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How do you look at a room?

Posted by AnnieDeighnaugh (My Page) on
Sat, Aug 2, 14 at 8:37

Something that's been on my mind for awhile, and now melding together with the style threads and the pinboard suggested by anele.

When someone posts links to a house, ugly or beautiful, when I read others' comments, they always point out something I completely missed...I go back and there it is! How did I miss it!

So my question is how do you see a room? Do you look overall quickly and move on if it's not attractive? Do you look at a room in detail, even if it's not attractive? Do you scan the room by category...so look at layout, look at colors, look at art work, look at furnishings? If it's a room you really like, then do you look and analyze too? How high are the pictures hung, where are the window treatments? How are the books arranged? What are the shapes? How did they use scale, pattern, color?

Then my next question is, what do you do with what you learn? Do you look for a particular element and relate it to something in your house or a current project? Do you see unexpecteds and say, maybe I should try that?

The reason I ask is that, even when I like a room, when I start to look at the details, I usually find things I really don't like and usually a few WTF things. For example, this Stephen Sills room from anele's suggested pinboard

I glance at it and I see a very attractive room. But then I look at it again and I start to notice things I'd never do and things that I wonder, where did that come from? For example, that mirror is HUGE and it is so ornate in a space full of much cleaner lines. Say what? And then to be right next to the very modern, stark and angular geometric shapes on the fireplace. Huh? Then I look at the height of the side table relative to the sofa arm and I'm like "decorating no no!" And in my spaces, I don't think I could put a chair on just one side of the fireplace when there's room for flanking them, just like the drapes.

Or are all those "no-nos" and "surprises" simply why these designers get the big bucks and magazine spreads?

If so, then why am I such a chicken, and know at my core that if I tried to break a rule or do an unexpected in my room, it WILL look awful and I will HATE it!

KWIM?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: How do you look at a room?

After I pick out individual elements that catch the eye, I look at photos of rooms from the standpoint of how comfortable and practical they would be to use. I look at the light sources and whether you could converse while sitting on the furniture.

The room above, while having some pretty elements, would rate rather low on my judgment scale. The ceiling is too high for comfort, the seating arrangement is odd, and the table lamp can not be easily reached from the sofa seat next to it.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Annie, that room breaks every "rule" and makes every decorating mistake in the book--- adding to your list the fact that the mirror and hanging light are of similar sizes occupying the same plane, and that oversize side table contains a lamp and floral arrangement of the same height, the two window treatments in the corner just run into each other ( does not look well thought out; although the view is limited I can picture the busy mess of the curtain rods in that corner).....and yet it DOES work, I agree. The color palette, the size and proportion of the room and the way things are placed so your eye has so many places to rest, and the volume ceiling all make that a restful, beautiful room. Yet it is almost a "here's mud in yer eye" diss of all the accepted practices. This is why some interior designers are worth their weight in gold, IMO. Not everyone could pull this off, and it's not a chance triumph--- it's planned and deliberate. I'd love to know who designed it!


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I will make a general comment about decorating/design rules.

I think the statement "There are no rules.", is a fallacy. But keep reading. This room ignores a lot of rules or guidelines or whatever you want to call them. But the thing is, you really need to know what the rules are in order to break them. I think at some point designers may get to a point where they *think* they are not following any rules, but really-- innately or subconsciously anyway-- there is an understanding of what they are doing "wrong" or a knowledge of what they are ignoring or rejecting. So even by Not following a rule, you understand what it is, and you are Using it, even by choosing to ignore it or break it.

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When I look at a room like this I form a general impression and sometimes I look deeper and sometimes I don't. I guess it has to do with how relevant the room is to me.

My overall impression is that this is a pleasant room.

My feeling is that Sills is not a fan of the stacked windows, so he essentially completely ignores the upper ones. I would personally like properly sized single windows in this room.

I see more and more McMansion-ish details in the houses of designers portfolios, probably because those are the clients who have the money to pay for the designers. But I also get the impression that, rather than playing up the "Features" of such a room, the designers are either trying to ignore, downplay or compensate for them.

I think the tall table to the right of the sofa is a response to the ceiling height, but I wouldn't break the height and depth rule that much. Although I wonder if it's meant to be used as a desk and the big plant is a styling trick and the chair by the fireplace is pulled up for desk duty. That makes sense. It appears that the table off to the left is also tall.

I don't care for the floating ottoman in the foreground. It looks like there is a chair missing. Maybe they didn't want the back of a chair in the shoot or maybe Sills didn't want the back of a chair facing the doorway. I don't know anybody who would sit on that ottoman unless there was no place else to sit. Its position seems "vulnerable" to me.

As interesting as they are, the objects on the mantle seem a bit "one-stop-shopping" or "styled for the photo" to me. Sort of impersonal. Same with some of the other objects.

This post was edited by palimpsest on Sat, Aug 2, 14 at 9:16


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Pal, you are right that, when looking at these pics, you have to think of the unstaged room as well...here's the same room, but note how many things have moved...the plant, the ottoman, floor lamp, chairs, the artwork on the easel, the 'thing' on the side table, fire vs. no fire....

Which then leads to the question of what even makes a room? Is it the bones regardless of the accessories? Yet without accessories, rooms can look too stark and unfinished....

This post was edited by AnnieDeighnaugh on Sat, Aug 2, 14 at 9:36


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I read an article once, written by someone whose house had been shot for a magazine and they said that the stylist arrived with a truckload of accessories and moved furniture all over the place. They felt that the room looked so different during the shoot that they wondered why they had selected the room in its original state.

