The Insider Designer STICK TO ONE TOPIC!

By Lin-Dai Y. Kendall

When it comes to decorating your home, it’s not as easy as having a conversation and sticking to one topic, but this little axiom will surely give you direction, and very likely, prevent you from making costly mistakes.

The opportunity to help many clients bring beauty, comfort, style, warmth and character to their home has provided me with a great framework of decorating basics that I’d like to pass on. The first one, and perhaps the most important, is to stick to one topic, one central idea, and one direction. This does not have to constrain you to one style, brand, or color palette; you can choose, for example, to be eclectic. The important point is that you define an idea and stick to it throughout the different rooms and areas of your house.

As we age in our different roles in society, going from student to entering the labor force, then marrying, becoming parents, etc., we accumulate a multitude of experiences that shape our choices. But at the point in time when you decide to carry out a remodeling or a redecorating of your home, your chances of success are better if you have one topic in mind and s-t-i-c-k to it! The final product is bound to be very satisfying and lasting.

One of the issues I encounter in my day to day work, is the tendency to overwhelm clients with a multitude of choices. The variation in quality, pricing, and other defining parameters is so wide that even for an experienced professional in the design field it can become quite a headache. Here’s what you need to do to narrow your focus and find your one central idea.

Make a HOME scrapbook

Start by collecting any photos, materials, diagrams, etc, that appeal to you. Collect clippings of arrangements and decor that you would like to see in your house. Pick furniture styles you like, colors that call your name, and textures that stimulate your senses. Just collect, collect, collect for a period of at least two months. After this period of time, test yourself and see if you can trace one predominant tendency. Keep this in mind for the future.

Make a list of DISCARDS

If you had an unlimited amount of resources, what pieces would you replace? What items would you replace them with? And what would go first? Prioritize.

Prepare a preliminary BUDGET

So we don’t have unlimited resources. You will need to make a basic guideline of how much you will need to invest in order to make your home look as beautiful as those homes that catch your eye each time the Home & Design magazine comes out.


Not all of us have the knack for design and decorating, and furthermore, many of us may lack the required knowledge to accomplish that sought after vignette look. Designers have access to many resources that you as a home owner may not have. Take advantage of that. Take your scrapbook, your discard list and your budget to a designer and work together towards that great dream of almost every homeowner: to have a fabulous, professionally done, “I’m-proud-to live-here” kind of look.

Define your “ONE TOPIC”

Once you and your designer have gone through the steps described, sit down and define your guiding concept, your “one topic”. At this point you should be ready to be selective and disciplined. The feedback you get from your designer should be in tune with what you have presented. According to many of my clients, this is one of the hardest things to achieve and I don’t doubt it. As a designer, I’m always perfectly aware and conscientious that it’s my client’s home I’m working on. Therefore, the overriding premise should be on what the client likes, loves and cannot walk away from.

Part of defining this “one topic” idea comes from defining the client’s lifestyle. It includes analyzing how the client and other resident members use this facility they call home. It includes presenting the client with a proposal or blueprint that provides a plan of action. The more rooms or areas within the house that become part of this plan the better. The designer then becomes the orchestrator coordinating color palettes, fabrics, wall colors, textures, furnishings, window treatments, floor coverings, etc, in sync with the client’s central topic.

Once you’ve selected your one topic as the predominant anchor for the style of your home, remember to stick to the plan! If you feel the sudden urge to go out and buy a whole other vignette to integrate it into your home and it’s not in your plan, stop yourself and consult with your designer. Remember, there’s a reason you went to them in the first place.

Lin-Dai Y. Kendall is an architect and interior designer with ample experience in design and construction of both commercial and residential projects. A mother of four, Lin-Dai runs her design studio in Fairfax Station, Virginia, and can be reached at 571-225-1866. 


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