Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Focal points: how to control them

When it comes to interior design, my perspective has always been the same as the one I have on fashion: ignore what's 'in' and just choose what suits you and your specific, practical needs.  I can't get into the whole complexity of why one lamp works better than another any more than I can understand Vogue magazine (the latter being a deep disappointment to me, because as a textile- and vintage-loving person I have always loved clothes and their construction.)  To borrow a cliche, I just know what I like.

And I definitely like this interior from Vintage South Development.  Wow.

For me the most important thing to put into a home - apart from functional considerations like a bathroom, laundry, and clothing storage - is horizontal surfaces for books and other interests, and comfy chairs to sit in, and a place to prep food and eat it, and a place to sleep.  And I've always been able to put together a welcoming, comfortable space around those elements without having to think too much, even if I make mistakes like putting an eye-catching bright blue cloth on the plainest of the tables we inherited with a home, so that the cutest table fades into the wall.

Guest room at the cottage: it won't win design awards, but it's functional.

Ha!  I miss those days.  I can see now that interior design is complex because it's art.  When you look at a magazine spread you are seeing whatever lifestyle trends are coming down the road, and specific products that the magazine is promoting, but you're also seeing Staging.  If a photograph of a room calls out to you in a way that makes your shoulders drop a little, or your eyebrows come together and lift in the middle while your mouth opens to let out an ohhhh? sound, it's because it's communicating a way of life that you wish was yours.

Like the photo I opened with - that space would never work for me as a back door. I'd need a space for shoes, for the seat cushions I'd be bringing in from the rain, for the books that would need to pile up on a little table.  But for the life I'd like to have, it would be a dream back door.  Because there would be someplace else to put the books, and somebody else would be dealing with the cushions or else they'd be all-weather and never need to come inside, and I wouldn't have to wear shoes outside or take them off inside because the deck and grass would be pristine.  The focal points in that image - the very tall window, the open door that draws the eye because it's darker than the walls, the beautiful light fixture on top that balances the grainy darker floor below - they all say Peaceful and Escapist and Pampered to me.

I feel the same way about this image, which I know I've shared here at least once before.  It's at the side of a driveway  for a condo building at a busy, noisy corner I would not choose for my home, and I'm sure nobody ever goes to sit or walk there because hello, driveway off of four-lane urban street?  But I don't care.  Every time I walk past the place I just want the life that's implied by the landscaping.

It seems to me that if you break down the details of what your instinct tells you is attractive, the things that create feeling in a room are shape, texture, and colour.  They're important because they all create contrast, and contrast draws your eye.  Framing helps too, as with the arches over that driveway, or the dark hits of light fixture, floor, and door in the entry picture.

I feel the principle is much the same with fashion - and for the purposes of this discussion, knitting in particular.  If you throw a cable or a colour block or a cool button onto a sweater, that's where people look first.

Remember this sweater?  I notice the buttons first, and the dark line of the raglan sleeve second. The ribbed front opening barely registers because the contrast is so minor.  If I were doing it over, I would get a grip and go out and buy bigger, more neutral buttons.  I am pretty sure I picked the pink because I had them, I loved them, and I wanted to use them somewhere.  Not always a recipe for success.

Now that we're almost at the decorating part of the house project, and facing the issue of preparing the condo for new occupants, I'm fixated on focal points and my inept approach to them in the past.  They are so powerful!  If they are on something you really want to see, your heart sings.  But if they aren't, no matter how much else you get right, your heart screams.

Our house is going to have a lot of white in it, especially on the main floor - tons of white custom cabinetry on many walls.  Many other walls are all window, which leaves me little room for paint.  And the floors will be pale because we chose a high-grade maple, with minimal grain and a natural stain.  Our colourful furniture is going to stand out as a stark focal point, as opposed to an alluring one, unless I anchor the few walls we do have with colour and texture that tie it all in.

The condo, on the other hand... well.  If we're selling it, we can stage it with furniture and carpets that conceal the parquet floor because the cost of staging might result in a better sale price.  If we're renting it, there's a going rate and there will be no return on the staging expense.  So all people will see is this super dark, dated floor.

I keep reading that staining parquet as dark as you can is the answer to making it look fresh and new and stylish, but I don't see it.  This floor isn't so dark as to show every single piece of lint - a problem with ebony stain, apparently - but it dominates everything.  Except over by the huge living room window of course, where it changes abruptly to a honey toned parquet floor that stands out because of - yep - contrast.  Yay, former 'solarium' and division strip!

We've decided we want to keep the condo and rent it out, so we have to figure out how to deal with this floor.  My vote is this:  sand the parquet, stain it white, seal the heck out of it, and park a really amazing large plant at the living room window.  Then all our prospective tenants will see is green, indoors and out, and a huge clean space to live in, hopefully with a fantastic new kitchen to match.

Fingers crossed that it will work, and also, that I can do some of the work because ooooh man.  There is a lot of floor here and a lost of cost to make it right!

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