Interior designers scour the world in search of those special decorative flourishes, and perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in model homes where visitors collect ideas for their own rooms.
"Decorating is in the details, not necessarily the big design statements," Dawn Kearney says , president of Design Line Interiors, Inc., San Diego, CA, which designs and interior merchandises model homes for more than 100 merchant builders in nine states and Mexico.
Since each week thousands of prospective home owners visit the interiors of model homes Kearney and her creative team assemble, their art of arranging accessories makes a cutting edge statement. That statement is: It need not cost a lot of money, yet again it may.
"Find a budget that suits your client's pocketbook and stay within it," advises Kearney. For example, one meter of lace to wake up tired pillows can cost less than $10. An antique pewter coat hook with filigree costs about the same, as does color coordinated fringe that dresses up basic cushions.
On the other hand, antiques that are arranged to create charming and comfortable rooms can cost, well, just about anything. The price for a pair of 18th-century candlesticks-after all, they're unusual French gilt-bronze fitted with period globes-can blow a modest budget.
But there are accessories to fall in love with. A bedroom wall, for instance, can be dominated by a monumental floral still life painted by Abbott Fuller Graves (1859-1936) in Paris in 1888. Graves was the only American whose floral still lifes were accepted by the jury at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889 to represent the United States.
"Finishing touches make the difference between an ordinary room and a special one, and they don't need to take a lot of time," says Kearney. Her advice: "When you see an arrangement that appeals to you in a model home, take a moment to study it carefully. Note how elements are grouped together, how various materials and textures are juxtaposed and how different sizes and scales are interwoven."
Rather than merely flank a painting with those expensive French candlesticks-or a less costly version from the local supplier-elevate one on a stack of antique books, prop a small-framed picture against it and add a vase of delicate flowers.
Your clients don't have collectibles or family heirlooms to work with? Many times the most interesting accessories are simply there for the taking: river-smoothed stones, shells from the beach, a bowl of fresh apricots or dried rose petals. Fill an old watering can with leafy branches or a big wooden salad bowl with bundles of twigs.
"There are styling secrets we can use in model homes that anyone can discover for their own purposes," Kearney explains. These include:
• Whenever possible, add elements from nature such as cut flowers, seasonal fruits or vegetables to give an arrangement a down-to-earth freshness. Flowers and herbs in an arrangement provide an aromatic beauty as well.
• Group similar items together in one place where they can have a greater impact, such as those momentos from that last trip abroad.
• Dramatic assemblages can be made by decorating upward. Give a small statue or a silver urn a lift by displaying it on a wooden chest.
• Even better than dramatic, go over the top on occasion. Consider a planter made from a cast of a Greek classical statue with the top lopped off. Or for the bathroom, a reproduction of the elaborate toilet mirror with tortoise shell frame made in 1713 by French cabinet maker Charles Andre Boulle (1642-1732) for the Duchesse de Berry at the palace Versailles.
The bathroom is one room that Kearney and her talented team especially enjoy decorating, for they realize that many families consider it their favorite room in the house. Plump towels, simple wooden accessories, mood lights, Art Deco-like accents and other custom accessories provide ingenuity and comfort.
"Above all, put comfort first and don't be shy about injecting your client's own personality to achieve one-of-a-kind style," suggests Kearney.
Dawn Kearney is president of Design Line Interiors, Inc., San Diego, CA, (619) 274-6111.