Home makeover: 'I’m inspired by boutique hotels’
With a background in events and hospitality, Amy Shirlaw draws on past experiences to create her signature dramatic interiors
I was brought up in a home drenched in colour and pattern. My mother was a hotelier and a pioneer of the boutique hotel movement here in Edinburgh, so I have been immersed in exotic wallpapers and bold paint colours since I was a small child.
I went on to study art history and worked in events for over ten years, mainly comedy festivals, creating fun, temporary spaces for stand-up comedians. I realised that I wanted to put my energy into creating more permanent spaces, so I then retrained as an interior designer and bought this flat at the same time.
Having had quite a nomadic lifestyle, I decided to settle down and realised that my flat would be a showcase for my work as a designer.
A bit about me I’m Amy Shirlaw, and I run my own interior design business, Amy Shirlaw Interiors. I share my home with my little black cat, Angostura Bitters.
Where I live My home is a two-bedroom Victorian ground-floor apartment in Edinburgh. I moved in a couple of years ago.
What I wanted to change My flat had been a rental for many years. It was a bland magnolia box with no personality. I wanted to inject colour and life into it.
How I made it my own With the help of a decorator, I painted all the walls in various hues of rich sea greens and deep blues which made a huge difference.
My favourite part It has to be the Andy Warhol wallpaper I have in the kitchen. It’s a screen print called ‘Where’s Warhol.’
I wanted to create a colourful environment with lots of fun touches. You can’t work in comedy for ten years without developing a sense of humour! As an art historian, I loved studying the Pop Art movement and I wanted my flat to have some kitsch, tongue-in-cheek elements, despite its grand Victorian proportions.
The Victorian period features serve as a backdrop to a masculine, mid-century layer, which acts as a foil to my more frivolous, feminine tendencies. The result is a dramatic yet quirky interior, achieved on a tight budget.
For instance, there are no curtains. I couldn’t afford the acres of fabric required for these windows, particularly in a fabric I actually liked, so I have learnt to love the working shutters. My aim was to create an interior where friends and clients would feel welcome to drop by at any time for a chat, and maybe even a cocktail!
‘I would describe my style as eclectic, unique and humorous. Thankfully, this look is highly compatible with bargain hunting. I also believe that the much-maligned, old-fashioned brown furniture is coming back, so I’m collecting it,’ Amy shares.
‘The green velvet sofa and the rug in here are probably the only things in my flat that I have bought full price; almost everything else is from Gumtree, eBay or antique shops. I do look out for chain store bargains as well; for instance, the green decorative vase by the window is from the Jonathan Adler range at H&M Home. I also love a TK Maxx find,’ she admits.
‘This room was included in my blue and green painting sweep in the first week I moved in. I have since painted a lot of the woodwork the same shade for a more complete look, leaving the space above the picture rail white. I feel this gives a light, airy look to the room, balancing the intensity of the deep-blue walls.
I was looking to achieve a nostalgic and warm style that could happily house my ephemera and evolve over time. The Sophie Abbott painting above my bed was a bucket-list buy for me; I feel it finishes off the room perfectly.’
‘I have really splashed out in this little space, probably because it opens out to the living room, so I didn’t want it to look too ‘kitcheny’. Instead of cabinets, I’ve chosen open shelving and invested in designer wallpaper and flooring. I searched high and low for gorgeous tiles that I could afford and painted the walls a glamorous, soft pink.
I found a piece of green velvet to curtain the front of the washing machine and picked a fun faux marble worktop called Calcutta. I chose it to celebrate the time Scotland beat England in a Six Nations game – the winner is awarded the Calcutta Cup!’
This pretty room serves as a working design studio for Amy. Fabric and wallpaper samples are stored here and she has a wonderful library of art and design books, which she refers to for inspiration. The couch makes an excellent spare bed for friends and offers an ideal spot for dreaming up gorgeous design ideas.
‘It’s taken me a while to settle into a routine as a self-employed designer,’ Amy admits. ‘I’ve discovered that I am a morning person. I get up early and get a lot done in here, then I typically take the afternoon off and seem to complete my day’s work in the evening: I often have client meetings after office hours.’
What I learned...
Incorporate quirky storage solutions into your home. I have used a mix of bespoke fitted solutions for tricky corners and upcycled junk shop finds to create unique pieces. Never underestimate the amount of storage you’ll need!
There’s no need to be a slave to the architecture of your home. Just because this is a Victorian building does not mean my home décor has to be Victorian in style. I have layered mid-century items over the beautiful period backdrop and added iconic pieces of 1970s furniture as a finishing touch. Your style and décor is meant to and should evolve over time.