Rooms within a Room

Have you too much space in a living room?  Often spaces can be too big, as big as a barn,and the spaces just don’t seem to be intimate, warm and welcoming. This may seem surprising, but it is as common a problem as too little space and is actually a little more tricky to make work.  Take some interest in the big public spaces around you – hotel lobbies and bistros – to get ideas. Notice how the different spaces work and how they have been linked together to make a cohesive whole.  Is it tied together with colour, similar furniture styles?  Is the flooring different? Note the layouts – you will see each has smaller zones for relaxing, dining, or conversation areas within the greater space.  It still functions as a seamless, personal attractive whole, and your large living room can be similarly zoned.

Furniture arranged in zones keep this room interesting.

Furniture arranged in different areas fill this room & allow for various activities. Held together with similar colours in wall & floor coverings. Via Damask & Dentelle.

To create a spacious feel, unify the room with colour, texture and light, to create harmony within the different areas.  Texture is the best way to add personality and keep things welcoming.  Using the same texture across the different zones and spaces will provide the glue that pulls the whole thing together.

Several seating areas have been created using different pieces.  Again held together with colour and pattern.

Several seating areas have been created using different pieces in this fabulous room. All held together with colour and pattern.

Keep furniture arrangements simple and easy to reconfigure for gatherings in different ways.  Buy more versatile pieces that can be used in different ways. Having a focal point – a large one such as a chimney surround or  a rustic armoire for example will brings warmth, texture and personal interest into a room and will anchor down the different areas/zones.

The fireplace anchors this room as it is the focal point.

The fireplace anchors this room as it is the focal point. Colours are repeated throughout, tying together the different areas.  Interior created by Cindy Rinfret

Get the bigger pieces such as sofas off the wall (have said this before) and then place a desk or even smaller chairs behind a sofa with a table in between  so that you immediately create another area.Thinking creatively about furnishings and re-inventing pieces will make the room even more interesting.

By keeping the chairs and tables simple and not too heavy looking-be sure you can see underneath them as this creates the illusion of space- they can be easily moved around to suit visitor numbers as and when required.


Note how the colours and tones are similar throughout. Textural interest and lighting help to anchor the scheme as does the contrast in scale and height of the furniture.

Built in seating is a good way to add interest and another zone to a room.

Built in seating is a good way to add interest and another seating zone in a room.

If you would like help with your large room layout please contact us.

Look and follow our Pinterest board for inspiration. (warning Pinterest is highly addictive!)

We also visited Sarsfield Brooke furniture showroom today, with lots of new furniture to get creative with.  Available through Interior Designers nationwide.

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How to buy a Quality Sofa Part IV : Guarantees

Today’s post is the last in the series on “How to buy a  Quality Sofa”  so if you have missed the first 3 posts go back and have a read.  You are spending some hard earned dollars here, so it is worth it!To recap it should have: A heavy frame + heavy elephant foam cushions+ car tyre webbing = good quality sofa.  i.e you cannot kick it around with your foot.  A good quality sofa will need a couple of man mountains to lift it.  If you are a weakling and can lift it on your own, please walk away!


Linens ex Warwick Fabrics

Finally ask does your chosen piece of furniture have a Guarantee? Has the piece got a 10 year guarantee on the frame and foam?  A workmanship guarantee of 5 years?

Quality manufacturers will stand by their product.  Buying locally is safer for this very reason. (New Zealand Made in our case).  It is more eco-friendly as you are not shipping across the world, you know what is going into the product and you have local guarantees.  You are also providing local jobs and local income.  This is good for all of us isn’t it?

New sofas and chairs need to be worn in a little just like a car.  Think of them as your new favourite pair of designer jeans. Specialist designer furniture gets more comfortable with age, conforming to your body and becoming uniquely yours.  Yes, it does cost more, but buying quality, from a local manufacturer  but you are buying an antique of the future, a modern heirloom, not landfill.  You will be able to have it recovered in years to come. Think of how often you sit in your sofa, and for how many years you will have it, and the price doesn’t work out too badly does it?

View our website for more details of what to look out on a piece of furniture:

If you would like help selecting a new piece of furniture or interior design click here to contact us .  

