Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Virtual Design Fix: Studio to the Rescue!

As a designer, I learn so much from studying the work of other designers.  I scour industry and shelter magazines, attend classes and seminars, and of course the internet is a wonderful tool for keeping tabs on what's new and wonderful in the world of interiors.  However, I confess that I also take a little guilty pleasure now and then by checking out the hilarious examples of what NOT to do compiled by James Swan on his Facebook page, "101 Things I Hate About Your House."   Sometimes he finds ghastly furniture from manufacturers who honestly must be from outer space if they think anyone could live with that whatever-it-is.  Other times he serves up tough love in the form of a series of photographs of houseplant ivy run amok and taking over someone's entire home as though it was Sleeping Beauty's castle waiting for Prince Charming to come and hack his way through the vines.  There are close to 3,000 fans of this page, and sometimes the clever comments posted after the photographs are even funnier than the photos themselves.

But a few days ago, looking through the photos Swan posted under Duck Soup, I started to feel uncomfortable.  All of the photos in this group show interiors with "errors" that are easy for design professionals to pick out -- maybe errors is too strong a word; let's say missed opportunities.  Most of them involve poor choices in window treatments, or poor execution of what might have worked in the hands of a professional drapery workroom and installer.  Unfortunately, hiring an interior design professional is beyond the means of many people, and I think many of the photos in the Duck Soup album show interiors that homeowners decorated themselves, with little or no professional assistance, on a budget that most interior designers would consider minimal (although, to the homeowner writing the checks, it is ALWAYS a lot of money -- it's all about levels).  Keeping that in mind, most of these rooms aren't that bad.

This room in particular caught my attention:

Tall ceilings, beautiful arched windows, and the arches are chopped off by squatty little striped swag valances that do nothing to enhance the proportions of the room.  The busy striped fabric (polyester satin?) and all that tassel trim is at odds with the casual feel of the mismatched furnishings, distressed wood finishes, and leather chair.

Maybe this homeowner is really industrious and she sewed and installed the Roman shades and board-mounted valances herself, or perhaps she engaged a professional whose services were affordable to her.  Either way, analyzing the photo, I can guess what her objectives were:

"I need something on the window to insulate the glass, because it gets so cold here in the winter, and I need privacy at night so everyone driving by can't see me eating Ben & Jerry's in front of the fireplace.  I want something dressy, more dramatic than just plain blinds or boring drapery panels.  I know the furniture is a bit of a mish-mosh, but I can't afford to change everything right now.  My budget is limited and I really need to work with what I have.  I like the arches on the windows and I don't want to cover them up -- one of my favorite things about this house is that there's so much natural light in this room, even in the winter.  Can you help me?"

So I took a little break from working on other projects for real clients who have actually hired me, uploaded this photo into my Studio design software from Minutes Matter, and gave this stranger's room a virtual makeover.  In the 45 minutes or so that I played around with this, I tried to better accomplish the client's objectives (the objectives I'm inferring from clues in the original photo), enhance and complement the client's existing furnishings, and -- most importantly -- I made sure that my new window treatments could realistically be obtained at about the same cost as the window treatments in the original photo.

Alaire in Persimmon, $30.50/yd Retail
I left the Roman shades exactly as they were, because they do a good job of keeping out the cold if they're interlined, and there's nothing wrong with them, and obviously the client likes them or she wouldn't have picked them.  I might have suggested doing the shades top-down/bottom up, so the client could cover the bottom portion of the window for privacy but have the option of letting more light in at the top of the window if she wanted to.  However, I think the satin striped fabric on the swag valances is too tired/traditional/formal for this space.  It doesn't feel fresh.  So I substituted this very affordable 100% cotton fabric from Robert Allen.  (Note: I am aware that this is probably not a perfect color match, it probably needs to be a bit more bordeaux and less russet, but it's hard to judge color accurately from a photograph, and I couldn't justify spending hours and hours searching for the PERFECT fabric for an imaginary project.  Obviously if this was a real client, I would take the time to nail the fabric selection).

Next, I added a stationary drapery panel to the outside of each window, and raised the swags up at the center above the arched portion of the window.  This plays up the drama of the vaulted ceiling better, and the stationary drapery panels will help to muffle echoes and give the room a psychologically warmer feeling, elegant, but still cozy and not too formal because the fabric is a soft cotton instead of a shiny satin.  I left the tassel fringe on the Roman shades to keep them looking custom, and because my imaginary client really loves tassel fringe, but I eliminated it from the swags because I felt like it was overkill.  Skipping the trim on the swag valance also offset the increased labor and yardage costs of the drapery panels that I added.  My swags are mounted on little fabric-covered blocks of wood with decorative iron medallion ornaments screwed through the front, similar to the candlesticks in front of the fireplace that my imaginary client purchased at one of her girlfriends' parties (you know, those parties where the ladies all eat hors d'oeuvres and drink wine while they shop for baskets/candles/food storage containers/makeup). 

Without further ado, here's how my new imaginary window treatments would look in this client's home:

Isn't it amazing how window treatments can totally transform a space, even when everything else in the room stays the same?  If I had more time to play with this, I would "paint" the walls in my software program, a color similar to the color of the Roman shade fabric, or possibly a few shades lighter, to warm up those stark, Builder White walls and make the crown molding, fireplace mantel, and other trimwork pop.  What do you think?  I love it when I get comments, hint, hint, nudge nudge...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

too bad you weren't their designer! They would've never ended up on James Swann's page!