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When we remodel the kitchen, we will have some structural work done that will require repainting the dining room. I’m planning on using this to try a new look. Here’s how it looks now.

We had the shelves put in just over a year ago and they’ve made an enormous difference to the room. Other than that, not much has changed since this post. But now it’s time for something new (apart from the table, which obviously desperately needs to be swapped out). The current wall color is Iced Marble by Benjamin Moore. I love it, but it’s been there for almost five years and I feel it’s a little drab now. So, I’m thinking of going several shades darker to Millstone Gray. As you can see, it’s a deep gray with a greeny-blue tinge.

Or else Kitty Gray, which is just a little darker and bluer (and, frankly, looks identical on my screen!)

Dark gray has been a hot color for ages, but I still think it looks fresh against crisp white moldings (of which there’s plenty in our dining room – and, if we paint the ceiling a brighter white, it should work well). Take a look at these examples.

Via Gorgeous Shiny Things.

Via the Girl in the Brick House.

Via Manolo for the Home. Although the walls here are almost black, rather than gray, this photo is particularly great inspiration because we have this Nelson Saucer bubble lamp in our dining room.

What do you think? Should we take the plunge?

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I read some advice from interior designer Vicente Wolf in a magazine interview the other day. He said that a space should have ‘flow’. “Like water flowing down a river. There might be a little rock here or a little bit of rapids there, but the river never stops flowing”. I take this to mean that the eye should move effortlessly from one end of a room to another – and between rooms – without visual obstacles or interruptions. His words struck a chord. The fact is, when you’re exposed to hundreds of photos of gorgeous interiors every day, it’s easy to confuse interior design with the creation of a still life. Recently, I have found myself thinking about how a room would look in a photo, rather than how it would feel to be living in it. I’ve been thinking about the placement of furniture and the layering of textiles and finishes as a two-dimensional composition. It’s an easy trap to fall into when the world of design is influenced by heavily-styled and meticulously arranged images. But it doesn’t make for a truly successful interior scheme.

So I decided to take a closer look at what Wolf means by ‘flow’ and try to learn some lessons from this. First, he uses a lot of white to create continuity through an entire space. He does the same with color by picking up the same tones in fabrics here and there throughout a home.

So far, so obvious (although I’ll admit it requires considerable discipline to stick with the same palette throughout a home – most of us need to express another side of our design personality by experimenting with different looks in different rooms). Wolf also eschews pattern, preferring instead to keep his spaces clean. Oops, having just decorated three rooms with ‘feature walls’ using wallpaper or contrasting paint, I can see the appeal of a ‘clean’ background, as Wolf puts it, allowing the shapes of the furniture to speak for themselves.

Studying his work, it’s clear there’s more to this idea of ‘flow’ than color and pattern though. The way Wolf uses interior space is unusual in that he isn’t at all constrained by structure. He says he likes to avoid putting up boundaries in a scheme, but I think he goes beyond that to create living areas that seem to float within a room while the walls and ceilings seem to melt away, using reflective and transparent materials. Sometimes he achieves this just by the way he places the furniture, refusing to hug the walls or follow conventional layouts.

Wolf mixes up styles and eras fearlessly, which helps create a more organic, relaxed vibe. Thinking again about that idea of flow, if you look at the way these contrasting pieces of furniture are arranged, you’ll see that they’re meant to be appreciated by someone sitting at the table or on the sofa – not just by an outsider looking at the room through a lens.

That’s not to say you won’t find great styling in his spaces though. Throughout Wolf’s interiors you see antiques and artifacts from his store, VW Home, arranged in pairs or multiples. These must be the ‘rapids’ he talks about: they certainly inject energy into a space.

It’s tempting to conceive a room scheme in the same way you’d frame a beautiful photograph, but it helps to remember that an interior must look and feel cohesive from every angle.

Credits: All images except the first one are from Vicente Wolf Associates‘ web site. The first image is from House Beautiful.

I’ve had this image in my files for a while now, without realizing where it came from. Today, Apartment Therapy has a post about this room and others, all from L’Hotel Recamier in Paris.

While the canopy headboards are a bit much for me, I find these shots inspiring because of the use of geometric patterns (a favorite technique of mine for pulling a room together) and layered textiles in shades of blue and gray. This has to be a lesson in how to combine multiple patterns for a calming and cohesive look.

I also like the use of mirrors as part of the headboard itself. Admittedly, it wouldn’t work here in earthquake country, but if I ever moved anywhere else I’d definitely consider it…

I bought some coral-colored parrot tulips the other day. As I watched them change from bright orange on the first day to faded apricot at the end of their life, I was reminded of how amazing coral can look in an interior scheme. It’s been a sadly neglected hue in the past few years, but recently I’ve spotted a few rooms that combine coral with totally-now gray – to fantastic effect.

This was Coco and Kelley’s room of the week recently.

The splashes of orangey-coral look great against the neutrals and grays. This would work well in both summer and winter.

This coral bench is a good way to punch up the delicate grays of the sofa, wallpaper and flooring. Via Peacock Feathers.

This coral borders on orange but the tones are still soft rather than citrus-y. Via Style at Home.

