Interiors with a touch of luxury are important to our emotional and physical well-being. An interior that protects people from the elements might be a basic shelter, but an interior that is beautiful and satisfying goes far beyond the basics. This is why there is a market for our profession.
All people want to feel good in their interiors. We want to experience
environments where we feel. We want to experience a connection to places
we have been and to people we have known, experiences that have left us
changed forever. We want to feel richness in our lives within the sanctity
of our own walls. So many of us need something to make us feel alive,
to appreciate and cherish life, not just for a brief time but as a continuing
There is so much that is mundane in today’s world, and there is so
much that is brash, harsh, coarse, rude, vain, vulgar and violent. More
and more, people are looking for ways to supplant these negatives with
something better: goodness, kindness, beauty, loveliness, graciousness,
virtue, refinement, warmth, peace, happiness, excitement, enthusiasm,
LUXURY AND INDULGENCE
Luxury can be defined as the use and enjoyment of the best (and perhaps
the most costly) things that offer the most physical comfort and satisfaction.
Indulgence is the yielding to ones wishes or desires to satisfy a longing,
a desire, a need or a want—often for something luxurious.
These two words, luxury and indulgence, combine to create a goal that
will yield many of the feelings and qualities listed above and bring a
higher quality of living to our clients. In essence, that is our role.
We make life more beautiful, more convenient, more luxurious so that people
can feel better, happier, more satisfied, productive and more at peace
with their lives. If we can do this successfully, we have the best of
all possible careers.
THE FACES OF LUXURY
The ways to indulge in a bit of luxury are myriad, as many as are the
styles of interior design. What seems like an indulgence to one may be
taken for granted by another. With this month’s article are three
photographs each with narrated suggestions as to how each face of luxury
was accomplished. These may provide you with ideas of how to voice your
own narrated suggestions to your clients.
In each of these faces of luxury, let us focus on texture, color, pattern,
form and shape—important elements of design that provide the most
tactile and visual impressions.
• The Luxury of Fabric. (See photo 1) In this room setting, fabric
is the key element to luxury. We have entered a new era in alternative
window coverings, an evolution from the basics of mini-blinds and verticals
(strong and useful as they continue to be) toward more softness at the
The shadings in this room form a gentle privacy backdrop for the generous
tied-back drapery panels that puddle, pool or spill onto the floor. Fabric
used in targeted excess such as this spells luxury. It indicates that
the owner has a little (or a lot of) extra money to be able to afford
lavish (as opposed to skimpy) amounts of fabric.
It also becomes a sculptural element, soft and alluring. And it softens
sound giving acoustical padding to interior noise and reverberation.
Visually, it offers soft and supple textures and, in this interior, neutral
colors that diffuse and enhance light distribution. Psychologically it
lends peace to the interior. The contrast of fabric used against hard
materials such as glass and wood floors increases the indulgence of fabric.
In this room, a classic element—a French Neoclassic open armchair
or fauteuil (fo-toy’-yuh)—also adds credibility to the lavish
and indulgent use of fabric.
• The Luxury of Texture. (See photo 2) Texture is read in two ways:
by touch and by visual appearance. Historically, very smooth and formal
textiles were considered the most appealing by the upper society nouveau
riche. Then, with the advent of rayon, about 1860, smooth, silk-like fabrics
were made available to the middle classes leaving the rich in a quandary
as how to be different.
Over the many years that transpired, the well to do have often turned
toward handmade, unique items that came from exotic cultures and faraway
places. In the 1960s Americans became obsessed with items from the Orient,
India, Africa and the South Seas. This love affair has not ceased to diminish
today, especially for texture accomplished by hand.
In this casual room, a touch of elegance—not to be confused with
formality—is seen in the shade elegantly framed by balloon draperies.
Individual fiber strands are joined together with hand-tied knots, transforming
natural grasses, reeds and fibers into unique, hand-woven Roman-fold shades.
Wicker furniture, sporting a lively botanical print, adds whimsy and casual
comfort to this setting.
• Luxury Through Form and Shape. (See photo 3) Today a surge of interest
in things Oriental is considered an indulgent touch of luxury. From Feng
Shui to Shibusa to Zen interiors, Americans are seeking good chi (energy),
peace and serenity, and exquisite, long-lived beauty to counter our overly
busy and pressured lives.
One example of Oriental luxury is seen in these unique bamboo ikebana
(floral arrangements) baskets, which illustrate how two distinctively
different art forms can compliment one another to bring an ambience of
harmony. Introduced to Japan by the Chinese centuries ago, bamboo ikebana
baskets with their exquisite arrangements of fresh-cut flowers soon appeared
in shrines, monasteries and private homes all over Japan.
Sculptural in form with their intricately woven stitches and knots, the
baskets played an integral role in the time-honored tea ceremony, providing
an atmosphere conducive to the quiet contemplation of nature.
Also seen in this photo are examples of antique and early 20th-century
hand-woven silk obi known as maru. Patterned on both sides, maru obi were
ceremonial and formal in style. These uniquely beautiful textiles were
often commissioned by affluent Samurai families to be worn and displayed
on important occasions as sashes to enhance kimonos. They were an indication
of the family’s wealth and social status in the community. When viewed
from different angles and in different light, the colors appear to change,
an effect achieved through artisans’ unique dying and weaving techniques.
Symbolism and themes from nature, recurrent in Japanese art, are predominant
in obi motifs. The crane, phoenix, bamboo, pine, peony and chrysanthemum
appear continuously. Colors are natural dyes. However, pictorial elements
define each obi as an individual work of art.
As professionals in the field of interior design, we are uniquely poised
to bring positive, even thrilling feelings to the lives of our clients
and customers. We can guide and provide them with elements and items that
are not just nice, but have the potential to be wonderful, fully supportive
Logically, we should feel an ethical obligation to do this. We chose careers
that were intended to improve the quality of life for others. We are part
of a field that has great power over the emotions of the people who occupy
the spaces we furnish. We have sources for textiles, window coverings,
wall coverings, floor coverings, furnishings and accessories that will
ensure that color, pattern, texture, form and shape combine to create
exquisite beauty. This is a great source of satisfaction for the customer
and for us, as well. Let’s indulge!
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, 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.