Episode 351: Don’t Fall in Love or Spend a Lot on Trends

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Hello, it is great to be back with you. I am in a remarkably chipper mood. And for one, it’s because it’s like 70 degrees outside, and it’s November. And that thrills me beyond belief. It’s like I get this extended summer spring. I don’t know what, but I’m here for it because I’m still not even wearing a coat. So that’s been delightfully energizing and has done wonders for my mood and everything. 

But I am also riding high because so many of you joined me for today’s webinar. So I had a webinar on the three secrets to becoming an interior designer who gets paid. And it was so exciting for me that it was my first webinar. I’ve attended webinars and seen other people give them, but I have never personally given a webinar, and I was a little nervous. I was planning for it, thinking about it, and asking my friends who regularly run webinars and our total pros.

But the other significant reason is that I had so much fun. I got to meet you from around the world. There are people from Ireland, Scotland, Australia, and the United States. We talked about what it looks like to have a passion for interior design and how you get to money because there are so many circuitous paths or people need that clear vision. And there are only so many visions that you really can have. I received great feedback from the event, and I had a blast!

As far as the home goes, It’s been three months in my new house, and it’s still chaotic. Because out here in Connecticut, I have a different handyman team. When I was in Westchester, my handyman lived less than a mile away and would come over at the drop of a hat. Also, I could get anything in two weeks because supply chain issues were not a thing. And it’s just overwhelming. It feels like it will never end, and I know it will end, but I’m not too fond of a drawn-out timeline. It’s already been three months, and I can’t keep living like this. 

But I’m also tired of complaining about it to you, my podcast listeners.  Hopefully, it’s made you feel less alone if you’re moving.  I’ll stop dwelling on the negativity, mainly because the weather’s so lovely. Thank you for being so supportive! Now, I will support you by answering questions in the mailbag. 

So let’s dig right in!

This episode, we discuss…

[10:58] Help with Sofa placement to make use of space in open concept style (Christina)

Question: 

Hi Betsy! I would love an open concept living room/kitchen. The issue is it’s a fairly small space as I live in an apartment. I am thinking of placing a sofa up against the kitchen bar like you see in this photo on Etsy, rather than having stools. Would you recommend that? Or am I wasting space? Should I leave it closed and put the sofa against the wall? Thank you!

Answer: 

All right, I’m happy to help. Your picture is somewhat illuminating Christina. But I have more questions, because this isn’t just an inspiration picture from Etsy. And it’s not actually your life. Let me ask you some questions about what’s really going on in your space. So you mentioned that you have a bar or maybe a peninsula that sticks out from the wall, I’m just imagining in your kitchen, it’s probably counter height, right, which would be 36 inches from the floor to the top of the counter. And you don’t want to put any stools there. 

Well, that’s totally fine as long as there’s no lip. So if the countertop is flush with the sheetrock, or the cabinetry or whatever is underneath the countertop, then that’s absolutely fine. And I feel like you could treat it as a pony wall or a half wall and put furniture against it, I think that would work really well. However, if there is a lip of two inches or more, say there’s six inches, say there’s 12 inches, I do not want you tucking your couch underneath the countertop lip.

First of all, it’s going to look weird. Second of all, it’s going to look like where the stools something’s missing. It really needs to look like a partial wall in order to achieve this effect successfully because in the picture, it doesn’t actually look like there’s a countertop butting up against the back of the sofa, it actually looks more like a sofa table, which is a small thin table. That’s roughly the height of the back of the sofa and extends along the back so that you don’t see the back of the sofa so that you can put display etc. 

Because what you want to do with the sofa table type effect is you want the sofa to make the table to be at the same height as the back of the sofa or lower. Now most sofas are going to be under 36 inches high on their back. Even if the cushions make it higher than the 36 inches which is already pretty rare. The actual firm back of the sofa would be less than 36 inches, typically between 28 and 32. 

That’s why it’s very critical that you’re not trying to make this look like a sofa table. Rather you’re trying to make it look like a wall. No overhang, remember, or you’re going to need to do stools and put this sofa elsewhere. But if it’s flush, I think you’re good to go and I give you the green light to put your sofa just like you see in this picture.

