I get tired of the way the design industry cloaks itself in mystery and magic. It leads you to believe that you can’t design your own home any more than you could perform surgery. They want you to think that; it’s good for business. Obviously, I’m a believer in professional interior design. But I also believe that there are many projects that anyone is perfectly capable of doing. Let’s shatter some popular design myths.
1. You need to hire a professional. Nope. With practice, desire and discipline, just about anybody can get good. If I took painting lessons and painted every day, I’d never become Picasso, but I’d certainly become a better painter. Don’t let the design industry tell you what you can and can’t do. Let your imagination guide you.
2. Great design costs a fortune. Not necessarily. Using the Seven Fundamentals outlined in The Art of Space, you can design a harmonious space no matter the budget. It’s about what you put in and where, not how much it costs.
3. There are standards for sizes and heights that shouldn’t be deviated from. You have to be careful with this one. As American homes got bigger and ceiling heights got taller, standards for things like the height of a chair rail and the sizes of crown molding and base molding had to adjust, too. Balancing overall proportion in your space is the goal. Remember to design for your specific space. Sometimes you have to bend a rule here and there.
4. Great design comes from having the “knack” or an “eye.” Of course, talent helps, but the Seven Fundamentals are universal design truths. Follow them and you’ll get great design. It isn’t magic. It’s as much a science as it is an art.
5. Everything has to match. As “feathering the nest” has become more of an American pastime and good design has become accessible to everyone, a true eclecticism has emerged. Nothing has to match. Feel free to mix metal finishes, wood tones, colors, and patterns. Anything goes.
6. Don’t mix periods or styles. A funny thing happened on the road to “same.” As major retailers like Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, West Elm and others mass produced “a canned look” and made it accessible to everyone, a strong sense of individualism emerged. A passion for having your own individual look took hold. People began developing their own styles instead of blindly adopting a look that someone else said was “it.” Do what you want.
7. You have to keep that buffet Aunt Isabelle gave you. Not if it’s completely out of date and out of style. Even worse, if it’s completely out of scale for your room, you not only don’t have to keep it, you shouldn’t. I have seen many a design fall completely apart because of one ill-proportioned piece of inheritance. If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it.
8. You can save money by reupholstering. Actually, reupholstering can be more expensive than buying new. It all depends on the cost of the labor and the fabric you choose. Using a large-scale pattern with a large repeat will increase the amount of fabric you will need. That drives up the cost. Choosing a solid will keep yardage to a minimum and keep costs down. Labor costs can vary greatly. I have seen labor costs double between upholsterers. The quality of the craftsmanship is a critical factor. So, finding a great craftsman before he gets famous and expensive and fabric choice matter most. BUT, If you love the piece, if it’s well made and it’s comfortable it can be worth it.
Successful interior design can create a harmony in spaces that can actually improve the quality of life for the people who experience it. Go for it. Practice. And above all, have fun. You can do it.