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Let me begin by confessing I fell into the oft defaulted-to choice Kit Kemp describes above.
In the house I owned prior to Le Papillon and lived in for nine years, my approach to how I decorated my living room and my bedroom was, “Keep it Neutral”. In the back of my mind, even though I had told myself I may live in that house the rest of my life, I was thinking resale potential rather than what brought me deep rejuvenation. From the beige sofa and matching chair and ottoman, beige walls and curtains, even though custom and chosen by moi, I didn’t want to make a glaring, shocking eye-sore (this from someone who painted her living room red in graduate school – I guess perhaps I knew it would only be a year of my life, so I didn’t feel it was so much of a risk at the time). However, I also did enjoy tranquil spaces, and at the time, equated beige and white (my bedroom was primarily all white) with peace and restoration.
It wasn’t that I was wrong in understanding the power of these two neutrals to keep the blood pressure low, it was that I didn’t recognize how other color combinations, textures and layers of patterns, when approached with understanding, can also create sanctuaries of calm.
Thankfully, I have a chance to apply what I have learned since the decor decisions I made 16 years ago.
In episode #260 I began a décor series sharing 10 Simple, Significant Décor Ideas to Add Luxurious Touches to the Home, and Part Deux’s post has been delayed far longer than I anticipated. But thankfully, it has returned in today’s post.
As I have shared in previous posts, with the expert guidance of local interior designer, an expat of Belgium, having called the states home for a couple of decades, Veronique Waldron shares her wisdom and eye for combining prints and patterns when it has come to my primary bedroom, office reupholstered chairs, and window treatment for my primary bathroom (soon to come – look for the reveal late in 2021).
As well, regularly perusing through The English Home magazines, and following a handful of British interior designers online, it became apparent, tranquility and comfort most certainly can spring from fantastic, unexpected combinations. And so I have enjoyed being the student.
As I was listening to the recent episode of The English Home podcast (episode #3) with Kit Kemp talking about design secrets, the quote I shared above followed sage advice on how to approach combining prints in a room, and I relistened three times to what she had to share (see below):
In response to the question, “How should we think about using fabrics for story-telling and playing with things like scale and color?
“I will only ever use one large scale print, and then maybe a smaller geometric . . . the way you can have maybe a very large stripe, then you can have a medium size, very colorful fabric with a large pattern, then a much sort-of smaller geometric or little flower pattern, then something that is like a decoy focal point of some hand embroidered cushion or something like that pulls it together. Actually just fooling the eye and making the eye feel more and more curious.”— Kit Kemp, British interior designer on how to work with prints and patterns in a single space/room
As I begin to add a few more prints, a bit more texture and have fun with colors in small, yet significant ways in my home that I may not have entertained in previous years, I begin to see and feel far more comfort and peace while I am at home than I have in the past. Granted, a significant portion of said peace comes from intrinsic maturation, but our sanctuaries can deepen even more wonderfully what we have already cultivated with ourselves, so why not explore how to do so? That is what this series aims to do.
Be sure to read Part Une here, and below are seven more ideas for adding simply luxurious touches to your sanctuary:
1.Choose one significant design element to anchor the room, and let all other elements complement
Understanding the benefit an anchor piece makes all subsequent decisions far easier for the room’s remaining elements. For example, my home has an open floor-plan for the living and dining room as well as the kitchen. The first thing you see when you walk in the front door is all the way back to the kitchen, and the now La Cornue Provençal blue stove catches your eye. This was intentional. However, I also have to let the other rooms have their say without being overwhelming initially. So when I decided upon the fabric for my sofa from Fermoie as it sits visually at the forefront of the stove (not literally, but spatially to the eye as you walk in the house), I knew I needed a color tone to complement the Provençal blue. As I shared the sofa in this A Cuppa Moments (June 2021), to look at the single swatch didn’t overwhelm the eye, but when placed on an entire sofa, the small geometric print (to my eye) perfectly dances with the stove, but also the rest of the items in the space without competing.
