Interior Design | Darlene Nicolau

Why design solutions should never look alike?

Welcome to my first blog entry for Through, I’ll share my perspective on the spirit of authentic and well-executed interior design. I’ll do this by identifying examples of interior design faux-pas, affectionately referred to as “design crimes”, and describe what makes them a design crime while offering solutions and best practices to solve them. I know I won’t be able to resist poking fun at some of the design crimes from time-to-time, so I hope to add an element of humor to the mix.

For this first blog entry, I’ll discuss the ultimate design crime for an interior designer, which is to create spaces that all look the same regardless of your client’s personal taste or the architectural style of the structure. You will often see this type of glaring design crime on some of HGTV’s remodeling shows, such as “Fixer Upper”. While I adore Chip and Joanna Gaines (the husband and wife contractor and design team on the show), they use the same architectural elements and “vintage country” décor for each of their projects, regardless of the architectural style of the building or the personal taste of the client. The most blatant design crime that I have witnessed at their hands was committed on a remodel of a historic Craftsman bungalow. Chip and Joanna incorporated architectural millwork and materials that were inconsistent with the original architecture of the home. For example, they used shiplap as a predominant wall covering for this remodel (and most of their other remodels), which is more appropriate for a rustic-style farmhouse, not a Craftsman-style bungalow. They proceeded to complement their excessive fondness for shiplap with a full-on decorating crime, which was to decorate the craftsman home (or what was left of it) with vintage country furnishing and décor. I must admit, I had a moment of silence watching the episode of this remodel to mourn the loss of the home’s historic integrity and authenticity. And by using the same vintage country decorating style that they use for all of their projects, it was quite evident that the design did not reflect the personality of their clients. The resulting design solution was disjointed architecturally and lacked any personal connection with the client.

Design is an organic process. By following your intuition as a designer, which should ultimately be inspired by the architecture you’re working with, a good designer will hone in on an appropriate style for your space. From there, the designer should consider the activities likely to occur in the space and create a design solution that functions well. A good designer will get to know their client’s tastes and preferences and incorporate the client’s personality into the design solution.

Personalizing a space is the key to authentic and original design, whether it be for individual homeowner or a corporation whose brand is part of the company’s personality. And, by honoring the architectural style of the structure, your design solution will have a sense of rhythm and harmony – it will just “work”. This is why design solutions for different structures and clients should never look alike. Applying the same design solution to different types of architecture is like dressing a man, woman and child with the same outfit and expecting it to look equally appropriate on each of them, regardless of their physical, emotional and psychological differences. For example, it takes a different cut of clothing to fit divergent body types. A man, woman and child may also have very distinct personalities whose intangible attributes need be incorporated into the style of each of their outfits to ensure that the outfit suits them on an individual basis.

I mean, even in the case of identical twins, what does it say when a pair of twins are dressed in the same outfit? While the architecture of their bodies and facial features are similar, they have different personalities. Dressing two people alike, especially twins, removes any sense of individuality and personality from their appearance.

By the same token, to create an authentic interior design solution, one with personality and originality, a designer must consider the personality of the client. And, for an interior design solution to be considered well-executed, it must correspond with the architecture of the structure and accommodate the activities performed in the space. Especially when two structures are similar architecturally, it’s important to incorporate the intangible attributes of the client’s personality.

It’s a lot harder to produce an original design that corresponds with the building’s architecture, accommodates the activities performed in the space and evokes the personality of the client than to apply the same design solution to each project in the form of a “brand”. I, for one, am up for the challenge of solving each design problem on an individual basis in the pursuit of authentic and well-executed interior design. I hope you are too.


Written by Darlene Nicolau
Principal Designer, Nico Interior Design

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