I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard a new client’s first question “What color should I paint the walls?” Invariably that is always #1, or at the top of the list anyway of any interior designer’s consultation, sometimes before anything else has been purchased or selected for the space. And the answer is… spread out the fan deck, close your eyes and pick one. Wait! Don’t do that! But if you were to do that you would have just as good a chance of selecting a good paint color as your interior designer would at that point in the design process. The point is paint color is relevant to other pieces of the design. It certainly is not the starting place. So what is the starting place and how does one go about selecting the perfect paint color?
When starting an interior design, your first selection should always be the floor. And the floor includes an area rug if you plan to use one. Why is this the first place to start? There are less choices for you to select from for the floor than the paint deck. From a paint store, there are an infinite number of choices of color to choose. With computer matching, the color technician can match virtually any color you present him or her. That isn’t the case with flooring. Now I know what you’re thinking…”But there are many choices of floors!”. True, flooring possibilities are also endless…tile, wood, laminate, vinyl, carpet, area rugs. But you more than likely have a budget, which limits the selection set you have to choose from. You know you hate green, so all greenish floors are out, and so on and so forth. I’m sure you get where I’m taking this. Your choices are narrowed before you ever start. Hard surface floors are pretty easy to select. You have a preconceived notion in your head of what you want. Area rugs on the other hand are a whole other subject that is best left for a future blog entry but suffice to say a selection is best made early in the process so your colors and patterns coordinate. After the floor, other selections should come about fairly easily. Don’t forget about fabrics at this point. Even a small bath design includes some fabric, i.e. a hand towel.
So now comes the arduous task of paint color selection. Paint should be the last thing you decide on. It could be an easy task at this point, particularly if you want to match specifically to something. But what if you have a fairly generic room and you want to add some character with paint color? Character is good. Just keep in mind when you enter a room, the first thing you should notice is NOT the paint color. The paint color should be a backdrop for your personality. You will no doubt place furniture, pictures or photos, or ‘arts de object’ on the wall and in and around the space. Those “things” should be the focal point. Or maybe a beautiful view, or a fireplace, but never a colored wall. Walls by themselves, are not particularly attractive so why call attention to them? The only exception, as I see it, is when you have interesting architecture that you want to accentuate or feature. Then you can play with color a bit, making the architecture stand out.
When the process gets hard is when you’ve narrowed down your paint colors to a hand full. How do you know if that lovely beige is actually pink in disguise? The easiest way to judge color is to compare it to a similar color. The best example I can give is when you have your eyes checked. The doctor asks you if “A” is better or “B” over and over again with both being similar. Do the same with your colors. You’ll be able to tell right away if that perfect beige, “A”, is pink or not.
And finally, and this may be the most important step of paint color selection. Do purchase a sample or quart and put a sizable paint swatch on the wall. A one-inch by one-inch swatch on a paint fan deck is next to impossible to judge from. Good paint companies offer their paint in small samples for $5 or $6. Invest in the paint sample before you invest in the entire completed paint job. It is well worth the time and money saved if your choice is way off.
Please do consider calling an interior designer in for a color consultation if you just cannot decide or maybe you can’t see the colors. The older we get color recognition becomes distorted as the cornea ages. A good percentage of the population is colorblind. As interior designers, we look at paint decks each and everyday. We know them like the backs of our hands and we are happy to help you. And remember: IT’S ONLY PAINT.continue reading
Many different criteria go into defining green products. Specific to building products, some products qualify as green in several different categories. Other products do not qualify as green at all but they help in reducing carbon emissions of a building, such as windows. And sometimes a so-called green product requires a judgement as to whether it is, in fact, green. For commercial building projects, the judgement can be made by many entities. Municipal governments have their own criteria for judging whether a building and its components meet green standards, both for residential and commercial projects. LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) is the primary internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies intended to improve performance in metrics such as energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. The main organization leading the way in green building certification is the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). The GBCI was established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to provide a series of exams to allow individuals to become accredited for their knowledge of the LEED rating system. GBCI also provides third-party certification for projects pursuing LEED. Up until 2008, LEED applied mainly to commercial building projects. However in 2008, the USGBC established a LEED system for new residential buildings and produced guidelines for remodeling residential homes with green objectives. Currently there are 6 principles of environmental stewardship according to the USGBC:
– Advocacy for Safe Products and Services
– Protection of the Biosphere
– Sustainable Use of Natural Resources
– Waste reduction
– Wise Use of energy
– Reduction of risk
Application of these principles determines if a product is, in fact, green. Not only must we consider if the product is safe and uses natural resources and energy responsibly with minimal waste, but we must consider if transporting a green product half way around the globe can be considered green. An interesting product to examine for example is bamboo flooring. While bamboo is most definitely a green product, it may not be the greenest solution for flooring. The carbon foot print of bamboo becomes quite large if it must be transported from remote regions of the world. A better alternative might be wood flooring produced from local FSC certified sustainable forests. Relying on local, sustainable products should be our first choice for all consumables, not just building products. Not only do local sustainable products help our environment; they aid our local economy. Of course there is other criteria when making choices for our families, homes, and businesses. Aesthetics is certainly a major consideration as well. But as responsible world citizens, the environment should be at the top of our list of priorities.