Another important idea to keep in mind: an anchor piece need not be a piece of furniture. It can be the wallpaper you choose. It can be a massive light fixture or a piece of art. Each room and what the room’s purpose is will lead you to what the anchor piece needs to be, or, if you already have a grand item, finding the right room for said piece will likely be the most difficult, and the rest will begin to fall into place from there.
2. Layer prints, yes, you absolutely can do it like the pros ☺️
Following Kemp’s advice in the quote shared above, if you’re like me, you will fall in love with a stunning print fabric. Once you have done so, follow #1’s advice above, let that fabric selection be the anchor, and the other two or three prints, wall coverings, linens, complement, but not compete, with what you have chosen.
Let’s take my office (one of the chairs and wallpaper are shown above, and check out September 2021’s A Cuppa Moments to see inside and more details). I began looking at potential wallpaper swatches in late 2019. I finally found what I knew was the right one in early spring 2021. It took time, but when I knew, I knew, the right wallpaper just needed to be presented, and up until that point, I had not known about Charles Voysey. From there, I didn’t know where to go, so I reached out to Veronique and gave her free rein to select a handful of fabric swatches for the two chairs I already had that needed to be upholstered. She came up with options I would have most likely not have considered which is exactly what I needed – to be pushed beyond my knowledge base (which was quite limited), but at the same time be able to trust that these choices would work in the space. Each of the color swatches I selected were ones Veronique has pulled for me to consider.
From there, I had my large anchor print, I had my medium size geometric prints, and then I added my signature details in the form of framed Inslee illustrations, consigned 19th and 20th century tea tables as well as a consigned vintage neoclassical Louis Philippe style desk.
Repeatedly, when I find myself on a Zoom call, as my rosé chair sits in front of the wallpaper, my guest will say, they wouldn’t have expected to like the wallpaper, or it wouldn’t have been their choice, but it really works and is less busy than one might expect if they had seen it on a swatch. While of course the space is for me, it is fun to hear people’s reactions to décor. My office certainly is not trying to be ‘tasteful’ for all (in reference to Kemp’s quote at the top of today’s post), but it is in my taste, and it surprised me wonderfully as well. ☺️
3. Let your outdoors/garden play a role
During my parents’ visit this past August, my mother was sitting in one of the chairs next to the fireplace looking out the south-facing windows over my garden porch. The wisteria has begun to climb the height of the windows and is now traveling horizontally across the second leg of the porch of the roof. She pointed out that it looked like a painting as the window was framed in green leaves from the wisteria, the outdoor fermob chair in dune situated next to the ceramic pots of strawberries – the edible red rubies pronouncing their ripeness, and the blue sky that we were fortunate to be experiencing that day in the backdrop, creating a tranquil scene.
Of course, our gardens take time, and they are not in full foliage year-round, but when we have windows or any sight-vantage to the outdoors, consider what you can do to bring Mother Nature in whilst keeping her outside. My cherry trees are the location of one of my bird feeders and the trees not only provide much interest in the spring and through out the summer from the white blossoms in April/May to the green rustling foliage in the summer and fall, but the birds year-round are a delight to sit and watch.
4. Random, large down-filled pillows for sitting areas
Over the last nine months I have added a large 24″ square down filled light green velvet pillow to my favorite reading chair in the living room. As soon as I added it (not purchased for this chair initially), I knew it had found its forever home.
While I still have a few small pillows that are holding space right now on various pieces of furniture, I now know that larger is better for comfort and for proportion to create a cozy, inviting, and personal space.
Making two custom pillows for my sofa (22″ square) that are not matching exactly, only in hue (and yes, both prints), as well as adding three more vintage and one new, this detail was something that always caught my eye when I flip through English country home magazines. The sofas, without matching pillows, yet beckoning you to sit, but still stay upright to talk, relax, yet sip a cuppa all the while warming yourself by the fire or watching the rain fall steadily, create a signature space that adds not only layers but a touch of personality.
Again, be sure to apply idea #1 from this list – maybe one of the pillows is a scene stealer, but the rest complement, complement, complement.
