The tale of the knicker drying room

A new vision for “the knicker drying room”!

How do you transform a room from a featureless blank canvas into a harmonious sitting room fit for family life? This is the challenge my brother Al and his wife Georgie are facing in their home right now – scratching a lovely space out of four stark white walls is the last challenge (for now) in a renovation project that’s been ongoing for the past two years.

Dismissively known as the knicker drying room, it’s actually meant to be a smart sitting room — but it has stubbornly resisted the change. Instead, the room has been used variously as storage depot, builders’ workshop and launderette since they moved in. The 18ft x 14ft room benefits from light coming in on three walls and it has great views to the East, but other than that is feature-less. There’s no fireplace, no bookshelves, only four straight walls and a wooden floor. Where do you begin?

You start with a fabric sample. In this case, Colefax & Fowler’s Giselle Ivory linen, a classic floral print that was chosen to make up much-needed curtains to replace the temporary curtains and their more temporary rails that fell off the wall several times in the past year.

Working closely with Carolyn Brocklehurst, a talented interior designer based nearby whose vision has already had a major impact elsewhere in the house, Georgie has a dream of a beautiful, light room in ivory, green, yellows and golden browns. Carolyn’s curtains in the pic above have kicked off that dream already, but not before Georgie re-painted the walls from an inappropriate yellow into a light creamy grey (Dulux Chalky Downs 4 to be precise).

One of Al’s (many) jobs has been to find something better than the previous wall-lights, so last weekend he was busy installing four antiqued brass stick wall-lights from Pooky (the rather sweet chukka wall-light here), with neat little gathered cotton lampshades that go well with the curtains. They are a huge improvement on the opaque frosted glass uplighters of before — the unfortunate legacy of a previous owner’s love affair with Swedish home furnishing.

And where does Balmain & Balmain fit in? Naturally any good sitting room needs furniture and this is one thing Al and Georgie have a lot of — though even their current pieces need a little work. They already have a large Wylye 2.5 seater (above), a smaller Dart 2 seater and two fabulous Lambourne chairs (above) that all fit the space comfortably.

The two little Lambournes, covered in a green herringbone linen/cotton mix from Colefax & Fowler, make wonderful occasional seating by the main window and the Dart is already covered in a neutral linen union from Swaffer that falls easily into the scheme using scatter cushions to tie it in. But with the biggest element — the imposing red Wylye — something has to be done.

This particular sofa has been sat on daily by three generations of the family for more than a decade. It was originally covered in Marvic’s Renishaw herringbone viscose/linen mix which has held up amazingly well against persistent aggressive treatment from the junior team. Marked as suitable for “severe domestic use”,  Marvic wasn’t wrong with this fabric. It has coped with (ab)use, but sadly its bold russet colour clashes with the proposed scheme. Time to get it recovered. On the fabric shortlist are some stunning new Fermoie linens that would help make a big sofa into one of the feature pieces this room is crying out for. We’ll be recovering this in the next couple of months and will use it as a “demo model” to show how we carry out this type of work. When done it will look stunning alongside the Giselle floral curtains.

A room like this needs focal points and one of the easiest is to put a large footstool or Ottoman at its centre. This gives you somewhere to sit extra guests, somewhere to put your feet up and something bold to look at in the middle of the room. So a large new stool is definitely on the cards, as is a new rug to break up the extensive wooden flooring. Weaver Green’s range of recycled plastic rugs include affordable, sympathetic and environmentally friendly offerings that fit the bill, likewise Samarkand Designs have a host of bold lampshades that would sit well on top of two existing glass Colefax lamps.

It’s a work in progress, but the ideas are in play. And all of it stemmed from one fabric sample. We’ll let you know how it goes. One thing I do know. It’s going to be a big improvement on the view below…

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