Three hours of painting, $7.50 in supplies, and two hours of rearranging furniture, accessories and art equals happy twins.
I’ve been involved as a designer in my twin Doni’s house since the day she bought it in 2010.
What a blast we had, while she lived up the street with me during those six months. We remodeled on a tight budget, with twin -power collaboration, knocking out walls, putting up new walls, sky lights, flooring, paint, and so on.
The house turned out so well that it was featured on AAUW’s 2012 Home Tour.
Because I wanted to continue our creative streak, I felt almost sad to see the project end.
Fast forward five years to last week. Doni announced she’d scored a fantastic deal on a can of “oops paint” from a local hardware store. For those who know not of this wonderful thing, “oops paint” is paint sold at a steep discount due to color error. Hence, the “oops”.
That’s why I rarely go to a hardware store that I don’t cruise by the paint department, hoping to find a great bargain among those orphaned cans of paint with crossed-out bar codes and dried paint drips.
Doni also makes a habit of checking for oops paint. That’s how she recently hit the mother lode when she found that special gallon of paint previously priced at $53, marked down to $7.50: Benjamin Moore, Regal Select Premium Interior Paint and Primer, Flat Finish.
The color was officially called “stone” – and sure enough, upon first glance, the dried paint on the can looked to be a straightforward gun-metal gray. But not so fast. With a head tilt, there it was: a purpleish hue. I’m guessing that the paint’s oops status emerged when it ended up being too gray a purple, or too purple a gray.
No matter, I had a free rainy Friday, and was itching to paint. Doni, for the record, loathes painting. But I rather enjoy it, unless the project requires scaffolding over a stairwell (which I’ve done, btw).
Paint, hands down, gives the most dramatic bang for your design buck than anything else. It’s instant design-gratification in a can.
Doni wanted the gray-purple to replace the existing candle-light yellow wall on the south end of her open space living/dining area.
Here’s a design tip: I took a quickie pix of the existing art wall to ensure I’d hang it exactly as it was before.
As Doni was leaving, she mentioned the option of switching out the current collection of bridge art with the large koi painting that I’d created years ago. This piece has orange fish, and lily pads of purple, chartreuse and lime green.
“Start with art” is my design mantra. In this case, the large koi painting and the new purple-gray wall served in pulling the entire room together. “Pow!” was the impact of the koi painting against that fresh purple-gray wall, with Doni’s sea-foam green couch below.
I’d painted that koi piece many years ago, yet there were streaks of color that exactly matched Doni’s newish couch (cue designer goosebumps) Boy oh boy, did her chartreuse coffee table harmonize with the koi painting’s chartreuse lily pads.
I noticed that the base of Doni’s contemporary dining table was a Chinese red, which would not do, with the new influence of the koi painting. Doni was expected to return in two hours.
One of the great things about having Doni as a sister is that she gives me free design-rein on her projects, which results in me being more creatively productive. No turning back. The design ball was rolling.
No problem, as I had extra grey-purple paint, and set about painting the dining table base. The dining table top was already chartreuse — like the coffee table — so things were streaming smoothly in the color flow.
I hung the bridge art collection on the T-hall at the end of the room, where the koi formerly hung.
It was then that I wistfully lamented the dilemma of the long, narrow room. With an hour to go before Doni’s return, I focused my attention on solving the problem of the skinny room, by establishing zones.
It’s surprising how much difference scooting a table two feet down the room, can make. I separated the room into thirds, with zones of seating area, dining room and reading nook at the the end of the room.
While Doni’s seating area was a cozy and inviting space, it had the feeling of being too cramped.
Full disclosure, it was probably yours truly who created this original furniture arrangement. Come to think of it, that was before she’d added three more pieces of furniture: a massive pale yellow intricately carved round side table, and feminine floral chair with matching ottoman.
I’m going to throw sis under the bus on this one: seemingly too much furniture for that space. Then again, Doni’s lifestyle is cooking and entertaining, actively employing full use of a couch, burgundy leather club chair, high-backed rattan slider and floral chair with matching ottoman.
With Doni’s kitchen arena mere feet from the seating area, it seemed practical to somehow enlarge the space beyond the limits of edge of the area rug. The two biggest culprits for this crowding, turned out to be the massive pale yellow table and the high backed rattan glider at the entrance of the seating area: both, visual and spatial road blocks.
I moved the large pale yellow ornate table to the other side of the couch by the window, and moved the existing small wooden side table, down to the third of the room with the tan leather chair reading nook. I then switched places of the the large high back rattan glider with the low profile floral chair and ottoman, except, instead of aligning the rattan chair next to the fireplace, I chose positioning the rattan chair diagonally in front of the corner of the fireplace.
This achieved a few measures, first, giving a pleasing curved, textural and color contrast to the hardscape of the brick fireplace. Second, feng shui practice would approve of the sharp fireplace corner being protected by the large chair. Feng shui or not, it just felt better. I pulled the floral chair and ottoman back nearly three feet, nestled it close to the hutch, which opened the view of the kitchen and bar.
The “S” curves of the chair and the hutch mimicked each other beautifully, as well as the floral chair’s thick ropey fringe matching the creamy color of the hutch, and the sweet sentimental lamp (a white elephant acquisition from a dear departed friend), on small round brass table (snagged, mostly unused, from another room … sorry, Doni), even having a brass fringe light pull.Be still, my designer heart! These are the little things that make me happy! This simple switching of two chairs — placed diagonally across each other, separated by a round chartreuse coffee table — serves as a visual arrow stretching the room, bringing extra dimension to the seating area.
This change added nearly four extra feet to the use of the seating area, giving the impression and reality of the room being wider.
Every seat needs a place with adequate lighting and a place to land a drink, from the petite brass table, round coffee table, small square table between the rattan glider and leather club chair, and intricately carved round side table.
The carved table, in particular, brought dramatic contrast set off against the purple-grey wall, a place for a reading lamp and artful accessories. The burgundy leather club chair was arranged at a right angle with the couch, sharing the large round side table.
At the end of the room, beyond the dining table, is the third zone of a reading nook with a leather arm chair, small side table, and lamp. The color scheme of that chair and table coordinates nicely with the sepia-toned bridge art in the hall; far better than the koi painting would have been.
Much of my redesign work is done on a “gut” level, but I always stop to mentally process the methods that justify and validate my design impulses. Once I’m finished redesigning a room, I stand back to dissect the room’s anatomy. In analyzing why it “works”, I begin to see, often with amusement, emerging patterns and themes that I wasn’t cognizant of when doing my work.
When a person walks into a room that is well put together, there is a “click” and connection of feeling “right”. There is a sensible realization and awareness, as well as a subconscious instinct that agrees with balance of color, composition and subtleties of texture and materials. I believe in the importance of living in spaces that resonate with us on a personal level.
“Start with art” is the ideal format for creating a space that reflects our tastes and personalities. Being true to what we love, in using art as an inspirational springboard, will enable you to experience the domino effect in the simplicity of the influence of your art, whether it’s a painting, a sculpture, woven rug, piece of pottery, or even just one wall, painted purple-grey or grey-purple.
I was sitting in the high-backed rattan chair, sipping a cup of Earl Grey, when Doni arrived home. We always laugh at those design shows, where the design client gets emotional upon the design “reveal” — mouth agape, fanning tears of joy.
Guess what? That was Doni. Her surprised, happy reaction to my total of fives hours of design work was the best gift a redesigning twin could have.