Thursday, May 22, 2008

Leslie's 13 Design Ideas, Rules/ Guidelines and Mistakes

Today has been a weird day for me. I have been sitting at my desk today quietly working on a project, listening to alternative rock off of Yahoo Music (a genre I haven't really listened to in some time). I have been focused on my work and yet simultaneously working through issues, thinking about life, writing blogs in my head (that hopefully will soon get written and posted), wishing I had an alter ego, and reminiscing about my past - the good the bad and the ugly. I feel different. I feel like something clicked in my head or my heart today that hasn't in a long time. I feel like I am coming out of a weird funk I have been in for way too long. Make sense? Anywhoo- on an entirely different topic: I thought that today my thirteen would be something possibly helpful or informative - a sharing of my professional expertise (or lets just call it my opinion).

13 Design Ideas, Rules/ Guidelines and Mistakes

1. The first mistake you can make when you are designing is to accept the idea that you only have one solution to the space. Such as the couches must go here and this must go there for it to work at all. Sometimes you have to step back and look at the entire room as a blank canvas and push stuff around until it makes sense. As furniture is heavy - I always like to make a quick sketch of the room on some graph paper and then make little cutouts the size of the furniture and start there for a furniture arrangement. Mark your windows and doorways so you have a clear idea of the usable space (i.e. space you have for the furniture and the required space you need to maneuver around the room) and then play around with it till you like it.

2. Never be afraid of color. Color is a very personal thing - not everyone needs to love the color of your rooms or accessories but you most certainly do! I love red - so you will find lots of furnishing in my house to use those colors because they say home and comfort to me. Other times it is not the actual color that people are afraid of but more the quantity or commitment to a color. The best guideline I can give you for color is to start small and add color in and don't be afraid to use 2, 3 or even 4 colors in your scheme. Just choose a dominant (this could be your couch color for example in a living room), then choose one or two sub-dominant colors (these could be an accent wall or even a chair or rug color) and then choose an accent color that you use a smaller amount of. My personal advise when beginning to play with color is to choose a neutral base furnishing and add your color in through paint on the walls, art and pillows, rugs and window treatments. These things are the cheapest so as opposed to a expensive couch or entertainment center - then you can try out new colors more economically by changing an accent wall or switching our your pillow with different ones or fresh slip covers. Some people like to even change their rooms throughout the year from summer to winter decor. You might find warmer shades make great accents in the fall and winter while a cheery blast of bright color in your accessories really brings in the spring and summer. Now if you are really committed to a color then you can go ahead and make a big commitment to a large piece of furniture in a bright color - like I said - I love red - you would know it by the bold red couch that I have in our living room. I have a friend who is more of a neutral and calm color person - he claims that while in our apartment all the bold colors see overwhelming to him. But your home is your home and it expresses you (wait till he sees my future house when I can paint the walls!), I think there home is kind of boring but that is their comfort factor. Wow- that went long..but, color is a big deal!

3. Don't be too rash with decisions, take some time to think the idea through before grabbing a paint brush - sometimes I rush into design decisions and then when I go look at the space I think of all the other options I had and if I real made the best choice. I like to get the idea - sketch it out or hang the paint sample on the wall and then come up with a few more options just so I keep my mind open to possibilities. I used to think that my first instinct was best - but with time I have learned that a design can get better and better if you go away and come back to it a little later - you might get a freshened perspective.

4. Know what you like and stick to your guns - but with that said - watch out for "Too Trendy" items. You don't want to make a big purchase on something that will look alien in your living room in about 6 months. Need an example? Animal Print is a great example of this. It is one of these things that comes and goes in the trend department. This spring the design catalogs were ensconsed in zebra print. Now, if you like Zebra print, you might jump on the trend and buy some throw pillows to accent your sofa, or you might get a nice throw - this would be playing on something you like that happens to be in style. You might use them for a while and then recover them when the pattern got old or even move them to be used in another area of the house for a change. You would not however want to run out and buy a Zebra covered couch or a new bedspread once you saw that it was a new item and immediately liked the look. My professional opinion is always to buy basic classical items that will not go "out of style" and use accents that lean towards the trends if you like them.

