Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Recipe for Good Design

If decorating were like baking a cake, there would be a recipe to follow, something simple that would result in something delicious!

Just like with the cake analogy, there are a million different flavors of cake, some which are favorites, and others which cater to a more exotic palette.  So in a way there are tried and true recipes for decorating, and there really is no right or wrong, the ingredients can vary and the outcome will sometimes flop, but you can start over, amend the recipe, and try again.

If I were writing a decorating cookbook of sorts, I would be sure that each recipe included 3 key ingredients, Color, Light, and Texture.  For me, these are like sugar, flour, and butter...essential to creating that prize winning cake, or to creating good design.

I am not a master chef at decorating, but I do know what I like.  Like the photo above of my trusty bucket bench.  This bench has traveled with me from house to house and in its lifetime it's been several colors, including a deep green.  Today, it's painted Benjamin Moore's Simply White, but next month it may find a new color, who knows.  It holds a small collection of crocks, and if you look closely, you'll see something dark sticking up from the crock in the back right.  I use these crocks to hold our dog's leashes, they keep things close at hand but out of sight...well sort of since you can see them in the photo!  

The clock was an inherited gift from Mr. Tide's grandparents, we still need to take it to a repair shop to get it back into working order.  I love the deep dark brown of the wood, the wavy glass which reflects the light pouring in from the backyard, and beautiful intricate carving...color, light, and texture!

For me, color comes in many forms.  White on white, or tone on tone interiors are all the rage right now as evidenced by the numerous books and magazine articles featuring interiors with monochromatic color schemes.  When done well, with lots of varying shades of white and plenty of texture, I swoon right along with the masses, but I know that for me, it would never work.

For me, having an all white house would be like eating angel food cake for dessert every night.  Not that I don't love a good angel food cake with its soft center and slightly crispy browned crust, but I need more color in my life than that.  On the other hand, I'm not a red velvet cake person either, with deep rich hues and plenty of saturated colors.  I think if I was any cake it would be a lemon chiffon, or maybe a spice cake with a big dollop of fresh whipped cream...something light but colorful, or something with a kick of flavor from a mix of ingredients.

With design, I think it's fair to say that you can appreciate and even enjoy different flavors, but in order to find your own sense of style you need to figure out which tastes appeal to you and then learn to hone those flavors into something that satisfies your needs.

If Paula Deen or Martha Stewart told you to only like cupcakes would you believe them?!  The same can be true for magazines and books.  Just because something is in vogue at the moment and it's not to your liking doesn't mean you have to re-do your entire house to suit someone else's taste buds.

I think we all struggle with this, I know I do.  And believe me, when you work in a business that is focused on what's hot at the moment, it's easy to get caught up and swept away with the latest design trends, often feeling somewhat inadequate if your 2 layer yellow cake somehow doesn't measure up to the perfect chocolate truffle souffle being featured on the pages of your favorite magazine.

Instead of letting it overwhelm you when you feel like your home someone doesn't make the grade, stop and take a moment to look at all the ingredients found in the rooms and homes you see featured.  Maybe you love the pinch of salt, like the all white walls and white slipcovered furnishings they've used, but your blood pressure can't handle it, so take what you can use, maybe the white walls, but leave the rest.

Find your own secret ingredient, using things you already own, and mix up the recipe to create something new in your home without having to start from scratch with a whole new recipe, baking dishes, and oven!

Good design chefs come in all shapes and sizes, and they offer up all sorts of variations on those tried and true recipes.  My Color, Light, and Texture recipe isn't a one size fits all, it's just a recipe that has worked for me over the years.  Becoming a great decorator and creating a home you love isn't always about having the perfect, most expensive ingredients, it's really about taking the things you already have and whipping them in to something special that says something about you and the way you live!

And speaking of homes, my heart goes out to the people in Australia who are dealing with horrible flooding!  Our dear friend A-M is suffering firsthand the effects of this terrible natural disaster.  Please take a moment and stop by her blog (HERE) and send her, and all the others like her and her boys, a big virtual hug!  My thoughts are with all those who have lost so much!


  1. What a wonderful philosophy!! We all have so many "old" things with an interesting story behind them that can be "reworked and renewed" and add a unique touch to our homes. While liking contemporary things, I have also learned to appreciate antiques after "inheriting" some lovely pieces. I love the eclectic look--now by choice. Thanks for the nice post. Mickie

  2. Kat,
    This is such a fantastic analogy!!! So true, and I often think the people in their 20's-30's are most often swayed by trends they see instead of trusting their taste.

  3. I too have added some texture and color to my shelves in my latest post.
    Off to relax. Have a great week.

  4. Great post about not getting caught up in the trends. Also feel so bad for the folks in Brisbane. I follow another Aussie's blog and she has shared some photos of this tragedy.

