Recently, I moved house and was confronted with a problem I’ve had my entire life. When it comes to styling, I have absolutely no idea what the hell I’m doing.
My stream of consciousness upon seeing an empty room is as follows:
OH GOODNESS SO MUCH POTENTIAL. I should leave it empty then I can’t f*ck it up. Will my couch suit this room? What colour even is my couch? Grey? White? It might be blue. Maybe I just… paint it black and then cover it in three different colour throws. Or cushions. You can never have enough cushions. OH I saw that decorative ladder in Ikea… but I think maybe I should do the opposite to what my instincts tell me. Look, I’m going to put this blue plate on the second shelf of my bookcase and that will look nice. Yeah. Really nice. Fin.
The part of my brain responsible for imagining how things will look just never really developed.
It became clear to me as I was scouring Gumtree for furniture, and despairing over a room that does not look anything like what I wanted it to - that there are people in the world who are really, really good at this and I just need to ask them what their secrets are.
There have to be some simple rules that plebeians like myself can follow in order to have a somewhat stylish home.
It's not that I can't tell what looks good and what doesn't, it's just that I know my house doesn't look good and I do not know what to do about it.
Shelley Craft talks to Holly Wainwright about the one thing you can do to make your home look sleek. Post continues below.
So I spoke to Emma Elizabeth, an interior designer and stylist, whose clients include Westfield, Sheridan and Vogue Australia. She is also the founder of Local Design Australia. When it comes to making any space look like it's straight from a magazine, Emma Elizabeth is your woman.
I asked her for five tips that even I (or anyone) could implement - keeping in mind that most of us are poor AF.
1. Two words: White. Walls.
Rule number one, is to start with a blank canvas.
Emma says white walls will always make a space look bigger and cleaner, and white never goes out of fashion.
"Just when you're thinking you might want to pick up the paint brush and paint a feature colour wall, put your paint brush down and just go buy a decent piece of art or even a poster you like and frame it," Emma advised.
2. Work in odd numbers.
I definitely missed the memo about this one.
Emma says when it comes to a lounge room, for example, pick three things. "Sofa, side table, rug then stop," she said.
It's called 'the rule of threes', and whether it's artworks, photographs, cushions on a sofa or vases - strictly stay away from even numbers.
It's a mind hack - as Apartment Therapy explains, "three is the smallest number that can be used to form a distinguishable pattern in our heads," so is far more appealing to the eye.
3. Less is always more.
When it comes to the biggest mistake Emma sees people make, she couldn't go past too many goddamn cushions on sofas and beds. Don't, she begs, over-do it.
Watch the size of your elements, especially in small spaces. Small silhouetted reading chairs might work better than a big chunky lounge.
If you find a piece of furniture you love and it makes you feel good, buy it. But make it a special feature - don't just add it to an already cluttered room.
When it comes to design, keep it simple.
4 . Plants - not flowers.
"Breath some life into a space through structural foliage," Emma said. "Think a basic glass tall vase with some large foliage (don't think palms, think oak tree branches with leaves, olive branches, etc... ) It transforms a space at minimum cost. Plants are far cheaper than buying flowers and they last longer."
5. A small cluster of vessels.
Up until a minute ago, I didn't know what a 'vessel' was.
"We're talking coloured, material types or clear combinations on an empty shelf, table or side board," Emma said. Think vases, jars or anything decorative.
"They can be sourced from second hand stores. It just gives a little thoughtful moment," Emma added.
A bonus tip...
"Try your absolute best to stay away from replica," Emma advised.
"It ruins your street cred and it often looks cheap. Buy real and you'll get better bang for your buck."
If you're anything like me and definitely cannot afford designer furniture, she said to jump onto second hand websites like Gumtree.
"And if something doesn't suit your colour palette get creative and stain them, paint them, upholster, put your spin on them," she said.
Emma's own brand, Local Design, can source designer furniture - and put people directly in touch with designers to make specific pieces for specific budgets.
Excuse me while I head home, dispose of 46 cushions, and buy some statement plants from Bunnings.
What's your biggest interior design tip?
To find out more about Emma Elizabeth, designer, stylist and creative director, you can follow her on any of her social platforms.