Monday, September 27, 2010

Layers of Design: Putting A Room Together

I just finished designing a house with two other designers. The homeowner absolutely loves her new place, we had done a great job of capturing her tastes and personality (she prefers a more classic, traditional style in rich, earthy colors) and making it resonate throughout the space. However, what I loved most about the design is the restraint that our design team put into the selection of things that went into each room. In this design, there is plenty of room for the homeowner to put her own stamp on the room, to make it her own. The rooms will have the ability to look like they just simply look great, put-together yet not contrived, and not looking like 'a designer had just been there.'

 Before: Am average, 350 sq. ft. living room with east-facing windows. 

 After: Subdued colors and classic, simple lines on furniture make for a timeless, welcoming appeal.

Interior Design: Jamie Namanny, Martha McGowen & Aura Garcia 
Project: Hernandez Residence -- Furnishing Hope/Habitat for Humanity 

Here's a thought: In my mind, it's much better to live with a blank wall or a table with nothing on it rather than have walls and surfaces overflowing with things that don't have much meaning or significance, or worse, ill-fitting. There is nothing wrong with waiting patiently for that perfect piece, the one that truly resonates with you and just absolutely looks smashingly perfect for that space. There is beauty in tables and shelves filled not with hasty purchases, but with a few or several things carefully selected, received and collected over time.

"So, do you see it all in your head before it turns to this?!" was one of the nicest comments we got. The truth about that is yes and no. You do have to be able to select things that look good together, and envision these elements actually coming together. Yet apart from a general knack, there are principles and techniques that can be used as a guide.

Color will be present in everything that goes into a room. It is also the most personal, subjective and mood-inducing elements in a space. It sets the tone for the room, and is the biggest decorating decision you will make. It is the ground; the connection between what's on the walls and what's in the room. How to select a ground color? A foolproof way to is to paint an overall canvas in a neutral. Neutrals created an enduring, consistent theme that is soothing and very easy to live with. This is like the little black dress, that basic element that can be dressed up or down and accessorized in a million different ways.

Against this neutral backdrop, we can add the layers of things that will go into the room. Start with the largest furniture items. For a living room, a couch is obviously the most important piece. There are many things to consider when selecting a couch, but the most important one in my book is scale. The worst thing you can do is pick a couch that is too big and over scaled for a room. It is easily the biggest piece that goes into a living room, and it surely does not help if it's too big. 'Big' does not just mean length and depth, but over all scale. For example, a small 12 x 12 room cannot dimensionally and visually accommodate an overstuffed, 8-foot sectional! 

The Extras
When the basics are properly covered, you can then add the little things like pillows, lamps and other accessories. Have around things that are significant to you, such as things bought from trips to memorable places. These are the items that you will never get tired of. To these you can then add tidbits of trendy things that can easily and inexpensively changed.