Nicola O’Mara interior design
Awarded Best Of Houzz 2017
Over 40 Million Monthly Unique Users Nominated Best Home Improvement and Design Professionals in the UK and Around the World
Nicola O’Mara interior design has won “Best Of Design” on Houzz®, the leading platform for home renovation and design. The international award winning company was chosen by the more than 40 million monthly unique users that comprise the Houzz community from among more than one million active home building, home improvement and design industry professionals.
The Best Of Houzz is awarded annually in three categories: Design, Customer Service and Photography. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the more than 40 million monthly users on Houzz. Customer Service honours are based on several factors, including the number and quality of client reviews a professional received in 2016. Architecture and interior design photographers whose images were most popular are recognised with the Photography award. A “Best Of Houzz 2017” badge will appear on winners’ profiles, as a sign oftheir commitment to excellence. These badges help homeowners identify popular and top-rated home professionals on Houzz.
We are so thrilled to have won!
“We’re so pleased to award Best of Houzz 2017 to this incredible group of talented and customer-focused professionals, including Nicola,” said Andrew Small, MD of Houzz UK and Ireland. “Each of these businesses was singled out for recognition by our community of homeowners and design enthusiasts for helping to turn their home improvement dreams into reality.”
Follow Nicola O’Mara interior design
Houzz is the leading platform for home renovation and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a small room to building a custom home and everything in between, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community empowered by technology, Houzz is the easiest way for people to find inspiration, get advice, buy products and hire the professionals they need to help turn their ideas into reality. Headquartered in Palo Alto, CA, Houzz also has international offices in London, Berlin, Sydney, Moscow and Tokyo. Houzz and the Houzz logo are registered trademarks of Houzz Inc. worldwide. For more information, visit houzz.co.uk
Scandinavian design has been slowly creeping into every corner of our homes, first it was storage solutions from Ikea and now more recently we are bringing the Scandi style into our living rooms and bedrooms, so why are we so drawn towards this trend?
Furniture from this nation has a quiet, understated aesthetic, perhaps as a result of the cultural mind set? Their flair is for affordable, functional furniture made from natural materials and using traditional craftsmanship. It is all about bringing calm, pure and simple functionality into the home. How do we go about creating this look? I’ve taken the liberty of providing some tips on how to achieve this style:
Furniture should be simple, elegant and light. Look out for streamlined, painted wooden furniture to help reflect light back into the room. Sleek soft fabrics, tactile cushions and attractive one off pieces but avoid additional decorative features.
Light, white and bright have been the key colours up until now. However, stronger injections of colour are becoming more and more popular, such as yellow, black, grey and a shot of turquoise. If you are feeling brave, you could hang a feature geometric wallpaper, Use these colours in hints, a lightshade, a a picture frame, rather than painting an entire room in a bold colour.
Scandinavians live many months in darkness, so sunlight and fresh air are naturally embraced. Think large floor to ceiling windows, allowing the light to fill the room. For indoor lighting using different light sources of varying heights but remember to stick to simple designs.
Natural, light wooden floors work best indoors. This helps bounce the light around the room, but also adds texture to the surface. Do not be afraid to compliment this floor with chunky knitted rugs for added warmth.
Traditionally Scandinavians use light, soft and textural fabrics for the home. Windows can be dressed in soft natural linens. Small motif fabrics and gingham patterns used on cushions will create an authentic look.
A great way to decorate your wall is to add simple natural images in lovely rustic wooden frames. Look at green ferns and leaves, majestic reindeer heads and the blue and green tones of the fjords.
Mirrors should be everywhere; they reflect the light and produce lovely sparkles and texture. Bring the outside in, by placing lovely green plants around the home, not only with this connect with the outside, but it helps to soften edges and provide a calming effect to the surroundings.
