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How Important Is It For You To Go Against The Grain In Design?

You’ve seen that wallpaper billions of times, but you LOVE it…the question is: do you use it in your design project or home?? This question was prompted a few weeks ago when our EHD mentee, Key was asking Emily about using a chair in her living room project that she “had already seen everywhere.” It really got me thinking, because historically if I liked something I’d just go ahead and use it, especially if I thought I could use it in a cool way… I wanted to hear what everyone else thought on the subject, so I turned to our EHD Insider Community, and asked the question:

To my surprise, LOTS of people had thoughts to say on the matter. This “overused thing” can be a fabric, a pillow, a vase, a wallpaper, a chair…or literally ANYTHING. Here’s what Emily said about it:

Em’s bringing up something interesting…as a designer you’re always trying to push boundaries, so repeatedly using the same things or using trendy, overused pieces can feel like you’re in the safe zone (we’ll get more into this in a sec). Key also had some insight…(she’s the one who brought it up, after all). Here’s what she said:

So it’s also really about your personality…I’m also the kind of person who gets tired of things quickly, but for some reason that’s why it seems comforting to me to just use the pieces you want to use when you want to use them, right? If you’re gonna switch things out anyway, why not just go for it? I guess maybe that means if it’s easy to switch out (ie: vase, pillow throw) then go for it and if it’s not as easy to swap then don’t (ie: wallpaper, couches, any big pieces of furniture)? The next comment is from Katherine Wu and I thought it was particularly hilarious and so relatable:

Hahahaha this was so funny to me. It’s really true! If you’re not in the social media/design blogger kind of world, then it really doesn’t matter since masses probably aren’t seeing your home and you really should just do what makes you happy. But speaking of, check out this next comment by Alessa Makuch:

If you’re curious about the post she’s referencing, I highly recommend you read it (and if you already have read it, then re-read it because it’s such a gem and it’s so fun to read Arlyn’s writing always). I LOVE the philosophy of design like no one’s watching, although I also super appreciate the acknowledgment of young designers trying to build their portfolio. I CAN RELATE…my MOTO is my first real design project ever and it feels so stressful to try to make it fun yet feel sophisticated while also doing something unique, creative, and heavily original.

Chris McGovern said he also relates. He’s an awesome designer & reader (if you missed his kitchen project we featured, you can check it out here). Here’s what he had to say on the matter:

MAYBE I would jump off a bridge if there was a bungee cord attached alright, Chris!!??? Anywho, I couldn’t agree more with what he said. It’s so accurate in every way, AND he brings up the “swap out easily” point we addressed earlier. I read this and was like “true, true, and true.”

So what are your thoughts on the subject?? Let’s chat in the comments. Thanks for reading! 🙂

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Tessa Neustadt | From: A Baby Girl’s Pink and Green Nursery

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3 years ago

I hesitate to use certain items in my home that seem like they’ll be a passing fad that will date the space in a year or two. (Remember chevron everything?) I also don’t use items that are clearly knock offs of someone else’s design. For example, I wouldn’t use a knock off Eames chair, because everyone who knows me knows I wouldn’t spend $5k on a chair, so it will clearly be a copy.) But, I’d never judge someone else for buying something they love, even if it’s not necessarily original. It’s also just a matter of personal preference and your goals. Designers have to draw a fine line in their portfolio between showing that they know what the trends are and using those same trends to death.

Cici Haus
3 years ago
Reply to  alexa

I bought one chevron blanket during that craze. It’s a beautiful solid marigold on the other side, so I still use it but when the chevron side peeks through it gets serious side eye!

3 years ago

I have used knock offs a couple of times in the past. Once in a second home those ubiquitous wishbone chairs due to budget and another time a couple geometric lighting pendants of some designer lights that would have cost $13k per piece! The chairs have performed so they have done their job. I think that geometric thing is a bit yesterday so maybe it was a good thing I bought the knock offs at a fraction of the price. The thing is I have never felt completely comfortable with either. If I had more time and there were more options when purchasing maybe I would have purchased differently. As well as considerations of budget there are also issues of time to really research and see what else is out there. These purchases were both made some years ago but today I would probably do it differently but I urgently needed (especially the chairs) those items so pulled the trigger.

3 years ago

Two words. Modern Farmhouse. The issue I think is clients often want what they see over and over and that can become an issue.

Sarah M.
3 years ago

If you see the item everywhere and it still speaks to you…that really says something. I remember that IKEA striped black and white rug that everyone was using. I loved seeing in photos but wouldn’t personally buy it myself. Another one: It’s fun seeing designers use boucle chairs…but again I think in a real life home it could look really worn and not trendy, so not something I would purchase either.

3 years ago
Reply to  Sarah M.

God, I hate that broken stripe IKEA rug! Hahaha.

