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Classic furniture never goes out of style

Interior Design Firms in St. LouisI remember a few years ago being invited to a very large New Year's Eve party at a friend of a friend of a friend's home. The main reason I went, as my friend knew it would be, was that the party-thrower owned a mansion in University City. I wanted to see the interiors.

The home itself, by this I mean if it had been empty, was stunning! Gorgeous old woodwork, original wood floors in every room, huge wood windows and doors, high ceilings, stained glass, and large rooms with clear divisions between them would be a dream for an interior designer to get their hands on!

Unfortunately, the present décor was horrendous! Every single room in the home had been decorated at exactly the same time, clearly the 1980's. Every single room including bathrooms, kitchens, and children's rooms had been done in the "jewel tones" so popular in the 1980's. If you remember these "jewel tones" were dark sapphire blue, dark emerald green and very dark ruby red, which was closer in the style of the day to maroon.

In addition to everything clearly being done at the same time due to every room being the same trend, everything was done inexpensively and it showed. My friend who isn't an interior designer knew as clearly as I when the house had been decorated and that it wasn't done well.

The dark wood of the house had no room to shine! It was overpowered and "dumbed down" by all the dark tones. It could barely be distinguished from the painted walls and heavy dark rugs on the floor. It was a shame.

Clearly this homeowner hadn't consulted a professional. A professional from one of the better interior design firms isn't always needed, but when one isn't used, unfortunately it is sometimes obvious. I know full well that everyone can't afford a professional from one of the interior design firms here in St. Louis. So how do you avoid making it clear to all that you didn't use a professional? How do you save a limited budget by not using a professional but make it look like you hired one of the leading interior design firms?

Mistakes are costly, not only in money but on relationships

Find Interior Design FirmsSomeday someone will tell these homeowners, (or they may realize it on their own) that the house badly needs a makeover. Then all the money they spent, or at least most of it will have been wasted. And they may not have any more money to spend on hiring one of the interior design firms here in St. Louis.

What may be worse is that if this present day "design" caused disagreements between the two homeowners based on costs involved now may result in one of them putting their foot down and refusing to participate in re-doing what has already been done because they spent the money once and feel that the original time through was plenty expensive and that their partner should have made sure it was right the first time.

All professionals at leading interior design firms know that decorating a house can be dirty. It can cause life to be disorganized in at least one room at a time and can cause disagreements between two homeowners. Sometimes these disagreements can be serious.

If you are the one that wants to decorate, and your spouse or partner isn't so keen on the idea, getting it wrong this time could put an end to any further discussion for other rooms or projects in the future.

How do you ensure it is right the first time?

Everyone's time is limited these days, but if you cannot afford one of the better interior design firms and you want your home to make it look like you did, you are going to have to commit some time to this endeavor. However, this time in planning is the key to avoid wasted time in the long run.

If you've read my article entitled "Decorating on a budget: Budgeting, Planning and Patience" you know that the two things I think are the most important aspects of having a beautiful home are planning and patience.

Planning is the key

A plan will keep you away from common mistakes. Some of the most common blunders are trends, clichés, and impatience. See my article entitled "Accessorizing: Avoiding interior design clichés, kitsch, trends, and grotesques" to develop an understanding of how to sidestep the errors of clichés and trends.

A plan takes time and patience, and so impatience is removed right away just by having the plan. To develop a step-by-step plan, see my article entitled "Overwhelmed? A step-by-step plan may help".

Is the home beautiful when empty?

Top St. Louis Interior Design FirmsWhen you looked at your newly purchased home, when it was empty I hope it was beautiful. I hope it is truly gorgeous.

If your home is beautiful when completely empty then why do you fear showing it off completely empty? Other people will see its beauty as well.

