Kimberley Seldon is a designer, broadcaster, writer and former Style at Home decorating editor who believes spaces should celebrate the people who live in them. Based in Toronto and Los Angeles, she’s been practising interior design for more than 30 years, so who better to help us with our biggest design quandaries? Read on for Kimberley’s fixes.
KL: Why is choosing paint colours for the walls so tricky?
KS: Many people choose a paint colour out of fear. They might want dramatic navy blue but end up going beige because it’s the safest choice. The point of paint on your walls is to make the important things in the room, such as artwork or a new sofa or credenza, look better and pop in the space. But people often choose their wall colour first, which makes it almost impossible to then find fabrics, furnishings and accessories to match – it’s like buying lipstick before the dress. Get your favourite fabrics, rugs or art and then choose the perfect colour to make the room look fabulous and complete.
KL: Where do we most often go wrong when hanging artwork?
KS: There are two common mistakes. First, people hang artwork too high. It should be at eye level, which means the middle of your artwork should be 60 to 66 inches from the floor. If you have very tall ceilings in your room, raise the middle of your artwork an extra three or four inches. The second mistake is they choose the wrong proportion – usually too small. If hanging artwork over furniture, the artwork above it should be two-thirds to three-quarters of its width and hung four to eight inches above the top of the furnishing. If you have collected many small pieces, consider grouping them to achieve the correct proportion. If you have an extensive collection, I suggest hiring an art installation company to offer a fresh eye on your collection. They will know what looks good together, how to group it and how to hang it. Trust me, they will save many nail holes going in and out of your walls!
The middle of an artwork should be at eye level; leaning art lends a casual vibe.
KL: How many different wood stains and styles should there be in the same room?
KS: The general rule is to keep the various wood colours and styles to a maximum of three in a room and, ideally, throughout the house for consistency. I always say wood either creates a casual or formal look in a room. Darker wood stains evoke more traditional or formal feelings, while lighter woods, like natural oak or country pine, lend a casual or contemporary look. I suggest choosing wider planks that come in many random lengths. This will make the flooring look customized, and also produce fewer grooves and spaces between planks (too many look busy). Wide planks give a calmer, simpler look.
Darker wood tones bring sophistication to a space.
KL: How many lighting sources should there be in a room?
KS: For function, each room needs three types of lighting: ambient for mood, task for reading or working, and overhead for overall illumination when cleaning. Lighting with shades softens the light – and is softer on our complexions! Too many pot lights overhead makes people look tired; they’re considered overhead lighting. Try to keep your light sources around face level. I love to hang wall-hung picture lights high on a wall in a hallway to wash it softly with light – they don’t always have to have important art hanging under them.
Library lights hung high in a hallway emit a welcome soft, indirect light. Petrel 30″ picture light, Circa Lighting.
KL: What is the best ratio of modern to traditional styles in a room?
KS: People who like both styles often create a 50/50 balance and it just never looks correct. My suggestion is to use the 80/20 rule. Use 80 per cent of whichever look you find you naturally gravitate to. Let’s say it’s traditional, then incorporate 20 per cent modern accents or elements. If you have a very traditional Victorian living room with heavy mouldings, a carved fireplace and dark floors but you prefer more modern styles, then fill the room with modern art and furniture; the architecture will give you the 20 per cent traditional you need for balance. However, if you love traditional style, one modern sofa and one modern piece of art among other antiques in that room will create the perfect 80/20 blend.
Shades help to soften light, while overheads, including pots, can create harsh lighting.