A Practical Approach to Interior Design
One room at a time
One practical approach to interior design and home furnishing is to start with the room where you spend the most time. For some that’s the kitchen, for others it’s the family room. Wherever you start, stay within your budget, define your theme, select your colors and have some fun. View our Gallery for Ideas, visit new home models and check out Pinterest. Make your home special – one room at a time.
Work within your Space
Measure each room and determine the optimal layout. Find furnishings that fit easily within your space. If the room is small, search for those special small pieces that complement the room. You want each room in your home to feel spacious and to feel comfortable, regardless of size. Paint selection, millwork & trim, lighting and décor – each facet of your design should welcome and charm guests.
Plan ahead from ceiling to floor
Remember, your draperies, furnishings, artwork and family heirlooms will be diminished if your flooring selection or wall colors are lacking. View our Gallery for ideas on color selections and flooring options. As you work each room, texture & paint ceilings & walls first, then install trim and flooring and then furnish the room. Plan ahead so everything comes together perfectly, from ceiling to floor.
Room layout and color trends
You want each room in your home to display some character and charm, but it’s wise to select colors that transition easily from room to room. An easy flow of similar colors, with a supporting trend in decor works well. While your home theatre room or man-cave nook may be more defined, the overall theme of your home should be consistent. Loud colors and random furniture selections should be avoided.
Tell a story
We’ve all been there – to that home – the one with all the stories. Some homes tell of a family’s heritage, or speak through interesting antiques, or items collected from a foreign land, and others have framed pictures on the walls that record the growth of the family business over 50 years. These homes are remembered, and they’re unique. Do you have any stories to tell? Share them with your guests.
Reflect your community
Do you love where you live? Design and furnish your home to reflect the culture and essence of your surroundings. Showcase your wonderful community through furniture designs, art or pictures of your community – cityscape, mountain vista, or views of historic downtown – whatever introduces your guests to the community you call home.
Interior Design & Furnishings Gallery
Emerging Products: Big Chill
The past & future come together on kitchen products
Combine vintage styling with progressive thinking such as sustainability and energy efficiency and you have Big Chill, the Boulder, Colorado-based kitchen products firm Orion Creamer founded in 2003.
The idea for it came about by happenstance. Creamer, who had studied product design in college, was asked by his aunt and uncle in 2001 to help them find period-appropriate appliances for their vintage-style beach house in California. He found there were none that would fit the look. "They wanted appliances that looked old in their shape and color range, but were new inside and would defrost well, for example," he recalls.
And then the proverbial light bulb went on. Today, Big Chill offers more than 30 different products—from refrigerators to ranges, cooktops, dishwashers, microwaves, hoods, and more—in three period styles: turn of the century classic, mid-century retro, and a modern professional line. The two vintage lines reflect their time period’s shapes, stamped metal bodies, and dazzling palette of colors such as French blue, buttercup yellow, cherry red, and basil green. At the same time, they share a lot with the more modern line—and many other manufacturers’ hip models. All are highly energy efficient and their finishes have almost zero VOCs due to the powder-coated paint process Creamer uses which lasts longer than many traditional paint finishes do, he says.
Because the company is based in Boulder, one of the country’s most progressive cities for sustainability, Creamer has also been adamant about recycling any materials he can. One example is the Styrofoam in which the appliances are packed. It’s done through a program called CHaRM, which stands for Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials and is among the largest nonprofit recyclers in the country. "We’re one of the few that do this. What happens is that the Styrofoam is churned up and compacted into blocks that can be used again," he says.
Along these lines, Creamer keeps his eyes on ways to develop new products that fit his green approach and what’s happening in architecture and design. He now manufactures a highly energy efficient induction range and cooktop, the cooking method that’s considered more energy efficient than electric or gas. He’s also come up with a slim product grouping that fits smaller homes and apartments, as well as garages and basements.
Price wise his products fall into a middle, affordable range versus some of the best known high-end name brands. All are available through his network of about 20 to 30 dealers nationwide, or by placing orders through the company’s website. Big Chill is a direct-to-consumer company. There’s no wholesale network – which allows the company to maintain competitive pricing. Creamer has placed his company among the growing group of direct-to-consumer businesses such as Casper, Warby Parker, and Everlane.
