5 Ways Luxury Interior Designers Look at Homes That You Don’t

How do we make choices when we’re doing a home? As interior designers, we often use ideas and elements that our clients would never think of trying on their own, so they assume that we have an innate talent for pulling things together. Some of us do, but it takes much more than inborn talent to think like a luxury interior designer.

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To add grandeur to a small foyer, we extended it into a contiguous corner of the living room of a living room and designed it to also serve as a serene sitting area or an intimate dining area. (Image: Jessica Lagrange Interiors)

The truth of the matter is that we’re all highly trained pros with years of schooling in design, architecture, lighting, construction, building codes, materials and more. Sure, we’re creative too. But as we pointed out in an article on the Huffington Post, mistakes can be much more costly than fees in luxury interior design, and we know how to prevent them thanks to our training, experience and the way we look at projects. Here are five things we see when we design projects that homeowners rarely consider.

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How to repurpose the Playboy Mansion’s historically significant grand ballroom? We created zoned activity areas. View the entire project here. (Image: Jessica Lagrange Interiors)

1. We see things for what they aren’t—but can be: “A rose is a rose is a rose” goes the famed saying, or things are what they are. But not really when it comes to our homes; today dining rooms can be home offices and libraries and living rooms incorporate work, play and dining areas. There are endless ways to use rooms, and interior designers know how to make them do double or triple duty or “reassign them” to meet homeowner’s needs. The same goes for furnishings, which can be mutable rather than static. Benches can divide rooms or stand in as formal seating at dining tables; wardrobes can be bookcases or even hold entire home offices; and gateleg tables can grace foyers, sofa backs, hallways and more.

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In a historic home, a study is repurposed as a formal dining room. Its paint colors and furnishings maximize the architecture to give the room a more expansive and grand demeanor. (Image: Jessica Lagrange Interiors)

2. We know how to maximize a home’s architecture: How can you make a low ceiling seem higher or keep a soaring ceiling from turning a room cavernous? And what should you do with the architectural details in your home, such as moldings, mantels, columns, coves, beams, wainscoting, arches, paneling and more. Interior designers know how to add or subtract architectural details to make busy spaces cool, tranquil or elegant; pedestrian spaces exciting, sophisticated or dramatic; and formal spaces casual—or the reverse.

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Freshly upholstered in classic fabrics that have a little bit of a kick, vintage furnishings are anything but dated in this patrician lakefront apartment. (Images: Jessica Lagrange Interiors)

3. We’re superb at giving new life to fine old furnishings and art: Fine pieces are expensive—often an arm and a leg. They should last a lifetime, or more. We know how to make that happen. For instance, that bench made, tufted, camelback sofa with curvy claw feet that cost a fortune can be streamlined. Or fine wood furnishings can be refinished with lighter or darker stains; headboards can be revamped; lamps can get new finishes, bases and shades; treasured artworks can get reframed; and more. Trained interior designers respect luxury pieces, and know when to repurpose them and when to let go.

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DeGournay’s hand painted wallpapers make a transformative change in any space, and are so worth the splurge. (Images: deGournay.com)

4. We know where to economize and where to splurge: Even luxury projects have strict budgets, and everyone wants to get the biggest bang for their buck. So we use clients’ resources where they do the most good. Some things must be superb and impeccably crafted, such as furnishings that make statements and get a lot of use (think beds, sofas, dining chairs, tables and cabinetry). But there are ways to economize— especially on items homeowners may want to change out in five years. For example, store-bought drapes can be customized with trims, tiebacks and luxury hardware; stock upholstered pieces can be recovered with opulent fabrics to give them an upgrade; standard-issue consoles can get sumptuous marble tops; and almost any cabinet or chest can get handsome new hardware.

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Furnishings, lighting and architectural elements are used to turn an expansive loft into an elegant home with comfortable, functional and beautiful living spaces that flow into each other yet retain their own distinct identity. (Image: Jessica Lagrange Interiors)

5. We create balance: We’ve all seen rooms where something is off; the furniture is way too large or curiously small; patterns and textures are fighting with each other; or it seems like everything is crowded into one side of the room while the other is sparse. Interior designers work to balance the scale and proportion of furnishings and artworks; colors, patterns and textures; furniture styles; lighting; visual weight; and activity centers. And through it all, they make rooms functional, comfortable, efficient and attractive. Make that extremely attractive. All of this is not only much harder than it sounds, scores of books have been devoted to these matters and learning how to do it takes years of training. It begs our motto, which we apply to all fields: many things are best left to the pros.

06 Sep 2018

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