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Designing a Holiday Retreat With Liselle Milner

Megan Hill
A pretty and pink bedroom designed by Liselle Milner
Liselle Milner headshot against a pink background
Liselle Milner—founder of Zenterior Design

Liselle Milner is an award-winning interior designer and founder of Zenterior Design—an interior design firm based in Cornwall.

Her work not only looks good, but it also does good. Zenterior Design source products from local craftsman, recycle materials where possible, and continually work to minimise their carbon footprint.

Visual communication

Liselle likes to hold client introductions face to face and, preferably, on site. "I find that this is the quickest and most thorough way to get to grips with a client's needs and style."

After that, Liselle finds that visual digital communication works really well. It ensures she and her clients remain on the same wavelength as the project gets fleshed out.

On theme

Some clients have very wide-ranging and diverse tastes. When this is the case, it is important to figure out a common thread that holds the design together.

"It is my job to get to the heartbeat of the project. I need to identify a theme that holds everything together as a finished, styled space as opposed to a random collection of items, colours and textures that independently appeal to the client."

Liselle feels confident she's delivered when the scheme sits together with balance and interest, and her client gets excited watching the concept evolve.

The bigger picture

The most challenging part of Liselle's work is ensuring that her clients keep the bigger picture in mind.

"When styling a space, although individual items are important in their own right, you also need to keep in mind the layering effect that each item/aspect has upon the space as a whole."

If a client loves bold colours and busy patterns, these should feature as statement pieces. But that might mean surrounding them with simpler, complimentary items to make sure they really stand out.

A stylish home office, with blue velvet chair and lots of plants. An almost bamboo effect backing
Work in style—home office designed by Liselle Milner.

We challenged Liselle to pin down the functional priorities of "out-of-town clients" who rarely spend time in this home except during the holidays—if she had just 5 questions to work with...

Who... will usually be staying here?

Information regarding how many and the ages of children or pets can hugely influence the design of a space. It is also important to understand their hobbies and interests to ensure these can be accommodated.

Are there design considerations to be made to enhance the enjoyment and comfort of any frail or disabled family members like a downstairs bedroom or a wet room?

What... activities do you regularly enjoy participating in?

For example, do you like to cook and entertain? Would you like a space for indoor games on a rainy day? Do you need a quiet reading space or an office area? Do you need storage space for surf/paddle boards? An outdoor shower for sand rinsing/dog washing?

Where... will you spend most of your time in the house?

The areas people spend the most time need to be the areas that are the most comfortable. This can be particularly important when designing an open-plan space.

A family that loves to entertain may want a luxurious dining table with upholstered dining chairs, where they can spend hours over a meal and a few drinks. On the contrary, a different family may just require a breakfast bar as a spot for the kids to have a bowl of cereal before they get sucked into the latest game console, allowing more space for large lounging sofas.

When... will you spend most of your time in this house?

Seasonally, it is important to make sure the home can be bright and airy for summer and cosy and warm when dressed for Christmas.

On darker days, lighting needs to be both functional and atmospheric. If they will want to cuddle on the sofa and watch a movie in the afternoon you may need to think about blocking the sunlight from reflecting off the TV.

Why... have you chosen this location for your holiday home?

A client's answer will reveal how they want to spend their time on holiday.

Does there need to be practical storage for items like kayaks and bicycles? Should you work an outdoor dining area with a pizza oven and barbecue equipment into the design? Do seating areas need to be arranged around a window to take advantage of the views?

Boutique bedroom. Misty forest wallpaper, dark wood bed frame, pink and yellow cushions with a unique vintage green side table
A touch of character—bedroom designed by Liselle Milner.

Got a question for Liselle? Head to her website. Or check out Zenterior Design on Instagram.