Sarah Richardson: 3 Simple Design Principles

Floorscapes Blog ,,, 0

his past weekend at the Calgary Renovation Show we had the pleasure of seeing Sarah Richardson speak in person. If you’ve seen any of Sarah’s shows on HGTV, you’ll know that she’s a passionate design guru. Many a Canadian seek Sarah’s divinely design wisdom on a daily basis. Hence her many occupations: writer, producer, TV personality and public speaker. But it is through running her own design firm for the last 20 years that she has cultivated her style and her insights that she now shares with worldwide audiences.

It might be surprising to hear that such a successful designer has a fairly simple design philosophy. She confessed to her Calgary audience that she sticks to some pretty simple principles. Thankfully, she was happy to disclose those in the name of her encouraging homeowners to “live in style and love their homes”. Here are three of our favorites and how flooring fits into the picture.

Design Tip #1: Trends are meant to inspire, not dictate

One glance through a design magazine will demonstrate that decoration trends can be fickle and dogmatic. They seem to encourage absolute adherence… but they change rapidly and often contradict one another. Why decorate your entire home in cool greys, when by next year, design pioneers will be using camel pallets? Sarah encourages you not to depend on trendsetters to define your taste.

Not to say that trends aren’t important. Sarah actually spent the majority of her presentation discussing them. But she always made a point to emphasize the reason why she’s introducing them. They are for inspiration. She likens trends to clothing at a store: they are there to try on. To ask yourself: does this fit me? Is this me? Sarah says the goal of good decorating, is to fill your space with objects and looks that are pleasing and meaningful to you.

We at Floorscapes agree. Whenever a customer comes into our showroom, before suggesting a thing, we ask questions. We try to get a sense of your personal style and how you use your space. Only then, do we make a recommendation. Just because we are seeing a lot of cool colours in the flooring industry: variations of grey, white and black stain colours, does not mean it is right for your space. Here are some questions to consider in pondering your flooring options:

  • What is your personal style?
  • What colours garnish your home?
  • How do you use each room?
  • What does your dream space look and feel like?

Design Tip #2: Balance, balance, balance

Looking at Sarah’s portfolio, you might wonder how she gets away with using multiple contrasting patterns. The secret, she told the audience, is balance. Balance of what? Everything really. When it comes to colour, using neutral colours to balance out bold colours. When it comes to shapes, using organic shapes to balance out geometric shapes. For example, curvaceous furniture softens the austerity of “boxy” modern furniture.

Age is important to balance as well: using a mix of vintage and contemporary furniture, fixtures, and decorations, gives a space a sense of history while keeping it on the pulse of today’s style. Same goes for luxurious with casual, spaciousness with fullness and masculine with feminine. The common theme here is uniting opposites. It makes objects feel like they belong to a space. It also lends a sense of variety, meaning and prevents a space from looking staged and monochromatic.

Flooring plays a large part in a room’s balance. Like the walls, your floor’s colour determines the colour of the room’s backdrop. Generally speaking, you can either use neutral colours to open the room up, or darker colours to build a look. For example, if you use a neutral hardwood, like a domestic natural Maple or Ash, it will nicely feature objects with bolder colours. If you use a darker colour, it lends itself to a more formal look with darker coloured furniture and cabinets to match.

You can also use flooring to give a room more or less texture. Something like a hand-scraped hardwood can have a great effect in a more spacious room. It kind of fills the room with the patterns of nature, giving it warmth without hindering the room’s minimalism. Great if you like the contemporary look but want to keep a room homey.

Design Tip #3: Natural Elements & Peaceful Spaces

wo of my favorite trends that Sarah discussed have to do with nature. She says that there is a trend towards using more natural elements in a space and creating, peaceful, tech free spaces. I don’t need to go on about how dependent we are on our screens these days, and how increasingly rare it is to have peaceful quiet spaces, away from technology. You see it every day! Suffice it to say, that a room dedicated to quiet, focused activities, could do wonders for the sanity.

Libraries and Sun-Rooms are tried and tested quiet spaces. As long as you can manage to keep TV’s and computer’s out! But how about a listening room? Remember when friends would get together to hang out and listen to a vinyl record?I don’t because I’m too young, but I wish I experienced such a thing. Music is art, and sometimes it’s nice to experience a piece of art fully, from beginning to end, like a good album.

Can you imagine a peaceful space without the presence of nature? I can’t. That’s why I think natural elements and peaceful spaces go hand in hand. What Sarah means by natural elements is: plants, organic textiles, wood and stone surfaces and natural decorations. All of these objects bring nature into the home, which is great for your mental and physical health. According to the theory of Biophilic Design, having natural elements in a space reduces stress, anxiety and increases productivity and creativity. It makes sense then, why it’s easier to be at ease in a room with the warmth of nature.

Surface Appeal

It’s not just objects though, it’s also surfaces. Every surface in your home offers a space for nature. Hardwood and Cork flooring is a great way to achieve this. Both contain the depth of nature in their beautiful, diverse grain patterns. The same goes for natural stone products and tiles. They are earthy and have a beautiful permanence to them.

No need to stop at the floor though. Nowadays, we’re seeing designers extend these floor coverings onto walls and even ceilings. This has been the case for a while with tile backsplashes, but how about a cork ceiling, or a leather wall piece? They add unique visual interest to a space, and surround you in nature.


If you have any questions about designing your space, send us an email or give us a call. Better yet, if you live in Calgary and you’re in the flooring market, stop by our showroom at 525 58th Aveue SE. The Floorscapes team has as much experience as we do passion: combined, we have over 150 years in the world of Calgary flooring. We offer our knowledge, our expertise and our aesthetic sensibility in order to help you create a space that you will love.

Written by guest author Eric Osborne.