A life-long interiors obsessive, stylist and author of Home for Now, Joanna works with our team to create two beautiful lookbook collections every year and is an expert in transforming spaces. Joanna’s knowledge and years of experience shine through in her latest book, providing useful tips and tricks to help you create affordable storage solutions and unique displays in your home, no matter the size.
Read on to find out more about Joanna’s relaunched book and answers to 6 top decorating dilemmas from our community.
Insta Style for Your Living Space is a retitled and reprinted version of my first book, Home for Now, which focuses on clever, affordable and inexpensive ways that renters, first-time buyers or simply people who aren’t yet into their ‘forever home’ can create inspirational interiors without risking their deposit or doing anything permanent. It features images from a mixture of rented and first-time-owned homes and looks at the myriad ways these have been styled and decorated, alongside sharing a selection of DIY and craft projects inspired by these creative tenants.
Whilst not conforming to a particular style or look, the book does lean towards eclectic spaces which contain a mix of old and new elements and are rich with character, which is often a theme running throughout my own work and personal style. One bonus of decorating in this way is that these spaces are all very easy to update with new looks or to incorporate pieces from emerging trends, by the very nature of them being somewhat eclectic to begin with – a chair can be updated with a splash of colour in the latest hue, or a bed treated to the latest terrazzo trend with the addition of a couple of cushions and a new lamp. By staying true to their own individual styles and tastes, each of the owners and renters in this book have created spaces which won’t date and contains pieces which make them happy, which is one of the most valuable design lessons there is!
Q& A With Joanna Thornhill
Q1: I live in a studio apartment, what would be your best tip to help break up the room? I want the kitchen to feel like it’s in separate room to the bedroom etc.
Studio apartments can quickly feel cluttered and oppressive if you’re not careful, but at their best they can provide a welcoming and cosy little haven to shelter in from the busy world outside. Think first about how you can visually zone your space: for continuity, it’s wise to keep main elements such as flooring the same throughout, so turn to rugs to help visually ‘ground’ your living and sleeping spaces. Opt for the biggest you can, so that sofa feet or bed legs rest on top of it, to prevent creating a ‘rug island’. Likewise, when it comes to walls, stick to one overall colour throughout but consider painting accent colours (or using artwork) in key spots only, such as a back wall or even just a splash on any architectural features such as a pillar or alcove to break things up a bit.
Consider, too, the positioning of your furniture: could you place your sofa with its back to your kitchen and dining area, so that physically it creates a low border and also visually you’re looking at a different part of the space when you’re sitting down? Could your bed be tucked against the wall lengthways and piled with cosy cushions along its back to give it a daybed vibe when it’s not being used for sleeping?
When space is at a premium, everything needs to work hard: screens, for example, can be useful for helping to section off different parts of your space, but an open-backed shelving unit could do the same job whilst also providing you with storage and display space. Think about other furniture items that could work harder too – a storage footstool topped with a removable tray might offer you space to stow away more than an average coffee table, or a slimline console table could make good use of unused space in an entryway and could house useful storage baskets beneath it, too. And whilst avoiding clutter is important, ensure you incorporate enough cosy textures, like chunky wool throws or soft slubby cushions, to ensure things still feel warm and inviting.
Clare Nicolson Studio Flat – Insta Style for Your Living Space by Joanna Thornhill
Q2: I’m a big fan of cream. All my walls are cream: what colour accessories would you suggest to create an autumnal feel?
Us stylists and writers are somewhat guilty of singing the praises of on-trend greys or bolder hues so often, that sometimes classic cream gets somewhat overlooked. It’s a very versatile, timeless shade that certainly needn’t be shorthand for boring, however it does need a little help to nudge it along in the right direction to ensure your scheme is restful yet interesting. Luckily, it works well with many Autumnal hues to create a warm, cosy space, so you could look to bring in tones of taupe, a cool mid-grey and some bitter chocolate for a harmonious look, turning to punchier shades of maroon, burgundy or sea-foam green as accents (use sparingly or as larger statements, depending on how brave you’re feeling!) Try layering in some subtle pattern and play with different cosy textures: think teaming a sheepskin throw with some felt cushions and tweed upholstery or thick floor-length curtains, and for ornaments, mix hand-thrown pottery with beautifully worn patinas like old metal tins or woven reed baskets. As with most schemes, mixing old and new together helps breathe in life, and this is especially true in more neutral spaces, to ensure things don’t feel flat.
House plants are bang on trend and can really help lift any space, and will really help liven up a cream room, so be liberal with them and opt for tall floor plants alongside smaller succulents or trailing ferns to dot along shelves or window ledges, then to draw the eye up, try hanging a few trailing plants too, for good measure – pathos and ivy are fairly indestructible and will work wonderfully within this scheme. Don’t overlook other elements from nature, too – now’s a great time to get foraging on your next walk in the woods and collect pretty pine cones and acorns to display in bowls, or sculptural dried seed heads, thistle or even just a striking branch in vases or leaned casually in a corner.
Maria Meder Nook – Insta Style for Your Living Space by Joanna Thornhill
Q3: What are the best colours for a restful bedroom?
