Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Effortlessly Styled vs. Contrived Room Designs

 You are about to embark on a study with me in order to determine what is your own comfort zone in a rooms design. 

Does everything have to match, or do you feel more comfortable with a surprise element in the mix?


Obviously planned or calculated; not spontaneous or natural; labored:

In the past I have used the word, “CONTRIVED!” many times when I was consulting with my clients. 

I did not want their rooms to look, too planned, too obvious, too matchy, or  as I like to say, “SMATCHY!!” (definition: where the room matches so much it smacks you in the face!!)

What I did want was a well designed room.  A room that looked like it took time, a process that evolved, easy on the eye, a room with a good visual flow. 

There has to be nothing that is jarring to the eye in a room, but one that will create a smooth flow that the eye will gently move across the room to view it in it’s entirety.

Opposite words for contrived :

This subject opened up to me again as I was in the middle of planning the addition of some new Spring pillows, and an addition of yellow in my  family room.

Since I am a planner I have to go to great efforts in order to make my rooms not look too contrived. I realize there is a level of effortlessness that we all have, and it will vary from person to person.

We all need to find our comfort zone. Some people require symmetry, and everything to match in order to be comfortable in their home. 

However, an effortlessly styled room can be much more interesting  to others.

In my researching of rooms that mixed patterns, and colors beautifully I began to notice there was a definite line that marked an effortlessly styled room vs. a very contrived room.

Today I am going to share with you some of my discoveries. These will be my own observations and opinions on how the rooms made me feel.

I will try to dissect them for you in order for you to understand why I feel they are effortlessly styled, or contrived. However, try to be your own judge, since all of us will have varying opinions.

The object of this lesson is to teach all of you to be more observing about the designs you see and love, or dis-like and to know why.


As lovely as this room is it feels contrived to me. Let me tell you why. 

All of the pillows are repeats, same patterns and same colors, there is no surprise here. 

The rug matches the gray in the pillows, the side table matches the turquoise in the pillows. This is a room that really matches.

To make this more effortless in style I would switch out the turquoise table for a nice big  round log table. 

The rug would be switched to a patterned rug that would introduce one of the main colors, which happens to be blue. 

I would add a large scale pattern pillow to replace one of the striped pillows.

For some this room would be perfect and it is perfect, but that is part of it’s contrived personality, it is too perfect.

.not contrived


You will notice right out of the gate, the patterns in this room are quite varied. 

What is making them all work together well is there common ground in the color of indigo/navy. Not one single pattern is the same, and yet this room has a gentle flow to the eye. You do not jolt from one element to the other.

I will admit there is some thought, planning, and talent that takes place in making a room look effortless in it's styling, but with research, and studying of what you like and don’t like, anyone can do it.
I absolutely love the colors that are being used here, but this is contrived because of the use of the same two colors repeatedly.

The artwork matching the turquoise, and green color scheme is making it look too, “SMATCHY!” 

Something with a scene that had a fresh look to it would have been more interesting.

The window treatment is picking up on the same color as seen in the pillow and the artwork, again a bit too matchy. 

A nice natural light wood tone, matchstick blind would have tied in the armoire, and added some much needed texture, and warmth to this room.
.Not contrived
I wanted to show you this next image because it is only using the same two colors over, and over, navy and turquoise, and yet this room looks effortlessly styled to me. 

So what is the difference between this room, and the last room that I pictured?

The varied patterns in the pillows, the textures in the room. The rough painted beams, beaded chandelier, various sea shells and a touch of shine with the mercury glass, bottles and glass top tables.

All of these varied textures keep this room in the interesting category.
CONTRIVED remove the yellow pillows and only have the yellow in the chairs and one flip flop picture
Another home at the beach! I absolutely LOVE the pattern on the chairs, and the bright cheery yellow fabric on what appears to be a distressed wooden chair. The nail-head trim adds another bit of interest and texture to the room.

This room has a yellow rug, yellow chairs, yellow trim on banquette, yellow pillow, and then another pop of yellow in the flip-flop art.

My eye is jumping from one yellow piece to the other.

Now picture the room without that yellow pillow, and in its place another indigo/navy pillow in a different pattern but still in keeping with the blue and white.

I would take away the yellow napkins, and blue dishes, and use white dishes and a soft linen napkin in a blue and white tiny stripe. In my opinion these changes would make the room look less contrived and more effortlessly styled.
I would imagine by now you recognize this room as feeling contrived to me. Again, love the colors, but my eye is jolting around the room to pick up the yellow and cobalt elements.

The wood accents are a great choice because they give a nice warmth and texture to this room. 

The other smart choice was to vary the blue in the base of the little breakfast bar area. 

If they had not put the yellow dishes in the glass front cupboard, but kept them in the blue and white family this room would have had much more of a smooth visual flow. The yellow plates in the cupboard make my eye jolt over there instead of going around the room easily.

When using a bright, dark or contrasting colors in your room designs make sure that they are placed in strategic areas in the room in order to make a nice visual flow. 

If you find your eye hopping from one colorful element to the next you then will know you do not have an effortlessly styled room, but one that just might feel a bit contrived.

This post was not a post to be critical of any one person’s design or their choices, but rather a lesson in observation.

Design is an ever changing, vast subject, and one that we can always learn something new from. 

I hope that this post opens your eyes to new possibilities and you start viewing your home or any new projects with an open mind.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

2017 Easter Table Plans

  Domino for Easter custom of your BUNNY by DIMDI Original watercolour by dimdi, $38.00:

To say I love this time of year is an understatement. I seem to thrive this time of year. All the things that inspire me seem to be surrounding me. Colors, weather, flowers, birds, blue skies. Love it all.