When I say "empty" I mean with no furnishings in it or few furnishings. I mean the HOUSE itself. Not the lavender paint that the last homeowner used in the living room, not the once trendy floral and striped wallpaper left in the kitchen by a previous owner, but the house itself. My suggestion for the lavender walls and striped/floral wallpaper is to remove the wallpaper yourselves and paint all walls in the home an off-white (any off-white) until you decide what to do long-term. This in effect, erases the past and gives the house a "clean slate", so to speak.

And, an empty home or nearly empty home with new excited homeowners showing it off is charming. Your friends don't care that the home is empty. They will be charmed by your enthusiasm. And regardless of what you believe, everyone has been in your shoes; first homes newly purchased are always empty, at least for most people.

Planning for the future, one room at a time:

Finishing one room at a time forces you to focus. It is easy to go off on tangents when confronted with so many decisions in lots of rooms, so stick with one room at a time. Further, if you complete one room at a time, this usually allows you to stay within your budget and feel that you are making progress, at least on one room. And each room will have a better chance of appearing to have been decorated by one of the better interior design firms.

Interior Design Firms | Tips from Interior DesignersIn addition, as an amateur interior designer, you are probably going to end up following trends and falling into clichés at least a little. If a trend for 2012 and 2013 shows up only in your master bedroom, and then other rooms have trends from other years, it will look like you are always fashionable. By this I mean that if it takes 10 years or so to finish the whole house, then you can start over again (it will be much less expensive the second time through if you follow this advice) with the master bedroom and put the year 2022's trends to work for you again. As a professional of one of the better interior design firms, I can tell you that in this way, you can actually get trends to work for you.

Just like adding one or two new trendy pieces to your wardrobe each season keeps your wardrobe looking current, so professionals of interior design firms will tell you, it is also true with your house. This applies if the basics in the room are classics and the home is beautiful when empty.

In other words, try to buy large basic furniture for each room that you can keep for a lifetime, accessories and art, paint and accessory colors and smaller less expensive furniture pieces can then be moved around or replaced and a few updates added each year to keep your style current. In this way, your home will look like it was decorated by one of the leading interior design firms.

What is classic furniture?

A classic is something that never goes out of style such as a yellow raincoat, or red roses to express love.

But what is classic furniture? As a professional of one of the better interior design firms, I can name lots of pieces that are classics, but quite frankly I'm sure you do not wish to read through a massive list of names of pieces when the names will probably mean nothing to you.

Or I could show you countless pictures of classic furniture but you probably wouldn't have time to look through them all and it may not get you much further than you are now in your understanding.

A classic as far as furniture is concerned is any furniture period style that has stood the test of time. If the period style was longer ago than 15 years and is considered worthwhile in the design field it will get a name. If it has a name, it probably has "staying power". The newer styles are less agreed upon and that is why some of the years overlap. But make no mistake modern styles are well-respected in design and shouldn't be shied away from in your home.

Traditional vs. Modern

The first thing in regard to furniture that anyone at any of the leading interior design firms will tell you is that you may wish to decide if you prefer traditional or modern furniture. I suppose there is also the class of ancient furniture styles to consider, but those are pretty rare, so let's here just stick with traditional or modern.

Traditional furniture was either made during a traditional era or is modeled after furniture from that era. The era of traditional furniture is anything that predates the 1860's or thereabouts and I suppose if we want to be technical, ancient times I believe are defined as up till the fall of the roman empire, so traditional would be roughly between 476 A.D. until the 1860's or thereabouts.

If you prefer furniture whose design came about or is closely modeled after a design originally derived during those times, you prefer traditional furniture.

While there are far too many traditional styles to list all of them here, here are some traditional period styles listed in no particular order:

  • Queen Anne
  • Chippendale
  • French provincial
  • Biedermeier
  • Victorian
  • Baroque
  • Rococo
  • And many traditional Asian styles as well

Conversely, if you prefer a period style of furniture originally designed during or modeled after a period style originally conceived during modern times, that being anything after the 1860's then you prefer modern furniture. But when I say "period style" I refer to accepted periods within the modern era. You can't go out and buy ANYTHING designed after the 1860's and call it modern and be correct.

