Should the struggle to choose a colour, paper or fabric for your home prove too much, here is a solution: meet Charlie Bordewich, the personal shopper at Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, an international mecca where homeware fans go for inspiration.
It has virtually every big company and thousands of fabrics and, in much the same way as a personal fashion shopper can guide you to the perfect pair of jeans, she can fast-track you to the fabrics you know you want, but you haven’t a clue where to find them.
Spend an hour or two with Bordewich and you can walk away with a personal styleboard that perfectly co-ordinates your home right down to the trims and tassels, without the headache.
Bordewich has two qualities making her the ultimate design directory: a passion for the subject and instant recall.
“I have quite a photographic memory, which is useful when there are new collections twice a year that I have to familiarise myself with, very quickly,” she says.
Her unique position was created more than four years ago because there were tales of customers walking into the first showroom they came to — and running for the hills when they saw a price tag of, say, £300 a metre. “They didn’t realise that right next door — maybe in the same showroom — there could be the fabric of their dreams for £30 a metre,” says Bordewich.
“We’ve got 85 showrooms with more than 400 brands, spread out into three domes on four floors. It can be quite overwhelming. You can make expensive mistakes without help. Clients don’t necessarily want the latest fashion, they just want something they’re going to happily live with for the next 20 years.”
For her holiday home, a client requested a luxury look on budget prices. She also needed practical fabrics as it would be let, but didn’t want predictable neutrals. For the sitting room, Bordewich chose a colour scheme in shades of berries and browns.
CURTAIN FABRIC Sanderson Primavera/Linen Magenta, £40 per metre
ROMAN BLIND FABRIC Elanbach Raphia col 1, £41 per metre
WINDOW SEAT FABRIC Romo Peron/Clove 7319/19, £48.47 per metre
SOFA FABRIC Sanderson Lunar/Tiramisu DALCLU321, £32 per metre, washable at 30degs
SCATTER CUSHIONS Romo Quincey/Redcurrant 7390/05, £23.46 per metre
ARMCHAIR FABRIC Jane Churchill Sherborne/Pink J585F/08, £29 per metre
RUG Tim Page Pangbourne col 8/31, £155.10 per sq metre
BOX OTTOMAN FABRIC Harlequin Kasuri 7569, £53 per metre
FIRE SURROUND FABRIC Kirkby Design Dakota Suede/Hazelnut K5018/48, £32.24 per metre
WALL LIGHTS Vaughan Colvara Wall Light/Bronze WLAO1/BZ, £458 each
LAMPSHADES Vaughan 11 Crescent col Fuchsia or Wine, £90 each
Adding a personal touch
Bordewich is manager of the Design Club, the sleek third-floor stop-off for private clients and industry insiders.
“We talk through what they’re after, the kind of fabrics, colours, finishes. I ask people to bring pictures, the cushion cover they want to match, anything that will help me establish what it is they’re looking for. Then I whisk them off to the showrooms I think are relevant.”
The first hour is free — every subsequent hour is £75 — and she says that three hours is enough for anybody. “After that your eyes cross and you can’t take in any more. Some people might just want fabric for a sofa and are clear about what they are looking for; others come in all set with samples and a storyboard.”
Some clients choose the easiest option and hand over their whole decorating dilemma to Bordewich. A recent client bought a house by the sea as a second home for her family but also wanted it to pay its way as a top-end holiday rental.
“The rooms had to look luxurious although the client was on a budget. They also had to look timeless, so she wouldn’t have to redecorate every few years, but she didn’t want neutrals.”
Bordewich’s design solutions were practical, beautiful and affordable. In the sitting room, for instance, she chose rich berry shades in natural fabrics. “For the curtains, I found a linen mix at Sanderson, a floral print that isn’t girly, so has wide appeal, in brown, taupe and berry on cream. I cut costs by using dress curtains, saving on fabric and using Roman blinds beneath.”
For the bedroom of a client’s holiday rental, Bordewich chose a colour scheme that reflected the local seascape.
CURTAIN FABRIC Threads Meander/Sea Foam ED75009/3, £98 per metre
ROMAN BLIND FABRIC Romo Milani/Azure 7157/71, £44.47 per metre
CHAIR FABRIC Zoffany Oakham/Duck Egg ZCAL04001, £48 per metre
STOOL AT END OF BED FABRIC Colefax & Fowler Lanark Plaid/Beige F2616/05, £86 per metre
HEADBOARD FABRIC Sanderson Breton/Duck Egg DARLBR306, £41 per metre
CARPET Tim Page TPC Sisal/Tigers Eye, £39.75 per square metre
SCATTER CUSHION FABRIC Jane Churchill Alcott/Aqua J411F/03, £53 per metre
LAMPS Porta Romana Gourd Lamp/Grey GLB/27, £773.15 each
LAMPSHADES Porta Romana 14 Slim Straight Oval Sand Matka 731, £202.10 each
A little luxury
For the two sofas, she found a woven Sanderson print in two tones of brown that is washable; for the armchair, a plum chenille from Jane Churchill, then linked the seating colours with scatter cushions in a cosy redcurrant check. To the light oak floor, she added a two-tone brown patterned woven rug from Tim Page Carpets. “It’s a practical colour and also defines the room.”
For a touch of luxury, she covered the padded seating on the fire surround with tobacco brown faux suede by Kirkby Design at Romo. “Fabulous, but it’s only £30 a metre, and we only needed one metre.” Bordewich also added a boxed ottoman, to fill with rainy-day games, that could double as seating or coffee table, and covered it with a striking ikat print in berry and taupe from Harlequin. “One small piece with a terrific pattern is enough to make a statement.”
The window seats were covered in a hard-wearing linen mix from Romo, in shades of brown. “You need some plain in a scheme or it gets competitive. There has to be something to anchor it all.”
According to Bordewich, there needs to be one terrific investment piece. “I bought in a pair of wall lights with wow factor: berry-coloured silk shades that pull the scheme together. In a rental, they can’t get ruined, but the other advantage is that with these, you need no paintings on the wall — so that’s more money saved.”
A Charlie Bordewich consultation is free for the first hour, £75 an hour thereafter. To book, call 020 7351 5842.
Charlie Bordewich’s words of wisdom
* Choose fabric first, then paint. It is much harder to find a fabric to match a paint than the other way around.
* If you’re doing up a whole house, don’t try to find colour schemes for every room, all at once. You’ll go crazy. Do one room at a time, in order of importance.
* A beautiful but expensive fabric becomes affordable when you use just a small amount for a blind, cushion or seat cover.
* For colour phobics, introduce it gently into scatter cushions or a lampshade that aren’t costly to replace if you change your mind.
Photographs: Graham Jepson