Design dilemma: Understatement versus a sense of overstatement in the home

Design tips for the brave and the timid, courtesy of Medy Navani of Dubai’s Design Haus Medy

An understated living room will promote a sense of balance and order. Courtesy Haus Medy
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We all dream of having the perfect home, which represents our individual style, responds to our daily needs and is made to measure. Our home is a mirror of ourselves as individuals, so the big question we need to ask ourselves is: what statement do we want to make with our interior design, for both ourselves and others? A simple way of breaking it down is: brave versus shy, bold versus timeless, or simple versus extravagant.

A few years ago, we were working with an affluent gentleman who sat on the board of directors of a very famous and successful organisation. We designed a beautiful town house for him, but when it came to designing the interior and furnishings, he always tended towards understatement in the public areas of his house. Understandably, in his position, overly bold statements might have been misinterpreted. So we created an impeccable timeless design that had staying power. If you want a design that is as fresh and relevant today as it was yesterday, and will continue to be so tomorrow, you need to use styles, colour and materials that have been designed to last.

Our decor resisted trends; it was simple and sophisticated, highly functional, but not bland or boring. For example, we incorporated classic herringbone teak flooring in off-white, surrounded by a grey marble border, set against a crisp white wall with French wall mouldings in white. On the wall, we hung a contemporary artwork in shades of eggshell and champagne. The furniture included a selection of grey silk casual chairs and a champagne-coloured velvet sofa. We brought together what belonged together. It was about creating a sense of balance and order.


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However, in the private area of his home (the master suite), the client found personal expression in overstatement. That is, bold design dominated by key features and statements. With overstatement, it is all about you – if you love it, then use it; that's all that matters. It is about daring to experiment with form, colour and materials, and at the same time, strategically placing them to create contrast, drama and illusion. In this case, we followed the same wooden flooring, but now placed a poison-green lounge chair against a wall painted in matte carbon black, with an oversize floor lamp placed on a mustard coloured round rug. The rest of the furniture was in matte black velvet.

The last step was to accessorise the room with elements of surprise – 21 poison-green glass apples attached to the wall – to achieve that “wow” effect when entering the room. As you can imagine, both styles created a dialogue between the interior and the user, making sure the message was clear whichever language was being spoken.