Article: Nurturing your inner designer - Art Department in the News

Nurturing your inner designer

By Anna Jacoby.

Saturday, September 30, 2006—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area: The Argus.

IS design sense an innate ability or can it be learned? I think it is definitely a bit of both. Let's take my own case as an example. For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in interior design. I remember as a young child spending a lot of time in my room rearranging my furniture.

Although I wasn't aware of the design terms "focal point" and "balance" at the time, I rearranged the room with those concepts in mind. I remember poring over Better Homes & Gardens magazine as a teenager, cutting out favorite pictures and creating design files of interesting rooms.

When I was 16 I decided to wallpaper and paint my own bedroom, and my favorite type of shopping was not for clothes, but rather for accessories for my room.

I continued developing my decorating skills over the years, taking art and art history classes, design classes and attending many seminars and workshops. I gained design experience by working on my own home and helping clients design theirs. I learned about remodeling, painting, flooring and custom window treatments from experts in their fields.

While I feel I've always had a sense of design, my continued education, training and experience has strengthened and enhanced my skills.

For those of you with the design bug, here are some suggestions for nurturing your "inner designer."

  • Read design magazines. Study the way the designers have used color on walls, floors, fabrics, artwork and accessories. What kind of color scheme did the designer use? How many fabric patterns do you see? How did the designer add texture? How does the designer use symmetry and asymmetry in the room? Take note of the way art is hung. How does it relate to the furniture around it? I recommend reading a variety of design magazines.

    Don't be intimidated by magazines like Architectural Digest and Veranda. Even though they aren't exactly examples of "real-life rooms," you can learn a lot about composition, balance, color, and other design concepts by studying the gorgeous photos.

  • Watch design shows on television. HGTV has inspired a great number of people to venture out of their comfort zones and try new colors and styles.

    My favorite designers to watch are Candice Olson and Kenneth Brown. I love their designs, and I love the way they explain the reasons behind their design decisions.

  • Observe the interior design of upscale restaurants and hotel lobbies. Pay particular attention to the types of lighting in these spaces—you will see layers of light, with interesting examples of ambient, task and accent lighting.

  • Take design classes. There are semester-long classes at community colleges, and workshops through the parks and recreation department of many cities. I took classes at Ohlone College in Fremont, which offers wonderful classes in textiles, color, lighting, design concepts and much more. Some of us also teach our own seminars and workshops to educate and inspire you.

Your "inner designer" will flourish.

Anna Jacoby of Anna Jacoby Interiors is a local interior decorator. Send your design questions or dilemmas to her at Call or fax her at (510) 490-0379 or visit