and snagging – I don’t let anything lie!”
Beth covers everything from interior design to architectural renovations and is happy to discuss your next home interiors project: “Feel free to like get in touch, whether it’s a listed or modern eco-friendly build that you have in mind, I’d love to take a look.”
Out of Office
Lockdown saw a wave of DIY enthusiasts busying themselves with home improvements, with queues for B&Q stretching around the block when home retailers were among the first to reopen. “During lockdown, you couldn’t get hold of materials for love nor money. Paint, plaster, flooring, you name it, and there is still a backlog of materials coming into the country.”
As the home working trend looks here to stay, many are looking for ways to separate the space between work and play: “It can be rather disruptive if you’re working at the kitchen table and your partner comes in wanting to cook dinner. Many of us are looking to reconfigure our interiors so we have a home office in which we can shut the world out, but also quiet areas to relax and unwind. We’ve seen a huge uptake in garden rooms used as offices and gyms, which were closed for most of the summer. They’re basically very posh furnished sheds with concertina doors, usually costing around £10,000 and upwards.”
Though many of us are not as fortunate to have a spare room to dedicate to a home office, Beth offers some crafty methods to carve out pockets of space: “You can create office areas under the stairs or in a little alcove, using inventive ways to screen it. You can use plant walls or timber shelving with little bits of bric-a-brac, some people even install pocket doors which slide into the walls.”
Let there be Light
Even if the room is lacking in natural light, Beth has some easy ways to make the space feel brighter and airier: “I’m just in the throes of moving house – it’s not huge, so just sticking with basic white wall colours and removing the window dressings has already given it such a bright, fresh feeling. Plus, neutral colours make it more affordable if you want a change. If you have artwork on the walls, simply changing the colour of the frames can give the room a completely different appearance.
If you need window dressings, keep the colour and material light, rather than putting a dark blind or curtains into a recess, which really brings the room in on itself. Mirrored surfaces and colourful artwork are other good ways to make the space feel bigger when things could get quite claustrophobic.”
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Trying to keep the clutter to a minimum is easier said than done, but Beth has some nifty storage solutions: “Firstly, you have to understand the type of storage which will make the most of your space. Depending on your budget, custom made sliding drawers which use the space within your staircase are great for stashing bits and bobs you need easy access to, like dog leads, hats and scarves.
If you have a small front room and you want a focal point which can double up as storage, you could have something like a fireplace with shelving or concealed pull-out compartments to keep your clutter tucked out of sight.”
Whenever Beth begins a new project, her go-to method is to create a mood board to establish ideas before she gets to work: “Pinterest is a great app to use for curating colours, furniture and design ideas you can just thumb through for inspiration. But I always think it’s good to put your ideas down on paper, where you can pin a physical collage of images, cuttings and fabric samples you’ve spotted.
“The first things I’ll pick out are the flooring, tiling and wall colours. Then I’ll move onto the fabrics, light fittings and layout and build from there with soft furnishing and accessories. Retailers like The Range and Dunelm are good if you’re trying to deck somewhere out on a budget, but I like to support independent boutiques – Hebden Bridge has lovely pottery shops with a vintage craft market on Saturdays.”
Waste not, Want not
Beth has seen a seismic shift away from the throwaway society we’ve become known for, as DIY fanatics become ever-more environmentally conscious: “Rather than buying poor quality flat pack furniture, people want something that will last and comes with a bit of historic value. I love buying things online that I know I can upcycle. I’ve made outdoor furniture from pallets and just recently painted the legs of a little antique barley twist side table pea green for a modern twist. I even took an oak fire surround my neighbour was about to chop up for firewood and painted it ‘greige’ (a mix of grey and beige), which is the big trend at the moment. You can do it with anything! Rather than throwing away your glass jars, peel the labels off them and there you have a beautiful tealight cluster for your garden.”