How do you make a blah room beautiful or a fine one fabulous? How do you put the awe in awesome? The following steps and credos will get you there.
First, visualize how you want the space to look, feel and function. Search your mind’s eye to capture this vision. Next, expand your knowledge of the style or genre you’re going for. If you like a Neoclassic style, for instance, learn how it came about and why. In this case, Neoclassicism was born from the rejection of the preceding fussy and asymmetrical Rococo movement, and a return to classic antiquity. These styles developed under the French Kings, Louis XV and Louis XVI and were a reflection of the times.
Maybe you’re focused on ambiance rather than a particular style. Perhaps you’d like a peaceful, spa-like master bedroom suite. Peaceful and spa-like usually require a monochromatic color palette. High contrast and multiple colors overwork the brain and make one’s eyes process too much information. Tone-on-tone, soft colors are more soothing. By the way, as long as your space is monochromatic, you can have as many different patterns as you like.
Maybe your goal is to have an optimally-functioning space. This could be a matter of smart and strategic space planning in a way that will keep you organized. Or, it could be a matter of engaging Aging-in-Place principles.
Once your vision is solid in your mind and you’ve learned what it entails, it’s time to kick your imagination into high gear and start implementing your ideas. While doing so, there are four more ingredients to keep in mind. Ignoring them will derail your vision and your design will go awry. The result is blah and fine instead of beautiful and fabulous. The first two ingredients are focus and cohesion.
Let’s go back to our Neoclassic room, a living room, for example. As you search for furnishings, you’ll come across things that you like such as a Craftsman coffee table, ikat-patterned fabric, kilim rugs, and mid-century floor lamps. You might like them so much that you buy one or two or all of them. Does this mix of furnishings sound cohesive? No. Do they have anything to do with Neoclassicism? No. You’ve just lost your focus. Don’t get off track by adding items that don’t fit your vision.
How would you know that an ikat pattern (Indonesian in origin) dilutes a Neoclassic style? Because you’ve done your knowledge-expanding research. I can hear your protests, “Doesn’t a one-off piece make a space more interesting, more unique, more personal?” Yes, but it’s challenging to do it well, and right now, I’m sticking to the basics.
The last two ingredients in creating awesomeness are restraint and courage. One of my personal design credos is “simplicity with significance.” I refrain from adding too much to a space. The more I add, the less importance any one item has. But there must also be enough to create a story and an impact.
Courage (in light-hearted terms) plays a two-part role. It’s easy to keep adding and adding elements to a space. It takes courage to refrain from doing so, to edit and to declutter. It also takes courage to do something outside your comfort zone. My most satisfied clients are those who took a leap of faith in accepting my most out-of-the-box ideas. Whether it was a dramatic color palette, an over-sized showpiece or a lavish architectural feature, it always became their favorite aspect of the space.
To recap: envision what you want, research how to get it, don’t veer outside the plan, keep it simple and tasteful, add one big “wow,” and it will be awesome!