New homeowner Laura Cartledge finds decor decisions are a lot easier with some designer help.
There are many things that are scary about moving into your first home. And when the dust, and bank account, has settled a little even the fun aspects like decorating can seem daunting.
Especially if, like me, your partner’s brain seems to turn off at first sight of a colour chart.
It was almost as if Rye’s Wendy Newman had sensed I’d been staring at my moodboards for too long when she got in touch about her Designer for a Day service.
“I do have a special sense about these things,” she joked as we sat in my lounge a few weeks later. “What I am after is that people will know how to move on rather than feeling stuck.”
This was music to my ears, but I still felt nervous. Perhaps it was because I watched too many episodes of Changing Rooms in my youth, that somehow I would end up having a house that didn’t look like my home at all.
“Everyone I was training with was very much ‘clear it all out, I am your designer darling’ whereas I wanted to do it for normal people, all budgets, all properties and help them get it right for them,” reassured Wendy.
“I have had everything from massive mansions to teeny flats, it is really varied which is lovely.
“You get welcomed in to people’s homes and the nature of what I am doing is quite personal, I have to know how you live and how you want to use the space. So you have to make people feel comfortable.”
While this allayed my fears it soon felt strange to be on the other side of the interview as Wendy went about getting to know us and our tastes.
“I’ve had people who moved into a new house and their old stuff doesn’t fit anymore, I’ve had bachelor’s pads where the girlfriend and then children have come along,” she revealed.
“I had an email once that just said ‘bathroom tiling crisis, when can you come over?’”
Believing ‘where you live is so important’ means Wendy’s approach involves incorporating what you care about from hand-me-down furniture to somewhere for sentimental photographs.
“It can be more interesting if people are interested in upcycling, it is the things you have been given by people you love that makes it a home – there is so much more meaning to it,” she enthused, before adding that there is another side to this too.
“I do sometimes find myself giving people permission not to have every gift they have ever been given on display,” grinned Wendy. “It is easier for a third person to say it is ok not to do that.”
Learning Wendy’s love of interiors started some 30 years ago by doing her own property developments makes a lot of sense.
“Then friends started asking for advice,” she explained. “Eventually I panicked one day and thought I am giving advice that could see them spending hundreds of pounds. So I went and got properly trained.”
It was on this training seven years ago that she saw the gap in the market for a designer service for ‘ordinary people’.
“I like feeling comfortable somewhere and it came as a surprise that some people might not feel that way in their space or need help getting there,” she revealed, explaining how each session can focus on whatever or wherever the client wants.
Wendy then writes up a report, which she admitted many people ‘treat like their Bible’ and follow out the action plan she’s given, whereas others seek her skills in putting it into motion.
Luckily, despite having a three-bedroom property brimming with question marks, I had made a start so Wendy and I could tackle them head on.
It started with ‘how much teal?’ for the living room and ended with ‘how would you lay out the
bathroom’, covering everything from flooring to light fixtures in-between.
The result was an inspiring and in-depth whirlwind which, I am not ashamed to say, soon led me to exclaim ‘you are everyone’s dream friend aren’t you?’
In some cases Wendy just gave me the confidence to do what I knew deep down I really wanted – including a woodland themed under the stairs toilet – and in others she opened my eyes to possibilities I hadn’t even considered.
“The thing I really, really, love is there is always a point when you see the light go on in client’s eyes,” she confessed. “I’ve had people clapping because they are so excited.”
However, for someone with so much experience and passion, I had to ask if Wendy found it hard not to inject her taste into projects?
“It is a balance. But people aren’t buying my taste they are buying my level of taste I suppose,” she replied. “It’s not me saying if this was my house I would do this and this and this.
“I have to appreciate that and sometimes help people put in bits of furniture I think are hideous,” admitted Wendy.
“I am known for being honest and that is a good thing, I never offend. It’s more a case of asking ‘what are you trying to achieve with this?’ Or ‘why have you got it?’
“I am polite but I am not there to be a yes man.”
Preparation is key
“The more time you can spend in the planning the better,” shared Wendy.
“You are only going to go out and spend what you would anyway, but by planning it you know what look you will be after and what dimensions you need and you know it will go together.
“I say to clients take an envelope that has your colour chart and a bit of fabric when they go shopping.
“Spend money on samples and don’t put them on the wall, instead paint them on bits of paper – the back of old wallpaper is perfect.”
To find out more about Wendy’s work, visit www.wendynewmaninteriordesign.co.uk
Wendy has teamed up with etc Magazine to offer one reader the chance to win her Designer for the Day service which is a day of interior design advice worth £300. To find out more, and enter, see page 65 of January’s East Sussex edition.
December 23, 2015 Interiors and Property