5. You have probably heard this before but I think it is important. A basic component of design is Repetition, if you introduce a color into your space in one area, it is a good idea to repeat that color somewhere else in the room. The same goes for shapes. If I purchased a cirular rug for the room, I might choose that shape as a design element elsewhere. I might hang a circular mirror or use globe shaped candles. The important thing is to do it subtley and not have "The Circle Room" b/c you bought everything you saw that repeated that design. Also, don't try to do a lot of different repeating elements - sometimes in design you have to know when to stop adding before that addition begins to take away from the original perceived design.

6. Another Idea to consider is Symmetry. That is completely a preference issue. You could have a very balanced and symmetrical space or one that is asymetrical and is more interesting (I dont want to say unbalanced here b/c an asymmetrical room is not unbalanced it is just not balanced in by a parallel line).

7. A Rule to Design By. Be careful with patterns. Patterns can overwhelm a space. Pattern is an excellent use as an accent but too much can be weary on the eye.

8. Mixing and Matching might not be everyone's style - but I lean to the eclectic when it comes to my own personal taste. I said to be careful with pattern as far as quantity but do not be afraid to put different things together. Design can be an adventure and I love eclectic styles because of the interest you can add with different textures and antiquity of pieces in the space.

9. I must put this in here because it must be said. Camoflauge as a design element is never acceptable. If you are a hunter, then wear it. Please I beg of you - keep it off your walls and furniture. I will add here that I am opposed to stuffed animals and the use of decoration with them - but I would not turn down a client who was trying to achieve that llodge type look. I could not work with camo.

10. Beware of mixing different types of wood and stain. It can take away the nice natural element and warmth that can come with wood as an element in a space. Too many varied wood grains is really not a good idea. There is an exception though if you have wood floors and have a different type of wood furniture. I think the key would be to make a different element in the space the dominant in order to destract from the obvious difference. Let me clarify that it is not a entire house or space guideline - I just think that within a single room - you should be wary of mixing wood grains and stain.

11. This is a simple one and I know that 98% of readers will laugh and not adhere to my opinion on the matter but here it is nonetheless: I dislike unpainted ceilings. Have you noticed that in most residences that the ceiling tends to be white (and sometimes popcorn ;) )? I have to wonder why? Because people typically come in and paint them a color and decorate the space but never consider the ceiling as being a real part of the room. Leaving the ceiling white is leaving it unfinished - unless you have a white color scheme -. Why do we not paint our ceilings? I just don't get it. Let me add here that if they are popcorn ceilings painting them is not a good idea - they should be scraped and refinished as plain gypsum board. Popcorn is a finish of the past and an unattractive and silly one at that.

12. Do it Yourself! I know that if no one asked for help then it seems that would put many designers out of a job but the truth is this: an average American household is not going to be able to afford a designer to come and custom design their house. That is why HGTV and TLC are big hits - same goes for Home Depot and Lowes. These things are not hurting the design industry - if anything it is helping it thrive. It is extremely expensive to pay someone else to design your house, it might not be a bad idea to pay for a consultation for some ideas and direction if you are in dire need - but its reality. I am a commercial designer professionally - but I love residential design and if the housing economy ever picks up I could see it being a larger focus in my career at some point. Don't be afraid to do it yourself. Picking out things and putting a room together is a knack that some people have and others don't. Nothing to worry about - some people have never even given any design a thought and they create beautiful rooms and homes - A natural eye for design is something those creative types are just born with. But techniques and guidelines to follow is a good way to start even if it doesn't come naturally to you. Just know that if you love it and feel at home in it - then it doesn't matter what I think.

13. Watch for clutter. To much stuff can take away from a room really fast. You don't have to be a minimalist - but too much stuff just makes a space claustrophobic and I think can make it feel uncomfortable. I nice balance of decor and necessary furniture with appopriate accents is the best way to go. Too many baubles and collectables can really take away from a room. If you are a collectible type of person - try creative ways of displaying your favorite pieces as opposed to the whole collections (you could even rotate them with others occasionally for a nice change).

Whew! Sometimes I start a Thursday Thirteen Blog and wonder if I will ever get it all written down! Hope you enjoy and have a great Thursday.

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