Top interior designers dive deep with water-inspired flourishes.
During the summer months, the idea of beach-house décor beckons. The mere thought of lounging on a fluffy, white couch surrounded by crisp, white walls, aquatic accents and a ceiling fan whirring above cools down one’s body, mind and soul. However, a more pragmatic homeowner may argue that the picture perfect postcard may be a bit off, for example, if there’s a snowstorm going on outside or their backyard happens to be the desert.
But no matter where you live, water never stops flowing. According to Daniela Benloulou, designer/project manager at InHance Interiors, “Just adding water” to an overall design of a single room—or the entire home—can be transformative on many levels. Even though different designers have their own take on water motifs and hues, nothing feels more welcoming, timeless, or calming than the influence of water.
“The most basic color psychology research shows the colors blue and green as being calming to the human mind, as water is blue, and most of us associate water with good memories—going to the beach, vacations, serene moments. Water can represent a mindset, a conscious choice to be relaxed,” she says, adding that she gets more requests for water-influenced home design, perhaps a result of stressful lifestyles.
“Design trends may come and go, but humans will always crave the feeling of calm.”
Lauren Evans, who owns the namesake San Francisco-based firm Lauren Evans Interiors, points out that the many shades making up water are a great equalizer among clients with different aesthetic preferences. In other words, blue works just as well in a mid-century home as it does a traditional home.
“Blue reminds us of the sea and the sky, and darker hues can be as relaxing as they are intriguing. Blue can also be an important grounding color: it exudes confidence, openness and stability.”
Another reason blue is so likable is it’s seen as a gender-neutral color, popular among both men and women. “The richness and balance of blue is easily lovable and versatile. It foils monochromatic mellow tones just as well as it does vibrant ones.”
“Water is a core element, like air, fire and earth… we cannot live without it,” affirms Lee Bryan, owner/principal designer of LBID in Atlanta. Bryan and his team have transformed spaces around the globe, from Beverly Hills and Miami to Panama and Paris, France. “The sound of water is calming, and it is also seen as a way to ward off evil spirits in many cultures and religions. In desert climates, water helps humidify the look and feel of a space when used indoors. It can help cool a space when used outdoors.”
Bryan has placed fountains in private homes and waterfalls in condo buildings. One of his most dramatic projects was for a Miami client who built a home with a pool on the top level which cascades down to the main living level.
Those wanting the look without high water bills or a mess can have their designer mimic the look with design elements. Room dividers and multi-dimensional wall art made from a variety of media are an example. And companies like 3form make wavy resin panels that can impart the look of water.
“Water is best used as a decorative feature or accent,” insists Byran, who, along with other designers we chatted with, steers clients away from water “theme rooms,” and instead recommends “calming spaces” like a home yoga studio or the bedroom.
“There are products that can give the visual impressions as well as the sound of water without the moisture. Photo-realistic tiles can be used on the walls or floors to give the impression of a beach or stream. There are wall-coverings that can be photo-realistic views of rivers, beaches or, even under-sea reefs. This could be fun in a kid’s room.”
Benloulou and Evans advise using a mostly neutral palette for walls, furniture, and fixtures to emphasize a few well-chosen pops of blue and green through accent walls, art pieces, and accessories. Also, they agree that lighter shades of blue and green open a space. However, Benloulou cautions that too much blue will overwhelm the room.
Evans, meanwhile, counters that selectively applied dramatic hues can transform a space. “I just painted a dining room, from crown to baseboards, in a gorgeous high-gloss Peacock blue,” she says. “Paired with black and cream wallpaper, this shade oozes vitality and confidence. [The goal is to have an] underlining consistency of color and light, which flows from room to room. A story is being told and a sense of cohesiveness is present.”
No matter what aquatic hues float your boat and work with your home’s architecture, there’s no denying that rooms informed by the flow and grace of water add a touch of buoyancy and balance.
Not sure what blue or green to choose? Here, the experts share their favorites.
FOR A RICH GREEN
FOR THE NURSERY
Photos 1,2,3 & 5 by Vivian Johnson