What’s been happening over at ‘Design at 31’?

If you look back at the blog, you might notice that it’s been somewhat quiet. Neglected would perhaps be a more accurate adjective. You would certainly be forgiven for not realising that I even have a blog!

Ironically, my last two posts were me setting out my new year resolutions for 2019, one of which was a weekly blog. I kind of knew I was setting myself up to fail, but went ahead and did it anyway! I do caveat this, however, by saying that my 10 resolutions were more of a wish list, and that they were there to help guide me (and remind me) throughout the year what I would like to achieve, rather than a stick to beat myself with if I fail. Thankfully. But, 30 weeks later, boom, here I am with the weekly blog!

I haven’t just been sat around on Instagram though. Honestly. During the last few months, as I’ve started to think more and more about how I can upscale my hobby and things have taken off a little bit. So, with the sun out and a strong coffee in hand, I am feeling refuelled and ready to get back on the blogging horse (if there was ever such a thing!) and take you on this journey of furniture upcycling (to sound very X-Factor cliché) with me!

Design at 31′ is growing

It all started with a sale. If anyone knows about setting up a small business (of which I don’t know a thing, so this is all a very steep learning curve) it is scary, tough but exciting. I certainly feel privileged insofar as I can have a bash at this whilst still keeping my day job. Which does help in terms of cash flow for now. The flip of that is that every waking hour is now occupied with thinking about something work-related. But, I am aware that these things are never easy. Or everyone would do it, right? So hopefully, with patience, persistence (and the odd G&T here and there) it will pay off.

But, back to the story. So, after giving up all hope of this thing ever taking off, and starting to make my peace with that, I got a ping of an email from Etsy out of the blue. Someone was interested in my one piece that had been kicking about in my forlorn shop for some time. With a visit from the potential buyer to view the piece, some lovely compliments of my work, and my home, they took it there and then. And it was at that point I felt re-energised. The thing is, like many people I suppose, you can sometimes be your very own worst critic. You can see all the things on a piece you wish you hadn’t done, or you wish had turned out slightly differently. You can think that no one would like what you do, and when the only feedback is from family and friends (who have to be nice to you, right?), you can sometimes lose sight of what others might see.

But, that sale instantly pinged me back into action. It also spurred me on to get a bit bolder and braver with my work. I also did my first commission piece (below), which I was really pleased with the final result, as was the client, which again, helped to build up a bit of confidence.

Commissioned upcycle | Console table painted in Annie Sloan Chateau Grey, finished with dark wax

So a quick name change, to keep everything coherent and consistent, my Etsy shop is getting restocked under the guise of ‘Design at 31’. There’s still a lot to do to get things up and running properly, but I am now selling and taking on commissions. The business is registered. Logo being designed and business cards printed. It’s starting to feel real. I won’t lie. Confidence ebbs and flows. But, one of the driving forces behind all this is to see if, one day, I might be able to be my own boss and work in a creative job – something I never thought I would be able to do, because I didn’t know how with the career path that I’d taken. So I am pushing through all the nervous moments, and trying keep a clear focus the fact that I actually enjoy transforming pieces and giving a new lease of life to pieces that might otherwise be destined for landfill!

Here is just a bit of a peak at some of the pieces I have done recently, and to give you an idea of what kinds of things to expect:

Some of the latter upcycles above are now available to buy on my Etsy site.

What next?

I have a few other things due to be announced related to the business over the next month too, which will be revealed soon – as some are still in the planning stages. But, more immediately I am going to have a crack at getting more confident and bold in my designs, and play around with the different finishes, colours and effects.

I intend to use the blog in a number of interior and furniture-related ways. I will do some mini tutorials and how-tos (a beginners’ guide from a beginner type of thing), I will talk about some of my work, the inspiration and motivation and the different products available for you to try, should you want to have a go on your own and just some ponderings about the world of interiors more generally. One thing that this upcycling malarkey has taught me, is how bold colours, rustic and vintage interiors, and in particular chippy paint(!), makes me smile! So I will do my best to share all these things with you, and some ideas you might be able to introduce into your home.

