Why Your Room Didn’t Turn Out Like that One in Architectural Digest

Why Your Room Didn’t Turn Out Like that One in Architectural Digest

So often, people see something that they like and they want to replicate it in their own homes. Sometimes this works but often it doesn’t.



In design, context is everything. This is my mantra as an interior designer; it’s the one thing that I have the most difficulty helping people understand. And though this will sound self-serving, it is honestly one of the biggest reasons to hire a designer. (Don’t get me wrong- there are plenty of other good reasons to work with a designer; you can benefit from their knowledge and experience regarding building codes, environmental concerns, health and safety, adaptability and function of a space…I could go on, but that is another topic for another day).

Successful design considers the whole. You need to consider an entire space in order to create something that feels resolved. A specific element that works in one space doesn’t necessarily translate into another space. For instance, just because you see a picture of an amazing bathroom with a sunken tub, that doesn’t mean that a sunken tub will make your bathroom amazing. I find that context can be very difficult to talk about without a visual reference so let’s look at some spaces together:

The application of a sunken tub works in these contexts:


The same idea doesn’t work here:


So, why do some work while others don’t? This is where it gets messy…I could give you my critique, but it would be quite long and ineffective in this format. No one can train you in the elements and principles of design in one blog post. And I can’t give you any rules to design by. I find that people want rules- easy answers that they can just plug in and attain success. BUT THERE ARE NO RULES. There are a thousand different elements that can affect any given design and they all need to be considered. Form matters. Light matters. Line and shape and texture and movement and setting matter. SCALE MATTERS! (I see people get this wrong a lot).

Case in point:


I think they were going for this:


Some of you have that intuitive sense, that “artist’s eye”, and you may be very capable of pulling a space together, making all of the necessary considerations. If you’re not one of those people but you appreciate good design, you have two options: Hire a designer or study context. I realize it’s not always realistic to hire a professional, but that doesn’t mean you’re destined to have an Al Bundy living room. Gather pictures of spaces that you like and study them. What do they have in common? What elements are present that are making them successful? Look at the space as a whole and consider context.


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