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Transform your interior in 12 easy steps

Bored of staring at the same beige walls? Try these 12 fantastic tips from a Cirencester interiors legend who's been beautifying homes for 21 years. Over to you Vanessa ...

You can’t drive past Vanessa Arbuthnott’s studio in the heart of Cirencester without a doing a 360. The shop windows are a vision of interiors heaven, and have Muddy fantasising about linen blends and matching accessories quite often! We caught up with the expert designer herself to bring you 12 interior design tips to whip your home into shape pronto.

Hello Vanessa, tell us a bit about you?

I actually started the business by accident, driven by the necessity to furnish my new family home. I started making things at my kitchen table and it really took off and I never looked back. On my journey as a designer I’ve built a reputation for creating fresh and invigorating designs on fabric and wallpaper. I only buy certified organic cotton which is combined with eco-friendly flax, to create our unique linen and our 100% British wool rugs and runners are woven in a family-run mill in Wales. Today I’m still going strong 21 years after I began, oh, and I’m a 62-year-old mother of four and granny to two!


How to interior-design your home like a pro

1. Develop your style

Take a pile of magazines and tear out pages of kitchens, sitting rooms, bedrooms and so on that you like, or if you prefer go on to Pinterest and start a moodboard for yourself, collating your favourite looks. Before long you’ll realise that common themes keep coming up, so whether it’s ‘painted floors’ or ‘exposed beams’ this helps you to hone in on your ‘look’.

2. Choose your colours cleverly

Scree by Little Greene

Always try out new colours before you commit. In my kitchen, I hung samples of fabric on the walls next to the windows, draped them on the back of furniture and painted squares of colour next to them and then lived with them for a while. My favourite paint colours at the moment are Scree and French Grey by Little Greene. They both go with so many colours.

3. Repeat the mantra ‘three colours in a room’

Three colours generally work better in a room than two. The third shade makes the room more interesting and less ‘teamed up’ – you can bring in extra colour in the carpets, rugs, fabrics or even ornaments.

4. Have a continuity of colour in mind

Take colours across your living spaces, for instance if you use a red in the hall, have some red in the adjoining rooms too, even if it’s just in a cushion, painting or even flowers.

4. Choose good quality furniture or upcycle

Crafted artisan furniture of good quality rather than cheap buys is what I always advise, especially with the environmental impact of buying things that will last. I also love using upcycled furniture which you can find through auctions or from good brands, rather than cheap mass produced sofas and tables and chairs made miles away which will fall apart. Wootton Auction Rooms are one of my favourite auction houses. Also of course my own sofas and chairs, the frames are made from sustainable beech in Gloucestershire and they are upholstered to order here too.

4. Think big!

A big room should have big pieces of furniture: I would recommend for a large kitchen and sitting room a large sofa, dresser and also large cooker, I am especially keen on a 4 oven Everhot or Aga. In a bedroom: go for a large statement headboard, with extra space taken up with an armchair or sofa.

6. Aim for nature-inspired simplicity in your fabrics

Textures and tactile qualities introduced through fabrics, rugs, throws, ceramics and natural woods always look beautiful in any room, think about including wool, sheepskin, wicker, earthenware and natural wood floors and furniture in your home. Pretty hand woven woollen rugs and blankets give a naïve ‘shaker- like’ charm and add warmth as well as being decorative.

7. Homemade is often best

Think about the little touches you can introduce. Simple functional creative objects such as a handmade peg bag, tea cosy, tea towel or even upcycling and reupholstering an old office chair, can add a unique homespun charm to a house. In this world of mass production a handcrafted addition to an interior really stands out.

8. Bring out the things that make a room special

If you have painted wooden floors think about restoring them rather than covering them up. If you can, sand and oil the boards (use WOCA OILS) and put down a lovely rug, which you can clean easily and even shake outside. In country rooms the natural texture of a wooden floor brings incredible warmth to a space.

9. Bring the outside in

The best things to lift a room can often be as simple as what you have in your garden. Fresh garden or hedgerow flowers are a must, my favourite go-to is a vase of roses, a timeless floral look that instantly spruces up any room. But it doesn’t have to be expensive shop bought flowers, whatever you have in your garden, from the humblest handful of snowdrops to a clutch of daffs or simple greenery will do the same trick.

10. Choose fabrics that give you joy

When you choose fabric design for the curtains in your living area, try to ask yourself what would cheer me up to look at on a gloomy day? I love to create an impact on arrival and find putting touches of colour in halls, living rooms and sitting rooms works beautifully. My own favourite designs are Fruit Garden in peach, smoke and charcoal (see below) and also May Blossom in Damsel Pink.

11. Consider Impactful wall coverings

Think about using wallpapers, especially in small rooms like a loo, bathroom and boot room, to create fantastic impact and interest. I have used my Up The Garden Path wallcovering in Teal in mine! (see below). Small rooms can look fantastic designed bold like this.

12. Always add homely extras

These are the finishing touches that complete your design: accents of colour can be added very simply through throws, pottery, books, and house plants. Be reassured everything doesn’t have to match. Family keepsakes such as your Grandmother’s rug will hold personal memories, giving the room a more interesting lived in feel.

Want to primp up your living space? Head over to to book in for a consultation (virtual or in-store) or make an appointment to visit the showroom in Cirencester.


1 comment on “Transform your interior in 12 easy steps”

  • Berta Dulle March 11, 2021

    I live in the US and have followed you ever since you sent me samples when you started out. I often wish I could get your catalogs, fabrics, etc. in the USA. It is nice to stay connected through your posts.


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