As a St. Louis interior designer with 25 years of experience, I find that there are specific key elements for interior design that can transform any room. I have worked on century-old traditional homes in University City to expansive newly constructed, contemporary houses in Wildwood and everything in between. While every home has its own share of decorating dilemmas or challenges, these key elements of design are always my starting and finishing points. It doesn’t matter what style I am working in, how spacious the house or even how big or tiny the budget, these key design elements act as my road map for creating a fabulous space. In this post, I will walk you through one of my recent projects, the Town and Country house, as examples of these elements.
1 – Make use of the unexpected.
Many living rooms have built-in bookcases but how many can boast a gold leaf background with towering iron people standing in them? Because the tall people and gold leaf are unexpected they give the room its own uniqueness. If you love the tall people you can buy them at http://www.grandinroad.com/mr-2e-and-mrs-2e-smith-statues/indoor-decor/decorative-accents/sculptures-statues/490178
2 -Lighting is the jewelry for the room.
I have had clients say things like, “Oh, we don’t need to add much to the budget for lighting. We can reuse what we already have.” Lighting is not a place to cut costs when renovating. Just like a statement necklace is used to complete the perfect ensemble, the perfect lighting choice can complete the room. Notice the two lamps flanking the large painting in the photo below. The lighting needed to be exceptional to have any chance of being noticed next to the enormous art piece. They are (exceptional) and they do (get noticed).
3 – Plant your feet firmly on the ground; I mean rug.
An area rug is the glue that unites the furniture in a room – too small and it doesn’t stick together, too big and it oozes out the sides. Here’s another analogy . . . an area rug can act as invisible walls to define a space with a vastly open floor plan. An intimate conversation area is created when the feet of the furniture, either all or, at least, the front legs, are placed firmly on top of the rug. Look back at the two living room photos and see this key element of design and how the rug defines the cozy seating area in this spacious living room. This large space would not feel as inviting without the area rug.
4 – Find the perfect paint color.
This is one of the most difficult decisions for homeowners to make on their own without the help of a professional designer. A designer identifies the undertones in the paint color and takes into consideration the natural light in the space as well as the nightscape and effect of artificial light. There is no such thing as “good enough” when it comes to paint color. This is the backdrop for everything else in your room and is a “make or break” key element for room design. The dusty blue-gray paint on the walls in the hearth room below is the perfect complement to the wood tones, the gray sectional and the orange accents.
5 – Go with the flow.
Each room doesn’t have to be a mirror image of the next room in terms of style and colors. There should be enough continuity between rooms to provide a feeling of cohesiveness and proper flow from room to room. Don’t design with blinders on. Always keep the next room and the big picture in mind. Take another look at the photo showing the lamps and look behind them where you get a peek into the breakfast area. In the living room, blue is a sparingly-used accent color. In the breakfast area, and further into the hearth room, blue is the dominant color on the walls. In the living room, we used bright yellow and gold as accents, which translate into orange in the hearth room. Now look at the kitchen photo below. We painted existing cabinets in contrasting light and dark gray, the granite has splashes of orange in it and the mosaic backsplash has shades of blue, gray and caramel. All three rooms are unique yet tie together beautifully. Check out the gallery with more photos of this house where you can better see the flow at our Living Spaces Portfolio.
6 – The word is “coordinate” not “match”.
Whenever a client uses the word “match” that is my quick reply. There is no need to buy a bedroom or dining room “set” of furniture. The room will be far more interesting and inviting when separate pieces that “coordinate” are chosen. The only items that match in this pictured living room are the two chairs. The couch and chairs are a similar style but came from different manufacturers. The coffee table and round nesting tables both have iron legs but again are from different manufacturers. The console table, lamps and blue ceramic garden stool (used as a side table) are a departure from the more contemporary look of the seating area, but add some earthiness to the room. All of these seemingly unrelated design elements work together in creating this enormously appealing space. Coordinating usually requires a little more thought and effort but the results are well worth it.
7 – Find the WOW factor.
In most rooms there should only be one or two features that make guests say “WOW” as soon as they walk into a room. That would be true in the living room of this house. The bookcase wall is “WOW” worthy as is the wall across the room with the large piece of art. In between is the very tranquil seating area. Sometimes, however, an entire room can be a WOW. Take a look at the office-turned-nursery that we created just off the living room. Almost every piece we used in this space is a WOW piece. No lack of visual stimulation for this lucky little boy! The whimsical ceiling light fixture here can be purchased at http://www.lampsplus.com/products/possini-euro-lilypad-etched-30-inch-wide-ceiling-light-fixture__20756.html.
8 – Pay attention to the details, curate and edit.
There are many little details in a room that you may not realize are there making the room feel well designed. Things like the perfect cording on a pillow or nail head trim on a chair fall into this category. There are other details that stand out and take a room from nice to one-of-a-kind. The towering figures in the bookshelves are a good example of this.
A seasoned designer goes through one extra step at the end of every project, though. All along I am “curating” by selecting the wonderful pieces to reside in the room. The final step is editing. Maybe there are too many accessories and removing a few will make the room feel cleaner. Maybe one less pillow, maybe that accessory should be on the other side of the room, maybe my perfectionism is showing here. But that is why you hire me in the first place, isn’t it? These homeowners were thrilled with the perfect spaces created for their Town and Country home using my key elements of interior design.
I know I have succeeded in creating a fabulous space when I take a look at the completed room and my eyes soften, my shoulders relax and a smile comes to my face. All the atoms in all the pieces are resonating in harmony and the room is at peace. The key elements of interior design work every time.