By CLARICE SMYTH
HOW TO DESIGN AROUND UGLY OBSTACLES IN A SPACE
HOW DO WE WORK AROUND UGLY OBSTACLES WHEN DESIGNING A SPACE
What are you supposed to do when you are designing less than perfect spaces? Designing around ugly obstacles in a space can be challenging. Sometimes we are presented with less than perfect walls. There are usually mechanical, structural, or design “imperfections” that we must work around when designing or do our best to make them disappear. If your budget and time allow, and you prefer, have the mechanical, structural, or design “imperfections” corrected or rerouted to a less obvious location. But if this is not an option for your project, here are some design tips for how to visually minimize their visual intrusion.
“Obstacles are things that have yet to be put in their proper place.”
DESIGN AROUND UGLY OBSTACLES IN A SPACE
One way to minimize mechanical/structural “imperfections” is paint. By painting the imperfections the same color as the wall. This will trick the eye and cause them to visually disappear. This can work well for vent covers, slight wall bump-outs, bad molding, security sensors, switches, or wall mount controls. There is never a reason to paint any element a contrasting color unless you want to draw attention to it.
DESIGN AROUND AN ENTRY DOORBELL
We styled the entry with a live-edge table, establishing a horizontal (horizon) line. Then we added a starburst mirror to the upper right to draw the eye opposite of the doorbell cover. The lamp is glass, wood, and metal which marries the various use of materials. Below, art is informally leaned against the wall and other pieces are added to help ground the vignette. This design also brings interest with color and finishes. The gold mirror and leaning art are reflective, the pottery and linen shade adds texture, and the live-edge black walnut table adds richness and a natural element. Another option would be to have an artisan create an art piece that allows the sound to travel but camouflage the mechanical unit. This option could be used for most of our examples here.
DESIGN AROUND AN THERMOSTAT
Here the play of horizontal and verticle lines takes the focus off the thermostat. Custom vertical abstract art is hung over the low, burnt orange, leather bench and accessorized with a chenille throw and beaded linen pillow. The rich colors of the furnishings and art draw the eye away from the air vent and control, which were painted in the wall color.
DESIGN AROUND AN ALARM SENSOR
The library table sits under a security sensor, painted out in the wall color, and near a floor vent. To make this vignette work, and not look like an afterthought, art and accessories were, again, used to draw attention away from the imperfections. A beautiful Rosamond sketch, in a wood frame, is placed opposite of the sensor. The regal vintage brass swans and a pottery owl are added to give movement, and the collection of leather Franklin Covey planners add softness and cool pops of color.
If the problem is more of a structural nature consider these tips. If the problem is a bulkhead, boxed in pole or pipe, or chimneystack, try thinking outside the box for how to use the problem as part of the solution. If the problem is the bump-out or chimneystack, build custom depth cabinets or shelves to hide it. If the problem is a bulkhead in the kitchen, extend the cabinet finish to the bulkhead above, which will carry the eye to the ceiling without visual interruption. Poles can be boxed in with wood or made into columns. Also, poles can be enclosed into walls if it works for the intended space plan layout.
Design can be used to add visual interest, create balance, give dimension, and make mechanical/structural imperfections visually disappear.
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