Living

As your needs change, so does your home. Here are 4 tips to bring design into the equation.

This open style living space features carbon blue velvet swivel chairs and hand welded bar stools by NC furniture designer vanCollier, evoking restrained elegance.
This open style living space features carbon blue velvet swivel chairs and hand welded bar stools by NC furniture designer vanCollier, evoking restrained elegance. Style House Photography

As we evolve and our needs change over the years, so do design sensibilities. My design philosophy is to approach life changes as fresh starts, opportunities to redefine your design aesthetic.

Whether making a career change, growing a family, or downsizing, starting fresh requires challenging your established personal style and reevaluating the things in your home environment. Life changes can be overwhelming to deal with — and expensive.

I've often asked myself how I can find my true style, buy things with more longevity, and pare down the things I already own.

Here are some key steps to a successful design that can save you time, money, and sanity: edit, pick a palette, simplify and curate.

1. Edit

Vogue said this about famous 1930’s designer Sister Parish: “Her unforgiving assessment of a client’s space before she started any design project involved rolling a tea cart around the room, editing out any items that didn’t meet with her approval”.

Roll that tea cart around and edit. Donate things you haven’t used in a while. Move things from room to room until your favorite keepsake finds a new place.

If you can’t find it a home, sell it and make a little money to buy something that fits within your current design plan. The new things you find will end up becoming treasures just like those old ones.

Keep something you love — and make a show stopper. In the '60s, my grandmother designed a 10-foot-long macrame wall hanging for her living room, but ditched it in the '80s. I recently dug it out of her garage and hung it on my staircase wall. It makes a really cool statement.

Be authentic every single day. Hold on to things you love, but don’t hold onto them too tightly. Be OK with letting go of things that are cluttering your home.

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Accessories, plants and modern art with pops of color accent a lightly colored palette. Marilyn Peryer Style House Photography

2. Pick a Palette

I’m going to tell you a designer’s secret: color is everything. It’s mood. It’s a first impression. It’s a feeling you get in your heart.

Use color wisely. Pick three to five colors and stick to them. Use yarns, tear sheets or fabric swatches for inspiration. Carry them around in your wallet and pull them out when you shop. Lighting in big box stores can really trick the eye and you don’t want to waste your time returning things you are unhappy with.

As a trained fashion designer, I’ve seen many color trends come and go. A color scheme I always return to is blue and white. For me this combo is a mainstay. When I look in my closet, my eyes always gravitate to my blue jeans and a white T-shrit. Blue and white feels casual and relaxed.

These easy going colors remind me of my hometown Annapolis, Md., a small city surrounded by beautiful blue water. Ask yourself: what colors make me feel a certain way?

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This office has a black grasscloth accent wall. Key items — the desk and mid-century couch — are pink. It’s a timeless color combination. Marilyn Peryer Style House Photography

3. Simplify

In minimalist design, each and every detail is considered. Design decisions are filtered through an internal process. As we filter and simplify our design, the outcome is a low-key, sophisticated look.

In certain rooms, a few thought-out items are all you need. Simplicity in my office helps me to work more productively. I shopped for a perfect couch and desk, added a few key accessories, and stopped there. It’s as simple as that.

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The accessories shown in this bedroom were collected to give the space an authentic feel; featuring a bone inlay dresser, modern canopy bed and glass top desk. Marilyn Peryer Style House Photography

4. Curate

Curate is a popular buzz word in the design world at the moment. Once mainly used to describe museum art selections, curating has migrated into interiors. When we thoughtfully select items and arrange these items in a pleasing way in our home, it shows. Your friends and family will notice. Your house will have a curated, museum feel, and guests will move from room to room oohing and ahhing at your thoughtfulness.

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Heather Jennings of Blackwell and Jennings design studio has been designing clothing, interiors and home accessories for major retailers across the U.S. throughout her career. Her is on residential and commercial design projects. Maryilyn Peryer Style House Photography

Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but if you love interiors like I do, you don’t mind when guests notice and appreciate the attention you’ve given to creating an interesting home.

To achieve a curated look, I recommend showcasing unique items found in your travels or in antique shops. Try adding plants and baskets or designing with a theme in mind. The result will be a unique and personal space that you and others will really love.

The designers who participate in this N&O design series are members of the Alliance of Interior Designers, allianceofinteriordesigners.org.

About the designer

Heather Jennings is the owner of Blackwell & Jennings design studio. Her website is blackwellandjennings.com. She can be reached at 910-445-1029.

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