The new book, Nicky Haslam: A Designer’s Life, by renowned English interior decorator Nicky Haslam, a go-to for rock stars and royalty alike, has become the latest must-have design book. One pass through its pages and it’s easy to see why. The tome chronicles the life and times of the famous bon vivant, including more than 30 of his international projects, each one rich with ideas worth stealing.
While the book is jam-packed with design guidance and inspiration galore, we’re breaking down the eight most game-changing lessons we learned that have us looking at our rooms in a whole new way.
#1: Reconsider Mauve
“People used to shudder at the mention of lilac as a decorative color, even more if one said ‘mauve,’” says Haslam. “But I find it magical.” Generally he prefers his lilacs strong. “Quite often I use it as a main color, but a mere strip of it can spark up a low-key scheme.” You may even find your space feeling more roomy after adding a bit of this hue. “Like shadows, mauves gently recede into the background and give the impression of space in any room.”
#2: Go Faux
Haslam is a huge fan of trompe l’oeil treatments of all kinds. “It’s also an essential tool in a designer’s box of tricks,” he says. The pages of his book are a sumptuous tour of faux marbling, playful paneling applied with paint, and other tricks of the eye that are so charming you’ll be tempted to break out a paintbrush.
#3: Style Your Surfaces
“Flat surfaces, especially console tables, look great bare but better with things on and under them—quite apart from providing essential storage opportunities,” says Haslam. Luckily his book is brimming with inspiring ways to outfit your tabletops. “Objects, books, and lamps anchor the surfaces to the walls, and anything stashed underneath fills the void. A well-stocked drinks tray springs to mind, but a group of objects, whether chosen for color, sentiment, or historical associations, works well, as it probably won’t be moved too often.”
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#4: Consider Your Chairs
With thousands of seating choices under his belt, Haslam has developed a firm point of view as to which styles are worth considering. “Chairs can be deep and comfortable or more structured, to make you sit up and think. But, as our most essential bit of furniture, they should always look seductive,” states the designer. A shapely form is key, and among his favorite, and most often used, styles is a skirted slipper chair that’s easily movable between a perch in a hallway to a spot at the dinner table.
Steal the Look
Chairs can be deep and comfortable or more structured, to make you sit up and think. But, as our most essential bit of furniture, they should always look seductive.
#5: Choose Reflective Surfaces
By his own admission, Haslam’s designs have occasionally “outblinged bling,” but he’s currently less interested in glitz and more intrigued by the range of subtle, reflective surfaces available to give rooms that extra bit of glow. For Haslam, these pieces give rooms “a luminosity even on the gloomiest days, and the scintillating glow of reflected lamplight exhilarates the soul as one reaches for the first martini of the evening.” Yes, please.
#6: Go Big
For small spaces, Haslam takes a counterintuitive approach. “Contrary to accepted theory, I find that big furniture will make even a small room appear larger. The same goes for ceiling lights. Let’s ban the dreaded twee chandelier and have instead the most massive one possible, or a lantern.” As for what to mix with that statement piece? “It’s a good idea to have a (movable) piece of furniture under it or it’ll look a bit threatening.”
#7: Find a Forever Sofa
“When it comes to sofas, comfort is paramount,” says Haslam. A good choice can last a lifetime, as proven by the matching set of sofas in the designer’s country home that he’s had for some 40 years. Haslam once again favors seating with an interesting, “undulating silhouette” over simpler sofa styles. “Elegant antique French furniture mixes well with designs from other eras, and its design and craftsmanship is hard to beat.”
Steal the Look
Contrary to accepted theory, I find that big furniture will make even a small room appear larger.
#8: Help Rooms Bloom
“Some places cry out to be given the flower-bower treatment, while others say, ‘Get outta here,’” says Haslam. “For the former, I like to go the whole hog, preferably using the same design on everything, uniting walls, drapes, and furniture, and usually adding a corresponding patterned carpet.” Looking for something a bit more subtle? “Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to use the wrong side of the fabric, particularly on walls, as this creates an echo effect of the pattern in the rest of the room, which is less frightening to the faint-hearted.”