Southern Living asked several Interior Designers in New Orleans what they notice, read what Reed & Acanthus sees first!
We all like to think we have good taste, but not all of us are quite literally trained to have an eye for design. For an Interior Designer in New Orleans, it's their job to notice what an untrained eye may not. As it turns out, there’s quite a few things. When an Interior Designer in New Orleans expert approaches a new room for the first time, or surveys a newly completed project, they are drawn to certain things that make or break the space.
“To me, a room is a whole experience,” says Monika Nessbach, founder and chief Interior Designer in New Orleans of Designbar. “Walking into a room for me is like embarking on a visual adventure. Amidst the details, several elements cry for immediate attention.”
We asked some of the South’s top Interior Designers in New Orleans what they first notice when they enter a room, and the answers may surprise you. Odds are, their eyes won’t immediately be drawn to a bright piece of furniture or particularly stylish accessory. Rather, they’ll be taking in positive cues that speak to the potential of the space or negative ones that fall short of that potential. People who live in the home and have grown used to the set-up of a room may not notice these aspects, but an Interior Designer in New Orleans’s keen eyes can’t help but have tunnel-vision towards these things that either make a room special or stand out like a sore thumb. Here’s what to look out for in your own home to see it through a new, expert-approved lens.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY LAUREY W. GLENN; STYLING BY KENDRA SURFACE
Balance—Or Lack Thereof
“The first thing that strikes me when I walk into a room is balance, or lack of it,” says Brad Ramsey, principal and founder of Brad Ramsey Interiors. “Style and decor choices are intimately personal and I can appreciate all different expressions, but when a room feels out of balance, meaning something is off with scale, color, or floor plan, I have a harder time enjoying it.”
Bethany Adams, principal designer of Bethany Adams Interiors agrees that improper scaling that throws a room into imbalance is a huge eyesore and can diminish the space.
“The first thing I clock when I walk into a room is the amount and scale of the furnishings,” she says. “If a space is overcrowded, it feels uncomfortable to be in it. Oversized furnishings, overcrowded furniture or—worst of all—a combination of both makes a space feel smaller.”
Lighting is a significant focal point for these designers, as well. Bad lighting, they say, can severely beat down a room, while good lighting can lift it up and even compensate for other negative attributes on this list.
“There is nothing more depressing to me than walking into a dark room,” says Adams. “Rooms just feel sad without a big bright window or some excellent lighting.”
For designer-approved lighting, consider a wide range of options. First, Sara Malek Barney, founder and principal designer of BANDD/DESIGN, takes natural lighting into account. Here, Shelby Van Daley, principal designer and founder of Daley Home says that "the more natural light the better. It allows for a bright and airy feel and enhances the mood of the room."
If there’s not enough sun rays pouring in, Malek Barney she advises getting creative with electrical solutions. When designing the lighting for a room, Katharine Kelly Rhudy, principal designer at Reed & Acanthus recommends taking an ambient approach. This means installing lighting at multiple levels including ceiling lights, table and floor lamps, and wall sconces to augment any natural light. “I prefer soft white light and always use dimmers to control brightness,” she adds.
For designers, walls are a blank canvas—even if they’re not so blank. Painted, decorated, or however adorned, designers see walls as an opportunity for making a statement that will set the tone for the room. Whether they’re fully embellished or left blank, designers’ eyes are sure to be drawn to walls.
“Bare walls are immediately noticeable and make a room feel sterile and uninviting,” says Kelly Rhudy who recommends wall art, wallpaper, or intriguing paint to correct the issue.
In addition to what’s on the walls, Malek Barney says that she takes account of their construction. For instance, she notes that solid limestone walls may limit possibilities for wall treatments and that drywall includes texture that some homeowners embrace and others will want to remove.
“I definitely notice the walls and what’s on them—whether it be paint color or wallpaper—but I also look at the texture of them and what they're made of because that will determine what is possible,” Malek Barney says.
Low ceilings, Malek Barney says, will immediately set off alarm bells in her head because they are harder to work with and can make a room feel smaller than it is. Unfortunately, not many of us are blessed with illustriously tall ceilings, and it’s not going unnoticed by these designers. To minimize how striking a low ceiling can be, Malek Barney recommends treating it as “a fifth wall.”
“If you're painting, for example, paint the walls and the ceiling the same color,” she says. “It really helps with minimizing the impact of a lower ceiling”
Meanwhile, Nessbach suggests using optical illusions to expand the space. She recommends decorating with an oversized mirror to trick the eyes into thinking the room is bigger than it is.
If a room is well-loved and lived in, as opposed to the blank slate of a new build, designers’ eagle eyes automatically assess the room as a testament to the character of those who live there and how they function within the space. This can then help them know how to approach redesigning the room.
“My immediate question is whether the room exudes personality. I take a look at what kind of books are in the bookshelves, for example,” says Nessbach. Meanwhile, for Malek Barney, the question of personality is more of a feeling.
“The big thing that I noticed is the way they like to live and how it feels,” she says. “Does it feel homey? Does it feel lived in? Does it feel messy? Does it feel dusty? I pick up on a lot of those things because it'll show me how they're going to respond to the space once it's completed and how they're going to live in it going forward.”
In addition to the sights (and in Malek Barney’s case, the feel), Adams and Kelly Rhudy note that other sensory observations can make significant first impressions. The biggest one that designers can’t help but notice is the smell of a room. Odds are that other guests who aren’t used to your home will notice this one, too—for better or for worse.
“I have a nose like a bloodhound and can detect unpleasant or pleasant smells immediately,” says Kelly Rhudy. “Does a house smell old and dirty? Musty and mildewy? Is there an overwhelming fragrance from candles which always makes me ask what they are trying to hide? The solution is easy: Open the windows as often as possible to let stale air out, especially in bedrooms.”
We hate to break it to you, but your clutter isn’t going unnoticed. In fact, for several designers, clutter is something of a bat signal that designer’s can’t help but act on.
“Clutter, clutter, clutter— It drives me wild, and it’s the very first thing I notice. Are there too many books, personal photos, counters crowded with appliances, or toys on the floor,” questions Kelly Rhudy, while Nessbach also notes intrusive technology cords for the list. “Clearing a house of clutter is a major step in creating a peaceful space and truly has a psychological and physical impact on our well-being. Plus, clearing a space of clutter is free!”
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