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House Call

Beth Dadswell Swears By Big Furniture in Small Spaces—Here’s Why

Words by Morgan Goldberg
a living room filled with furniture and a fire place

Photography courtesy of Imperfect Interiors

Beth Dadswell studied fashion and worked as a stylist for 15 years before pivoting to interior design.

The novelty of traveling from her home in London to Milan, Paris, and New York for runway shows had worn off when she gave birth to her son. And since she’d enjoyed renovating properties on the side with her partner, she decided to make the career switch gradually. She took on more and more interior design projects until that became her sole focus.

“Learning on the job has been way more useful than any formal education,” explains Beth, who named her studio Imperfect Interiors to reflect her not-overly-designed aesthetic. “Figuring out how to deal with tradesmen, how plumbing works, and how to work out a lighting plan on your feet is actually better training.”

This path has proven successful for Beth, who was featured on Homes & Gardens’ 2019 “Ones to Watch” list. Her work has also appeared in publications like The Telegraph and The Sunday Times and on long-running home improvement show Grand Designs. Here, she shares the colors she’s loving right now, her signature design move, and more.

a staircase leading to a living room and dining room
a white door with a black and white checkered floor

Photography courtesy of Imperfect Interiors

Photography courtesy of Imperfect Interiors

I’m dying for a client to request

Help with a large period country house, ideally Georgian. I adore the elegance and symmetry of that era, particularly the Queen Anne period. It's all about the proportions and the little details: those super tall, skinny windows with the beautiful glazing and grand staircases with curved handrails that run all the way to the top of the house. I'm a bit of an architectural geek at heart.

The colors I’m loving right now

Earthy tones of terracotta, dirty pink, olive green, and cream. Over here in the U.K., there's been a lot of 50 shades of gray, which thankfully is tapering out now. Once you've done the same thing a few times you just start searching for something that looks and feels a bit different. And those earthy colors feel very soft and warm, which people are definitely drawn to post-COVID. Everyone is ready for something a bit cozier.

a kitchen and dining area with a glass roof

Photography by Chris Snook; Design by Imperfect Interiors

My biggest architectural pet peeve

The lack of consistency in style and finishes—especially windows—when renovating an old building.

My signature design move

Building banquettes into kitchens, which works really well in London houses that tend to be quite narrow and long. It's a really nice place for everyone to convene and it feels cozy to have something behind you when you're dining. It becomes the focal point for the whole family.

a kitchen with a stove top oven next to a dining room table

Photography courtesy of Imperfect Interiors

A design trend that needs to be retired…and one that should make a comeback

I don’t like any finish that pretends to be something that it isn’t, like tiles that are printed to look like wood. Checkerboard flooring, however, is due for a resurgence. It’s quite a fun way to add a bit of interest to floors and it’s practical in kitchens, utilities, and bathrooms.

The one thing that should always be made custom

Curtains and blinds—they never look as good if they are off the shelf. They might cover the window, but they won’t give off that really beautiful, polished finish. They'll never be a hundred percent the right length. You can't control where the curtain pole is. I like to hang curtain poles quite high on the walls to make the windows look taller. You can be really bespoke when you're getting things made. You can choose the finish of the chains and the lining. You get what you pay for.

a bed room with a neatly made bed and a chair

Photography courtesy of Imperfect Interiors

My best small-space trick

Fewer, larger pieces of furniture. If you have lots of little things, it tends to feel really cluttered and you end up tripping over stuff. If you have one really big sofa, a big coffee table, and maybe an armchair, that's going to feel much better and more impactful.

What I always buy vintage

Art, ceramics, styling pieces, and mirrors. You want to have some pieces with some history. You don't want them to be too perfect. They want to be a little bit bashed around. You want to have things from different eras, so it looks like you've collected them along the way or you've inherited them. It just makes a space feel more lived in.

a living room filled with furniture and a fire place
a bathroom with a toilet, sink and mirror

Photography courtesy of Imperfect Interiors

Photography courtesy of Imperfect Interiors

Where I save/where I splurge

If you hunt around, you can find nice linens, and even nice velvets, for less. Vintage fabrics also add a little bit of a third dimension to rooms. You can go on Etsy to find nice and interesting fabrics. You don't have to spend a fortune.

With plumbing fixtures like taps, showerheads, and all those things you touch, you do not want to be changing them in five years time because they're broken or leaking. It's worth spending some money and getting really nice, quality pieces in a nice finish.

The hotel that represents ultimate luxury to me

Heckfield Place in the south of England has that magic and elusive mix of understated luxury, comfort, elegance, and authenticity. It's a stately home in a park—the ultimate country retreat.

a bedroom with a large bed and a fireplace

Photography courtesy of Imperfect Interiors

At home, you’ll most often find me

In my home office working on my clients’ projects. It's in an old Victorian dairy building that we converted. It has a skylight and a huge wall of crittal glass, so I look out onto a courtyard with all the original brickwork. There’s tons of natural light, it's really calm, and all the walls are unpainted plaster. I've got all my samples all around me, so it's a nice place to be. I don't mind being in here working a lot.

What’s next

I am just about to start working on a stunning Arts & Crafts house and several detached Victorian villas in London. We’re working on a tiny, 500-year-old stone cottage in the Cotswolds, as well, which is really different because the ceilings are really short, the windows are really little, and the walls are about 80 centimeters apart. So that's a new challenge. It’s quite fun.

a hallway with a checkered floor and a black and white checkered floor
a woman sitting on top of a couch next to a pillow

Photography courtesy of Imperfect Interiors

Photography by Rachael Smith

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