Remember this outfit-to-room story from Domino? I was reminded it of it looking through an old issue recently. This coral has pinkish tones and, with wool, fur, felt and tweed, makes a cozy space for winter.

Looking through my files I also found this coral and gray montage from Coco and Kelley last year. If you needed proof that these colors are fabulous together, here it is…

(Tulip photo by my husband).

I recently received an email from a reader who wanted to issue me a challenge: find some images and ideas to inspire the decoration of a house for three 21-year-old guys. Always up for a challenge, I decided to give it a try. As soon as I started hunting, I could see the quandry for men interested in design, especially younger guys and those renting or sharing a place. Most spaces that have been designed specifically for men seem to follow one of a very limited number of formulas.

There’s the industrial loft space:

Industrial-loft

The sleek, gadget-centric seduction zone:

Studio

Or the gentleman’s club, like this modern interpretation of a wood-panelled library:

Club room

Now, while all these styles can be great for inspiration, the reality is that it’s going to be very hard to recreate any of these looks faithfully in most homes. If you live in a three-bedroom house with two other guys, there’s little to be gained from studying pictures of an open-plan studio loft. If your place is a rental, you can’t exactly put up floor-to-ceiling wood panelling or scrape off the plaster to reveal raw brick walls.

So, let’s see what elements can be used – and what alternative styles are possible.

Strong wall colors are the easiest way to create a unified, impactful look that is still masculine. Whether furnishings are spartan or mismatched, the look will still be pulled-together. Grays and browns are ideal options and there’s so much inspiration at the moment for these two hues.

Gray study

gray living room

bedroom

gray dining room

Gray bedroom

Many of these rooms also have strong, sculptural elements. The easiest (and cheapest) way to achieve this is with sculptural lighting pieces, like the Nelson Saucer bubble lamp in the bedroom image, or the large pendant shade over the dining table.

If you really want to go with lighter colors (tough in a house-share) then these sculptural elements will be even more important. Keep the space simple, colors uniform and the focus on a few pieces with interesting shapes.

black and white room

Living room

white bedroom

Texture is an often over-looked element in decorating. Stereotypical bachelor pads feature a lot of smooth chrome and black leather. But this approach means you miss out on the benefit that a combination of rich textures can provide. Grainy woods, scuffed leather and thick wool can create a masculine and stylish look without too much effort. And you can do it without spending a fortune by buying second-hand furniture. Check out the impact of these wood pieces:

Steven Gambrel

sideboard

And the use of leather, wool and stone in these shots:

leather chair

home-for-hire-by-londons-graham-atkins-hughes-3

The other challenge facing house-sharers is where to store all your ‘stuff’. Fortunately, books, art, photos and other artifacts (maybe not snowboards or boat oars – I’m not kidding, our first tenants in our house in London were three male rowers!) can be a real design asset. It’s also a great look for the thinking bachelor’s pad. Industrial-looking shelves are a good option, like these:

Library

Or wood shelves (to borrow from the gentleman’s club look):

Library

I also really like the use of bookshelves surrounding a wall-mounted TV. So much nicer than just having the TV lurk there all alone.

TV and shelves

Similarly, group several photos or pictures together to create a more cohesive, strong display. Making these personal items a deliberate part of the scheme will definitely help the overall effect be more streamlined, even when you need to combine three people’s bits and pieces.

2e9e4d69612a84eece885bc2c1d07ec0

Picture wall

Office

When it comes to finishing touches, there several trends right now that have a masculine vibe without being cliched. Skulls, flags, maps, globes and vintage lightbulbs are all making appearances in homes. I’m personally a big fan of the Brit-chic look (no surprise there, as I’m British!)

Flag pillows

British flag pillow

So it seems that there are lots of ways to go when decorating for an all-male household after all. As long as you remember the four ‘S’s – Strong colors, Sensory elements like texture, Storage for books etc, and Sculptural pieces.

Anyone designed a house for guys and got any other tips?

Credits:

1 – Apartment of designer Christina Rodriguez via Design for Life; 2 – Freshome; 3 – Living Etc; 4 – Office of designer Monique Lhuillier’s husband, and CEO of her firm, as seen in Elle Decor, photos by Roger Davies, via ChicFreak; 5 – Living Etc; 6 – Artist Lincoln Shatz’s apartment via Apartment Therapy; 7 – via Vintage + Chic; 8 – Apartment of fashion designer Franciso Costa and De John Stefano via DigsDigs; 9 – photo by Patric Johansson via slipcoveryourlife; 10 – photo by Per Magnus Persson; 11 – Loft of designer Frederic Mechiche, via Door Sixteen; 12 – Room designed by Steven Gambrel on 1st Dibs, via Anh Minh;  13 – Living Etc; 14 – via CasaSugar; 15 – Home for hire by photographer Graham Atkins Hughes as reported on Por Homme (more photos featuring this home at Graham’s web site); 16 – via From the Right Bank; 17 –  via DigsDigs; 18 – Living Etc; 19 – Thomas O’Brien’s studio apartment as seen in Australian Vogue Living, via Design Files; 20 – via Vintage + Chic; 21 – via Apartment Therapy; 22 and 23 – via Living Etc.

The design discoveries and dilemmas of a Brit in San Francisco as she turns a house into a home.
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