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5 Rules to Great Design

With my first piece for my new website, I thought it might be a good idea to give you more of a feel of who I am, how I design, and really, how I view the world. So here are the 5 rules for great design that 620XSTREET is based around.

Rule #1. There are no rules!

I have been a rule breaker all my life (occasionally called a maverick in the corporate world, usually when someone was trying to explain away whatever my latest stunt was), and I feel that design should be the same way. Clean the slate, put away all the “should” words, start with what you really want to do, not what you have been told you should do. Trends do not dictate what you do in your own home or business. Sure, they are a great starting point for inspiration, but they aren’t your only point of reference.

If you want pink feathered curtains mixed with lime green sofas, then have them, but if you love white and symmetry, then have that! Just be comfortable that you are making that decision yourself.

Rules such as white for small spaces, feature walls to add interest to bland rooms, tv’s over mantles, everything grouped in 3’s…. no. This doesn’t have to be true for you.

Also, great design doesn’t need to cost the earth. If you are willing to use your imagination, keep an open mind and put in some work yourself, you can have beautiful and impactful rooms, at minimal cost.

Rule #2. Design for practicality, beauty can be added

Always be honest about how you WILL use a space, not necessarily how you think you want, or should, use it in the future.

It’s very easy to convince yourself that if you create a beautiful, formal dining room, you will become the people that sit down to elegant dinners and parties… this may be true on occasion, but will you really do that enough to make using that space just as a dining room, worthwhile?

What about storage? Are you truly so organized that open shelving is going to always work for you? Or do you have item’s you don’t want on display? Are you always going to want to tidy up and clean every time you use a dish?

Be clear on the purpose of the space, or purposes if you are designing a flex space. Design the floor plan, including electrical, plumbing and HVAC before nailing down the aesthetic and final design. Test that the design will really work for everyday life, understand how extensive the project is really going to be, what budget is required and then decide on the finishes and polish.

Rule #3. Provoke emotions

If your space doesn’t make you feel anything, or worse yet, makes you bored and frustrated, it needs changing! Depending on the use of the space, it should reflect the emotions/feelings you want to experience in there.

For instance, if you want your kitchen to be happy and help you feel creative, you need to create areas that you can experiment in and feel free to create mess and disorder without stress. The design of that space will need to be carefully thought out and may use colour, technology, innovative materials and creative spacial planning to achieve such a carefree environment.

Colour therapy has a major part to play in evoking emotions, but so does understanding how you will apply rule #2. There is a common misconception that minimalism will make you feel calm and relaxed, and maximalism will leave you feeling cozy and comfortable. These are great starting points, but may well not hold true for you, and will not apply to every space in your home. I have rooms crammed with items, because I want the experience, and memories of those items and how I collected them. In my parlour I have many items from my family’s travels, they comfort me, relax me and are a great talking point when friends visit!

My bathroom is almost completely clean of any items/products/trinkets. I want to feel free to lounge, create a mess, relax undisturbed and clear my mind of whatever is going on!

Defining how you want to feel should be built into your initial design plan once the practicality of the room has been understood.

Rule #4. Reimagine, Reuse, Repurpose

For anyone that has seen my show, or looked at my Instagram feed, you will know I am passionate about saving and reusing items. Furniture, soft furnishings, art, glass, doors, trim… you get my drift! Just because something doesn’t work in its current form, doesn’t mean it can’t. And worst-case scenario you can sell the item, make someone else happy, and have a few extra $ to put into your renovation budget.

Reusing, uplifting, and repurposing items is obviously environmentally friendly and a great thing to do. But it’s also a great way to get your creative juices flowing when you are designing you space, you can create something utterly unique to you. That’s special!

And of course, the more you can reuse the more you can save on your design budget!

Using your imagination, you can turn mundane or nontypical items in to works of art. In my own kitchen I was struggling to find art to offset the range hood. However, through testing items, I found that antique scythes worked well as art objects! With underlighting the handles created beautiful sculptural shadows on the wall and created the depth and movement I wanted to bring the wall alive!

Thinking outside of the box and being open to trial and error can lead to some fantastic design elements.

The last, and least dramatic point I would like to make, is that by just moving an item, or lighting it in a different way, can make it seem fresh and interesting to you. Don’t throw or give away until you are sure that you are over an item!

Rule #5. Inspiration is all around us

Yeah, okay, Christmas movies have been on my mind, and Love, Actually is one of the best!! (I’m standing by that statement). But the point is very valid.

Design shows, books, magazines, social media etc. are brilliant. I use them a lot and they are a great source of ideas and tracking of trends. However, they are not the only source of inspiration! Film, music, architecture, nature, fashion… the list goes on, are all amazing sources of inspiration.

My entrance and foyer have the colour pallet from Bram Stroker’s Dracula. I looked up the colour pallet they used and referenced those in the design. The overall aesthetic is from The Shining. Yes, we are huge horror fans so this look will not appeal to everyone.

But I took my cues from what was in place in the space, that I could not change. In my case that was a huge concrete stairway, an elevator, and a long passageway.

These could have been major blocks to design, but by incorporating them and having fun with them, I have a space that never fails to make me smile, and a serious ice breaker when new people come to the house…. There are a lot of questions!

So this was a lot of words to say that rules don't apply in design. Which isn't overly helpful now I think about it. There are guidelines, to be applied and ignored as you want, and there are options to be considered and choices that you will need to make. So sometimes it's nice to have someone help you with that, especially if you want something a little different.

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