Ruby Coppola
3 years ago

I go against the grain in design always. My home is filled with things I absolutely love and will get passed down to my children, and hopefully my grandchildren.
My husband and I made a deal years ago not to buy anything that’s mass produced – only one of a kind pieces. We both have to love and agree on whatever we buy, too. We really enjoy sitting in different rooms in our home, and reminiscing about when, where, and why we purchased a particular piece. You don’t have to spend a fortune, either. The only ingredient needed is time. It takes time to curate interesting collections, but you won’t have any regrets.

3 years ago
Reply to  Ruby Coppola

For years my husband and I bought original art for anniversaries divisible by 5. Each time, we had to go to all the galleries and studios, eat many lunches out, choose the frames and mats, and agree on what we bought.We cherish every single painting, and guest always comment on them. We stopped this practice about 10 years ago because we ran out of wall space.

3 years ago
Reply to  Ann

congratulations on your long marriage! more years than free space on walls 😉 sounds really heart warming and special. Maybe you switch on smaller ceramic or sculptures?

Lisa W
3 years ago

I have had the thought that I shouldn’t use something I have seen a lot online. But if I have only seen it online, not in real life, I worry less. I like interior design and try to keep up. I decorate my home to please me and my husband, not to impress others. If I like it and believe I will like it long term, why not?

3 years ago

This is interesting on the heels of a trends post

It seems everyone has a different take on this so maybe it’s just “whatever works for you”?

If I manage to see that something is a trend I tend to avoid it. The moment rI realized circular mirrors were becoming a thing I knew I could never buy one, even though I like the look. Fear of things looking dated, maybe?

Honestly I think the more important question here is WHEN DO WE GET AN UPDATE ON MALLORY’S MOTO??

3 years ago

I wouldn’t hire a designer who turned out carbon copies of whatever is trendy but I’ll never be in a financial position to hire a designer anyway. A trendy item can stick out like a sore thumb or can be knit into the fabric of a great room. I have reproduction Risom lounge chairs and a Nougichi coffee table in my living room. So very cliché, I know, but I love the way they mix with pieces from Room & Board, Environment Furniture (dearly departed), Target, the rug I bought in Turkey and my eclectic collection of contemporary art.
I guess I’m glad that I furnished my house (~ 10 yrs ago) before I knew about internet trends!

3 years ago

It seems a bit elitist to say “I don’t like it because it’s overdone.” If a client loves a specific trend, say, modern farmhouse, it’s the responsibility of the designer to parse out why that trend is appealing to a client. Maybe shiplap reminds them of their grandma’s house, or they are drawn to symmetry, or they find white rooms to be tranquil. A great designer can help guide clients beyond specific trends and make choices that will align with what they are really seeking. Ultimately, it’s not just about creating a “look” by deploying a bunch of trendy products in a space (though IG is certainly a driver of that!) but about creating spaces that function well and are truly authentic the clients’ core values and aesthetic sensibilities.

3 years ago

Well I don’t always love the everything-is-from-ikea vibe I seem to be emulating in my apartment, but they are so omnipresent that even our second hand shops and websites seem 90% ikea! (second hand = mostly ikea and some other really old stuff from someone’s grandparents, you know old stuff that’s just old, not cute-vintage old OR some sturdy non-ikea furniture that for some reason is always a really classic, “country” style aka not really my style). If I think about it, I don’t love that everyone has seen my furniture / owns it themselves but ya know, I would rather have a cute and affordable bookcase that everyone else also owns than a non-cute or ridiculously expensive bookcase that doesn’t “spark” any extra joy but simply serves to prove what a unique and resourceful person I am. This is of course coming from someone who is generally not very invested in design (apart from reading this blog because it’s so fun!), who doesn’t like buying stuff online and who is not about to visit 3 different stores during a pandemic just so I can get a nicer pillow.

3 years ago

I tend to use “passing fad” items only when they’re small or inexpensive. If it’s a major piece of furniture, I usually go for more traditional pieces. As for housing materials, because I work with it so much (I design remodels and new builds for customers) I go a bit more out of the box because I see everyone else doing the more traditional thing. Like I will go for a funkier subway over a classic subway because I’m SO tired of seeing the classic white subway with white grout.

3 years ago

I’ve been in love with an arched armoir from Urban and wanted to use it in my nursery. But now that arches are literally EVERYWHERE right now I feel like I just can’t, it will remind me too much of one time period (that period being when every other Tiktok was someone painting an arch somewhere). I just don’t want my design choices to feel like a joke a few years from now. “remember when we used Chevron EVERYWHERE”)

3 years ago

I say never use another designer’s find unless it’s an architectural detail or cool new way to paint/wallpaper/tile a room. Take that idea is to add or subtract from other designs. It’s what I call “standing on the heads of giants”. Part of the fun of designing a home is searching for the things you love and then also the things no one else has used heavily.

Not all designs are meant for every room either so I believe in improvising and changing the design for each mood or feeling. For example I want to design my bedroom to feel as if I’m swimming in the ocean (metaphorically). There’s no Pinterest search for that. So I have to get creative and borrow ideas from multiple sources. However, if I do find something I like and no one else has used, I will use it over and over again in my own designs. I am quite daring though, so I try to always push the limits. It’s quite thrilling to find something unique.