February 2020 Designer’s Corner

Balancing Practicalities with Possibilities

by Joel Barnes, Interior Designer

When re-designing any space, it’s important to strike a balance between being enthusiastically open to possibilities and facing the practical limitations.

Most people who come to me for design advice are either overwhelmed by “too many options” or feel “boxed in” by limitations and obstacles they just can’t see beyond.

Whenever you feel hemmed in, begin to recognize that you’ve likely not fully opened the creative door to let ideas and imagination flow freely and unfettered. Most clients get stuck by being unable to see beyond obstacles that they themselves have unwittingly created. When you’ve been around a problem for too long, all you can see is the problem like an immovable brick wall. Remember, it’s not only okay to let your imagination fly, it’s a huge benefit to feel that sense of freedom and enthusiasm about what might be possible. You may be pleasantly surprised that avenues you once thought were closed off are actually more open than you had once believed. This creative phase is part of the journey, and at least half the fun. Let the process be fun. Allow yourself to be genuinely playful with ideas. Don’t take things too seriously at this point, imagining all the dire consequences that might come about for making the “wrong” decisions.

Not to worry, your ideas can run wild and free at the start of it, and eventually we all come down to earth because to some extent we have to. Budgets, space and time are never unlimited on a project, and working within a given framework can be a real asset to keeping you focused and on track.

For those of you who are overwhelmed by possibilities, start by clearly establishing the framework within which the project will take place. Will you be keeping your floors as they are? How about cabinetry? Will you be limiting the project to the existing edges of the room or rooms? What are the boundaries here? Whatever they may be, accept and embrace them as an integral aspect of the new design. What colors or materials are you starting with? Are there brushed nickel fixtures and rich warm wooden floors? Great, that’s a nice start. Consider what might go well with those, and don’t just think about it – that’s the practical mind – feel into it. What colors and looks actually feel good when you see them – that’s the creative, possible mind? If there are no given limitations, start by creating some. Put a stake in the ground (it’s only temporary) and play around with some givens, whatever they might be.

In short, do a bit of both. Let yourself be creative, open and expressive in a way that feels really positive and up-lifting. And when you’re ready, take into account and embrace the boundaries and fixed aspects of the project. Allow that framework to be your guide. Let the existing architecture of the space be your guide as well. Don’t fight it, work with it. Keep saying “yes” and keep looking at the benefits of the decisions already made for you by the fixed elements you’ll be incorporating into your overall plan. Yes, designing and remodeling can be a lot of work and a lot of thought may go into it, but it can also be a real delight. I challenge you to find a bit of both in every project you take on.

December 2019 Designer’s Corner

Consider a Little ContrastJoel

Joel Barnes, Interior Designer

I hope you’re all enjoying the cooler weather lately. Quite a contrast from the summer heat. As usually it brings me back to design ideas. While unity and harmony in design are important, creating some contrast is too.

Many people love a crisp white kitchen, for example, and why not? It feels so bright and clean. But going entirely white in any space without some contrast in the mix can look a bit like a polar bear eating a marshmallow in a snowstorm. You can’t make out where one element ends and the next begins, and much of the beauty gets lost in the blizzard.

 

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Similarly when everything in your space is overly vibrant, it’s as if you’ve highlighted every word on the page of a good book, so nothing truly stands out anymore. When everything is bold, there’s nowhere to let your eyes rest, causing the scene to soon feel pretty exhausting.

 

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When designing any space in your home remember to offset lighter colors with some touches of dark. Contrast those sensually smooth surfaces with a bit of interesting texture, and balance squared angles with the occasional curve. Consider the materials you use as well. Complimenting a beautiful wood with some metal, glass, stone, and even a sumptuous fabric allows each element to become all the more appreciated and enjoyed by contrast.

Light-colored cabinets look beautiful when offset by a somewhat darker backsplash or countertop, and the reverse is equally true. Bear in mind the contrast can be quite subtle if that’s your preference, and whether we notice it consciously or not, it puts us at ease when we can easily distinguish where one surface ends and the next one begins. Feeling comfortable in our living spaces matters, and why not use contrast as a way to enjoy each element for its own unique qualities. When well balanced, the resulting look  is quite pleasing, and allows us to enjoy everything together as a whole.

 

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Remember, contrast is truly beneficial in our lives. Without the winter, there could be no spring. So don’t be afraid to experiment and try a little contrast the next time you’re wanting to invigorate your living space.

That’s all from the Designer’s Corner this month. Wishing you all a very happy winter holiday season!

November 2019 Designer’s Corner

Harmonious Design Joel

Joel Barnes, interior designer

One of the keys to creating a truly satisfying interior is to always consider Harmony in your design. This can mean the difference between an acceptable upgrade and a truly satisfying transformation. 

Whether it be a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, or several rooms in the house, the most successful designs employ a unifying theme throughout. Whether your theme is modern, rustic, charming cottage, sophisticated, mid-century, or something else, the materials you select should not only reflect the theme you’ve chosen, they should genuinely “play well together.”

Start to think about cohesiveness. Consider using the same color trim throughout, at least in the common spaces of your home. While you may want to change things up in one particular room, consider choosing a consistent color scheme throughout the house so spaces don’t feel jarring when you move from room to room. Likewise, ask yourself, “does the flooring flow beautifully from one room to the next?” When selecting new tile for the kitchen or bath, is it a shocking transition, or does it speak the same basic language as other elements and flooring nearby? Contrast is great, and we’ll talk more about that in our next article, but harmony is key to a satisfying design, and should be part of every decision you make. Just because you may LOVE each one of the materials and colors on their own does not mean they enjoy one another’s company. A good party works well when the guests get along. Even if they’re from very different backgrounds, it helps if they all speak at least one common language. 

Consider the relationships between materials, too. For example, is there a bit of warm rust tone in the flooring that could be picked up in your countertop, cabinets, or backsplash? Are you using the same color white here as you are over there, or does one white make the other seem much too yellow? Is one grey quite cool while another is warm? If they are fighting each other, the design won’t feel quite right. Try to bring samples of what you love along with you when looking for new materials to add in, and bring samples home to see them in your own space, your own lighting, and against existing elements that you know will stay put. 

We will be continuing the Designer’s Corner in the months ahead. I hope this has been helpful. Stop in and see us, and we’ll be happy to help you along your path to successful design.