Inside Design: Fundamentals of designing a space

Home Columns Inside Design: Fundamentals of designing a space

Aug. 3/10; Volume 30/Number 4

By Emily Kiker Finkell

Have you ever wondered what professional designers’ homes look like? My friends who work in the shelter press have told me their best-selling issues are those that feature covers like, “Inside the Designers’ Homes.” It should come as no surprise that professional designers choose and buy differently than an average consumer, scrutinizing seemingly insignificant details on an entirely different level.

Speaking from personal experience, my new husband and I are in the process of designing our new home and I can assure you we are doing so as an architect and an interior designer—not as two average consumers. In the midst of several life changes including a new home, new marriage and an empty nest, I find myself working as an interior designer with myself as my client.

Unlike many “how-to” articles on design, I strongly recommend starting with the floor rather than a fabric swatch. Leading with the floor provides the foundation on which you can add or take away colors, patterns and textures, creating the overall physical experience of the interior.

How often do you think about how a space makes you feel? It’s an important factor to consider. Does your customer want her family room to be inviting and comforting? Then layer it with the softness and luxury of carpet or rugs and mix in colors from calm color palettes of aqueous blues or verdant greens for her accessories. If she wants it to feel dramatic and reveal her sense of adventure, then consider reclaimed gray wood floors with a dash of red in the upholstery.

Many homes have existing hardwood floors, which dictate either a warm or cool neutral palette depending on when they were built. Regardless, you’ll want to blend the colors of the floor seamlessly from hard to soft surface. Our home already had reclaimed floors but needed new carpet for two bedrooms and new hardwood in another room. For our transitions to work with the existing reclaimed pine floors, we chose a gorgeous caramel-colored white oak in wide planks as well as nylon carpet that mimicked the look of natural sisal.

It’s always important to consider what else is going on in the space. Is there an expanse of windows with a view or a built-in bookcase? Our biggest consideration was an entire wall of wooden built-in bookcases that we decided to paint a crisp, clean linen white color that works well with the floors. Once that was accomplished and the floors were installed, we agreed the outcome was better than anyone could have dreamed.

When clients ask for my help with their design projects, I share a cooking analogy: You can always add more salt but once you’ve added too much, you can’t go back. In other words, don’t change the paint color or floor covering in each and every room, but rather find a color to carry throughout to make sure you have continuity.

I advise you to become familiar with what quality looks and feels like and to be able to differentiate between the trivial trendy and an enduring trend. What does it take to get this knowledge? Oftentimes, it’s as simple as buying brands from companies that invest in doing the research and making them your partners. You’ll become smarter and better by association.

My last piece of advice is to buy American-made products. This not only offers your customers peace of mind in knowing it is safe to use in their homes, but it also helps ensure that you are getting the best products for your investment.

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