Room of the Month - Have A Very Modern Christmas

By Sarah Van Arsdale on November 1st, 2009

At NYIAD we teach our students a simple Three-Step Method for designing every room they create:

  1. A successful room is functional.
  2. A successful room expresses a mood.
  3. A successful room exhibits a sense of harmony.

This simple Three-Step Method is the secret of every interior ever designed. We teach our interior design students to consider these three steps every time they look at a room. You'll find the great home decorating ideas in our Room of the Month series as well as in the design tips on this site helpful in creating outstanding room designs.

When our students mail in their interior design project for analysis by their instructor, the instructor starts by commenting on these three Guidelines. Of course, the instructor analyzes other elements of the project too – decor, layout, furniture, style etc. But the key to good decor – and the essential element of every great interior design – is adherence to these three NYIAD Guidelines.

How do they work? How can you apply them? It's beyond the scope of this Web site to teach you every nuance, but you will get an inkling from the Room of the Month Analysis that follows.

As we move into November, we’re pulled inexorably into the holiday season: that time when you look at your living room and wonder how on earth you’re going to fit a giant fir tree into the room while maintaining enough space for your family and friends to gather ’round the egg nog bowl.

So for November’s Room of the Month , we’re taking a look at this modern living room decorated for the holidays, using the NYIAD Guidelines to Interior Design: function, mood, and harmony.

First, let’s consider the mood. The style here is firmly mid-century modern, as evidenced first by the choice of pale blue for the walls, matched with the brown of the corner chair and leather sofa. The lines of the furniture are also distinctly mid-century modern, as you can see by looking at the chair, the legs of the coffee table, and the side-tables.

Room photo © Katie Richardson

Put together, these pieces — along with the lighting — make for an informal, traditional room. Setting the sofa across from the fireplace, fronted by the coffee table, is a time-honored arrangement, but it’s made up-to-date with the placement of the lighting.

Room photo © Katie Richardson

But this isn’t simply a traditional room; there is a note of irony here, with the use of a lit-up Santa, something that ordinarily would be outside on the front lawn circa 1955. Having two tinsel trees also adds a humorous note to the room.

Room photo © Katie Richardson

Next, let’s take a look at the function of this room. Obviously, it’s all dressed up for a Christmas party, with the Christmas tree skirt covering one table, the two trees, the stockings hanging from the side table, the other, smaller decorations, and of course the out-sized Santa. There are plenty of items in the room to serve as conversation starters, and yet it’s anything but cluttered.

Imagining guests in this room, we see there’s good seating for a small group, and plenty of table space for drinks and hors d’oeuvres. And there’s enough space for people to stand if the room gets crowded with holiday revelers.

The lighting here is what makes this room really sing. All the lighting is from soft, indirect sources, much of it from the decorations, giving the room an almost other-worldly glow.

Room photo © Katie Richardson
Room photo © Katie Richardson

Finally, the harmony is really working in a wonderfully subtle way. There is only a bit of the blue from the walls — in the corner where the side table stands — but otherwise there isn’t a heavy-handed matching of color. Instead, the harmony comes from the style; it’s hard to find anything in this room that isn’t from the same era. This makes the harmony seem more sophisticated, and brings a note of elegance to this otherwise informal room.

Images of her living room and chic decorations were graciously shared by Katie Richardson, all rights reserved.