My mornings have always leaned towards the manic side.
I’m not one of those organised mums who pack lunches the night before and has school bags waiting neatly by the front door. I’m that one bursting out of the door – arms filled with coats, hats, water bottles and forms that should have been returned a week earlier – shouting: ‘Come on, come on, we’re late!‘
I’m the driver stuck behind the rubbish truck looking like she’s about to pop a blood vessel; the one dragging her child through the school gates as they’re literally closing.
The one who burst in the Amara #HomeRefresh press day the other week with my hair stuck in my lipgloss and my face an attractive shade of cerise after frantically walk-running from the tube station to get there on time.
There to greet me with a hug and a smile, was Amara’s community manager, Marie Turner. ‘Help yourself to coffee and something to eat,’ she invited, gesturing towards a table heaving with fresh fruit and flaky Danish pastries. So I did – and they were good.
Looking around, I spotted Gill from A Baby on Board. I love getting to see and do cool things at these fabulous events, but what really makes my day is when I also get to catch up with some of my favourite blogger buddies.
I met Gill more than seven years ago at the very first Cybermummy conference – I was pregnant with Lil Sis at the time, and she was a PR for Tommee Tippee. Her stand also had the yummiest cupcakes (these things stand out when you’re a hungry pregnant lady!).
But I digress.
We were here to admire Amara’s gorgeous spring/summer collection of home accessories, and to pick up some amazing home styling tips from Amara’s fabulous stylist, Elle Taylor.
We wandered through to the next room, where the team had set up some pretty display areas, as well as some poster boards showing off some of the looks. The theme was ‘Greenhouse’ and that’s exactly what these looks evoked – muted greens, blues, pinks and purples (soft, powdery shades, yet rich enough to avoid being classed as pastels) accentuated with the prettiest floral and botanical prints.
I’m a bit obsessed with bronze and burnished gold at the moment, and these colours were the perfect complement.
We’re mid-renovations right now, and now that I can see our new home starting to rise from the dusty ashes I’m thinking ahead to how we’re going to decorate it. My trouble is I know what I like, but I’m never quite sure how to achieve the looks I love, so I was really excited to pick up some tips from a professional.
Elle had set up an empty bookcase and set about filling it with goodies from Amara’s online home accessories range, and also from her own personal stash of treasures (I asked her if she was always finding bits and bobs wherever she went, as I constantly find myself picking up random items that I think will look nice in flatlays – from star-shaped tealights to dried flowers, to antique sewing scissors).
Firstly, decide on your general concept or look, she advised. If you’re stuck for ideas, look on Pinterest for inspiration; from there you can work out what appeals to you and start creating your own bespoke ‘mood board’ of colours, styles and patterns.
Next, nail down your colour scheme. Stick to three or four colours, Elle told us – any more and your display could look confused. For the same reason, try to ensure your background is plain, so it doesn’t become a distraction.
If possible, angle your display so it faces soft, natural light – the most flattering light to show off your styling.
Start with the larger items to give a sense of balance and scale, she instructed, and add the plain items first; this provides you with a neutral foundation to which you can layer quirkier items.
Books don’t have to be stood upright; lay them flat, then you can stack other accessories on top of them. But be sure to keep your palette in mind – make sure the colours of the book spines fit in with your overall theme.
Make sure you’re mixing up level and heights, to add more interest and depth, and don’t forget the ‘Rule of Odds’: this is a designer’s magic formula that declares an odd number of items always looks better than an even number. No one really knows why (perhaps because even numbers can end up looking a bit matchy-matchy and overstyled), but it just works.
Then you have the ‘Pyramid Rule’, where the highest point of a display should in the middle (this reminded me of when I used to work on glossy magazines – the page layout would always apply the Pyramid Rule, as it drew the eye into the page, rather than off it).
It was so interesting to watch Elle placing objects, stepping back to look at them, then rearranging them until they looked just right. I also found it fascinating that moving something just a few centimetres, or turning it the opposite way, could completely change the overall look.
One thing I always have trouble with is finding that sweet spot between adding just enough accessories and going completely overboard. ‘It’s quality, not quantity,’ Elle told us. ‘Don’t let you display get cluttered – you need to give your pieces space to breathe.’
I asked her what she did when she just couldn’t quite get the look nailed down. ‘Walk away,’ she advised. ‘Leave the room and when you come back you’ll see it with fresh eyes.’
Quite often you’ll realise it’s not nearly as bad as you thought it was, and the tweaks that do need to be made will be much more obvious, she explained. I also discovered that taking a photo of your unfinished display can help you see it more objectively – as the camera eye more clearly reveals what changes should be made.
Finally, Elle added the final touches – some botanical prettiness to tie it all together. ‘If you’re a serial plant killer, like me, there are loads of great quality fake flowers out there now,’ Elle revealed, slotting in some succulents and some faux sprigs of Eucalyptus.
And, just like that, she had woven her styling magic, and it looked perfect.
Later, as we prepared to leave, the Marie handed me a bag contained two lovely Amara accessories I’d chosen from the new range – this gorgeous brass Umbra Prisma photo frame, and matching Prisma mirror, with a challenge attached – to style our items using at the fabulous design tips we’d picked up.
I went home brimming with ideas and couldn’t wait to get started, as Elle had made it look so easy.
It wasn’t. I now appreciate her talents even more as it turns out putting things on a shelf is not as simple as… well… putting things on a shelf.
However, I persevered, recalling all the home styling tips and tricks she’d taught us, and slowly my own display began to come to life. It’s not as great as Elle’s, obviously, but I’m so pleased with how it’s turned out, and now have MUCH more confidence about styling the house once our renovations are finished.
So… what do you think?
My first challenge was the fact that 90 percent of our belongings are packed away in storage while our house is being renovated. Undeterred, I repurposed my work shelves and put them in Lil Sis’s newly painted bedroom (do you like the colour we chose?).
First, I placed my most important items – the Amara mirror and photo frame (filled with a favourite picture of the girls).
We’re going for a woodland theme in Lil Sis’s room, so luckily I’d already bought a couple of little goodies that I thought would work well with my colour scheme -gold, green, pink/red and brown.
This bronze-look hare was £7 in the sale at Sainsbury’s, while I found the toadstool in the gift shop at Blenheim Palace for £11. The little gold monkeys came from Dunelm Mill – from memory, they were £7 for the pair – and the glitter notebooks were also on sale at Sainsbury’s – I think they were 49p each.
I already had the candle and vase, and the ivy plants and the little tealight holders I picked up at my local florist.
I tried to use all the techniques Elle had told us – including deliberately mismatching the heights and setting some items back to create more depth. I tried to get just the right mix of classic accessories and quirky touches, to give that element of fun, and added the plants to give a layer of colour and lushness.
Spurred on, I then I got a little style-happy and decided to try some flat lay action.
This is my crafty one (the dried lavender smells divine), and below is my woodsy one (I’ve been foraging mossy sticks for the past fortnight – OH thinks I’m a complete weirdo). Which one do you prefer?
I was a guest of Amara at their #HomeRefresh event and received a goody bag containing a photo frame & mirror