Design 101: Wallpaper

For anyone who grew up with a lot of it, or even just a little bit, but it was not their taste - or certainly for anyone who has ever stripped it on their own -  wallpaper can be viewed with a little skepticism.  Yet it has never been more relevant, more transformative, or varied.  

Here is my advice for picking wallpaper that will please your senses year after year. But, first, the things you need to get over.

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Sized Just Right: The Large Luxury Home

This blog is not about what kinds of rooms or how many should be included in a large house blueprint. The one piece of advice I always pass along to my clients is to build their home not for future owners or by any standard but their own. Choose your spaces because you think they will enrich your home life, not because other houses in your neighborhood have them.  

This blog post is for people who want a large luxury home where every space is useful and all of the details and proportions make the right statement.

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Sized Just Right: The Small Luxury Home

As a seasoned designer with diverse clients, I am often either helping a family decide how much to add to a home they are outgrowing or I am figuring out how to put unused rooms to work in a house that is a little too big for its owner.

Generally my opinion is that less house is better than too much house, but my skills and vision afford me the opportunity to create impactful designs no matter the scale of the project. For the homeowner who is trying to decide the size of their next home investment, there are a number of ways to evaluate what will be the perfect fit.

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Design 101: Perfect Drapery

One of the most impactful features of a room can be window treatments.  The most classically appealing of these is drapery.  Whether fully operating or stationary, drapery adds pleasing vertical lines while providing additional expression to the design through textiles. 

To help demystify these treatments, here are the factors I keep in mind as I design drapery for my projects.

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The Dark Side of Color Theory


By Paul Miller

Interior Designer, IDS Professional Member


There are many things to consider at the high level conceptual stage of an interior design, but one of the most expressive fundamentals is crafting the color palette.  Here are two palettes from recent projects that, while distinctly different visually, rely on a similar theoretic principle.  Each palette was based on the decision to promote artistic drama rather than the oft over-prescribed notion that spaces should be made to seem larger.

The Garret Room

When we began to noodle the best approach to a family media room in an attic of an historic home, we rejected the obvious choice of painting the walls in light, bright hues to make the space appear larger.  In this home, we had already created fresh, sunny palettes on the main and second floors, so we felt the attic could be better served is a deeply-shaded and cozy away space.  We theorized that the value of visually expanding the room was not trumped by the greater goal of giving the homeowners a nurturing and even theatrical sense of place. 

 
 

Because the house has a classic mansard roof, the walls slant on four sides as they approach a narrow jot of ridge at the middle of the room.  Two dormers - one tasked for window seating and the other for a modest custom bar - provided a fair amount of natural light.  By painting the walls from base to ridge in a dark blue, we promoted a cozy sensibility for the attic.  The rather beaten up original wood flooring we had painted in a green hue equal in saturation and value to the wall color, so that while there was some variation, the floor and walls had minimal visual distinction; our goal was to keep the eye moving fluidly with the architecture instead of the gaze hanging up on sometimes awkward transitions.  A large sectional in dark chestnut leather further promoted the rich palette, while accents in bright yellow and taupe provided points of brightness and chilly contrast.     

The Jewel Parlor

There was something about this parlor in another historic home that seemed to be waiting for dramatic wall color.  And our client has a peaceful and yet magnetic energy that we felt would be nicely expressed in a space with muted variations of jewel tones.  Starting with a jade lamp the homeowner wanted to use in the room, we built an analogous palette that moved away from blue-greens and toward yellow on the color wheel.  The use of a rich plum on the walls managed to serve both a warm and cool helping of wow factor.  

 
 

Because the parlor had a large vista onto a sunny, off-white dining room at one end, and a large, off-white builtin at the other, we knew that there was plenty of lightness to offset our wall color choice.  We had purposed a boxy turret space adjacent to the builtin for a handsome Japanese travel bar; we opted to carry the soft whiteness of the trim onto this alcove to further contrast and highlight the plum tone of the primary space - and to frame the bar for emphasis.  Using dark emerald velvet on a tufted accent chair and a geometric woven in chartreuse and cream to wrap the outside back of the sofa, we pinned down our progression of green to yellow-green hues. 

We're big fans of white-wall decor and recognize the place it has taken in contemporary interior design, but our opportunities to work in dark hues are always a welcome change of pace.  The important things to consider when deciding whether or not a room should go to the dark side is how the color choice will serve the overall purpose of the room and how you will construct a palette with enough variation and contrast to not be flattened out by the weight of the main color itself.   

Tips

  • Remember that the walls will be the background of the canvas, and the furnishings will create the layering towards the foreground. If larger furnishings have sufficient lightness, they will alleviate the heaviness of the wall color.

  • Darker rooms swallow light, so consider using a paint finish with a bit of sheen to help bounce both natural and artificial light. Know that sheen will highlight imperfections in the wall surface, so we recommend a professionally applied skim coat to make the walls picture perfect.

  • In a room where the wall color is more assertive, the textures of fabrics should be far bolder and the scale of prints riskier. The beauty of starting from a place of intentional drama is that boldness is welcome and necessary for harmony.

  • Consider how a dramatic paint color will impact the visual rhythm of a space. If there is a series of awkwardly placed closet doors, it is sometimes advisable to paint them out in the same color as the wall. The same can be said of a chair rail, which becomes a light belt around a dark room, often cutting the perceived height of the walls and pulling attention away from more important elements of the design.

  • Before panicking when the paint is half up and you begin to waver in your resolve, pull a few pieces into the space and view them against the walls. You'll never feel more vulnerable about your choice than when the room is without any of the components that helped inspire the color.

Warm & Cool


By Paul Miller

Interior Designer, IDS Professional Member


In recent design projects, we have been put to the task of infusing warmth into our clients homes. Traditionally, either warm or cool neutrals predominate a space. Cool tones like grays, silver, and washed wood tones still find favor with many homeowners due to their modern and understated sensibilities. Even so, warm neutral tones are making a comeback from their several year hiatus.  

 
 

We remember looking through resources during this peak in cool tones and wondering if everything warmer than taupe had  become extinct. Embracing warm tones comes naturally to us as they add a wonderful comfort and richness to a space. We love encouraging a mix of neutrals as we have found that it creates a sophisticated and unexpected palette that our clients love.


Just like wood tones and upholstery, try mixing neutrals in other materials too!

One of our favorite examples of a piece that brings in warm wood tones while still being harmonious with predominantly grey toned elements is this beautiful tusk table. Don’t underestimate the power of accessorizing to enforce the striking balance of warm and cool as well. From rugs and gimp tapes to wallpaper, we find that this trend is really taking off within the design community. 

Here at MakeNest, we love a confident mix. Just like wood tones and upholstery, try mixing neutrals in other materials too! We are looking at you, gold and silver.