Telling Your Story Through Interiors & Colour with Karen Haller and Ashlyn Gibson

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One of the things I always found so frustrating with spending 12 years renting in London was the inflexibility of landlords and agents to let us as tenants make even the most minor changes to a property. No changing the furniture, no painting the walls, just left to pay extortionate rents in substandard properties. We were very lucky in the last home we rented which was in Forest Hill because our landlady had lived in the property before she let it to us and it was beautifully maintained, but that came after years of horrors where I even lost an entire deposit because of a few blu-tac marks on the walls.

Thankfully in some cases times are changing and the newest London postcode, E20, is leading the way. The former Olympic athletes village is transforming into a home and retail space in Stratford and has been renamed “East Village”, managed by Get Living London who “aim to make renting refreshingly straightforward and convenient“.

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They’ve recently launched their #MakeYourselfAtHome campaign, the aim of which is to encourage tenants of East Village to feel free to decorate their homes as they wish, including painting the walls. As part of the campaign, Get Living London is working with internationally renowned colour psychology expert Karen Haller, and designer and stylist Ashlyn Gibson (owner of Olive Loves Alfie in Stoke Newington and Olive Loves Alfie East in East Village), to help residents choose colours to complement their personality and incorporate these into home interiors.

On a damp April evening, myself and some other interiors bloggers joined Karen and Ashlyn at Olive Loves Alfie East for a masterclass in colour psychology, where we were taught how to think about colour, what it reflects about our personalities and how to think about styling and interiors taking this into consideration.

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It’s a fascinating subject for me as a homeowner now, finally with the free reign to do what we please but somehow feeling too intimidated to make big decisions. I know colours can be changed, of course they can, but not without a lot of time, effort and expense and although we’re nowhere near actually decorating because we still have so much renovating to do, I’m forever flicking through home magazines and changing my mind what feels like every 5 seconds about which colour I may eventually opt for.

Karen spoke first and asked us to think about what our favourite colour says about us. We all discussed why it may be that the colour we love to wear is not the same as the one we would have in our homes, certainly in my case I wear a lot of purple and those who see me either at work or friends would easily say that’s my favourite. Yet there’s barely any purple in my home in any shade at all. The way we feel about colour can be mainly influenced by three key factors: 1) Psychological 2) Personal and 3) Cultural. As we explored these further, it was interesting to consider that people may reject colours they have a negative association with, such as school uniforms and it’s why it would be rare to find a meeting room entirely in red since this is more likely to lead to argumentative points of view. Personally, I’m fascinated with why it is everyone seems to follow the same trends, whatever those might be. Monochrome, all-white – is it because we really love them, or simply because they’re fashionable and we’re too cautious to make brave and bold decisions?

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Karen advised that it’s important to consider some key questions when decorating such as what is the purpose of the room and what are the types of activities? How do you want to feel and what are the long-term positive behaviours you would like to express in your home? She also encouraged us not to be afraid to experiment with colour placement – perhaps one wall in a particular colour is enough to achieve the effect we look for, or instead of painting an entire room in mustard yellow, leave it to the accessories to bring the colour across. Should a bathroom be invigorating to start your day in the morning or relaxing to soothe you at night? Is it possible to achieve both in the same space? A truly thought-provoking and inspiring session. I always worried that people might think I was crazy to paint an entire room in dark grey but now I realise it’s our choice and that’s all that mattters, and we chose it not based on what’s popular but because of what we like.

Me, Kate from Mad About The House and Molly from Molly and the Princess having fun

Ashlyn then spoke about styling and with her wealth of experience, it wasn’t difficult to feel inspired to be authentic and tell our own story. As mentioned, Ashlyn owns two independent boutiques and is an interior designer, stylist and art director. She has renovated her own homes and is the author of Creative Family Home and Creative Children’s Spaces and it was so encouraging to hear someone talking about the importance of walking your own path. We’re overwhelmed now with social media imagery, a need to fit in and be liked, approved of by people we barely know, if at all. So much so that we’re at risk of creating identikit lives, without originality and stories of who we are.

We were asked to consider the following when thinking about interior decor: 1) A favourite or inspirational place 2) The person who has been most important in our life 3) A favourite item 4) A favourite cultural experience. Interestingly, I could answer the first question within milliseconds and my answer is New York. The other 3 questions I struggled with and from a psychological point of view that in itself no doubt speaks volumes. If I think about the influence of New York in my home there’s definitely a connection – restoring a period home but with very modern, minimalist elements. New York is a place I feel alive in, at the same time both energised and tranquil and that’s definitely how I want the ongoing transformation of our home to feel.