I guess it depends on the stylist and the magazine. I know a certain amount of things have to be done to make the room look "right" in photos, but I don't know that it's necessary to reinvent the whole room for photography.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I look at the overall impression ... then check details to see why it "works" or doesn't work for me.

My pin boards have quite a few pins that point out a single detail of a room I otherwise don't like.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I generally notice color first. Then individual elements, and depending on what I'm working on at the time, I might look for specific things like light fixtures or pillows or the style of the sofa. And I almost always find something that makes no sense to me, ranging from "I wouldn't have done that" to "WTH?"

For instance, here's a room that really appeals to me. Love the colors, the rug, the sofa. Love the chairs and that cabinet thing. But is that a lavender pillow on the sofa? Actually, looking again, I don't like any of the pillows here. And if it were my room, I wouldn't use that coffee table. And, the coffee table is like 2-3' from the sofa? That's weird. And, whaaaa....? That plant on the left is too big to be up on that table, IMO. But I do love that brass lamp, which seems to be illuminating something Important and/or arty. While I'm at it, I probably would have put a big piece of art over the mantel, not a mirror.

That's how my mind works! And yet, with all my pickiness, my overall impression of this room is Love.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I think to some extent, it's the things that are "wrong" with the room that make it interesting. There are a lot of rooms that follow every rule and are quite comfortable and nice looking, but a bit stiff and unengaging at the same time.

Of course, the "right" things have to be "wrong" with it. That's the tricky part.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I think I tend to look at a room as a whole at first....if the overall style interests me I will study it further, if not, I move on. Usually one element will catch my eye. If I love it I ponder if I could do the same thing in my house and where.

I look at the room pictured here and, even though it's not my style, I appreciate that it looks "complete." Obviously the details are what makes for that designer touch...even in a minimalist room. What helped me see this was taking pictures of my own rooms....they looked ok to me, but when I saw them in a photo it was easy to see they looked incomplete/unfinished and needed more. Of course, accessorizing is the area I am the worst at!

What stood out to me in the first picture was the ugly (to me) mirror and the traditional tufted chair...don't care for tufting. What stands out in the second picture is the jumble of chairs and the ottoman pushed up against the coffee table...neither makes sense to me.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I usually have an automatic reaction of some sort to a room. It might be do I like it?, do I hate it?, could I sit and have a cup of coffee in it?, would it make me feel claustrophobic?, but most importantly could I feel comfortable and relaxing in it.

And then I start analyzing my reaction by looking at the four corners of the room following the edges as I go to see why my reaction is what it is, then to the middle and then back to the whole. Perhaps that's too clinical but it means that I won't miss something small.

That first picture looks staged, actually it looks like a room that the decorator (or homeowner) wanted to make sure included a variety of styles and was destined for an RH catalogue.

In that picture, the mirror against the chandelier is all wrong - the details in the two clash. the mirror against the artwork is all wrong - the darkness of the two of them together is too gloomy but the chandelier against the picture is an interesting match-up as the dark lines of the chandelier tie in with the picture but the lightness of the rest of the chandelier keep it from becoming too gloomy. Ergo - the mirror has to go.

In the second picture, the unstructured one that Annie has posted, the homeowners had a party last night and the chairs haven't been put back yet.

Now those things on the coffee table, the pine cones shaped things, there is a garage sale somewhere today with their name on it.

The rooms that I love but could never live in are those that have a lot of coloured patterns in them. I will sit for hours and come back again and again and look at the scale of the patterns, the shapes, the colours, how were they used (sofa, chair, pillows, drapes, area rugs, tiles in the fireplace, lamps) and I will try to identify why it works and what is the unifying detail that pulls it all together. Some don't work and give me vertigo but those that do - those decorators or homeowners are artists.

Soooo - Annie - are you an eldest child, the rule follower? ;) That's what Home Sense and Pier 1 are for. Buy something inexpensive and bring it home - if it doesn't work, no harm done and take it back. If it does work then carry on and either keep it or buy a better quality or more detailed version of the same thing.

My home is very simply decorated because I love simplicity and calm order around me. A new friend came into my house a couple of months ago and said that my colours were very simple and then said this is a very calming place to be. Thank-you. Very few people get that.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Annie, I think I look at it like you and I love the room but when I go back and pick it apart, I will see things that I was told were wrong, but they really are not wrong.

If they had been wrong, we would still be looking at June Cleaver's house. That house was what we were told was right. Now I think that house looks so passe', but had some of the items we see in decor now been in that house when it was the iconic home, we would have REALLY noticed it (and not in a good light).

With time, decor has evolved and rules have been broken but the rule has to be broken in such a way that it is attractive and not jarring. Those broken rules have brought us to satisfying and exciting rooms, rooms that we treat at as a whole and find little no-no's on examination and we say "ah."


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RE: How do you look at a room?

If a picture of a room is not appealing to me, I tend to flip the page even though there might be individual items or placement ideas that could inspire me. Like you, AnnieDeighnaugh, sometimes I'll read a comment about a room and realize that I never saw what the comment referenced. I don't know whether the cause is bad eyesight or lack of interest in details. Once in a while, a specific item will catch my eye that I want more information about because I am interested in it for my house (or my dream house). Otherwise, I page through shelter magazines much the same way I watch the scenery from a car window.