Finally, take the time to enjoy your new uber-calm surroundings by inviting friends around to relax with comforting food, good coffee (or a warming glass of red) and great conversation in true Scandi style…
Project: Boy’s Den
Nestled high up in an old roof space was this once unused, attic bedroom. Cold, unloved and used only as a storage space, my client wanted to bring it back into the twenty first century and inject some wow back into the space.
I was so happy to be brought in at the very beginning of this project, and to over see all the build and design works. My client’s brief was to forgo the guest bedroom, and to make a large den for one of her boys. Not only was this space to be used as a study, but also a bedroom, a dressing room, a library, and chill out area and it was to even include an en-suite! This was rather a lot to squeeze in this space, but it was a challenge I welcomed!
As this was a loft space, I was governed by the low beams and ceiling heights. This did limit where the furniture could be housed, but I came up with a design that would over come this.
I decided to divide the room up into four main sections, one being the en-suite at the far end of the loft space, then the dressing room, the bedroom and then the chill out area.
Focusing on the highest part of the room, I decided to build a large book case right up to the ceiling. This created a dividing wall, one side for the bed head and the other side a wall for the study area. The bed was then cocooned; snugly tucked into the corner and out of sight. It had its own special dimmable lighting and was hidden from view. I decided to wallpaper the other side of the wall with a large bespoke graffiti design using striking imagery, it really did bring colour back into the room. Backed on to this was the study area, again bespoke built in furniture utilised the dormant eave space, and a beautiful timber worktop housed the shaker style base units.
The fun bit for me was the chill out zone; the very modern sofa could become an additional bed for guests. I commissioned further furniture to house the play station and other gadgets, and I carefully positioned the drum kit under the window for that much needed head and arm height.
Colours – well they were fun fun fun! I wanted to create an urban edgy feel, with faux brickwork, bright graffiti, black furniture and contrasting colours on the soft furnishings. To compliment this look I opted for a solid oak floorboard, glass lighting, bespoke pictures and a custom printed blind. I added the brightness and texture in the form of a rug, I contrasted this with the softness of a leather chair and I gave the room a twist of fun in the form of geometric and abstract cushions.
The en-suite was completely re-designed to flow with the new scheme. Dark, rustic tiles were used, bright white sanitary ware was fitted and coordinated fittings completed the look of this amazing boy’s space.
When I was asked if the space would work as the occupant grew older, the answer was a resounding yes. We chose the themes carefully making sure that we didn't include fads that he might grow out of - the comic strip style of the graffiti has a timelessness that would work for a young person, male or female and which they would not feel constrained by (or embarrassed by) as they hit adolescence. Who would not be pleased with this amazing den? A space to hide away from the parents, a space to bring your friends and a place to relax as well as study. Surely it’s a dream come true for one lucky boy?
This simple, chic and cosy bedroom was once an even smaller darker and uninspiring space. The property went through some huge renovation works and the outcome has been really successful.
Located in Somerset, this 18th century cottage underwent a huge transformation. Originally consisting of 4 small tiny bedrooms, all with very low ceilings and only space to shuffle around the beds, this dated and unloved property has been brought back into the 21st century.
Over a period of a year, the cottage was taken right back to the core, leaving little more than a pile of rubble and soil This huge undertaking was definitely a labour of love! Built on the side of a hill amongst the trees, overlooking the beautiful Somerset countryside, this quintessential English village property had the biggest access issues, as all the trades people would love to tell you their story about…
Firstly, the scaffolding had to be carried up the hill, it was then erected on the side of that hill, and then a huge canopy had to be somehow covered over the whole structure. The roof was taken off, all the timbers had to be disposed of, the existing ceiling height had to be built up around the perimeter of the house and the new roof was installed. Although the footprint of the property had not changed, the new use of space, completely transformed the cottage. By reconfiguring the layout, this now three bed cottage boasts one lovely master bedroom with en-suite, with two further bedrooms and a main bathroom. By leaving the roof timber exposed and painted white, the room became so much larger and provided a great sense of space.
