Interior decorating can start with … just one thing? Have you ever walked through a home shop or antique store, or perused a catalog and seen something you really loved? You thought about buying it, but your practical self reminded you that a.) it doesn't go with your decor b.) you have no place to put it c.) it might not be very utilitarian or d.) all of the above. You passed it up and went home wishing you were a decorator who could have found a way to make it work.
The good news is you can plan and decorate a room around just one treasured piece. A good interior decorator will listen to their clients, and watch for clues about the things they really love. Many clients are surprised when I ask them about a special piece of art or other memento, and develop my design starting with this item to produce beautiful results.
Interior Decorating with Artwork or a Teddy Bear
Art is probably the most frequent item that surfaces in an initial interior decorating consult. Clients might tell me how they really want to keep the artwork over the fireplace because they have always enjoyed it or it was handed down through generations in the family. Perfect! Now I can start with the colors, the style, and the design of that art, along with what my client needs and wants, and create an appealing room.
I've worked with the ‘just one thing' concept for much of my decorating career, and have had seemingly difficult items to start with. One client had a swan collection, all white or cream colored ceramic or porcelain swans, and she wanted the guest bedroom designed around the swans. These are the kinds of challenges professionals love and what makes our work so creative and satisfying. This client's guest room became a retreat of whites, creams, moss greens and tans that not only showcased the swans, but integrated them into a room that sparkled on its own merits. For my client, it seemed like interior decorating magic.
For another client, she was expecting her first child and wanted to transform an unused bedroom into a dream baby's room. She wanted to include a teddy bear (see below) given to the baby but lacked confidence in her own interior decorating skills. We talked about her dreams and how she loved animals, so we decided to design the room around … just one thing, the teddy bear. Baby's rooms are so much fun and there are many interior decorating tools to help, especially if you want to use animals for your decorating theme. I found a book of animal (B for bears) alphabet art which helped us pick the room's colors, and it was easy to assemble everything else we need with the lovely pastels.
Often, that important piece you might want to base your room on is something handed down through the family. For example, the old Hoosier cabinet that Aunt Grace gave you, or that fine bone china pink flowered cocoa pitcher and cups that your grandmother wanted you to have, or perhaps the brightly colored Majolica pottery you found in your mom's attic. If you like it and want to use it in your decorating project, it can become a base for all that you choose: paint, trim, hardware, linens, flooring, area rugs, toss pillows, shelving and other decorative items
Interior Decorating Begins With the Right Questions
The question I get asked most often when working from one particular piece the homeowner values is “What if my favorite piece doesn't really coincide with my preferred style of decorating?” The first step is to make decisions around the one piece of artwork, sofa or other item, asking important questions like
- Can you picture your room without this item and still be happy?
- What do you envision when you see the perfect room … and is this item in the room?
- Are you open to an eclectic look where we combine old and new?
Once my client answers these and several other exploratory questions, we can move forward to decide just how to use our treasured item in the room with a style and color palette that are consisten with the homeowner's taste.
Of course, not everyone has a just one thing to bring to the planning table. That's OK, because I have several ways to help them define their style. I might ask if there is something in their attic or basement storage they've always wanted to display. Perhaps we will go on a special shopping trip to ascertain the kind of “thing” they might love, something that can provide our starting point. Using several questions, I'm able to draw out what might be important to you, so I can pick a decorating process and style that makes you comfortable.
What's your special piece for your next decorating project? If you find it, hold on to it and start imagining a room that you love that started with just one thing!
What's your biggest interior decorating challenge?
Jennifer Myers, Jennifer Myers Interiors, in Hampton, New Hampshire, specializes in affordable interior decorating, interior redesign, paint consultations, and real estate staging and consulting. Jennifer is a certified Interior Redesign Industry Specialist (IRIS®) and has been decorating since 2005 years.