As all professionals at interior design firms know that because we are living in this era, that there is much disagreement as to where the dividing line is between each of these styles or at least some of them, and sometimes disagreement even over what the style should be called, but for simplicity sake, for help with true modern styles I will list some, but not all here:

Decorating Tips from Interior Design Firms
  • Art Nouveau; some design professionals consider this a traditional style, the original movement was right in the era between traditional and modern, and it does have many characteristics of each
  • Arts and Crafts, sometimes called "Mission". Frank Lloyd Wright is sometimes considered the best-known designer in this style
  • International, sometimes called Bauhaus
  • Art Deco, or Art Moderne
  • Scandinavian
  • Post-war design or Mid-century, (1936? through 1966?)
  • 1970's and 1980's, sometimes called Memphis

To understand how to use this knowledge like a designer from one of the better interior design firms, read on.

Decide on your favorite style of furniture

In order to do this you will need to study period furniture at least a little. You can do this on the internet, through books, or if you want to go more in-depth, a class at the local community college can be enormously helpful; AND much less costly than buying a houseful or even a roomful of furniture and then deciding years later that you hate it or at least don't love it.

All professionals at interior design firms will tell you that shopping, but not buying furniture can be helpful during this step as well. Maybe photograph any pieces that you particularly love. And even photograph pieces you particularly hate. Then research what period styles with these characteristics are based. Through this method, you may find your favorite style of furniture.

Good interior design is about LOVING your house, and LOVING your furniture and your accessories and your finishes.

Hopefully in this article, I can get you to the point where you can go purchase furniture that you LOVE and feel confident that you will love it years from now.

Let's say that after a little study you have decided that your favorite furniture style is Art Deco, a modern style.

Must you pick only ONE style, as a matter of fact, yes and no

You do need to pick only one style that is your favorite. But, the good news is that you are going to do only ONE room in it. THEN you will get to pick another favorite style for another room, and another for the third room, and so on. HOWEVER I am going to ask that you NOT pick the exact styles that any other room will be decorated in just yet. That is because your tastes may change over time and that is why we are going to do just one room.

Find Interior Design Firms in St. LouisYou may be wondering how you can decorate every room of your house in a different style. You may think it will look ridiculous! It won't. If you make the rooms "flow" or have "unity" through the use of color, it will be beautiful and you won't get tired of it. To learn how to use color in this way, as one of the leading interior design firms would, see my article entitled "Paint by numbers for the home decorator".

OR, another method used by professionals at leading interior design firms to create "flow" or "unity" from room to room, if you choose to, is to use the same style of furniture in every room, or at least all public rooms, or all private rooms, and then use a different color scheme in each room for "variety". But if you choose this method, then you do have to choose only one style of furniture and you can't change your mind so easily later. It is easier and less expensive to change the colors of your room generally speaking than to change the furniture style, in other words, a room needs to be repainted every few years anyway, and upholstery wears out eventually but good furniture never wears out.

And you may wonder if you can decorate one room in a favorite modern style and another in a favorite traditional style, yes you can! And it will add variety with a splash of true excitement from room to room.

It is important to note here that rooms do not have to "flow" or have "unity" from one room to the next. That is up to you as the homeowner and the decorator.

Why do you have to study period styles of furniture?

Well, you don't HAVE to. I can't force you to. But these days in every furniture store in the land and on the web, furniture pieces are usually eclectic pieces that have more than one style used in their design.

Because of this, to an untrained eye, if you are not going to use one of the better interior design firms, without study you may find it difficult to find something that is sure to be in good taste or that has the "bones" of a "classic". But if you stick with the "pure lines" of an accepted period style, then you probably have a classic in front of you and you can be sure it will stand the test of time and be less likely to be something of which you will tire.

