He is incredulous, "Did God paint me?" he echoes.
"Yes," she replies.
Then with tenderness he assures her, "Yes, God painted me."
"Why?" she wonders.
Azim wisely responds, "Because Allah loves wondrous variety."
Professionals in interior design also love wondrous variety. It is the trait we all have in common. In fact, countless designers and decorators have told me, following one of my lectures on historic styles, that they entered this field because of their love of all the design styles. And since they could not have them all personally, the next best thing was helping others so they could work with all the styles.
This love of "wondrous variety" can be satisfied by creating a different look for each client. This is as it should be. For just as no two people are alike, so it follows that no two interiors should be the same, either.
Exploring styles in depth is a wonderful pastime. Equally rewarding, however, is comparing styles to each other, to appreciate the differences and revel in the unique work of art that each interior can be. Today we have the ability to create a look that is one-of-a-kind for each client or customer. Perhaps their tastes are traditional, or they prefer country, or ethnic, or clean modern. And where the design isn't solidified in advance, we can seek inspiration from the myriad wall coverings books.
Here we will examine some illustrations to explore what makes each interior great—each one a distinctive style and yet part of the larger scheme of wondrous variety. As you read and visually compare, the goal might be to become better acquainted with each style. Today's design professionals need to be well versed in many styles in order to meet the demands of discriminating and relatively knowledgeable customers.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
It is interesting that after we came through the Post Modern era, we returned to the Modern era. International Modern is clearly with us again, a major movement in today's interior design themes. Good International Modern design is always structural design. This means simple, unadorned walls and windows with a clean exposure of elements as they really are.
Today's version of International Modern elements often are called Retro, meaning a look back to the Modern era. Furniture is simple but of well designed structural elegance in which line, form and shape play starring roles. Each item of furnishing is a functional work of art—exciting and well designed in and of itself.
At the window, the more utilitarian the better. However, softness is important both in color and measurement—note the soft light through the cellular shades and the white designer rug in the photograph, plus the depth of the sofa with its comfortable pillows and a throw to wrap up in while reading. It's a return to a simple life with today's conveniences and luxuries.
The resurgence in popularity of Modern style is based on three factors:
1. Many people are living such complex lives that structural interiors de-clutter and makes manageable their precious time resources. It is easier to de-stress and unwind with less worry about upkeep—there is simply less to dust.
2. Technology is the way of life for many people. Their interiors, with clean lines and high-tech devices such as the remote control operation of shades, clearly delineates who they are and what they want. Life operates at the touch of a button as preferred by the upscale "techie" generation.
3. "Less is more," the credo of the Modern Era, has been freely embraced by today's designers yielding a plethora of fabulous, sparsely designed objects—both utilitarian and those for the sake of beauty alone. Dramatically understated Modern design can be found in nearly every store, and in multiple locations through e-commerce. It is the wave of the future, so many companies have invested in inventory to satisfy the needs of the next wave of consumers. Less pattern, less materials, less bulk yields more freedom, more surrounding space, more cleanliness, more time to do other things.
The look of well-endowed, aged elegance is very much a part of today's wondrous variety. This is a sophisticated look with a focus on the sumptuous use of fabric. Each fabric is a stunning piece of tactile luxury. Some guidelines to success include:
1. Let only one fabric be a patterned, center-stage focal point. This fabric will be stunning and demand attention through its rich opulence. Trim the fabric—don't let it be plain. In some cases the trimming is integral to the fabric such as with embroidery or complex woven designs. In other settings, such as the sofa richly upholstered in the Italian Renaissance damask, shown below, it is trimmed with passementerie (fringe) in a unique place.
2. All other textiles are equally rich, but focus on texture. At the window and on the generously covered table are silk fabrics that are delectable—delicious to the eye and satisfying to the soul.
3. Lack of precision in one or more applications is a must to contrast with others that are tightly perfect. In the room pictured, notice how the fluidity and unstructured flow of the draperies contrasts with the tight precision of the upholstered sofa.
