A built environment focused on human-centered spaces requires a specific ambiance as determined by you the client: attitude, emotional response, and spirit of place. Ambiance is a particular feeling associated with a space. Considering the function of the space as a guide your designer should develop the elements that create the desired ambiance: color, texture, light, space, theme, and location. “Colors are the catalyst for feelings, molding moods, and enhancing our lives” (Eiseman) and their psychological effects require consideration. In creating a home-like mood hotels, restaurants, and hospitals are selecting organic tonalities and textures, with wood and stone, and adding fireplaces and water features (IIDA). Reproducing natural landscapes with natural daylight creates a calming familiarity. Biolyphic design tenants play an important role in creating the mood, the ambiance, and the "feel" of any space. Commercial spaces are replicating the outdoors and the cozy "at home" ambiance so you stay longer, spend more money, and return more often. Hospitals seek a comfort level that reduces your stress level and speeds your recovery. Do our homes actually reflect these design elements? They should.
As a designer who cares about design education, experience, and eagerness to learn how to do things right I follow carefully internet images from all sources, professional and amateur, from all over the world. I put a keen eye on the lighting plan on each interior design image. There are people who scream at the football game on television. There are those that scream at the political discourse on cable news. And there is the one who screams at online interior design images because, though the overall design plan might be award winning, the lighting plan is non-existent. Too many designers + architects are not paying attention to the clients' intended use of space and the function required of light sources in that space. Lighting fixtures must be more than pretty. They must perform.
I preach daily "color is the first thing the eye perceives" and folks, you cannot see color without proper lighting. This is most worthy of repeating, "You cannot see color without proper lighting."
On my Instagram account @twowithcolor I carefully digest images discussing color, design elements, and lighting. I dissect the elements so that the viewer can learn why the image works or doesn't work. I avoid generic flattery, the word "perfect", and remarks lacking any point at all. My niche is educating those who want to know more about what they don't know.
Today I posted the image of the kitchen seen in this blog post with the topic lighting speak. I state clearly the important elements that makes this a grand example of a successful kitchen lighting plan....layered lighting, proper uniform Kelvin temperature (30K), good distribution, effective lumen output, distinguished fixture styling enhancing the1897 historic renovation, finally...a well executed lighting plan, fabulous work by Chelsea @chelseadesigncompany, with lighting assistance by Geri @wilsonlightingclayton. Chelsea's overall kitchen design is truly award worthy. She honored the home's 1897 roots wanting to update the lifestyle of the space without making it too current. Small custom-built flush mounts replaced today's standard recessed cans. Solid brass wall scones replaced typical under cabinet lighting. And, the island lighting is simply old school - white opal etched glass eliminating the glare found in the bare-bulb lantern so popular in 2017. The future owner of this kitchen will be impressed by the quality, quantity, and distribution of light in this room. Well lit rooms feel good, look good, and play a big part in selling a home! This home, located in Webster Groves, MO, will go on the market later next week.
Finally, a special thanks to Chelsea for sharing this historic renovation. I respect a designer eager to learn how to execute a good lighting plan. (photo by Emily Rose Studios)
I had a really great design experience recently that just needs to be shared. Why was it great? Because the client gave me a new adjective for describing objects, a new style. It's perfect.
The story. A client decided to replace the light fixture over their breakfast room table. They are Mandy and David. Mandy explained that they have been searching, buying, and returning light fixtures for six months without any success. David shared that they were either too big, too small, too tall, too short, too much, too little, or just not enough. "Enough?", I asked inquisitively. Mandy replied, "They were all so boring. I want a bipolar light fixture." David looked at me with a less than a blank face. I responded to Mandy in an all exuberant voice, "Bipolar! I get it. You want a fixture that is calm on days you're not in the mood for anything more than camomile tea BUT can be provocative on those days when you're feeling wild and adventurous. I GET IT. Bipolar." David, still looking my way, changed his expression to amazement and blurted out, "You know what the hell she's talking about?" Yes, I do. It's perfect, bipolar design. Mandy laughed in relief to find someone who spoke her language. I speak many design languages. I decided at that moment that a new style category was born. The conversation continued with me comparing and contrasting bipolar design versus transitional design. I continue.