Rather than the usual bedside lights, I created texture and mood by using these adorable zinc plated ceiling lights, which emit a beautiful but practical light. Texture and colour were very important as the theme of the stormy sea colour palette was echoed throughout the property. Chunky knitted wool throws, were combined with ethnic fabrics, dark inky blue woodwork ties in perfectly with the cushions, and the use of upcycled furniture such as the music sheet bedside chest is a great way to add a warm and a lived in feel. To add a quirky feel, old gig posters were framed and hung, as well as a collection of old black and white local Somerset landscapes. It had to tell a story of the client’s life, their loves and interests their passions and their history. What was once a plain narrow space became a great gallery of fun and interest.
What you cannot see in this picture is the view. To the right of the bed are tall French windows with a Juliet balcony, with long stretched-out views of the Somerset Levels. This interior really has captured the feel of the client and their home has been transformed into the unique but personal space. Modern materials, contemporary fabrics, luxury carpets, old furniture, antique pictures, and ambient lighting, really make this a wonderful home.
This preliminary design was taken from a design for a luxury spa area.
Dramatic & Dark Dressing Room
This sumptuous, traditional and yet contemporary walk in dressing room was created for a client in Somerset, located on the outskirts of a village in a period property. As well as being a luxurious ‘film star’s’ retreat, this room was to be designed as a multipurpose, functional yet decadent space. The client’s brief was that the room should incorporate the style of the existing property and décor; it should utilize the space and provide maximum storage, whilst leaving enough room to walk around in (a walk in dressing room that you can’t walk in, is after all, simply a closet!). Initially, I asked the client to list their belongings, so that a space could be allocated for each individual collection. To my surprise there was quite a list; from sports bags, cricket gear, ski equipment to evening attire and handbags; through to jewellery, cosmetics, suitcases, socks and handkerchiefs. This was a huge task! Initially the space was split into three individual rooms; a small bedroom, an en-suite and a small closet. My task was to knock through these three rooms and make one large en-suite and one stunning dressing room.
Having carefully planned the space I discussed the design proposal to my client, we made sure that every area was carefully considered; we checked the dimensions of suitcases and large items to make sure that they had their own ‘space’ and that everything was easily accessible - how practical is a storage solution that necessitates moving everything you own to get to the back of a cupboard?
Once the build got on the way we came upon our first problem: a change in floor levels and head heights between the three rooms. Because we had maximized the space, I had to revisit the layout and adjust the overall design accordingly. The builders cleverly evened out the floor and ceiling and then work progressed smoothly.
The wardrobes were made of solid oak and then stained dark to ensure that the period look was achieved and we used antique brushed brass for the hardware and the ladder rail. Bespoke lighting was used to highlight the mirrored shoe rack and internal cabinets. A central pendant light was commissioned to be the centrepiece of the room and we fitted a super soft and thick silver carpet to the floor. The wardrobes ran around the perimeter of the room and central to this was a large and beautiful dressing table, which housed electrics for hairdryers and USB ports for mobile devices.
Whilst the wardrobes were being made up in the work- shop, the electrics, plumbing and decoration were being completed; under floor heating was fitted together with acoustic underlay. In projects like this it is important to think about access and how the furniture will be constructed. In this case the large unit were constructed in situ and other pieces were brought in whole. Once everything had been installed, the cornicing was fitted the electrics were connected and tested. Wow, there was just the slate worktop to be fitted and then the carpet! The overall look was so luxurious and dramatic and thankfully everything fitted…not that I doubted myself, but you do have moments of panic!
This design was personally tailored to the client’s individual requirements and I am glad to say that they are completely over the moon with the final result. As a busy couple, they don’t need to worry where to find or look for anything, everything has its own individual space, saving them valued and precious time and, perhaps more importantly to me, form and function work together seamlessly.
