How to… style a mantlepiece or sideboard

I often get asked for styling tips so I thought I would share some ideas for styling surfaces such as mantlepieces and sideboards today. Most of us have a surface like this at home and it’s all too easy for them to become a dumping ground for piles of post, empty coffee cups and bunches of keys. Style them in the right way, though, and they can become a fabulous focal point.

My first tip is to think about how you group objects. Never place things in uniform rows and try to arrange them by using items of different heights. This will give your display energy and interest. Vary the heights of objects and try placing the tallest object close to the middle.  Also, by using objects of differing heights, it will look artfully styled rather than things looking as though they have been left there accidentally.

Try to keep the number of objects you use odd. For some reason, odd numbers of things are always more interesting and it is an age old stylist’s trick to always place objects in groups of three or five and never two or four. It just looks so much better.

Try to place things together and in front of each other, without leaving big gaps. Play around with them until they feel right. We all have objects at home that can be transformed into really cool displays once they are placed next to the right thing. For example, place a vase next to a photo frame, a candle, a picture and a small pile of books. Use something random and unexpected! This will add cool factor. Place photos or artworks leaning against the wall, slightly overlapping. You get the idea.

Here are some images from the homes of stylists Marianne Cotterill and Sarah Fry, artist Annie Morris and stylist Claire Durbridge from my book Creative Living London (photographs by Ingrid Rasmussen), which I hope will inspire you:


Rough Luxe Hotel, London

rough luxe hotel bathroom


















purple room








red chair









The Rough Luxe Hotel in London was designed by interior designer Rabih Hage, who is also a qualified architect. Connected to The Mews art gallery, the hotel is an ingenious combination of rough and luxury or as the owners describe it ‘half rough, half luxury. A little bit of luxury in a rough part of London. A little bit of rough in a luxurious London.’

The look is a mix of old and new, furniture and art; combining colours and beautiful fabrics with existing distressed original walls while the concept is based on culture in its diverse values, ethical lifestyles and educated consumption. Definitely worth a visit.

Last chance to catch Ptolemy Mann at the Margo Selby Gallery





Textile artist Ptolemy Mann is currently showing at my lovely friend Margo Selby’s gallery near the British Museum in London. Ptolemy works in partnership with architects, art consultants and interior designers to produce hand dyed and Woven Textile Art pieces to commission for domestic, corporate and public spaces. Carefully stretched and three dimensional, these panels bring dynamic colour and geometric form to interior spaces. Ptolemy’s beautiful work has featured in Vogue (see above) and really shouldn’t be missed.


Margo herself is an amazing award winning textile designer who continues to go from strength to strength, creating wonderful textiles which you can see at her gallery and studio.


Ptolemy Mann is exhibiting at the Margo Selby Gallery until May 2nd 2009.