Last week I shared some of the elements of interior design I had learned in my light research on the Internet. I must make a disclaimer before I branch off into this post: I in no way consider myself to be an expert on interior decorating after so short a review of the principles of design. In fact, my admiration for people who have the talent for such endeavors has increased exponentially with every lesson I have learned. However, if I restricted my characters to the occupations on which I am an authority, my stories would be incredibly short and boring. In fact I dare say they wouldn’t be interesting enough to write.
That said, now comes both the most fun and the hardest part of researching something new: application. Can I use what I have learned to make Suzanne’s designs for her ex-husband’s estate seem unique and beautiful enough to justify his hiring of her? This is actually my brainstorming session for the book, so if you are interested in such a thing, it is a window into the mind of a writer.
First question: How is the space is to be used? In Mitch’s case, he is all about impressing people with his wealth and power. His plans will include a good bit of entertaining to show off his “good taste.” Suzanne has to consider the different types of parties he will have, the numbers of guests who will be there, and traffic flow.
*An interesting note re: Mitch’s house in Suzanne’s Secrets. A beautifully decorated kitchen looks great in a magazine spread, but neither Mitch, nor his wife, Natalie, or his son, Dalton, will ever cook in it. It needs to be designed with an eye to the chefs they will hire for small parties and the caterers for large ones. It may not be used often, but when it is used, it will be used with significance.
Second: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the space? What level of change is necessary? Is a new coat of paint enough? Perhaps just paint and new or reorganization of furniture? Are there unique features that need to be highlighted? Do you need new hardscape, such as a new mantle or built-in shelves? Finally and more extremely, does the design require the movement of walls, windows or doors? In Suzanne’s case, the house already has some wonderful unique features that are attention-grabbers, and her primary task is to enhance them. Because it is a historic home, and Suzanne respects that, she is committed to not changing the placement of walls, windows, doors and chimneys.
Third: The one feature I had never considered was the view outside. Mitch’s new property, known as the Rutland Estate, has been known for its gardens. Certainly Suzanne can use the gardens as part of the decor by considering the view out the windows. It also gives me a lot of opportunities as a writer to have interaction between Suzanne and her love interest, Daniel, who is part of the landscaping/gardening team.
Fourth: What furnishings, art and other personal items must essentially remain? Are they to be fit into the design, or will they direct it? In Suzanne’s Secrets, one of Suzanne’s characteristics is that she stands up to Mitch about respecting his family’s antiques and incorporating them into the design. She also advocates for the house, insists that their changes be organic,and honors the structure and the purpose of each architectural element.
Fifth and most fun: Color! The house may be old, but Suzanne wants her to look Christie Brinkley old, not Grandma Moses old. Along these lines, Suzanne has a surprising interaction with her ex’s new wife, discovering that she is sensitive to color. They agree on a fresh look for tired rooms that haven’t been updated in 25 years. Suzanne is certainly aware of current trends away from all white rooms and floor plans without segregation by use. Fortunately these new criteria work in her favor with a classic house, but she still has to considered decor that will still be attractive in ten or more years. Spoiler altert! Suzanne fights–literally fights–to keep Mitch’s inherited dining room set because she remembers his grandmother so fondly. The color of the upholstery on the chairs includes roses in shades of pink and red, and Suzanne’s plan brings shades of pink and red into the dining room and the attached living room.
Enough. I am not really a decorator, and I can’t bog down in these details as opposed to writing the story. Still, it’s an interesting exercise, and worthwhile as it informs the interactions of the characters. If there are any decorators, professional or amateur, who have good advice for me, or corrections to my reasoning, please chime in right away. I have a very thick skin when it comes to improving my writing.