HOW TO DESIGN IN MODERATION

A friend of mine was regaling me with her rigorous new diet and exercise regimen, which made me sit back in disbelief.

Listening to her, I was reminded of my own philosophy of moderation without going to extremes.

It occurred to me that this same ‘give and take’ philosophy –with everything in moderation – can be applied to home design, as well, whether you’re in the midst of a full-scale renovation, or simply upgrading your furnishings.

Here are a few helpful hints for approaching your design project in moderation, and letting things fall where they may:

 

It’s a Game of Give & Take

I think this is a far gentler approach than pushing yourself to extremes.

I’d much rather see you slow down and take the time to enjoy the process, especially if you’ve reached the point of utter frustration.

As long as your decisions don’t lead to a point of exhaustion, you’re fine.

And while it’s perfectly OK to do some of the work yourself, I also think that it’s fine to ask for professional help and guidance along the way, should you need it.

Moderation is Key.

 

There Are No Hard & Fast Rules

The dietary equivalent of following rules means rigorously counting carbs & calories.

It’s a rigid, ‘all or nothing’ approach.

While there are definitely some general guidelines that interior designers routinely follow, we just as frequently might find ourselves breaking the rules and learning to relax a bit.

Remind yourself that things don’t have to be perfect.

Interior design is such a creative process, that it’s more important to simply leave room for that process to unfold as it may, and see where it takes you.

 

Be Prepared To Splurge

That’s right, you heard me correctly!

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DESIGNING NOT SO BIG

“…of course, bigness isn’t the solution. It’s not quantity of space we need. It’s quality.” Sarah Susanka, architect & author of ‘The Not So Big House’

For those of you not familiar with Sarah Susanka and her inspirational series of books about “The Not So Big House” the above quote neatly sums up what it’s all about.                                           

According to Susanka, a Not So Big House is one that is “about you, and what makes you feel at home. Its scale isn’t its most important characteristic.”

For some, that might be a radical approach.

And yet, it makes perfect sense!

By placing a greater emphasis on the quality of your living space, versus the quantity of square footage  – not to mention all your stuff – the focus automatically shifts.

Suddenly, you are creating a home that truly speaks about you. Again, to borrow from Susanka, “what makes it better than other houses, is that it allows you to feel comfortable.”

Cause here’s the thing:

More space doesn’t necessarily mean more comfort.

In fact, the more overwhelming a room is in size, the less inviting it might be, which means the less likelihood the room will even be used.

Why?

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SEEING THE LIGHT

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

Steve Jobs, Apple CEO

 

Did you know that Mood Lighting is now available on airplanes?   

I learned this just recently, while reading up on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner under production for All Nippon Airways.

Wait a minute, you might be thinking.

Now you’re talking airplanes?

Does that have anything to do with Interior Design?

Well, yes, it does. So-called industrially designed objects permeate our lives and our homes but we often don’t give them much thought.

These everyday items can be as humble and practical as a toothbrush, or as high-tech and complex as a computer  –  or an airplane.

What struck me about this article was the quality of design touches being installed on this particular plane.

Mood lighting was one. Improved comfort was another – something we don’t often associate these days with air travel.

When I read about the entrance atrium with a 10-foot high ceiling that lends an air of space and light, not to mention plenty of head room – I was really impressed.

This didn’t sound like an airplane anymore. It was the sort of thoughtful detail we’d expect to find in our homes, yet when you think about it, an airplane is essentially a microcosm of the homes we are used to.

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PSYCHOLOGY + DESIGN – A WINNING COMBINATION!

I’m sure you’ve see the image of a psychiatrist’s couch.                        

The study of Design Psychology is, according to Dr. Toby Israel, an nationally known expert in this field, a little like “making buildings  lie down on a couch and telling her their problems.”

Of course, that’s a bit difficult to do. However, as individuals, we have the ability to speak for our homes and reveal whatever secrets are hidden there.

As it happened, I shared with you last week my own experience of personalizing a ‘home away from home’ while on vacation. What I didn’t realize at the time, is that I had touched on the relatively unknown concept of Design Psychology –those unconscious forces that essentially drive each and every design choice we make.

Not only in how we furnish our homes, but also what kind of home we are drawn to in the first place.

It’s that feeling you get when you first step inside an unfamiliar space and think “This is home!”

