Words by Penarth-based interior designer and influencer Miffy Shaw
From curating her blog 1fiveone, to starring on S4C’s Dan Do interiors programme, Emma X certainly knows her stuff. With a love for interiors, lifestyle and crafting, she is an avid DIY-er, and is a keen baker. Here, she gives Penarth View readers an insight into her process, her impressive Instagram following (22.3k followers!) and reveals her favourite item at home.
How do you know when interior design is ‘good’?
I compare interior design to doing a jigsaw puzzle, individually the pieces don’t always make sense but when you bring them all together in a room they look great. It’s as much about a gut instinct as anything else – if a room makes you, and others, smile then you know you’ve done a good job of decorating it!
What do you think the future holds for instagram and interiors?
I believe it’s going to continue to thrive and grow. When you’re renovating or decorating, it’s rare that your friends in real life are doing the same as you at the same time as you, so Instagram is a great place to turn for inspiration and advice. I gained so much knowledge from others who had started their renovation journey before us and I get asked lots of questions on a daily basis about how we went about doing things in our house and where we bought items in our home from.
When you see a photo in a magazine it could be entirely staged so it’s great on Instagram to see how people live with their room designs in real life.
What’s your top tip for growing an Instagram following?
✓Slow and steady wins the race
✓Be authentic and be social
✓Spend more time on other people’s accounts than your own
✓Find other similar accounts to follow by using and following relevant hashtags
✓Follow accounts you aspire to and look at who their following and engage with them
✓Like and comment on posts which interest you, and follow each account. When they next log on to Instagram they will se you have begun a conversation with them and, are more likely to reply and follow back
✓Allow your account to grow organically over time
How do you combine the crafting, DIY and make your own, in your own interiors space?
When you do a renovation, budgeting is really important. You’ll always see things you want but simply don’t have the budget for, that’s a perfect time to get creative and try to make your own. A great example of this is our laundry chute, which was on my ‘non-negotiable’ list. I was determined to have one, but the proper kits started at £800 each. We simply didn’t have the money to buy one so I set about designing and making my own! I got an off cut of Sewerage pipe from a suppliers on Hatfield Rd (which they gave me for free). We then boxed around it with MDF and found an online supplier who made us a bespoke fireproof hatch to use as a lid/door to the chute. It cost a grand total of £81 and gave me more satisfaction to make than buying it ever could. Crafting and DIY are the perfect way to personalise your home and add your personality to it, so your home doesn’t become an identikit if everyone else’s.
What are your top three tips for renovation project management?
Budget, budget, budget! Be realistic with what you can achieve within your budget. Spend your money on the fabric of the building, the things you’ll never go back and do again, or you’ll regret not having what you really wanted. We could have saved money by installing a normal kitchen window, but we wanted a bifold window which doubles up as an outside bar. We knew that it was such a big feature in that space we’d always regret not having it so we went for the bifold window. We spent the money on things like that instead of all new furniture. We could live without some furnished rooms for a while so invested in getting the structure of the house how we wanted it instead and now we’re getting around to furnishing some of the rooms. It also helps as we’ve lived in the house for 18 months so know how we use the space, which makes it easier to design and furnish the remaining rooms.
What’s the first thing you look out for in a interior space?
Functionality, how is the space going to be used? It’s no good it looking great if it doesn’t work for the people living there. There are lots of clever things you can do these days to make a space both practical and pretty, so it’s worth taking some time to plan ahead. We used magnetic plaster on some walls so we can still stick up the photos and notes in the kitchen, that used to cover our old fridge in the last house, but it looks like a normal painted wall. I’ve also designed two secret doors, one is a bookcase in the bedroom which opens into the dressing room and the other looks like a normal kitchen cabinet door which opens into a pantry. This looks much better than having lots of normal doors in one room.
What is your favourite Item in your house and why?
Ooh, that’s a tough question. I love lots of things I’ve already mentioned – the bifold bar window, the secret doors and the laundry chute are all things I’d definitely include if we did another renovation. But in terms of furniture, I love the gold splattered cowhide rug in the front room. It’s a bit like marmite, you either love it or hate it. When I first brought it home Gareth, my husband, wasn’t sure about it. His friends don’t know what to make of it either, but it’s a great example of adding pieces to a room like a jigsaw puzzle. With the rest of the room painted and furnished the rug is a fabulous centrepiece which looks like it was made for that space. My sister and her husband gave it to us as a moving in gift, and I love it.
What would be your ideal project?
Our current house was my ideal project. We drove past it for a decade when it was a boarded up crack den, and I always joked that if we ever did a renovation that would be my dream project. I never for one second imagined that we’d buy it and make it our forever home, but I’ll be eternally grateful we took the risk and made it our own.
If there is an interior trend that you would bring back to life, what would it be?
The beauty of trends is they always come around again, but with a modern twist. I love the use of colour but would steer clear of colour in the fixtures and fittings (remember the avocado bathroom suites?!). I love the quality and lines of mid century furniture. We have a G Plan sideboard which we inherited and have added lots of mid century modern furniture. I’m also a bit obsessed with velvet, so you’ll also find velvet furniture dotted around the house adding a touch of old fashioned glam as well.
If you weren’t following your interior passion what other passion of yours would you be pursuing?
As long as I’m making or baking something, I’m happy!
Influencer, Penarth-based interior designer:
I live in Penarth with my builder-husband Gareth, our three year-old daughter Frankie, and Tugboat, our awesome French Bulldog! I studied interior design at college and have been renovating properties with Gareth for the last fifteen years.