Monday, October 31, 2011

Great Looking Interiors Mix It Up with Styles and Budgets by

(ARA) - So many of us find ourselves in the same decorating boat - a home filled with a few family heirlooms, flea market or tag sale finds, and maybe even one or two treasures from a successful dumpster dive. You love them all, but how do you combine high and low design pieces to create a unified and polished look for your home?

First says Marjorie Marcellus, an interior design instructor at The Art Institute of California - San Francisco, forget about the cost of a piece. "A successful interior is not determined by the cost of its components. For a space to work, it needs to have balance and harmony," says Marcellus. Finishes and home furnishings, even kitchen rugs should relate to each other as part of an overall design scheme, but "that doesn't mean they have to match, be of the same era, same price or quality," she explains.

For example, says Marcellus, "I placed an expensive slab of marble onto a salvage-yard industrial black metal stand and then added four black bargain stools from Pottery Barn." The similar finishes of the materials made it work. The result? "A custom kitchen table for my client's urban loft. Topped with a delicate antique vase, fresh wild flowers and colorful cloth napkins from IKEA, the outcome was unexpected and delightful," says Marcellus.

Suzanne Wilkins, an interior design instructor at The Art Institute of New York City, is another proponent of mixing both high and low design elements. A basic rule of thumb, says Wilkins, is to avoid having a less expensive item next to a more expensive similar item.

"Too many similarities invite comparison, and may make the less expensive things look cheap," she says. Instead, pair precious things with inexpensive finds by following two rules of thumb: keep it simple and clean lined, or keep it funky. According to Wilkins, simple clean lines naturally look expensive, and we associate clean lines with a more modern and expensive look.

On the other hand, she says, funky items can often stand alone and speak for themselves. But use them sparingly. For example, a nice grouping of African masks can add a lot of texture and color and can be found inexpensively in flea markets. To make it work, don't use more than three or four or in more than one location, says Wilkins.

Dan Noyes, chairman of the Interior Design department at The Art Institutes International, Minnesota, loves to combine modern pieces with weathered antiques, "to create a wonderful gypsy chic look." Whether high end or low end, an antique's patina and unique character flaws can set it apart from a great, modern piece of furniture, he says.

Furniture pieces themselves can combine the best of both high and low end design features says John Gambell, chairman of the Interior Design department of The Art Institute of New England. For a stylish-looking dining or end table, Gambell suggests taking a simple and inexpensive parsons-styled table (Ikea is a good source) and add a made-to-order stone top of either slate or marble. " A small 'reveal' between the base and the top wood appear to make the top float," says Gambell.

A few final words of wisdom about mixing high and low end design from the experts: When shopping at stores like Crate and Barrel or Pottery Barn, pick a few pieces from each instead of outfitting an entire room with one look. "Mix it up," says Wilkins. And remember, be patient and shop around. What makes a room look rich and expensive, no matter what the budget, is time.

Courtesy of ARA Content

Decorating Contemporary Spaces

Contemporary home decorating refers both to the utilization of recent trends in the decorative arts, and the overall style which acts in opposition to more traditional themes. There are several elements which characterize this form of interior art. Each one of them can give a room a distinctive and look and feel, which is quite different from the interiors found in more traditionally decorated homes.


The most common and recognizable feature of contemporary decorating is its linear nature. Traditionally the more complex a shape the more attractive it was deemed. Ovals and circular shapes were preferred to straight or boxy styles. This was often because they required more work, with the handicraft of an individual artist or artisan being required to craft the most complex pieces.

Today however contemporary styles have rejected this notion, instead embracing the subtle simplicity of straight lines. Contemporary decorative styles feature square and rectangles in its furnishings. The architecture is straight, laid out in uncomplicated patterns that create spaces built on logically placed right angles.


Generally the backdrop of a space decorated in a contemporary style consists of subdued neutral colors. White and off white hues a grounded by bits of black creating a sense of an empty canvas within the space. These subdued pieces will often feature rich textures that will add interest to the pieces.

This relatively empty space can then be contrasted with a few vibrantly colored focal points. The interplay between the neutral backdrop and the dramatic accents can create a sense of dramatic tension which can add a lot of energy to the room.


The most commonly used materials in contemporary furnishings are natural stone, hardwood, steel, and glass. These are all elegant and eye catching substances, with intriguing textures that will add personality to each room they are used in. If the subdued neutral colors in the space are too drab, you can also use thick curtains, or plush pillows to make the area seem more inviting.


One of the most important elements of contemporary decorating styles is the creation and maintenance of space. Less is more, and you want to remove any clutter so that attention is not drawn away from the desired focal points in the space. Clutter can consist of both unwanted items which fill a room, and decorative pieces that are not necessary. Remember, you want wide open spaces punctuated by focal points, so do you best to remove any unnecessary pieces from the area.

This article is sponsored by PebbleZ’s line of sandstone beverage coasters, which are crafted from mountain born, naturally absorbent stone materials. The article itself was written by stone designer and artist Joey Pebble.

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