Read an Excerpt
DECORATING WITHOUT FEARA STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO CREATING THE HOME YOU LOVE
By SHARON HANBY-ROBIE
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Sharon Hanby-Robie
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDesigning the Big Picture
* STEP 1: PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU LOVE
* STEP 2: DEFINE YOUR STYLE
* STEP 3: DEFINE THE ESSENTIALS AND ASSESS YOUR NEEDS
My goal as an interior designer is to help people discover their own personal style and give them the confidence to make choices that are logical for their families and lifestyles, yet beautifully self-expressive. Clients have told me that by doing this, I have given them the freedom to be themselves, and that after seeing their own creative ideas manifested, they have gained confidence in more than just decorating.
When I first meet with a new client, he or she is often focused on a specific item or room. But as a designer, I realize that making the most of any specific room requires understanding how the family functions throughout the house. Are there needs that are not being met, such as adequate study centers or entertainment areas, that could be accommodated in the room we are currently addressing?
As an interior designer, I approach each project as a one-of-a-kind situation, with the goal of getting into the hearts and minds of my clients to bring their needs and desires into reality. Establishing a strong relationship with my clients is necessary if I am to accomplish the goal of creating environments that are uniquely designed for the individuals residing there.
As you read, I will ask you the same prying questions that I would if you were sitting across the desk from me. It's a simple way for me to get to know you and your desires for your home. So let's get started!
STEP 1: Pay Attention to What You Love
One of the most frequently asked questions that I hear when working with clients is, "Where do I begin?" My answer is, "Start with something you love." That may seem a bit too simple, but it is truly the best place to start. It could be a painting, a piece of fabric, a pillow, a vase, or even an antique relic that has been passed through the family. Of course, most people do pay attention to the latest trends and listen to the advice of what the current design guru might be saying. That's fine-it's nice to know what others think. But ultimately, the only opinion that should matter is your own. After all, this is your home-and it should be your fingerprints, your style, your colors, and your life that gets incorporated into it.
Creating a home that is uniquely designed for you and your family is a thoughtful process that requires commitment to the evolving plan. Design is about your own way of seeing the world. Personal style includes everything that you touch and see. Your home should tell the story of your life. That means that completing your design will take a lifetime of building and believing in your own style. As you and your family grow and change, so too should your home develop to meet those changing needs. By simply incorporating possessions that you love and things that make you smile, the process will naturally evolve into an overall design that you find irresistible. As you continue to read, I want you to learn to trust your instincts and follow your heart.
Discovering your heart's desires is a process in itself. Have you ever walked into a home that was completely different from your own style and surprised yourself by responding to it in a very positive way? Perhaps it was a home that was for sale, a model home, or even a friend's home. Despite the fact that it was not what you considered "your style," you found it so appealing that you thought, "Why not try this for myself?" Perhaps it was a home filled with great American antiques. You loved it and suddenly wondered why you never considered such a style before.
If you have had an experience like this, I want you to reconstruct how you felt and discern what it was you might have been responding to. Did the home appeal to you because it was so graciously put together? Was it without the normal clutter and noise that daily life can bring? Was it simply the total atmosphere of calm and welcome that you found so appealing? Or was it the colors? Was there one specific trait, architectural feature, or piece of furniture that you remember finding particularly attractive?
Simply learning to be aware of your emotional response to environments is one of the important keys to identifying your own personal design style. Most people can more easily tell me what they don't like than what they do like. Part of the reason is that they are afraid to "commit" to something that they might have to live with for a very long time. Other times, it is a lack of confidence and an inability to trust or articulate their opinion and feelings.
That's why, as an interior designer, I often feel more like a detective or a psychologist. When I first meet new clients, I put them through a series of probing questions. I will lead you through these questions in the pages ahead. This can be uncomfortable at first-but it's critical to the design process. I am careful to involve each person in the design process who is involved in the decision making. Husbands eventually appreciate being involved when they realize that I do honestly care about what they think and that I am also conscientious about budget. Money is one of the scarier aspects of design or decoration for many men. They assume that interior designers only know how to do things expensively. The reality is that as a professional I am more apt to know where, when, and how to save money than a nonprofessional. I have more than thirty years of experience working with families, their budgets, and their homes.
An easy way to help me further understand the likes and dislikes of clients is to have them go through magazines and pull ten to fifteen pages of rooms that they find appealing. I purposely ask them not to analyze the rooms. Instead, I want them to simply respond from their hearts and their emotions. This is something that I recommend you try. The key is limiting yourself to no more than fifteen pages. More pages simply clutter the results and overwhelm you. Less is best.
