The two biggest challenges I find that most young designers face in their careers are groupings and displays (or is it displays and groupings). The culprits; children, pets, functionality, cleaning, collectibles, and finally feet on the coffee table with the greasy popcorn bowl on a Saturday night. In another words, the homeowner has opinions on this decorating dilemma and it doesn’t always include pretty. As designers, stagers, or stylists, we push art, clocks, crosses, or plates; setting a stage that often proves difficult for even the most seasoned professional. It’s a love that needs to be cajoled and caressed (not just with product but with the couple involved). No matter what style; busy or clean; English country or Regency glam, a table needs to be used (and when I say utilized, I mean with a little French oil on a plate stand, two antique candle holders with pillars, and a funky riding cap just because it adds that certain je ne sais quo. It also helps to remember that regardless of the owners taste; industrial, retro, mid-century modern, or vintage; the principals of design remain the same; create an interesting space that affords the client a chance to learn to live with their three remote controls intermixed with some non-functional yet stunning knickknacks. Perhaps with time, little punches of glass wear, an antique clock, or coasters embossed with horse heads will fill the space without causing the owners to hyperventilate.
Included in this décor wish or pie in the sky, the design might possibly turn to the obvious built-in shelving, fireplace mantle, or sofa table (we will not yet address the bar cart, decorative ladder, or architectural salvage piece that looks oh so perfect in that corner spot by that bank of windows behind the Chippendale sofa). This may take time but with a bit of repartee, a smattering of humor, perhaps your homeowner(s) might share some pillow talk. Now I’m not talking sleep-over, just a form of communication that goes beyond Madison’s latest soccer game and Kyle’s guitar solo (that gave off a Jimi Hendrix vibe) at the middle school concert. Who knows, maybe (fingers crossed) those two wonderful people might begin to enjoy some clutter. After all a good display always exudes a touch of shock and awe. It’s the accessories that make a house feel like a home. So work skillfully. If the husband is an accountant or engineer, treat the situation as a math equation. He will eventually catch on. Remind the wife that chalkboards enhance a wall desk and give a cohesive look to galvanized seating the same way storage tins bring her that much closer to that Chanel wallet because of the money saved at the discount shops. Glass cloches (found at Hobby Lobby) protect precious mementos as well as the hideous bric n’ brac received by the mother-in-law brought out only on holidays.
Group mirrors of different size and shape together and see how the light becomes more reflective in both smaller and larger room. Soon you will using blinds, sheers, and draperies to protect those Peeping Tom neighbors. Present with great fanfare your family’s crest of honor, your Uncle’s self-published book, or your child’s spelling bee medallion. But just don’t forget to add height by using a few coffee table books to give that extra lifts to Aunt Esther’s coffee cup collection. Highlight that farmhouse sink, that cost way too much money, with a lovely display of stoneware, sure to make every wife jealous at the next work related get-together. So novice designers, learn the lessons of those of us over forty years of age; by enticing, sweet-talking, even seducing because any of us in the design profession know that displaying and grouping make a room feel complete and express hidden secrets about the family who live in the house. I’m displaying my wares as a designer, hey stylists and do-it-yourself lovers, how about you?