DDH Decorating Ideas

Arranging Objects by marygilliatt
September 16, 2010, 1:53 pm
Filed under: Decorating, Interior Design, Living Room, Mary Gilliatt | Tags: , ,

Actually, there are two quite different schools of thought on the possession and display of objects: the school of simplicity and the school for comfortable clutter.  The offering up of one or two exquisite and interesting pieces; or an accretion of possessions and collections that is often called, rather aptly, memorabilia.

"...possessions must also be organized to display it to its best advantage." Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

The trouble about the first school is that a few beautiful or singularly interesting objects really must be beautiful or singularly interesting. Or at least made to appear so by the way they are displayed or mounted. The difficulty about the second is that the ‘clutter’ or enthusiastic accretion of possessions must also be organized to display it to its best advantage. This involves a careful assemblage of texture and shape and color not to mention placement.  For after all, what you are creating still lives in just the same way as that of a painter or a photographer.

"Very small things like decorative shells or stones or marbles can be put into large glass goblets or specimen jars and displayed on windowsills or on shelves." Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

Collections of small objects should always be grouped together rather than scattered sparsely around a house or an apartment.  Very small things like decorative shells or stones or marbles can be put into large glass goblets or specimen jars and displayed on windowsills or on shelves.  Slightly larger objects, however different, should be grouped so that they have something in common such as color, national origin or period, or, alternatively, contrasted with larger, quite different things for the interest of the juxtaposition.  Add a plant for example, or a simple arrangement of flowers, or dried grasses, or a big bowl of dried lavender, or a pile of books.   If arrangements are grouped on tables that are also used for the practical dumping of drinks, food, or whatever, leave appropriate space so that the composition will not be ruined.

"Something sculptural will always add to the interest of a room." Photo: Bedrooms by Mary Gilliatt

If arrangements are on a glass shelf or table, lighting them from underneath with a small up light is effective.  If they are not on a transparent surface try lighting them from above with a table lamp or down light recessed into the ceiling, or a miniature spot to give extra brilliance. Interestingly, serious or at least energetic collections of quite commonplace or ordinary but unexpected objects often make for more memorable rooms than much rarer items.  Perhaps this is because one is less impressed by the effect of something one knows to be good, rare or expensive, than by something one had not much thought about before.  (For example, old irons, shoe lasts, small boxes of every sort, snuff boxes, card cases, china toast racks or tea pots or jugs, old commemoration plates, old bottles and pill boxes or jars, baskets, eighteenth and nineteenth century eye glass cases, old locks and keys and small tools, etc.)

Something sculptural, (whether it is from a young contemporary sculptor, or African or Oceanic, pre-Columbian or Oriental, classical figurative or abstract bronze, kinetic or a two-colored construction) will always add to the interest of a room. Mount small pieces on Lucite blocks. Almost all sculpture except standing pieces looks better on some sort of plinth made to scale, whether it is lacquered, painted or natural wood, marble, plaster, fiber or Plexiglass.

How do you arrange your collectibles?


Mary Gilliat Decor Dream Home


Making the Most of Space by decordreamhome

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Interior Design Course

Getting the proper framework of a home is essential to any decorative scheme. It is only logical that the first thing to consider is the use, and if necessary, the visual expansion of the space at your disposal. This should be thought out before altering or installing any lighting or essential services such as heating and air conditioning, and certainly before you begin to think of styles and color schemes because all of these things will be dependant on how you decide to use and enhance your rooms.

Sensible apportioning of space clearly depends upon lifestyle. Conventional wisdom has it that open-plan or multi-functional space has much to recommend it for the single or those without kids. But a family has to balance the need for as much elbow room as possible with the equally pressing need for occasional privacy and quiet, which means different spaces for work and play, for adults and children.

This presupposes a proportion of general areas for everyone’s use with private spaces for individuals; a ration of formal space and a ration of informal. All the same it may be easier, for example, to organize so-called reception room space into one large kitchen-dining-living-working-play space with bedrooms and bathrooms off it to which people can retire to sit and read, or talk or work whenever they need to be alone.

Assuming that major structural work is out of the question, the consideration must be how to make the space work to its best advantage and seem more expansive. Careful exploration of all the possibilities within an existing building can make all the difference to its feeling of spaciousness, if not to its square footage. At a very simple level, a home that is owned as opposed to being rented, might well be improved by the elementary expedient of changing the function of various rooms, or by changing the layout. It is taken for granted in many houses, that bedrooms are upstairs and living rooms downstairs, but if the view and the light are better higher up, why not live up there and sleep below?

Again, landings and hallways and under staircase areas should be used to their maximum advantage. It is surprising how often you can fit the odd desk or table for eating, a mural, or even a piano.

Expanding Space By Furniture Arrangement

The least expensive and most obvious way to gain apparent extra space is to be rigorous about the amount and type of furniture that is used and its arrangement. Pare down as much as possible, but not to the extent that all individuality is lost in the process.