Emerging Trends: Southwestern Chic
Desert Colors, Cacti, Stone, Mesquite Now With a Mix from Afar
Long before there was email, tweeting, and Instagram, design trends were debuted in "shelter" magazines with distinct trends in different parts of the country. These regional variations still exist because of climate needs and indigenous materials, but there's certainly greater sharing from near and far. We recently talked with Tucson, Arizona, interior designer Lori Carroll, owner of her eponymous firm, Lori Carroll Associates. She addressed what she's seeing and sharing in her designs for mostly Southwest clients, as well as some of her favorite products, trends, and colors. Here's what she shared:
Question: You’ve lived and worked in the Southwest for 35 years. Please tell us about the design trends you see there that may be different from those nationwide or on the East or West Coast.
Answer: Tucson has become a bit of a melting pot with some who were born and grew up here and others who have come from other parts of the country. We now have that mixture, which I like and which tests my ability to put things together. Many clients will have a piece they love and cherish and want to incorporate it to reflect their personal style, versus those who go to a store where everything matches. For example:
- As far as materials go, we see things trending toward porcelains in gray, white, or a mixture, versus 10 years ago when we saw mostly Mexican tiles or earthy travertines. But we also see a lot of alder used for its rustic feeling and other textures to give an "imperfect" natural look since our environment plays a big role in our designs. We like natural stone and cacti since we don't have a lot of natural green grass due to water limitations.
- To a certain extent, the dominant colors are browns, rust, and turquoises, but when we've done one color palette for a long time it's nice to incorporate variations. I've done a lot of warm grays of late and my kitchen, which won "Kitchen of the Year" from the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), uses a lot of walnut with grays and whites.
- Those who want a rustic appearance will go with handmade wooden furnishings in a choice of a sofa with wooden arms and maybe a mesquite dining table and chairs. Mesquite is favorite local material. However, a cleaner, contemporary look is taking hold, so we're seeing a variety here, too.
- Building materials still include clay tile roofs with stucco and wooden parapets, but the cleaner look is coming in here, too. There are more metals for garage doors, for example. For the outdoor living spaces, natural stones are preferred, along with exposed concrete pavers, and sometimes some brick. A goal is easy maintenance.
Question: More homeowners right now want open-plan layouts but that’s been popular in your area for a long time, right?
Answer: Yes, we like to leave doors open for our casual life style and to entertain. In several of our projects, we’re using huge window walls and doors that open across a large span. These can be expensive but are important. Because of interest in sustainability, the window systems have UV coating, and in the hot summer people close the windows so the interior isn't as hot. For outdoor furnishings and equipment, I'm using comfortable sofas and seating for stand-up bars, barbecues, refrigerators, sinks, and pizza ovens, and including a place to spread out a big buffet that faces a great view. We don't have a lot of bugs here so we don't have to worry about screening in our porches.
Question: You’re known for your great kitchen designs; how do yours differ from others in other parts of the country?
Answer: Not very much except I like to use a mix of materials that reflect all the choices we use in my area. I might use quartzite on perimeter counters with granite on an island. But when it comes to equipment, I like the best. These include Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances and also newer induction cooktops. Because everyone wants to be healthy, we're seeing more people favoring steam ovens versus microwaves, more using recycling bins versus trash compactors. And in my award-winning kitchen, I designed a pantry that backs up to the main kitchen area so when you push a button you have an appliance garage for great functionality. I also like to incorporate cool ceiling architectural details and creative lighting.
Questions: Although it's not a regional trend, how are millennials decorating and remodeling their apartments/condos and homes in your area?
Answers: I have two children--25 and 26 years old, and they're less likely to want large homes. They want spaces that are efficient, cost effective, and located in places where they can walk rather than drive to work, restaurants, shops, and grocery stores. They're not into fussy or lots of bells and whistles. They opt for easy maintenance and minimalism. They also prefer clean, contemporary design rather than anything Southwest, per se.
