Room of the Month - Three Rooms

By Sarah Van Arsdale on December 15th, 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.

Each month Designer Monthly presents you with an analysis of a room using the Sheffield Guidelines to Interior Design: function, mood, and harmony.

For this issue on abundance, we decided to break with tradition (always a good way to get the creative juices flowing) and instead of looking at one room, we’ll look at three small rooms, to illustrate how an abundance of good design is possible even when you’re working with a small space.

Let’s look first at this room which is so small it barely qualifies as what most people would call a "room."

Looking first at function, this is a great example of how you can look at the way a space is used, then tailor the space to better meet the needs it is already fulfilling. Here, we have an entryway that had previously been dead space—a place where clutter would gather, but also a place where the residents wanted to be able to sit while putting on or taking off their shoes, or while waiting for a slow-poke family member. This bench allows a nice place for such activity, with a view out the front yard. The table provides a space for mail, or a purse.

The mood here is rustic, with the flagstone floor and the over-sized wooden furniture. The cabinet and Oriental rug add a note of elegance.

Cabinet and Oriental rug

In terms of harmony, this room brings the look of the disparate elements together with the repeated patterns: the flagstone wall and floor, the stone pillar, the cabinet, the wooden furniture, and the rug all have a tight, somewhat haphazard pattern. This allows the elements to blend together, as does the color: the golden pillows pick up the gold in the carpet, and the red of the carpet is picked up by the stool.

Moving next to a very different look, we see another small room, a bath. This room has the obvious function foremost of being a place to bathe, but offers a secondary function of providing a refuge from the cares of the world. The relaxation is enhanced with the two windows, one looking out onto the greenery, with privacy assured by the half-wall outside and the pebbled glass bricks.

The mood here is modern and fresh; this bath feels breezy and light. Harmony in a small space is often easily achieved, and here it’s simple: the outdoors dominates the look, so having the fresh flowers enhances that, and the bright orange towels underscore the happy mood. The only note we see that’s off is the beige towel hanging on the rack; we’d rather see additional orange towels, or even orange bath towels with smaller yellow hand towels.

bath photo

Finally, let’s look at this small bedroom. This room is so small we can’t see all of it, but this corner shows us all that we need in order to analyze it. The function, as a guest room, is filled very nicely, with an inviting bed and a side table, and a cabinet that serves as a place for the guest to put clothing or other items. The wall chandelier provides a reading light, and that’s really everything you need for a fully-functioning guest room.

This room’s mood is shabby-chic, country. It’s a very relaxing mood, just right for the purpose of the room. And the harmony is clear to see, with the use of the whites and off-whites. Sticking with one color, or shades of one color, can appear to be an easy way to harmonize a room, but it takes practice and often lots of looking at shades in combination. Look carefully at the tones here; they’re all in the brown and grey range of off-white. An off-white too blue or too green would stand out and interrupt the harmony here, but these tones work perfectly.

bedroom photo

We hope that by looking at some of the things that can be done with a small space will inspire you—and leave you feeling the abundance of decorating possibilities in your own home.

You can learn about decorating kids' rooms and more by taking an interior design course from NYIAD today!


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