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How to buy a Quality Sofa II: Foams

On Wednesday night we had the pleasure of talking to the Stage 2 class at the Nanette Cameron School of Interior Design which  has been the inspiration for this 4 part post on what makes a quality piece of furniture. First off it is the frame which we talked about in our last post. However Foams are equally important for supporting your body through their structure and how they shape a piece of furniture.  Then finally Cushions are the true source of comfort in a piece of furniture and the foam that goes in them is very important.


Be wary of a sofa that is super soft and squishy.  If it is soft on Day One  it will be positively saggy & offer no support by Day 365.  Your knees will be up around your ears when you sit down!  Equally be wary of a sofa that is way too firm.  Hard foam is not dense, and it is the density you pay for in a foam. Poor quality furniture has very little upholstery padding and the foams are cheap, cheap, cheap, light and offer no support. Look for lots of padding across the back and arms.  Look underneath the cushions.  You should not feel any sharp edges, staples, or the wood that lies beneath.  The piping and stitching should all be straight and not crooked.  Park your bottom on the seat.  Can you feel the front rail underneath your thighs? Can you feel any part of the frame beneath the foam? No?  Good, this could be the sofa for you then as it means lots of padding has been used and the seat foam is of decent quality.


Look for the use of Elephant foam, it is the heaviest, densest and most resilient.  It will give you years of firmness and stability which is good in a cushion. Memory foam and Luxura foam are used quite a lot but we wouldn’t recommend it to provide you with years of service.  Memory foam is lovely and soft and squishy for your sofa, but has no structure.  It was developed fas a topping foam for mattresses, and really should not be used in furniture.

Some manufacturers make a foam sandwich with their cushions.  But think about it – If you have a cushion that is 100mm thick you will get good structure by using all Elephant foam.  However, if you then make a ‘sandwich’ with Memory or Luxura foam (using 50mm of it for comfort) you will be taking away 50mm of structure and good support for your dear self in years to come.  So, it is a compromise.


In our next post we will talk about the cushioning on your sofa, and how elephant foam is used there along with feathers and other goodies.  Please come back to continue reading.

If you would like help selecting a comfortable, quality piece of furniture, we’d love to hear from you!

How to buy a Quality Sofa 1- The Frame

Most people struggle to know what is a good quality piece of furniture these days and what isn’t. Because you can’t actually see what you are getting and what lies beneath that gorgeous shape and fabric. A lot of quality has disappeared off the market due to cheap and nasty imports and quality local manufacturers have had their margins so squeezed they have been unable to survive.


Warning! If you pay a few $1000 hard earned dollars for a matching 3 piece lounge suite from a chain store on a Saturday morning, you can almost guarantee that it will not stand the test of time. Most of them are poorly made and are just ugly- extremely bulky and have no style what so ever.These pieces are, sadly lacking and are landfill and will not provide you years of good comfortable cushioning for your derriere.

(Refer our earlier blog- )


When looking for a new piece of furniture, you need to be prepared to invest some time, effort and yes,  money!  A lot of people replace their car before their sofa and spend more on their wardrobe annually, so invest because it is something that you will have for a while.  You must also love, love, love it. And your new sofa needs to be something you are truly comfortable in and for me nothing too hard edged, sleek, or funky as it is going to be around for a while so you don’t want it to look out of date next year!


The first thing to do with a sofa or chair is to give it a little nudge with your leg.  If it moves easily, then walk away.  No, I’m not joking. A light sofa/chair is a rubbish one.  It has probably got a balsa wood frame which will break and bend under the slightest bit of duress.  Next pick it up in one corner.  If it flexes and creaks like an old house there is not a strong frame in there.  Walk away!  Also knock three times along the side of the arms.  Does it sound like a drum?  It probably has cardboard in the arms and not solid wood.  Walk away again!

So what how do you know what is quality?