So in conclusion, when making a purchasing decision, consider all aspects of what classifies a product as green. A product advertised or promoted, as green by an overzealous merchandiser may not be the greenest choice you have, or worse, may not be green at all.continue reading
Many people use the terms “interior design” and “interior decorating” interchangeably, but these professions differ in critical ways.
Interior design is the art and science of understanding people’s behavior to create functional spaces within a building. Decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable or beautiful things. In short, interior designers may decorate, but decorators do not design.
Interior designers apply creative and technical solutions within a structure that are functional, attractive and beneficial to the occupants’ quality of life and culture. Designs respond to and coordinate with the building shell and acknowledge the physical location and social context of the project. Designs must adhere to code and regulatory requirements and encourage the principles of environmental sustainability.
The interior design process follows a systematic and coordinated methodology—including research, analysis and integration of knowledge into the creative process—to satisfy the needs and resources of the client.
Many U.S. states and Canadian provinces have passed laws requiring interior designers to be licensed or registered—documenting their formal education and training—and many of them specifically require that all practicing interior designers earn the NCIDQ Certificate to demonstrate their experience and qualifications. By contrast, interior decorators require no formal training or licensure.
Toilet Rugs – Don’t use them. Use a regular rectangular rug placed just in front of the john instead of the contour toilet-hugging rug. And my rule for the-color-the-rug-should-be in a bath…the same color as the flooring. Decorating with colored bath mats in a bath is pretty stupid if you stop to think about it. I don’t have a problem with placing a colorful rug in a bath, such as a Persian rug, particularly if the floor is wood.
Too many personal photos – Put your old photos in photo albums instead. And keep them in a personal space, not public spaces of your home. Multiple photos of yourself is actually pretty creepy regardless of where you place them. Honestly photos are better preserved if they are kept in a dark, acid free box and not displayed. Particularly colored photos will fade over time, so do be sure and keep your negatives or copies secured in a dark dry place. Better yet digitize your old photos and store them on disks.
Don’t ignore your foyer – This is the first impression your guests have of your home. It should make a statement. The same is true for your front door. At the least, it should be clean.
Exposed cables and wires – Wire management goes a long way to tidy your home. Wire conduit is a good idea. Also use duct tape to secure wires to the back of a piece of furniture to conceal the wires. For lamps on side tables, run the wire down the back of the table leg and you will only see a small amount of wire to the plug.
Out of place themes – Such as a Caribbean beach-y theme in Alaska. Patio furniture in a dining room…no. Texana in a bedroom, it just doesn’t work.
Out dated accessories – Blue plastic flowers are out. Keep your accessories current and do not be afraid to throw out things and buy new once in a while. For the things you cannot bare to part with, such as your Grandmas gold tulip vase, pack it away in a safe place, take it out once in a while and admire it, then pack it away again.
Lop sided furniture arrangements – It’s all about balance. Imagine your room is a scale and with the sides of the room evenly balanced to the other.
Too many pieces of furniture with legs – Step back and look at your room. If all you see are legs in a room then you need some mass pieces. Mass pieces are ones that go all the way to the floor, such as a sofa with a skirt or a solid legless cocktail table.
Don’t keep things you hate. If Aunt Ester left you a hideous armoire do not keep it thinking you will do penance if you get rid of it. Sell it. Aunt Ester will not turn over in her grave. And you just might bring someone else pleasure who really loves the thing. Craig’s List and E-bay are great ways to dispose of “still good” stuff. If you don’t care to hassle with selling yourself, have a consignment store sell it for you. Or even better, donate it to a charity. You just might make out better financially with the donation.
Formal rooms are out. If you must have a formal room, try to make it a bit more casual and comfortable. So in that formal dining room, opt for the fully upholstered plush dining chairs instead of the Chippendale chairs. They will go just fine with the Chippendale table. The dining room will be so inviting. And your guests will be so much more comfortable. And that leads to the next don’t….
Uncomfortable dining chairs are a big no-no. Comfort should be first and foremost when selecting any seating. If you cannot sit in a chair first, do not buy it. What is comfortable to me might not be comfortable to you.
No clear designation of traffic pattern – Create contrived hallways to direct traffic through a room instead of directly through the center of a room. An example would be to pull a sofa away from a wall and place a sofa table behind it, creating a hallway.
Do not do matchy-matchy. The cocktail table and end table does not need to match. They do not even have to be the same wood. The sofa and chair does not need to be in the same fabric. Matchy-matchy is just boring. For non-professionals, limit the number of wood tones in a room to a couple and the number of different fabrics to no more than 3.