This luxury bathroom was conceived with both practicality and aesthetics in mind. The client wanted a new en-suite bathroom and gave us this brief; ‘masculine in design, easy to use, stunning to look at and atmospheric too’. They didn’t just want a room where they might grab a five minute shower and hurriedly brush their teeth; they wanted a place to relax, to unwind. They wanted the bathroom to be a place where they could spend time luxuriating in the tub, enjoying music with soft ambient lighting.
The room was originally very outdated and tired looking, consisting of sky blue and yellow tiles, vinyl flooring and melamine bathroom storage. The WC was also separate which we decided to integrate into the main bathroom. The client was not afraid of using lovely dark sumptuous colours and textures, so we opted for a truly magnificent statement piece bathroom with dark slate grey as our main colour theme. We used a strong white as a contrast colour for the stunning ‘wow’ features, which were our beautiful, freestanding round bath and sleek floating double vanity unit.
The whole layout was redesigned, to make the room much more pleasing to the eye as well as being practical. Due to the nature of this 1960s house, everything was concrete; the walls, ceiling and floor. The floor also contained integral under floor heating, and so I was initially worried that we would be limited on what we could actually change. We overcame these problems by providing a step-up into the shower area and putting up a false ceiling for the down lighters. We had to very carefully channel out the concrete floor for the bath waste, trying not to disrupt the heating embedded in the concrete. We added a room length heated slate seat to conceal further waste pipes, feeds and other services. Luckily as we have a great team of skilled workers none of this was beyond their expertise.
When creating a luxury space the items of furniture have to be perfect and given that the bathroom is more often than not one of the smaller rooms I often go for bespoke – if you have something which is ‘just right’ first time you are less likely to waste time and money replacing it in the future. The first piece we commissioned was a sleek vanity unit with a huge mirror. For a seamless finish, I requested that the wall mounted taps were fixed through the mirror - a little hair raising for the fitters, but a risk that worked out well! The unit was placed in-between two textured slate, pencil mosaic tiled walls. This not only helped with the support of the unit, but it also framed it beautifully. On the right hand side we partially hid the WC and there are carefully designed hidden storage drawers under the unit with touch operated opening. The other bespoke piece was a wall hung mirrored cabinet for storage – who wants to look at the cotton buds in a room this gorgeous?
The large white bath was a pure indulgence. With the shutters open and the lighting low, one could look up at the stars while floating neck deep in bubbles.
The lighting was individually designed to create different moods for the room. There was an option for a very soft light to use in the middle of the night as well as the main lights for practicality, soft pendant lights for vanity units and mood lighting for relaxation and that ‘spa’ feel. We also programmed in additional zoned areas. We opted for dark plantation shutters to run with the ‘dark’ theme. Shutters make a great alternative choice to opaque glass. The option to be able to open (and of course close!) them allows you to use natural light to change the mood of the room as well.
The client went away for the duration of the works and upon his return he was smitten with his new en-suite, so much so, he asked us to start work on the other four bathrooms in his home. I am really pleased with the final look for this bathroom; it’s striking, it’s different, it’s warm, it’s textural and above all the client was over the moon with the outcome. The design was even shortlisted in Design et al, Best International Bathroom Award.
This is an example of a design where form and function were of equal importance. My client had specified right at the start of the project that the finished kitchen had to be ‘ergonomic, functional, practical and efficient’. Oh, and it ought to be beautiful as well. Not to mention both timeless and contemporary. I love this type of project though where attention to detail is essential from the off and this particular kitchen was almost two years in the planning. By spending time thinking about how he wanted to use the space, the client and I planned one room which would incorporate different areas for cooking, reading, working, relaxing and eating. Each part of the room had to at once feel specific yet flow into the other spaces seamlessly.
We started by reconfiguring the layout so that the outlook was towards the woodland garden and the door was moved so it was easily accessible from the bar area – making entertaining easy and giving the space even more flexibility. This kitchen has the added luxury of a separate utility, meaning that storage of larger items and the notion of chores – like laundry – could be kept out of this minimalist space.
