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Chaos Theory

Mix and match for a living room with personality

Before the property market took a downturn, when people were buying houses to do up quickly and sell on for a fast profit, decorating became decidedly safe. The new rule of interior design was: keep it neutral. Paint walls white or magnolia and keep flooring inoffensive so as not to scare away potential buyers. These days potential buyers are thin on the ground and would-be sellers are finding that they need to stay put. It’s the perfect time to inject a bit of personality back into your home, and stylists will tell you – whisper it – there’s no need for everything to match. A little bit of organised chaos can really bring a room, particularly a living room, together.

Time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted and as Rebecca McEvoy, style editor at Elle Decoration magazine, knows, it’s essential to plan before you part with any money. “The first thing to do when you are styling your living room is to tear out pages from magazines – see what inspires you and how you would like your room to look.” If you can see a pattern developing in the images you keep  – is everything modern, monochrome or bursting with colour? - you know what to look out for in the shops

“The next thing to do is think about a colour scheme,” says Rebecca. “Then collect fabric swatches and wallpaper samples. If you already have pieces of furniture that you are not going to replace make sure that these ideas go with what you already have.”

There is one rule of thumb that seems to ring true whatever interior design project you are about to embark on: de-clutter. “If you are starting again, it’s the perfect time to get rid of things. Only keep what you truly love. This can be a good way to get a few more pennies to contribute towards redecoration too – think about selling it all at a car boot sale or on Ebay. Car boots are really back in fashion now.”

Once you’ve got some ideas, it’s time to be brave. “Different patterns and textures can work together if you stick to a colour palette. Maybe you stick to shades of blue. Different colours can also work together – a blue and a mustard look great together for example. But don’t use too many different colours – keep to a small palette and keep your patterns within it. You don’t want to hurt your eyes!”

Soft furnishings are an easy way to inject texture and pattern into a living room: cushions, throws and curtains can lift a boring space and are not a big commitment. The high street has a lot to offer: “Habitat is great. The Stockholm range from Ikea is brilliant. Zara Home is lovely and Debenhams have some great things in their Designers from Debenhams range.”

The most important thing is to have fun – and express yourself. Say no to magnolia paint forever!