I think most magazine photographs are styled specifically for the purposes of two-dimensional viewing and the type of lens the photographer is using. How that room feels in three dimensions would be completely different, so I don't analyze rooms minutely. It is fun, though, to see how designers play with scale and color and shape.

As an aside, I hate those two-story rooms with stacked windows as you find them in tract houses. I think they are a nightmare to decorate and live in. If I were a designer, I'd be trying to play down those features, too.

This post was edited by Fun2BHere on Sat, Aug 2, 14 at 14:04


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I tend to focus on whatever grabs my attention, whether that's good or bad. In this case, I like the mirror, but I HATE the light fixture. For my own house, I'd actually probably rather have the light fixture than the mirror. But that light fixture in this room keeps grabbing my attention, and I have to force myself to look at other things.

Graywings commented that the ceiling was too high, which I hadn't noticed, and then pal commented on the upper windows, which I also hadn't noticed. I went back and realized that by ignoring the upper windows, the designer had succeeded in tricking me into thinking the ceiling wasn't much taller than the lower windows.

And then I get pulled back to that horribly out of place light fixture and the effect is destroyed.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Let me ask this. Have you ever finished your room to what you thought was perfection for the look you were trying to get and then you sat down with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and something was "off", so you decided to fix that "off" and then when you did that, something else was off and you needed to call a painter, carpenter or an electrician because sooner or later it all became "off" to the point you wanted to cry and that decorator creep sat in.

I did this with my bookcases a few months ago. I now want the mirrored backs out because that was a stupid disaster. I should never have done that. What was I thinking and then I had the electrical outlets on the wrong shelves, wrong locations and I an see them when I move something and of course the mirrors are happy to illuminate it in 3D, and I cannot move the shelves to the right height for some of my clocks. Then I see Windex smears on the glass. Makes me just want to pull my hair out but it's just so thick and then I would have to vacuum!
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RE: How do you look at a room?

And certainly my house is not well stocked with fresh flowers, and yet in some rooms, they are the only things bringing color into the space....could I, would I, should I decorate a room that only works well with fresh flowers arranged and placed just so?


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Lol, Patricia! Yes we had a thread on the creep problem recently...how the one little change becomes a whole house tear down and a wuh happened???


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Kswl, I trust you saw the designer was Stephen sills...

Yes, f2bh...sometimes I read the descriptions in the magazine and wonder if they are talking about the same house!

Yes, amberm, sometimes something is so outstanding in a room, and not necessarily in a good way, that I can't even see other features in place.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Blfenton, I too love to look at rooms that are a wonderful mix of patterns...Sarah Richardson is really good at it, and watching her build a room, I'll say, what?? And then it comes together so well. I appreciate your suggestion, but I could never do that...not with an attic full of tchotchkes already and a DH who thinks one vase is as good as another...if I came home with more stuff, I'd be out on the street with the stuff!

Joanie, I too have found I see things from the pics I've taken of my house...the camera reveals things otherwise unseen. Looking in a mirror will sometimes do that too...that's how I pick out wallpaper....hold it up against the wall and then look at it through a mirror.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

So, SueB, if you wanted to re-create that look you love, would you try what the designer did even if it's not in your comfort zone? Or would you analyze specifically what it is you like and incorporate just that in your room?


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RE: How do you look at a room?

So, graywings, do you look then for rooms that are more to your taste and incorporate the details? This one isn't livable for you as is, but if you liked it generally, would you then take it and make it livable for you?


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I think one of the things that hampers people when they analyze a design is that if the room is not in their taste the "don't like it, it's not my taste" box gets checked and they are done.

At some point I learned to divorce my opinion from whether I would want it for myself from whether it is a good room or a bad room on its own merits. I don't really need to like something to know that it is a good design, nor is a design good because I like it. I like some pretty bad stuff sometimes.

I think it's difficult to analyze rooms as a learning tool if you dismiss anything you don't like. You won't get very far if you aren't open to things outside your existing tastes and comfort level. My friend who is a trainer is a former chef and a nutritionist and he says that the most rigid, pickiest eaters are not people who insist on fine dining and gourmet meals for the most part. He says most picky eaters like bad food that is bad for you. (all the way down to people who will Only eat chicken fingers and that sort of thing. )
I am not saying that people who have rigid or a narrow scope of tastes have bad taste, but that they may find themselves locked into a very rigid set of parameters.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Yes, pal, but how do you get out of it? I think the food analogy is apt. Even though it logically makes sense to order that which you are most unlikely to eat at a restaurant, it's always easiest and safest to stick with what you know.

Do I purposely get that shocking pink zebra print pillow and try to make it work even if I don't think it does just to expand my repertoire? Especially with design where it can get expensive and the effects can be long lasting, how daring does one dare to go?


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Annie, I don't think I would ever try to recreate a room exactly. In my example, I might look for a similar rug and sofa, and one or two interesting pieces like the wood cabinet...maybe a brass lamp...but my "copy" would end there.

Of course, I can't remember the last time I had a blank slate to work with in my own house. I usually have to work with at least a few pieces of furniture, or a rug, that I already have and can't justify replacing!


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I think there is a lot of real estate between what you would always do and the shocking pink zebra pillow.

Other than that, I dunno, I think about "fixed" things a lot before I do them, but ultimately I think I am intuitive more than anything else when it comes to the final choice. When it comes to the little stuff, I almost don't care. If I see something I like I use it. I have two dozen things on my nightstand right now, including a gourd carved into a monkey, the plastic St. Joseph I had buried to sell my last house and a tiny bat carved out of stone. I don't really care if there is a theme or if the scale is correct or anything, I just put them there because they all represent something. And if I need more room on the nightstand I will put them somewhere else. Not caring can work pretty well.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

pal, 2 dozen things on your night stand and a cat? You are brave!

