Rita Konig is one of the world’s most celebrated interior designers, having worked on prestigious residential projects in her native London, New York and California, as well as decorating Los Angeles’ most sought-after new members’ club, the San Vicente Bungalows. Now she’s launched an online course where she reveals her personal techniques and processes to help you tap into your own innate interiors style – the perfect project during these self-isolation times. Here she shares her five tips for getting started.
I always recommend people begin by looking at each room carefully and thinking about it – what does it need to do, what does your house have to deliver for you? Have you got three boys under the age of 10, or are you empty nesters? That all informs what a house needs to do for you, as well as how you want to live in it. That will really help you to start building a plan and sorting out the room layout.
For my house in Durham, North Farm, I was working on the plans for a year before the builders started, so I felt very intimately involved with the house before we even got to the decorating. It was the same with my London flat – once I got married and had my daughter, we needed more space, and so we bought the flat next door and knocked them together. Focusing on the layout there was hugely important.
After that it’s a bit like painting by numbers – you begin to come up with a clearer picture for the interiors. When you start to visualise yourself in the space, then you see colours or fabrics that have caught your eye, or maybe there’s furniture you already own or pieces you’ve seen. And like the twigs in a nest, you start to build the form, which then makes it easier to put in the bits of moss and the things that make it comfortable – but you need that structure first.
I think of it like a dial on a radio – to start with, just turn that dial up a couple of notches, rather than thinking, “I’ve got no colour in my life, I must have a pink sofa or paint the room bright green.” People can be a bit frightened of colour when it comes to interiors, but you can incorporate it in lots of ways that aren’t scary – put it on a little slipper chair, for example, or bring it in through a picture or a lampshade.
I think sometimes we forget that the things we put in a room make up the colour too. You don’t have to make the walls a colour and have bright curtains, which can also feel like a big investment. That’s what people are afraid of – making expensive mistakes.
I like to shop wherever I am – we have a tiny cottage in Wales, so I’ll have a browse around Nook Antiques in Llangollen when I’m there, and when we’re staying with my in-laws in Shropshire I’ll visit Mytton Antiques in Atcham near Shrewsbury. In terms of websites, I like Decorative Collective and Lorfords Antiques. And I do a lot of shopping on Instagram – I’ve actually just opened up my private account, @rita_k_shopping, where I follow all my favourite dealers.
I never go to shops looking for something specific, because it’s too difficult. I’m always buying small trays or bits of china or lovely books that would be nice by beds. For me, when I’m decorating, lots of it happens at the end, after the wallpaper is up and the curtains are in. So much of what makes a room is the stuff in it.
One thing to remember is that everything doesn’t have to make your heart sing when you first look at it. I think it’s a mistake when people don’t make a decision because they’re not sure they really love it. Sometimes you’ve just got to get going and build around it.
At North Farm there are lots of pieces that were given to me by my mother [design royalty Nina Campbell], like a rug that she brought back from Morocco or this 19th Century French bed that she had in storage that I never would have bought myself. But I’ve upholstered it and actually I rather love it. To me, that’s what makes the best house – it’s not about having an endless pot of money and buying everything new. It’s the mix – that is where the substance lies.
You want to think about the small spaces in your home in terms of luxury and really make something of them rather than just abandoning them – those funny little rooms are where the magic happens. That’s the space that can take the bold paint colour or the wallpaper, because if you paint that room white it’s going to look like a cell.
I turn them into cosy single bedrooms with box beds and boards on the walls for texture, or TV rooms with daybeds. I like buying those old French empire beds and upholstering the mattresses and putting cushions all over them to make them really comfortable. We have one in my daughter’s playroom in North Farm and all the kids love to pile onto it.
For more information and to access Rita Konig’s interiors course, visit createacademy.com
Use the code EASTER20 before Monday 13 April at midnight to receive 20% off the course.