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Home design ideas as investment, not as expense.

How to make design decisions that last

7min read
by Olesia Chikunova, Founder of HomeWiP Construction Concierge.

Home Design Ideas. They surround us in social media, on HGTV, magazines and shops. It is so easy to get blown away by a new trend, or carried away by a new color. There are literally thousands decisions that need to be made when designing a home. It is compounded by the fact that one decision has a domino effect on the others. Your guests will never point out what feels off, but they will feel it. Nothing is more valued in design than consistency, nothing is more difficult to achieve.

We look at every home design idea, every design decision through consistency, comfort and longevity lenses. This is the way to make sure your design decision will last long and become a true investment into your home, not an expense.

And the size of home does not matter. It may be a 3000 square foot house or a 740 square foot Accessory Dwelling Unit.  It makes no difference to us. These standards remain the same.

What do we mean by the best standards? Certainly not those of the useless, overcharged house of the average American millionaire, who builds and furnishes his home with a hopeless disregard of tradition. We must accept the standards that the artists and the architects accept, the standards that have come to us from those exceedingly rational people, our ancestors.

Elsie de WolfeAmerican Designer, author of House in Good Taste (1913)

Written a century ago, it still sounds shocking, right? That said, it was Elsie de Wolfe who single-handedly turned design into a profession. Fame came to her after the publication of the book House in Good Taste in 1913. 

Among de Wolfe’s distinguished clients were Amy Vanderbilt, Anne Morgan, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and Henry Clay and Adelaide Frick. She remains the most famous and copied American designer.

If you have found that quote about Elsie’s design ideas outspoken, wait till you hear what she has to say about the choice of an architect. Sometimes, she remains delightfully Victorian, even though she hated that style – it reminded her too much of her sad childhood.

You must select for your architect a man who isn’t too determined to have his way. It is a fearful mistake to leave the entire planning of your home to a man whose social experience may be limited, for instance, for he can impose on you his conception of your tastes with a damning permanency and emphasis.

Elsie de WolfeAmerican Designer, author of House in Good Taste (1913)
What makes a home design idea a good fit for you?

What Is Good Design?

Our ancestors built for stability and use, and so their simple houses were excellent examples of architecture.

Elsie de WolfeAmerican Designer, Author of House in Good Taste (1913)

There is more to good design ideas than the looks. When you design a home to last, you make an impact on the environment. Today, homes often are less friendly to environment than cars. Decisions are often made looking at the cost today, not at a life time cost.

When we accept the harsh reality of the climate change, we need to make conscious decisions on how we build and how we design homes. 

One more aspect is to design the home in a way to serve several generations – from toddlers to retirees. This is called universal design, its principles let homeowners spend less on home remodels over the life cycle of the house. A good home design idea will stand the test of time. Will this door knob serve both kids and grannies? Does it make sense to have steps inside the house when an older you (or your older knees) will hate it in 10 years?

Our in-house expertise lets you benefit from the knowledge about sustainable building, energy efficiency,  sensitive materials and home modifications to suit any abilities.

 

You will express yourself in your house, whether you want to or not, so you must make up your mind to a long preparatory discipline. You may have only one house to furnish in your life-time, possibly, so be careful and go warily.

Elsie de WolfeAmerican Designer, Author of House in Good Taste (1913)
Never underestimate the power of design

Design that Improves You and Your Lifestyle

What a joyous thing is color! How influenced we all are by it, even if we are unconscious of how our sense of restfulness has been brought about. Certain colors are antagonistic to each of us, and I think we should try to learn just what colors are most sympathetic to our own individual emotions, and then make the best of them.

Elsie de WolfeAmerican Designer, Author of House in Good Taste (1913)

Why does Elsie sound so fresh today? Is it because her audacious lifestyle is still relevant today?

Before she was making headlines for covering 18th century footstools in leopard print, she was in the newspapers for her eccentric blue hair, her affinity for small dogs, and unique preferences for physical fitness.

In the early 1900s, de Wolfe promoted a semi-vegetarian diet that consisted of fresh fish, oysters, shellfish and vegetables. She described herself as an “antisarcophagist”, neither a red meat eater nor wholly vegetarian. De Wolfe advocated gardening and consuming homegrown vegetables and organic food.

Known as a member of New York’s Gilded Age high society with Anne Vanderbilt and Anne Morgan, Elsie worked as a professional actress. But it was her on-stage attire that garnered attention from critics and audiences alike, not just her performances. 

First of all, I think a dining-room should be light, and gay. The first thing to be considered is plenty of sunshine. The next thing is the planning of a becoming background for the mistress of the house. The room should always be gay and charming in color, but the color should be selected with due consideration of its becomingness to the hostess. Every woman has a right to be pretty in her own dining-room.