[14:59] What are your thoughts on affordable beaded bedroom chandeliers? (Sue) 

Question: 

Hi, Betsy. I’m looking for a bedroom chandelier. I like the beaded look. My question is, can I go with something more affordable? Like this Pottery Barn Teen light? Or should I buy something more expensive? Like the Pottery Barn light that’s also shown, there isn’t that much of a difference visually, but there’s a big difference in price. Do you think people will notice? What are your thoughts?

Answer: 

Okay, this brings me to a more general type answer. When an item is a little bit trendy, or a little bit hot right now, or just all the rage, I don’t want to spend too much money on it. Because I know it’s a fad. And I know in a few months, maybe I’ll get a couple of years that it’s going to be obsolete, right? People are going to look at it and say, Oh, that’s dated. Oh, that was so in 2022. Right. We don’t want to do that and invest a lot of money unless money is no object and then do whatever you want.

It’s so funny that you brought this suit because I recently bought my daughter, a beaded fandelier. I know, can you guys believe I am a designer, but a fandelier. But my daughter really likes ceiling fans. And I really don’t like the look of ceiling fans. And they had this really affordable, really cool beaded kind of semi flush fixture that has these clear acrylic blades that nest when you’re not using them so they disappear. And then when you turn them on, they’re small and acrylic, but she gets the airflow without me getting the visual.

And she really loved the concept. But I also know she’s nine, and she’s going to love something one day and hate it the next. So I knew I didn’t want to spend very much money on the light fixture. And I also know that beaded light fixtures are a little bit trendy. They were very popular three years ago, I don’t see them going anywhere. And it’s not like they’re super trendy, like say ship lab or something like that where you could seriously pinpoint a moment in time and be completely accurate with your assessment of that trend. 

This may have more sort of longevity because it’s less hot and less everywhere, less ubiquitous. Still, I don’t like to invest a lot unless money is no object on trendy items. And I do love Pottery Barn Teen there are so many things for Pottery Barn Teen that I buy for myself in my grownup spaces, because they’re cool, they do not look age, inappropriate, whatever that means. And they’re more affordable. I have this beautiful memo board I’m actually looking at right over here that’s scalloped and gilded and silver. And it’s got like this beautiful arch, oh my gosh, it just looks so expensive. And I got it on sale at PBteen for $480. And I constantly love it. People remark on it, it’s just inspiring. So you never know when you’re gonna find cool things. 

That being said, I’d want to know the price difference. And in the pictures you haven’t labeled, which one is which. But I can clearly tell one is like a drop down chandelier. And the other is a semi flush fixture. Well, it’s actually flush to the ceiling, but it just hangs down pretty significantly. So it’s got kind of the drop of a semi flush while actually being flushed to the ceiling. The semi flush or flush fixture does look less expensive. It doesn’t look like Lux, I would want to know the price difference, I would want to know the look of the room. 

So I can be sure that I’m advising you that this more affordable fixture is the way to go. Also, the smaller fixture looks like it only has one bulb or the chandelier is so large that I think it would have multiple bulbs. So if you’re actually weighing these two fixtures, I wouldn’t think so much about the cost as I would about you know what size is best for the room? How much illumination do I need for the room? And what effect do I want in the room? Can I have something dropped down and still have seven feet between the bottom of the fixture and the floor? That’s a requisite measurement that I need to have in order to buy something that would hang this low? There we go. So I think I did answer your question in a way. But I think I may have given you more questions to think about and measure for before you make that purchase. That’s my job, isn’t it? To give you an answer and then make it a little bit complicated. So you have to find your own answer. Is that my job?

[19:47] What color cocktail table should I buy, help me figure out what’s missing in my space (Elizabeth) 

Question: 

I’m trying to put together my room. I don’t know what Color cocktail table to buy. brown, blue beige. Should the round side tables be dark to match the floor. I bought a media cabinet for rain from Raymour and Flanigan. It’s a craftsman 60 inch in beige and the top is beige. The curtains are a seafoam color with wheat color roman shades. I don’t think they complement one another. What do you suggest? I ordered Pottery Barn’s Fae linen pillow cover in tobacco? I need a radiator cover. Should I do white or brown? I don’t know what is missing? I think my living room is okay, but I don’t love it. Thank you for your help. 

