Starbuck Designers, Inc.

House Diagnosis: Vertically Challenged Interiors

Sir Winston Churchill once remarked, "We shape our buildings, and they shape us." Understanding a person's lifestyle is crucial before making decisions as to what furnishings and fixtures best suit their needs in a given space.

There are many pieces of the creative puzzle to be considered--art, accessories, collections, and other visual elements must be carefully planned and incorporated within the overall design. The most successful results come from the idea that "form follows function."

If you've ever been dissatisfied with the look of a room but weren't quite sure why, here is something you might try. Stand back and look critically at furnishings in the room. You will notice that most things are very close to the same basic height. You will probably find that chair and sofa seats and backs will be on an identical horizontal plane. Also, if the room is typical, you will find that sideboards, consoles, pianos, tables, chests, and desk heights are all about the same distance from the floor and give a generalized horizontal band-effect around the room.

Often the bottom third of a room is visually heavy with furniture while the upper two-thirds is proportionately too light in visual weight. Vertical elements are often lacking buy are very important in providing a finished, well-balanced, comfortable, warmly-furnished and balanced feeling.

The upward thrust is always an uplifting and positive effect. Consider incorporating some of these solutions to add vertical interest:

* Architectural detailing of moldings, posts, columns, and paneling can add grand or simple emphasis as well as tailored elegance to a finished room.

* Built-in bookcases, display shelves, and fireplaces may all provide vertical elements.

* Drapery and window treatment designs (usually outside mounted) can offer a tall or higher vertical feeling with top treatments to make the window appear taller, more open, and help to accentuate the view. These can also add important acoustics in addition to accenting the height of the room.

* Tall case pieces of furniture such as chest-on-chest, breakfronts, armoires, tall case clocks, entertainment centers, freestanding bookcases, and other items that provide vertical punctuation to the scene.

* Large paintings or prints, mirrors, tapestries/textile arts, sculptural or architectural carvings anchored by lower furniture placed beneath can provide the necessary effect. Also a bold mixed-group presentation of smaller pieces viewed as a larger focal point is a great way to provide vertical interest.

* Use of sculptural elements or plants, on their own or on pedestals, can serve to accent the vertical plane.

All the elements of art and design are vital in today's interiors and our home environments should be works in progress...changing and improving each day.

The addition and placement of vertical elements in appropriate scale to the overall interior scheme might just be the medicine the doctor ordered to make a good thing...great.

©2013 John D. Starbuck, Jr.

[Reprinted from Nashville Arts Magazine.]