Easter is only 4 weeks away and it just dawned on me the other day I had better get going on my plans.

 black and white for Easter:

Throughout the year I make myself a pinboard for the upcoming holidays and when I see something I like, I pin it. Eventually a pattern starts to emerge and this year was no exception.

Like most years it is usually color that catches my eye first and then I go from there. This year it was pretty simple and straight forward.


I know these are not your typical Easter colors, however these are the two main colors I always seem to enjoy working with. In fact last years table was black and white with pink.........

Another year I did black and white spotted feathers with soft blue.....

It is easy for me to incorporate black and white into my table designs since it is at the base of my home design.

Once I establish color then I starting pinning ideas that I like in that color scheme.

rabbit painting- Bunnies- watercolor animal print:

When deciding on my color scheme I like to keep it fairly tight so it won't get too busy on the eye.

I also keep that in mind when I decide on the elements I am using.

 I like to have words, or a special phrase in my over all design as well, and this one caught my eye.

 This also spoke to me.  

Black and white stripes, white tulips and little spotted feathers, plus pussy willow branches. This is starting to all come together in my mind. Can you see where I am going?

 Sweet little paper pockets to hold silverware.

Since I tend to like simplicity this arrangement was very appealing to me.

This is another fun way to incorporate the pussy willows.

I pull together the different ideas to see which direction I would like to go, and it helps me narrow down ideas and elements.

Sometimes our minds can get carried away with excitement. By lining up the ideas in a collage I can see which one's work and which one's don't quite fit in the mix.



Once I have done all this my plan is flexible according to if I am able to find the different elements I plan on using.

Here is my over all plan........

Colors: Black and white and soft brown as in the pussy willows and parchment paper.

Elements: Bunnies, pussy willows, eggs, feathers .

Patterns: Stripes or maybe large buffalo check. Still not quite sure which table cloth I will be using.

So there you have it, my over all plan and how I come about with a plan every year. Now the real fun begins, creating it.

Progress: The pussy willows have been ordered and the sweet bunny print.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

My Design Thinking Process At Work!

When choosing any element that I would like to add to my home I go through a process. 

Some might think it is too planned or calculated, but having been in this industry for over three decades I have learned that any good design needs a plan.

Often home decorators get so excited about something they see, or a new trend, and they go out and buy the new element without thinking of where it will go in their homes, or how it will marry to other pieces they already have.

If you are purchasing a little knick-knack it would be no great loss if it doesn't work. If you are buying something that is more costly or a permanent fixture then you really need to think things through.

Recently I decided that a very small area in my home needed a bit of sprucing up. It is an area most people might ignore, and to be honest it could be ignored.

The only problem is I sit and stare at this area ever single night when we are watching TV.....

To the left of our TV there is a little entry hall that leads to the master bedroom. It is a nice little separation area from the main living area and gives a bit more privacy to our room.

Things I need to consider before moving forward..........

The TV niche will have molding added to it in the very near future so it will look and feel more finished. The door opening will also be wrapped with molding.

In this little hall area I have room to put my antique table and mirror....

You actually only see this table when entering the hall or sitting at the far end of the great room.

You will also notice the horribly placed thermostat. If it had been place to the far right the wall could be addressed more easily.

(The thermostat is about a foot away from the door frame.)

So what do I want to do this time and what is my plan?

The first step is to I look at the overall area and I  take notice that the entire area visually includes the fireplace, TV and hallway. This whole wall reads as one unit and therefore must be treated as one wall.


 When making decisions on adding an element to a room look at the entire area you plan on changing and notice how your change will  marry to the entire design. 

I can not stress this one step enough!

A big mistake home decorators often make is to just think about the one area they want to change, and they get all excited and caught up in the moment. They quickly go out shopping and buy things before really thinking them through. Once they bring their new found treasure home they soon discover it does not work at all.

Think of it like this.......

It is like when we get dressed, we think about the main pieces we are wearing and then the accessories, shoes, purse and how we will do our hair and makeup. It is the whole picture we are thinking about. Just imagine if you chose a different look for each step I just spoke of. You would look like a hot mess. The same goes for your rooms and the areas you are decorating.

Since my small little hall is part of a bigger picture I need to keep that in mind. 

I like a simple look so I keep things a bit more minimal that some might think looks right to their eye. For me I must have a clean, fresh look and a nice easy visual flow.

So here is what I plan on doing.....

I would like to add a frame of molding on the entire wall similar to what is above the fireplace ......

This same frame molding will also be added to the TV niche so there will be a nice flow and continuity to the entire wall.

I would like to add one more element.....

A hanging light fixture!

Now this is where I have to think beyond the one wall. Now I need to look at the lighting I have in this part of the house including the entry hall since there is a a visual flow from the entry hall all the way to the great room. It is somewhat of a shot gun house.

These are all the fixtures in the great room including the fixture for our entry hall which is pictured first.

My thinking has to go even a little further in this planning process. 

You can also see the dining area. I have future plans for that area, and I have a few fixtures I am contemplating when we address this area. However I need to keep them in mind as well when making any other lighting choices....

You can see I am adding some brass accents. This is all in the plan since you will see the entry hall first which has some brass fixtures, then you will see the dining room, and then the great room.

This is a mock up I did using the cohasset sconces.

 I told you there was
 a lot to think about! 

Now that I have all my ducks in a row, so to speak. I can start adding some of the possible light fixtures to the whole picture.

I will be showing you some of the choices I have in mind in my next post and I will add my final three choices to a mock up so we can really see how it all plays out.

As always....