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Monday, January 16, 2012

Effortless or Contrived?

Have you ever seen a room that makes you stop and take pause, and you are not quite sure why?  I do this all the time.

In my perusing the web for ideas, and inspiration I find myself doing one of two things. Stopping to study what   is drawing me into a room, or whizzing by because the room is so predictable, or contrived.

You can be drawn to a room by many things, colors, style, textures,  and decorative elements. What will make you linger in the room will be the composition. The composition is the manner in which the homeowner has put all of the above elements together in a room.

I must admit that I struggle a bit with going towards a contrived look. I think it has to do with my being a perfectionist, and I  tend to like all my ducks in a row, matching along the way. Symmetry will most likely be my first inclination when it comes to balancing a room. This is what my personality will dictate, but I know from studying good design that this does not necessarily make for an interesting room.

A room that has symmetry can also be good design, but what will make it interesting is the variation in textures, and contrast in the colors of the room. It must have an interesting mix in order to not become too contrived, or predictable.

It is much more interesting to have a room that draws you in with different textures, asymmetry, and contrast in colors, or textures.

What made me want to write this post was a particular image of a room that was so perfectly matched in its colors, and accessories that it was way too contrived, and therefore I did not linger in this room.

However I did find that I was drawn in by the colors, and the style of the furniture. What drew me in ended when it became so predictable or contrived, what I like to refer too as Smatchy(overly matching in a room!)

First, I must say I am not saying the room was  horrible or badly decorated. We all know that design whether good or bad is totally subjective to the person that is looking at the room. I am going to give you a few examples, and let you decide which is more appealing to your own design aesthetics.

 Design will always be subjective, but I think it is important for all of us to become very aware of what is appealing to our eye, and studying that in terms of:

  • Colors
  • Textures
  • Patterns
  • Contrast
  • Asymmetry vs. Symmetry
  • Balance

Once we become more aware of what we love and why, then we will be better prepared when  choosing elements for our own home. 

After viewing all of the above images, which images made you study the room? How many of the above images did you find your self just whizzing by?

I think when you look at a room and it draws you in, you want to linger, and you can’t figure out exactly what it is that draws you in, the room is a successful design. A room full of interest is so much more appealing than a room that is predictable or contrived. Don’t you think?

“Enjoy The Process!” Of:

Figuring out what is appealing to your own design aesthetics.



The enchanted home said...

Another great post Kathysue ,and I could not agree more, though I am very much a "symmetry person" I do agree that you need to make it intersting and create that interest with sometimes the use of scale, big things and little things, adding texture, and intersting objects that perhaps are not symmetrical, even sometimes throwing in an object of different style/period.
And finally thanks for giving me a new word to add to my vocab..."SMATCHY'.....love it!

Wendi @ Classic Chic Home said...

This is a very good post, Kathysue. I was immediately drawn to the room with the cowhide rug for its sense of depth and striking contrast, but my perfectionist side also liked the deep beige and white living room with green accents. The white club chairs have great lines. The last room really caught my eye, although the furniture arrangement bothers me, and if it were my room, I'd have to change it!
I tend to design a room symmetrically, with the addition of an asymmetrical vignette or artwork display for visual interest. I also love to mix furniture styles; classic pieces with a few modern or unexpected accents. I've always loved the look of eclectic elegance!
Have a lovely Monday, Kathysue!
~ Wendi ~

Jules said...

Hi Kathysue...The forth one made me want to snuggle in...the first one worried me because of the light! It is probably the way the photo was taken but it just doesn't fit with the rest of the room.

Sissie's Shabby Cottage said...

I agree Kathysue. I prefer rooms that have been put together over time with interesting pieces such as vintage or painted furniture and collections.


Karena said...


I really loved them all except the first and then would do without those back to back chairs in the last photo.

A too perfect look does not work for me.

Art by Karena

Hamptontoes said...

