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The 10 deadly sins of interior design

Shag pile carpet, flock wallpaper - trends may come and go, but there are some ideas you should simply never try at home. Kristina Cope - Interior Designer lists some of indoor decorating's worst crimes.

This is not about fashion in interiors. Were we talking decorating trends, a mere five years ago I probably would have mocked flock wallpaper - and now it's the most fashionable thing going. Even wood-effect wall coverings are now seen as ironically chic.

These, rather, are things so horrid they have never - in my opinion - been acceptable. They are timelessly awful or, alternatively, they are fashionable things that look quite the go, but simply don't work. A lot of twaddle that smugly disports the imprimatur "good design" fits into this category. All too often the self-consciousness that goes with this aggrandising tag guarantees it is more like over-design, as anyone who has much experience of contemporary Italian bathroom fittings will know: you usually need an engineering degree to work the taps.

And if I appear to have arrogantly strong opinions on the interior disasters outlined below, I make no apology for it. Fashion - as in clothing - is very much a matter of personal taste, and if you do get it wrong, you can take it off at the end of the day (and fling it in the nearest clothing bin). Equally, when confronted with someone wearing a really nasty outfit, you can simply look away.

But when it comes to horrors in interiors, we all have to live with them. Even if you're just visiting there is no escape, and spending time in an ugly interior can have a uniquely lowering effect on the spirits. It's the equivalent of living inside the box with that expensive pair of mistake shoes.

So, with this in mind, here is my list of all-time decorating disasters to avoid.

1. Matching lavatory brushes and toothbrush racks

Lavatory brushes should be banned by an act of Parliament. They are disgusting objects (the bristles don't get brown by chance, you know) and in no way improved by being coyly matched with a toilet roll tidy and toothbrush rack. And why would anyone want to connect brushing their teeth with cleaning their lavatory? It's just not an association that works for me. Actually, toilet roll tidies should be banned, too. I loathe the genteel finickyness of them. What's wrong with keeping your loo rolls in a basket? Or just putting one on the floor or other flat surface? I also recoil from the "tooth mugs" that come in those knicky-knacky little holders to match the toothbrush rack. Does anyone ever drink from those terrible beakers? Have you ever looked inside one?

2. Alessi showroom kitchens

There is nothing wrong with Alessi as a brand. They produce the marvellous Philippe Starck lemon squeezer, after all. And that kettle with a little bird on the spout is cute. So is the corkscrew that looks like a lady. And the toothpick holder that looks like a magician's bunny. And the bottle stopper that looks like an Olympic mascot ... But hang on, see where we're headed? A kitchen - or worse, living-room bar area - that's awash with cuteness. Things that are "clever" because they're actually one thing but cutely look like another thing. That's not good design. That's novelty. It's just a more expensive version of the toilet roll cover that looks like a crinolined lady. Actually, I hate Alessi.

3. Vertical blinds

No other window treatment has the potential to look as seedy and disappointing as these strangely contrived arrangements. From the dust-gathering, man-made fibres of the dreary downward slats, to the usually broken little bead connectors, they are just plain nasty, and the hanging cords are a known hazard to small children. Ugly and dangerous - quite a package. Demoralising enough in rent-it-by-the-metre offices, where they frequently house insect cemeteries, in private homes vertical blinds can induce instant depression. Bed sheets pinned up with drawing pins and tied back with ribbon, in the great student tradition, are much less offensive.

4. Mixing bowl sinks

I can see into the future. The mixing bowl sink will be the avocado corner bath of 2026: the item that will make prospective home buyers groan when they see the bathroom. The items in question are the hemispherical glass, metal or porcelain bowls which sit atop aggressively contemporary plinths in a painful take on the good ol' bathroom sink. Not only will they date as quickly as a boy band, they just don't work as washing vessels. Turn on the tap (usually by means of something resembling a surgical implement) and the torrent of water bounces out of the steep arc of the mixing bowl and onto your torso. Good design? I don't think so.

5. Knotty pine

Pine can be fine - if you paint it. Cheap pine furniture is a great resource for budget home furnishings, but not if it's made from the cheapest wood available other than balsa. I have never been able to understand why anyone would actively want to live with such unsubtle imperfections as pine knots. We are not talking here about the fascinating swirly grain of fine walnut; pine knots are just random ugly blights which look even worse when varnished or - shudder - stained. Painted in muted shades, the cheapest pine furniture can look dandy. Especially with new knobs on.