The analysis is something that I do together with clients so that I can help them delineate what specifically is most pleasing to them about each room. As you review your pages, you may find that what appeals to you about a space is the color, the accessories, one particular piece of furniture, or the overriding theme or atmosphere. This information is incredibly helpful in getting you to think outside your preconceived ideas about style. Rarely do most people have an opportunity to start from scratch when it comes to decorating-so this analysis of magazine pages will help you see how your rooms might look if you suddenly won a million dollars and could completely redesign your home.
If you are having difficulty deciding what it is you are attracted to in your sample pages, ask a friend to help you analyze the elements within each room. An outside perspective from a loving friend can be amazingly instructive. Be sure that you caution your friends not to respond with their personal reaction, but instead, to use their knowledge of you to help you uncover the things you love about each space.
TRUST YOUR ARTISTIC IMPULSES
Have you ever purchased something that you found totally out of character for you? These items are another clue to discovering what you love. Perhaps you had no idea what possessed you to buy it and had no idea where you were going to put it when you got it home, but you simply loved it. I have items that I simply fell in love with even though they didn't seem to match my existing décor. I found many of my favorite treasures as I traveled. In most cases, I had no idea what I was going to do with the item when I got home, but I couldn't resist it.
These impulse gems are another glimpse into what your home might look like if you were able to fill it with things that you simply love. For example, in my heart, I live at the beach. The reality is that I live inland-nowhere near a beach. But I have filled my home with things that remind me of the beach, ranging from simple shells placed strategically throughout my home to a beautiful, formal lamp that mimics the beauty of coral. These things make my home more appealing to me. They calm me, they inspire me, and they allow me to remember the beauty of the sea and the refreshment that it brings me whenever I have the chance to spend time there. Learning to collect symbols of places that make you happy is a beautiful and simple way to make your home a comforting and inspiring place to be.
IMAGINE YOUR IDEAL SPACE
What is your favorite room? Consider that it might not even be within your home, although I do hope it is. But sometimes our favorite space can be the place we naturally gravitate to when we need time alone-a favorite café or even a museum. Wherever your favorite room is, I want you to think about what it is that makes you want to be there. Is it an overstuffed comfy chair? Is it the quiet ambiance? Is it sun filled or dim? What color is it? The key here is to identify what it is that makes you want to be there.
When I ask clients to describe their favorite rooms, I am amazed at how their demeanor changes. They will smile or sigh as they begin to describe the image that is so clearly defined in their mind. They know these spaces. They love these spaces. My goal is simply to bring that same response to the rest of their home. If I can accomplish this, then they will love their homes.
Where do you love to vacation? Do you tend to go to the same place every time or do you like the adventure of finding new places to thrill and delight you? Is your favorite vacation spot quiet or energizing? What type of accommodations do you prefer? Are they rustic, formal, down-to- earth, or simply comforting? Vacations offer us the opportunity to rest and relax and to dream. Our idea of a dream vacation can give us insights to the type of environment we might design if we had the opportunity.
As you know, I love the beach. I also love to sail. I love the wind in my hair. As a result, building my screened-in porch was one of the best things I could have done for myself. When my goddaughter first saw it she said, "I feel like I am at the beach!" I was astounded but thrilled. My porch sits high above the lawn and is surrounded by trees and birds. When the sun sets, the view reminds me of when I set anchor for the evening in a little harbor and watched the setting sun. I love it.
If you are adventurous and like to try new places every vacation, then I might suggest that we create spaces that allow you to change the feeling simply by changing a few key items or accessories. Some people prefer consistency. For them, I create more finished spaces that change only when the light changes. Understanding our personalities and knowing our heart's desires gives us the ability to create spaces that we truly love and that, in a way, will create homes that "love us back" by eliciting specific emotional responses from us.
Whether we are aware of it or not, our environments affect our lives, even if only unconsciously. Restaurants, retailers, corporations, even churches are built to specifically evoke certain emotional and physical responses from us. So it only makes sense that our homes also be designed specifically to evoke responses from us that will enhance the quality of our lives.
Understanding that our homes are the only environment over which we have control makes the responsibility for creating loving, nurturing, comforting, and joyful spaces incredibly important. Eva Hagberg, a New York-based freelancer who writes about architecture, design, and culture, says in Interior Design magazine, "If individuals are delighted with their environment, you know everything's going to go well."
