Room of the Month - Natural Niche

By Sarah Van Arsdale on June 8th, 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.

natural niche

For our June issue of Designer Monthly with a special focus on green design, we've chosen this very green room designed by Alison Pollack at AKP Fine Earth Friendly Furnishings.

In analyzing the design of a room, we use the NYIAD Guidelines to Interior Design: function, mood, and harmony. So let's look at those elements first, and then we'll see how Pollack has achieved this room with green materials.

This room, which she calls the "Natural Niche" is particularly interesting as it isn't so much a room as it is an innovative, creative use of space. All too often a house has a corner here or a niche there that stumps the designer or homeowner in terms of what to do with the space. Here, the extra space has been put to excellent use.

This niche functions as a mini-sitting room, offering a place to sit and read or visit with a friend. The two end tables provide a place to put books, snacks or drinks, and the window, the reading lamp, and the overhead lamp provide plenty of options for lighting, so that someone could easily read or work on a sewing project here.

The function of a small sitting room is served well, as two close friends could share the window seat, and a third could sit on the small rocker. This is a space where you can easily picture sisters or friends swapping secrets and day dreaming together, or where one person could indulge in a quiet respite from a hectic day.

Notice too that the curtains provide more privacy; if the rest of the house is busy, they can be closed easily.

The mood here is surprisingly elegant given how this isn't a formal room. The long, draped curtains, the light fixtures, the mullioned windows all bespeak elegance, and give the appearance of an old English Tudor home.

natural niche

And here, everything harmonizes, with the wood accents providing a structure for the white and soft gold of the fabrics and throw rug.

Contributing to the mood of quiet, everything in this room is "green"—that is, it all has the lowest possible impact on the environment. The walls are painted with zero VOC paint, the beams are made of sustainably-harvested lumber, and all the wood is finished with natural plant oils, resin and waxes. The fabrics, including the rug, are wool, hemp/silk, or cotton, and the throw is faux fur. For more details, see Pollack's website.

For Pollack, as for many designers, going green doesn't begin and end with taking care about how the production of good impacts the environment. Another big concern is the impact of chemicals used in some furnishings on the home's inhabitants.

"As we observe chronic illnesses on the rise, we find it harder to ignore the fact that our living space is indeed a contributing factor," Pollack says on her website.

"The good news is that we have choices," she says. "Going back to nature allows us more durability and longevity in building and furnishing materials. Fewer toxins create an improved air quality thereby creating an improved quality of life."