Living room makeover: ‘I used colour to evoke Marrakech in Sussex’

Gemma Gear has transformed her living room with vibrant colours, patterns and textures

Trips to colourful locations inspired Gemma Gear to transform her living room from Victorian to vibrant with patterns and textures

Trips to colourful locations inspired Gemma Gear to transform her living room from Victorian to vibrant with patterns and textures. Here, she shares her makeover story…

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My story…

Buying our first home together was always going to be special, so when we secured this property we couldn’t wait to get started.

Gemma loves colour and wanted to bring a touch of the exotic to her home. A relatively compact space, she planned her layout meticulously, measuring every piece of furniture to ensure it fitted the proportions
Gemma loves colour and wanted to bring a touch of the exotic to her home. A relatively compact space, she planned her layout meticulously, measuring every piece of furniture to ensure it fitted the proportions

The house hadn’t really been loved for a long time, but we wanted it to reflect us as well as make the most of the original features it retained.

Welcome to my home…

A bit about me I’m Gemma Gear, an interior stylist. I live in this Victorian terrace in West Sussex with my partner Tom Reeves, and our much-loved dog, who’s called Digby. 

My problem living room The room hadn’t been touched since the ’70s, so it was dated and lacklustre. It was also small, so we needed to maximise space. It had great light though and lots of original features, like the fireplace and architraves. The potential was easy to spot; it just needed some TLC.

Gemma Gear

First on the living room to-do list was the Artex ceiling, which was replastered. We then refloored the room using redwood boards, like the originals upstairs.

‘Deciding on layout was challenging. If there’s one thing we learned it’s to measure, measure, measure!’ says Gemma
‘Deciding on layout was challenging. If there’s one thing we learned it’s to measure, measure, measure!’ says Gemma

Deciding on the layout in order to maximise the space was challenging. The three most important things are to measure, measure, measure!

We had our TV unit and alcove shelving custom-made as a result, and triple-checked the size of our sofa to make sure it fitted.

A bit more about my home…

How I made it work We began by painting the room white, so we had a clean canvas to work on, and spent a couple of months getting a feel for the space. Then, we injected some colour to highlight the original features. We also had units and shelving made to measure, and we chose our sofa very carefully to ensure its dimensions worked perfectly too. That way we squeezed every last centimetre of space from the room.

My favourite part I love how painting the chimney breast just seems to bring the room to life and has given it added depth.

Gemma Gear

In terms of décor, my inspiration comes from travelling, especially the vibrancy of places like India and Marrakech. My colourful pouffe was a holiday find I managed to squeeze into my suitcase.

‘Don’t be too hasty. Get a feel for the space first and see how the light works at different times of day and night’
‘Don’t be too hasty. Get a feel for the space first and see how the light works at different times of day and night’

We initially painted the room white and after a couple of months of getting a feel for how we’d use it, we added bright blue and yellow, making the space much more inviting.

Solid wood flooring can be sanded and restained to either change the colour completely or to freshen up a room. Remember to seal all doorways while sanding, so dust doesn’t get into other rooms
Solid wood flooring can be sanded and restained to either change the colour completely or to freshen up a room. Remember to seal all doorways while sanding, so dust doesn’t get into other rooms

It wasn’t all plain sailing, however. The first floor stain dried out orange and, after many tears, had to be sanded and redone.

Thankfully, we now love how it’s all come together – even our dog Digby, despite getting wet paint on his tail at various times!

My style advice

Don’t be afraid of colour

It’s easy to play it safe and stick with white, but adding pops of bright shades can take your scheme to the next level. Planning is key to the design process, says Gemma.

‘Time spent making moodboards of different swatches and samples of the materials you want to incorporate into the room is never wasted,’ she says. ‘It gives you a chance to mix and match until you find a colour combination that you really love.’

Accessorise

Experiment with different accessories so you can get a feel for your own style and preferences. Then use those preferences to help influence your decisions regarding more costly pieces in the room, such as blinds, rugs and artwork.

‘I quickly discovered I loved brightly coloured cushions, throws and plant pots,’ says Gemma. ‘That gave me the confidence to splash out on our statement blue sofa.’

Create a focal point

‘In a small room especially, it’s good to make a focal point out of a feature and link other accessories to that whether by colour, texture or pattern,’ says Gemma.

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‘I painted my chimney breast in bold colours to stand out against the white walls and make the room feel more exciting. As soon as it was completed it transformed the space and made it instantly more welcoming. People always comment on it!’

Shop the look

Walls in Dulux Pure Brilliant White matt emulsion, £15 for 2.5L; chimney breast painted in Valspar Copenhagen Harbour and Gilded Age paints, £29 for 2.5L, both B&Q. Medium Eden sofa, £1,559, Sofa Workshop. Noko pendant light, £195, Rose & Grey. Waite cream/black rug, £136.99, Wayfair. Acid Yellow angle floor lamp, £169, The Forest & Co. Odyssey drinks trolley, £329, Atkin and Thyme. Mosslanda white picture ledge, £9; Flådis seagrass basket, £13, both IKEA. Brighton Pier cushion, £28, Two Faced Twins. Neon Bar sign, £95; gold and white marble bar tools set, £59.50; Nomu Aqua decanter, £28; Ombre Blue gin bottle, £16.50, all Oliver Bonas. Frida Angel square cushion, £34.99, Kiss Kiss Heart. Bowie A4 print, £15, Karina Mansfield. For a similar TV unit, try the Loft Living two-drawer unit, £120, Argos. For similar alcove shelves, try the oak floating shelves in Rustic White, from £35 per m, BespOak Interiors

This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in Home Style magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?