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Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Language of Decorating

Did you know that there is a specific language for decorating? It's true, and I'm ready to wager that you don't know the difference it can make in your "perception" of the room. Take this lovely office that I have in my inspiration folder.

In regular language, if I were to describe this room to you, I would say:

"A small room with a relatively large window. The walls are painted light blue, and the trim is white. The floors are hardwood with a zebra rug. There are wall mounted shelves, a white desk and desk chair, white curtains and a capiz ceiling light fixture. There are pictures on the wall and frames and magazine holders on the shelves. "

This description gives you a complete list of the items in the room and the colors, and most of the decorating choices.  It does not, however, give you a clear picture of the feeling in the room, or any sense of "I want that!" Now, read this description, using the language of decorating:

"This cozy home office feels much larger thanks to the soft periwinkle shade on the walls and the crisp white trim that unifies the baseboards and the window casing. The space is filled with light thanks to a beautiful window framed with fresh white panels that have been mounted close to the ceiling to visually lift the ceiling.  A white parsons desk with sleek lines adds simplicity and functionality without sacrificing an inch of style. The desk is grounded in the room by a plush zebra print rug that protects shining hardwoods beneath.  A stylish white and chrome desk chair on wheels makes it easy to slide over to the wall mounted shelves where office supplies and papers are artfully arranged in coordinating containers. Framed photographs on the shelves and delightful art on the walls makes the space personal, while the crowning glory of this room is the stunning capiz chandelier."

Quite the difference, no? The next time you start to feel frustrated by the lack of style in your rooms, try describing your room with the "language of decorating" Here are some tips:
  • Use euphemisms and broad, all encompassing words.  Say "cozy" instead of "small." Say "space" instead of "room." Say "art" instead of "picture." 
  • Use descriptive words for color. Instead of using brown, black or off-white,  say espresso, ebony and cream.  It sounds more custom, more unique, and definitely more chic. 
  • Use descriptive adjectives, and plenty of them. In the paragraph above, I used cozy, soft, crisp, fresh, sleek, plush, shining, stylish, artfully, delightful and stunning. Almost every element has a corresponding descriptive adjective that provides a more complete picture of the "space" :-)
  • Replace the generic term wood, specifying the type of wood, and the finish used. A wooden coffee table becomes an "oak coffee table in a light golden finish."  A wooden bookcase becomes a "mahogany bookcase in a deep espresso finish."  Can't you just picture the luxury?
  • Create a verbal picture of how the items in the room relate to one another. If there are coordinating items in a room, say so. Notice how I described how the desk sits on the rug that covers the floor, and also how the chair can move to the shelves, where I now describe what is on the shelves. 
Try this exercise yourself, either with a room from your own home or a favorite room that inspires you. And then come back and tell me all about it! 


jen April 23, 2009 at 11:43 AM  

I just have to say I'm terribly impressed you knew what to call that light fixture!!
I'm trying to apply this principle to my future studio space, but can't think of any good decorative language for the 4 blue rubbermaid containers that are in the middle of the room!!

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