Designing meaningful living spaces

Designing Meaningful Living Spaces that Make You Happy

If you love design and spending time on the decor of your home, you probably want to live in a gorgeous space that looks like you walked into an editorial page of your favourite shelter magazine or website. Having the look you really love is important to you. Homeowners who have had their homes featured in a magazine, or used as a movie set, often complain about the crew that came in to declutter and depersonalize their home, swapping out artwork, furniture and accessories. It felt like an insult to their sense of design and the way they live.

There’s a difference between creating the perfect on-trend editorial look for a magazine, movie set or real estate showing and interior design that works in the real world; your world. Not all interior designers can make the distinction. You don’t want impersonal “staged” rooms with no warmth or soul… well, unless you’re trying to sell the property. Staging has its place; removing the connection with the home’s current residents, so prospective buyers can paint themselves into the blank canvas and possibilities the stager has created.

Designing meaningful living spaces that are elegant, comfortable, calming and help bring us joy is challenging work. May homeowners have sought interior designers who are trained in design trends that are supposed to create peaceful spaces, like the ancient Chinese art of feng shui, using spatial positioning to correspond with energy flow, or wabi-sabi, the Japanese practice of embracing the imperfection around us. Others incorporate the ancient Roman use of earth-tone colours and geometric shapes, trying to mimic the harmony we find in nature.

According to interior designer Timothy Corrigan, “There is more and more research that shows the direct influence that our homes have, not only on our moods but our overall health and well-being.” The spaces we live in can create energy.

8 interior design trends in 2023

  1. Drawn from the earthy styles of Ancient Rome, more brown will envelop our living spaces in 2023, with terracotta walls, woods, rich chocolate leathers and deep natural fabrics. We’re spending more time in our homes and warm nature-inspired tones help us feel welcome, warm and cozy.
  2. With our homes becoming the primary settings in which we work, sleep and socialize, comfort and airiness have become essential. We may not be able to increase the height of the ceilings in a finished home, but we can create more space by removing the non-essential. Every object we surround ourselves with must now serve a purpose. The stark white and cream Bouclé minimalism and all-white everything had a crisp, clean look, and for couples arriving home late after a long day at the office, the lack of clutter and visual noise were considered calming. But now that so many people are working from home, it’s just too cold. Open-plan living spaces are one way of opening the home up, so it feels more airy while encouraging more family interaction.
  3. Objects and surfaces inspired by nature can strengthen our connection with nature, as we spend more time indoors. The texture, porosity and imperfections of these beautiful natural surfaces are visually intriguing, and they connect us with the restorative, calming properties of the outdoors. Earthy elements like raw iron, marble, wood and terra-cotta give our homes soul.
  4. Dual-purpose rooms allow us to convert living spaces into offices during the day. Guest rooms can be fitted with desks that hide in armoires. The expanded kitchen table doubles as the boardroom table. Bedrooms or garages become mini gyms with exercise equipment. If we’re home more, our homes need to do more.
  5. Leather furniture and vibrant colours are making a comeback. With the uncertainty of the past few years, homeowners are investing in leather because it lasts and it’s so easy to care for. We’re also seeing more vibrant, joyful colours and bold patterns in fabrics and wallpapers.
  6. Boxy sofas and sharp-angled, rectangular tables are being retired; replaced by curved and sculptural furniture. Curved forms are subconsciously interpreted as being welcoming, gracious and safe; even sensual.
  7. Colourblocking is one of the most sought-after design treatments today. It can be difficult to achieve because the entire room needs to be the same colour: walls, doors, trim, furniture, the pattern in the area rug, accessories… everything. The result can be stunning.
  8. Painting the door trims or ceilings in a striking contrast colour can give your rooms an artsy, sophisticated feel. Coloured trims create a dynamic entrance, and coloured ceilings draw the eye upward while adding a splash of colour and interest.

Consider the 7 elements of design

When designing a successful scheme, it’s important to balance the seven elements of design: space, line, form, light, colour, texture and pattern. Effective use of these elements in your design will accent your room’s best features while drawing attention away from flaws.

