ONLY a truly miserable soul would fail to feel an instant surge of optimism and energy on stepping through the door of a house flooded with light, brimming with colour and adorned with fun, quirky accessories.
“When people come to my home we always get the comment, ‘You can’t help smiling when you enter this place’,” says Charlotte Hedeman Gueniau as she takes me on a tour of her beautiful house.
Rooms flow into one another, linked by stripped wood or white painted floors, and each has charming features, whether a brilliantly painted wall, a mix of old and contemporary furniture or an eclectic mixture of objects clustered together to catch the eye.
It’s a tangible demonstration of her vision for a ‘Happy Home’, and it features in her new book of the same name which could persuade even the most colour-shy to call time on beige. The book is filled with affordable and practical advice on decor to lift your spirits and make rooms irresistible.
“My dream here was to make this house look happy, relaxed, lived-in and of course, filled with colours.
“I truly believe colours can make you smile from deep within yourself,” says Charlotte who, with her husband Philippe, is founder of cult Danish homeware company Rice.
“People often ask me, ‘What makes a home happy?’ I believe it’s achieved with a cocktail of different ingredients: light, openness, colours and practical function so a home suits your life.”
There’s a homely atmosphere, with a sofa used as a trampoline by the couple’s children when they were younger now dressed up to be a seating star again.
“I call it ‘lipstick for the couch’,” she explains. “A few new quilts and blankets packed neatly around the seats and back, and some bright cushions, are all that’s needed. Just like a woman, it feels a lot better with refreshed make-up, so furniture can be given a makeover.”
It’s typical of her ingenious attitude to decor, which is the antithesis of the formality and perfection of designer homes featured in glossy magazines.
“I feel uncomfortable in the atmosphere of those sort of rooms,” she says.
“My hope is to inspire people to sprinkle a little everyday magic throughout their homes. They’ll be surprised at the positive impact.
“My advice is to make bold colour choices and stay playful with what you do in your home. Relax - paint a single wall in a crazy colour. It only takes a few hours to repaint it if you have regrets.”
Her life philosophy, encapsulated in a sign she once saw during her travels to Thailand to source homeware products, is ‘live, love, laugh’.
Follow her guide to creating a Happy Home...
A FRESH LOOK
Pretend you are a stranger entering your home for the first time and assess whether your decor suits you and your personality.
“I like to stand back and look at my own home from time to time, as if it was the first time I saw it,” says Charlotte.
“This especially applies to the living room - the word says it all. It’s a room to live your life in, doing all the things that make you really happy and comfortable.
“Ask yourself whether the space makes you feel content, if there is anything which jars visually.”
HAPPY TIP: Your needs will change as a family grows - it’s far better to go with that flow than be ruled by ideas about a decor look that may not be practical.
There are always elements you can look at and fix - check out whether your home stimulates and refreshes you, nurtures and nourishes you.
A rainbow of colours feature in Charlotte’s home and she proves that even unlikely combinations can transform a space.
“When my daughter was little she would often ask me, ‘What’s your favourite colour this week?’” she says.
“My favourite colour does change according to the season, according to my mood and it’s also influenced by colours used in the fashion industry.”
Yellow is one of her favourites, while she’s currently featuring bright green, strong mint and purple as well as neon shades in her decor and product ranges.
HAPPY TIP: Be bold, be bright and don’t be afraid. Charlotte says: “I often hear people saying, ‘What if I get tired of a bright colour?’ But why would you get more tired of a happy funky colour than you’d get tired of a white wall? If you do get sick of a colour then you can simply repaint it.
“Give yourself a serious mental vitamin boost with neon shades, often available in ranges of spray paint, so you can test out your enthusiasm for a colour.”
A wall is just like an empty playground so use your imagination and let the games begin, Charlotte urges.
“I have a wallpaper addiction - I love how just one strip of wallpaper can define a whole room. It’s almost magical when you put it up - it truly feels like waving a magic wand. I can spend hours on the internet searching through the fabulous wallpapers around, both old vintage prints and brand new ones.”
HAPPY TIP: Use colourful wallpaper on a wall facing a door so that its visual effect can be enjoyed from the next room. Paint a wall in a bold shade, and display plates on a wall and mix with a collection of photos, paintings and lithography.
Don’t hide away possessions as they tell a story about you, your family and your home, says Charlotte.
“Little funny displays throughout your home will bring a smile to your face,” she says.
“The small kitsch souvenirs you have bought, the odd gift with quirky appeal, the beautiful heirloom pieces and things with a personal story behind them which mean something to you, will all give you that smiley feeling.
“A neon-coloured piece of furniture will highlight a quiet corner, and animals always inspire affection so include them as prints on fabrics, as small ornaments, or even a brightly-coloured deer’s head on a wall.”
HAPPY TIP: Arrange pieces in a little tableaux or just singly around your house in thoughtful spots so they will become eye-catching attention-seekers. Don’t over-clutter though, or their attraction will be lost.
GET THE LOOK
Quirky accessories are a characteristic of a happy home. A stag head, £100 (available in March), decorated in a riot of colour and pattern could do the trick. Add colour detail with Ben de Lisi metal hooks in blue, lime or red, £7.20 each, and his ‘Be Happy’ turquoise canvas cushion, £17.60, all Debenhams (08445 616 161/www.debenhams.com).
Retro furniture always adds character to a room, and a teak ‘Comet’ painted TV cabinet, £504, is also colourful. It has three drawers painted navy, mustard and turquoise, Debenhams (08445 616 161/www.debenhams.com).
Bright blue chairs will remind you of summer skies. A pair of Toronto chairs, £59, with maple veneer seats and chrome legs, Marks & Spencer (0845 302 1234/www.marksandspencer.com).
Raise a smile with a Serai yellow camel candle holder, £20, and an orange Drip vase, £30 (available in March), Habitat (0844 499 1111/www.habitat.co.uk).
Make a focal point with an Emily saloon chandelier, £350, Graham & Green. It has a cluster of nine satin and floral lined shades in different colours (0845 130 6622/www.grahamandgreen.co.uk).
Happy Home: Everyday Magic For A Colourful Home by Charlotte Hedeman Gueniau is published by Jacqui Small, priced £25. Available February 21.