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Designer Spotlight ... Eric Ross "Missed Opportunities"

As I am scrambling to finish my punch list for the One Room Challenge which goes live in gasp ... two days ... I am thinking a lot about the decisions I have made for the space.  I tend to overthink and over add and I never seem to regret it.  More fabric ... yes!  More pattern ... yes!  Paint the ceiling ... but, of course.  I think I am rare when it comes to designing my home as I am not afraid to try just about anything.

I was chatting with friend and designer Eric Ross recently about this exact subject.  He had some fabulous insight which he shared with me and I thought it was too good not to pass on to you.  He has compiled a list of what he considers to be missed opportunities when it comes to design.  I think you will love his insight ... and hopefully it will help you when planning your own spaces to make sure you take full advantage of every single opportunity!

Eric ... 

Can’t miss design tricks to transform any room.

There are so many decisions to be made when decorating a home. What color should the rooms be? What shade of white should we paint the trim? Should we use shutters instead of draperies? (Anyone who knows me knows I always prefer draperies.) With all these questions that need answers, homeowners can get what I refer to as decision fatigue. This is when you are so overwhelmed by all the questions that arise during a decorating project that you just revert to the tried and true answers. But, nothing untried is necessarily true.

This is where I think many of my clients reach their limits and reach out to me for help. In this day and age of the internet, many clients even think they can find the answers themselves. And, when they do make a decision on their own, they call me to “tweak” their selections. The clients will have made safe decisions. They’ll have white ceilings, beige upholstery and solid rugs. All of these “safe” decisions I really see as missed opportunities. So, I have come up with a list of five can’t miss design tricks that will transform your room from safe to savoir faire.

Missed opportunity #1: White Ceilings

White ceilings are the biggest missed opportunity in my book. I have heard it referred to as the fifth wall. This basically means it is just as important as the four walls in a room. So, don’t just slap on a coat of “designer white.” (Is that even a paint color?) This is what painters recommend to most of their clients cause it’s easy, of course, and it sounds like a designer chose it! Let me assure you, most good designers obsess over the color of every surface in a home. Great designers see the ceiling as an opportunity to create another moment in the room—an opportunity to create a grand gesture to grab your attention or a quiet accent to compliment other finishes in the room. This can be accomplished by a myriad of choices.

1. Paint the ceiling a color. This is a very inexpensive choice as you will be painting the ceiling anyway. When I suggest painting the ceiling a color other than white, clients are immediately scared. But think of the positives. It really helps highlight the crown molding. So many homes have tall or double-height ceilings, and if you paint the ceilings white, you loose a lot of the detail prominence of the trim work. Creating contrast with a color on the wall and the ceiling really makes the trim pop.

2. Consider using wallcovering on the ceiling. This is more of an investment, of course, but it can really add a sense of drama. I typically use a geometric pattern of some sort, which creates a grid pattern that gives a sense of geometry, which is many times a counterpoint to floral motifs I would use on window treatments or rugs.

Missed opportunity #2: Covering a chair with a single fabric

This may seem obvious (most things are to those who aren’t obsessing over fabrics and colors), but you have to cover a chair with some material, either fabric or leather—or both! So, instead of just using one fabric to cover a chair, consider two or three. Now, this does create anxiety for many of my clients, but that doesn’t stop me. Often I will select a solid fabric for the overall cover and then select a contrasting fabric for the back of the chair. This really works to great effect in a dining room where there are an abundance of hard surfaces. By placing a second fabric on a dining chair it breaks up the monotony of 8-10 chairs all in a row. When you enter the dining room, you will see the backs of one row of chairs and the fronts of the chairs on the opposite side of the table. This helps create depth and interest in the room. This same opportunity exists in any room of your home.

Missed opportunity #3: Plain white doors

When selecting trim colors for interiors, I always like to change up either one room of paint with dark painted trim—OR—I like to paint the interior doors a shade or two darker than the baseboards and casings. This gives more visual interest to the architecture. This is especially effective in small areas where you have limited surfaces for decoration. If you have a small hallway with nothing to look at but doors, not only can you paint the door a contrasting color, but you can upholster doors to create a decorative element in an otherwise blah space. Consider pulling out a color from the fabric to create even more drama, or, for a serene moment, leave the door the same color as the trim and upholster the door in a  subtle fabric. You are limited only by your own imagination.

Missed opportunity #4: Matching metals

So many clients ask me when I am designing their homes, “What metal finish should we select for the doors, faucets and cabinet hardware?” When I answer brass and chrome, or bronze and copper, I get a look that says, “I think we need another designer!” This is a BIG mistake homeowners are making today. It’s safe to have all the finishes match because you can’t get it wrong. However, it creates a visually flat appearance, especially in the larger homes we enjoy in our great part of Tennessee.

My rule of thumb for fixture finishes is that in a room, all plumbing fixtures should match. Regarding hardware, each floor should have the same finish on the door hardware. Historically, the best (read: most expensive) hardware was installed in the public rooms, which where on the main floor. Less expensive hardware was used in basements and second floor rooms. So, it was very common to see brass and cut glass knobs on the main floor and then change to brass or “pot metal” and porcelain knobs on secondary floors. The showier pieces were meant for guests’ eyes only. I take the same approach when selecting finishes for today’s homes. This also makes the home more visually interesting and allows me to develop different schemes and color palettes in other parts of the home.

Missed opportunity #5: Recessed lighting vs. decorative fixtures

If you follow interior design at all you may have noticed how many decorative lights, or chandeliers, designers are using in a room. This is one of the most significant changes I’ve seen in building/remodeling in the last three years. In my opinion, this is because homes have gotten so large that to continue to place hundreds (no exaggeration) of cans in a home creates a Swiss cheese effect on the ceiling. Another negative effect of recessed cans is that you get much more shadowing from the light cone coming from the recessed fixture.

Today, decorative lighting is so beautiful. It really is jewelry for the home. Not only is it decorative, but, it’s much more effective, and flattering to light rooms with a combination of surface mounted fixtures and sconces. This allows you much more control when lighting a room than just light coming from the ceiling. Also, in transitional spaces, such as hallways, it gives you something decorative to look at as you travel through the space creating depth of field and decoration.

So, which of these opportunities have you missed in your home? These tricks are easy to adapt to a home of any size. Even one small change can set you on your way to realizing your homes fullest potential. With these tips you can create the best spaces for your family and friends to enjoy. Take inventory of your own home and see what missed opportunities are laying in wait for you to seize.

I love every single point Eric has made ... and he has even made me rethink a few of the decisions I have made in our home.  A chair with more than one fabric ... ummm #yesplease!!  And I am a chicken when mixing metals and clearly I need to just get over it. 

You can see more of Eric's work on his website, blog, Instagram and via Pinterest.  You can also read his interview here and see a fabulous feature of his work on The Glam Pad.  

Happy Monday ... my deadline is creeping near ... 


  1. Love this post and all his advice! I'm a huge fan of the painted ceiling. I painted our daughter, Sullivan's, ceiling a bright coral pink and did a wood bead chandelier and it was FAB!

    Erin, Attention to Darling

  2. Think I can check all of these off my list. Not one white ceilings in my home; even the white den has a blue ceiling. Another "missed opportunity" is painted closets. All of mine are pink including the coat closet in the foyer & is such a perky surprise to visitors! Can't wait for the reveal!!!



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