From Hockey to Headboards: (6) Keys to All-Star Interiors.

Listen…I get it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…we’re a very different kind of interior design team. One part artistic workshop, one part specialty contracting company, and another part full-service interior design firm. We’re uncomfortable with traditional industry labels, as they never seem to capture the individual style and unique personality of each client…and from design to delivery we do business a bit differently. But that’s entirely…by design. I guess while so many design professionals, and self-proclaimed DIY experts, seem hard at work trying to compose the next staged style picture for their fans and their feed…we’re way more interested in composing great interiors for our valued clients. In an industry that can be obsessed with itself, and showcasing the coolest kids in the room…we’re simply dedicated to making our clients feel like the coolest kid…in every room of their home. And speaking of cool, the project I’d like to share with you on this terribly cold January day embodies that word in more ways than one. And is an example of what I’ve been hammering home on the radio for the past couple weeks. That outside of everything you’ve read, seen or been digitally fed, there really are only six keys to creating the perfect room. That’s right six. And…if your interior is missing any one of these elements, it’s probably never going to reach All-Star status.

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To illustrate these six keys I turned to one of our favorite projects; The Family Recreation Center. I know, it’s sounds like a YMCA or name your local municipal athletic facility…only this one’s a residence, has a red metal roof and looks like a modern barn. Sitting on the top of hill, in the middle of a Midwestern prairie, it showcases a swimming pool, an arcade/media room, a killer bar area, a massive Kitchen, sleeps as many as a small hotel…and, oh yeah…has a full-sized ice rink if you’re so inclined.

But what makes this ultimate entertainment home so special isn’t only the materials, the amenities or the original aesthetic…as a limited focus on just those attributes would be a shallow, stylistic review of its coveted features. No, what makes this home so incredible is the amount of care, effort and personality that went into making it a place others could enjoy. Throughout the process of designing this project, the intention on the part of the homeowners was as much an invitation as it was an inspiration for themselves. “Wanna play?” It’s sound so simple right?! Interiors should be designed with intent and maximize their full potential. Something I think we all want for every room in our home, but is often times easier said than done. But with these six keys this homeowner nailed it…and you can too!

1.) Organization: Beyond the endless conversation involving confining the clutter, the baskets and bins, the labels and lamenting, is a discussion of a rooms true purpose. Proper layout and space planning, are the result of an interiors well-defined sense of itself. If you don’t clearly define the intention or purpose of a room, no amount of traditional organization is going to make it function the way it should.

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Design note: This all-in-one entertaining room (Kitchen, Bar, and Multiple Seating Groupings) was specifically designed to find a place for everything, but also look great with everything completely out of place. That’s purposeful flow. From culinary adventures to creative cocktails to great conversation…everything has a place. Evolve your understanding of the term “organization” to one grounded in finding a rooms purpose…and you’ll be amazed how much it can hold.

2.) Personality: The most interesting and complete interiors reveal something personal and important all in an effort to connect us to them on an intimate level. Have you ever dated a really good looking person that for a little while, seems to have it all together? But after a few more dates, you begin to realize you’re in a relationship with someone that doesn’t really have anything to say. Our interiors are no different. When style trumps substance in a room, you’ll tire of it sooner or later.

Design note: It was evident from the very beginning of the project, that this space was going to have a strong personality and a little risk at the core of it’s design. From the complex use of patterned fabrics to the found objects personally curated by the homeowner on the shelving…this interior is as authentic as it gets. So much so, that even the oil paintings (See the image on the back of the Kitchen wall) are landscapes painted by the homeowners Mother.

3.) Durability: Contrary to popular opinion, durable-elegance does exist, you just need to know where to look. Fabric technology has advanced to the point where stains release easily from luxurious and natural looking fabrics we’re often at times hesitant to use. Embrace luxury textiles from some of the best mills on the planet, and look to use them in percentages that make a big impact for less cost.


Design note: Allow yourself to fall in love with luxury fabrics and great fabric companies! Use them in the right percentages, and on the right elements, and it will pay off big time in the overall look of the design. Leave them out of the design…and you’ll always wonder what might have been. Great fabrics punctuate your design. So do well-placed nail heads by the way…as evidenced below.


4.) Flexibility: Remember the days when the furniture in your Mother’s Living Room NEVER moved. So sacred where the layouts to these rooms that only “company” was allowed to use them?! We really don’t live like this anymore, and neither should our rooms. The best rooms, like the best friends, can dress up and dress down in a moment’s notice, pull more people together and if need be move the party outside. We tend to downplay the value of small accent furniture, which allow spaces to expand and contract with our lifestyle. Benches, square ottomans and even occasional chairs that can enhance the fun and function of our rooms are must haves for the complete interior. And always remember to design your exterior environments with as much care and thought as your interior spaces.

Design note: Design with well-scaled accent furniture and create additional groupings that can move around the room wherever they’re needed. And always look to utilize awkward corners and available space in front of windows…as the right piece can make these dead spaces come alive!  

5.) Quality: Unfortunately, we live in an ever increasing disposable world…and our interiors are suffering because of it. The appetite for low-cost, stylish furniture, drop shipped to your house in less than a week has distorted the conversation of what constitutes quality in our interiors…and in our lives for that matter. This is where I like to explain The Design Coach Doctrine of Quality as it relates to interiors; It’s not about how much you spend, but rather where you choose to spend it! Fact, interior design products, especially upholstered goods that cost more are typically made better. That being said, you have to do your homework and discuss what matters to you most. No interior is built in a financial vacuum…so, figure out what you truly value in a room and apply your assets accordingly. And remember, it’s not a question of cost…but one of value. If a rock the size of a quarter costs $50.00, you’d never buy it. But if that same rock was a diamond, you’d be asking how many they have. Remember…value, not cost. But if you don’t really know the difference, educate yourself. Find out how, where and why things were made. Those kinds of quality details matter in the best rooms.

Design note: Expose yourself to quality materials and design products. Educate yourself beyond the digital universe. Explore, touch, feel…inquire. The more you learn why something is priced the way it is, the more you’ll understand its value, and it’s place in your design. What’s more expensive? The sofa you’ll never have to replace? Or the one you’ll replace two or three times over? Don’t think it exists? Just give us a call. We’ll be more than happy to introduce you to our network of quality people and their amazing products. 

6.) History: This one is simple, but it requires some effort. Like the wedding saying, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.” the most interesting and complete interiors have hints of tradition. Not traditional…tradition. A sense of something that preceded its current design. Elements of, or items related to the passions of our past that we still appreciate today…and will for many years to come. We create our own history every day, and don’t forget to include those details in your design.

Design note: An interior without a sense of the past is like someone who’s  forgotten where they came from. Display the passions of your personal history. Look to create rooms…with roots.

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Stay warm everyone…you’ve been coached.

Our valued design/build partners:

Architects: Northworks Archtitects

Construction: Altounian Construction