4. Use flooring that will complement or contrast with the setting.
5. Texture the walls—the right paint color, texture or wall covering adds measurably to the setting.
6. Above all, focus on luxury. Every installation needs to speak of elegance. Visual richness with great care and refinement, never over the top in quantity, but beautiful because the setting has just the right amount of luxury fabrics in just the right proportions and placement.
This is a broader category that has two directions: One is using patterns and colors from nature as interpreted by designers (illustrated here in the two photographs below); the other is using natural materials in their natural state.
Patterns and colors from nature are a constant in design. It is our most prolific supplier of design motifs. In these two illustrations, we see motifs as a botanical artist has created them. In both cases, the lavish use of the fabrics and coordinates creates a cheerful, richly decorative interior that is both a delight to the eye and a very comfortable room to enter. Here are some keys to success:
1. Be certain the pattern will be satisfying. This means that the shapes, colors and overall design distribution is pleasing. The result should be that when a person enters the immediate reaction is elation, a sense of happiness and exhilaration. These rooms make you feel good.
2. The color scheme needs to be simple. Let one or two colors stand alone and let white be a major player in the color scheme. An uncomplicated white surface or furnishing will complement and provide a pleasing background for the complexity of botanical or floral designs.
3. Have fun. Let the room be drenched and rich in enthusiasm and visual delight. Keep in mind that this will be an interior that will give its occasional occupants a lift.
Never out of style is the pleasant look of pastel interiors with ethereal designs. Illustrating this part of the mix-and-match interior is the pleasant and subtle floral motifs shown in the photograph on the next page, which set the background for the eclectic collection of antique or weathered new furniture. Rules include:
1. Most of the colors should be non-aggressive, easy-to-live-with pastels or soft tones.
2. One or two items should be dark (deep in value) for a bit of contrast and to anchor the room so the viewer doesn't feel he or she is floating. Too much white or light values will make the occupants feel insecure and negate the goal of relaxation.
3. Use patterns as a background and let some areas be non-patterned so the eye has a place to rest.
4. Use furnishings that have an old quality—something antique or imperfect, but charming because of it.
5. The goal is visual comfort where the eye can rest and find pleasing patterns and textures and be gently assured that all's right with the world.
Reaching for far corners of the world suggest a rugged tenacity that is represented in this style of earth tones, dramatic accents and sturdy textures. Many people living in the 21st century with all of its modern trappings want an interior belonging to another distant time and place where they can escape.
The penchant to peer into the past suggests hieroglyphics, cave drawings, primitive symbols, stone, wood, leather and a patina all worn through the ages. In the photograph below, these suggestions for Masculine Ethnic are evident:
1. The hunt is on for elements from the earth and from far off cultures that are unaffected by the 21st century.
2. Colors are earthy, dark or based on browned tones as seen in the leather upholstery and dramatic dark values of the draperies and dual-fabric upholstered cornice.
3. Texture is the key. Everywhere you look there should be a place to visually dig in to the surface—suggested through pattern or the real depth of shirred fabric. Materials have a strongly tactile quality.
4. The effect is one of coziness, a safety net with strength, a masculine and cave-like security. Both relaxation and satisfaction are achieved with a sense of power or control seen in the furnishings.
MIX AND MATCH
These are but a few well-developed looks that can be a part of the selections for today's savvy customer. Choose a look already established, or create your own. Mix as you please, and match when unity is needed.
Keep in mind, as one final thought, that "good design will stand the test of time," meaning that our goal as professionals should be to create long-lived, pleasing spaces that never are created to shock or amaze. A truly beautiful environment will be pleasing for a long time, and that is a worthy goal for every interior.
Karla J. Nielson, Allied ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of design at Brigham Young University. She is a practicing interior designer and has authored several books including Window Treatments and Understanding Fabrics. Nielson is a regular correspondent for Draperies & Window Coverings addressing the areas of fashion, education and merchandising.