Elsie de WolfeAmerican Designer, author of House in Good Taste (1913)

Elsie, the Socialite 

She originally appeared with the Amateur Comedy Club in New York City as Lady Clara Seymour in A Cup of Tea (April 1886) and as Maude Ashley in Sunshine (December 1886), a one-act comedy by Fred W. Broughton. Her success led to a full-time theatrical career, making her professional debut in Sardou’s Thermidor in 1891, in which she played the role of Fabienne with Forbes-Robertson.

In 1926 The New York Times described de Wolfe as one of the most widely known women in New York social life.

In 1935, Paris experts named her the best-dressed woman in the world, noting that she wore what suited her best, regardless of fashion.

Elsie and Wellness

Her daily regimen at age 70 included yoga, standing on her head, and walking on her hands.

She also wrote an autobiography, filled with her rules for physical fitness and mental health, entitled After All and Elsie de Wolfe’s Recipes for Successful Dining, dinner party rules. Some say that Elsie parties made her even more famous than her interior decorating. 

 

I believe in plenty of optimism and white paint, comfortable chairs with lights beside them, open fires on the hearth and flowers wherever they “belong,” mirrors and sunshine in all rooms.

Elsie de WolfeAmerican Designer, Author of House in Good Taste (1913)

What Should Your Home Look Like?

Design without haste, pick home design ideas thoughtfully.

Century-Wise Home Design Ideas

Her advice given to readers still remains relevant today: Do-it-Yourself, eat outdoors, always have a chaise-longe for mid-day ‘winks’, bring the outdoors in.

Space, Nature and Light

Elsie made a feature of mirrors, which both illuminated and expanded living spaces. She brought back into fashion furniture painted in white or pale colors.  Our pioneer American designer indulged her taste for chinoiserie, chintz, green and white stripes, wicker, tromp-l’œil effects in wallpaper, and trelliswork motifs, suggesting the allure of the garden.

Home design ideas that Elsie obsessed about were lighting and comfort. She insisted on spending time to look for the right lighting fixture, and would not accept any compromises. She was convinced that placement of chairs helped people feel at ease in a living room.

 

Start with flooring

She insisted: Before you begin the decoration of your walls, be sure that your floors have been finished to fulfill their purposes. Stain them or polish them to a soft glow, keep them low in tone so that they may be backgrounds.

Continue with walls

When all these things are settled—floors and ceilings and woodwork—you may begin to plan your wall coverings. Begin, you understand. You will probably change your plans a dozen times before you make the final decisions. I hope you will! Because inevitably the last opinion is best—it grows out of so many considerations.

Her favorite bedroom color combo – black and white:

One can imagine nothing fresher than a black and white scheme in a bedroom, with a saving neutrality of gray or some dull tone for rugs, and a brilliant bit of color in porcelain.

Elsie’s secret trick?

A desk in the entry. In her own words:

In any house that I have anything to do with, there is some sort of desk or table for writing in the hall. How often I have been in other people’s houses when it was necessary to send a message, or to record an address, when the whole household began scurrying around trying to find a pencil and paper! This, to my mind, is an outward and visible sign of an inward—and fundamental!—lack of order.

 

Home Design Ideas Tested by Time

Have you noticed how fundamental, practical and universal Elsie’s design approach is? Could we find a better mentor?

 

She might have been the first Project Manager, too.

Forethought in design

Imagine, a century ago Elsie advised to start planning light in advance. Talk about sound and forward-thinking design ideas. She also complained about how difficult it is to select good lighting fixtures, and how important lighting is for your well-being in the house. We could not be more than happy to find that she agrees with us on all things light design related.

I advise putting a liberal number of base openings in a room, for it costs little when the room is in embryo. Later on, when you find you can change your favorite table and chair to a better position to meet the inspiration of the completed room and that your reading-lamp can be moved, too, because the outlet is there ready for it, will come the compensating moments when you congratulate yourself on forethought.

Elsie de WolfeAmerican Designer, Author of House in Good Taste (1913)

First time home owner?

We know it may be overwhelming. And more often than not, you will not know if you will like your own choice two months down the road. We guide homeowners in selecting neutral colors for all home design features that are hard to change. They may express their love of color in less expensive or hard to change features, like upholstery, window treatments, accessories and carpets.

Additionally we use photo-realistic 3D images to show you what your house will look like when completed. As homeowners who have been in your shoes before, we understand that some decisions take time. Some decisions are very personal. Some decisions can be delegated. 

The room will gradually find itself, though it may take years and heartache and a certain self-confession of inadequacy. It will express your life, if you use it, so be careful of the life you live in it!

Elsie de WolfeAmerican Designer, Author of House in Good Taste (1913)