So, in the meantime, please do pop along and say hi via Instagram, check out what’s on offer in the ‘Design at 31’ shop or drop me an email if you want to discuss a possible commission or if you have any questions on And stay tuned for what will hopefully be a more regular blog!

See you next week! (promise!!)

My Interior Resolutions for 2019 (Part 2)

In my last post I started to introduce some of the interior-related things I am planning to do for 2019. I deliberately decided to do this in two instalments. And mainly because I knew that as soon as the Christmas festivities were over and the ‘all back to it’ began, it would be too easy to lose sight of those good intentions that you make when you’re overtaken by festive cheer (and most likely inebriated).

One week in, and already, things feel like they’re slipping. They’re not, of course, it’s just when you’re back at work, your non-work things will inevitably slow down or take less of a priority. So, this second instalment is both a boost for me, a prompt to help me remember to keep sight of what I’m wanting to achieve, and hopefully steady encouragement for any of you who are already feeling the strain on the things you’d set for yourself in 2019.

So, here’s numbers six to 10:

6. Organise my mind, my hobbies, my house

My mind works in mysterious ways. It’s all over the place, often over-excitable at the thought of a ‘new’ project and also flits about as it gets bored (which can happen quite quickly). This means that we have lots of unfinished jobs, bits of unpainted furniture lying around awaiting its long-awaited revamp and hopefully sold on to its new home (see number eight!). This can soon get me down. Looking around at piles of stuff everywhere, unfinished rooms and so on is not the most inspiring of environments. Also, thinking of everything that needs doing can be totally overwhelming.

This calls for pragmatism. I was chatting to a friend about this, and like her I am going to list, room by room, what I need to do. I am going to write a list of things I think we need to buy, as well as things I would like to buy (I’m considering a new sofa and armchair in the living room, but that’s not a priority). I can then start to feel like I’m taking back some control as well as working out what the priorities are and how to manage budgets.

7. Think outside the box

This one is covering a few different things. But essentially, it’s really thinking both about what I buy for the house and why and what I already have and whether it could be used better.

This is the kind of scenario I’m talking about. You go shopping to a huge store, perhaps for one thing in particular, or perhaps just for a browse (there’s a few shops in particular I have in mind) and you find yourself just loading your basket with things mindlessly? Then you get home and have to spend three weeks trying to figure out what it is or does, before conceding defeat and giving it to a charity shop to let some other poor person try to work it out? Well, I have. But I need to stop so I can divert my resources towards things I want and things that will make everything a bit more organised and tidy over at No. 31.

Finally, on this point, practical and beautiful do not have to be working against each other. I am going to try to make 2019 the ‘year of the aesthetic’. I see so much inspiration on Pinterest and Instagram from things like your soap and shampoo dispensers through to utility room cupboards. Why not have practical and stylish I say, even on a budget? Which means I’m going to take a long hard look at the niggly little things, the things I need to have on display or to hand, but can be smartened up a little bit (or dare I say, made a bit more IG worthy?)

8. Sell stuff!

My house is slowly starting to look like an antique emporium. I know that sounds like no bad thing, but these are things I’ve slowly been buying to paint and sell off. I don’t need this many coffee tables. In a bedroom. Nobody does. I think there’s a mix of procrastination and nerves here. What if it doesn’t sell? What if it does sell, it gets to its new home and they don’t like? Those types of things are flitting around.

However, the bigger question is ‘how will I ever know if I don’t try?’ Another leap of faith to be taken.

9. Side hustle more

Writing this blog and Instagramming has been quite significant in helping me to find and cultivate hobbies that allow me to possess a more creative outlet. I’m hit and miss at the moment, as I’m trying to work out exactly what I want from my different hobbies, but so far, so good. And with so many things I want to do, I’m just going to have a bash at all of them. I’ll slowly figure out the things that I enjoy, the things I can’t do for whatever reasons and just through natural selection, the ones I don’t want to pursue will just drop off.