I am a lover of symmetry, but it serves as a mere guide, rather than as a rule for me when designing spaces. I am drawn to rooms that don't appear contrived. Good design gives me pause...I want to study the space rather than glance at it...great post!

pam {simple details} said...

You're so right, Kathysue! They're all beautiful, but I whizzed by until I came upon the room with dark wallpaper and cowhide rug - much more interesting and appealing to me!

Lee said...

I am reading Deborah Needleman's The Perfectly Imperfect Home and it's an eye-opener and soft at the same time. A good book to crawl up in a chair with. When the eye glosses over rooms that are bland and safe, we wonder, who lives there? Needleman quotes Billy Baldwin, "any house or room remembered with pleasure has the look of being loved by those who live in it." I studied the 3rd picture because it seemed to have more personality than the others. I like to add a bit of "quirk," to borrow one of Needleman's terms, even a little "ugly" just to make it real but I love me some symmetry and soothing colors, some classic forms, a little black.

Tammy@InStitches said...

I don't think I'm a fan of the smatchy either !

Karen said...

I don't mind a room with a lot of matching elements IF there are some odds and ends added in like items that tell me something about the owner's interests. I'm always drawn in to images on blogs that have stacks of books, collections,interesting one-of-a kind accessories etc..

La Vie Quotidienne said...

I like balance in a room but if things are too matched it becomes rather boring. Something a bit 'quirky' can add interest and personality.

Teresa Hatfield ~ Splendid Sass said...

I am going to have a repine party over at your interest! Just gorgeous images, Kathysue! Agree.
Have a wonderful Monday.

Room Service ~ Decorating 101 said...

Well there is no question that #6 was my favorite ! I did take a 2nd look #3 and #4. But neither spoke to me like the black wallpaper ect. Great post !

Melissa @ The Inspired Room said...

Agreed. Sometimes it is hard to put a finger on why a room can be pretty, but not interesting to me. Rooms that are predictable, flat (not enough texture or contrast) or look like they were all purchased from a current store always make me yawn. Excellent post! :-)

helen tilston said...

Hello Kathysue

You clearly pointed out all the elements of good design. What appeals to me about a space is when items are collected with love, over time and have significance. Fresh flowers, treasured rugs,antiques, books of the owner's selection original art work, one of kind pieces are also so appealing.
In other words a home that looks like a home and not staged.

Hope you have a joyful week

Helen xx

Barb @ The Everyday Home said...

Loved this post. Very interesting thoughts. As you know, I am a matchy-matchy girl all the way. (not Smatchy, mind ya) LOL But, everything has to be symmetrical or it drives me nutty. That last picture with the offfset back-to-back chair drove me crazy. I loved the first pic, and find it amazing how many do not. I find it matching and symmetrical yes, but there is a great sense of style to it. Its not just the furniture, its the architectural details and the color scheme, etc. The one that bothered me also, was the pic with all the white chairs and green tones pillows. Too much furniture for one thing, and everything was all on the same level. Chairs and sofa - same height, prints - same height. This was the most boring of all rooms to me. Thanks for writing this post....very interesting!

Kathy :) said...

I really liked the fourth room, I found myself gazing at everything, great post kathysue !!

Kathy :)

Stacy CUrran said...

Congrats on a truly excellent post. The image that I liked the best was the one with the back wall and cowhide rug. The rest I thought were ok, especially the last two, and with a few tweaks could be great. To me, it's the tweaking in the en that makes the difference

Tammy@Beatrice Banks said...

Loved this post! I do the same thing but have never stopped to think about it. But you are right. Some rooms we just whiz by. I'm most drawn to the those that have a dark dramatic accent balanced with creams or whites, like the first. third and sixth photos. I love a little drama in the room.

Blooming Rose Musings said...

