Style stories

How I broke the rules of decorating a barn conversion

Most days I walk my dog over the same fields and a couple of years ago, I watched with interest as some local farm buildings were developed into luxury barn conversions.

Photo credit- Savills

I watched them sell one by one and being the nosy person I am,  thought I’d love to look inside one!

Well last year, Claire gave me a call. She said she lived locally in a barn conversion… and you guessed it! It was one of those barns!!

She had seen my Littleton project in London (see it here) and loved the bold colours I’d used. She assumed that I was London based, wondering if I would head out to the rural parts of Berkshire but then in another moment of serendipity, she discovered that I live 5 minutes away! She asked if I could help her to decorate her living room.

The house is as beautifully appointed as it is large and although there are some lovely features… lots of oak and iron work inside, all the rooms were painted the ubiquitous cream. Nothing wrong with that of course but Claire wanted to push the boundaries a bit.


The living room was over 7.5m square, had a 3m long deep blue corner sofa and an equally long fireplace. Claire wanted something unexpected but practically, a space for a family games table and a bar as well as the living area.

Image courtesy of Dulux

These were my first thoughts:

·      This room is so wide, it makes the ceiling look quite low, so if I was just to suggest painting the walls a bold colour, the ceiling height would be even more accentuated as it would feel like a ‘lid’ on the room.

·      We naturally arrange furniture into a space that works socially and comfortably; so even in this large room, the sofa and armchairs were sort of floating in the middle of the room, unanchored to each other or any of the surrounding furniture.

·      Claire had shown me some reference on Pinterest (which was really useful) but they were generally of tall Georgian proportioned rooms with panelling which would not have translated well into this space.

·      The focal point of the room is the fireplace and the areas of wall available for artwork were all on the back wall- not so good for the scheme!

To me, the first thing was to deal with the illusion of a low ceiling and to come up with a style that would do that. Then to look at the layout and then the colour scheme.

(Not necessarily the way round that you might think!)


I knew that the trick was to blur the line between the walls and the ceiling.

The first idea was to section the room with blocks of paint that would go up the walls and over the ceiling.

The second was to use an ombre effect where there is a gradual fade from one colour to another.

The third was to paint a bold line half way up the wall.

Each of these ideas use the trick of having the same colour at the top of the wall as it passes on to the ceiling, so your eye is not drawn to the wall height.

 I discussed the advantages and disadvantages of each with Claire and she chose the first option.

(There was a reason it was Option One!)


With that style idea, I began to section the room with different fields of colour.


At the same time as this was happening, we began to look at colour palettes and came across a wallpaper from House of Hackney called Majorelle. It seemed to have the opulence we were looking for, as well as being a really good match with the existing blue sofa.

The question was how to use it in the scheme…

House of Hackney Majorelle

I commissioned Sarah at Relovedmcr to create 2 pieces for the scheme. One in the Majorelle paper-

Here it is almost complete…

And the other one in a Bethan Gray wallpaper called Nizwa which toned beautifully with the other paper.

Again, here is a detail of it almost finished.

For such a large room, I needed to use this beautiful colour palette elsewhere.

As I mentioned before even though the room is large, there wasn’t really an opportunity to put a large piece of artwork on the walls…. however there was a huge space on the floor!

I designed this rug using all the colours and then set about choosing the rest of the elements of the room to tie with this.

This beautiful rug is a mix of wool and viscose and is part of my new collection (coming soon- watch this space!)

And here is a little video to show the process of it being made in India.

The finished scheme

Here is the result!

Can you see how the panels of paint help to visually divide up the large room?

My idea with the central blue area, is that it creates a central zone in the room, starting with the sofa (which you see the back of as you enter the room) to the rug, then up the wall around the fireplace and the ceiling over. The feeling is that it visually envelopes you even though you are sitting in the middle of a large room.

There are no formal plaster features in the room, such as cornice or ceiling sconces and so I had the coloured areas simply painted on the walls and ceiling without any beading (as you might expect in a period house) to give an overall more contemporary feel.

The image below shows how the painted panels work across the room, 3 zoned areas but all complementing each other!

I kept the curtains and blinds simple and colour matched them to the walls (so that your eye isn’t drawn to them and away from the central focal points).

I hope you have enjoyed a little behind the scenes and how I developed this scheme.

I’d love to hear what you think of it in the comments below and if you have a space you’d be interested in updating (it doesn’t need to be this big!) then please get in touch using the contact form here!

Thanks for reading!