A Little Bird Told Me: Inspiration Should Spark a Room’s Design
The bird did me in. It perched on the upper edge of the sculptural wooden headboard as if it had just flown in the window and came to sit a spell. It spoke to me. It sang to me.
And I knew from that moment that no other headboard would do for the upstairs kids’ guest room. Ahh, furniture love. What every room should be built on.
Only one problem: My husband, DC, didn’t see it quite the same way.
Let me back up. When I first saw this storybook room while house hunting 18 months ago, I saw a room full of good bones and missed opportunity. The previous owners used the attic-like space for cast-off furniture and storage, and I was itching to make the most of the room’s natural charm: The A-shaped ceiling that sloped on two sides, the daydreamy centered window overlooking greenspace, the hardwood floors that we installed before we moved in, and the fairytale feel.
I wanted to transform the space under the eaves into a grandkids’ getaway, and start by flanking the window with two twin beds as enchanting as the room.
However, all the twin beds I found were ho-hum typical; that is, until I found the one with the bird tucked in a Ballard Design catalog. My imagination took flight. This is exactly how the dish ran away with the spoon.
I show DC the picture of the Claudette headboard, a piece exclusive to Ballard. “Wouldn’t these headboards be perfect for the kids’ room?”
“Artisans sandblast the solid hardwood planks, then drag the surface with a brush to add the finish color and hand finish each headboard,” I read from the description, then add, “The bird adds the perfect touch of whimsy!”
“They’re classic and timeless, and did I mention the bird!” My eyes grow dewy.
“Does the bird come off?”
My palm hits my forehead, as my eyes roll to the back of my head. (Yes, it does, but I don’t grace his question with an answer.)
I mutter the price, which is more than we’d planned to spend on a grandkids’ guest room that would only be used occasionally. Predictably, his eyebrows shoot up like the golden arches.
“I’ll wait till they go on sale,” I say, smoothing the little budget matter over. “In the meantime, we can buy the beds.”
“Wait! That price doesn’t include the bed?”
“No, it’s for the headboard.” I point to the language on the page.
“Who buys a headboard without a bed?”
My heart dives like a gull. You see what I put up with? Then something worse happens. He starts twin bed shopping. He shows me a string of inferior options. I turn up my beak.
“What’s wrong with them?” he wants to know.
“They don’t rise.”
“What do you mean, they don’t rise?”
“Oprah Winfrey says, ‘When you come home, your home should rise up to meet you.’” These don’t rise. The bird headboard rises.”
Months go by. The room remains undone. I periodically visit the headboard and the bird online. Every other headboard candidate creates a small wave of nausea in my stomach. Ballard has a sale. The headboards are shipped to the Happier Yellow House. The birds fly them upstairs to the storybook room, where they land, right where they belong.
After I finish decorating the room (which I’ll tell you about next week), I shared my tale of furniture love and obsession with two designer friends, who completely understood my affliction, and offered these lessons of love and design:
Start with a spark. “Every room should start with a genesis moment,” says Florida designer Elaine Griffin. “Don’t start decorating until you find the piece that sparks a vision and ignites the whole space. If you don’t have that, wait until you do.
Build on inspiration. “If it feels like a compromise, take a pause,” agrees Beverly Hills designer Christopher Grubb. “You haven’t found it. The very best rooms start with a piece that inspires that you build from. For you, it was the bird-adorned, natural wood headboard. For others, it could be a crystal chandelier that exudes Hollywood glam, a dynamic tile mosaic in a bathroom, a pair of pillows with red elephants on them, a beautiful old reclaimed door made into a coffee table or hung on a wall, or a pair of art-deco table lamps. The room doesn’t need to have a theme, but these pieces dictate the direction.”
Don’t phone it in. Anyone can furnish a room that functions. Many can get the scale, colors, and flow right, but if it wasn’t inspired, it will feel flat. “You can always tell the rooms that were inspired from the ones where someone just got stuff that did the job but didn’t hit their vision,” says Griffin.
Consider the cost of regret. When you fall for something that costs more than you planned to spend, ask, “What is the value of your pleasure?” says Grubb. “Do you want to walk by that room every day and wish you hadn’t cheaped out?” The goal is not to shoot for what makes you happy, but rather to not live with regret. It’s a different calculus.
Try the wait test. Though ‘wait’ is among my least favorite four-letter words, I’ve learned that when I want something a bit out of reach, to -- if circumstances allow -- let some time go by. If later, I still feel as strongly about it, I have my answer.
Stuff of dreams -- The bird on this headboard, a Ballard Design exclusive, added the right touch of whimsy to the children’s guest room. Photo courtesy of Marni Jameson.