Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Designing Thoughts

I have an unabashed love of exuberant rooms; those creative and colourful interiors that speak such engrossing volumes about the individuals who live within them. To me, there is nothing more enticing than a home filled to pop with books, collections, patterns, textures, antiques, paintings, flowers and dogs... rooms artfully arranged - a bit dramatic, and eminently comfortable. The English Country House style, although admittedly fictionalized a bit, has always made my heart sing and it is a style certainly reflected in my own home. This of course does not mean that I cannot appreciate other avenues and other approaches to design. Indeed, one of the more enjoyable challenges of my profession are the projects that require a jump or two outside my personal taste and total immersion in another. I have created many varied interiors for my clients, from all white romantic country to sleek sophisticated urban, but no one could ever call me a minimalist. The straight lines and stark colours of the minimalist style leave me a bit chilled. It appears I have a kindred spirit in the British furniture designer, Mark Wilkinson. Known best for his gorgeous kitchens, Mr. Wilkinson has a rollicking interview in the latest issue of The English Home; an interview that left me nodding and chuckling a bit. Here is his quote on the reason why he is not a fan of minimalism. While I would not express myself quite as stridently as he on the subject - especially in that first sentence - I do think he has a wonderful philosophy on the importance of interior design as the vital art form that I feel it is.

“...Minimalism is a kind of emotional bankruptcy...a refuge for those who do not understand the grammar of ornamentation or the symbolism of colour. I can see and make an argument for design being the most profound and enlightening of art forms. A play or piece of literature by Shakespeare is very effective, a painting by Monet or Van Gogh especially is shudderingly expressive, a piece of music by Rachmaninoff, by Elgar, by John Lee Hooker, whomever, can be very effective, but you don’t live with the piece of music playing in your ear. The voice of design is softer. It doesn’t have the same volume of other artistic mediums but it is all-powerful and all-persuasive by virtue of the fact that it is there subliminally all the time that your eyes are open. If we put people in surroundings of wonder, they express that sense of wonder, of beauty, of joy and that’s what you should be doing with design. Why create an environment that says, “I’m not here to look nice cluttered.” I want to walk into an environment that says, “hello mate, been working hard all day? Take off your shoes, that’s ok...”

The photo above is of the famed Yellow Room of Nancy Lancaster and is often referenced as the definitive example of English Country House Style.

33 comments:

  1. Nancy Lancaster's drawing room is one of the most beautiful drawing rooms of all time and so much the English country style, although she was not English but American. Lovely quote Pamela and beautiful illustration, xv.

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  2. A friend once told us he loved visiting, because we had such welcoming clutter. I'm not sure how else to live, where would the books and toys go?

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  3. I enjoy clean lines on furniture, but could never live in a home devoid of color or collections. Those things are the heart of the home for me.

    I enjoyed the quote as well. It's funny. My entry today is about my decorating scrap book made from torn magazine pages. How do you keep up with looks that you've seen and like?

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  4. I call this look 'Granite Club', 'Old Money' or 'Royalty'. So wonderful.

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  5. Quite a color on those walls! It must be challenging designing for someone else’s taste when you have such a strong sense of your own. When I create characters I often use home decorating – minimalism vs. artful clutter etc. - says more than descriptive words on characters. That quotation on minimalism was interesting.

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  6. It doesn't say to me "sit here and live" but I do find it more inviting than minimalist. My sister gave me a subscription to Veranda years ago, because she loved it. The style is over the top for me, but it is beautiful.

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  7. It's very beautiful and in my younger days would have been my dream room. In my older days,
    less is best!

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  8. I love the "Take your shoes off, it's ok...." part of the quote. That's the most important thing, isn't it? That one feels comforted in one's own home. A minimalist space does not scream of comfort and familiarity.

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  9. When we redecorated our room rrecently we de cluttered a bit but its gradually creeping back in! I am enjoying thje plain clean lines for the moment but I do love a bit of 'lavish'

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  10. "Cluttered" with books and all sorts of treasures- that make a house a home. I love rooms of that size that can hold all of the things we want around us.