It may seem odd that something of ONE style will be MORE interesting over time than something that has elements of more than one style. The opposite would seem to hold true.

But if you think of your wardrobe "mishaps" over the years, they probably almost always were items that combined more than one style or more than one trend or even more than one season.

An example would be faux fur sandals. Sandals are spring wear, and faux fur is autumn wear. Each is fine on its own, but combine them, and you can be positive that this will go out of style quite quickly and be something that in a few years you will never want to be seen in again. And the money will have been wasted. If you have money to spend on furniture that will need to be either donated to charity or completely re-worked by an upholstery genius in a few years, then go for the trends.

If you want to feel confident that your furniture will stand the test of time, go for "pure lines". In other words, it is clear who the parents are. By this I mean that an Art Deco chair should be clearly Art Deco with no room for guessing.

A classic has clearly defined characteristics

Whether you choose French provincial or Art Deco or any other clearly defined and accepted period style, study that style until you understand the elements that define that style and make sure you purchase furniture that is either in that style made during that era or a copy of the style that is very good, by that I mean very pure. This is what any professional at one of the best interior design firms would do if the client has a limited budget or simply wants a room to have a classic look.

AND while we are on the subject, there is no such period style as "Contemporary". Contemporary means what is being made NOW that is either a style never seen before or a combination of styles seen before. In 20 years, it will still be the same term for furniture made THEN, meaning the furniture being manufactured in the year 2032 in a style never seen before or a combination of several styles seen before will be called "Contemporary" in the year 2032.

Concentrate on period styles that have survived the test of time, that being a period style older than 15 years and "accepted" as a period style. So don't buy whatever style it is that you are calling "Contemporary" unless you want to risk it having been a "trend".

You've studied, you've decided, you've purchased, so now what?

Let's say you have followed this advice, picked the dining room on which to start, studied furniture period styles, decided Art Deco is your favorite, purchased beautiful classic pure-lined Art Deco furniture for the dining room but have no idea where to go from here with that room.

If you need help developing a plan for where to place each piece to make it look like one of the leading interior design firms helped you, see my article entitled "Space and traffic planning for furniture placement".

For help with choosing a color scheme for the room, all the public rooms, or the house as a whole, see my article entitled "How to pick colors for your home decorating".

For guidance with accessorizing, see the article entitled, "Accessorizing: Avoiding interior design clichés, kitsch, trends, and grotesques".

For assistance with finishes, see "Finishes: What to do with walls, ceilings, and floors"

A final furniture tip:

Interior Design Firms | St. Louis Interior DesignerIn regard to my advice to use ONE furniture style per room, if you choose to follow this advice, then keep this additional tip in mind to make your rooms truly look professional and stunning, and not staid or boring. If this advice is followed, your rooms will look as if they were decorated by one of the leading interior design firms.

It isn't just an interior design trick, but a fact concerning how people think, or more precisely how the human brain processes information.

When any human being sees something especially for the first time, their mind must immediately in a matter of seconds or minutes "size up" what they are looking at and "categorize" it. This is a safety measure.

Think of it this way, imagine you are walking in the wild grassland plains of Africa and all of a sudden a lion appears 30 feet in front of you, it really would be an extremely bad thing indeed if your brain started processing EVERYTHING in the environment exactly with the same amount of energy and time. The color and texture of the lion's fur, the trees in the distance, the temperature of the day, the sound of the grass moving in the breeze, etc.

At a time like this you really need your brain to quickly "size up" the new situation and decide IMMEDIATELY that the lion in front of you is the most important thing to concentrate on and that in fact, if you don't concentrate ONLY on the lion, your brain may never get another chance to process anything else ever again.

How does this apply to interior design?

Although this concept of "sizing up" a situation or environment quickly does apply to everything you see, let's look at how it works in regard to interior design.

You walk into a room you have never been in before, let's say at a party for example. And let's also say for this example that the room is a dining room.

