What's good design? An interior designer's perspective

Creating a beautiful home takes a broad set of skills that not all of us possess. In the worst case of being left to our own devices, we could end up like Cary Grant’s 1948 movie character in Mr. Blandings’s derelict dream house.   

But no one needs to go it alone. A good design professional knows how to listen to a client’s vision in order to bring it to life. To find out what’s involved, we chatted with three New Hampshire designers who are outstanding in their respective fields—architect Chris Williams, interior designer Ann Henderson and landscape architect Terrence Parker. We asked what they consider good design and how it affects our everyday lives.

When interior designer Ann Henderson of Ann Henderson Interiors in Keene meets with clients, she puts aside her initial thoughts and just listens. “I pause when it comes to talking about my own style. I may have a personal aesthetic, but it’s always secondary to the client’s lifestyle,” Henderson says. “I apply my knowledge of universal design principles, such as balance, scale, color and texture. Using these tools, I can help my clients create their own style.

“It’s a new set of criteria every time I walk out my door,” she says. “This heightens my sense of creativity, keeping things fresh and inventive, both important attributes of good design.”

All clients have their own dynamic. “Sometimes with couples, one person is really talkative and the other is very quiet,” Henderson says. “But then, the quiet one will begin to share ideas as well, often much to the other’s surprise.”

Her experience has been that these conversations establish an environment where ideas flow freely. A shared vision is the natural outcome.

She enjoys the professional collaboration with architects. “Architecture and interior design are complementary,” Henderson says. “Working together to express the sensibility of a shared vision always proves to be an advantage in realizing good design principles.”

In this mix, Henderson contributes her own elegant sensibility. After studying art history and interior design, Henderson studied at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware. Her interiors reflect this background with her use of vibrant yet sophisticated palettes as well as her thoughtful placement of antiques and decorative arts. But, her signature touch is always the warm inviting feel of the spaces she creates.

“Formality in rooms can be off-putting if they’re not cozy and mindful of those who live there,” Henderson says. “Having a round table for coffee with a friend or a sunny corner with a writing desk can make a room truly habitable.”

Henderson is tough-minded about budgets. “I think there’s a way to make just about anything beautiful, but you have to be open to new ideas. Granite countertops may not fit your budget, but, surprisingly, concrete or another material might offer a great alternative.”

Lives are always changing, and the rooms we live in change as well.  Henderson worked with a couple who downsized to a retirement community, and together they created a beautiful cottage for the couples’ fine collection of art and antiques. To soften large built-in cabinetry in a bedroom, Henderson enlisted a favorite decorative painter to re-create scenes from the client’s landscape photography. For an upbeat teen bedroom, she used a bed without a frame, and incorporated lots of funky Indian carvings and pillows, along with a camelback sofa upholstered in white duck canvas fabric. For another client, Henderson designed a new kitchen around a large, antique Delft tile inherited from the client’s mother.

Color for Henderson is a key connective element. Painting a ceiling blue is easily within her repertoire. “When I create a room, it’s like composing a painting,” Henderson says. “The room organizes itself around focal points, and overall it needs to connect. There needs to be a thread that can unite it. Good design can take my breath away.”

Ann Henderson of Ann Henderson Interiors in Keene designed this condominium at RiverMead, a Peterborough retirement community. The needlepoint rug was cut down to fit in the living room (it had previously been used in a bedroom) and some furnishings were reupholstered. The sofa and window treatments are new.
Photography by John W. Hession



Categories: Architecture and Interiors