That's true...after all, these are our homes and we want them to serve and represent what's important to us...let the photographer come in and stage the place if the magazine calls....


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RE: How do you look at a room?

It is an interesting topic, Annie. When I look at a decorated room in a magazine I tend to first think of how it makes me "feel". Would it make me sit up too straight, or is it so interesting with treasures that I could study it all day? I don't think I have ever tried to copy an idea from a picture, but I do try to absorb the design as an educational tool. Then again, the biggest problem is that I have lived in four different homes in ten years, all good sized, and have moved most of my belongings with me. In the first picture the mirror jumped out at me as an eyesore, as did the mantle decorations. The seating was obviously moved for the photo-shoot, and the picture could have been taken in black and white with the same overall effect. Instead of a calm monotone effect, the pieces and seating arrangement broke the calm effect and was ruined for me. But then again, what do I know? I have three wing chairs in my family room. :-/


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I like this room. To me it’s like the owner said make this small tall room seat nine people in a crunch but make it look uncluttered while you are at it and don’t make it too organized or symmetric. Then the designer thought, oh I know I’ll just put up a HUGE focal point to distract from the haphazard seating. Excluding the lack of interesting accessories I think it a brilliant rule breaker!

Perhaps I’m different than most here because to me rule breaking is what makes an exceptional room. I strive for that. However, like Pal mentioned above one first needs to know the rules to break them. I haven’t completely figured that part out yet lol. Still, when I look at a room I’m looking at the overall interest and for items that are different from the norm. And of course I like a dot of cheese whiz because one needs to keep people wondering…does that work? I figure if people don’t know the answer I’ve at least come close to pulling it off.

In conclusion, when I look at a room I’m looking for different or an unusual mix.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

This is a picture I saved two years ago on my computer. I don't remember where I found it, but just adored this room. Looking at the title of the picture now makes me chuckle-"Trendy living room.". Isn't that what is so hard not do in our own homes? The designer pictures are so interesting because most people do not have access to many of their choices, and do not start with a blank slate, but with baggage.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Here's another example by Richard Shapiro. Christopher Worthland, the guy who pinned this says, "the art above the mantle [sic] makes the entire space."

I think he left off the final word, "awful." To me, yes it is different, it is out there, it is eye grabbing and it is wrong because rather than enhance the rest of the space, it overwhelms and diminishes it. I find it hard to look at and appreciate the rest of the room because of it.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

It's the mirror that makes the statement in the room. I left the wall blank but I think a "normal" mirror would end up making the room a lot more ordinary. That mirror isn't necessarily something I'd pick, but it's the statement piece:


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Meh

Maybe more approachable, but not necessarily better:


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RE: How do you look at a room?

If you have to try that hard (bull's-eye) to make a statement it seems to make a joke about the entire design. It is interesting to see decorating that I could never accomplish or live in, if only for enjoying the continuity that the design brings with small surprises. The art over the mantel does not seem to align with the architecture of the building, although I could see an interesting modern art painting or sculpture, or oriental painting, tapestry or chinoiserie panel and been very pleased.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Oh Annie that last picture you posted is disturbed. It’s like a relative of Hannibal Lecter put that bull’s-eye up there instead of peeling his own skin off.

I guess there is good risk and bad and it’s all in the eyes of the beholder. On Pal’s last example of playing it safe the room went downhill to very ordinary and where you noticed the haphazard seating more.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I don't really look at the room. I look at the people IN the room. That's pretty much all I care about. The people.

If nobody is in the room I don't like clutter, so I look at that.

I'm a zen, no clutter, no antiques, no drama. Simple, clean.

But really, If I come to visit you, I came to visit YOU, not your house, and if you ask me after I leave what your decor was, I won't know, but I will know about your smile, and everything you told me.

Suzi


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Interesting, desertdance, in that my environment is very important to me and I spend a lot of time and effort making it so it is a reflection of who I am and what's important to me, so if you see my rooms, you are in fact seeing a facet of me, just as you are when you see how I dress. I would hope you want to see me too, but that is never guaranteed.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Annie, would you like to come and visit me in my really cool zen So CA home where there are no antiques and no clutter, but fresh figs from our trees and wine from our vineyard?

The rooms here are comfortable. NO CLUTTER! Simple, clean, comfy.

We are not into "decor." We are people people. I guess I comment because I disagree with all this whole decor thing. It changes yearly, like fashion. Who can deal with that?

Not me!


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I glance at the overall look. I find a lot of times I'm really drawn to something and then when dissecting the image I think how I don't like that, would've never picked that, would not have looked twice at that... I find it really interesting. I seem to be very drawn to layered rooms, but I would not want to live in a house like that. Wow, I just said 'that' a lot.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Sure, desertdance, and then you can come to visit me, and I can show you all the "people" I have in my home who are no longer with me...the stained glass shade and bench my Dad made, the boat my grandfather made, the library full of books from my FIL, the pie crust table DH's grandfather made...and the people who are...like my cousin's painting, the watercolor a friend did, a dried flower arrangement gift from another friend...and my photography from places we've been reminding me of wonderful experiences we've had. And you can sit out on our deck and enjoy our east coast greenery.