As you walk into the room your brain COULD start taking real notice of EVERYTHING in the room, but if so, if your mind did this, you would go insane.

First, there is almost no end to the things to notice, such as every single color and shade in the oriental rug on the floor, every detail in every single piece of artwork on all four walls, everything that every single person around you is saying even if they are speaking to someone other than you, the finish and color of the walls, everything that every single person in the room is wearing, including every detail of every single piece of jewelry, and I could go on and on and on and on.

Second, if your brain processed EVERYTHING around you as equally important, then there would be no sense in going to a party because you would never get to socialize, eat, drink, look at other people's clothes, check out other people's interior design, see how so-and-so interacts with her new husband, or anything else that may matter to YOU, because your mind would never get past every detail of every person, and every room.

So instead, long ago, your brain decided what is important to you and what is not. Let's say that you are a people watcher and go to parties like this one to see what people wear, how they interact, who is a gossip, who is a good listener, etc.

So in the real world, with your real personality I described above, your real brain quickly sizes up the dining room and the people and things in it and decides first that you are not in physical danger, and then almost instantaneously (in a matter of seconds) sizes up the room and sees it is Art Deco.

Your brain may not know that the name of the period style is Art Deco, but in any case, you must size it up quickly and dismiss it because YOUR personality wants to get to people watching. So your mind quickly glances about and decides that the common denominators for all the furniture in the room, is "flashy" and "decorative" and "urbane" or "sophisticated" and that's that. You are not interested in interior design or furniture so you move on to people-watching.

And so the owner of the home who wanted to show off her new Art Deco furniture in her dining room is disappointed at the end of the party because no one even seemed to notice her new urbane, classic Art Deco room with ALL Art Deco furniture.

Simple solution:

As a professional of one of the better interior design firms here in St. Louis, I can tell you that that is simple to solve. In every room, pick ONE piece (or a couple-this depends on your personality and the personality of your first chosen furniture style) that is a style VERY different than Art Deco, or whatever style you have chosen.

For example, for your completely modern and urbane Art Deco style, a style completely different (that you also like) may be Shaker. Shaker is so un-flashy that this particular style may require a couple of pieces to be noticed when it is competing with Art Deco, but in any case, place one or a couple of pieces of Shaker furniture here and there in the room, and all of a sudden, when the guests enter and try to instinctively "size up" the room quickly. They can't.

They won't know why, but their brains won't allow them to quite as quickly categorize ALL the furnishings in the room, because they can't ALL be quickly categorized.

I would suggest 80%, or 90%, or even 95%, in one style, the rest a vastly different style.

As all professionals at leading interior design firms know, in this way, the brain of the person entering the room, quickly attempts to place these labels on a room that is mostly Art Deco, their brain may pick the adjectives, "shiny", "decorative", and some people may think Art Deco is "flashy" if they don't like it, and "sophisticated" if they do like it. But whether or not they like it, when their eyes come across the Shaker pieces, it will in effect stop their brain dead in its tracks...

Shaker is "not shiny", "plain" and "not decorative" and maybe sort of "modest", or "humble". You can watch it happen. People may even stop talking in mid-sentence. All of a sudden their brain says "STOP", "re-evaluate these surroundings", the original themes of "shiny", "decorative" and "sophisticated" or "flashy" can't size up everything in this room so easily.

Your brain, and everyone else's works like this to re-assess whether there may be danger in an environment that wasn't noticed the first time the brain evaluated quickly.

You will never be able to make all your guests love your interior design, but you can make them notice your interior design. And after all, there is no greater insult than being ignored completely.

If you are wondering how exactly to make such a trick work for you, remember that the most beautiful thing in the world is confidence! Just as confidence makes a person attractive so confident interiors make interiors attractive. This trick makes you look like a confident professional at one of the better interior design firms!

For additional help with employing this trick, and if you are in St. Louis, contact me for an initial consultation and maybe more, at [email protected]