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Beata Heuman on childhood, bucking trends and expressing yourself

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As we approach the anniversary of the first lockdown and mark a year of staying put, there’s one thing that stands out as a positive: with our homes out of bounds to anyone who didn’t live there, this was the year we stopped trying to impress other people.

While it’s unlikely that 2020 is the year the trophy home finally died, it did produce the ideal environment in which to launch Beata Heuman’s glossy new interiors book, Every Room Should Sing, a treatise on decorating according to your own individual preferences, style and history, rather than relying on passing fads to dictate your taste.

Getting her start in interior design working for legendary interior designer Nicky Haslam, Swedish-born Heuman set up her own studio eight years ago and has become one of the leading proponents of the new move towards colourful, characterful homes.

Her Instagram feed is a treasure trove of playful yet “real” rooms you feel you could actually live in, balancing comfort and elegance with aplomb.

It’s a tricky line to tread and the book, released this week, is intended as a guide through what can be a daunting process. True to her spirit of self-expression, Heuman doesn’t offer dictatorial tips, instead hoping to encourage readers to trust their own instincts.

Basic instinct: Beata Heuman says she hopes her book encourages people to trust their gut when it comes to design

/ Simon Brown

“There’s a disconnect between who people are and how they express it in their homes. People are often confident about expressing themselves in the clothes they wear but they don’t have the confidence to express their personality in their homes,” she says.

This is partly down to lack of practice — after all we get dressed every day but even the most peripatetic mover will only decorate a certain number of rooms in their lifetime. But, she says, there are plenty of ways to find your own style amid a sea of short-lived trends.

“The first chapter of my book focuses on what home is and thinking back to what you liked as a child. Children are so untethered, they’re not affected by trends. When I work with clients and I happen to suggest something that has sentimental value to them, their whole face softens, be it a piece of artwork or furniture.”

Heuman cites the example of the Suffolk cottage featured in the book where she suggested a Thirties-style kitchen that reminded her of her parents’ kitchen in Sweden. The client said her granny once had a similar kitchen and the style immediately connected her to her own childhood.

Child’s play: the first chapter of Every Room Should Sing tells readers to think about what they liked as children and act on that

/ Simon Brown

Smaller touches include a lion-shaped wooden pen holder that Heuman’s mother used when she was growing up and passed on to her. It’s now in her girls’ bedroom.

“I studied literature at university so I’ve also got a lot of books and they mean a lot to me. I would never get rid of them, they’re the best accessory; we have them throughout the house.”

To balance out the keepsakes, Heuman has an annual clear-out to keep her home streamlined and enjoyable, meaningful rather than cluttered.And although she acknowledges the pleasure of buying something new from time to time, she also suggests changing around art or furniture to give tired, overused lockdown homes a fresh feeling.

For those feeling uninspired in a year when our horizons have become more limited than ever, Heuman says Instagram has been an indispensable tool, used judiciously — she advises against the profligate Follow and is a big fan of the Mute button as a way of cutting out the noise without being rude.

But how to avoid succumbing to the heavy marketing of the latest seen-everywhere Insta interior? “Save any images you like, if you still like them in six months or a year then it will probably stand the test of time,” she recommends.

For similar reasons Heuman also looks to the past for inspiration, as well as art galleries and clothing archives. But, she concedes, “sometimes it’s impossible to avoid trends. I thought I was quite unique with my scallops, but no!

“It’s okay to have a crush on an object like a pineapple lamp or something but you have to be prepared for it to fall to pieces sooner rather than later. Maybe just don’t spend too much money on it”.

Every Room Should Sing, £45, is published by Rizzoli

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