I’d also say to anyone thinking of wanting to pursue a creative hobby, or have thought about doing something similar for a while, just have a go. Honestly, as soon as you start painting, typing, whatever it is you’re doing, I think you’ll be amazed at how quickly you get some rhythm.

10. Collaborate

Last but not least, I am really keen to explore collaborations. I have already starting to build some great partnerships with people on Instagram. I want to continue to do this, building networks and letting each of us gain skills, knowledge and experience from each other. There’s loads of us, we’re sometimes doing similar things, but there’s room for all of us. There’s a few exciting things in the pipeline, so hopefully I will be able to reveal some of these things over the coming months. So let’s keep working together and keep making the community the best it can be.

There you have it. The full set of interiors plans for 2019. I know that there can be some resistance to resolutions for many reasons. A key one I guess, is that you are setting yourself up to fail, which can then be even worse for your motivation. But I don’t see it like that. For me, it’s just a wish list of goals that I can remind myself of throughout the year and give me a bit of a framework to how I focus some of my attention when I have spare time, or wish to spend time doing my hobbies. Nothing bad will happen if these 10 resolutions aren’t kept. But, if just one or two are, then I will have made some good progress on things that are important to me.

If you’re setting your own goals, then good luck!

My Interior Resolutions for 2019 (Part 1)

So that’s it, we’re nearly done for 2018. I have had a great interiors year. I joined Instagram in May, started posting with trepidation (and mostly confusion), have met some great people along the way (and keeping on doing so), unlocked my confidence (both in term of my personal confidence to do/say things and interiors confidence) and have been immersed into a whole world of inspiration.

This blog has been a huge move for me. This is the kind of thing I would normally think about doing, but never dare do in case someone says something negative. So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I anticipate this may not always be the case, but I have mechanisms in my head to deal with any negativity. Constructive criticism is different though. I love that and it helps me develop.

I am also ‘marketing’ my blog as an ever-changing beast. Something that will grow and evolve with me as my interiors side-hustle develops. It will (hopefully) become a bit more regular (e.g. same time each week, rather than just any old time) and continue to be my creative outlet and a source of some inspiration to you all; whether that be your own interiors or your own online social media presence.

So, to finish off the year, I am doing a two-parter focusing on my 10 Interiors New Year Resolutions for 2019. In part, the hope is by making my resolutions ‘public’ I stand slightly more chance of actually sticking to a few of them beyond February. We’ll see.

1.Blog, blog, blog

I’ve got nothing interesting to say. Everyone’s blogging, and they’re all so much better than me. I’ve got no ‘interiors credibility’. I’ll do it when I get to two-thousand followers. No three-thousand. I’ll do it in 2019. Perhaps, 2020. Okay, you get the picture. These were all the things going around in my head. So, I decided to take control of my self-doubt and went, you know what, this is going to be one of my 2019 New Year Resolutions BUT I’m going to start it right now, otherwise I will never get on with it.

So, all of those thoughts, whilst they do crop up now and again, just get over-ridden by me saying ‘are you enjoying blogging?’ and ‘do you want to carry on blogging?’. The answer to both, is yes. If only one or two of you read it and take something from it, then that’s great. And I get to fulfil a nice creative hobby and interest of mine; writing. So, self-doubt aside, I plan to plough on.

I would also say to anyone else thinking about starting a blog of their own, go for it. It’s a really inexpensive thing to do, and with such a supportive community, you will have the help out there to get cracking. It’s also a nice way to just organise your thoughts and share your ideas. Remember, only people who are interested will read it, so it’s a fairly safe space.

So, for 2019 I will be making the pledge to blog weekly. I will use it to talk about my own home, ideas and also, most importantly, as a platform to share some of the accounts I love and keep going back to for various ideas and inspiration.

