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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rooms Full of Amateurs

Don't just sit there, design something!
Several times recently I've discussed the designer as an artist. I've talked about jewelry design, auto design, hair design, food design, fashion design, and of course, architecture. In one such area, virtually all of us are designers. If you've ever rearranged the living room furniture, that makes you an interior designer...albeit, an amateur one. Of course, there are talented amateurs and those who are simply...well, furniture movers. But even at that, as mundane as it sounds, arranging furniture is one of the most important functions of an interior designer, far more important that choosing among paint chips, curtain fabrics or lamp shades. More than anything else an interior designer does, he or she organizes the human environment, and furniture has always been the major tool wielded by an interior designer in doing so.

Less is more--my sister's taste in living rooms.
I'm not talking here about interior decorating. I've discussed that before (11-6-11). I consider interior design to be the most important (and most common) artistic design activity the average person engages in over the course of their lifetime. That's certainly true of women, perhaps less so of men, who very often simply "go with the flow" of whatever the wife wants, with perhaps some degree of veto power. I could lament this, but as husbands become more and more domesticated in recent generations, perhaps this gender stereotype may be fading. Today's so-called "man cave" (bottom) may be an example. Being an artist, in my own household, the domestic roles mentioned above have always been somewhat reversed. My wife has difficulty making major decisions (like what to order at a restaurant). In every single room in our house, I've chosen most of the d├ęcor elements. And though she maintains, in theory, the right to say "no" she seldom does.
Don't overwhelm a room with color. Allow the accessories to speak.
Whites and neutrals are always a safe bet if you can keep them clean.
Second only to furniture arrangement in importance, is a room's color scheme. Color "flavors" a room. Unfortunately, it's often the most underestimated element in the "design" of a room. It's also the area in which amateur designers make the most mistakes (too much of a good thing). The third most important element in interior design is lighting. All too often that is thought to mean simply table lamps picked up at garage sales. There's a lot to be said for pursuing garage sales for room accessories, but frequently, such shopping centers on price, rather than color or appearance. The important thing to remember is that not all light comes from lamps. This is where window dressing (the correct modern-day term) comes into play. The next key element in interior design is the floor. First came dirt (still a common floor covering despite the invention of the vacuum cleaner), then stone, sometimes covered with woven fabrics, then various hardwoods, ceramic tile, vinyl, and today's all too ubiquitous wall-to-wall carpeting. The best advice is to vary "floor coverings" (learn the jargon) from room to room.
Even professionals do it. Yes, this room was done by a professional designer
--eclectic (to a fault) and over accessorized to the extreme.
And finally, the greatest "sin" of most amateurs involves accessories and the tendency to "over accessorize" (more jargon). For over a century the leading design mantra has been "less is more." It would be nice to think of an interior design as a work of art to be rendered then admired from a distance. Unfortunately, we all have this habit of living in our interior works of art; and worse, collecting various items which we proudly display to impress visitors. There's nothing wrong with a room having an uncluttered "lived in" look--it humanizes the environment. But if you collect, and who among us doesn't, select two or three of your best pieces to display in your living area (rotate them periodically if you like) then box up the rest or create a "museum" room for no other purpose than to display your collecting mania. Here I'm reminded of the fact that my mother's whole house was like an Avon bottle museum. I used to shudder every time I went back home. I was always afraid of knocking one over, breaking it, and spilling the fragrant contents all over her museum's hardwood floor.
Note: This has been an overview of the subject of interior design. Expect more detailed items on the subject in the future.

The macho man cave, sporty, techie, rich in color, and all too often "over the top."


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