Monday, 27 August 2012

What is the 'Bully' in your room?

When I was working with clients on this living room makeover there were many decisions that needed to be made in order to update the room and give my clients the look they desired.  One element that they hadn't considered changing was the dated fireplace with its' hand painted Portuguese tiles.  

My clients fireplace before the renovation

Because these tiles had such a strong presence of yellow, green and pink flowers they would've dictated the room's overall style and colour palette if they remained within the space.  My friend and fellow interior designer Debra Nicholson of Debra Nicholson Design says it best when she describes an element such as this as 'The Bully in the Room'

So how do you determine if you have a bossy element that you need to work around or get rid of?
The first thing to do is decide what you love about the room you wish to redecorate.  Consider the fixed elements as priority because they are more likely to eat into your budget should you decide to alter or remove these structures altogether.  Do these elements have features that shout 'Look at me, I won't be ignored!'  Or are they more subtle in nature and therefore can be worked around easily?
Awkwardly placed columns wrapped in distressed wood veneer are made into a feature rather than an eyesore
Fixed elements are fixed to a space rather than 'floating furnishings' that are easily interchangeable or that can be moved around. Some examples of fixed elements are:

Countertops and Backsplashes

Depending on how intense these features are will affect how you decorate around them


Flooring can have undertones that you need to take into consideration


Let's say your fixed element is a stained glass window you absolutely adore that compliments the character of your home. Although the stained glass may impact your colour palette, if you really love the window then chances are you will probably decide to leave it unchanged. An element like this is less likely to be the bully but rather take on a quieter role as a charming accent within the space.

Some stained glass can be bossy but this one is quite sweet

Also, consider the function of a structure to decide if it's meeting your current needs. Would taking down a (non load bearing) wall open up your space to provide easier flow of traffic or help with the problems you may be experiencing with furniture placement? Or do you have a teeny tiny island in your large kitchen that would be more functional if it were extended to make it easier for meal preparation and while entertaining guests?     

Pretty and functional is best

For 'floating' furnishings (non-fixed elements) the decision to love it or leave it doesn't have to be as complicated.  A client that I am currently working with has an oriental rug that is in fantastic condition.  The only problem is that its' colours are dated - again with pinks and greens - and I've advised her that she needs to decide first if the area rug is going to stay (and be the bully that we work around) or if it goes so we start with a clean palette.
I love area rugs, just consider if you love yours enough to have it be the one calling all the shots
As a decorator it my job to advise clients on the best way to move forward with a project in order to achieve the results they are seeking.  Some outdated relics - mint condition or not - need to be retired or upcycled if they are holding you back from the decorating scheme you are dreaming of.  
Not your style? Change it or sell it but don't let it bully you!
If a hideous dining room set with a matching china cabinet has been passed down from old Aunt Milly, don't  feel that you have to hang on to it (unless it's an amazing antique!) to please others.  That's like a miserable married couple staying together for the sake of their children thinking it is what will make everyone happy and  it doesn't!

Get the look you desire, you deserve it!
Bear in mind that floating furnishings can be easily moved to other areas of the home, relocated to the cottage or passed down. Maybe for now you need to ignore these elements and address them at a later date.  When your budget allows, make the changes you want and don't be pushed around by the bully in the room!

Need help standing up to the bully in your room?  I can help you create a space that you are happy to come home to, share with your family and entertain in with friends.  E-mail me at:


  1. Great post Claire!! And so true about the bully in the room!!!

  2. Cheers Sarah and Angela (facebook) for your comments. I really enjoyed writing this post as it is such a common problem for many of us. Glad my advice was of some help!

  3. Enjoyed this post - thanks! NB