1.24.2012

Decorating Decisions

Decorating IS decision making.  That's what it boils down to:  a series of decisions that, when answered, make a room.  Answer the design questions well and you have a beautiful and functional room.  Stumble when answering, and the room is less than perfect.  A lot of design bloggers, and not coincidentally these are the most popular and successful ones have definite answers on all design topics.  "Never use a dust ruffle" they pronounce or "All kitchens should have white cabinets and marble counter tops."  And readers, including myself, find some delight in that because we, at least partly, read design blogs for answers to design questions and the more definitive the answers the more comforting.
I, however, can never seem to see in these black and white terms.  I've finally come to accept and appreciate the fact that I always see everything, including design decisions, as "well, it depends on the situation."  No black and white for me, just shades of grey (hey, at least I'm in style now).  Anyway, the point to all that is that when you break it down to the essence, I'm usually struggling over the same types of decisions:  Style or substance?  Before or After?  Satisfy or optimize? 

I think the first two are self-explanatory, but a brief explanation of the last one.  I love to read Gretchen Reuben's blog "The Happiness Project.," and there she introduced me to the idea of decision makers as "satisfizers" or "optimizers."  In short, after making a determination of important factors, satisfizers are happy to accept the first solution that comes along that satisfies their criteria, while optimizers want to examine as many options as possible before making their decision.

Quick example:  Abby is a satisfizer, Constance is an optimizer.  Both want to purchase sofas;  the sofas need to be between 86"-92", slip covered in a washable white fabric, have down blend cusions, exposed legs, and cost between $2,500 and $3,500.  New Orleans has about 7 stores were something like this would be easily found and another 8 or so where you might find it.  As a satisfizer, if Abby walks into the very first store and finds a $3,000 sofa with all her criteria, she will whip out the checkbook, buy it on the spot, and move on.  Constance, on the other hand, would mark it as a possibility and then proceed to check the other 14 options to make sure that this sofa, was in fact, the BEST possible choice.  There are, of course, pluses and minuses to both behavior and most people fall somewhere in between the two types, or may vary type as to kind of decision.

The point of all this.  I'm struggling with some of these decisions right now.  First, I'm, especially as I get older and life seems to get more complicated, leaning more and more heavily to substance over style.  Don't get me wrong, how a room looks is important to me, but I'm less willing to dig the books I want to read out of artistically arranged piles topped with accessories, uncover a tv or other electronic before use, or claw through a pile of decorative, but useless pillows to get to the bed.  Second, while I like change, sometimes for change's sake, lately, I've had at least a little sadness over some of the things I've changed (though some of these changes were necessary).  And finally, while I'm much more of a satisfizer, some of my quick and dirty decisions have lead to the dissatisfaction I just mentioned.


Anyway, this has all come to a head in my dining room.  A while back it looked like this, and I loved it.





  However, things have changed:  I sold the painting (hurray:  cash.  booo:  though it was a customer reject (too small), I loved it.)  I can, and am planning to, paint another, but it won't be exactly the same.  Secondly, after some changes upstairs, I lost the hiding place for the table leaves, and was quite frankly getting tired of hauling them out so frequently as well as fearing that such frequent hauling out would end up in damage.  Therefore, since I had enough room, I've decided to keep the leaves end, changing the table from a near round to an oval.  It's not a huge difference (the leaves are small), and the room is oddly enough shaped that the change in table shape doesn't throw anything else off, or at least no more than before.  But 4 chairs at a longer table looked a little awkward, so when a set of 4 chairs that we loved went on sale, when they wouldn't split the set (I only needed two for the upstairs den), I decided to use the other two as host and hostess.  I love the look of different chairs, but now that they're in place--- I don't know.



They're small enough to find a home for elsewhere, and I could take out the leaf, but......and here's where I need a definite mind----it's so convenient to have the table already set up for six, especially since so much of my entertaining is spur of the moment (we have the kind of neighborhood where gatherings can just pop up---two neighbors chatting on a porch can lead to an impromptu party), that's I'm wondering if the improvement in asthetics is worth the trouble of dismantling the current set up and having to piece it back together whenever the situation warrents it.
As is often the case of such questions, I went back to my inspiration file.  I remembered a room that I had always loved, Tia Zoldan's dining room from Cottage Living.  I remembered that she had a similar setup with barrel back host chairs that were painted white and with much shorter backs than her side chairs.  After pulling it, I still don't know.




The problem is, the height difference between my chairs is even greater than her's, and while I think the chairs would look smart painted white, I think that will only make them look even smaller.



Anyway, doing more Googling, I found her updated dining room.  Now I do know.  At least for me in this case, after is not better.


So what now?  I guess I'll do what I'd advise a client to do:  1.  Finish and hang the painting.  2.  Assess the situation---did the change in painting make enough of an improvement so you don't mind the new table/chair setup?  3.  If I'm still not happy, I'll take out the leaves, distribute the chairs, and see if the hassle is as bad as I'm thinking it will be to reassemble dining for 6.

10 comments:

Valorie Hart - The Visual Vamp said...

Return the chairs. To short, too dark.
The open table with four chairs is just fine :-)
Love you!
xo xo

Anonymous said...

This was such an interesting post. I am definitely an "optimizer". The problem is that once I have seen everything the market offers, I often return to my first site to find the object of my search already sold.

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Anonymous said...

OK - here are my insignificant thoughts...as I have gotten older I too am opting for function over form - life is just too short to sweat the smaller stuff. I think you are right on track to keep the leaves in the table and even though the two end chairs are shorter, white paint may make them pop out while making the taller chairs recede. I believe it could work...would you be entirely happy with it? Probably not because it doesn't quite hit the right esthetic, but you could live with it until you found two more chairs that completely put you in Nirvana. Agonizing over our decorating decisions only puts us over on the happy meter when everything just clicks. Lori

betina luna said...

May I say Mad Men inspired?

Laura Casey Interiors said...

It is sometimes hard to take our own advice as designers isn't it? It is easier to have clarity about someone else's home then our own...I think the wait and assess the situation is the best way forward,
Laura

Chris Vandeford said...

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Anonymous said...

Well, I don't know where Comment number 4 came from. Anyway, on topic, the chair height disparity sets my nerves on edge. It's just wrong. The "host" chairs are much too short and say to me that they do not belong at a dining room table. Those high-backed chairs from the sixties, while amusing, are a difficult mix with the lower, upholstered pieces. Unifomity of height is key to harmony in my book. It's like stilettos and ballet flats- just pick one, but don't mix them.

Anonymous said...

Just saw the photo of sideboard, art, coral lamps shot on PInterest. Can you tell me where you found the great coral lamps? Are they antique or new? I'd love to have some!!

h. m. settoon said...

Anon,

I purchased the lamps about 7 years ago from Georgian Furnishing Co. here in New Orleans. They are modern reproductions of Murano lamps. I'm not entirely sure, but I think they were manufactured by StyleCraft. HOpe this helps.

Mitchell