DDH Decorating Ideas


An Eye for Detail or Finishing Touches by marygilliatt
Mary Gilliatt: An eye for Detail

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

An eye for detail is the factor that lifts competent decoration to the memorable level and, as such, it should clearly be cultivated.  It is the ability to choose, place and arrange objects in a compelling way, grouping them so that they are seen to their best advantage. It is a feel for balance; the juxtaposition of texture and color; form and scale; height and width; solidity and lightness.

Equally, it is knowing what architectural elements to use with what style; how to make subtle variations on one color; what to light or highlight and what to leave; when to spoof and when to stop. It embraces humor in decoration; the sympathetic hanging of paintings and prints, photographs or posters or any other wall decoration. It is getting curtains and tablecloths to puddle on the floor to exactly the right extent; trims to be just right along with hardware. But above all, it is the gift for making personal, idiosyncratic touches to the completed framework of a room, the feeling for detail that makes all the difference. And although some people are born with an instinctive ability to dress a room exactly so; to make whatever they do to their own environment seem interesting and out of the ordinary, this ability, like a true sense of color, can be gradually acquired with the diligent study of rooms that particularly appeal to you and with a proper analysis of why they do so.

Mary Gilliatt: An Eye for Detail

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

If well-chosen and well-cared for furniture and soft furnishings are what make a room habitable, comfortable and easy on the eye, accessories and objects are the embellishments and elements that give it personality. But for a truly personal room, the objects must be personal too; they must be liked for their own sake, thought about carefully, collected or put together for some real reason, whether sentimental or aesthetic, not just any old thing chosen quickly to fill a space, or because some particular accessory is in style at the moment.

Mary Gilliatt: An Eye for Detail

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

Mary Gilliatt: An Eye for Detail

Photo: Bedrooms by Mary Gilliatt

A Sense of Balance

Lastly, always bear in mind the importance of balance. Repeat the same color here and there in a room. The color of a chair at one end can be repeated in a painting or pillows at the other. Colors in patterned ceramic lamp bases can be picked up in a plain ceramic lamp somewhere else. The tones in a painting can be echoed in a rug, or fabric or a particular wood or flowers. These are all small details but it is they that give the finishing touches.

Cheers,
Mary

International Designer Mary Gilliatt

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How to Display Art by marygilliatt
June 17, 2010, 1:47 pm
Filed under: Decorating, Interior Design, Mary Gilliatt, Rooms | Tags: , , , ,
Mary Gilliatt: How to Display Art

Photo: Bedrooms by Mary Gilliatt

There are varied schools on hanging art just as there are on displaying objects

On the whole they are divided into those who want to make room for their serious collections, and those who want to use their wall space to its most decorative advantage. Those of the first school are always thinking of a wall as a means to an end – a support, a background – and moving paintings around as their collections expand or contract and their interests digress.  But the second group, who are thinking more of their walls, need to find some unifying factor for their different and often less distinguished possessions.

Mary Gilliatt: How to Display Art

Photo: Bedrooms by Mary Gilliatt

A miscellaneous set of nondescript prints for example, can be given a unity they would otherwise lack if each one is matted with the same distinctive color – buff, or deep green, or crimson or terracotta – whatever fits in with the room – and edged with a thin strip of chrome or brass or wood. Again, an oddly assorted group of works of various subjects and sizes will have a unity of their own if they share a predominant color – all sepia tints, perhaps, or all black and white.   In any case try not to hang things too high, or too far apart.  When there is a large grouping, keep at least the central pieces at eye-level.  Vertical arrangements will make a room seem taller, just as horizontal arrangements will make them seem wider or longer.  If a wall is strongly patterned, it is best to mount prints or drawings on very deep mattes so that the subject is becalmed in an area of its own and does not get lost in the surrounding background.

Mary Gilliatt: How to Display Art

Photo: Bedrooms by Mary Gilliatt

Juggle different sizes of pictures around on the floor beneath the chosen wall to find an arrangement that works best with other arrangements in the room, or with the space available, and mark out the area on the wall with an impermanent marker before banging in hooks.

What are some of your favorite art-hanging tricks?