The frame construction is a vital key to lasting strength & durability so:

  • Internally the frames should be made of export quality eco friendly Pinus Radiata,or Beech, box sectioned to add strength. These woods are very heavy.  We make houses out of them!  It should have inserted spreader rails (front to back) to provide optimal strength.  For added  solidity all joints should be corner blocked, glued & high pressure stapled.
  • The frame sides are all routed to remove hard edges to avoid the possibility of the foam & webbing being damaged and cut.
  • The outside backs & arms are fully lined with polyester & hesssian.
  • Depending on the furniture design, Pirelli-type webbing (like split car tyres) should be used.  Not just tape.  Super heavy duty tread is the way to go.  The webbing should run both ways on the frame. Front to Back, Side to Side like a basket weave.  No gaps in the corners that you can sink down in.
  • Alternatively tension sprung seats & zigzag sprung backs are used for the seats & backs of the frames.

So, heavy frame + heavy cushion foam + car tyre webbing = good quality sofa. i.e. you cannot kick it around with your foot.  A good quality sofa will need a couple of burly blokes to lift it.  If you a weakling and can lift if on your own, please walk away!


For more ideas and inspiration have a look at these Related Articles:

Be your own Interior Design Coach

Have an empty room or two in your home that you are not sure what to do with?  Are there things that your are not sure about/ scared of that are holding you back in getting started on the rooms? How long has that room been empty and unused? Do not continue to be frozen in fear of doing something just because you spent a bit of money on it a while back and it still isn’t correct.  You’re not using the room and that is wasteful in itself.  We have Life Coaches, Sports coaching, Personal Trainers these days, but often what you need to be is an “Interior Design Coach”.  (A lot of a designer’s job is planning, then trying to get the job done and moving a project forward.) Remember, every journey starts with one step. 

So, think:  “How do I want to use the room?”  “What do I want to do in here?”  Do you want to: Watch TV? Listen to music? Read? Entertain? Play the piano? Once you have nailed this think about placement of the important things for carrying out those activities. For example- if you are wanting to watch TV where is the ideal place for the TV to go?


After positioning the TV correctly the furniture layout will easily follow on from there.  Questioning yourself and getting the priorities of the room sorted, will lead to getting the Room Layout correct and moving forward toward your goal.  Be prepared to spend the money to get wiring and the necessaries to that perfect place.  (You’d spend it on a personal coach if you wanted to get fit right?)


Don’t just make do and keep the TV outlet where the builder and electrician decided to place it when they were building.  It is never in the correct place, believe me. It is all doable, you just have to find the correct person to do the job and be prepared to spend the money to move a few things and maybe rejig the wiring.  If you decide not to do what deep down your heart is telling you do to do, it will be making a mistake.  Big expensive regrets.  The room will never serve the purpose you want it to, is always going to be half measure, unused and annoying you.  Did I also mention disappointing?   So, take a deep breath, make a plan and be your own Interior Design Coach and “Just Do It”.

If you would like help and free yourself from fear of making a mistake please contact us. We’d love to hear from you.

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Got Paint Colour Paralysis?

Up to your ears in paint colours? Can’t decide which one to use?   It need not be tricky, and your starting point is probably right in front of you. Ideally you want to make sure it goes with the furnishings that you already have.   A painting or a rug that you love perhaps? Could you paint the room in a shade or hue that would work with both?  Not everyone is drawn to bright, bold colours, so be in the moment and think about what colours you are drawn to.  You probably already know the colours you naturally love and those that you detest.

Have you been keeping a scrap book of all the interiors you like? Been doing any mood boards? (This is why they are so useful people!)  Look through them and magazines and really see what colours are there that you are drawn to.  Is there a common colour thing happening? Perhaps you are drawn to old woods, rustic greys or blues.  If you love blue, is it midnight, pale aqua, or a Wedgewood Powder Blue?  Ask yourself all these questions.   If you are seeking paint colours for your kitchen or bathroom, it is wise to pay attention to finishes like the tiles that you cannot/do not want to change.  This could also a good starting point for your scheme perhaps?

Pink, apricot, cream and warm woods used with a Cool Light

Pink, apricot, cream and warm woods used with a Cool Light

Pay attention to the orientation of the room that you are painting.  Is it North facing? (We are talking Southern Hemisphere)  Does it get a lot of afternoon sun?  This may be the ideal place to use blues, greens and aquas – cooler colours that will offset the warm sun rays and yellow light entering the room. You only have to think of a sunny, north facing room in February to know that bright orange or red will feel totally overwhelming in there!

