Tuesday, January 25, 2011

7 Basic Ways to Achieve a "Designer" Looking Room

Over the years I have compiled a list of the most frequently addressed problems when friends, family, and clients ask for my help with their spaces. The following is a list of seven basic "design 101" principles that will have your space looking like a designer was there in no time.

1. Pull Your Furniture Away From The Walls

This is probably one of the biggest things I see when people ask what they can do to make a space look better. It's the first thing I say when I meet them, and often on the first consultation for a project. Too many times I walk into a space and the furniture is pushed all up against the walls.....and some people even have huge rooms! How are you supposed to have a conversation with someone sitting all the way across the room? Pull out your furniture and create a seating group.

2. Add Pattern

Another thing I often see is a sea of solids. Solid sofa, solid chair, solid pillows, solid rug, solid...solid...solid. That's not to say all solids won't work, but just adding one pattern would add some interest to a room. If you're brave why not add three or four. The key to mixing them flawlessly is to coordinate with color and then do different scales and pattern types (That's a whole post in itself). Also take into account that texture can read as a light pattern and can add some interest as well.

3. Layer Your Lighting

Nothing kills me more than to walk into someones living room, see no lamps, and the overhead "boob" fixture is the only light on in the place. This is soooo harsh and makes everyone look dead! Cozy up your space with some layered lighting. I'm not saying you can't have a ceiling fixture (but not the "boob") but also have lamps and other forms of accent lighting. A nice pendant to replace the surface mount fixture, maybe some sconces if there is a good place for them, and then lamps. There is no rule here for the amount but I like to say at least three sources of light in a room (for example: In our living room we have one end table lamp, sconces at the fireplace, and a floor lamp that arcs over the sofa). We have a small living room so three sources works for us, but you may need more depending on the size of the room. And yes, even your dining room can have more than just the pendant over the table.

4. Maximize Seating Options

Ever look at a magazine photo of a well done room and notice all the different seating options? Okay, just me? Well take a look again. Designers love to maximize seating options in rooms, especially if it's going to be used a lot.  Maybe you have a small living room where you have a sofa and two matching chairs. Why not add a third chair in a different style, or a bench, or some stools for pull up seating. Playing around with your floorplan is always a good idea to see if you can get in some extra seating (not cramming it in though!). Also, if you happen to have a larger room it's best to add multiple seating groups (this helps with #1 as well).

5. Create A Focal Point

Determining the focal point of a room is usually the first step you do when designing a space. A focal point is the first thing the eye gravitates towards in a space. It's usually a general rule that the largest thing should be a focal point. Like the sofa or fireplace in the living room, the bed in a bedroom, and the dining table or large credenza in the dining room. Some rooms do pose challenges when architectural features are involved such as fireplaces, great windows, or full wall built ins. In this case you can focus on those major architectural features, but if none are present it's usually safe to assume the largest main piece of furniture will be the focal point. After you determine what the focal point is...play that item up. A statement piece of art over the sofa, a knockout pendant over the dining table, amazing drapery on the wall of windows. Whatever the focal point is, do something special to make it stand out.

6. Scale is King

When you work with a designer they always take into account the scale of the room and the pieces in that room. If your room is small and you have the biggest sofa in the world it can take over the space and make it appear smaller. The same goes for a lot of small furniture in a large room....it can make the room appear cluttered and smaller. The best way to remedy this is to draw up a floor plan. See what fits and what you have more room for. Work so the furniture takes up space in the room but doesn't take over. Now, there are always ways to work with juxtaposition of scale and this can also be very successful in creating an interesting room, but for purposes of design basics this can be tricky to explain.

7. Mix It Up

It's pretty rare to have a designer use a matching set of anything these days. Most people who work with designers are looking for a cozy collected look because that is what they can't figure out for themselves. Days of the matching living room suite and bedroom sets are over. Mix and match your furniture pieces and don't be afraid to mix finishes and wood tones as well. Mix styles and genres.....it's okay to mix that modern console with a traditional sofa. Just find a way to bridge the two and you are set. If you have a gut feeling something is off, then it probably is. No more "buying the room"! It's time to seek out the pieces you love....even if it's one at a time.


Okay, so now I guess you don't need me. Maybe you still do? I hope this list has helped in getting someone started on a space they love. Not everyone has the luxury of working with an Interior Designer and I think explaining some information is not a bad thing. I hope this list at least gets you thinking about ways to refresh your space if that's what you have been thinking about and can't use a designer. I am also always here if anyone has any questions. I would be happy to help with small questions and opinions or "just a second eye". After that, I'm afraid I'll have to charge you....hahaha. No really, if there are any questions on the above list please leave a comment or email me (address to the left). I would be more than happy to answer them.

Images: House Beautiful, Atlanta Homes Magazine, Unknown*, Unknown*, Elle Decor, Palmer Weiss, Jennifer Dyer, Unknown*, Bunny Williams, Domino, Miles Redd, Unknown*, House and Home, Elle Decor, Unknown*, Albert Hadley
* If you know any of the sources of the above listed unknown images please let me know. I would like to give credit where credit is due. Thanks.*
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