Cheers,
Mary

International Designer Mary Gilliatt



Developing a Sense of Style by marygilliatt
Mary Gilliatt: Developing a Sense of Style

Mixing rustic, modern and classic is unexpected and fun. Photo: Bedrooms by Mary Gilliatt

A sense of style is an amalgam of two things:  first of all confidence in ones own taste and judgment and, second, knowing exactly what is suitable for a given place or situation. As Elsie de Wolfe, the famous 1920’s and 30’s decorator used to say:  “Style is… suitability, suitability, suitability…”  Meaning suitability to financial and family circumstances; to climate; to the type of home and to the area.  Of course there are occasional people who are sure enough of themselves to create some wholly unexpected interior in a wholly unexpected kind of home, but this requires rare confidence.  And confidence is exactly what we must try to develop…

Mary Gilliatt: Developing a Sense of Style

Modern art looks fresh near a traditional chaise, no? Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

Some fortunate people seem to be born with an innate sense of style and suitability, whether in clothes, or the interiors of houses and apartments, or both.  Although curiously, the one does not necessarily go naturally with the other.  Most of us, however, have to work at it, just as most of us have to work on a sophisticated color sense and the knowledge of how to build up color in a room.

Mary Gilliatt: Developing a Sense of Style

Large rooms can be surprisingly cozy. Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

Luckily by diligence and by cultivating the habit of really seeing what you are looking at and then analyzing why you like it or don’t like it, it is quite possible to become more comfortable and sure of one’s own tastes; to develop new ones and even to experiment here and there. Don’t you agree?

Mary Gilliatt: Developing a Sense of Style

Maybe not your first combo choice, but this works anyway. Photo: Bedrooms by Mary Gilliatt

Cheers,
Mary

International Designer Mary Gilliatt



The Importance of Storage by marygilliatt
May 21, 2010, 12:37 pm
Filed under: Decorating, Interior Design, Mary Gilliatt, Rooms | Tags: , ,
Storage with mary Gilliatt

Photo: Bedrooms by Mary Gilliatt

To the dictum that you cannot be too rich or too thin I always like to add the extra phrase  ‘or have too much storage’. For one of the major problems in any home – and particularly any family home – is how to achieve the neat but adequate storage. Even just thinking of the stuff that has to be put away for the average family makes the mind boggle. Just take a look at this list:

Clothes, shoes, coats and raincoats
Cosmetics and bathroom needs
Bed linens and towels
Luggage
Cleaning equipment
Kitchen utensils, china, glass, tableware, kitchen linens
Push chairs, cots, portable cots, diapers and general baby and childCare necessities
Toys and sporting equipment like bicycles, skis, baseball, golf and tennis needs
Books, cassettes, CD’s, DVD players and DVD’s, videos, magazines and disks of all sorts
Files, personal papers, bills and receipts, stationary
Photographs, photograph albums (not always together, alas)
Brochures, newspaper cuttings, telephone books
General household paraphernalia
Musical instruments and music, and then some.

Storage with mary Gilliatt

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

However sparse possessions are to begin with they tend to grow with the years, and whether this is for ingrained reasons of thrift or prudence, security or sentimentality, lack of organization, or just  sheer laziness, is of little account.  What is of account is that storage space be given some concise thought as well as a concise budget from the beginning of any makeover, however modest.  And most especially, of course, in any room or any home that in anyway purports to be minimalist. You cannot have any sort of minimalism without the maximum amount of storage space.

Anyone planning on finding neat, good-looking and inconspicuous solutions to the stashing away of most if not all of the above (and its always wise to look ahead to children, if they are not yet in existence, or grandchildren if they are) might find that the following questions will clear the mind:

Should everything be enclosed? (Some people prefer to shut everything away). If not, what can be seen? What can be left out satisfactorily? What will look good on display apart from books, objects, clean pots and pans, casseroles and possibly clean towels on bathroom shelves (if various occupants can be trusted not to rumple them up)?

MaryGilliattLivingRoom1

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

Is there anything against having the same sort of storage systems in different rooms? The advantage of this is that it provides continuity in a small space. Many ready-made systems have enough permutations to take care of all requirements.

Is a move anticipated in the next few years? (one out of five Americans, after all, are supposed to move every year). If so this will affect decisions on movable (free-standing) or built-in (fixed) storage.

Are there any specific ideas on storage in general? Can foldable clothes: shirts, sweaters, underclothes, papers or toys be stashed behind one of the wire or plastic basket systems behind doors? Or would it be preferable for them to be stowed in traditional closets, drawers, cupboards and filing systems?

