No matter how much effort we put into our homes, sometimes there is just something missing. We can't quite put our finger on what it is. We have a chair in the corner, a lively assortment of throw pillows on the sofa, a rug large enough to fill the room, a floor lamp providing much-needed mood lighting—what could possibly be making this room feel incomplete? While we rack our brains trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together, chances are any great interior designer could walk right into your room and point out exactly what's amiss. And poof! A room goes from good to great, just like that.
In an effort to understand what might be hindering our own rooms, we tapped ATG Stores to gain some insight. The company's latest project? 52 Weeks of Design, a collaborative series that celebrates 2017's most cutting-edge designers. Luckily, the team obliged, and as a result, we got exclusive information about what designers believe most rooms are missing. How does your home stack up? Find out the key pieces most rooms are lacking, according to A-list designers.
Multiple Light Sources
"No room is complete without multiple light sources, all on dimmers," says interior designer Nick Olsen, who knows the value of flattering lighting in a room—something he surely learned from his design mentor Miles Redd. L.A.-based designer Mary McDonald agrees: "No room is complete without the right lighting," she says. This includes lighting at the right intensity, dispersed all around a room at varying heights. A single overhead source is far from enough.
"The best rooms, like the best people I know, don't take themselves too seriously," Olsen says. "There's a tattered chair seat or some framed artwork by a toddler on proud display." Rather than striving for perfection, embrace the small defects, the worn qualities of an antique piece, or the item that oddly stands out. "I love the thrill of the hunt: auction websites, flea markets, even IKEA," adds the designer. "It's about finding the best of what's out there on every level." To interior decorator Drew McGukin, this is what give a room a soul, something that no room is complete without.
For McGukin, the easiest way to transform a room is with quality window treatments: "Proper draperies or suitable window treatments always take you to the next level," he says. Whether it's custom-made curtains or window shades (or a combination of both), this little investment can go a really long way into making a home feel tailored and complete.
A Little Black
"No room is complete without a little black," say Anne Maxwell Foster and Suysel dePedro Cunningham, the design duo behind Tilton Fenwick. "Our favorite rooms always have a touch of black—it always helps ground a room. It could be a black lampshade or a small drink table—but something to make a room less fussy."
For Jesse Carrier and Mara Miller, the couple behind the celebrated design firm Carrier and Company, the one thing that makes a room complete is art. "We often place artwork on colorful walls to both enhance and create excitement." If this philosophy is good enough for the firm's A-list clients—which include Anna Wintour, Jessica Chastain, and Jerry Seinfeld—it's good enough advice for us!
A Coat of Paint
Carrier and Miller also believe that the easiest way to transform a room is through paint: "Paint everything: floors, ceilings, doors—it's inexpensive and (usually) reversible." Olsen is also a big fan of paint, daring to break antiquated design rules to maximize his designs: "I don't believe that you can't paint old wood," he says. "Just because it's original doesn't make it chic or special. If a house has 200-year-old pine floors in a hideous yellow stain, I will paint them white or dark green in a heartbeat."
The Right Mix
Perhaps one of the most widespread responses to our search of the one thing most rooms are missing was the right mix—something that's intangible and yet has such a great impact on décor everywhere. "Decorating is, and always has been, all about the mix," Carrier and Miller say. "A room's style—a home's style—derives from the pairings, the compositions, the accents, the details. Unexpected choices in scale, material, or placement, a daring use of bold color or finish, may arrest the eye and stop time."
Each interior designer has its own definition of what the right mix actually entails—which is what makes each of them unique. For Mary McDonald, it's "the old and the new, the feminine and masculine. The structural and fluid combined together for a pretty inviting interior." For Tilton Fenwick, it's "color and layering pattern-on-pattern. We are inspired by travels." For McGukin, it's attention to the basics: "The scale, rhythm, balance, lines, and shapes … and consistently being focused on bringing some of these elements and principles of design back into clear view."
Wondering what decorating mistake you might be making in your living room? Interior designers weigh in.