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PostHeaderIcon Show Your Good Taste - January Designers Log

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People often ask me "what is your style"? It's a valid question, but one I always find hard to answer. Of course I have my own personal favorite furniture, colors and looks. But the style is not as important as the execution.

I have parameters I follow, an overall vibe that appeals to me and I try to show in my work. It's timeless, trendless you might say, uncluttered and clean. I have always been a follower of the "Less Is More" school of thought. But beyond that, any style and look can be beautiful if it's done right. A Mercedes Benz will look good 100 years from now. Jackie Kennedy is emulated by women the world over 50 years since she entered the White House. On the other hand, when any style or look is done incorrectly, it can be a travesty and there is no word more dreaded for an interior designer than that 5 letter one: TACKY.

For the New Year, I have listed 6 elements that can enhance your rooms. When in doubt, edit.  If you don't feel someting works, it probably doesn't. Follow your instincts. Most of us have very good ones if we just trust ourselves. Enlist the help of a good interior designer if you can. Just use your eye, think shape, form and simplicity and your good taste will shine.

1) Find your color. Using bright, festive colors can be fun and exciting, but leave it to the professionals. Paint your rooms in soft neutrals that will stay fresh for years. Taupes, creams and tans work best; they are good in any light  and make the perfect background for your furnishings to pop. If you want to add an accent wall, go ahead. It can add the punch you need and it's easy enough to repaint one wall if you tire of it. Right now, gray is showing up more and more on designers palettes. It's fresh and modern without being trendy or tiresome.

2) Rethink patterns. Remmber the adage, less is more.  It's better to utilize textures instead of mixing too many patterns.  Just like paint color, keep a large piece like the sofa neutral. Add color and pattern with pillows. When you have carpet installed, think about what's going to be sitting on it. Flooring is important, rooms should flow, not look choppy. Be very judicious in selecting tile and stone flooring. Especially keep this in mind if you have a small house. If it's an open floor plan where you see into other rooms from one room, keep the different flooring to a minimum. Bigger is better, use large tile, 18 X 18 or more.  Think large patterns, stay away from small prints.

3) Invest in one good piece. The club chair is one of my go-to pieces. It can have a variety of arms, back styles and cushions, but it needs to be simply upholstered and unskirted, with block or  taper legs. Find a solid textural fabric that wears well and allows the chair to show off its architectural styling. One of my favorite projects was a home in Las Vegs placing four club chairs around a low table. Great for conversation and cocktails. If you have the room, get the matching ottoman. It adds extra seating when needed and face it, we all love to put our feet up.

4) Look at your windows. This is where most people go wrong. They either do too little or too much. It's a rare occasion when you need to hide your window or the outside, so select window coverings that let in the light. Shutters are fine, basic and easy to live with. Wood blinds give a similar effect, but can cost thousands less. if you like draperies, keep them simple. Hang the rod midway between the top of the window and the ceiling, using rings or grommets. Give careful consideration to the use of valances or swags. And whatever you do, have the bottom hemmed to just reach the floor. Drapery panels are like slacks, you don't want high waters and you dont  want it baggy.

5) Sleep on it. Let's discuss your bed. Not everyone wants nor can afford custom made bedding. And you don't need a mountain of pillows or teddy bears either. But take the time to find comforters, shams etc, that match. It's like dressing yourself. You can mix and match stripes and plaids, but do it carefully. They even make it easy for amateurs. It's called "bed in a bag". Even a beginner can't goof. Keep it simple and easy to make, just make sure it all fits. If you bought a king bed, don't keep using your queen duvet. Make sure your bed skirt hits the floor perfectly (see above about window treatments). There is nothing uglier than a saggy, dragging bed skirt, it's like an untucked shirt. And finally, make your bed. That alone shows you take pride in your home.

6) Find your scale and proportion. These days we all have a mish mash of furniture. We keep the couch from when we were first married, the over sized armoire designed for those obsolete big tube TV's, that antique table from Aunt Ethel that never seems to find a home. Plan your room and your purchases with thought to the finished product. If you have a large sofa, find a cocktail  table that is the right size. An 85" sofa needs one 2/3 the size. The table by your reading chair should be close to the arm height. If it's a large room, scale the furnishings appropriately. This is where a good interior designer can help, or use room planners on your computer that give dimensions. If you have a small bedroom, as much as you may like to have a California King bed, it just may not be possible unless you want to walk over it every time you need to get to the closet.

The code phrase this year: Replace trendy with timeless. Think before you buy. Have an overall plan before you begin. Remember less is more and when in doubt, edit. It won't be long before you are showing your good taste and style.

Steve Wallace lives in Danville, California. An established Interior Designer for 25 years, his work has appeard in Palm Springs Life and he is the author of a soon to be published book about design and the way we live.  He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Steve Wallace Design is pleased to announce it's new office in Walnut Creek, California, February 2012.  


Last Updated (Tuesday, 17 January 2012 16:31)



0 #3 Jane Joyce 2012-01-17 20:51
0 #2 Diana Placiakiene 2012-01-17 19:33
Very refreshing, Steve!
Interestingly enough, most of these principles would apply to your wardrobe as well
I'm noticing more gray in the home design, and I'm really falling in love with the color. I'm even thinking to repaint my living room in gray.
0 #1 Susanna 2012-01-17 17:24
Amazing work and advise Steve, Congratulations !

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