Introduce the element of surprise

Walking into a room and finding the unexpected is a delight for all. In this powder room in an apartment in New York we added casts of helping hands to offer towels to visitors. Quite a service! We also added a glass shelf with an oversized string of beads dangling from it as though someone had casually left it there after a party. The glass shelf is almost invisible but provides a surface for candles, creams and tissues without occupying much space.  Both ideas teamed with the bold patterned wallpaper create quite a scene in this small powder room. The hands were sourced from the shop at MOMA.

Positioning of furniture – Photo credit: Mel Yates

The bay window in this reception room posed a slightly awkward space for furniture. We wanted to add more seating to the room and decided to elevate it! The swing seat was made especially for the space with the upholstery matching the sofas in the room. At first glance the room looks very ordered and coordinated however it holds a surprise with this swing seat. Everyone wants to try it out!

S:\PROJECT IMAGES\93 Hamilton\Low Res Images 93\HT 6464.jpg – Photo credit: Vipul Sangoi

A hanging seat in this cosy corner adds a playful element in this interior. You can style it with cushions and a blanket. This Eero Aarnio Bubble chair is a modern classic. It was designed in 1968 as a little cocoon that shields off the outside world. Originals can be found on 1st Dibs or you can find a hanging chairs inspired by it on Amazon. – Photo credit: Mel Yates

The hanging chair in this bedroom creates a spot for reading.

Use a finish in an unusual place:


Decorating your surfaces with finishes you wouldn’t usually propose for that area is a good way to add texture and interest to create an impact. In this master bedroom tiles were applied to the wall behind the bed. Tiles are normally used in bathrooms and kitchens and rarely seen on walls in other rooms. These tiles are a great feature behind the bed adding a 3D element and providing pattern. The muted colour keeps them from overwhelming the space.

S:\PROJECT IMAGES\6 Fairfax Road\Low res jpegs\6 Fairfax0743.jpg – Photo credit: Tom Sullam

We sourced these bright patterned fabrics from a flea market and adapted them to be used as a wallpaper by applying paper to the back. Rather than cutting them to use for furnishings or accessories we thought they would look striking on the walls of a powder room. No room is too small to create an impact.

Use the ceiling as a canvas – Photo credit: Paul Dixon

Ceilings are usually neglected when decorating however they provide a large canvas to play with. Often referred to as the fifth wall, ceilings should be addressed in this way. In this bedroom in a house with contemporary detailing, wallpaper with a print of panelling was applied to the ceiling. It adds another level of detail to the space and pulls all the elements of the room together, from the tones of the timber floor to the furnishing and lighting.

Play with scale:

S:\PROJECT IMAGES\93 Hamilton\Low Res Images 93\Hamilton1 4683TS.jpg – Photo credit: Vipul Sangoi

This large mirror in the entrance lobby of a home is an attention-grabbing feature. It not only creates a scene, it adds bountiful light to the space and is practical for final outfit checks before going out.

Artwork creates impact and can be moved around your space:


Gallery walls are very popular as they are a fun way to display art and in small homes it is a good way to display many pieces of art, making thorough use of minimal wall space. 

S:\PROJECT IMAGES\6 Fairfax Road\High res\6 Fairfax0675.jpg – Photo credit: Tom Sullam

Paintings can be mixed with prints and photographs and pieces of any size can create an interesting installation together. This dining room uses green beautifully with the painting and chairs picking up on each other.


The space in this photograph may be hard to decipher, it is an elevator in a home in London. A site specific artwork has been installed on the glass wall of the elevator which interacts with shapes on the wall of the shaft as you travel up and down. It transforms an everyday functional activity into an experience.

S:\PROJECT IMAGES\Cheyne Terrace\Cheyne Terrace JPEGS\Cheyne Terrace JPEGS\Mel Yates_Shalini_Cheyne_766.jpg – Photo credit: Mel Yates – Photo credit: Mel Yates

This metal 3D artwork on a staircase in an apartment changes as you walk past it. The colours of the sides of the tubes can only be seen at an angle making the journey down the stairs a moment to enjoy rather than functionally moving from floor to floor.

S:\PR\THRIVE\Articles\First 11\How to make impact in your home\5V8A3088.jpg – Photo credit: Tom Sullam

This stair runner was turned into a piece of art with writing woven into it stating: If you don’t belong, don’t be long.

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  • Shalini Misra

    Founder and Creative Director

    Internationally celebrated interior architect, designer and property developer, Shalini Misra has been creating spaces since she founded her multifaceted practice over 20 years ago. A qualified architect from the Delhi School of Architecture and Planning (SPA) in India, Shalini specialised in Urban Planning at the University of Columbia in New York before studying Virtual Reality in Architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, in London. One of House & Garden’s top 100 interior designers, Shalini is a British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) committee member, she is on the Advisory Board of KLC School of Design and on the Steering Committee of The Calico Club. She sits on the South Asian Acquisition Committee (SAAC) at Tate, and judges international design awards. Shalini is also a trustee and mentor of UK charity Vahani Scholarship Trust, a non-profit organisation that recognises the importance of opening doors for underprivileged children. Shalini also sits on the advisory board for Common Sense Media, a global charity dedicated to improving the well-being of children and families in the digital age.