Upon the completion of my education to become an interior designer (almost 10 years ago), I entered the industry bright eyed and eager to make the world look great one space at a time. As I found my footing early on, I realized I was doing a lot of research (and still do if we are being honest) to fill in the gaps that education alone hadn't answered. Again and again, I found articles about different "rules" in design, and the very thought gave me great frustration. Principles and philosophies, certainly, but rules? Unless we are talking code and law, no. I say no to these rules. If placed on a map, I believe design could be found at the intersection where art meets science. There are looks that work, and looks that don't, but I don't believe it is a set of rules that gets us to the perfectly planned space.
All of that being said, I HAVE found "mistakes" or "miscalculations" that sometimes tend to take away from the overall success of a space achieving a cohesive and positive outcome. And those, my friends, are what I am going to share with you now. NOT as rules and regulations of a perfect design, but guidelines to consider that have a good chance of enhancing a space if corrected. Here it goes.
1. Artwork Going into Orbit
In my initial visit to many homes, many people have their artwork hanging at a height far higher than is necessary. Walls come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, but more often than not, a 5' center is the ideal placement for the focal point of a piece of art or grouping of art. Measure up 60 inches and use that as your center point. Again, I'm not making rules here, just giving a guideline to alleviate the feeling that your artwork is ready to go into orbit. Try this trick, and you may find your spaces feeling more grounded.
2. Color By Number Matching
Remember color by numbers? Where the art is in front of you, and you simply fill in the spaces with the color you're told to? Retailers have gotten so "smart" lately about providing matching sets of just about anything to give the customer ease of mind. See this bed? Here, take the matching dresser, chest, bench, wardrobe, bookcase, and shoe storage rack to go with it. Awesome right? Well....if you are going for easy, sure, then it is very awesome. But if you are looking for a comforting well thought out and designed space, this likely isn't the most ideal of options. Part of the beauty of design is taking things that are different, and tying together a look that blends it all together. It goes from cookie cutter to warm and intriguing. When I propose pieces from different wood stains and colors, peoples initial reaction is usually fear. But I'm pretty sure we've learned that our world is much more beautiful when many colors come together. Don't be afraid to mix wood tones. Just stay consistent with introducing connecting elements in your space.
3. Cave Man Syndrome
Before the discovery of fire, I'm sure homes were quite dark during much of the day (Which may have been a good thing since makeup and hairbrushes weren't around yet either.) But guess what. In many places in the world, we are now fortunate enough to have opportunities beyond fire. We have electricity! Yet few people know quite what to do to take advantage of this awesome luxury. Again, no rules here, but in an average space, if you can incorporate 7 points of light, you'll be amazed at the warmth it offers to a space. I typically could the existence of windows in a space as at least 1 element of light. After that, think outside of the box. In addition to your overhead lights, you may still need a lamp or two to round out the lighting. Have mirrors in your space? Even better, you can count that as one of your light sources if you are placing it in a way that reflects one of your light sources. Light is an element that adds so much depth. When ignored, a space can really fall flat. So don't forget about this commonly forgotten element.
4. Expensive= Well Designed
I don't have much to say about this common mistake. Simply said, just because it is expensive doesn't mean it is well designed or right for your space. Sometimes, the most effective designs are made up of found objects and pieces that hold sentimental value. Don't be afraid to integrate your great grandma's cross stitching into your modern penthouse. Part of design work is telling a story, and finding a way to make it work. Pull colors from your kids artwork, or mimic a texture of a sculpture elsewhere in the room. If it has sentimental value, the impact it has on your home can go so much further than an item you broke the bank for. Your space should tell a story about who you are and what you value. So if it is simply money, then the expensive-only model might be what you need. But if not, find a way to express your life in the things you incorporate in your home. Even if it means finding a way to display a stick you found on a memorable hike.
5. Color-phobia/Fear of Asking for Help
When I had my second child, he was born early and he suffered pretty intense jaundice. He spent some time under the lights to correct his color. It was VERY important to resolve the issue to avoid further complications. Your house? Not quite as dangerous. Often times people shy away from picking colors that make them happy because they can't picture it, or are nervous about what the color will do to the space. I have 2 options of how to resolve this common mistake. 1. get over it, and try something crazy. Or 2. paint your walls a neutral base, but then go wild and crazy with your accessories. One option is the safe route, the other is a bit more risky. Both are acceptable. But to avoid colors because of fear will rob you of a really awesome end-result that expresses who you are. Now certainly, someone with a trained eye comes in handy here. As a design consultant, I love to find out the colors people are drawn to and make them work in a way that meets needs on many different levels. So seriously, don't be afraid to ask for help! Sometimes a simple color consult can inspire you and get your space moving in a direction that you can easily work with.
While I won't be releasing the handbook of design rules anytime soon, I do hope that the common blunders above will give you courage to play with some things in your space. To explore, to study, and to navigate that space where science meets art until things, as if by magic, seem to fall into place.