interior design

Multi-purpose thinking

A really small hall or landing is a challenge. They don’t create a welcoming feeling of space and light. In both period and modern homes, entrance space is often cramped (or, let’s be honest, it feels that way if it’s full to the rafters with boots, coats and piles of laundry).

Dare I say it, the original landing in this beautiful modern home almost erred the other way. It was simply vast. Airy, spacious and well-lit though it was, with a growing family and lots of visitors, the owners had other priorities. They commissioned Bear Interiors to carve out some more usable space from the whole, while still retaining the impression of size.

A multi-purpose landing, snug and guest room designed and built by Bear Interiors


Multiple needs call for clever, multi-purpose thinking. These concertina doors fold neatly away when just the family are home, while the soft carpeting demarcates a space for relaxing and TV watching. When visitors arrive, a whole wall is instantly created as the doors unfold, and a comfortable sofa bed is set up in the blink of an eye. Voila, an elegant guest room.

With a little interior design thought, this kind of solution could allow many rooms to be sub-divided when needed. With folding doors, living areas or larger bedrooms might become multi-functional too, perhaps adapting to accommodate a guest room, a home office, a study or hobby room, an exercise area, a dressing room or even an en suite bathroom.


Simple is beautiful

When it comes to planning storage and home design, sometimes the simplest solutions have the most to offer. The test of good design can be that we barely know it’s there.

In the right setting, a highly decorated or unusual layout is absolutely right. Often, though, we simply want our bits and bobs out of the way in a piece of furniture so convenient, classic and well-built that we hardly notice it at all.

It becomes part of the room, like it’s always been there, especially when a pair of wardrobes fit a couple of alcoves like hands in gloves. The effect may be simple but the execution to make it so is critical: like the wardrobes we designed here – the fit, the perfect infills, the top detailing matching the height and style of the picture rail – all of these need careful thought and skilled installation to create the effect.

Simple alcove wardrobes harmonise with the room with plinth details and perfectly fitted infills

Simple alcove wardrobes harmonise with the room with plinth details and perfectly fitted infills

In a living area, the bits and bobs multiply. To create a clean, open-plan feel it’s vital to have the right storage to make whisking all our stuff away as easy as pie. The effect is ordered, and helps us relax in an uncluttered room where we know exactly where to find a necessary item.

In high-ceilinged rooms like the one for which we created the storage wall below, built-in furniture makes efficient use of high-up space for less used items, which stay orderly, dust-free and still readily accessible. Even room heating is integrated for a fuss-free feel.

A full-height storage wall creates an ordered feel and makes efficient use of high-up wall space

A full-height storage wall creates an ordered feel and makes efficient use of high-up wall space

Our ordered home needs space for outside storage too. You might be surprised how many conversations we have with clients about storing bins, recycling and other useful but unattractive paraphernalia. If we get this right, the rest of the home feels instantly better.

The client for whom we designed this contemporary side passage (below) wanted a covered area to keep waste disposal bins dry (helpfully also keeping the rain off people using them) and out of sight. A sloping waterproof roof was necessary, but was given the invisibility treatment with a hard-wearing slatted wall. It’s simple but thoughtful, attractive but low-key.

There are more custom-built home storage ideas on our website, or call us to discuss what you need on 01225 330124.

Outdoor storage can also be clean, well-designed and contemporary

Outdoor storage can also be clean, well-designed and contemporary

Ten ways to get the most from an interior designer

If you’re thinking about reworking one or more rooms at home, it’s a great idea to pick the brains of an interior designer.

At Bear Interiors we advise customers all the time, so here’s our guide to the preparation you can do to really get the most from the conversation – and help you decide if you want to buy your interior designer’s services.

Living room of Ducklings Retreat, Cartmel, designed by Bear Interiors

Living room of Ducklings Retreat, Cartmel, designed by Bear Interiors

1. Choose an interior designer whose work you like. Personal recommendations are great if you have friends who wanted something similar to you. Any good designer will show you a portfolio of recent projects and provide you with customer references. If like us they also build and install custom-made furniture, ask to see (and feel!) examples of their wares.

2. Look around for inspiration. Take cuttings from magazines, ask for swatches in wallpaper and fabric shops, and take photos of things you like wherever you go. Even if the features you like would need re-working for your home, they are very useful guides to your taste, the colours you love and the feel you’re after, which aren’t always easy to describe in words.

3. Have a little measure up. Obviously an interior designer will do this thoroughly if you give them your commission, but a sketched floor plan including dimensions will make sure your initial conversation is accurately based on the existing room, its nooks and crannies, and help you illustrate what you’d like it to become. Don’t forget to note the height of the room too.

A rough sketch plan - helping you describe your brief to an interior designer

A rough sketch plan – helping you describe your brief to an interior designer

4. For practical interior design proposals and an idea of costs, it’s important to know if a new design is going to require structural changes like moving utilities, drains, radiators, interior walls or windows, so mark existing positions on your sketched floor plan. If you are having building work done, you may have drawings already, and it’s helpful to have some copies available.

5. If you’re not meeting at home, take along some photos of your existing room to go with your sketch plan – on a phone is fine.

6. Have an idea of maximum budget, and don’t be embarrassed about setting a limit. It’s much better for a designer to know a realistic figure and work within it than to propose something that won’t be affordable, and some are great at suggesting clever cost saving ideas. In working out your budget, have a think about the current value of your home and what your transformation may add to that. As a very rough guide, a newly built kitchen will add an average of 8% to the value of your home, though that varies. It’s not the only consideration and it matters less if you have no intention of moving soon, but it’s sensible not to spend amounts far in excess of what you could recoup.

7. Be ready to share a little information. It won’t get too intimate, but we are talking about your home here, and it needs to reflect who lives there, how you use it and what you like doing. Giving your designer some clues about your lifestyle will help them offer ideas just right for you – whether it’s for a storage unit the right size for fishing rods, a desk to fit a particular alcove, a love for home cinema or enthusiasm for all things tartan. Don’t worry, we interior designers are like doctors, we’ve heard it all!

8. Think about the future. Especially if you’re aiming to stay put in your home, your needs will change. Kids grow up and want media walls instead of play dens. Career changes could require home office space, and retirement opens up new ways of spending time. Family members may need provision for reduced mobility, and even pets have their own accommodation needs. You can’t predict everything but if you share the possibilities with your interior designer, you can create options with greater inbuilt flexibility for change.

A design for a child's room can have inbuilt flexibility for changing needs

A design for a child’s room can have inbuilt flexibility for changing needs

9. Be ready to listen to advice. A good designer will take your brief and add value to it. They may suggest things you didn’t know you could do, or they may come up with a different solution to your design challenge. Don’t be pushed around, but don’t dismiss new ideas out of hand either – ask why they are suggesting something different, and make sure you’re satisfied with the answer. They will have worked on many similar projects and their interior design expertise is what you’re going to be paying for. If they can spot an issue early on and work around it, they may save you a lot of time and trouble.

An initial kitchen design render helps you see in detail what you'll be getting

An initial kitchen design render helps you see in detail what you’ll be getting

10. At the end of your conversation, be clear about what you’d like the interior designer to do. If you want time to think about it or want to talk to another supplier before you decide, that’s fine. If you want your designer to start working on designs for a kitchen, living room or bedroom or the whole house, make sure you’re aware of the costs involved and agree what you’ll get for your money and when. It could be the start of something beautiful for your home!

More information about the Bear Interiors design service