  1. Space is the distance between the objects in your room. Positive space is the area where the sofa, chairs and shelving are placed, while negative space includes all the gaps in between. It’s important to achieve a comfortable balance between the two, with circulation space for navigating the room, as well as areas deliberately left open to make the room feel spacious. Leave too much negative space and the room will feel impersonal and under-furnished. While too much positive space will make the room feel crowded and ‘close’. People have personal comfort levels, so there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for determining how much negative space is required.
  2. Lines found in structural features and the room’s furnishings affect the feel of the space. The use of horizontal, vertical and dynamic lines can lead the eye and energize the scheme. Horizontal lines, such as tables, bookshelves and the back of the sofa give the room a sense of stability and structure. Vertical lines, such as window and door casings, can lead the eye upwards, making the ceilings appear higher. Dynamic lines like zigzags, diagonals and curves can be found in features such as the staircase, parquet flooring or diagonal tiles. They add visual interest and energy to the space.
  3. Form refers to the shapes in your room, provided by the walls and floor plan, as well as the furniture, artwork and decorative elements. The shapes may be geometric, made up of lines and angles, or natural. Natural shapes are organic and tend to be irregular. Balancing natural shapes with geometrics creates contrast and can soften the room, making it feel more welcoming.
  4. Light influences our mood and emotions more than the other elements. Researchers believe that lighting levels affect our perception of heat while altering the intensity of our emotions. Most interiors take advantage of natural daylight and balance it with artificial illumination. Shading, drapery and window coverings can regulate the available natural light, while turning light sources on and off, or dimming them, helps achieve the right balance. Light can also be borrowed from other rooms with mirrors.
  5. Colour creates the mood in the room. Like light, colour affects our state of mind. When selecting the colour, we need to consider the size of the room, the time of day, the direction the windows are facing, the activity that will be performed, and the mood we want to create. Light colours will make the room feel larger, while darker colours create a cozy, comfortable environment. South-facing rooms have natural light all day, so light, cool colours work well, while north-facing rooms have little sunlight, and benefit from warmer colours.
  6. Texture is not just about how surfaces and materials feel to the touch, but also the way they look. Every element of the scheme contributes to texture in the room, from furniture to fabrics and floor coverings. The way you contrast and mix textures adds interest, depth and character to the room.
  7. Pattern also adds interest and life to the room. Patterns are design elements that repeat lines, shapes, forms and colours, and the part that is repeated is called a motif. The motif should be in harmony with the overall design of the scheme. Patterns are either regular or irregular. The scale of the pattern in relation to the space, and the area that it covers, are important considerations.

If the space isn’t working, consider reworking it or making it bigger

Sometimes the interior design requirements extend beyond aesthetics to involve functional and structural changes.

If you have a main bathroom on the second floor with only one sink, and a bustling household of people preparing for school and work every morning, a coat of paint in a calming shade and trendy new light fixtures aren’t going to fix the functionality of that room or ease the tension. Working with a designer and remodelling contractor, a wall may have to be moved over a bit to allow for more counter space. Or perhaps the bathtub can be replaced with an elegant walk-in shower, freeing up a metre of space for a longer counter and that extra sink.

With the rising cost of take-out and delivery, and the restaurant restrictions imposed over the past two years, many families returned to the kitchen, integrating cooking and baking into their quality family time. A bump-out extension to the floor plan could make the kitchen more spacious while offering more counter space for food prep stations and seating.

As a family grows, more space is generally needed. Teens want more privacy and a place to study. Also, following the pandemic, more people are working from home, and one or more offices may be needed. You may be able to add the required space by repurposing existing rooms, finishing the basement or attic, or building upward with another floor.

Your interior design should reflect what’s important to you

The passions and hobbies of the people who live in your home should be considered in its design and decor. Your home needs to celebrate your family’s passions, hobbies, collections, artwork and heirlooms, antiques and unique conversation pieces. Your rooms and living spaces should reflect your personality and include your memories. They should also feature what excites you, as you design the spaces in which you will create new memories.

It’s important to be engaged in the design process, even if you’re working with a designer, so there will be colours and elements you absolutely love woven into the décor. If you fell in love with that Elmira Heritage retro stove and fridge, you want your grandmother’s antique china cabinet in the dining area, or you want a nautical theme in the den, the design should make those pieces work. You don’t have to pick a trending colour palette. Choose colours that make you happy.

Pay particular attention to spaces where people gather

Your home’s gathering spaces may be around the fireplace in the living room, the home theatre room, the kitchen or even an enclosed deck. These are the places where families connect and where memories are made. Your kitchen may be the family hub, where the kids do their homework while dinner is being prepared, or where friends visit and help cook. If so, plenty of seating is important, with a spacious table and chairs, and an island and counter stools. If your family loves unwinding while watching a movie or a TV show, a mini kitchen would make food and drinks more convenient.

Reid Madiuk

Reid Madiuk's been putting on a toolbelt since he was twelve years old, alongside his father, one of Whistler's first residential builders. As a third-generation Whistler and Squamish builder, Reid brings over 20 years of carpentry expertise to designing and constructing exceptional homes.

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