Recently I was asked why anyone still hires a decorator when blogs are so saturated with "dream room dissections" complete with product lists and paint colors. Well, while it's true that design is more accessible than ever before and — thanks to the internet — it's often free, rarely is the success of a room the sum of its parts.
Nevertheless, dream rooms and inspiration boards can be a great springboard for creating a home that you love. I have yet to find a decorator or designer who doesn't rely on precisely these tools when creating a home for a client, at least in the initial stages. To use them well, though, it may be helpful to keep a few things in mind:
• Don't forget about your own tastes and style. This may go without saying, but remember that you are creating a room that you love. Even in rooms that I completely drool over, I can usually still find something that I'd like to change, something that's not quite me. And that's because, duh, the room was designed for someone else. Simple, right? So, before you try to copy every last detail of your inspiration photo, make a separate list of what you want in your own dream room. You may find that painted white floors will not in fact suit your 3 dog family, or that a moody black bedroom won't actually make your early-bird spouse feel chipper in the morning. For example, if I were using the room pictured above as my inspiration, I'd swap out the glossy black tables for one with a worn, reclaimed wood top to better suit my love for clean and warm rustic spaces. Bottom line: no matter how beautiful a room is, it won't feel authentic if you neglect your own style.
• Take your location into account. The same paint color in a west-facing room will look completely different than in one with a southern exposure, so always,always test paint colors on site and tweak your palette accordingly. This doesn't necessarily mean only using warm colors in a north-facing room. It does mean being creative in how you come up with the perfect paint color though. If you've fallen for a wall color in a magazine, try taping it to the wall in the room where you want it and holding paint card swatches next to it. I hold a paint deck next to the taped up picture, and flip through it until I get to a swatch that suits. It may sound elementary or just crazy, but I've used this no frills method on more than one occasion to great effect. But this topic goes beyond the direction of your home. It also has to do with the city and culture you live in. For more discussion on the topic, check out this post on What Role Does Location Play In Your Decor.
• Consider your home's architectural details. Many times — and sometimes without even realizing it— what we love about a room in a magazine isn't the furniture and accents, it's the architectural character. Obviously this discovery can come as a blow if you're living in a low-ceilinged, wall-to-wall carpeted 70s box and you're trying to recreate a breezy Caribbean bungalow or an airy Parisian flat simply by adding a new set of chairs. Before you give up hope, reflect on the feeling of your inspiration picture and take notice of things like the quality of light, type of textures, etc. Then, without ignoring your own home's character, think about how to incorporate that feeling into your scheme. In cases where I can't rely on or add architectural details to carry the eye, I try to create interesting vignettes as focal points and go heavy on texture, sometimes layering a few— like a rug over a carpet— to give a flat room more depth. One of the most successful makeovers I've seen related to this point is Lauren Leiss's 70s fixer-upper.
• Invest in good lighting. Remember that nearly every room that's photographed for a magazine or blog is staged with optimal lighting or digitally edited to drown out imperfections. While we can't rely on a digital eraser or a photographer's light box in our real life homes, we can help a room looks its best by illuminating it with a variety of flattering light sources. Employ a combination of task, overhead, and mood lighting rather than relying on a single source such as, say, the formidable fluorescent overhead.
• Don't forget about scale. This is an important one friends. A room-to-go snagged from a Restoration Hardware catalog will not flatter your tiny colonial's living room even if you have the dough to pull off the purchase. If you're ordering from a catalog and find it hard to visualize a piece in your home, use painter's tape to map out the furniture's dimensions on the floor and walls. For example, tape a sofa's footprint on the floor and height on the wall (if it is intended go against a wall).
• Remember the last 10%. Even if you were able to accommodate the financial and spatial feat of ordering an entire room's worth of furniture from one catalog page, it still wouldn't look complete if you neglect the accents and the styling. You may have a better chance of recreating a Pottery Barn look from second hand shops than Pottery Barn itself if you only think in terms of the big pieces of furniture. And this, of course can be frustrating if you've just dropped a ton of money on a pair of new sofas and coordinating accent tables. Look at inspiration photos and catalog spreads as styling guides, after all these rooms were staged by professional stylists. You may discover that what you like most about a room is the way a bookshelf is arranged or art collection is grouped rather than a particular sofa.
What other tips would you add to the list?
Image: center: VT Wonen, surrounding: product shots, mood board created by Leah Moss