For designers, decorating around a concept rather than following one specific design style can be a rewarding experience that yields timeless results. "I think decorating around a concept rather than a style gives designers a little more wiggle room in their designs," notes designer Eleanor Trepte of Dekay & Tate. "You can mix furniture styles harmoniously when thinking of a concept, rather than sticking to strictly midcentury modern, and or traditional designs, for example. It can allow you the opportunity to bring a mix of a little bit of everything into the home."
Establish a Narrative
This is a practice that designers implement in commercial and residential spaces alike. "For our team, having a strong narrative helps drive all the design decisions for a project," explains Dan Mazzarini, interior designer and principal of BHDM Design.
When working on a recent renovation of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood, Mazzarini and his team turned to the city itself for inspiration. "Using the notion that Atlanta is 'city in the forest,' we crafted an indoor/ outdoor experience," Mazzarini shares. "A once open-air portico became an enclosed solarium room, bedecked with trellises and custom light fixtures," he adds. "We maintained the original aggregate of the exterior material and softened it with luxurious velvets and sumptuous seating." Indoors, the theme continued on—guest rooms were outfitted with custom window treatments featuring a botanical print. "The concept is more than just a statement," Mazzarini reflects. "It can convey something about locale, history, and demographic and most helpful is a nexus from which design decisions can be made."
Mazzarini is by no means the only designer who has designed around a concept in a commercial space. The New Design Project designed two Chip City cookie locations in NYC—one in Long Island City and the other in the West Village. The team turned to Chip's brand identity, which features a curvy logo and chocolate brown and orange color palettes, to make the spaces shine. In the West Village retail store, pictured below, the design team selected curved architectural forms to resemble the Chip logo, while biscuit beiges and chocolate browns were implemented in order to add warmth to the space and reflect the shades of the cookies.
When working on residential spaces, designer Barbi Walters of The Lynden Lane Co. notes that a client's lifestyle generally serves as her design concept. "We understand how the family interacts, where they spend their time alone and in groups, and how they entertain," Walters notes. "Then we create spaces to serve and reflect that in the most transcendent, beautiful way."
Design Around Your Lifestyle
Designer Lacy Hughes of Julian Design agrees that ultimately, a client's way of life is a key concept around which to craft a space. "While [clients] may have a style that they gravitate toward, every project truly starts with a concept—the concept of how they live, how they want the space to operate, and a feeling that they'd like the room to invoke," Hughes explains. "At the end of the day, we're working toward a finished project that is a representation of them and not a specific style."
One of Walters' clients is a book lover, and Walters worked to incorporate favorite titles into the home's design. "As we unpacked boxes of books, we knew we needed to create something both functional and spectacular to display the treasures," she shares. "We took a 20 foot long wall and created a way to display books in a way that felt like a gallery."
As part of another project, Walters created a kitchen for a pie-baking extraordinaire, using the client's love of baking as a design concept. "We built a baking table off the island to create a custom pie baking station," the designer shares. To include the entire family in the space, a beverage bar to whip up coffee and cocktails was also integrated into the design. Ensuring that there was space for loved ones to enjoy coffee and pie while gathered together was also key. "Beside the kitchen, we designed a cozy banquette, with sheer cafe curtains to let the morning sun in, where the family could spend intimate time around a round table," Walters adds.