Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What do you notice?

I have a blog friend who is in the planning stages for building a house, and has already started to think about the process and scout out items for his future house.  We have been comparing notes as I go through my own house build. 

One thing we have both observed: we notice very different things when it comes to houses, architecture, and decor.  My friend commented that his approach to building a house will be quite different than my approach has been; he has a firm grasp on many of the detailed items he would like in his future home, but is still not sure about the big picture – the architectural style or floorplan he might want.  For me, before even looking for a lot, I had a pretty clear idea of the general style of house I wanted, the high level floorplan, the overall feel I wanted in the interiors, the landscape, and the design.  However, I really did not think much about the details that would go into the house.

Now that I am in the middle of the house build, I have been plunged into the world of details, and am having to make decision after decision – which is causing me to notice the details much more (and I wonder if I will ever see houses in the same way now that I am aware of all of the thought that goes into selecting each element of a house).  This is where my blog friend and his wonderful images in his inspiration files have been extremely valuable to me.  In almost every situation, whenever I have to make a decision on some element, I look at my friend’s picture files and there are dozens of pictures that focus on the specific design element I am researching.   

For example, my friend notices the door and cabinet hardware, the hinges, the way in which a tile is set in a floor, the way in which the downspout is designed (the above picture is one he took at a house that was on the market in Atlanta).

Another picture my friend took, of an interesting detail in a driveway. I rarely notice this kind of thing.

A shutter detail my friend noticed, on a house under construction.

A beautiful motor court entry.

The detail at the edge of a driveway.

Door handles by La Forge.

Tile details in the arched entrance of a shower.

Interesting design in the shower – the lighting in the walls is a nice detail.

Great shower design – I rarely notice tile.

A beautiful fireplace – now I always notice fireplaces, but before I never did.

An interesting doorknob – I really never notice doorknobs.

So many great details in this space – the floor, the cabinetry, the countertops, the lighting.

Hinges.  I don’t think I have ever noticed a hinge.

More door hardware.

Knobs (I love these – anyone recognize them?).  But, I rarely notice them.

Looking through these pictures, it made me think about what I notice.  I notice the ‘space’ of a house, the floorplan,  how the rooms relate to one another.  I notice the light patterns and the windows. I notice lighting and the general decor, the feel of a space.  For some reason, I notice the floors.  Perhaps this is why I enjoy perusing the real estate listings – I love it when a listing shows the overall scheme and how the rooms in the house relate to one another.

Before the house design process, I didn’t tend to notice door hardware, cabinet hardware, tile patterns, detail landscape elements, roof materials, detail architectural design elements such as moldings and trim.  Before a few weeks ago, I didn’t notice countertop material – that has changed!  I am not really a big fabric person, so I don’t really notice fabrics unless they are disruptive to the design scheme; despite this, I always notice window treatment styles.

Comparing and contrasting my approach to my friend’s approach makes me realize that each and every person really has their own perspective on design and their environment.  So, readers, what do you notice?  Do you walk into a room and always see certain elements?   Do you notice the details?  Are there particular details that you notice when you first see a space? 

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  1. Good question. I am obsessed with door hardware, and always notice it. What finish are you doing for your door hardware?

  2. Yes! It's all I can see when I look at something...but I guess that's because it's my job to notice! It does make me wish I could 'switch it off' occasionally though!

    Those knobs LOOK like some that we have in our Mounain Brook shop, from a Belgian company that we import. They aren't exact, but they are very close.

  3. Every single one of these pictures resignated with me on some level. Being in the throes of building our own house, I look at everything! Gutters, moldings, window hardware, and crazy things you never think about UNLESS you are building a new hinges on the doors, base moldings, profiles of crown moldings, how showers are finished,etc...oh my, the list goes on and on, I dream,eat and sleep this stuff. Frankly I look forward to it being over and being able to have a clear head again to focus on the other things on my wish list!
    Good luck!! Its all great though.......

  4. It's definitely all in the details. I love gorgeous hardware, trimwork, etc. - they add the charm and character to a home. Can't wait to see your choices!!

  5. I notice the details but need to focus on the big picture flow/design with my home plans before I get to the details. I would liken it to a funnel - we need to start with the wide side and allow the ideas to move towards the narrow side.

    I've seen your photo's of specific rooms over the past year but did you have a specific entry with your collection of photo's - connecting the specific spaces/rooms?

    Love your ideas...

  6. I really don't notice too much about a house that feels "right". If everything seems in it's place and appropriate with the architecture and fixtures, then I'm free to look at how the owner furnished the house. These are the details that interest me. I notice fine fabrics, beautifully designed and well made curtains and authentic Persian rugs that fit the space and ENHANCE the overall feel of the space. Collections and other items on display can't be too contrived either, otherwise one just "junks up" all of the effort that went into making the perfect home. I guess the focus on details and quest for excellence really never ends....