Transitional design falls into the category 'all for one, one for all'. It's the design style that is neither here, nor there. It is chosen when one can't make a decision, needs a compromise to the Mars-Venus conflict, or staging a house for resale seeking not to offend anybody walking through the door with checkbook in hand. Transitional, as I told Mandy, is just a cup of camomile tea. It offers straight lines, curved profiles, with no fuss. It's purpose is to marry traditional and contemporary. It removes the classic details found in traditional European designs leaving behind stripped down frames that can easily be proportioned to today's larger more casual rooms.
With bipolar design now the style of the day I knew exactly where to go to find the perfect light fixture for Mandy and David. Once we determined ceiling height, table size, surrounding light sources, finish color, and lumen output requirements we began the search for the perfectly sized bipolar fixture.
Bypassing the run of the mill vendors I went straight to the king of artisan design - Hubbardton Forge. Hubbardton Forge is based in Vermont and is one of the country’s oldest and largest commercial forges operating today. Its designers have big ideas, possess a passion for design, and respects high-quality craftsmanship. The HF artisans handcraft each product, one at a time, right here in the good old USA. And, as a ReGreen trained designer I value the many benefits this fact offers.
Within in minutes of flipping the pages of the HF catalog we found the perfect bipolar fixture for Mandy and David. They fell in love with the Folio drum shade pendant and its extruding ribbons of hand-forged steel. It is the captivating visual element of the steel ribbons (the adventurous personality) emerging from the simple drum shade (the camomile personality) that gives us the opportunity to interpret our mood for the moment. The Folio is bipolar! As each Folio is made to order Mandy selected the burnished steel finish for the ribbons and the Anna natural shade. In six weeks Mandy and David will have more than a perfect fixture. They will have a stunning work of art that happens to be a light source with a split personality.
Final note. Below are two light fixtures that are all or nothing. They offer a single personality.
On the left, a very stylized busy piece that is always begging for constant attention, expecting you to drop everything and look at all its details: color contrast, straight lines, curved lines, drum shade, candle arms, candle holders, iron metal finish, crystal columns, crystal tear drops - woo I'm pooped. Manic!
On the right, an over simplified drum shade that doesn't expect any kind of attention. Walk in the room and it's just not there. It is the shy, introverted wall flower that doesn't want to be talked to at all. Sure it goes with everything because it offers nothing. That's why it's transitional. I call it depressing.
"Let's start at the very beginning - a very good place to start."
Hear the melody? Words sing to you. And, so do colors.
A-B-C, Do-Re-Mi, Red-Green-Blue!
Color is the very beginning of a well laid design plan. The first thing your eye perceives is color. Shapes, forms, light/dark contrast will fill a room but your eye will always recognize the color in a room before anything else. Color is THE room and as such you should understand your personal color sensory before starting an interior design project.
Color sensory is your personal response to specific color. There are millions of pigments the eye can recognize and no two people process color and react to it in the same way. This process is a biological, psychological, and an emotional experience. Our color preferences are based on these elements. We are all wired differently when it comes to color acuity. How well we see color is determined by the retina, the color cones perceiving the color, and the brain's ability to process the image. We obtain our color preferences at a young age from happy, sad, or traumatic times - color memories that you share with no one. Learn the reason behind your color preferences and your fear of using color will vanish. Simply put, color preference is not random and certainly not a trend.
When choosing a color palette for our rooms it is important to note that we should not judge a single color by its lonesome. We understand a single color best by how it relates to other colors in our line of sight. We create a melody by viewing a range of hues allowing them to vibrate one off the other. You will sense when you have found the perfect palette. It will sing to you. Its melody will play to your mind, body, and soul.