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  11. My favorite room! A great quote to go with it.

    but but but -
    you are SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooo
    beautiful! really breathtaking!

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  12. I want so much to make that room in miniature. *sigh* It's gorgeous!

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  13. What a beautiful room! I love the yellow and exuberance.

    I am a fan of arranged clutter ... deliberately strewn, colour coded; as long as I know where everything is.

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  14. What a fantastic room. Oh to be that good!

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  15. Great quote! And SO comfortable and beautiful.

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  16. Thank you so much for your caring comments Pamela and Edward, I am sure I can incluse Edward, They still sustain me.
    I have enjoyed your post that I had missed in my enforced absence, just not together enough to leave a comment.
    I fully concur with your sentiments on decor, one does not wish to live in a showroom but in a comfortable home where the book left open speaks more eloquently than a row of glass fronted cabinets.

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  17. I love rooms that are "living", not just for show but wonderfully interesting, eclectic bits & pieces, english country style, arranged just so. Delicious, visual extensions of their owner.

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  18. Love this post. Love what you wrote hre:

    "one of the more enjoyable challenges of my profession are the projects that require a jump or two outside my personal taste and total immersion in another. "

    --That is so good if you can do that and even embrace it as your own for that bit. Not always an easy task to do but I suspect it makes you very good at what you do. Enjoy.

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  19. Lovely!


    Here! Here!...I couldn't agree more:-)


    I love that you wrote this:

    "To me, there is nothing more enticing than a home filled to pop with books, collections, patterns, textures, antiques, paintings, flowers and dogs... rooms artfully arranged - a bit dramatic, and eminently comfortable. The English Country House style, although admittedly fictionalized a bit, has always made my heart sing and it is a style certainly reflected in my own home."

    Pamela, these are my sentiments to a Tee!

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  20. I have actully tried to be more of a minimalist, but it never gave me anything to wrap myself in when I walked into the house - I would say that my true style is electic - things I love and the clutter of everyday living - when I step in the door, I feel immediately the sense of 'home' and I love being here.

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  21. That yellow feels zippy and like Katie said, love the "hello mate!"
    I'm a clutter person but sometimes I yearn for that sterile, uncluttered room. Maybe the clutter is womblike and the sparse, clean room is a the point where you let go. ? Or maybe I've had too much coffee today.

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  22. wow this room is amazing, would be such a experience to see it in real life, i'd spend hours in there!

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  23. Wouldn't it be nice to be a guest in a country house with such a room? I could never aspire to living in a place so grand but a weekend slice would be lovely!

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  24. I agree wholeheartedly Pamela! People always comment on our house, our home, and how much it expresses about it's occupants. I cannot understand minimalism in a home. I need comfort and cosiness.

    I might tolerate minimalism in a beautiful hotel room I've gone to to clear my head and rest undisturbed... (Imagine... In my dreams!)

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  25. A very beautiful room! Some clutter is good, reminds us that life isn't perfect.

    Pamela- where would I find the drawing that Patricia did of Edward on your blog?

    Enjoy! xoxo

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  26. I love the photo...I could look at it for hours.

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  27. British author Elizabeth Goudge wrote a delightful series of books centred on a house called Damerosehay...suspect you might enjoy them if you chased them up!

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  28. I've always believed 'More is More'. I love living amongst my clutter.

    Every piece has a story and a memory.

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  29. A post after my own heart! Did you see my most recent posts on interior decor? What is it about winter that makes one's thoughts turn to exuberant interiors, of which your illustration here is an exceptional example. Thanks for posting this uplifting photo...

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  30. Wow - loved the quote. What my husband calls clutter, I call necessary visual stimuli! :-)

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  31. The houses where I feel the most at-home are always the ones that feel "lived-in." I appreciate minimalism in interiors, but only would enjoy living in that for a very short period-- a place wouldn't feel like home to me without some clutter.

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  32. Minimalist rooms leave me uncomfortable. I start to look at myself and realise I don't have those same crisp edges, I don't have the uncluttered head space nor do I have the same pristine un-lived in feeling about myself. I feel out of place in such rooms. Give me Wind in the Wilow's Badger's Home any time.

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