Design Dollhouses

How to Turn Architectural Lemons into Designer Lemonade

We all know the saying – when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Well, what if that lemon happens to be architectural? Have no fear and keep on reading for tips on how to make sweet lemonade out of any design challenge. 

Having a less-than-desirable architectural feature can make even the most experienced designers scratch their heads, but there are ways to make it work! Sometimes you can camouflage it. Other times, you have to embrace the eyesore and shine a spotlight on it.

The Sour Situation

When my clients renovated a house they purchased to serve as a vacation spot, they were left with a strange 4″ wide ledge in their Family Room. This ledge was exposed when the previous ceiling to the Family Room was omitted to make way for the new ten-foot sliding glass doors that led out to the deck. A necessary evil to be able to maximize the view and interior space. Even better, this ledge cut the wall in half, making it stand out even more than it already did.

Hoping that the furnishings would detract from this unusual feature, we first tried to ignore it. When completed, the house was cozy, family-friendly, cool and with just the right amount of tropical flair thanks to some contemporary flamingo pillows. It was pretty perfect and came together rather smoothly given the fact the client was out of town for most of it and I had never worked with this builder before. We were all really happy with the end result and multiple vacations were quickly added to the calendar.

Yet, the ledge eyesore didn’t disappear. In fact, it became more noticeable. In a room where everything worked in harmony, this became the tourist in the loud Hawaiian shirt trying to blend in and not look like a tourist. Try as you may to take in the beautiful scenery and overlook the ghastly object, it screamed notice me! So we turned all eyes upon it. 

The Sweet, Sweet Solution  

One of the best things I learned in my very first semester of design school was if you can’t make something blend in, then you make it stick out intentionally. I find myself applying this lesson time after time with amazing results in all kinds of situations and this was no exception. Best of all, you can use it in regards to architectural elements as well as furnishings.

Since the ledge was only 4” wide, it really couldn’t be accessorized. The best option was to make it become a place to display art. Originally, I wanted the pieces to overlap which would give it a more casual, bohemian vibe, but unfortunately, the ledge was not wide enough to allow us to do so. Still, having the art sit on the ledge instead of just being hung on the wall (we still secured it for safety reasons naturally) gave us the overall feeling we were after. 

The end result came out better than I was even imagining and to this day, it is one of my favorite art installations yet. I can say with full conviction, that this is the best lemonade ever.

photo of an interior with an architectural challenge

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