As a guide:

  • Two small sofas look neater than four club chairs.
  • Two small seating units pushed together take up less room than two individual chairs spaced apart.
  • Storage all down one wall that includes desks, cabinets for TV, DVD player, stereo equipment and space for books, CD’s, drinks etc. will be better than a hole lot of separate items.
  • Corners can be used more for cupboards, desks and shelves.
  • Built-in corner units, window seats or seats with storage under them can be tucked in wherever possible to avoid clutter.
  • Tables, occasional tables and desks made of Plexiglas or glass or surfaced in mirror look much lighter and more insubstantial than the same pieces made in wood or topped in marble.

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Interior Design Course

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Great Renovations and Restorations

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Great Renovations and Restorations

Expanding Space with Mirrors

Mirrors will always give depth and added length and width to a room.

If it can be afforded, a mirror may be used on one whole wall, in a dark corner, or used generously from floor to ceiling and right up to a corner if the space could do with visual doubling. If you have two tall windows, you can fill the space in between with a mirror extending from the floor (or top of a baseboard) to the top of the window height. This will make an enormous difference in brightness and the illusion of space.

If you do not like the look of a plain mirror, you can always edge large pieces with lengths of picture framing proportioned to suit the size. This will not give so much of an illusion of doubled space as floor to ceiling slabs, but it will still add substantially to the feeling of generous space and light.

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Interior Design Course

Expanding Space Cosmetically

There are various simple rules for exaggerating or diminishing a given area:

  • The same floor covering running through a whole apartment or small house maximizes floor space.
  • If walls and ceilings are kept the same color as well, the space will appear to flow uninterruptedly. Even variations on the same color scheme from room to room (i.e., putty color walls and white trim in one room; white walls and putty colored trim in another and so on) will give an illusion of more space because of the continuity.
  • The lighter the floor and wall color, the bigger the room will seem. Pale colors recede; strong, intense or dark colors tend to come towards you. If a ceiling is too high for the proportions of a room, a strong color will appear to bring it down. If it is too low, a light shade or white will appear to heighten it.
  • A continuous border or band or stripe of a contrast color, or a subtly contrasted cornice or picture moulding around a room, will make a room look “finished” but spacious.
  • Shine and reflection will increase a sense of space. A matte surface will slightly diminish it.
  • An over-scale piece of furniture, large painting or mirror in a small room, contrary to convention, will actually make a small room look larger, mostly because one would not imagine a piece of this scale would fit into a small space. Equally, small living rooms can take in more furniture than you could imagine if you treat them like comfortable studies or dens.
  • Patterns with a strong directional or geometric feel appear to push out and therefore extend floors and walls. Patterned carpets or floor and wall coverings with a light ground give a feeling of depth. Patterns on a dark ground are more enclosing. If you choose an all-over motif on walls, try the same motif in a much smaller scale for curtains or shades, slipcovers and cushions. This will appear to push the walls out.
  • Take advantage of any long view to be had from a window. Window treatments or furniture should not be allowed to impede the view in any way that would prevent the eye from being drawn into the distance.

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Interior Design Course

Think consciously of creating a foreground, middle ground and background to create a sense of perspective. A mirror on a table or mantelshelf with a plant or object reflected in it; a hinged screen with a table and lamp in front of it; a window with permanently tied-back panels and a window shade used as the covering; diagonal stripes on floor. All draw the eye out or through to create the illusion of more space.

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Interior Design Course

What tips do you adhere to to make the most of your space? I’d love to hear from you!


International Designer Mary Gilliatt

Contrasting Scale and Balance by decordreamhome
May 14, 2010, 12:25 pm
Filed under: Decorating, Interior Design, Living Room, Rooms | Tags: , , , ,
Mary Gilliatt Interior Decorating Blog: Scale & Balance

Wild prints can modernize a traditional space. Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

The importance of developing a good sense of scale and balance is often underestimated in decorating. By this I mean knowing how to contrast height and width with furniture; when to use large designs or patterns in fabrics and wallpapers and when small; when to balance solidity with delicacy; and when to offset an angle with a curve. All of these things are just as crucial to the final effect of a room as a sense of style and color, and the sort of sensitivity to a building and its internal proportions which will intuitively suggest the way it should best be treated.

Some people are born with an accurate sense of scale and balance just as others are born with perfect pitch or a useful color sense or automatically knowing what style to use where. But although perfect pitch is an absolute and is either there or not, a sense of scale and proportion can be developed with time and experience, just as one can develop a good sense of color and style, which is, at the very least, encouraging.

