When I first heard that expression used to criticize a home interior that was polished to perfection, I thought I was going to have to break something.
No sooner than I had gotten to the point where I could almost pull off a perfect room, I learned that wasn’t the aim.
“Too precious” is a designer diss for a home that is too pulled together, too perfect, too color coordinated. And it’s no compliment.
Translated, it means that the time you spent canvassing three counties looking for drape fabric in a green that exactly matched your throw pillows was likely a waste of time. Ouch.
The flip side of this harsh news is that we can stop trying so hard.
“Anyone can match pinks, but that’s boring and false,” said anti-precious designer Katie Leede, owner of Katie Leede & Company, an interior and textile design company in New York.
“When putting together colors, picture the number of blues in the sea,” she said. “Indigo is next to turquoise. In nature, you see spring green next to conifer green and sage, and it’s spectacular. Open your eyes to see how God does it.
When a home is “too precious,” said Leede, it’s just boring and doesn’t show any uniqueness. It can feel uptight, zipped up, as if this is not real life.
Here are traps Leede says to watch out for:
Too matchy. Don’t be monotone at home. For starters, don’t use every coordinating fabric from the same store.
Too perfect. Let your home show its wear. Don’t worry if things get banged up.
Too dainty. All furniture has to function. Don’t have chairs guests can’t sit in. “You want nothing you have to put a cord across,” Leede said.
Too symmetrical. A perfectly balanced room with matching end tables and matching lamps on either side of a sofa, which has matching throw pillows on both ends, and matching side chairs feels stiff and forced. Bust it up. If you have two matching lamps, put them on different end tables and vice versa. This will keep the eyes interested.
Too much. Put decorations on a diet. Too many tchotchkes make rooms feel fussy, and those in them uncomfortable. You don’t want visitors in your bathroom afraid they’re going to knock something over.
Too lacey. Quality lace in spots, as in under a sheer drape, is lovely, but too many frills, as in lots of cheap lace and ruffles, make a room feel too sweet.
Too wimpy. Pale chintz fabrics in small-scale patterns drive Leede crazy. Go big, and go bold. Rooms need to have some guts.
Too slick. The opposite of too fussy is too streamlined, which also falls in the too precious camp. When all surfaces are perfect and shiny and smooth, they feel sterile, unwelcoming and unforgiving. Throw in some color, vary textures and use warm woods.
Too contrived. Don’t be meaningless. It comes off as affected. For instance, if you have an antique suitcase that belonged to your grandfather and has been around the world, build it into your décor, maybe as a coffee table base. Buying a vintage suitcase as a room accessory feels fake. “If you come by it naturally, or if it has a story, that’s better,” said Leede.
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