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Publication Date: 2012-12-20

Design Insights

TIm Clarke's Finishing Touches

The California interior designer Tim Clarke fills us in on three key ways that he puts the finishing touches on a room.

I often get calls from people who say they would like my help to finish their home. They have purchased upholstered furniture, tables, chairs and lighting—even painted or wallpapered, but they just feel the room is not “done”. They have all the components of a completed room for function, but something is missing. Aside from the obvious, I think there are a few key things that make a room go from a collection of furniture to a room that makes your heart sing.

The Perfect Piece

Every room should have one, that one thing that you absolutely love. It might be inexpensive or extremely expensive. Large or small it might not even “go” in the room but it gives you so much pleasure to look at every time you see it. It is usually a purely decorative object but not always. One you could probably live without, but for some reason you just have to have it. You might even have to go to great lengths to get it. Whatever it takes you should get this piece and somehow use it in the room. It should be placed in the room in a way that most enhances its beauty. If you have this object, this thing, every time you enter the room you will smile.

Size Matters

It is nearly impossible to give concrete advice on scale. It is so subjective. The untrained eye is just as offended by improper scale as the trained one, they just don’t know why. However, there are a few basic things that I can say about the size of things in room that will add to a feeling of “doneness.” Rooms should always be furnished with pieces that have a variety of scale—a large grounding piece, a medium range that will suit most everyone and smaller diminutive pieces thrown in. Of course allow for circulation in and around all this to avoid clutter but remember, in nature there are always large trees, surrounded by some medium size ones and an understory of small shrubs and flowers. There is nothing worse than a giant room with extremely high ceilings full of oversized furniture. Every one begins to look like small children in these rooms and feel terrible. The same goes for the opposite. A room full a tiny furniture can make you feel like an uninvited guest at a child’s tea party.

Uncomfortable Vibrations

I think all rooms should have this. This is the unlikely juxtaposition of objects that give a room soul. It can be achieved in all different ways. With color combinations, scale or objects themselves. Think about the guest list for the perfect dinner party. You don’t want a table full of people who are all exactly the same. It is always best to have someone at the table that spices things up a bit, someone who doesn’t necessarily have anything in common with anyone there. It’s the same with a room. Avoid “sameness” by upholstering a very modern chair in an all-over floral. Place your collection antique silver on an industrial salvage bookshelf. Even think about breaking the rules with an unexpected color scheme. Whatever it is, however it is achieved, it is the vibration of these two opposing things that makes a room sing.

- Article by Tim Clarke

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