Color is a very good place to start. It is the beginning. Know and trust your unique color sensory. Choose the palette that sings to you. Let go of your friend's response to your chosen palette. It's yours and yours alone. Own it!
We obtain our color preferences at a young age from happy, sad, or traumatic times - color memories. Lilac stirs memories of your grandmother's bedroom where she read you her favorite story. Red recalls your favorite peppermint candy. Orange flashes back to the time your were frightened by the zoo tiger roaring so load. Sage is a sore subject as it was worn frequently by your high school English teacher that you hated. What is the color that you cannot make yourself like? What past association comes to mind? The answer may take some time and could probably pop up when you're not thinking about it. Associations do that. Know the reason behind the preferences of those you live with. It will save a lot of arguing.
We also respond to colors via styles and trends of the season. Happy times yields happy colors. Times of struggle reflect muddied colors and extreme neutrals. Warm hues are popular in summer, cool in winter. (Maybe that should be switched. Let's cool off with blues on a hot summer day. Warm up in winter with sunny yellows and oranges.)
Where we grow up affects our color preferences. Local culture, topography, and ethnic traditions influences how we use color on a daily basis. Coastal residents favor blue families where as mountain folk favor greens. Holidays reveal colors seen in the festivals both small and large.
We are all wired differently when it comes to color acuity. How well we see color is determined by the retina, the color cones perceiving the color, and the brain's ability to process the image. This is reason not to criticize one who describes a color differently than you. Trust your own color acuity. Only you see color the way you do. Throw caution when you ask for another opinion.
I have said over and over that color is nothing to be scared about. And, lack of color is nothing to be scared about either. Lack of color can yield an aesthetically gorgeous space with consideration to color theory and elements/principles of design. Lack of color is simply a palette that is full of neutrals: grey, black, white and neutral colors. Neutral colors can include the tan, beige, taupe families, variations of brown, and an array of other slightly tinted hues that read "quiet". The lower the light reflective value and the lower the saturation level, the more neutral a color can be. Never forget that the first thing the eye perceives is color and secondly, the contrast of light and dark. If there is no color then contrast must step up to the easel and control the canvas IF you seek a mid-high energy space.
Black and white is a versatile palette. It's the palette that is a friendly companion to a wide array of period designs, styles, and furnishings. There are the obvious: Art Deco, Modern, Contemporary, and Hollywood Regency. Don't be afraid to specify the black and white palette in your stylings. Black and white can work the casual room, the formal room, and anywhere in between. It works with everything, is not boring, IF you work the contrast strategy!
Located in the historic Chase Park Plaza complex this condominium is black and white through and through. This space has great architectural bones, generous amounts of natural light, and fabulous views of downtown and the St. Louis Arch. Who needs to see color when you have all this to excite your senses? My client was eager to rid her life of the old drab shabby stylings found in her single family home and took a leap towards glam, fab, and lux in this 15th floor mid-town condo. She wanted black and white. She wanted pattern and textures. And she wanted to love it all. I listened to her words, monitored her pulse, and through the professional design process we created her perfect home. There were no random acts of design in this space!
Note: my client also wanted to keep the same energy in the space during the holiday season and choose, wisely I must say, to keep her seasonal decor in the neutral palette as well.
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There is a rhyme and reason, a cause and affect, and more than personal taste to creating a space you love to live and work in. There is a strategy. Just saying.
How might I involve a child in the design process of their own room? How would I work with them to help give them a sense of control over their space? What techniques could be used to help them understand what is happening and what role they are to play? As a designer who understands the importance of evidence-based design strategies and the importance of a child's personal space I will have this discussion on a serious note. To narrow the discussion I must first establish an age range as each age group will vary somewhat. Let's choose the five to seven year old group.
As a designer working with a young child between five and seven I would first make sure I understood the mind set and capability of the child. Having worked in the classroom with the learning disabled child and the mainstreamed child I have a leg up on this process. I would arrange to spend time with the child – about 30 to 45 minutes preferably without the parent present.
