How to make your background interiors look good on video conferencing calls


We are all becoming small-screen stars thanks to video conferencing websites that mean loved ones and work colleagues can still see each other during lockdown. 

While dressing to impress for a video call seems to be all the rage, it’s also giving us the chance to peek into other people’s homes. Which means that getting your walls primed for the camera suddenly has become a worthy project. 

You may take inspiration from your colleagues, or the hordes of broadcasters, politicians and celebrities appearing on TV from their own front rooms. 

Pyjama and pineapple party: Amanda Holden does her Heart FM breakfast show from home

Whether that’s the bold pineapple print walls at Amanda Holden’s Surrey home or Rishi Sunak’s artfully displayed bookcase in his Yorkshire study. Here’s how to make your interiors look good on — and off — screen. 

SHOWCASE YOUR BOOKS 

What does it tell us about Prince Charles that he has a hefty Dick Francis novel close at hand? Or that fitness guru Joe Wicks has beautiful shelves with no books on them? 

Such has been the popularity of using bookcases as backgrounds on conference calls, the hashtag #showusyourshelves has been trending on Twitter. When choosing which books to showcase, make sure they give the impression of a curious yet sensitive reader; someone who is as likely to dabble in the latest Sally Rooney novel as they are to dissect Ulysses. 

As well as selecting the titles you wish others to notice, the books need to be well displayed. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was widely mocked when he posed next to a carefully chosen book collection featuring biographies of Richard Nixon and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a tome on economics. He appeared on BBC News with the books placed on either side of his head on a windowsill which would have made it impossible to open the shutters. 

Emma Deterding, founder and creative director of interior design firm Kelling Designs (kelling designs.com), suggests piling and stacking books horizontally and vertically on various levels of a bookcase ‘­leaving spaces for decorative ornaments such as vases, bowls and personal mementos. 

‘The key is to keep the shelving looking clean and minimalist, while creating a backdrop that adds interest,’ says Deterding. Add nature-inspired texture and greenery to your shelves with small potted plants. 

‘Greenery will instil a feeling of wellness,’ says Emily Dunstan, home buyer at Heal’s. 

‘Clear planters, such as Canopy glassware by LSA International are a great way to showcase the full beauty of plants from root to tip (from £20, heals.com).’ 

You can also try the contemporary Build Your Own Modular Wall Storage, £2,520, by The Dormy House, thedormyhouse.com. 

WORLDLY WALLPAPER 

Wallpaper prints are a surefire talking point. There are exquisite prints from design houses that will liven up your video calls. Andrew Martin recently launched the Scholar collection (andrewmartin.co.uk), which features ancient city scenes from around the world — a brilliant option for a feature wall. 

Andrew Dunning, design director of London Contemporary (londoncontemporary.com), says: ‘Timorous Beasties do wallpaper with a modern take on a toile design depicting scenes in London, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Perfect backdrop: Build Your Own Modular Wall Storage, £2,520, from The Dormy House

Perfect backdrop: Build Your Own Modular Wall Storage, £2,520, from The Dormy House

‘There is no need to go full on Union Jack, but again this backdrop could be a talking point with colleagues from other countries.’ 

It’s also possible to use your own choice of pattern or photograph for your walls using digital imagery — the 21st century’s answer to murals. Many internet companies will allow you to order a DIY design, such as photowall.co.uk.

CHIC SHADES 

If a full mural scene is too rich for your tastes, try a lick of paint in a new shade. Designers Guild has launched 28 new paints in earth tones, designed to create a naturally therapeutic atmosphere (designersguild.com). 

There are neutral stone and quartz colours through to more dramatic ochre and terracotta with rich cosseting teal, twilight blue and greens. Choosing paint without seeing it on your own walls can be tricky. 

But now, thanks to the Dulux Visualizer app, you canphotograph your room and change the wall colour until you find your favourite shade. ‘You don’t need to repaint a whole room to give it a refresh,’ says Joanne Thornhill, interiors stylist and writer. 

‘Try bringing some cheering colour to just one feature wall. ‘If you’re on a budget, you could even seek out half-used tins of emulsion in the garage or loft.’

CHEAT SHEET 

For those who don’t relish the thought of labour-intensive wallpapering or painting — or are renting their home — try sheets of removable self-adhesive wallpaper or murals. 

‘Having been popular in the U.S., more brands here are starting to offer on-trend designs such as Wayfair, Etsy and Surface View,’ says Thornhill. 

Surface View reports best sellers are Chinoiserie prints from the V&A collection and large floral prints from its National Gallery collection (from £75 sq m, surfaceview.co.uk). 

WHAT YOUR HOME REALLY NEEDS… AN ANGLEPOISE LAMP 

Illuminating: The highlights in the Anglepoise's history include its use in bomber aircraft during World War II

Illuminating: The highlights in the Anglepoise’s history include its use in bomber aircraft during World War II

The Anglepoise, that elegant piece of British design by George Carwardine, was launched in 1932 as a ‘task light’. 

Its flexible structure allowed it to be angled and adjusted so any work could be perfectly illuminated. 

The highlights in the Anglepoise’s history include its use in bomber aircraft during World War II; its appearance in Pixar movie opening credits and its latest role as a great way to improve your image in a Zoom video call hang-out. Position the lamp some way behind your laptop so that you are evenly hit, with no harsh shadows, for the most flattering close-up. 

But that’s not the only reason why your locked-down home needs such a lamp. Better light will also aid any task, from the writing of a report for your boss to the completion of a jigsaw or knitting pattern. 

The original Anglepoise lamp (which comes with a lifetime guarantee) is available in several sizes from the Mini-Mini (£79.20, pictured in Berry Red) to the giant outdoor version (£2,640, anglepoise.com). 

Its imitators come in many versions, including the retro desk lamp (£12.79) at The Range (therange.co.uk) and the Carlton (£19) and Watson (£59) from Dunelm (dunelm.com).

If you really don’t think you have a space suitable for a backdrop to your calls, or you’re having a particularly messy day, why not add one of Zoom’s — a video conference app — virtual backgrounds? It allows users to display an image, such as a beach or office scene, as their background during meetings.

ART MATTERS 

You might consider going to town on eye-catching artwork to hang casually on your walls. 

‘Art can be humorous, colourful or dramatic,’ says Lorraine Aaron, founder of interiors firm Curious Egg, (curiousegg.com).

‘It’s a really effective way to add personality to your home while making sure the backdrop for your video calls is as stylish as you are.’ 

Wall art has been a popular purchase over the past few weeks as people adorn their homes in lockdown. 

‘There’s a clear appetite for affordable, impactful and easy ways to quickly update wall space with optimistic colour,’ says Abi Thurgood, a buyer at Habitat. Frames are also in demand for prints — or photos. 

Try the lightweight acrylic Bangkok frame collection which uses magnets to hold artwork in place (from £12, habitat.co.uk). 

Once you’ve created the perfect set, all that’s left is to find the best camera angle to broadcast your efforts in the most flattering light. Then bask in your own glory.

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