Knowing When To Be Quiet


The art of silence.  This is an important skill in life, in almost any situation.  Knowing when to speak up and make your voice heard and when to hold your tongue can make or break a conversation and can often get you into or keep you out of trouble.    This is also true for a well-designed room.  Choosing what aspects of a room you want to let be the stars of the show and which ones you want to take more of a supporting role can be a difficult decision.


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I don’t often have clients who want wild patterns everywhere and lots of bold color with lots of statement furniture pieces, etc.  But what I do often encounter is clients falling in love with several different fabrics, or several different furniture pieces, or several different trends, or who have a few different favorite colors and who are at first, reluctant to settle for what complements instead.   And it’s completely understandable–a subtle stripe or textural linen can’t really compete with a graphic lattice or colorful floral when it comes to wow factor when flipping through a fabric book, but getting clients to see the whole picture and how it will fit together is part of being a good designer.


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It’s true when putting your own room together too and I have often made an impulse purchase for myself because I loved the color/lines/fabric of a piece but didn’t really think through how it would fit into a space.  That’s why my house is ever-evolving…

But most clients want to do it once and do it right, so many designers pick a rug or a fabric, etc and go from there.  And the idea of highlighting certain aspects of a visual is a theme that carries through so many parts of good design such as lighting: If you light everything, you light nothing (whoever first said that–so true!) and if you throw all your favorite fabrics into a room, eventually you will probably dislike them all.  To quote/paraphrase Dash from The Incredibles “If everyone is special, that’s just another way of saying no one is.”

But there’s a growing trend that makes this general rule full of exceptions–eclecticism:  What about when clutter becomes texture?  We’ve all seen and probably fallen in love with an eclectic room on Pinterest where boho fabrics and textiles are so artfully layered that instead of distracting, they become a backdrop for some amazing piece of furniture.  Or a bold wall color that actually recedes behind a collection of colorful china.  It’s quite a skill to make something that at first glance seems loud and bold actually appear quieter and calmer just by how it relates to the items around it.


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Source: via The Urban Orchard on Pinterest

  In so many of these images the patterns become textural and what should be a bold color choice actually recedes and becomes a backdrop.  The consistency seems to be allowing for a place for the eye to rest.   For so long, when I was attempting to achieve a quiet place in design it was done instinctively but the more I design the more it becomes a choice.  I think this is also why displaying collections together in a grouping has become a trend that works.  Scattered about they lose their impact and read as clutter but in a grouping they read as a textural whole, impactful but not busy.


What about you?  How do you plan your designs?  Do you think about texture and quiet when incorporating your favorite finds?


And an aside, please send our family your thoughts and prayers today as we go through a difficult time.  Thank you so much and all the best to yours.

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2 Responses to Knowing When To Be Quiet

  1. Lisa November 14, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    Your family is most certainly in my thoughts and prayers, Lane. I’m sorry for whatever you’re going through, my friend.
    Thank you for writing about quiet space in a room. I feel that need so very much, especially as our life is so busy. I used to need my space to feel energetic and packed a lot of color and pattern into a room, but oh how I tired of it all. I still need color, but I’d so much rather it as a pop. But yet, I do love that eclectic look with ten different pillow fabrics on a couch! I guess it’s all about editing and like you said, knowing when to speak and when to keep quiet!
    I am learning so much from you.

    • Lane McNab November 14, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

      Thanks so much Lisa! I feel the same as you about needing quiet in a space. I think it does have to do with so much craziness in our lives right now with kids, etc. And thanks for your thoughts and prayers. My bro-in-law lost his 2 year battle with ALS today and leaves behind his wife (my cousin/but really more of a sister) a 5 and 8 year old. We are headed to so cal for the funeral this weekend. Thanks again.

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