  7. I'm with Doug - am rather details obsessed to the point where I'd like to occasionally turn it off as well. I drove our architect a little crazy because I always wanted to focus on the details even before we had the big picture done. All the details do add up however to have a major impact on the whole!

  8. I have to say I notice it all. If a room is a foot to short it bugs me. If a picture is hung in the wrong place I want to scream. My family laughs at me because when we go on vacation I often want to redecorate the vacation home we are renting.

    I am new you your blog but I really enjoy it

  9. If I was facing my own design choices, it wouldn't be so much fun.

    I wander and waver. I want gut-level un-thinking first impressions. I try to feel the spaces, the flow, the sight-lines, and the vistas. I try to imagine the house empty and without details. After that I just let my eye explore and enjoy what it will. I'm afraid I notice costly details: those that could never be in our own place. I notice too-muchness. I prefer empty to staged. I like "obviously lived-in" and filled with people best of all.

  10. Hi Holly,
    I always notice floors, baseboards, and carpets :) Odd, I know, but the detailing of baseboards--especially in older homes--intrigues me, and is often quite artistic!

  11. I really do think the “differences” in noting such details may be a “male female” thing. I also have discovered that females and males do home-in on different aspects of details. Alas, it is good to have both sets of eyes.


    Mary Ann

  12. I always notice details, because for me they make all the difference. I hone in on them too much sometimes when designing for myself. It can make you a little crazy and become very expensive. I have found if I don't go ahead and just do it though, I'm sorry later and end up spending even more. Your research is a very good thing.

  13. Interesting post Holly! I always notice floors, fabric and furniture details like hardware or maybe the pleating of a chair skirt.

  14. That's so true! Many times we don't notice what's there, every day, under our nose. lol

    I can start philosophizing here, but I'll pass it for today, but this make you analyze the process of building a house. You need to think about all of those things, which can be really fun and dreamy (especially if you have money to spare), but in any case, this makes you understand that beauty is a conjunction of many factor and not an resumed point.

    Have a Fantastic day!


    Luciane at

  15. Restoration Hardware has some similar knobs ( if not exact) called "rosette". They come in several finishes and happen to be on sale today! :)
    I just bought them for my daughter's room and they are beautiful.

    I am new to your blog and love it! Thanks for sharing all your great ideas.

  16. It is so interesting to see what we notice. I notice the "feel" of the room and immediately then turn to the detail to see what it is about those details that give me that great feel. It is usually all the little things that make a house feel so fabulous. The architecture, the grandeur is all fabulous but it's the detail that all work together that makes the design a success.

  17. You may not think you notice all those details, but your eye and emotions are aware of them and your mind is reacting. To introduce an analogy that might help--page design. Books or websites that are clean (a good balance of white space and pictures or text) is pleasing to the eye. Small borders, a cluttered font, &c and the book becomes burdensome to read and may not be bought in the first place. All this is happening and you may not be aware of it. The same with homes. The details pictured are high-end. It may be that you are surrounded with enough good design that you just don't notice all the attention that each detail incorporates. Only when you run into something askew and you have a negative reaction you really notice.

  18. interesting. what i love are backplates on doorknobs. that was one thing that was so important to me with my door knobs - having a really pretty backplate. I added them to all my interior doorknobs too - it looks so much nicer and substantial.

  19. Having just been through a major renovation, I notice everything you mentioned and more. I have to hold myself back from picking up the latest issue of Renovation Style Magazine. It's kind of like when you still glance at Wedding magazines well after the the wedding and honeymoon are over.

  20. Great post, your selection of photos perfectly illustrates the point. I definitely notice the details. Once person mentioned a female vs. male perspective on the way we notice details. Perhaps there's something to that.

  21. this is a very interesting post!
    I have to stop and think about what I notice first.
    I'd say it's overall feeling/ambiance of the space or home. I notice colors used. I notice the kitchen, the layout and materials. I notice furniture and their arrangement. If I get invited back, I may notice more detail things, such as lighting, hardware, etc.

  22. You are a "Big Picture" type of girl.....the world needs these as well as the detail people.....smiles.

  23. Good post. It sounds like you notice more high level details related more to the interior design (space plan, light) than the decorating aspects, with some overlap into some of the architectural elements, etc. Others are more "small detail" driven or more decorating driven.

    I have not had the luxury of building a home and probably never one of the calibre you guys are building, but I think exposure is what grows your mind. Many of us are limited to decorating to make our homes nice, with no budget to have 10ft ceilings and floor to ceiling windows and beautiful architectural features, so we might value those things less or notice them less as they are not in our range of access. I like nice cars and notice details of models but many do not.

