Monday, August 6, 2007

Insider Secrets: Interior Designers Tricks of the Trade

Summer 2007 VOX magazine article

It seems that almost everyone loves good “Before” and “After” pictures of someone’s home. It’s satisfying to see the transformation from an atrocious unfeeling space (and let’s face it in the makeover world they start with the worst of the worst) into a gorgeous, warm, inviting room that you could see yourself living in and loving. I’ve learned along the way that there are a few tried and true secret tricks that Interior Designers use when designing a space to overcome a rooms shortcomings or simply to breathe some new life into a tired dwelling. Some of these ideas are based on rules discovered by trial and error and what simply works well in a given space. Some of these tips are just based on confidence to trust your instincts and surround yourself with colors, furniture and objects that you love. The number one rule is that there are no rules, what one person adores the next may hate, (I guess that’s why they make chocolate and vanilla) but there are a few things you can glean from the pros to help you to create your own perfect look.

– Think Contrast rather than “Matchy-Matchy” – Designers combine contrasting colors in a room where most other people say “will that go with everything else in the room” or “is it going to match?”. Sometimes when everything “matches” or is in the same color tone the room can look a little blah but if you bring in a hit of a lighter tone or a darker tone it can add depth and dimension to a space, as well as a little personality!
– Hang it Up (High!) – You’re sure to see in some of the most beautifully designed homes tall drapery panels hanging from the ceiling to the floor, and whether it’s a cotton chintz, slubby silk or light linen it always looks elegant. Designers know to hang drapes and blinds up where the ceiling meets the wall; by hanging them up high it draws your eye upward making the ceiling seem higher and the room feel larger. This makes a room feel very comfortable and look super luxurious. Also, use a longer drapery rod so the drapes stack on the wall on either side of the window rather than stack inside the window frame. This achieves a few things; it creates the perception of larger windows (because you think there’s more window behind the drapes) and they also don’t block valuable natural light.
– Don’t Buy Furniture in “Sets” – Designers never buy furniture in sets, it can look stiff and uninteresting…sort of like a furniture showroom. Don’t be afraid to mix it up, old pieces with new pieces, modern furniture with antiques. People say “well I don’t know how to mix it all so it looks right” I tell them that there are no rules, if they are pieces that they love and cherish it will all work together to create their own signature style. It’s unusual in this day and age that we furnish our own spaces with absolutely everything brand new, we’re bound to have carry-overs from a previous space or family heirlooms.
If you’re mixing modern with vintage just be sure that your most used pieces are the newer ones; an upholstered sofa and chairs and then mix in side tables and smaller occasional furniture to finish off your eclectic look. – for this home in Sagaponack the homeowner had some treasured pieces like a chest and a table from Morocco. We mixed in other items such as a suede-tufted ottoman, a floral print sofa and some side chairs in a bold pattern. The client loves orange so we added some orange suede ottomans as well as orange suede contrast welt on the side chairs. There are two more traditional styled side tables but the look comes together.

- Mix Textures and Surfaces for a High Style Look – Combine several different textures such as silk, suede, wool, linen, chenille and cotton to add visual interest to your space. If all the furniture in your space is one texture it can lack dimension and feel cold. Mix surfaces on furniture as well like wood, iron, glass, mirror, rattan and steel. This again, will help create a look all your own and less “cookie cutter”.
Don’t get too focused on any one piece and loose sight of the big picture, all items play a part in creating your overall design scheme. Remember to have some fun with your space!– for this bedroom in Sagponack, we had the walls covered in a suede, the draperies and bedding were silk, the chair and ottoman were linen, and the headboard was a heavy woven tapestry fabric, the chest of drawers was a smooth, sculpted burlwood which is a start contrast to the rustic unfinished barn beams on the ceiling. – for this home in Southampton, I wanted a serene monochromatic look but I livened it up with texture, by using twisted seagrass furniture, some woven reeded pieces as well as woven wood pieces which added depth and dimension. I also used lots of outdoor fabrics on the indoor furniture, this worked well for the client who has a houseful of kids coming from the pool, beach and tennis courts. It needed to be beautiful but also functional.
– Think in terms of 3’s – An important part of what an interior designer does to create an overall look is the “styling” aspect of the space. This is taking accessories, simple or ornate, and artfully arrange them on shelving, mantles tabletops to give a “homey” lived in look.
This final stage is what takes a space from ordinary to extraordinary!

 The trick to arranging items like a pro is to think in terms of 3’s – 2 vases on a shelf are too little, 4 vases are too many but 3 vases are just right! Also, mixing 3 items in varying heights balances the scale and looks very chic. Items range from everything from pillar candles, to vases to books; these are things that make your house look like a home. Just don’t go overboard because you don’t want it to look cluttered, a little styling will go a long way!