Monday, March 15, 2010

Back to basics

Even though I haven't taught school since 1997, I still have this internal calendar that tells me to get a snack at 4pm, take bathroom breaks on the hour and gear down to summer when Spring Break comes along.  Even as a fledgling designer early on in my career, I was always passing along bits of information and ideas with my clients that would help them to learn to work their own rooms.  Once a teacher, always a teacher. 

I was thinking this weekend about what really makes a room stand out....what makes one design really work, and the teacher in me said "Go back to the basics".  So I began to think about the Principles of Designs (yes, I need to capitalize that....very important stuff).   The principle of rhythm and repetition seems to be such a unifier to a room that I started looking for it just to see what I could learn.

This piece caught my eye.   Such simplicity, but beautiful.  Check out how many things are being repeated here....rectangles in the drawers, circular objects, the color black, horses, books, all set off by the glorious tuquoise back.  Do you see anything else?

The same repetition on the theme.

This vignette is in my studio.  The pear in the painting that I did repeats in the raffia pears on the buffet.  I repeated the chartreuse green and the terracotta browns from the painting to the topiary and the pot.  I think it works really well as a focal point in the studio.

It's easy to see the repetition in these pictures....color, shape, line.

But rooms can also utilize rythmn and repetition as an element to bring everything together.  I thought it might be fun to see some designer rooms of celebrities to show how this principle contributes to a beautiful space....ok, unlimited funds helps too!

This is Diane Keaton's kitchen, shown in Architectural Digest several years ago.  The repetition in the colors, shapes, tiles, and objects draws you into experience this room.  I'm hungry for nachos just looking at it.  I know from this picture that a lively, interesting and courageous person lives here, and that there must be a party in the works. 

I dare you to count all the repeats in this space!

Here the repetition is a little more subdued, but still a player in the design of this room.  All the vertical lines really frame the view of the Hollywood hills in this room in Ryan Seacrest's home. 

Certainly the repetition of the rectangle is pretty obvious in the doors and into the butler's pantry in Jamie Lee Curtis' house.  Did you know she was married to Christopher Guest!....learn something new everyday....I digress.
The Asian inspired sohji doors, muted color palette and the orderly repetition of shape tell us so much about the couple who live here. 
Clearly, I'd rather live in Diane Keaton's house!

This dining room is in one of Kelsey Grammer's houses.  I like the eclectic mix in this room, and I'm a big fan of the Georgia O'keefe inspired flower paintings.  Color repeated in the rug, paintings, drapes and hostess chair is balanced by the repetition of the neutrals in the walls and slipcovers. The pops of white in the rug and repeated in the candles act as accents in a mostly rusty red room.

Every lesson ends with a test right?  How does repetition work in this picture of Rod Stewart's dining room? 
OK....too much of a good thing can take a room to a whole other place, but clearly you can see the homeowner's personality and design style because of what he chose to repeat!    EVERYTHING !
Just because he's a celeb, doesn't mean you have to like it, but I guess it goes to show that good design can exist without good taste!!  (Did I say that ???)

I got a good laugh out of this you think Rod looks like the woman in the painting, or is my sense of humor just perverse??

Lesson over for today.  Your homework is to put a little rhythm in your life and repeat something in your space.  I'd love for you to share your success with me.  Leave a comment or send me a picture of your space to 

Enjoy your Spring Break !


  1. Great lesson Sally, I am with you about the teaching part, once a teacher always a teacher. I am the same way. My consults with clients were like a mini lesson personalized for them in their home. I think we are born wiht the teaching gene. You did a great job on this post,very informative and great examples. Keep up the good work,Kathysue

  2. I'm really enjoying your blog Sally, excellent!!!


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