It's not just about trends and fashion, it's about creating a comfortable environment for yourself and the people who are important to you. I find the physical environment can have a profound impact on how people behave themselves and with each other. So it's important too.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

The other aspect of the room by Shapiro is quite different: I've seen the bullseye in a view more like this and it isn't as jarring. I still think it's the wrong painting in the wrong room though. Overall, the room is too heavily "curated" for my taste. I feel like the architecture should take precedence here. But it's diminished by all the "objet": even the books are displayed in a precious way.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I think it is pretty easy to create rooms that follow the rules, but to me that is like Ethan Allan Design 101 and once you are into design you want something more interesting, more unique.

So when I look at rooms in shelter mags, I am always noticing what they did that made the room more interesting. What did they do that was different?

I am also always looking for what I can steal. I stole an Apartment Therapy house for much of the look of my CT house. I stole a Windsor Smith room for the stonehouse. I stole the Mousehole rental kitchen for the beach house and a Verandah LR. I once even stole something subconsciously. I just finished redoing a bathroom when i went to dinner at a favorite bistro, and realized I had totalled channeled THEIR bathroom!


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Just to approach this topic from a different angle...

"How do you look at a room?"... might be rephrased as, "How do you look at a PHOTOGRAPH of a room?"

Looking at a photoshopped, cropped and edited photo is entirely different than actually BEING IN a room. Looking at a photo engages very few of your senses. Actually being present in a room stimulates many more, including light, temperature, acoustics, odor...

And we've all noticed that interior photos never include people.... or TV sets.

Whenever I see a photo of a beautifully staged room, I imagine the photographer standing in a chaotic mess of unseen stuff that got temporarily removed for the photo shoot.

Okay, I'm done pontificating.

This is how I look at a photo of a room... would I disrupt the entire ambiance if I walked into this room carrying a bright red purse?

But that's just me.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Interesting discussion. The room in the Op looks empty with no mirror and silly with a plain one. The ornate mirror chosen is also hung high enough so that it doesn't compete with the busier space at eye level. As to staging, I thnk we all know that professional photos are always staged for obvious reasons. I know someone whose house was featured in Southern Living (admittedly not in the same league as shelter mags like Arch Digest or even Veranda) and it was changed and staged so thoroughly the homeowner didn't even like it!

Regardless of the accessorizing, the color palette, rug and quality of upholstery is a beautiful background. Maybe that means that if the foundation layer is very, very good, it can take outlandish or "wrong" accessories and still look spectacular?


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Pal thanks for posting the rest of that room...it's even more awful than I thought. You're right that the architecture is fabulous. But please, ottomans with deer legs?? No thank you.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Patricia43 said:
Annie, I think I look at it like you and I love the room but when I go back and pick it apart, I will see things that I was told were wrong, but they really are not wrong.
If they had been wrong, we would still be looking at June Cleaver's house. That house was what we were told was right. Now I think that house looks so passe', but had some of the items we see in decor now been in that house when it was the iconic home, we would have REALLY noticed it (and not in a good light).

With time, decor has evolved and rules have been broken but the rule has to be broken in such a way that it is attractive and not jarring. Those broken rules have brought us to satisfying and exciting rooms, rooms that we treat at as a whole and find little no-no's on examination and we say "ah.

Mtnrdredux said:I think it is pretty easy to create rooms that follow the rules, but to me that is like Ethan Allan Design 101 and once you are into design you want something more interesting, more unique.

So when I look at rooms in shelter mags, I am always noticing what they did that made the room more interesting. What did they do that was different?

I am also always looking for what I can steal. I stole an Apartment Therapy house for much of the look of my CT house. I stole a Windsor Smith room for the stonehouse. I stole the Mousehole rental kitchen for the beach house and a Verandah LR. I once even stole something subconsciously. I just finished redoing a bathroom when i went to dinner at a favorite bistro, and realized I had totalled channeled THEIR bathroom!

Patricia43: Mtn says "ah," and she takes what she likes and incorporates into her own style and thus, she creates magic, much the way our mothers took the Cleaver home and it became the Ethan Allen style and it has continued to be "stolen" and transformed.

This post was edited by patricia43 on Sun, Aug 3, 14 at 10:06


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RE: How do you look at a room?

kswl, I certainly have been attracted to rooms because of their light, their color, their architecture, their fabrics or windows/window treatments, but I don't remember ever being drawn to a room because of accessories alone....but maybe I'm mis-remembering. I suppose a fab piece of art or sculpture might do it.

Maybe it's why some of us work a room to get all the basics in place and then the accessorizing seems to never be done....it just goes on forever.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

>>>"I don't remember ever being drawn to a room because of accessories alone ..."

The point about looking at photographs of a room, rather than a room itself, is a good one. I think I must be a sheep. At a friend's suggestion, I went on houzz and quickly made an idea book of images of interiors I liked based on gut reaction. Then we went through them trying to discern a style or common thread. The common thread was that every room, with the exception of some bathrooms, had a green plant. I have the same reaction to the photos above, but at least now I am conscious of this. Baaaaa.

This thread is interesting, I feel like I am learning a lot from all of you.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

"Of course, the "right" things have to be "wrong" with it. That's the tricky part."
Brilliant...course I also love to break the rules.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Hmm, I think that being critical of a room because it looks pristine in a photoshoot is akin to being critical of someone for getting her hair done, wearing makeup and putting on good clothes for a formal portrait. Of course it usually (or s/he usually) doesn't look like that every day. But the point is it (s/he) *can*, if the occasion presents itself.

