When we were discussing ideas for new columns this year, I sat back and thought about what I felt was really missing from the web. I kept coming back to the idea of decorating, but I wanted to tackle something more practical and knowledge-based, rather than just inspiration. While trying to shape the column’s focus I was reminded of an important lesson I learned while writing Design*Sponge at Home: photographs should teach and not just describe. I was so used to listing and linking items in a home tour, rather than using it as a teaching moment (to explain how and why the things in a room worked), that I was missing a chance to really help readers (and myself) gain more design confidence and practical decorating skills. So it’s with that concept in mind- empowering readers with practical design lessons and tips- that I’m launching this new series. Learning From A Room will examine one single room from the perspective of the decorator (whether that’s a home owner or interior designer) and break down the design skills, tips and principles being used so you can learn from them and try them in your own home. I hope this column will help break down the some of the walls between inspiration and creative realization. Here’s to tackling our design challenges head on in 2014!
Today we’re starting with my favorite interior designer, Portland, Oregon’s Jessica Helgerson. This dining room is part of a full Brooklyn home tour you can see right here. All photographs are courtesy of Andrew Cammarano – xo, grace
Click through for the full interview, decorating tips and Jessica’s go-to white paint!
What was your goal with this room or what was the client’s goal with this room?
Jessica: Our clients wanted a happy, colorful, original, pop-art feeling. Our goal was to achieve that for them.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in this room?
Jessica: This room is the first room you come into as you enter the brownstone. Our biggest challenge was letting go of trying to make it a living room and dining room, and just letting it do the one thing well. We put the living room downstairs in what was intended to be the “family room” and it totally works.
What design idea or concept does this room best represent?
Jessica: To me this room is all about contrast…bright, fresh, and modern meeting natural, rustic and handmade with a sizzly pop!
There are so many great color and paint choices happening in this room- what are your overall tips for choosing paint colors?
Jessica: When it comes to choosing paint colors I think a good tip is ‘Don’t fight the space’ For example, painting a dark basement room a happy yellow is really not a good idea. Paint it dark grey instead and just let it be what it wants to be anyway. Similarly I normally wouldn’t paint a light-filled bright room a dark color, I’d probably just paint it white. (Our go-to white paint is Benjamin Moore’s ‘White Opulence’ OC-69!)
How did you choose the red paint colors behind the bookcase?
Jessica: I like contrasting colors and colors that are almost identical (like in our bookshelf). There are actually four paint colors back there and they were picked by looking at lots of paint samples, and drawing numerous Sketchup models until we landed on what felt just right.
How/why did you choose to leave the exposed ceiling beams unpainted?
Jessica: We wanted to keep the natural elements rough and earthy to contrast against the polished modern ones. It balances the room and keeps it from feeling sterile.
How did you choose the contrasting colors between the turquoise chairs and the red wall?
Jessica: I love red and turquoise together. They just look so good. I’m always inspired by the color combinations that Mexican architect Luis Barragan uses. He does radical things with color that are somehow so beautiful.
When choosing a light fixture, how did you choose this shape, style and color?
Jessica: For one thing, we love David Weeks (the lighting designer). The explosion of shiny modern black balls in this fixture of his feel bold, playful, and happy; a look our clients were eager to achieve.
You chose to leave the floor bare under the table, could you elaborate on that decision and/or why a rug would have not been the best choice?
Jessica: I’m not a big fan of rugs under dining tables, just from a practical standpoint. And we really didn’t need to introduce more color or pattern, it felt balanced and finished just like this.
Do you have any styling tips for styling a large shelf area like this one?
Jessica: I’m often in favor of not really styling. . . I usually think bookshelves are good for books, or other useful things, arranged in whatever way is practical. In this case though, the shelf is really an art piece not a “book” shelf. We wanted to contrast the bright colors and bold angles of our painted backdrop with earthy, natural, and handmade things. With that goal in mind, we set up the rule to only select items made of pale wood, white ceramic, paper, or clear glass. The objects are all handmade by Brooklyn and Portland artists and craftspeople, whom we love to support.
Are there any other tips or ideas from this room you’d like to share?
Jessica: The little sofa that you see on the left provides comfortable seating in the kitchen. These days we are trying to incorporate really cozy sofa-type seating in most kitchens that we design. It makes the place that everyone wants to hang out in anyway that much more welcoming!