The Loft

The Home Base blog

Moody Blues

Reality TV renovating star Matt Di Costa shares his top tips from a recent project


Television shows such as The Block have demonstrated that regular people can create magical spaces. However quite unintentionally, they have also solidified the myth that it requires a lot of money to have a beautiful home. The latter is simply untrue.

Meet homeowners, Kate and Kris who have used the items they cherish and already own to complete their own unique renovation project – which includes dated family heirlooms and mismatched furniture.

“I have photos of my father that mean more to me than redecorating. I have furniture that takes me to a special place in my childhood. Some of it is very ugly but very valuable,” Kate laughed.

“How do I keep the things that mean the most to me, and still have a beautiful home?”

Featured here is a bedroom created in five days for just $1700. It has ugly things, personal things and family heirlooms that mean the world to them. The room is a success not because of its expense but rather its cooperative use of layout, colour, balance and proportion.

The following is a process you can use to redecorate your rooms.


When redecorating a space, it is second nature to shop for the fun items first – the sofa, the occasional chair, etc. But too often, we get home, all jazzed up, only to find our sexy sofa is the wrong fit, or even worse, doesn’t work with anything else in the room. To alleviate unnecessary shopping meltdowns, we need to work the opposite way.

Step one is to write a list of ‘what is staying/what is permanent’. What are you working with?

> The bed you own: what are its proportions?
> The family heirlooms: which ones are you keeping?
> The location and sizes of the doors, windows, air-conditioners, ceiling fans.
> The dimensions of the room.

Determine the layout of the room first. In my opinion, a bed does not belong in front of a window. The wall beside a window is ideal, as it will allow natural light to flood across the bed, creating a more dramatic effect.

Either side of the bed must have a minimum walk space of 700mm. If your room will not allow this, push the bed against the wall and go with one bedside table. If your bed is still too large, consider swapping it for a smaller one.

The placement of the bed and bedside tables and the required walkway space will determine where you place the rest of the furniture. It must be proportionate to the dimensions of the space.

Now select your keeper heirlooms and treasured pieces of furniture. Remember this is your house, so keep what you truly love. In the example bedroom, our keepers were a blue shisha pipe, a black Bakelite telephone, and an old gold sideboard. Compile your list of keepers and take note of their colour as they will help you choose the colour palette for your new space.


With the function and favourites sorted, it’s time to play with colours and their proportions. Kate and Kris loved the the idea of blues and greens, to set a moody background, which originally came from the blue shisha pipe.

Blues and greens live beside each other on the colour wheel. The room exhibits five blues and three greens, all blended together. As long as the blended colours are beside each other on the colour wheel, then you can place as many of them together as you wish. The more you place, often the more interesting the results. They essentially blend to become one overall colour. Let’s call the green and blue combination “new blue”.

Now proportions come into play – 60:30:10 is an effective rule used to disperse colour around a room. There is something about this ratio that scientifically pleases the eye. The new blue colour scheme makes up 60 per cent of what you see in the room.

The black and white patterns found on the rug, the bed cushion, the Bakelite phone, and book spines make up 30 per cent of what you see. Blacks, whites, neutrals and metals are not considered colours, so they will work with any colour. In our case new blue and black and white look dynamic.

The rest of the colours make up 10 per cent. They are positioned against the moody background to achieve two things – punch and points of interest. Now, how do we know which are the right colours to use? It’s back to the colour wheel for the answers.

Complementary colours are your cheat code for creating interesting rooms. Complementary is just design jargon meaning opposite.

In the example room there is 60 per cent blues and greens. So the splashes of 10 per cent must be the opposing colours. Green is opposite to purple, and blue is opposite to yellow.

Yellow – The lamps, some clothes and a few book spines. That’s it. The yellow radiates perfectly against the deep turquoise wall paint and creates a dusty yet playful mood.

Purple – The cushions and flowers. The tall purple flowers balance with the emerald green cushion on the chair. It is obvious and effective.

Red and Hot Pink – The red 70s vase, the pink feather boa and some book spines. Kate and Kris wanted to add just a little more depth to the room – so with red and hot pink living next door to purple on the trusty wheel, they were placed sparingly, and near to the purple.

There are two key points here. Your opposite colours, yellow and purple, must be used only to the proportion of 10 per cent. More and your eyes won’t know where to look first, and the room will lose all impact. The other trick is to place the opposing colours close together so they pop.

You’ll notice now that all of the “ugly” keepers are in the room and working OK. By looking at them for their percentage of colour, and placing with the correct neighbours, they disappear into the composition.


We’ve established that our eyes like balance of colour. They also like balance of shapes, or, in this case, furniture.

If you were to slice a line down the middle of the bed you’d see that everything balances. The lamps, the cushions and even the colours are balanced. The only variation is the art, and that is the fun part. While the art appears unbalanced, the proportion and shape are equal. The colours in the art match the cushions below them. The unique stamp you place on each room comes in how you lay it out. As long as it achieves some balance, it will work 100 per cent of the time.

Another detail worth considering is the use of heights. The best rooms play with different heights. Do you remember your class photos at school? Think about that while we look back to the example room.

Above the centre of the bed we find the artwork. They are the tall kids in the back. They hang in two balanced forms. The hat stand and the clothes rack are the slightly shorter kids in the row second from the back. They share the same volume and are balanced.

The yellow lamps are shorter again, sitting one from the front. They share the same shape and colour so create balance.

The cushions and pillows – they are the shrimps in the front row, and they too share a mirrored layout, shape and use of colour.

The focal part of your room should look like a class photo. Everyone needs to be standing in the right place to see the camera.


With a shift in focus from shopping to designing, budget becomes less of a concern.

The room is a combination of new and old, repainted and original, modern and bohemian. Colour becomes expensive furniture. It decides the mood and represents personality. This process of elimination leaves us with a room that no longer wants pieces but, rather, requires certain ones.

Expensive furniture has us confused into believing we must have it in order to have a lovely home. Shop for colour, not furniture. Use your knick-knacks and loved items to manifest your vision.

Start thinking ahead by working backwards, after all, rooms that feel first, finish first.