Answer:

Well, you have packed a lot of questions into a reasonably brief note. I am overwhelmed because I don’t want to miss any of your questions. But let’s take a look at this. I want to mention something, Elizabeth, and I think I designed a space for you because the architecture of this room looks so familiar. If I didn’t create a space for you, then I have designed one in your neighborhood because everything from the fireplace to the archway over the dining room with the stairs that step up. I’m having a real deja vu moment, which is fun but scary. 

Thank you for writing. Okay, let’s get down to it. Let’s first talk about the living room, in general. There’s a word that I wouldn’t say I like when people use it. I hate that you use the word love. Love has such extreme connotations. Love is like being struck by lightning; people expect the earth to move everything to be different. Wow, how did I ever live before I met this room, this person, whatever? Love is a dangerous word, maybe in life, but in interior design. I don’t want you to love anything, including your living room. Elizabeth, I want you to like everything. Suppose you like everything if you like your living room and its pieces. When something stops working, when the upholstery gets scratched by this adorable dog, when something breaks, you’re not going to be devastated because you liked it. 

But there are other options. This is one of many things that could work. When we feel that loving feeling, this thing is almost irreplaceable. And then we’re thinking more about the individual objects, not the whole room. It’s vital to think about the room holistically rather than breaking it up piece by piece or waiting to feel a special feeling that has so much associated with it. I want you to feel some emotional distance from your living room. 

But the questions you asked are not the entirety of the problem. So first things first, I love that you have an inspirational piece that appears to be this beautiful rug. I love it and think it works really well in this space with dark beams and beautiful light-colored painted walls with high ceilings. I love that this patterned rug with the light blue, yellows, the red, and then the touches of the Navy works well.

I am a little bit troubled that it’s the only colorful thing in the room beside a couple of toss pillows. I love the blue drapes, but we need some artwork. Now you’re only showing me two angles of the room. There is artwork on the other side, and I can see a mirror above the sofa. But that’s not bringing us any more color. I want the rug to be something other than the liveliest thing in the room. So let’s add some artwork. Let’s add something else to give this room some visual interest.

You do not need to match the furniture to the architecture of the space. So you have these very dark wood espresso-colored beams. And then your flooring is more of a mid-tone wood with a warm hue, almost like a walnut tone. It would be nice to bring some wood in the furniture here because of both the TV stand you’ve recommended and the end tables. You’ve opted for a cream or beige type of look. And too much of that same painted wood loses its uniqueness. 

Having a new texture here would be nice. But the problem is that you’re referring to this end table between the chairs, and the chairs are brown. And wood is typically in its natural form brown. And I don’t want this whole side of the room to be a brown town. We want to consider if I wasn’t going to use wood if I wasn’t going to keep this painted wood table, what would I do, and what texture is missing. 

And here, we have glass, and the end table lamps are glass and brass. So that is taken care of one texture I’m not seeing is stone. So an end table that’s marble would be beautiful. It could have a wooden frame because, you know, you’re not just going to have a big ole hunk of marble there; you’re probably going to have slabs of metal that are tiered or something like that. I would go for a wood frame around the marble versus a metal frame since the lamps on top of the table will have the metal bronze and glass finish when we’re looking at a room and examining what’s missing or needed. 

Ask yourself what material is not represented here. Have I used glass? Check. Have I used wood? Check. Have I used this painted wood? Yes, check. Have I used stone or acrylic? Go through all the different materials you can think of to make sure you’re layering in a complex way rather than buying something redundant that you’ve already used. So that’s my main feedback. 

You could also use a coffee table; everything feels a little too cramped right now. There’s a plastic plant shoved in the corner like a poem behind the floor lamp. The fireplace wedges the end table next to the sofa. One chair overlaps the fireplace. So, this room feels cluttered. And I would be focusing on reducing the number of items I have in the room and increasing the number of textures I have. Because I think you’re reiterating the same texture rather than stretching yourself and looking for something new. 

Links:

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