Want to revitalise your home? Jane says it needn't cost a fortune
PUBLISHED: 14:00 13 January 2016
Start with de-cluttering to brighten things up!
If I ever need an interior designer, I’ll want one like Jane Cappleman. She might talk with authority about stylish paint hues like Rolling Fog and Mouse’s Back, but doesn’t pretend to be omnipotent. And she rolls up her sleeves when action’s required.
“My hallway, about two weeks ago, looked really shabby and horrible,” she confesses. “I just painted it, really simply. It’s a grey – what it was before – but I changed the paint, so it’s wipeable. With a hallway, people keep coming through, and mark it, and it immediately makes it look shabby.”
Then there were the light-fittings in the living area adjoining the kitchen, given by her mother as a wedding gift 20 or so years ago.
Because of the proximity to the kitchen, the cords were yellowing and greasy and the paper lanterns falling apart. What was the remedy there?
“I gave them a wash.” As simple as that? “It immediately lifts a room.” So, a really good brush-up and the paper lanterns renewed. Total cost: about £5. “Sometimes you have to think ‘Why change it?’ It’s not old; it’s not horrible; it just needs a good clean!”
The lesson here is that making our homes look better and brighter shouldn’t fill us with dread. While it’s worth employing professionals to stop us making costly mistakes, there are many simple things we can do that don’t cost a fortune.
The Cappleman formula begins with the D-word: decluttering.
“Cluttering is a common problem. Somebody will put something down and it will stay there for a year.” Hmmh. Sounds like my house…
I blame the demands of life, which almost force us to put things down and accumulate them, and leave precious little time for dealing with them.
I’m not let off the hook. “On a Sunday, in the afternoon, grab that top drawer, with all the rubbish in it, and just go through it! The feeling afterwards, when you’ve actually got space to put something...”
Much of the time, Jane says, storage is a problem. “I would say ‘Get everything into a pile in the middle of the floor, put to one side what you don’t want, and then think “Right, where am I going to put the rest of it?”’ Then go out and buy a unit for it.”
The new kitchen at Jane’s Bury St Edmunds Victorian home – where she lives with her husband and school-age son and daughter – is a good example. She needed proper places to put everything, from food to the ironing board, and she’s now got them.
One wall is virtually a series of cupboards, behind whose doors everything now has its place. One door even reveals a pullout desk, where she works and, later, her teenage son does his homework.
“I’ve had to save up to do it. But I made a list of everything in here I wanted to store away and then made a plan of where I was going to store it.”
There’s more of this ilk. Jane bakes bread every two days, so has a drawer dedicated to flour and yeast, under her worktop. “And my life’s transformed! I don’t have to rummage in a corner cupboard, at the back, to find flour – to drag it through and knock the sugar over.”
She shows me flour in a big jar bought from a junk shop. Because she uses it so often, it doesn’t even need a lid or stopper. Sure beats fiddling with a folded-over paper bag and scattering snow-like grains.
“If we took the time to reorganise things, we would gain the time back, every day. If you’re going to have a new year resolution, that would be it. And do look at your kitchen, because you spend a lot of your time there, and if it’s well-organised it’s fantastic.”
So when we’re talking interior design, we’re not necessarily talking about lovely colours but life management, really?
“To be honest with you, it is a big part of it. But people don’t see it like that. I go in to make things work and to make things better. It’s not just about making it look pretty; it’s got to be functional and practical as well. It’s got to give you back time in the day.
“If you get a sofa for a customer and they want it soft, and you supply them with feather cushions, they spend the rest of the day trying to plump them up. You’ve not given them a service; you’ve given them a chain round their neck!”
More tips: “I also go into somebody’s house and it might be cluttered, but, also, it won’t be arranged properly. You can group things together to make them interesting to look at – not just ‘placed’. You’ll get a sidetable and it will have a photograph on it and a box and a lamp. They’re not there for any reason, and it’s not even attractive.” Jane’s collected many, many candleholders of her own and didn’t know what to do with them. They’re now gathered together in a fireplace, where their massed ranks are a virtue and they look good. “Some of the nicest interiors for me are those that do have clutter, but it’s organised chaos! If you look at the homes and gardens magazines, there are very few minimalist rooms. You’ll see they’ve grouped things by colour, or texture, or the fact they’re all elephants or jugs. And it looks great.”
But what if we don’t have an artistic eye?
“Well, I would clear the room out, give it a good clean, paint the walls, and then start to move things back in. Have a good look at that space, because a lot of people won’t have seen that room empty for sometimes 20 years.
“Build it up gradually. Take a fresh look and think ‘I really love that. Wouldn’t it be nice over there?’ Move the furniture around a little bit.
“It doesn’t cost you any money to just move furniture from one room to another and have a little change-around. But you do need to take everything out of the room to begin with, so you have a blank canvas.”
If we are investing hard cash, and revamping the sitting room, we’ll likely spend a fair bit on a new sofa. We ought to tread carefully.
“Make sure that’s as neutral and plain as possible, as you can then have curtains and cushions to match and can change the cushions over time. It’s a much more cost-effective way of updating things.” Choose a sofa first and then find fabric to go with it for the curtains. It’s far easier than doing it the other way round.
Another sofa tip: “You look at them in fantastic showrooms bigger than your house. Get some dimensions and get newspaper out to lay on the floor at home to show what space it’s going to take up.” Patterns will also make the room look smaller.
If you want a majorish revamp by Christmas, start thinking about it properly in the summer. Decorators get booked up, hand-made sofas take time to come, fabric might be out of stock, and so on.
If you’re hoping to sparkle by Easter, get things moving now!
It’s worth paying for professional advice if you’re buying or doing something expensive. Flooring specialists, for instance, are experts in their trade, says Jane.
She was 12 when the design bug bit. Jane was born in Zimbabwe. Her parents bought a tiny house at Norton, near Bury St Edmunds. After her father died in a car accident, she and her mum moved to Fornham All Saints.
“She let me choose the wallpaper and the curtains for my room. I really enjoyed the process of doing that.” Jane trained as a textile designer, studying in Norwich, and later studied commercial interior design in London.
She spent 14 years with the Bury St Edmunds family-run firm Clement Joscelyne before launching her own interior design and decoration business in 2012.
Is there a key piece of advice to get us started?
“The first thing is to spend 10 quid on magazines, sit there with a cup of coffee and just get an idea of what’s in fashion and available, or you won’t know what the possibilities are.”
Speaking of which, grey seems to be the popular base colour, and has been for a long time. “But I’m not knocking it. With the light in this country, grey is brilliant. We have quite a lot of dull days and grey isn’t a cold colour. Grey sets off colour.
“Our landing is grey, but my niece has done this massive painting in bright reds and oranges, and it looks amazing.”