Interior Design

Get stuck into your next project with advice from Kate Morel.

Drawing of room design with colour and fabric swatches

As all hospitality sectors become more competitive and our visitors and guests become more discerning and intelligent, distinctive interiors are even more essential to our business success and branding. If you are considering creating a completely new space, or making-over an old one, and want to keep the project in-house, grab a coffee and read on.

The principles of interior design apply to all spaces, be they a hotel bedroom, treehouse or wedding ceremony area, and although interior design is often interpreted as the cosmetic finish, it sometimes involves much more. This can mean changes to structural elements, relocating functional areas, plumbing and electrical work. As such, I thought it might be useful to try and cover more than just the decorative aspect.


Use of space
An essential exercise is to evaluate how people will interact with the space, the practicalities of how it will function, and the flow of movement from one area to another in use. Scale drawings are usually a must anyway, but DIY design apps such as Roomsketcher are really useful here, especially if one finds visualising imaginary 3D interiors difficult. I find it helpful to ‘walk’ myself through the space, using it as intended and checking that practicalities are considered, as well as looking for opportunities to make the space more attractive, convenient and comfortable.

Light cream bathroom with gold decorations

We might also need to assess plumbing and/or electrical work, for example if it’s a bathroom upgrade, does the new WC outlet join the drain in the same position, or will the floor have to be ripped up? If it’s a bedroom makeover, does a new floorplan require newly positioned sockets? It’s less likely we’ll need to think about these things for a cosmetic makeover, but if they’re old they might be due for replacement anyway or make a space looked dated. Unless they are vintage features it’s worth upgrading them at the same time.

Consider the space’s geographical orientation and number of windows; north facing might need light, warm colours, south facing could take cooler, or even bolder. Does the space need new/more electric lighting, reading lamps over the bed, is it time to add some mood lighting, or a show-stopping fitting or feature?

Until the scheme and all required works are finalised we’re more likely to be gathering estimates than quotes, but they’re a start. For most projects, and especially older structures, it’s wise to include a contingency value for unforeseen cans of worms, delays and additional work.

I’d also like to add that limited budgets don’t always equate to lesser results. In fact, quite the opposite, but DIY skills, creativity and a thrifty eye are definitely an advantage!

Kitchen with blue accents


This is the part that everyone gets excited about, where the style and colours take shape, and our creative flair can come into play. If we operate in the boutique or experiential sector (or want to) our design focus will be on creating an immersive experience. This can be an elusive concept to grasp as it’s an abstract factor, but Aristotle’s quote ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ explains it rather nicely. An evocative interior is the result of carefully chosen components, drawn together to create an overriding experience, an atmosphere, an element of magic. How we go about this is another article in itself, but authenticity is one quality that springs to mind. As elusive as this might be, it’s a concept worth mastering as it has a positive effect on revenue and reviews.

The design process has a few tried and tested tips so let’s take a quick canter through some that will contribute to a fabulous, easy-peasy interior:

• Originality: Commissioning appropriate furniture, accessories and one-off pieces will add an unmistakable stamp of uniqueness to the finished scheme. It will also make your ‘look’ more difficult for others to replicate

Soft colour scheme in a bedroom

• Colours: We usually refer to the colour wheel and rules, but sometimes interesting effects are achieved by throwing rule books out of the (beautifully dressed, of course) window. I’m an advocate for taking inspiration from nature as she creates colour palettes that are effortlessly appealing to the human eye and emotions

• Soft furnishings: Choose fabrics first and then buy paint, we can get paint mixed into any colour we want. Life is too short to do this the other way around and try to find a fabric to match a paint shade

• Get samples of everything you can and put them in situ, colours change in different lights and spaces

• Once the scheme is chosen and your procurement list is made, vigilantly source appropriate furnishings and fixtures to suit, and stick ruthlessly to the scheme. Adding unsuitable, random items just because they’re on offer or sitting in the storeroom will undermine the result you’re trying to achieve

• Be mindful of lead times – even non-bespoke items are made to order so check supply dates before ordering – furniture from trendy online stores is quite the culprit here

