Design May Shine, But Rooms Need Character

Design May Shine, But Rooms Need Character

By Carleton Varney- Special to The Palm Beach Daily News

Many homes I see in my work have been beautifully decorated. But something critical is missing. They lack character, as far as I’m concerned.

Beware such a room. All the furnishings are in place, and the upholstery well coordinated with the curtains. The lamps and shades are in order, and care has given to carefully light the art hanging on the walls.

Yet despite this seemingly perfect harmony, there seems to be an emptiness about these rooms. Or, to put it another way, there’s a lack of soul.

What gives a home character? It is the owner’s touch, the personal tone that no decorator can provide. Here are several points that you can consider if you want to add character to the home.

* Does your living room’s coffee table show your interests? Perhaps, for instance, you might choose a group of gardening books stacked atop one another — and complemented by a big bowl of fresh flowers you have picked from your garden and arranged yourself. I love fresh floral arrangements, whether they are done by your own hand or a professional. Explore the art of flower arranging —and you’ll be happy you did.

* Do your sofa’s end tables hold some photographs of family and friends? Now, I’m not saying you need a sea of silver frames that make your tables look cluttered. But a few framed photos are great. They show character and add a note of personal interest. They’re also conversation starters: Folks will ask who is who in the pictures and you can share the memories.

* In your library or den, is there a wall or cabinet filled with books and magazines that reflect your hobbies? Even in these digital days, your library should reflect character by nodding at your interests. Maybe you are a collector of nautical reference works or maybe books about the Golden Age of Hollywood with pages filled with glamour and glitz. A home library shouldn’t be generic!

* Do you have a tack board in your kitchen onto which you pin invitations to help jog your memory? There are so many decorative remembrance boards, some timed with braid or gingham, lace or ribbon. You might even want to pin up an original piece of artwork from your child or grandchild. Displaying children’s art in your home always adds something special.

* Are your sofas and chairs accented with any decorative pillows you’ve selected without the advice of your decorator? Sometimes less-perfect selections show that a home is ultimately about its owners’ comfort and happiness.

* Have you remembered to put all the overhead lighting fixtures and wall brackets on dimmers? Room moods change from day to night, and I am a great believer in creating visual change through light. Changing the light can easily add an undefinable character to a room.

* Does your home have a mudroom or a back hall for stowing raincoats, hats and umbrellas? Fear not, for those can be open to view. Everyone has to come home out of the rain every so often. I also love a family coat rack, and today there are so many attractive designs. You can use them in any room of the home.

* Does your kitchen have more than one set of dishes — and if it does, are you using them regularly? Different choices can enliven the breakfast or luncheon table. Table-service pieces can provide super talking points for guests. And a nicely displayed grouping of serving platters on your kitchen or pantry walls offers some fun and character.

Of course, one other way to add character to your home is to be one yourself. And if that’s the case, I applaud you. In this somewhat turbulent world, I say heaven bless you if you are true to yourself and put into your home more touches of you!


  • joanzanazaro on

    dear mr. varney i have been a fan of yours for 40 years i think this art. is vere good also making sure you have seating for guests thank you joan

  • Tj on

    It’s gotta be me! After about 20 moves in my life, I’ve seen and learned much about spaces.

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