It’s hard to pin down exactly what he does because he’s multi-talented, but along with being the professional photographer for Justina Blakeney’s best selling book, The New Bohemians, Dabito is a stylist, printmaker, graphic designer and the blogger behind Old Brand New. His style mixes modern and vintage, boho neutrals with vivid bright colours, and the whole shebang is heavily influenced by a life of travel. I’m in love!
As I looked enviously through his site, I started thinking about what made his home stand out from the crowd - just what is it that takes a good looking home into the realms of greatness? Here are the no fail interior design tricks I spotted on Dabito's site - they're easy to implement but big on wow factor. And best of all, I've included some advice on how to add an ethical twist to each tip so no need to compromise your values in the quest for home decor nirvana!
1. Layer your rugs
This is not something I’d considered before, but I love the idea of layering a bright bold kilim over a more natural jute rug for additional texture and an indulgent feel. I think it gives a space a really sumptuous, layered look and adds extra interest to a room. It’s also a very handy way of covering up a below-par carpet or other floor covering.
Make it ethical: Check out brands that work in partnership with weavers and rug makers around the world, ensuring the makers are paid fairly for their craft. Try Pampa for some stunning rugs from Argentina; or Sukhi for stylish rugs from Morocco, Nepal, India and Turkey. It’s also worth looking out for the Goodweave label, meaning that no child, forced or bonded labour was used in the making of the product.
2. Style your cushions
Layer up those cushions and don’t be afraid to mix and match colours, patterns and textures. I know I’m a biased cushion-addict, but I truly believe that cushions make or break beds and sofas – they just look better (and less clinical) when dressed with a few cushions. I know it means it takes longer to get into bed at the end of the day, but who cares when your bedroom looks like an upmarket hotel??
Make it ethical: Buy our cushions here….otherwise here are some great brands selling artisan-crafted cushion loveliness from around the world – Five | Six Textiles, Clover Artisans, Aniza Design, the Ara Collective, and Kalinko.
3. Create a gallery wall to conceal the TV
With the possible exception of that new frameless Panasonic – the price of which makes my eyes water – televisions are downright ugly. But whilst I may dream of hubby and I sat in our occasional chairs having a sophisticated conversation of an evening, it just ain’t gonna happen. Like many of us, we usually chow down our dinner in front of a scandi-crime drama or some other series rather than have an actual conversation. As such, our ugly beast of a TV has pride of place in the living room.
But Dabito, interior genius that he is, has got us covered. Want to conceal your TV? Simple – just create a gallery wall around it, enabling it to become just another piece of artwork rather than a black plastic monstrosity screamingly out of place in your otherwise carefully curated home. Another option I used in my last place was to paint the wall behind the TV black so it blends in a little better. I guess you could be so minimal that you forgo a television altogether but I’m just not ready for that yet…
Make it ethical: I’m pretty sure that whichever way you carve it up, TVs are bad for the environment so I won’t dwell on that. But when creating your gallery wall, think about supporting local artists who make prints in small numbers. I own a stunning A New Dawn print from New Zealand artist Jen Sievers as well as some gorgeous prints from Leden Design to prettify our walls and I love them.
4. Bold brights to make a room
I don’t think I could realistically live somewhere without a bit of colour. There is something just so invigorating about a smack-you-in-the-face colour pop in a room. The effect is even better when the rest of the room is muted and understated. The idea I have stolen from this image above is to paint the back of my front door a bold colour. I’m not sure what colour just yet – perhaps a bright pink, yellow or turquoise – but either way I know that my otherwise neutral hallway will thank me for it.
Make it ethical: Look for an eco-friendly paint, with low VOCs. My paint brand of choice here in New Zealand is Resene for that reason. Better for the planet and better for your lungs when you breathe it in because we all know that painting anything takes twice as long as you initially estimate!
5. Plants on shelves
Confession time. Whilst I love greenery around the house I am not green-fingered in any way. My husband calls me ‘the plant killer’. And its fair. I put plants where I think they look best rather than where they will thrive best, and I routinely forget to water them. In a nutshell, without hubby, I’d be surrounded by brown twigs in smart pots for decoration. Not a great look. Perhaps Dabito has stumbled therefore on something that could help – grouping plants on shelving.
First of all, plants on shelves look wicked cool and add texture and interest over and above books and knick-knacks. Secondly, if you group plants together they become lower maintenance – easier to water and look after. The trick will be in finding the perfect spot for the shelving in terms of light to enable the plants to survive.
Make it ethical: Think about sticking to low maintenance house plants that don’t need excessive watering or special soils/fertiliser. Consider up-cycling old pots to save money on buying new – a bit of primer and some left-over paint can work wonders on a tired old ceramic pot and may save it from landfill.
