home about me our home

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.