Design Driven Column: Spring Cometh!

A version of this “Design Driven” column ran in the Arts Section Salon in the Provincial Newspaper, Telegraph Journal on Saturday March 22nd, 2014.


For all of its charms – though I must confess that right now I’m trying hard to think of any – winter is the season we tend to associate with a lack of colour. As I write this, however, spring is in the air. Or so the calendar assures me. (Unfortunately, unless you’re so much the optimist that you’d call the arrival of yet another winter storm a sure sign of spring, we’re not there yet.)

What Spring signifies, of course, is the renewal of life, a renewal manifested by the reintroduction into our world of warmth and colour. In honour of the promised arrival of that warmth and colour beyond your windows, here are five simple, relatively inexpensive ways to freshen up your interiors, to help them meet, greet and otherwise celebrate the change of season.

1. Add colour and drama to your entranceways, those places in your home where exterior meets interior. The quickest and least expensive way to do this is with small, colourful area rugs. I suggest you go for either something with a bold graphic, or a bright oriental rug (the complexity of the pattern will help if you’re concerned about staining).

Above:  A selection of carpets from
2. Here’s a tip that work wonders: paint the ceiling of your white rooms a very pale blue or grey. The psychological effect is really quite surprising: it doesn’t just lift the ceilings, it all but removes them.

3. When it comes to wallpaper, I have to confess to a certain ambivalence. I do love a bold, original pattern on a feature wall but I rarely see the need to go beyond papering one of any given room’s four walls. My suggestion therefore would be to pick a wall in a room where the variables (e.g. furniture, window treatments, shelving, etc.) pretty much preclude any major change and consider covering it with a bright, robustly patterned wallpaper. If it doesn’t work – and you never really know until you try it – you can always go back to square one (to help you get back to square one as expeditiously as possible, make sure your paper is dry strippable). If you’re inclined to coming up with an original design of your own, there are any number of companies out there that can make wallpaper that’s uniquely your own (I use the Canadian company Rollout and can recommend the quality and service).
Above:  Farrow and Ball wallpaper “Bee”

4. Here may be the least expensive – and possibly, most obvious – suggestion I’ll make: fresh flowers. I’m not entirely sure why but I tend to forget, first, how much life flowers bring to a room, and second, how relatively inexpensive they are. Last week, for example, on something of a whim I added my grocery cart a bunch of eight white tulips – those harbingers of spring in so many gardens – and brought them home for less than ten dollars. They dutifully broadcasted their colour and vibrancy all week on my dining room table. (Parenthetically, if you’re after a touch of drama, the cut leaves of large tropical plants – which are surprisingly inexpensive this time of year – last for weeks in a vase of water.)

5. In terms of bang for the buck, try changing out the lampshades in your living room. Lampshades are one of those things your eye simply gets used to, perhaps because we tend to think of the shade and base as a single, coherent unit. They aren’t, and a different shade – the thing that translates ‘white’ light into colour – causes a subtle change to every surface in a room. Because there’s so much more interior light available for the next six months, you can explore the use of a funkier shade. When winter returns, lengthening the night and driving all colour from the world and all of us to shelter indoors, you can go back to a lighter shade.
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Above, Lampshade by Anthropologie.

Spring Cometh