Bedroom with tree trunks as beams

• It takes more time but try not to buy everything from one store or the resulting interior will resemble their catalogue photoshoot. Mix it up

• Depending on one’s own experience, if the project is large scale or involves structural changes, an architect might be a valuable investment. In addition to obvious benefits, they will be up to speed on current restrictions and responsibilities around listed buildings, build regulations and other legislations

• Trending colours and styles: It looks like ‘Mid-Century’ and Scandi will be with us for a while yet, but the likes of annual fashion colours and copper accessories will not and are best avoided

• Statement pieces: These add a sense of extravagance or luxury and can certainly create engaging marketing images – think large mirrors, art, bold ornaments, trees, headboards, sculptures etc.

• Opposites attract: Not the easiest of tricks to pull off, but two opposing styles can create a unique or bold look. For example, I’m currently working on a project that mixes contemporary with Morris style textiles, or how about something masculine and industrial with bold florals?

Bathroom with copper bathtub

A design scheme may also need to reflect aspects such as the business model, branding or architecture and can be completely dictated by some or all of these. Whatever the influencing factors, our task is to bring all the necessary factors together into a coherent scheme, and to do so our ideas need to be organised into an editable, easy-to-view format. Mood boards are a great way to do this because we can chop and change them until we’re satisfied with the result. Play around with various colours, styles and combinations to the point where you’re happy with the overall look. It might take a while, but when it does gel, it’s time to source the individual pieces and you’re good to go!

Thanks to the media, more people are design-aware these days, and even if that’s not applied to their own homes, it can and does affect where they choose to spend their leisure time. If we add the experiential travel and leisure movement into the mix, it’s no wonder that meaningful and design-led holiday accommodations and venues are more sought after. Fortunately, it’s also easier than ever for us to find the inspiration and products to create better experiences and stylish environments, so happy designing, and do send me your photos!


Gathering inspiration

The Pinterest website/app is a great source of ideas where photos can be arranged into collections on ‘boards’. Once you’ve set up an account, create some boards for each area – bathroom, bedroom etc. and add images to them by either pinning from other boards on Pinterest, or, if you add the Pinterest extension to your web browser, directly from other websites. You can also share your boards with others that have a Pinterest account so they can view and add images too.

Tip: When creating a new board you’ll see a small box with ‘keep this board secret’ by it – tick this to keep your ideas private or they will be viewable by anybody with a Pinterest account, including your competitors!

Bedroom with sheepskin throw on the bed

Other places
Another great way to get inspired is to stay in or visit other places, this gives a much better sense of little details, quality and atmosphere that can’t be discerned from website images alone. I also find ideas in my collections of old magazine clippings and books, historical research, museums, craft centres, country festivals, galleries, and even films. Sometimes ideas literally pop into my head while doing the washing up or when out in nature at beaches and woodland. When our mind has a little free space of its own to wander, inspiration seems to find an easier route into conscious thought.

Mood boards
A mood board is simply a collection of images of potential design components, juxtaposed to see how well they interact with each other. For example, a bedroom mood board will have a bed, bedding, table lamps, rugs etc, and we’ll add or remove different components as necessary until we feel it’s starting to gel. Things that don’t fit in will quickly stand out, making it easier to eliminate items or colours that don’t contribute to the look we want to achieve. Pinterest is based on this concept, so a board could be created to bring together the key components of a room. There are many other photographic and design apps which will create a collage, being a popular and easy-to-use example.

Blue themed room with large landscape paintings



Kate MorelBelieving that they are equally essential to success in today’s hospitality sector, Kate Morel’s work bridges both creative and financial elements. Her extensive experience supports business growth and diversification by creating profitable business models and unique selling points that push beyond the norm to deliver what guests are looking for – authenticity. As creative director for Morel & Co, Kate and her team of architects, builders and designers also focus on experiential concepts when creating their cabins, treehouses and interiors.

An ambassador for this niche hospitality sector, Kate is a regular contributor to Open Air Business, presents new ideas and insights at leading events, and runs workshops on creating successful developments in this growth sector. She also supports a sustainability institute in South America, and mentors budding students and professionals entering hospitality, tourism and design. / / Facebook Group: Glamping Business Link.

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