Conversely a south facing room has cool, blue light, and no sun, so a warmer shade – yellow, reds, pinks will feel good there.  In New Zealand our bathrooms are often on the South side of the house and people paint them blue as they feel this relates to water. Be warned fellow Kiwis, if you paint a bathroom blue, the southern light, coupled with white porcelain and tiles may feel like you are bathing in a chilli bin, not a warm bath!   Consider a warm yellow, ochre or cream instead.

Aqua blue is warmed up here by warm wooden floors.

Aqua blue is warmed up here by warm wooden floors.

Blue is warmed up with wood tones here- in the curtains, table, and chandelier.

Blue is warmed up with wood tones here- in the curtains, table, and chandelier.

After you’ve sorted out whether you are going warm (reds, yellows, oranges) or cool (blues, greens, aquas) and what furnishings you are going to try to tie your paint colour in with, then get the paint charts out.  Not everyone is drawn to bold, clear colours so if you are one of them, then look to the neutral shades of the colour you are thinking of.  Always, always, test the colours out.  2 coats, painted on a big sheet of cardboard.  And use the exact finish you plan to use — high gloss will look very different from matte or eggshell. If you don’t want to deal with test pots, look for a paint company that offers poster-size paint chips and tape them to your wall instead.   Look at them in all lights – morning, noon and night, on rainy days, sunny days, and then at night when you have the lights on. These different lights will all change the paint colour.  If a certain shade doesn’t work in the room, and it is in the same colour family that you are considering using, it will probably work in another room in the house.  This will give flow and continuity to your space.  So, get those overalls on and get started.

Warm terracotta pots and wood tones, help to warm up a neutral, grey, beige.  Greige.

Warm terracotta pots and wood tones, help to warm up a neutral, grey, beige. Greige.

Dress Up the Boudoir

Yesterday we talked about small, dark rooms and bedooms.  Which leads to today’s topic – Making the Bed a focal point.  That is why it is called a “Bed-room”, no?  We have seen a lot of bedrooms that unfortunately look like a flat where you are ‘dossing down’!

So, Dress up the boudoir.  Make the bed the focal point,and make it, well, inviting.  Again it is all about adding layers. If you can afford it – add a bed head, even custom made are not too expensive. Paint or paper the wall paper behind in an accent colour. Add 2 to 3 Euro pillows at back, two regular ones, accent cushion(s) at front.  Coordinating bed cover or duvet with a throw or quilt at the end to finish it off. Not too hard huh? Again mix and match & break up existing bed linen sets putting different pieces in another room.   This will help to create flow to the other bedrooms in the house and give them all a sense of belonging to each other.

The deep diamond buttoned headboard by Room Service Interiors was the starting point below LHS.   Next the bed was dressed in quilts, pillows and linen by Anami Textiles who do unique one-off designs that help you to create wonderful beds.  The ‘recipe’ above was used with Euros across the back, with pillows in front, and then an accent cushion to brighten things up and pull the whole lot together.



If you do not have a headboard then think about hanging some art work behind the bed as a starting point for your scheme.  On the RHS note how the colour in the painting has been used on the Euro pillows & links to the privacy screen across the window.  The linen used is relatively simple – all cream, but then a large woollen throw is added on the bottom for wonderful textural contrast.  The trunk at the end is  the full stop at the end of the bed.  The chandelier adds a glamorous, unexpected twist.

A good additional layer is to place an end ottoman, trunk or bench at the bottom of the bed as the finish it off, provide linen storage, and seating. And yes, it is another layer.

Bedside tables do not need to be matching, a chest of drawers can do double duty as do side tables and even chairs.  It is always great to then add table lamps for bedtime reading and creating a soft,warm light  rather than the glaring central pendant.  We have even been known to add a chandelier to a dark corner to provide an unexpected accent to a bedroom.

Back on Monday with some ideas on how to add texture and tone to your interiors.  In the meantime we will be updating the look of our blog – it is a little too heavy in the banner and not quite how we want it, hmmm, maybe we’re perfectionists?