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A Design for Life

A Design for Life
Self-confessed interiors addict Sandy Casey explains how she gets the inspiration for all those envy-inducing Walker Group showhomes From the moment we get close to launching a new development, I start to think about the show home.  

I look around websites, home interior magazines, even those little ‘sneak peaks’ into celebrities’ homes, anywhere I can find ideas and colour palates that will inspire me for choosing the scheme of the new showhome. It’s always exciting to have a blank canvas to work from but at the same time you have to be mindful not to be too influenced by trends as the show home will have to last till the end of a development and on a large site that can be three or even four years.

For me the most important thing is to create something to inspire our clients but at the same time something that feels like a home. Some people come to see show homes just for inspiration on how they can decorate their own homes so finding key pieces that add character to the home is important. I want people to remember the show home otherwise we could just fill the house with furniture from the high street.

So, in search of new ideas, my good friend Alison Gibb, stylist, writer and blogger at her-indoors.com and I made a trip to London recently, to take part in a Design Master Class with the lovely Abigail Ahern in her home in Islington. Abigail has been a designer for many years and has a beautiful shop in Islington selling some key pieces from her range, some of which is available at abigailahern.com. She also has a concession store at key Debenhams stores and online.


Abigail’s style is eclectic but cosy with lovely moody tones and a touch of glamour. Some of my favourite tips from the master class include: When painting your house, use a cheaper undercoat and use a better quality paint for the finish. She advocates painting the walls, skirting, ceiling, coving and radiators all in the same colour. I think this is a great idea and will definitely do this in my own home. I love the moody, dark colours but I know they aren’t for everyone. Abigail challenges the idea that light colours make a room look bigger and after seeing her home, I would agree. For the floor she recommends that when using wood planks either real or faux, it is best to choose larger planks to make the room look bigger - I will keep this in mind when choosing the show home flooring!


Abigail suggests playing with scale when decorating a room. For example if you have console table don’t put a lamp at each side, but have one taller than the other, forget about symmetry and create magic by adding layers, use larger cushions, throws and rugs. Add an art gallery on the walls using different size frames and styles. Create three focal points in a room and use quiet pieces to create warmth. Lighten the mood of the room so it doesn’t feel too staged. You can achieve that by adding 20% of items that don’t make sense! Don’t be afraid to mix & match woods and arrange those rooms with attitude!


Our kitchen tends to be the hub of the home and Abigail recommends including items that you might normally place in the living room in here and to try to soften the space with accessories. If you are brave enough to do it she suggests painting the walls the same colour as the shelving and removing the doors from the cupboards - this one is not for me as I prefer everything hidden away otherwise I would be re-arranging the food cupboards constantly trying to make everything look nice!  

A nice little tip for hallways, if you are tight on space, is to use super skinny shelving and layer with art. Using art above the door frames creates lots of character in what is often a neglected part of the house.

When we are planning the show homes I would rather not to feature a TV as they never look that nice and I feel can spoil a beautifully designed room. Having said that people always say ‘where would I put my TV’ so I reluctantly find a space. Abigail suggested a good idea is to paint the wall behind the TV in a darker shade, love this idea!


Finally, I would say don’t be afraid to use darker hues, they create warmth and glamour, especially if teamed up with lovely large chandeliers. Abigail has an extensive faux plant range which looks great but real plants win the day for me. Your home is your space so do what feels right for you rather than following any trends. If you need any help in designing your home I can recommend carolyatesdesign.co.uk or Kabedesign.co.uk but if you want to go it alone some places for inspiration might be:  






Happy decorating!