As I sit down to start writing this month’s blog, it’s 92 degrees outside with a heat index climbing to 100. It’s time to take a break from the heat and discuss a lighter interior topic: styling. More specifically, style overload, as I call it. When an idea is created for the inspiration of a project and accessory styling takes over turning the space into a themed space. Leave the theme parks to Disney, they’re professionals, they do it very, VERY well. Everyone else hold back!
The difference between theme and inspiration is how simplicity is implemented and the quantity of themed accessories used. Inspiration equates to a hint, an idea, or suggestion to the viewer. A theme however, leaves no doubt what the concept is, its obvious and blatant. Besides getting a bit kitschy when styling the accessories, themes detract from the main event, induce stress, and consume resources such as time and money.
The biggest offenders of styling overload and themes are:
1. Wedding Receptions
By far, the biggest offender! Take the idea of a rustic inspiration for a minute. OK, you’re a sassy cowgirl who loves teal. Your bridesmaids will wear teal dresses and brown cowboy boots while you wear teal ones under your gown, go on and bring out that personality! You’ve found the perfect reception hall, its a beautiful candlelit barn with tulle hanging from the antique rafters, so romantic, you’re doing great, keep going!
Now, for the seating, you thought hay bales draped with riding blankets, the table settings will be wrapped in twine, the bouquets and boutonnieres will be secured in burlap, the invitations will be printed on gunny sack embossed paper and will have teal horseshoe icons at the bottom. Careful, we’re in dangerous styling territory now.
While you’re at it, cowboy boot charms will dangle from every nook and cranny, when you two kiss everyone will yell “Yee Haw!” and toast you with their mason jars filled with moonshine cocktails. Too far cowgirl, too far! You know what works well for seating? chairs. Do you know what’s difficult to untie when you’re hungry? twine knots. Leave the mason jars to your pickles and preserves. Besides, what are you going to do with 250 cowboy boot charms after the wedding?
Another reason for keeping the themed inspiration in line is it will help reduce stress during preparation before the wedding and focuses the resources on the bigger ticket items like food, drink, hall rental, and music. Wedding planning arguments prior to the wedding get more and more ridiculous as the day gets closer. The topics are petty and the details don’t matter in the long run. Save the decor budget from the craft store and put it towards the reception. Guests want two things in a wedding: witness the happy couple get married and then attend an awesome party. They’ll remember the fantastic food and the complimentary bar long before they remember your time consuming, intricate centerpieces, handmade butter cream mints and custom inked, hand embossed wedding invitations that you and your crew spent weeks designing and making.
Simplicity is key in wedding planning. Choose one color as a subtle accent, sprinkle a few flowers petals, light the candles, and keep the themed details few. A concept wedding is fun and lively, but should provide only a backdrop or atmosphere, not the main focus. When the couple enters, they should be the center as intended.
2. Baby Rooms
Similar to themed wedding receptions are baby room themes. Many couples get inspired for a room once they discover the gender of the baby but run crazy with it. From themed cribs and bedding, hand painted mural walls, custom designed art, special light fixtures and curtains. That’s a lovely dream but let’s get back to reality, eager parents.
For the first few months, your newborn’s vision can’t see more than black, white and primary bold colors, then after that, they’re into faces, shapes, and bold patterns. The baby’s room for the first year is for you. It needs to be functional and stress free, while providing a safe place for your infant to sleep and play. They don’t understand themes and decor, save that for later when your preschool aged prince or astronaut wants to sleep in a castle or spaceship, then do the theme room. Keep the decor basic however, children’s interest change like the seasons, so replacing themed decorations constanly gets expensive.
When decorating a baby’s room, also think of how the room will evolve through childhood to the teen years and then to a guest room when they’re an adult. I always advise skipping the twin bed for example. After the crib has transformed to a toddler bed and is outgrown, go straight to a double /full bed. Its just over a foot wider than a twin, most rooms can accommodate the extra width. The bed will be more comfortable for childhood reading and snuggling, then lounging as teens, and a guest bed as an adult.
3. Vacation Homes
Yay! You have the vacation home of your dreams! It’s walking distance to the beach, you can see the water from your bedroom windows and you can bike to quaint shops and awesome restaurants. Now, hang on a second before your start decorating it, don’t spoil it!
Vacation homes located by the beach, for the obvious reason, conjure ideas of surfing and fun in the sun. A jar of collected seashells from family walks is cute nostalgia, a coir walk off mat for sand by the back door is practical. Go ahead and cover all the furniture in durable canvas, but please pause when you want to hang fishing nets, lobster cages, and buoy floats above your mantle. That’s a theme, not inspiration.
Another trend that ruins the calmness and serenity of a vacation home are bright pastel color palettes. In a previous blog I mention color schemes in regards to location. (Beyond the Beige Box; 6 ways to create curb appeal and exterior detail.)
If you’ve traveled anywhere to a different climate you may have noticed the buildings are painted very differently. Mainly to do with weather conditions, cultural influences, but also to do with the sun, particularly the quality of sunlight.
I recently read an article in a decor magazine recommending coral painted walls with mint striped upholstery and brass accessories for coastal homes. Not even the quaintest ice cream parlors should tackle that color combination. Unless your house is located in the heart of Key West, would I recommend bright pastel colors. Even then, do it with caution and a light touch. Vacation homes should sooth and relax you, not jolt you. Bring out your bright personality in more subtle ways like your dishes or bedding, not floor to ceiling all over your house.
4. Staged Homes
Any real estate agent will tell you that a staged home sells easier, assuming its done well. My concern is when staging turns stale. It is well established that neutral color palettes appeal to more buyers, but a bit of color can make the space feel lively. Accent colors are often used in staging for this purpose, however, sometimes incorrectly. Monochromatic accent colors (only using one and the same one) throughout the house makes the staging seem fake and stale.
For example, say the chosen accent color is turquoise. A bright refreshing turquoise shag rug is laid across the entry, contrasting the wood floor, cheerful! Turquoise accent pillows get strategically placed to the armchairs, the large painting above the sofa gets swapped for one that has turquoise, then a set of tall glass vases containing turquoise beads and baubles is placed on the mantle. Now walk into the kitchen, turquoise table linens dress the dining table with a large turquoise bowl overflowing with fruit is placed on the kitchen island. The bathrooms all have a turquoise hand towel and a matching turquoise candle. The master bedroom is beautifully dressed in fresh white linens and dark wood furniture, but now there’s a strategic turquoise blanket folded at the end of the bed and a specifically placed stool at the bedside…that’s, you guessed it, turquoise. Enough!
If using accent colors when staging a home, use two to three in different combinations throughout the home. This makes each room stay united but still feel fresh. Second, don’t get too crazy with the accessories that are brought in for the staging. People don’t have that many vases, lamps, bowls, and sculptures so strategically placed around their home, (especially in the bathrooms!) Remove the clutter, arrange the furniture, sprinkle a few fresh color attributes and then…STOP.
In general, when styling a space, the point is to celebrate and honor the interior not overwhelm it. Perusing professional interior design videos posted online recently regarding styling of accessories, I was shocked at the finished room examples. They were so full of accessories, styled to the hilt, that the room could pass for a shop. Add price tags and the displays were ready. Its time to scale back the tchotchkes. Yes, the occasional decorative bowl or vase adds detail, however not on every surface and shelf. Make it pretty but keep it simple. Remember, inspiration not theme.
Sarah Daricilar, NCIDQ
Studio Owner & Interior Designer
Daricilar Design Studio – Medway, MA