  5. What a good post. I tend to mix it up with trendy things as well as thing I have collected for years. I go in spurts. Enjoyed my visit tonight.

  6. This is a great, thought-provoking post, Kat... A timely one for me, as I am contemplating some changes in my decor! I will visit A-M's blog...

  7. This was really well written...not that I would expect otherwise! What I like in other's homes, or in a magazine...isn't always what I could live with. I made the mistake when we first moved into this house 7 years ago, of going for a style instead of going with what felt "like me". I bought the entire window display of a very nice furniture store. The look was "cottage" with creamy tables (which I do love) and a sofa and loveseat in deep red and green floral on creamy white. It looked great in the window and it looked perfect in my house...and I hated it. It was too busy for my taste. There were so many colors I couldn't use with that dark red and I finally bumped it all to the basement. I went back to the same store for deep espresso leather sofas and tables...and I could relax in my own home again.

  8. Love that analogy. No wonder I have trouble figuring out my taste in decorating - I'll eat anything. It's funny how the elements seem so simple, but are so difficult to apply sometimes.

  9. Amen to all of that. I'm like you; angel food cake would lose it's flavor if that's all I ate. So, I eat a balanced diet of different cakes/styles.

  10. Great post! I'm a slice of kiwi pie! A nice bright color, white toppings, a perfect crust, with a flavor towards fruity. LOL! I couldn't agree with you more. I do love to look at the stylings of all white homes but it's just not me anymore then all that beautiful traditional fine furniture is either. I think because I know what I like I can really enjoy looking at and appreciate how others decorate more too! This really was an enjoyable topic.

  11. Your post is very timely as tonight I had was an HGTV program and the designer was criticizing the home owners floral couch, I happen to have a floral couch, it's bold and it's got huge flowers and I like it. I think there's too much homogenization in decorating. I like to think I'm a little eclectic in my style . . . who knows! LOL!! Love all your baking analogies also, because I just did a post about maple muffins from Sarabeth's Bakery cookbook. Thank you for reminding us about Australia, in all honesty I have been preoccupied with what happened in Tucson. Have a great weekend!


  12. I love your bench and philosophy. My mother had 2 or 3 crocks like that but my brother has them. I have always liked them.

    My prayers go out to the people in Australia too.

  13. I love your analogy Kat and I couldn't agree more. Sure wish I had known that you collected salt glaze, I have two boxes to a thrift shop this summer.

  14. Well written, good advice. While for some taste may be all in their mouth, if they are following their hearts, it still says unique. A good recipe may be shared, but it never tastes like the original owner's for some strange reason. The same is true for decorating. We can copy, but it will never have the same sprinkles as the original. Great post.

  15. Kat, I love this post!!! It is all true! You should follow what calls to you and you should have your own decorating style. So many times people feel they have to decorate their homes in the latest style but I feel your home is exactly that your home! It is all right to have some fade design here and there but I prefer to have the majority of the decorating be my style! Thanks for sharing your thoughts as always!!

    Also I am so sorry for all the people in Australia. I hope your friend and her family find some peace soon! Those floods are horrible!!

  16. Remember that Red Velvet Cake has white frosting!

  17. Love your analogy... and your pottery! I have a couple of pieces myself.


  18. What a great analogy Kat! Although a new style may catch my attention, I have always tended to go my own way. My home is my refuge and I want to be comfortable and happy there. Thus, I tend to be true to myself when it comes to decorating. The end result is rather eclectic but it makes me happy.

    ~ Tracy

  19. Great advice and you are so right about getting wrapped up with what is in. I found myself doing that with all these wonderful inspirations here in blogland and then when I did those types of styles in my home I found that it was not me. Still loving all the different variations of recipes, I just need to remember my own. :)

    Have a beautiful day!

  20. Okay, I love your whole decorating philosophy, but this probably has a lot to do with loving cake. I think you should write a book on this!

    I do want to thank you for talking about what our Australian friends are going through. I had to run through my blog list to try to remember everyone who lives in there and make sure they are okay. I did stop by your friend's and boy, she's in the thick of it. I wish the best for her and all others who have been affected by the flooding.

  21. Kat, somehow I missed this wonderful post yesterday. So glad I found it today. I have always been into color...and will always be I feel sure. I have fallen recently for soft grey in my clothing and wonder if it will creep into my homes. My heart/prayers go out to the folks in Brisbane. ♥O

  22. Wonderful post and I especially enjoyed hearing your perspective and your cupcake analogy is perfect! I also enjoyed those lovely shots from around your place. So very lovely! xo ~Lili

  23. What an insightful post!

    "For me, having an all white house would be like eating angel food cake for dessert every night...On the other hand, I'm not a red velvet cake person either..."

    This quote of yours is fantastic. I should frame it!


  24. such gorgeous pictures- they just leap off the monitor!!



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