Over the years I’ve heard the comment, “I love looking at the gorgeous magazine pictures but those homes are always so big and grand. They are miles from my standard tract home. All I end up with is house envy, not any helpful decorating ideas.” I’m here to tell you it is possible to find ideas in those McMansion photo spreads….you just need to focus on the details.
Real vs Grand
As a designer I keep notebooks filled with photos that catch my eye and that I refer to over and over for inspiration. I might have originally pulled the photo because of an unusual window treatment but months or years later it sparks an idea for something entirely different. There is always something to be learned from the photos, even if it is to help identify what you DON’T like.
This room is a good sized room as you can determine by how much clearance there is between the furniture pieces. To highlight just a few things I can learn or adapt to a more “average” home:
- use a colorful bolster pillow on a sofa to change up the shapes
- pattern mix ideas; flank a large window with bookshelves (if you don’t have or want built-ins, add free standing bookcases)
- create multipurpose zones by adding a narrow desk and the chair can turn around and become part of the room seating when needed
- ideas to style bookcase shelves
- wall color against crisp white molding
- sleek window treatment idea
With the trend to great rooms, we don’t usually have formal living room spaces like this anymore. However, I can still find ideas for a standard sized room in this photo. I notice things like:
- the size of art over the fireplace;
- the textured carpet (you could substitute more budget friendly sisal or other natural fiber)
- draperies that are a color not repeated in any of the furnishings
- furniture arrangement idea of 2 facing sofas (though yours likely wouldn’t be 12′ apart!)
- a chair cozied up to the fireplace
- a pleasing color scheme of olive green/caramel/brown/gold
- the scale of the tall table lamps
This dining room is large enough for a table that seats 8, a fireplace and a large sideboard. What’s the first thing you notice about the room? The color!
- A photo like this will help you decide if you want this much energy in your room or not
- consider using pattern on the ceiling
- formal furnishings against a definitely informal color
- using thick patterned draperies at the window
This Showhouse bedroom was designed for a young girl. Personally I think it looks more appropriate for a guest room – the colors and finishes are a bit too sophisticated for most young girls I’ve ever known. What can you see in this luxurious room that will translate to a more modest space?
- the lush ’canopy’ could be replicated affordably by using some pretty draperies hung from a rod (there’s some major yardage in this version)
- layered white on white bed linens makes a fresh, pretty look – and only 2 coordinating pillows keeps the looks clean and simple
- use a folding screen in a corner to hide….toys, clothes, etc. No room for a big screen? Downsize it by hinging together 2 floor mirrors or narrow closet doors and then stencil them with a pretty design; or, just lean a large mirror, shutter, or painted closet door for an architectural element
- tie the color of your bedskirt to the headboard treatment instead of the bedding
- take the soft wall color (lavender in this case) up on the ceiling
Bathrooms have become a hotbed of high design interest. So many fabulous products, so few bathrooms! Use your local home improvement store as a starting point, but remember that there are myriad other options and shop the internet carefully – you may be able to achieve your spa look for much less than you thought.
Okay, sometimes photos of grand rooms are just that ….. grand rooms. Sometimes there is nothing to learn – but everything to enjoy. I’m thinking this bath must be in a luxury hotel somewhere exotic and it makes me drool smile! I want to spend a long weekend in this bathroom!
I don’t know many people who have room for a lounge chair and table, even in their master bathroom. Lounge area aside, my inspiration ideas are:
- use those big 18×18 or 24×24 tiles up the walls – it’s space expanding and spa like
- use a natural flooring to contrast with cold tiles (sisal rug, wood, etc)
- find room for a planter with some greenery
- add candlelight; don’t have stone shelves? add inexpensive glass ones
This fantasy bathroom is another one that takes you ‘away’ – wherever that is for you. Looking hard I found a couple of design lessons:
- mix textures – wood, stone, tile, glass
- look for unusual fixtures, the best you can afford; they’ll make you love being in your bathroom every day
- no big sliding door to the tropical outdoors for you? Substitute an oversize photo or mural wallpaper
- use a simple, natural color palette
Time for a Quiz
Here’s a photo for you to try your hand at evaluating. What inspiration, lessons, ‘aha’ moments can you find in this photo? I won’t be sharing my observations because I want you to see for yourself that it’s possible to find something of value that can be translated for use in your home.
Lesson for Today
I was a harsh task master today. I forced you to look at photos of oversized rooms luxuriously decorated and then to imagine how you could reinterpret those rooms for your own space. Don’t be intimidated by size or $$$; use your imagination and figure out how to accomplish a similar look on your budget.
Do you have trouble visualizing magazine photos as anything you can use for your home? Do you keep a file of inspiration photos? Need a little help turning an inspiration photo into a reality? Chat with us about it; we’re here to help.