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Well designed spaces may look complex and somewhat intimidating to achieve, but it really takes an understanding of how specific, yet separate elements work together to create an awesome space.  The five elements of a great space are:

1.  Light: Adequate and well placed natural and/or artificial light can add drama to any room.  Allow the furniture layout, window placement and room usage guide you in how and where you place lamps, sconces and pendants.  Think of creating “layers of light”;  for example: picture windows covered with sheer curtains create an opaque, ambient glow, while lamps placed  on either side of a sofa or bed create a direct, task oriented light.  If it is serenity you seek, avoid having one light source in a room – multiple light sources offers flexibility both aesthetically and functionally.  If nothing else, it makes a space come to life!

2.  Scale: Scale deals with the relative size of things.  Understanding the proportions of the space you have is the first step in understanding scale.  Choosing an inappropriate scale of furniture and/or accessories can over- or underwhelm a space.  For example: in small or tight spaces,  thin and lacy elements (the wire framed chairs) balance the more substantial elements (wooden table).  These elements work because of their scale – they are in proportion to the room.   Visual scale and human scale are two common strategies designers use in selecting furniture and/or accessories for a space.  Visual scale relates to how the eye perceives elements (big scale vs. small scale) and human scale refers to how things are sized according to the human body.  Avoid crowding small rooms with large scale furniture or calling attention to a rooms emptiness by using small scale furniture in a large space.

3.  Materials:  Materials are the structural and non-structural elements of exterior and interior space that provide us with shelter, surfaces to walk on, lean on, sit in and rest on.  In the interior realm, they are the separate parts (wood, glass, quartz, etc.) that are joined together to make up the whole.  This is done architecturally with the harmonious union of materials to create a detail (image) or with applied finishes in specific applications (silk upholstery on pillows, wool rug on floor).  Understanding a materials properties is critical in knowing how it will perform and wear overtime.  For example, using a granite countertop in a kitchen will have to be sealed against water whereas a quartz countertop does not have to be sealed.  It is ultimately up to the individual when selecting materials, however knowing the appropriate use of a material(s) is critical to a spaces’ aesthetic outcome.

4.  Texture: The tactile quality of a surface (either three-dimensional or visual) is texture. A variety of textures in a space adds a layer of, well, visual and tactile interest.  This can be achieved by choosing a preference: visual textures (smooth wood floors, satin-finish painted walls, non-pattern fabrics) or tactile/three-dimensional textures (knobbly wool carpets, damask style wall papers and textured and patterned upholstery) or you can mix the two styles  – this is most often done.  Successfully integrating textures into your space adds another layer of great design.  Think of this exercise as you would in mixing patterns and textures in your clothing, experiment until you arrive at what feels good to you.

5.  Color:  You may well know that color is one of the least expensive ways to make a bold (or subtle) impact.  Color has three main identifiers: hue (what we recognize as red, blue, yellow), value (the lightness or darkness of a color) and intensity (the purity or saturation of a color).  If you don’t have much to spend on your DIY project – start with paint!  You may find that a new paint color (just like a new haircut) is all your space needed.  When selecting paint chips/swatches, pick up 3 or 4 of the same color.  This way you can tape one sample to each wall.  Devote a day or so to observing how the paint swatches change throughout the day by checking in at different times.  Many paint manufacturers allow you to buy quart sizes – you can do the same with more paint.  Remember that paint is always darkest an hour after it has been applied, so it may not look like your original swatch right away.  Hopefully after 24 hours, you will be in love with your new space.  Paint is an easy and fun way to refresh a room!

If you have specific questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.    Go design!

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