Martin Holland Interior Design Workshop

Last Saturday was no ordinary Saturday. Last weekend was a good one. A great one in fact. I was making my way down to Nottingham to meet the winner of The Great Interior Design Challenge 2016, Martin Holland. Martin, along with his partner Mark (Martin Mark Design), has launched a series of Interior Design Workshops and seeing as my whole life’s ambition is to become an interior designer, I was so excited to go down and learn not only the creative side of the business but the practical, planning side of things too. I learnt so much that today I wanted to share that knowledge in an 8-step plan to become your own interior designer. If you’ve got a room in the house that needs tackling, hopefully, this guide will help you from start to finish.

Martin Holland's Interior Design Course Northampton Studio

Martin Holland's One Day Interior Design Course

Analyse the Space

The first thing you need to do is analyse the space you’re working with. You need to look at the room with fresh eyes and see what will work and what won’t. The key to being an interior designer is being able to see what the end goal is, what’s achievable, what is downright impossible and what suits not only yourself but the family as a whole. You need to write yourself a brief, describing in a few simple sentences what you want to achieve from the room makeover. For example, on the day I chose to focus on my open plan living room/dining area/kitchen. My brief was “to create a multifunctional space where I can not only relax but dine and entertain in a warm but stylish environment – the room needs to have two defined areas but be cohesive in terms of design.” Once I had that brief, I could keep referring back to it to see if the choices I’d made suited what I wanted the end space to look like.

How to plan a room to scale

Plan to Scale

The next stage is to plan the space and draw a scale plan. It was the first time I’d drawn to scale (so the room measurements are sized down to fit on grid paper but are still relative) but it was actually much easier than I imagined it being. There’s a super easy 7 step example of how to draw to scale here, instead of me trying, and no doubt failing, to explain it to you. Once the room is measured and you’ve drawn the basic outline, you can add in windows (if you’ve got Solstro roofwindows for example, these will need to be incorporated into the plan), doors, fireplaces, radiators, electrical sockets etc. which allows you to know exactly where you can place your furniture. You need to think practically and aesthetically. One tip Martin recommended was to keep furniture away from the wall slightly, which makes the room more pleasing to the eye. Start with the largest piece of furniture first, as this has the biggest impact in the room. Using a mixture of furniture at different heights, shapes and weights add interest to a room and stop it from looking flat. Traditional layouts aren’t always the best options, so play around with furniture (measure your furniture to scale and cut shapes out like I’ve done here) until you find something that works – but remember, don’t overfill the space, you still need a clear flow around the furniture.

Interior Design Inspiration To Create A Moodboard

Interior Design Challenge Winner Martin Holland

Lighting your Layout

When you look back at your brief, how are you going to be using the space? Is it for relaxing? For the kids to play in? Depending on how you’re using the space, lighting can make or break a room. Ambient lighting is the main source of lighting, so your ‘big light; if you like. Accent lighting is to show off an area and decorative lighting is just as it says. You should work in layers and work from the top down, so consider your main source, then areas that need lighting such as the corner of the room to create a reading nook, and then add decorative lights like arrow lamps and Eddison bulbs to your bar trolley.

Interior Design Pantone Colour Charts

Considering Colour

When you’re working with colour, I don’t really believe in sticking to or breaking rules – design, after all, is completely subjective. What you love, could be another person’s biggest dislike. Personally, I’m a huge fan of neutrals which allow me to change up pops of colour for different seasons. There are 15 different colour schemes within interior design according to Martin with which to combine different colours, including monochromatic (schemes based on one colour and that colours respective hues), complementary (colour schemes made up of two colours that are directly opposite each other on the colour wheel) and analogous (a scheme made up of three colours that are adjacent to each other on the colour wheel).

