The best of life’s shared experiences includes a common thread. This turn of phrase uniquely characterizes the invisible medium which connects people forming deep familial and social bonds. So, too, common threads – both literally and figuratively – pull together seemingly disparate elements into overall cohesive designs. Generally, cohesiveness results from a coalescence of observation, inquiry, and interaction. In design, the acts of watching, asking, and communicating, form the foundation from which the final design rises. Careful interpretation, exquisite clarity, and thoughtful implementation, ensure the transition from a shared vision into a three-dimensional reality. In interior design, cohesiveness stands as the subtle hallmark of a successfully executed design plan.
So, how do you achieve cohesiveness in your own interior design projects? What are the missing links in the supply chain between you and your ultimate room design? How best can you ensure you’ll not only achieve “the look” you seek, but also push your project over the top to really attain the “Wow!” factor you want? How indeed do you begin to combine all those individual things you like into one functional, sensible cohesive look?
Well, achieving “the look” you seek and the over-the-top “Wow!” factor you want begins with one simple characteristic, one personality trait, and that is simply patience. “We are a young country, and like most young entities – be they people or states – our internal metronome ticks a little faster; the land we inhabit may in fact be home to ancient civilizations, but America itself is new, with a sense of impatience, adventure, excitability and a cheerful lack of perspective (either charming or dangerous, depending on your point of view and the circumstances) that only the young possess.”1 As such, many of us, particularly those younger, live in a perpetual state of urgency to “get things done now!” I suggest you ask yourself: “What’s the rush?” Your answers may surprise you. And hopefully, perhaps your answers will help bring perspective and slow you down. Enjoy the process. Enjoy the ride. Be patient.
Patience plays a significant role toward executing successful interior design. Though applicable in many situations, the old saying “haste makes waste” rings particularly, and sometimes expensively, true in the field of interior design. I’ve seen impatience in design projects lead to quick and bad decisions that end up costing people in both time and money. I don’t know about you, but neither time nor money will I allow myself to waste. Besides, other simple truths reveal themselves while practicing the inherent wisdom in other old adages, such as: “Stop and smell the roses.” and “A stitch in time saves nine.” or in my business: “Measure twice. Cut once.” Meaning, reward and efficiency can be yours when you slow down and take your time while creating and then executing a well thought out design plan. I know my most successfully-executed interior design projects occur when clients either have no need to rush to meet a deadline or had a prioritized list of the rooms and the needs to be addressed in each.
Another hallmark of a well-executed, cohesive interior design plan stems from wisely securing design expertise. Typically, one of the main reasons people seek the advice of a design professional arises from their frustration in trying to create and execute an interior design plan themselves. An inherent challenge with DIY (do-it-yourself) interior design exists in the belief that anyone can collect a bunch of inspiration photos, purchase a lot of “THAT’S what I like!” items and then recreate one – or more likely a combination of several – of the beautiful rooms that inspired them. In the end, most DIY design projects fall short of their goals simply because the do-it-yourselfer lacks the real interior design expertise to achieve “the look” with the “Wow!” factor they so desire.
by West Chin Architects & Interior Designers
Put another way, though I might think I could install a new roof on my home, defend myself in a court of law, or sell my own home, I would never tackle any of these ventures myself, but instead would retain – without thinking twice about it – a qualified roofer, lawyer, and realtor. Never. I know what I do well. I hire others to do what I either don’t want to do or – and I sometimes must be ruthlessly honest with myself – can’t do. “Toss aside the idea that interior decorators are only for the rich and famous or those with so much money that they don’t know what to do with it all. In reality they save you a great deal of time and money and headache medicine!”2 As I stated earlier, I don’t know about you, but neither time nor money will I allow myself to waste.
Finally, regarding expertise, let your interior designer do their job. Just as you would let your roofer install your new roof, your attorney defend you in a court of law, and your realtor sell your home, let your interior designer create and execute a uniquely-tailored interior design plan for you. For some reason, unlike other professions, some individuals seeking interior design assistance blur the lines between their role as client and their designer’s role as a professional. Whether stemming from the personal nature of allowing someone into their house to create a home for them, or a desire to become an interior designer themselves; thereby, attempting to render the interior designer into the role of personal shopper, some clients end up sabotaging their projects simply by not letting the interior designer do his job. A thoughtful and wise interior designer will guide a client, through the introduction, discussion, design, selection, and execution phases, providing the client with their vision realized via the eyes and expertise of the designer. You must trust your interior designer just as you would any other professional you hire.
On Education, Experience and Intuition
Achieving cohesiveness in interior design plan execution occurs as the result of a variety of interwoven factors, including design education and experience and, the not so easy to measure characteristics of intuition and an innate ability or aptitude. Also, the personal attributes of common sense, street smarts (or savvy), along with a semester or two of enrollment in the good, old, proverbial “school of hard knocks,” further fortify an insatiable desire to always provide the best cohesive interiors for a designer’s clients. Every interior designer or decorator’s path represents their unique journey from novice to expert. Whether formerly trained or innately gifted – and most realistically some combination of the two – a truly talented interior designer proves one’s mettle rather than rests on one’s laurels.
As in many professions, before the days of vocation-specific institutions of higher learning, boards of certification, and associations of industry professionals, there existed pioneers who – whether for an innate desire to create beautiful rooms for themselves or make a name for themselves by “making home” for others – blazed a trail by creating the first interior designs and interior design businesses. So, though knowledge of current interior design trends and general good business practices help to make any good interior designer a successful one, knowledge of our predecessors, and even the history of furniture design, can help to differentiate us from our peers. Understanding those individuals and the impact their efforts made toward defining what interior design means provides every designer today with a unique barometer by which to measure their unique contributions. Sure, not everyone aspires to be the next Elsie de Wolfe, Jean-Michel Frank, Albert Hadley, Sister Parish, Dorothy Draper, David Hicks, or Billy Baldwin, but I see no harm – only opportunity, really – toward aspiring to aspects of their unique visions, talents, and notoriety. “These seven interiors icons are the most influential masters of the 20th century—the true founders of the profession today—and they’re the names every lover of design should know.”3
(Left to Right) Elsie de Wolfe, Jean-Michel Frank, Albert Hadley, Sister Parish, Dorothy Draper, David Hicks, and Billy Baldwin
The common thread, the cohesiveness, that weaves its way through all of their stories begins with a desire to share a vision with the world and ends with a legacy of personal achievement. My suggestion – not challenge, never a challenge – to you, as a client or a designer, remains to encourage you to look around and see just where the common thread runs through you, your story, your relationships, your community, and your contribution to the world. Besides sharing the common thread of being of one race – the human race – and one world – the planet Earth – we share the ability to create cohesiveness in our lives and in our designs. In both realms, what an amazing ability – gift really – to refine, apply, and share. Let our common thread become the tie that binds us all together in a world of hope, beauty, and love.
- Yanagihara, Hanya. “Present Tense.” T The New York Times Style Magazine. nytimes.com. 24 September, 2017.
- “10 Reasons Why You Should Hire an Interior Decorator.” freshome.com. 19 September, 2012.
- Brownfield, Elizabeth. “7 Legendary Interior Designers Everyone Should Know.” vogue.com. 4 April, 2016.