When the Camera's Not Looking: Evaluating Livability

When the Camera's Not Looking: Evaluating Livability

Carolyn Purnell
Jan 5, 2012

At Apartment Therapy we try to keep the focus on real homes, but it's easy to get distracted by the siren song of a perfectly styled spread. Looking around my apartment, I realized that many vignettes that would look lovely in a photo feel impractical in my space, so with the coming of the new year, I've been trying to ensure that my home is designed for living as well as looking.

Clearly, there's nothing wrong with wanting your home to look magazine-ready, but styling a home and styling a photograph are two different endeavors, and there can be a precarious balance between a vital, livable space and a showroom.

  • Situate your home according to use rather than to styling. The desk may look much better positioned directly behind the sofa, but if that means a constant glare on your computer screen, then it's no good! Pay attention to the function of the space and try to find a happy compromise between style and use. If your room is arranged with function in mind, it will always feel more comfortable and inviting, even if it may not be as picture-perfect.
  • Take this tip offered by Mario Buatta in the latest issue of Elle Decor: "The best time to look at a room is the day after you've had a party because you see the way people used the space." Sparing a minute to consider how others have used your space can ensure that conversation areas are adequate, that surfaces are being maximized, and that the space enables movement.
  • Remember that photos sometimes show only one wall or a portion of a wall, and they can be cropped and placed in discontinuous series. The same spatial layouts may not work as well in a three-dimensional space. In a real room, all areas need to communicate and flow continuously. Furniture and objects will need more room to breathe.
  • Accumulate items because they speak to who you are, not to which vignette they may complete. I know which of my pieces have real visual pleasure or memories attached to them, just as I know which ones I bought at Ikea to round out a tablescape. Obviously, it's not wrong to have the latter, but keep the balance heavily in favor of the former to make your home feel warmer and more personal. In the words of Rose Tarlow, "An object added for effect instead of affection will always look like an affectation."

(Image: Samer's 1930's Streamline Moderne Apartment House Tour)

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