In fact, I’d venture to guess that anyone who has ever searched for a new house or apartment has had this experience. And for every potential dwelling that you walked away from – you did so for a reason.

At the time, you probably explained that vague feeling as ‘something didn’t feel right’

What we fail to realize, is that every time we find ourselves in such a situation it is usually something from our past that is speaking to us – something that says “No, this won’t do. Keep looking.”

What do I mean by this, exactly?

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TAKING A GAMBLE

Does your home speak to you?                                       

Does it have a story to tell?

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of re-visiting the Gamble House, a turn-of-the-last century Craftsman style home in Pasadena, California.

This 100 year old gem of a house was designed by the architectural geniuses Greene & Greene.

I have to admit, I admired this home just as much the second time around, both for its turn-of-the-century simplicity and its incredible attention to detail.

I use the word ‘incredible’ – yet, this doesn’t adequately describe what the house has to offer.

Astounding is more like it.

The effect of these rooms bathed in a golden light, is almost magical. It literally takes your breath away.

From the moment one first steps into the darkened entry, you realize you are in for a treat as your eyes gradually become accustomed to the light.

You notice first, the lovely image of an oak tree etched into the leaded glass panes of the front door, its limbs stretching far and wide into the transom and side light windows.

You notice it in the smoothly rounded edges of the polished Burmese teak, framing the grand central stair.

You notice it, too, in the delicate silhouette of a lantern in the shape of a crane, a bird that – in Japan – represents longevity.

You notice the repetition of certain motifs – trailing vines and the ever-present Chinese ‘cloud-lift’ – everywhere you look.

It’s present in the leaded glass light fixtures, the carved mantle and friezes, in the stair rail and even the carved inlays on a bed frame.

Good design relies on repetition.             

Designers and architects alike know this, and rely heavily on such simple tools to create an innate rhythm of beauty and celebration throughout a clients’ home.

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THE PRICE OF LAMINATE

As you probably know by now, I recently upgraded my home office.  

As you may also know, if you follow this blog regularly, I’m a big advocate for protecting the environment and the health of my clients.

My motto is “Healthy Home, Healthy Body, Healthy Mind.”

That means low-VOC paints, eco-friendly fabrics, FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) woods, and water-based finishes – in other words, zero toxins wherever possible.

This remodel was no exception.

For this very reason, I took the extra step of ordering ‘green’ cabinetry – manufactured to my specifications, to ensure a non-toxic environment.

Why?

Standard cabinets are made from formaldehyde-containing particle board that typically will off-gas formaldehyde for up to five years.

Needless to say, this can contribute to significant health problems.

(In today’s market, there are a wide variety of sustainable options for cabinetry manufactured with water-based glues and adhesives, and particleboard that does not contain formaldehyde).

Which brings me to the countertop.

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WHAT IS YOUR DESIGN STYLE?

“How you spend your days is how you live your Life.”  Annie Dillard

I read a passage the other day, that describes the many things (translate that to ‘stuff’) we use to decorate our homes.

It went on to explain how these things, when properly combined, are exactly what create the feelings of home we all yearn for – comfort, love and security.

Some of us are sophisticated in our approach, others more laid back or minimalist.

Yet one thing is certain – designing our homes gives us permission to tap into our creativity – and our personal design style.

Maybe you’re wondering “What does that even mean?”

When it comes to furnishing your home, your ‘Design Style’ refers to your overall tastes in design.

In fact, your ‘design style’ is probably not all that different from your ‘fashion sense’, or how your tastes run, in general.

It’s really that straight-forward.

Try this for yourself. Simply explore your own closet and see what jumps out at you. Most likely you will gravitate toward your favorite color accents and the things you most like to wear.

Translate this to your furnishings and see what you get. Are you traditional or modern? Perhaps you prefer shabby chic?

Do you typically dress in layers?

Those same ‘layers’ often apply to our homes, as we play with throw pillows and accessories, switching things out as our moods or the seasons, suggest.

Compare this to the accessories you wear, and switch out on a daily basis – a belt, or scarf, or even jewelry – it’s essentially the same thing.

With greater awareness of your surroundings, and your personal preferences, you will see that there is a strong connection between your house, and what your life is like.

Understanding your tastes, and your design style, adds meaning to the many things we use to furnish our homes.

