DESIGNING DO'S AND DONT’S as featured in Homes & Gardens Magazine.

DESIGNING DO'S AND DONT’S as featured in Homes & Gardens Magazine.

Posted by Justin Van Breda on Apr 1st 2021

Furniture Selection and Finishes


Buy something that you love; when I was working for Nicky Haslam he taught me that if you buy things that are loved as opposed to for a particular space, you will always find somewhere to put it!

Mix it up- don't be afraid to mix styles and eras and colours. I don't mind a blend of wood colours and a combination of eras in a house that layer on top of one another, adding a patina of interest to the interior.

Look at line and shape in a piece of furniture and consider proportion. Choose something with an interesting and pleasing form. Consider the details which you might not have noticed before- the gentle curve of a leg or a flame in the wood, they will be the details that you love forever. Clever design can successfully break the rules, but there is a reason Georgian design is so pleasing - and that's in the proportion.

Look for the colours within the colours. Woods can have a blue, yellow or red tinge so pick elements that tone well together. Oak sits well with a Mahogany but not so well with Macassar ebony, which has a more blue-black grain.

Consider the scale of the room and the items going into it and err on the larger side. Larger volume pieces give the space a handsome feel and lots of little pieces that are too small in a room can feel rather old fashioned.

Consider the provenance of a piece. Not just who made it (I just discovered a piece of mine was Gillows, which is amazingly exciting for me!) but more what I am suggesting, is consider how and where things are made; what is their provenance, the origins of the materials and the ethics of their production, because you really can vote with your pound for what you care about.


Don't buy everything from the same place. If all the elements in a room or home come from the same place you can end up with a bit of a ‘showhome’ look. Designers and brands have a signature that can sing when seen in isolation or blended in amongst other items, but when seen en masse and can look a tiny bit boring.

Don't be afraid of mixing less expensive items with higher priced items. I love the fact that you can put a junk shop chair next to a George III table and make it work. It just adds another layer of character to the space.

Don't throw out things that are special to you just because they are out of fashion. Reinvent them with a new cover or finish, pieces that have memories and history attached to them are important and you might find the story they tell very comforting some day.

Don't put high gloss furniture in high traffic areas. Ie. If you have a hall table where you will throw your keys or drop letters and packages, it's sensible to choose something more durable such as a waxed finish that can be refreshed semi regularly.

Be careful of shiny, all that glitters is not gold! Often fingermarks and the natural wear and tear of use can make something look less appealing than it did in the showroom- so consider the traffic and use of a piece before you are seduced by an immaculate finish.

Never mix different metals on the same piece! But, don't be afraid of mixing metals in a room. A bronze table can work well in a space with brass lights, the ironmongery does not have to match the furniture detailing and the stud work on a chair does not need to match the light switch.

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Designing and Decorating the Kitchen


Do treat kitchens like rooms- adding softer welcoming elements with tables, chairs, soft finishes and some prettiness that will encourage your friends and family to spend time there - especially when you are cooking, that's when the best conversations happen.

Make sure there is enough storage for all those things you always say you are going to get rid of and never do. And make sure things are accessible, there is nothing worse than having to take everything out of the cupboards to get to what you need.

If you can, it's absolutely worth indulging in two dishwashers. It's wonderful to have the space to stack the cooking detritus in one before dinner and then still have space for all the plates and dishes at the end of the meal! And, if you can have one especially for glasses that's even better as it's more delicate on your glassware.

If you are aiming for a country kitchen feel, try to avoid any cabinets high up on walls. In our home in the country we have an old dresser and nothing else on the walls, just a clock and pictures. Leaving that breathing room makes it feel a lot more like a room than a kitchen and it's far more welcoming and doubles well as an informal dining room.

There is nothing better than a good cooker. Whether you are a fan of induction or gas or Aga, get the best you can afford to get the heat, the evenness of temperature and the range you require. You won't regret it. Personally I am an Aga man, but I do love the la Cornue which we have in London too.

People feel very strongly about kitchen colours, there is even a ‘nowhitekitchens’ hashtag and while I don't necessarily agree that colour is always true, there are some wonderful colours out there for cabinetry so it's absolutely worth being brave. I went from Shaded White to Bancha (not sure about it if I'm honest) and my next go round will be Hague Blue


If you have children or unruly spouses, avoid shiny cabinets with no handles - you will be fighting a constant battle against smears of greasy finger marks.

It's not an operating theatre. Of course, task lighting is important (and there’s nothing worse than not being able to see your cooker because the light is behind you) but make sure your lighting can be adjusted to set a mood, you want to be able to transform your kitchen into a softer space too.

Don't have open shelves if you are a neat freak- (I am not) because they will get cluttered and if you cohabit, the other person may not have the same neat gene you do! Also they can tend to get a bit dusty and greasy so be warned!

Don’t go for counter space over sink size- there is nothing worse than not being able to properly wash up a roasting pan.

Leave marble out if you don't like marks and are not good at maintenance. Personally I am not a fan of manufactured marble, but it sure can save a refinish headache. Your kitchen is a high traffic area and will not look like it did at day one after a year of use- and that's character.

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Fabric Selections


Wherever you can try to use natural fibres. They fall better, have a better sheen and the colors will play less tricks in artificial light, plus they are more comfortable on the skin.

Support the ethical guys. Hunt down the makers who are committed to using their printing and weaving to support communities like John Robshaw does in India or African Sketchbook in South Africa.

If you are going for glamour and need a bit of sheen look to natural silks and velvets. Avoid the shiny fabrics that create little bolts of static when you rub them between your hands- they will not be gentle against your skin. The fabrics at de la Cuona or Kerry Joyce are super glamorous, infinitely luxurious but so natural as well.

Make sure your base cloth backgrounds tone together. Look at the colours in the base cloth as they vary so much and can really change the feel of the pattern. Some base cloths are yellowy and some more grey and they just don't mix well no matter how well the printed colors might work together.

Mixing weights and textures of fabrics will give you a lovely detailed and established feel, so layer weaves and velvets and linens and boucles and silks together.


Don't splurge on fabric, and the scrimp on the make up- it will always look terrible but a less expensive fabric beautifully made up can look wonderful. An inexpensive linen made up with lovely headers looks wonderful every time. Another Nicky Haslam tip.

Don't have a hero- and by this I mean if you are going for pattern have the courage to mix patterns together- this way the patterns knock each other out and the eye sweeps across them, as opposed to jarring or halting on that one patterned hero cushion in a sea of solid or plain fabrics.

Don't be scared of a little bit of synthetic in the fibre, as it adds structure and stability to wonderful natural fibres in the weave and makes it that little bit more durable.

Don't be hysterical about the colours in different fabrics matching exactly- half shut your eyes and look at your scheme. That's what the eye takes in and you are creating an ambience and atmosphere, not a clinical colour project.

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Have you seen our new upholstery collection?

Designed with all our Do’s & Dont’s in mind