Mary Gilliatt Interior Decorating Blog: Scale & Balance

A study in balance and contrast. Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

As for all issues of decorating I would advise looking through books and magazines and analyzing rooms that you particularly admire, but this time for the arrangement of furniture and accessories and for the various contrasts of patterns and colors. Look too, at your own rooms and ask yourself these questions:

  • What flashes of color would be enhanced with a little repetition here and there? Could, for example, the color of a chair at one end of a room be repeated in a painting or decorative object, or flowers, or a throw cushion or a rug somewhere else in the room? Or could the colors in say a vase or a ceramic table be picked up by the ceramic base of a lamp?
  • Are there any nice contrasts you could make to vary the pace a little? Like a hard-edged marble of glass coffee table in front of a squashy sofa; a rug on a large expanse of Coir matting, or polished wood or limestone floor; a pattern on fabric repeated in a different color way, or in reverse effect, or in a larger or smaller scale?
  • What shapes can be effectively juxtaposed? A rococo or Louis XV1 chair with the straight legs of an upholstered stool? A tall, vertical screen with the jagged edges of a low, spreading plant set in a basket beneath it?
  • Do you have only one large piece in the room, say a long sofa, with a lot of smaller pieces? Or just one tall object, say a long case clock, with a lot of low pieces?

Although there is definite contrast here, in both cases it is a rather awkward contrast.
It would look better to balance such a sofa with a big desk or a sofa or work table, so that you have several anchor pieces around which the rest of the furnishings could revolves.  Equally, a tall piece should be balanced by a bookcase or storage unit, an armoire, a large mirror, or a big painting, or a group of paintings that starts high on the wall. Do not, however, choose a piece of art or mirror that is actually bigger than the piece of furniture below (like a chest, side table or dresser) or the effect will be top heavy.

Mary Gilliatt Interior Decorating Blog: Scale & Balance

Mix styles for dramatic contrast. Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

  • Do you have just one lonely mirror or small painting on a large expanse of wall? If you do, try to expand the items into a group, or series of groups. A very large mirror or painting are fine on their own if the wall is not too large.
  • Are your pieces of furniture and accessories all one level or all on one scale? This can look needlessly boring. Always try to vary the height of furnishings. Have at least one or two taller pieces such as groups of art or a large painting or mirror as mentioned above, or a tall plant or two. You could offset a tall piece of sculpture or a screen in one corner of a room with a large plant, or a plant standing on a column or pedestal in another
Mary Gilliatt Interior Decorating Blog: Scale & Balance

Mixing scales and textures. Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Great Renovations and Restorations

Lastly, one fail safe way to make sure a room will work to its best advantage as far as scale and balance are concerned is to draw up the room to scale on graph paper, similarly draw to scale and cut out the various pieces of furniture and large accessories and move them around until you have found what you think is the best juxtaposition.


International Designer Mary Gilliatt

A Living Room is for Living In by decordreamhome

A living room should be lived in!

After many decades in the decorating business I have never ceased to be amazed at how often the so-called ‘living room’ – and this seems to apply all over the world – is more often than not more of a ‘looking at room’, a room for guests to be impressed by; a room which is quite evidently ‘for best’. Yet it seems only logical to me –especially in these much more casual times – that your living room should be the comfortable reflection of your own tastes, your own interests, your own hobbies.

The lighting should be well thought out, outlets plentiful and efficient dimmer switches installed both for the ambience the combination can then provide and for maximum practicality before any decoration takes place. This applies particularly if you need to re-wire or add extra wiring or install any recessed ceiling or architrave lights. This means that you need to plan your furniture arrangement well in advance in order to have lighting and lamps precisely where they are most needed, and, of course, for maximum flexibility.

Furniture should be versatile enough to suit different needs (and differently sized people for that matter). So really think long and hard about your comfort requirements as well as preferred styles, not just for now, but for future possibilities.

The room’s various surfaces (floor, walls, fabrics, table tops) should be practical and hard-wearing or at least easily cleanable, so that you are not constantly apprehensive about spillage and grubbiness.


The placement of accessories should also be as flexible as possible.

The general arrangement and placing of accessories should also be as flexible as possible so that the room is as efficient for social gatherings as for one or two quietly chatting or reading; as relaxed for card playing as it is for listening to music. And if you have a family, the room really should accommodate all the family members and not be kept as a show room to wow your visitors.

Parents of small, messy children might argue that the child factor is precisely why family rooms need to exist and indeed, if you have a big enough home for both family and living rooms that is obviously sensible and certainly more relaxing.  Though I would argue, at least semantically, that the less-used room should then more be called, more accurately, a ‘sitting room’, or the more formal ‘drawing room’, ratherthan given the misnomer of ‘living room’.

However, many of us, especially apartment and small house dwellers, do not have the space to have both rooms or if we do one might be better used as a home office or study/library, or media room. Incidentally, one of the most practical ideas I have seen for keeping a full-time living room as tidy as possible is to have a large round table covered with a full length tablecloth under which miscellaneous toys and play things, and even files and work thing; can be swept when the occasion arises. A large and decorative armoire might serve the same purpose, as can a chest of drawers or a bureau with some otherwise empty drawers.


International Designer Mary Gilliatt