6. Don't be afraid to go dark
These before and after shots are the perfect example of how going dark can really make a room. There’s this (totally wrong a lot of the time) rule in interior design that dark walls make a room look smaller and should be avoided at all costs. And sometimes it holds true. If there isn’t enough natural light in a room, in most cases you should probably steer clear of dark walls throughout, but actually you’d be surprised how many rooms could get away with darker, more indulgent colours without looking cramped. And, as this room makeover shows, darker walls can significantly improve a room, taking it from ‘meh’ to ‘Yeah!’ for the cost of a can of eco-friendly, low VOC paint.
Make it ethical: I’ve covered paint already, so my tip here is to look for bedlinen in eco-friendly fabrics like linen or organic cotton. I’ve recently discovered Foxtrot Home here in New Zealand who sell beautiful French flax linen pillowcases and duvet covers at affordable prices. I am in love! Bonus hint: blush pink bedlinen works a treat with a navy blue, forest green or matt black wall behind it.
7. You can't beat a gallery wall
We already know it can conceal an ugly TV, but irrespective of that, I am a firm believer in the gallery wall. There are naysayers out there I know, that are saying that the gallery wall has had its day, blah, blah, blah, but it’s simply not true. Plain walls are boring. Displaying cool art and other finds is not. That is why the gallery wall is here to stay. Just try to resist…
8. Vintage furniture can make a room
There is something really special about mixing and matching contemporary furniture with vintage design classics – a house is not a home without at least one piece of inherited, hand-me-down or tracked-down-for-months-and-would-not-be-outbid-on-EBay vintage furniture joy. In uber-contemporary interior schemes, oak, walnut or other wood sideboards/cabinets add in some much needed warmth and interest. And in more traditional schemes, the right pieces add charm and whimsy in addition to a nicely polished surface to show-off more modern accessories.
Vintage statement furniture pieces are awesome and I am a firm believer that every home should have at least one.
Make it ethical: Get down to your local charity shop for added good-vibes. The other great thing about vintage furniture is that it is much less damaging to the environment than buying new, as well as having a cool story to tell (or make up – don’t even ask about our so-called haunted drinks trolley. Hint – it’s not actually haunted). Also, buying a chic piece that can be up-cycled if it is too far gone, means one less item going to landfill. Win.
9. Don't write off your hallway
Ah hallways. The first place visitors see when they come to our homes, yet the one place we dump loads of crap like shoes, bags, post for people that don’t live here anymore and old issues of the Yellow Pages that no-one wants or needs in the internet age. I chose this image above as a fabulous illustration of what can be done with a hallway to make a statement. Let’s analyse this a bit further. I love the greenery, the accessories, the bold, patterned rug and the statement front door. It is a perfect combination of style and function – there’s a place to dump keys, mail and other miscellaneous hand-bag type stuff (sunglasses, bus-pass, work ID) as well as somewhere to sit down and take off your shoes, yet it looks bloody fabulous.
Not all of us are blessed with such generous hallway proportions but I am taking inspiration from this image and at least putting out a lovely ceramic bowl for keys and other junk and will adorn my walls with something lovely for visitors to look at. How about you?
Make it ethical: Consider some locally-made ceramic bowls or pottery to capture keys and other items in the hallway. It supports local makers/artists and will act as an instant conversation starter for visitors.
10. Interiors photos look better with pets in. FACT.
I’ll be honest, I’m more of a cat than a dog person, but I can safely say that regardless of what animal is featured, interiors photos really are more engaging when they feature a beloved pet. I wonder if it comes down to the fact that we like to be able to relate to images, – you know, kind of like why we are drawn to house tours where the homeowner’s personality shines through? I suppose it would be a natural extension for us to pay more attention to a room when it contains a cute fuzzy beastie in it. I love that Dabito embraces his dogs and allows them to feature widely across the images on his blog. It makes sense given that pets are such huge parts of our lives. And in my case, spend a huge amount of time seemingly deliberately ruining much of my interiors…!
Make it ethical: Adopt, adopt, adopt. There are so many pets out there in need of good homes, just go to your local animal shelter and fall in love with a pet that will bring joy, laughter and a fair degree of poop into your home. We’ve had our two rescue cats for over 15 years and they have lived in the UK, Belgium and now New Zealand – we wouldn’t be without them.
So there you have it folks, my 10 no-fail interior tips from the awesome Dabito. Any that you’re going to put into practice right now? Don’t know about you, but I’m off for a selfie on the sofa with one of the cats…
All images credited to Dabito at Old Brand New