Ask yourself, “What makes me the happiest when I enter my house?” Interior designer John MacLean poses in his first book “The Designer Inside: A Professional Guide to a Well-Designed Home” (Gibbs Smith, Sept. 6).
This is a good question.
What makes me happiest? After coming home to the people and pets dear to me, the next home will be clean and orderly. Walking into a filthy house in disarray gives me hives.
Beauty comes next. This means that I want to wipe my eyes inside my house without hitting a sad tone. I want to see only the things and the short engravings that I love, the pieces that my husband and I have collected over time that tell stories.
I’ll say this for MacLean’s book: It got me thinking before even through the introduction.
“I want readers—whether homeowners about to embark on their first renovation or seasoned design professionals looking for new ideas—to come away feeling confident and inspired,” he wrote.
fair enough. But to be honest, when I finish the book, I don’t feel more confident, though definitely more inspired. Readers will be hard pressed to not want to completely transform their home after perusing this beautiful 114-page book, illustrated with photos of Maclean’s home, “Modern Loft,” and his other design projects, which range from traditional to contemporary.
“I didn’t want this to be just another nice book for the coffee table,” McClain told me over the phone from his Los Angeles home. He has a design office there and in Orlando. “What I really want this book to do is start a conversation, a discussion within your family that sparks change.”
My husband hates it when that happens. Now I want to renovate our kitchen.
Because his book raised questions beyond what would make me happiest (an updated kitchen), I asked MacLean more.
s Every designer, including you, says they collect inspiring images from magazines or on the Pinterest board to form the basis of your design. How do you move from this mixture to the design plan?
a You are looking for inspiration. When you find something you respond positively to, whether it’s a picture of a room, a rug, a piece of art, or furniture, dig deeper. Analyze why you love her. Is it because it reminds you of a favorite place, or makes you feel relaxed and comfortable. What is this? The items in your home need to awaken something inside of you. They have to be more than just pretty.
s You tell readers to “be bold.” This is a loaded tip. please advise
a You’ve outnumbered people copying what they see in Crate & Barrel or Restoration Hardware and depersonalizing the house. Homeowners need to express themselves. My favorite way to be bold is through wallpaper, but it can also be through an accent piece of furniture, perhaps an oversized light fixture that works like a sculpture, or through an unexpected color.
s Your book has a lot of painted cabinets, but the idea of painting wooden cabinets scares me. Is this not sacrilege?
a Now I’ll raise you, who cares? Wood is just wood. I don’t understand why we put it on this rule. People say they can’t change that golden oak, and I say, “Are you kidding me?” Wooden cabinets are no more special than painted cabinets. Although when painting cabinets, choose colors that will stand the test of time.
s Share your secrets to creating a great “shelf” or nightstand.
a When designing a bookshelf or coffee table, essentials should include stacks of books with some sort of “book top,” such as a brass piece or any small accent piece on top of the pile to punctuate the table. Then add an object to two with a height and a round body, such as a bowl. Mix sizes, shapes, colors and finishes and try to make the combination a microcosm of the room you are in.
s You advocate for a “chic and comfortable” home design. How do you relate those opposite ideas?
a Stylish and comfortable is the design aesthetic. You can choose an elegant sofa with cool and sophisticated lines, and cover it with a very durable fabric so that children can wipe their dirty hands on it. Stock up on it, so it’s more comfortable than you might expect, while still maintaining the same sleek silhouette. Conclusion: family homes can have white sofas.
s What are some ways to make a small space look bigger?
a Use armchairs and sofas with legs that allow airspace underneath. Nothing should hit the ground. Clear acrylic chairs take up less visual space, and curtains starting from the ceiling will make rooms appear taller. Don’t be afraid to use large pieces in small rooms. A few large pieces are better than many smaller ones. The monochromatic color scheme helps, too.
s You talk philosophy high and low when discussing how to look great. What are the best places to save money, and where should you invest?
a Spend money on frequently used items: sofas, coffee tables, dining chairs, beds, appliances, and goods, such as cabinets. Save on items you don’t use often, like lamps, mirrors, accessories, side tables, and sometimes rugs and art. Even when I work in a multi-million dollar home, I’ll put a well-made, expensive dining table next to a $50 mirror.
Marnie Jameson is the author of six books on home and lifestyle, including What To Do With All You Own To Leave The Legacy You Want, Downsizing The Family Home – What To Save, What To Leave, and Downsizing Blended Home – When two families become one. You can access it at marnijameson.com.