Lori's Five Must-Haves:
- Nest Thermometer to control heating and cooling remotely and save on energy costs and efficiency
- Wolf blender, part of the Sub-Zero and Wolf company line of countertop appliances that are great for making hot soup
- Quartz as a natural, beautiful, and durable material for countertops and backsplashes that comes in a wider range of color tones than granites
- Porcelain for flooring that resembles wood and it’s also highly durable and cost effective. Ann Sachs makes a realistic version in different color tones: AS 12903-03 "Nocchio Antique Hickory" in 8" by 36" sizes
- Benjamin Moore's white OC-19 "Seapearl" paint when you want to go fresh, clean and contemporary rather than stay with traditional desert hues
Interior Design and Furnishings
Style a home to be livable and lovely
Combining function and aesthetics will turn your house into a home.
Each room in your home is like a puzzle that you piece together to create a cohesive attractive whole. The color palette, pattern, and furniture style don't have to be the same, though there should be some commonality so rooms flow together aesthetically.
Functionality is also important. For example, your living room should incorporate a comfortable seating arrangement rather than be a place to walk through past the fancy furnishings you reserve for guests, says Chicago designer Tom Segal of Kaufman-Segal Design. For a living room, seating should be more upright to facilitate conversation, while softer furnishings are better for a family room to encourage lounging and relaxing in front of a TV. But if the TV is at one end and a fireplace at the other, you'll have a tough time arranging seating for intimate conversations, he says.
If you are starting with a dearth of furnishings, how fun. It can be an adventure to study design resource sites such as Remodelista, Houzz, and Pinterest, and magazine website such as Elle Décor, House Beautiful and Dwell. Print out what resonates, and you’re likely to see a pattern to your choices. Perhaps a certain blue shade keeps popping up, your eye keeps gravitating toward stripes, or those mid-century designs become a must-have.
Beware, too. When making choices yourself, it’s easy to make costly buying mistakes. If you’re a busy homeowner, you might want a live person with design credentials to do it for you and relieve you of having to make all the decisions and do all the leg work. Consider hiring an independent designer who may charge by the project, hour, or furniture piece with a mark up. That design pro will help you get the right size, proportions, and finish, and may help you avoid costly mistakes or regretful purchases. Segal and business partner David Kaufman have been called in to "fix" homeowners' efforts. From the get-go, they know to measure and eyeball your room to make sure what you want fits and will fit in.
You have another option. Many design stores such as Pottery Barn have trained staff on hand who can design an entire room or offer one finishing touch or clever idea with no obligation to buy.
Whatever route you take, avoid buying without a vision of the whole. Set a budget, list the furnishings you think you need, get estimates, total all, scale back, and then begin. The less important items like that chaise lounge you’ve always wanted in your guest room may have to wait. Think about durability and a long--rather than short-term fix, buy good stuff that lasts. It will end up costing less over time. One tactic is to combine “high” and “low” priced items—perhaps an antique table with great provenance and a flea market find such as early 20th-century pottery. The juxtaposition allows your personality to come through so the room doesn't look staid or staged, Segal says.
And don’t think you have to complete a room fast. Leave some “holes” for objects you may find on vacation, or heirlooms a family member shares or bequeaths to you at some point. The process should feel creative rather than exasperating.
Here's one key caveat: The first purchase you make for any room may be the toughest. Segal has found a good way to start is to build a room from the ground up with an area rug, which helps anchor the room and becomes a major focal point. "We like to use the largest rugs a seating area can handle to add drama and interest, too," he says.
Regardless of how you proceed with your decor, your level of involvement in your project is up to you. But why miss out?
Share your decorating ideas with us.
Barbara Ballinger is a professional writer, author, blogger and speaker who has long focused on real estate, design, and personal finance. She has co-authored many books, including Successful Homebuilding and Remodeling, The Kitchen Bible: Designing the perfect culinary space, and The Garden Bible: Designing the perfect outdoor space. She regularly contributes to the National Association of Realtors® Website and magazine.
Margaret Crane is a nationally known freelance writer, blogger and journalist who has co-authored with Barbara Ballinger several books and articles on real estate, design and family business. Her byline has appeared in Realtor® magazine. With more than a half-dozen titles to her credit, Margaret’s latest design book is The Kitchen Bible: Designing the perfect culinary space.