Once the layout was agreed we moved onto to the textures and materials. My client wanted something clean but not cold so we contrasted sleek, white Silestone worktops with warm, dark walnut doors; all handmade. The slatted, solid wood cupboards create texture and body and soften the potentially clinical whites. All the drawers and doors operate using a push latch motorised system including the integrated appliances (which were chosen for their energy rating as well as functionality). The fact that only the large larder has any handles at all keeps the lines created by the wood unbroken. The natural stone floor introduced a very soft grey and stops the other, stark shades from being harsh. The decision to use natural materials was very deliberate and I think will help to keep this design looking great for years to come – natural stone and real, beautifully crafted wood last and last and both are far less likely to date than other synthetic materials.
One of the final touches which I am still really pleased we went for was the lighting; sourced from Italy the white shades with their unapologetically bright insides inject a citrus zing which means that this minimalist, probably quite masculine space, can never be accused of being boring. In this vein, we chose inky blue Italian leather chairs for the bar which are both comfortable and gorgeous. Other touches of luxury like the discreet, programmable lighting and the Silent Gliss electrical blinds, which automatically open in the morning and close at dusk, mean that the atmosphere of this space can change as and when my client desires, literally at the flick of a switch.
My favourite aspect of this design? Well I think that it works, it fits the brief. The light streams in through the windows, and the view of the woodland is beautiful all year round. The kitchen is functional, the work space is calm and as a whole, it’s a wonderful space in which to break bread with friends. A minimalist space can be relaxed and comfortable as well as clean and chic.
At this time of year the spring can feel a long way off and most of us want our homes to be somewhere to hibernate…soft and snug and so so cosy. Create instant warmth and welcome at your threshold by placing a vase of rich coloured berries in the hallway, think quintessential English winter.
The trend at the moment is for warm and dark colours - soft greys; masculine, enveloping but never harsh are a bold move for your walls. I know that not everybody wants to take the plunge with dark paint and people often ask me how they can bring their interior up to date without resorting to complete refurbishment. I love to create an inviting space with plenty of soft furnishings – a room in winter without an assortment of throws, rugs, cushions and blankets can be a difficult place to really nestle into. Add a throw over a chair and another on the sofa. Use a variety of textures – chunky knits, wools, sumptuous silks and soft velvets work gorgeously together and can make even a cool, airy room feel like a winter sanctuary.
Ambient lighting is so important in the dark British winter but you are not looking to chase the darkness away, more ‘warm it up’ – do this easily and effectively by lighting candles around the fireplace, using lamps rather than overhead lighting. You can add to the overall effect of warmth with accents of deep jewel colours such as ruby red, saffron, inky blues and green. Don’t be afraid to mix patterns together to create a beautiful mix of rustic richness – if you can excuse the contradiction in terms…
You can continue that lovely cosy feel throughout your home; add a touch of chic to the bathroom by adding chunky grey towels and bath mats. Luxurious scented candles are well placed in the bathroom – where better to re-imagine a Nordic spa? You can create a rustic ski lodge feel by storing towels in wicker baskets – a great solution for those of us short on storage as well as being a stylish addition to the smallest room.
The great thing about using soft furnishings as an integral part of your design scheme is that you can change them with the seasons, or as it suits you without having to spend a fortune. It doesn’t all have to be high end stuff either, trawling the flea markets is loads of fun and with the likes of Kirstie Alsop et al to teach us the difference between tat and treasure, you might even pick up something collectable for a bargain.
If you are thinking of investing in something a bit more permanent like a sofa or a sideboard, take your time in choosing. Don’t be scared to get something bold or ‘mismatch’ - you can use your fabrics and smaller pieces to tie your look together. Opt for soft tactile fabrics on upholstered chairs and sofas and contrast all this ‘touch me’ stuff with a solid, dark sideboard or console table. When you choose pieces that you love, yes, you might spend a bit more but you will find you are far less likely to want to replace them in the future (not to mention less likely to need to) and also you create a room with wow factor – a place which represents you and a place which can be your very own boutique retreat.