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Decorating and Design Tips from Jennifer Flanders
Attention-grabbing colors and patterns are Jennifer Flanders' signature
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Given half a chance, New York interior designer Jennifer Flanders will veer toward the dramatic in her design. She seems to find rich, attention-grabbing colors and patterns irresistible. Yet, like any fist-rate designer, she knows that design is about her client, not her own personal preferences. That is why the tips that follow also include advice about neutral colors as well as words like “comfort” and “relaxation.”
A couple years ago Flanders founded the New York chapter of Designs for Dignity, an organization that uses pro bono designer services along with materials and finishes donated by manufacturers, vendors, clients and showrooms to create beautiful, healing spaces for nonprofits and residences that serve people in need.
Whether you are looking for ways to add drama to your decorating or ideas for an extra measure of comfort, you’ll find a dozen great tips here from Jennifer Flanders.
Decorate the Ceiling
In decorating your home, the ceiling is often a forgotten surface, resigned to white paint. While that’s appropriate in many instances, the ceiling can present an opportunity to add an unexpected element to the room’s design. Why not draw the eye up with a bright color applied in a high-gloss finish or even with a patterned wallpaper? Your particular choice of color or pattern will either make your ceiling feel taller or add warmth and coziness to an otherwise cavernous space.
Call Out Your Woodwork
Treat your woodwork as an extra opportunity for color and interest. There is no rule that states moldings and cabinets have to be white or even a pale color. You can create a great deal of interest if you paint your trim in a deep color that contrasts sharply with your walls. In this dining room, the orange cabinets and trim help the room feel warm and rich—white woodwork would’ve felt sterile and looked typical.
Disguise an Absence of Architecture
A large-scale print on the wall can make a nondescript space into one that pops. This foyer has a low ceiling and very little architectural detailing, but you forget all of that when you enter the apartment because your eye is immediately captivated by the dramatic walls. The deep aubergine ground color and the over-scaled gold pattern deliver a major “wow”—exactly what you want from the entry space of your home.
Design a Dining Room That Works
A dining room can be used for so much more than dining. With a little ingenuity and an interesting floor plan, a room that is usually reserved for holidays and formal occasions can be turned into a space that is called to duty on a daily basis. In this Park Avenue apartment, we placed the clients’ prize game table in front of the window. It draws people into the room for more than just meals, and in a pinch it can double as extra seating for large dinner parties.
Continue Your Color Flow
When rooms open onto each other, you can create a seamless flow from one room to the next by being consistent with the use of at least one main color. This living room and foyer transition easily into each through the tones on the walls. The Venetian-plastered foyer walls are essentially a much more saturated shade of the textured walls in the living room.
Embrace a Room’s Darkness
When dealing with a room lacking in natural light, create a warm and cozy space with a deep, saturated wall color instead of trying to make the room as light as possible with pale-colored walls. Then bring some brightness into the room with a pale rug and light-colored upholstery pieces.
Books Speak Volumes in Design
Not only do they look great as accessories, books reveal the personalities and tastes of their owners. In this age of the Kindle and Ipad, hardcover books are becoming far too rare in our homes. To counter this, I always begin the accessorizing stage by asking my clients to buy an obscene number of books if they don’t already own them. Beautiful books add color, warmth and interest to any tabletop or shelf, and the titles say so much about the people who live among them.
Pump up a Neutral Palette
A neutral palette doesn’t have to be boring or quiet. Showcase a variety of patterns and textures, as we’ve done in this Hamptons living room without straying from its neutral brown and ivory palette. The variety of textiles coupled with sculptural furniture shapes make for a room with a huge interest and little color.
Ensure Sitting in the Bedroom
Every bedroom needs at least one strategically placed chair. Even if your bedroom is small, it is worthwhile to integrate a chair into your floor plan. A chair connotes comfort and relaxation—perfect for any bedroom. When possible, avoid having that chair become a repository for discarded clothing!
Add Impact to Collectibles
Proudly display your collections in a thoughtful, organized manner. What we collect says who we are, so ensure that your collections reach their full potential to personalize your home by presenting them in the most eye-catching arrangements. Group all items from a collection on a single tabletop or series of shelves within a room for the most impact instead of scattering them hither and yon.
Weave Together Indoors and Outdoors
Pay attention to the dichotomy between the indoors and the outdoors when decorating your interior. In this living room, the carefully placed Chinese screen plays dramatically off the magnificent NYC skyline—they intensify each other and make each other even more breathtaking. No matter where you live, take the view outdoors into account in placing your furniture, art, and accessories in a room and choosing its palette.
Good Decorating Has a Sense of Humor
Have fun with your decorating and maintain a sense of humor. Look for opportunities for displaying sly wit, a quirky character or amusing whimsy. In this guest bedroom suite, we installed a “watchful” painting above the well-stocked bar cart—yes, those are eyes on that painting.
Visit Jennifer Flanders’s Own NYC Apartment