2. Keep it in perspective

This has to have been one of my biggest learning curves. Scrolling through Instagram can be a wonderful experience. It can also plunge you into a pit of despair. Whether that be about the size of your rooms, the style of your home, the type of furniture, your photographs. Whatever it is, you can question your own home and whether it’s good enough for ‘the Gram’.

I admit to feeling all these things. A lot. Especially in the earlier days. Now though, if I ever dare to think this, I give myself a good telling off. At the end of the day, I have a lovely, warm, safe home to return to every evening. I know exactly where I am bedding down each night. This is undoubtedly more important than anything else. So yes, my kitchen and bathroom could do with a revamp. But I have hot water and access to food. I’ve got nothing to worry about.

Now this might sound hard-line. But essentially, that’s the long and short of it in my mind. I know I have interior ambitions for the ever-evolving No. 31. I don’t have the resource to do it all straight away and patience isn’t my greatest virtue. But so be it. I’ll get there eventually. But what I have is far more than some people and for that reason. And will try my best to remember this if I ever start the unhealthy comparisons.  It’s also a good idea to not always look at your home through the lens of your camera, and actually see what you really have around you!

3. Do it for me

I have found myself scouring the internet trying to find all sorts of weird and wonderful things. You know, the sort of things that suddenly appear on loads of people’s feeds. I won’t name them specifically. That goes against the ethos of what I’m about (and this point more specifically) which is that everyone should just do as they want and what they enjoy. But there are some trends I just can’t get on board with. And I now realise, that’s fine.

This doesn’t mean you can’t be influenced by inspiration though. Absolutely not. My last blog documented my move over to darker interiors. It was Instagram, and some of the wonderful accounts that I follow, that gave me both the confidence and inspiration to have a go at something a bit different. And, I’ve genuinely loved the transformation, which means I am now planning darker interiors for other rooms. But this is because that’s what I want to do not what I think I should be doing to get the likes.

So for 2019, anything that comes into this house is because I want or need it, rather than because ‘it might make a good photograph’.

4. Be more independent

Now I have to admit, I’m a bit of a Homesense fiend. Since one opened close by, I find myself in there at least once a week. I tend to go for a wander around as my Monday night treat (don’t judge). I actually refer to it, jokingly, as my ‘happy place’! But, through Instagram, I have found absolutely loads of wonderful independent businesses and through various conversations, I’ve realised how hard these people work to make their business run. And how grateful they are when you support them. And as a consumer, I would much rather my money going into the pockets of these people who I actually know, engage with and, in a number of cases, have actually become friends with. So before I make any more purchases, I’ll be thinking about whether any of the indie businesses would be able to supply me with something similar and check them out first!

4. Ditch the trades

Getting reliable tradespeople, as I’m sure we all know, can be quite the task. It doesn’t seem to matter what I want doing, I can’t get people to commit. It’s perplexing, as I am prepared to pay them! So, I’m taking control. I’m ditching them. Okay, not entirely. I promise to go nowhere near the electrics. And plumbing will be a last resort. No, I’m referring to the kinds of jobs I could probably try and have a go at, but currently just see as something only a qualified expert would be able to do. Their unreliability means jobs don’t get done at all and then no room is finished, which is so frustrating.

So I’m going to start simple. Try to get some skirting boards done in the home office for example. And, more importantly for me, I am going to remember that I need to be patient and if it goes wrong the first time, look for solutions, don’t walk away from it mumbling ‘I can’t do DIY’. I am not the best, but that’s because I’ve not given it the time it needs to practice. So for 2019 I am changing this. I am going to have a go and who knows, I might get some of the niggly jobs done and dusted once and for all.

So these are my first five Interior Resolutions. Tune in again later in the week for the next five pledges for 2019. In the meantime, I would like to thank you for your support so far and here’s to a wonderful 2019.

Have you got a dark side?

