My mantra for designing a home starts with comfort. We can create the most beautiful homes, which are wonderful to look at, but if they are not comfortable they do not work.
I cannot second guess my clients' idea of comfort, but I can guide them to think about it when making choices. It starts with the floor plan, and the building work if we join the team early enough. Perfect example: will the light sockets be in the right place for the furniture? It is amazing how often they are not. We have to make sure that there will be enough light to work or read by, not just by the bed, but by armchairs and sofas too.
Another vital exercise is to spend time looking for furniture and accessories which not only suit the clients' taste but make them feel relaxed and contented too. When we are looking for comfortable upholstery we consider whether we have chosen sufficiently well sprung, deep sofas. Is there an upright chair suitable for a guest who dislikes low slung seats? Are the dining chairs large enough for a man to sit comfortably over a long meal? What about the beds - are they long enough, wide enough, soft enough?
We delve into the detail. In the living room does everyone have somewhere to put a cup, glass or plate? Will they be warm enough? In my own home when I have guests to stay I check - have I put water, glasses, fresh flowers, a radio and something to read in their room? De they have plenty of towels, good soap, bath essence, shampoo, cotton wool and paper hankies to hand? These are little things, but they do make all the difference.
It is now very easy to choose furniture over the internet, and good images make furniture look very enticing, but I would never advocate buying chairs, sofas or beds without bouncing on them first, and, if you are looking as a couple, you both need to try them. Over the years i have seen plenty of couples disagree quite fiercely about all of these. Not the price, that is a different story, but what suits them comfort wise. One likes to sprawl, another to sit upright. One wants to use the arm as a headrest and put his feet up, the other wants piles of cushions to snuggle into. I weave through the arguments, and hopefully we all agree on the right pieces in the end.
Even the bathroom, which these days so often looks like a spa sanctuary, can fail the comfort test. I visited a show flat a while ago with a fabulously contemporary bathroom, all glass paneling and wall hung sanitary ware. It looked amazing, but there was nowhere to put so much as a bottle, never mind a toothbrush, cosmetics or shaving kit. Oh dear. You do have to balance the minimalist, Zen-like idea of your dreams with the reality of modern living.
So when you start designing your home, think as I do and never forget - it may look amazing, but will it be comfortable?