Boston Interior Designer Shares Ideas for Creating Feel-Good Spaces
Elizabeth Swartz, ASID
How do you get a house to really look and feel like your home? Design and decorate your rooms so they look like people really live there and be invested in your home emotionally as well as financially. My focus in the 30-plus years I’ve practiced interior design has been on designing rooms that change the way people experience their homes.
Here are some of my top tips for creating a home that makes you happy:
1. Let Your Interests Guide Your Interior Design
Consider your passions and hobbies. Whatever is important to you — a love of archeology or sailing, displays of family artwork, or a collection of hand tools —showcase and celebrate that in your home. Handcrafts, art, family heirlooms and antiques are all unique items that can give your home a sense of real life, versus a staged room.
2. Borrow Details from Homes (and Memories) You Love
Whether your home is contemporary or traditional or anything in between, infuse it with your personality. One of the best ways to achieve this is to think of rooms, spaces, and places you’ve visited that have meaning to you. If one of those places is your grandmother’s living room, and you absolutely hated her frumpy furniture but you loved her wonderful antique clock, that says something about who you are. Pay attention to & celebrate what excites you. Pull from those things that interest you and design your home as a place to create new memories.
3. Fall Head Over Heels with at Least One Décor Detail
My biggest piece of advice to my clients about being engaged in the design process is to fall in love with some of the elements of the new space: a rug, a fabric or tile selection, or the artisan sink. Focus on the aspects that are most meaningful to you: the colors, lines or look and feel of the products, such as the rustic texture of a copper sink.
4. Know Your Color Palette
I love vibrant color, but the best palette choice is one that works for the people who live in a space, enhanced by the natural light and inspired by the location. Perhaps you’re on the ocean and you have a beautiful view. Accent that, whether with those soft blue-green kind of colors or with beige, sand, and neutral tones and pops of color – whatever makes you happy is just right for your home. Honor the color choices that feel right to you—you don’t need to have the same palette that everyone else has.
5. Look for Inspiration Anywhere and Everywhere
For me, some of the most powerful interior design inspiration comes from places other than the internet and shelter magazines. For example, I’m taking oil painting classes, and the instructor is teaching us about light. This has changed the way I see color—it’s fascinating. We’re in rural Vermont most weekends, and there are all those beautiful old 1800s white clapboard farmhouses, and now I’m suddenly obsessed with seeing how sunlight plays on the buildings or on tree trunks. Beyond that, travel and lectures and books all provide a fresh point of view for me.
6. Pay Particular Attention to Gathering Spaces
Look first to the spaces where people are going to gather and make memories in your home. If that’s the kitchen, it means a place where kids can do their homework while you’re making dinner, or friends coming over on the weekend will visit & help cook. These things affect our quality of life. This is one of the reasons why I prioritize comfortable, inviting seating in a kitchen—barstools or counter stools allow groups, either family or friends or both, to gather for cooking or visiting.
As an interior designer, my purpose is to help create homes that work for the people who live there and improve their quality of life. Before I choose the beautiful finishes or decorate, I make sure the layouts of the spaces function. When a space works, it’s not just pretty: It’s important. That’s how to make a happy home.
About Elizabeth Swartz
Elizabeth is the owner of Elizabeth Swartz Interiors, a full-service Boston interior design studio. Her studio creates comfortable, elegant spaces incorporating a range of traditional and contemporary architectural details. Their services range from new home planning and design to residential kitchen or bath renovations.
Find more featured designers in the Designers We Love series.
Designs by Elizabeth Swartz, Elizabeth Swartz Interiors Photography by Steven Long, Steven Long Photography