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Creating a stylish home that will flow to work for all your needs

Potential savings from a mortgage switch, combined with some additional funds, could be the way to create your ultimate interior scheme

Some of us have a natural eye for beautiful design and the know-how to create a well laid out home. But for many, expert advice is required in order to achieve a cohesive scheme that flows throughout.

And so, in the final part of our Switch it Up series, in which we've tackled all aspects of the home improvement journey from kitchens and bathrooms to getting a better BER rating and looking at how renovations can maximise our space, we're rounding out the series by talking to interior design experts who explain how form can follow function in our homes. Potential savings from a mortgage switch, combined with some additional funds, could be the way to create your ultimate interior scheme.

An interior architect or designer can help enhance any indoor space, focusing on layout, spatial planning and conceptual design. We spoke with three designers who shed light on what you can expect from an expert in this field, while offering tips on how to enhance your home.

Lauren Martin and Louise Rankin run North Design while Emily Cunnane heads up Inspace Design, both practices are based in Dublin.


“We often see clients project managing their own renovations and coming to us mid-way through construction for help after some costly mistakes,” say Martin and Rankin. “Any project comes with its problems, but having an experienced, impartial body with your end goal in mind can help you manage these as they arise and save you money in the long run.”

A good interior designer will get to know you and how you live your life

An online consultation is easily done. “You can ‘virtually’ walk through the space with the designer, pointing out the areas you wish to improve, any particular pain points, and any ideas you may have,” Cunnane says.

While costs vary, she says, “In the long run working with a designer will often save you money as they will pass on discounts for products and let you into their little black book for tried and trusted tradespeople”.

So what can an interior designer do for you? You don’t need to be undertaking a big project to work with one and often, many issues can be solved by reorganising your layout.

A good interior designer will get to know you and how you live your life, and then spend time creating an environment that will enhance your day to day, Cunnane says.

“A ‘broken plan’ layout is a cost effective way of opening up a space, and choosing the right furniture will have an enormous effect. Lighting is a key element which can change the feeling of an existing space entirely. Your designer will be able to help you maximise natural light as well as create an intelligent layered lighting plan to create spaces within spaces, and change the function of an area easily,” she says.

Kitchens and bathrooms

Kitchens and bathrooms are generally the rooms we want to maximise.

“Layout and lighting are the two key elements,” Cunnane says. “In the kitchen consider running your units all the way to the ceiling if you are short on space. It will not only give you more long-term storage space but give the illusion of a higher ceiling.”

Under cabinet lighting gives you visibility across your work surfaces and ambient light when you don’t want to use overheads. A feature pendant creates drama over an island or in the middle of the room.

In the bathroom, wall-hung units can create a feeling of space. You could also consider unifying the finishes in a small room, such as using a micro-cement for all surfaces rather than a tile, Cunnane says. Opting for wall rather than ceiling lights can give a more polished feel too.

Under stairs bathrooms can prove tricky for home owners, according to the team at North Design.

“The layout in these spaces are usually quite restrictive, and this tends to reflect in the design too. There is so much potential to make these spaces something special. You could introduce a bright patterned tile with a strong colour on the wall. This always ends up being a pleasant surprise for your guests,” they say.

Making the most of awkward spaces

Sometimes the introduction of an open plan extension can leave a void in the centre of the house where there had been a previous living area. A designer can help.

“It’s important to inject function back in. Use a stronger colour on the walls, introduce joinery or wall panelling, or change up the lighting, it can be made more inviting, and may become your new ‘snug’ or post-dinner entertaining space with guests,” Martin and Rankin suggest.

Paint is another clever and inexpensive way of altering a space, they say. “Paint a large sample of the proposed colour on various walls and live with it for a couple of days. You will be amazed at how a colour can feel different at various times of the day and with weather changes, so take the time to get it right.”

Trying trends

Interior trends come and go, but one that’s set to stay thanks to the pandemic is how we use our homes for rest, work and play.

“That joy of separation between work and home life has merged and has put pressure on our homes. Clients want their homes to be more flexible, the main addition being incorporating a work space, but one that is flexible by having the option of closing it away when not in use to allow for evening and weekend family time,” Martin and Rankin say.

Look at movies for colour schemes, and high fashion can inspire shapes and forms in your soft furnishing

This could mean an office area with a fold-over door that can be shut away in the evening time to physically and mentally put thoughts of work to bed.

When it comes to décor trends, Cunnane asserts that homeowners can afford to take some small risks. “There is nothing wrong with getting your inspiration from current trends, but why not consider broadening your sources,” she says. “Look at movies for colour schemes, and high fashion can inspire shapes and forms in your soft furnishing.”

Into 2021, North Design is seeing natural, light and dark timber tones teamed with accents of black. “There is a strong emphasis on textures, the use of rattan in headboards, chairs and accent furniture are all leading features. Colourwise it is a muted use of tones - earthy greens, mustards and dusty pinks.”

About Switch it Up

Switch it Up is a new 12-part series for those who might be considering switching mortgage provider to make savings on their monthly repayments. It is a follow-up to the award-winning Story of Home series, which explored the idea of home through the eyes of creative people who found their dream place to live.

Now, Switch it Up, which like Story of Home is supported by Ulster Bank, looks at helpful information on home improvements as well as renovators' home tours. Plus, we've got helpful answers to your mortgage switching queries: from the incentives to how long it will take (not long!) and what's involved in making a mortgage switch, read our Everything you need to know about switching your mortgage guide at irishtimes.com/switchitup.

Perhaps now more than ever, we want our homes to suit the way we live and work, and being able to explore the potential in our homes offers us flexibility. This series is designed to unlock the ways in which we might Switch it Up in our homes as our wants and needs change.

Switching your mortgage could free up funds to help you make these changes. “At Ulster Bank, we want to be a part of the journey you take in making your home the best it can be,” says Sean Kellaghan, mobile mortgage manager at Ulster Bank.

“We want to make the mortgage switching process as simple and as hassle free as you do,” he adds. Kellaghan understands the stress that can come with making a switch, and he offers reassurance.

“We are here to help you, and the process is a lot shorter and a lot more straightforward than you might think. Get in touch today and we can talk you through the options and process.”

For more information, visit ulsterbank.ie

Ulster Bank Ireland DAC is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland