Express Yourself: How to make your home about you!

Posted by Phoebe Oldrey in Interior Design Advice

Wall Tree Light

A silly little knick-knack, like this cardinal perched on a cherry blossom light, can bring a lot of fun and personality to your home. Photo by Paul Wince Furness.

As an interior designer, I’ve noticed that my career is often misunderstood. Many people think interior designers remove or change the style and personality of our clients, and then impose our own. I think this myth is probably the result of television shows like Changing Rooms and The Great Interior Design Challenge as week-after-week, we see a client’s view pushed aside in favour of something more on-trend that viewers will respond to.

These shows are a terrible example of the interior design business and could not be further from reality.

While every interior designer will have their own philosophy, I firmly believe that a home should reflect the lifestyle, taste, and history of the owner. After all, how can it be their haven, their castle, the kind of space that feels like a hug from a good friend, without the owner’s heart, taste, and style expressed throughout?

The furniture, art and objects that fill a home all tell a story. In my own home, furniture I inherited from my grandma is paired with artefacts from family trips, and vintage finds from afternoons spent antiquing are displayed next to art made by my children. The home is a very personal space and the pieces I’ve selected to fill mine all reflect me and my family. If you saw it for the first time, my home would say as much about me as I can about it.

So how can you add personality to your interiors and express yourself in the fabric of your home?

From one of our most recent completed projects: a vintage suitcase is turned into a charming bedside table and the look is completed with a 1970s bowling bag with classic competition badges sewn on the front. In the living room of the same home, a frame is filled with seaside treasures from a happy family trip to the beach and sits above a column of colourful beloved orange Penguin Classics. Both photos by Daniela Exley.


Forget what everyone else is doing; be confident and bold in your personal style and don’t be afraid to embrace the things you love. This is where interior design trends can be quite dangerous as many people feel like they need to buy into the trend because it’s cool, but I urge you to only buy into something if it truly makes you happy

Clients will often show me bold schemes they like on Pinterest and say, “I love this, but wouldn’t have the confidence to pull it off.” I say go for it! Incorporate that crazy wallpaper you’ve had your eye on! Display the art that you love best! Be bold, be brave, and embrace the styles you truly love, not just the ones you feel safe with. By doing this, you’ll create a home that you truly love. And isn’t that what we all want? 

An Antique Wedding cabinet is teamed with a modern grey chair and angle post light to combine pieces that have great personal meaning with beautiful design in a Smartstyle home. Photo by Daniela Exley. An antique fair find, this vintage medicine cabinet now houses a collection of glass treasures and is now a stunning display piece in a modern Smartstyle-designed home in Kent. Photo by David Merewether.


Next, I urge you to put your most treasured pieces at the heart of your design choices. When working on a new project, I often start building the design around a few key pieces that my clients treasure. Too often people keep their most meaningful possessions out of sight when they’re actually a terrific starting point for an interior design scheme that brings them– and your personality– to the forefront.

I once had a client who was outrageously sentimental about a sofa and was terrified I was going to insist that she get rid of it when we were designing her home. Instead, we had it reupholstered so it would work in the new room and still put a smile on her face every time she saw it. If you have a piece that is similarly filled with memories, don’t get rid of it! Instead, think about how you can creatively incorporate it into the updated design. 

A selection of art and children’s paintings come together on simple Ikea display ledges in a Smartstyle-designed home. Photo by David Merewether. An old meat locker is turned into a charming side table with the help of some modern hairpin legs. Photo by Daniela Exley.


Often, it’s the small things that mean the most. Be clever with with the way you display sentimental knick-knacks to bring life and personality to a space. Frame children’s art and precious birthday cards and display them alongside other works of art. Cluster sentimental toys amid a collection of other more serious items to create an unexpected bundle of fun!

I like to think outside the box about how to use or display something special. For instance, you may never use the fancy wine decanter in your drinks cabinet, so fill it with bath salts and put it next to the tub for a clever way to admire its shape and integrate it into your daily life.

Sentimental jewellery is cleverly displayed on an art model in a Smartstyle-designed home. Photo by Paul Wince Furness A small collection of meaningful objects are displayed together to make a beautiful table-scape in another home we had the pleasure of designing. Photo by Daniela Exley.

No matter how hard I try, I sadly can’t make everything beautiful and we must face the fact that some meaningful objects just aren’t pretty. Achievement certificates are a great example of a particularly important object that’s lacking in aesthetic merit. Instead of hanging them in more conventional places, like an office wall, I instead like to use them in unconventional places. In our house, we hang achievement certificates on the inside of kitchen cabinets, or wardrobes. This way, me or my sons are reminded of what we have achieved every time we get dressed in the morning or reach for the tea bags.

Overall, life is too short to not make your home about you, so go on and express yourself. It’s your house, after all! 

Don’t hide away your collections, but make a clever mix of them! Photo by Kate Sims.

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