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An eye for (classic) design: How to decorate your home without falling into trends
By Nicky Zamoida / GateHouse Media Homes
Posted Mar 23, 2018 at 12:01 AM
Your home is one of the biggest investments you’ll make, from the foundation to the roof, from the front porch to the backyard. It’s built to last, so it makes sense that you want the interior design — everything from the furniture to the decor — to last, too.
Whether you want to ensure your dining room set is timeless instead of trendy, or that a work of art could be passed down as an heirloom, finding that classic, ageless addition to your home can be daunting. No matter what your decorating tastes are, there are some pieces of design advice you can follow to ensure your space never goes out of style.
To Debra Zinn, the principal designer of Debra Zinn Interiors in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, classic design means a “sense of balance, proportion and symmetry.” Have you ever wondered what it was about a room that made it especially beautiful or comfortable? “A well-designed timeless space just feels right when you walk in, even if it is not your particular style,” Zinn explained in an email.
Those key elements of interior design — balance, proportion and symmetry — refer to the shapes, sizes, positioning and colors used in the room, all in relation to both the architecture of the space and to each other. You wouldn’t hang a massive chandelier in a dining room that barely fits a table for four, and you also wouldn’t place all of your furniture on one side of the room.
Another key element is the use of lines, which bring simplicity and cleanliness to a space. Lines are a subtle, almost unconscious aspect of a room’s aesthetic. In a modern kitchen, lines are straight and corners sharp to produce a sleek and productive feel; in a mediterranean style kitchen, the curved lines of arched doorways and other elements contribute to the overall warmth and comfort.
As a guideline for interior design pieces, lines also contribute to the timelessness of a piece, which Zinn recommends, instructing her clients to “purchase pieces with simple lines” to avoid “falling into too many trends.” A smooth, streamlined couch with minimal curves is an example of this, as opposed to the “giant puffy furniture from the ’80s,” warns Zinn.
Another way to avoid fleeting fads is to curate. Sonya Allen, owner and principal designer of Sonya Allen Interiors in Rochester, New York, recommends creating a “collective mix of styles, thoughtfully put together.” Mixing artwork, furniture or decor in a thoughtful way can help make it look less dated by “showcasing and creating a well-designed space,” says Allen.
Allen also suggests using as much natural material as your budget allows. “If you use marble,” she says, “use real marble, not fill marble.” Zinn also emphasizes natural items as classic must-haves for the home. “I love trying to incorporate something from nature into every room,” she says. To personalize your space with natural elements, she suggests decorating with plants, flowers or even branches from your own yard.
Another ageless decor idea? Great art, says Allen. It can be a small sculpture on a pedestal or a huge 7-by-7-foot piece of art on the wall, she says, but art can also be a piece of furniture. “I find that people who buy great art, they never get rid of it,” Allen says. “It always applies and it always works.”
Function is an additional must-have that will never go out of style. Zinn lists comfortable seating, a table to put down your drink and multiple layers of lights as some essentials that make a room feel “warm and welcoming.” She says that it’s “the simple things that can make your room a special place.”
Those simple, essential details are important to the overall feel of a room. Those details, says Megan Dent, a kitchen and bath designer for Mingle, a home design showroom in Plymouth, Minnesota, “can take a mediocre space to a visual masterpiece.” If you’ve ever thought a room was beautiful but couldn’t put your finger on why, it’s likely the small details in the space that played a role in its “aesthetical success,” Dent said in an email.
Dent also emphasizes the importance of elements such as the millwork, windows, flooding, moldings and light fixtures. “When you start with good structure or ‘bones’ of a space,” she explains, “the rest of the design is much easier.”
While good structure is important, however, it does not mean that you have to spend huge amounts of time and money overhauling your entire house to achieve successful interior design. Something as simple — and relatively inexpensive — as giving a single room a fresh coat of paint is one way to refresh your space or create a whole new look and vibe, advises Dent.
If you only have the resources for one room, choose a room to decorate that will have impact. Allen recommends the entryway, saying “it can set the tone for the space, [since] you pass through it.” She also suggests the powder room — also known as the half-bath, usually off the living room or kitchen — as another place that is worth a makeover, as it tends to be a high-traffic spot.
The kitchen is another high-traffic space in the house, says Zinn, and as such is a smart investment if you have to choose just one room to make shine. “It tends to be the most important room of the house and where families spend the most time,” she says. Marble and subway tile are two materials she sees as good choices that never go out of style. Zinn also suggests using quartz as a relatively inexpensive, low-maintenance material for creating durable countertops.
The guidelines for interior design, combined with the use of natural materials, artwork and functional furniture, can help establish a classic, timeless space. But if you find a trending piece or technique on social media or television and fall in love with it, you don’t have to pass it up for the sake of longevity. Allen even recommends embracing a trend in a small space, so if you need to change things up later, it doesn’t impact your entire location.
Ultimately, Allen recommends everyone have one thing when working on designing their home: a point of view. “How do you want to live and feel in your space? When you walk in, how do you want to feel?” she asks. All of this drives how you buy, what you buy or what colors you use, and creates a unique space that reflects the tastes of only one person: you.
So, whether every room in your house could pass the test of time or you are a frequent fad follower, let your home be a reflection of who you are. “I always recommend you surround yourself with things that you love and make you happy,” says Dent, “regardless if they are trendy or classic.”