The success of a room rests with final finishings, play of colour, light, textures
Some say God is in the details. Others say it’s the devil. Either way, says Ottawa designer Tim Davis, you’ve got to pay attention to the details, because detailing often can make or break your plans for home design.
And if you’ve just shelled out a lot of cash for a really nice home or a design project, why risk undermining its integrity by not paying attention to the things that will finish it off nicely?
Details, generally speaking, are the things - small or not - that complete a project.
Davis, who trained as an architect in Britain, is a designer whose work is found in Canada’s National Gallery in Ottawa, in many area stores and in private homes. Detailing, says Davis, basically involves following through with your design concept to the end.
Failure to follow through not only undermines the concept, it can even compromise its structural integrity.
Examples of failed detailing
Buying a really nice painting and then hanging it on the wall with a small nail that can’t support the weight.
Putting a cheap doorknob on an expensive door.
Doing a room over in an ornate, baroque style - and then adding plain, unadorned baseboards or mouldings because that’s all you could find. The project will be complete, but it won’t look right.
“Unless the detailing follows through with your original concept, you will destroy your concept,” says Davis, owner of Tim Davis Design in Ottawa.
With that in mind, Davis offers these hints to keep the details on track:
Budget for it
Davis says lack of time and money is the main reason people skimp on detailing. He suggests budgeting for details right from the start.
“It’s a general fact of life that you get what you pay for,” says Davis.
“If you want something that’s carefully crafted, you have to have a realistic expecta- tion of what you are going to pay.”
If you’ve bought an expensive painting, it’s wise to spend a bit more to make sure it’s properly hung and to take the time to make sure it’s in the best setting.
If you’ve spent money on beautiful built-in cupboards or cabinetry, don’t finish them off with cheap knobs or pulls, in an attempt to save money.
Less may be more, but less doesn’t always cost less.
Davis says detailing is a great way to personalize a space. It is, he says, the opposite of standard.
Say you’ve just bought a developer’s house with standard features. Adding detailing will allow you to personalize the house and give it character.
It can be as simple as changing the doors, door frames, hinges and doorknobs. A standard home becomes unique - and ultimately more sellable down the road - when standard features are upgraded or somehow made distinctive.
Good detailing doesn’t mean you have to go all rococo and add scrollwork and angels and columns to your design. It can be understated and subtle.
It can be about choosing specific finishes for your doors or windows or appliances. It can be about adding textures rather than just colours. It can be about choosing very few materials or colours, but paying strict attention to how they work with each other.
In other words, detailing is not about making a splash; it’s about making things come together.
Davis likes to refer to the work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, an influential modernist architect of the early 20th century.
“If you see one of his buildings, the colour palette is limited and the number of materials he uses is limited,” says Davis.
“But when two materials come together, it’s very considered. So what you get is an environment that stands the test of time and isn’t difficult to live in.”
Think how, as well as what
Say you want to tile a floor.
How you lay the tile will influence the look. Davis says a simple 12-inch-by-12-inch tile used alone will give a crisp, modern look. But start adding trims and borders, and the same tile suddenly looks ornate. Be appropriate Some designers have what might be called a “house style” and try to impose it on clients. William Pahlmann, an influential American decorator who died in 1987, once famously said that when it comes to design, “the customer is usually wrong.”
Davis rejects the notion, saying any design project has to be appropriate for the people who are going to live with it. The details have to be appropriate for the project. If a client has a lot of artwork to display, a home’s finishes have to highlight the art, not compete with it, insists Davis.
A combo of bright red, steel rivets and a round window successfully create a distinctive door that could easily be at home in an industrial condo or by the sea.
Good detailing is about neat spatial thinking, including this mirrored wardrobe that is set into a corner.