Had you have asked me that questions a year ago, I would have categorically said no. I’d have argued that my little house, with its dark rooms, needs to be painted white. Or in very light shades at least. I would have guffawed at anyone who had even suggested I paint a single wall dark. If fact, only recently, I’ve been musing on some of the bad decorating choices I’ve made since moving into No. 31 in my vain attempt to make rooms feel bigger and lighter. So, where did it all start for me?

Early in the year I fancied ‘getting into’ interiors a bit more. I’ve always enjoyed leafing through magazines, and at the time was usually found on Pinterest. So I decided to step it up and buy a couple of books. The first was New Nordic Colour by Antonia AF Petersens. As Petersens herself admits, the term ‘Nordic colour’ seems like a contradiction in terms. However, as this very stylish book shows, Scandinavian style is no longer solely associated with the light, clean lines, bright spaces or monochrome interiors. There has been a dramatic shift towards bolder colours. This book is wonderful, and it was the chapter ‘Dark Eclectic’, that stopped me in my tracks. The next was Extraordinary Interiors from Rockett St George. Like New Nordic Colour, this book is crammed cover-to-cover with stylish, eye-catching images. Here they talk you through being bolder with colour. They also remind us that dark interiors are not a new fad, but a have been a significant part of the interior design for a long time, particularly popular during the Victorian era.  What Extraordinary Interiors also helped me with was dispelling that myth that painting your room dark will make it feel small, cold or uninviting. Of course, it’s not for every room and understanding the aspect of your room can be important as the light in south-facing rooms is different to those in north-facing. Likewise, east and west-facing, as I have, change throughout the day. Having some idea of how your room receives it light, and when you spend the most time in that room, is important to consider.

Then fast forward to May 2018 and that’s when I set up my Instagram account. Not only did I find this world of beautiful photos, heck no, I found a whole community of people taking pictures of their homes and gardens and chatting away about them. The beloved interior community!  Here I have found some wonderful people, who I can endlessly natter about paint, fabric, accessories and everything in between. This is where my dark side began to emerge.

For those who follow @gareth_at_31 on Instagram, you will know that I started tip-toeing into darker paint with the Hague Blue in my living room. This came after a long period of contemplation about whether I dare brave a new hue. At the time the living room had a deep, rich and warming red chimney breast. I was terrified of taking away the cosy feel. However, being the interior-faffer I am, there was no way I could resist and so went for it. I remember taking the lid off the paint, staring into the abyss, laughing nervously to myself and thinking ‘oh god, what am I about to do’. When I’m nervous, I become irrational, so without thinking, I just started to slap it on the walls. I painted the whole chimney breast before daring to step back and gain perspective. What happened? I fell in love instantly.

Living Room painted Farrow and Ball Hague Blue (chimney breast) and Valspar Gentle Shadows

But fully embracing ‘the dark side’ properly took a bit of time. It was only when it came to decorating the bedroom, which was a very pale grey and mustard colour at the time, did I take the leap. The indecision slowed the process down, but then, after much deliberation (and endless scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest) I just clicked order. That was it. Decision over, the Studio Green paint was on its way.

Now I am sold. And interestingly, because of the relatively tall ceilings for this small room, the dark contrasting with the white ceiling actually makes the room feel much bigger. When the walls were very pale too,you lost this contrast and the height was lost. But where did all this confidence come from? Well Instagram was a big part of it and I’ll share a few accounts with you that you should check out if you’re wondering whether dark interiors are for you.

One of my go-to darker interior accounts is @alfredandtheboy. Describing himself as an aesthete, it is clear that Stephen has an eye for that something special. His account is beautiful and eclectic and if you’re considering using darker colours in your home, check out the stunning effect it can have. His kitchen takes on Studio Green, Green Smoke and Brinjal and it was here I started to pore over Studio Green rooms online.

The other two accounts I got some of my inspiration and courage to go bold are @welcome_to_stepford and @a_story_of_home.

Both these accounts have their living rooms painted in dark grey. Scrolling through their posts you can see wonderful effect that these dark hues have. To me, they emanate an air of sophistication, elegance and comfort. 

