The delight and dilemma of the interior design profession is innovation. Most designers and decorators have a passion for color, pattern, texture and their application in furnishings. The delight is the freedom to select from thousands of textiles, wall coverings, paint colors, flooring materials and limitless styles of furniture and accessories—many which are new with each season. The dilemma is putting selections together in a way that meets the following criteria:
• The look of the newly furnished space is cohesive; it has a style that is unified, yet with variety to give uniqueness and character to the interior.
• It follows a theme and employs a decided look and great style. It “has its act together.” In short—the space is harmonious.
• It meets the needs, desires and passions of the client. This means it is both functional and aesthetically wonderful. The new design must be an interpretation of who the client is, what she wishes to accomplish in the space and how she desires to feel while occupying the space.
• The look is fresh. Nothing is less gratifying than creating something that is old hat—a style or look that has been around and around. And nothing is more exhilarating than creating a look that has never been done before, or at least is a new twist, a different sort of look from the ordinary. Finding that new look is the dilemma.
TAPPING INTO YOUR
Your own creative juices sometimes might need a little jump-starting to begin the flow of ideas. Thinking outside the box means opening up to any and every idea source. Sometimes the most creative ideas do not begin inside your head. A little visual stimulus viewed with your creative eye might be needed to open your mind to new possibilities.
Often, an artistic mind will follow a train of thought something like this: “What if I used the shape of this lovely chair as the general form for a window top treatment—say an upholstered cornice?” By asking questions to yourself you begin a mental conversation that often becomes very productive. Another name for this process is intuitive brainstorming and it is a sequential mental experience.
For example, you say to yourself, “What if I used this red color seen in the painting for the entire wall in a richly textured wall covering, or what if it became the trim on the ecru-colored draperies, or what if I used that red as the sofa fabric, or pillows on a cream-colored sofa?” This can be done by you mentally in about the length of time it took to read the sentence (OK, maybe a few moments longer, as you will need to turn and look at each part of the room you’re in).
Consider all sources of color, form, texture and pattern in a room as a starting point and a potentially pivotal center for making decisions. As you consider the possibilities, you will want to do some mental sifting so that not all your ideas are said aloud to your client.
Why? Two reasons: One is that they will be overwhelming to the customer; and two is that they may take your ideas and not purchase from you. It is essential that you lead the client along carefully with small doses, often in the form of questions. For example, “Is this red color in the painting deeply appealing to you?” (Yes.) “I can envision this red as the trimming on a beautiful ecru damask fabric. Let me show you the fabrics. Here are two colors of ecru that will work beautifully. Do you like this fabric with this new metallic appearance, or that one?” (This new one). “Good. Now let’s design the window treatment and consider trimming placement.”
The next step is to get out your laptop and design the treatment. Get a commitment on the treatment. Select the trimmings. Get an approval of the trimmings. Now add up the treatment and get an approval for the entire job. What have you not done? You haven’t worried the client about the creative journey that you’ve accomplished in your mind.
Look around each room you enter. Is there some feature, something unique that could become more important with your professional touch? For example, in the photograph, opposite page, top, the soft furnishings professional has capitalized on the drama presented by the contemporary coffered ceiling. This architectural feature is inherently elegant. The commanding presence is something to be reckoned with. It demands attention and is a stunning part of an upscale interior. It deserves to be enhanced.
Let’s take a little deeper look at the architecture. If the interior architecture is commanding and impressive, the fabric can be more fluid and of greater quantity. More architecture? Then more fabric.
Take the treatment high on the wall, perhaps right to the molding next to the ceiling. Add swags and select a highly luxurious fabric in a metallic sheen. The result is a dynamic duo: gorgeous, generously full draperies and swags that balance an impressively detailed room. Note: Metallic finishes in fabric and hardware is a fresh, new approach. Look for it to increase in popularity in the near future.
HIGHER CUSTOMER INVOLVEMENT
What if the client wants to be a part of the creative process? By all means, let her assist you, keeping in mind that you must be the expediter. There are times a client wants a sounding board as much as she wants a professional. Keep this under control, and keep the process moving along in a kindly way—quickly and to the point.
Let’s say that with client involvement you select a pair of very unique chairs, such as those by Century Furniture in the photograph, previous page. They have Art Nouveau flair and are fresh and fun. What can you do with them? Color contrast is an effective way to give freshness to an interior. What about the idea of literally going green? Apple green with crisp white—seen here in a fresh and almost whimsical fabric called Green Peace—indulges the viewer in the inherent optimism of the color. Next, take the theme to the background in the creation of an encouraging, peaceful oasis. Green is serene in nature. Green also is good news in our age of anxiety. This fresh, creative look is upbeat, happy and soothing.
EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN
And now we are back to the delight of creating something fresh and new. It is wonderfully comforting to know that all design elements were once new, became old, and they all take turns at becoming new again. All colors recycle, all patterns and textures are revisited, revised and refreshed as styles and trends evolve.
A design, such as this pillow and drapery from the River Road fabric and wall coverings collection by Thibaut, is based on antique tapestries. This collection includes chic, large-scale patterns in floral designs, paisleys, Jacobeans, bold silk stripes and elegant acanthus damask. With a wealth of design and detail the patterns take on a tapestry appearance, and earthy, deep tones enhance their splendid appeal.
Let the fabric become the fresh approach. It can be the element that delights the eye, gladdens the heart and excites the artistic mind. Loveliness transcends time barriers and will often stay fresh for years to come.
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.