Your home offers an opportunity to create a world specifically designed for you and those you love. The atmosphere within will directly affect your attitude without. If your home creates havoc and anxiousness within your soul, then you can be sure that anxiety is exactly what you will carry to the outside world. The atmosphere we have and feel in our homes is what we teach those living there to expect. This is especially true for children, and positive or negative experiences in their childhood homes will affect them the rest of their lives. A place of tension and discord will teach our children to expect the same from the world. Poor design elements, such as clutter and illogical traffic flow, can create a negative attitude that might otherwise not exist.
Interior designer Kelly Wearstler says in Circle Entrée magazine, "Each room deserves dignity, respect and a healthy dose of laughter." I believe that you deserve dignity, respect, and a healthy dose of laughter, too. And I believe you should be able to find it within your own home. Take the time to discover your loves, your children's loves, and your mate's loves. Then fill your house with all this love and your home will become the best place on earth to live.
NOW DO IT YOURSELF
Invest in a few home-decorating magazines. Tear out the pages that you find appealing, as I explained earlier. For each magazine picture, answer the following questions. Don't worry if you're not sure what "style" some of the rooms or furniture are. You'll learn more about styles in the next section.
* Is it formal or casual in style?
* Is it Country, Traditional, Contemporary, or an eclectic blend?
* Is there a specific chair or detail that appeals to you?
* What is its style-Chippendale, Neoclassic,
* Asian, French, and so forth?
* How is the room arranged?
* How many pictures are on the wall?
* Does the arrangement extend beyond the outer edges of the sofa?
* How high have pictures been hung?
* What are the overall shapes and sizes of accessories?
* Is there an abundance of smaller items or fewer larger items?
* What are the three main colors in the room?
* Are the colors pastel, bright, or gray in tone?
* How much pattern is in the space?
You now have a summary of personal design preferences that will help you begin your own home makeover.
STEP 2: Define Your Style
Now that you have an understanding of how to start your design plan around items you love, the next step in decorating is defining your style. What makes this a bit complicated is that in addition to specific furniture styles, such as English, Country French, American, Eighteenth Century, and so on, there is also your attitude style.
RECOGNIZE YOUR ATTITUDE
Your attitude style has to do with how you want to live. Are you formal, casual, minimalist, or eclectic? For example, my style is a combination of Country French and Contemporary executed with a semiformal attitude. I love contemporary abstract art. I also love brightly colored paintings of flowers. Most of my floral paintings have a strong sense of color and shape that makes them work in harmony with the abstract paintings. My upholstery pieces are more traditional, but they are covered with fabrics that are a bit avant-garde. My French bergère chair has an amazing pink leather seat with a formal embroidered silk floral pattern of coral and pink on the back. Everything is comfortable and made for easy living. For me, it doesn't make sense to have a home that people are afraid to use. What elevates my attitude style from casual to semiformal are the Country French furnishings.
Casual is simply a relaxed, comfortable way of life: Casual living defines the type of place where you don't think twice about putting your feet up on the furniture. The fabrics will be durable and easy to maintain while the furniture arrangement will provide informal groupings that encourage conversation. It's the type of place where it's okay to do crafts on the dining room table.
Formal is a more gracious type of attitude. I often consider Southern style with its gentility and attention to detail as defining this category. I have a client who has beautiful, hand-carved mahogany furniture, new and antique, combined with rich mellow-colored fabrics. Her formal style blends items from today and the past. There is an abundance of accessories and mementos lovingly placed throughout. Graceful curves combined with a formal style of symmetrically arranged groupings add just the right amount of straightforwardness to this decorating attitude to make it work beautifully.
Minimalist style is for those who require simplicity in their lives. This simple style is about the integrity of the individual items that are carefully chosen for their distinctive lines. A minimalist is truly a person who believes that form follows function. A minimalist tends to like smoother, less complicated, sleek surfaces rather than ornately detailed ones. For example, a minimalist would not choose a hand-painted, multifaceted finish for a piece of furniture. Even color for a minimalist is defined. Minimalists love the crispness of black and white. They love gray tones paired with the spark of red. A few carefully chosen accessories define their decorating attitude and their design. Each item in the space makes a specific contribution to the overall scheme. There is nothing superfluous about their choices-nothing extra.
Excerpted from DECORATING WITHOUT FEAR by SHARON HANBY-ROBIE Copyright © 2007 by Sharon Hanby-Robie. Excerpted by permission.
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