The Art of Design
LEARN HOW TO INFUSE PERSONALITY INTO YOUR HOME.
Discover how to infuse personality into your home.
Interior design is an art form, not a science. It’s an ever-evolving field that is influenced by each designer’s personal touches.
In her book, Be Your Own Decorator, Susanna Salk encourages readers to not feel constricted but to look outside the box and within yourself for inspiration. “Rooms that resonate with personality—not rules— are the ones you’ll want to linger in and savor,” Salk writes.
Be Your Own Decorator walks through a variety of subjects to consider when decorating your home. Salk narrates work done by a collection of professional interior designers, categorizing images of uniquely-designed rooms and captioning each with a fun and informing glance into the way the design was achieved. The structure of this book allows you to be empowered and create your own design ideas while pulling from the tips of professionals.
Salk will take you on a journey through the genres of color, mixing, arrangement, balance, whimsy, accessorizing and the ever-important rule breaking. Victorian design has always centered on some of these same categories. Susanna Salk’s book will successfully guide the Victorian enthusiast in choosing interior colors, mixing and matching accessories, and inspire you to get creative design into a space you love.
COLOR AND ARRANGEMENT
Color schemes evolved throughout the Victorian era as the Industrial Revolution took hold. Popular design began with muted, earthy tones painters could mix on site, such as beige, taupe and ecru. Once the Industrial Revolution spread, bold colors became more readily available and Victorian homes became a lot more colorful; for example, the famed “painted ladies” of San Francisco have bright yellow, orange, chocolate, blue and red. Be Your Own Decorator describes many different uses of color, one of which is its ability to create an intense feeling of luxury. Victorian interior design was often focused on this same idea of displaying homeowners’ newly-gained wealth, yet also being cost effective. Salk describes interior designer Alexa Hampton’s use of differing hues and patterns of yellow to induce a feeling of extravagance.
In designer Diane Bergeron’s featured bedroom, she uses a surprising color combination of gray and orange, stating, “Don’t be afraid to use color, as you can see it does not detract from the room’s ultimate sophistication.” In the same way, Victorian-era designs evolved and weren’t afraid to use polychromatic color schemes on the inside and outside of homes.
The use of color to fit the needs of a room is an important aspect of designing. Alessandra Branca uses an unexpected combination of masculine brown and feminine pink to create a room that’s pleasing to both male and female occupants. Victorian-era homes also utilized color in this way by considering the desired function of public rooms. Airborne soot was an issue in public spaces, so painters often used darker colors in rooms like the parlor to help conceal the dirt that eventually settled on the walls from visitors entering the home.
In Be Your Own Decorator, Salk states, “Pictures can be hung and stacked on a variety of levels and surfaces all at once.” This spirit of the arrangement of décor is a design aspect that was very important to the Victorian era. Decoration was a symbol of social class, therefore a bare room was considered to be in poor taste. This ideology resulted in the goal of Victorian décor to be a show of abundance, with rooms covered from ceiling to floor with ornamentation. Similar to the Victorians’ use of arrangement to show status, Salk describes designer Matthew Patrick Smyth’s arrangement as “an eloquent example of how every nook in a house can go far in expressing its owner’s spirit.”
A LITTLE BALANCE, WHIMSY AND RULE-BREAKING
The Victorian desire for abundance created a need for achieving the right balance between color and texture to keep a room from feeling overwhelming. Designer Ryan Korban utilized balance for the same purpose by layering luxurious textures and strong visuals against an all-white palette. “A synergy between the two pairs of artwork contains their shock value just enough to allow them to be appreciated on an everyday basis,” Salk writes.
Victorian interior design was often focused on this same idea of displaying homeowners’ newly-gained wealth.
Another element of design Salk discusses is the use of wallpaper. “Using whimsical wallpaper in small spaces expands the room’s mood,” she writes. Designer Alan Marks’ use of a custom fish-patterned wallpaper can inspire the creative minds of Victorian designers to go bold with your wallpaper. Thom Felicia continues with this whimsical design trend by pairing a batik bedspread and curtains with highly contrasting patterns to form an exotic and ornamental bedroom design.
In Be Your Own Decorator, Victoria Smith describes her love for collecting vintage pieces from different genres and eras, and mixing them to create an eclectic space that is reflective of her personal style. In a décor style that blends many diverse cultural sources, balance becomes even more important to achieve a harmonious space.
Salk’s book concludes with the notion of rule-breaking. Nothing makes a space more personal than throwing the rules out the window and going with your instinct. Designers throughout Salk’s book subscribe to this belief and design in ways that speak to them, regardless of preconceived notions of design expectations. For example, Linda Zelenko and Steohen Piscuskas combine contrasting themes of country living and city sleekness to create an elegant extension of the countryside in their living room. Rule-breaking is an important concept to remember when focusing on your own Victorian décor. The Victorian era often used seemingly erroneous design styles with their eclectic accessories covering entire walls, the use of contrasting colors and the combination of different cultural styles. Overall, don’t be afraid to shy away from the conventional and go with what you think is best for your Victorian home.
Susanna Salk’s Be Your Own Decorator provides a wonderful reference for any novice designer. She draws from a wealth of knowledge with the input of over 50 interior design professionals. She successfully introduces important aspects of design such as color, arrangement, accessorizing and more to give readers a sound foundation on which to build their confidence as a designer and begin their own journey in creating a home modeled after their personal style.
Victorian-era designs evolved and weren’t afraid to use polychromatic color schemes on the inside and outside of homes.
Left. Designer Stephen Shubel expanded the proportions of this room by using an all-white background and wall-to-wall textural sea grass. Stephen writes that “the old-world chandeliers keep the historical integrity so you never forget your sense of...
Left. On par with the author's desire to include personal touches, designer Charlotte Moss creates a room uniquely hers by hanging portraits of women she admires for constant inspiration. An arrangement based on emotion as well as decoration can be...
Above Right. In the arrangement section of Beyour Own Decorator, designer Mary Mcdonald uses daring choices to make an immediate style statement. Mcdonald first painted cherry blossoms across the blue color she chose for her office, then layered her...
Be Your Own Decorator: Taking Inspiration and Cues From Today's Top Designers by Susanna Salk, published by Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., © 2012; rizzoliusa.com.