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Architecture & design

Style – and how to achieve it

— March 2012

Article read level: Art lover

Associated media

A spread from 10 Principles of Good Interior Design by Vinny Lee

10 Principles of Good Interior Design

By Vinny Lee

'Get yourself a dedicated  notebook' may not be one of the 10 principles of good interior design outlined here but according to the author of this book, that is where it all begins. Measure your room, including windows and any unusual features, scour magazines, books, brochures, make copies, note page numbers, colours and textiles, visit shops, investigate periods and styles of furniture, wall coverings and fabrics.  Putting it another way – do your research and gather ideas.

Vinny Lee, Interiors Editor of the Times Magazine and author of over 20 books on interiors and design, highlights the foundational question when embarking on a design project: What is the purpose and function of the space?  Lee points out that the answer to such a question can usually be found in a person's lifestyle.  Do you like to entertain or do you rarely cook? This will help you decide priorities when designing kitchen/dining spaces.  Is the area part of a busy family home where children's paraphernalia needs to be stored and accessed?  Does the space have one task or will it be a dual function space such as living/dining room?  This type of analysis opens up fresh  ways of thinking and brings to the fore a variety of options and possibilities.

Bringing everything together to give cohesion and meaning creates an effective sense of style.  But how to achieve this desirable end?  Lee counsels 'Find a look you feel comfortable with and stay true to it'.  Do you want to choose an historical period style? Is there an art work or object that you want to base your style around?  Is there a particular designer whose work you want to emulate?

Consideration of space and shape, not forgetting focal points and features, will create a flow through a home so that it is a comfortable and easy space to live in.  Basic considerations, such as having the kitchen in close proximity to the dining room, bedrooms and bathrooms close to each other, quiet rooms and noisy rooms at a distance from each other need, to be taken into account. Lee counsels allowing rooms and pieces of furniture a space to breathe so crowding is avoided.

The effect of natural light and the creation of artificial light in each design space can have a dramatic effect on any plan.  Lee's advice is to maximize the use of natural light, for example by the use of mirrors, choice of paint colour, use of tie-backs.  Artificial lighting can highlight features and provide atmospheric effects so can be used creatively towards the overall finished scheme.

Lee encourages experimenting with and enjoying colour. Creating your own palette of colour effects enhances your overall design, whether bold, layered, neutral, mixed, all can achieve effective results.

Using diversity of pattern and texture builds up layers of contrast and variety.  Lighting can affect how different surfaces respond, so fabrics can be considered in both daylight and artificial light to reveal the disparate ways they reflect light.  Surfaces also need to be considered to reveal their effects: stone, metal, wood, will all contribute their own character to a scheme.

But back to the notebook!  Using all the measurements, ideas and samples you have gathered, Lee advises narrowing down the possibilities, making some tentative decisions and creating a 'mood board'. This is a large white sheet of card or notice board on which you fix pictures, swatches, colours to give you some idea of what the overall finished effect would look like. Nor should you forget to take into account the effect of accessories, those finishing touches that can transform the overall effect of a decorative scheme.

Faced with a volume brimming with full-colour illustrations of every style of interior design imaginable, even the dullest amateur interior designer cannot fail to be enthused into creativity. Extremely helpful checklists are placed at the end of the book, arranged around the ‘ten principles of good interior design’.  They concisely highlight the points made and questions posed throughout the book to stimulate creative thinking and effective decision making.

Interspersed throughout the text are vignettes of advice from international designers who give their individual nuggets of wisdom and suggestions for developing a coherent design.  These very successfully offer different viewpoints and a variety of stimulating challenges. As Karen Howes, one of the expert contributors puts it : 'The secret is to make it effortless'.  If only it were that easy! Ah well, back to the mood board....

10 Principles of Good Interior Designby Vinny Leeis published Vivays Publishing, 2011. 216 pp., 173 col illus. ISBN 978-908126-10-8


Susan Grange
Independent art historian

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