Design crimes may not be as serious as first degree murder or grand theft auto, but they come with consequences all their own – poorly designed interiors that have all the style of a prison cell. Homeowners guilty of design crimes start with good intentions; most only want to create peaceful and intimate spaces in their own homes. Yet one simple design mistake can turn these rooms into dark, drab, and tacky crime scenes. Do you have a crime scene in your own home? If you are a design criminal, you can be rehabilitated. Admit your crime, then redesign.
Design Crime #1 – Junk Shop Chic
You have accumulated a lifetime of precious objects – pictures, figurines and snow globes; and you surround yourself with these memories, displaying them on every available surface in your home. But instead of creating a cozy and inviting space, all this clutter makes your home look like a junk shop, with all due respect. You may love your Elvis collector plates, but putting all forty of them on display in your den creates a room that is nothing short of claustrophobic.
You need to de-clutter. Take all of your collectibles and accessories out of the room leaving only the furniture. Next, go through your collection and pick out your ten favorite items. Bring these back into your room and display them on bookshelves and end tables. Then go back to your collection, pack everything else in boxes and place the boxes in the attic or garage. After a month or two, you can rotate the accessories you have on display. Just be sure to rotate – for every new item you bring in, take one old item out. Remember that a clear space leads to a clear mind.
Design Crime #2 – The Beach Room, the Jungle Room, the Pirate Room . . .
It seemed like a good idea at the time; you love the beach, so why not turn your living room into a seaside retreat? You painted waves on your walls, hung a large stuffed fish over your doorway, and stuck a seashell into every spare corner of your room. Yet the result of all this effort is a room that looks like a child’s playground – a busy and overactive space better suited to afternoons of pretending rather than nights of relaxing.
Keep your room clear of all the gimmicks; toss out the five-foot lighthouse in the corner. Instead, keep most of the elements in your room theme-free. Paint your walls a solid blue and skip the seasickness-inducing waves. Relegate the stuffed fish to the garage and hang pictures of your watery friends on your walls. Limit your seashell collection to five or ten, and group them together on a table or in a hurricane glass. These few touches of nautical elements will make your room look like a seaside cottage – and not a nursery school.
Design Crime #3 – Furniture Gallery
Your bedroom looks perfect. Your dining room could be the main feature in a magazine. So why does your living room look like an amateur designed it? Odds are, the furniture in your living room is pushed against the four walls, creating a space that resembles a furniture gallery. This is great for traffic flow. No one in your home will ever bump into a chair in the middle of the night; but this furniture arrangement does not create a cozy space.
Move your furniture away from the walls. The easiest way to arrange furniture in a living room is to group the sofa and chairs around a coffee table. Place your table in the middle of the room. Move your couch to one side of the table, keeping it no more than 17 inches away from the table’s edge. Then place two chairs opposite the couch, again keeping them within arms reach of the coffee table. You have just created a furniture grouping, the best of all the furniture layouts.
Design Crime #4 – Gravity Defying Art
You love your new painting, and you want everyone to see it. So you move it far away from your furniture and accessories so as not to distract from the painting’s beautiful colors. You hammer in a nail high on the wall and hang your picture on it. And the frame touches the ceiling. This explains why everyone who visits your home leaves with neck pain – your pictures are hung too high.
Pull all those nails from the walls and start again. Hang your pictures at eye level; the center of the picture should be approximately 57 inches off the ground. Your picture should also be the right size for your wall. A small painting will be lost on a big wall, and a huge painting will overpower a small room. Try placing your picture above a piece of furniture or a fireplace; the furniture underneath the painting anchors it, creating a grouping that is pleasing to the eye. Just remember that a picture should never be larger than the object you place it over.
Design Crime #5 – Everything – and Everyone – Looks Better in the Dark
You think your dark bedroom is romantic. You think your living room is warm. It isn’t. It’s pitch-black. The flickering overhead light fixture in your dining room imitates candlelight and creates a warm glow. Unfortunately, you frequently leave your house wearing two different shoes. You may be saving a fortune on your electric bills, but you can’t see anything in your house after the sun goes down. The end of daylight-saving time turns your home into a bat cave. You need to let in the light.
Install some lighting. Three types of lights illuminate a room: ambient, accent, and task. Ambient lighting will be your room’s main source of light. Your ambient light fixtures could be hanging chandeliers, pot lights, or floor lamps. Next, add in your accent lights. These fixtures shine their spotlights on paintings, fireplace mantels, and wall recesses – they illuminate your room’s features. Install sconces, track lighting, and flood lights and aim their beams at your room’s focal points. Lastly, task lights brighten up your workspaces, illuminating your computer or kitchen counter top. Popular task lighting options include pendant lights, desk lamps and tabletop lights.
The world is a stressful place; your home should be your sanctuary. You deserve a retreat from the world, a place that brings you joy and peace. No home should ever be a design crime scene. No homeowner should have to worry about spraining an ankle or breaking a wrist on the way to his or her kitchen. You might have committed design crimes in the past, but you can turn over a new leaf. Vow to obey the rules of good design, and you will get off for time served.
10/22/2011 by Anne Benedetto