Natalie Davies creates homes that combine style and practicality, as Helen Mead discovers

Most young children out with their grandparents on a shopping trip would be badgering for toys or sweets. Not Natalie Davies. As a youngster she had her eye one something that most children would not even notice - a home furnishings catalogue. “I’ve always loved houses and interiors and can remember persuading my grandparents to buy me a Laura Ashley catalogue on a shopping trip when I was about eight,” she recalls, “I spent hours looking at the lovely pictures and planning how I would decorate my own house when I was older.”

That passion for interiors remained with her as she grew, and it was not long before she began applying it to create beautiful spaces in which to live. Over the years, she and her partner have lived in several homes, with Natalie making her mark upon each - an Edwardian flat in London, a Victorian country house near Edinburgh, a Georgian cottage in Yorkshire and for the past decade, the family’s current North Yorkshire home, a Georgian farmhouse to which they have made extensive alterations.

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She now employs her talents on other people’s homes, through her own business Natalie Davies Interior Design. She offers a complete interior design service drawing up plans, advising on colour schemes, discussing fabric and furniture layouts and sourcing furniture and lighting.

Natalie originally embarked upon a career in marketing, giving it up in 2006 after having twin boys. When her third child, a daughter, now seven, started school, she decided to cement her love of interior design with a formal qualification, studying for a Diploma in Interior Design with The National Design Academy. She also enrolled with The British Institute of Interior Design and began helping friends and family with their interiors. “I had lots of hands-on experience, but felt I needed to add substance to the knowledge I had gained over the years whilst renovating my own homes,” she says.

Before embarking upon any project, it is vital, she stresses, to understand how a client wants to use the space so that she can tailor it to suit their requirements. Key questions are: who will use the room, when, how often and for what purpose? “A beautiful room that is totally impractical is no good to anyone,” she says. “Each project begins with a free consultation at the client’s home, when I go through all these important questions. I also take lots and lots of photos and a few basic measurements. I try to establish what will work best for them and the way they live, while reflecting their own sense of style and personality, with a scheme that is practical, comfortable, welcoming and beautiful.

“To help me understand the client’s taste and the look they are hoping to achieve, I use the Houzz website – an amazing online platform for house renovation and design. I set up a private ‘idea book’ for each client where we can share photos and add comments – it’s a great way to communicate ideas.”

Most clients know what they like and what they want to achieve, but do not have the confidence or creative vision to pull everything together by themselves, she says. “Nor do they have time to trawl the internet or trudge from shop to shop coordinating paints, wallcoverings, fabrics, flooring, lighting and furniture as well as organising tradespeople.

Her first thoughts when entering a room are about lighting. “If the room is dark and gloomy, it needs to be treated differently to one that is flooded with natural light. Whatever the proportions of a room, if you get the lighting right, it will make the most of them. How the space flows is also very important.”

A room can be transformed very simply, without a major renovation. “A lick of paint, different lighting, rearranging the furniture, are all simple and inexpensive ways of making a big difference,” says Natalie. “Spatial planning is an important factor, so simply rearranging the furniture can have a huge impact.”

Having existing furniture to work around usually provides the inspiration for the whole, but some “blank canvas” projects necessitate sourcing everything, from sofas and beds to cutlery and tea towels.

Natalie has transformed interiors ranging from an en suite shower room – which she turned into a stunning wet room – to a barn conversion, turning a dark, draughty building into a stylish, contemporary addition to an 18th century farmhouse.

“At the moment, I am working on a Grade ll listed cottage as well as a ‘Grand Designs’ type new build,” she says. “They are both beautiful buildings, but poles apart in architectural styles and client requirements. Every project is different which makes my job so varied and enjoyable.”

Natalie likes mixing different styles. “Juxtaposing old with new can be very effective but can be tricky to get right. An old Chesterfield style sofa paired with contemporary funky chairs is much more interesting than a matching three-piece suite.”

Many people believe that you have to be wealthy to consider an interior designer, but this is not the case, she points out. “A professional designer with their vast knowledge of products can help you find the right solutions within your budget, whether large or small, often saving costly mistakes.”

While Natalie advises, decisions lie with the client. “It has to be their choice and work for them and the way they live. All projects are about team work and I find it really rewarding getting to know clients and establishing a relationship of trust and respect," she says. “All interior designers have their own style. Mine is simple and understated – I have a ‘less is more’ approach and would rather use lighting and texture to make an impact as opposed to overbearing colour and pattern.

“Interior design isn’t about reproducing a perfect room from a glossy magazine – it’s not realistic. The images we are bombarded with are styled for perfection which is not how our homes are in the real world, where we share our spaces with children and pets. A home needs to evolve organically over time to be practical and comfortable and to reflect the personality of its owners rather than the latest trends.”

Natalie Davies Interiors

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