5. Sconces, table lamps and floor lamps (keep the overhead lights off)
Speaking of complementing, good lighting doesn’t happen by accident, and overhead lighting rarely makes anyone look (or feel) their best. Of course in a kitchen, overhead lighting is a must, but very few other rooms need such a design choice (even in my bathrooms, I have removed the lights on top of the mirror and placed them on either side of the mirror – far more complementary and still offering helpful illumination).
I have added a couple of lamps and new sconces to my house over the past two years. From one floor lamp in the living (see in Dec. ’20‘s A Cuppa Moments) room for reading in my favorite reading chair, sconces by the fireplace (check out this month’s A Cuppa Moments – Sept. ’21), and I just received a table lamp from Pooky Lighting during their August sale that I am excited to place next to my record player for more living room lighting that is cozy, offering reading abilities to the right-side of the sofa and carrying on the English cottage aesthetic without directly matching anything.
6. Be willing to invest in quality mirrors – your confidence will thank you
Now, don’t get me wrong, I know there are vanity mirrors out there that intentionally make you look skinnier. No, no, no, that is not what I am talking about here. I am talking about paying a bit more for a quality-made mirror so you see the real you. What am I talking about, you may be wondering.
Once I put up the mirror in my guest bathroom last week, I noticed the difference immediately. I had the wall mirror removed that had come with the house, and replaced it with Restoration Hardware’s Bristol Rectangular Mirror. There are many look-a-like mirrors for this style available at lower prices, but as my contractor shared with me, not all mirrors are made the same. It takes more craftsmanship and more cost to make sure the surface is smooth and you aren’t looking at a ‘warped’ reflection, even in the most subtle observational way. Of course, the color of the room (wallpaper, paint colors) certainly affects how you look as well, and the original grey that was on my walls before I wallpapered it, were not complementary to my skin tone; however, investing in a well-made mirror will not be a decision you will regret years down the road.
~Look for a reveal of the Guest Bathroom at the end of September (2021). I shared progress of the space in July, August and September’s A Cuppa Moments.
7. Add personality and signature style with handmade/glazed/painted tiles for small areas
Balancing different textures in a space – soft with hard, upholstery with metal finishes, tile with wood, etc. – when done in proportion, creates the comfort, the welcome, the element of ‘yep, nailed it’ you’re looking for.
In two different places so far in my home I have added custom tile. First, to my fireplace. As I shared in this month’s A Cuppa Moments (Sept. ’21), I was inspired by Delft tile from Holland which England artisans have perfected and continue to make. Working with Douglas Watson Studio, a small studio of four artists in Britain, I wanted to remove the modern tile around my fireplace and replace with with a frame of blue and white tile being overall framed by the traditional Arts & Crafts wood-framed mantle. I chose 15+ unique images, paired with plain tile, and created a far more cottage-esque space to sit by the fire and read a good book during the winter months. Each of the unique images reveal a glimpse of my life-story and add to the subtle personal touches to make the house my sanctuary.
The second place I have added custom-tile is in my guest bathroom. Creating an Arts & Crafts (1861-early 20th century England) inspired space, I found a small tile company in South Carolina – Terra Firma Tile – and selected a glaze to work with my William Morris wallpaper. The tile is solely for my backsplash, so I was able to fit it into my budget, and add a signature touch.
~Look for the reveal of the Guest Bathroom later this month (explore becoming a TOP Tier Member/Subscribe to take the tour)
Learning how to decorate our homes in such a way as to create the peace of mind and long-lasting comfort and welcome over years takes time. Much like understanding our personal wardrobe style, while it evolves, there are certain fundamental components that are ever-present. Gardening requires much of the same skill. While we may be regularly adjusting, adding, learning and editing, the bones, the core components – good lighting, complementary color palette, furniture that functions as well as it looks – can stand the test of time if we do our homework and invest well.
My contractor made a note as we were talking this past week having finished the guest bath, sharing that All ideas look good for a year, but then whether or not the decisions were of quality reveal themselves. Invest now and rest easy for years to come as you will be happy with your choices, and in the long run, pay less, not only monetarily, but in your peace of mind when you cross the threshold seeking rejuvenation every single time.
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View TSLL’s Decor posts here in the Archives