The opening lyrics to that Gershwin modern classic song “Summertime” strike the right notes for many people today who yearn for an easier lifestyle—something less complicated, less demanding, less stressful. This drive for easy, private living may result from many external factors that can cause anxiety, pressure or insecurity. These include work-related stress, fear for personal safety or, perhaps, an overwhelming complexity in personal demands or lifestyles. I, for one, feel that I’m typically at the bottom of an ever-present avalanche—so much to do that I can’t quite climb to the surface.
I suspect I am not alone. For many who are overcommitted, an easy-living
interior is the ticket to sanity. Many clients today are seeking
the peace of mind obtainable in an interior that is undemanding
visually and that requires limited effort to maintain.
Whatever the source of the need or desire, there is good news: that easy living feeling can be experienced in several interior design styles. Here we will explore a few styles that translate into low-upkeep, relaxed and secure interiors that result in safe, simple spaces where peace of mind comes easily.
Figuratively turning back the calendar to a more simple time is clearly a way to simplify one’s life. In a yesteryear-inspired interior, time seems to slip by more slowly without the demands of our current technology. In reality, technology is present in these interiors, but it is inconspicuous. In this style, inspired by farmhouse or Arts & Crafts influences, quality matters. Fine craftsmanship is seen everywhere, right down to the faucets and lighting fixtures. And although interiors of the early 1900s did not feature expanses of glass, today we assume that they will be integral to the space, opening vistas, inviting warm sunshine and happiness.
In a nostalgic interior, natural materials are featured. They add a sense of realness to the interior. They suggest warmth and handsome unpretentiousness. Wood cabinets, flooring, window and door frames and ceiling beams are natural materials used generously in nostalgic interiors. Pewter or antiqued finishes in faucets and lighting are appropriate as is some use of tile or stone.
Warm colors are used on the walls, often in solid application. These may include yellow-greens, yellows, tans and beige families, coral and red hues. Cool hues with warm undertones are also appropriate: warm blues and warm undertones of greens and teal are appealing. Walls may also be covered with wallpaper or vinyl wall coverings that give softness, texture or subtle pattern and require no upkeep while years of enjoyment are derived from the texture or design. Sometimes patterned wall coverings are used as strategically placed accents rather than for large sidewalls. However, in some rooms, sidewalls are patterned in motifs that produce feelings of security and safety, even coziness and quaint charm.
At the window, roller shades with a woven, natural texture are especially appealing, as are solar screens, natural wood tone blinds and shutters. And perhaps less fabric will be used in interiors where the lowest upkeep is desirable—a rather clean look at the window. However, where the interior needs a cozy aura, then draperies or valances or even cottage curtains will be the best choice over the ever-practical blinds and shades. Roman shades in simple stripes, checks or solid textures fit both bills—simple and low upkeep, yet soft and cushioning for both interior noise levels and visual effects.
The sophisticated interior can be an easy-living space. In these interiors, the look is complete, finished, detailed, perfect. It may be of any style, but often is an eclectic mix of old and new, mellow yet crisp, and full of richness but without any fussiness. There is an impression that the interior belongs to those with high-end taste, but who have spent a lifetime collecting just the right item at, perhaps, estate sales or antique stores. These precious pieces are set amid very contemporary materials that complement or contrast with their antique charm.
Walls are usually painted a solid color—rich but neutralized. Colors on the walls in sophisticated, low-stress interiors usually are rich yet soft in appearance. Pattern is less likely to appear in these interiors, although wall coverings in textures may be very successful.
A precise and clean contrast to the walls is found in the detail of the finish package (wood trim). These wood trim moldings are most often painted a clean white or off-white and set-off the wall color with a clean, even elegant look.
At the window, straight lines will predominate. Window coverings may feature vertical or horizontal manufactured shadings that provide both privacy and light or view when desired as well as elegance and restraint. Where draperies are used, they will be sleek or sculptural, simple and stylish.
The classic, simple lines and materials of Neo-Mid-Century Modern have become a new passion for many of the techie generation regardless of age. Its universal appeal to both the Baby Boomers who remember fondly the clean but funky designs of the ’60s as well as members of the Generation X gang who have sailed into positions of technology authorities has created a substantial following.
Architecture is simple, bare bones with no detailing. It is based on the International Modern Style whose proponents included LeCorbusier, Marcel Breuer, Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe. Even Frank Lloyd Wright dabbled in International Modern. This means large expanses of windows that connect the outside to the inside. It also usually means banks of solid color on the wall, sometimes in surprising colors and contrast from wall to wall, or from wall to furnishing, or from wall to floor. Colors and contrasts are not shy here. They are bold and decisive and emphasize the graphics that are inevitable design features—perhaps over-scaled circles or abstract patterns.
Accessories give all the character to these interiors, and even these are rarely subtle. They may be aptly described as fun. They may be standalone items, although they occasionally are grouped. Pillows are one example of an important graphic accessory. Pots, abstract or splashy wall art, and items such as the live-forever Fiesta® ware in a variety of strong colors give life and punch to these rooms.
You might be asking, what’s the difference between this and Retro? This style has forged ahead of the Fifties and the naivety of that endearing era to the fashion-forward Sixties with its confidence and pizzazz. But call it Retro if that is already entrenched in your vocabulary.
Simple window treatments are a must. But they also must be strong elements. So shutters, blinds, shades and vertical louvers are all the best bet here.
These interiors are easy living because the credo “less is more” is clearly evident. Less stuff means less upkeep, dusting, contemplating. Just a few impressive and memorable items will do the trick. Sofas are leather or other long wearing materials. Furnishings herald back to the Danish Modern days (why did we sell off that stuff 20 years ago?!?). It’s great design for the confident as the celebration of the beginning of the Modern Era. We welcome this style with open arms and cell phones in hand.
This style is a blend of contemporary living on a backdrop of natural elements. These might include interior wall applications of wood shingles or siding, stone fireplaces or floors, wide-open vistas to great views of ocean or woods, desert or sky. It tries to balance coziness with austerity, view with intimacy. And in so doing, problems often need solving.
One is the expanse of large glass, which admits much heat and cold, glare and brightness, thereby restricting the pleasure of these rooms. Recommended is a high-quality window film. The best of which can clarify the view, regulate temperature and give the customer a measure of peace of mind concerning glass shards from breakage.
Natural materials need no upkeep and are handsome year after year. They require no painting or touch-up. These qualities assure the sense of continuance of nature as it will be the same many years from now, and a bit of mellowing or aging of the architectural elements will not diminish their appeal.
Window treatments often will be most desirable if they stack off the glass and are inconspicuous so that the nature scene for which the interior was created may be unencumbered. Pleated shades, stacked above or to the side, vertical louvers, shading product and blinds are all very good choices.
ENJOYING THE EASY LIFE
The creation of a room where the livin’ is easy is for the end result. That is comfort, convenience, relaxation and enjoyment of the space and the people and pastimes in that room. It will serve well without asking to be served. It will allow that living to take place with graciousness. That’s a worthy interior design goal for a busy life.
Karla J. Nielson, Allied ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of design at Brigham Young University. She has authored several books including Window Treatments, Understanding Fabrics and Interiors: An Introduction, 3rd Ed. Nielson is a regular correspondent for Draperies & Window Coverings addressing the areas of fashion, education and merchandising.