I would create a list of activities to do with the child that would help me determine interest, ability, and developmental positioning. In reviewing the neurodevelopmental themes for evolving expectations (Mel Levine, 2000) of the five to seven year old I would make note of several themes: attention, temporal-sequential ordering, spatial ordering, memory, language, neuromotor functions, social cognition and higher- order cognition.
With this information (it sounds serious but really is not) I would create a preliminary drawing of the space that would include elements determined by the play time interview. A second meeting with the child and the parent would reveal the concept of the room using the drawing and floor plan illustrating the zones for sleeping , reading, fine motor activity, and imaginative play. Gross motor activities would be better suited for other locations in the home and yard. The color palette would be discussed along with options for encouraging task completion, sequential ordering, musical rhythms, visual discrimination, vocabulary enhancement, and classification skills. This preliminary plan would be presented with questions for the child to answer. A child this age a child is not ready to determine bigger design decisions but is ready for simple multiple choice options. Example: “The reading center will be in this corner. Would you like it to have a green pillow or a blue pillow on the chair?” Of course I would avoid open ended questions such as, “What color pillow do you want on the reading chair?” And of course I would have determined with the parent an acceptable color range in advance and allow the child to make minor decisions creating the impression that these are important decisions. This process is all about empowering the child so that the space becomes his/hers. A child of seven going on eight should be demonstrating emerging brainstorming skills, understands that other peoples’ opinions matter, and is ready for group discussion. A designer therefore should be cautious when working with the five and six year old who is emerging out of the “me” stage.
My design strategy would be to avoid a theme within the bones of the room to encourage creative thought and imagination, and manage gender identity issues. This allows the space to grow with the child. The character of the room would take shape through the child’s play and current interest. And, at the end of the day the room is cleaned up and ready for the next week’s world of imagination.
Here is a plan for a seven-year-old child whose room is being redesigned with the introduction new materials and colors.
This boy’s room provides zones for multiple activities. The elevated full size bed with ship’s ladder allows for a private study space for desk and chair underneath. The game table with four chairs allows for group interaction. The reading chair with ottoman next to a side table and lamp provides a comfortable place for reading alone or with a parent. A built in storage box next to the door can be used for toys and art supplies with a cork board mounted on the wall above to display art and photos. To the left of the window is a framed dry erase marker board so the child can create a picture poster of favorite theme of the week: dinosaur, trains, sports, etc. The window seat provides seating for viewing the outdoors for a restorative experience. The bed wall contains built in storage on both sides of the bed: right side contains double rod for hanging clothes with shoe rack below; left side contains closed storage with shelves and drawers for clothing and an open storage with shelves for displaying favorite artifacts, trophies, photo frames, and books. The top surface of the open display storage next to the bed is the same height as the mattress to allow for a small lamp and clock. Using the built in storage cabinets for clothing allows for the walk-in closet with pocket door to remain empty for imaginative play: hide out, space ship, ocean liner, or castle. If the closet space is needed drapery panels with grommets could be installed on the underside of the bed frame for privacy and imaginative play. The bathroom is shared with adjacent bedroom and provides water access for arts and crafts projects. The color palette is gender neutral: nature’s shades of greens and blues set against the warm wood tones of the floor and cabinetry. There are no patterns other than textural variances on the chair, ottoman, rug, or bedding creating a background for whatever the child creates in his art and chosen artifacts. In this room his concepts, hobbies, and interests are featured not that of prepackaged bedding ensemble with cowboys, star wars, or dinosaurs. This room is neat and tidy avoiding excessive visual disturbance creating a restful environment.
As this seven year old boy matures the room can grow with him. No dinosaur paper to remove from the wall or juvenile bedding to replace (until it wears out of course). The color palette is non-descript in age. The child height game table and chairs can be removed and replaced with oversized bean bags and the walk in closet becomes a closet again.