What sort of storage will you require in each room? Bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, children’s rooms, studies or libraries, bathrooms and utility/laundry rooms need storage facilities as a matter of course, but where are the general impedimenta going to be kept?  Tools, luggage, sports equipment, barbecue grills, light bulbs and the household necessities that can be bought more cheaply in bulk?

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

If storage walls are decided upon as the neatest way of stashing away a multitude of disparate objects in a living room (stereo, cassettes, CD’s, DVD’s, Videos, Files, papers, TV, computer, discs, stationary, books, magazines and so on) how far will this affect the proportions of the room?

If built-in cupboards and bookshelves are preferred (say in a period house), where can they be fitted-in to their best advantage? What corners and recesses could be used? Can cupboards be fitted around a window or windows in a bedroom, with a dressing table surface built-out from a window sill?  Or can closets or bookshelves be built around doors? These are often splendid ideas for saving space.

Can existing storage be improved upon in any way, or can one whole but small room be used as a spacious walk-in closet?

How much conventional storage will have to be bought and how much can be improvised? Cane baskets for drinks, for example; ordinary open shelves on brackets; cloakroom racks on wheels or castors for clothes; filing trays inside cupboards for socks, panty hose, underwear, shirts and sweaters; lidded window seats; an old bureau or desk with capacious drawers for periodicals, games, toys and papers; small, low chests of drawers which will act as Cocktail or side tables as well as storage for incidentals…

It is, of course, impossible to draw up a blueprint for successful storage which will satisfy everybody’s needs. The only certain facts are that more space should be allowed for the purpose than could possibly be imagined, and that any sort of storage should be as much sympathy with the basic proportions and feelings of the room as is tenable.

Cheers,
Mary

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.

Cheers,
Mary

International Designer Mary Gilliatt



Combining Texture and Pattern by marygilliatt
Mary Gilliatt Using Patter

Photo Courtesy: Mary Gilliatt's Great Renovations and Restorations

Colors are so radically changed by differences in texture and pattern that a monochromatic or one-color room can be as lively and memorable through its subtlety as a more vividly contrasting space.  Therefore, textures and pattern need to be considered as seriously and, at least in the case of textures, as evocatively, as the process of color-building.

Take textures first.  The name of a known texture immediately conjures up an almost tangible surface.  Just as thinking about one color in depth can evoke many images and variations, so too, different textures engender their own imagery.

Consider for example the following:
Brick, Denim, Linen, Satin, Burlap, Felt, Louvers, Silk, Basketwork, Glass, Matchboard, Steel, Cane, Lace, Plaster, Stone, Cashmere, Lacquer,  Plexiglass, Tapestry, Ceramic, Leather, Quilting, Tweed, Coir, Limestone, Rope, Velvet

Mary Gilliatt on Texture in Decorating

Photo Courtesy: Mary Gilliatt's Great Renovations and Restorations

Pick out some of them and imagine how they would look distributed among floors, walls ceiling, soft furnishings, and furniture.  Obviously some textures are more in keeping with each other than others.  Rough contrasts with smooth and matte with gloss.  But brick or stone or rough plaster walls look generally better contrasted with natural linen or burlap or cotton than with silk or satin.  But there are no real rules, only sensibilities.

Mary Gilliatt on Pattern in Decorating

Photo Courtesy: Mary Gilliatt's Great Renovations and Restorations

As for patterns, it used to be a convention never to mix them, as much to create harmony as to make things easier.  One good way to become more confident about mixing pattern and texture with ease is to realize the pattern in a room is formed as much by possessions as by fabrics and floor coverings. Books with their various jacket designs; the way art is arranged on walls; the placement of objects; the slats of shutters; the play of light and shade; the shapes of different pieces of furniture; the leaves and flowers of plants… All these disparate things from patterns in their own right.  When this fact is considered, one fabric, carpet or rug pattern more or less can hardly make much difference as the scale, tone and proportion are right. These last are obviously important. Large patterns that look interesting and diverting in fabric stores or furnishing departments are often more sensible for public rather than private settings, or at least large spaces unless one possesses a sure sense of scale, although it is a fact that large scale patterns and furniture used with confidence can generally make a small space seem much bigger.  Similarly, one should remember that many small patterns often meld into one color when actually used for window treatments as opposed to hanging up show lengths.

Mary Gilliatt on Pattern in Decorating

Photo Courtesy: Mary Gilliatt's Great Renovations and Restorations

A play of pattern however, can be very effective, varying as it does the whole balance of color.