There’s a number of different tones that can be used to help a bedroom feel restful, depending on what your overall preferences are. If you like a very fresh, simple feel then opting for an all-over white or pale tint can help aid a feeling of airiness and space, though for others, a darker, wraparound colour which provides a more cocooning feel can feel preferable. Either way, consider sticking to one colour throughout, on both walls and ceilings and possibly even woodwork, too, to help blur the boundaries between where walls start and end. If you do want to introduce a contrasting wall colour or patterned wallpaper, keep this to the wall behind your bedhead only, so you can enjoy it when you move around the space but it’s not in your eyeline when you’re trying to doze off.
Regardless of whether you go light or dark, sticking to colours on the cooler side of the colour wheel is usually your best bet to creating a relaxing space: blues and greens are well known to be soothing tones, and are helpful to immerse oneself in to reduce stress and anxiety. Soft blue-greys and lavenders will also do a similar job. Conversely, try to avoid reds and yellows if you’re prone to disrupted sleep – they’re said to stir up excitement and can over-stimulate the mind, though if these tones make you happy then by all means incorporate them, though perhaps as accents rather than the main colour. Depending on whether you want a lighter or darker space, simply work up and down that particular tone on the colour wheel.
As well as colour, furniture can play a big part in creating a relaxing bedroom. Nothing is as off-putting as a pile of clutter when you’re trying to unwind, so invest in some decent storage that makes use of as much space as possible, freeing up floors and surfaces for decorative items only. A bed that’s starched within an inch of its life can feel uninviting, so invest in some soft linen or brushed cotton bedlinen and pile on the cushions and throws for a space that screams ‘lie on me!!’
The Peanut Vendor Bedroom – Insta Style for Your Living Space by Joanna Thornhill
Q4: What is the best way to decorate a small room to create the illusion of space?
Often, people tend to think that painting a small space white is the best – or only – option when it comes to decorating small spaces, but this runs the risk of leaving you with a space that is still clearly small but also feels cold and has no real points of interest. If you’re feeling brave, opting for a darker colour or bold tone can give a real opulence to the space and help to detract from its bijou proportions, especially if it’s used on ceilings and woodwork, too, to trick the eye into thinking it’s bigger than it is. Think about scale, too – filling a small room with small things will just make it feel, well, small! Better to try and incorporate a single large L-shape sofa, for example, than a tiny two-seater plus armchairs.
If you’re replacing flooring for tiles or laminate, opt for larger formats so you have fewer grout or join lines, and think about running them diagonally across the room rather than straight up or down. Large mirrors, too, can be a big help in creating the illusion of space – try building up a gallery wall of mismatched mirrors or opt for one supersized one either opposite the window, or on the wall most visible as you enter the room.
Karin Lindroos Bedroom – Insta Style for Your Living Space by Joanna Thornhill
Q4: How can I furnish and accessorise my home without making it look cluttered?
Clever curation is key here. Ornaments and decorative accessories are often what gives a space life and character, but if there’s little bits and bobs lining every surface then a cluttered feeling is inevitable. Keeping things grouped and edited will help them feel more display three (or even five) together and vary the heights and shapes, rather than spreading them evenly along a mantelpiece or shelf. Group any specific collections together for maximum impact – whatever it is, it’ll look much stronger en masse than scattered here and there.
When it comes to furniture, be realistic about what you can fit in your space – if it’s too bulky and awkward, relocate it elsewhere and sell it on then try to incorporate pieces which are physically less bulky, have curved rather than square edges, or are made of a transparent material like glass. Sticking to a restricted colour palette can also help – build in some gentle variation, but if everything is generally very tonal or harmonious without too many clashes or bold patterns, nothing will jump out and the space will flow a little more seamlessly
Dining area in the open-plan living space of photographer and blogger Carole Poirot – Insta Style for Your Living Space by Joanna Thornhill
Q6: My student daughter is renting a small one-bedroom flat. What can she do to make a rental feel like home on her meagre budget?
Many rentals prohibit decorating though if she’s allowed to paint, a few feature walls could give the space an instant lift if it’s all feeling rather bland, and by sticking to key walls it’ll be a lot less costly and labour-intensive than decorating entire rooms, yet still impactful. If that’s not an option, however, think about other ways to add colour and pattern impermanently. A large fabric wall hanging behind a bed or sofa could offer a focal point and would be lightweight enough to hang from a single nail, or alternatively have a play with removable wall stickers or even decorative Washi tape to create some temporary patterns and graphics on boring bare walls.
If she owns any of the furniture, these could be painted in interesting colours or even have wallpaper added to the sides. And anything she can take away with her when the time comes to move on, such as rugs or soft furnishings, can be an easier investment to swallow as it’s not tied to the property itself – large rugs can be expensive but layering several flat rugs together, for example, can give a cool bohemian look for relatively little outlay.
Bedroom in the rented home of florist Hannah at Bloom Fleuriste – Insta Style for Your Living Space
For further home decor inspiration, make sure to follow Joanna on Instagram.