Look for Less: How to Get a Designer Look in an Average House
Jul 21, 2010
You know that person… the one who hits thrift stores once a week and seems to always find the good stuff? And they have a fabulous house full of stuff you'd swear came from a high-end antiques store or a slick catalog, but they say it all came together naturally, on a dime? This photo could well have been taken at the home of such a lucky person. But is it luck or skill? A bit of both, but usually more of the latter. Understanding some basic design principles is the key.
Let's use this room as an example and dissect it. It looks pretty "designery," right? It's the kind of place you'd take pause to notice.
Photo: Jessica Linn for Canadian House & Home
Analyze it and you'll see that the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.
Architecture: This room does have a fireplace. But outside of that it's pretty architecturally average, and it's small. So it doesn't have any advantages in that department.
Color: Again, nothing shockingly special or "designer" about the color scheme. Basic cool neutrals with a little grey, gold, white and plum.
Flooring. Points for nice, neutral hardwood. But hardwood flooring is no longer a luxury: With popularity comes lower prices.
Furniture and accessories. Look at each piece. A lot of it is pretty standard. I see things that could have come from a discount furniture store, Ikea, Grandma's house, the thrift shop.
So how did these normal pieces come together to make a room that has that finished feeling? Some basic design principles are at work here.
Balance. The room looks grounded in this arrangement. One side is not visually heavier than the other. Using pairs of items can help achieve this. One pair of chairs sit together, another apart but symmetrically arranged around the centerpiece, which is the coffee table. The lamps are not identical, but their shades are.
Proportion. Pieces are scaled appropriately for the room size.
Direction. The fireplace is the focal point, and the eye is led to it by its color and proportion. The furniture arrangement hinges on creating visual direction toward the fireplace. Even the mantel arrangement has a leading line toward its high point.
Contrast. Monochromatic schemes can be beautiful but take a skilled hand to execute them correctly. It's safer to choose dominant tones and then throw in some contrast. Here, the dark colors of the fireplace are repeated in the narrow stripes on the armchairs, and black drapery hardware and picture frames add a little "eyeliner" to the room.
Unity. Look at each color and see how it's sprinkled pretty evenly throughout the space. White on the drapes, tables, armchairs. Gold in the sofa, rug, baskets, and books. Plum on the wooden chairs, artwork, and sofa pillows.
Surprise. All it takes is a piece or two that are full of personality and style to put your stamp on a room. Here, the Chinese garden stool makes a statement and personal accessories lend warmth.
How to Spend a Lot of Money on a Room that still doesn't work
To contrast, I'm sure you've seen rooms like this one, decked out with mouldings and fancy windows, filled with expensive designer furniture and still lacking a feeling of cohesion and warmth. Which room would you rather relax in?
The Design Don't: What's wrong with this room? Pretty much everything. It's imbalanced, way out of proportion (furniture and fixtures too small), has no direction toward the natural focal point (fireplace), lacks contrast, and is devoid of surprise and personality.
Need help seeing your own old stuff in a new light? I have services both local and online to help homeowners anywhere find a new love for their old stuff. Online, try my Mini Makeover eDecor Plan for $95. In the Traverse City area, I'll visit your house and we'll work together for 2-3 hours to rearrange, repurpose, and reinvent a room during an Interior Redesign Session. Book an appointment in July and get $50 off! More details here. Questions? Think your room is beyond all help, short of a sledgehammer? Just email me. (Hint: It's not!) —Diane
TAGS: interior redesign room redesign use what you have decorating designer room on a budget dime thrift store discount furniture finds accessories basic design principles
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