The things that, when properly combined, are exactly what create the feelings of home we all yearn for.

THE POWER OF SURPRISE

I like design that is multifunctional. If it is multifunctional and clever that’s even better. 

For Christmas this year, I gave my son a very unusual mug.

Black in color, it has the word OFF written on the outside. Pour hot tea or coffee into it, and the mug suddenly turns white, and the word OFF changes to ON. How cool is that?

For me, this mug represents everything I love about interior design. It’s innovative, and clever. It’s unusual. It’s well-designed, and well-made. Plus, there’s definitely more to it than what  first meets the eye!

One of my favorite design projects required that a support column in the center of a room somehow be ‘disguised’. The result was a stunning room divider that hid a pop-up television on the living room side, and a dining room buffet and storage on the other.

This is what I refer to as the Surprise Element – those subtle design details that aren’t immediately obvious but are just waiting to be discovered!

Since every project comes with it’s own set of challenges, those challenges can inspire some rather amazing solutions. The idea is to approach a project with an open mind, then pull out all the stops on your creativity. You can reign things in later, if necessary.

Lastly, when considering the power of Surprise, keep in mind that interior design can be whimsical, as well as creative. It does not have to be serious.  It can be innovative, pleasing to look at, plus serve multiple functions. If it puts a smile on your face that’s even better!

We are talking about your home, after all. It should make your smile.

innovative

GIFTS OF THE SEASON – CONTINUED

ENTRY

Last week, I wrote about the giving of gifts, and my fascination with the Japanese scroll, which reveals itself just like a gift when removed from the custom box it has been stored in.

A home can reveal itself in very much the same way. If you think about it, just the act of entering someone’s home can feel like a ceremony.

As you move from room to room the house will continue to reveal itself. There could be a pleasant surprise around any corner, maybe even the kind that takes your breath away.

“Oh, what a beautiful room!” we’ve all been known to say at one time or another.

This is one reason why both designers and architects will typically hold back with their design. We don’t want to overpower your senses all at once.

We want you to take things in a little bit at a time, and take a moment to savor the design before revealing the next surprise.

So take a moment to to ask yourself  – what is the first impression visitors have when they enter your home?

Let’s begin with the entry.

The main entrance to your abode should always say something about the person who lives there, i.e. YOU, so the question is – what do you want your entry to say about you?

You can emphasize either your decorating style, or your personal interests, thus setting the tone for the rest of your home.

Do you collect antiques? Perhaps an antique chest, or table, would be the perfect accent for the entry. Are you passionate about Asian art and design? Then maybe that antique chest should be a blend of East meets West.

Maybe your lifestyle is more casual, in which case you might prefer a simple bench where visitors could rest their belongings.

There is nothing right or wrong here. It’s simply a matter of letting your home speak for you.

And don’t stop with the entry. In every room of your house, you have probably decorated according to your families’ tastes and budget.

Think about what you can add to any of these rooms to freshen the look for the New Year. Will it be a set of decorative throw pillows in a stunning color? New window treatments? A sleek new sofa for the family room?

Think about that awesome Brochure I recommended in my recent post Dream Big for the Holidays.

Think to yourself:   what will people experience when they enter my home. How will it unfold?

What will be the subtle ‘surprise’?

JAPANESE 'WASHI' TAPE

I’m raving about my latest find for wrapping gifts, elevating the task at hand to a whole new level.   WashiTape I’m talking about Japanese masking tape, made from washi paper, which is a great alternative to   traditional ribbon and bows.

Well, OK, you can still add a bow if you want.

So what is this stuff I’m recommending? It’s tape, pure and simple, sticky on one side. All you  do is wrap it around the gift, getting as  creative as you like.

This tape is very cool, and very fun, limited only by your imagination. Even better, if you don’t like your creation, you can remove the tape and try something else!

I experimented with this myself. After wrapping a gift with bright yellow and red tape, I decided it looked a bit garish, considering my holiday decor of silver and gold. So I removed the tape in one fell swoop, and replaced it with something a bit more sedate.

I found the masking tape at Design Within Reach so if you’re lucky enough to have a showroom near you, you might be able to snag some in time for the holidays. If not, rest assured that this gift wrap idea can be used any time of year – you are in no way limited by the holiday season!

Enjoy your new-found creativity!