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I spoke separately to Ashlyn after the event was over, talking about how I could incorporate a sense of my history into our home. My Mum’s house is beautiful but we have completely different tastes and she has incorporated a lot of inherited furniture and objects into her style which I love because they tell a story about where my family has come from and all the extensive travelling that my grandparents did, but I don’t necessarily see a space for them in my own home. Ashlyn encouraged the idea of repurposing, giving some furniture or furnishings a new lease of life so they become part of our present and future rather than always being associated to the past and so adding to the story we tell. Most importantly, our homes should evolve with us and we mustn’t worry about “finishing” because as we change and evolve throughout our lives so too will the place we live. So be authentic, be individual, and create something you’ll love, for you and no-one else.

If you’d like to discover what colour is best for your interiors and home, give this quick little quiz a try from Get Living London and Karen Haller. Enjoy!

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16 Comments

  1. April 20, 2016 / 10:05 am

    A lovely write-up of the event (apart from my ugly mug spoiling some of the photos). Karen and Ashlyn’s talks certainly gave me lots to think about (so much so that I haven’t written my post yet, but hopefully can get to that this evening!) It’s interesting that you can see how New York has influenced your home. Was lovely to meet you Lins, hope we get to more events together!

  2. Lins
    April 20, 2016 / 10:36 am

    Molly don’t be daft!! You look lovely, the photos were so fun. I really hope we get to cross paths again at an event and if not I shall have to let you know next time we’re down in your neck of the woods 🙂 Xx

  3. April 20, 2016 / 4:53 pm

    It sounds like a fascinating event. I’ve just done the quiz and it said I should paint my house green, which is actually a colour I do gravitate to when decorating.. #homeetc

    • Lins
      April 21, 2016 / 11:48 am

      How cool, there’s definitely some truth to it. I’m still amazed that I love to wear bright colours but prefer my home to be much more muted. It’s a fascinating subject X

  4. April 20, 2016 / 8:28 pm

    This sounds like it was a really interesting event, some fascinating ideas about colour too. I can see that it must have been really inpsiring and that it gave you some fab ideas for your home. You are right we need to be authentic and true to ourselves! 🙂 #HomeEtc

    • Lins
      April 21, 2016 / 11:47 am

      So true Emma, wouldn’t it be a boring old world if we were all the same?! Thanks for stopping by X

  5. April 21, 2016 / 10:18 am

    I once lost a flat deposit as I left a recycling bin inside for the new tenant to use! This looks like such a fun event, perfect for a grey day too. I live round the corner from Olive Loves Alfie so I must pop in!

    #HomeEtc

    • Lins
      April 21, 2016 / 11:46 am

      Wow that so trumps my crap experience!! How inconsiderate of you to want to be helpful!! yes I’d definitely recommend a visit to Olive Loves Alfie, full of inspiration X

  6. April 26, 2016 / 11:23 am

    Wow looks amazing and what a fab event to attend! I love talking about homes and interiors too and love anything like this 🙂 Jess xx #HomeEtc

    • Lins
      April 26, 2016 / 12:45 pm

      It really was so interesting and best of all getting to meet the lovely Molly from Molly and the Princess Xx

  7. April 26, 2016 / 7:41 pm

    What an amazing event to go to!! I LOVE colour and am always fascinated by what the experts say about the colours we choose. Lovely to see Molly in these pics too!! Wish I’d been there!! Caro x #HomeEtc 🙂

    • Lins
      April 27, 2016 / 9:40 am

      Meeting Molly was the best bit, I didn’t even realise it was her until we had to go round and introduce ourselves and then I must admit I lost a bit of focus and kept thinking “yes but when can we chat?” 🙂 X

  8. April 27, 2016 / 1:09 am

    Just did the test for fun, being curious whether it nails my colour, and it DID! It was a great event, glad I made it there 🙂

    • Lins
      April 27, 2016 / 9:39 am

      I think so far everyone that’s done it said it really does get it spot on, how fab!! Lovely to meet you X

  9. Karen
    April 27, 2016 / 1:30 pm

    Really love your write up lovely (mine is coming this week – I’m behind eek!).
    It’s so funny, I spoke to Ashlyn about my mum’s house afterwards too. Very different taste to mine so I sometimes struggle to help her pick out items in her complete redecoration. I’m going to get her to take the colour quiz to kick things off! x

    • Lins
      April 29, 2016 / 10:38 pm

      What a great idea! I really don’t think I’d thought too much about colour and personalities before at all, but since then I haven’t stopped thinking about it. What a fascinating evening and lovely to have met you X

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