When Something's Off

I was reading Celerie Kemble's new book, To Your Taste & one part really got me thinking. She was doing a showhouse & she added an accent pillow that was a bit off because she wanted it to seem as if the imaginary woman of the house had insisted it be there & had overruled the decorator. Here's a photo of some of her work:

But I got to thinking... there's definitely something to that concept of putting something off into a room. It feels real. Ever since I first saw this house by Leslie Klotz in House Beautiful, I was in love. It's just so perfectly off.

I realized that it's these little inconsistencies & quirks that bring life to a room. When something's just a bit off, the room becomes so right.

Part of it is because it makes the home feel personal & un-decorated, but there's also something intrinsically beautiful about it. Like this painting below that has so much more green in it than blue, but the blues in the work perfectly. It looks effortless & much better than if the tones had matched more closely. The room is deeper & more approachable.

It sounds like it would be easy to do. But it isn't always. Lots of my clients are young people starting from scratch. They don't have any collections. They're busy & they often don't have time to find meaningful things for their home. They may have a few special things that they love with which I can spring off of, but sometimes there's really nothing they want to keep & that's why they've hired a designer in the first place. In these case, it becomes the designer's job to find them meaningful things & to provide them with something a little imperfect. a little fun.
Here's a nightstand I did. The little vase is a rough touch to the glamorous lamp & photograph:

Here's a room from Domino. Check out the gray ticking on the headboard and the lamp. They're not obvious choices for this color scheme:
People may think they want Pottery Barn, but in my opinion it's not real enough. It's too perfect. (I do still love a lot of their things & the photos are beautiful, don't get me wrong-- I just feel they're just missing something.) Pottery Barn:

I know we all talk about using a nice mix of high & low and old & new, traditional & contemporary, etc., and yes, I TOTALLY believe in that... but what I'm trying to pinpoint is something more, something wrong with a picture that makes it right. Something that makes the a place feel like a home. Like these mismatched frames:

Clients give me photographs of rooms they love & more often than not, they tend to be advertisements & furniture catalogs which lack that realness to them that makes a room sparkle. I create inspiration boards from what they give me & then I let the fabrics guide me. So after, creating a beautiful spread of fabrics for all of the furnishings, draperies, etc., I look at my fabrics & try to replace a fabric or add another that will make the whole things feel a bit more normal & less perfect. It's SO tempting to go with the perfection that we see in advertisements (how great is it to find beautifully coordinating fabrics?!) but we have to get past that & create real homes for people. -- add a little something off & make it feel like a home, not a showroom.

In the photo above, it's the brown fabric that's starting to do what I'm talking about. It comes out of nowhere but just works. (A sunroom I'm working on.) You don't have to be seriously off, but just teensy bit out of left field. I'll still need a really quirky thrift store or flea market find to get the room where I want it to be.

In the one above, the reptile fabric is getting us on the right track. (This the beginnings of a Living Room/ Dining Room plan)

Below, it's the table that seems to add the imperfect feeling to the room from Domino. (I think it's Aidan Gray)

I know I'm probably rambling & being really philosophical, but anyway, it's something I'm trying to work on- To make rooms deeper & more real. It's a fine line to walk (if you're too off it'll look terrible) but I'm going to keep trying. The more rooms I do, the more I feel like I can grasp this concept. I'm going to make a serious effot to keep pushing my designs to be more real. Any thoughts?


Haven and Home said...

Love the post. What great thought went into it. I am so glad I found your blog, I think we have similiar styles. So many of my clients are young too and I run into the same problem. Great pictures too!

High-Heeled Foot in the door said...

I love love love this post! I completely agree with you. I hate it when I home looks like a hotel. I know that people like designing their rooms to look like boutique hotels (hello, preston from top design), but I hate when I a home looks like a Marriot. This is the exact way my mother in law home's looks like. All the same exact colors in each room. I feel like asking where the mints for the pillows are.

I think I home must look lived in!

Great post!

P.S. The shades in my home are from JcPenny! Also any special paint that I need to use for a fireplace? I love the idea of having it looked aged. That's exactly the direction I wanted to go. You took the words out of my mouth :)

P.P.S: Also so jealous that you have clients and get to design for a living. I can't wait to finish up my home and get some pictures taken for a website and be up and running. Ah!

P.P.P.S: Ladies, where are you getting all these young clients. I need to get some clients in NY!!!!

LindsB said...

Love this post!! There is something that has to be said about a "real" room. Love the examples you gave here, they are great! Now, I'm going to have to go home to my house and make sure it looks lived in, and real. I'm pretty sure I'm there since I have a total mix of really (really) old and new- but I'm going to give it the once over just to be sure- thanks for sharing this!

Lauren said...

Thanks for all the comments! :)

H&H- checked out your blog too & it's great! I'll be back often!

Linds- Haha yeah, I need to make sure my rooms are right too!

Camila- I agree with you about the hotel thing. As soon as you get your professional photos taken & get your website up & running they will come to you. You're going to have an awesome business in no time!

High-Heeled Foot in the door said...

Thanks for the sweet words. I'm glad to have found you. Now I have someone to pester with all of my questions. :)

Pink Wallpaper said...

agreed...your home should totally feel "lived in" which sometimes means having a royal blue childs kitchen next to your china cabinet...oh, maybe that's just in my house :)

Things That Inspire said...

I love your observations! The slight imperfection that makes something more real is true in so many areas of life. I was just reading People (yes, my guilty pleasure), and a reader was lamenting the fact that a certain actor had not been nominated (I think it was that British actor Clive). She commented how much she loved his imperfect nose, and how it gave his face character. On the cover of People is Tom Cruise, and I have often thought that his off center teeth were the perfect foil to his handsome features. I never thought about having a slight imperfection in a room in order to give it a little jolt of energy.

Lauren said...

Wow, it relates to people too! You're right. Thanks for the comment! My husband's got a crooked smile & I love it :)

Lara said...

the imperfections make the rooms look so much cozier and homely than the pottery barn perfection. I love the idea of everything not fitting perfectly together.
I found your link from La Dolce Vita and I'm so glad I stumbled upon your blog! It's so fresh.
and..I have a crooked smile and while everyone else tells me they don't notice, I am so self conscious of it but I'm glad to hear you appreciate your husband's. some flaws are worth loving someone for.

Jennifer said...

I love this! definitely makes me want to relax a little when making decisions about the house.

Anonymous said...