LEARN DIY Falling into interior design

Settling into autumn, it’s inevitable that our focus moves indoors. we spend more time inside and begin to take on unfinished projects around the house: getting the guest room done before the holidays, cozying things up for winter, or maybe finally getting to a larger scale refresh after a busy summer. In the spirit of hunkering down, here are a few interior considerations to help you think a little deeper about your design approach.


One of the first things to discover when working on a new project is how you want to feel in a space. How can a room be more restful or productive or energetic? Color, balance in materials and proportion, connotations of style, even art, affect us profoundly. A great, book whose main idea constantly informs my design work is Healing Spaces: The Science and Place of Well-Being by Esther M. Sternberg, M.D. The author explores the science behind our connection to the places we inhabit and how they affect both our emotions and our physical bodies. Science shows that patients who have a garden view through their hospital window heal faster and need fewer pain meds than those with a brick wall view.* “Beauty” is certainly in the eye of the beholder, but the connection I make is the following: our homes can and should be more than just a collection of objects that fill an otherwise empty space. Do you love Asian art? See yourself as a nerdy intellectual? A world traveler, or a beach town girl? Our surroundings should reflect, engage and maybe even “heal” us – not because they’re perfect or some idealized version of what’s “in style,” but because we connect to them. They remind us of who we are and aspire to be.


Architectural elements are the attached features that would not fall out if you gently tipped your house upside down. Doors, floors, windows, shelves, cabinets, hardware, even some light fixtures. In some homes, these elements can be loaded with style underlining the spirit of the structure itself. (Think heavy moldings in a Victorian, louvered Jalousie windows in a Mid-Mod ranch, pine wood cabinets in a Colonial, etc.) Over time and renovations, styles become a hot mess of various tastes and decades. Returning these fixed features to something akin to the original design of the house will make the entire space feel calm and cohesive. If you actively dislike the architecture of your house, do your best to minimize it with simple, neutral replacements and clean lines. The idea is to create a calm and unified backdrop to layer in your preferred decorative style. Whether you’re inspired by your architecture, or choose to contrast against it, (i.e. an ornate Victorian shell filled with the spare lines of Mid-Century modern furniture), the bottom line is to acknowledge your home’s inherent bones. They can be neutralized or highlighted, based on your preferences, but ignoring them is a missed opportunity for something wonderful.


Of course, I love the idea of hiring an interior designer to assist! There really is a method to nailing an amazing room, and if it’s in your budget, it’s well worth it to have all the expertise, passion and resources of a designer to guide you as well as do all the legwork to enhance your space. Word of mouth is paramount in this business, so asking around for a recommendation is key, but so is chatting up the shopkeepers in the stylish gift or antique shops or galleries you like. Designers frequent these spots for merchandise, so staff may have insight that can help you find someone you’ll get on with.

If your budget is small, hire a designer for an hour or two to develop a house palette for your long-term projects. With minimal input, a good designer can give you a cohesive and specific mix of primary and accent colors that work together perfectly to create a mood and guide you as you move through paint, fabrics, or furniture down the road.

If hiring a design guru is not an option, spend time trawling design sites like Pinterest and Houzz to get inspiration and start to zero in on your plan. Designers go there all the time, so you should too! Once you have a clear-ish vision for your project, head into a home store like The Home Studio in Grand Rapids. Besides offering furniture and accessories in the store, they will consult with you on your project and guide you in choosing fabrics, furniture, wall or floor coverings accessories and more. They provide a great resource for the local pros, so it’s the perfect place for you to get some expert opinions and guidance without full on design fees.

Insert_AmandaAmanda Roelofs is Grand Rapids based interior designer with her own firm and a former televison art director. Find out more at www.amandaroelofs.com

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