  • The same design in two different colors can look interesting-in a good way. So can the same design reversed – say blue on white predominating with white on blue predominating.
  • Very similar patterns in the same colors can be used together with effect, as in window treatments and carpet, with plain painted or plain textured walls.
  • Patterns with the same feeling if not design can also be used together effectively.  Vivid striped North African or other ethnic fabrics with heavily patterned oriental rugs.  Florals of all sorts with stripes or checks.
  • Use a large pattern with a smaller pattern in the same color way.
  • Do not forget the subtle effect of sheers printed with the same pattern as the curtains, or used with an allied or more simplified design, or in toned-down versions of the same main colors.
Mary Gilliatt on Pattern in Decorating

Photo Courtesy: Mary Gilliatt's Great Renovations and Restorations

Lastly to mix patterns and textures together successfully, assemble as many samples of each as you can.  Juggle them around.  Think of them, as I said, in the context of existing surfaces, furniture, window treatments, upholstery, accents.  Look at them in different lights.  Then pick out two or three schemes for a final choice.  This is the most effective way to learn.

Cheers,
Mary

International Designer Mary Gilliatt



Re-Thinking Light by marygilliatt
April 7, 2010, 4:20 pm
Filed under: Lighting, Mary Gilliatt | Tags: , , , ,
Mary Gilliatt - Lighting Your Room

Imaginatively placed light is just as much a flexible decorational tool as paint and color. (Img. Mary Gilliatt's Interior Design Course)

The art of lighting – and it really is an art – is one of the most important and subtle elements in decorating. It can dramatize or minimize space, heighten or lower ceilings, warm up colors and atmospheres or cool them down, create illusions or mystery and make rooms much more comfortable and practical to live, work and read in. It is also the most misunderstood of the decorative arts and, on the whole, the least-practiced.

Many specialists, books and articles giving lighting advice tend to confuse listeners with science and complicated technological terms. To my mind, light, like color, requires an essentially emotional response. I think people should think of using light as if they were painting a room with it. Imaginatively placed light is just as much a flexible decorational tool as paint and color. Think of using light in a room as subtly as you use spices and herbs in cooking to titivate and heighten tastes.

Another factor that can lead to confusion or frustration when selecting lighting, is that lighting showrooms, stores or departments tend to be so overly lit that it is generally impossible to see what various lighting fixtures and bulbs actually do as well as what they look like. (I always contend that a good lighting place should have a dark room in which lights should be tested out properly – just as many music showrooms have a quiet space for better listening purposes).

Mary Gilliatt Lighting Your Room

The best artificial light is meant to emulate the many moods of daylight. (Img. Mary Gilliatt's Interior Design Course)

In addition, so many developers and contractors automatically wire a room for central lighting which cannot help but make any space seem bland. I always try to counteract this by pointing out that the best artificial light is meant to emulate the many moods of daylight, and that since the sun does not stand still in the middle of the sky nor blazes continually down from overhead, then neither should the artificial variety. It would be far better if contractors installed double light and power outlets in each corner of a room and in the middle of walls for maximum flexibility, and put in dimmer switches as a matter of course. The dimmer switch with its ability to vary any given amount of light is to lighting what the zip is to clothes!

The bad news is that major lighting schemes MUST be planned, and any re-wiring or extra outlets installed, long before any decoration is undertaken so that both the installation and the necessary wires can be neatly concealed. (The same planning applies to extra wiring for stereo systems, computers, printers, televisions, telephones, alarm systems and so on).  This means that you need to figure out exactly what lights and appliances you want to use and where from the very beginning.  It is much too late to plan your lighting once the decoration work has begun.


Mary Gilliatt and Lighting

Think of using light in a room as subtly as you use spices and herbs in cooking to titivate and heighten tastes. (Img. Mary Gilliatt's Interior Design Course)

Of course, it is often impossible to plan radical lighting schemes anyway, either because you have a rental which will not allow structural changes, or you have pretty well impenetrable concrete ceilings and floors, or you simply do not have enough money. The good news here is that you can still plan good flexible schemes cosmetically as it were with the judicious use of uplights, downlights, table lamps with three way switches, portable spots and, again not least, the ever valuable dimmer switches which are easy to install.

Cheers,
Mary

International Designer Mary Gilliatt