6. Purpose-made entertainment units

Hepplewhite. Aalto. Newson. Sony. Doesn't quite fit at the end there, does it? Yet many people of exquisite taste in other areas allow Sony, and its competitors, to design prominent parts of their home. These come in the form of the hideous "stand" that comes with their wide-screen telly, or the purpose-made unit bought to house it, along with all the other gadgets of the modern, entertain-me-to-death-please lifestyle. It's odd that those purpose-made units, where the form really does follow the function, don't live up to the Bauhaus promise. They are universally hideous. The best place for televisions and their associated bits of electronic tat is inside a cupboard.

7. Shin-barker beds

Lying on a beach, I can spot fellow frequenters of "design" hotels. They have nasty scars on their shins from the stupid beds favoured by such establishments. These are of various platform designs, where the mattress sits atop a box frame of wood, metal or what seems to be green kryptonite, so painful are the wounds they inflict upon the weary and unwary traveller. Half mad with jet lag - or perhaps lust - you speedily approach the welcoming mattress, only to be met first at below-knee level by the concealed edge of the box frame. With no padding to protect the bone down there, it's a savage pain. Some people even have these frightful shin-barkers in their own homes, the very worst of them in knotty pine (see above).

8. Framed, mass-produced prints

Walls without pictures are like faces without eyes. Pictures can make a room seem bigger. Personally, I'm mad about them, but you do have to be careful with prints. Limited edition lithographs are one thing, as are some nice illustrations from an old picture book that you've had framed yourself. But unlimited-edition, churn-them-out-by-the-kilometre, ready-framed prints are quite another. There is a deadness to them, which speaks of an "It'll do" mentality. Particularly if they are quite large and are the only wall adornments in the room. And hung too high. A painting by a four-year-old, stuck up with Blu-Tack, is preferable.

9. "Distressed" painted furniture

I find this very distressing. Nothing is nicer than old painted furniture that has achieved a patina from being used. But patina can't be built in a day. Those chips and knocks that can make an old kitchen dresser so appealing are the result of someone dropping a rolling pin onto it because they've just seen a mouse; or a small child riding his tricycle into the side of it; or using it as a dartboard. Sandpaper and chisels are not generally involved, unless an amateur inventor has appropriated said piece of furniture for an impromptu workshop. Furniture which has been artificially distressed belongs in the same category as repro. File under F, for Foul.

10. Unarranged books

Books do not always furnish a room. Not when they're all pushed to the back of the shelves, or flung on irrespective of their shape and size. Really, books need careful arranging, according to a strict taxonomy of size - or, if you are marvellously aesthetic, by their spine colours. However you do it, they must be brought forward to the front of the shelf, so all the spines are in a straight line. This is vastly more pleasing to the eye, even if they are a collection of well-thumbed Stephen King paperbacks. But no amount of artful arranging will make even the finest collections of CDs, DVDs and computer games suitable for domestic display.

Where To From Here?
Hopefully, this report has given you some insight into a small part of decorating your home. It may also have prompted a whole new set of questions.

To get all of the answers you need, simply give me, Kristina Cope, a call on (09) 578-0704 or (021)-641-530 to schedule your free, no-hassle, straight talk consultation. I will arrange a time convenient for you, and it shouldn’t take long at all.

In about 30 minutes, you’ll receive more time and money saving interior design, decorating information than most people learn in a lifetime!

By now, you’ve probably figured out that I am not like most Interior Designers or Architects. (I am qualified in both fields). I concentrate on providing quality information to those who need it.

“But why would you just give away all of this valuable information?”

I know that you may be asking that question in your mind. I know it’s not what most Interior Designers do, and it may seem a little odd. It’s just that I have learned that good things happen when you concentrate on really helping people.

Yes, I make my living consulting to clients as their interior designer, and yes, it would be my pleasure to work for you to transform your house into a home you love to bring friends, business associates, and guests’ home to.


A half-hour is all it takes to get the information you need to make smart decisions for your future. We'll discuss what you want to accomplish, and look at the different options that you have.

Well, I’ve said just about all I can say. The next step is up to you. As I said before, there is absolutely no cost or obligation attached to your free consultation.

Pick up the phone and call me now, while you are thinking about it. I know that you may be a little skeptical, but one phone call isn’t much to risk, especially when you could save yourself lots of aggravation and thousands of dollars!

You can reach me at (09) 578-0704 or (021)-641-530, or send me an email with some suggested times and dates you are available to get together with me.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Kristina Cope DipInt, BArch
Interior Designer
P.S. Procrastination keeps more people from ever reaching their dreams than anything else. Don’t miss out on information that can make all the difference!