My clients #1 concerns when we first meet are style and color. With every new project I start, these two areas of design are always the first thing we begin to work with. Most clients have an idea of what they want but are not quite sure how to make it all work. Trying to decide on an overall style for your home can be overwhelming so hopefully this post will help you to simplify your style and color!
This is much easier to do than you would think, you just need to break things down a bit. Styles run the gamut from very ornate and “busy” to very minimal and sleek. The type of style you choose is really based on how you live and what you find comfortable and attractive. Do not feel that you have to be “locked” into a style once you begin. There is absolutely nothing wrong with eclectic design. Some of the best design comes from mixing and matching elements from various periods and styles. In fact, some very recognizable styles, such as Victorian, came about by blending the best of the past with the contemporary designs of the time.
Here are a few questions to help you determine what might be the best design for you and your lifestyle.
Do you like to have “things” all around you?
Do you feel comfortable in a “busy” environment, one filled with collections of all kinds, books, flowers, and fabrics?
If so, you would probably like American Country, Victorian and English Cottage styles. Oriental rugs, floral patterns mixing with stripes and solids, figurines, fringes and tassels, baskets and all sorts of collections are frequently used in developing these styles.
If these styles don’t appeal to you….how about another popular style suited to this category? Shabby Chic – a term coined by Rachel Ashwell – which combines distressed and painted furnishings with lots of white, pastel colors and natural accents. This is a good way to blend together flea market finds into one unified look. Here are a few examples.
Does clutter make you nervous or annoy you?
Do you prefer to hide everything away behind closed doors leaving lots of open spaces? Do you prefer large-scale or singular art pieces and blocks of dramatic color rather than collections of smaller items? Do you like sleek, rather than overstuffed, furniture? Do you like the look of metal and glass?
If this is the case, choosing a style with a minimalist look would probably suit you. Art Deco, Techno/Industrial, Modern and Japanese décor are considered calming, use neutral colors with a few well-placed and frequently bold and large scale accents. Solid prints and geometrics are favored over floral; frills, flounces, ruffles and ornate carving are generally not used. The chosen materials may be manufactured or natural (for example, Japanese décor makes frequent use of rocks and bamboo), but the overall look is sleek and minimalist. The Industrial and Modern styles all make use of metal and glass for an overall look that can be calming or dramatic.
Example of Art Deco:
Examples of Modern:
Example of Asian Interiors:
Still not finding what you like?
Examples of décor that fall somewhere between these two extremes would be French Country, Tuscan/Mediterranean, Scandinavian, Arts and Crafts (Craftsman) and Contemporary. Each of these looks combines the use of bold colors and the use of natural materials and simple, sometimes rough-hewn furniture. The look is generally light and airy and falls somewhere between elegant and rustic. Collections of pottery, books and artwork are common.
Examples of French Country:
Example of Tuscan:
Of course, the vast majority of us tend to combine styles, but these terms might give you a place to start in developing your own style.
Color, what can you live with?
This is where most people balk. They are afraid to choose color, probably the single most important aspect of design. Have no fear! Color is fun and can make a major impact in a space. It can bring two large spaces together or create a focal point in a smaller space.
How should you go about choosing the right color for you?
You can always look to the colors in nature. Nature is one of the most inspirational color palets we have to work with. The colors of nature will fit just about any style and by mixing variations of colors you are expanding your options.
You can also take a look in your closet, my favorite place to look! When you select clothes for FUN (clothes that you WANT, as opposed to clothes that you NEED for work), what do you buy?
Looking at the colors in your own closet can give you insight as to what you might choose for your home design. Keep in mind, too, color choices often change with age. As you age, receptors in your eyes perceive colors differently. You might find at 40 that you suddenly like reds, oranges and yellows much more than you did at age 25 when you preferred purples and greens.
Once you figure out if you are a pastel, neutral or jewel tones sort of person, you can decide to use one of these as your backdrop. Wall color, floor color (whether using wood flooring, tile, carpet or area rugs as your budget allows) and large furniture pieces should reflect your primary choice for color. Your accent pieces – side chairs, fabric and artwork – will focus on your second and third color choices.
For example, you might create a neutral or pastel backdrop with jewel tone accent pieces. Or you might go the opposite way and create a dramatic jewel tone room with deep red walls, but use neutrals or pastels in your large pieces and accents. It is very difficult to go wrong with color IF you work along the following lines, keep the Color Wheel in mind at all times and keep the major colors in the room to no more than three. That doesn’t mean you can’t have other colors, just don’t make them a major issue in the room. Here are the basics of the color wheel.
- Achromatic: The use of black, grey and white can create a dramatic room. This color scheme usually works best in a very modern setting and design scheme.
- Monochromatic: This means variations of the same color. A monochromatic scheme is usually considered soothing. You would select a single color (blue for example) and then use the lighter tints and darker tones and shades of this color against a neutral background. A tint is a color plus white; a tone is a color plus grey and a shade is a color plus black.
- Complementary: This means using colors that are on the opposite sides (180 degrees) of the color wheel. Red and green, violet and yellow, blue and orange – think school colors – not just the pure shades, but all the different shades within this color palette, plus a neutral if desired.
- Analogous: This means using colors that are NEXT to each other on the color wheel. Red, red-orange and orange are frequently used in Chinese and Mexican décor. Blue, blue-green and green along with a touch of white or beige can create a very effective seascape-themed room. Throw in some shells and you’re at the beach!
- Triadic: This means using a combination of every 4Th color on the color wheel red, yellow and blue or orange, green and violet, for example. This combination usually makes for a very colorful room and is frequently a scheme used in decorating children’s rooms. If you can’t imagine these colors together, think about the current craze among teenagers: hot pink, orange and neon green are dominating the Teen Decorating World at the moment. On a much calmer note, French Country and Mediterranean styles also frequently use this scheme and the colors blue, red and yellow. French Country uses bright, true colors and Tuscan style frequently uses deeper, jewel tone versions (cobalt, scarlet and gold) of these same colors.