Interior Decorating for Everyone: Achieving Flow

April 8, 2007 § Leave a comment

You know it when you see it. From the moment you walk into the home, it just looks pulled together. It’s hard to describe, perhaps, because things don’t necessarily match, but something about the way the house is decorated feels right. And you want that same feeling for your own home.


What you’re feeling is what we call “flow.” When you can move from room to room as if the entire home were one big space. Not in physical layout but in visual makeup. Example: The front entry has a red accent wall that grabs your attention. And as soon as you’ve removed your boots your eye moves to the red pillows on the sofa in the adjoining living room. You’re drawn into that room which may have a beautiful colorful landscape over the fireplace. You study that for a moment and then notice that the adjoining dining room has upholstered chairs in some of the same colors that you saw in the painting in the living room. Now you’re beginning to experience flow.


Flow doesn’t mean “matchy-matchy.” When everything matches (for example, if you purchased every piece of the Queen Anne set you saw displayed in the furniture store and put some in every room of your house or you bought the entire bolt of that Waverly fabric you fell in love with and made window treatments, pillows, chair covers, bedspread, and then even found matching towels, lampshades, and toilet seat cover) then you have not achieved flow. You’ve achieved “predictable” and maybe “tiring” but you have yet to achieve flow.


Flow is more subtle. Here are some tips:

1) Avoid being drawn into purchasing everything that matches. Way too easy and a bit boring after awhile, especially if you tire of that style or fabric. You want your home to be dynamic, not set in stone. 


2) Walk around your home and see what colors are already there. Perhaps you have a colorful rust, beige and green rug in the dining room and the living room is all beige. Okay, you’re on your way. You’ve found one common color between the two rooms. That will move you toward flow. To enhance flow in this home, you might pick either the rust or the green to use as accents in the living room, either as pillows, window treatments, or artwork. Now your dining room and living room are tied together. But nothing “matches,” they’re just similar colors being spread around the space.


3)  If you have white walls everywhere, you don’t need to paint everything the same wall color to achieve flow. Let’s go back to the previous example. You might paint the dining room a soft grey-green to pick up on the green in the rug and bring the rust into the living room with an accent wall. Or vice-versa. Either way you’re spreading the color from room to room and allowing the décor to flow throughout the house.


4)  Be careful with wallpaper. Although I’m not a huge fan of wallpaper, it can definitely work if you plan with flow in mind. If you use a big floral design in your dining room, don’t expect to get away with another big floral design in the living room, even if you maintain the palette of colors. Big clash. You have to pick wallpaper and fabric according to color and scale. Mixing two large designs doesn’t work. Pick the large floral first then a stripe, texture, or small-scale floral to go with it. Otherwise you’ve got visual chaos.


5) For furniture, it’s easier to mix countries than it is to mix periods. For example, mixing French and English and Chinese and Early American furniture from the same time period in history is easier than mixing Early American, Shaker, mid-century modern, and urban loft together in one space. The first creates character and interest; the second creates post-garage sale eclectic. Hard to pull off.

Try walking from your front door through your house and see where your eye goes. Is your eye interrupted by furniture, styles, and colors that don’t seem to belong? Or does your eye flow effortlessly from one room to the next? See what your rooms have in common with each other in everything from walls to accessories to wood tones. Start spreading those common elements throughout the public areas and you’re on your way to achieving flow.

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