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Secrets to Selecting the Perfect Design Style for Your Home

Interiors by Brian J. McCarthy

For many homeowners deciding on a theme or  design style for the interior of their home seems about as simple as splitting an atom or negotiating peace in the Middle East.  Daunted by an overload of magazines, web-sites, books and television shows each presenting dazzlingly photographed interiors filled with chic, stylish and wildly desirable objects and each slapping an editorial spin on what this look will be called; is it any wonder that most homes languish in an unfocused design haze far longer than necessary?

To cut through the clutter and the confusion here are 5 Steps to Selecting the Perfect Interior Design Style for Your Home or Apartment:

  1. Understand the Architectural Style in which you will be living. Maybe your home is a California Bungalow or a New England Cape.  Maybe your condominium building is heavily influenced by Mediterranean Architecture or is a symphony of modern glass and concrete.  Regardless of what’s going on around you to intelligently parse out what will happen inside your home you should have a grasp of your homes’ architectural styling.  Try this site for some very helpful tutoring on the exterior style of your home.
  2. Have an opinion on what will happen inside your home. Good design is not for wimps and great design actually necessitates a home’s owner to have well-formed opinions about what they want to live with every day.  So do your homework. Visit a Museum, Designer Show House, tour model homes or spend a Saturday afternoon flipping through pages of design and architecture books and get in touch with what makes you smile.  You don’t need to identify every element in the room on the page you just need to know that looking at it makes you smile.  While the smile is still fresh on your face place a post-it-note on that page and we’ll come back to it shortly.
  3. Play nicely with those who share the same address. Few things are as tedious as are constantly bickering couples. On the best of days finding harmony amid life’s madness can be a challenge. Please don’t add decorating discord to the list of topics on which you and your spouse joust. No one ever wins these bouts; in fact everyone within earshot actually loses.  So think in terms of mutually beneficial negotiations as you hash through the thoughts and ideas shared by your life-partner and seek ways to weave together the single best idea each one brings to the table.  Melding two design ideas under one roof is neither revolutionary nor improbable. In fact, it’s been done for decades with happy relationships as a delightful by-product.
  4. Create visible reminders of the agreed upon direction (s) for your home. If “Big-City Modern with a touch of French Empire” is what’s been agreed upon then make it the law of the land by memorializing the decision with a pin-board and shared idea-page.  Own the decision which is the result of your hard-fought negotiations by establishing visual markers.  This way those in your spheres of influence can hold you to your choice and support you as you together create your new home.
  5. Don’t hesitate to call in professional reinforcements. There are times, both in the negotiation phase and in the shopping phase, when outside help can be priceless.  Learn who the pros are in your area who you can call for that bit of non-partisan back-side kicking.  And don’t be shy about dialing their number.  Writing a check for an hour or two of design consultation can mean the difference between a good room and a great room.  You’re worth it being great, so do what’s necessary. You won’t regret the call.
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About the author, James

With the launch of the new podcast, Million Dollar Decorating, James Swan adds media-host to his career accomplishments. The interview-based show becomes the first daily podcast devoted to the worlds of design, decorating and beautiful living and features interviews with the world’s leading designers, decorators, architects and artisans. Life-style leaders like Robert Couturier, Sandra Nunnerly, Vicente Wolf and Timothy Corrigan populate the podcast where unguarded conversations reveal behind-the-scenes sources of inspiration, resources and stories that inspire and motivate.
James Swan has built a career crafting classically influenced interiors across the United States. Swan has been featured in House & Garden, House Beautiful, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe and The Chicago Tribune and wrote for the “Trends & Shopping” column in House & Garden magazine. His book “101 Things I Hate About Your House” won a 2011 American Bookseller’s Award.
Television appearances on HGTV’s “Homes Across America,” speaking engagements with the professional design industry association NEOCON, regular guest spots on national radio programs have consistently placed Swan in the media spotlight.
Swan’s career took off back in Northern California at a noted San Francisco architecture firm, where he managed residential interiors. After that, Los Angeles beckoned, specifically the prestigious design firm of Frank K. Pennino & Associates, where as senior designer he managed high-profile projects, and earned a reputation for refined classical design that succinctly reflected his clients’ lives. In 1999, Swan opened his own firm in Beverly Hills.
Swan has a Bachelor of Arts degree in theology and music from Southwestern College in Waxahachie, Texas, and studied in Arizona State University's Architecture and Design master's degree program.
Swan is a past member of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, serving on its Executive Board of Directors. His other commitments include PAWS/LA, which assists with the care of pets for people living with disabilities, and KidSmart, an art education foundation for inner-city youth. In his free time, Swan may be found furthering his passion for skiing and traveling. Currently he lives and works from his home on the Maine coast.