Design 101

Class 2: Style

“Style is something each of us already has, all we need to do is find it.”

–Diane von Furstenberg


Now that your home is clear of clutter (and only left with things you want to keep or absolutely need to keep for now) you are ready to begin planning how you are going to redecorate your space. At this point you need to think about the style of décor you would like to create in your environment. Do you lean toward a country or a more traditional look? Do you gravitate towards a relaxed contemporary? (like Pottery Barn) or a bit exotic? (Pier 1).

Whatever your taste in furniture and decorative pieces, just be mindful of the scale and design of your house itself. A small/medium ranch looks more appropriate with a smaller scale pieces and clean lines – extra-large, over-stuff, ornate furniture often looks very out-of-place in that setting. A large house with vast rooms needs larger pieces to fill it – not a lot of small ones. Most typical Long Island homes look well-matched with a relaxed, rustic traditional or contemporary décor. Homes with some warmth, character, and without too much formality have the most popular appeal –and that is an excellent goal to work towards!

When planning your space, remember CONTINUITY – a hallmark of good design and smart planning (there will be a separate class on this later). Your home should feel cohesive – with the mood and style being harmonious throughout. Years ago I was asked to help a family plan a room addition for a hot tub (remember when those were popular? – I am dating myself!). When I visited the home, it was an unforgettable mishmash of clashing styles. The typical center hall colonial opened up on the left to a super formal dining room with throne-like chairs covered in brocade, with a huge gold gilded chandelier hanging above. Heavy drapes with gold tassels, pedestals with Roman urns and a huge dining room hutch competed for space. It looked like the Palace of Versailles. Meanwhile, off the dining room was the kitchen – which was done in country style. Gingham curtains, wooden signs with cutesy sayings and a collection of ceramic roosters and cows lined the rustic pine kitchen cabinets. The living room opposite and open to the dining room was done in black Oriental import furniture; covered in colorful raised carved figures, walls lined with Asian artwork and “Ming Dynasty” accessories scattered about. The family room was a sleek modern with lots of steel, glass and leather with bold primary-colored artwork. Each room seemed to be a unique world of its own – expensively done – and very disorienting! So while this house was the extreme, do remember to plan your rooms so they feel like they belong together under the same roof – even if you do like to mix styles up just a little!

And remember to furnish all your rooms so it is conducive to use all your rooms. If you are over 50, you probably remember joking that your parents and their friends needed a velvet rope to keep out visitors from entering the “ever-so-formal” dining room and living room. Just look, don’t touch and no way EVER sit down. Rooms for “show” are dated (and ridiculous). You should feel as though you can use your dining or living room as readily as your kitchen or family room. Furnish and decorate these rooms to be welcoming and comfortable.

Many times we inherit (or purchased years ago) quality wood furniture that is not really our current taste but too costly to replace. Just about any piece can be modified or accessorized to look more updated. Formal dining chairs can have the ornate seats recovered in a contemporary solid textured fabric. The floral centerpiece can be switched into a wicker basket and the silver candlesticks can be switched out to heavy wood ones for a more casual look. Replacing dated/discolored furniture handles and knobs can make a big difference. A friend of mine removed the brass diamond-shaped insert that was inside the glass of her hutch – giving it a clean, new appearance. And by removing the hutch part of a dining room set (creating a buffet), you can place lamps on it and framed art hanging over it for a fresh new look as well. Likewise, a dated master bedroom set can be updated by replacing a floral or printed bedspread with a solid colored or textured one. Lamps, updated cabinet hardware, and a few other new accessories that reflect your current style can transform the room as well.

Once you figure out what your “style” is, it helps to give it a “name”. A friend of mine likes “Pottery Barn-style.” If something looks like it came from the Pottery Barn catalogue, she knows it will fit with the style she is trying to create. Another person I know is trying to create a “Country Farmhouse” decor and she asks herself if any purchase she is considering fits that description. There are so many magazines and store catalogues dedicated to a certain “look”, that if you are unsure of yourself, you can look through them and note the details of rooms you would like to emulate. Just remember not to go overboard with anything too predictable or cliché – and don’t over accessorize!

So pick the style you would like to dress your house in – the next class is picking a color scheme!