I always approach my apartments as if they were a restaurant or a bar,” says Shayne Brady of Brady Williams, the company behind some of London’s classiest bars and restaurants, including Aubrey, Fischers and Bob Bob Ricard Quote.
Brady insists that you don’t need a lot of space to create a friendly atmosphere in your home – “My apartment is tiny! It’s a small two bed behind Waterloo, but I think you can make the most of anything.
Just take inspiration from London’s best hotel and restaurant interiors – they might be a lot bigger than your home, but they offer a brilliant blueprint for making every square inch of space work.
Your base point is everything you need to keep in the room, whether it’s structural elements or furniture that you keep permanently. After that, the next step is to decide how you want the room to feel, says Brady.
“If it’s a dining room, do you want to feel calm or energetic? Is your living room meant for reading and relaxing or is it meant for entertaining? If it’s primarily for reading, you want to feel zen, with nice, soothing lighting. If it’s for entertainment, you could make it more moody.
When choosing your color palette, again, start with your base and then layer from there.
“People who are a little afraid of color should start by layering the same color in different textures. Then add a neutral to make sure your heart palpitations aren’t out of control.
“As you get braver, you can add bolder touches. Always be guided by the things you love – if it’s leopard print, add leopard print.
“BUT, don’t spend a lot of money on the wild thing if you’re not really sure about it, because then you’ll be stuck with it. Instead, maybe start with a pillow, if you end up hating it, it’s a pillow, it can go away, or you can move it to another room.
“For some reason in the 90s and 2000s every apartment was built with about a thousand recessed spotlights. I don’t know who needed to live on an airstrip, but you don’t “says Brady. “In my living room, I literally only install one coffee table lamp with a pleated shade every night which sets the tone for a beautiful ambiance.”
Shadow is as important as light in creating atmosphere. Brady says the pools of light bring people together and create intimacy. “On a bar top, we always put table lamps between two chairs, so if you’re side by side but on a date, a pool of light denotes your little nook and brings you closer.
“But you should still be able to make eye contact with the person you’re talking to.”
The type of shade you choose will also help. Avoid white, “too dark” says Brady, and “confused” dark hues. Au Aubrey Brady opted for a pleated nicotine shade – “the pleat gives texture to the shade itself while the nicotine gives off a beautiful glow.
“We often mirror an entire wall in a home project because it reflects light beautifully, but I think people are a little scared of that in their homes,” Brady says. They shouldn’t be, he says, provided you choose the right mirror.
“A nice antique patina works or at Fischers we used one with a peachy pink tone which is really flattering. At Bob Bob Ricard Cite all the mirrors are gold – you look gorgeous in them. that you’re watching the best you’ve ever watched, but why shouldn’t you feel that way at home too?”
Be respectful of the building you are in. “I’m in a 60s apartment, so I’ve decorated accordingly. The Mandarin Oriental, on the other hand, was originally a gentlemen’s club, built in the 1900s. I loved the idea that the Aubrey was in the original rooms which might have been the library, the living room, living room.
“It also made sense that at the turn of the century we started to see Asian influences in Europe, so that influence tied to our narrative that all of this could have evolved from the 19th century to today – it helped that their food concept was very influenced by Japan.
If you work with architecture like this, you can have quirky patterns and interesting finishes if they match the overall concept and tone and still look polished, rather than a full onslaught of the senses, says Brady.
He also recommends low prop tables because they’re mobile, so you can move them around if you’re using one room for different things. You can even make beautiful book covers a feature by turning the best ones outward on a shelf.
“And I love going to people’s homes and seeing pictures of their friends and family,” Brady says. “Put them in eclectic frames and it adds to that layered, maximum look.
“It’s a lost art because people think ‘oh, I’ve got this on Facebook or Instagram,’ but those beautiful memories of people laughing really set the tone, even if it’s just in the bathroom or the hallway.”
“In the middle of my living room I have a ridiculously oversized sofa that should be in a bar where you can gather with friends and have a cocktail. I love to throw a screen behind a sofa. In a restaurant there would be another couch behind the screen, in my apartment there’s only one wall,” says Brady.
“Be smart with where you position furniture. When we do restaurants, we imagine sitting on all the chairs in the plan so no one ends up with the dreaded ‘wrong seat’. And I think you should do the same with you.
“When you start choosing furniture, you have to imagine yourself sitting down and thinking about what I see and putting the furniture in the best place to get the best view of the room.
“In the Aubrey’s Curio lounge we installed a fireplace in the middle to give a focal point in the room when people sat on the huge sofas. I’m not telling readers to install fireplaces, but to have a focal point is really important and it doesn’t have to be the dreaded tv it could be a beautiful piece of art or it could be the window and the view outside.
Don’t forget the outdoor space
“In London, I always look up at people’s balconies and they just put two chairs and a table and never use the space,” says Brady.
“Instead, you can build a small bench seat which can be small in scale but still cozy. Then add built-in planters to have planting and foliage and make the most of the space without buying a ready-made porter. bookshelf chair that takes up a lot of space and is not very attractive.”
“I love bringing hospitality home with a beverage cart,” says Brady. “It sits in a position where everyone can access it. If you like to entertain, a beverage cart, cabinet or corner sets the tone and lets people know they can help themselves. Then , you can make everything feel elevated with beautiful glassware.”