HOLLY THOMAS: How to find interior design advice for free

Tailored interior design has long been the preserve of those with deep pockets. It tends to attract those who live in the kind of homes where driveways are gated and AGAs and vast kitchen islands come as standard.

But times are changing. It is now possible to have your home restyled without splashing out on the services of a professional.


John Lewis has a free Instant Interiors design service for those who want a creative steer on anything from a simple room update or on styling a space from scratch.

Ready-made: A bedroom designed by John Lewis’s free Instant Interiors design service Instant Interiors

Previously it offered only paid-for interiors advice. Shoppers can choose a quick-fix 15-minute session on the shop floor or a more comprehensive 90-minute appointment — both free of charge.

Staff working in the store’s home department have been trained at the London College of Style to ensure they are experts in creating looks, rather than solely having product knowledge. 

‘Customers told us that using a home design stylist felt daunting and they wanted a more convenient way to get advice for their project, no matter the size or scope,’ says Peter Cross, customer experience director of John Lewis.

‘Instant Interiors offers access to experts — without the need to book. They can get great advice on style in their home, on trends and colour.’

The newly created spaces in-store for customers seeking advice have tables where you and your stylist can create a moodboard.

A number of other High Street names offer free design help — some with the proviso that you make a purchase.

At Heal’s (heals.com), there’s a completely free interiors planning service for large room re-designs, rather than just to help with choosing the odd piece of furniture.

It includes an initial chat with a designer in the store, who will then visit your home to take measurements and get a feel for the space. After this, a presentation will be created, including a detailed floor plan, recommended products with fabric options to help visualise the proposal.

Designers Guild (designersguild.com) offers an in-store consultation free of charge in one of its two London stores.

Staff working in the store's home department have been trained at the London College of Style

Staff working in the store’s home department have been trained at the London College of Style

A stylist will guide you through the fabrics, wallpapers, paints, furniture and accessories for your colour scheme.

Next (next.co.uk) charges £50 for two appointments for advice on up to two rooms, while Laura Ashley (lauraashley.com) charges £50 for a consultation to redesign one room and currently has an offer to do a second room free of charge — it’s usually £25 for subsequent rooms. Fees, in both cases, are refunded to a gift card or voucher if you spend more than £1,000.


You can achieve a professionally styled room-change by ordering a ‘room pack’ (pictured, below) from KDLoves, Kelling Designs’ home furnishings brand.

Presented in a wicker hamper, the pack contains a collection of hand-picked accessories needed to overhaul a room such as table lamps, cushions, throws and candles. You just need to choose from one of the eight eye-catching designs online and wait for delivery.

‘Each hamper has been put together to transform a room with just a handful of carefully selected items,’ says Emma Deterding of Kelling Designs. ‘The colours and prints inside work together harmoniously, and help customers to introduce bold patterns and colours into a room.’

The hamper itself can then be used as a coffee table (perhaps with the addition of a glass top — which KDLoves can organise), a chest for sheets and bed linen in a bedroom or even as a dressing up box for the children or grandchildren. Prices from £1,100 at kdloves.com.

When it comes to laying the perfect dinner table — known as ‘tablescaping’ — help is at hand.

London-based high-end homeware store Summerill & Bishop sells entire table settings in one go, so you can style the table with confidence. This is not an impulse buy, though, with prices starting at £5,825 (summerillandbishop.com).


The internet can assist with finding a new look for a room. Oka has a cushion arranger tool on its website where you can drag and drop different designs on to a sofa and see how they look (oka.com/cushion-arranger).

Since cushions don’t always have to match — you can jumble different fabrics and prints — this is ideal to help you visualise different combinations.

There are also plenty of apps such as Homestyler, which allows users to take a photo of a room and use the tools to try out wall colours, furniture and décor items. As long as you know where to go, you can give your home a fabulous facelift — without running up a huge bill.

What your house really needs is . . . a velvet chair 

In the Elizabethan era, only aristocrats and royals could wear velvet, a fabric considered too sumptuous for the upstart bourgeoisie.

Viewed in this light, the acquisition of a velvet chair can be seen as a blow for freedom in 2020.

A velvet armchair adds an air of quirky luxe to a living room and turns a bedroom into a retreat

A velvet armchair adds an air of quirky luxe to a living room and turns a bedroom into a retreat

This piece of furniture already makes a powerful statement. It declares that you are aware of the new vogue for vibrant colour and texture. 

A velvet armchair adds an air of quirky luxe to a living room and turns a bedroom into a retreat. 

Velvet dining chairs give a humdrum table the feel of a Michelin-starred restaurant.

The £195 Celine armchair from Habitat (habitat.com) evokes the elegance of the 1950s. The Dunelm (dunelm.com) Vivian chair, £149, left, celebrates the glamour of the 1930s and the overdue passing of industrial chic. 


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