The task of selecting interior design elements can be daunting for many homeowners. With myriad choices in furniture, flooring, paint, fabric and color, a trip to a design center can be overwhelming. But for Sheryl Scruggs, Lindsay Chambers and Robert Brown, three of today’s most talented designers, few things are more exhilarating than home design. Art, accessories, lighting — these bring life, beauty and functionality to a living space. Whether you find yourself in the daunted or exhilarated category, you may find inspiration from the ideas offered by these formidable designers — each with a distinct perspective on home décor.
Life experience is the best tool any interior designer — amateur or professional — brings to a room, according to Sheryl Scruggs, whose Bronze Interiors design business caters to residential and commercial clients in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas.
“A designer is only as good as his or her exposure to the world,” says Scruggs, who believes travel is a key factor in helping to develop and fine-tune a sense of taste and style.
“The hotel and hospitality industries are merging with residential design in an attempt to create that homelike experience for guests,” says Scruggs. “Take a serious look at your hotel space and think about how you feel (there).”
She says such experiences should help amateur designers “edit” their home space, eliminating all but those things that are beautiful and purposeful. Travel trinkets and family heirlooms, while filled with sentiment and personal value, can frequently clog an otherwise clean design.
“It’s tough to do, but if you’re serious about design, either redesign around the piece or pass the heirloom on to a family member who will use it properly,” she says, noting that not all travel souvenirs are created equal.
The best design element in which to invest is original art, which “can change a room more than anything,” she says. “Art can activate a room and anchor a space, and it holds its value more than any other item in your home.”
At the same time, Scruggs is all about the detail in interior design. One of the simplest steps to updating a room’s look is replacing the hardware on doors and cabinets. These little elements bring magic to a space, she says.
With locations in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area, Lindsay Chambers spends a lot of time in and between both of these vibrant cities, and her style reflects that.
The San Francisco native is drawn to the understated, often traditional elegance found in many houses there. Currently an L.A. resident, Chambers also appreciates the smart boldness and sometimes flashy design of the city’s many contemporary homes.
It’s no wonder that she has become a fan of transitional design, that delicate balance of old and new. She’s not opposed to selecting furniture and accessories from different eras as long as these items complement one another.
“This will help keep the space from feeling disjointed, which can happen if transitional design is not successfully executed,” she says.
The most important factor to remember is what Chambers calls “the dialogue with current lines in your home.”
To introduce the transitional aesthetic in an otherwise traditional space, Chambers suggests an update in fabrics, such as window treatments with clean lines. That’s what she is currently doing for her mother’s Palo Alto, Calif., home, which hasn’t had a makeover in nearly 10 years — just about the right time, Chambers says, to take a serious look at a room redo.
“I recommend revisiting and refreshing current furnishings at least once per decade to keep your home from feeling dated,” she says. “Repainting your room in a color that is currently in style is by far the easiest way to update a room to feel more modern without breaking the bank.”
An early career in fashion helped launch Robert Brown’s current and more satisfying professional work in interior design, though he still looks to fashion as an indication of the future of décor.
“Fashion and interior design reflect each other in many ways, with color as the most prominent force,” says Brown, who has witnessed a fair amount of pastels, mauve and gray at recent runway events.
Although he’s familiar with them, Brown doesn’t focus too much on the latest trends in design. Using antiques and classical design as inspiration, he considers himself a traditionalist and advises against buying significant elements just because they are “trendy.”
The most important lesson he shares with his clients is the concept of scale and proportion, an idea that some may find difficult to grasp.
The challenge comes in thinking beyond the size of the room while considering the relationship of each piece to everything else in the space.
“I’m a big believer in thinking in thirds,” the Atlanta-based designer says, referencing standard artistic guidelines used by photographers and other visual artists.
Consider the room a blank canvas; then draw a tic-tac-toe grid over the image. The centers of interest for the space lie somewhere along those lines, particularly at the intersections. When you employ this technique, furniture and art that should be the focal point of a room will ideally fall within those parameters.
Overdesigning, such as putting too much in a space or having items competing for attention, is a common mistake that Brown believes can be avoided by implementing the rule of thirds.
“Some things simply need to be a backdrop,” he says, recognizing that interior design is usually driven by one’s instinct and often follows no rules whatsoever.