Great post, Kathysue. I like a home that reflects the person's personality. I love things that are collected over a period of time and have meaning and add character to a room. I don't like matched furniture. I like a home that feels lived in and loved. Some people like a home with very clean lines and others find a way to make a cluttered look work for them and some people love what is called "a beautiful mess" and that works for them. I love a home that reflects a lived in and loved lifestyle. I think I like #4 & #8 the best.

Pinky at Designs by Pinky said...

I loved the colors and furniture pieces of the next to last room but did not like that there is nothing on the mantle. Most of these rooms don't really appeal to me. I love rooms that have an "acquired" look, things collected over time. Great post. XO, Pinky

Shirley@Housepitality Designs said...

I love the architectural elements of the room with the cowhide rug and love the warmth of room #8. #8 feels light yet cozy.

Lori @ Lori May Interiors said...

What a wonderfully thoughtful post, Kathysue. I really studied the photo with the hide rug. You are so right in your observations. Design for me is more of a feeling. It's not so much about the rules. It has to feel right to me.

My design style is also constantly evolving. That's why sites like pinterest and design blogs really help me to hone my own style and help my clients to discover theirs.

Thank you for this fabulous post!

Marcus Design said...

Wow, your words are dead on Kathysue! I couldn't have said it better. There are certain rooms with a magical element that just draws me in and sticks in my mind even if I can't quite pin point what it is!! In this collection of images, the furniture in the last image drew me in, especially because of that back-to-back sofa. DIVINE!

Sorry I have been a bit absentee lately, I'm writing my thesis and barely finding time to scope the blogosphere as usual!! Hugs,

Nancy xo

Rose - Watching Waves said...

Great thoughts from the writer and the commenters! I love that you acknowledge that we're all different and drawn to different styles for various reasons. I'm not drawn to traditional, ornate, busy-busy, heavy drapes, a lot of symmetry. I like a room where a person could plop down a sippy cup and no one would mind - lol! I like a sense of cozy, comfy, snuggling with a loved one/child/pet. I like rooms that connect visually with the outdoors; some rooms are strictly inward-facing. I don't care for the "wagon camp" look where all the furniture (wagons) is symmetrically circled around a coffee table, as in the pic of the pale gray furniture with the green pillows. I also like a room with easy access to seating, where one doesn't have to scooch around a chair or table. It also bugs me when the coffee table is too far from the sofa to be used easily. And I like to sit on the floor so open floor space is important to me, too.

Acanthus and Acorn said...

I loved the third image. I like symmetry and tidy spaces as well as rooms that are not too busy or loud. But to make them authentic, you must incorporate your "real" possessions for everyday living!

I think the bottom room really drives home your point! If the pillows were more diverse and the lanterns were the only things that were paired on the bookcases the room could have been a total home run. Afterall, it's pretty, bright cheerful, but not very interesting in my opinion.

trendous said...

Oh, I so agree with you! Recently I've been helping one of my friends to put her rooms together and those are the exact same things I asked her to think about-colors, texture, patterns,etc. ( she asked me to help with her new house after seeing my newly redecorated rooms.)They just make a room so much more fun to look at.
I just found your blog today and I definitely will visit every day!! Thanks for all the great tips! :)

trendous said...

Oh, I so agree with you! Recently I've been helping one of my friends to put her rooms together and those are the exact same things I asked her to think about-colors, texture, patterns,etc. ( she asked me to help with her new house after seeing my newly redecorated rooms.)They just make a room so much more fun to look at.
I just found your blog today and I definitely will visit every day!! Thanks for all the great tips! :)

Confessions of a Plate Addict said...

I have no idea how to explain what draws me to a room...certainly color and I do love some symmetry...some things should always come in pairs! lol There's a peacefulness and order to symmetry. I just go Ahhhh... But, of course, it has to be interesting, too! Good post!...hugs...Debbie


Kind of off the subject but in the last picture, you can so tell that they moved the 2 chairs [on the right] forward and moved the funky little "chair back to back" one to the left where it looks out of place! OK...sorry....that 4th picture had me at "soothing colors"....