-----

In contrast to the Stephen Sills room, lets look at the Richard Shapiro room without the piece over the mantel.
Nothing special seems to be missing, does it? I don't think the painting is that important, whereas the mirror (love it or hate it) is key in the Sills room. But this room has better architecture and more going on in general.


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And again

Take a look at the same view of the room above *with* the painting: Does anybody know? It looks like a Kenneth Noland but I'm not sure.

Anyway, in this view I still don't care for it in the room, but it's not quite as emphatic in the overall view as it is in the very first shot Annie posted.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Without the Bulls-eye my eye stays up in the room and it's, for me, quite a dreary look. With the Bulls-eye I see the colours in the rug, the small light-coloured side tables, the fireplace. I see a much more interesting, multi-faceted room.

It may not make the entire space but it makes it much more interesting.

(But it's only 8:30 and I've only had 1/2 cup of coffee and I have a niece-wedding induced hangover)


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Somehow I find that target especially jarring in the otherwise serene room. I could maybe see some colorful abstract art, but that target is, well off target.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I tend to look at the complete room, then start picking it apart! I notice what I don't care for right away. Furniture placement is a big deal in my 'world'~not everything should be shoved up against the walls, so that's one of the first things I notice. Too many bare spaces, where there could be a piece of furniture, plant, lamp, picture, bugs me, but that's cause I like 'stuff'. It can't be just stuff that's grouped together, it needs to be things that have a common theme, ie;pictures, tchotchkes, a collection, an odd number, and at least three. Everything centered or symetrical, in every room, bugs me too. It's interesting if a wall grouping is to one side of a table, with a lamp filling in the negative wall space on the other side. Too much color makes me 'nervous' and dizzy, as well as distracting from what could be a pretty space.

Does anyone still think about rules these days? Maybe schooled decorators, but IMO, most decorating is being done piecemeal, until it all comes together of what is in the 'minds eye', but I 'm way too visual for my own good, so that's easy for *me* to say, and may not apply to everyone. I know what I like and what I hate, and maybe it's because I'm stubborn and won't/don't deviate from it, or without a 'deep' discussion as to the why/ why not.lol

Like sheesharee, I dissect, but that's my analytical nature.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

It's a fairly perfect room, even though there are a couple of things I would change.

As for the bulls eye OR the abstract, neither does any justice to a space that's so 'eloquently appointed'. Maybe an antique architectural piece could work, but nothing too fussy since there's enough eye candy.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I wonder if the colors were different. I think the pastels interact with the woodwork in a strange way.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Pal, it's bothering you to isn't it? You can't stop looking either, there is something about it...not sure but it's unsettling.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

With the more saturated colours, ( as posted by Annie at 11:45) for me the balance of the room is thrown off. You lose the chandelier and the framing around the opposite picture.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Sorry I don't have any sophisticated software, but here's my poor attempt at putting the abstract art over the fp. It wouldn't be what I would go for if I were selecting it from scratch, but as a way to add the unexpected, I find it far less disturbing than the target.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

What a great topic, Annie!

I agree with McClarke-- there is a huge difference (to me) between looking at a photo vs. being in a room. When I am in someone's home, I am usually just happy to be there (because I like the person), so I like the person's home . . .and I tell them. (I am a gusher!)

In a photo, it all depends. If I am looking at a photo with a purpose . . .to "solve" a design problem, then I look to see how others handled it. For ex., I look at end tables a lot since it's an issue for me in my LR. You mentioned the tables being too tall for the sofa, but I often see very tall tables next to sofas, so to me, it's OK. 99% of the time, these tall tables happen when the arms of the sofa are non-existent or very low, which is exactly what is going on in the pic. I've found that tall tables can create a sort of cozy feel . . .in the case of the photo, they are glass, which means they are more open, and the height gives them presence.

If I am just browsing photos, I don't usually study them unless I like them. I like many different styles, so it varies as to what calls out to me. When I stop and study, then I analyze what works. However, if I don't like the room because something feels "off," (style aside), then I DO look at it in more detail and try to figure out why. Photos that capture my attention are ones that don't look same old, same old. Those are safe and follow deco "rules," so I don't need to think about them too much.

I do find myself getting a little discouraged when I see rooms I like and analyze why they work . . .and if it's because they have perfect proportions or tons of fresh flowers, then I don't learn anything, really. For example, in my LR I absolutely cannot flank the FP with chairs (doorway is on one side of the FP), so when a room works partly due to the symmetry of flanking, I say, "Well, of course . . .but it wouldn't work for me." I learn the most from rooms that are a little awkward to begin with . . .


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Anele, this is a really good point.

There is one big difference between the Stephen Sills room and the Richard Shapiro room. The Richard Shapiro room would look good empty. I've said before that a really great room looks good with nothing in it.

The Stephen Sills room may or may not look okay with nothing in it, but my impression is that the proportions aren't quite right--that it's a bit too tall. And it's probably "blank" with nothing in it. "Blank" can be okay with good proportions--look at minimalism--, but blank in typical new construction, not so much.

In contrast, even if the Richard Shapiro room was a ruin with a dirty mattress in the middle, you would have an understanding that it was a good room (or had been). That room started with so much more that it would be hard to ruin it by putting the wrong stuff in it. It would be easy to ruin the first room with the wrong stuff.

