Gary Warrell-Phillips

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Living Rooms

10 May, 2016

Beautiful solutions for one and all

At the beginning of my career I worked my way through design school as a painter and decorator and it was during this time that I offered my services to a local Council, decorating for the elderly and those with disabilities.

The people I carried out work for were so lovely and kind… endless cups of tea were consumed, countless custard creams devoured and many wonderful memories recounted. It was a remarkable, humbling time in my life, as I felt in some small way I was adding value to their lives. Yet the experience taught ‘me’ more than I ever imagined it could.

My Eureka Moment

Residents that met certain criteria were entitled to have two rooms updated each year and could stipulate which they would like revamped…whether it was their bedroom, bathroom, lounge or kitchen.

Even though this was a free service to them, my priority was to ensure I gave each individual something extra, a design feature that would enhance their lives.

Their age or ability did not matter to me, I simply didn’t want them to miss out on the exciting new trends and styles that were emerging in the early noughties. I regarded each resident as a personal client and took the time to understand more about their personalities, individual needs and how they lived.

To me it was important that their homes offered a sense of calmness and optimism, that they were effective, easy spaces for them to live in… and then it hit me, my eureka moment!

Instinctively I knew what my approach as a designer would be about –  Inclusive Design, breaking down the divide between the less-able and able-bodied. Creating beautiful interiors that address both the physical and aspirational requirements of all individuals.  I didn’t realise it then, but I was ahead of my time.

Easy living or, what it is becoming more commonly known as, Universally Accessible homes aren’t just for the reserve of our ageing population or those with a disability and it is something that we are going to be hearing a lot more about.

Forward Thinking

Our homes are where we retreat to for comfort and a sense of familiarity – they are our private sanctuaries. However rarely do we think long term about what we, or our families, may require from our forever homes in the future.

Traditionally the desire to buy a property or indeed re-design the interior of one is a reactive event, caused by age, growing family or a sudden change in circumstances that may require some kind of aid during recovery – should, heaven forbid, an accident or illness occur.

Future-proofing your home does not mean compromising on style. Incorporating a few clever, subtle features into your renovations, such as reducing the height of your light switches, will save you from having to consider them at a later stage. How many times have we heard… Mummy I can’t reach!

Simple touches like a gentle slope leading to a covered entryway, that provides shelter from our unpredictable squally weather, to keyless entry systems and doors with lever handles – all things that make life easier for anyone juggling keys, a push chair or their shopping delights.

From out of the rain, into a warm welcome… radiator styles have become more like art installations and it’s not until you feel the heat emulating from their steely exteriors do you realise they are also good for warming your smalls! That is unless you opt for cool touch radiators – equally stylish and warming, without the ouch factor.

And if space is at a premium and there isn’t enough room to swing a cat, never mind a door, consider a pocket door system. Beautifully crafted to compliment any architectural style, they will allow you to glide around your home with ease and grace, whilst infusing your home with charm and space.

Whether waking from a delightful slumber or cleansing away the stresses of the day, why not consider installing an uber-stylish, level access wet room. With their sleek tiling and spacious layout, they continue to make a real splash. Complete the look with a floating vanity, a beautiful feature that will add a touch of spa like glamour – your space won’t just be safe and practical it will look utterly fabulous dah-ling!

Previously I’ve talked about bringing the indoors out and I’m delighted to see this trend continue. Make the step from home to garden smooth and continuous and you’ll have room to move around with ease and openness.

Smart Homes

Remember the Jetsons cartoon? I absolutely loved watching this as a young boy, the technology seemed brilliant – video phones, voice activated gadgets, flying cars. So I’m excited to see glimpses of a Jetson lifestyle in our future.

Technology for the home is smarter than ever and the newest devices are not only stylish to look at, they are transforming the way we live.

From talking smoke detectors, that communicate any problems or alerts directly to you, to systems that will allow all your home devices to be controlled through your mobile phone from wherever you are – right down to boiling the kettle. Never again will you return home to a cold, dark house.

Our homes feel alive because of the life we breathe into them. By making a few simple yet smart improvements, not only will your home enhance the way you live today it will continue to give you ‘living room’ for your family, your friends and your tomorrow – whatever that may bring.

Gary Warrell-Phillips, Decoration by Design, Farnborough, Hampshire

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