Stay away from fads or trends – We know you love that chrome and glass etagere but chrome and glass was a trend in the 70’s. Now not so much unless you are doing a retro look. Colors are probably the easiest trend to combat. For example you are dying for a spa blue and chocolate brown bedroom. But designers’ fear is that scheme is likely to date you someday as the mauve and blue scheme dates your mom. Why not opt for a neutral scheme instead with a neutral paint and a few spa blue pillows. The room will be very stylish now. Pillows can easily be changed later to red or whatever your new favorite color is.
Out of scale furniture – Make sure the scale of your furniture is appropriate for your room. A large overstuffed sectional in a small apartment is just ridiculous. Pay particular attention to the height of pieces and that their height is appropriate to the height of the room.
Too many colors and patterns – It is best to keep colors and patterns to 3 or 4 in a room. Wood counts as a color. Metals also count as a color. But if your woods and metals are close to the same value, they only count as one color.
Don’t float your rugs without anchoring. – Rugs should be anchored by the feet of furniture, such as the front feet of a sofa. A rug in the middle of a room with nothing on it is just silly looking. It needs something to hold it down or it looks like it is about to fly away.
Improper lighting is probably the biggest single mistake everyone makes. Lighting in a room should be layered. Layered lighting means light comes from many directions and for several different purposes. Up-lights are great to use behind a plant or a chair. Lamps are great particularly if you consider shades can be opaque or translucent. Use both kinds in a room. And overhead lighting should be complementary to the inhabitants. Cove lighting and wall washers are great alternatives to overhead recessed lights. And don’t forget your task lighting in kitchens and work areas.
Art hung for Andre the giant – Keep your artwork so that the center of the piece is between 5’ 2” to 5’ 8” depending on the height of the occupants. If it is placed lower, it is a hazard. If it is placed higher, it could cause neck pain to view. And be wary of the height of any objects placed on a wall that project from the wall more than 4”. If placed in a major traffic pattern, they could put an eye out if someone runs into them.
Tacky couch covers – just don’t.
All the furniture against the wall – Looks like we are preparing for musical chairs or a dance, very similar to the 18th century. Pull the furniture away from the wall. That can be your Renaissance. And by pulling the furniture away from the wall, you pull it closer together, encouraging conversation.
Don’t ignore windows. If you dress a window it accentuates the window and creates more of a focal point of your view. And if you don’t have a view, then create one with interesting plantings outside. Window coverings should just frame the window if covering it completely isn’t acceptable. And be sure your full-length draperies go to the floor. If you do not want them touching the floor, fine. Puddled draperies are out anyway. But 6 inches off the floor is not acceptable even if there is a windowsill at that height. It looks like you’re expecting a flood any day.
Fear of color – Don’t be afraid of color on your walls. Paint is relatively cheap. If you don’t like it, you can always paint over it. A good rule for paint is look at muted colors, which are the ugliest colors on the paint deck. They make a nice backdrop for more intense colors you might have for accessories. But do not decorate simply with wall color. If lime green is your favorite color, that’s not an excuse to paint the walls of your living room lime green. Instead opt for a light khaki green and toss a couple of lime green pillows on the sofa. The room will read as green and be a lot more pleasing.
Too many knick-knacks – Do not put everything out all at once. That just looks like clutter. You can circulate your chotchkies like you circulate your kids’ toys. All that stuff is too hard to keep clean anyway if kept out all the time. For collections, display your favorites only. For example if you have a couple of spectacular blue Delft pieces, don’t dilute them with many ordinary pieces. Put the ordinary pieces away so the great ones stand out.
Pillow explosion – Too many pillows are just a waste of space. On a sofa, too many pillows say “Don’t sit on me”. Or once the dog moves a mass of pillows, the sofa looks messy. Just get rid of the pillows, or at least all but 2 or 3.
And the biggest pet peeve of designers and the biggest don’t of all is….
No fake flowers and plants. However I’m more of a pragmatist. I believe fake has its place. But you can take that too far. I don’t like walking into a home that looks like a fake theme park jungle ride. But a realistic silk tree placed here or there isn’t so bad. Dried flowers and trees are excellent alternatives to the real thing if allergies prevent you from having real. And you don’t have to wait for someone else to buy you flowers. Treat yourself now and then and buy yourself fresh flowers. Please remember, real or fake, plants get dusty. Take the real plants outside and give them a bath now and then. Do the same for silk plants. A hosing off doesn’t hurt the silk plant occasionally. Just let it dry thoroughly before bringing back into the house. Cleaning dried plants is tricky. Vacuuming works or just throw them away and start over. There is also a spray solvent that is supposed dissolve dust. It’s probably a good idea to try that outside, not inside, just in case of fumes and drips.
What are your personal Don’ts?continue reading