    Once I started back into decorating, I noticed many of the small decorating details but as I am cultivating my mind a little, I am noticing more architectural details like mouldings, ceiling heights, windows, light, and also space planning and ergonomic issues. I think part of it is taste (I like pretty stuff) and noticed those things first, but the other part is exposure. And also just human preferences that are all so unique and complex. Interesting. I wish we had more beautiful homes here. There is so little here to admire and learn from. Atlanta sounds like heaven but also a lot of pressure to keep up with the Joneses, have the best of everything.

    Sometimes I think ignorance is bliss as I have such an increasingly cultivated mind now for "house beauty" but live in sheer desolation when it comes to finding it here! Nothing but ugly modern communities and all the rich are building ugly modern monstrosities. I notice all the details but feel very lonely in my heart for the details only I seem to notice in homes. So thankful for blogs like yours!

    What a long answer. In summary, i am saying that what I am noticing is changing and becoming more architectural and interior design-oriented. ;0

  24. Floor plan; fabrics/window treatments; light fixtures. In that order! But that's only the beginning.

  25. I think you have walked to into the mind of many designers. Sometimes I feel I work backwards. I so often notice the details first before the big picture. Whether it is the way the landscpape welcomes you or someone went to the trouble of adding the smallest detail to a mailbox.

    As for door hardware, I always notice it! It's a full on obsession. I bring it up with every client I have ever worked with and nothing is more exciting for me then when they agree to set aside a portion of their budget for upgrades.

    One of the best things about traveling to Europe is to look at these details that are so common and all to often overlooked in American design.

  26. How great to have a friend with files of "details" for you to review! I'm sure you've helped him in the reverse.

    So, what do I notice about homes....actually, curb appeal, ie landscaping and front doors are a big deal to me. Once I step inside, I'm more of a "feeling" person, getting a feel for the home. After a while, I will notice the details and I do think it is the details that make a space. But, it takes time to absorb everything.

    We were going to start our renovation this year but I'm at a stand still. It is such a big really have to be ready to throw yourself into it.

    Sounds like your home will be a showpiece!
    ~ Elizabeth

  27. Love the details...

    Much love,
    Future Mama

  28. My husband and I are in the planning stages of a complete rebuild in Nashville...and I think I am with you-- it is the overall general style, feel and floor plan of the home that stands out to me first! My main goal is to make sure the overall feel is a classic one that does not look like the house has just been built- I want the house to feel like it has been there- so the overall feeling and style is very important to me! Your post made me recognize that I need to start thinking about the details too-- your blog is going to be a wonderful resource for me as I go along! Take care, Caroline

  29. Does this apply as metaphor? If the clothes are bad you notice the clothes. If the clothes are great you notice the person. I don't know.

  30. this sounds a bit negative, but i tend to first notice what isn't working, and figure out ways in my head to put things right. maybe it's just eternal scouting for employment opportunities!

    i probably shouldn't say things like that out loud- my friends might not invite me over anymore if they find out i'm running a critique inside my head!

  31. details, details, details...that's really my favorite part!:)

  32. I am very much a detail person and notice EVERYTHING! When I am out and about with friends and make comments on design elements, they are usually amazed that I would notice 'that'! You definitely are a big picture kind of girl....that's why one needs a team!

  33. We are in the design phase of our home build as well. I notice details. I have an entire binder full of random details. My husband doesn't notice anything but the big picture. It's actually hard for him to see anything but the big picture. When we were looking at exteriors and I wanted to see what he liked, it was difficult for him to see past the paint color, the gate, the sidewalk, etc. I wanted him to see the lines and the structure of the house itself. It's so funny the way people are just wired differently! I'll be interested to follow you over the next few months to see how you progress. We have to sell our current home before we start.

  34. I believe the knobs are from Restoration Hardware!

  35. Two details which were very important in building my home was the rise of the stairways. I had been in homes where the rise was very steep and abrupt. Our architect made certain that all of the stairways were comfortable to ascend and descend, including the one to the basement.

    Another important element is crown moldings and their respective scale to the overall size of the room. The proper scale can greatly enhance the importance of the room. No matter how well a room is decorated, it looks unfinished without crown molding.

  36. Hey Holly!
    Love your blog and just wanted to let you know that I have nominated you for the Stylish Blog Award! Thought you might like to see my post about it.
    Have a great weekend. Mandi.

  37. After I have been thru a renovation, I am more acutely aware of all of the details than I was before.

  38. Cabinet door hardware for sure. Good hardware can make s huge difference!

  39. hi, i just found your blog and love everything. i notice all interior and exterior trim including banisters, light fixtures, interior and exterior hardware, brick and stonework. i don't notice cabinet hardware because i like it plain. i should look at downspouts. i also notice working shutters, because i have them. of course, a beautiful fireplace, mantle, etc. can be a show stopper. keep us posted.

  40. We just built our home from the ground up and I did all the design so now I'm hyper-sensitive to these details. There are things I notice now on homes I would have never noticed before like inset cabinets, height of ceilings, light cans in the ceiling, air vents and placement, Yikes!!


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