This room provides an environment that will teach and encourage adult readiness skills: organization, time management, social cognition, language skills, spatial ordering, creativity, academic preparedness, restorative behavior, etc. The time to learn adult skills is as a child and this room offers the opportunity to do just that.
Note: Decision to not include a television or computer was intentional and not an oversight. Young children, all of us for that matter, need a place to get away from the world. Cable TV and internet should be used in the presence of the parents not behind closed doors. Children should learn that there is a proper time and place for certain behaviors.
Mel Levine, M. (2000, January). Neurodevelomental Themes. Cambridge, MA: Educators Publishing Service.
Environmental and color psychology plays an important role in the successful design of all built environments. It is especially significant when designing a service business that offers its clients an opportunity to decompress, relax, and heal bodily aches and pains. The mission was to convert an insurance office into a mid-west massage oasis. The goal was to increase business by creating a unique space for a spa offering unique services. This boutique day spa had to project an energetic calmness not found in its competitors.
Ideas Only: Color & Design began this spa design with the unexpected use of color. Since color is the driving force in creating emotional responses and spas are all about relief from physical and mental stress the color palette needed to be soothing not boring. It needed to be inspired by nature: land, sea, sky. The sapphire blue and apple green walls in the reception area greet the clients with a breath of fresh air. The increased saturation level adds energy while the light reflective value softens the glare. The high gloss black floor grounds the palette and keeps the eye safely up. Soothing waterfall images and green plants give life to the color palette. The sapphire blue continues down the corridor leading clients into to the latte neutralized massage rooms.
Since moving into the new colorful space the massage spa has received rave reviews. Clients sense the color, feel the oasis, and are ready to heal their mind, body & soul. They are transported far away. In this unique boutique spa clients experience an energetic calmness that they crave again and again - repeat business has grown to 50% of the general revenues. All things constant the transformative power of color in design cannot be understated.
Interior design affects the physical and psychological health and well-being of the people who use the space. Ideas Only: Color & Design was given the assignment of transforming a 1960’s structure that boasts strong intersecting lines, into a business office and a gathering space for a group of hard working beer drinkers as well as a dressy evening crowd sipping champagne. The goal was to respect the building’s bones, reinvent its past, while transforming its function and styling for today’s LEED conscious client.
The redesign began with the creation of a circular glass office set inside the soaring exterior glass and limestone walls. The new lobby services the daily business of union members and serves as a pre-reception room for banquet events. The 1980’s refurbished hotel seating rests seamlessly against the glass and limestone walls. Re-purposed mid-century bar tables are placed in the lobby during cocktail gatherings.
A symbiotic relationship between the labor union members and their new home was developed through color and photo art. The color palette is based on the work performed by union members. The custom terrazzo flooring is inspired by the Meramec River pea gravel used in concrete at construction sites. The amber clay wallcovering was pulled from hues of layered earth found when drilling underground shafts and tunnels. The familiar wheat grass green found in the upholstery fabric and walls complement the warm hues and complete the organic retro palette. A local photographer was commissioned to shoot images of work produced by the union members. The photo art and color palette are used as a way finding strategy leading to the banquet halls.
The banquet halls were stripped bare except for the oak paneled walls. The ceiling height was raised to accommodate the return of a full size theatre screen and state-of-the-art projection system. The space was fitted with four types of dimmable LED fixtures that will meet any occupants lighting requirements. The neutral blonde color palette intentionally takes back stage so that the space can be transformed for any style beer or champagne event.
Banquet Hall and Lobby Reception rental information:
Laborers Local 110
4532 South Lindbergh Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63127
Phone : 314.892.0777
Geri loves to consume color through art, architecture, photography, and interior spaces of all built environments. She is a museum enthusiast. Exploring new places, cultures, and restaurants will always be a part of her life. Geri loves the creative process of cooking with natural fresh local ingredients and adores the beauty of colorfully plated food.