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Good vibrations – Colin and Justin discuss subtle themed decorating

So you want to ‘theme’ your next design project? Then learn to ‘underplay’ those beachfront dreams.  And yes, even ‘tame’ that Scottish vibe, say Colin and Justin.

Once upon a time, in a far off TV land, a ‘decorating’ show named Trading Spaces ruled the schedules.  The show’s premise was simple: Team A (holding glue guns to their chests like limpets) designed a room for Team B while Team B (gripping defiantly to their bedazzlers) designed a room for Team A.  More often than not, however, the ‘designs’ were haciendas of overplay that owed more to dramatic TV – and therefore ratings – than they did good decor.

We remember, variously, Parisian and medieval designer affronts.  And a Scottish hunting lodge – ahem, 30 floors up in a high-rise.  The ambitiously planned projects were, it should be reported, held together – more often than not – with Scotch tape, spray mount… and a prayer.

Thankfully, the TV oeuvre matured (and with it the expectation for livable design) and Trading Spaces crashed to the ground, Humpty Dumpty style, as audiences became eminently more style literate.

All this to say that it’s fine being inspired by Thailand (and adding Asian influences via sand-coloured walls rather than actual sand on the floor) but restraint, as ever, is paramount.  Similarly, if you’re a car buff, Ferrari red toss pillows, or a Le Mans print, will proffer ample seasoning to evoke trackside excitement. Rather than coffee tables made from car parts or starter flag curtains.  Come on now.

How to protect against thematic dilemma

Let’s say your kid is pirates crazy.  To avoid relentless expense, think ‘compromise’.  Instead of pricey pirate bunks, opt for less expensive themed bedding, artwork or bedside lamps that can be changed on a whim. Preserving a neutral background allows you to piece in new looks as tastes change. Add an easy-to-repaint single accent wall and new direction can be achieved with a $30 pot of latex.

The acceptable face of themed rooms

If you love cruise ships, for example, there is hope. Instead of being literal (with coffee tables shaped like boats and anchors everywhere) be inspired by the beauty of teak decks or classic art deco lines.  Perhaps a single Odeon sofa might be all you need, redolent as that style is of the heady days of ocean liners.

If you fancy the elegant feel of a country house, don’t try recreating Buckingham Palace in miniature or your room will look silly.  Opt, instead, for a few carefully selected antique pieces (such as lovely Bergere chairs) and add a mirror over the mantel and some period accessories to seal the deal.

Fancy transforming a spare bedroom into a home office? Maybe your affection for global travel could be a starting point for restrained notes. Specify dark rattans, touches of leather or even an antique globe. But please, for the love of God, steer clear of desks made from travel chests, framed passports as artwork and a gaggle of clocks set to different time zones.

During previous projects, both on and off screen, we’ve dealt with all manner of decorating trauma.  One, for example (see here) where our clients tried to create a relaxed Scottish vibe. Their attempts, though, looked more like a Highland care home for the bewildered (where the caring had long since stopped) than anything remotely Highland hideaway.

After a weighty gut down, we elicited a world that purred (rather than roared) Scotland.  You know: a lil’ bit of tartan rather than making it look like Bonnie Price Charlie had just lost his lunch across every surface.  And hints of Scotland via heather tones, a rock veneer wall and natural elements.

Similarly, for a young couple intent on snaring the beach vibe in their suburban semi, we added a faux pebble chimneystack, rattan chairs and seafoam coloured sofas.  Hey presto: that holiday at home vibe without feeling lost in the dunes.

Now fully informed, can you please let the theming stop? And the decorative shouting subside? Welcome to the subtle world of Colin and Justin. A world where we whisper, rather than scream, designer.  We’ll see you next week.  Sotto voce, of course…

About the Author: Colin and Justin are interior designers, style commentators, Hollywood celebrity interviewers and lifestyle gurus.


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