So Anele is right. From a learning aspect, the second room doesn't teach much to those starting with a typical plain drywall room.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

This is so helpful to me. The lesson being it's important to parse the architecture from the decor....I'm not sure I often do that when I decide if I like a room or not...maybe if I want to use a specific room as direct inspiration...but more generally, I think I get the general impression and then look at the contents as the choices the decorator made in an existing room, rather than specifically analyzing what is decor and what is architecture...and how to add more architecture to a room. (Don't know why not as certainly Christopher Lowell spent a lot of time on his show doing just that! Doh!)


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Can we play with another room as an example? (Also Stephen Sills, Bedford Estate) Now here architecturally you have the cove ceiling, the french doors...

But would you leave the mantel area as bare? Would you add a globe as huge? Would you put "beds" vs "sofas" in this room? Would you leave the floor bare? Lampless? Lightless?

Somehow the proportions of the room to the contents seems very off to me...


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I would like to see the house to which this room belongs. The globe is fine with the two large-scale maps behind it but I do wonder if the owner is a map collector or a traveller.

This is a large-scale room and that is being celebrated but I wonder if it's being celebrated to the point of being overly played.

I would like to know what those two things over the fireplace are and they do seem to be out-of-scale.

When you have a room such as this, with high ceilings and large furniture (to me) are you supposed to balance the scale with smaller pieces? Especially in this case with height and width. I don't know that.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I don’t get this room at all. Does the designer decorate for self-promotion or does the designer do an interpretation of the owners psyche? Architecture aside I think I would have a better understanding if I knew where the designer was coming from on this one. Maybe the décor was done for a surgeon or someone famous in the medical field and that’s why it looks so sterile and with designer hospital seating? If I were a decorator designer I would try to do an interpretation of the owner but is this how it’s unusually done? Where would you draw the line?


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Ohh, Pal! You made my day. I don't feel right about a lot of things; it's nice to hear from you that I was in this instance. Thank you.

RE: the room you just posted, Annie. I like it. I like the way the width of the trims is echoed . . .look at the tables, the "beds," the mirrors (?-- whatever those are on the FP), the frames, the trim of the globe. All repeated, just like the circle/rounded theme. I like the bareness on the mantel. I feel like it's telling me, look here, but don't look for something expected, don't look for a big showstopper piece of artwork; the fireplace IS the art.

Would I want that room as my own? No. Do I think it's cozy and welcoming? No. But I enjoy it as art, to dissect and analyze, and to think about the thought process. (Art isn't always that way for me, but it is in this case.)

Like this-- do I love all of the elements? No. Wouldn't want this as my home. But I very much enjoy looking at all of the lines and textures in this room . . .so interesting to me.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Another view, same room

and another

and another

and a little one


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I don't get this room either! The fireplace and arrangement looks like eyes and a big open mouth (with cheeks even!) And the bed-like pieces (called lounges?) are so odd. If people gathered there, wouldn't they have to move a lot of furniture around (to avoid having their backs to each other)?


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I know my taste is way off at the far end of the bell curve, but the only room I like in this thread so far is the funky one anele posted at 11:18, the first one, blah, the second one, brown, the third one, bizarre.

Interesting discussion, though and I too study details, even in rooms I'm not crazy about. For instance, we have a large, vintage globe with stand (not as large at the one in room #3), and after viewing that room, I will probably never put it in a corner, just doesn't look right IMO.

sandyponder


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Again that room has great architecture.

As for the furnishings, I think the idea behind it is based on how people furnished rooms up through about the first quarter of the 19th century.

In the 18th and 19th century (before that most people didn't really even Have furniture): Basically most rooms were multipurpose and not identified as having a singular purpose. Furniture was put in the room, mostly against the walls, and moved around the room to fit whatever the function was at the time. The best bed in the house was often in the best room in the house, so the "living room" might be where the owners slept at night, too.

SInce this room looks different in every picture, I wonder if the way it is furnished is an outgrowth of that: there are lots of seating pieces and some surfaces to set things down on and it all gets moved around on a regular basis.

The other thing that I thought about this room is that to some degree it acts as a museum for objects because the objects seem to change. The Shapiro room also has a "museum for objects" sort of thing going on, in a more traditional sort of way. (Although ironically "traditional" in the sense of what has been around longest is more like the Sills room; and "Formal" furniture arrangement is like the 18th century model, pushed against the walls and set up for use and "Casual" furniture arrangement is furniture kept in position all the time, which seems backwards.)

I would not feel comfortable napping on the lounge next to the globe.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I crudely unfurnished this room. As you can see it doesn't really need furniture, much.


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But look what happens to this one

This room becomes really amorphous, only partly because of the weird mottled effect from removing the contents. It's not just that it's monochromatic, so is the room above:


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RE: How do you look at a room?

How do I look at a room? Pretty much at first glance, quickly for an overall impression, tending to look at the big things first. In other words, the first thing that has grabbed my attention (like that big mirror or the 'target'), furniture items of interest, then windows, draperies, rugs and probably last being acessories or smaller items unless they have really stood out.

Like Sue, I tend to notice the color, and even if it isn't my color preference, I allow myself to like it because of the way the overall room is presented. Believe me, my rooms are not magazine-worthy, but if a room is well put-together and the room draws one in and has a comfortable feel with personal touches, it shows in the photographs. In the room Sue posted, I love the chest on the right and some of the accessories, but something about the overall room doesn't feel right to me.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Pal--" a museum for objects." Wow. I am going to hold onto that thought. I think that is what some perceive the role of a house to be, albeit unintentionally so. Also interesting about the seating/objects being fluid as needs and stock (so to speak) vary.