Valspar Tester Pots

Art Deco Living Room Moodboard

Parisian Inspired Living Room Moodboard

Create A Moodboard

OK, so this was my favourite part of the whole interior design challenge – creating a moodboard. The easiest way to create a moodboard is to pull inspirational images from magazines, gathering them over time and buy yourself an A3 piece of card. As Martin said, the best thing to do is as soon as you’ve read a magazine, rip out anything that grabs your attention or you’ll forget and the magazine will either be stored away or thrown out. Another recommendation was to not focus solely on Pinterest and I couldn’t agree more. Rooms you see on Pinterest can give you great inspiration, but it’s very rare that the finish of your room will be to the same standard. Mainly because the room you see on Pinterest has been styled, photographed and no photoshopped within an inch of its life. Look at interior design blogs and Instagram instead to get a better feel for real life homes – hell, you can be inspired from anything from nature to fashion, to art. Add paint swatches, wallpaper swatches, textures and inspiring images to your moodboard to get a real feel for the finish of the room, and if you rip something out that doesn’t quite fit for this particular room, add it to a scrapbook and keep that for another design project.

Eclectic studio decor

Faux flowers

Textures and Finishes

Once you have your moodboard and plan, you can start to add texture and finishes to the room. By texture it doesn’t just mean fabrics. Texture add depths to the room and comes in the form of furniture and accessories – a good idea is to mix contrasting textures for contrast, interest and balance, so imagine brickwork with sleek glass and metallics. Consider adding texture to places such as the sofa, arm chairs and beds with throws, cushions etc, layer rugs to create a focal point in the room and add contrasting textures in vignettes around the space.

Fabrics to use in interior design moodboards

Prints and Patterns

I totally get that prints can be scary, especially when it comes to wallpaper and statement pieces of furniture so if you’re a little on the reserved side then hold back with a neutral colour palette and add pops of print in soft furnishings. Pattern really can mix up the visual tone of the room and it doesn’t have to be just on walls and fabrics – think rugs, artwork and accessories. You could consider mixing two prints together such as leopard print and floral, spots and stipes or animal print and geometric. By adding these prints to your moobdboard you’re able to see if these work with your overall scheme.

Interior Design Studio Decor

Beautiful flowers used to decorate the table

Accessorising Your Space

It’s super tempting to run out and buy all your finishing touches before you’ve even decided what colour scheme you’re having but try to hold off until the last moment – you don’t need to rush the room (unless it’s a nursery and you’re about to pop), so really take your time and build up pieces as you go along. The biggest mistake I made when I moved into my apartment was to rush out and buy everything I thought I loved, without really working out how it was going to fit in with everything else I thought I loved – cue a kind of mismatched space, and not in an eclectic way. Remember to also utilise pieces in the home that you already have. I bet there are pieces in the house that you’ve forgotten about that could look great in your newly decorated room. And if you’re a hoarder then have a good clear out and get rid of any clutter – the space should look stylishly put together, not crammed full of your old bits and bobs. Finally, add a scent to the room to really pull the whole feel of the space together. We were given a beautiful candle by Martin and Mark in our goody bag for the day by a local candle specialist called Willow & Honey and let me tell you, this smells absolutely a-mazing.

So there you have it. A step-by-step guide to decorating your room from scratch, becoming your very own interior designer. I had such a fantastic day at Martin’s workshop and learnt even more than I could share here. If you’re interested in taking part in a workshop, you can grab yourself a place on the next one in September – the breakfast, lunch, champagne and afternoon cakes are worth the trip for alone.

In case you missed it: Get The Look: Tropical Interiors | 18 Light and Airy Interior Spaces | 5 Must-Read Interior Design Coffee Table Books

About the author
Victoria Jackson is the editor of multi-award winning interior design blog Apartment Number 4. Designed to help you create a beautiful home on a budget, Victoria edits the inspirational and showcases the affordable.


  1. I loved reading this. I wish I had what it takes to become an interior designer. But for now I will continue in the world of commercial cleaning. I see some great designs through my work though. Some wonderful modernistic offices

  2. Martin's tip to keep furniture slightly away from the wall is a really interesting one. It's an easy way to make a room look more open and also give your objects more room to breathe. It will be interesting to see how this works in smaller spaces.

  3. I just loved this article. I don’t want to become an interior designer on a professional level, but I love to get ideas for myself. I loved how you broke it all down into pieces so that I could understand. I loved the mood board idea as it is like a vision board. Thanks so much for the article.

  4. Love this post! I definitely need to do the moodboard thing as I feel so overwhelmed with untouched rooms! I also need a way to cut down on the amount of stuff I have squeezed into this place. I feel the same about making my home great before people come over, but it’s been a while now, so I should definitely just get on with the work, and have them over anyway! xx

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