I would like to start this week’s post with an apol­ogy, as undoubt­edly many of my faith­ful read­ers prob­a­bly con­tracted the rare case of lack-of-new-Everyday-Modern-content-depression.  Con­trary to what you might think, I was not, in fact, sip­ping mar­gar­i­tas in some trop­i­cal loca­tion.  My time recently has been oth­er­wise engaged in the exe­cu­tion and recov­ery  from clean­ing, pho­tograph­ing, and retouch­ing said pho­tos of the apart­ment in prepa­ra­tion for Apart­ment Therapy’s annual Small Cool Con­test sub­mis­sion.  Hap­pily, the judges deemed our sub­mis­sion wor­thy, and we have been gain­ing votes ever since.  Come check us out here and add your “favorite” to the chorus!

All cam­paign­ing for votes aside, this week is the first of a two-part series on how to incor­po­rate flair in your home with­out it look­ing like a train wreck.  As the cor­ner­stone to my design sen­si­bil­ity, I find that the lit­tle ele­ments of the bold and unex­pected, when incor­po­rated cor­rectly, are what really make the space fun and awe-inspiring to vis­i­tors.  How­ever, I have also learned that when try­ing to inte­grate some­thing loud and bold, it needs to be done prop­erly, oth­er­wise it is just plain bad.  When play­ing with flair, there is a very fine line between a smash­ing suc­cess and a com­plete cat­a­stro­phe, and the fol­low­ing five rules will help you care­fully tread that line and come away with a fab­u­lous room.

Rule #1: Flair is only flair, if it’s not Every­where — Even though every­one knows that thirty-seven pieces of flair is the rec­om­mended dosage, I advo­cate that flair is like a flour-less choco­late cake — just a lit­tle bit too much, and only good in small mea­sures. And though it is fun to play with crazy ideas, don’t let your­self get too car­ried away.  There should only be one or two main ideas in a room that are com­pet­ing for atten­tion.  If you have more areas than that vying for visual empha­sis, it just starts to look clut­tered and messy, and that isn’t flair, it’s just ugly.

Between the loudly pat­terned cur­tains and the repet­i­tive sconces, the blank yel­low wall pro­vides a place for the eye to rest.

Rule #2: Visual Rest Stops — As I men­tioned pre­vi­ously, you want only a sin­gle big piece of flair in each room.  To achieve this, you need to design areas for the eye to rest.  This might be a blank wall, or just an unadorned sur­face.  What­ever you do, if you are going to have some­thing loud and  visu­ally heavy (a bold pat­tern, a bunch of bright col­ors all together, or an area with a lot of var­i­ous items like a book­shelf), it needs to be bal­anced with some­thing sim­ple.  Oth­er­wise, your apart­ment will start to feel like a day­care full of lit­tle ADD-ridden design ideas all scream­ing for your atten­tion.  This con­di­tion has been known to cause hyper­ven­ti­la­tion and nau­sea to those of us who thrive in a well-designed environment.


This plan illus­trates the bal­ance between areas of flair, and areas of rest (red indi­cates flair, green indi­cates rest)

Rule #3: Back to Basics — One of the first things you learn in design school is all about the cor­rect appli­ca­tion of the Ele­ments and Prin­ci­ples of Design.  And though the Ele­ments don’t play so much of a role in the proper imple­men­ta­tion of flair, the Prin­ci­ples method­i­cally list out exactly what you need to keep in mind.  And despite the fact that there is enough to learn about Design Prin­ci­ples to keep you busy for at least a semes­ter, I will quickly touch on how to take them into account for this pur­pose.  The Prin­ci­ples are: Axis, Sym­me­try, Hier­ar­chy, Datum, Rhythm, Rep­e­ti­tion, and Trans­for­ma­tion.  The most applic­a­ble to this instance are:

Sym­me­try: Sym­me­try really comes down to a mat­ter of bal­ance.  As dis­cussed ear­lier, when design­ing with flair, one needs to bal­ance out the loud with the quiet, and this can be achieved though sym­met­ri­cal bal­ance, or assy­met­ri­cal bal­ance.  In the case of the yel­low wall, sym­met­ri­cal bal­ance is implied through visu­ally weighted items on either side of the blank wall.

Hier­ar­chy: Of the applic­a­ble Prin­ci­ples, hier­ar­chy plays the largest role.  Hier­ar­chy can help deter­mine what the focus of the room should be, and allows you to play around with vary­ing lev­els of flair.  For instance, the Union Jack wall takes high­est pri­or­ity on the level of hier­ar­chy, but flair is also evi­denced in vary­ing other lev­els such as the Lego model of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water, bring­ing in a con­sis­tent design lan­guage through the incor­po­ra­tion of geek­i­ness and whimsy.

Rhythm: Next, in order of impor­tance, is rhythm.  Like flair itself, a dis­tinct rhythm needs to be estab­lished within the room.  With­out being able to pin­point the cause, most peo­ple will have an adverse reac­tion to a space if the rhythm is off.  Rhythm can be achieved sev­eral ways.  You can sim­ply have redun­dant ele­ments to anchor the flair (such as like col­ors evi­denced through­out), or sim­i­larly shaped, or sized items (for exam­ple, you aren’t going to put an over­stuffed sofa next to a stun­ning low-seated mid-century mod­ern chair, that would be unsightly!).  If the rhythm of the room is right, the flair will work for you, if it’s wrong, the flair is only going to make it worse.

Flair with Func­tion — these old win­dows serve as an inter­est­ing and unique room divider in a stu­dio apartment

Rule #4: Make it Worth Your While — As a vet­eran imple­menter of flair, let me take a moment to note that, most often, the crazy and unex­pected are hard to come by.  Whether it is that dif­fi­cult to paint crazy pat­terned wall, or a beau­ti­fully uphol­stered piece of fur­ni­ture that is totally worth the extra dough because, really, when are you ever going to see a print like that again, flair will likely cost you time or money or both.  So make damn sure it counts!  If it isn’t say­ing some­thing about your per­sonal style or hob­bies, it’s prob­a­bly  not for you.  Flair should be fun, so make it reflect both your style and your home.  Avoid the peer pres­sure, and don’t incor­po­rate flair just because all the cool kids are doing it.

Although I am a strong advo­cate of min­i­mal­ism, the closely dis­played array of per­sonal art­work acts as a unique ele­ment of flair in a room devoid of any­thing else on the walls.

Rule #5: Think Out­side the Painted Box — Don’t get caught up in only incor­po­rat­ing flair one way.  Boldly col­ored walls are great, but hav­ing a few bright tones does not flair make.  So get cre­ative and start think­ing of other ways you can incor­po­rate flair — per­haps it is a flam­boy­ant pat­tern, a loud piece of art­work, or, my per­sonal go-to, your own exclu­sive brand of geek­i­ness.  As Uncle Mies reminds us, God is in the details, so start hav­ing some fun, grow a pair, and let your apart­ment speak for itself.

For more ideas on ways to incor­po­rate flair, stay tuned next week for the fol­low up post,  but for today, that’s all I’ve got.  So as always, feel free to share or re-publish, just please give me credit for my work when you do!  Cheers till next time!