Paired with some bold and beautiful accessories, as each of these accounts do, the feeling of quality that comes from a dark room is incredible. The simple elegance of Michael’s room is achieved through the monochrome styling of silver and greys. Sharon’s walls take on a darker, almost green, appearance through the use of accents and houseplants; giving that feeling of the wonderful apartments I was admiring on my recent trip to Amsterdam. In my own room, I’m using golds, natural wood and comforting textures to create a little haven. What this bold move has done, and what I wasn’t expecting, is that it has actually made the room feel bigger, more sophisticated and so much cosier. Win win.

Now dark interiors won’t be for everyone. And that’s fine, of course. Variety and all that. But, if you’re sat there, thinking about it, but like me, are either new to all this or a bit nervous I have one piece of advice. Just try it. Whatever that might be, just have a go. Perhaps start small – such as a chimney breast, feature wall or a room that you don’t spend a lot of time in. Take in the wonderful accounts shared here, and see what they have managed to achieve through their bold and beautiful styling. At the end of the day (and budgets dependent of course), one day you will be able to repaint it. Nothing is permanent. Who knows, like me your trepidation might transform into a new addiction.

So, do you have a dark side? I know I certainly do.

What’s happening over at Number 31?

There goes a saying, which many people have laid claim to, including, apparently, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford and even Mark Twain, “if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got”.

Does anyone else have all these little ideas about what you really want to try to do and achieve? But inevitably, at the end of each day, as you put your feet up, stick the TV on and even pour that drink, you find you’ve not done a thing towards it. I am that person. While I am busy, and wouldn’t say I’m particularly lazy, I certainly am Chief Procrastinator. I constantly say I want to develop my own business (but doing what?), I want to upcycle furniture (because I love it), I want to write more, read more, cook more creatively. Often, these activities get bound up in a set of New Year’s Resolutions, accompanied by a number of fancy notebooks to help kick them off. What happens? You’ve guessed it. I have a stack of empty notebooks.

So taking the philosophy from the quote above, I have finally bitten the bullet, and started to push my side hustle forward. On a day-to-day basis, life doesn’t often give me much of a creative outlet. Earlier this year, I happened to come across a little thing called Instagram. It was here that I found a way of channelling some of this energy by taking snap shots of my little house in Derbyshire. Over this time, I have met some fantastic people, have gained some incredible inspiration and, importantly, developed my confidence. On that latter point, when talking about confidence I am not just talking about being bolder with my interiors, but actually to push forward with the things I really enjoy and being just a little less scared to reveal more about me. Do I think my house is the best looking on the Gram? No. Are my photos the highest quality? No. My house is not the biggest, not the most completed, but it is a happy home. And, despite what I think, at the point of writing I’ve got 1,600 followers, many of who often say very nice things about it to me. And at the end of the day, it’s mine, I love it and I enjoy the ever-evolving process of switching things up. So I’m embracing it!

Living room painted in Hague Blue (Farrow & Ball) and Gentle Shadows (Valspar)

And here we are! I’ve done it. I’ve tied up at least one loose end. I plan to use this website in a couple of ways. First and foremost, it will be an extension of @gareth_at_31. I will talk about my home, what I’ve done, what I’m planning and the different ways you can also start to be braver with whatever look you’re going for. I will also use the blog to talk about accounts that have inspired me and continue to do so regularly. I find Instagram has been an incredibly positive and encouraging space and the support my little account has had from everyone has been wonderful. So it will be a way of giving back and continuing to spread this goodwill and support. And finally, it will be where I can talk about my upcycling projects. I am planning to start to sell pieces I upcycle, as part of my drive to develop my interior-related work and here I will be able to talk about what I’ve done and what’s available.

I’m hoping to be able to make this a regular thing, and offer content that’s of interest to you all. So please get in touch with ideas, thoughts, suggestions. And I hope you all enjoy reading.