Hone Your Style: Remodelista’s Editor-in-Chief on Good Design, Trends vs. Classics — and Her Pet Peeves

Like many other design buffs out there, we’re serious groupies of the folks at Remodelista, and love soaking up their daily advice on all things home. Now all that wisdom has been lovingly assembled into a definitive book — “Remodelista: A Manual for the Considered Home.” We’re selling that page-turner on Gilt (signed by its author,  editor-in-chief and co-founder, Julie Carlson), starting Friday Nov. 22, in a sale that includes design picks from Gilt Home, which Remodelista hand-chose for their blend of timeless style and effortless functionality.

We talked to Carlson, and got her tips, tenets, and thoughts on everything from the Remodelista 100 (their definitive list of must-have designs… it’s in the book, folks) to her pet peeves:

While the Remodelista 100 is a specific list, it’s obviously not a log of the only things you like in the design world. How much room does someone have to deviate from the list? 
We definitely consider the Remodelista 100 to be a list of thought-starters; a good way to branch out is to investigate the other products offered by the featured manufacturers and makers. For instance, we include a midcentury steel wastebasket from Schoolhouse Electric, but the company also makes a wide range of products, from reproduction period lighting, to light switches and covers, to classic furniture pieces.

What was it like choosing the 100? Was it hard? Were there fights? (No one cried, right?)
It was very much a group effort, and it was surprisingly easy to agree on the products since we share the same design DNA. No tears.

What defines good design?
To me, it’s a consistent vision. I love many different design styles and eras; what’s important is the way the elements are put together, and how harmonious and well-thought-out the spaces are. For instance, I admire the neoclassic French townhouse of Bunny Mellon just as much as the stark modernism of English architect John Pawson’s own home in London.

What are your design no-no’s/pet peeves?
My own personal design pet peeve is clutter: stacks of magazines and newspapers, unpaid bills and catalogs piled on the kitchen countertop, shoes lying in the middle of the floor. It’s a problem we address in the Remodelista book (we have a whole chapter devoted to the topic, called “Where’s the Stuff?”).

Say you have a confused, frazzled person in front of you, unsure about how to update his or her space. What are a few elemental, easy ways to start?
Sit down with a glass of wine and the Remodelista book! Seriously, though, the most important thing is research; if the person is adrift design-wise, I would encourage them to start a Pinterest board and start collecting images of rooms that speak to them (and to pull out pages from design magazines). If someone is desperate for an instant, inexpensive upgrade in their living room, we advocate covering your furniture with painter’s drop cloths in a natural color, and adding some throw pillows, maybe a sheepskin from Ikea, or a K by Keaton throw (see next answer).

Looking at the items in our sale, what are your favorites? And why?
I’m a big fan of the home store Canvas in NYC; I love their simple everyday carafe (2 for $12). I also love the K by Keaton striped and plaid throws (designed by Diane Keaton, who wrote a nice blurb for the Remodelista book); I’d add those to the instant living room update described above.

How much should one focus on trends vs classics, when designing a space? (And what are some can’t-miss design trends happening right now?)
I think it’s important to invest in classic, long-lasting furniture that won’t go out of style: a well-made English roll arm sofa, for instance, pieces from midcentury masters like Eames and Saarinen. Then, when new trends emerge, integrate them via pillows, throws (right now all my furniture is draped in sheepskins from Ikea), ceramics, wall art, whatever catches your fancy. Subtle exoticism that goes beyond the Moroccan pouf is an emerging trend: Right now I’m loving the bright-striped Bolivian pillows from L’Aviva Home and the exotic, worldly fabric designs of Zak + Fox.

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