Where do the ideas come from?

People often ask me how I get my ideas. Sometimes it is some sort of divine inspiration. Usually, though, it's just plain, old fashioned problem solving. When I was a design student, I read Billy Baldwin's guide to decorating (and if you don't know who that is....you have no soul), and he wrote that most people make decorating mistakes because they think in turns of style first: "I want a French provincial guest room, I want a Tuscan kitchen, etc., etc." He pointed out that in fact, what people should do first is think about how they want the rooms to function, what furniture is needed, where to place it, and then, and only then think about color, fabric, and the style of the furniture. As a student, I also had an excellent instructor, Mr. Carwile, who made us defend our decisions in design projects with at least three rational reasons. (And he did not accept, "because red is just a fabulous color!" as a rational reason. I know, I tried.) Case in point, the following faux project.

The clients are a couple with 4 children under 9 years old. The only space they have as a playroom for the children is the guest room with attached bath downstairs. While they rarely have overnight guests, they do have a convertible sofa in the room and wanted it to be able to function as a guest room when needed. The room also opens off of the main hallway which runs from the entry through the home to the sunroom at the back. Therefore, the room will be seen by guests and had to complement the formality of the foyer. Further, the attached bath which is used by the children acts as the powder room for guests. Therefore, I needed to develop a color scheme and finishes for the two rooms that would feel appropriate for adults, have the formality necessary for their locations, and be practical for young children. In addition, the lady of the house wanted the bath to be dramatic and gorgeous.

The Plan: I started with the bath. Dark walls = drama and durable. The bath is a full one, so it was decently sized even if it doesn't have a window. Dark red is an accent color in the nearby living room, existing curtains in the guest room and art in the foyer, and appears in the existing shower curtain (the client wanted to reuse) so I decided to use it as a base. To pump up the drama, I then glazed the walls in antique bronze and copper. In addition to the glitz, a washed finish like that hides smudges and hand prints. Finally, I finished the walls with a high gloss polyurathane finish. This did several things. First, the shine keeps the dark color from being oppressive by bouncing light around. Next, it creates a scrubbable surface, always necessary when young kids are around. Finally, the shine ups the requested drama quotient.a
The guest/playroom is a small space with an awardward layout, little natural light, and a soffit that hides duct work. I chose a creamy off-white (Sherwin Williams navajo white, one of my favorite trim colors), for walls, ceiling, and trim, varying the sheen levels for interest. That opened the room and smoothed some of the awkward features; however, it would have been an impractical choice for a children's playroom. Therefore, I added a chair rail (at a higher level than traditionally used). Underneath the rail, I decided on a complementary finish to the one in the bath. It is a woven effect in tones of brown and maroon that gives the illusion of a grasscloth. I then applied a poly finish over it. Chair rails and two tone walls are not usually a look I like, but in this case it provides protection and camoflouge from the wear and tear of children while visually connecting the two spaces. It is also a look casual enough for children, but traditional enough to be co-ordinate with the formal entry. I used the two overscale light colored prints to balance the dark powder room walls.
Close up of the bath finish. I defy a child to damage it.

1 comment:

Paula said...

For 36 years, I have wondered where the ideas come from.