Make your home your happy place, interior designer urges in new book – Marin Independent Journal

Ask yourself, “What would make me happiest when I came home?” asks interior designer John McClain in his first book, “The Designer Within: A Professional Guide to a Well-Styled Home” (Gibbs Smith, September 6).

It’s a good question.

What would make me happiest? After coming home with people and animals that are dear to me, the next would be a clean and orderly house. Walking into a messy dirty house gives me hives.

Beauty comes next. In other words, I want my eyes to scan the interior of my house without hitting a sour note. I only want to see objects and decals that I love, pieces my husband and I have collected over time that tell stories.

I will say this for McClain’s book: it had me thinking before I even finished the introduction.

“I want readers – whether they’re homeowners about to embark on their first renovation or seasoned design professionals looking for new ideas – to leave feeling confident and inspired,” he writes.

Fair enough. But to be honest, when I finish the book, I don’t feel confident anymore, although I certainly feel more inspired. Readers would be hard-pressed not to want to makeover their entire home after perusing this lovely 114-page tome, illustrated with photos of McClain’s own home, a “modern loft bungalow,” and his other design projects, which range from traditional to contemporary.

“I didn’t want it to be just another pretty coffee table book,” McClain told me over the phone from his home in Los Angeles. He has a design office there and in Orlando. “What I really want this book to do is start a conversation, a discussion inside your own home that triggers change.”

My husband hates when that happens. Now I want to renovate our kitchen.

Because her book raised questions beyond what would make me happiest (an updated kitchen), I asked McClain more.

Q Every designer, including you, says to gather inspirational images from magazines or on a Pinterest board to form the basis of your design. How do you go from this hodgepodge to a design plan?

A You are looking for inspiration. When you find something you respond positively to, whether it’s a photo of a room, a rug, an artwork, or a piece of furniture, dig deeper. Analyze why you like it. Is it because it reminds you of a favorite place or makes you feel comfortable and relaxed. What is that? The objects in your home should awaken something in you. They must be more than pretty.

Q You tell readers to “be bold”. This is loaded advice. Please advise.

A I’m done with people copying what they see in Crate & Barrel or Restoration Hardware and house depersonalization. Owners need to express themselves. My favorite way to be bold is through wallpaper, but it can also be through a statement piece of furniture, perhaps an oversized light fixture that acts like a sculpture, or through an unexpected color.

Q Your book has a lot of painted cabinets, but the idea of ​​painting wooden cabinets terrifies me. Isn’t that sacrilege?

A Now I’ll raise you one who cares? Wood is just wood. I don’t understand why we put it on this pedestal. People say they can’t change that golden oak tree, and I say, “Are you kidding me? Wood cabinets are no more special than painted cabinets. However, when painting cabinets, choose colors that will stand the test of time.

Q Share your secrets to creating a great “shelfie” or tablescape.

A When styling a bookshelf or coffee table, must-haves include stacks of books with some sort of “book top,” such as a brass object or any small accent piece on top of the stack to punctuate the table. Then add one to two tall objects, and a round object, like a bowl. Mix sizes, shapes, colors and finishes and try to make the whole thing a microcosm of the room it’s in.

Q You argue for a “comfortably chic” home design. How to reconcile these opposing ideas?

A Chic and comfortable is my favorite design aesthetic. You can choose a chic sofa with beautiful and sophisticated lines and cover it with a fabric so resistant that children can wipe their dirty hands on it. Fill it up to make it more comfortable than expected, while maintaining the same sleek silhouette. Conclusion: Family homes can have white sofas.

Q How do you make a small space seem bigger?

A Use chairs and sofas with legs that leave space under them. None should touch the ground. Clear acrylic chairs take up less visual space, and curtains that start at the ceiling will make rooms appear higher. Don’t be afraid to use large pieces in small rooms. A few large pieces are better than several small ones. A monochromatic color scheme also helps.

Q You talk about a top-down philosophy when discussing how to afford a great look. Where are the best places to save money and where should you invest?

A Spend money on items that get a lot of use: couches, coffee tables, dining chairs, beds, appliances, and storage items like dressers. Save on items you use less like lamps, mirrors, accessories, side tables, sometimes area rugs and artwork. Even when I’m working on a multi-million dollar house, I’ll put an expensive, well-made dining table next to a $50 mirror.

Marni Jameson is the author of six home and lifestyle books including “What to Do With Everything You Own to Leave the Legacy You Want”, “Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go” and “Downsizing the Blended Home – When Two Homes Become One. You can join her at

Betty K. Park