Leaving the Comfort Zone

I was browsing a forum awhile back and came across the question to designers, “What is your design style?”.  There were of course, the straight forward answers of of those who lean towards or fully specialize in a certain style, and those who wouldn’t admit that they lean towards a certain style, though they clearly do.  I was most intrigued however, by the comment that a “good designer” can design toward any aesthetic or style and please any client.  Is that true – does that make them a better designer, or just incredibly versatile – and does such a thing even really exist?

I’m not sure, but I do know that I have certain design tendencies.  I may do a coastal living room, a transitional baby nursery or a modern formal living room but all of them will have things in common.  I like a modern feel with clean lines, I like a room to feel decorated but not cluttered or overdone; there are certain colors I won’t put together if at all avoidable, and styles that are definitely out of my comfort zone.

So imagine my surprise when I was hand selected to provide a design inspiration board for a country cottage living room.  Country cottage?   Chunky ornate furniture, floral patterns, fussy furnishings?  WAY out of my wheelhouse.  And to top things off, the color palette requested by the client meant putting colors together that I would never, ever put together otherwise.

Had I not been specifically selected because this client liked my portfolio on other projects, I might’ve passed on this but I thought about that comment about a a good designer achieving any aesthetic and decided to challenge myself.  Picture me stepping out of comfort zone…

Here was the inspiration provided by the client – I worked backwards from this.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 9.33.39 PM

I struggled with trying to design for the client but also putting something together that represented me.  It was definitely more challenging than a contemporary space would be, but in the end I delivered a design that both met the client’s needs and had my personal design stamp on it:


I toned down what could’ve been an overwhelmingly busy and colorful palette with a neutral backdrop, and by selecting neutral major pieces.  I also kept the major pieces relatively transitional so that the space didn’t feel overly country or theme-y which can quickly become tacky.  I did bring in a bit of the country feel through a few statement pieces like the coffee table, console table and the spectacular window treatments, which also remind me of the client’s inspiration photo.  I balanced the chunky, rustic coffee table and ornate console with a visually lighter, modern and elegant end table.   Lastly, the pillows are a wonderful mix of all of the styles, colors and patterns in the room.

The client loves the design.

After some thought, I wondered if maybe that’s why she selected me – maybe what she really wanted was a contemporary take on country cottage.  Either way, I’m glad I pushed my boundaries a bit.

How do you feel about  country cottage style and this design?  Do you agree that designers should be able to design to any style?  I’d love to hear thoughts on this.


2 thoughts on “Leaving the Comfort Zone

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