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Creating design narrative helps bring others into your world

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Art, history, astronomy or travel. What gives you focus in life?

That question could help you figure out how best to decorate the rooms in your home. Use that space to say who you are and what matters to you.

Creating a design narrative – a story told through color, textiles, accessories and collectibles – is a way to bring others into your world. Treasures found around the globe, folk art, light fixtures and other touches can make it work.

Designer Greg Dunlop called it “living design” in a seminar last week at the High Point furniture market, the twice-yearly trade show that brings together more than 75,000 visitors and 2,000 exhibitors in 180 buildings spread over 13 blocks.

The goal, Dunlop told his audience, is not creating rooms where colors and fabrics match. Instead, put together a setting that is unmistakably you – down to the chapter and verse.

These products and ideas from High Point showrooms might give you ideas for your biography:

Pick your perspective

Choose a place where you are most at home. Not necessarily your current address, but a corner of the world that you seek out or somewhere with sentimental sway. What sensibility is woven into those memories? Were there welcoming lights, rolling vineyards just outside or commanding architecture? Deciding on these things will give you a foundation to build on.

No need for exact replicas. Take an idea and play with it, and make it suit you. Reprint classic art and put it in an unconventional frame. A gourmand might give more attention to the dining table, table linens and displays of cookware or cookbooks. Clean, minimalist lines can be the right fit for a tech geek, or perhaps an urban-industrial vibe.

Choose colors that set the tone

A color palette is a powerful tool for capturing a sense of time and place. Study the hues that are typical for the geographic region you’ve chosen.

Look to shades of coral, aqua and citrus to take you to the tropics. Red can become a passport to the Far East. Deep-ocean blue against a crisp, white backdrop is picturesque for a coastal New England cottage.

Reclaim pieces of history

Antiques make it easier to connect with historical and cultural themes because you get to see and touch things that time has left behind. You’ll need to spend time getting to know the background of the pieces you’re considering, but that’s often part of the fun for serious collectors. Keep in mind that antiques can come from any part of the world, and regional differences should be taken into account.

It should be said that antiques usually come at a premium price, especially the best pieces. Reproductions and collectibles can be just as good for building on a theme, as well as more affordable.

Surround yourself with artifacts

Folk art can be rich in details about a place or its people. Tribal art is especially popular. For that reason, whimsical riffs on age-old techniques are turning up from design showrooms to retail chains. Those interpretations are valuable if for no other reason than to make you smile.

Shine

Just about any room looks better when you add a little shimmer. Mirrors, glass and shiny metallic finishes can do more than just sparkle. Mirrors can create the illusion of more space, while glass-topped tables seem to disappear and can make small rooms feel more spacious.

Keep in mind, glossy pieces are a lot like jewelry. The right amount is a tasteful finishing touch. Too much, and a room looks like you couldn’t make up your mind.

Lead the eye with lighting

Lighting makes everyday tasks easier. From a design standpoint, it also helps move the eye from one scene to the next. Used correctly, lamps, fixtures and sconces point out what is important in a room and tells you where to focus attention.

Larger, brighter fixtures tend to be more dominant and are often for places where people gather. Candles and accessory lights put a spotlight on special pieces.

Perforated fixtures (shown here) used in multiples are taking hold as an alternative to a chandelier. Who needs moonlight when you have your own starry constellation on a dimmer switch?

More SmarterLiving: www.charlotteobserver.com/smarterliving
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