THE past few months have enabled us to get to grips with our homes like never before. A survey by the Home Builders Federation for New Homes Week Unlocked — which runs until Sunday — found that 55 per cent of us now value our home space more than ever, and 40 per cent want a home office. It also found that nearly a quarter of 25 to 34-year-olds look for interior design inspiration on social media every day, with more than half of them reluctant to take snaps of rooms if they’re not photo-ready. Some 20 per cent of Brits admit to cleaning to create a background for that perfect shot, and one in six would be more likely to update their Instagram about a home move if they were buying a new-build instead of somewhere that has already been lived in.
‘New-build homes are designed for modern-day living and, unlike older properties, give you peace of mind without the expense, headache, hassle and uncertainly of unexpected bills or doing any work,’ explains interior designer, TV presenter, influencer and podcast host Sophie Robinson, who is supporting New Homes Week Unlocked. ‘New-builds are flooded with natural light, often have big windows overlooking the garden, which everyone wants now, and all your storage requirements have been thought of. They are a complete blank canvas as you aren’t inheriting someone else’s taste, and you can immediately crack on and focus on the pretty stuff! You can do this even before you move in as you won’t be restricted by having to spend all your budget on a renovation.’
Sophie advises against picking elements in isolation when designing the décor. ‘It’s much better to have an overview, so create Pinterest mood boards, picking your favourite colours and patterns, then hone it down. A family of colours and fabrics that you can repeat throughout will help the space to flow. Then you can work up a whole scheme. Too many people clutch a paint colour, then try to find curtains, then a sofa, which can be really hard work. Designing a room is like a recipe, so choose all the ingredients, check that they go together well then start cooking.
‘Another common error is being precious about existing furniture. Use a handsome part of your budget to ensure your furniture fits the space properly. If a sofa’s too big, a living room will feel choked up, cramped and awkward, or it it’s too small, you’ll never use it to its maximum potential. Sell existing items on an auction site and use the money to buy pieces that fit the space and purpose, When you have a visual, things start presenting themselves, for example in flea markets, online or in sales, and you can buy slowly over time.’
There’s also a burgeoning new-build Instagram scene, and with 134,000 followers, Sophie is well qualified when it comes to creating stunning shots. ‘Instagram and interiors are the perfect match and we’re all plumping cushions, squirrelling away the mess and playing with lighting and filters to get the shots just right,’ she says.
‘It’s really important to think like a photographer and look through the lens. Sometimes the most beautiful room may not seem right through the camera, and a scruffy room can look great if cropped correctly. Most of us use camera phones, so use the grid to line up the shot and then the editing app. There’s often not enough light, but artificial lighting makes photos yellow. Ideally, keep the lights off and then use phone filters and apps to brighten them up.’
Here are some of Sophie’s favourite rooms from show homes of developments that are currently on the market. She explains why they work so well.
Kitchen: At Hawthornden, Yalding, Kent, ME18
Sophie says: ‘A brilliant example of a home designed for modern living, with a breakfast bar, dining space and seating area. It’s beautifully laid out and although the colours are quite muted, it feels incredibly rich and interesting.’ Five-bed Beddington house type, £870,000, millwooddesignerhomes.co.uk
Lounge: At Fox Hill, Haywards Heath, RH16
Sophie says: ‘Houseplants inject wellbeing into a room, have never been more fashionable and go with absolutely everything. The styling here is bang-on trend as they’re displayed in odd numbers and in pots of differing sizes.’ Three-bed Chilham house type, £399,000, lindenhomes.co.uk
Dining room: At Comice Meadows, Pirton, Hitchin, SG5
Sophie says: ‘I love the oversized light fitting above the dining table. Upscaling is a great styling tip, so go big with a large pendant lamp or mirror which will anchor the space and bring a touch of grandeur to a small room.’ Five-bed Taymore house type, from £909,950, cala.co.uk
Bedroom: At Foundry Gardens, Haywards Heath, RH16
Sophie says: ‘It’s all about the symmetry here. The cushions, bedside lamps and chairs are all in pairs, creating a lovely sense of balance and calm, while fabrics in different textures and patterns add interest to the scheme.’ Five-bed The Coppice house type, £785,000, countrysideproperties.com
Sophie’s tips on creating the perfect home office
■ Honour the fact that your workspace is important and prioritise it, making it somewhere you want to be. Make the box room into a bedroom if it’s only used for sleeping and turn a bigger room into an office where you spend more time.
■ Invest in a big desk and a proper office chair — you need correct furniture at the correct height.
■ Consider a standing desk — I have one with a ratchet that I can adjust.
■ If your guest room doubles as a workspace, get a pullout sofa bed rather than a bed if you only have guests to stay occasionally.
■ Storage is vital when you have to work at the kitchen table. It’s mentally important to transition from the working day to home life, so you will need a box or drawer you can shove your laptop and paperwork into, otherwise answering emails at all hours can become too tempting!