Every successfully designed space is a compilation of ten components referred to as the10 Layers of Design. This is true for spaces that are of a maximalist aesthetic, a minimalist aesthetic, and everything in between. These layers are essential, and without them, your space will be incomplete. Let's break them down.
Layer 0 - Architecture
I once had a college professor that said "Architecture finishes a space, not pillows." While we believe no space is complete without pillows, no amount of beautiful pillows will make up for poor or awkward architecture. It is critical to get the shell just right before beginning to add in your 10 layers of design.
Layer 1- Flooring
The floor is the foundation of each space, and will set the tone for the space. Wood, tile, concrete, and even wall-to-wall carpet is considered flooring.This is your base layer and will play a large role is setting the tone for your space.
With regard to wood floors, unless you are doing a painted finish, a natural oak or medium walnut finish are the most timeless options.
Layer 2- Paint and Wall Treatments
Paint and wall treatments are a major player in rounding out the foundation of the space as it occupies the greatest amount of surface area. Though the paint color should always be chosen last, when opting for a wallpaper or a specialty treatment such as plaster, it is best to have this selection nailed down towards the start of the design process. And don't forget the fifth wall - the ceiling.
Layer 3- Area Rugs
Area rugs are used largely to define an area - a seating area, the area surrounding the bed. It is the base layer on top of your flooring. It is for this reason that it is perfectly acceptable to layer an area rug atop wall-to-wall carpeting. Wall-to-wall carpeting acts as the flooring, and a rug will define the area and bring in additional color, pattern or texture. The only time you may forego an area rug on top of wall-to-wall carpeting is if the carpeting itself is patterned.
Layer 4- Upholstery
Upholstered items are those that are covered in either fabric or leather. Included in this category are sofas, chairs, ottomans, daybeds, benches, stools, and poufs. These items are typically the anchor pieces in a space, and when creating a furniture plan for a project, we begin with these key pieces. For a living room, it would be the sofa(s) and chairs.
The exception to this would be the dining room, where the dining table is the lead player, and the bedroom where the bed, the lead player in this space, is not upholstered. When the bed is not upholstered, be sure to allocate for upholstery within the space, such as a bench or settee at the foot of the bed to add softness.
Layer 5- Case Goods
Case goods are your hard surface items made primarily of wood, metal, or stone. Items in this category include coffee tables, end tables, accent or drinks tables, console tables, dining tables, nightstands, dressers, chests, and desks. They go hand-in-hand with upholstered pieces to round out the furniture plan.
Layer 6- Soft Goods
Soft goods are comprised of pillows and throws. Do not skip this layer. Without the addition of this layer to your upholstery pieces or your bed, your space will feel bare. Even if you are a minimalist, a few solid or textured pillows and a single throw will go a long way while still maintaining the minimalist aesthetic.
Layer 7- Lighting
Lighting is a critical element in every space, and is oftentimes referred to as the jewelry of the space. This is your opportunity to make statement and provide a wow-factor in your space. Be sure to consider all three types of lighting - ambient, task, and accent.
Layer 8- Window Treatments
Window treatments are like furniture for the walls. This is not the place to skimp! There are numerous components to window treatments and the ideal scenario is to go custom so that the treatment is tailored to fit the specifications of your window. A shade or blind is the base of this layer and then drapery panels on top.
When custom is not an option, aim for drapery panels that are lined and also pleated at the top. This will elevate the look. In addition, mount them above the window frame with enough length that they touch the floor.
Layer 9- Art and Wall Decor
Art is separate from accessories. Art placement should be thoughtfully considered as an integral part of the design and not as an afterthought. Art is very personal, and provides the opportunity to inject your personality into your home.
Included in this layer are also mirrors, which are incredibly impactful, and other wall mounted sculptures or objects.
Layer 10- Accessories and Art Objects
The accessories are the final touch and another manner in which to bring your personality into your space. Showcase pieces that speak to you, or items you've collected. Games are also a great option. Not only will they look beautiful, but they can also be enjoyed.
A must-have in this layer are coffee table books. They work well on their own and also stacked to vary the height on a surface or within a shelf. Coffee table books are the perfect place to begin when accessorizing and styling.
Now that we've broken down each layer...
Let's reiterate that the layers are the same regardless of the design style and hold true for both maximalist and minimalist aesthetics. What will vary is the amount of items attributed to each layer, the level of pattern, and the amount of detail.
So how does your space measure up? We'd love to know! Leave a comment below.