I don't like the 3rd room as much now that I see more photos. Or, I should say, I only like certain of its incarnations.

My sister's last house was a Tudor from the mid '30s. The LR had the original, beautiful floor-to-ceiling paneling with built-in bookcases and a fireplace that was a dream for me. She took really good care of her house and cared about her decor, but her sofa was awful. (I think I posted it here back then to help her win a contest for a new one!) It was used (from my mom) and 6 kids climbing on it didn't help. But you know what? That LR still looked absolutely gorgeous, trashed couch and all. Even when she got a new sofa, it didn't make "all the difference" in the room, because the room was lovely on its own.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Annie, I thought the room belonged to Stephen Stills but did not realize he designed it as well. I have to say I am very impressed---his living room has it all over the Shapiro room in every particular, IMO. I'm not sure how it would be possible, though to analyze, or "parse," the architecture from the decor? I'm not getting that as a lesson here at all. If anything, what we are seeing is that the decor of many rooms is independent of the architecture, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Kswl, to me, it's the opposite...the decor is separate from the architecture and they can be supportive of each other, ignore each other or clash with each other. When architecture is poor, the decor can offset that, and vice versa. But the ideal is when both work together to create a cohesive whole. IMO, you should walk into a room and say what a great room, not necessarily great architecture or decor. Of course the lines blur...an architect can inject more style into a room, or a decorator can inject architecture into a plain box....


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RE: How do you look at a room?

For example, as much as I like Sarah Susanka and her use of design principles to build smaller homes that live large, all of her homes were heavy on architecture and light on decor. Part of it is, when you're building small, you do built-ins to save space so there's less room/need for furnishings. But still, there are no window treatments and little softness in her spaces, but there are lots of lines and trim and cabinetry.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

I think you can separate architecture and decor because many rooms-- particularly in standard issue new houses-- have very little "architecture" at all. I think Size, and Ceiling Height have been substituted for actual good proportion in many cases.

The Shapiro room doesn't really need the furnishings to still be interesting as a room, but the first Sills room has very little going for it except a high ceiling (which may be too high) and fireplace around which to organize things. And many rooms are even more of a "blank" without furniture. If anything all the things in the Shapiro room may add up to too much in the room itself.


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And...

One of the things that I have always found a little unsatisfying about the Susanka houses is that they don't really allow much room for personal expression with interior design--they are designed as a complete package. Frank Lloyd Wright houses are often the same way.

The houses above strike me as too "woody" and a bit impersonal. It's all millwork. I think this is a bit different than having a strongly architectural room that acts as an envelope or container for the interior design.

I blanked out the Bedford Estate property on the inside because it is a complete different white box than the first Sills room. If this is Bedford Estate in London, these are Regency period townhouses.

In this room I think the fluted plaster with the deep cove on the ceiling is worth the price of admission all by itself.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Interesting question--and having read a lot of responses, I think I look at the structure, first--do the walls look thin/narrow or do they look solid; is the ceiling height proportional to the room size and/or its style? (cottage different from palace)
Does the craft/do the materials have quality and substance. That's it, for me: basic structure well designed and well built, good finishes suitable to the style. There are so many little "tells"--how wide are the windowsills, are the windows handsome and suitable--and are there enough of them?
Then, of course, the "decoration" also has to be appropriate for the room and of quality appropriate to the space.

I can't like a room if the basic structure looks cheap in any way. Log cabins are solid--so it isn't about style particularly. The house has to be a HOUSE.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Overall, I think I look at the sense of warm or cold tones of a room (which could be caused by color, surface materials, textures, or number of items), then balance of visual "weight," then individual items and working my way to the details.


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RE: How do you look at a room?

Annie, I think we are talking about two different things. When you said "The lesson being it's important to parse the architecture from the decor...." I thought you meant it was, literally, important to analyze the architecture by the decor it contains," but your later comments indicate that you mean that architecture and decor are two separate elements and should be considered separately when analyzing a room. Of course I agree with that.

I also agree that ideally decor should be selected with the architecture in mind---- everything from colors to vignettes to the heights of chairs and sofas and the overall esthetic on the 'spare to baroque' scale should be informed by the ceiling height, room proportions, fenestration (or lack of it), even the directional siting of the structure on the lot.

As Pal points out, many houses are either devoid of architectural details or else elements like volume ceilings and stacked (sometimes mismatched) windows are mistaken for them. In wonderfully decorated rooms, that carefully chosen decor of shapes and sizes and textures and fabrics framing views can substitute for architectural interest--- and do it well. Not everyone can own an architecturally significant home, but everyone has some control over what they put in it. Even modest homes decorated with the right esthetic can look and feel--- and live--- as architecturally "literate." Which, for all practical purposes, is the same thing for the inhabitants. IMO that is the point Susanka tries to make about size.....if it "lives" large, it doesn't t have to be large,


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RE: How do you look at a room?

kswl makes many good points. I think, though, that we all have choices--many times it comes down to square footage. If we have x number of dollars to spend on housing, in the right neighborhood and so on, we sometimes can choose between a house with character and something that lacks character. I think that is the first choice--do we go with the bigger, newer house with very little architectural interest, or seek out something that has some details of quality. We've all seen examples of huge, new houses that are really impossible to "decorate" because the underpinnings are so unattractive. Frequently, there is something of the "Potemkin Village" about how they are decorated. They resemble a movie set in their sense of impermanence. Great Yiddish expression: Gornist helfen....nothing helps.


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