When I was becoming engrossed in the world of decorating and design, one of the things I appreciated the most about design blogs was all of the free information they shared. I learned so much from them. It truly was a priceless gift. One thing, however, that seemed less readily available information was the overall look of a room, and why it worked. So, I’d love to be able to help you better understand the elements of why a room works. We’ll be starting a new series called “Why this Room Works.” It’ll be every couple of weeks or so and we’ll feature a photo from a designer, and start a discussion on the decisions that were made in the room and why they work. It’ll be simple, quick, and straightforward. And it’s always best to learn from the experts! I’d love for you to join the discussion as well. So, if you agree, disagree, or have a comment, please do chime in below in the comments.
Above we have a room from Mary McDonald, an interior designer from Los Angeles who has a traditional, clean, yet modern and sleek aesthetic. She is truly inspirational and incredibly talented. So, if I can be so bold as to break down the design of her room, let’s review some of the reasons why it works.
- Symmetry – now symmetry isn’t for everyone. And it is more of a traditional style. However, it’s a very high end, relaxed, yet formal way to put together a room. Above, there are two bookcases, two accent chairs, and two additional sets of seating. And there’s even symmetry using the 2 large pillows on the sofa, one is close to the color of the sofa and the other is ivory. This brings us to the next point.
- Balance – even if you don’t like symmetry, you should always try to balance the visual weight of items in a room. The sofa is balanced by the chaise lounge, the bookcases balance each other, and the set of floor to ceiling windows on the right side of the room are balanced by the console table and set of pictures placed above it. There’s even balance between the old and new pieces present in the room.
- Textural Interest – Especially in a neutral room, textural variety and interest is key. Otherwise a room will fall flat very fast. If you notice, there is a velvety texture on the sofa, a smooth texture on the fireplace, the rough texture from the large rug, cozy texture of the throw draped on the chaise lounge, and the nubby texture from the linen curtains.
- Color – Although this room is “neutral” it is far from being boring, or even monochromatic. She moves from ivory all the way to almost a slate or charcoal. And she keeps it bouncing equally all throughout the room. She doesn’t concentrate one color in one section and then ignore it in another. She moves up and down the spectrum equally throughout the room.
- Shapes – Again, this is a matter of understanding the delicate balance. Of course as an expert, Mary masterfully uses shapes to keep your interest and to keep the room from being too invested in one particular style. This is what allows a room to maintain its status as “classic.” If you’ll notice, the bookcases have an arch that meets in the middle to make an oval. The arch is repeated multiple times on the fireplace and the mantel, the curve of the sofa arm, the lampshade, the circle accessory on the console table, the curve of the klismos chair backs, and even in the columns themselves. But that’s balanced with straight lines, in the chaise lounge, the lines of the sofa frame, the pillows, the repeating collection of books, the curtains, etc. Think outside of the box when thinking about shapes.
As you can see, a designer looks at a room in incredible complex ways. They don’t just see a rug, they see the texture, its straight lined structure, its color, its sheen, its historical influence, etc. When you design, don’t just take an item for what it is. See it is part of a whole. Its a piece in an intricately designed puzzle. A puzzle that you helped create.
So, let me know in the comments below what you agree or disagree with, and if you have any additional comments. And if you have an inspiration picture you’d like for us to discuss, send it my way at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great weekend!