Thursday, January 17, 2008

Interior Design: The Law of Evolution of a Room

We’ve all heard the quote “focus on the journey, not the destination.”

I think this applies beautifully to the complex world of interior design, where nothing ever seems to go according to plan and your vision remains simply that…a vision. The room ends up looking totally different from what you'd planned.

Let me give you an example to illustrate:

Imagine that your living room furniture is a neutral beige and white. You decide you want to re-paint your walls a simple white, and introduce pale blue drapes...something Very Dreamy. But you look and look and you can’t find a lovely pale blue fabric. In fact, you can’t find anything remotely like what you envisioned! You do, however, find some gorgeous florals. In fact, there is one exquisite pink and green floral which has ample white in it. It would be so pretty with those crisp white walls and neutral furnishings! But what about your blue? Your heart's been set on it ever since you found a handsome wool rug (which you can afford) that has a trace of the finest blue in it. And you already have a small collection of pale blue pottery you wanted to use to accessorize! Darn. And what's worse, the pink in the floral print isn't quite the right pink to work with your one odd piece of furniture: a pale pink slipper chair. You wanted to replace that chair anyway, but not yet. Maybe you could slip-cover it white? What would that cost?

Suddenly, not being able to find blue drapery fabric means a complete re-invention of the room. Now you’re doing white with soft green and pink! Very pretty, but you need to start scouting a new rug. And your accessories are no longer be relevant. And you suddenly need to slip-cover a chair.

Does this sound familiar? If so, it's because this is The Law of Evolution of a Room.

The evolution law says that, in decorating, you must be very, very flexible. You must be comfortable changing your mind on a dime. You must be systematic and spontaneous all at once. And you must never be too fixated on your vision, no matter how noble. Or if you are fixated on a vision, you must have lots of money and/or time to accomplish it (with time and money, you can do anything after all...maybe even become an astronaut).

If you do have a vision and you're sticking to it, you should be willing to sacrifice everything you already own by moving it to the basement forever, or painting it white, or selling it all on e-Bay. But for most of us, we are stuck with what we own, and have to work around it. Our vision becomes a chore.

The second axiom of The Law of Evolution of a Room states that when you’re decorating a room, everything hinges on everything else. I need to procure this before I can buy that. This colour suddenly doesn’t work with this new other thing. Roadblocks abound. You can't get new knobs for your kitchen cabinets until you choose a light fixture for your dining room, since you want to coordinate the metal and finish. But you can't pick out a light fixture until you decide if you're keeping your traditional table or buying that cool new one you just saw. Everything becomes horribly dependent on everything else, like a giant flow diagram with arrows pointing in all directions.

Which is why they say to focus on the journey (for your sanity). Because the truth is, you will never ever get to your destination. And if you do get somewhere, it's likely not the place you were aiming for. So do your best, relax, and change your mind a few hundred times. After all, who are you to challenge the universal laws of decorating?


  1. Oh my gawd, this is exactly why I have so much trouble buying an outfit. Preconceived ideas!

  2. I adore that sofa :-)
    Many hugs from a weekend working katarina

  3. You are such a good writer, I just agree with everything you say!

  4. balsamfir5:45 pm

    You mean this happens to everyone? After a day of sanding woodwork, its and trying to decide finally what color to tint the paint I've got to put on the wall on monday, a decision I've been putting off for a year, this is very encouraging news. Thanks.

  5. Lovely post Terri. I couldn't agree more with the Evolution of a room. It all boils down to being flexible, finding the treasures, and enjoying the process.

  6. Yep! This is why I tell people all the time that I don't believe in "having a plan" for a room. You can start out with one but usually it is best to go with the flow.

    And that is how you end up with something more personal! Who could ever duplicate that effort and the happy finds you stumble upon during the process?

  7. Fantastic post. Rather gives one hope.

  8. I enjoy your blog. Adding it to my regular blog reading. Thanks for your comments on the Graham rug. I did order it but didn't sleep a wink thinking I made a bad choice. Story of my life---make a bad purchase and then the rest of the room has to morph to accomodate the "intruder". Sigh. But it will be fine - perhaps it will take me in a whole new direction -- which is part of the fun!

  9. Aahhh this is the story of my life. A few years ago I was in love with orange as an accent...i bought some lovely orange accent pillows for my bed - but then everyone was doing orange and i grew tired of it. Now I'm really into pink - hot pink. But try finding fabric with hot pink! HARD. So - new palette? grey, cream dark wood...with accents of pink, black & white and gold metal. For me - the gold never changes! Lovely post.