All hail the pale: Can you create character with neutral colours and a few well-chosen items?

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Interior designer Sheila Dunlop has some tricks up her sleeve...

When your job is making other people's houses look gorgeous, you're bound to take your work home with you. No wonder, then, that Sheila Dunlop, an interior designer, has a carefully co-ordinated home, full of old treasures and nifty design solutions.

She lives in a late-Georgian house in a village outside Bath. It's a haven for the 64-year-old, who runs the Ivy House Design School in nearby Holt, and also travels the country offering a personalised interiors service. The spot she calls home has "fields all around. I like the quiet and the peace." That settled spirit is reflected in the décor, all pale shabby chic. It's not a large building (she took most of the doors out to add space), and the colour scheme helps keep it airy. "There is a harmony of colour going right the way through," Dunlop acknowledges. She mostly used one paint, called "Slate", a very light grey. "Everything is that colour – it loses the boundaries and increases the feeling of space. It has a light-reflecting quality, and it's a harmonious, calm colour.

"On the doors I've used Farrow & Ball 22, 'Light Blue'. When you've been at work all day, you don't want anything demanding. I just want to go 'Ooooh, this is lovely...'"

But it's certainly no show home; Dunlop insists her starting points are a few much-loved items. "I'm a great believer in using what you've got – it loses soul if everything is new and perfect."

At the heart of the house is a wooden kitchen table, which she calls "the workhorse of the family". She has three daughters, who were brought up around it, eating meals, doing their homework. Above it hangs an outsized chandelier. "It's from a taller-ceilinged house and is quite large for the kitchen, but I love over-scale," she explains. When she moved in seven years ago, she also brought with her the portrait in her front-room, and the Georgian knife box below it, which is now "full of old letters". The portrait, she guesses, is 18th century. "I've had him for 40 years; he's definitely a companion who has always moved around with me."

The sofa, too, is 40 years old, but Dunlop exhibits a make-do-and-mend spirit, albeit lifted by exquisite materials: the sofa has been re-upholstered in silk velvet. That's one of Dunlop's key tips – spread your budget. Buy cheap or old furniture then spruce it up with quality paints or new materials. Of course, she's used to working to budgets set by clients, but insists, "I'm into budgets as well! The kitchen is all Ikea but I painted it, and then I bought some quite expensive handles – it elevates it."

However she achieves the result, there's a consistent look to her home. But how does she deal with the tastes of clients? "Most of the time I think, 'This isn't the way I'd go, but it's your home.' My job is to detach from my tastes and to make that client feel a million dollars. But sometimes it surprises you – you go down different routes and find you like them. You've got to keep on your toes."

Dunlop's book, 'The Industry Interior Design Bible' (Industry Bible Publications, £45), is out now, theindustrybible.com

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee