Overlooked Details that Make a Room Memorable

You may fall in love with a room not realizing at first glance what details make it outstanding. Frequently when our new clients share inspiration photos, they focus in on a wall color, furniture piece or fabric pattern. They don’t realize the impact of the room’s interior design really falls to the supporting cast and how these cast members speak to the overall design.

Here is what you might not see at first glance when a room inspires you – the top 5 missed details in a space.

Outstanding Millwork, a.k.a, “great bones” – This bedroom featured on Houzz.com shines because of the masterful wood work in the space. The ceiling is thoughtfully considered, tying into the crown molding and fireplace design and bookshelves. Pulling just the colors of this room into a project wouldn’t duplicate the splendor of this space. Make memorable room impact with millwork.

Ceiling Detail – Let me say it this way to get your attention. It is extremely rare when a room will catch your eye when the ceiling simply has a brocade sheet rock painted an off-white. It lacks creativity and a full design vision. Our 1980’s and 1990’s homes notoriously forgot to celebrate and decorate this hidden gem. Older homes fabulously illustrate detailed ceilings. It is one of my favorite things to do.

Ceilings don’t have to be elaborate – it is best to start with ideas that work with the architecture of your home. Tongue and groove painted or stained, box ceilings (as featured above), tray ceilings with decorative accents, wallpaper, artistic finishes and wood working details are all great options. The hand rendering below was drawn for a client of Angela Todd Designs. The style of the home and architecture embodies traditional interior design with an European English fair. This room is delicate and tailored, and the ceiling becomes an element that embodies the architectural style – taking the design (and the room) to a memorable level.


Wallpaper, Decorative Finishes, and Textures – I admit I love all decorative wall finishes. Look through your average Spring catalog of Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn, and even there you will notice the items you love are surrounded by great wall finishes. While your attention is probably centered to the bedspread they are selling, it is the setting of the room that sells the merchandise!

I used decorative artists and wallpaper for so many applications it was hard to pick one photo to showcase it’s impact, but I settled on a powder room we completed for the 2009 Street of Dreams. One day while visiting the home during the show, I heard a woman scream with delight when she entered this powder room. She came out and told her friend she LOVED the room! That same week, I heard another visitor comment about how much they disliked that wallpaper. So love it or hate it, you have to respect the impact it had on the boring drab powder bathroom. The before image was never intended for anyone other than our design team for reference – but it gives you an idea of how “ho hum” this room was before we installed the wallpaper. Paint in any color just wouldn’t have made this kind of impact and the room desperately needed.

On a side note, we had several calls from clients wanting to purchase this mirror (above the sink) following the Street of Dreams show. Most visitors mistakenly might have thought the dazzle of the powder room was the mirror’s shape – when in fact it worked so well because of the wallpaper that supported the design story. Place this mirror on flat painted walls, or a room without pattern or shapes that supports it and it wouldn’t have the same impact.




Powder Room Before without wallpaper or the silhouette mirror.


Not your average window treatments – Sometimes homeowners don’t even notice outdated window dressings – or when they are altogether missing. It is as if they stopped noticing. Thoughtfully-designed window dressings help bring texture, warmth and color balance throughout the room. I don’t personally think they need to be fussy. Just simple drapery panels can go a long way to frame a window and space!

One of my favorite transformations was installing automated solar shades for a client and stationary drapery panels. The crewel fabric on the draperies was custom-made for the client, after our initial fabric was discontinued at the mill. Our close up shows the texture and warmth, while the room photograph shows how the window treatment ties in with the overall room design.


Layers of Light – Think of a room in your home you want to improve. I would guess that among the issues in the room – it isn’t adequately lit. We humans are affected by light, we move towards it and we don’t feel comfortable when we don’t have it. I once read a case study about Target where they installed skylights in areas they wanted greater merchandise sales. They hit their goals! To make sure the additional natural lighting was the reason for the increased sales, they reshuffled other merchandise in that area. Time and again the merchandise in this area sold over other local stores.

Proper lighting has three components. General lighting, task lighting and ambient lighting. All three types of lighting should cascade and layer one another. Lighting can set a mood of the space, help you work, cook, study and relax. A few of my other tips for lighting? Always opt for dimmer switches. Use lamps and ceiling fixtures for architectural interest as well as their lighting purpose. I tend to give every average sized room a triangular lighting scheme with lamps. Last, always light bookcases – otherwise your great woodwork will fall flat.


Keep this list in mind next time you see a room that inspires you. In many cases you might even see all five of these elements well addressed in the space!


Angela Todd Studios For Custom Furnishings

Angela Todd

Owner & Principal Designer

Angela is the principal designer at her boutique interior design firm in Portland, Oregon. She is known for creating memorable backdrops that tell the story of fascinating and intricate lives.

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