Design by Jessie LaFalce, Lead Designer / Story by Susan Victor / Photography by Shelly Schmidt
Even in the most modern of interior designs, if the walls are bare and there is nothing present that speaks to the personality or character of the inhabitants, the space can feel cold or uninviting. Accessories and art are often an afterthought by homeowners, or the budget doesn’t allow for those finishing touches However, just like an incredible scarf thrown around the neck of a little black dress, accessories often become the pièces de résistance of the overall look of the room.
Understanding the importance of accessories play in creating the feel of a home, Susan Victor asked Jessie Falce, Director of Design of Nandina Atlanta, to describe how she helped guide a young couple in the art of accessorizing their first home.
Q. Lisa and Cam Thompson are a newly married couple just starting to build a life together. Describe their style and how working with you as their designer impacted how they began the process and drew up a long-term plan that fit their budget.
A. Because this young couple is newly married, neither had any experience articulating their design style preferences, and we had to do a bit of digging. The first design concept was a hit for Cam with its classic modern furniture and art with bold color against an otherwise neutral palette, but it was a definite “miss” for Lisa. We went back to the drawing board and a few days later presented a design that had Lisa grinning from ear to ear.
Cam wanted Lisa to be happy, and he was willing to shift his desire for pops of color toward Lisa’s more neutral preferences for a soft, monochromatic scheme of ivory, gray, and soft sand. For accents, only shades of gray-blue are used throughout the home in art, rugs, and side chairs. The result is a soothing, intimate, comfortable home designed for relaxing and quiet entertaining. I would define the resulting style as “Classic Traditional Cottage with a Modern Edge.”
Q. Their first big investment was towards the basics. That didn’t leave a lot left over for layering in their personalities and character with accessories. As you worked with them and demonstrated how artfully accessorizing can change the whole feel of a room, how did you make decisions on what to bring in to fit their personalities and style?
A. When I choose accessories, art, pillows and accent furniture for any client, my process is the same. It is difficult to describe because rather than selecting by aesthetic, I select pieces emotionally. When I work with clients on the design of their home, how they will feel in the space is as important as what the space will look like. The emotional quality has as much bearing on the design as the aesthetic quality. That’s how I was able to focus on what would make Lisa feel happy with their design concept. I asked her to describe to me how she wanted to feel in her home at the end of her long work day. Then I selected colors, finishes and shapes that would capture that essence for her. The aesthetic evolved from that thought process.
The same holds true for the accents. The feeling I am trying to capture is projected into selecting items from our vendors. In this case, I reached for anything that gave me a sense of quietude, but every now and again, I’d find something that gave me a little zing – something small with a modern edge to it. For example, the framed painting in the living room is definitely modern and abstract, but the colors blend seamlessly with those in the living room rug. This was a strategic choice on my part.
In order to create a sense of calm in a space, you want the eye to flow smoothly as you look around the room, not jump sharply from object to object. To achieve a state of calm with accents, choose fluid, rounded shapes and images; a grouping of several items in one neutral color; and add items that are soft to the touch, like comforting cashmere throws or a lidded box covered with hair-on hide.
Q. Often when designers come into a home for an accessorizing makeover, we let the client experience it in total. What were Lisa and Cam’s response to the makeover?
A. They loved it! In fact they kept about 80 percent of what we had brought in. Accessories and art should layer in over time. The Thompsons felt this idea would give their home that added dimension of character. Allowing them the freedom to bring in special finds or meaningful pieces as their lives unfold.
Q. Describe some specific areas that really ended up being home runs.
A. Their sunroom is one of my favorite spots in the home because it is so simple. I love the use of the four cane-back chairs, a beautiful rug, a full wall of soft, gauzy, linen ivory sheers. These items make it a serene spot to relax and share a drink with friends before dinner. I want to believe it’s one of Lisa and Cam’s favorite parts of the house as well!